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The third argument — The non-punishment of sin is contrary to the glory of God’s justice — Likewise of his holiness and dominion — A fourth argument — The necessity of a satisfaction being made by the death of Christ — No necessary cause or cogent reason for the death of Christ, according to the adversaries — The objection refuted — The use of sacrifices — The end of the first part of the dissertation.
III. Our third argument is this: It is absolutely necessary that God should preserve his glory entire to all eternity; but sin being supposed, 555without the infliction of the punishment due to it he cannot preserve his glory free from violation: therefore, it is necessary that he should punish it. Concerning the major proposition111111 Our author here speaks in the language, and reasons in the manner, of logicians; the prevalent mode of reasoning at the time when he wrote. For the sake of those unacquainted with that art, it may not be improper to observe that the above argument is what they call a syllogism, and that a syllogism consists of three propositions. The first is called the major, the second the minor, and the third the conclusion. In the above argument the major proposition is, “It is absolutely necessary that God should preserve his glory entire to all eternity.” The minor is, “But sin being supposed, without any punishment due to it he cannot preserve his glory free from violation.” The conclusion is, “Therefore, it is necessary that he should punish it.” The minor is sometimes called the assumption, and sometimes the conclusion is so named. They are both included under this title by our author in the following sentence. — Tr. there is no dispute; for all acknowledge, not only that it is necessary to God that he should preserve his glory, but that this is incumbent on him by a necessity of nature, for he cannot but love himself. He is Jehovah, and will not give his glory to another.112112 Isa. xlii. 8. The truth of the assumption is no less clear; for the very nature of the thing itself proclaims that the glory of justice or of holiness, and dominion, could not otherwise be preserved and secured than by the punishment of sin. For, —
First, The glory of God is displayed in doing the things that are just; but in omitting these it is impaired, not less than in doing the things that are contrary. “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.”113113 Prov. xvii. 15. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”114114 Gen. xviii. 25. or what is just? But “it is a righteous” or just “thing with God to recompense tribulation” to the disobedient, and to punish those who, on account of sin, are “worthy of death.”115115 2 Thess. i. 6; Rom. i. 32. Suppose, then, that God should let the disobedient, whom it is a just thing for him to punish, go unpunished, and that those who are worthy of death should never be required to die, but that he should clear the guilty and the wicked, although he hath declared them to be an abomination to him, where is the glory of his justice? That it is most evident that God thus punishes because he is just, we have proved before. “Is God unrighteous,” or unjust, “who taketh vengeance? God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” And he is “righteous,” or just, “because he hath given them blood to drink, who were worthy of it,”116116 Rom. iii. 5, 6; Rev. xvi. 5–7. and would be so far unjust were he not to inflict punishment on those deserving it.
Secondly, A proper regard is not shown to divine holiness, nor is its glory manifested, unless the punishment due to sin be inflicted. Holiness is opposed to sin; for “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity,”117117 Hab. i. 13. and is the cause why he cannot let sin pass unpunished. “Ye cannot serve the Lord; for he is an holy God: he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins,”118118 Josh. xxiv. 19. 556said Joshua to the Israelites. For why? Can any thing impure and polluted stand before his holy Majesty? He himself declares the contrary; — that he is “not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness;” that “evil shall not dwell with him;” that “the foolish shall not stand in his sight;” that “he hateth all workers of iniquity;” and that “there shall in no wise enter into the new Jerusalem any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.”119119 Ps. v. 4–6; Rev. xxi. 27. Nor can Jesus Christ present his church to his Father till it be “sanctified and cleansed with the washing of water by the word,” and made “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.”120120 Eph. v. 26, 27. And we are enjoined to be holy, because he is holy. But all things are to be “purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”121121 Heb. ix. 22.
Thirdly, We have sufficiently shown above that the natural dominion which God hath over rational creatures, and which they by sin renounce, could not otherwise be preserved or continued than by means of a vicarious punishment. And now let impartial judges decide whether it be necessary to God that he should preserve entire the glory of his justice, holiness, and supreme dominion, or not.
IV. And which is a principal point to be considered on this subject, Were the opinions of the adversaries to be admitted, and were we to suppose that God might will the salvation of any sinner, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to assign any sufficient and necessary cause of the death of Christ. For let us suppose that God hath imposed on mankind a law, ratified by a threatening of eternal death, and that they, by a violation of that law, have deserved the punishment threatened, and consequently are become liable to eternal death; again, let us suppose that God in that threatening did not expressly intend the death of the sinner, but afterward declared what and of what kind he willed that the guilt of sin should be, and what punishment he might justly inflict on the sinner, and what the sinner himself ought to expect (all which things flow from the free determination of God), but that he might by his nod or word, without any trouble, though no satisfaction were either made or received, without the least diminution of his glory, and without any affront or dishonour to any attribute, or any injury or disgrace to himself, consistently with the preservation of his right, dominion, and justice, freely pardon the sins of those whom he might will to save; — what sufficient reason could be given, pray, then, why he should lay those sins, so easily remissible, to the charge of his most holy Son, and on their account subject him to such dreadful sufferings?
While Socinians do not acknowledge other ends of the whole of this dispensation and mystery than those which they assign, they will be unable, to all eternity, to give any probable reason why a 557most merciful and just God should expose a most innocent and holy man, — who was his own Son by way of eminence, and who was introduced by himself into the world in a preternatural manner, as they themselves acknowledge, — to afflictions and sufferings of every kind, while among the living he pointed out to them the way of life, and at last to a cruel, ignominious, and accursed death.
I very well know that I cannot pretend to be either ingenious or quick-sighted; but respecting this matter I am not ashamed to confess my dullness to be such, that I cannot see that God,122122 The misprint of quia for quin has occasioned some confusion in the translation. It should run thus: “I cannot see but that Christ has died in vain, on the supposition that God could pardon sins without the intervention of a ransom, consistently with the preservation of his right and glory entire, justice not demanding their punishment.” — Ed. consistently with the preservation of his right and glory entire, could, without the intervention of a ransom, pardon sins, as if justice did not require their punishment, or that Christ had died in vain. For why? Hath not God set him forth to be a propitiation for the demonstration or declaration of his sin-punishing justice? But how could that justice be demonstrated by an action which it did not require, or if the action might be omitted without any diminution of it, — if God would have been infinitely just to eternity, nor would have done any thing contrary and offensive to justice, though he had never inflicted punishment upon any sin? Could any ruler become highly famed and celebrated on account of his justice, by doing those things which, from the right of his dominion, he can do without injustice, but to the performance of which he is no way obligated by the virtue of justice? But if the adversaries suppose that when God freely made a law for his rational creatures, he freely appointed a punishment for transgression, freely substituted Christ in the room of transgressors; in fine, that God did all these things, and the like, because so it pleased him, and that therefore we are to acquiesce in that most wise and free will of his disposing all things at his pleasure; — they should not find me opposing them. Unless God himself had taught us in his word that sin is “that abominable thing which his soul hateth,” which is affrontive to him, which entirely casteth off all regard to that glory, honour, and reverence, which are due to him; and that to the sinner himself it is something evil and bitter, for “he shall eat of the fruit of his way, and be filled with his own devices;” and that God, with respect to sinners, is a “consuming fire,” an “everlasting burning,” in which they shall “dwell;” that “he will by no means clear the guilty;” that “he judgeth those who are worthy of death, and by his just judgment taketh vengeance on them; and that, therefore, “without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission,” and that without a victim for sin, there remaineth to sinners nothing but “a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, 558that shall consume the adversaries;” and that he had appointed from the beginning his only-begotten Son, for the declaration and satisfaction of his justice, and the recovery of his glory, to open the way to heaven, otherwise shut, and to remain shut forever; — if, I say, God had not instructed us in these and such-like truths from his word, I should not oppose them; but these being clearly laid down in the word, we solemnly declare our belief that no sinner could obtain the remission of his sins, provided that we are disposed to acknowledge God to be just, without a price of redemption.123123 Or ransom. — Tr.
Perhaps some one will say, “It doth not follow from the death of Christ that God necessarily punisheth sin; for Christ himself, in his agony, placeth the passing away of the cup among things possible. ‘All things,’ saith he, ‘Father, are possible with thee. Let this cup pass from me.’ ”
I answer, It is well known that the word “impossibility” may be considered in a twofold point of view. The first is in itself absolute, which respects the absolute power of God, antecedent to any free act of the divine will: in this respect, it was not impossible that that cup should pass from Christ. The second is conditional, which respects the power of God, as directed in a certain order, that is determined, and (if I might so phrase it) circumscribed by some act of the divine will: and in this sense it was impossible; that is to say, it being supposed that God willed to pardon any sins to sinners, it could not be done without laying their punishment upon the surety. But we do not pursue this argument farther at present, because we intend to resume it again in the consideration of the doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction.
There are yet many arguments very proper for establishing the truth on our side of the question, which we choose not to enter on largely and on set purpose, lest we should be tiresome to the reader. Perhaps, however, it will be judged worth while briefly to sketch out some heads of them, and annex them to the former arguments concerning justice and the exercise thereof. The first is to this purport:—
1. A second act presupposes a first, and a constant manner of operating proves a habit; a sign also expresses the thing signified. Because God doeth good to all, we believe him to be good, and endowed with supreme goodness; for how could he so constantly and uniformly do good, unless he himself were good? Yea, from second acts the holy Scriptures sometimes teach the first; as, for instance, that God is the living God, because he giveth life to all, — that he is good, because he doeth good. Why may we not also say that he is just, endowed with that justice of which we are treating, because “God perverteth not judgment, neither doth the Almighty pervert justice,” but “the Lord is righteous, and upright are his judgments?”124124 Job viii. 8; Ps. cxix. 137. A constant, then, and uniform course of just operation in punishing 559sin proves punitory justice to be essentially inherent in God. From his law, which is the sign125125 That is, which showeth what the divine will is. — Tr. of the divine will, the same is evident; for the nature of the thing signified is, that it resembles the sign appointed for the purpose of expressing it. That the same thing may be said of the anger, fury, and severity of God hath been shown above, Rom. i. 18.
2. It is not the part of a just judge, of his mere good pleasure, to let the wicked pass unpunished: “He that justifieth the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,” and, “Woe to them that call evil good!” But God is a just judge. “But one who is not liable to render a reason,” you will say, “and who is by no means subject to a law.” But the nature of God is a law to itself. He cannot lie, because he himself is truth; nor act unjustly, because he is just. Such as God is by nature, such is he in the acts of his will.
3. The argument, from the immutable difference of things in themselves is of very considerable weight; for that which is sin, because it destroys that subjection of the creature which is due to the Creator, cannot, even by the omnipotence of God, be made to be not sin. To hate the supreme good implies a contradiction. But if, from the nature of the thing, sin be sin, in relation to the supreme perfection of God, from the nature of the thing, too, is its punishment. Yea, God hath ordered children to obey their parents, because this is right.126126 In the original, “just.” — Tr.
4. The adversaries acknowledge “That God cannot save the impenitent and obstinately wicked without injury to the glory, and holiness, and perfection of his nature.” Why so? “The justice of God,” say they, “will not suffer it.” But what kind of justice is that, I ask, which can regard certain modes and relations of transgression or sin, and will not regard the transgression or sin itself?
5. God punishes sin either because he simply wills it, or because it is just that sin should be punished. If because he simply wills it, then the will of God is the alone cause of the perdition of a sinful creature. But he himself testifies to the contrary, — namely, that man’s ruin is of himself: “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.”127127 Hos. xiii. 9. Again; justice does not require that the things which God doeth of his mere good pleasure should come to pass, more than that they should not come to pass. But if it be not more just that sins should be punished than that they should not be punished, it is certain that the non-punishment or free pardon of sin is more agreeable to the goodness, grace, love, and compassion of God than the infliction of punishment; how, then, comes it to pass that, disregarding these attributes, he should freely will that which no essential property of his nature requires? If, then, sin be 560sin because God wills it, if the transgression of the law deserve punishment because God wills it, and the punishment be at length inflicted because God wills it, the order of things, or the condition which they are in by virtue of their respect and relation to the dominion and perfection of God, requiring no such thing, why, pray, should we either hate or abhor sin, when the bare will of God alone is to be considered, both in respect of the decree, which supposes that there is nothing in sin, and which implies no change of the state of things, and also in respect of its execution? But if God punish sin because, by virtue of his natural justice, it is just that it should be punished, then it is unjust not to punish it. But is God unjust? God forbid!
I am truly ashamed of those divines who have nothing more commonly in their mouths, both in their disputations and discourses to the people, than “that God might by other means have provided for the safety and honour of his justice, but that that way by the blood of his Son was more proper and becoming.” So said Augustine of old. But what then? Of that absolute power which they dream of, by which he might, without any intervening sacrifice, forgive sins, not the least syllable is mentioned in the whole sacred writings; nor am I afraid to affirm that a more convenient device to weaken our faith, love, and gratitude, cannot be invented. Away, then, with such speculations, which teach that the mystery of the love of God the Father, of the blood of Jesus Christ, of the grace of the Holy Spirit, are either indifferent, or at least were not necessary, for procuring and bestowing salvation and eternal glory on miserable sinners. But it is manifest that by such artifices Socinians endeavour to overthrow the whole healing and heavenly doctrine of the gospel. “My soul, come not thou into their secret!” But that God should institute so many typical expiatory sacrifices, and attended with so great labour and cost, with a sanction of severe punishments upon delinquents, with this view only, to communicate instruction, and to serve to lead us to Christ, though they could in no wise take away the guilt of sin;128128 Heb. x. 1. There the apostle argues for the necessity of the satisfaction of Christ, which he could not if the guilt of sin could have been taken away by any other way whatever. — Tr. that he should appoint his own Son, not only to death, but to a bloody, ignominious, accursed death, to be inflicted with such shame and disgrace as hath not been purged away through so many generations that have passed since that death, even to the present time; that Jehovah himself should have been pleased to bruise him, to put him to grief; that he made his own sword to awake against him, and forsook him;129129 Isa. liii. 10. — that God, I say, should have done these and such like things, without being induced to it by any necessary cause, let those who can, comprehend and explain.
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