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Objections of the adversaries answered — The Racovian catechism particularly considered — The force of the argument for the satisfaction of Christ from punitory justice — The catechists deny that justice to be inherent in God; and also sparing mercy — Their first argument weighed and refuted — Justice and mercy are not opposite — Two kinds of the divine attributes — Their second and third arguments, with the answers annexed.
It is now time to meet the objections of the adversaries, and so at length put an end to this dispute, as far as regards the subject-matter of it, already drawn out to such a length, and yet farther to be continued. We must first, then, encounter the Socinians themselves, on whose account we first engaged in this undertaking; and afterward we shall compare notes with a few learned friends. But as very lately the Racovian Catechism130130 The Racovian Catechism is generally said to have been compiled by Smalcius, from the writings which Faustus Socinus left behind him at his death. Other authorities, who seem to have investigated this point with particular care, hold that a catechism under this name was in existence before Socinus repaired to Poland. The catechism of Smalcius is now, however, commonly regarded as the Racovian Catechism. An English translation of it was published by Biddle in 1652. It is fully reviewed and discussed in Owen’s “Vindiciæ Evangelicæ,” vol. xii. of his works. — Ed. of these heretics hath been repeatedly printed among us, we shall first consider what is to be met with there in opposition to the truth which we assert.
The Socinians grant, in that catechism of theirs, the argument for the satisfaction of Christ, drawn from the nature of this punitory justice, to be “plausible in appearance;” yea, they must necessarily acknowledge it to be such as that they cannot, even in appearance, oppose it, without being guilty of the dreadful sacrilege of robbing God of his essential attributes, and, therefore, they deny either this justice or sparing mercy to be naturally inherent in God. And they endeavour to defend the robbery by a threefold argument. Their first is this:— “As to mercy, that it is not inherent in God, in the manner that they think,131131 Let the reader remember that the compilers of the Racovian Catechism are now speaking, and that the words “they think” allude to the sentiments of the orthodox. — Tr. is evident from this consideration, that if it were naturally inherent in God, God would not wholly punish any sin; as, in like manner, if that justice were naturally inherent in God, as they think, God could forgive no sin: for God can never do any thing against what is naturally inherent in him. As, for instance, as wisdom is naturally inherent in God, God never doeth any thing contrary to it, but whatsoever he doeth, he doeth all things wisely. But as it is manifest that God forgives and punishes sins when he 562will, it appears that such a kind of mercy and justice as they think of is not naturally inherent in God, but is the effect of his own will.” I answer, first, that we have laid it down as a fixed principle that mercy is essential to God; and that the nature of it in God is the same with justice we willingly grant. Rutherford alone132132 De Provid., cap. xxii. assert. 6, p. 345. hath asserted that mercy is essential to God, but that this justice is a free act of the divine will. The falsity and folly of his assertion let himself be answerable for; the thing speaks for itself. To speak the truth, justice is attributed to God properly and by way of habit, mercy only analogically and by way of affection; and in the first covenant God paved no way for the display of his mercy, but proceeded in that which led straight to the glory of his justice: nevertheless, we maintain the one to be no less naturally inherent in God than the other. “But if it were naturally inherent in God,” say the catechists, “God would not punish any sin.” Why? I say; mention some plea. “Because,” say they, “God cannot do any thing contrary to what is naturally inherent in him; but it is manifest that God punishes sin.” But whose sins doth God punish? The sins of the impenitent, the unbelieving, the rebellious, for whose offences the justice of God hath never been satisfied. But is not this contrary to mercy? Let every just judge, then, be called cruel. The punishment of sin, then, is contrary to mercy, either in respect of the infliction of the punishment itself, or because it supposes in God a quality opposite to mercy. The contrariety is not in respect of the infliction of punishment, for between an external act of divine power and eternal attributes of Deity, no opposition can be supposed; — nor can it be because punishment supposes some quality in God opposite to mercy, for that which is opposite to mercy is cruelty; but God is free from every suspicion of cruelty, yet he punishes the sins of the impenitent, as the Socinians themselves acknowledge.
But, “That punitory justice,” say they, “which you assign as the source of punishment, is opposite to mercy.” How, I say, can that be? Punitory justice, essentially considered, is the very perfection and rectitude of God itself, essentially considered; and the essence of mercy, so to speak, is the same. But the essence of God, which is most simple, is not opposed to itself. Moreover, both have their actual egresses by means of the acts of the divine will, which is always one alone and self-consistent. Objectively considered, I acknowledge they have different but not contrary effects; for to punish the impenitent guilty, for whom no satisfaction hath been made, is not contrary to the pardoning of those who believe and are penitent, through the blood of the Mediator, which was shed for the remission of sins. In one word, it is not necessary that, though actions be contrary, the essential principles should also be contrary.
563But they again urge, “Wisdom is naturally inherent in God, and he never doeth any thing contrary to it; for whatsoever he doeth, he doeth all things wisely.” We answer, It hath been proved before that the punishment of sin is not contrary to mercy. But they urge something farther, and insinuate that God not only cannot act contrary to his wisdom, but that in every work he exerciseth it: “Whatsoever he doeth,” say they, “he doeth wisely.” But the nature of all the divine attributes, in respect of their exercise, is not the same: for some create and constitute an object to themselves, as power and wisdom, which God must necessarily exercise in all his works; some require an object constituted for their egress, and for these it is sufficient that no work be done that is opposite or derogatory to their honour; of this kind are mercy and justice, as was said before.
Thus far concerning mercy.
The objections that they bring against justice are easily answered. “If justice be naturally inherent in God,” say they, “then he could let no sin pass unpunished.” We readily grant that God passes by no sin unpunished, nor can do it. He forgives our sins, but he doth not absolutely let them pass unpunished. Every sin hath its just recompense of reward, either in the sinner or the surety; but to pardon sin for which justice hath been satisfied is no wise contrary to justice. That the nature of justice and mercy, in respect of their relation to their object, is different, hath been shown before. Such is their first argument; the second follows, which is this:—
“That justice which the adversaries oppose to mercy,” say they, “whereby God punisheth sins, the sacred Scriptures nowhere point out by the name of ‘justice,’ but call it the ‘anger and fury of God.’ ”
We answer, in the first place, that it is a very gross mistake that we oppose justice to mercy. These catechists have need themselves to be catechised. In the second place, let those who shall please to consult the passages formerly mentioned and explained on this head, determine whether the sacred Scriptures call this justice133133 This point is treated at great length, and clearly proved, in the third chapter. — Tr. by its own proper name or not? In the third place, anger and fury are, in reality, as to their effects, reducible to justice; hence that which is called “wrath,” or “anger,” in Rom. i. 18, in the 32d verse is called “judgment.”134134 The original word means a just sentence, or righteous judgment. — Tr. Such is their second; and now follows the third argument:—
“When God forgives sins, it is attributed in Scripture to his justice. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ ‘Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare 564his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’ ”135135 John i. 9; Rom. iii. 24–26. We answer, that we have already shown at great length that justice, universally taken, is the perfection and rectitude of God, and has various egresses, both in words and in deeds, according to the constitution of the objects about which it may be employed; hence effects distinct, and in some measure different, are attributed to the same divine virtue. But the justice on account of which God is said to forgive sins is the justice of faithfulness, which has the foundation of its exercise in this punitory justice: which being satisfied, God, who cannot lie, promises the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ; which promise, beyond all doubt, he will perform, because he is faithful and just.136136 The argument from 1 John i. 9, which would resolve justice simply into a modification of benevolent feeling, and confound it with a disposition to forgive, is sufficiently met by the considerations urged by our author. The reply to the inference founded on the words “just,” and “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” Rom. iii. 26, is not so clear. The question turns upon the import of δίκαιος. Two passages are quoted by Socinians in proof that it may denote clemency or mercy; and if in this sense exclusively the term were applicable to the Divine Being, no argument for the necessity of a proper atonement could be founded on the texts that speak of the justice of God. The passages urged by the Socinians with this view are Matt. i. 19 and Rom. iii. 26. Δίκαιος, however, in its primary meaning, signifies, “observant of rule and custom,” “having a respect to order and decency;” as when Cheiron, in contrast with his ruder brethren (Il. xi. 832), is described as δικαιότατος κενταύρων. In this sense, the term admirably befits the state of mind in which Joseph must have been when he discovered the condition of Mary, and before the truth was supernaturally explained to him. In its secondary meaning, δίκαιος signifies equal, just, fair, every shade of meaning it bears coming under the category of right or equity; and in no instance of which we are aware can it be rendered as expressive of clemency or mercy. In the two passages to which an appeal is made, the adversative force of καὶ is overlooked, “just, and yet not willing,” “just, and yet the justifier.” That καὶ frequently conveys this antithetic meaning might be proved from several passages, such as John vii. 19, Mark xii. 12, etc. See Winer’s “Idioms of the Greek Language,” part iii. chap. v. s. 57. — Ed. And thus vanishes in smoke all that these unhappy catechists have scraped together against this divine truth.
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