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Crellius taken to task — His first mistake — God doth not punish sins as being endowed with supreme dominion — The first argument of Crellius — The answer — The translation of punishment upon Christ, in what view made by God — Whether the remission of sins, without a satisfaction made, could take place without injury to any one — To whom punishment belongs — Whether every one can resign his right — Right twofold — The right of debt, what; and what that of government — A natural and positive right — Positive right, what — A description also of natural right — Concessions of Crellius.
John Crellius treats this subject at great length, and with his 565usual artifice and acuteness, in his first book “Of the True Religion,” prefixed to the works of Volkelius on the same subject.137137 Chap. xxiii., title, “Of the Power of God,” p. 181, etc.
First, then, he asserts, “That God hath a power of inflicting and of not inflicting punishment, but that it is by no means repugnant to divine justice to pardon the sinner whom by his right he might punish.”
But here Crellius (which is a bad omen, as they say) stumbles in the very threshold, supposing punishment to be competent to God as he hath, or is endowed with, an absolute and supreme dominion over the creatures. God never punisheth, or is said to punish, as using that power. It is the part of a governor or judge to inflict punishment; and the Scriptures furnish sufficient evidence that both these relations belong to him in the infliction of punishment: “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.” “He maintaineth right, and sitteth in his throne judging right.” He is “judge of all the earth.” He is the supreme “judge.” “He hath prepared his throne for judgment; and he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in righteousness.” He is “judge of the earth,” who will “render a reward to the proud.” He is “Jehovah, our judge, our lawgiver, and our king;” and “God the judge of all.”138138 James iv. 12; Ps. ix. 4; Gen. xviii. 25; Ps. l. 6, ix. 7, 8, xciv. 2; Isa. xxxiii. 22, Heb. xii. 23, etc. In all the acts of his absolute dominion and supreme power God is most free; and this the apostle openly asserts with regard to his decrees making distinctions among mankind in respect of their last end, and the means thereto conducing, according to his mere good pleasure: see Rom. ix. Moreover, in some operations and dispensations of providence concerning mankind, both the godly and ungodly, I acknowledge that God frequently asserts the equity and rectitude of his government from that supreme right which he possesseth and may exercise. “Behold, God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters. Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment. Who hath given him a charge over the earth? or who hath disposed the whole world? If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.”139139 Job xxxiii. 12, 13, xxxiv. 12–15.
But that God punishes omissions and avenges transgressions, as the supreme Lord140140 As supreme Lord of the universe he exerciseth an uncontrolled dominion, doing “in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth,” whatsoever seemeth good unto him; but as the Ruler and Judge of the world he distributeth impartial justice, “giving to every one according to his works.” The force of this argument, then, is this, — That in viewing God as punishing sin, we are not to consider him as supreme Lord, who may exercise an absolute and uncontrolled will, but as a righteous Judge, bound by a law to administer justice, and by a law founded in his nature, necessarily requiring him so to do. — Tr. of all, and not as the Ruler of the universe and 566Judge of the world, is an opinion supported by no probable reason and by no testimony of Scripture. But let us hear what Crellius himself has to say. He thus proceeds:—
“He injures none, whether he punish or do not punish, if so be that the question is only respecting his right: for the punishment is not owing to the offending person, but he owes it, and he owes it to him upon whom the whole injury will ultimately redound; who in this matter is God. But if you consider the matter in itself, every one has it in his power to prosecute his right, and likewise not to prosecute it, or to yield up of it as much as he pleases; for this is the nature of a proper and sovereign right.”
Ans. It is easy to be seen that the former fallacy diffuses its fibres through the whole of this reasoning; for the right, a dispensation with which he maintains to be lawful, he affirms to be a sovereign right, or the right of a lord and master. But this right is not the subject in question. It is a ruler and judge to whom punishment belongs, and who repays it. I would not, indeed, deny that God’s supreme and sovereign right has a place in the matter of the satisfaction made by Christ in our stead: for although to inflict punishment be the office of a ruler and judge (that both these relations, namely, of a ruler and judge, are to be assigned to God, the Scriptures amply testify, — see chap. iii.), yet the very translation of guilt from us upon Christ, constituting him sin for us, is a most free act, and an act of supreme power; unless, perhaps, the acceptance of the promise made by the surety belong of right to him as ruler, and there be no other act to be assigned to God.
But let us consider these arguments of Crellius severally. “He injures no one,” says he, “whether he punish or not.” But an omission of the infliction of punishment, where it is due, cannot take place without injury to that justice on which it is incumbent to inflict the punishment.141141 The translation of the last clause is ambiguous. The words in the original are, “Justitiæ illius, cui pœnas irrogare incumbit,” — “That justice on which rests the obligation, which is bound, to inflict the punishment.” — Ed. For “he that justifieth the wicked is abomination to the Lord;” and a heavy woe is pronounced equally on them that “call evil good, and good evil.”142142 Prov. xvii. 15; Isa. v. 20. It is true that God neither injures nor can injure any one, either in what he hath done or might do; for “who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?” Nor is it less true that he will not, yea, that he cannot, do injury to his own justice, which requireth the punishment of every sin. An earthly judge may oftentimes spare a guilty person without injury to another, but not without injustice in himself. Yea, Crellius asserts that God cannot forgive the sins of some sinners, namely, the contumacious, without injury to himself; for this, as he says, would be unworthy of God. But we are sure that every sin, without exception, 567setting aside the consideration of the redemption by Christ, would be attended with contumacy forever. Were it not for that consideration, then, it would be unworthy of God to pardon the sins of any sinner.
Crellius adds: “Punishment is not owing to the sinner, but he owes it, and owes it to him on whom all the injury will ultimately redound; who is God.” But because punishment is not owing to the sinner, but he owes it to the ruler, it doth not follow that the ruler may not inflict that punishment. Punishment, indeed, is not so owing to the sinner that an injury would be done him were it not inflicted. The debt of a sinner is not of such a kind that he can ask or enforce the payment of it; and a debt, properly speaking, implies such a condition.143143 The debt of a sinner is not any valuable consideration due to him, as a debt is to a creditor, but due by him as a debt is by a debtor; and in consequence of the failure of payment, punishment becomes due to him, — i.e., is or may be inflicted in vindication of violated justice. But this is what he could not either claim or would wish to receive. — Tr. But the sinner hath merited punishment in such a manner that it is just he should suffer it. But, again, the infliction of punishment belongs not to God as injured, as Crellius signifies, but as he is the ruler of all and the judge of sinners, to whom it belongs to preserve the good of the whole, and the dependence of his creatures on himself.
He thus proceeds: “But if you consider the thing in itself, every one has it in his power to prosecute his right, and likewise not to prosecute it, or to yield up of it as much as he pleases.”
Ans. As Socinus himself, in his third book “Of the Saviour,” chap. ii., hath afforded an opportunity to all our theologians who have opposed Socinianism of discussing this foolish axiom, “That every one may recede from his right,” we shall answer but in few words to these positions of Crellius, and to the conclusions which he there draws as flowing from them.
There is, then, a double right; — in the first place, that of a debt; in the second place, that of government. What is purely a debt may be forgiven; for that only takes place in those things which are of an indifferent right, the prosecution of which neither nature nor justice obliges. There is also a debt, though perhaps improperly so called, the right of which it is unlawful to renounce; but our sins, in respect of God, are not debts only nor properly, but metaphorically144144 Sin is most accurately defined by our Westminster divines, in that inimitable compendium of sound doctrine, the Shorter Catechism, to be “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” — Tr. so called.
The right of government, moreover, is either natural or positive. The positive right of government, so to speak, is that which magistrates have over their subjects; and he who affirms that they can recede wholly from this right must be either a madman or a fool. But this right, as far as pertains to its exercise in respect of the infliction 568of punishment, either tends to the good of the whole republic, as in ordinary cases, or, as in some extraordinary cases, gives place to its hurt; for it is possible that even the exaction of punishment, in a certain condition of a state, may be hurtful. In such a situation of things, the ruler or magistrate has a power not to use his right of government in respect of particular crimes, or rather, he ought to use it in such a manner as is the most likely to attain the end; for he is bound to regard principally the good of the whole, and the safety of the people ought to be his supreme law. But he who affirms that, in ordinary cases, a magistrate may renounce his right, when that renunciation cannot but turn out to the hurt of the public good, is a stranger to all right. The same person may also affirm that parents may renounce their right over their children, so as not to take any care at all about them; and that they might do so lawfully, — that is, consistently with honour and decency. Yea, this is not a cessation from the prosecution of right, but from the performance of a duty; for the right of government supposes a duty: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”145145 Rom. xiii. 3, 4. The question is not what magistrates do, but what, as the guardians and protectors of the law, they ought to do. See Ps. ci. 8.
There is also a natural right of government; such is the divine right over the creatures. The right, I say, of God over rational creatures is natural to him; therefore immutable, indispensable, and which cannot by any means be derogated. Thence, too, the debt of our obedience is natural and indispensable; nor is there any other kind of obligation to punishment. God, from the very nature of the thing, has dominion over us; and our subjection to him is either by obedience or a vicarious punishment, which comes in place of any omission or transgression on our part, as Crellius himself acknowledges. Those, then, who say that it is free to God to use this right or not, as he pleaseth, may as well say that it is free to God to be our God and Lord or not; for the demand of obedience and the exaction of punishment equally belong to God. But the Judge of the universe exercises his right; and his perpetual right, whence sinners are accounted worthy of death, he cannot but preserve unimpaired and entire.
The remaining objections, which are interspersed here and there in that book of his “Concerning God,” against the vindicatory justice of God, either fall in with those which have been mentioned from 569 the Racovian Catechism, or shall be reduced to the order of those which follow.
We think proper, by way of conclusion, to annex some concessions of Crellius. “There is,” says he, “a certain regard to honour, with which God himself cannot dispense.”146146 Book i. chap. xxiii., p. 180, “Of the True Religion.” Every transgression, then, of that regard hath a punishment coeval with itself, which, from the justice of God, must necessarily be inflicted. “Yea,” says he, “neither the holiness nor majesty of God permits that his commands should, in any respect be violated with impunity.”147147 Chap. xxviii. But the holiness of God is natural to him; an essential, then, and necessary attribute of God requires the punishment of sinners. But he himself farther adds, “It is unworthy of God to let the wickedness of obstinate sinners pass unpunished; for this is the first and perpetual effect of divine severity, not to pardon those who do not repent.”148148 Chap. xxii. 186, and chap. xxviii. But we know for certain that all sinners would continue obstinate to all eternity, unless God be pleased, for Christ’s sake, to renew them by his omnipotent grace to repentance. Crellius, then, grants that it is unworthy of God to let the sins of those pass unpunished for whom Christ hath not made satisfaction. He again testifies, also, that God hates and abhors all sin;149149 Chap. xxx. 3, 9. and grants that the mode of conducting the punishment of sin is derived from the divine justice.150150 Chapt. i. p. 78, of his Answer to Grotius. But the thing itself is from that same Being from whom the mode or manner of it is derived. If the mode of punishment be from divine justice, the punishment itself can flow from no other source.
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