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We will now attempt, Briefly to illustrate the nature of that justice which is the subject of our present consideration; and then endeavour to prove, That justice is essential to the Divine Character, and must be displayed in the punishment of sin. Let us, then, attempt
FIRST, Briefly to illustrate the nature of that Justice which is the subject of our present consideration.
JUSTICE, in its general nature, is commonly considered under the notion of giving to every one his due. When ascribed to the glorious and incomprehensible God, it may be viewed, either absolutely, in itself; or relatively, in its exercise. Absolutely considered, it is the universal rectitude of his nrture. For such is the nature of God, antecedently to all the acts of his will, respecting the government of his creatures, and prior to every idea of their existence.
Divine Justice may be considered relatively, or with regard to its exercise in the superintendence and government of rational creatures; and then it is known among men by different names, according to the different objects about which it is immediately conversant. Does the Most High, for instance, enact laws for his reasonable creatures? his universal rectitude, as concerned in those laws, is equity. Does he make declarations? his rectitude, in those declarations, is denominated veracity. Does he condescend to express himself in promises? his rectitude, in those promises, is characterized fidelity. Or, does he denounce threatenings against disobedience? his universal rectitude, as concerned in those threatenings, takes the name of justice.
Yes, the supreme perfection of his nature is demonstration, that, if the Most Holy enact laws, they must be equitable-If he make declarations, they must be true-If he express himself in promises, they must be faithful-And, if he denounce threatenings against disobedience, that they are not only righteous, but that his justice must execute the denounced penalty. Such is the universal rectitude of his nature.
It is of importance here to observe, that justice, whether it be viewed as denouncing, or as inflicting punishment, belongs to a public, and not to a private, character. When, therefore, God is considered, either as threatening, or as executing a curse, on the breach of his law; he is to be acknowledged and revered-not as having received any personal injury; nor is it possible, properly speaking, that he should suffer any loss by the disobedience, or the revolt, of his creatures but, as their Legislator, their Sovereign, their Judge-as the Head of the universe, and supporting the rights of his throne; or as maintaining law and order, among the subjects of his immensely extended empire. Let us now endeavour to prove, SECONDLY, That Justice is essential to the Divine Character, and that it must be displayed in the punishment of sin.
This proposition is directly opposed to a senti, ment of the Socinians; who maintain, that when God inflicts penal evil upon the transgressors of his law, it is not because any property of his nature demands the punishment of sin; but because he is pleased so to do. Hence they infer, that the death of Christ was by no means necessary to ex
piate sin, or to make satisfaction for sin: and on this ground they confidently deny that any atone ment was made by his death. Thus they treat, as a fiction of dangerous tendency, that which is the foundation of our confidence, with regard to pardon, and peace, and acceptance in the sight of God. But, that JUSTICE is a divine property, and that it must be displayed in the punishment of sin, we may with certainty conclude from a great variety of considerations. For instance,
The Divine Purity, or Holiness, necessarily infers the fact asserted. That God is absolutely pure, that he is essentially holy, I know of none, professing Christianity, who have expressly denied. Yes, he is glorious in holiness.-Relative to Uncreated Purity, as it respects the subject of our discussion, the following particulars deserve regard.
The eternal and unchangeable holiness of God may be justly considered as the glory of all his perfections, and as constituting the transcendent beauty of his adorable character: because, destitute of sanctity, none of his attributes could be amiable, nor his general character beautiful; but must appear imperfect and terrific in the view of innocent creatures. It is the excellence, the ornament, and the beauty, of his power, his wisdom, his mercy, and so on, that they are holy. Hence his Name, which respects all the divine perfections in essential union, is holy. Hence also he denominates himself, in the Old Testament, the HOLY ONE, and the HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL, near forty times. An UNHOLY God, is a character compounded of the most heterogeneous conceptions-a position that is big
with monstrous absurdity; with absolute impossibility; and shocks a reflecting mind.
As we cannot conceive of a reasonable creature being either morally good, or truly happy, without real sanctity; so neither can we conceive of the Infinite God, being either supereminently good, or supremely blessed, except as possessed of essential purity. Not the former: because, as totally destitute of holiness, there is no virtue-there is nothing morally good; so, possessed of holiness merely as a quality, and as limited, his goodness also must be a finite quality. But such goodness, though suitable to the dependent state of a rational creature, is unworthy the character of Him that is Infinite and Eternal.-Not the latter: for, as he could not be God, without being necessarily and transcendently happy; so he could not be thus happy, without being by nature holy. No: were not his purity completely immaculate and unchangeable, the stain of imperfection, we may with reverence conclude, would impair his felicity. For moral impurity, so far as our conceptions reach, is necessarily the source of dissatisfaction, and of unhappiness, whereever it exists.
As the Most High is essentially pure, so, by necessity of nature, he cannot but love holiness, which is the image of himself, wherever it appears: and, necessarily loving holiness, he must for ever hate moral impurity, or sin; whether it be considered under the notion of internal depravity, or of actual transgression. For love to holiness, being love to his own image, and to his own excellence; and moral evil being a direct contrariety to them
both, he must abhor it. Not to hate impurity, and not to love holiness, are equally impossible with God. Because, were his abhorrence of sin to cease for a moment, in that very moment he must cease to love his own excellence; to delight in his own Being; and there would be a momentary interruption to his infinite self-satisfaction. To be the holy God, is as essential to his nature, as it is to be the living God. Siu, therefore, must necessarily be most hateful to him, because it is enmity to the glory of his character, and to the lustre of all his perfections.*-Nor is it possible that any creature should form adequate conceptions respecting the intenseness of God's hatred to sin. For as it is a breach of his law, and rebellion against his government; as no finite intelligence can completely know, either the boundless perfection of God, the supreme excellence of his dominion, or the infinite love which he has to himself, and to his own honour; so none but himself can completely estimate, either the malignity there is in sin, the punishment which it deserves, or the abhorrence in which it is held by the MOST HOLY. The Divine detestation of sin must, therefore, as much exceed that of the most wise and holy of mere creatures, as the knowledge and purity of the Most High are superior to theirs.
Perfectly agreeable to this course of reasoning, if I mistake not, is the language of inspiration. For the holiness of God is never, in Scripture, more strongly expressed, or with more profound veneration, by saints and angels, than when it is considered with relation to the punishment of sin* Mr. Charnock's Discourse on the Holiness of God.