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Chapter X.

The opinion of Socinus considered — What he thought of our present question,151151    Namely, Whether vindicatory justice be essential and natural to God, and the exercise of it, or the punishment of sin, consequently necessary? — Tr. namely, that it is the hinge on which the whole controversy concerning the satisfaction of Christ turns — His vain boasting, as if, having disproved this vindicatory justice, he had snatched the prize from his adversaries — Other clear proofs of the satisfaction of Christ — That it is our duty to acquiesce in the revealed will of God — The truth not to be forsaken — Mercy and justice not opposite — Vain distinctions of Socinus concerning divine justice — The consideration of these distinctions — His first argument against vindicatory justice — The solution of it — The anger and severity of God, what — Universal and particular justice, in what they agree — The false reasoning and vain boasting of the adversary.

We come now to Socinus himself. In almost all his writings he opposes this punitory justice. We shall consider what he hath 570written against Covetus, in that treatise of his entitled, “Of Jesus Christ the Saviour,” and what he only repeats in other places, as occasion required. In the first book and first chapter, and also in the third book and first chapter, of that work, expressly, and of set purpose, he opposes himself vehemently and with all his might to the truth on this point. But because he very well understood that by the establishment of this justice a knife is put to the throat of his opinion, and that it cannot be defended (that is, that no reason can be given why Christ our Saviour is called Jesus Christ), he maintains that the whole controversy concerning the satisfaction of Christ hinges on this very question. The reader will perceive, from the arguments already used, that I am of the same opinion: for it being granted that this justice belongs to God, not even Socinus, though doubtless a man of a great, very artful, and fertile genius, could devise any way of obtaining salvation for sinners without a satisfaction; for had he either found out one, or even feigned it upon a supposition, he would not have wanted the effrontery of imposing it on the minds of the credulous and fanatic; which, however, he nowhere hath attempted.

But, on the other hand, gallantly supposing that he had removed this justice out of the way, as if the business were entirely settled, and the strong tower of his adversaries destroyed, he highly glories in the triumphs acquired for himself and his followers; “for,” says he, “having got rid of this justice, had we no other argument, that human fiction of the satisfaction of Jesus Christ must be thoroughly detected, and totally vanish.” This vain boasting of his the learned and pious have long ago sufficiently checked by innumerable testimonies from Scripture.

And forasmuch as the fact is abundantly clear that Christ bore our sins, God laying them upon him, and that by his satisfaction he purchased eternal salvation, though it had even pleased God to keep the causes and reasons of this infinitely wise transaction hid to all eternity in the abyss of his own goodness and wisdom, it would have been our duty to acquiesce in the infinite holiness and wisdom of his will. So, also, it is beyond any doubt that no helps of our faith are to be despised, and that no revelations of the divine nature and will are to be neglected, by which our merciful Father leads us into a more intimate and saving knowledge of this mystery of holiness.

We, also, to whom the most sacred deposit of this divine truth hath been committed, would immediately judge ourselves unworthy of it should we spontaneously betray any one point or jot of it, much less so strong a pillar of our faith and hope, to its adversaries. Though, then, we have other unanswerable proofs of the satisfaction of Christ, which the gates of hell shall in vain oppose, and numberless testimonies of the God who cannot lie, so that we may suppose Socinus is only idly insulting those who grant that God might forgive sin 571without any intervention of a satisfaction, but that he would not, (an expression which I by no means approve), we however think it necessary that this bulwark of punitory justice, a point, beyond all doubt, of the last importance to the cause, however it shall be disposed of, should be defended from the insults of adversaries.

In the first place, then, in the first chapter of the before-mentioned book, when going to dispute against this justice, he supposes that, according to our opinion, it is opposed to mercy, and that it is contrary to it, and builds upon this false supposition through the whole of his treatise, both in making his objections and answers. I acknowledge that he seized the opportunity of making this blunder from Covetus, against whom he is combating, who improperly and inaccurately hath said that this justice is opposed to mercy, because they have different effects; but we have formerly shown that they are neither essentially, nor actually, nor effectively opposite, as both of them are the very perfection of Deity itself, but that they are only distinguished as to their object, and not as to their subject. In all the sophisms, then, in which he afterward endeavours to prove that the Scripture acknowledges no such justice in God as is opposed to mercy, he trifles, through a perpetual mistake of the argument. But that justice which we mean, he says, is twofold in God. “The first,” as he says, “is that by which he punishes and destroys the wicked and ungodly, — that is, those who obstinately persevere in wickedness, and who are not led, from a repentance of their sins, to have recourse to God. The second is that by which even those whom, in his great goodness, he approves as just, were he so to will it, could not stand in his presence.”

But he again affirms, in the same chapter, “That the justice of God is twofold: that one kind he always uses when he punishes abandonedly wicked and obstinate sinners, sometimes, according to his law; the other kind, when he punishes sinners neither obstinate nor altogether desperate, but whose repentance is not expected.” And of both these kinds of justice he brings some proofs from Scripture.

That punitory justice is one alone and individual, we affirm; but that it is variously exercised, on account of the difference of the objects about which it is employed, we acknowledge; — but this by no means proves it to be twofold; for he ought not, among men, to be said to be endowed with a twofold justice who renders different recompenses to those who merit differently. But his whole treatise, from beginning to end, is disgracefully built on a mistaken and falsely-assumed principle; for he supposes that “every sin shall not receive its just recompense of reward” from divine justice, but that God punishes some sins, and can punish others only if he please. From an exceeding desire to exclude all consideration of the satisfaction of Christ entirely in the matter of inflicting punishment for sins, he 572against this stone: for God most certainly will finally punish the impenitent to all eternity, because he is just, and because there is no sacrifice for their sins; nor is it less true that God casts out and destroys many who are strangers to the covenant of grace, not waiting for their repentance, but that he effectually leads others to repentance; — not because he exerciseth a twofold justice, but because his justice hath been satisfied for the sins of the latter by Christ, whereas it is not so with regard to the former. See Rom. iii. 24, 25. But because he would not acknowledge the foundation for that distinction, which may be seen in the acts or exercises of the divine justice concerning sinners, to be laid in the blood of Christ, he hath feigned a twofold justice, and a twofold mercy opposed to it, of which there is not the most distant mention made in the sacred Scriptures, and which ought not by any means to be ascribed to the divine nature, which is in itself most simple.

But coming to himself again, he denies that in the sacred writings there is any mention at all made of any kind of justice that is opposed to mercy. We, indeed, have never said that justice is opposed to mercy; but as it clearly appears that it is his wish to deny to God the whole of that kind of justice whence, in punishing sins, he is said, or may be said, to be just (which punishment is an effect different from the pardon of sin that flows from mercy), we choose not to contend about words. Let us see, then, what kind of arguments he produces to support his robbing God of this essential attribute. He says, “that the word ‘justice,’ when applied to God in the sacred writings, is never opposed to ‘mercy,’ but chiefly, and for the most part, means rectitude and equity.”

It hath been already several times shown that justice and mercy are not opposite. We have likewise demonstrated, by many proofs adduced before, that the rectitude or supreme perfection of the divine nature is often called “justice” in Scripture; but this, I am sure, is by no means of advantage, but of much hurt, to the cause of Socinianism. Let him proceed, then.

“But that,” says he, “which is opposed to ‘mercy’ is not named ‘justice’ by the sacred writers, but is called ‘severity,’ or ‘anger,’ or ‘fury,’ or ‘vengeance,’ or by some such name.”

But our opponent avails himself nothing by this assertion; for that which is false proves nothing. By that which, he says, is opposed to mercy, he understands that virtue in God by which he punishes sins and sinners according as they deserve. But that this is never called “justice” in Scripture, or that God is not thence said to be “just,” is so manifestly false that nobody would dare to affirm it but one determined to say any thing in support of a bad cause. Let the reader but consult the passages adduced on this head in the third chapter, and he will be astonished at the impudence of the man. But 573all are agreed that anger, fury, and words denoting such troubled affections, ought not properly to be ascribed to God, but only in respect of their effects, — though analogically and reductively152152    That is, by consequence. — Tr. they belong to corrective justice, — because, in exercising his judgments, God is said to use them, but they do not denote any perfection inherent in God any farther than they can be reduced to justice, but only a certain mode of certain divine actions; for God doth not punish sins because he is angry, but because he is just, although in the punishment of them, according to our conception of things, he discovers anger.

He next proceeds to produce some passages, in order to prove that the justice of God in the sacred writings, — namely, that universal justice which we have before described, — is often used for the infinite rectitude of the divine nature (what nobody ever denied), where, in mentioning the justice of faithfulness and remunerative justice, agreeably to his faithfulness, which always hath respect to the covenant of grace ratified and established in the blood of Christ, God is said to pardon sins, and to reward those that believe, according to his justice; and thence he concludes, “that a justice opposed to mercy, by which God must punish sin, is not inherent in God.” “For what,” says he, “is more agreeable to the divine nature, and consequently more equitable and just, than to do good to the wretched and despised race of mankind, though unworthy, and freely to make them partakers of his glory?”

This surely is trifling in a serious matter, if any thing can be so called; for even novices will not bear one to argue from a position of universal justice to a negation of particular justice; much less shall we readily assent to him, who maintain that that particular justice is by no means distinguished from the universal rectitude of the divine nature, but that that rectitude is so called in respect of the egresses that it has, in consequence of the supposition of sin. But it is consonant with sound doctrine, “that that which is agreeable to the divine nature should be considered also as righteous and just;” and this Socinus acknowledges. We agree that it is agreeable to the divine nature to do good to sinners, but at the same time we dare not deny that the right of God is, that those who transgress are worthy of death; both which properties of his nature he hath very clearly demonstrated in the satisfaction of Christ, “whom he hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins;” whom, while the heretic rejecteth, he walketh in darkness, a stranger to the true and saving knowledge of God, and engaged wholly in his own vain imaginations.

But Socinus, as if having achieved some great exploit, at length 574thus concludes: “That punitory justice is not a virtue inherent in God, or a divine quality or property, but the effect of his will; and that that justice by which God always punishes impenitent sinners is so called, not properly, but by accident, namely, because it is agreeable to true justice or rectitude.” We have already considered the arguments that he has produced in support of this opinion; whether they be of such weight that they should induce us to deny this justice, and whether to punish sinners be essential and proper to God or only accidental, let the reader, from what hath been said on the subject, determine. So much for our first skirmish with Socinus.

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