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Chapter XIV.

Twisse’s third argument — A dispensation with regard to the punishment of sin, what, and of what kind — The nature of punishment and its circumstances — The instance of this learned opponent refuted — The considerations of rewarding and punishing different — How long, and in what sense, God can dispense with the punishment due to sin — God the supreme governor of the Jewish polity; also, the Lord of all — The fourth argument of Twisse — The answer — Whether God can inflict punishment on an innocent person — In what sense God is more willing to do acts of kindness than to punish — What kind of willingness that assertion respects — The conclusion of the answer to Twisse’s principal arguments.

The third argument is this: “God can inflict a milder punishment than sin deserves; therefore, he can by his absolute power suspend the punishment altogether.”

Ans. I answer, that the punishment which a sin deserves may be considered in a twofold point of view:— 1. As by means of it God compels to order a disobedient creature, that hath cast off its dependence on his supreme and natural dominion, in such a manner that his will may be done with that creature, that is itself unwilling to do it; and in this point of view he cannot inflict a more mild punishment than sin deserves. Yea, properly speaking, in this respect it cannot be said to admit of degrees, either milder or more severe. And in this sense we simply deny the foregoing proposition. 2. It may be considered in this other point of view, — namely, as God, for the greater manifestation of his glory, hath assigned to it modes, degrees, and other circumstances. But if punishment be considered in this view, we deny the sequel;170170    Namely, That God, by his absolute power, can suspend the punishment of sin altogether. — Tr. for though it be granted that he exerciseth liberty as to the modes and degrees, as these flow from the free appointment of God, it doth not follow that the punishment itself, so far as the nature of punishment is preserved in it, and which takes its rise from the natural justice of God, can be altogether dispensed with.

What says our learned antagonist to this? He supposes the author of the supplement his opponent, and discusses his opinion in a variety of subtile reasonings, in his answer concerning the extent and different 593degrees of justice. But he confesses that these have no relation to Piscator; and as they are of no avail to the argument, we therefore pass over the consideration of them.

But this learned gentleman has still something to oppose to our reasoning; for he thus proceeds, “God may reward beyond merit; therefore, he may punish less than what is merited.” But this reason is evidently of no force; for besides that arguments from opposites do not hold always good in theology, as hath been shown in various instances by Maccovius, we have before demonstrated at large that the relation between remunerating grace and punitory justice is not the same.171171    That is, their relation to their objects, or their qualities considered in this point of view, is different. Divine justice necessarily operates towards its object to punish the sinner, otherwise it would not be justice; but as no creature can merit any thing of God, it depends on God’s good pleasure whether he bestow rewards or not. — Tr. Moreover, these considerations all along arise not from the nature of punishment, but from its degrees, about which we have no controversy, for we have never said that God in punishing sins acts without any concomitant liberty, which respects those degrees.

But forasmuch as Socinians172172    Crellius, “Of the True Religion,” p. 308. argue from the divine dispensation with regard to the punishment of sins to the free pardon of them without any satisfaction, we must say a few things in reply to this argument of our learned antagonist, as it seems pretty near akin to them, and as they are so very eager in wresting every thing to favour their own side of the question.

The divine dispensation, then, with the punishment of sins, respects either temporary or eternal punishment; but a temporary punishment may be considered either in respect of monitory threats or of a peremptory decree, and both in respect of the time of the infliction and of the degrees in the punishment to be inflicted. But God, as the avenger of sin, is considered in Scripture in a twofold point of view:— 1. As the Legislator and supreme Lord of the Jews and their commonwealth; whose state, from that circumstance, Josephus calls a “theocracy:” or, 2. As the supreme Lord and just Judge of the universe. If these considerations be properly attended to, the subtleties of Crellius are easily dissolved: for God, as the Legislator and supreme Ruler of the Jewish republic, ofttimes dispensed with temporary punishments, as denounced in his threatenings, both as to the place, degree, and time of their execution; but God, as the supreme Lord and just Judge of the universe, doth not dispense with the eternal punishment of sin, to be inflicted at the proper and appointed time. The learned Twisse’s fourth argument remains only to be considered.

“God is able,” says he, “to inflict any torture, however great, even an infernal one, upon any person, without the consideration of 594any demerit; therefore, he is also able, notwithstanding the greatest demerit, to suspend the greatest punishment whatever. The antecedent hath been proved; the consequence from it is notorious, as God is more willing to do good than to punish.”

Ans. 1. We have before observed that this mode of reasoning does not always hold good in theology; neither, however, in the second place, are these opposites, namely, to inflict torture and to suspend punishment, for torture and punishment are different. But to inflict an infernal punishment upon any innocent person is a thing impossible; for punishment supposes a transgression: and, therefore, not to inflict punishment upon a guilty person is also impossible; for transgression, from the very nature of the thing, requires punishment. But it is astonishing that this learned writer should insist on the proof of the sequel, namely, “That God is more willing to do good than to punish,” as he hath many times, by very strong arguments, disallowed the natural inclination of the Deity towards the good of the creature; nor will he ever be able to prove that God is inclined to bestow such kind of benefits on a sinful creature as are opposite to the punishment due to sin, without regard to Christ and his satisfaction. But that difference respects a will commanding and exhorting according to morality, not decreeing or acting naturally.

And these are what this learned writer calls his “principal arguments;” in which he contends that God can let sin pass unpunished without any satisfaction. I hope that impartial judges, however great respect they may have for the name of Twisse, will not be offended that I have made these short answers to his arguments; as certainly they have been conducted without violence or sarcasm, and by no means from any weak desire of attacking so very illustrious a man, for whose many and great qualities none can have a greater respect. But I have engaged in this task from an earnest desire of preserving undiminished the glory of divine justice, and of establishing the necessity of the satisfaction of Christ, lest the Socinians should wrest to their purpose the arguments of this learned man, on the principal of which they place a principal dependence, and by which they acknowledge that they have been induced to adopt heretical opinions.

Our very learned antagonist adds other arguments to these; some of which have been satisfactorily answered by Maccovius; others belong not, according to our view of it, to the present controversy; and others will come to be considered in our vindication of the arguments of Piscator and Lubbertus, impugned by this celebrated writer, of which we shall take a short review, and, therefore, shall not now enter into any particular consideration of them.

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