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Justice consists in giving to every one his due—-in rendering to every being what is right. It is much the same as equity or rectitude, and is an essential and unchangeable perfection of the divine nature. Of justice there are supposed to be four kinds :general, commutative, distributive, and vindictive. The two last apply to our present subject. Distributive justice consists in giving every one his due, treating all according to their desert, acting toward the subjects of law agreeably to the terms of law. This requires that sin be punished according to its desert. The evil of sin is infinite. It must, therefore, receive an infinite punishment-infinite either in nature or in duration. A punishment which is infinite in nature cannot be borne by a finite creature; punishment infinite in duration is exclusive of all possible pardon; whence it follows, that if sin is to be punished agreeably to its desert, and yet sinners saved, it must meet this punishment in the person of one who can sustain an infliction which is infinite in nature; that is to say, the distributive justice of God renders necessary an atonement.
This is still more apparent from the vindictive or retributive justice of God. That opposition of the divine nature to sin, which leads to the annexation of a penalty to the breach of his law, the execution of which penalty is referable to distributive justice. is called the vindictive or retributive justice of God. The opposition of God's law to sin, is just the opposition of his nature to sin; his nature, not his will, is the ultimate standard of morality. His determination to punish sin is not voluntary, but necessary. He does not annex a punishment to sin because he wills to do so, but because his nature requires it. If the whole of such procedure could be resolved into mere volition, then it is not only supposable that God might not have determined to punish sin, but, which is blasphemous, that he might have determined to reward it. This is not more clearly deducible from the nature of a being of perfect moral excellence, than plainly taught in scripture. He will by no means clear the guilty. The Lord is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee. God is
God is angry with the wicked every day. The Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. Who can stand before his indignation ? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger ? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance ? Our God is a consuming fire. We may confidently appeal to every unprejudiced mind whether such descriptions as these do not fully bear us out in the view we have taken of God's retributive justice. And if this view is correct, sin cannot go unpunished; it cannot be pardoned without a satisfaction; God cannot but take vengeance on iniquity: to do otherwise would be to violate the perfection of his nature. Just he is, and just he ever must be; and there is only one
3 Exod. xxxiv. 7. Josh. xxiv. 19. Psal. v. 4; vji. 11. Nah, i. 2, 6. Rom. iii. 5. Heb. xii. 29.
way, that of an atoning sacrifice, by which he can be at once a JUST God and a SAVIOUR.' It is to no purpose to tell us that such language as we have quoted from the word of God is figurative, that it can never be understood as ascribing passions to God. This we fully admit; but if wrath in God is not an agitating passion, so much the worse for our opponents. It is a settled purpose or determination to oppose and to punish sin. Had it been a passion, it might have been supposed to cool, and, in process of time, to die away altogether; but being the fixed necessary opposition of his nature to evil, it is as incapable of change as the divine character itself.
We might even urge the goodness of God in proof of the necessity of Christ's atonement. This is the view of the divine Being to which the enemies of the doctrine incessantly appeal. His goodness prompts him to consult the happiness and welfare of his creatures, especially his moral and intelligent creatures. It is the tendency of sin to destroy all happiness, and inflict all possible misery. Natural evil is the invariable effect of moral evil. It was sin that expelled angels from the abodes of bliss; that introduced sorrow and suffering and gloom into this lower world; and that lit up those flames of Tophet which are to inflict never-dying torment on the wicked in a future state of being. Does not goodness say, then, that every thing should be done to check the progress and hinder the effects of such wide spreading evil ? And is this to be done by inflicting on it, its merited punishment, or by suffering it to pass un
noticed and to operate unrestrained ? Every man's reason must answer this question. Sin, to be put down, requires to be punished. It is not by pardoning it without satisfaction that it is ever to be prevented from spreading wretchedness and woe among every rank of God's moral creation. Mercy, not less than justice, demands, in order to pardon, that some one shall drink the cup of the wine of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.' JUSTICE IS BUT GOODNESS DIRECTED BY WISDOM.'
II. The atonement of Christ was rendered necessary by the nature of God's moral government.
That God has placed moral creatures under a law or moral constitution, which is designed to promote the glory of the Lawgiver and the good of his subjects will, it is presumed, be fully admitted. To the accomplishment of these purposes, it must also be admitted, that this moral constitution requires to be upheld and obeyed, and every thing done to prevent its violation. So far, all is clear, and can admit of no dispute. It merits consideration whether the notion of pardon without atonement be not directly subversive of the object in question, and destructive of the very principles of moral legislation.
It supposes a violation of the very letter of the law. The law says, 'The soul that sinneth, it shall die;' but the theory in question says, the soul that sinneth shall not die. The law says, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are
written in the law to do them;' but, according to the supposed theory, not every one, nay, not any one, shall be cursed. The law says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle of the law shall not pass until all be fulfilled ;' but, says the theory we are considering, not only one jot or tittle, but the whole penal sanction of the law shall pass completely away.
It reflects on the nature of the law. If the breach of the law can be passed over without compensation, it is clearly supposed to have been originally too strict, to have been over rigorous at first. This is much the same as to affirm that it was originally unjust, in opposition to the scriptures, which declare that the law is holy, just, and good. What a perfect law once was, it must ever continue to be. If it was originally just, it must be always just; but pardon without satisfaction, says either that it was originally unjust, or that it is now so. If it was originally holy, it must be always holy; but if pardon must be dispensed without satisfaction, either originally it was not so, or it has ceased to be what it once was, as it can never be wrong to carry the sanction of a holy law into execution. If it was originally good, it must be always good; but pardon without satisfaction proceeds on the supposition that it would not consist with goodness or benevolence to fulfill the threatening of the law. This scheme militates, thus, against the nature of the law, and supposes the moral constitution under which man is placed to be different from what both reason and scripture lead us to conclude.