It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry.—Proverbs 20.25.

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THE

True Doctrine

OF

JUSTIFICATION

ASSERTED & VINDICATED


By ANTHONY BURGESSE Paſtor of the Church

at Sutton-Coldfield in Warwickshire.

SECT. II.

Of Chriſts Sufferings, Merit and Satisfaction.


SERM. XI.

Why it was neceſſary our Redemption ſhould be by way of Justice, with Diſtinctions of natural Neceſsity. And whether God could have Remitted Sin without Satisfaction, modeſtly discussed.

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ROM. 3.26.

To declare his Righteouſneſs, that he might be just, &c.

THe final cause of our Justification is in this Text set down generally, and then divided into two particulars, The finis cujus [end for whom], and the finis cui [end for which].

The finis cujus [end for whom] I shall at this time accomplish; and for the other, viz. finis cui, I shall take another Text.  The end for the sake whereof God will justify us through Christ’s blood, as a Satisfactory Atonement, is to declare his Justice and Righteousness, that he doth not only abhor it, but will punish it, with his severest wrath, and therefore spareth not his Son, when he will become Surety for a sinner.  That Christ made a true and proper Satisfaction by his blood to God’s Justice, hath been proved at large.

Let us proceed to shew the grounds of this way, Why it was necessary that we should be redeemed in a way of Justice, as well as of Mercy and Power.  For some decry this as a most absurd and profane imagination.  Now besides the Scripture Texts, which you have heard plainly declaring God’s will to redeem man in this manner, and no other, we may conceive two grounds of it.

And the first is, From the Nature of Sin.  It is of an infinite guilt, and hath an infinite evil in the nature of it, and therefore no mere creature, but that person who had an infinite dignity could make Satisfaction for it.  It’s a Rule received by all, That by how much greater and more noble the person is, to whom the offence is made, by so much the offence is the greater, as Jude verses 8,9, aggravates some men’s sins from the excellency of the object, They speak evil of dignities.  When Shimei cursed David, the King and chief Governour of the Land, it was more heinous than if he had done it to one of the meaner sort.  Hence in respect of the object, The crucifying of Christ was a crimson sin, because he was the Son of God, and the Lord of glory; The death of all the men in the world was not so much as his.  Now seeing the majesty and honour of God is infinite, and there is no proportion between a creature’s glory and God’s glory: Therefore every sin being injurious to this Majesty, and offensive of his glory, it must have an infinite evil and guilt in it.

Indeed the Schoolmen dispute, Whether sin can properly be said to be an infinite evil?  Some grant, that in some respect it may be called infinite, because its against an infinite God, whose Majesty is incomprehensible, but this is wholly extrinsical, for God is not the intrinsical object of the soul, no not when it enjoyeth him in the most happy manner.  Now if this be granted, it’s enough to us, that seeing sin hath at least thus far an infinite demerit in it, because committed against a God of unsearchable Glory and Majesty, therefore none can make compensation or satisfy, but such an one, who hath as much honour and worth in him, as sin brought dishonour; and this can only be God and man who though as as a man did things humiliter [humbly], yet as God they were done sublimiter [highly]. {103}

But there are others that say the evil of sin is infinite intrinsically, because it doth offend God, in quantum est offendibilis, as far as he can be offended; for [the fact] that sin doth not actually hurt God, and destroy him, is from his infinite perfection: if the sinner by his sin could effect the ruin of the Divine Majesty, he would.  Hence by the first Commandment we are forbidden, To make to ourselves any other gods but him; Every sinner sets up another God besides him: Now that is to offend God as highly as he can be offended; Every sinner making the object of his sin another God, provokes God as much as God can be provoked; Those that made their belly their God, Phil. 3.19.  And covetousness being called Idolatry, Col. 3.5, as the Poet said,

Clausum arcâ custodit Jovem.

These sinners setting up creatures in the room of God, offend him infinitely; so that if a creature could love God in quantum est amabilis, that would be infinite love; hence God only loveth himself; so because sin is an offence against him, as far as he can be offended, therefore it may well be said to have an infinite evil and guilt in it.  Neither (say the same Authors) will this make every sin alike, because one infinite cannot be more than another; for although in respect of the aversion from God, and offence to him, all are alike, and therefore all are punished equally pœnâ damni, with the loss of God; yet in respect of their conversion or turning to the creature, which is the cause of turning from God, so there is a difference: As (say they) darkness is in itself a total privation of light, yet as there may be causes impeding this light, so one darkness may be greater than another.  Howsoever these things are, yet to be sure the Scripture speaks of sin, as an offence, rebellion, and despising of God; and he being the Jehovah, and fountain of all good and excellency, sin doth thereby derive such guilt upon the offender, that unless there be a greater good, than all the sins collectively are an evil, there cannot be any true and proper satisfaction.  And indeed the wisdom of God would not have suffered evil to be, had he not known thereby to procure a greater good. {104}

The second main ground, why God doth justify by way of satisfaction, is, from that glorious property of his Justice, whereby as he hateth sin, so he doth propend [incline] to punish it.  This property we have asserted by many places of Scripture, because the Socinians deny it, making Mercy and Justice (or as they call it anger) no properties in God, but mere voluntary effects of his free will, which being laid down as a foundation, then the superstruction must be, That Christ did not die by way of Satisfaction, at least, there was no necessity of it.  But we affirm, That as Mercy, Omnipotency, and Wisdom, so Justice also, whereby he inclineth to punish sin, is natural to God.

Indeed even amongst the Orthodox, there is difference of Judgments, at least in this point, Whether primitive Justice was so natural to God, supposing sin to be, that he could not remit it without Satisfaction?  But happily by a distinction or two the difference may be reconciled.

1. Concerning Natural, which Paræus Comment. in 2d cap. Gen, & cap 9, ad Rom. Dub. 12, hath out of Aquinas, That a thing may be said to be natural two ways, either, 1. When it necessarily and merely floweth from the principles of nature; thus the fire burneth naturally, the stone descends naturally.  Or secondly, When it floweth from the principles of nature, but by the mediation and intervention of free will.  Thus to understand, to will, to laugh, to speak, are natural actions to man, yet so as the exercise of them is subjected unto our free will.  Thus when we say it’s natural to God to punish and correct sin, we mean in the latter sense; not as if God must necessarily punish as soon as ever it is committed, or that he must punish to the utmost every time, as natural Agents work to the utmost they can: but the exercise of this, is subject to his wisdom and liberty.

2. When we say God doth necessarily punish sin, because he is just in his nature, we must distinguish of necessity,  1. There is an absolute and immutable necessity: Thus God only is necessarily, it being impossible that God should not be.  2. There is a limited and respective necessity, and that {105} sometimes from the efficient cause, because he is thus or thus disposed; as when it is said, 1 Cor. 10, There must be heresies, that is, partly in respect of the efficient cause, because there will be ignorance and pride always in men, although the Text mentioneth there only the final cause.

2. From the material cause.  Thus death is necessary and inevitable, because we have principles of corruptibility within us.

3. From the formal cause, because that is immutable and unchangeable.

4. From the final cause, supposing such an end.  Now it’s true in the former sense, it was not necessary to have Christ’s Satisfaction; for it was not absolutely necessary that mankind should be redeemed: God might have passed it by, as he did the apostate Angels. Hence Heb. 2.10, God’s love is aggravated [magnified], That he took not the Nature of Angels, but the seed of Abraham.

But for the latter kinds of necessity, some are true here, as there was a necessity of pardoning sin by Satisfaction, in respect of the efficient cause God, seeing by nature he loaths and hates sin.

2. From the final cause, seeing he purposed in procuring our Salvation to glorify his Mercy and Justice, he would not punish all sin with eternal damnation, nor yet let all go unpunished, but would manifest himself both just and merciful; supposing this, it was necessary that sin should not be pardoned without satisfaction.

Thirdly, A thing may be absolute and necessary, either quoad exercitium actus, in respect of the exercise of the act, or the specification and manner of it; or rather thus, The objects of some properties in God, may be said to be necessarily.  Or secondly, The objects supposed, then the acts are necessary.  To God’s Omnipotency there is required no object, because it makes its objects: and so to God’s wisdom there is required no qualification in the object, for he can order every thing to a glorious end; but to God’s Mercy and Justice, there are not only required objects, but objects so qualified either with grace and sin.  Therefore when we {106} say, that it is natural to God to punish sin, we mean not, as if God must naturally create a world, and procure man to be a sinner, but these things were done by God’s free-will; only suppose man doth fall and become a sinner, then God’s Justice requireth the punishment of it; So that it was free to God whether he would create man or no, yet supposing man is fallen, then it’s not free whether he will be just in his actions to the sinner or no.

These distinctions might clear the point, but because even amongst the Orthodox, there are different assertions in this matter, let us discuss it a little more.

There are several learned Authors, that hold God’s Justice in correcting and punishing sin is so natural, that he cannot but punish it, or require Satisfaction, otherwise he should deny himself and his own Nature; and this is not to derogate from his Omnipotency and Perfection, no more than to say, he cannot lie; but it ariseth from his infinite Perfection.  Thus hold many excellent Writers, Piscator amica Collati. cum Vorst.  Lubbertus 99 Error. Vorst.  Paræus in cap. 2 Genes. & cap. 9 ad Rom. Dub. 12.  Brocheus Animad. in Vorst. Martin. de persona Christi.  Steg. Photin. pag. 506, 507, and many others.

There are again others that say, If God be considered absolutely in respect of his power, and not upon a supposition of his decree, which is de facto to let no sin go unpunished, but to punish it either in the person or his surety; In this absolute sense they say, God might freely have remitted sin without any Satisfaction, and that there were other ways of our salvation than by redemption through Christ.  Augustine several times affirmeth this, especially Ser. 3 de Sanct. Domini: God, saith he, would so repair man, that he would not let sin go unpunished, because he is just, nor yet let it be incurable, because he is merciful, Potuit aliter fieri quantum ad potentiam Medici, &c.  “If we consider the power of the Physician, he could have done otherwise.”  But that place is most notable and urged by all that go this way, lib. 3. de Trin. 13. cap. 10, where he saith, “Another way of healing our misery, was possible to God, but there was none more convenient {107} than this.”  Though these places do assert another way possible, yet they do not determine whether that other way would have been without Satisfaction or not.  Calvin indeed speaks peremptorily to this purpose, in cap. 15, John, v. 13: Poterat vel solo verbo, aut nutu nos redimere, &c.  God might by a mere word or command have redeemed us, but he took this way through his Son, that his love might be made more manifest.[1]  And the Schoolmen generally following Lombard their Master, and he also following Augustine, from the forementioned place, do with one consent conclude, God might forgive sin without any Satisfaction, and that Christ’s death is necessary only hypothetically, upon a supposition of God’s Decree, to take this way rather than another.  Hence Sandæus the Jesuit, (Hydrus Holland) makes the Catholick truth, as he calls it, to be between the Socinians and the Calvinists, determining, that God will not de facto pardon sin without Satisfaction, against the Socinians; yet absolutely he could have done otherwise, against the Protestants.  But his malice deceiveth him in this, for many Orthodox Protestants, yea and Calvin himself acknowledge, God might have redeemed us by his sole Command or word.  And of late the learned Doctor Twiss hath a digression on purpose against Piscator and Lubbertus in this very point, Vind. lib. 1 de elect. Digress. 8.  But seeing both Lubbertus and Dr. Twiss himself do acknowledge that distinction mentioned by Paræus about a two-fold naturality, I see no reason why he should so industriously confute Lubbertus, neither do his Arguments seem pressing.

For my own thoughts I shall declare them in these particulars:

1. It’s agreed on by all hands (except the Socinians) that whatsoever God might have done, yet he hath plainly revealed his will, that he will not pardon sin, no not the least sin without a price paid, and an atonement made.  God hath decreed this way and no other, he hath revealed himself to be a God that will not acquit the guilty, and that will judge even the least sins, though they be but idle thoughts and words: Seeing therefore God hath pitched upon this way, it seemeth superfluous and {108} useless to dispute about the possibility of another way, and indeed it would be mis-spent time, but that the Socinians necessarily plunge us into it, denying any such Justice of God, as thereby to punish sin, but making it wholly arbitrary to punish or not punish: so that to evidence this truth the more about God’s righteousness requiring Christ’s Satisfaction, we may soberly and modestly enquire into it.

Yet in the second place, What Doctor is there, though never so subtle, angelical, or profound, that can positively determine this?  Who knoweth the deep treasuries of God’s power? Who can comprehend his nature?  Therefore it becometh either party of the dissentients to deliver their judgment soberly, and not to condemn one another, seeing one pretends a zeal of God’s Justice, that it would be derogatory to suffer the contempt of his Majesty without punishing; and the other they declare a zeal to God’s Omnipotency, that he is not to be bounded as men, but having no Superiour above him, may do what he please.[2]

These 2 things premised, I do incline to that opinion, which holdeth, That a corrective or vindicative Justice is natural and essential to God, so that he cannot but punish sin, or have satisfaction, and an atonement by a Surety: Provided that natural be taken in this sense, for that which floweth from nature, yet by the help of free-will and reason; as we say, to laugh, to speak, to will, is natural to a man.  And there are these Reasons preponderating with me for it.

First, The Scripture when it speaketh of God’s punishing sin, doth not attribute it merely to his Will and Decree, but to his just nature, because he is a righteous God.  Thus Psalm 11.7, when the Psalmist had described the judgments of God upon the ungodly, he inferreth it from the righteousness of his Nature, Because he is a righteous God, he will thus punish them also. Rev. 16.15.  The judgments which God there executed upon the Church’s enemies, are said to be, because he is a righteous God: Seeing therefore that the Scripture when it speaks of the punishing of sin, doth not attribute it merely to his free-will and power, but because of his just nature, whereby he hateth sin, and as Judge of the world will be avenged {109} on it; Therefore we may affirm, such justice as it’s an attribute, is essential to God, though the effects of it, are subject to his free-will, to punish when, where, and how he will.

Secondly, If God punish sin merely from his will, then it must follow, that sin or no sin is all one to him:  That God in his own nature is not more moved with all the blasphemies and impieties of the world, than if there were none at all; For if God by nature doth not incline to punish sin, but it’s mere will, then it is no more than when God purposed to create the world, or to make it rain: As it was nothing to God’s nature to make a world, or not make it; to cause it to rain, or not to rain; such an indifferent thing sin must be to God;  But how can this stand with those places, that say, God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, Hab. 1?  And that, God is angry with the wicked every day?  And if the Adversaries think it hard to say, That God cannot pardon the least sin without satisfaction, certainly it is more difficult to say, That all the sins of the world may be forgiven, though men never humble themselves, and repent of them.

Thirdly, If God punish sin merely from his will, and not from his Nature, How is it that all men have implanted in them such principles about God, that he will punish sin?  Why is it, that upon the committing of any sin, there is trembling, and a remorse of conscience?  Neither can it be said, This is because God by his Word hath revealed he will punish it; for even Heathens and Pagans they have such implantations upon their conscience, they have been able to say, that a wicked man though he may be securus, yet he is never tutus, That God’s judgment hangs over his head, as a drawn sword.[3]  And this the Apostle verifieth of them, Rom. 1.32, That they know το δικαιωμα του θεου the just judgment of God.  How came they to know this, but from an ingraffed principle of conscience within?

Fourthly, The Scripture speaking of damnation, and the punishment of sin, attributeth it not only to God ordaining such a reward, but to the merit and desert of sin itself.  Thus Rom. 1.32, they that do such things are said to be worthy of death;  Why worthy?  Or whence doth the desert of hell arise?  Is it merely {110} because God will?  Or not rather, because sin being a dishonour to God doth deserve it?  If then sin do deserve eternal wrath, then it’s from God’s justice, not from his mere will, that sin is punished.

Fifthly, This seemeth much to derogate from the Lord Christ, if he came into the world, and to undergo all those agonies he did for sin, and yet sin might have been forgiven without it.  If sin could have been pardoned without Christ, why was the beloved Son of God made a curse, and died such a reproachful death for us?  And certainly, seeing that our Redemption must be by way of Satisfaction, and that requireth a person of infinite dignity, I wonder how any can think any other way was possible, unless we may imagine that the Father or the holy Ghost might have been incarnated, for no mere creature could be a Mediator to reconcile God and man; and certainly, seeing that Augustine himself saith, “Though other ways were possible, yet none is so convenient;” this is to give up their cause; for who can tell, whether God could not find out a more convenient way as well as possible?  And if not, then certainly we must conclude, that such is the excellency and perfection of God, that he always takes the most excellent and perfect way.    And thus much shall suffice for the clearing of this main Article of Religion.

And let the godly soul make this Use of it, to admire the wisdom and knowledge of God, who, when mankind was utterly lost, and as hopeless as the Apostate Angels; When Justice stood with a fiery sword to keep man from all happiness, that then God should provide a way for our salvation.  This is that glorious mystery into which the Angels desire to search, though not so much concerned in it; and shall not the godly man much more study it?  For now he hath two tenures to hold his pardon and salvation by, Free grace and Justice: Free grace, in respect of himself; Justice, in respect of Christ.  If thou think Free grace will not acquit such a wretch as thou art, then know a full price is laid down to discharge thee of all thy sins: So that now when the Prince of the world comes against thee, thou mayest say in some sense as Christ did, He can find nothing in thee, for how can he accuse {111} thee, seeing Christ is thy Surety?  The bond hath been sued upon him, he would not leave one farthing unpaid.  Therefore the godly man may live and die without fear; he may well with Paul cry out, Who can lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?  It is Christ that died.  This answers Law, Devils, Conscience, Justice, and all.  As Paul said to Philemon concerning Onesimus, If he have wronged thee, or oweth thee any thing, put it on my account: So doth our Mediator to God, If these owe thee any thing, or have wronged thy Majesty, put it on me.  Paul indeed added, I Paul have written it with my own hand, but Christ hath ratified and confirmed it with his own blood.


Footnotes:

1. See also Mr. Calvin’s Sermon on Luke 2.1-14, Concerning the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, in which Calvin suggests God might have delivered us another way, and proposes a reason why he chose this way, on page 19:R of the edition published in 1581, or on page 49 of the edition published 1950 and reprinted 1997 by Old Paths Publications.—JTKer.

2. This two-fold categorization ought to be kept in mind before any “judging of parties” in this controversy.  The fact is that good causes and concerns can be motivation for espousing either position thus contemplated.  And while it may seem to some that one concern should be given a sort of priority over the other, yet there can be no right spirit nor doctrine about the matter except that which truly gives God his due glory in both regards, accounting that in his Sovereign Omnipotence, he is without superior, and without the direction of prescribed rule; while likewise in his Perfect Justice, he is ever necessarily free from both injustice as well as un-justice.  We must admit that in regard to all created things the exercises of his justice are subject to a Divine will which has designed every creature, every event, and all the appointed relations these may bear to his just and holy Law.  But in regard to himself, he is not only just, but he is the Sovereign Justice, and if there be anything that is unlike Justice, or anything like injustice, this shall never be the doing of him whose nature is not only just, but the very pattern from which every conception of justice must be derived.—JTKer.

3. For example, see Seneca’s epistle 97, On the Degeneracy of the Age, although in this case the use of these terms is inverted.—JTKer.