« PreviousContinue »
that an exact equivalent be given for what is received, without any regard to persons or characters.-To these three kinds of justice, some add what is called regal or rectoral justice, which requires the governing power or sovereign of a realm to make such enactments and so to relax, modify or suspend the execution of the law, as to secure the highest good of the community, in cases where the ordinary course of distributive justice would be injurious and therefore wrong. But this need not be made a distinct species of justice, since it is in its nature nothing different from general justice. I mention it here only because it occurs in some treatises on the atonement.— The threefold division of justice stated above, whether it be the best that can be devised or not, has been generally received ever since the days of Aristotle, and is that to which moralists and others most commonly refer. See Dwight's Theol. Serm. x. vol. I. pp. 160 -163, and Grove's Moral Phil. vol. II. pp. 238-244, 254-256, and the writers there referred to.
In treating of the justice of God, divines are accustomed to discriminate only two forms of it, legislative and executive; the former concerned in the enactment of laws, and the latter in the execution of them. Commutative justice can hardly be predicated of God, as he is a being who gives to all but receives from none. Distributive justice, it would seem, may be predicated of him, and that too of the highest kind; because all his laws are equal, and their execution impartial. And yet we cannot suppose a being of such consummate perfection as he is, ever to perform any act without a due regard to all the rights of his creatures, and allowing due influence to all the considerations which ought to govern his conduct. But this would bring every act of justice performed by him completely under the definition of general justice. Shall we then say that distributive justice is not an attribute of God? By no means. But we must say, that distributive justice in him, is not that limited, oneeyed virtue which it often is in men, and which the common definition makes it; that is, it does not regard merely the claims of his creature, upon him. It is in the nature of it general justice presiding in the enactment and execution of permanent laws. In his permanent enactments, and in the ordinary execution of law, he does indeed give to every one his due, though from other considerations superadded to that of their deserts or claims; but in mercifully suspending the arm of punitive justice, in extraordinary enactments for
the sake of greater good than could be obtained by the mere execution of permanent laws,—in a word, in the formation and execution of the whole system of grace,-the justice which is diplayed is not distributive justice, even that elevated kind of it which we ascribe to God; it is unequivocally general justice.
For these reasons, I do not hesitate to say, that dexaloovv in Rom. iii. 24, is general, not distributive, justice. And to be consistent, every one must admit it, who admits that the justice of God in any sense of the word, is here intended; and at the same time admits that the penalty of the law was not actually and literally executed on Jesus Christ substituted for us and charged with all our guilt. See the younger Pres. Edwards, Three Serm. in Selections on the atonement, pp. 351-358. Pres. Maxcy, Discourses, Ibid. pp. 205-208. Burge, on Atonement, pp. 161-165. Parkhurst, Gr. Lex. Sinaloovvn, and Nares, Remarks on Version of N. T. p. 160.
APPENDIX, C. p. 19.
For arguments in support of the doctrine of legal satisfaction by vicarious punishment, see Grotius, Defensio F. C. de Satisfactione, cap. IV. Op. tom. III. pp 311-315. F. Turrettin, de Satisfactione Christi, Disp. II. § 35-50. pp. 50-59, and Disp. X. A. Fuller's Dialogues, Pt. III. Convers. I, II, and, The Doctrine of the Aton. explained and defended, by a Christian of the ancient School, in Panoplist, Vol. II. pp. 453, 513, 560, and Vol. III. pp. 114, 155. Arguments against legal satisfaction by vicarious punishment, may be seen in J. Balguy's Essay on Redemption, pp. 12-23, ed. 1785. E. D. Griffin, on the Extent of the Aton. Pt. I. ch. 7. pp. 113-171. C. Burge, Essay on Aton. ch. 6 and 7, particularly ch. 7, pp. 195–216.
This subject has, I conceive, been embarrassed chiefly, by the general prevalence of the old scholastic notions respecting the transferable character of guilt and punishment, and by reasoning from the analogy of human governments without discriminating between acts of sovereignty and the mere execution of law. From the days of Anselm and Aquinas, or from the eleventh century to the eighteenth, the great body of Western christians believed that the Mediator so took the place of transgressors, or at least of penitent believing ones, that their guilt was either actually transferred or legally imputed to him; and that he of course became legally obnoxious to punishment, and really suffered the curse of the law or what was equivalent to it. The reformers generally, and most of
their successors till some time in the last century, held these sentiments. After the impossibility of transferring moral character or guilt and obedience, began to be seen; the legal imputation of it, or the justice of treating persons as if such a transfer had really taken place, was tenaciously held by some; while others discriminated between guilt and punishment, and held to the transfer of the latter only. All these, more or less overlooked the nature of the penalty of the divine law; and confounded the ideas of forfeiture and of sim ple punishment. They considered the transgressor as bound to pay something; and supposed that the payment of the forfeiture, whether by himself or by another, satisfied the demands of the law. And when reasoning on the subject, they drew analogies from the proceedings in human governments, without discriminating between acts of sovereignty and the mere execution of law; or if they saw and admitted the distinction, as many of them did, yet they did not conform their language to it, but continued to use the terms law, satisfaction, legal justice, &c. in the customary vague manner. From this source, so much obscurity and misunderstanding have arisen, that it may not be improper just to state in few words the distinction, which should never have been neglected. The supreme power in a nation, not only enacts and repeals the laws of the country, but it sometimes grants dispensations, or suspends and modifies the operation of the existing laws; by forbidding prosecutions, remitting penalties and granting pardons, in criminal cases; and by allowing of chancery proceedings in some civil causes. From the imperfection of all human legislation, occasions will arise when the public good will be promoted, and more perfect justice be done to individuals, by suspending the regular course of legal justice; and the more imperfect the laws, the more frequent these occasions. But it is only the sovereign of the nation, or some one possessing a portion of his power, that can meet the exigences of these cases; the judges and all the ordinary ministers of justice are bound to fellow strictly the course the law prescribes. They are not to be guided by their own wisdom and judgment, or by their own ideas of what is reasonable and proper, except where the laws expressly give them discretionary power. The law is their rule, so far as it extends; and within those limits, legal justice is the only justice they are to know. Now it is with reference to the exercise of legal justice in a criminal trial, that we speak of a legal justification, or a justification on the ground of law and justice. In this, which is doubtless the proper sense of
the words, we affirm that the justification of believers in Jesus Christ, does not proceed on the ground of law and justice; that the divine law did not allow of a transfer of our punishment to him, nor permit his sufferings to be set to our account; and that nothing the Mediator could possibly do or suffer, would satisfy the demands of the law upon us. And this we say is evident from the nature of law, in all governments, human and divine. Hence we pronounce the justification of believers, to be an act of the sovereign mercy of God, a departure from the regular course of justice, and such a departure as leaves the claims of the law forever unsatisfied. We mean that it is analogous to those sovereign acts of the supreme power in a nation, by which the regular course of legal justice is arrested; and that it is such an act as the ministers of legal justice could not perform.-Overlooking this distinction, or confounding all the acts of human rulers, many writers on the atonement, finding that in human governments much use is made of discretionary power; and that in the early ages especially, magistrates followed very much their own discretion or rather caprice, in the administration of justice; have been led to consider the justification of believers in Christ as a judicial act or the act of a judge seated on the bench of justice. The judge, say they, saw in the vicarious sufferings of the Mediator, a full satisfaction of all the demands of the divine law; and therefore he pronounced us legally acquitted. These writers could find, especially in ancient history, some instances of human rulers allowing and even requiring the innocent to suffer for the guilty and these were deemed examples in point. They found all antiquity admiring the ingenuity and extolling the virtue of some such rulers: and this was evidence that the common sense of mankind approved such justice. They could see and feel that the occasional exercise of sovereign or discretionary power, suspending or modifying the operation of human laws, is really necessary; and this satisfied their consciences, their moral sense, that strict justice might require or at least admit a similar power to interpose and modify the operations of the divine law for in their zeal for a favourite opinion, they unhappily forgot that the law of God as administered by him, can never fail to do perfect justice, and that any suspension of its operation would of course be a suspension of justice.
The Faith once delivered to the Saints.
DELIVERED AT WORCESTER, MASS. OCT. 15, 1823,
REV. LOAMMI IVES HOADLY,
TO THE PASTORAL OFFICE
CALVINISTIC CHURCH AND SOCIETY IN THAT PLACE.
BY LYMAN BEECHER, D. D.
PRINTED BY CROCKER AND BREWSTER,
No. 50, Cornhill.