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which even we can see and feel in some degree, the holy God must be supposed to see and feel far more“ strongly than we do. If then, we look upon some deeds with abhorrence, and on the perpetrators of them with indignation ; while certain other actions we admire, and esteem and honour those who perform them; much more, must we suppose the infinite and holy God to *** have such feelings. From his very nature, therefore, or from his perfect purity and intelligence, we suppose him inclined to make a wide difference between the virtuous and the vicious, between those who do such things as please him, and those who do such things as he abhors. This, doubtless, is one reason why he rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.
A second reason why God should do this, is, that the good order and the happiness of his kingdom require it. The righteous obey, and the wicked transgress, those laws which his wisdom and goodness have ordained. On the observance of these laws, the order and the happiness of his vast kingdom, and of every part of it, depend. And hence, as the moral governor of the intelligent universe, as the being to whom it belongs to guard the interests of this vast community, not by physical force, which would destroy the freedom of action, but by motives suited to affect the minds of rational and moral beings,-he must, necessarily, make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked; that is, he must reward the one and punish the other. He would not otherwise do right: he would not distribute justice ; nor manifest a due regard to the interests of his great kingdom. He would not administer the government of it in a manner worthy of himself: his char
acter, as a wise and righteous ruler, would be impeachable.-" That be far from thee,”—said Abraham, interceding for guilty Sodom," that be far from thee, to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee; shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
The only other ground of punishment, which need be mentioned, is, thirdly, the personal benefit of the individuals who transgress. Some divine punishments, particularly those inflicted in this life, we may suppose to be fatherly chastisements, intended to reclaim the wandering, and thus promote their own best interests. Love or kindness to the individuals themselves, is the ground of these punishments.*
Such we may believe to be the principal reasons, why God punishes the wicked.-And which of them, except perhaps the last, can any man suppose so holy and unchangeable a being as God is, will ever cease to regard? Will the principles of his very nature ever be so changed, that he can cease to feel abhorrence of sin, and esteem for virtue ? Or, will he ever become regardless of the duties of his station, as the universal governor, and cease to care for the order and happiness of his kingdom? Till he can do all this, he cannot cordially receive impenitent transgressors to his bosom, and treat them with that kindness which he shews to the righteous.
Of the three grounds of punishment just enumerated, the first is, in the nature of things, removeable in no other way than by a change of character either in God or
* See a lucid statement of the grounds of divine punishments, in Brettschneider's Handbuch der Dogm. B. I. S. 354 ff.
in the sinning creature. Nothing that a Mediator could do would remove it. The holy and unchangeable God can never cease to abhor sin. He must forever feel differently, and be inclined to conduct differently, towards the righteous and the wicked. Nothing can ever bring the infinite mind, which is purity itself, into harmony with the polluted souls of sinning creatures. They must become holy; this, and this only, can remove the first ground of punishment. And this certainly will remove it; because when creatures cease to be sinners, they must cease to be odious in the sight of God. Their new and holy characters render them now lovely in his view; and he can therefore feel no repugnance, so far as their present characters are concerned, to embracing them as · his dear children.-Such a change in the sinner's character, will likewise remove the third ground of punishment, which was the reformation of the sinner himself. Because this object is already obtained, by the change supposed.
Only the second ground of punishment then remains to be removed; and to remove this, and this only, is the proper business of an atonement. This is an obstacle to his forgiveness, which the sinner himself can never remove. He has committed deeds which cannot be recalled. He is a transgressor of the law, and must forever stand guilty. What is done, can never be undone. All he can do, will be to repent of the past, and cease to do evil in future. His repentance, though certainly proper, cannot change the nature of his past transgressions, nor repair the injury they have occasioned. And no future obedience can be more than his immediate duty for the time being; it can never atone or make
amends for past disobedience. He has violated the law of God; and nothing he can do or suffer, will obliterate his crime, or prevent its mischief to the kingdom of God. The good of the universe requires, that the majesty of the law be maintained inviolate ; and this is impossible, let him do what he will, without the full exécution of the penalty of the law upon him.
But, it may be said ; do not all civil governments grant absolute pardons to the guilty? Why then, may not the divine government do the same? The answer is, because God's government is perfect; but all civil governments are imperfect. They are weak, and can but partially obtain their end. They sometimes give impunity to an accomplice in a crime, if he will bear testimony against his associates; because human governments often have no other sufficient means of detecting the guilty. They pardon a condemned criminal, because the judge erred in condemning him ; or because the rigorous execution of the law would, in his case, exceed the demerits of his crime ; or because the loss of such a citizen to the state, would be a greater evil to the community, than the suspension of the arm of justice. Such as these are the grounds, on which pardons in civil governments can be justified. They all originate from the imperfection of human laws, and from the incompetency of human beings to execute justice. But no such causes can exist in the perfect government of the omniscient God. He therefore, never grants absolute pardons. And in human governments, they tend so much to weaken the force of law and encourage transgression, that every wise lawgiver endeavours to render them as few and rare as possible.
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Again; it may be said, parents and guardians, or heads of families and of schools, frequently remit punishment, when transgressors repent and reform. Why then, may not the great parent of all, do the same? The answer is, that the primary object of these family governments is the personal good of the individuals ; and in such little communities, established chiefly for the benefit of the several members, the personal interest or advantage of each bears a higher proportion to the common good of the whole, than in a great empire. Hence, in these little societies, it is comparatively of less importance to support the honour and majesty of law at the expense of individual good. Yet, even here, some regard must be paid to the public good; and of course, to the claims of law. And in proportion to the extent of a community, or the number of subjects under the same government, must be the importance of fixed laws, and of an undeviating adherence to them. There is a difference even between a small family and a large one, and between a small school and a large one. The instructer of a single pupil, may pardon him, whenever it will not be injurious to the pupil himself; but if he has several pupils, it is far otherwise. Hence it appears, that the principles and maxims of paternal governments are not to be transferred to the government of nations, and much less to that of worlds. But, has it not been already admitted, that God sometimes chastises his creatures, for their good? And does not this shew, that he adopts and acts upon, the principles of paternal governments ?-Doubtless; to a certain extent he does. But how far ?—is the question. The reasoning just advanced, goes to shew,—not that the personal advantage