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authority is impaired, its righteous claims are not cancelled. Now if a substitute can be provided, which shall fully answer all these ends of government, then justice is satisfied, an equivalent is rendered, and a remission of the penalty may safely follow. But unless an equivalent of this kind is rendered, the penalty must be inflicted, or justice is sacrificed, and the government is weakened, if not prostrated.
And here we see the error of those who hold that repentance satisfies for sin, and furnishes a sufficient ground of pardon. How would such a principle operate, in reference to commercial justice ? Suppose creditors universally were expected and required to relinquish their claims, just as soon as their debtors were sorry that they had contracted them. Would not such a principle be fatal to commercial justice, destroying all confidence between debtor and creditor, and putting an end to the orderly transaction of business? But no less fatal would it be to governments to regard repentance alone as making satisfaction for crimes, and furnishing a sufficient ground for their forgiveness. Repentance is necessary in order to prepare the transgressor to receive a pardon, and to profit by it; and hence it is made, under the Divine government, the indispensable condition of pardon. But repentance, of itself, constitutes no equivalent for the transgression of the law, or the infliction of its penalty, and no proper ground for the remission of sins.
Thus far we have spoken of justice in the abstract; of its intrinsic nature, its different forms, and its demands. It will be understood that this is a very different thing from justice considered as a moral attribute ; the attribute of a free, intelligent being. Justice, in the abstract, is a fixed principle. It is the due from one being to another. But justice, considered as a moral attribute, belongs to the character. It is a disposition to do what is just. It is a fixed purpose, a determination, to meet and fulfil its high demands.
The question has been asked, whether justice is a form of benevolence ; or whether it partakes of the nature of that love which is “the fulfilling of the law.” To this, we answer, that justice, in the abstract, is not a form of benevolence, more than truth or right, in the abstract, is a form of benevolence. But justice, considered as a moral attribute,-in other words, the disposition to be just, is a form of benevolence. It is as really so as mercy or grace. God, we are repeatedly told, is love. Love enters into and comprises His whole moral character. But the justice of God, considered as an attribute, is an important part of His moral character, and, of course, must be but a modified form of love. It is benevolence in God which prompts him to do justly, as well as to love mercy. His benevolence is as
truly manifested in meeting the strict demands of justice, as in exercising compassion, or in doing good.
The proof that God possesses the attribute of justice, or, in other words, that He is perfectly just, is easy. This is repeatedly
, and most expressly asserted in the Scriptures. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Gen. 18: 25. “A God of
"A truth and without iniquity; just and right is he." Deut. 32: 4. “ Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne.”— Ps. 89: 4.
Justice is an essential part of holiness; so essential that no being can be holy who is not just. The justice of God is, therefore, involved in His holiness.
It is likewise involved in the fact of His perfection as a moral Governor. A perfect moral governor must, of necessity, be just -perfectly just. The least injustice, or want of justice in his character, or government, would imply a defect which nothing could remedy-would imprint a stain which nothing could wash away.
God's justice is further evident from the fact, that He requires His intelligent creatures to be just.” “Remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice.” Ezek. 45: 7. “To do justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Prov. 21: 3. “What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly,” &c. Mic. 6: 8. Surely, injunctions like these, on the part of God, necessarily imply that He is Himself just.
We may further add, if further proof is needed, that God has appointed a day for the display of His justice ; when He will fully satisfy the universe of creatures, that His ways are all righteousness, and His judgments just. The object of the general judgment is not to satisfy God how His creatures have acted, but rather to satisfy them as to the justice and propriety of His dispensations. By the disclosures there made He means to stop every mouth, to silence every murmur, and show to the congregated myriads around Him that He has done, in every instance, right. Accordingly, the day here referred to is spoken of in the the Scriptures as “the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Most certainly, God would never have appointed a day for such a purpose, had He not known that His justice would bear investigation ;-had He not known that it was perfect, and would stand the test.
We are to believe, therefore, (what most men who are not atheists profess to believe,) that God is just. He is just, in the higher and more general sense of justice, fulfilling all His obligations both to His creatures and Himself; and just, also, in the retributive sense;disposed to reward the obedient, and to treat all the myriads of His intelligent creatures according to their works.
We have said that most men, who are not atheists, profess to believe in the justice of God. But it may be feared that many, who have no doubts on that point, have not duly considered the importance of this attribute, in its bearing on the Divine character and government. To this part of the subject, therefore, we will now direct attention.
And our first remark is, that the perfect justice of God is an admirable and glorious trait of His character. This attribute consists in the disposition to do right-universally, immutably and forever right. It prompts the Divine Being to maintain inviolate His own dignity, and honor, and rights, as a moral governor ; in other words, to be just to Himself. It prompts Him to maintain, to the last iota, the claims of His holy law, and to administer His government with unflinching, unfaltering rectitude. It prompts Him to extend the wing of His omnipotent protection over every loyal, obedient subject, and to reward him to the full measure of what he deserves. It further prompts him, as of necessity it must, to punish the incorrigibly disobedient; not harshly, not cruelly, but in measure and manner according to their works. And now what is there in all this which is not honorable, glorious to the Supreme Being,-wbich does not render Him the more worthy to be feared, adored, and loved ?
Many persons are displeased with the justice of God. They cannot think of it without shrinking, and almost shuddering. But why shudder in the presence of a Being who will do exactly and forever right? The thought of God's justice does not make the holy angels shudder; and why should it have such an effect upon us? It is conscious guilt which makes us tremble. This alone could make us shrink away, in shame and terror, before a Being who is so gloriously just.
The justice of God is not only a glorious attribute in itself, it is indispensable in order to the perfect symmetry and proportion of the Divine character. There is much in the character of God that is mild, gentle, forbearing, compassionate, disposing its benignant possessor to forgive iniquity, transgression and sin. Now, suppose the character of the Supreme Being to be made up entirely of these milder traits, so that He could not resent an injury, or punish an offence. Suppose He were all mercy, in such sense as to be entirely divested of the attribute of justice. Would such a character be a perfect one? Would such a being be qualified to stand at the helm of universal dominion, and govern the worlds which God has made? Such a being would possess some amiable, excellent traits of character ; such as actually belong to God; but they would need to be balanced, set off, by others. There would be needed the great make-weight of justice, to come in on the other side. A character such as we have supposed, unless balanced, regulated, perfected by justice, would be altogether a one-sided character. It would lack symmetry, proportion, perfection. It would be a character of weakness-childish weakness, and altogether unsuited to the Supreme Governor of the universe.
Again; the justice of God is that which gives stability to His government, and entitles it to the confidence of the intelligent creation. “ Justice and judgment are the habitation”—or as it might be rendered, the establishment of his throne.” They go to settle and confirm it, and render it immovable and glorious. The creatures of God hnow now on what to depend. Whether loyal or disloyal, obedient or disobedient, they know on what they are to depend. They know there is an inflexible rule of right, that God understands it, and that he is immutably determined to conform His administration to it. Were God other than perfectly and unchangeably just, were He liable to be moved by partiality, or swayed by passion or caprice ; His intelligent creatures would no longer know on what to depend. The wicked might be rewarded, and the righteous punished. The inhabitants of hearen might be cast down from their high estate, and the inhabitants of hell might be exalted. And all this, without any regard to justice or right, from the mere prejudice and caprice of the Sovereign. It is perfectly evident, on a moment's reflection, that it is the strict justice of God which gives to His government its stability and consistency. It is this glorious attribute of justice, which removes the apprehensions and inspires the confidence of all the dutiful part of His creation. It is the justice of God which makes it certain that the obedient will be forever cared for, protected, and rewarded. It is the justice of God which makes it as certain that the incorrigibly rebellious will be forever punished.
Says the writer of the Apocalypse, on one occasion : "I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia ; salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great whore which did corrupt the earth with her fornication. And again they said, Alleluia ; and lier smoke rose up forerer and ever.” It is here represented that the final enemies of God's church, symbolized by the great whore, are to be punished forever and ever; not because God is partial, or passionate, or capricious, or revengeful, or cruel, or unjust, but because "true and righteous are his judgments;"—in other words, because, He is inflexibly and eternally just, and this justice is glorious in the view of heavenly beings." Again they said, Alleluia ; and her smoke rose up forever and ever.”
It is of vast importance to understand and maintain the justice of God, because on this rests the entire scheme of Redemption by the blood of Christ. Why must the Lord Jesus Christ appear in
our world, and pour out His blood upon the cross? It was to satisfy the violated justice of God, and thus open a way for the exercise of mercy. If God had not been just, inflexibly just; if He had not had a strict regard for His own authority and rights as a Sovereign, and for the honor and authority of His law; if He had been capable of disregarding the claims of justice, and thus putting at hazard all the interests of the universe; in this case He might have pardoned sin, with or without an atonement, with or without repentance, in any way that caprice and prejudice might have dictated. But the great God of heaven and earth is a just God. “ Justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne." And His justice must be satisfied, ere His mercy can be exercised. A governmental equivalent, as before explained, must be rendered, ere the penalty of the law can be remitted. A full atonement must be made in the sufferings and blood of the Son of God, or the provisions of gospel grace and mercy can never be unfolded. It thus appears that the great plan of Redemption, with all the mighty interests involved in it, rests entirely on the justice of God. Redemption is indeed a display of mercy, but it is also, and equally, a display of justice. It is a provision of God's love which rests entirely on His justice, and which, but for His justice, need never have been made.
It follows from the principles here laid down, that those who, in their conceptions of God, divest Him in great measure of His justice, leave His character deformed and imperfect. They leave it essentially different from what it is ; and thus the God in whom they believe and confide is, in reality, a false God. And is not this the mistake of many, very many, in this Christian land? They believe there is a God, and they clothe the being whom they call God, it may be, with all His natural attributes; but of an essential part of His moral attributes they, in imagination, divest Him. He is mild, gentle, forbearing, compassionate, desiring the good of all His creatures, and deeply grieved at their transgressions; but with no heart to vindicate His authority and His rights, to maintain His justice, and punish the guilty as they deserve. We have only to say, that the God of such person's is a false God. It is not the God of nature, or of Scripture. It has no existence out of their own fancies. And the service which they render it cannot be accepted by the God of heaven. Such persons may love the God of their own creation, and yet hate the true God. They may admire and adore an imaginary divinity, while all their feelings are hostile to the holy and just God of heaven and earth.
From the importance to be attached to the justice of God, it follows that a display of this attribute is essential to the Divine glory. God's essential glory consists in His being just what He
His declarative glory consists in the manifestation, the dis