MORAL ATTRIBUTES.---No. 2.
JUSTICE OF GOD
FIRST. Define the term Justice.
SECOND. Show the several senses in which it is used.
THIRD. Prove that God is just.
FOURTH. Answer an objection.
First. Define the term Justice.
Justice is a hearty and practical regard to the rights of all beings. I say it is hearty and practical. It is an affection of the mind; an efficient affection that results in corresponding action.
Second. Different senses in which the term is used.
1. Commercial Justice. This relates to trade, and is the rendering of exact equivalents in human dealings.
2. Commutative Justice. This relates to government, and consists in substitution, or the substituting of one form of punishment, which is preferred by the criminal, and equally advantageous to the government, for another form which he deserves, and to which he has been sentenced. Thus banishment or confinement in the state prison during life is sometimes substituted for the punishment of death.
3. Remunerative Justice. This is governmental, and consists in bestowing merited rewards upon virtue.
4. Retributive or Penal Justice. This also is governmental, and consists in the infliction of merited punishments.
5. Public Justice. This also is governmental, and consists in a due and practical regard to the public rights and interests. It is that which the public have a right to expect and demand for the protection of public morals and the public good, and is that which the law-giver is bound to exercise.
6. General Justice. This is synonymous with whatever is upon the whole right, and best to be done. This is righteousness and true holiness, and includes both mercy and grace, when their exercise is consistent with what is upon the whole wise and good. Every form of justice is some modification of benevolence. It is a good will to being in general, carried out in its application to the particular circumstances under which it is manifested. Thus benevolence or good will to the public, leads to the infliction of penal evil upon transgressors. This manifestation of benevolence, we call retributive or penal justice.
Commercial justice does not relate to God. All the other forms which I have mentioned do.
Third. Prove that God is just.
1. The justice of God is manifested by the fact, that he has subjected the universe to laws, physical and moral, with appropriate sanctions.
2. These sanctions are universally remuneratory and vindicatory, i.e. virtue is rewarded, and vice i.e. punished.
3. The sanctions, so far as we can see, are universally proportioned to the importance of the precept.
4. The remuneratory part of the sanction, that which promises reward to virtue, is in no case set aside when the precept is obeyed.
5. The vindicatory part of the sanction, that which threatens evil to disobedience, is in no case dispensed with, unless full satisfaction be made to public justice.
6. The fact that the penalty attaches, and the work of retribution commences instantly on the breach of the precept.
7. The instant and constant bestowment, to some extent, of the rewards of virtue upon obedience. The constitution of moral beings is so framed by their author, that obedience and disobedience to moral law, are instantly followed, the one by the sweets which are naturally and necessarily connected with obedience, and the other with the stings, gnawings, and agonies, that are certainly and necessarily connected with disobedience.
8. Nothing but the Atonement, which is the satisfaction of public justice, ever arrests and sets aside the execution of penal justice in any instance.
9. We reasonably infer the justice of God from the very constitution of our nature. We are so constituted, as from the very laws of our being, to approve, honor, and love justice, and to abhor injustice. If, therefore, God is not just, he has so created us, that we need only to know him to render it impossible for us not to abhor him.
10. If God is not just, he must be unjust; for it is naturally impossible that he should be neither.
11. If God is unjust, he is perfectly so. Justice and injustice are moral opposites, and can never be predicated of the same being at the same time.
12. If God is unjust, he is unchangeably so, as he can never have any new thoughts, purposes, designs, or volitions. Whatever therefore is true of his moral character is immutably and eternally true.
13. If God is unjust, he is infinitely so. Every attribute of God must, like himself, be infinite. Perfect Justice in an infinite being must be Infinite Justice.
14. As a matter of fact, the universe cannot be under the government of a being of infinite injustice.
15. If God is unjust, he must be so, in opposition to absolutely infinite reasons against injustice, and reasons, too, that are forever present to, and acting with all their weight upon his mind.
16. If God is unjust, he is so in spite of absolutely infinite motives in favor of justice, and with the whole weight of those infinite motives fully before and perfectly apprehended by his infinite mind. The supposition that he is unjust, under these circumstances, is absurd, and the thing morally impossible.
17. Injustice is a form of selfishness. And it has been shown that God is not selfish, but infinitely benevolent.
18. But justice is only a modification of benevolence, therefore, God must be just.
19. If God is unjust, he is infinitely wicked and infinitely miserable. It is impossible that injustice should not make a moral being miserable.
20. If God is not just he must abhor himself.
21. If he is unjust it is our duty to hate him.
22. The Bible everywhere represents God as just:
Deuteronomy 32:4: "He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he."
Nehemiah 9:33: "How be it thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly."
Job 4:17: "Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?"
Isaiah 45:21: "Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? And there is no God else besides me, a Just God and a Savior: there is none besides me.
Zephaniah 3:5: "The Just Lord is in the midst thereof: he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light; he faileth not: but the unjust knoweth no shame."
Zechariah: 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is Just, and having salvation."
Acts 3:14: "But ye denied the Holy One and the Just."
Acts 7:52: "And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One."
Acts 22:14: "And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One."
Fourth. Answer an objection.
Obj. As a matter of fact, moral beings are not dealt with according to their characters in this world.
Ans. 1. There is enough of justice visible here, plainly to intimate that God is just, and yet so much wanting as to create a clear inference, that this is a state of trial and not of rewards.
2. The execution of law, both in its remuneratory and vindicatory clauses, commences and only commences in this life, and the process continues to eternity.
3. Facts as they exist, force the conclusion, that the government of God is moving on as fast as circumstances will allow, to a more perfect and most perfect dispensation of rewards, in a future world.
4. The perfection discoverable in the precept of law, must eventually be carried out, in the final perfection of retributive and remunerative justice, or it will involve the character of God in a manifest contradiction, which cannot be.
5. The Bible fully explains the otherwise, to some extent, mysterious state of things in this world, in respect to the administration of justice, and most perfectly reconciles all that passes here, with the infinite justice of God.
6. Final and perfect justice cannot be consistency dispensed till after the general judgment; for until the history of every being is fully known to the universe of moral beings, they could not possibly understand the reasons for his dealings with his creatures. And the dispensation of perfect justice, previous to the universal development of character, might be and doubtless would be a great stumbling block to the universe.
INFERENCES AND REMARKS:
1. If God is just, the duty of restitution where wrong has been done, must certainly be insisted on by him.
2. If God is just, he is no respecter of persons.
3. If God is just, he abhors injustice in us.
4. If God is just, the finally impenitent must be damned.