Theological Institutes

Part Second - Doctrines of the Holy Scriptures

By Richard Watson

Chapter 19


We have established it as the doctrine of Holy Scripture, that all men are born with a corrupted nature, that from this nature rebellion against the Divine authority universally flows, and that, in conse­quence, the whole world is, as St. Paul forcibly expresses it, "guilty before GOD."

Before any issue proceeded from the first pair, they were restored to the Divine favour. Had no method of forgiveness and restoration been established with respect to human offenders, the penalty of death must have been forthwith executed upon them, there being no doubt of the fact of their delinquency, and no reason, in that case, for delaying their punishment; and with, and in them, the human race must have utterly perished. The covenant of pardon and salvation which was made with Adam, did not, however, terminate upon him; but compre­hended all his race. This is a point made indubitable by those pas­sages we have already quoted from the Apostle Paul, in which he contrasts the injury which the human race have received from the disobedience of Adam, with the benefit brought to them by the obedience of Jesus Christ. "For if, through the offence of one, many be dead, much more the grace of GOD, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." "Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

Since, then, the penalty of death was not immediately executed in all its extent upon the first sinning pair, and is not immediately executed upon their sinning descendants; since they were actually restored to the Divine favour, and the same blessing is offered to us, our inquiries must next be directed to the nature and reason of that change in the conduct of the Divine Being, in which he lays aside, in so great a mea­sure, the sternness and inflexibility of his office of Judge, and becomes the dispenser of grace and favour to the guilty themselves.

The existence of a Divine law, obligatory upon man, is not doubted by any who admit the existence and government of GOD. We have already seen its requirements, its extent, and its sanctions, and have proved that its penalty consists not merely of severe sufferings in this life; but in death, that is, the separation of the body and the soul,-the former being left under the power of corruption, the other being separated from God, and made liable to punishment in another state of being.

It is important to keep in view the fact of the extent and severity of tine punishment denounced against all transgressions of the law of God, because this is illustrative of the character of God; both with reference to his essential holiness and to his proceedings as Governor of the world. The miseries connected with sin, as consequences affecting the transgressor himself and society, and the afflictions, personal and national, which are the results of Divine visitation, must all be regarded as punitive. Corrective effects may be secondarily connected with them, but primarily, they must all be punitive. It would be abhorrent to all our notions of the Divine character, to suppose perfectly innocent beings subject to such miseries; and they are only, therefore, to be accounted for on the ground of their being the results of a supreme judicial administration, which bears a strict, and often a very terrible character. If, to the sufferings and death which result from offences in the present life, we add the future punishment of the wicked, we shall be the more impressed with the depth and breadth of that impress of justice which marks the character and the government of God. Say that this punishment is that of loss, loss of the friendship and presence of God, and all the advantages which must result from that immediate, intercourse with him which is promised to righteous persons; and that, this loss, which, confessedly, must be unspeakably great, is eternal; even then it must follow that the turpitude of moral delinquency is regarded by Our Divine Legislator and Judge as exceedingly mighty and aggravated. But when to the punishment of loss in a future life, we add that of pain, which all the representations of this subject in Scripture certainly establish, whether they are held to be expressed in literal or in figurative phrase; to which pain also the all-impressive circumstance of eternity is to be added; then is our sense of the guilt and deserving of human offence against God, according to the principles of the Divine law, raised, if not to a full conception of the evil of sin, (for as we cannot measure the punishment, we cannot measure the quality of the offence,) yet to a standard of judging, which may well warrant the Scriptural exclamation, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

These premises are unquestionable, if any respect is paid to the authority of Scripture, and, indeed, God's severity against moral offence is manifested, as to this present life, by facts of universal observation and uninterrupted history, quite independent of Scripture. But it is to the testimony of God himself, in his own word, that we must resort for the most important illustrations of the Divine character, and especially of its HOLINESS and JUSTICE.

With respect to the former, they show us that HOLINESS in God is more than a mere absence of moral evil; more than approval, and even delight in moral goodness; more than simple aversion and dis­pleasure at what is contrary to it. They prove, that the holiness of God is so intense, that whatever is opposed to it is the object of an active displacence, of hatred, of opposition, and resistance, and that this sentiment is inflexible and eternal. Agreeably to this, GOD is, in Scripture, said to be "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity"-and we are taught that "the thoughts of the wicked are an abomination" to him.

With respect to the JUSTICE of God, it is necessary that we should enter into a larger view, since a right conception of that attribute of the Divine nature lies at the foundation of the Christian doctrine of atonement.

 Justice is usually considered as universal or particular. Universal justice, or righteousness, includes holiness, and, indeed, comprehends all the moral attributes of God, all the Divine virtues of every kind.

Particular justice is either commutative, which respects equals; or distributive, which is the dispensing of rewards and punishments, and is exercised only by governors. It is the justice of God in this last view, but still in connection with universal justice, with which we are flow Concerned; that rectoral sovereign justice by which he maintains his own rights, and the rights of others, and gives to every one his due according to that legal constitution which he has himself established. And as this legal constitution under which he has placed his creatures, is the result of universal justice or righteousness, the holiness, goodness, truth, and wisdom of God united; so his distributive justice, or his respect to the laws which he has himself established, is, in every respect and degree, faultless and perfect. In this legal constitution, no rights are mistaken or misstated; and nothing is enjoined or prohibited, nothing promised or threatened but what is exactly conformable to the universal righteousness or absolute moral perfection of God. This is the constant doctrine of Scripture; this the uniform praise bestowed upon the Divine law, that it is, in every respect, conformable to abstract truth, purity, holiness, and justice, and is itself truth, purity, holiness, and justice. "The statutes of the Lord are RIGHT, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is PURE, enlightening the eyes; the feat of the Lord is CLEAN, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are TRUE and RIGHTEOUS altogether," Psalm xix, 8, 9. "The law is holy, and the commandment HOLY, JUST, and GOOD," Rom. vii, 12.

Of the strictness and severity of the punitive justice of God, the sen­tence of death, which we have already seen to be pronounced upon "SIN," and, therefore, upon all transgressions of God's law, for "sin is the transgression of the law," is sufficient evidence; and the actual infliction of death, as to the body, is the standing proof to the world, that the threatening is not a dead letter, and that in the Divine administration continual and strict regard is had to the claims and dispensations of distributive justice. On the other hand, as this distributive justice emanates from the entire holiness and moral rectitude of the Divine nature, it is established, by this circumstance, that the severity does not go beyond the equity of the case; and that, to the full extent of that punishment which may be inflicted in another life, and which is, therefore, eternal, there is nothing which is contrary to the full and complete moral perfection of God, to his goodness, holiness, truth, and justice united; but that it is fully agreeable to them all, and is, in. deed, the result of the perfect existence of such attributes in the Divine nature.

The Scriptures, therefore, are frequently exceedingly emphatic in ascribing a perfect righteousness to the judicial and penal visitations of sinful individuals and nations; and that not merely with reference to such visitations being conformable to the penalties threatened in the Divine law itself, in which case the righteousness would consist in their not exceeding the penalty threatened; but, more abstractedly considered, in their very nature, and with reference to even the highest standard of righteousness and holiness. "Shall not the Judge of the whole earth do RIGHT?" "It is a RIGHTEOUS THING with God to RECOMPENSE tribulation to them that trouble you," 2 Thess. i, 6.- "The day of wrath and revelation of the RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT of GOD," Rom. ii, 5. "Even so, Lord God Almighty, TRUE and RIGHTEOUS are thy judgments," Rev. xvi, 7.

The legal constitution then, which we are under, secures life to the obedient, but dooms offenders to die. It is the office of distributive justice to execute this penalty, as well as to bestow the reward of obe­dience; and the appointment of the penalty and the execution of it, are both the results of the essential rectitude of God.

This is most obvious as the doctrine of Scripture; but have we any means of discerning the connection between the essential justice or uni­versal righteousness of God, and such a constitution of law and govern­ment as, in the first instance, ordains so severe a penalty against sin as death, maintains it unchangeably through all the generations of time, and carries it into eternity? This is an important question, not without its difficulties, and yet it may not altogether elude our inquiries. Whether we succeed or not in discovering this connection, the fact re­mains the same, firmly grounded on the most explicit testimony of GOD in his own word. It is, however, an inquiry worthy our attention.

The creation of beings capable of choice, and endowed with affec­tions, seems necessarily to have involved the possibility of volitions and acts contrary to the will of the Creator, and, consequently, it involved a liability to misery. To prevent this, both justice and benevolence were concerned. Justice, seeing that the Creator has an absolute right to the entire obedience of the creatures he has made, and all op. position to that will is the violation of a right, and the practice of a wrong which justice is bound to prevent. Benevolence, because this opposition to the will of God, which will is the natural law of a creature, must be the source of misery to the offender, and that independent of direct punishment. This is manifest. Some end was proposed in crea­tion, or it could not have been a work of wisdom; the felicity of the creature must also have been proposed as an end, either principal or subordinate, or creation could not have been a display of goodness; a capacity and power of holiness must also have been imparted to moral agents, or, in a moral nature, every act would have been morally corrupt, and, therefore, the creature must have been constantly displeasing to the holy God, and not "very good," as all his works, including man, were pronounced to be at the beginning. The end proposed in the forming of intelligent creatures could only be answered by their continual com­pliance with the will of God. This implied both the power and the exercise of holiness, and with that the felicity of the creature was ne­cessarily connected. It was adapted to a certain end, and in attaining that its happiness was secured. To be disobedient was to set itself in opposition to God, to exist and act for ends contrary to the wisdom and holiness of God, and was, therefore, to frustrate his benevolent intentions also as to its happiness, and to become miserable from its very hostility to God, and the disorder arising from the misapplication of the Powers with which it had been endowed. To prevent all these evils, and to secure the purposes for which creative power was exerted, were the ends, therefore, of that administration which arose out of the exist­ence of moral agents. This rule takes date from their earliest being. No sooner did they exist, than a Divine government was established over them; and to the ends just mentioned all its acts must have been directed.

The first act was the publication of the will or law of God, for where there is no declared law there is no rational government. The second act was to give motives to obedience, for to creatures liable to evil, though created good, these were necessary; but as they were made free, and designed to yield a willing service, more than motives, that is rational inducements, operating through the judgment and affections, could not be applied to induce obedience ;-external force or necessary impulse could have no place in the government of such creatures. The promise of the continuance of a happy and still improving life comprehended one class of motives to obedience; the real justice of yielding obedience another. But was no motive arising from fear also to be applied? There was much to be feared from the very nature of things; from the misery which, in the way of natural and necessary consequence alone, must follow from opposition to the will of God, and the wilful corrupting of a nature created upright. Now, since this was what the creature was liable to, the administration of the Divine government would have been obviously defective, had this been concealed by HIM, who had himself established that natural order, by which disobedience to the will of God, in a moral being, should be followed by certain misery, and he would apparently have been chargeable with not having used every means, consistent with free agency, to prevent so fatal a result. So far we conceive that this is indubitable.

But now let us suppose that nothing less than a positive penalty, of the most tremendous kind, could be a sufficient motive to deter these free and rational beings from transgression; that, even that threatened the penalty itself, though the greatest possible evil, would not, in all cases be sufficient; but that, in none a less powerful motive would prove sufficiently cautionary; then, in such circumstances, the moral perfection of the Divine nature, his universal rectitude and benevolence, would undoubtedly require the ordination of that penalty, however tre­mendous. The case might be a choice between the universal disobedience of all, and their being left to the miseries which follow from sin by natural consequence; and the preservation of some, perhaps the majority, though the guilty remainder should not only be punished by the misery which is the natural result of vice; but, in addition, should be subject to that positive penalty of death, which, as to the soul, runs on with immortality, and is, therefore, eternal.

On such an alternative as this, which may surely be conceived possible, and which contradicts no attribute of God, does the essential justice or rectitude of the Divine nature demand that such a penalty should be adopted The affirmative of this question will be supported, I think, by the following considerations: -

1. The holiness of God, which, as we have seen, is so intense as to abhor and detest every kind and degree of moral evil, would, from its very nature, its active and irreconcilable opposition to evil, determine to the adoption of the most effectual means of preventing its introduc­tion among the rational beings which should be created, and, when introduced, of checking and limiting its progress. So that, in propor­tion to that aversion, must be his propension to adopt the most effectual means to deter his creatures from it; and if nothing less than such a penalty could be effectual, even in the majority of cases, then it re­sulted necessarily, from the holiness of GOD, that the penalty of death, in all its Scriptural extent, should be attached to transgression.

2. The consideration of the essential justice or rectitude of God, that principle which leads to an unchangeable respect to what is right and equitably fit, leads to the same conclusion. God 'has his own rights as maker, and, therefore, proprietor and Lord of all creatures, and it is fit they should be maintained and vindicated. To surrender them, or unsteadily and uncertainly to assert them, would be an encouragement to evil, and his very regard to mere abstract right and moral fitness must, therefore, be considered as determining God to a steady and unchangeable assertion of his rights, since their surrender could present no end worthy of his character, or consistent with his holiness. But wherever more created beings exist than one, the rights of others also come into consideration; both the indirect right of a dependent creature under government, to be protected, as far as may be, from the contagion of bad example, and the more direct right of protection from those injuries which many sins do, in their own nature, imply. For no man can be ambitious, unjust, &c, without inflicting injury upon others. The essential rectitude of God was con­cerned, therefore, to regard these rights in the creatures dependent upon him, and to adopt such a legal constitution and mode of government, under which to place them, as should respect the maintenance of his own rights of sovereignty, and the righteous claims which his crea­tures, that is the general society of created beings, had upon him. All this, it may be said, only proves that the essential rectitude of God re­quired that such a government should be adopted as should inflict some marked penalty on offences. It proves this, but it proves more, namely, that the Divine rectitude required that the most effectual means should be adopted to uphold these rights, both as they existed primarily in God, and secondarily in his creatures. This must follow: for if there was any obligation to uphold them at all, it was an obligation to uphold them in the most effectual manner, since, if ineffectual means only had been adopted, when more effectual means were at band, a wilful abandonment of those rights would have been implied. If, therefore, there were no means equally effectual for these purposes as the issuing. of a law, accompanied by a sanction of death as its penalty, the essential rectitude of GOD required its adoption.

3. The same may be said of the Divine goodness and wisdom, for, as the former is tenderly disposed to preserve all sentient creatures from misery, so the latter would, of necessity, adopt the most effectual means of counteracting moral evil, which is the only source of misery. in the creation of GOD.

The whole question, then, depends on this, whether the penalty of death, as the punishment of sin, be the most effectual means of accomplishing this end; the answer to which is, to all who believe the Bible that as this has actually been adopted as the universal penalty of transgressing the Divine law, (see chapter xviii,) and as this is confessedly the highest possible penalty, nothing less than this could be effectual t the purpose of government, and to the manifestation of the Divine holi­ness and rectitude. If it could, then a superfluous and excessive means has been adopted, for which no reason can be given, and which im­peaches the wisdom of God, the office of which attribute it is to adapt means to ends by an exact adjustment; if not, then it was required by all the moral attributes of the Divine nature to which we have referred.

The next question will be whether, since, as the result of the moral perfection of God, a legal constitution has been established among rational creatures which accords life to obedience, and denounces death against transgression, the justice of God obliges to the execution of the penalty; or whether we have any reason to conclude, that the rights of God are in many, or in all cases, relaxed, and punishment remitted. All the opponents of the doctrine of atonement strenously insist upon this; and argue, first, that God has an unquestionable power of giving up his own rights, and pardoning sin on prerogatove, without any compensation whatever; second, that when repentance succeeds to offence, there is a moral fitness in forgiveness, since the person offending presents an altered and reformed character; and finally, that the very affections of goodness and mercy, so eminent in the Divine character, require us to conclude that he is always read upon repentance, to forgive the delinquencies of all his creatures, or, at most, to make their punishments light and temporary.

In the first of these arguments, it is contended that God may give up his own rights. This must mean either his right to obedience from his creatures, or his right to punish disobedience, when that occurs. With respect to God's right to be obeyed, nothing can be more obvious than that the perfect rectitude of his nature forbids him to give up or to relax that right at all. No king can morally give up his right to be obeyed in the full degree which may be enjoined by the laws of his kingdom. No parent can give up his right to obedience, in things lawful, from his children, and be blameless. In both cases, if this be done voluntarily, it argues an indifference to that principle of rectitude on which such duties depend, and, therefore, a moral imperfection. Now this cannot be attributed to God, and, therefore, he never can yield up his right to be obeyed, which is both agreeable to abstract rectitude, and is, more­over, for the benefit of the creature himself, as the contrary would be necessarily injurious to him. But may he not give up his right to punish, when disobedience has actually taken place? Only, it is manifest, where he would not appear by this to give up his claim to obedience, which would be a winking at offence; and where he has not absolutely bound himself to punish. But neither of these can occur here. It is only by punitive acts that the Supreme Governor makes it manifest that be stands upon his right to be obeyed, and that he will not relax it. If no punishment ensue, then it must follow, that that right is given up. From the same principle that past offences are regarded with impunity, it would also follow, that all future ones might be overlooked in like manner, and thus government would be abrogated, and the obligation of subjection to God be, in effect, cancelled. If, again, impunity were con­fined to a few offenders, then would there be partiality in God; if it were extended to all, then would he renounce his sovereignty, and show himself indifferent to that love of rectitude which is the characteristic of a holy being, and to that moral order, which is the character of a right­eous governor. But, in addition to this, we have already seen that, by a formal law, punishment is actually threatened, and that in the extreme, and in all cases of transgression whatever. Now, from this, it follows, that nothing less than the attachment of such a penalty to transgression was determined by the wisdom of God to be sufficient to uphold the authority of his laws among his creatures that even this security, in all instances, would not deter them from sin; and, therefore, that a less awful sanction would have been wholly inadequate to the case. If so, then not to exact the penalty is to repeal the law, to reduce its sanction to an empty threat, unworthy the veracity of God, and to render it altogether inert, inasmuch as it would be soon discovered whether sin were followed by punishment or not. This is a principle so fully recognized in human governments, that their laws have generally defined the measure of Punishment, and the fact being proved, the punishment follows as a thing of course in the regular order of administration. It is true, that a power of pardon is generally lodged with the prince; but the reason of this is, the imperfection which must necessarily cleave to all human institutions, so that there may be circumstances in the offence which the law could not provide against; or there may be an expediency or reason of state which supposes some compromise of strict principle, some weakness on the part of the sovereign power, some desire to disarm resentment, or to obtain popularity, or to gratify some powerful interest. But these are the exceptions, not the rule; for, in general, the supreme power proceeds calmly and firmly in the exercise Of punitive justice, in order to maintain the authority of the laws, and to deter others from offending. Now none of those imperfections, or sinister interests, which interfere to produce these exceptions, can have any place in the Divine government; and, even if it could be proved, that, in some special cases, exceptions might occur in the administration of' God, yet this would not meet the case of those who would establish the hope of pardon in behalf of offending men, upon the prerogative of God to relax his own rights and to remit punishment, since what is required is to prove that there is a general rule of pardon, not a few special cases of exemption from the denounced penalty. It may, therefore, be confidently concluded, that there is no relaxation of right in the Divine administration, and no forgiveness of sin by the exercise of mere prerogative.

The notion which has been added to this, that repentance, on the part of the offender, places him in a new relation, and renders him a fit object of pardon, will be found equally fallacious.

This argument assumes that, in a case of impenitence, the mo fitness which is supposed to present itself, in the case of penitents, to claim the exercise of forgiveness, does not exist, and, therefore, that it would be morally unfit, that is, wrong, to exercise it. This is, indeed expressly conceded by Socinus, who says, that not to give pardon, in case of impenitence, is due to the rectitude and equity of GOD.[1] It follows, then, that the principle before stated, that the prerogative of G enables him to forgive sin, must be given up by all who hold that it is only when repentance takes place, that a moral fitness is created for exercise of this act of grace. Upon their own showing, sin is not, a cannot, consistently with rectitude, be forgiven by a voluntary surrender of right, or from mere compassion; but, in order to make this an a of moral fitness, that is, a right and proper proceeding, some consideration must be presented, independent of the misery to which the offender has exposed himself, and which misery is the object of pity; something which shall make it rigid, as well as merciful in God to forgive. They, who urge that repentance is this consideration, do thus, unwittingly -give up their own principle, and tacitly adopt that of the satisfaction is differing only as to what does actually constitute it right in God to for­give. But the sufficiency of mere repentance to constitute a m fitness in forgiveness, all who consider the death of Christ as a necessary atonement for do, of course, deny; and there are, indeed, many considerations suggested to us by turning to our true guide, the Scriptures, wholly unfavourable to this opinion.

In the first place, we find no intimation in them that the penalty of the law is not to be executed in case of repentance: -certainly there was none given in the promulgation of the law to Adam; there is none in the decalogue; none in any of those passages in the Old and New Testament which speak of the legal consequences of sin, as "that the wages of sin is death;" "the soul that sinneth it shall die," &c. Re­pentance is enjoined, both in the Old and New Testaments, it is true, but then it is in connection with a system of atonement and satisfaction, independent of repentance; with sacrifices under the Mosaic institution, and with the death and redemption of Christ under the new covenant. In both, something more is referred to, as the means of human recovery, beside repentance, and of which, indeed, repentance itself is represented as an eject and fruit. Wherever the Divine Being and his creatures are regarded simply in their legal relation, one as governor, the other as subjects, there is certainly no such qualification of the threatenings of his violated law, as to warrant any one to expect remission of punishment upon repentance.

2. It is not true, that repentance changes, as they urge, the legal relation of the guilty to God whom they have offended. They are offenders still, though penitent. The sentence of the law is directed against transgression, and repentance does not annihilate, but, on the contrary, acknowledges the fact of that transgression. The charge lies against the offender; he may be an obdurate or a penitent criminal; but, in either case, he is equally criminal of all for which he stands truly charged. And how then can his relation to the lawgiver be changed by repentance? In the nature of the thing, nothing but pardon can change that relation; for nothing but pardon can cancel crime, and it is clear that repentance is not pardon.

3. So far from repentance producing this change of relation, and Placing men in the same situation as though they had never offended, we have proofs to the contrary, both from the Scriptures and from the established course of providence. For the first, though men are now under a dispensation of grace, yet, after long-continued obstinacy and refusal of grace, the Scriptures represent repentance as incapable of turning away the coming vengeance. "Because I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; -When Your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction as a whirlwind, When distress and anguish cometh upon you; then shall they call upon me but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me." Here, to call upon GOD, and to seek him early, that is, earnestly and carefully, are acts of repentance and reformation too, and yet they have no effect in changing the relation of the guilty to God, their judge, and they are proceeded against for their past offences which, according to the theory of the Socinians, they ought not to be. The course of providence in this life, is, also, in opposition to the notion of the efficacy of mere repentance to arrest punishment. For, as Bishop Butler has so well shown, (Analogy of Natural and Revealed Religion,) the sufferings which follow sin in this present life by natural consequence~ and the established constitution of things, are as much the effect of GOD'S appointment as the direct penalties attached by him to the violation of his laws; and though they may differ in degree, that does not affect the question. Whether the punishment be of long or of short duration, inflicted in the present state or in the next, if the justice or benevolence of God requires that punishment should not be inflicted, when repentance has taken place, it cannot be inflicted consistently with those attributes in any degree whatever. But repentance does not prevent these penal consequences-repentance does not restore heal injured by intemperance, property wasted by profusion, or character dishonoured by an evil practice. The moral administration under which we are, therefore, shows that indemnity is not necessarily the effect of repentance in the present life, and we have, consequently, no reason to conclude that it will be so in another.

4. The true nature of repentance, as it is stated in the Scriptures seems entirely to have been overlooked or disregarded by those who contend that repentance is a reason for the non-execution of the penalty of the law. It is either a sorrow for sin, merely because of the painful consequences to which it has exposed the offender, unless forgiven, or it arises from a perception also of the evil of sin, and a dislike to it as such, with real remorse and sorrow, that the authority of God has been slighted, and his goodness abused. Now if, by repentance, is me repentance in the former sense, then to give pardon on such a condition would be tantamount to the entire and absolute repeal of all law, a the annihilation of all government, since every criminal, when convict and finding himself in immediate danger of punishment, would as necessarily repent as he would necessarily be sorry to be liable to pain; a this sorrow being, in that case, repentance, it would in all ca according to this doctrine, render it morally fit and right that forgiveness should be exercised, and, consequently, wrong that it should refused. In no case, therefore, could the penalty of the law be, in any degree, enforced.

But if repentance be taken in the second sense, and this is certainly the light in which true repentance is exhibited in the Scriptures, then it is forgotten that such is the corrupt state of man, that he is incapable of penitence of this kind. This follows from that view of human depravity which we have already established from the Scriptures, and which we need not repeat. In conformity with this view of the entire corruptness of man's nature, therefore, repentance is said to be the gift of Christ, who, in consequence of being exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, "gives repentance," as well as "remission of sins," a gift quite superfluous, if to repent truly were in the power of man, and independent of Christ. To suppose man to be capable of a repentance, which is the result of genuine principle, is to assume human nature to be what it is not. The whole rests on this question: for, if man be totally corrupt, the only principles from which that repentance and correction of manners, which are supposed in the argument, can flow, do not exist in his nature; and if we allow no more than that the propensity to evil in him is stronger than the propensity to good, it would be absurd to suppose that in opposing propensities, the weaker should ever resist the more powerful.

But take it that repentance, in the best interpretation, is possible to fallen, unassisted man, and that it is actually exercised and followed even by a better conduct, still in no good sense can it be shown, that this would make it morally right and fit in the Supreme Being to forgive offences against his government. Socinus, we have seen in the above quotation, allows that it would not be right, not consistent with God's moral attributes to forgive the impenitent; and all, indeed, who urge repentance as the sole condition of pardon, adopt the same prin­ciple; but how, then, does it appear that, to grant pardon upon repent­ance is right, that is, just in itself, or a manifestation of a just and righteous government?

If right be taken in the sense of moral fitness, its lowest sense, the moral correspondence of one thing with another, it cannot be morally fit in a perfectly holy being to be so indifferent to offences, as not to express, toward the offenders, any practical displeasure of any kind; yet this the argument supposes, since the slightest infliction of punishment, should repentance take place, would be contrary to the principle assumed. If Justice be taken in the sense of giving to every one what is due, the Divine Being cannot be just in this sense, should he treat an offender, though afterward penitent, precisely as he treats those who have persevered in Obedience, without defect of any kind; and yet, if repentance be pleaded as a moral reason then entirely overlooking offence, then will all be treated alike, whether obedient or the contrary. But finally, if the justice of God be considered with reference to government, the impossibility of ex­onerating a penitent offender, and the upholding of a righteous administration is most apparent. That we are under government is certain; that we are under a settled law is equally so, and that law explains to us the nature of the government by which we are controlled. In all the statements made respecting this government in Scripture, the government of earthly Sovereigns and magistrates is the shadow under which it is represented, and the one is the perfect model after which the other has been imperfectly framed. Nothing that is said of God being a father, is ever adduced to lower his claims as Lord, or to diminish the reverence and fear of his creatures toward him under that character. The penalty of transgression is DEATH. This is too plainly written in the Scripture to be, for a moment, denied, and if it were righteous to attach that penalty to offence, it is most certainly righteous to execute it; and therefore, administrative justice cannot be maintained if it be not executed. As to the impenitent, this, indeed, is conceded; but penitence makes no difference; for, if the end of attaching this penalty to offence; was to maintain the authority of the law, then not to execute it upon the repentant would still be to annul that authority. This repentance is either in the power of the transgressor, or it is not, If the former, he will always be disposed to exercise it, when the danger approaches, rather than die; and so he may sin as often as he pleases, and yet have it al ways in his own power to turn aside the punishment, which amounts to a substantive repeal of the law and the abrogation of all government. If on the other hand, the production of a penitent disposition is not in his own power, and can only come from above, as a matter of grace, it is a strange anomaly to suppose a government so established as to oblige the governor to concur in producing repentance in those who despise his authority, so that they may avoid punishment. This would be grace, and not law, most emphatically; for, if the governor were bound by any prin­ciple of any kind to produce this sentiment of repentance in order to constitute a moral fitness in the exercise of pardon, he would, for any thing we can see, be bound by it, to use the same means to render all penitent, that all might escape punishment, and to do this, too, as often as they fell into sin, that punishment might, in no case, follow, except when the means employed by him for that purpose were obstinately resisted; and thus repentance would be brought in as the substitute of obedience. But since the end of law is to command obedience, and it is invested with authority for the purpose of effecting that, it ceases to answer the purpose for which it was established, when it accepts repentance in the place of obedience. This is not its end, as an instrument of moral government; nor is it a means to its proper end, which is obedience; for repentance can give no security for future obedience, since a penitent transgressor, whose nature is infected with a corrupt moral principle and habit, is much more liable to sin again than when innocent, as in his first estate; and, as this scheme makes no provision at all for the moral cure of man's fallen nature by the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit, so it abolishes all law as an instrument of moral order, and substitutes pardon as an END of government instead of obedience.

With this view of the insufficiency of repentance to obtain pardon the Scriptures agree; for not, now, to advert to the doctrine of the Old Testament, which will be subsequently considered, we need only refer to the Gospel, which is professedly a declaration of the mercy of God to sin-fling men, and which also professedly lays down the means by which the pardon of their offences is to be attained. Without entering at all into other subjects connected with this, it is enough here to show that, in the Gospel, pardon is not connected with mere repentance, as it must have been, had the doctrine, against which we have contended, been true. John the Baptist was emphatically a preacher of repentance, and, had nothing but mere repentance been required in order to salvation, he would have been the most successful of preachers. So numerous were the multitudes which submitted to the power of his ministry, that the largest terms are used by the Evangelist Matthew to express the effect produced by it,-" Then went out all Judea, and all Jerusalem, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, con­fessing their sins." Of the truth of their repentance, no doubt is ex­pressed. On the contrary, when John excepts only "many of the Sadducees and Pharisees" who came "to his baptism" as hypocrites, we are bound to conclude, that he, who appears to have had the supernatural gift of discovering the spirits of men, allowed the repentance of the rest generally to be genuine. It would follow, then, from the prin­ciple laid down by the adversaries of the doctrine of the atonement of Christ, namely, that repentance alone renders it morally fit in God to forgive sin, and that, therefore, he can require nothing else but true repentance in order to pardon, that the disciples of the Baptist needed not to look for any thing beyond what their master was the instrument of imparting by his ministry. But this is contradicted by the fact. He taught them to look for a higher baptism, that of the Holy Ghost; and to a more effectual teacher, the Christ, whose voice or herald he Was; all he did and said bore upon it a preparatory character, and to this character he was most careful to give the utmost distinctness, that his hearers might not be mistaken. To two of his disciples, standing With him when "he looked upon Jesus as he walked," he said, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world;" and thus he confessed that it was not himself, nor his doctrine, nor the repentance which it produced, which took away sin; but that it was taken away by Christ alone, and that in his sacrificial character, as "time Lamb of God." Nay what, indeed, is still more explicit, he himself declares, that everlasting life was not attained by the repentance which he preached, but by believing on Christ; for he concludes his discourse Concerning Jesus (John iii, 25, 36) with these memorable words, "He that believeth on time Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." The testimony of John was, therefore, that more than repentance, even faith in Christ, was necessary to salvation. Such also was the doctrine of our Lord himself, though he, too, was a preacher of repentance; and that of the apostles, who, proclaiming that "all men every where" should repent, not less explicitly preached that all men every where should believe; and that they were "justified by faith," and thus had "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."


[1] "Non resipisoentibus voniam non concedere, Id demum naturae divine, et decretis ejus, et propterea rectitudini, et equitati dobitum est ac consentaneum." (Socin. de Servat.)