The Justice of God

by John Brown of Haddington

The justice of God is that essential property of his nature, which disposes him to render to himself, and to all his creatures, that which is right and equal.—It is evident that God is just or righteous: 1. The Scriptures expressly declare this; Ps 11:7; Ps 25:8; Ps 7:9; Ps 9:8; Ps 92:15; Ps 99:4; Ps 119:75,137; Exod 9:27; Exod 34:7; Gen 18:25; Deut 10:17; Deut 32:4; Jude 1,7; 1 Sam 3:18; 2 Chron 19:7; Job 8:3; Job 9:15; Job 34:10-12,19; Job 35:6-8; Job 36:3; Job 37:23; Jer 12:1; Isa 26:7; Dan 9:16; 2 Thess 1:6-7; 2 Tim 4:8; Heb 6:10; Acts 10:33-34; Rom 3:4,26; Rom 9:13-14. 2. The remains of equity among men proceed from, and are beloved by God, 2 Sam 22:26-28; Ps 7:9; Ps 11:7; Hos 14:9; Gen 18:23,25. 3. His infinite justice and equity appear, 1. In his giving the most righteous laws to his creatures, suited to their original abilities, and requiring the most perfect equity towards God, their neighbours, and themselves,—insisting chiefly on the principal points of equity; and that such as bear rule over others, should shew themselves distinguished patterns of it, Neh 9:13; Rom 7:12; Ps 119:75,137-138,142; Ps 19:8-11; Hos 14:9; Isa 26:7; Matt 23:23; Matt 22:37,39; Deut 16:18-19; 2 Sam 23:3; 2 Chron 19:6,9; Ps 82. 2. In annexing to those laws proper sanctions of rewards and punishments, Ps 11:5-7; Ps 7:9-14; Ps 9:8,17; Isa 1:19-20; Isa 3:10-11; Rom 2:6-10; 2 Thess 1:6-10. 3. In rewarding men's good behaviour in the most proper time, manner, and degree, Ps 19:11; 1 Cor 15:58; Rev 14:13; 2 Tim 4:7-8.—In his rewarding the resemblances of good works performed by wicked men, 1 Kings 21:29; 2 Kings 10:30; Jon 3.—In rewarding the imperfect graces and works of his people, Rev 1:3; Rev 2:7,11,19,26-27; Rev 3:5,12,20,22; Rev 14:13; Rev 22:14; Col 3:24-25; 1 Cor 15:58; 1 Cor 9:24-25; 2 Tim 4:7-8; Matt 5:3-10.—and in largely rewarding the meritorious service of Christ as our Surety, Isa 49:5-6; Isa 53:10-12; Phil 2:7-11; Heb 2:8-10; Heb 12:2; John 17:4-5; Ps 22:27,31. 4. In bestowing all the purchased blessings of the new covenant upon the most vile, guilty, and rebellious men, on account of that righteousness which Christ, their Surety, performed in their stead, Rom 3:24-26; Rom 4:25; Rom 5:6-11,15-21; Rom 8:1-4,33-34; 2 Cor 5:14-21; 1 Thess 5:9-10; Eph 1:3-8; Eph 2:1-8,14; 1 Pet 1:18-21; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Pet 3:18; Heb 9:12,14-15; Heb 10:10,14; 1 John 1:7,9; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 4:9-10; Rev 1:5-6; Rev 5:9-10; 2 Tim 4:8. 5. In his seasonable, severe, and well-proportioned chastisements of his people, which, as disagreeable, are due to them for offending their gracious Father,—and as calculated to promote their sanctification and comfort, are due to them as represented by their law-fulfilling Surety, Christ, Job 36:7-10; Ps 89:30-34; Ps 99:8; Ps 94:12; Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6-11; Rev 3:19. 6. In afflicting innocent animals, only in so far as they are connected with guilty sinners. And, who knows how far their present suffering may be balanced in their future restoration into the glorious liberty of the children of God? Isa 24; Hos 4:2-3; Jer 12:4; Jer 14:5-6; Job 1:16 with Rom 8:20-23; 2 Pet 3:13. 7. In infallibly punishing national sins with national judgments in this world, as there is no opportunity of punishing societies, as such, in the future state;—and in marking their sins in their punishments,—as in the case of the old world,—Sodomites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Jews, Papists, etc. Gen 6-7; Gen 19; Exod 1-14; Isa 33; Isa 37; Jer 25; Jer 46-51; Judg 1-12; 2 Kings 17; 2 Kings 25; Matt 23:32-39; Matt 24; Rev 6-20. 8. In punishing wicked men in this life, in a form, though not in a degree proportioned to their sins, and often by permitting them to fall into other sins, Job 18; Job 20; Job 27; Ps 92:7; Ps 37:20; Ps 35:26; Ps 7:10-16; Ps 58:9-10; Ezek 18; Ps 73:18-20; Ps 31:12; Gen 4; Gen 9:25; Isa 66:4; Isa 63:17; Hos 4:13-17; 2 Thess 2:9-11; Rom 1:18-32. 9. In publicly condemning wicked angels and men, and punishing them in hell for ever, Matt 25:41,46; 2 Thess 1:8-9; Rev 14:9-11; Rev 20:10,12. 10. Especially in exacting from his only and infinitely beloved Son, as our Surety, the very same obedience and satisfaction which were due from us to his broken law,—in the very same nature which had sinned, and under the very same overwhelming curse, Matt 3:15; Luke 24:26; Isa 53; Ps 22; Ps 69; Matt 26-27; Rom 3:24-26; Rom 5:6-10; Rom 8:3,32; Isa 42:21; Heb 2:10; Heb 5:8; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 1:18-19; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Pet 3:18; Gal 3:13; Phil 2:7-8.

Such is the infinite holiness and justice of God's nature, that he cannot suffer sin to pass without adequate punishment. 1. The Scripture represents him as so infinitely holy and just, that he cannot but hate and detest sin, and mark his abhorrence of it, Exod 34:7; Hab 1:12-13; Ps 5:4-6; Ps 11:5-7; Ps 9:5; Ps 50:21; Jer 44:4; Neh 1:2-3; Prov 6:16-19; Prov 16:5; Zech 11:8;—and as a Governor and Judge, who cannot but maintain the honour of that law which sinners trample on, and do right to his innocent creatures, which are hurt by their wickedness, Isa 42:21; 2 Thess 1:6-8; Rom 1:18,32; Rom 2:2,6-10; Gen 18:25. 2. Men's consciences represent him thus holy and just; and hence accuse and torment them when they offend him, and push them to appease him by sacrifices, services, etc. Acts 28:4; Rom 1:32; Rom 2:14-15. 3. The law of God manifests this truth. Most of his moral precepts depending on his very nature and indispensible prerogative of government, must to the violations of them, have an adequate sanction annexed; as otherwise, haters and blasphemers of God would appear as much beloved by him, as the most pious and virtuous persons, contrary to Rom 2:7-10; Isa 3:10-11; Isa 1:19-20.—All the ceremonial laws manifested, that without satisfaction to God's justice, there could be no remission of sin, Heb 9:22. And, if God's nature had not required an adequate punishment, the ceremonial offerings might have made atonement for sin, contrary to Heb 10:3-4. 4. If God's holiness and justice did not necessarily require him to punish sin in an adequate manner, how could his infinite mercy and goodness admit any punishment of it, as without real necessity, all punishment is an approach towards wanton cruelty? 5. If it had not been necessary to the honourable egress of his mercy towards sinful men, how could God have so fearfully punished his holy, his only begotten, and infinitely beloved Son? Or how could there be such distinguishing love, in giving him for a propitiation for our sins,—as the Scripture represents, Luke 24:26; Rom 3:25-26; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13; Titus 2:14; Heb 2:10; 1 Pet 1:18-19; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Pet 3:18; John 3:16; Rom 5:6-10; Rom 8:32; 1 John 4:9-10; Eph 5:2; Gal 2:20; Rev 1:5.

To anticipate objections, it may be observed, 1. That God's mercy and justice are not contrary perfections, though the one cannot be exercised to the dishonour of the other. 2. That the effects of God's mercy and grace, being absolutely free and gratuitous, may be restrained, if he please; but the effects of his justice being a debt due to the honour of his nature and law, or the general welfare of his creatures, cannot be justly restrained, Gen 18:25; Deut 32:4; Ps 11:5-7; Ps 119:137; Dan 9:16; 2 Thess 1:6-9; Isa 5:10. 3. Though God's sovereign will regulate the circumstances of deserved punishment, the punishment itself is necessary. Magistrates may, by their own will, regulate the time, place, and manner of executing a murderer, but cannot, without flagrant injustice to their character, their laws, or their country, dismiss him unpunished. 4. Though God may delay the full punishment of sinners,—the longer he does so, it must be the more dreadful when it comes, Rom 2:4-5; Rom 9:22; Heb 10:26-31. 5. God's substitution of his own Son to bear the punishment due to his elect, instead of proving, that he could have dispensed with it, strongly proves the contrary, Rom 3:25-26; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13-14; Heb 2:10; Luke 24:26.


From The Systematic Theology of John Brown of Haddington

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