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cause of holiness and virtue ; he could neither accomplish his own restoration, nor claim it from that justice, to which he durst not make any appeal. It therefore follows, that the restoration of man from holiness and happiness, must have ariren from a cause distinct from that of justice, which was bound to protect him while he continued in a state of innocence; a cause, which, under no circumstances whatever, could possibly reside in man.
We can, perhaps, have no conception how any thing can be capable of softening the rigours of justice, except that principle of divine mercy, which we are assured must reside in God.
But here a new difficulty occurs. For, although both justice and mercy be admitted to reside in God; yet, how the interference of mercy could supplant the demands of justice or abrogate its claims, are points of difficulty, which, abstractedly from the atonement, we could never comprehend.
If justice would voluntarily relinquish its claims, without an equivalent, to make room for the operations of mercy; it must follow that God could not be necessarily, but only arbitrarily just. And the moment that we admit that God is not necessarily. just, that very moment we annihilate one of his essential attributes, and undeify his nature. For, if God in any given period of duration, either of time or eternity, can relinquish his justice, in that very period we must behold him without it. If therefore, omnipotence can exist through one hour, without justice, it can exist through two, for the same reason; and that which can exist thus through two hours can consequently exist thus for ever; and in this case we must admit, that justice is not an essential attribute of God. But, as those principles which lead to undeify his nature, or to annihilate his attributes, must certainly be false ; it follows, that justice must be an essential attribute of the divine nature, and therefore God must necessarily be just. And, as God is and must be necessarily just; it follows with the most unquestionable certainty, that the claims of justice cannot be relinquished without an equivaient, either in time or in eternity. And, if justice, without an equivalent, cannot relinquish its claims; no room can be found for the operations of mercy, though it be admitted that it did exist and reside in God.
Neither can it be supposed, that the claims of justice can be supplanted by the designs of mercy. For could we suppose the case before us possible, without a vicarious sacrifice; the attributes of God must be presumed to act in hostility to one another. If the mercy of God should attempt to supplant his justice; the attempt must be successful or it must not. If it be successful, the success of mercy will prove the imbecility of justice; and if unsuccessful, that want of success will fully demonstrate the futility of the attempt; and in either case, it will be demonstrated that God is not possessed of all possible perfections. Thus then, while we, from his nature and attributes, admit the existence of the divine perfections, even while we presume that his mercy can supplant justice; we must suppose that God is possessed of all possible
perfection, and yet not possessed of it at the same time.
If the mercy of God can overcome his justice in one instance, nothing can hinrler it from overcoming the divine justice in all. And, if the divine justice may be totally overcome, while the essence of God remains entire; it follows from this supposition also, that justice is not essential to the divine nature.
If mercy can counteract the claims of justice, I would ask, does the essence of God remain entire, or is it destroyed? If the essence of God remain, while the claims of justice are counteracted by mercy, it is evident that justice is not an essential attribute of his nature; because the essence is presumed to remain, when this attribute is done away. But if, on the contrary, his essence be destroyed by the removal of his justice, we must, by allowing the operation of his mercy, suppose the existence of God to continue after we have supposed his essence to be destroyed. Hence then this conclusion follows, from each supposition which we have made; namely, whether we presume the divine essence to remain or to be destroyed, that the mind is conducted in either case to a palpable contradiction. Thus if the essence of God remain, it must be an essence without justice; but certain it is, that an essence which is devoid of justice cannot be the esserice of God: hero then we have the divine essence and not the divine essence at the same time. But if, on the contrary, the essence of God be destroyed by the removal of his justice, through his mercy; we admit the divine existence without the divine essence. As therefore these contradictions are equal on each side, it must finally follow, that justice cannot be supplanted by mercy, without a vicarious sacrifice, any more than justice can relinquish its claims, without a forfeiture of its name and nature.
As therefore, justice cannot relinquish its claims, nor mercy snatch the culprit from its hands ; because in the former case, God must cease to be necessarily just, and in the latter, that power which is presumed to be infinite must be overcome; since God can neither act contrarily to himself, nor suffer his attributes to move in hostility towards one another; it follows with the most decisive certainty, that justice and mercy can never meet together in the same subject, without that medium which the gospel holds forth, in the vicarious sacrifice of the Saviour of the world. But, through the mediation of the atonement, the whole face of things assumes a different aspect. We there plainly discover how God can at once be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Through this sacrifice, the order of heaven and earth appears again to revive; and we behold in contemplation, another Eden descending from the skies, to bless mankind and renovate the world.
Whatever may be said in favour of the human powers, or of the dignity of human nature; we never can suppose, without admitting an absurdity, that any being which is wholly polluted can renovate itself. Such a notion carries with it its own refutation, and includes within it, irreconcileable suppositions which we cannot possibly admit. For if any given being that is wholly polluted, can be presumed to renovate itself, renovation must begin in some polluted part; because that which is either wholly corrupted in a natural sense, or polluted in one that is moral, can include nothing but corruption and pollution in its nature. And, to suppose that which is wholly corrupted or polluted can produce a renovation in itself, is to suppose that corruption can beget incorruption, and that pollution can beget purity. We must suppose it to act in opposition to itself, and to produce an effect which cannot be included within its nature, which is a palpable contradiction. For, as no cause can produce an effect, which is the reverse of itself, and which it has not the power of producing; so, nothing can result from any given principle, which is not virtually includedin its nature. And, as a power to renovate, cannot beincluded in any nature thatis wholly destitute of purity, and therefore destitute of this power; it must follow, that the renovation of human nature, as well as its reconciliation to God must arise from some extrinsic cause. And certain it is, that that cause which influences nature, without being included within it, and influences it so as to produce its renovation, must be supernatural, and must therefore come from God.