De Moor IV:47: Controversy among the Reformed over God's Vindicatory Righteousness, Part 1


John Calvin

But there are also among Our Own, those that acknowledge only a hypothetical Necessity of Punishing Sins flowing from the divine Decree, in such a way that God by His absolute Power could have remitted the Punishment due to the sinner. Among these were Calvin himself and Twiss, above all the rest: who in this regard follow too closely the conceptions of the Scholastics concerning the Absolute Power of God; to whom it belonged from this matter to feign an absolute Power of this sort, so that they might in some way commend the fiction of Transubstantiation: compare the Most Illustrious JAN JACOB SCHULTENS’[1] Waarschouwing op den Catechismus van Comrie, § CXVII-CXXXVI, pages 198-222. MARESIUS, in Theologiæ paradoxo retecto et refutato, page 101, has: “Before the rise of the Socinian Controversies, many great Men supposed that God was able to remit our sins without any Satisfaction, in which, nevertheless, today the very Disputant…would not wish to follow them.” The remarkable Definition of the Vindictive Righteousness of God that Johann Eusebius Voet, Physician of the Hague,[2] suggests, and disputation against the same, read in E. D. P.’s Bedenkingen over de Verzoening, etc., in Johann Eusebius Voet’s letter 13, pages 349-352, 361-362, letter 14, pages 368, 369, letter 15, pages 379-385, 390-402, letter 16, pages 407-413.


They Object, 1. the Liberty of God in all external Works. I Respond, α. That this is not a Liberty of Indifference in all the actions of God, as if all the external actions of God indiscriminately, among which is also Punishment, were indifferently free. On the other hand, not all Necessity is brute and irrational, which we willingly acknowledge as not agreeable to God; neither do we contend that this follows from a denial of the Indifference of the divine Will concerning the Punishment of Sin. But we everywhere teach that Necessity harmonizes with the Liberty of Spontaneity in God and in rational Creatures. It is not able to be denied that God is necessarily Holy in all His internal and external works, and that He demonstrates Himself as such, in which the appropriate Liberty of divine actions does not perish, neither is a brute and merely physical Necessity charged upon God, but rather an ethical and rational Necessity; and so, because God necessarily demonstrates Himself to be Holy, He also necessarily punishes Sins, with the spontaneously free determination of the divine will intervening.


Johannes a Marck

β. Indifference is also able to be seen, says our AUTHOR, in the preceding Creation and Permission of the Fall. Here, Legislation and the Punishment of Sin proceed together. Legislation is also an external action of God, but which is not in every way indifferently free. That is, from eternity it was indifferently Free to God to create or not to create man; consequently also to set forth or not to set forth Law. But, with it posited that man is now created, his Moral Dependence by no means leaves Legislation indifferently free to God. With equal reason, from eternity it was Indifferent to God to permit or not to permit Sin; and to this point also to punish or not to punish. But, with Sin posited, what of itself was Free to God, namely, to punish, the Moral Dependence of the rational Creature upon God does not now leave it Indifferent to Him.


They Object, 2. the Infinite Power of God. I Respond that His Infinite Power does not extend itself to Indecencies: but by it God is able to do all things true and decent, which are not contrary to His Perfections. Moreover, by the same right, but with no less absurdity, one could say that God is able to deny and to destroy Himself: compare what things were observed on § 22; and also HENDRIK LUSSING Matthysz, de Noodzekelykheid van den Godtsdienst in ’t gemeen, en de Zekerheid van den Christelyken in ’t byzonder, veweert, part I, dissertation IV, chapter IV, § 498, 499, pages 381, 382.

[1] Jan Jacob Schultens (1716-1788) was a Dutch orientalist, and the son of Albert Schultens. He served as Professor of Theology at Herborn (1744-1749), and succeeded his father as Professor of Oriental Languages at Leiden (1749-1778).


[2] Johann Eusebius Voet (1706-1778) was a Dutch physician and poet. He translated the Psalms into Dutch for singing.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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