De Moor IV:47: Denial of Vindicatory Righteousness as Natural to God by the Socinians, et al.

Faustus Socinus

This is to be maintained against the Socinians, who, so that they might be able more easily to deny the Truth of the Satisfaction of Christ, also deny Vindictive Righteousness as Essential to God, and hence the consequent Necessity of Satisfaction to divine Justice. Socinus, at the beginning of book III de Christo Servatore, opera, tome 2, page 186, “I shall never be so injurious to my God, that I would dare to think, even indeed in a dream, that my sins, with no true Satisfaction received for them, He is either unwilling or unable by Right to pardon.” In Censura Confessionis Remonstrantium, page 41, these things, as the words of Socinus in book I, de Servatore, pages 7, 8, are additionally cited: “The Righteousness of God, wherewith He loves the just, but hates and punishes the unjust, is not of the nature of God, but is in God contingently, as an effect of His free and changeable will, which He is able either to will, or not to will, just as He was able to will to create or not to create the world, and just as He is able to will to rain or not to rain.” But these words are not found ῥητῶς/expressly in the passage cited from Socinus, but well enough indeed κατὰ διάνοιαν, in meaning; especially in chapter I, at the end of page 8, or in opera, tome 2, page 123a, in which is, “Finally, it is to be observed that Righteousness, as it, to the extent it is opposed to Mercy, is not truly, as it is said, Righteousness, nor is it adorned with that name in the sacred books, but rather ought to be called severity, and vengeance; does not truly reside in God, nor is it a quality in God, or some property, if you prefer, but only as an effect of His will.” I find things similar to these on page 10, or pages 123b, “But what you add, that from that Righteousness, which is opposed to Mercy…flowed that sentence of the Lord when He addressed Adam, on what day of the fruit of the tree, etc.:[1] since it was shown by me that Righteousness of this sort does not truly reside in God, nor is it able properly to be called a quality of God, that is, to the extent that it is opposed to Mercy, but is only an effect of His will; nothing is able to flow from it. Which will be discovered to be true, if we consider that God was able to deliver that precept to men, and yet not to add the punishment of death, should he not keep it: indeed, not to add any punishment at all. For God is able, especially since He is the Lord of all things, by His own Right, as far as He is pleased, to forgive.” And on page 124a, “I acknowledge that, not only our first parents, but also the entire human race, because of sin is liable to death, even to eternal death. But that flowed, not necessarily from some Righteousness in God, but from His free will. On account of which, as God had been able, even indeed by Right, not to remand men, although sinners, to eternal death: so, after He remanded them to that death by His own edict, He is able to release them again from its power, even indeed by Right, by His mere will.” In de Christo Servatore, chapter II, page 124b, it is read more than once, that by God’s free will and decree we merited the punishment of eternal death; but that our damnation did not derive its origin from some divine Righteousness necessarily. The Catechesis Racoviensis has similar things in chapter VIII, de munere Christi Prophetico, that is, de Morte Christi, questions 18-21, pages 230-233, where in question 20, among other things, you read, “Mercy and Righteousness, of which sort our adversaries here maintain, we deny to be in God naturally. If that Righteousness were in God by nature, as they suppose, God would remit no sin, but would always punish that: for against those things that are in God by nature He is never able to do anything. But, since it is evident that God remits and punishes sins as He will, it is apparent that Mercy and Righteousness of this sort, which our adversaries suppose, are not in God by nature, but are effects of His will. In addition, that Righteousness, which our adversaries oppose to Mercy, whereby God punishes sin, the Sacred Books nowhere mark with the name of Righteousness; but rather call it God’s anger and fury.” In which last assertion that Catechesis contradicts itself, when next in question 21 it subjoins, “We do not deny that Righteousness is natural to God, indeed that which is called rectitude, and is opposed to depravity. And it does indeed shine in all the works of God, whence they all appear just, right, and perfect, and that no less when God remits sins, than when He punishes the same.”


Vorstius, in his Exegese Apologetica, chapter XXIV, acknowledges that God naturally and necessarily hates sin; yet he adds that God punishes the same most freely; and that by His absolutely free power He is able by right to remit sin and to leave it unpunished: see TRIGLAND’S Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, volume 4, page 580. Which things he had already inculcated at length in his Tractatu de Deo, page 331, 335, 396, 418: see TRIGLAND’S Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, volume 4, page 584a, b; compare page 593a.

Jacobus Arminius

But the Arminians approach so near to the Socinians here, that they write in their Apologia, page 46, “To think that the Righteousness of God is Essential to God in such a way that God by virtue of it is obliged and necessitated to punish sins, is altother unsuitable and unworthy of God.” According to Arminius’ Examen libri Perkinsi de Prædestinationis modo et ordine, page 197, The punishment of condemnation of those dying depends upon the mere and free Will of God; compare TRIGLAND’S Antapologiam, chapter XIX, page 297a. According to Episcopius, in his Institutionibus Theologicis, book V, section V, chapter III, opera, tome I, page 407, God could, if He willed, according to His absolute right and supreme power, as the Lord, obligated to no one, obliged to no one, forgive all the sins of mankind, and thus completely yield His own right, whereby He was able to inflict the evil and misery due to sinners upon it…. Righteousness does not precisely require that God is bound to punish, but only that by right He is able to punish when He wills, and when He punishes, He punishes by right. Otherwise, 1. divine Righteousness could not be consistent with the supreme Dominion of God, that is, with the power of remitting sins, etc. Which very thing receives no slight confirmation from this: that, 2. if divine Righteousness should necessarily bind God to punish, Mercy also would bind God not to punish, or to remit punishment, and thus God at the same time would not be able not to punish, and would not be able to punish, etc.: compare TRIGLAND’S Antapologiam, chapter XV, pages 234b, 235: see also FESTUS HOMMIUS’[2] Specimen Controversiarum Belgicarum on Article XX of the Belgic Confession,[3] pages 62, 63.

Among other Libertines, Hobbes denies all satisfactory Punishment; he admits only corrective Punishment, which makes for the amendment either of the sinner himself, or of others: see COCQUIUS arguing in the opposite direction in Anatome Hobbesianismi, locus XII, chapter XXV, pages 514-518. He thinks that God, no less than men, is able to remit at least to penitent sinners injuries against Himself, without any punishment, either in their own persons or vicarious on their behalf, demanded or exacted: see Anatomen Hobbesianismi, locus XIV, chapter XXVIII, section II, § I, pages 529, 530.

Our AUTHOR points out that these more recent Heretics of Christian name follow, 1. the Jews, estranged from the faith of their Fathers: see SPANHEIM’S Elenchum Controversiarum cum Judæis, § XV, XXXV, opera, tome 3, columns 963, 985, 986, compared with columns 935, 936; and, 2. the ancient Coluthians, so called from Coluthus, a Presbyter of the Alexandrian Church, a contemporary of Arius, but whose heresy ἐυθὺς διεσκορπίσθη, was immediately spread: concerning these AUGUSTINE in his de Hæresibus, chapter LXV, “The Coluthians, named after a certain Coluthus, were saying that God does not create evils, against that which is written, I am God, creating evils:” compare DANÆUS in the place cited, pages 992, 993.

[1] Genesis 2:17.

[2] Festus Hommius (1576-1642) was a Dutch Theologian and Pastor. He was actively involved in opposing the Remonstrants, and served as secretary to the Synod of Dort.

[3] Belgic Confession 20: “We believe that God, who is perfectly merciful and just, sent His Son to assume that nature in which the disobedience was committed, to make satisfaction in the same, and to bear the punishment of sin by His most bitter passion and death. God therefore manifested His justice against His Son when He laid our iniquities upon Him, and poured forth His mercy and goodness on us, who were guilty and worthy of damnation, out of mere and perfect love, giving His Son unto death for us, and raising Him for our justification, that through Him we might obtain immortality and life eternal.”

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