De Moor IV:47: God's Vindictive Righteousness, Natural rather than Volitional



Now, to the extent that Judiciary Righteousness exerts itself in Punishments, it is wont to be called Vindictive, Avenging, Punishing, etc. This Righteousness is called Punishing from its effects, also Avenging and Vindictive, from Jeremiah 5:9, 29; Romans 12:19. Anthropopathically this is also called God’s Anger, Hatred, Heat, etc.; since it was proven in § 26 that Affections of this sort are not able properly to obtain in God.


[And this is Natural to God in such a way that He is not able to leave Sin altogether unpunished.] That is, we establish that this Righteousness is so proper and Essential to God, that before the Decree of Satisfaction, not only was this Congruent, but, with a rational Creature posited and Law necessarily set forth to him on account of his moral Dependence upon his Creator, He was not able not to hate the transgression of this Law, and to punish it by a manifestation of His Righteousness requiring Vengeance, either in the sinner himself or in a Surety substituted for him. We believe that this Righteousness befits God with respect to δύναμιν/power by His very Essence, considered antecedently to every act of His ordaining Will: although with respect to ἐνέργειαν/operation God’s will intervenes, even acting at this point most freely, yet with respect to vengeance itself not altogether indifferently, but in a manner consistent with this Essential Attribute, which determines the Will of God toward one of the Opposites.



We prove our opinion, α. From express passages, which expressly claim for God this Righteousness as Natural, and in which mention is made of Attributes most Essential, which God is not able to deny: in Exodus 34:7, God, proclaiming His Name before Moses, among other things includes,וְנַקֵּה֙ לֹ֣א יְנַקֶּ֔ה , He will by no means clear. Now, the Name of God in Sacred Scripture often denotes, and thus also in this passage, God Himself, and His Essence and Essential Attributes, and which He is not able to deny, except by denying Himself, which Paul said was impossible, 2 Timothy 2:13. In Psalm 5:4-6, three negative things are proclaimed upon this matter, and likewise three positive, the individuals of which appear to contend among themselves over the greater ἐνεργείᾳ/energy, having regard partly to the Vindictive Righteousness of God, partly to His Holiness as the foundation of the former. Neither could God’s natural aversion to the impious, from which it follows that He keeps them from His communion, be more powerfully expressed than when God is said to abhor them. In Psalm 11:5-7, God, contemplated as the Just Judge of all, is said to hate the wicked, and that, not by a will merely indifferent, but by His Essence; נַפְשׁוֹ, His soul, does this: and from this Essential Righteousness of God is deduced in turn the punishment of the wicked; compare also Genesis 18:25. In Romans 1:32, this is said to be God’s δικαίωμα/judgment/ righteousness, ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες ἄξιοι θανάτου εἰσίν, that they which commit such things are worthy of death: if God should altogether renounce this His δικαιώματι/righteousness, He would be unjust and injurious to Himself.



β. From the Holiness of God, which implies an actual and necessary demonstration of aversion to sin. This Holiness, with the punishment of sin necessarily flowing from it, Joshua sets forth to the Israelites, Joshua 24:19. God Himself, speaking of His own Holiness as exacting punishments, is introduced in Psalm 50:21, in which God insinuates that, if He should leave sins forever unpunished, one might rightly conclude God to be similar to the sinner, that is, that He delights in shameful acts just as the sinner does: compare our AUTHOR’S Exspectationem Gloriæ futuræ Jesu Christ, book I, chapter IV, § 9, page 46. In Habakkuk 1:13, God by His unstained Holiness is said not to be able to look upon the evil of sin with delight, nor to bear the same without punishment; but hence, after the likeness of a just Judge, He is going to punish it, and He is not going to admit in any way a sinner unto the beatific vision of Himself.


γ. The common Testimony of Conscience is added, found even in the Gentiles themselves by nature, concerning Vengeance from heaven pursuing sin, Romans 1:32; 2:14, 15; Acts 28:4: which sense their Consciences have made amply manifest, not only in words, which are easily able to be produced out of their writings, but also in deeds, especially by their innumerable and also inhuman Sacrifices. From which one may be able to argue in this way: All things that are known by nature to all men concerning God pertain to His Essence, rather than to His indifferent Will. The Vindictive Righteousness of God, as it necessarily exerts itself in punishments, is known by nature to all men; as it is abundantly evident from the Testimony of Conscience, the abiding opinion of the Gentiles concerning the punishment to be inflicted by God upon evildoers, and the offering of Sacrificial Victims. Therefore, the Vindictive Righteousness of God and the necessity of punishing sins as a result of that pertain to the Essence of God, more than to His indifferent Will. So that with good reason, after the setting forth of this argument, the Most Illustrious VOETIUS wrote, Disputationum theologicarum, part I, page 361, “These things certainly appear to indicate something more than God’s free institution and imperium, the opposite of which had equally also been able to be.”



δ. From the very Work of God our opinion is able to be proven, since after the innumerable prefiguring Types of Legal Sacrificial Victims He exerted His own Righteousness in His Son, Unique and profoundly loved, in such an eminent and stupendous manner. In the Legal worship instituted by God, the offering of a great many sacrificial victims had been mandated by God, in which typical Expiation was not able to happen without the shedding of blood, Hebrews 9:22; but not even in this way was true Expiation able to be obtained, which the Apostle signifies to have been altogether ἀδύνατον/impossible to be produced by the sacrifices of beasts, and hence infers the ἀνάγκην/necessity of a more excellent Sacrifice, Hebrews 9:23; 10:1, 4, 11. And so the Body belonging to these Shadows followed in the fullness of time, when the Son of God Himself offered Himself as a sacrificial victim and ἀντίλυτρον/ransom[1] for the elect, and was delivered to the most grievous, ignominious, and cursed Punishments in the place of elect Sinners. Which indeed manifestly argues the divine Righteousness to be so inexorable that He is not able to pardon a sinner, unless by a sufficient redemption price a full satisfaction be made to Him. For, unless a necessity of this sort intervene, both God’s Goodness, and His Wisdom, would appear to be wounded by this means of Salvation, which alone God has revealed to us. And indeed, if God had been able to redeem us by His mere nod alone, how is it that divine Wisdom would have permitted heaven and earth to be moved, as it were, and a labor of such mass to be instituted, and that without any necessity? Still less is the Goodness of God able ever to be conceived of as consenting to this, that the Only-begotten Son, the ἀγαπητὸς/beloved, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησε, in whom the Father is well pleased,[2] ὁμοούσιος, of one substance, with the Father, should descend, with heaven left, into these lower parts of the earth, be exposed to so various and frightful torments for our sake, indeed become a cure for us:[3] unless, with the purpose/will of saving some of the fallen human race posited, the inevitable necessity of Righteousness demanding vengeance drive God to it, lest He be compelled to deny Himself. And the Scripture signifies this, when it relates that it was thus fitting that God act for a demonstration of His Righteousness, so that it might remain intact, whole and entire, Hebrews 2:10; Romans 3:25, 26. I conclude: The passion and death of Christ was absolutely necessary, or it was not: if it was not, the consummate Love with which the Father naturally embraces the Son does not appear to have been able to to yield that to His free decree, so that by this the Son might be destined to be delivered to the very sharpest sorrows and to cursing itself. But if it was absolutely necessary, that necessity is not able to be traced to any other source that the Vindicitive Righteousness of God.



With these arguments produced by our AUTHOR one or two are able to be joined. Such as:


ε. That, without this sort of necessity of punishment arising from Righteousness, the Moral Dependence of the rational Creature would be removed. Indeed, this is tied to the honoring of God through His Law, which without penal sanction is to be called counsel rather than Law: now, man, rebelling against this, looses on his sid that obligation by disobedience, but God, remitting punishment, renounces His right, which by transgression arose to Him to exact punishment; in addition to which twofold bond of obligation there is no third: and so some moral act of the Creature shall be loosed from all obligation to the divine Law, which is contrary to the ὑπεροχῇ/pre-eminence of the Deity. For thus the authority of the Legislator is removed, just as also the reverence to be exhibited for Law, and these become useless; since what is neglected with impunity is prescribed in vain.


ϛ. Every one sinning ἀτιμάζει/dishonors God, Romans 2:23, and, by flies upon His Majesty, denies this, as far as it is in him to do so; thus he conducts himself as if he were ἀνυπεύθυνος, under no obligation to give account, and not bound to obey any Law. Therefore, unless God on His part also desires to deny the glory of His Majesty and Primacy, He is not able not to judge justly against men of this sort.


ζ. It appears that this was not done without consideration, that the Scripture, referring many other things to the good pleasure of the divine Will, when, for example, it treats of Predestination, Ephesians 1:5, 9, 11, common Providence, Psalm 115:3; Daniel 4:34, always traces Punishments to God’s Righteousness, Decency, and Holiness.

[1] 1 Timothy 2:6: “Who gave himself a ransom (ἀντίλυτρον) for all, to be testified in due time.”


[2] See Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11.


[3] Galatians 3:13.

ABOUT US

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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