De Moor on God's Essential Vindicatory Righteousness: Against the Socinians, Part 1


Faustus Socinus

For what is read in the Prælectione of chapter XVI, that this Righteousness is very rarely attributed to God, makes for this; while in the same Chapter he had written, that the Sacred Books do not even consider that worthy of the name, what is commonly wont to be called Righteousness. Therefore, he confesses what he had just denied, that sometimes Vindicatory Righteousness goes by that name in the Sacred Codex and is attributed to God: for that is not able to be understood of a human manner of speaking; while previously he conceded that thus we have been accustomed to speak commonly, and therefore not rarely. But if the Word of God attributes this Righteousness to God, even if rarely, then it is truly applicable to Him; and indeed, as Righteousness/Justice, that is, as a cardinal virtue, which greatly adorns a man; so it is of the highest perfection in God, and so it is not able to be removed from Him, or, since it is present, not to be exercised. Then, what he asserts in the same place and in part I of his Disputationis de Servatore, chapter I, page 123a (which Crellius also inculcates), that Righteousness, which truly and essentially is applicable to God, in a manner opposite to that which he says is an effect of the free will, is nothing other than rectitude and equity: to which Vindicatory Righteousness is also to be referred when it treats of the person of the Judge, we related in § 9. But what he adds in the place cited, page 123b, supports our position even more: For, God does not perpetually punish those not repenting, because it is proper to Him to punish those that sin; but because not to grant favor to the impenitent is in the final analysis owed to, and consistent with, the Divine Nature and His Decrees, and therefore rectitude and equity. Benevolent Reader, we have our Adversary almost crossing over into our camp: for he acknowledges that God does not grant favor to the impenitent; and that because it is consistent with, and owed to, the Divine Nature, antecedently indeed to the Decree of God, and His Decrees hence derived. But the impenitent are all reprobates, who contine χωρὶς Χριστοῦ, without Christ: but the penitent through the grace of God and by faith embrace Christ, and are rescued from Divine Wrath by the blood and death of Christ, who for them paid the λύτρον/ransom to Divine Justice. Therefore, God does not grant favor to the penitent, unless satisfaction is made to Justice by the Surety: He does not at all pardon the impenitent; but wills that they pay the penalty for their σκληρότητος καὶ ἀμετανοήτου καρδίας, hardness and impenitent heart,[1] in their own person. Therefore, God pardons the sins of no one except with respect had to His Justice/ Righteousness, which must be satisfied. But, you will say, can it be that Socinus is inconsistent with himself, while he, in granting that it is owed to, and consistent with, the Divine Nature, etc., not to grant favor to the impenitent, at the same time denies this to be done, because it is proper to God to punish those that sin? He is completely inconsistent with himself, yet not according to his own hypothesis: for, since he refuses to admit the Truth of the Satisfaction of Christ, he wants repentance to be the cause of Justification, and all the sins of the penitent to be pardoned without any Satisfaction, whether proper or vicarious: and hence no sins to be punished except of the ἀμετανοήτων/impenitent and contumaciously persevering in sins. Crellius expressed this more fully, de Attributis Dei, chapter XXIII, page 62b: There is no reason that would suggest that full impunity is to be given by God to men extremely contumacious, and that the force of the threat with regard to them is to be removed. Seeing that they proceed impiously to despise the Majesty of God, openly trample upon the authority of laws, overthrow good order as far as in them lies, and are certain pests, not at all to be borne, and altogether unworthy of all divine benefit. It is in no way credible that a condition of this sort was tacitly comprehended in the threat, which would be applied even to the extremely contumacious, and would be able to free them from all punishment. Even if there were no threat on record, they would be altogether unworthy of impunity; or rather it is unworthy of God to dismiss their sins without punishment. According to their opinion, therefore, God punishes the sins of the contumacious and impenitent, and it is unworthy of God to dismiss their sins without punishment. But contumacy of itself does not demand punishment, without its object considered, for then it will simply be called perseverance: which, when it concerns a good thing, is altogether praiseworthy; and there is nothing that the Apostles inculcate so much as perseverance in good, desiring that we be ἑδραῖοι, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ Κυρίου πάντοτε, steadfast unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:58. Therefore, contumacy proves to be evil and worthy of punishment on account of the evil matter with which it is occupied, namely, sin; and thus God punishes the contumacious, because it is proper to Him to punish sins, which Socinus denies. Indeed, not to the contumacious only, but to every sinner, the Law threatens punishment, Galatians 3:10: and since sin primarily and of itself, not just contumacy by accidental property, deserves punishment; it follows that, wherever sin is present, there punishment is inflicted by God: although we concede without reluctance that contumacy after the friendly urging of the preachers of the Gospel and its acknowledged truth is able to increase the degree of punishment, Romans 2:4, 5; Hebrews 10:26, 27; Matthew 11:20-24. But degrees, as of other matters, so also of punishments do not vary the species of the same.

[1] Romans 2:5.

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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