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De Moor on Vindicatory Righteousness: Controversy among the Reformed

William Twisse

But, so that we might declare the matter as it stands, all the Orthodox are not found thinking in exactly the same manner concerning this Question. Indeed, all these uphold both the Truth and the Necessity of Satisfaction against its enemies; but Some derive this Necessity from the eternal Decree of the Divine Will, acknowledging indeed the Fittingness of Punishment before the Decree, but not a Necessity of such a sort that God had not bee able to pardon to the sinner the due Punishment by His Absolute Power. But others from God’s Just Essence itself, which did not allow the Will to hold itself indifferently at this point, but determined it. With the former thus establishing a Hypothetical Necessity of punishing in God, the latter an Absolute Necessity. And in favor of this Hypothetical Necessity we do indeed acknowledge to have been among the Fathers ATHANASIUS, AUGUSTINE, the Author of the Sermons de Cardinalibus Christi Operibus (which are commonly circulated under the name of Cyprian, but today by the judgment of almost all Learned Men they are attributed to ARNOLD Carnotensis, Abbot of Bonneval, who came into eminence toward the end of the Twelfth Century, and whose authority is accordingly to be held as far inferior to that of Cyprian), which Fathers a great many of the Scholastics followed (let GERHARD JOHANN VOSSIUS be considered in his Responsione ad Ravenspergerum, chapter XXVIII). Although they do not often appear to have distinguished the Question concerning the Necessity of punishing Sin from that other ζητήματι/inquiry, concerning which it is not here asked; namely, whether, with the Necessity of inflicting Punishment upon the sinner posited, it was able to be satisfied in some manner other than by the death of Christ. But whatever might be the case concerning this matter, after the Scholastics Reformers and Reformed Theologians were not wanting, who held this same opinion, among whom was CALVIN himself, Institutes of the Christian Religion, book II, chapter XII, § I, Now it concerns us greatly, that He who was going to be our Mediator is true God and true man. If it be asked concerning this Necessity, it was not indeed simple, as they commonly say, or absolute: but it flowed from the heavenly Decree, upon which the salvation of men was depending. And in his Commentary on John 15:13, God was able to redeem us by a word or nod, except it seemed better to do otherwise for our sake, etc. But most notably of all, the most learned TWISSE, in Vindiciis Gratiæ, etc., book I, part II, section XXV, digression VIII, defended this opinion against Piscator and Lubbertus,[1] which opinion he draw from the Scholastics, in whom he appears to have been exceedingly pleased. Thus he begins: That God is able to remit sins even without Satisfaction, according to His Absolute Power, appears so manifest to me, that I think it easy to put it beyond controversy. Which argument he learnedly pursues at length in that very place. But whatever Theologians both of old and in the previous century more securely thought and wrote concerning this matter, since this was not at that time drawn so much into controversy; it is certain that, after the heresy of the Socinians was more widely diffused, many began to teach more cautiously on this point, and with all things duly weighed to recognize here a not merely Hypothetical Necessity of punishing Sin, but to judge that this is founded in the very Nature of the altogether Just and perfectly Holy God, which Absolute Necessity they hence also called a Vindicatory Righteousness Essential to God. Therefore, this opinion, which has pleased men no less great, and today is common to almost all, as MARESIUS testifies, and is far closer to the truth and safer for proving the Necessity of Satisfaction against the Socianians, we also embrace; heartily detesting that heresy, whereby all Vindicatory Righteousness is denied to God, and this is considered as an indifferently Free Effect of the Divine Will outside of His Essence; but also establishing at the same time that this Righteousness is Proper and Essential to God is such a way that before the Decree of Satisfaction this was not only Congruent, but, with a Rational Creature posited and a Law necessarily set forth for him on account of his moral dependence upon His Creator, He could not but hate the transgression of this Law, and punish it by manifesting His Righteousness exacting Vengeance, either in the sinner himself or in a Surety substituted for him (so that we are not disputing here over the mode or degree of punishment, but we are only urging that punishment as necessary). Which, with the help of the Good God, we now undertake to prove.

[1] Sibrandus Lubbertus (c. 1556-1625) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Franeker (1585-1625), and was a prominent participant in the Synod of Dort.

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