De Moor on Vindicatory Righteousness: Universal and Particular Righteousness



ARISTOTLE formerly divided Righteousness/Justice into Universal and Particular: the former was embracing absolutely all the Virtues under itself, and thus deserved to be called general Virtue; but the latter had to do with the distribution of Rewards and Punishments, and with respect to these was also called Corrective. Thus indeed the Philosopher himself in his Ethics, book V, chapter I, Πάντα τὰ νόμιμα ἐστί πως δίκαια, All lawful acts are in some way just. While he was developing this with a little more fullness, he subjoined: Αὕτη μὲν οὖν ἡ δικαιοσύνη, ἀρετὴ μέν ἐστι τελεία, ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἁπλῶς, ἀλλὰ πρὸς ἕτερον· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο πολλάκις κρατίστη τῶν ἀρετῶν εἶναι δοκεῖ ἡ δικαιοσύνη· —καὶ παροιμιαζόμενοί φαμεν, This righteousness/ justice, then, is complete virtue, not absolutely, but in relation to the other. And for that reason righteousness/justice is often thought to be the greatest of virtues…and proverbially,


Ἐν δὲ δικαιοσύνῃ συλλήβδην πᾶσ᾽ ἀρετή ᾽στι,

In justice every virtue is comprehended (which verse is found in THEOGNIS, verse 147).


With this Universal Righteousness compare the Platonic description of Righteousness in DIOGENES LAERTIUS’ Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, book III, § 83, Τῆς δὲ δικαιοσύνης ἐστὶν εἴδη τρία· ἡ μὲν γὰρ αὐτῆς ἐστὶ περὶ θεούς· ἡ δὲ, περὶ ἀνθρώπους· ἡ δὲ, περὶ ἀποιχομένους, There are three species of justice: one is concerned with the gods, another with men, and the third with the departed, which things are then explained at greater length.



And then ARISTOTLE, treating of Particular Righteousness/Justice in chapter V, thus writes: Τῆς δὲ κατὰ μέρος δικαιοσύνης καὶ τοῦ κατ᾽ αὐτὴν δικαίου, ἓν μέν ἐστιν εἶδος, τὸ ἐν ταῖς διανομαῖς, ἢ τιμῆς, ἢ χρημάτων, ἢ τῶν ἄλλων, ὅσα μεριστὰ τοῖς κοινωνοῦσι τῆς πολιτείας. —ἓν δὲ, τὸ ἐν τοῖς συναλλάγμασι διορθωτικόν, Of particular justice and that which is just in the corresponding sense, one kind is that which is in distributions, whether of honour, money, or the other things that fall to be divided among those who have a share in the constitution:… one is that which is corrective in contracts. Which division a great many, walking in the footsteps of Aristotle, also transfer to the Divine Perfections, whether rightly or not it is not now our intention to inquire. This only do we observe, that to Universal Righteousness/Justice is wont then to be referred Righteousness, α. Divine, which, although more frequently going by the title of Holiness, is believed not incommodiously to be signified by this name also, John 17:25, compared with verse 11. β. Dominical, which denotes the demonstration of God’s Natural Holiness in all His Words and Deeds. But then to Particular Righteousness pertains Judiciary Righteousness, which for a twofold object exerts itself in a twofold manner, namely, either Remunerating things well done by distributing rewards, or Punishing things ill done. Concerning the latter we now treat, which by Theologians has been accustomed to be called both Punishing, evidently from its effects, and Avenging and Vindicatory, from Jeremiah 5:9, 29; Romans 12:19; etc. And concerning this Righteousness/Justice it is asked, in what manner does it obtain in God, whether as an Effect of His changeable Will; or through that in order to inflict Punishment God is to be held in such a way that He is not able to leave Sin altogether unpunished?

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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