For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
~ Romans 1:18, Romans 1:21
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
~ Romans 2:1-5
Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
~ Romans 2:21-23, Romans 6:21
When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.
~ Psalm 50:18, Hosea 7:3
And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
~ Mark 14:10-11, Acts 2:23
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
~ Romans 1:24, Romans 1:28
The Justice of God, by A.W. Pink. The following is an excerpt from his work.
3. The Manifestation of God’s Justice.
Let us make it unmistakably clear at the outset, that it is the manifestation of God’s justice under the economy which He has instituted, which we shall here treat of. It cannot be insisted upon too strongly, that there is a vast difference between the justice of God when it be viewed absolutely, and when it be viewed relatively—a difference as real and as great as that which exists between His essential independence, and those restrictions which He has voluntarily assumed. The justice of God considered absolutely, consists of His own divine rights to do whatever He pleases. The justice of God considered relatively, consists of His course of action in relation to those creatures which He has placed under a moral constitution, wherein He has pledged Himself unto a certain order of procedure.
This distinction is far more than a philosophic nicety: it is a basic fact. The great God was absolutely free to create or not create, just as He saw fit. There was no compulsion—either from within or without—for Him to bring creatures into existence. He decided to go forth into acts of creation, solely for His own glory. In like manner, God was entirely free to create whatever kind of creatures He pleased—it was solely for Him to determine whether they should be rational entities or not. So, too, it was for Him to decide whether or not evil should enter His universe and sin mar the works of His hands. Furthermore, it was entirely at His option whether He should promptly annihilate evil-doers or whether their existence should be prolonged; and if prolonged, whether their iniquities should be pardoned or punished; and if punished in what way and for how long. Alas, how ignorant this generation is of Holy Writ.
Absolutely considered, then, the justice of God is one with His sovereignty. That is to say, whatever God decrees and whatever He does is just—simply and solely because it issues from His own imperial will. But relatively considered, the justice of God consists in His administering with strict impartiality, the Law which He was pleased to frame, so that He gives to each under it, his exact due. Above, we made mention of those “restrictions” which God has voluntarily taken upon Himself: lest this be misunderstood or wrested, we hasten to define our meaning. It has pleased God to form a purpose or plan, the broad outlines of which are revealed in His Word, and He is now acting accordingly. It has pleased God to make certain promises and threats, and He has pledged Himself to fulfil the same. We shall, then, now contemplate the divine justice as it is manifested under that economy which the Lord God has appointed.
First, it is testified to, by our conscience. Since it pleased the Creator to constitute man a rational creature and to place him under external law, He also saw fit to afford proof within himself, that he is subject to a Government which is righteous and just. Man is not only endowed with a faculty which enables him to distinguish between right and wrong—but with perceptions that intuitively feel that justice is worthy of approbation, and injustice of condemnation. This is a part of that “work of the law written within their hearts” (Romans 2:15) by the Maker of men. It is in consequence of this moral faculty that the wicked “knowing (within themselves) the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death” (Romans 1:32). Hence it is that from earliest times, and all through the centuries—the most benighted even of the heathen have resorted unto all manner of means and devices in seeking to placate Deity.
It is the province of our conscience, to weigh actions in the scales of God’s Law (or what we apprehend to be His Law) and pass sentence according to their conformity or lack of conformity with that standard. It has rightly been termed the deputy or vice-regent of God within our souls, for it performs not only the work of a monitor by reminding us of our duty and exciting us to attend unto the same— but also of a subordinate judge summoning us before its tribunal and pronouncing us innocent or guilty. Its sentences proceed on the assumption that God’s Law is “holy, just and good,” with the demands of which we are bound to comply. And as Romans 2 tells us, this moral faculty works as truly in those who do not receive the written Law of God—as in those who do. Thus we see how the creature bears within him—a witness to the attributes of God’s justice, for the constitution of his mind is as much His work as is the balancing of the clouds.
The workings of conscience are indeed remarkable, for they often expose the vanity of our most specious pretences, and convict us of sin at the moment when we are employing all our sophistry in seeking to justify our mad conduct. In this manner the rights of God as the Supreme Governor to place man under law and to enforce its sanctions, are manifested within him even amid his very attempts to repudiate His demands and escape from His yoke. This advocate for God’s claims, accompanies us wherever we go and makes its voice heard in solitude and company alike. It upbraids those whom men would never think of reproving, and speaks with such potency as makes kings to tremble upon their thrones. It checks us when we are meditating wicked devices and if unheeded, disturbs our pleasure while we are seeking to enjoy our unlawful spoils.
Second, the dispensations of Providence tend to confirm the dictates of conscience, and manifest the justice of Him who is Lord over all. Providence supposes the preservation and the government of creatures, according to their respective natures. Are there, then, any indications of a moral government over men? Both experience and observation inform us, that good and evil are disbursed, and the point we now raise is—do these appear to be allotted unto men in any degree according to their conduct, considered as morally good or evil? Admittedly this is no question which is easy to answer to the satisfaction of many people, especially when they are in a gloomy mood; nevertheless, the Scriptures record so many examples of the justice of God in punishing sin and in rewarding righteousness, that the godly cannot doubt the reality of this principle.
Among the more conspicuous demonstrations of the retributive justice of God, we mention the not sparing of the angels that sinned, for God “cast them down to Hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Peter 2:4); the swallowing of the inhabitants of the old world by the flood; the overthrow of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; the destruction of the haughty Pharaoh and his armies at the Red Sea; and the calamities which befell the rebellious Jews, particularly their transportation to Babylon and their subsequent dispersion by the Romans. Secular history also records many striking and solemn demonstrations of God taking vengeance on those who oppressed His people. Instances of divine intervention in the lives of nations may still be observed, and will not be overlooked by those who are attentive unto what is passing around them, and who piously believe that not a sparrow can fall to the ground without the permission of the Most High God.
The like retributive justice of God appears also in the case of individuals. When the Israelites caught the Canaanite Adonibezek and cut off his thumbs and his big toes, he acknowledged, “I once had seventy kings with thumbs and big toes cut off, eating scraps from under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them” (Judg. 1:7). Ahab’s blood was lapped up by dogs in the very place where the blood of Naboth had been shed (1 Kings 22:37, 38). Jezebel was more guilty than he: Ahab permitted—but Jezebel contrived. Ahab afterward humbled himself, and therefore received honourable burial; but Jezebel was entombed in the bellies of the dogs. Haman was executed on the very gallows which he had set up for Mordecai (Esther 7:10). Henry the Third of France was killed in the same chamber where the horrible massacre had been planned, and Charles the Ninth died flowing in his own blood in bed.
So plainly does Providence hint that the Ruler of this world is endowed with justice, that we find heathen antiquity uniting in acknowledging its belief in divine retribution upon all enormities. Examples of this are found in the mariners who manned the ship in which Jonah was passenger, for they were convinced that the awful storm came upon them because of some evil-doer in their midst (Jonah 1:7); as also in the case of the inhabitants of Melita, for when they saw the viper settle upon the hand of Paul they exclaimed, “No doubt this man is a murderer whom, though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live” (Acts 28:4). Indeed it will generally be found, that the heathen are far readier to consider the workings of divine retribution, than are those nations which profess to be Christian, and that unbelievers today are more ready to own God’s hand in justice—than most of those who claim to be believers.
This principle of divine retribution appears also in the lives of God’s own people. Jacob secured Isaac’s blessing by a piece of deception, posing as his brother Esau—and after seven years of hard service with Laban the homely Leah was palmed off on him in the stead of her beautiful sister Rachel. When Joseph was inflexible to his brethren’s requests they exclaimed, “This has all happened because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his terror and anguish and heard his pleadings, but we wouldn’t listen. That is why this trouble has come upon us.” (Gen. 42:21). Asa, who put the Prophet in stocks, afterward became diseased in his own feet. Paul consented to the stoning of Stephen, yes, assisted in his execution, for his murderers laid down their clothes at his feet; and therefore Paul himself was afterward stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19, 20). This is the more noteworthy because Barnabas, who was his companion—who had given equal offence in preaching the Gospel was not stoned.
And so it is still. Without being guilty of the presumption and uncharitableness which our Saviour condemned, when speaking of the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices, and of the people on whom the tower of Siloam fell—yet there are times when we are constrained to acknowledge, “Truly, there is a God who judges in the earth.” (Psalm 58:11). When we see, as at times we do, the sins of men called to remembrance—by the very nature of their punishment; and when we occasionally behold the sinner smitten with the rod of anger while he is in the act of transgression, we cannot doubt that the Ruler of this world is our righteous judge.
But it may be objected, that the distribution of rewards and punishments is not regular or uniform, that upon the whole, the treatment which men receive from God’s Providence, is little connected with their character and conduct—yes, that the wicked rather than the righteous are the more successful. The prosperity of the wicked and the afflictions of the righteous have in all ages presented an acute problem, and it was the observation of Job that, “The tents of robbers are safe, and those who provoke God are secure” (Job 12:6). David declared, “I myself have seen it happen— proud and evil people thriving like mighty trees” (Psalm 37:35).
Asaph lamented, “For I envied the arrogant when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. They seem to live such a painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They aren’t troubled like other people or plagued with problems like everyone else.” (Psalm 73:3-5). After declaring, “Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You,” Jeremiah asked the Lord, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are all they happy—who deal very treacherously?” (12:1). Habakkuk also inquired, “Why do You tolerate those who are treacherous? Why are You silent while one who is wicked swallows up one who is more righteous than himself?” (Hab 1:13). In Malachi’s days there were those who murmured, “It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping His requirements and walking mournfully before the Lord Almighty? So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Those who commit wickedness prosper” (3:14, 15). What answer may be given to such questions?
First, God’s Word does sufficiently declare His displeasure against the wicked, and His approbation of the righteous, even though His Providence does not. “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong” (Eccl. 8:11) Though the warrant is signed—yet the execution thereof may be suspended for just reasons. Sin is not the less odious to God, because He does not immediately inflict its punishment. He delays it to display His infinite patience. He bears “with much patience, the vessels of wrath.” Some, like Manasseh and Saul of Tarsus, are spared, that they may become the monuments of His sovereign grace. So, too, God has wise reasons for delaying the rewards of the righteous: that faith may be tested, patience developed, and the sufficiency of His grace to sustain under afflictions demonstrated.
Second, it should be more definitely borne in mind that there are other punishments beside outward afflictions, and other rewards beside material prosperity. Alas, that we so readily forget this. Invisible judgments are the most fearful of all. To be abandoned by God unto blindness of mind, hardness of heart, and terrors of conscience—is far worse than any physical loss or pain. Who can measure what Cain felt when he cried, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” Who can gauge the depths of remorse felt by Judas before he went and hanged himself. Contrariwise, the favour of God is expressed unto His own people in the spiritual blessings which He showers upon them. What though the ungodly give them the cold shoulder, if they are conscious of the smile of their heavenly Father. Which is the better, houses and lands—or the comforts of an ungrieved Spirit and a peace which passes all understanding? Assurance of divine sonship is worth more than silver or gold.
Third, Providence must not be viewed piecemeal—but in its entirety; nor by halves—but in its whole frame and connection. We are required to possess our souls in patience on this matter, too, for in His own good time, God shall make it unmistakably plain to an assembled universe, that He is a righteous Ruler and Judge. In the meanwhile God has good reasons for not yet making a full demonstration of His justice, by openly rewarding or punishing men according to their works. This is the day of His patience and not of His wrath—it is the day when we are called upon to walk by faith and not by sight. It is our failure to view Providence as a whole, which so often makes us say with Jacob, “all these things are against me,” when in reality, “all things work together for good to love God.” But it will only be in the future, that this grand fact will be fully evidenced. “Now we see through a glass darkly—but then face to face: now I know in part—but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12), and what an immeasurable difference this will make.
Fourth, the solemn triumph of the justice of God, will fully appear in the Day to come. The righteous and the wicked receive but the beginnings of their reward and punishment in this life. Though the wicked are not altogether without punishment, yet these are but the beginning of sorrows, if we respect either God’s physical or eternal retribution. The reason for this is not hard to discover: if God should punish no sin here—then none would believe there is a God; if He should punish all sin here—none would be afraid of future judgment. “He has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31)—that will be the grand Assize for all mankind, where the Great Judge shall appear in His royalty. At present God keeps but petty sessions—but then will be, “The day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Now God’s judgment is manifested on a few here and there—but then upon all. Now much of His retribution is disbursed secretly—but then openly. Now the punishment is but a temporary one—but then eternal. So, too, with the rewarding of the righteous: here they have but the beginning of their salvation, the fullness thereof being reserved for the world to come; for here, too, we have to walk by faith and not by sight.
Finally, let us point out once more that under the dispensations of Providence, the external government of God is so exercised as to provide the world with a sufficient witness of His retributive justice, as to give plain warning of what may be expected in the world to come. The occasional instance which we behold of the divine vengeance upon evildoers, are notices that the Ruler of this world is not unmindful of nor indifferent to the actions of His creatures. They are calculated to excite an expectation that in the future, God’s justice will be more openly and fully displayed. divine indifference cannot be fairly inferred from the afflictions of the righteous, since they are compensated for by those spiritual consolations which make them joyful in tribulation, and are productive of beneficial effects. Here in this present world, justice is mingled with mercy to the godly in their sufferings; and mercy is mixed with justice to the wicked in their temporal blessings. But at the last Day it will be fully demonstrated that God is a righteous Judge, keeping strictly to that Law which He has framed for the government of this world. Moreover, at that Day, even the wicked shall be sufficiently delivered from the delusions of Satan as to perceive the righteousness of their Judge in His dealings with them.
Fourth, the justice of God is manifested in redemption. We have seen that the justice of God in His government of this world is manifested in the consciences of men and in the dispensations of Providence. Let us now behold how it is evidenced in the work of redemption. Here it has pleased the Most High to give a signal demonstration of His righteousness according to the requirements of that law which He has framed. Nowhere are the principles of the divine administration exhibited so plainly as here—yet nowhere, we may add, is it so imperative for us to be completely subject to the Scriptures if our thoughts thereon are to honour the Lord God. If the works of creation contain mysteries which are beyond our powers to solve, and if the dispensations of Providence are often sorely perplexing, the yet grander work of redemption—God’s masterpiece —must fill with reverent awe those who endeavour to contemplate its method and meaning. Only as we interpret by the light of Holy Writ, the amazing anomaly of the Just suffering for the unjust shall we be preserved from the most horrible errors.
In connection with the work of redemption, we are confronted with the astonishing spectacle of a Person whom even His worst enemies acknowledged to be free from the slightest stain of impurity. And of whose moral conduct, Heaven itself testified an unqualified approbation, spending His days in such affliction and ending His career in such anguish that He was denominated “the Man of Sorrows.” If guilt precedes affliction and is the cause of it, then to behold the Holy One enduring the unabated curse of the Law presents a problem which human wisdom is utterly incapable of solving. Yes, it is at this very point, that the blasphemies of infidels have raved the loudest. But this is exactly what Scripture leads us to expect, for it plainly tells us that the preaching of Christ crucified is “unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness.” Yet this same passage at once adds, “But unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23, 24).
The light of divine revelation removes what is a stumbling block to those who walk in darkness. So far from the Scriptures uttering the least apology for God in His appointment of Christ unto death, they declare that believers are, “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26). The Lord Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for sin, has been exhibited for this very end—to demonstrate the justice of God in this greatest transaction of all time, so that He now acquits the guiltiest transgressor who trusts in the Saviour—without infringing the rights of His government; yes, manifesting and magnifying His very justice in so doing.
Though personally innocent of the slightest infraction of God’s Law, yes, though rendering to it a perfect and perpetual obedience—yet the Lord Jesus Christ suffered vicariously as the Substitute of His people. Nor was this fearful sacrifice forced upon Him against His own will: rather did He freely assume the office of Surety and voluntarily discharge its duties. It must ever be borne in mind—that He who presented Himself as the Sponsor of God’s elect, possessed rights and prerogatives which belong to no mere creature. He was complete master of His own life. He voluntarily assumed our nature and held His life for the purpose of surrendering it as a ransom for us. He Himself made this unmistakably plain when He declared, “Therefore does My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from Me—but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17, 18). If One who was innocent voluntarily received the wages of sin, then God’s hatred of sin was unmistakably manifested, the authority of His government maintained, and the requirements of His justice fully satisfied.
From earliest times this apparent travesty of justice—an innocent victim being slaughtered in the place of the guilty—held a prominent place in the divine appointments for His people. The divine institution of propitiatory sacrifices and their abundant use under the economy God framed, was solemnly unforced by that penal statute, “‘Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood—I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Lev. 17:10, 11). Of such frequent application, of such varied utility, and of such high importance, was the expiatory blood of sacrifices—that the Holy Spirit moved an Apostle to say, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). What striking and emphatic declarations are these.
As no blood was expiatory except that which was poured out in sacrifice to God, that which brought death on the victim, and that in which the death of a victim was vicarious—God kept constantly before His people under the typical system of worship, the fact that pardon would not be dispensed to transgressors, nor communion with Himself enjoyed—except in strict connection with a display of punitive justice. But though the propitiatory sacrifices were so many testimonies to Jehovah’s purity, so many evidences of His righteousness—yet in their nature, application and efficacy—they did not extend to the burdened conscience, but were limited to the removal of ceremonial defilement; and were a typical prefiguration of the Messiah’s priestly work. They were so far from fully exhibiting the governmental perfections of God, that they were merely shadows and pre-intimations of that which was to be manifested when “the fullness of time should come.”
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then said I, Then I said—Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God. By that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:4-10). Here is the grand transition from the shadows to the Substance. The typical sacrifices were inadequate for displaying the righteousness of God, and therefore were they superceded by the all-sufficient Sacrifice. None other than the Son of God Himself, took upon Him our humanity (immaculately conceived) and came into this world to do in reality, what had been previously prefigured of Him.
In the above passage, our blessed Redeemer stands forth as a voluntary victim, completely qualified to make full expiation of sin. Confident of His own perfect qualifications to perform the arduous work, absolutely willing to undergo all the bitterness of the sufferings involved therein—he announced His readiness to discharge the greatest undertaking of all. But let us carefully note, once more, how everything is resolved unto the divine will. “Here I am, I have come to do Your will, O God” (Heb. 10:9). That will which had been formulated in His “eternal purpose” (Eph. 3:11), which had been expressed in the terms of the Everlasting Covenant, which had been freely accepted by the Mediator Himself, and which had been made known in the Scriptures of Truth. That “will” involved the magnifying of God’s Law and rendering it honourable (Isaiah 42:21). It involved the Son’s becoming the federal Representative of His people, His entering into the office of Surety, His serving as their Substitute, and His making expiation for their sins. And by that same “will” we are saved. How clearly this confirms what we have already said.
It would take us too far afield for us now to enter into a discussion of the nature, design, and effects of the Atonement, rather must we confine ourselves to the relation which the Satisfaction of Christ had unto the demonstrating of God’s governmental perfections under the economy He had instituted. The fundamental feature of that economy is that the Lord God has placed His rational creatures under law, and that He administers this law with strict impartiality, enforcing its sanctions without respect of persons. The climactic proof of this, appears in the plan God formed for the salvation of His elect. He did not sovereignly pardon their iniquities without any satisfaction being rendered to His broken Law—but appointed His own Son to enter their stead and place—and be made a curse for them, experiencing in His own Person the unabated penalty of that Law, so that they may be righteously discharged. This it is which alone explains the unparalleled sufferings of the Saviour.
What has just been pointed out, alone accounts for the agony of our Redeemer prior to the Cross. Before any human hand was laid upon Him, before any human enemy came near Him, He exclaimed, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” (Matt. 26:38). Behold Him prostrate in the Garden: He was in an agony of mental distress: He sweat great drops of blood: engaged in “strong crying and tears.” Observe Him on the cruel Tree. With unmeasurable magnanimity He interceded for His crucifiers. With royal majesty and unparalleled mercy He allotted a place in Paradise to one of the malefactors dying by His side. But before He yielded up His spirit He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.” There is only one adequate cause for such unspeakable anguish, namely, His vicarious Character, His bearing imputed sin (for He had none of His own), His undergoing the curse of the Law in the place of those who were justly condemned by it.
Scripture speaks so plainly on this momentous subject that there is no excuse for any misunderstanding of its meaning. Christ was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him” (Isaiah 53:5). And why so? Because God made His Son to be “sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), because “the Lord made the iniquity of us all, to meet on Him” (Isaiah 53:6), because “His own self, bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). And what was the consequence? This—Jehovah cried, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me. declares the Lord Almighty. Strike the shepherd.” (Zech. 13:7). Under the regime God has instituted, sin must be punished wherever it is found—and no exception was made even of the spotless Lamb—when the iniquities of His people were transferred to Him. Hence we are told that the Sin-bearer was “smitten of God” and again, “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (Isaiah 53:4, 10).
It is, then, in the work of redemption, that we behold the clearest, the most solemn, and yet the grandest display of God’s justice. Therein we learn His estimate of sin, His holy abhorrence of it, the nature and severity of His sentence upon it. Not only does the work of redemption exhibit the exceeding riches of divine mercy in the pardon of deservedly condemned criminals—but it manifests the inexorable and awe-inspiring character of divine justice—in the tremendous punishment of sin inflicted upon the Holy Lamb. The more we prayerfully contemplate the Father’s conduct in connection with the obedience and sufferings of His dear Son—the more clearly do we behold Him vindicating the honour of His broken Law, satisfying the claims of His penal justice, furnishing incontestable proof of His equity and veracity, and thereby is He set forth as One who is infinitely worthy to superintend the universe and to govern this world.
Finally, the justice of God will be openly manifested at the end of this world, when the present administration terminates: then will be “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). The ends of justice, so far as they consist in retribution, would be answered by the sentence pronounced upon every individual immediately after death, for it is enough that the state of men in the next world conform to their characters and conduct in this world. But the Grand Assize is designed for the final manifestation of God’s justice before an assembled universe, to bring it out of any obscurity and uncertainty in which it is partly veiled under the varied dispensations of Providence, and to demonstrate once and for all—that the Ruler of Heaven and earth is no respecter of persons. Then shall the books be opened, fair trial accorded, all the evidence adduced and every man shall “receive according to his works.” The wicked will then be convicted that each one has received the due reward of his iniquities, while the righteous will exclaim, “Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” (Rev. 6:7).
Let us now endeavour, though very briefly, to apply this important subject in a doctrinal and practical manner.
First, such manifestations of the divine justice as have been before us, should indeed promote the exercise of deep humility before God in all our devotional fellowship with Him. O fellow-Christian, if we apprehend in any measure this most solemn truth of the divine justice, we must surely feel the propriety of that precept, “Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear—for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:28, 29). There is far more danger of real believers approaching the Father of mercies in a careless, carnal, and formal manner—than there is of them drawing near to Him under the influence of painful timidity or of a desponding temper. We should endeavour to acquire a settled habit of reminding ourselves that the Object of our worship is One who is “glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders.” Such a view of God is adapted to arouse solemnity, excite reverence, and promote submission.
Second, such manifestations of divine justice as have been before us, should warm our hearts and enkindle the spirit of praise. O what a difference it makes whether that justice is for— or against us. God’s justice is now for the weakest and most unworthy believer, for the simple but sufficient reason—that it was against his blessed Redeemer. God cannot twice demand payment— first at our bleeding Surety’s hand, and then again at ours. Because the sword of divine justice was sheathed in the side of the Substitute—I go free. Because He received the wages of sin in my place—my debts are fully discharged. Because He rendered to the Law a vicarious obedience which magnified and made it honourable— His perfect righteousness is reckoned to my account. Because I have put my trust in His finished work, I am justified from all things. Surely, then, I must exclaim, “my mouth shall show forth Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day.” (Psalm 71:15). O what praise and devotion are due Him. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10).
Third, such manifestations of divine justice as have been before us, constitute an unspeakably solemn warning to the unsaved. While the consideration of God’s justice must fill believers with peace and joy—yet it is a fearful thing for the Christless to contemplate. It is a justice which is inflexible, inexorable, and immutable. It is a justice which is never set aside by sentimental considerations, and which cannot be bought with promises, or bribed by tears. The solemn truth of God’s justice, addresses the consciences of those who are secure in their sins, saying, “O sleeper, arise, call upon your God.” It speaks with the voice of thunder, maintaining the reasonableness of that obedience which the Law requires, the equity of the sanctions by which it is enforced, and the inflexibility of the Legislator to execute His threatened curse upon its transgressors. If God “spared not His own Son,” most certainly He will not spare any who finally despise and reject Him. Even now His wrath is upon them (John 3:36), and unless they repent—soon shall they feel the full force of it in the Lake of Fire.