Chapter XII, Of God’s Judgment over the Sinner

Chapter XII. 

Whenever man appears in such a state before God, the righteous judge, He in His justice, requires of him, an entire obedience to all His divine commandments; and that man, in consequence of the sins which he Has committed, should be thrown into eternal condemnation, — unless divine justice can be satisfied in another way. 

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261. We have here to consider two point, viz:

I. The duty of perfect obedience, and

II. The punishment of sin,

I. Concerning the first point, we have to state the following: God has given to every man a law within himself, to which he may direct his life and his actions. This same law also demonstrates against man as soon as he does anything contrary to its dictates. Now this law of nature has been before the fall, most complete in man; but as after this event it became darkened by sin, it pleased God, to give this law again unto the children of Israel, in a form more agreeable to their understandings. If therefore, in the following pages, reference is made to the law, this mosaic law is always intended.

262. This law consisted of:

A. the ceremonial and levitical law, 

B. the political and civil law of the land, 

C. the moral law of the ten commandments. 

A. The ceremonial law determines the order of the sacrifices, which are to be offered to God; the manner in which sins ought to be atoned for; the vows which are acceptable to God, and the manner in which they are to be fulfilled, together with all the rites, which formed part of the Jewish service. The whole Institution has been a type of Christ. They intended to convey to man the truth, that, like as redemption had to be brought about by the blood of oxen, calves and other animals, in the same way also Christ was to be slain for the sins of the world, and his blood shed, in order to: reconcile man with God the heavenly Father. That these types were unable to do away sin, the Apostle tells us, Heb. 9, 14; and that only the blood of the Son of God cleanseth us from all iniquity, John in his 1. Ep.l, 7.: “For by one suffering he hath perfected for ever them that are sacrificed.” Heb. 10, 14. In the same way, all the rest of the levitical law had reference to Christ.

263. But as they have only been shadows and types of things to come, they have of course, been abolished since the subject typified has, in due time, made his appearance. The Christians therefore; are not subject unto them, — as St. Paul writes, Colos. 2, 16. 17: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which is a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” The following is the conclusion, come to by the Apostles, in a consultation held at Jerusalem, Acts. 15, 10: “Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we are able to bear?” ibid. v. 28, 29: “It seemed good to the Holy. Ghost and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things, that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication.”

264. B. The political and civil law of the land, that is the regulations that were necessary for the maintenance of peace and order in the community; by which every man is protected in his rights, and by which the practice of wickedness is greatly prevented and at, all times punished. Such laws are frequently to be met with in the mosaic scriptures, concerning which three different divisions may be made:

265. a. Such laws as have reference only to the Jewish state, and which are not to be applied to any other people or government. Thus, for instance, no Israelite was permitted to sell or to bequeath his property to one of another tribe; and from that same reason daughters, who inherited property were not permitted to marry into another tribe, Numb. 36, 4. ff., Thus also was a man, obliged to marry his brother’s wife, if the latter happened to remain without issue; and if the second husband happened to have a son from this union, he was not to, be looked upon as his son, but as that of his deceased brother, who was also entitled to the property left by the first husband. Genes. 25, 5. 6. These and other laws of a similar nature, have reference only to the different tribes, as they existed in Israel, which is not the case among other nations; and they are, accordingly, not allowed any validity in other countries, but, have ceased to exist with the distinctions made by the Jewish policy.

266. b. Such laws, which, although they have been abolished by divine authority, have yet been made legal in many countries, so that nobody is actually bound by them; thus for instance, the law Genes 24, 1. which law has been revoked by the Lord Jesus, Matth. 19, 8. 9..

267. c. Such laws, as are continually observed by us, and have never been abolished. Thus, for instance, the laws agains premeditated or accidental murder, Numb, 35, 16 ff; concerning the duties of a judge, Deutr. 1, 16. 17; 16, 19. 20; concerning the poor, ibid. 15, 7. if; concerning witnesses, Deutr. 19, 15. And as such laws are founded upon, and originate with the moral law, they are again referred to in the New Testament, as being valid; thus, Matth. 15, 4. from Exod. 21 15; Acts. 23, 5. from Exod. 22, 28. Nor has God anywhere freed us from obeying these laws, but we are on the contrary still bound to honour them.

268. C. The moral law includes those, which have been written upon the tables of stone, and concerning which man is especially bound to answer before the judgment seat of God. For to the obedience we yield unto these laws, God has promised life and happiness, but for the trespassing of the same his curse and eternal condemnation.

In this respect two things are to be attended to, which are:

1. what is it that entitles God to exact this obedience from us? and

2. whether the law can be fulfilled by any man, who could by these means, acquire that righteousness, which he ought to have before his God?

269. 1. The question as to what entitles God to exact this obedience from us, we answer as follows. God is entitled to this obedience because of His having created us, by which act we have become his property. For every work is the property of the master who formed it. God has therefore right, to exact from us complete obedience to all his commandments. To this we are in duty bound. Nor can it be said, that God requires of us something which is impossible for us to accomplish, seeing that he has given us sufficient powers, to enable us to do His will. And although sin has deprived us of this power, it is evident that God is still entitled to require it of us, considering that it had been our duty to flee the sin, and to strive for the preservation of the powers, which are requisite for the yielding of this obedience.

270. 2. Can this law be fulfilled by any man, who could by these means, acquire that righteousness, which he ought to have before God? God requires of us a complete obedience, where by we are able to satisfy every demand, which the law makes upon men, Deut. 27, 27. 26. He therefore, who trespasseth against one commandment, is guilty of the whole law, James 2, 10. Now the law requires the obedience of the whole heart, the whole soul, and of all might, Deut. 6, 5. That man, therefore, cannot be said to have been, obedient to the law, who has committed sin even but once in his life, be it by a sin from within himself, or without him, be it by the heart or the soul, yea if it were but only with a thought against God or against his, neighbour. He, on the contrary, who kept the whole law, has the promise, that he should be justified by it, Levit. 18, 5. ff.: “ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, which, if a man do, he shall live in them.” Galat. 3, 12.

271. From this it would seem, that righteousness and eternal life are considered to rest upon complete obedience to the law of God; but it must also be kept in mind, that no man upon earth is able to fulfil the law, or to do all that, which Good requires of him, as also that no man is able, in fulfilling the whole law to acquire that righteousness, which he ought to have before God; for:

272. a. All men are sinners:, Pslm. 143, 2: “For in thy sight no man living shall be justified;” Eccl. 7. 20: “for there is not a man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not;” Rom. 3, 23: “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Galat. 3, 22: “the scripture hath concluded all under sin.”

273. b. The scripture intimates man’s inability to fulfil the law; Acts. 15, 10: “A yoke… which neither our fathers, nor we were able to bear;” Rom. 8, 3: “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son,” etc.

274. c. No man can be justified and redeemed by the law. For that man only, who is obedient to every particle of the law, shall live by it. Now by the law no man shall live, Rom. 3, 20: “By the deeds of the law no man shall be justified in his (God’s) sight;” Galat. 3, 11, 12: “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident: for the just shall live by faith: and the law is not of faith;” V. 21, 22: “If there had been a law given which could have given life verily righteousness should nave been by the law; but the scripture hath concluded all unto sin.” Accordingly no man can fulfil the law; and all those who trespass against the law, are all subject to the curse and to condemnation. And as all men trespass against they law, they are all subject to the curse.

275. II. The second point we have to consider (#. 261.) is the punishment of sin. Concerning this we aught to keep in mind, what has been said concerning sin, namely that it draws down the wrath of God. And punishment is always near at hand, as soon as the wrath of God is provoked. If therefore it is said of God, that He is a merciful, longsuffering and good God, who is repenting punishment, and who forgiving sin, — this ought to be understood to imply: that if a righteousness of God has been offended by sin. His mercy cannot possibly have its full sway, and sin cannot be forgiven, until divine justice has been fully and amply satisfied on account these sins. 

276. With this, three things are suggested, which are;

1. Justice,

2. the punishment which sin deserves, and

3. the satisfaction (comp. #. 406 ff.), which satisfies justice and removes the punishment.

The punishment is hell and eternal condemnation. Concerning Justice it is to be said, that God, agreeably to this Holy attribute hates every sin. And as He is the judge of all the world (Genes. 18, 25; Pslm. 9, 5. 9.), He deals as a righteous judge. Now a judge of such a description, must adjudge according to the confirmed law, and cannot leave unpunished any sin, which is condemned in the code by which he is guided. And although it cannot be said of God, that laws have been prescribed to him by which he is to judge; — yet it must be supposed that His nature as well as His holiness and justice, must be looked upon as the rule which are the leading principles of His judgments. He cannot, therefore, for this very reason pass over any action which is contrary to justice, without any retribution being exacted for it, — if indeed he intends to judge with justice, and not contrary to law.

277. Now God’s wrath against the ungodly is of such a nature, that it unceasingly rests upon the sinner, Eccl. 5, 17 — The fire of his indignation, once kindled, burns down unto the lowest hell, Deutr. 32, 22; in short, God is a consuming fire, ibid 4, 24; an everlasting burning, Isa. 33, 14. An indignation of such a description, which exists unceasingly, a fire which burns unto the lowest hell, cannot refrain itself, the wrath must be active, the fire must burn. In the same manner it must be said that the righteousness and wrath God, cannot possibly cease to punish sin with eternal destruction, as long as these sins have not been atoned for, and this means a way has been prepared for the exercise of mercy.

278. And as it is in the power of no mortal, to help himself, nor of any other creature to assist in remedying the evils which sin has been instrumental in bringing about, as we read Pslm. 49, 7. 8: “None of them can by any means redeem his brother nor give to God a ransom for him; for the redemption of their souls is precious and it ceaseth forever,” — it follows, that the wrath of God, is always resting upon man, and that the latter has to expect nothing from God out eternal destruction. This is the natural state in which man now appears before us, if we view him with regard to the spiritual condition of his soul.