The GOSPEL TRUTH
SANCTIONS OF MORAL LAW, NATURAL AND GOVERNMENTAL.
In the discussion of this subject, I shall show,
I. What constitutes the sanctions of law.
II. That there can be no law without sanctions.
III. In what light the sanctions of law are to be regarded.
IV. The end to be secured by law and the execution of penal sanctions.
V. The rule by which sanctions ought to be graduated.
I. What constitutes the sanctions of law.
1. The sanctions of law are the motives to obedience, that which is to be the natural and the governmental consequence or result of obedience and of disobedience.
2. They are remuneratory. that is, they promise reward to obedience.
3. They are vindicatory, that is, they threaten the disobedient with punishment.
4. They are natural, that is,
(1.) All moral law is that rule of action which is in exact accordance with the nature and relations of moral beings.
(2.) Happiness is to some extent naturally connected with, and the necessary consequence of obedience to moral law.
(3.) Misery is naturally and necessarily connected with and results from disobedience to moral law, or from acting contrary to the nature and relations of moral beings.
5. Sanctions are governmental. By governmental sanctions are intended,
(1.) The favor of the government as due to obedience.
(2.) A positive reward bestowed upon the obedient by government.
(3.) The displeasure of government towards the disobedient
(4.) Direct punishment inflicted by the government as due to disobedience.
6. All happiness and misery resulting from obedience or disobedience, either natural or from the favor or frown of government, are to be regarded as constituting the sanctions of law.
II. There can be no law without sanctions.
1. It has been said in a former lecture that precepts without sanctions are only counsel or advice, and no law.
2. Nothing is law, but the rule of action which is founded in the nature and relations of moral beings. It is therefore absurd to say, that there should be no natural sanctions to this rule of action. It is the same absurdity as to say, that conformity to the laws of our being would not produce happiness, and that disconformity to the laws of our being would not produce misery: which is a contradiction; for what do we mean by acting in conformity to the laws of our being, but that course of conduct in which all the powers of our being will sweetly harmonize, and produce happiness? And what do we mean by disconformity to the laws of our being, but that course of action that creates mutiny among our powers themselves, that produces discord instead of harmony, misery instead of happiness?
3. A precept, to have the nature and the force of law, must be founded in reason, that is, it must have some reason for its existence. And it were unjust to hold out no motives to obedience where a law is founded in a necessity of our nature.
4. But whatever is unjust is no law. Therefore a precept without a sanction is not law.
5. Necessity is the condition of all rightful government. There would be and could be no just government, but for the necessities of the universe. But these necessities can not be met, the great end of government can not be secured without motives or sanctions. Therefore that is no government, no law, that has no sanctions.
III. In what light sanctions are to be regarded.
1. Sanctions are to be regarded as an expression of the benevolent regard of the law-giver for his subjects: the motives which he exhibits to induce in the subjects the course of conduct that will secure their highest well-being.
2. They are to be regarded as an expression of his estimation of the justice, necessity, and value of the precept.
3. They are to be regarded as an expression of the amount or strength of his desire to secure the happiness of his subjects,
4. They are to be regarded as an expression of his opinion in respect to the desert of disobedience.
The natural sanctions are to be regarded as a demonstration of the justice, necessity, and perfection of the precept.
IV. The end to be secured by law, and the execution of penal sanctions.
1. The ultimate end of all government is blessedness.
2. This is the ultimate end of the precept and the sanction of law.
3. This can be secured only by the prevention of sin and the promotion of holiness.
4. Confidence in the government is the sine qua non of all virtue.
5. Confidence results from a revelation of the lawgiver to his subjects. Confidence in God results from a revelation of himself to his creatures.
6. The moral law, in its precepts and sanctions, is a revelation of God.
7. The execution of penal sanctions, is also a revelation of the mind, will, and character of the lawgiver.
8. The highest and most influential sanctions of government are those motives that most fully reveal the true character of God.
V. By what rule sanctions ought to be graduated.
1. We have seen in a former lecture that moral obligation is founded in the intrinsic value of the well-being of God and of the universe, and conditionated upon the perception of its value.
2. That guilt ought always to be measured by the perceived value of the end which moral beings ought to choose.
3. The sanctions of law should be graduated by the intrinsic merit or demerit of holiness and sin.
SANCTIONS OF GOD'S LAW.
I. God's law has sanctions.
IL What constitutes the remuneratory sanctions of the law of God.
III. The perfection and duration of the remuneratory sanctions of the law of God.
IV. What constitutes the vindicatory sanctions of the law of God.
V. Their duration.
I. God's law has sanctions.
1. That sin or disobedience to the moral law, is attended with, and results in misery, is a matter of consciousness.
2. That virtue or holiness is attended with and results in happiness, is also attested by consciousness.
3. Therefore that God's law has natural sanctions, both remuneratory and vindicatory, is a matter of fact.
4. That there are governmental sanctions added to the natural, must be true, or God in fact has no Government.
5. The Bible expressly and in every variety of form teaches that God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked.
II. What constitutes the remuneratory sanctions of the law of God.
1. The happiness that is naturally and necessarily connected with, and results from holiness or obedience.
2. The merited favor, protection, and blessing of God.
3. All the natural and governmental rewards of virtue.
III. The perfection and duration of the remuneratory sanctions of the law of God.
1. The perfection of the natural reward is and must be proportioned to the perfection of virtue.
2. The duration of the remuneratory sanction must be equal to the duration of obedience. This can not possibly be otherwise.
3. If the existence and virtue of man are immortal his happiness must be endless.
4. The Bible most unequivocally asserts the immortality both of the existence and virtue of the righteous, and also that their happiness shall be endless.
5. The very design and end of government make it necessary that governmental rewards should be as perfect and unending as virtue.
IV. What constitutes the vindicatory sanctions of the law of God.
1. The misery naturally and necessarily connected with, and the result of disobedience to moral law. Here again let it be understood that moral law is nothing else than that rule of action which accords with the nature and relations of moral beings. Therefore the natural vindicatory sanction of the law of God is misery resulting from a violation of man's own nature.
2. The displeasure of God, the loss of his protection and governmental favor, together with that punishment which it is his duty to inflict upon the disobedient.
3. The rewards of holiness and the punishment of sin, are described in the Bible in figurative language. The rewards of virtue are called eternal life. The punishment of vice is called death. By life is intended, not only existence, but that happiness which makes life desirable. By death is intended, not annihilations but that misery which renders existence an evil.
V. Duration of the penal sanctions of the law of God.
1. Examine the question in the light of natural theology.
2. In the light of revelation.
In examining it in the light of natural theology, I shall,
1. Inquire into the meaning of the term infinite.
2. Show that infinites may differ indefinitely in amount.
3. Remind you of the rule by which the degrees of guilt are to be estimated.
4. That all and every sin must, from its very nature, involve infinite guilt, in the sense of deserving endless punishment.
5. That notwithstanding all sin deserves endless punishment, yet the guilt of different persons may vary indefinitely, and that punishment although always endless in duration may and ought to and must vary in degree, in proportion as guilt varies.
6. That the duration of penal inflictions under the government of God will be endless.
I. Inquire into the meaning of the term Infinite.
1. It literally and properly means not finite, not limited, not bounded, or unlimited, boundless. This is the meaning of the term and the sense in which I shall use it in this discussion.
II. Infinites may differ indefinitely in amount.
1. This is the doctrine of Sir Isaac Newton, and of natural and mathematical science, as most persons at all acquainted with this subject know.
2. It is a plain matter of fact. For example: suppose that from this point radiate mathematical lines endlessly in every direction. Let each two of these lines make an angle of one degree and let the points be sufficiently numerous to fill up the whole circle. Now as these lines extend endlessly in every direction every pair of them form the legs of a triangle whose sides extend endlessly and which has no base or which has no bound in one direction. It is self-evident that the superficial area contained between any two of those radii is infinite in the sense that its superficial amount is unlimited. Thus the whole of space is no more than infinite, and yet there is in the sense of unlimited an infinite amount of space between every two of those radii.
The same would be true upon the supposition of parallel mathematical lines of infinite length no matter how near together: the superfices or area between them must be infinite in amount. Any thing is infinite which has no whole, which is boundless in any sense. In the sense in which it is boundless it is infinite. For example, in the cases supposed the area between any two of the radii of the circle or of the parallel lines is not infinite in the sense that it has no bounds in any direction. For it is bounded on its sides. But it is infinite in the sense of its superficial measure or contents. So, endless happiness or misery may be finite in one sense and infinite in another. They may be infinite in amount taking into view their endlessness, however small they may be in degree. So that in degree they may, and with finite creatures must be finite in degree but infinite in amount. There is and can be no whole of them and therefore in amount they are infinite. God's happiness may be and is infinite both in degree and in duration, which amounts to infinite in the absolute sense.
III. I must remind you of the rule by which degrees of guilt are to be estimated.
And here let it be remembered,
1. That moral obligation is founded in the intrinsic value of those interests which moral agents are bound to choose as an end.
2. That the obligation is conditionated upon the knowledge of this end, and,
3. That the degree of obligation is just equal to the degree of light which the mind has in regard to the intrinsic value of those interests which it is bound to choose.
4. That the guilt of refusal to will these interests is in proportion, or is equal to the amount of the obligation, and,
5. That consequently the mind's honest apprehension or judgment of the value of those interests which it refuses to will, is and must be the rule by which the degree of guilt involved in that refusal ought to be measured. I do not mean that guilt is to be measured by the mind's actual but dishonest estimate of the value of the interests it rejects; but guilt is to be measured by the light enjoyed or by the estimate which the mind would have with the light that now shines around it, were it honest and disposed to receive the light and judge accordingly.
IV. That all and every sin must from its very nature involve infinite guilt in the sense of deserving endless punishment.
1. Sin implies moral obligation.
2. Moral obligation implies moral agency.
3. Moral agency implies light, or the knowledge of the end that moral agents ought to will.
4. This end is the highest well-being of God and of the universe.
5. The idea or apprehension of this end implies the knowledge that the intrinsic value of those endless interests must be infinite.
If the idea of God and of the good of being be developed, which is implied in moral agency, there must be in the mind the idea or first truth that the good of God and of the universe is infinitely valuable. The idea may lie in comparative obscuration. Nevertheless it is and must be in the mind. If this is so, (and it must be so,) it follows that every refusal to will the highest well-being of God and of the universe involves infinite guilt. Every moral agent must be able to affirm, and indeed must affirm to himself that the intrinsic value of the happiness of God and the universe must be boundless, unlimited, infinite. He must affirm that there can be no limit to it. By this affirmation or by the apprehension that necessitates this affirmation, his guilt ought to be measured, if he refuses to consecrate himself to the promotion of those interests.
V. Notwithstanding all sin deserves endless punishment, yet the guilt of different persons may vary indefinitely, and punishment, although always endless in duration, may and ought to vary in degree according to the guilt of each individual.
The guilt of different persons may vary indefinitely.--This also may be true of the same person at different periods of life. Observe: the degree of guilt depends on the degree of intellectual development on moral subjects--upon the clearness with which the mind apprehends moral relations, especially the intrinsic value of those interests which it ought to choose. These apprehensions vary, as every moral agent is conscious, almost continually. The obligation to will an end lies in the intrinsic value of the end. The obligation is greater or less as the mind's honest estimate of the value of it is greater or less. Every moral agent knows that the value of the end is unbounded. Yet some have an indefinitely larger conception of what infinite and boundless means. Some minds mean indefinitely more by such language than others do. As light increases and the mind obtains enlarged conceptions of God, of the universe, of endless happiness or misery, and of all those great truths that cluster around these subjects, its obligation increases in exact proportion to increasing light, and so does the guilt of selfishness.
VI. That penal inflictions under the government of God must be endless.
Here the inquiry is, what kind of death is intended where death is denounced against the transgressor as the penalty of the law of God?
I. It is not merely natural death, for,
1. This would in reality be no penalty at all. But it would be offering a reward to sin. If natural death is all that is intended, and if persons, as soon as they are naturally dead have suffered the penalty of the law, and their souls go immediately to heaven, the case stands thus: If your obedience is perfect and perpetual, you shall live in this world forever: but if you sin, you shall die and go right to heaven. This would be hire and salary, and not punishment.
2. If natural death be the penalty of God's law, the righteous who are forgiven, should not die a natural death.
3. If natural death be the penalty of God's law, there is no such thing as forgiveness, but all must actually endure the penalty.
4. If natural death be the penalty, then infants and animals suffer this penalty as well as the most abandoned transgressors.
5. If natural death be the penalty it sustains no proportion whatever to the guilt of sin.
6. Natural death would be no adequate expression of the importance of the precept.
II. The penalty of God's law is not spiritual death.
1. Because spiritual death is a state of entire sinfulness.
2. To make a state of entire sinfulness the penalty of the law of God, would be to make the penalty and the breach of the precept identical.
3. It would be making God the author of sin, and would represent him as compelling the sinner to commit one sin as the punishment for another, as forcing him into a state of total depravity as the reward of his first transgression.
III. But the penal sanction of the law of God is eternal death or that state of suffering which is the natural and governmental result of sin or spiritual death.
Before I proceed to the proof of this, I will notice an objection which is often urged against the doctrine of eternal punishments. The objection is one, but it is stated in three different forms. This, and every other objection to the doctrine of endless punishment, with which I am acquainted, is leveled against the justice of such a governmental infliction.
1. It is said that endless punishment is unjust because life is so short that men do not live long enough in this world to commit so great a number of sins as to deserve endless punishment. To this I answer,
(1.) That it is founded in a ridiculous ignorance or disregard of a universal principle of government, viz: that one breach of the precept always incurs the penalty of the law, whatever that penalty is.
(2.) The length of time employed in committing a sin, has nothing to do with its blameworthiness or guilt. It is the design which constitutes the moral character of the action, and not the length of time required for its accomplishment.
(3.) This objection takes for granted that it is the number of sins and not the intrinsic guilt of sin that constitutes its blameworthiness, whereas it is the intrinsic desert or guilt of sin, as we shall soon see, that renders it deserving of endless punishment.
2. Another form of the objection is, that a finite creature can not commit an infinite sin. But none but an infinite sin can deserve endless punishment: therefore endless punishments are unjust.
(1.) This objection takes for granted that man is so diminutive a creature, so much less than the Creator, that he can not deserve his endless frown.
(2.) The fact is, the greater the distance between the creature and the creator, the more aggravated is the guilt of insult or rebellion in the creature. Which is the greater crime, for a child to insult his playfellow or his parent? Which would involve the most guilt, for a man to smite his neighbor and his equal, or his lawful sovereign?
(3.) The higher the ruler is exalted above the subject in his nature, character, and rightful authority, the greater is the guilt of transgression in the subject. Therefore the fact that man is so infinitely below his Maker but enhances the guilt of his rebellion and renders him worthy of his endless frown.
3. A third form of the objection is, that sin is not an infinite evil, and therefore does not deserve endless punishment.
This objection may mean either that sin would not produce infinite mischief if unrestrained, or that it does not involve infinite guilt. It can not mean the first, for it is agreed on all hands that misery must continue as long as sin does, and therefore that sin unrestrained would produce endless evil. The objection therefore must mean that sin does not involve infinite guilt. Observe then, the point at issue is, what is the intrinsic demerit or guilt of sin? What does all sin in its own nature deserve? They who deny the justice of endless punishment, manifestly consider the guilt of sin as a mere trifle. They who maintain the justice of endless punishment, consider sin as an evil of immeasurable magnitude, and, in its own nature, as deserving of endless punishment. Proof:
1. The guilt or blameworthiness of an action consists in its being the violation of an obligation. Example: Should a child refuse obedience to his fellow who has no natural or acquired claims upon his obedience, he would not be blameworthy. But should he refuse obedience to his parent who has both a natural and acquired claim to his obedience, this conduct would be blameworthy. This shows in what blameworthiness consists.
2. The guilt or blameworthiness of an action is equal to the amount of obligation to do or omit that thing. We have just seen that the blameworthiness lies in its being the violation of an obligation. Hence the amount of blameworthiness must be equal to the amount of obligation. If a child refuse to obey his fellow, he contracts no guilt. If he refuse to obey his parent, he contracts a degree of guilt equal to the amount of his obligation to obey. Suppose that some one upon whom he is a thousand times as dependent as upon his parent, and who therefore has a thousand times higher claim upon his obedience than his parent has, should command him to do or omit a certain thing. Should he in this case disobey, his guilt would be a thousand times as great as when he disobeyed his parents. Now suppose that God, upon whom every moral being is not only perfectly but endlessly dependent, requires the creature to love him with all his heart; who does not see that his guilt in refusing obedience must be as great as his obligation to obey?
Having shown that moral obligation is founded in the intrinsic value of the highest well-being of God and of the universe, and that it is always equal to the light afforded to the mind or to the soul's knowledge of the value of those interests, and having shown also that every moral agent necessarily has the idea more or less clearly developed that the value of those interests is infinite, it follows:
That the law is infinitely unjust, if its penal sections are not endless. Law must be just in two respects.
The precept must be in accordance with the law of nature.
The penalty must be equal to the importance of the precept. That which has not these two peculiarities is not just, and therefore is not and can not be law. Either, then, God has no law, or its penal sanctions are endless.
1. That the penal sanctions of the law of God are endless, is evident from the fact that a less penalty would not exhibit as high motives as the nature of the case admits, to restrain sin and promote virtue.
2. Natural justice demands that God should exhibit as high motives to secure obedience as the value of the law demands, and the nature of the case admits.
3. The justice, holiness and benevolence of God demand that the penal sanctions of his law should be endless; and if they are not, God can not be just, holy or benevolent.
4. Unless the penal sanctions of the law of God are endless, they are virtually and really no penalty at all. If a man be threatened with punishment for one thousand, or ten thousand, or ten millions, or ten hundred millions of years, after which he is to come out, as a matter of justice, and go to heaven, there is beyond an absolute eternity of happiness. Now there is no sort of proportion between the longest finite period that can be named, or even conceived, and endless duration. If, therefore, limited punishment, ending in an eternity of heaven, be the penalty of God's law, the case stands thus: Be perfect, and you live here forever. Sin, and receive finite suffering, with an eternity of heaven. This would be, after all, offering reward to sin.
5. Death is eternal in its nature. The fact, therefore, that this figure is used to express the future punishment of the wicked affords a plain inference that it is endless.
6. The tendency of sin to perpetuate and aggravate itself, affords another strong inference that the sinfulness and misery of the wicked will be eternal.
7. The fact that punishment has no tendency to beget disinterested love in a selfish mind towards him who inflicts the punishment, also affords a strong presumption that future punishment will be eternal.
8. The law makes no provision for terminating future punishment.
9. Sin deserves endless punishment just as fully as it deserves any punishment at all. If, therefore, it is not forgiven, if it be punished at all with penal suffering, the punishment must be endless.
10. To deny the justice of eternal punishments, involves the same principle as a denial of the justice of any degree of punishment.
11. To deny the justice of endless punishment, is virtually to deny the fact of moral evil. But to deny this is to deny moral obligation. To deny moral obligation is to deny moral agency. But of both moral obligation and moral agency we are absolutely conscious. Therefore it follows to a demonstration, not only that moral evil does exist, but that it deserves endless punishment.
II. Examine this question in the light of Revelation.
The bible in a great many ways represents the future punishment of the wicked as eternal. It expresses the duration of the future punishment of the wicked by the same terms, and in every way as forcibly as it expresses the duration of the future happiness of the righteous.][sic.]
I will here introduce without comment some passages of scripture confirmatory of this last remark. "The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish."--Prov. 10:28. "When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish; and the hope of unjust men perisheth."--Prov. 11:7. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall wake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."--Dan. 12:2 "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."--Matt. 25:41,42,46. "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."--Mark 9:43,44. "The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born."--Matt. 26:24 "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable."--Luke 3:17. "And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you can not; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."--Luke 16:26. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."--John 3:36. "And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."--2 Thess. 1:7--9. "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever."--Jude, 6,7,13. "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name" Rev 14:9--11. "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."--Rev. 20:10. "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy let him be holy still."--Rev. 22:11. But there is scarcely any end to the multitude of passages that teach directly or by inference both the fact and the endlessness of the future punishment of the wicked. But the fuller consideration of this subject belongs more appropriately to a future place in this course of instruction, my object here being only to consider the penal sanctions of moral law didatically, reserving the polemic discussion of the question of endless punishment for a future occasion.
Return to 1846 SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY Index page
HOME | FINNEY LIFE | FINNEY WORKS | TEXT INDEX | SUBJECT INDEX | GLOSSARY | BOOKS STORE