Andrew Fuller Friday: Vindictive Justice (Part 1)

“It is further objected that, according to the Calvinistic system, God is a vindictive being, and that, as such, we cannot love him. It is said that we “represent God in such a light that no earthly parent could imitate him, without sustaining a character shocking to mankind.” That there is a mixture of the vindictive in the Calvinistic system is allowed; but let it be closely considered whether this be any disparagement to it. Nay, rather, whether it be not necessary to its perfection. The issue, in this case, entirely depends upon the question whether vindictive justice be in itself amiable. If it be, it cannot render any system unamiable. “We are neither amused nor edified,” says a writer in the Monthly Review, ” by the coruscations of damnation. Nor can we by any means bring ourselves to think, with the late Mr. Edwards, that the vindictive justice of God is a glorious attribute.” This, however, may be very true, and vindictive justice be a glorious attribute notwithstanding.

I believe it is very common for people, when they speak of vindictive punishment, to mean that kind of punishment which is inflicted from a wrathful disposition, or a disposition to punish for the pleasure of punishing. Now if this be the meaning of our opponents, we have no dispute with them. We do not suppose the Almighty to punish sinners for the sake of putting them to pain. Neither Scripture nor Calvinism conveys any such idea. Vindictive punishment, as it is here defended, stands opposed to that punishment which is merely corrective: the one is exercised for the good of the parly; the other not so, but for the good of the community. Those who deny this last to be amiable in God, must found their denial either on Scripture testimony, or on the nature and fitness of things. As to the former, the Scriptures will hardly be supposed to represent God as an unamiable being; if, therefore, they teach that vindictive justice is an unamiable attribute, it must be maintained that they never ascribe that attribute to God. But with what colour of evidence can this be alleged? Surely not from such language as the following : ” The Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” ‘Our God is a consuming fire.” “God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries; and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.”

Excerpt From “The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Examined and Compared”, 1802

Fuller, Andrew,  The Works of Andrew Fuller. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2007.


By |August 25th, 2017|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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