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  • SANCTIONS OF MORAL LAW, NATURAL AND GOVERNMENTAL - B,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    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?

    1. 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 immediately 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, and the only 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.

    2. 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 and perpetual rebellion, as the reward of his first transgression.

    3. But the penal sanction of the law of God is endless death, or that state of endless suffering which is the natural and governmental result of sin or of spiritual death.

    Before I proceed to the proof of this, I will notice an objection which is often urged against the doctrine of endless punishment. 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 that it is founded in 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. 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 the time required for its accomplishment. 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 cannot commit an infinite sin. But none but an infinite sin can deserve endless punishment: therefore endless punishments are unjust.

    This objection takes for granted that man is so diminutive a creature, so much less than the Creator, that he cannot deserve His endless frown. 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? The higher the ruler is exalted above the subject in his nature, character, and rightful authority, the greater is the obligation of the subject to will his good, to render to him obedience, and the greater is the guilt of the transgression in the subject. Therefore, the fact that man is so infinitely below his Maker, does but enhance the guilt of his rebellion, and render him all the more 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 cannot 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, deserving of endless punishment. Proof:

    Should a moral agent refuse to choose that as an ultimate end which is of no intrinsic value, he would thereby contract no guilt, because he would violate no obligation. But should he refuse to will the good of God and of his neighbor, he would violate an obligation, and of course contract guilt. This shows that guilt attaches to the violation of obligation, and that a thing is blameworthy because it is the violation of an obligation.

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