our God? holy is he.? We would substitute the word holiness for the word love in the statement of Newman Smyth, Christian Ethics, 45 ? ?We assume that love is lord in the divine will, not that the will of God is sovereign over his love. God?s omnipotence, as Dorner would say, exists for his love.?
(b) From our own moral constitution ? in which conscience asserts its supremacy over every other impulse and affection of our nature. As we may be kind, but must be righteous, so God, in whose image we are made, may be merciful, but must be holy.
See Bishop Butler?s Sermons upon Human Nature, Bohn?s ed., 385-414, showing ?the supremacy of conscience in the moral constitution of man.? We must be just, before we are generous. So with God, justice must be done always; mercy is optional with him. He was not under obligation to provide a redemption for sinners: <600204>1 Peter 2:4 ? God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell.? Salvation is a matter of grace, not of debt. Shedd, Discourses and Essays, 277-298 ? ?The quality ofjustice is necessary exaction; but ?the quality of mercy is not (con) strained?? [cf. Denham: ?His mirth is forced and strained?]. God can apply the salvation, after he has wrought it out, to whomsoever he will: <450918>Romans 9:18 ? ?he hath mercy on whom he will? Young, Night Thoughts, 4:233 ? ?A God all mercy is a God unjust.? Emerson: ?Your goodness must have some edge to it; else it is none.? Martineau, Study, 2:100 ? ?No one can be just without subordinating Pity to the sense of Right.?
We may learn of God?s holiness a priori . Even the heathen could say ?Fiat justitia, ruat culum,? or ?pereat mundus.? But, for our knowledge of God?s mercy, we are dependent upon special revelation. Mercy, like omnipotence, may exist in God without being exercised. Mercy is not grace but debt, if God owes the exercise of it either to the sinner or to himself; versus G. B. Stevens, in New Eng., 1888:421-443 ?But justice is an attribute which not only exists of necessity, but must be exercised of necessity; because not to exercise it would be injustice?; see Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 1:218, 219, 389, 390, 2:402, and Sermons to Nat. Man, 368. If it were said that, by parity of reasoning, for God not to exercise mercy is to show himself unmerciful ? we reply that this is not true so long as higher interests require that exercise to be withheld. I am not unmerciful when I refuse to give the poor the money needed to pay an honest debt; nor is the Governor unmerciful when he refuses to pardon the condemned and unrepentant criminal. Mercy has its conditions, as we proceed to show, and it does not cease to be when these conditions do not
<- Previous Table of Contents Next ->
Was this article helpful?