Harmony of Justice and Mercy

Such diverse excellencies are expressed in [God] towards men, that otherwise would have seemed impossible to be exercised towards the same object; as particularly these three, justice, mercy, and truth. The same that are mentioned in Psalm 85:10, “Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” The strict justice of God, and even his revenging justice, and that against the sins of men, never was so gloriously manifested as in Christ. He manifested an infinite regard to the attribute of God’s justice, in that, when he had a mind to save sinners, he was willing to undergo such extreme sufferings, rather than that their salvation should be to the injury of the honour of that attribute. And as he is the Judge of the world, he doth himself exercise strict justice; he will not clear the guilty, nor at all acquit the wicked in judgment. Yet how wonderfully is infinite mercy towards sinners displayed in him! And what glorious and ineffable grace and love have been and are exercised by him, towards sinful men! Though he be the just Judge of a sinful world, yet he is also the Saviour of the world. Though he be a consuming fire to sin, yet he is the light and life of sinners. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).

Jonathan Edwards, WJE, 1:682–683.


Justice Demands Substitution

The justice of God is exceedingly glorified in this work [of the cross]. God is so strictly and immutably just, that he would not spare his beloved Son when he took upon him the guilt of men’s sins, and was substituted in the room of sinners. He would not abate him the least mite of that debt which justice demanded. Justice should take place, though it cost his infinitely dear Son his precious blood; and his enduring such extraordinary reproach, and pain, and death in its most dreadful form.

—Jonathan Edwards
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 144–145.


Compassion Denies Not Justice

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
~Luke 19:41-44~

Who can behold the holy Jesus, looking forward to the miseries that awaited his murderers, weeping over the city where his precious blood was about to be shed, without seeing that the likeness of God in the believer, consists much in good-will and compassion? Surely those cannot be right who take up any doctrines of truth, so as to be hardened towards their fellow-sinners.

But let every one remember, that though Jesus wept over Jerusalem, he executed awful vengeance upon it. Though he delights not in the death of a sinner, yet he will surely bring to pass his awful threatenings on those who neglect his salvation. The Son of God did not weep vain and causeless tears, nor for a light matter, nor for himself. He knows the value of souls, the weight of guilt, and how low it will press and sink mankind.

May he then come and cleanse our hearts by his Spirit, from all that defiles. May sinners, on every side, become attentive to the words of truth and salvation.

—Matthew Henry
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Lk 19:41.


God Delights in Our Joy

If God delights in the creatures’ participation of his happiness for its own sake, then it is evident that the communication of good is not merely a subordinate end, but must be allowed the place of an ultimate end

For if it be for its own sake, then it is not wholly for the sake of something else as its end. But ’tis evident that God delights in goodness for its own sake, by such places:

  • Micah 7:18, “He delighteth in mercy.”
  • Ezekiel 18:23, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”
  • Ezekiel 18:32, “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.”
  • Ezekiel 33:11, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
  • Lamentations 3:33, “For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”
Such passages of Scripture show, that God delighteth in the creatures’ happiness in a sense that he doth not in their misery

‘Tis true that God delights in justice for its own sake, as well as in goodness; but it will by no means follow from thence, that he delights in the creatures’ misery for its own sake as well as [in their] happiness. For goodness implies that in its nature, that the good of its object be delighted in for its own sake; but justice doesn’t carry that in its nature, that the misery of those it’s exercised about is delighted in for its own sake: as is evident, because justice procures happiness as well as misery, according as the qualification of the object is; but it carries the contrary in its nature, viz. that misery be not delighted in for itself, but only for further ends.

—Jonathan Edwards
Miscellanies 461. End Of The Creation.

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