What is God’s justice?

Watson WednesdaysWednesdays with Watson is a weekly reading taken from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson.  This week’s selection is taken from A Body of Divinity.

‘Justice is to give every one his due.’ God’s justice is the rectitude of his nature, whereby he is carried to the doing of that which is righteous and equal. Prov 24:12. ‘Shall not he render to every man according to his works?’ God is an impartial judge. He judgeth the cause. Men often judge the person, but not the cause; which is not justice, but malice. Gen 18:81. ‘I will go down and see whether they have done according to the cry which is come up unto me.’ When the Lord is upon a punitive act, he weighs things in the balance, he does not punish rashly; he does not go in the way of a riot, but a circuit, against offenders. Concerning God’s justice, I shall lay down these six positions: –

[1] God cannot but be just. His holiness is the cause of his justice. Holiness will not suffer him to do anything but what is righteous. He can no more be unjust than he can be unholy.

[2] God’s will is the supreme rule of justice; it is the standard of equity. His will is wise and good. God wills nothing but what is just; and therefore it is just because he wills it.

[3] God does justice voluntarily. Justice flows from his nature. Men may act unjustly, because they are bribed or forced: God will not be bribed, because of his justice; he cannot be forced, because of his power. He does justice out of love to justice. Psa 45:7. ‘Thou lovest righteousness.’

[4] Justice is the perfection of the divine nature. Aristotle says, ‘Justice comprehends in it all virtues.’ To say God is just, is to say, he is all that is excellent: perfections meet in him, as lines in a centre. He is not only just, but justice itself.

[5] God never did nor can do the least wrong to his creatures. God’s justice has been wronged, but never did any wrong. God does not go according to the summum jus, or rigour of the law; he abates something of his severity. He might inflict heavier penalties than he does. ‘Thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve.’ Ezra 9:13. Our mercies are more than we deserve, and our punishments less.

[6] God’s justice is such that it is not fit for any man or angel to expostulate with him, or demand a reason of his actions. God has not only authority on his side, but equity. ‘He lays judgement to the line, and righteousness to the plummet.’ Isa 28:17. It is below him to give an account to us of his proceedings. Which of these two is more fit to take place, God’s justice or man’s reason? Rom 9:20. ‘Who art thou, O man, that replies against God?’ The plumb line of our reason is too short to fathom the depth of God’s justice. Rom 11:33. ‘How unsearchable are his judgements!’ We are to adore God’s justice, where we cannot see a reason of it.

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