A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
by Steve West
Editor’s Note: Most of our readers will already be at least somewhat acquainted with John Owen (1616-1683), “the prince of Puritans,” but it is not likely that many have read him extensively. His works are not only voluminous – they are tightly packed and deeply considered. Owen is neither quick nor light reading!
Today we continue our year-long series of summaries of Owen’s famous works. We trust these will be of help in introducing and/or increasing your acquaintance with this giant Puritan theologian.
Summary, Part 4
A Dissertation on Divine Justice
This treatise will examine God and his justice, which is the most illustrious of his perfections. In particular, the focus will be on God’s vindicatory justice (i.e. that which vindicates his justice and rights, through punishing those who violate his law and holiness). The majority of the human race acknowledges that there is a God and that infinite justice rather than injustice is to be ascribed to him. Philosophers and theologians have introduced some helpful distinctions and categories into their discussions of justice, and we will start by parsing God’s justice into what it is absolutely in itself, and how it is exercised. God’s justice is the universal perfection of his divine nature, and it is this nature that stands behind all of his willing and acting. His absolute, universal justice has egress or exercise towards external objects that he creates, and this exercise is in both word and deed, as he gives truth and governs. The exercise of divine justice is necessary, so this vindicatory justice is natural to God, which entails that where there is sin it cannot be left unpunished.
Philosophers and the schoolmen have had many arcane and hair-splitting discussions about aspects of the justice of God. At times their conclusions are erroneous, and at other times they are right, even when their reasoning is fallacious. It is beyond dispute that Scripture proclaims that God is perfect in justice, as he is perfect in everything he is. Justice is the highest since all of God’s wrath, love, mercy, etc. is done by, through, and because of his justice. For God, justice is not a mutual giving and receiving, or giving each their due, since he is above human conceptions of law. God’s justice of government is his working in all of his actions over creation in accord with his righteousness and wisdom. God’s vindicatory justice “is the very rectitude and perfection of the Deity.” . . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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