Now God's law aims to secure the highest universal good. Its chief and ultimate end is not, strictly speaking, to secure supreme homage to God, but rather to secure the highest good of all intelligent moral beings--God, and all his creatures.
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So viewed, you will see that the intrinsic value of the end to be sought is the real ground of obligation to obey the precept. The value of this end being estimated, you have the value and strength of the obligation.
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This is plainly infinite in the sense of being unlimited. In this sense we affirm obligation to be without limit. The very reason why we affirm any obligation at all is that the law is good and is the necessary means of the highest good of the universe. Hence the reason why we affirm any penalty at all compels us to affirm the justice and necessity of an infinite penalty.
We see that intrinsic justice must demand an infinite penalty for the same reason that it demands any penalty whatever.
"The Wages of Sin" Meaning
If any penalty be just, it is just because law secures a certain good. If this good aimed at by the law be unlimited in extent, so must be the penalty. Governmental justice thus requires endless punishment; else it provides no sufficient guaranty for the public good. Again, the law not only designs but tends to secure infinite good. Its tendencies are direct to the end. The law is not just to the interests it both aims and tends to secure unless it arms itself with infinite sanctions.
Nothing less than infinite penalty can be an adequate expression of God's view of the value of the great end on which his heart is set.
The Wages of Sin by Lea Jacobs - Paperback - University of California Press
When men talk about eternal death being too great a penalty for sin, what do they think of God's efforts to restrain sin all over the moral universe? What do they think of the death of his well-beloved Son? Do they suppose it possible that God could give an adequate, or a corresponding expression to his hatred of sin by any penalty less than endless? Nothing less could give an adequate expression to his regard for the authority of law.
O, how fearful the results and how shocking the very idea, if God should fail to make an adequate expression of his regard for the sacredness of that law which underlies the entire weal of all his vast kingdom?
You would insist that He shall regard the violation of his law as Universalists do. How surely He would bring down an avalanche of ruin on all his intelligent creatures if He were to yield to your demands! Were he to affix anything less than endless penalty to his law, what holy being could trust the administration of his government! His regard to the public good forbids his attaching a light or finite penalty to his law. He loves his subjects too well. Some people have strange notions of the way in which a ruler should express his regard for his subjects.
They would have him so tender-hearted towards the guilty that they should absorb his entire sympathy and regard. They would allow him perhaps to fix a penalty of six pence fine for the crime of murder, but not much if anything more. The poor murderer's wife and children are so precious you must not take away much of his money, and as to touching his liberty or his life--neither of these is to be thought of.
Perhaps they would say, you may punish the murderer by keeping him awake one night--just one, no more; and God may let a guilty man's conscience disturb him about to this extent for the crime of murder! The Universalists do tell us that they will allow the most High God to give a man conscience that shall trouble him a little if he commits murder--a little, say for the first and perhaps the second offence; but they are not wont to notice the fact that under this penalty of a troubling conscience, the more a man sins, the less he has to suffer.
Under the operation of this descending scale, it will soon come to this that a murderer would not get so much penalty as the loss of one night's sleep. But such are the notions that men reach when they swing clear of the affirmations of an upright reason and of God's revealing word.
What Does 'The Wages of Sin Is Death' Mean in the Bible?
Speaking now to those who have a moral sense to affirm the right as well as eyes to see the operation of law, I know you cannot deny the logical necessity of the death-penalty for the moral law of God. There is a logical clinch to every one of these propositions which you cannot escape. No penalty less than infinite and endless can be an adequate expression of God's displeasure against sin and of his determination to resist and punish it. The penalty should run on as long as there are subjects to be affected by it--as long as there is need of any demonstration of God's feelings and governmental course toward sin.
Nothing less is the greatest God can inflict, for He certainly can inflict an endless and infinite punishment. If therefore the exigency demands the greatest penalty He can inflict, this must be the penalty--banishment from God and endless death. But I must pass to remark that the gospel everywhere assumes the same. It holds that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified before God. Indeed, it not only affirms this, but builds its entire system of atonement and grace upon this foundation. It constantly assumes that there is no such thing as paying the debt and canceling obligation; and therefore that the sinner's only relief is forgiveness through redeeming blood.
Yet again, if the penalty be not endless death, what is it? Is it temporary suffering? Then how long does it last? When does it end? Has any sinner ever got through; served out his time and been taken to heaven? We have no testimony to prove such a case, not the first one; but we have the solemn testimony of Jesus Christ to prove that there never can be such a case.
He tells us that there can be no passing from hell to heaven or from heaven to hell. A great gulf is fixed between, over which none shall ever pass. You may pass from earth to heaven, or from earth to hell; but these two states of the future world are wide extremes, and no man or angel shall pass the gulf that divides them.
Romans 6:22-23 The Message (MSG)
But you answer my question--What is the penalty? Then it follows that the more a man sins the less he is punished, until it amounts to an infinitesimal quantity of punishment, for which the sinner cares just nothing at all. Who can believe this? Under this system, if a man fears punishment, he has only to pitch into sinning with the more will and energy; he will have the comfort of feeling that he can very soon get over all his compunctions, and get beyond any penalty whatever! And do you believe this is God's only punishment for sin? You cannot believe it.
Universalists always confound discipline with penal sanctions.
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They overlook this fundamental distinction and regard all that men suffer here in this world as only penal. Whereas it is scarcely penal at all, but is chiefly disciplinary.
They ask--what good will it do a sinner to send him to an endless hell? Is not God perfectly benevolent, and if so, how can He have any other object than to do the sinner all the good he can? I reply, punishment is not designed to do good to that sinner who is punished. It looks to other, remoter, and far greater good. Discipline, while he was on earth, sought mainly his personal good; penalty looks to other results. If you ask, Does not God aim to do good to the universal public by penalty? I answer, even so; that is precisely what he aims to do.
Under human governments, the penalty may aim in part to reclaim. So far, it is discipline. But the death-penalty--after all suspension is past, and the fatal blow comes, aims not to reclaim, and is not discipline but is only penalty. The guilty man is laid on the great public altar and made a sacrifice for the public good. The object is to make a fearful, terrible impression on the public mind of the evil of transgression and the fearfulness of its consequences.
Discipline looks not so much to the support of law as to the recovery of the offender. But the day of judgment has nothing to do with reclaiming the lost sinner.