Exposition

There is here an objection to what is taught in the preceding question, which affirms, that God punishes every sin with eternal punishment. The objection is this: It belongs to him, who is in the highest degree merciful, not to be too rigorous in the demands of his justice. God is in the highest degree merciful; therefore he will not exact all that his extreme justice demands, and so will not punish sin with eternal punishment. To the major proposition we thus reply: It does indeed belong to him, who is merciful, to be lenient in his demands, but not so as to wrong his justice, if he be at the same time extremely just. But God is exceedingly merciful in such a way, that he is also exceedingly just. Hence he will exercise his mercy in such a manner as not to do any violence to his justice. Now, the justice of God demands that sin, which is committed against his most high Majesty, be punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment, both of body and soul, that there may be a proportion between the offence and its punishment. Every crime is great, and deserving of punishment in proportion to the majesty of him against whom it is committed. The following objection demands a passing notice:

Obj. He who rigorously exacts his right, shuts out every expectation of clemency. God rigorously exacts his right. Therefore with him there is no clemency. Or the objection may be thus stated: He who does not yield any thing in relation to his rights, is not merciful, but only just. God does not yield any thing as it respects his rights, because he punishes every sin with a punishment that corresponds with its just desert. Ans. We deny the minor proposition, because God, although he punishes sin with eternal punishment, does nevertheless yield much as it respects his right. He exhibits great clemency, for instance, towards the reprobate, for he defers the punishment which they deserve, and invites them to repentance by strong and powerful motives. And as to the punishment which he will inflict upon them in the world to come, it will be lighter than they deserved. So he also exercises great mercy towards the faithful, for he has, from his mercy alone, without being bound by any law or merit on our part, given his son, and subjected him to punishment for our sake. We also deny the major proposition, if applied either to him who is endowed with such wisdom that he can discover a method of exercising mercy without violating his justice, or when applied to him who, whilst he executes his justice, does not rejoice in the destruction of man, but would rather that he be saved. As a judge, when he passes the sentence upon a robber that he deserves to be put to the torture, and yet does not take pleasure in his punishment, exhibits great equity and clemency, even though he seems to exact the most rigorous demand of the law, so God is far more equitable and clement, although, in his just judgment, he punishes sin, for he does not delight in the destruction of the wicked, (Ez. 18:23; 33:11.) and has also shown his mercy and compassion towards us, by laying the punishment which we deserved upon his own Son.

Concerning afflictions There are three questions which particularly claim our attention in regard to afflictions:
How many kinds of afflictions are there?
What are the causes of them?
What comforts may be opposed to them?