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While God pardons, He by no means clears the guilty. His people are absolved, because they are righteous; they have fulfilled the law, and suffered its penalty, in the death and obedience of Jesus Christ, with whom they are one. … The penalty and the precept are fulfilled in Jesus Christ the surety. HALDANE, ROMANS

The verb justify means to declare righteous … no legal fiction but a legal reality of the upmost significance, to be justified means to be acquitted by God from all charges that could be brought against a person because of his or her sins. MOO 227

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And it is always better to fall into the hands of the Lord than into those of people, for his mercy is great. For when God condemns us, he at the same time offers his forgiving love in Christ, but when people condemn people, they frequently cast them out and make them the object of scorn. When God condemns us, he has this judgment brought to us by people—prophets and apostles and ministers—who do not elevate themselves to a level high above us but include themselves with us in a common confession of guilt. By contrast, philosophers and moralists, in despising people, usually forget that they themselves are human.

Source: Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3, Chapter 2 (pp. 124-125)

Original pollution is a punishment for original guilt. … Scripture frequently speaks along those lines and regards consequent sins as punishment for previous sins (2 Sam. 12: 11-12; 1 Kings 11:11-31; 22:30fF.; Isa. 6:9-10; 7:17; 105-7; 14B; Jer. 50:6-8; Rom. 1:24-28; 2 Thess. 2:11-12; etc.). Also human sins are subject to God’s government; the laws and ordinances that apply to the life of sin have been laid down and are being maintained by him. And to that category of laws belongs also this one: "The curse of an evil deed is above all that it must continually give birth to evil." The nature of sin is such that it progressively renders sinners more foolish and hard, entangles them ever more firmly in its snares, and propels them ever more rapidly down a slippery slope toward the abyss. It is true that sin, viewed by itself, can never be a punishment for sin, for the two are essentially different and opposed to each other. Sin arises from the will, and people undergo punishment against their will. Sin is a violation of the law; punishment an act of upholding the law. God is the author of punishment, not of sin. Still, a subsequent sin may be called a punishment for a prior sin, since it distances the sinner even further away from God, makes him more wretched, and abandons him co all sorts of covetousness and passion, dread and remorse.

According to this law, in the case of Adam and all his descendants, a sinful state followed the sinful deed. The picture Pelagians have of this is that an act of the will, whatever it is, has absolutely no consequences. The will that did wrong the one moment can, a moment later, if it so pleases, again do good. In this view, the will never has a fixed nature, a determinate character, and never attains one; it is and remains neutral, indifferent, without any inner bias, always situated between opposites and focusing, with incalculable caprice, now in one and now in another direction. But such a view is contradicted from all directions. In the case Of Adam and Eve, When they violated God’s command, an enormous moral change occurred. Shame and dread before God took possession of them. Serenity, peace, and innocence were gone; they hid from God in the trees of the garden and blamed each other. Cain committed fratricide. And soon the Lord saw that the wickedness of humans was great on the earth, and all the imaginations of the thoughts of their heart were evil from their youth. In Adam’s trespass an appalling degeneration of the human race had its inception. We are here confronting a horrible reality whose explanation escapes us. How can it be that one single sin had such dreadful consequences and brought about such a radical reversal in the nature of humans?

Generally speaking, we can begin by saying that frequently in life the relation between an act and its consequences seems to us to be totally disproportionate. One hour of thoughtlessness can produce a lifetime of tears. A small error, a single misstep can radically change the direction of the lives of numerous people. Seemingly insignificant incidents have an aftermath that lasts for generations. Our happiness or unhappiness often hangs by the thread of a single "chance" event. Adam’s one trespass brought about an overall change in the thoughts, attitudes, and inclinations of his whole nature. Experience teaches us, after all, that no matter what people do, the act to some degree boomerangs on them and leaves tracks on their character. At bottom nothing is indifferent, and nothing passes us by without a trace. Every act of the will, arising as it does from antecedent impulses and desires, has a retroactive impact on it and reinforces it. In that way every sin can become a habit, a tendentious pattern, a passion that controls a person like a tyrant. Humans are changeable, extraordinarily moldable, and pliable. They adapt themselves to all occasions; they accommodate themselves to every kind of environment; they get used to everything and orient themselves to all fashions. Those who commit sins become the servants of sin. A crime, a lie, a theft, a murder never vanishes with the moment in which it has been committed. In a similar way but on a much larger scale, the disobedience of Adam changed his entire nature.

Source: Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3, Chapter 2 (pp. 106-1078)

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill."

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

(Isaiah 30:15-18)

Psalm 31:13-16

… For I hear the whispering of many— terror on every side!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make your face shine on your servant …

Source: Calvin quoted by Spurgeon, Treasury of the Psalms

We also see that while they mangled his reputation, they did it in such a manner as that they covered their wickedness under the appearance of grave and considerate procedure, in consulting among themselves to destroy him as a man who no longer ought to be tolerated on the earth. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that his mind was wounded, as we have just seen, by so many and so sharp temptations.

Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. We have said formerly, and we shall see in many instances hereafter, that this form of speech is taken from the common apprehension of men, who think that God regards them not, unless he really show his care of them by its effects. According to the judgment of sense, afflictions hide his countenance, just as clouds obscure the brightness of the sun. David therefore supplicates that God, by affording him immediate assistance, would make it evident to him that he enjoyed his grace and favor, which it is not very easy to discern amidst the darkness of afflictions.

Now, God is said to lift the light of his countenance upon us in two ways; either when he opens his eyes to take care of our affairs, or when he shows to us his favor. These two things are indeed inseparable, or rather, the one depends upon the other. But by the first mode of speech, we, according to our carnal conceptions, attribute to God a mutability which, properly speaking, does not belong to him: whereas the second form of speech indicates, that our own eyes, rather than the eyes of God, are shut or heavy when he seems to have no regard to our afflictions. By the word preserve David explains what he meant by the former expression; but as there was at that time no way of safety apparent to him, he encourages himself to hope for it by setting before him the goodness of God.

Suffering in a good cause should rather sharpen than blunt the edge of holy resolution. MATTHEW HENRY, THESSALONIANS

… He may apparently treat us with severity; but though we may not be exempt from punishment, yet while he intends to humble us, he will give us reasons to rejoice: and then in his own time he will mitigate his severity, and by the effects will show himself propitious to us. Nevertheless, during the time when want or famine, or any other affliction, is to be borne, he will render us joyful with this one consolation, for, relying on his promises, we shall look for him as the God of our salvation. Hence, on one side Habakkuk sets the desolation of the land; and on the other, the inward joy which the faithful never fail to possess, for they are upheld by the perpetual favor of God. And thus he warns, as I have said, the children of God, that they might be prepared to bear want and famine, and calmly to submit to God’s chastisements; for had he not exhorted them as he did, they might have failed a hundred times. We may hence gather a most useful doctrine,—That whenever signs of God’s wrath meet us in outward things, this remedy remains to us—to consider what God is to us inwardly; for the inward joy, which faith brings to us, can overcome all fears, terrors, sorrows and anxieties. JOHN CALVIN, Habakkuk 3:17

The Lord has taken away thy judgments, has removed all the calamities thou hast been groaning under, which were the punishments of thy sin; the noise of war shall be silenced, the reproach of famine done away, and the captivity brought back. Though some grievances remain, they shall be only afflictions, and not judgments, for sin shall be pardonedMATTHEW HENRY, Zephaniah 3:!5

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