Justice and mercy embrace

In today’s extract from the Homilies, the official sermons of the Church of England, we hear about the great mystery of our redemption. Some have so emphasised the love and mercy of God of late that they find it difficult to talk or sing about his justice, his law, or his righteous wrath against sinners.

The Homilies, however, do not separate what God has joined together. They show us that on the cross, “wrath and mercy meet”, justice and mercy are intimately linked. Here’s what the Homily on Salvation (which gets special mention in the 39 Articles) actually says:

“This reason is satisfied by the great wisdom of God, in this mystery of our redemption, who has so tempered his justice and mercy together that he would neither by his justice condemn us unto the perpetual captivity of the devil and his prison of hell, remediless for ever without mercy; nor by his mercy deliver us clearly without justice, or payment of a just ransom: but with his endless mercy, he joined his most upright and equal justice.

His great mercy he showed unto us in delivering us from our former captivity, without requiring any ransom to be paid or amends to be made on our part: which it would have been impossible for us to do. And since we did not have it in us to do so, he provided a ransom for us — the most precious body and blood of his own most dear and best beloved son Jesus Christ, who besides his ransom, fulfilled the law for us perfectly. And so the justice of God, and his mercy did embrace together, and fulfilled the mystery of our redemption.

In Romans 3, 8, and 10 the Apostle Paul touches specially three things, which must concur and go together in our justification. Upon God’s part, his great mercy and grace; upon Christ’s part, justice, that is, the satisfaction of God’s justice, or the price of our redemption, by the offering of his body and shedding of his blood, with fulfilling of the law, perfectly & throughly; and upon our part, true and lively faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, which yet is not ours, but by God’s working in us.”

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