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Punishment versus Discipline


How do sufferings and trials that seem to come to us under the guise of punishment, remain after the full and complete remission of sins? why are the consequences of sin suffered to remain, if sin is thus completely cancelled? This fact does not invalidate the full remission of sins, which takes place at the moment one believes. The man is perfectly forgiven, and the person fully accepted, and all that is strictly penal in the consequences of sin is brought to an end and terminated for ever. These effects of sin are transformed into a course of discipline. The sickness, suffering, and death which come to us in the ordinary course of things, and which could not be altered without a miracle, still remain to the Christian, but they are wholly changed in their character. They are no longer penal, no longer part of the curse, which was quite exhausted on Christ, but means of spiritual improvement, or a part of the Christian’s education in patience and hope. Though physical suffering is allowed to remain in the history of the redeemed, it is no longer an infliction of wrath or a channel of vengeance, but a fatherly chastisement or a salutary discipline, and through divine grace richly made available for our growth in holiness. For we must always distinguish between correction and punishment in the proper import of the term; and constant prosperity is so rarely advantageous, that an alternation with the opposite is found profitable to the Christian.

—George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 222–223.

Posted 2018·05·24 by David Kjos
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