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4. MY JUDGMENT RESPECTING THE TWO LAST DESCRIBED SCHEMES OF PREDESTINATION.
Both these opinions, as they outwardly pretend, differ from the first in this point—that neither of them lays down the creation or the fall as a mediate cause fore-ordained by God for the execution of the preceding decree of Predestination. Yet, with regard to the fall, some diversity may be perceived in the two latter opinions. For the second kind of Predestination places election, with regard to the end, before the fall; it also places before that event preterition, [or passing by,] which is the first part of reprobation. While the third kind does not allow any part of election and reprobation to commence till after the fall of man. But, among the causes which seem to have induced the inventors of the two latter schemes to deliver the doctrine of Predestination in this manner, and not to ascend to such a great height as the inventors of the first scheme have done, this is not the least—that they have been desirous of using the greatest precaution, lest it might be concluded from their doctrine that God is the author of sin, with as much show of probability as, (according to the intimation of some of those who yield their assent to both the latter kinds,) it is deducible from the first description of Predestination.
Yet if we be willing to inspect these two latter opinions a little more closely, and in particular if we accurately examine the second and third kind and compare them with other sentiments of the same author concerning some subjects of our religion, we shall discover, that the fall of Adam cannot possibly, according to their views, be considered in any other manner than as a necessary means for the execution of the preceding decree of Predestination.
1. In reference to the second of the three, this is apparent from two reasons comprised in it:
The first of these reasons is that which states God to have determined by the decree of reprobation to deny to man that grace which was necessary for the confirmation and strengthening of his nature, that it might not be corrupted by sin; which amounts to this, that God decreed not to bestow that grace which was necessary to avoid sin; and from this must necessarily follow the transgression of man, as proceeding from a law imposed on him. The fall of man is therefore a means ordained for the execution of the decree of reprobation.
The second of these reasons is that which states the two parts of reprobation to be preterition and predamnation. These two parts, according to that decree, are connected together by a necessary and mutual bond, and are equally extensive. For, all those whom God passed by in conferring Divine grace, are likewise damned. Indeed no others are damned, except those who are the subjects of this act of preterition. From this therefore it may be concluded, that "sin must necessarily follow from the decree of reprobation or preterition, because, if it were otherwise, it might possibly happen, that a person who had been passed by, might not commit sin, and from that circumstance might not become liable to damnation; since sin is the sole meritorious cause of damnation: and thus certain of those individuals who had been passed by, might neither be saved nor damned—which is great absurdity.
This second opinion on Predestination, therefore, falls into the same inconvenience as the first. For it not only does not avoid that [conclusion of making God the author of sin,] but while those who profess it make the attempt, they fall into a palpable and absurd self-contradiction—while, in reference to this point, the first of these opinions is alike throughout and consistent with itself.
2. The third of these schemes of Predestination would escape this rock to much better effect, did not the patrons of it, while declaring their sentiments on Predestination and providence, employ certain expressions, from which the necessity of the fall might be deduced. Yet this necessity cannot possibly have any other origin than some degree of Predestination.
(1.) One of these explanatory expressions is their description of the Divine permission, by which God permits sin. Some of them describe it thus: "permission is the withdrawing of that Divine grace, by which, when God executes the decrees of his will through rational creatures, he either does not reveal to the creature that divine will of his own by which he wills that action to be performed, or does not bend the will of the creature to yield obedience in that act to the Divine will." To these expressions, the following are immediately subjoined: "if this be a correct statement, the creature commits sin through necessity, yet voluntarily and without restraint." If it be objected that "this description does not comport with that permission by which God permitted the sin of Adam:" We also entertain the same opinion about it. Yet it follows, as a consequence, from this very description, that "other sins are committed through necessity."
(2.) Of a similar tendency are the expressions which some of them use, when they contend, that the declaration of the glory of God, which must necessarily be illustrated, is placed in "the demonstration of mercy and of punitive justice." But such a demonstration could not have been made, unless sin, and misery through sin, had entered into the world, to form at least some degree of misery for the least sin. And in this manner is sin also necessarily introduced, through the necessity of such a demonstration of the Divine glory. Since the fall of Adam is already laid down to be necessary, and, on that account, to be a means for executing the preceding decree of Predestination; creation itself is likewise at the same time laid down as a means subservient to the execution of the same decree. For the fall cannot be necessarily consequent upon the creation, except through the decree of Predestination, which cannot be placed between the creation and the fall, but is prefixed to both of them, as having the precedence, and ordaining creation for the fall, and both of them for executing one and the same decree—to demonstrate the justice of God in the punishment of sin, and his mercy in its remission. Because, if this were not the case, that which must necessarily ensue from the act of creation had not seen intended by God when he created, which is to suppose an impossibility.
But let it be granted, that the necessity of the fall of Adam cannot be deduced from either of the two latter opinions, yet all the preceding arguments which have been produced against the first opinion, are, after a trifling modification to suit the varied purpose, equally valid against the two latter. This would be very apparent, if, to demonstrate it, a conference were to be instituted.
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