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DISPUTATION 15

ON DIVINE PREDESTINATION

RESPONDENT: WILLIAM BASTINGIUS

I. We call this decree "Predestination," in Greek, Proorismon from the verb Proorizein which signifies determine, appoint, or decree any thing before you enter on its execution. According to this general notion, predestination, when attributed to God, will be his decree for the governance of all things, to which divines usually give the appellation of PROVIDENCE. (Acts ii. 28; xvii, 26.) It is customary to consider in a less general notion, so far as it has reference to rational creatures who are to be saved or damned, for instance, angels and men. It is taken in a stricter sense about the predestination of men, and then it is usually employed in two ways; for it is sometimes accommodated to both the elect and the reprobate. At other times, it is restricted to the elect alone, and then it has reprobation as its opposite. According to this last signification, in which it is almost constantly used in Scripture, (Rom. viii. 29,) we will treat on predestination.

II. Predestination, therefore, as it regards the thing itself, is the decree of the good pleasure of God in Christ, by which he resolved within himself from all eternity, to justify, adopt and endow with everlasting life, to the praise of his own glorious grace, believers on whom he had decreed to bestow faith. (Ephes. 1; Rom. 9.)

III. The genus of predestination we lay down as a decree which is called in Scripture Proqesiv "the purpose of God," (Rom. ix. 11,) and Boulhn tou qelhmatov Qeou "the counsel of God’s own will." (Ephes. i. 11.) And this decree is not legal, according to what is said, "The man who doeth those things shall live by them;" (Rom. x. 5;) but it is evangelical, and this is the language which it holds: "This is the will of God, that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life." (John vi. 40; Rom. x. 9.) This decree, therefore, is peremptory and irrevocable; because the final manifestation of "the whole counsel of God" concerning our salvation, is contained in the gospel. (Acts xx. 27; Heb. i. 2; ii, 2, 3.)

IV. The Cause of this decree is God, "according to the good pleasure" or the benevolent affection "of his own will." (Ephes. i. 5.) And God indeed is the cause, as possessing the right of determining as he wills both about men as his creatures, and especially as sinners, and about his blessings, (Jer. xviii. 6; Matt. xx. 14, 15,) "according to the good pleasure of his own will," by which, being moved with and in himself, he made that decree. This "good pleasure" not only excludes every cause which it could take from man, or which it could be imagined to take from him; but it likewise removes whatever was in or from man, that could justly move God not to make that gracious decree. (Rom. xi. 34, 35.)

V. As the foundation of this decree, we place Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and men, (Ephes. i. 4.) "in whom the Father is well pleased;" (Matt. iii. 17; Luke iii. 22;) "in whom God reconciled the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" and "whom God made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. v. 19, 21.) Through Him "everlasting righteousness was to be brought in," (Dan. ix. 24,) adoption to be acquired, the spirit of grace and of faith was to be obtained, (Gal. iv. 5, 19, 6,) eternal life procured, (John vi. 51,) and all the plenitude of spiritual blessings prepared, the communication of which must be decreed by predestination. He is also constituted by God the Head of all those persons who will, by divine predestination, accept of the equal enjoyment of these blessings. (Ephes. i. 22; v, 23; Heb. v. 9.)

VI. We attribute Eternity to this decree; because God does nothing in time, which He has not decreed to do from all eternity. For "known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world:" (Acts xv. 18) and "He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world." (Ephes. i. 4.) If it were otherwise, God might be charged with mutability.

VII. We say that the object or matter of predestination is two-fold—Divine things, and Persons to whom the communication of those Divine things has been predestinated by this decree. (1.) These Divine Things receive from the Apostle the general appellation of "spiritual blessings:" (Ephes. i. 3.) Such are, in the present life, justification, adoption as sons, (Rom. viii. 29, 30,) and the spirit of grace and adoption. (Ephes. i. 5; John i. 12; Gal. iv. 6, 7.) Lastly, after this life, eternal life. (John iii. 15, 16.) The whole of these things are usually comprised and enunciated, in the Divinity schools, by the names of Grace and Glory. (2.) We circumscribe the Persons within the limits of the word "believers," which presupposes sin: for no one believes on Christ except a sinner, and the man who acknowledges himself to be that sinner. (Matt. ix. 13; xi, 28.) Therefore, the plenitude of those blessings, and the preparation of them which has been made in Christ, were necessary for none but sinners. But we give the name of "believers," not to those who would be such by their own merits or strength, but to those who by the gratuitous and peculiar kindness of God would believe in Christ. (Rom. ix. 32; Gal. ii. 20; Matt. xi. 25; xiii, 11; John vi. 44; Phil. i. 29.)

VIII. The form is the decreed communication itself of these blessings to believers, and in the mind of God the pre-existent and pre-ordained relation and ordination of believers to Christ their Head: the fruit of which they receive through a real and actual union with Christ their Head. In the present life, this fruit is gracious, through the commencement and increase of the union; and in the life to come, it is glorious, through the complete consummation of this union. (2 Tim. i. 9, 10; John i. 16, 17; xvii, 11, 12, 22-24; Ephes. iv. 13, 15.)

IX. The end of predestination is the praise of the glorious grace of God: for since grace, or the gratuitous love of God in Christ, is the cause of predestination, it is equitable that to the same grace the entire glory of this act should be ceded. (Ephes. i. 6; Rom. xi. 36.)

X. But this decree of predestination is "according to election," as the Apostle says: (Rom. ix. 6, xi, ) This election necessarily infers reprobation. Reprobation therefore is opposed to predestination, as its contrary; and is likewise called "a casting away," (Rom. ix. 1,) "an ordination to condemnation," (Jude 4,) and "an appointment unto wrath." (1 Thess. v. 9.)

XI. From the law of contraries, we define reprobation to be a decree of the wrath, or of the severe will, of God; by which he resolved from all eternity to condemn to eternal death unbelievers, who, by their own fault and the just judgment of God, would not believe, for the declaration of his wrath and power. (John iii. 18; Luke vii. 30; John xii. 37 40; 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11; Rom. ix. 22.)

XII. Though by faith in Jesus Christ the remission of all sins is obtained, and sins are not imputed to them who believe; (Rom. iv. 2-11;) yet the reprobate will be compelled to endure the punishment, not only of their unbelief, (by the contrary of which they might avoid the chastisement due to the rest of their sins,) but likewise of the sins which they have committed against the law, being "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." (John viii. 24; ix, 41; 2 Thess. i. 9.)

XIII. To each of these decrees, that of predestination and that of reprobation, is subjoined its execution; the acts of which are performed in that order in which they have been appointed in and by the decree itself; and the objects both of the decree and of its execution are the same, and entirely uniform, or invested with the same formal relation. (Psalm cxv. 3; xxxiii, 9, 11.)

XIV. Great is the use of this doctrine, as thus delivered from the Scriptures. For it serves to establish the glory of the grace of God, to console afflicted consciences, to terrify the wicked and to drive away their security. (1.) But it establishes the grace of God, when it ascribes the whole praise of our vocation, justification, adoption, and glorification, to the mercy of God alone, and takes it entirely away from our own strength, works and merits. (Rom. viii. 29, 30; Ephes. 1.) (2.) It comforts afflicted consciences that are struggling with temptation, when it renders them assured of the gracious good will of God in Christ, which was from all eternity decreed to them, performed in time, and which will endure forever. (Isa. liv. 8.) It also shews, that the purpose of God according to election stands firm, not of works, but of Him that calleth. (1 Cor. i. 9; Rom. ix. 11.) (3.) It is capable of terrifying the ungodly; because it teaches, that the decree of God concerning unbelievers is irrevocable; (Heb. iii. 11, 17- 19;) and that "they who do not obey the truth, but believe a lie," are to be adjudged to eternal destruction. (2 Thess. ii. 12.)

XV. This doctrine therefore ought to resound, not only within private walls and in schools, but also in the assemblies of the saints and in the church of God. Yet one caution ought to be strictly observed, that nothing be taught concerning it beyond what the Scriptures say, that it be propounded in the manner which the Scriptures have adopted, and that it be referred to the same end as that which the Scriptures propose when they deliver it. This, by the gracious assistance of God, we think, we have done. "Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen!"

"The power of God is great, but it obtains glory from the humble. Do not inconsiderately seek out the things that are too hard for thee; neither foolishly search for things which surpass thy powers. But meditate with reverence upon those things which God has commanded thee: for it is not requisite for thee to see with thine eyes those things which are secret. Do not curiously handle those matters which are unprofitable and unnecessary to thy discourse: for more things are shewn unto thee, than the human understanding can comprehend. Ecclesiasticus iii. 20-23.

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