The third theory is that God determined of his grace to free some of the human race, fallen, and lying in the "lump" (Rom. ix. 21 ) of perdition and corruption, to the declaration of his Mercy; but to leave in the same "lump," or at least to damn, on account of final impenitence, others, to the illustration both of the freedom of his gratuitous grace towards the vessels of glory and mercy, and of his justice towards the vessels of dishonour and wrath. I do not state these views, that I may instruct you in reference to them, but that you may see whether I have correctly understood them, and may direct and guide me, if I am, in any respect, in error.


This theory agrees with the first and second in all respects, if you make this one exception, that, in the latter case, the election and reprobation of men is said to have been made after the condition of the fall and of our sin, in the former case without reference to the fall, and to our sin. But neither of them seems properly and absolutely to pertain altogether to the relation of election and reprobation since all admit that the cause of election and reprobation is placed in the consent only of the Being, who alone predestinates. For, whether it is affirmed that election and reprobation are made from among human beings in their original state, or from those, who are fallen and sinful, there was not any cause in them, who, in either state, were equal in all respects, according to nature, but only in the will and liberty of God electing, who separated these from those, and adopted them unto himself "of his own will" boulhqeiv as James says (ch. 1, vers. 18,) or according to the counsel of his will. But yet this circumstance is worthy of notice, and we will, hereafter in its own place, give our opinion concerning it, according to the Scriptures, as there will be an appropriate place for speaking of this subject.


The circumstance of sin and of the fall is of very great importance in this whole subject, not indeed as a cause but as a quality, requisite in the object, without a consideration of which I do not think that election or reprobation was or could have been made by the Deity, which matter we will hereafter more fully discuss. There are also many men learned, and not unversed in the sacred Scriptures, who say that God could not be defended from the charge of sin, if he had not in that decree, considered, man as a sinful being. But I cannot, for a two-fold reason, assent to your denial that the formal cause of the object properly pertains to the subject of that decree, because all fully agree in admitting that the cause of the decree is placed in Him, who predestinates. First, because the formal cause of the object, and not the cause of the act only, is necessarily required for the definition of that act. Secondly, because it is possible that the cause of the act may be of such a nature, that, in its own act, it cannot exert influence on the object which is presented to it, unless it be furnished with that formal relation, which I think is the fact in this case, and will prove it. Nor is there any reason why it should be said that the freedom of God, in the act of predestination, is limited though the circumstance of sin may be stated to be of necessity presupposed to that decree.

But since frequent mention has been made, in this whole discussion of divine freedom, it will not be out of place to refer to it at somewhat greater length, and to affix to it its limits from the Scripture, according to the declaration of God himself. The subject of freedom is the will, its object is an act. In respect to the former, it is an affection of the will, according to which it freely tends towards its one object; in respect to the latter, it is the power and authority over its own act. This freedom is, in the first place and chiefly, in God, and it is in rational creatures by a communication made by God. But freedom is limited, or, which is the same thing, it is effected that any act should not be in the power of the agent in three ways, by natural and internal necessity, by external force and coaction, and by the interposition of law. God can be compelled by no one to an act, he can be hindered by no one in an act, hence, this freedom is not limited by that kind of restriction. Law also cannot be imposed on God, as He is the highest, the Supreme Lawgiver. But He can limit Himself, by His own act. There are, then, but two causes which effect that any act should not be in the power of God; the former is the nature of God, and whatever is repugnant to it is absolutely impossible; the latter is any previous act of God, to which another act is opposed. Examples of the former are such as these; God cannot lie, because He is, by nature, true. He cannot sin or commit injustice, because he is justice itself. Examples of the latter are these; God cannot effect that what has previously occurred may not have occurred, for, by an antecedent act, he has effected that it should be; if now can effect that it may not have been, He will destroy his own power and will. God could not but grant to David that his seed should sit on his throne, for this was promised to David, and confirmed by an oath. He cannot forget the labour of love, performed by the saints, so as not to bestow upon it a reward, for He has promised that reward. If, then, any one wishes to inquire whether any act belongs to the free will and the power of God, he must see whether the nature of God may restrict that act, and if it is not so restricted, whether the freedom of God is limited by any antecedent act, if he shall find that the act is not restricted in either mode, then he may conclude that the act pertains to the divine power; but it is not to be immediately inferred that it has been or will be performed by God, since any act which depends on His free will, can be suspended by Him, so as not to be performed. It is also to be observed here that many things are possible for God, in respect to this absolute power, which are not possible in respect to justice. It is possible in respect to His power that He should punish one who has not sinned, for who could resist Him, but it is not possible, in respect to justice, for it would be at variance with the Divine justice. God can do whatever He wills with His own, but He cannot will to do with His own that which he cannot do of right. For His will is restricted by the limits of justice. Nor is the creature, in such a sense, in the power of God, the Creator, that he can do, of right, in reference to it, whatever he might do of His absolute power, for the power of God over the creature depends, not on the infinity of the Divine essence, but on that communication by which he has communicated to us our limited essence. This permits that God should deprive us of that being which he has given us without merit on our part, but does not permit that He should inflict misery upon us without our demerit. For to be miserable is worse than not to be, as happiness is better than mere existence. And, therefore, there is not the same liberty to inflict misery on the creature without demerit, as to take away being without previous sin. God takes away that which He gave, and He can do as He wills, with His own, but He cannot inflict misery, because the creature does not so far belong to God. The potter cannot, from the unformed lump, make a man to dishonour and condemnation, unless the man has previously made himself worthy of punishment and dishonour by his own transgression.



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