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"WE TEACH THAT GOD ORDAINED MEN TO HELL-FIRE, AND THAT HE CREATED THEM, THAT HE MIGHT DESTROY THEM."
In that allegation, the word "men" should have been limited and restricted to certain men, namely, to those about to perish. For no one will impute to you such an opinion in reference to all men, since all know that you except and exclude the elect from that number. You ought then, to have set forth that allegation thus; -- "We teach that God ordained some men, as men, without any consideration of sin, to hell-fire, and created them, that He might destroy them." This is, indeed, a serious allegation, and contains a great slander, if it is falsely charged upon you. If it is a true charge, you ought, by all means, to endeavour to free and relieve yourself of it, by a change of sentiment. I admit that you, and they, who agree with you in opinion, are not accustomed to speak in this way. But it is to be considered whether or not you assert what is equivalent to this, and if that shall be proved, you are held convicted of the charge. I will now, for the time, take the place of those who accuse you, yet being by no means myself an accuser; and do you see to it, whether I plead their cause well, and convict you of that charge.
He, who makes hell-fire the punishment of sin, who ordains that the first man, and in him all men, shall sin, who so, by his providence, governs that first man that he shall of necessity, sin, and shall not be able, in fact, to avoid sin, in consequence of which he, and all in him, commit sin, who, finally, certainly and irrevocably decrees in Himself to leave in Adam (i.e. in depravity) most of these, who shall sin in Adam, and to punish sin in them by hell-fire, is said, most deservedly, to have ordained to hell-fire, by an absolute decree, some, and indeed most men, as men, apart from any consideration of sin, or any demerit on their part. There is a connection between their sin and hell-fire, from the position of that law which is sanctioned by penalty, and by the decree of God in reference to withholding the pardon of their sin. Sin is also, of necessity, connected with the decree of God, and, in truth, it depends on it, so that man could not but sin, otherwise there would be no place for the decree. From which it follows, that God has absolutely ordained very many to hell-fires since He ordained men to the commission of sins and absolutely decreed to punish sin in many.
But I will prove, that you and those who agree with you, hold each of these opinions. First, you say, and truly, that hell-fire is the punishment ordained for sin and the transgression of the law. Secondly, you say that God ordained the first man, and in him, all men should sin; you not only say this, but you also adduce the reason of that decree and divine ordination, that God, in that way, might declare His righteousness and mercy, in which His glory chiefly consists, for which there could be no place except through sin and by occasion at it. Thirdly, you add that God, by His providence, so arranged the primeval state of man that, though, as far as his own liberty was concerned, he might be able to stand and not fall, yet he should, in fact, fall and commit sin. These two things are mutually connected; for that God might attain the object of His own act of ordination, it was necessary that He should so arrange the whole matter that the object should be attained. But you do not make prescience of sin the foundation of that administration; wherefore it is necessary that you should consider, as presiding over it., the omnipotence of God, to resist which, the man would have neither the power nor the will. This being so considered, you make a necessity of committing sin. To all these things you add, moreover, the irrevocable decree of God, by which he determined to punish, without mercy and of mere justice, sin committed according to that decree. From this, I think that it is most clearly evident, that when that allegation is made against you, nothing is charged upon you which is foreign to your sentiment.
I now consider the other part of the allegation, in which it is asserted that, according to your doctrine, "God created men that He might destroy them." The truth of this allegation is evident from this, that you say that God created men for this purpose, that He might declare, in these, His mercy, and in those, His justice, and indeed His punitive justice—which is the opposite of mercy—and apart from foresight. From which it follows, as punitive justice destroys men, that God created some men that He might destroy them. For punitive justice and the destruction of man are connected, and the former can not be declared except by the latter. It is evident then that nothing, foreign to your theory is charged against you in the whole of that allegation.
Indeed I think that you wished to show favour to your own sentiment, when you made the charge less than it deserved. For it is much worse that God should have ordained men to sin, and should have created them that they might sin, than to have ordained them to hell-fire, and to have created them that He might destroy them. For if sin is a worse evil than damnation, as it is, evidently, since the former is opposed to divine good, and the latter to human good, then truly is it greater to ordain one to sin than to ordain to hell, to create a man that he might sin, than that he might perish. If, however, accuracy of statement is to be sought, it should be affirmed that, if a man is ordained to commit sin, then he can not sin. For sin is a voluntary act, and the decree of God in reference to sin introduces a necessity of sinning. Further, if a man is created that he may be condemned, then he can not be condemned by God. For condemnation is the act of a just judge. But a just judge does not condemn one unless he is wicked by his own fault, apart from necessity; and he is not wicked, apart from necessity, and of his own fault, who is created that he may sin, and thus perish.
Let us now examine your answer to this second allegation. You think that you blunt and confute it by a distinction in the second act of reprobation, but it is not so. For you freely admit that God, by His absolute purpose, deserted the creature, from which desertion, sin, according to your opinion, necessarily exists; otherwise you can not connect punitive justice with desertion, except in view of a condition; namely, the contingency that man should sin after that desertion. Therefore you admit what is imputed, in that allegation, to your theory, you do not confute the charge. You also blend, in a confused way, the permission of the fall, and the permission, by which God allows one to finally fail of blessedness. For these are not the same, or from the same cause. For all have fallen by the divine permission, but many do not finally perish in their fallen condition; and permission of the fall depends on the divine providence, which is general over the whole human race; and the final permission to remain in that fallen condition depends on reprobation, and only relates to some persons. Your assertion, also, that "sin is subsequent to the desertion and permission of God," is to be understood as referring to that permission, by which He permits man to fall into sin, which pertains to providence, not to that permission by which He suffers some to finally fail of blessedness, which pertains to reprobation. For sin is the cause of this latter permission, that is, the meritorious cause, as has now been frequently stated.
We, now, examine the testimonies which you present. In the remark of Lombardus, the phrase "future demerits" is to be understood to refer to what one has different from another. But common demerits, though they may not be the moving cause, yet they are the meritorious cause, and a condition requisite in the object of reprobation. So also the assertion of Jerome is to be referred to the doing good or evil, by which the brothers were distinguished from each other, and not to sin, in which they were both conceived. This is apparent from what he says: -- "and their election and rejection displayed not the desert of each, but the will of him who elected and rejected. In the remark of Anselm that which I claim is clearly apparent. For he says, that "God does justly, if He rejects sinners." The word "miserable," used in another remark of the same father, indicates the same thing. With these agree the remarks of Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. For the question is not whether the will of God is the cause of election and reprobation, but whether it has sin as an antecedent, as the meritorious cause of reprobation, and a requisite condition in the object both of election and of reprobation, which is most true, according to the views always held by Augustine. The word "conversion," used by Thomas Aquinas, and the word "drawing," used by Augustine, make sin the antecedent to the act of the will which "converts" and "draws." We would examine the testimonies of other School-men, if their authority was of much weight with us. But I make this remark, that there is no one of those testimonies, which excludes the sin of Adam—and that of men in common with him—from the decree of Predestination, and some of them, indeed, clearly the same in that decree. For when the words "grace" and "mercy" are used, there is a tacit reference to sin.
That "the latter act"—that of destruction—takes place "in reference to sin," is certain, but it is in reference to sin, not by any previous decree ordained to take place, but ordained to be punished in some by justice, and to be remitted in others by grace, when it has been committed. This explanation, however, does not show that "the allegation is a slander," unless you, at the same time, show that sin did not necessarily exist from that decree of reprobation or from some other.
Your second answer consists only in words. For an act, if it is unjust, is not excused by its end or object. It is unjust to destroy a man apart from sin, and it remains unjust, even if any one may say that it is done "for the declaration of judgment," or "for declaring judgment"; and that, which is added, seems absurd—that "this is done for declaring judgment in just destruction," as it can not be just unless it is inflicted on account of sin. The statement, that "God pleases to punish, with due destruction, a man, not as he is a man, but as he is a sinner," has the force of a sound answer, on the condition that the man has sinned freely, not of necessity. For the necessity and inevitability of sinning excuses from sin, and frees from punishment, him who commits that act. I say act, and not sin, because an act, which one necessarily and inevitably commits, can not be called sin. The apparent distinction, by which a man is said to sin freely in respect to himself, but necessarily in relation to the divine decree, has no effect in warding off this blow; since it can not be that one should do freely that, which he does necessarily, or that one act can be performed necessarily, that is, can not but be performed, and yet contingently, that is, can possibly not be performed. For this is at variance with the first principles of universal truth, in reference to whatever it is proper to make an affirmation or negation. I know that some defend this distinction by referring to the example of God Himself, of whom they assert that He is both freely and necessarily good. But this assertion is incorrect. So false, indeed, is it that God is freely good, that it is not much removed from blasphemy. God is, what He is, necessarily, and if He is freely good, He can be not good, and who has ever said that those things which are in Him, of nature and essence, are in Him freely? The assertion of Cameracensis is indeed partly blasphemous, partly true. It is blasphemous to say that "God can, without loss or detriment to His justice, punish and afflict eternally His own innocent creature." It is true that "God can annihilate one of His creatures apart from sin." But punishment and annihilation are very different. The latter is to deprive of that, which had been graciously bestowed, the former is to render one miserable, and indeed infinitely miserable, and apart from any demerit on account of sin. Misery is far worse than annihilation, as Christ says—"It had been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matt. xxvi. 24). That it is contrary to the divine justice to punish one, who is not a sinner, appears from very many declarations of Scripture. "That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked" (Gen. xviii. 25). "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Exod. xxxii. 33) "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you, who are troubled, rest with us" (2 Thess. i. 6, 7). "Fo r Go d i s n ot u nri ght eous to fo rget yo ur w ork an d la bor of lov e," et c., (Heb. vi. 10).
The saying of Wisdom (chapter 12), quoted by Cameracensis, likewise teaches the contrary of what he attempts to prove from it. For it treats of the perdition of unrighteous nations, and, in plain words, declares in the 15th verse—
"For so much, then, as thou art righteous thyself, thou orderest all things righteously, thinking it not agreeable with thy power to condemn him that hath not deserved to be punished." I grant, indeed, that the error of Cameracensis was caused by the fault of the old version. But you can not be excused on the account of this. For you ought to omit the testimony of an author who is led into an error by the fault of a version, since you are acquainted with it from the Greek text itself, and from translations better than that ancient one. It is true that "God is not bound by created laws," for He is a law unto Himself, He is justice itself. That law, also, according to which no one is permitted to inflict punishment upon the undeserving was not created, or made by men, and it has place not among men only. It is an eternal law, and immovable in the divine justice to which God is bound in the immutability of His nature, and righteousness. It is not universally true, that "whatever is right, is right because God so wills it," as there are many things which God wills, because they are right. It is right that God alone should be acknowledged by the creature to be the true God. We affirm that God wills this because it is right, not that it is right because God wills it. The act of simple obedience is right, not because God wills that it should be performed by the creature, but because it is such in itself, and God can not but require it of the creature, though it may belong to free-will to prescribe in what matter He wills that obedience should be rendered to Him. As far as we are concerned, also, it is truly our duty in reference to laws, divinely enacted for us, not so much to see whether that which they command is just in itself, but simply to obey them, because God prescribes and commands it. Yet this duty is founded on the fact that God can not prescribe that which is unjust, because that He is essential justice, and wisdom, and omnipotence.
I had designed to omit a more extended examination of the remarks, quoted by you, from the Scholastic Theologians; but I will say a few words. "The four signs of Francis Maro, necessary for understanding the process of predestination and reprobation" of which he speaks, are of no value, are notoriously false, and are confused in their arrangement. In the sentence from D. Baunes, the "permission by which all nature was permitted to fall in Adam" is absurdly ascribed to reprobation, as that permission, and the fall which followed it, extended to the whole human race, without distinction of the elect and the reprobate. Those "four things," which, Ferrariensis says, "are found in the reprobate," are not in him, as reprobate, and in respect to the decree of reprobation, but the latter two, only; for "the permission of the fall and sin," to use his own words, are found in the elect, and pertain to the more general decree of providence, by which God left man to the freedom of his own will, as has been before and frequently said. Therefore, arguments, other than these, should have been presented by you, for the refutation of that charge. I very much wish that you would cite Scripture for the confirmation of your sentiments and the overthrow of those allegations. The writings of the School-men, ought not to have weight and authority, especially among us; for our Doctors of Theology with one voice affirm of them, "that they have changed true Theology into Philosophy, and the art of wrangling, and that they endeavour to establish their opinions, by the authority, not so much of the Sacred Scriptures, as of Aristotle."
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