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"WE TEACH THAT THE GREATEST PART OF THE HUMAN RACE ARE LEFT WITHOUT CHRIST AND WITHOUT ANY SAVING GRACE."
The meaning of this allegation, is that God, by His own eternal and immutable decree, has determined, of His mere will to elect some, but to reprobate others, and those the more numerous. Since the elect can not be brought unto salvation, as having become sinners in Adam, unless satisfaction to the justice of God, and expiation for sin should have been made, therefore, God determined to give his own Son to them, as Mediator, Reconciler, and Redeemer, who should assume human nature, for them only, should die for their sins only, should reconcile them only to the Father, should meritoriously obtain the Holy Spirit and eternal redemption for them only, should offer, according to His purpose, grace to them only, should call them, only, to faith, and should bestow, by an internal vocation, faith on them, only, &c., to the exclusion, from all these things, of those whom He reprobated, so that there should be to them no hope of salvation in Christ, because God had willed from eternity that Christ should not be made man for them, or die for them, apart from any consideration of their unbelief; and when He arranged that the gospel should be preached also to them, it was not done for their benefit, but because the elect were intermingled with them, who, by that preaching, were according to the decree of God, to be led to faith and salvation. You should, indeed, have answered whether you admitted that allegation as made truly against your doctrine, or whether you think your doctrine to be not amenable to it. You seem to admit that this is truly your sentiment. It ought, indeed, to be admitted by you, if you wish to be consistent with yourself, and to speak in harmony with your doctrine.
You answer, then, that what is charged against your doctrine in that allegation, is not a crime, but let us see how you show and prove this. First, you say that "it is not hard that they should be left without Christ," because "they might at the first, in Adam, have received saving grace, righteousness, and a life of blessedness, together with the ability to persevere in the same, if they had only willed it." I affirm that very many persons are absolutely left without Christ, who never were, and never will be partakers of the saving grace of Christ. For the grace, bestowed on Adam and on all his posterity in him, was not the grace of Christ, which was not, at that time, necessary. But "God could," you say, "without injustice, at that time, have condemned all, and not have bestowed, on a single individual, grace through Christ. Who denies it? The point in dispute is not—whether God, when man, with all his posterity, sinned of his own fault: and became obnoxious to eternal death, was obligated to give His own Son to the world as a mediator—but whether it can be truly said that, when God willed that His own Son should become a man and die for sins, He willed it with this distinction, that he should assume, for a certain few only, the human nature which he had in common with all men; that he should suffer for only a few the death which could be the price for all the sins of all men, and for the first sin, which all committed alike in Adam; whether God purposed to proceed according to the rigor of His justice, and to the strictness of the law, and the condition made requisite in the law, with the largest part of the human race, but according to His mercy and grace with a few, according to the gospel and the righteousness of faith, and the condition proposed in the gospel; whether He proposed to impute, even to a certain few, the sin which they had personally committed in Adam, without any hope of remission. This, I assert, is the question: you reply affirmatively to this question, and, therefore, confess that the allegation is made, with truth, against your doctrine, nor can you escape by the plea, that "it is not wonderful that they should be left without Christ, since they had rejected the grace offered in Adam." Your answer has reference to the justice of the act, and the question is concerning the act itself; your answer has reference to the cause, and the question is concerning the existence of the thing, the cause of which you present. That your answer may not, to some, seem too horrible, you present, secondly, another answer, namely, "Christ may be said to have died for all," but you subjoin an explanation of this kind, which perverts the interpretation, and absolutely nullifies your apparent and verbal confession. For you add that "he did not die for all and for each equally in reference to God, in the same sense for the lost and for the elect, or efficiently on the part of God." Let us linger here, and weigh well what you say. The Scripture declares explicitly, and in plain terms, that Christ died even for those who are lost, (Rom. xiv. 15; 2 Pet. ii. 1). Not equally, you say, in respect to God. But what is the meaning of the phrase "in respect to God"? Is it the same as "according to the decree of God?" Indeed, Christ, "by the grace of God tasted death for every man" (Heb. ii. 9). By the command of God, Christ laid down his life "for the life of the world" (John vi. 51), and "for the sheep" (John x. 15). He can not, indeed, be said to have died for any man, except by the decree and the command of the Father. You will say that you do not now refer to the decree, by which God, the Father, imposed upon His Son the office and duty of expiating sins by his own death; but to the decree, by which He determined to save the elect through Christ. But I assert that the latter decree is, in its nature, subsequent to the death of Christ, and to the merit obtained by that death.
You add then, that "he died not equally for the reprobate" (you ought to use that word, and not the word "lost") "and for the elect." You consider these things in the wrong order. For the death of Christ, in the order of causes, precedes the decree of election and reprobation, from which arises the difference between the elect and the reprobate. The election was made in Christ, dead, raised again, and having meritoriously obtained grace and glory. Therefore, Christ also died for all, without any distinction of elect and reprobate. For that two-fold relation of men is subsequent to the death of Christ, pertaining to the application of the death and the resurrection of Christ, and of the blessings obtained by them. The phrase, "Christ died for the elect," does not signify that some were elected before Christ received the command from God to offer his life, as the price of redemption for the life of the world, or before Christ was considered as having died, (for how could that be, since Christ is the head of all the elect, in whom their election is sure?), but that the death of Christ secures for the elect only, the blessing which is bestowed through an application of Christ and his benefits.
Hence, also, the phrase used by the school-men, is to be understood thus, that "Christ died for all men sufficiently, but, for the elect and believers only, he died efficaciously." Your phrase, "efficiently on the part of God," is, in my judgment, irrelevant. What is the meaning of the statement—"Christ died efficiently, on the part of God. for the elect, and not for the reprobate"? This phraseology can not be used in any correct sense. I know that you wished to give the idea that the efficacy of Christ’s death is applied to some and not to others. If you mean this, you ought to speak so that this might be understood to be your meaning. If your affirmation and that of the school-men, be rigidly examined, it will be seen that they can not be used without injury to the death of Christ and its merit. For they attribute sufficiency to the death of Christ, but deprive it of efficacy, when, indeed, the death of Christ is a sufficient price for the life of the world, and was efficacious for abolishing sin and satisfying God. We do not speak, you say, of the efficacy of his death, but of that of its application. The contrary, however, is clearly manifest; for you deprive of efficacy that to which you attribute sufficiency—and you attribute sufficiency to the death of Christ. If this, also, is examined rigidly, it will be seen that you do not even attribute sufficiency to the death of Christ. For how shall that be a sufficient price which is no price? That is not a price, which is not offered, not paid, not reckoned. But Christ did not offer himself, except for a few only, namely, the elect. Certainly, my friend, those are words and evasions, sought for the purpose of avoiding the stroke of truth.
You, then, bring some passages of Scripture to prove your proposition. "Christ says to the reprobate, ‘I never knew you,’ therefore, he never acknowledged them for his own." What then? Did he, therefore, not die for them? That certainly, is an inconclusive argument. For it is necessary that, by his own death, he should redeem unto himself those whom he was to have for his own: but those whom he has not as his own, he did not know as his own, or acknowledge for his own. But, as he acknowledges some for his own, it is not sufficient that he should die for them, and, by the right of redemption, prepare them for himself, but also should make them his own in fact, by an efficacious application of blessings. Hence, it is apparent that there are, here, the fallacies of ignoratio elenchi and causa non causa. The other argument which you adduce is not more valid. "If all and each are efficaciously redeemed, all and each are also reconciled to God; -- But all are not reconciled, nor do all receive the remission of their sins; -- Therefore, not all and each are efficaciously redeemed." What if I should say that I concede all this, if it is only correctly understood, and that your conclusion does not belong to the question? You confound the result with the action and passion, from which it exists. For the offering of Christ in death, is the action of Christ, by which he obtained redemption. You then confound the obtainment of redemption with its application: for to be efficaciously redeemed, means to be a partaker of the redemption, made and obtained by the death of Christ. You confound, also, reconciliation made with God by the death and sacrifice of Christ, with the application of the same, which are plainly different things. For "God was, in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (‘2 Corinthians v. 19). We are said to have been "reconciled to God, when we were enemies" (Rom. v. 10), which cannot be understood of the application of reconciliation. But your statement—"remission of sins and satisfaction belong together," is not, in all respects true. For satisfaction precedes, as consisting in the death and obedience of Christ, but remission of sins consists in the application of that satisfaction by faith in Christ, which may possibly, not actually follow the satisfaction which has been rendered. Christ, indeed, obtained eternal redemption and the right to remit sins, but sin is not remitted except to those who really believe in Christ. The remark of Prosper is entirely in accordance with these statements. For, by the word redemption, he understands the act both in its accomplishment and in its application. This your second argument, therefore, aside from the purpose, and, on account of confusedness and equivocation, proves nothing.
Your third argument is also inconclusive. For, even if the antecedent is granted, the consequent does not follow. It is true that "Christ gave himself, that he might obtain, from the Father, the right of sanctifying those who should believe in him," and these are thus immediately joined. But, as he obtained the right, he also, in fact, used that right, by his Spirit and the application and sprinkling of his own blood, sanctifying to himself a peculiar people, and redeeming and freeing them from their own depraved condition, which right pertains to the application of the benefits, obtained for us by the death of Christ. But it does not, thence, follow that, because all do not, in fact, become partakers of that sanctification, therefore, Christ did not give himself for them as the price of redemption; for the action of Christ is confounded with its result, and the application of benefits with their obtainment.
The fourth argument labours under the same fault—that of confusedness. It is true that "the redemption, which has been accomplished, and, therefore, sonship, are destined for those who believe in Christ; "but it is necessary that the act should precede, by which Christ must obtain for us redemption and sonship, which act, in the order of causes, precedes the entire purpose of God in reference to the application of the redemption. In the fifth argument, you commit the same fallacy. For the point in dispute, is, "Did Christ die for all without any distinction of elect and reprobate?" and you present, as an argument, the assertion—"his death and the benefits of his death are not applied to all without distinction." You say that "we may grant that they are, on the part of God, freed from condemnation; yet they are not so far the recipients of grace as that sin no longer reigns in them." I reply that if you grant the former, the latter must also be conceded. For these two benefits, obtained for us by the death and resurrection of Christ—freedom from the condemnation of sin, and from its dominion—are conjoined. One can not be bestowed without the other, on any person.
You, lastly, produce some testimonies from the old writers, but they all, it rightly explained, agree with these things which we have said. For Ambrose plainly speaks of the advantage resulting from the application of Christ’s passion, when he says "he did not descend for thee, he did not suffer for thee," that is, "not for thy benefit." Whence, also, I pray, does faith come to us? Is it not from the gift of the Spirit which Christ has merited for us? Therefore, the passion and the descent of Christ must have preceded our faith, and, therefore, they can not be limited by that faith. But faith is the instrument of that application. Augustine, also, treats of "deliverance" not as obtained, but as applied. Thus, also, Bernard, Haimo, and Thomas Aquinas. If any of the fathers or school-men seem, at any time, to speak differently, their words must be so explained as not to impinge the truth revealed to us in the Scripture.
Let us now look at some of the objections to your doctrine which you notice. The first is this—"The Scriptures assert that Christ redeemed the world." Why did you not use the word suffer for rather than the word redeem, so as to avoid ambiguity; especially, when the question has reference not to the application of Christ’s passion, but to that passion itself, and the death of Christ. But let us consider the objection, as it is presented by yourself. I say that a distinction is to be made between redemption obtained and redemption applied, and I affirm that it was obtained for the whole world, and for all and each of mankind; but that it was applied only to believers, and to the elect. First, I show that if it was not obtained for all, faith in Christ is, by no right, required of all, and if it was not obtained for all, no one can be rightly blamed, on account of rejecting the offer of redemption, for he rejects that which does not belong to him, and he does it with propriety. If Christ did not die for all, then he can not be the judge of all. The latter idea is conceded, on both sides. But I say that, in the remark of Augustine, the subject discussed is the application of reconciliation, and actual salvation.
The second objection is—God "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." But you do not subjoin the conclusion. It may, indeed, be deduced from the antecedents. But it is of much importance, how that conclusion is formed. For one concludes, "therefore all men universally, will be saved, and will come to the knowledge of the truth. For who hath resisted his will?" Another infers "then there is no predestination, according to which God wills that some should believe and be saved, and that some, being alien from the faith, should be condemned, and this, also, from His decree." A third deduces this conclusion:
"Therefore, there can be no will of God by which He absolutely and without reference to sin in man, wills that any should be condemned and not come to the knowledge of the truth." The first conclusion is not legitimate. For they are not always saved, whom God wills to be saved. The second, also, can not be deduced from the text. But of the third, I think that it can be said with truth that it can and must be deduced from those words. I give a plain and perspicuous reason. No one can be condemned for rejecting the truth unless he has been called to it, either in his own person, or in the person of his parents, grand-parents, great grand-parents, &c. No one is called to it, if God does not will that he should come to it; and all men who shall be condemned, will be condemned because "light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light" (John iii. 19).
Let us consider your reply. You present this in a four-fold manner. The first is this: "The word all does not embrace all the descendants of Adam, but is used in reference to men in the last age of the world." This, indeed, is truly said, the circumstance of this passage being considered, which treats of the amplitude of the grace exhibited, in the New Testament, in Christ; but the truth of the same words extends itself even further. For that is the perpetual will of God, and had its beginning in the first promise of the blessed Seed, made in paradise. That God did indeed suffer the Gentiles to walk in their own ways, does not contravene this declaration. For they were alienated from the covenant of God, and deprived of the promises by their own fault—by their own fault, committed either in themselves or their ancestors. It ought, then, to have been conceded by you that God willed, through all ages, that all men, individually, should come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved, so far as they were embraced in the divine covenant, not, indeed, when they had in themselves, or their parents, departed from it.
Your second answer is—"God willed that all men should be saved who are saved," which, indeed, does open violence to the phraseology, and holds up to ridicule the apostle, who if that explanation is correct, presents so foolish an argument. The design of the apostle is to exhort that "prayers should be made for all men, and for all that are in authority." This reason is "this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, who will have all men to be saved, &c." It is here apparent that the word all is used, in the same sense, in the statement of the reason, as in the exhortation. Otherwise, the connection of the parts is destroyed, and there are four terms in the syllogism. But if it is intended, in the statement of the reason, to refer to all who will be saved, then it must be taken in the same sense in the exhortation also, and then the exhortation of the apostle must be understood in this sense: "I exhort that prayers and supplications be made for all who are to be saved, for God wills that all, who are to be saved, shall be saved." What is doing violence to the meaning of the apostle, if this is not? "But Augustine so explains it: "What then? We do not rest in his authority." Also, we prove this by a collation of a similar passage: "This I deny. For the passage in 1 Corinthians xv. 22, "in Christ shall all be made alive," is not similar. For the emphasis may, here, be placed on the words "in Christ," and then it will read thus: "all, who are made alive, will be made alive in Christ, and no one out of Christ." The emphasis, indeed, belongs on those words, as is apparent from the contrast of the other member, "as in Adam all die." But in the passage, in the first epistle to Timothy, there is nothing similar to this. For it says, "God wills that all men should be saved," in which that repetition and reduplication can not have any place. Does not the Scripture teach that we must pray for all, even for those who are not to be partakers of salvation? So far, at least, as it is not evident to us whether they have or have not sinned unto death; for those of the former class, and them only, prayer is not to be made.
Your third answer is that "the phrase means not single individuals of classes, but classes of single individuals;" as if the apostle had said "God wills that some of all classes, states and conditions of men should be saved." This answer you defend from the diverse use of the word all, which is taken, at one time distinctively, at another collectively, which is, indeed, true, although you have interchanged the distributive and collective use of the word. For all the animals were, in a distributive sense, in Noah’s ark, and all men, in a collective sense. Even if the use of that word is two-fold, it does not thence follow that it is used in one and not in the other sense, for it can be used in either. In this passage, however, it is used not for classes of single individuals, but for single individuals of classes; for the will of God goes out towards single individuals of classes, or to single human beings. For he wills that single men should come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved, that is, all and each, rich and poor, noble and ignoble, male and female, &c. As the knowledge of the truth and salvation belong to single human beings, and is, in fact, prepared, by predestination, for the salvation of single individuals, not for classes, and is denied, by reprobation, to single individuals, not to classes, so, also, in the more general providence of God, antecedent, in the order of nature, to the decree of predestination and reprobation, the divine will has reference to single individuals of classes, not to classes of single individuals. For providence, having reference to classes of single individuals, pertains to the preservation of the species, but that, which refers to single individuals of classes, pertains to the preservation of individuals. But that providence which ministers salvation and the means necessary for salvation, pertains to the preservation and salvation of individuals. Besides, if this passage is to be understood to refer to classes, then the apostle would not have said "for all in authority," but "for some, at least, in eminent positions," but he openly says "that prayers should be made for single individuals in that relation." Nor is there any necessity of any other acceptation of that word, for there is no need of that plea to avoid this consequence, "therefore, all and each are saved." For the salvation of all would not follow from the fact that God wills that any one should be saved, by his will, approving and desiring the salvation of all and of each, but it would follow, if He, by an efficacious volition, saves all and each. To this effect, also, is the distinction made by Damascenus, which we will examine at somewhat greater extent.
Your fourth answer is, "Paul here speaks according to the judgment of charity, not according to the judgment of secret and infallible certainty." This is really absurd, unless you refer to the charity of God. For Paul here treats of the will of God to which he attributes this volition, that He wills the salvation of all men; not of His will according to which He earnestly desires the salvation of all. But it is, in the mean time, true that God does not will this infallibly or certainly, so that it can not, or at least will not happen otherwise. This, however, is not said by those, who use this passage to sustain a positive contrary to your sentiment. It is settled, then, that from this passage it is a fair inference that "God can not be said, without reference to sin in men, to will that any should err from the truth, or should not come to the truth, and should be condemned."
We may now consider the distinction, made by Damascenus, in which He regards the will of God, as antecedent and consequent. It is of special importance to observe, when the antecedent and consequent wills are spoken of relatively, in what relation they receive those appellations. This relation is that of the will to the will, or rather that of the divine volition, to the divine volition, the former as antecedent, the latter as consequent—for God puts forth one volition before another, in the order of nature, though not of time—or it is that of the divine volition to the preceding or subsequent volition or act of the creature. In respect to the latter, the divine will is called antecedent; in respect to the former, consequent. But these two relations do not greatly differ, though I think that the relation to the volition and act of the creature, either subsequent to or preceding the divine volition, was the cause of the distinction. If we consider the order of volitions, which God wills previous to any act or volition of the creature, we shall see, in that order, that there are some antecedent, some consequent volitions, yet all previous to any act and volition of the creature. And, since that volition, which exists of some cause in us, may be called consequent, it is certain that the distinction was understood by Damascenus, its first author, in the sense that it was in relation to the act or volition of the creature.
The will of God, then, may be called antecedent, by which He wills anything in relation to the creature (our discussion, a rational creature) previous to any act of the creature whatever, or to any particular act of it. Thus He willed that all men and each of them should be saved. The consequent will of God is that, by which He wills any thing in reference to a rational creature after any act or after many acts of the creature. Thus He wills that they, who believe and persevere in faith, shall be saved, but that those, who are unbelieving and impenitent, shall remain under condemnation. By His antecedent will, He willed to confirm and establish the throne of Saul forever; by His consequent will, He willed to remove him from the kingdom, and to substitute in his place a man better than he. By his antecedent will Christ willed to gather the Jews as a hen gathers her chickens; by his consequent will, he willed to scatter them among all nations.
You, indeed, approve this distinction, but do not approve the example of antecedent will, presented by Damascenus himself. Let us examine the reasons, in view of which you form this decision.
First you say, "It would follow from this that there is in the Deity weakness and limited power." I deny this sequence; for the divine power is not the instrument of the divine inclination, or desire, or velleity, but of free volition, following the last decision of the divine wisdom, though God may use His power to obtain what He desires within proper limits. Nor is it true that, if one desires or seriously wills any thing, he will effect the same in any way whatever, but he will do it in those ways, in which it is suitable that he should effect it. A father may desire and seriously propose that his son should obey him, but he does not violently compel him to obedience, for it would not be obedience. A father seriously wills that his son should abstain from intoxication, yet he does not confine him in a chamber, where he can not become intoxicated. A father seriously wills to give the paternal inheritance to his son; and by a consequent volition, namely, one that follows the contumacious and obstinate wickedness of the son, wills to disinherit him, nor yet does he do all things, within the scope of his power, that his son may not sin. For, it was possible for the father to keep his son bound and lettered with chains, that he might not be able to sin. But it was as suitable that the father should not use that mode of restraint, as it was to will the patrimony to his son.
The illustration taken from the merchant desiring to save his goods, yet throwing them into the sea is well adapted to its purpose. God seriously wills that all men should be saved, but compelled by the pertinacious and incorrigible wickedness of some, He wills that they should suffer the loss of salvation—that they should be condemned. If you say that the analogy fails, because God could correct their wickedness, but the merchant can not control the winds and the waves, I reply that it may, indeed, be possible to absolute omnipotence, but it is not suitable that God should in that way correct the wickedness of His creatures. Therefore God wills their condemnation because He does not will that His own righteousness should perish.
They, who object that this will may be called conditional, do not say all which might be said, yet they say something. Not all, because this inclination by which God desires the salvation of all men and of each, is simple, natural, and unconditional in God. Yet they say something, since it is true that God wills the salvation of all men, on the condition that they believe, for no will can be attributed to God, by which He may will that any man shall be saved in a sense, such that salvation will, certainly and infallibly, come to him, unless he is considered as a believer, and as persevering in faith even to the end. Since, however, that conditional volition may be changed into an absolute one, in this manner—God wills that all believers should be saved, and that unbelievers should be condemned, which, being absolute, is always fulfilled, this volition may be said not to pertain to this distinction of the will. For, in that volition, He wills nothing to His creature but He wills that these two things, faith and salvation, unbelief and condemnation, should indissolubly cohere. Yet, if it seems proper for any one to consider this an example of antecedent volition, I will not contradict him, yet the application is only by a volition, consequent on the act of faith and perseverance, of unbelief and impenitence.
Your conclusion that "the will of God must be in suspense until the condition is fulfilled, and that the first cause is dependent on second causes," is not valid. For, concerning the former part, I remark that inclination in God is natural towards His own creature, whether the man believes or not. For that inclination does not depend on faith, and uncertainty can not be attributed to the will of Him who, in His infinite wisdom; has all things present to himself, and certainly foreknows all future events, even those most contingent. Nor is the first cause, consequently, dependent on second causes, when any effect of the first cause is placed, in the order of nature, after an effect of the second cause, as that effect, consequent in order, belongs to the mere will of the first cause. It is absurd to say that the condemnation of those, who perish, depends on themselves, even if they would not perish unless by their own demerit. For they willed to merit perdition, and not to perish, that is, they willed to sin and not to be punished. Therefore that punishment depends on the mere and free will of God, yet it can inflict it only on sinners, the operation of power being suspended by justice, agreeably to which that power ought to be exercised. It is no more a valid conclusion that, by this distinction, the free choice of faith or unbelief is attributed to men. For it is in entire harmony with that condition that no one has faith except by the gift of God, though there can be no doubt that man has the free choice not to believe.
You say, secondly—"this conditional will of God is inactive because it belongs to infinite power, and because He can do whatever He will." But it is not suitable that He should use His infinite power to effect that, to which He is borne by natural desire, and it is useful for man, that this will of God should be presented to him as conditional, indeed, rather than as absolute, as was previously said; for it seems as an argument to persuade him to believe. For if he wishes to be saved he must believe, because God has appointed that men shall be saved only through faith.
Your third reason, referring to angels, can be made doubtful by the relation of the antecedent, and even if this is conceded, the consequent does not follow. For the relation of angels and of men is not the same. I am, indeed, fully of the opinion that it is most true that God, by antecedent volition, willed that all and each of the angels should be saved, but only in a due mode and order. Three divine volitions in reference to angels may be laid down in order: the salvation of angels, the obedience of angels, the condemnation of angels. God wills the first from love for His creatures; the second from love for righteousness and the obedience due to Him from His creatures, and, indeed, in such a sense, that He more strongly wills that the second should be rendered to Himself, than the first to His creatures; the third He wills from the same love for justice, whose injury He can not leave unpunished, since punishment is the sole mode of correcting disorder.
Your statements, under your fourth reason, are correct, "and God might will that all sinful men as such should be condemned," if He had not from love towards men determined to lay their sins on His Son, to this end that all who should believe in him, being freed from their sins, should obtain the reward of righteousness. It may indeed be said that God willed that all sinners, as such, should be condemned; but not all sinners are, in fact, condemned, because believers, though they have sinned, are considered not as sinners, but as righteous in Christ.
Fifthly, you say that "the antecedent will of God is absolute." What then? I do not wish to hinder you from regarding the antecedent will in your own way, different from the sentiment of Damascenus. You should, however, consider that you are not then arguing against him. But who has ever defined absolute will—"that which can not be resisted"? Absolute will is that which is unconditional. For example, God willed absolutely that Adam should not eat of the forbidden tree; yet he did eat of that tree. The will, which can not be resisted, is called efficacious. It is not allowable to arrange things defined, and their definitions, according to our own choice. "But," you may say, "it is not possible to resist the antecedent will." I deny it. You assert, as proof, that "the will, referred to in Romans 9, is antecedent will, and that it can not be resisted." It is for you to prove that assertion. The very statement declares, since the subject, in that passage, is the will of God, by which He hardens, and has mercy, which are divine effects, following acts of the creature which are sinful, called sin, that the will, here spoken of, is consequent not antecedent.
Another method, which you use to prove the same thing, is equally weak. For, it is not true that "God, simply and absolutely, wills that some should believe and persevere, and others be deserted, either not believing or not persevering." He does not will to desert them, unless they desert themselves; and He is even gracious to those, who do not think of Him. The argument from the event is futile. For some things occur by the will and the efficiency of God, some by His permission. Therefore it can not be concluded from any event that God willed it. But it has been previously shown how an event may take place, not because God may be unwilling to prevent it; though it would not happen, if God should will efficaciously to prevent it. Therefore that conclusion can not be thus deduced. It is, indeed, true that the reason can not be given why God should afford to one nation the means of salvation, and not to another, why he should give faith to one man, and not to another, which facts may not be resolved into his will. Yet it is not thence concluded, and it is not true, that the will, in that case, is antecedent, even though it precedes all causes in men.
Sixthly, you say that the foundation being destroyed, the edifice falls. But the foundation of that opinion in reference to the antecedent will, which desires the salvation of all men and of each, is the passage in 1 Timothy ch. 2, which has been already discussed by us, and that is incorrectly understood by Damascenus. I reply, first; -- Not only that passage, but many others, most clearly sustain that distinction of the will into antecedent and consequent. "How often would I have gathered you together," is an example of antecedent, and "your house is left unto you desolate" of consequent will (Matt. xxiii. 37-38). "And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding," is a case of antecedent will, "they which were bidden were not worthy" and were destroyed, of consequent will. He, also, was invited, according to antecedent will, who, being afterwards found, not having on a wedding garment, was cast out, according to consequent will (Matt. xxii. 3, 7, 8, 12 and 13). According to antecedent will, the lord commanded his servants to reckon their talents, and to use them for gain for their master; by consequent will, the talent, which he had received, was taken from the wicked and slothful servant (Matt. 25). By antecedent will, the word of God was first offered to the Jews; by consequent will, the same word was taken from them and sent to others (Acts 13). The same distinction is proved by a consideration of the attributes of God; for since God is good and just, He can not will eternal death to His own creature, made in His image, without reference to sin; He can not but will eternal salvation to His creature. The immutability of God necessarily requires the same thing. For since His providence has given to all His creatures means, necessary and sufficient, by which they can attain their designed end, but the designed end of man, made in the image of God, is eternal life, it hence follows that all men are loved by God unto eternal life by antecedent will; nor can God, without a change of His own arrangement, deny eternal life unto men, without reference to sin; which denial, being consequent on the act of man, pertains to consequent will.
The views of Augustine are not opposed to Damascenus. Augustine, indeed, denies that this passage refers to efficacious will; but Damascenus makes no such assertion; he even concedes the very same thing with Augustine; -- "God does not will efficaciously to save all and each of mankind." The second interpretation of Augustine is rejected by us on sure grounds. Nor is Prosper opposed to Damascenus. For he, who says that "God wills antecedently that all men should be saved," does not deny that He can, by a consequent will, pass by many men, to whom He does not impart the grace of vocation. Thomas Aquinas, also, is, no more than the others, opposed to Damascenus, for he, in commenting on this passage, speaks of efficacious and of consequent will; and elsewhere he approves of the distinction of Damascenes, and makes use of it, in explaining the passage, which is in controversy. Hugo clearly agrees with Damascenus, if his views are suitably explained.
The third objection is this: "Whatever any one is bound to believe is true; -- But every one is bound to believe that he has been efficaciously redeemed by Christ; -- Therefore, it is true that every one has been efficaciously redeemed by the death of Christ; and, therefore, even the reprobate have been redeemed, since they also are bound to believe this." Since this objection is of great importance, and alone sufficient, if it is true, it is necessary that we should examine it with diligence, and at the same time your answer to it. The truth of the Major is manifest, for truth is the foundation of faith, nor can one be, in any way, bound to believe what is false. But you make a distinction in reference to truth and say, that "what is true, is either: true, as to the intention of God, who obligates us to believe, or as to the event." But that distinction is of no importance. I affirm that what is true, according to the intention of God, must be believed according to that intention. What is true, according to the event, must be believed according to the event; and the intention of God can not obligate any one to believe any thing to be true according to the event, which is not true according to the event. In general, it is true that we are bound to believe that which is true in that mode in which it is true, not in any other mode; otherwise, we should be bound to believe what is false. You see, then, that there is no need of that distinction in the Major; indeed it is most clearly evident that you, lest you should say nothing, wished, by that minute distinction, to avoid this effective blow.
Let us consider the Minor. Its phraseology is bad, because the efficacy of redemption pertains to its application, which is made through faith. Therefore faith is prior to efficacious application, and the object of faith is prior to faith itself. We may correct it, and it will read thus, "But every one is bound to believe in Christ, the saviour, that he died for his sake, and obtained for him reconciliation and redemption before God." This is, indeed, most true. For they can not be condemned, for want of faith, who were not bound to believe this. But here also you use a distinction, but one which is irrelevant and ridiculous—pardon my freedom of speech—and you do great injustice to yourself, and your own genius, when you endeavour to disguise the plain truth, by so puerile distinctions. You say that the elect are obligated to believe, so that, by faith, they may be made partakers of election, the reprobate are obligated to believe, so that, by neglecting to do so, they may be without excuse, even in the intention of God. But what is the difference whether one is bound to believe to this or that end, provided he is only bound to believe. From which obligation to believe, the truth of that which any one is bound to believe may afterwards be inferred. The expression -"that they may be made partakers of election," is absurd. It should be corrected thus—"that they may be made partakers of the blessings prepared for them in election," or, if we wish to confine ourselves to the limits of the objection, -- "that they may, in fact, be made partakers of the redemption prepared for them by Christ." But the reprobate are also bound to believe for the same reason. If it be said that they, absolutely, can not be made partakers, I will say that, for this very reason, the reprobate are not obligated to believe. For the end of the exercise of faith is the application of redemption, and of all the blessings, obtained for us by the merit of Christ. The end of the command and the requirement of faith is that the application may be possible. But how absurd is the declaration that the reprobate are under obligation to believe, so that they may, by not believing, be rendered inexcusable. Unite, if you can, these things, so inconsistent, and widely distant as heaven and earth. This, however, has been before referred to. You proceed with your distinctions, and say—"one command has reference to obedience; another, to trial." But what relation has this to the present matter? For whether God commands, with the purpose that man should, in fact, obey, or with the purpose, only, of testing his obedience in the effort to execute the command, the man is always obligated to perform what God commands, as is apparent in the offering of Isaac by Abraham. Nor has this command, in the relation of that, any analogy, with what you subjoin, -- "God does not sport with men, even if He, by the preaching of the word, calls those whom He does not purpose to save." Indeed we have already said enough in reference to those and similar evasions. I will say, in a word, -- that no one can confess that he is guilty for rejecting a promise made verbally, if the mind of the promiser has determined that the promise does not belong to the person addressed; or rather if he, who verbally promises, has, by a fixed decree, determined that the promise may not and can not belong to the other person.
You present an objection, as an adversary to yourself, thus -"but you will say that it could not belong to him." Not only may that objection be urged, but also another—"How do you confute that statement, so that it may not follow from it that he is without blame, who could not receive the salvation offered to him?" You will say that such inability is voluntary, and born with us, and therefore undeserving pardon. You err here, and confound inability to keep the law, propagated in us from Adam, with inability to believe in Christ, and to accept the grace of the gospel, offered us in the word. By what deed have we brought this inability upon ourselves? Not by a deed preceding that promise; then it was by a deed following it, that is, by a rejection of the promise of the gospel; which rejection also can not be imputed to us as a fault, if we were unable to receive it at the time when the promise was first presented to us. The answer, then, amounts to nothing, because the two kinds of inability are confounded, in which is the fallacy of ignoratia elenchi, also that of equivocal use of terms.
You reply, in the second place, that "what any one is obligated to believe is true, unless he may have placed before himself an obstacle by not believing." Is this correct? Can any one place before himself an obstacle, by his own unbelief, that what he is bound to believe may not be true? Absurd. One can, by his own unbelief, place before himself an obstacle, so as not to be able afterwards to believe, that is, to deserve hardening in unbelief on account of rejecting the truth offered to him. One can, also, by his own unbelief, deserve that God should change that good will, by which He offered His Son as the redeemer, into wrath, by which He may will to punish him without remission or pardon.
Thirdly you reply that "the argument twice depends on assertion, in both parts." But who compelled you to so reduce that argument into an illogical syllogism, when it might have been put in a legitimate form and mode, in this way, "That which every one is bound to believe, is true; -- That Christ is his redeemer, who, by his own death, meritoriously obtained the divine grace, and the pardon of his sins, is what every one, called in the gospel, is bound to believe; --
Therefore it is true, that Christ is the redeemer of all, who are called by the gospel and commanded to believe. But among them are many reprobate persons. Therefore it is true that Christ is the redeemer of many reprobate persons. If we consider vocation to be that by which any one is called, either in himself or in his parents, then all men, universally, are or have been partakers of that vocation, and therefore all have been redeemed by Christ." But the form, also, in which you have put it is the same in effect, though you have so arranged the words, that they seem to have a different meaning. I see that you wrote those things with a hurried pen, without an examination of the syllogism as you have proposed it.
The fourth objection, from the fathers, is valid against you, nor do you reply in accordance with the terms of the sentiment hostile to you. The amount of the objection is this, "Christ died for all sufficiently, both as to the common nature of the human race, and as to the common cause and sufficient price of redemption." You have introduced efficacy into the argument or objection, while they, who make this objection against you, know that there is the clearest distinction between the death of Christ itself and its application. You say, "and thus far in reference to the extent and efficacy of Christ’s death," when the discussion has been hitherto in reference not to its efficacy, but to its sufficiency, and its oblation and the universality of that oblation. You, now, proceed to treat of the amplitude of grace, but what you present does not much affect the point at issue. The question is not, whether all and each of the human race are, in fact, regenerated and renewed, but whether God has reprobated any man, without respect to sin as a meritorious cause; or whether He has determined absolutely to deny to any man the grace of remission and of the renewal of the Holy Spirit without reference to unworthiness, in that he has made himself unworthy of that grace—unworthiness, not resulting from original sin, but from the rejection and contempt of that offered grace. The distinction of sufficient and efficacious grace might have been well adapted to this subject, as we have also previously demonstrated. Yet there is one thing of which I may admonish you. You seem to me not correctly to deprive, of supernatural grace, the image of God, consisting of righteousness and holiness. For though the former gift was bestowed on man at his creation and at the same time with nature itself, for so I now consider it, yet it is supernatural, and surpasses the nature of man itself, as I prove from the act of regeneration, which belongs to supernatural grace. For, since there is need of regeneration for the recovery of that righteousness and holiness, which regeneration is a supernatural act, it is necessary that the same should, originally, have been bestowed on man, by a supernatural action. I wish, also, to know what those supernatural things are which man is said to have lost in the fall, his natural qualities having become corrupt. Thus far, in reference to these things.
I think, indeed, that it is sufficiently evident from what we have thus far discussed that the view of Predestination which you have presented can not be proved by the Scriptures; that it can not be defended against strong objections; that it can not be acquitted of manifold absurdity. It ought then to be abandoned by you, and another should be sought from the Scriptures, which may harmonize with them, and may be able to sustain without injury the onset of assailant objections.
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