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EXAMINATION OF THE TREATISE
I come now to the treatise itself, which I will examine with somewhat more care and diligence. You will not complain if, in some places, I may with the closest criticism also subject some of the nicer points to the most rigid scrutiny. For who would not consent that a serious and solid discussion should be, as it were, spiced by a friendly diversity and a pleasant contest concerning the more accurate handling of a subject.
You begin and rightly with a definition of Predestination. But that definition does not seem to be adapted to the Predestination, which is set forth in the Scriptures. For the Predestination, of which the Scriptures treat, is of men in their relation as sinners; it is made in Christ; it is to blessings which concern, not this animal life, but the spiritual life, of which a part also are communicated in this animal life, as is clearly evident from Ephesians 1, where, among the spiritual blessings to which we have been predestinated in Christ are enumerated "adoption of children (verse 5), "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins," (verse 7th), "having made known unto us the mystery of his will," (verse 9th), which blessings are given to the predestinated in this life. The apostle well say "the life, which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God," (Gal. ii. 20)
signifying that he, in this animal life, was a partaker of spiritual gifts, and from them lived a spiritual life. But perhaps you did not wish to give an accurate definition, but only by some description to give us an idea of predestination. I may concede this, yet in that description there seem to be many things which ought to be noticed. For the word "counsel," by which you have desired to explain one kind of Predestination is not a kind of Predestination, but pertains to its efficient cause; for a decree is made by "counsel," which decree can be fitly considered a kind of Predestination—if indeed counsel can be attributed to God, by which He may decree anything, as in the Scripture, -- e.g. Acts iv. 28, and Ephes. i. 11. This I say, is apparent from the passages quoted. For in the former (Acts iv. 28), "counsel" is said to determine before or predestinate things to be done; in the latter (Ephes. i. 11), it is said that God "worketh all things,"—even institutes predestination-after the counsel of His own will.
There is, in this life, an equality of the pious and the wicked as to external blessings, but they are to be considered generally. For in individual cases there is a great difference both among the pious and the wicked, and so great indeed is it that, to those, who are dissatisfied with that inequality, it may need a defense by an argument for reducing it, hereafter, to an equality. Indeed it is said of the pious and the faithful "if in this life, only, we have hope in Christ, we are, of all men, most miserable." (1 Cor. xv. 19.)
I approve what you say concerning "the final cause of Predestination," when rightly understood, that is, if a declaration of the glory of God through mercy and justice is attributed to Predestination, so long as it is the foreordination of sinners who shall believe in Christ to eternal life, and on the contrary, the predamnation of sinners who shall persevere in sins to eternal death; who shall believe, through the gracious gift of God, and who shall persevere in sins through their own wickedness and the just desertion of God. But if you think that God, from eternity, without any pre-existence of sin, in His prescience, determined to illustrate His own glory by mercy and punitive justice, and, that He might be able to secure this object, decreed to create man good but mutable, and ordained farther that he should fall, that in this way there might be a place for that decree, I say that such an opinion can, in my judgment, be established by no passage of the word of God.
That this may be made plainer, a few things must be said concerning the glory of God and the modes of its manifestation. No one can doubt that God, since He is the first and Supreme Efficient Cause of all His own acts and works, and the single and sole cause of many of them, has always the manifestation of His own perfection, that is, His own glory, proposed to Himself, as His chief and highest object. For the first and supreme cause is moved to produce any effect, by nothing, out of itself otherwise it would not be the first and supreme cause. Therefore, not only the act of Predestination, but also every other divine act has "the illustration of the glory of God" as its final cause. Now it is equally certain and known to all, who have even approached the threshold of sacred letters, that the manifestation of the divine perfection and the illustration of his glory consists in the unfolding of His essential attributes by acts and works comparable to them: but an inquiry is necessary concerning those attributes, by the unfolding of which He determined to illustrate His own glory, first, by which, in the second place, and so on, by successive steps. It is certain that He could not, first of all, have done this by means of mercy and punitive justice. For the former could be exercised only towards the miserable, the latter only towards sinners. But since, first of all, the external action of God both was and must be taken up, so to speak, with Nothing, it is, therefore, evident that goodness, wisdom, and omnipotence were, first of all, to be unfolded, and that by them the glory of God was to be illustrated. These, therefore, were unfolded in the creation, by which God appeared to be supremely good and wise, and omnipotent.
But, as God made all His creatures with this difference that some were capable of nothing more than they were at their creation, and others were capable of greater perfection, He was concerned, as to the former, only with their preservation and government, accomplished by goodness, wisdom and power of the same kind and measure, since preservation is only a continuance of creation, as the latter is the beginning of the former, and government may not go beyond the natural condition of the creatures, unless when it seems good to God to use them, for the sake of men for supernatural purposes, as in the bread and wine used, in the Lord’s Supper, to signify and seal unto us the communion of the body and the blood of Christ; as to the latter, which He made capable of greater perfection, as angels and men, the same attributes were to be unfolded, but in a far greater measure. In the former case, the good communicated is limited, as each creature receives that which is appropriate to itself, according to the diversity of their natures, but, in the latter, there is a communication of supreme and infinite good, which is God, in the union with whom consists the happiness of rational creatures. Reason demanded that this communication should be made contrary to justice, wherefore He gave a law to His creatures, obedience to which was made the condition on which that communication should be made. Therefore, this was the first decree concerning the final cause of rational creatures, and the glory of God to be illustrated by justice and the highest goodness—highest as to the good to be communicated, not absolutely; by goodness joined to justice, in the case of those who should be made partakers of the highest good, through steadfastness in the truth; by punitive justice, in the case of those who should make themselves unworthy of it by their disobedience. Then we see that justice, rewarding obedience, which was its office, according to the gracious promise of God, and punishing disobedience as it deserves, according to the just threatenings of God, holds the first place; in the former case, justice joined to goodness, in the latter, punitive justice opposed to the gracious communication of the highest good, without any mention of mercy, unless it may be considered as preserving the creature from possible misery, which could, by its own fault, fall into misery; as mercy is not considered when it is predetermined by the decree of Predestination. That decree was peremptory in respect to the angels, as in accordance with it, they are condemned: wherefore the predestination and reprobation of angels was comprehended in this. But what grace was prepared for the former in Predestination and was denied to the latter in Reprobation, and in what respects, I do not now argue. But it was not peremptory in reference to men, whom God did not decree to treat according to that highest rigor of the law, but in the salvation of whom He decreed to exhibit all His goodness, which Jehovah showed to Moses in these, His attributes, "The Lord, Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exod. xxvi. 6). Therefore, the Predestination and Reprobation of men were not considered in that decree. For since Adam sinned, and in him all who were to be his descendants by natural propagation, all would have been devoted to eternal condemnation without hope of pardon. For the decree of Predestination and Reprobation is peremptory. So far, then, no predestination of men unto life, and no reprobation unto death had any place. And since there could be no Predestination and Reprobation, except in accordance with those attributes by which men are at once saved or damned—but the predestinated may be saved at once by mercy, and the reprobate may be damned at once by justice opposed to that mercy—it follows that there was no fixed predestination and reprobation of men, in reference to whom there could be no place for mercy and justice opposed to it. But there could be no place for them in reference to men who were not miserable, and not sinners. Then, since Predestination includes the means by which the predestinated will certainly and infallibly come to salvation, and Reprobation includes the denial of those same means, but those means are the remission of sins and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and its perpetual assistance even to the end, which are necessary and communicable to none, except sinners, I conclude that there was no Predestination and Reprobation in reference to men, in whose case these means were neither necessary nor communicable.
Finally, since God can love no sinner unto salvation, unless he be reconciled to Himself in Christ, hence it is, that there could be no place for Predestination, except in Christ. And since Christ was ordained and given for sinners, it is certain that Predestination and its opposite, Reprobation, could have no place before human sin—its existence as foreseen by God—and the appointment of Christ as Mediator, and indeed his performance, in the prescience of God, of the functions of the office of Mediator, which pertains to reconciliation. Nor does it follow from this, that God either made man with an uncertain design, or failed of the end at which He aimed. For He prescribed to Himself, both in the act of creation, and in that of glorification, and its opposite, condemnation, the illustration of His own glory as an end, and He obtained it; by goodness, wisdom and power in creation, and He obtained it; by the same, but in a greater measure, and joined with justice in glorification and condemnation, and He obtained it. But, though the mode of illustrating His glory by mercy, which is a certain method of communicating goodness and the approach of the same to a miserable creature, and by justice, opposed to that mercy, could have no place except from the occasion of human sin, yet the decree of God is not, therefore, dependent on the man, for He foresaw from eternity what would be in the future, and in ordaining, concerning the future, to that end, He freely arranged it according to His own choice, not compelled by any necessity as if He could not, in some other way, have secured glory to Himself from the sin of man. But that the glory of God does not consist merely in the illustration of mercy and, its opposite justice, is evident from the fact that, then, He would not have obtained glory from the act of creation, nor from the predestination and reprobation of angels. It is to be understood, that mercy is not an essential attribute of the Deity distinct from goodness itself, as in the womb and the offspring of goodness; indeed, it is goodness itself extending to the sinful creature and to misery. It can for this reason be said, in simple terms, that, in all His eternal acts, God determined to declare His own glory by goodness, wisdom, and omnipotence, with the addition of justice when equity demanded it at the prescription of wisdom, but that He adapted the mode to the state, or rather to the change of the object, in reference to which He had determined to unfold those attributes. In reference to this thing Tertullian says, in a beautiful and erudite manner, "God must, of necessity use all things in reference to all being, He must have as many feelings, as there are causes of them; anger for the wicked. and wrath for the ungrateful, and jealousy for the proud, and whatever else would not be for the advantage of the evil; so also, mercy for the erring, and patience for those not yet repentant, and honour for the deserving, and whatever is necessary for the good. All these feelings He has in His own mode, in which it is fit that He should feel them, just as man has the same, equally after his own manner." (Adversus Marcion, Lib. 2, cap 16.)
Predestination does not arise merely from goodness simply considered, the province of which is, indeed, to communicate itself to the creature, but also from that mode of mercy, which goes out from that goodness to the miserable to remove their misery, of grace in Christ, which goes out from it to sinners to pardon their sins, of patience and long-suffering, going forth from the same goodness towards those who, for a long time, struggle against it, and do not at once obey the call, thus prolonging the delay of conversion. So also reprobation is not merely fixed by justice, the opposite of that goodness, simply considered, but by justice tempered by some mercy and patience. For God "endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction." (Rom. ix. 22.)
From these things, thus considered, I may be allowed, with your kind permission, to conclude that Predestination has not been sufficiently well defined or described by you. If any one is inclined to consider the series and order of the objects of the knowledge and the will of God, he will be more and more confirmed in the truth of the things briefly set forth by me. The passage from Augustine, is in agreement with these views, if one wishes to gather his complete opinion from other passages. Fulgentius and Gregory most clearly support me in the passages quoted by you. For, if the act of predestination is the preparation for the remission of sins or the punishment of the same, then it is certain that there is place for predestination only in reference to sinners. If also the act of Predestination is the pre-election of some who are to be redeemed from their depravity, and the leaving of others in their depravity, from this also it is evident that predestination has to do with men considered as sinners.
That sentiment of the School-men agrees most fully with the same views. For it openly declares that Predestination depends on the foresight of the fall, when they say that the perfection and goodness of God, who predestinates, is represented by the mode of mercy and punitive justice, which mode, as I have now frequently said, can have place only in reference to sinners. If any one acknowledges that this is indeed true, but says that God has arranged this, as an occasion for Himself, by decreeing that man should fall, and by carrying forward that decree to its end or limit, we ask the proof of that assertion, which, in my judgment, he will be unable to give. For that sentiment is at variance with the justice of God, as it makes God the author of sin, and introduces an inevitable necessity for sin. This I will prove. For if that decree existed, man could not abstain from sin, otherwise the decree would have been made in vain, which is an impious supposition. For "the counsel of the Lord standeth forever." (Psalm xxxiii. 11). We remark also that the human will would have been circumscribed and determined by that decree, so that it could not turn itself except in one direction, in which there would be sin; by that act its freedom would be lost, because it would move the will, not according to the mode of free-will, but according to the mode of nature. Such an act it could not resist, nor would there be any volition in that direction, indeed, there would not be the power to put forth that volition on account of the determination of the decree. Consider, also, that, by that sentiment, mercy and justice are considered as means resulting from Predestination, while they are the primary causes of Predestination, as is evident from the fact that the final cause of Predestination may be resolved into the manifestation of mercy and justice.
Here, observe, also, in what way you make the creation and the fall of man the means in common lying at the foundation of the counsel, or rather the decree of predestination, I think, indeed, that both the creation, and the fall preceded every external act of predestination, as also the decree concerning the creation of man, and the permission of his fall preceded, in the Divine mind, the decree of Predestination. I think, also, that I have partly proved this, in my preceding remarks. But it will be well to look at this with a little more diligence.
Every act, which has reference to an object, is posterior in nature, to its object. It is called an object relatively. Therefore, it has an absolute existence prior to the existence of its relation to the act. The object, then, exists in itself, before it can be under the influence of the act which tends towards it. But man is the object of Predestination. Therefore, man is prior to the act of Predestination. But man is what he is by creation. therefore, creation is prior to Predestination—that is, in the divine mind, or the decree concerning the creation of man is prior to the decree of Predestination, and the act of creation is prior to the execution of the decree of Predestination. If any one should reply that God, in the internal act of Predestination, is employed with man considered as not created, but as to be made, I answer that this could neither take place, nor be so understood by a mind judging rightly. For Predestination is a decree, not only to illustrate the divine glory, but to illustrate it in man, by the mode of mercy and justice. From this, it follows that man must also exist in the divine mind before the act of Predestination, and the fall of man must itself, also, be previously foreseen. The attributes of God, by which creation is affected, are, therefore, considered as prior, in the divine nature, to those in which predestination originates. Goodness, simply considered, wisdom, and power, operating upon Nothing, are, therefore, prior to mercy and punitive justice. Add, also, that since predestination originates, on the one hand, in mercy, and on the other, in justice, in the former case having reference to salvation—in the latter, to damnation—it cannot be that any means exist pertaining, in common, to the execution of election and of reprobation. For they are provided neither in mercy nor in justice. There exist, then, no means of Predestination, common to both parts of the decree.
Whether the definition of the creation of man is correct. If you wished to define the creation of man that should have been done with greater accuracy. But if you wished only to describe it, there is yet, in that description, something which I may note. "Man was made mutable," as was demanded by the very condition of that Nothing from which he was made, and of the creature itself. which neither could nor ought to be raised, by creation, to the state of the Creator, which is immutability. But he was made mutable in such a sense that actual change from good to evil would follow that possible mutability, only by the voluntary and free act of man. But the act of the creature does not remain free when it is so determined in one direction, that, if that determination continues, there cannot but be a change.
Whether the permission of the fall, is rightly defined. But of the "permission of the fall," we must treat at somewhat greater length: for very much depends on this for the expediting of this whole matter. It is certain that God can by the act of His own absolute power prevent all things whatever, which can be done by the creature, and it is equally certain that He is not absolutely under obligation to any one to hinder him from evil. But He can not, in His justice, do all that He can in His absolute power. He cannot, in His justice (or righteousness), forget the "work and labour of love" of the pious (Heb. vi. 10). The absolute power of God is limited by the decree of God, by which He determined to do any thing in a particular direction, And though God is not absolutely under obligation to any one, He can yet obligate Himself by His own act, as, for instance, by a promise, or by requiring some act from man. He is obligated to perform what He promises, for He owes to Himself the immutability of His own truth, whether He has promised it absolutely or conditionally. By requiring an act, He places Himself under obligation to give ability and the strength without which that act can not be performed; otherwise, He would reap where He had not sown. It is plain, from these positions, that God, since He conceded the freedom of the will, and the use of that freedom, ought not, and indeed could not, prevent the fall in any mode which would infringe on the use of that freedom; and farther, that He was not obligated to prevent it in any other way than by the bestowment of the ability which should be necessary and sufficient to the avoidance of the fall. Permission is not, therefore, a "cessation from the act of illuminating and that of inclining" to such an extent that, without those acts, a man could not avoid sin. For, in that case, the fault could be justly and deservedly charged upon God, who would be the cause of sin, by way of removing or not bestowing that which is necessary for the performance of an act which Himself has prescribed by His own law. From which it also follows that the law is unjust, as it is not in proportion to the strength of the creature on which it is imposed, whether that deficiency of strength arises from the nonbestowal or the removal of it before any fault has been committed by the creature.
Permission is, indeed, a cessation of the act of hindrance, but that cessation is to be so explained that it may not be reduced to an efficient cause of sin, either directly, or by way of the denial or removal of that, without which sin can not be avoided. In reference to this permission, if it be fitly explained, it can be doubtless said that "God not only foreknows it, but He even wills it by an act of volition" affirmatively and immediately directed to the permission itself, not to that which is permitted. As it can not be said concerning this, that God wills that it should not be done, for He permits it, and not unwillingly, so, also, it can not be truly said that God wills it. For permission is an act intermediate between volition and nolition, the will being inactive.
But the cause, in view of which He permits sin, is to be found, not only in the consequent, but in the antecedent. In the antecedent, because God constituted man so that he might have a free will, and might, according to the freedom of his will, either accord obedience or refuse it. He could not rescind this constitution, which Himself had established, in view of His own immutability, as Tertullian clearly shows, in his argument against Marcion (Lib. 2, cap. 5, 6 and 7). In the consequent, because He saw that He could use sin as an occasion for demonstrating the glory of His own grace and justice. But this consequent does not naturally result from that sin. From this, it follows that even from the highest evil, (if there be any highest,) evil, only, could result per se, or there would be an injury to the divine majesty, opposed to the divine good; but that consequent is an incidental result of sin, because God knows and wills to elicit, by His wisdom, goodness and power, His own glory from it, as light from darkness. As, then, evil is not good, per se, so it is not absolutely good that evil should occur. For if this be true. then God not only permits it, but is its author and effector. But it is incidentally good that evil should occur, in view of that wisdom, goodness, and power of God, of which I have spoken, by which God takes from sin the material for illustrating his own glory. Therefore, sin is not, in this respect, the means per se, for illustrating the glory of God, but only the occasion not made for this purpose, nor adapted to it by its own nature, but seized by God and used in this direction with wonderful skill, and praiseworthy perversion. No absolute good in the universe would be prevented, even if God should prevent evil, provided that prevention should not be affected in a manner not adapted to the primitive constitution of man; and God is free to prevent sin, but in a way not at variance with the freedom of the will. Any other method of prevention would be absolutely contrary to the good of the universe, inasmuch as one good of the universe consists even in this, that there should be a creature endued with free will, and that the use of his own free will should be conceded to the creature without any divine interference. But if the existence of evil or sin should absolutely contribute to the good and the perfection of the universe, then God ought not only not to hinder sin, but even to promote it, else He would fail in His duty to His own work, and do injury to His own perfection. I admit that, without the existence of sin, there would not be that place for the patience of the martyrs, or for the sacrifice of Christ; but the patience of the martyrs and the sacrifice of Christ are not necessary results of the existence of sin. Indeed we shall see, by considering the natural effect of sin, that from it would result impatience in those who are afflicted, and by it the wrath, of God would be kindled, which not only could, but in fact, would, prevent the bestowment of any good, even the least, and much more that of his Son, unless God should be, at the same time, merciful, and could, in His wisdom, find a way by which He might prevent the natural effect of sin, and using sin as the occasion, might promote other effects, contrary to the very nature of sin.
The passages cited from Augustine and Gregory, are not only not opposed to, but actually in favour of this opinion. For they do not say that it would have been good absolutely that evils should occur, but that God judged it better to bring good out of evils than to prevent them; thus comparing two acts of the Deity, and esteeming the one better than the other. I may be allowed to observe, in reference to the remark of Gregory, that he is not sufficiently accurate, when he compares the evils which we suffer on account of sins with the blessing of redemption as something greater: for he ought to compare our sins and faults, not the evils which we suffer on their account, with the blessing of redemption. If he had done this, and had carefully considered the words of the apostle, "and not rather (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say), Let us do evil that good may come," (Rom. iii. 8), he would have judged otherwise, or, at least, would have expressed his views more fitly, without making such a transition, and without substituting the punishment of sin for sin itself. It is indeed right, for men and for any believer, to say with entire confidence, that there can be no redemption so excellent and no method of redemption so glorious that, for the sake of obtaining either, any sin, however small, is to be committed. For the Redeemer "was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil," (1 John iii. 8,) i.e., sins; they are not, therefore, to be committed in order that the Son of God, the Redeemer, might come. For that circular form of reasoning, the Son of God came that he might destroy the works of the devil, and sin was committed that it might be destroyed by the Son, is not only contrary to the Scriptures, but also hostile to all truth, as it leads infinitely astray.
From this it is also easily proved that the fall can not be called a happy transgression, except by a catachrestic hyperbole, which, while it may be adapted to declamations, panegyric orations, and rhetorical embellishments, should be far removed from the solid investigation of truth. To these is always to be added the remark, which I have made, frequently and with reiteration, that redemption could not have resulted from transgression, except as the latter might afford an occasion for it, by the arrangement of God, in accordance with His will, that the transgression should be expiated, and washed away by a Redeemer of such character and dignity.
But the distinction which you make between "the permission of the fall" and "the permitted fall" seems to me to be of no force. For the permission of the fall is not less by the Divine arrangement than the permitted fall. For God ordained His own permission for a certain end. But consider whether it is not absurd to distinguish between "the permission of the fall" and "the permitted fall." In the latter case, I speak of the fall, not considered in that it is a fall, but in that it is a permitted fall: as you must, of necessity, consider, when you style it "the means of the decree," which appellation is not appropriate to the fall except on account of the adjunct "permitted." For not the fall but the permission of the fall, tended to the glory of God; not the act of many which is the fall, but the act of God, which is permission, having immediate reference to that act of man according to the prescript of the Divine arrangement, tended to His glory. But I acknowledge that permission is the means of the decree, not of predestination, but of providence, as the latter is distinguished from the former. I speak now of providence, as governing and administrative, which is not only not prior, in nature and order, to predestination, but is also the cause of the mission of the Son as the Redeemer, who is our head, in whom predestination is made, as the apostle teaches, (Ephes. 1.)
But how can it be true that the fall is permitted by God, and yet that "it would not have occurred unless God had willed it" I wish that it might be explained how God could, at once, will that the fall should occur, and permit the same; how God could be concerned, by His volition, with the fall both mediately and immediately—mediately by willing the permission, and immediately by willing the fall itself. I wish also that these things may be harmonized, how the fall could occur by the will of God, and yet the will of God not be the cause of the fall, which is contrary to the express declaration of God’s word, "Our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatever He pleased," (Psalm cxv. 3.) Also, in what way could God will the fall, and yet be "a God that hath no pleasure in wickedness," (Psalm v. 4,) since the fall was wickedness. The distinctions which are presented are not sufficient to untie the knot, as I shall show in the case of each of them separately. For they distinguish between the fall and the event of the fall; between the will of open intimation and that of His good-pleasure, revealed or hidden; between the fall as it was sin, and as it was the means of illustrating the divine glory. They say that God willed that the fall should occur, but did not will the fall; that He willed the fall according to His good-pleasure and His hidden will, not according to His will, of open intimation, revealed and approving; that He willed the fall, not as it was sin, but as it was the means of illustrating His own glory.
The first distinction is verbal, and not real. He, who willed that the fall should occur, willed also the fall. He who willed that the fall should occur, willed the event of the fall, and He, who willed the event of the fall, willed the fall. For the event of the fall is the fall, as the event of an action is the action itself. But if He willed the fall, He was the cause of the fall. For "He hath done whatsoever He pleased," (Psalm cxv. 3.) If any one replies, that He willed that the fall should occur by the act of another, not by His own act, I answer—it could not be that God should will that the fall should occur by the act of another, and not by His own act: for it would not happen by the act of another, unless He should interpose with His own act, and, indeed, with an act, such that, from it, the act of another should necessarily exist; otherwise that, which He wished should occur by the act of another, would not be effected or occur by that act of another. The force of the argument is not increased: whether God willed that the fall should occur, mediately, by the act of another, or, immediately, by His own act. These are mediately connected—the act of God and the act of another, that is, of man, or the fall. The fall proceeded from the act of man, but that depends of necessity on the act of God; otherwise it could happen that the act of another should not be performed, and thus it could happen that the fall should not occur, which, nevertheless, God willed should occur. It is not, therefore, denied that God is the cause of the fall, except immediately; it is conceded that He is so, mediately. No one, indeed, ever wished to deduce, from the declaration of any one, that God is the immediate cause of the sin perpetrated by man, for he would deduce a contradiction in terms, as they say in the schools, unless, indeed, the subject might be the general concurrence of God with man, in producing an act which can not be produced by man without sin.
The distinction of the will into that of hidden and revealed, while it may have place elsewhere, can not avail here. For the hidden will of God is said to be efficacious; but if, in its exercise, God willed that the fall should occur, it is certainly a necessary conclusion, also, that He effected the fall, that is, He must be the cause of the fall; for whatever God wills, even by His hidden will, the same, also, He does both in heaven and on the earth; and no one can resist His will, namely, that which is hidden. But I may remark concerning that distinction in the will, that I think that it may be said, that neither of these can be so contrary, or opposed to the other, that God, by one, wills that to be done, which, by the other, He wills not to be done, and vice versa. God wills by His revealed and approving will, that man should not fall, it can not, therefore, be true that God, by any will, considered in any way whatever, can will that man should fall; for though there may be distinction in the will of God, yet no contradiction can exist in it. But it is a contradiction, if God, by any act of His own will, should tend towards an object, and at the same time towards its contrary.
The third distinction, in which it is said that God wills sin, not as such, but as the means of illustrating His own glory, defends God from the charge of efficiency in sin no more than the two preceding. For that assertion remains true God doeth whatsoever He wills, but He wills sin, therefore, He effects sin, not indeed as it is such, but as it is the means of illustrating His own glory. But if God effects sin, as it is the means to such an end, it can not be effected, unless man commits sin as such. For sin can not be made a means, unless it is committed. There exists, indeed, that distinction of sin into separate and diverse respects, not really, and in fact, but in the mode of considering it. But that we may make that distinction correctly, as it is indeed of some use, it must be said that God permits sin as such, but for this reason, because He had the knowledge and the power to make it the means, yea, rather, to use it as the means of illustrating His own glory. So that the consideration of sin as such was presented to the Divine permission, the permission itself being, in the mean time, caused both by the consideration that the sin could be the means of illustrating the Divine glory, and by the arrangement that the sin, permitted, should be, in fact, the means for illustrating that same glory.
The simile, which you present, of the mutable decaying house is not apposite for many reasons. For in the first place, in its fall, the house is passive; but in the fall of man he is active, for he sins. Secondly, that house is, not only mutable, that is, capable of decay, but subject to decay; but man, though capable of sinning, was still not subject to sin. Thirdly, that house could not stand if attacked by the winds; but man could preserve his position, even though tempted by Satan. Fourthly, the necessary props were not placed under that house; but man received strength from God, sufficient for steadfastness against the onset of Satan, and was supported by the assistance of divinity itself. Fifthly, the builder anticipated the ruin of the house, and in part willed it, because he was unwilling to prevent the fall when he could have done it; God, indeed, foresaw sin, but He did not will it; indeed, He endeavoured to prevent it by precept and the bestowment of grace, necessary and sufficient for the avoidance of sin. Farther than this, He must not prevent, lest He should destroy the constitution which He had established. The ideas, I will the ruin, and I will it, so far as I will not to prevent it, do not agree. For the ruin and the permission of the ruin can not be at the same time the immediate object of the will. For God can not be concerned in the fall, at the same time, both by an affirmative and by a negative act of the will. The act of willing the fall was affirmative, the act of not willing to prevent is negative, intermediate between two opposite affirmative acts, namely, between the act of volition and that of nolition concerning the fall. It is altogether true, that so much causality or efficiency is to be attributed to the builder as there is of will, directed to the ruin of the house, attributed to him. Let us now consider the application of the similitude. God left Adam to himself, but yet Adam was not deserted by God; for He placed under him as it were a triple prop, lest he might sin or fall. He gave him a precept, that he might, in obedience, not choose to sin; He added a threat that he might fear to sin on account of the annexed and following punishment; He bestowed grace that he might be able in fact to fulfill the precept, and avoid the threatened punishment. It may be lawful, also, to call the promise, which was placed in opposition to the threatening, and which was sealed by the symbol of the tree of life, a fourth prop. The reason, in view of which, God left man to himself, was not that his ability might be tested by temptation, for from the actual occurrence of the fall, his inability to stand could be neither proved nor disproved; but because it was suitable that there should be such a trial of the obedience of him whom God had made the ruler of his own will, the lord and the head of his own voluntary sets. Nor was permission instituted to this end, that it might be seen what the creature could do, if the Divine aid and government over him, should cease for a time, both because the Divine aid and government was not deficient, and because it was already certain that man could do nothing without the government and general aid of God, and nothing good without the special aid of His grace.
That "God was not the cause of that defection" is a Theological axiom. But you, by removing those acts, do not remove the cause of the defection from the Deity. For God can be regarded as the cause of sin, either by affirmative or negative acts. You, indeed, take from Him the affirmative acts, namely, the inclining of the mind to sin, the infusion of wickedness, and the deprivation of the gift, already bestowed, but you attributed to Him a negative act, the denial or non-bestowal of strengthening grace. If this strengthening grace was necessary to the avoidance of sin, then, by that act of denial, God became the Author of sin and of Adam’s fall. But if you attribute the denial or the non-bestowal of strengthening grace to God, not absolutely, but on account of the transgression of Adam, because he did not seek the Divine aid, I approve what you say, if you concede that it was in the power of Adam to seek that aid; otherwise it was denied to him to seek that also, and so we go on without end.
You say—"There are two parts or species of predestination, the decree of Election and that of Reprobation," concerning which it must be stated that one can not exist without the other, and that, one being supposed, the other must be also. This is signified by the word election, otherwise, predestination may be considered per se and without an opposite, and so all men universally would be predestinated unto life. In that case, there would be no election, which includes the idea of reprobation, as united to it by a necessary consequence and copula. Election and Reprobation are opposed to each other both affirmatively and negatively. Negatively, because election refers to the act of the will by which grace and glory are conferred, reprobation, that by which they are not conferred. Affirmatively, since reprobation refers to the act of the will, which inflicts punishment on account of sin.
It is worthy of consideration that God, both in the decree of Election and in that of Reprobation, was concerned with men considered as sinners. For the grace which was provided by election or predestination, is the grace of the remission of sins, and the renewal of the Holy Ghost; and the glory which He has prepared by the same decree, is out of the ignominy to which man was liable on account of sin. Reprobation, also, is a denial of that grace and a preparation of the punishment due to sin, not in that it was due, but that it was, through mercy, not taken away. Isidorus and Angelomus, quoted by you, express this condition of the object both of Election and Reprobation. The former, when be says—"the reprobate are left, and predestinated to death," the latter, when he says that—of "the unbelieving people some are predestinated to everlasting freedom, but others are left in their own impiety, and condemned to perpetual death by occult dispensation, and occult judgment."
Your definition of Election is obscure from the want of some word. It seems that the phrase to be illustrated ought to have been added, thus: "The decree of election is that by which God destines certain men to His glorious grace to be illustrated in their salvation and heavenly life, obtained through Christ," otherwise the phraseology is not sufficiently complete. But the definition, even when completed, in that way, seems to me to have been, ineptly arranged, as the parts are not arranged according to their mutual relations. For "salvation" and "heavenly life" hold the relation of the material prepared for the decree of election; "certain men" hold the place of the object or subject for which that salvation is prepared; the "illustration of His glorious grace" is the end of election;
"Christ" is here made the means of obtaining that salvation and life. The order of all these in the definition according to their mutual relations, ought to be, -- "The decree of election is that, by which God destined certain men to salvation and heavenly life, to be obtained through Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace." In this definition, however, Christ does not seem to me to obtain that place, which he deserves, and which the Apostle assigns to him. For Christ according to the Apostle is not only the means by which the salvation, already prepared by election, but, so to speak, the meritorious cause, in respect to which the election was made, and on whose account that grace was prepared. For the apostle says that we are chosen in Christ (Ephes. i. 4), as in a mediator, in whose blood salvation and life is obtained for us, and as in our "head," (Ephes. i. 22) from whom those blessings flow to us. For God chooses no one unto eternal life except in Christ, who prepared it by his own blood for them who should believe on his name. From this it seems to follow that, since God regards no one in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faith, election is peculiar to believers, and the phrase "certain men," in the definition, refers to believers. For Christ is a means of salvation to no one unless he is apprehended by faith. Therefore, that phrase "in Christ" marks the meritorious cause by which grace and glory are prepared, and the existence of the elect in him, without which they could not be elected in him. The definition, then, is susceptible of this form. "Election is the decree of God, by which, of Himself, from eternity, He decreed to justify in (or through) Christ, believers, and to accept them unto eternal life, to the praise of His glorious grace." But you will say, "Then faith is made dependent on the human will, and is not a gift of divine grace." I deny that sequence, for there was no such statement in the definition. I acknowledge that the cause of faith was not expressed, but that was unnecessary. If any one denies it, there may be added after "believers" the phrase "to whom He determined to give faith." But we should observe whether, in our method of consideration, the decree, by which God determined to justify believers and adopt them as sons, is the same with that by which He determined to bestow faith on some, but to deny the same to others. This seems to me not very probable. For there are, here, two purposes, each determined by the certain decree of God; their subjects are also diverse, and different attributes are assigned to them. I think that this ought to have been noticed in treating correctly of the Order and Mode of Predestination. I do not much object to your statement that "the act of the divine mind is two-fold, regarding the end, and the means to the end, or to salvation," but that remark does not seem correct to me, in which you say that "the former is commonly called the decree, and the latter the execution of the decree"—for such is your marginal annotation—each of these is an act of the decree, as you acknowledge; but an act of the decree is internal, and precedes its execution whether it is in reference to the end or the means. The passage in Romans 9, does not favour your idea as you claim. For it not distinguish the purpose from election, nor does it make the election prior to the purpose of damning of conferring salvation, but it says that the purpose is "according to election," not without election or apart from election, as is clearly evident from the words of the apostle. For they are as follows—"i[na hJ kat ejklogh<n tou~ Qeou~ proqesiv menh| " that the purpose of God according to election might stand," from which it is apparent that, by these words, is described the purpose of God, which is "according to election."
But that this may be more plainly understood, we may examine briefly the design and the scope of the apostle. The Jews objected that they, by virtue of the covenant and the divine word, committed to them, were the peculiar people of God, and, therefore, that honour could not be taken away from them, without the disgrace and the violation of the divine decree. They asserted, however, that the honour referred to, and the title of the people of God was taken from them by the Apostle Paul, when he made those only, who should believe in the Christ whom he preached, partakers of the righteousness of God, and of eternal salvation. Since they had not believed in that Christ, it followed, according to the doctrine of the apostle, that they were strangers to the righteousness of God and eternal salvation, and unworthy to be longer considered the people of God. But since they considered this to be contrary to the decree and the covenant of God, they concluded that it was, at the same time, absurd and foreign to the truth. The apostle answers that the covenant, decree, or word of God hath not "taken none effect," (verse 6), but remains firm, even if many of the Jews should not be reckoned among the people of God, because that decree or covenant did not comprehend all Israelites, universally without election and distinction; for that decree was "according to election," as set forth in those words of God announcing his purpose. For God said "In Isaac," not in Ishmael, "shall thy seed be called." Also "The elder," Esau, "shall serve the younger," Jacob. The apostle asserts that God declared most clearly in these words, that He did not regard the whole progeny of Abraham, or that of Isaac, or of Jacob, or all of their individual descendants, as His people, but only those who were "the children of the promise" to the exclusion of "the children of the flesh." The Apostle reasons, most conclusively from those words of God, that the purpose of God is according to election, and that it, therefore, embraces, in itself, not all the Israelites, but, while it claims some, it rejects others. From which it follows that it is not wonderful or contrary to the purpose or covenant of God, that some of the Jews are rejected by God, and those indeed, who are specially excluded by that decree according to those words of God, as "the children of the flesh," i.e. those who were seeking to be justified "by the works of the law" and according to the flesh. Compare Rom. ix. 7-11 and 30-32, also x, 3-5 with ch. iv, 1-3.
In Romans viii. 29, those acts—I refer now to the decree and the execution of the decree—are clearly distinguished. In the decree two things are mentioned, foreknowledge and predestination, "for whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son." It is inquired—what is the import of this foreknowledge or prescience? Some explain it thus: -- "whom He foreknew," i.e. whom He previously loved, and affectionately regarded as His own, as indeed the simple word "to know" is sometimes used, as "I know you not." (Matt. xxv. 12.) "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous." (Psalm i. 6.) Others say that foreknowledge, or prescience of faith in Christ, is here signified. You assent to the former, and reject the latter, and with good reason, if it has the meaning, which you ascribe to it. But it is worthy of consideration whether the latter meaning of the work "foreknow" may not be so explained, as not only not to impinge upon the former, but also to harmonize with it most completely so that the former cannot be true without the latter. This will be evident, if it shall be demonstrated that God can "previously love and affectionately regard as His own" no sinner unless He has foreknown him in Christ, and looked upon him as a believer in Christ.
To prove this I proceed thus: -- God acknowledges, as His own, no sinner, and He chooses no one to eternal life except in Christ, and for the sake of Christ. "He hath chosen us in Him," (Ephes. i. 4); "wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved," (verse 6). "Nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. viii. 39). "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." (2 Cor. v. 19).
For, if God could will to any one eternal life, without respect to the Mediator, He could also give eternal life, without the satisfaction made by the Mediator. The actual bestowment of eternal life is not more limited, than the purpose to bestow it. God truly loved the world, and, on account of that love, gave His own Son as its Redeemer. (John iii. 16). But the love, here spoken of, is not that by which He wills eternal life, as appears from the very expression of John—for he interposes faith in Christ between that love and eternal life. Hence God acknowledges no one, in Christ and for Christ’s sake, as His own, unless that person is in Christ. He who is not in Christ, can not be loved in Christ. But no one is in Christ, except by faith; for Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, and we are engrafted and incorporated in him by faith. It follows then that God acknowledges His own, and chooses to eternal life no sinner, unless He considers him as a believer in Christ, and as made one with him by faith. This is proved by the following testimonies:
"As many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John i. 12.) But to those, to whom He gave this power, and to them, considered in one and the same manner, He also decreed to give this power, since the decree of Predestination effects nothing in him who is predestinated, and there is, therefore, no internal change in him, intervening between the decree and the actual bestowment of the thing, destined and prepared by the decree. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." (John iii. 16). "They which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." (Gal. iii. 9.) "Without faith it is impossible to please him." (Heb. xi. 6.) Hence he is not in error who says that foreknowledge or prescience of faith in Christ is signified in Rom. viii. 29, unless he adds the assertion that the faith, referred to, results from our own strength and is not produced in us by the free gift of God.
The same explanation is proved true from the following member: "whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of He Son." No one is conformed to the image of the Son of God if he does not believe on him.
Therefore, no one is predestinated by God to that conformity, unless he is considered as a believer, unless one may claim that faith itself is included in that conformity which believers have with Christ—which would be absurd, because that faith can by no means be attributed to Christ, for it is faith in him, and in God through him; it is faith in reference to reconciliation, redemption, and the remission of sins. It is true, also, since it is the means of attaining that conformity. But you say, -- "They, who are predestinated to be justified and to become the sons of God, are also predestinated to believe, since adoption and justification are received by faith." I deny that consequence; indeed I assert that just the contrary can be concluded from that argument, if the act of predestination is one and the same. This I will prove: -- If adoption and justification is received by faith, then they, who are predestinated to be justified and to become the sons of God, are, of necessity, considered as believers. For that, which is destined to any one by Predestination, will certainly be received by him. And as he is when he receives it, such he was considered to be, when he was predestinated to receive it. Therefore, the believer alone was predestinated to receive it. From which I again conclude, that no one is chosen by God to adoption and the communication of the gift of righteousness, unless he is considered by Him as a believer. You add—"It cannot be said correctly, that God foreknew that men would believe, and then predestinated them to faith, since those, whom He foreknew to believe, He thus foreknew because He decreed that they should believe. But what relation has this to the matter. Such an affirmation is not made by the defenders of the sentiment to which I have referred. You confound two kinds of Predestination, and unite together acts of a different character. The Predestination in which God decreed to justify and adopt as sons believers in Christ, is not the same with that, in which He decreed, by certain means, to give faith to these and not to those. For the decree, is in this case, concerning the bestowment of faith in that, concerning the justification and adoption of believers; which, can not, indeed, be the same decree, on account of the diversity of the subject and the attribute. Otherwise it is true, that "God first foreknew that men would believe, and then predestinated them to faith." For He foreknew that they would believe by His own gift, which decree was prepared by Predestination. These things, having been thus plainly set forth, may throw some light on this whole discussion, in reference to Predestination. This we will do, at greater extent, hereafter, when we shall subjoin our own view of the mode and order of Predestination.
Those testimonies, which you cite from the Fathers and School-men, can be very easily harmonized with what has been said by us, yet to avoid prolixity, I will dispense with that labour. One thing, however, I will observe; namely, that the explanation of Peter Lombardus, however true it may be elsewhere, it is not adapted to the passage in Rom. viii. 29. For the Apostle has there presented the object of Predestination, (conformity to the image of Christ,) in a different light from that in which it is set forth or presented by Lombardus, namely, "that they should believe the word preached unto them." I will add, also, that you do not rightly conclude, because the word foreknowledge is used elsewhere by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of God, that, in the passage under discussion, it can not signify prescience of faith.
Further, in the decree of election, you refer to two acts, one "the purpose of choosing certain men to His love and grace, by which choice, men are made vessels of mercy and honour;" the other, "the purpose of saving, or of the bestowment of glory. This is not an unimportant distinction, if all things are correctly understood. For those things, which God prepares in election, are contained in grace and glory. But your statement—"Some, by the divine purpose, were chosen to the eternal love of God," must be explained to refer to that communication of love, by which God determined to communicate Himself to some.
If you regard, in a different light, that love of God which embraces us, it must be considered as preceding, in the order of nature, that decree or the Divine purpose by which grace and glory are prepared for us, grace, I say, which is the means of attaining to glory. Otherwise if you understand, by that word, the gracious disposition of God towards us, it coincides with the love of God, and is to be placed above the purpose or decree of God as its cause. This also is indicated by the order of the predicaments (in the logical sense of that word). For the purpose or decree is placed in the predicament of Action, the gracious affection and love, in the preceding predicament of Quality. This is evident from Ephes. i. 5-6, where God is said to have predestinated and adopted us "to the praise of the glory of His grace." If grace, then, is to receive praise from those acts, it must be placed before them as their cause.
Your position that "men to be created," are the object of the former purpose is not correct. For we are now treating of the subject, not as it is, in itself—for we know that the eternal purpose of God is antecedent to the actual existence of man—but as it is presented to the divine mind, in the act of decree, and in that of Predestination. If the object of that purpose is considered with that limitation, it is certain that men, not" to be created," but "already created, and sinners,"—that is, in the divine mind—are the object of the divine purpose and Predestination. This is evident, from the love and gracious affection from which, and the grace to which he chose them. For that love is in Christ; in him is that gracious affection of God towards us; the grace which is prepared for us as a saving means, has place in Christ, and not elsewhere. This you have, with sufficient clearness, signified, when you said that men, in that grace to which He chose them, were made vessels of mercy;" which word is misplaced, except when wretchedness and sin have preceded it.
But if you think of the love and gracious affection of God, as in God apart from any consideration of Christ, I shall deny that the purpose and decree of Predestination was instituted and established by God, according to those things, so considered, and I shall claim from you the proof, which, in my judgment, you will not be able to give, both because the love of God towards those "to be created" is uniform towards all, for in Adam all were created without any difference, and because that love and gracious affection, by which the purpose of Predestination was executed, saves with certainty, the predestinated; but the predestinated are not saved by that love and affection, considered out of Christ. If you say that the love and gracious affection in God is the same, whether considered in Christ or out of Christ, I admit it: but man, "to be created," and man "having been created, and a sinner," are the same man. Created, and continuing in the condition of creation, he could be saved, by obedience, of the love and gracious affection of God, considered out of Christ. As a sinner, he could not be saved, except by the same feelings, considered in Christ. If you make the sinner the object of Predestination, you ought to add to predestinating grace, a mode adapted to the sinner who is to be saved. If you do not add this, will grace, considered without that mode, be sufficient? I do not think that you will urge that the grace and love, by which a man, who is not a sinner, can be saved, and which is separate from mercy, is to be considered in Christ, and affects us on account of, and in respect to, him. If, however, you do this, I shall ask the proof. And, after all the proof which you may be able to present, it will be proper to say that Christ himself is to be here considered in different relations; in the former case, as Mediator, preserving and confirming the predestinated in the integrity of their state; in the latter, as Mediator, redeeming and renewing the same persons from the state of sin and corruption; and I will add that grace and salvation come to us, not by the former, but by the latter mediation. For he is "Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matt. i. 21.) He is "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John i. 29). He is the Redeemer of the world by his flesh given "for the life of the world" (John vi. 51); by the destruction of "the works of the devil" (1 John iii. 8, and Heb. ii. 14); and by that reconciliation, which consists "in imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." (2 Cor. v. 19).
That act, indeed, is "of the mere will of God," but not "without respect to sin in the creatures;" of sin, which is considered, not as the cause moving God to election, but as a condition, which must exist in the object of that act. And, in this sense, He does injury. to no one, if He does not elect all, since He is not under obligation to bestow mercy on any one. But He can ordain no one to punishment, without the prevision of sin, in view of any right which He possesses over His creatures. For that right is not unlimited, as many think—unlimited, I say, in such a sense that God can rightly inflict any act, possible to His omniscience, upon any creature considered in any respect, and without injustice bring upon the creature all things which the creature can suffer from his omnipotent Creator. This can be made plain by the following demonstration: Every right of God, over His creatures, depends either on the goodness of God towards His creatures, or on their wickedness towards Him, or on some contract entered into between God and His creatures. Without considering the right, which depends on contract, let us discuss the others. The right, which depends on the goodness of God, or on the wickedness of men, can not exceed the magnitude of those things severally. Man received from God, by His goodness in creation, his existence, both that of nature, and that of supernatural grace, in the latter of which is also included the power of attaining to the highest felicity, and that of a supernatural nature, which God promised to man on the condition of obedience. The opposite of this highest felicity is the deepest misery into which the same man would fall, justly and according to divine right, if he should transgress that law. Hence, exists the right of God over man, in that he is a creature, according to which He can take from him that very being which He has given, and reduce it to its pristine Nothing. Hence, also, He can not have the right to condemn to eternal punishment a man unless he has become a sinner. For these four things—existence, non-existence, happiness, misery—are so mutually connected, that, as happiness is better than existence, so misery is worse than non-existence. This, Christ signified when he said "good were it for man if he had never been born" (Mark xiv. 21). Therefore, the divine right does not permit that He should inflict misery on man, to whom He has given existence, except on the commission of that, by the opposite of which he could obtain felicity, the opposite of that wretchedness. Hence, if He should not elect all, He would do injustice to no one, if the non-elect should be only deprived of the good to which they had no claim; but injustice would be done to them, if, by non-election or reprobation, they must suffer evil which they had not deserved. The right of God does not so far extend itself over them.
There seems to have been need of this explanation, otherwise, we must, of necessity, far into many absurdities, and impinge on the righteousness of God. This, Augustine also, admits, in many passages. I will quote one or two: "God is good, God is just; He can deliver some without merit, because He is good;
He can not damn any one without demerit, because He is just." (In Julian, lib. 3, cap. 18.) "If it is believed that God damns any one, who does not deserve it, and is chargeable with no sin, it is not believed that He is far from iniquity." (Epistola 106, ad Paulinum.)
I may be permitted, with your leave, to note some things in the explanation of the second act, which seem to have been propounded by you with too little accuracy. For, when you, here, change the formal relation of the object, and consider men, under this act, as "about to fall," whom, under the first act, you presented as "about to be created," you seem to do it with no good reason. For, in your mode of considering the subject, men "to be created" are the object of both acts. But if all things are duly weighed, the object in both is, in fact, men as sinners, neither more in the former than in the latter, nor more in the latter than in the former act. Nor was it necessary to use the participle of future time, since the discussion is, here, concerning the act of the divine mind to which all things are present. I pass over the fact that the ordination to salvation depends on the fall, as the occasion of making that decree, wherefore, you should have said "fallen," not "about to fall." I could wish, also, that there might be an explanation how that act, which is the purpose of saving and of bestowing of glory, is the same with the act under which they are ordained, on whom that glory is bestowed, and to whom it is manifested; also, how the second act, namely, the purpose of saving, pertains to the execution and completion of the former purpose, namely, that by which He chooses some to His own love and grace.
That "the act referred to has no preparative cause, out of the good-pleasure of God," is true, only let Christ be duly included in that divine good-pleasure. To this, you seem, indeed, to assent, when you say "that act is in respect to Christ, the Mediator, in whom we are all elected to grace and salvation."
But when you so explain your meaning that we are said to be elected, in Christ, to grace and salvation, "because he is the foundation of the execution of election," you again destroy what you have said. For, if Christ is only the foundation of the execution of election, the election itself is made without respect to Christ in the decree of God, preceding, in fact, the execution of it. It can not be said, then, that we are elected in him to grace and salvation, but only that we, having, out of Christ, been previously elected to grace and salvation, are by Christ made partakers of them. But the Scriptures make Christ the foundation not only of the execution, but of the act of election. For He is, according to the Scriptures, Mediator, not only in the efficacy of the application, but in the merit of obtainment; wherefore, also, when they speak of Christ, the Scriptures affirm that grace and eternal life are bestowed upon us, not only through him, but on account of him, and in him. The direct relation is first presented, because God can not love the sinner unto eternal life, except in Christ, and on account of Christ, since the justice of God requires that reconciliation should be made by the blood of Christ.
The sum of the whole is, that both acts, that of choosing to grace and the love of God, as well as that of the bestowment of glory and the preparation of the means necessary to salvation, depends upon Christ as their only foundation—upon Christ, ordained by God to be High Priest and Mediator by the blood of his cross, the saviour from sins, the Redeemer from the bondage of sin and Satan, the Author and Giver of eternal salvation. Therefore, neither of those acts is in reference to men as "to be created," but both of them in reference to them, as "fallen sinners, and needing the grace of the remission of sins and the renewing of the Holy Spirit."
Those "five degrees" are well considered as mutually dependent, but they can not all be attributed, nor are they all subordinate to the "second act;" nor yet, indeed, to the first act. For the first three, namely, the "appointment of the Mediator, the promise of him, as appointed, and the presentation of him, as promised" are in the order of nature and of causes antecedent to all predestination of men to grace and glory. For Christ, appointed, promised, presented, yet more, having accomplished the work of reconciliation, having obtained eternal redemption, and having procured the Holy Spirit, is the head of all those who are predestinated in him unto salvation, not yet, in the order of nature, predestinated, but to be predestinated. For Christ is the head; we are the members. He was, first, in the order of nature, predestinated to be the head, then we to be the members. He was first, ordained to be the saviour, then we were ordained, in him, to be saved for his sake and in him. He inverts the order laid down in the Scripture, who says "God first predestinated men, and then ordained Christ to be the head of those predestinated." It need not be inquired, with much prolixity, why many have conceived that the order should be inverted, yet I think that some passages of the Scripture, in which the love of God towards men is said to be the cause of the mission of his Son, on the one hand, and on the other, that, other passages, in which Christ is said to gather together and to bring to salvation the children of God, and the elect, have given occasion for a conception of this kind—an occasion, not a just cause. For that love is not the cause of predestination, and it has no necessary connection with predestination, and Christ is not only the saviour of those, who have been elected and adopted as Sons by God, but he is also the Mediator and head in whom the election and adoption were made. This I have already often said. Your definition of the "appointment of the Mediator" was not sufficiently complete, for the condition of men was omitted, in reference to which the whole matter of Mediation was arranged. The passage which you have cited from 1 Peter i. 18-20, might admonish you of this. For Christ is there said to be the foreordained Mediator who redeemed us by his own "precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish, from vain conversation." The word "sinners" ought to have been added. For Christ was ordained to be Mediator, not between God and men absolutely considered, but between God and men considered as sinners. From this, I may also deduce a proof of what I have already argued in reference to the object of predestination. For if Christ is Mediator for sinners, then it follows that no one is loved, in Christ the Mediator, unless he is a sinner. Therefore, no one is predestinated in Christ, unless he is a sinner.
It seems to me that there is, also, some confusion in your discussion of "the promise of the Mediator". For the promise is considered either as the pure revelation of the decree to give and send the Mediator, or as having, united with it, the offering of the Mediator, who was to be given, with all his benefits. The former is a mere prediction of the advent of the Messiah himself, antecedent to his mission. The latter is the offering of the Messiah, in reality to come at a future time, but, in the decree of God, having already discharged the office of Mediator, pertaining, with the gifts obtained by the discharge of the office, to the application of its benefits. In this latter respect, it is made subordinate to predestination. Considered in the former respect, it precedes, not predestination, it is true, for that is from eternity, but the execution of predestination. The revelation, without the offering, consists in these words, "I will give a Mediator to the world;" but the offering in these words "Believe in the Mediator, whom I will give unto the world, and you shall obtain salvation in him." By that revelation and prediction, God binds Himself to offer the Mediator to the world, whether it should believe or not; but by that offering He demands faith, and by the internal persuasion of the Holy Spirit, added thereto, He effects faith and binds Himself to give salvation to the believer. It appears from this, that the promise is to be considered with this distinction, that in the former part, only, it is antecedent to the mission of the Messiah, but in the latter part it pertains to the execution of predestination.
Let us now, passing over that distinction of the promise and the offering, consider the universality of the promise, and the offering, taken jointly and in connection. Its universality is not to be measured by the degree of faith. For faith is posterior to the promise and the offering, as it marks the apprehension and embraces the application of the promise. But a distinction must be made between the promise and offering made by God, with the act of man which apprehends the promise, which is faith, and that act of God which applies, to the believer, that which is promised and offered. The promise and the offering extends itself to all who are called, -- called by the external preaching of the gospel, whether they obey its call or not. For even they received an invitation, who "would not come" to the marriage, and were, therefore, judged unworthy by God, (Matt. xxii. 2-8), since they "rejected the counsel of God against themselves," (Luke vii. 30), and by the rejection of the promise, made themselves unworthy (Acts xiii. 46). It is not that unworthiness, in accordance with which all sinners are alike unworthy, as the Centurion, and the publican, who are, nevertheless, said to have had faith, and to have obtained the remission of their sins from Christ; from which they are, in the Scripture, called "worthy" (Rev. iii. 4). But the passages of Scripture which are cited by you, do not limit the promise made, but the application by faith of the promised thing, with the exception of the second, Matt. xi. 28, which contains only an invitation to Christ, with the added promise of rest, as an inducement to come, but in reality not to be given, unless they should come to Christ.
You say also, that "an exhortation or command to believe is joined with the promise, and that this is more general than the promise." In this last assertion you are, in my judgment, in an error. For the promise, as made, and the command to believe are equally extensive in their relation. If the promise does not refer to all, to whom the command to believe is given, the command is unjust, vain, and useless. It is unjust, Since it demands that a man should have faith in the promise, not generally, that it pertains to some persons, but specially, that it was made for himself. But the promise was not made for him, if the command is more extensive than the promise. This command is vain, since it is in reference to nothing. It commands one to believe, but presents no object of faith, that promise which is the only object of faith, having been taken away. For which reason, also, the command is useless. It can in no way be performed by him, to whom the promise, as made, does not pertain. Indeed, should he attempt to obey the command to believe, he would effect nothing else than the conception in his mind of a false opinion of a falsity. For since the promise was not made to him, he can not believe that it was made for him, but only think so, and that falsely. The Scripture, however, every where represents the promise and the command to believe as of equal extent. "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you and to your children, &c." (Acts ii. 38, 39.) "Come unto me all ye that labour" the command; "and I will give you rest," the promise, made to all who are commanded to come (Matt. xi. 28). "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink," the command; "He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," the promise, made to all who are commanded to come to Christ and drink (John vii. 37, 38). Perhaps some may prefer to join the phrase "drink" to the promise, in this way, "if any one thirst, let him come unto me; if he shall do this, he shall drink so abundantly that out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." But explained in this way, it equally answers my present purpose.
You may say that you make the promise, in respect, not to its presentation, but to its application, of narrower extent than the command to believe. This, indeed, is correct. But the comparison is then incongruous. As, in the promise, three things are to be considered, as we said before, the promise made. faith exercised in the promise made, and the gift or application of the promised good, so, also, in the command, three things are included, the command itself, the obedience yielded to the command, and the reward bestowed on obedience. These three things, in each, answer severally to their corresponding opposites; the promise, as made, to the command; faith exercised in the promise, to the obedience yielded to the command; the gift or application of the promised good, to the reward bestowed on obedience. It was suitable that you should have instituted the comparison in this way. If you had done so, you would not have made the command more general than the promise; unless in this way, that the command is to be considered more general than the remuneration, which is bestowed on obedience. But who does not know that the promise is made to many, by whom it is not apprehended by faith, and that the command is addressed to many, by whom it is not obeyed? Hence you can perceive that it was not fitly said—"the promise relates to believers, (that is, the promise, not as merely made, but as applied, for the promise in the latter sense is antecedent to faith); and "the command relates to believers and to non-believers." It belongs to neither. The command is prior to faith, demands faith, and prohibits unbelief.
But what are those things which follow? You seem, most learned Perkins, to be forgetful of yourself, and to be entirely a different person from him whom you have displayed in other of your published works. Again and again I intreat you to be patient with me, as I shall discuss these points with candour and mildness.
First, observe the coherence of that, which follows, with that, which precedes. "For the elect are mingled with the wicked in the same assemblies." What then? Is the promise, as made, therefore, less extensive than the command to believe? You answer affirmatively, for the reason that the promise relates to the elect only, the command pertains to the elect and to the wicked. I reply, that the promise, as made and proposed by God, relates not to the elect only, but to the wicked, whom you place in opposition to the elect: and that the command, is not imposed either on the elect or on those opposed to them, except with the promise joined. I think that I see what you mean, namely, that, as the promise is not applied except to the elect, so also the same is not proposed except to the elect, that is: according to the divine mind and purpose. How this may be, we shall see hereafter. Meanwhile, I make the same remark in reference to the command. As the command, by which faith is not obeyed except by the elect, so, also, it is not proposed except to the elect, that is, according to the divine mind and purpose. For as, in the former case, the promise is proposed to the non-elect, without the divine purpose of applying the promise; so in the latter case, the command is proposed to the non-elect, without the divine purpose that they should fulfill or obey the command. If, on account of the absence of the divine efficacy, you think that the promise is not made to the non-elect, on account of the absence of the divine efficacy, I affirm, also, that the command is not imposed on the non-elect. The fact is the same in reference to both. We will, hereafter, more filly discuss that matter.
Secondly, the phrases "elect" and "wicked" are unsuitably placed in opposition to each other, since with the former, "reprobate," and with the latter, "pious," should have been contrasted, according to the rule of opposition. But here the opposition of the two things is unsuitable, since, in one of the opposites, the other is also comprehended. For the wicked, in this case, may comprehend also the elect. For it refers to those who are commanded, in the exhortation of the ministers of the word, to repent. But repentance is prescribed only to the wicked and to sinners, whether they are elect or reprobate, though with a contrary result in each case. I now speak of the call to repentance.
Thirdly, you seem to me to limit the office of ministers to the mere calling of sinners to repentance, excluding the presentation of the promise, which is another part of the message entrusted to them. For they say—"Repent and believe the gospel, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Finally, of what importance is it, whether they know, or do not know, "who, and how many are elect and to be converted"? "Then," you will say, "they might arrange their sermons, and present them to each person with an adaptation to his state." This I deny. For Christ knew and understood that Judas was a reprobate, and yet he did not arrange his sermons differently on his account. The preachers of the word must not desist from the functions of their office in any assembly, as long as they may be permitted to discharge them, and there are those who are willing to hear. But when they are cast out, and none whatever listen to their word, they are commanded by Christ to depart, and to shake off the very dust from their feet as a testimony against them. From this it appears, that their rule of teaching and exhorting is not an internal knowledge, which they can have, of the election of some and the reprobation of others, but the external obedience or contumacy of those whom they teach, whether they be elect or reprobate.
You add, moreover, the cause, in view of which, "God wills that they should be admonished to repent, who, as He sees, never will repent, namely, that they may be left without excuse." But this, I say, is neither the only object, nor the chief object, nor the object per se, but incidentally, and the event rather than the object, except in a certain respect, as we shall see. It is not the only object, since there is another, that they should be admonished of their duty, and invited and incited to faith and conversion, "not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth them to repentance" (Rom. ii. 4); also that God may satisfy Himself, and His own love towards His own creatures also, by that exercise of long suffering and patience. "What more could have been done to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?" (Isa. v. 4.) "God endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction," (Rom. ix. 22.)
These two objects are, also, of far greater importance than that of rendering the impenitent inexcusable; therefore that is not the chief object. It is not the object per se, because the admonition does not render them inexcusable, unless it is despised and rejected, but this result of the admonition depends on the wickedness of those called. God does not will this result, unless He also foreknows that future admonition will be useless through the wickedness, not through the infirmity, of those who are admonished, and unless He has already frequently invited them in vain to repentance, as in Isa. vi. 10, "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy," &c. For a distinction should be made between the admonition, as first addressed to a person, and as repeated the second or third time, and the final presentation of the same, after long contumacy. For the former is done through grace and mercy to miserable sinners, the latter through wrath against the obstinate, who, having hardened themselves by their own sin, have made themselves worthy of divine hardening. Therefore the rendering them inexcusable is rather the event of the admonition than an object proposed to the Deity, except against the obstinate, and those who are incorrigible through their own voluntary wickedness. This event deservedly, indeed, results from that rejected admonition, as the admonition becomes a savour of death unto death to those who were unwilling that it should be to themselves a savour of life unto life, that it might become against them a testimony of contumacy, as they refused to have the remedy of repentance, that they might endure the just and punitive will of God, who refused to obey His merciful and benevolent will.
But some one may reply that no other end was proposed to the Deity, in the exhortation, than that they should be indeed inexcusable, both because God, in the decree of reprobation, determined not to give the repentance and faith, which they could not have, except by His gift, and because God obtained no other end than that of rendering them inexcusable, and yet He is never frustrated in His design. These arguments seem, indeed, to be of some value, and to present no little difficulty, and if they can be fitly answered, by the use of necessary analysis and explanation, there is no doubt but that much light and clearness may in this way be thrown upon the whole subject of which we treat. I will endeavour to do what I may be able, trusting in divine grace, and depending on the aid of the Holy Spirit. Do you, my friend Perkins, assist me, and if you shall desire any thing, which may not be presented by me in the discussion, kindly mention it. I pledge myself that you will find me susceptible of admonition and correction, and ready to give my hand to the truth, when proved to be so. It will facilitate the discussion, if I arrange both the arguments with the parts of the subject under discussion in the form of a syllogism, and then examine the parts of the syllogism by the rule of the truth. That which belongs to the former argument may, in my judgment, be arranged thus: Those to whom God by a fixed decree has determined not to give repentance and faith, He does not admonish to repent and believe with any other object, than that they should be rendered inexcusable; -- But God has determined, in the decree of reprobation, not to give repentance and faith to the reprobate; -- Therefore, when God admonishes the reprobate to repent and believe, He does it with no other object than that they should be rendered inexcusable.
I reply to the Major; -- It seems to depend on a false hypothesis. For it presupposes that "God, by the external preaching of the gospel, admonishes some to repent and believe, to whom He has determined by a fixed decree not to give repentance and faith." This proposition seems to me to disagree with the truth.
In the first place, because it inverts the order of the divine decrees and acts. For the decree, by which God determined to exhort some to repentance and faith, by the external preaching of the gospel, precedes the decree of the non-bestowment of repentance and faith. For the former pertains to the will of God, in the relation of antecedent, the latter, in that of consequent. This can be proved from many, and very clear passages of the Scripture. In Isaiah 6, hardening and blinding is denounced against those who refuse to obey "the calling of God," as appears from the fifth chapter. The Apostle Paul manifestly agrees with this in Acts xxviii. 26, 27, citing the declaration of Isaiah against those Jews who did not believe. Again, it is said, "My people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own heart’s lust; and they walked in their own counsels" (Psalm lxxx. 11-12). In Hosea i. 6, the Israelites are called "not beloved," or "not having obtained mercy," "and not the people of God," only, after they had merited that rejection by the foul crime of unbelief and idolatry. "The Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him" (Luke vii. 30. "Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts xiii. 46).
The Jews are said in Romans ix. 22, to have "stumbled at that stumbling stone," because they had not sought to be justified by faith in Christ, but by the works of the law. In 1 Peter ii. 7, 8, Christ is said to be "a rock of offense, even them which stumble at the word, being disobedient." From this it appears that the decree of blinding and hardening, of the non-bestowment of the grace of repentance and faith, pertain to the decree of God, in the relation of consequent, depending on the foresight of incredulity, disobedience and contumacy. This proposition, then, ought to be enunciated thus, the subject being changed into the attribute, and vice versa; -- "God determined, by a fixed decree, not to give repentance and faith to those who, as He foresaw, would reject, in their wickedness and contumacy, the preaching of the gospel, by which they should be called to repentance and faith." It does not, indeed, follow from this, that God decreed to give faith to those whom He foresaw to be obedient. For there is a wide difference between the acts of divine mercy and divine justice. For the latter have their cause in men, the former have their occasion, indeed, from men, but their cause from God alone. This is the purport of that passage from Augustine, (Book 1, to Simplicianus, Ques. 2), "Esau did not will or run; but if he had willed or run, he would have found God to be his helper, who would even have effected that he should will and run by calling him, unless he had become reprobate by the rejection of the call." In the second place, because it charges God with hypocrisy, as if He would demand, by an admonition to faith made to such persons, from them, that they should believe in Christ, whom He had, nevertheless, made to them, not a saviour, not a savour of life unto life, unto the resurrection, but a savour of death unto death, a rock of offense, which charge must be contradicted both in its statement and proof.
If any assert that God demands faith not of them, but of the elect, who are mingled with the reprobates, but that this admonition, being presented by the ministers of the world, ignorant who may be the elect, and who reprobate, is to be presented also, to them, I shall reply that such can not be called "disobedient," because they do not obey an admonition, not made to themselves. If, however, that hypothesis is false, then the argument which follows is of no weight, since it is presupposed on both sides, that God does exhort to repentance and faith, those to whom He has determined not to give repentance and faith. For if He does not exhort such to repentance, He does not exhort them to any end, either that they may be rendered inexcusable, or any other.
It is in no way unfavourable to my reply, that the decree of reprobation was made from eternity. For we must consider what is the first external act, either negative or affirmative, towards, or in reference to a man, reprobate from eternity by the internal act of God. For the first external act, towards, or in reference to a man, when really existing, makes him reprobate in fact, as the internal act of God makes him reprobate in the mind and counsel of God, that is, as is commonly said, a distinction is to be made between the decree and its execution. It is certain that a man can not be called a reprobate in fact, in reference to whom God has not yet, by an external act, begun to execute the decree of reprobation.
I also remark, that the Major seems to me to be at variance with the truth, because it regards those who are reprobate, as being rendered inexcusable, while the order should be inverted, and those who are inexcusable should be made reprobates. For reprobation is just, and therefore, the reprobate must have been inexcusable before the act of reprobation; inexcusable in fact, before the external act of reprobation, and, foreseen or foreknown as inexcusable before the decree of reprobation. If they were reprobate on account of original sin, they were inexcusable on this account; if reprobate on account of their unbelief and rejection of Christ, they were inexcusable on account of that unbelief, &c.
I reply to the same Major that it is not possible that the exhortation is made, only to this end, that it might render one, who should hear it, inexcusable, and should, in fact and of right, render him inexcusable. For the exhortation renders its hearer inexcusable, not as it is heard, but as it is rejected. Moreover a rejection, which must render the person, who rejects, inexcusable, ought not to be inevitable. But the rejection of the exhortation, which is here discussed, is inevitable. First, because the exhortation is addressed to one in reference to whom God has already been employed in the external act of reprobation. But such a man can not avoid disobedience, according to the sayings of Christ. "Therefore, they could not believe, because that Esaias saith again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, &c. (John xii. 39-40.) Secondly, since it is only presented to the end that it may be rejected. But this presentation is of the will of God, in the relation of consequent, which is always fulfilled, and attains its end.
Therefore, that rejection is inevitable. As then the Major is false in these three respects, it follows that the conclusion from the syllogism is not legitimate. But let us look at the Minor. For in reference to this also, and by occasion of it, there will be some things to be said which will be, in no small degree, adapted to our purposes.
The Minor was this, -- "But God has determined, in the decree of reprobation, not to give repentance and faith to the reprobate." I willingly agree to that statement, but let it be correctly understood. That it may be correctly understood, it is necessary to explain the non-bestowment or denial of repentance and faith, which is established by the decree of reprobation. For there is another denial of repentance and faith, which is administered by the decree of providence, inasmuch as this is distinguished from the decree of reprobation. If there is not an accurate distinction between these, error can not be avoided. I say, then, that it is very plain, from the Scriptures, that repentance and faith can not be exercised except by the gift of God. But the same Scripture and the nature of both gifts very clearly teach that this bestowment is by the mode of persuasion. This is effected by the word of God. But persuasion is effected, externally by the preaching of the word, internally by the operation, or rather the co-operation, of the Holy Spirit, tending to this result, that the word may be understood and apprehended by true faith. These two are almost always joined. For God has determined to save them, who believe by the preaching of the word, and the preaching of the word, without the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, is useless, and can effect nothing, as it is said "Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase" (1 Cor. iii. 7). But God does not will that His word should be preached in vain, as it is said, "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void; but shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. lv. 11).
It is in vain without the co-operation of the Holy Spirit; and it has, always joined with it, the cooperation of the Holy Spirit. For which reason, the gospel is called "the ministration of the Spirit" (2 Cor. iii. 8), and they who resist it are said "to resist the Holy Spirit," (Acts 7 & 13, and Matthew 12), not only because they oppose the external preaching administered by the command and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but also because they strive against the cooperation of the Holy Spirit. Whence, also, some are said to sin against the Holy Ghost, in that they wickedly deny, and, through their hate, persecute and blaspheme the truth of which they are persuaded in their own minds, by the persuasion of the Holy Ghost. This internal persuasion of the Holy Spirit is two-fold. It is sufficient and efficacious. In the former sense, since he, with whom it is employed, is able to consent, believe, and be converted. In the latter, because he, to whom it is applied, does consent and believe, and is converted. The former is employed, by the decree of providence, with a sure prescience that it will be rejected by the free will of man; the latter is administered by the decree of Predestination, with a sure prescience that he, to whom it is applied and addressed, will in fact consent, believe, and be converted, -- because it is applied in a way such as God knows to be adapted to the persuasion and conversion of him to whom it is applied. These remarks are made in accordance with the sentiments of Augustine. Hence also there is a two-fold denial of grace, namely, of that which is sufficient, without which he can not believe and repent, and of that which is efficacious, without which he will not repent or be converted. In the decree of reprobation, sufficient grace is not, with propriety, said to be denied, since it is bestowed on many, who are reprobate, namely, on those, who by the external preaching of the gospel, are called to faith and repentance, but efficacious grace is denied to them, namely, that grace by which they not only can believe and be converted, if they consent, but by which they also will consent, believe, and be converted, and certainly and infallibly do so.
The Minor has this meaning, -- God has determined by a sure decree of reprobation not to give to some persons repentance and faith, that is, by using with them efficacious grace, by which they will surely believe and be converted. But has not by that decree denied the grace, by which they may be able, if they will, to believe and to be converted. Indeed by another decree, namely, that of Providence, in distinction from Predestination, He has determined to give to them faith and repentance by sufficient grace, -- that is, to bestow upon them those gifts in a manner in which they may be able to receive them, by the strength given to them by God, which is necessary and sufficient for their reception. God has, therefore, ordained, by the decree of Providence, by which external preaching is addressed to those whom God foreknew as persons who would not repent or believe, to give to them, having this character, sufficient grace and the strength necessary to their faith and conversion to God. Upon this determination, also, depends the fact that they are without excuse, who are all called by sufficient grace to repentance and faith. But He further decreed not to give efficacious grace to the same persons, and this by the decree of reprobation. But their inexcusableness does not depend upon this denial of efficacious grace. If, indeed, sufficient grace should be withheld, they, who do not believe and are not converted, are deservedly excused, for the reason that, without it, they could neither believe nor be converted. But if these things are explained in this way, according to the view of Augustine, and, perhaps also, in accordance with the sense of the Scriptures, it follows that it can not be concluded that God admonishes the reprobate to repentance and faith with no other design than that they may be left without excuse. For according to the decree of providence, by which He gives to them grace sufficient to faith, and exhortation to repentance and faith is addressed and it is to this end, that they may be led to repentance and faith, and that God may satisfy His own goodness and grace, and be clear from the responsibility of their perdition. The exhortation, then, is not made according to the decree of reprobation, therefore, its design is not to be measured by the decree of reprobation.
The second can also be arranged and disposed in the form of a syllogism; God proposes to Himself in His acts, no end, without attaining it, for He never fails of His purpose; --
But God, in the admonition which He addresses to the reprobate, attains no other end than that they should be left without excuse; -- Therefore God, in that admonition, proposes no other end to Himself.
To the Major I reply that it seems to me to be simply untrue. For God has not determined all His own deeds in accordance with His own will, in the relation of consequent, which is always fulfilled, but He administers many things according to His will, in the relation of antecedent, which is not always fulfilled. Legislation, the promulgation of the Gospel, promise, threatening, admonition, rebuke are all instituted, according to the will of God, as antecedents, and by these acts He requires obedience, faith, repentance, conversion, and those acts were instituted to this end; yet God does not always attain those ends. The falsity of this proposition can be proved by the clearest passages of Scripture; "Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes" (Isa. v. 4); "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not" (Matt. xxiii. 37); "The Lord is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. iii. 9).
The Pharisees are said to have "rejected the counsel of God against themselves" (Luke vii. 30), when they might have been brought, by the preaching of John and baptism to a participation in his kingdom. But though God might fail of any particular end, yet He can not fail in His universal purpose. For, if any person should not consent to be converted and saved, God has still added, and proposed to Himself, another design, according to His will as consequent, that He should be glorified in their just condemnation.
Therefore, that this proposition may be freed from its falsity, it must be amended thus, -- God proposes to His will, as consequent, no end which He does not attain. If any one should say that it follows from this that God is either unwise and not prescient of future events, or impotent, I reply that it does not follow. For God does not always propose an end to Himself from His prescience—and further God does not always please to use His own omnipotence, to accomplish any purpose which He has proposed to Himself.
As to the Minor, it also seems to me to be chargeable with falsity. For God, by that admonition, attains another end than that they should be rendered inexcusable, namely, He satisfies His own goodness and love towards us. Add to this that, as the fact of their being without excuse arises, not from the presentment, but from the rejection of the admonition, God has not proposed to Himself their inexcusableness as an end, except after the foresight that the admonition would come to them in vain. In this view, then, their inexcusableness does not arise from the antecedent will of God, administering the admonition, but from the consequent will, furnishing the rejection of the admonition.
It follows, therefore, that a true conclusion can not be deduced from these false propositions. The words of the Abbot Joachim must be understood according to this explanation, or they will labour under the error, which we have now noticed in your words.
The command of God by which He exacts repentance and faith from those, to whom the gospel is preached, can, in no way, be at variance from the decree of God. For no will or volition of God, whatever may be its character, can be contrary to any other volition. But it may be possible that a decree may be ignorant]y assigned to God, which is at variance with His command; also, a decree of God, which is assigned to Him in the Scriptures, may be so explained, as to be necessarily at variance with the command of God. The command by which God exacts faith of any one, declares that God wills that he, on whom the command is imposed, should believe. If, now, any one ascribes any decree to God, by which He wills that the same person should not believe, then the decree is contrary to the command. For it cannot be that God should, at the same time, will things contradictory, in whatever way or with whatever distinction the will may be considered. But to believe, and not to believe are contradictory, and to will that one should believe, and to will that he, the same person, and considered in the same light, should not believe, are contradictory. The decree is of such a character, that God is said to have determined, according to it, to deny the concurrence of His general government or of His special grace, without which, as He knew, the act of faith could not be performed by him, whom, by His command, He admonishes to believe. For He, who wills to deny to any person the aid necessary to the performance of an act of faith, wills that the same person should not believe. For he, who wills in the cause, is rightly said to will, also, in the effect, resulting, of necessity, from that cause. For, as it can not be said that God wills that a person should exist longer, to whom He denies the act of preservation, so, also, it can not be said that He wills that an act should be performed by any one, to whom He denies His own concurrence and the aid, which are necessary for the performance of the act. For the act of the divine preservation is not more necessary to a man, that he may continue to exist, than the concurrence of the divine aid, in order that he may be able to exercise faith in the gospel. If, then, that purpose not to do a thing, of which you speak, marks a denial of the concurrence of God, which is necessary to the exercise of faith in the promise, it certainly impinges upon the command, and can, in no way, be harmonized with it. For that denial, being of this character, holds the relation of most general and most efficacious hindrance, as that, which is not, is hindered, that it may not become something, most efficaciously by the purpose of creation, (i.e., by a denial of its exercise), and that which is, that it may not longer exist, by the will of preservation (not being exercised). If you understand the "purpose not to do a thing," in such a sense, then, truly, you do not free the will of God from contradiction by either of your answers.
You say that "God, in His commands and promises, does not speak of all which He has decreed, but only in part manifests His own will." I grant it. But I say that whatever God says in His commands and promises, is such in its nature that He can not, without contradiction, be said to will or determine any thing, contrary to it, by any decree; for it is one thing to be silent concerning certain things which He wills, and another thing to will that which is contrary to those things which He has previously willed. It is certain, from the most general idea of command, that the whole will of God is not set forth in a command, but only that which He approves and wills to be done by us. There is no decree of God by which He wills any thing contradictory to that command.
I wish, also, that you would consider how ineptly you express what follows—What are these expressions? "God does not will the same thing alike in all. He wills conversion in some, only in respect to their trial and exhortation, and the means of conversion; in others, also: in respect to the purpose of effecting it." If you say those things in reference to the will of God as it requires conversion, they ought to have been differently expressed; if in reference to His will as it effects conversion, they ought, in that case, also, to have been differently expressed. Understood in either sense, the phraseology is not correct. But I think that you are here speaking of the will in the latter sense, according to which God does not will to effect conversion equally in all, for whom He does equally, and of the same right, require it. For, in some, He wills to effect it only by external preaching, admonition, and sufficient means, for so I explain your meaning. If this is in accordance with your views, it is well, but if not, I would wish that you would inform us what you have understood by the word "means." In others, He wills to effect it, by efficacious means, administered according to the decree of Predestination. There is here, indeed, no conflict of wills, but only different degrees of will, as far as we are concerned, or rather different volitions of God in reference to different objects, according to which God can not be said to will and not to will the same object, that is, to will the conversion, and not to will the conversion of the same man—the laws of just opposition being here observed. I could wish that it might be explained how "God sincerely wills that the man should believe in Christ, whom He wills to be alien from Christ, and to whom He has decreed to deny the aid necessary to faith," for this is equivalent to not willing the conversion of any one.
To your second answer, I say, that it is not sufficient that you should say that "the revealed will of God is not adverse to the will of good-pleasure, but the matter of predestination is to be so treated that the will of good-pleasure is not to be opposed to the revealed will; for I think that the limits of that opposition ought to have been thus expressed. For the will which you call that of "good-pleasure," ought to be investigated by means of the revealed will; hence the latter is to be brought into agreement with the former, not the former to be reconciled with the latter. I desire, also, that it should be considered by what right the revealed will is usually considered as distinguished from the will of good pleasure, since the good-pleasure of God is frequently revealed. It is the good-pleasure of God that he who beholds the Son and believes on him, should have everlasting life. The word eujdokia is often used in the Scriptures, for that will of God, which is inclined towards any one, which is called "good-pleasure" in distinction from the pleasure of God, considered in a general sense.
Reprobation can not be referred to good-pleasure; for every exercise of good-pleasure towards men is in Jesus Christ, as the angels sung "good will toward men" (Luke ii. 14). In reference to the passage in Matt. xi. 25, 26, in which the word eujdokia is used in reference to the pleasure of God by which He has hidden the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven from the wise, and revealed them unto babes. I remark that the word eujdokia is properly to be referred to that, concerning which Christ gives thanks to his Father, that is, the revelation of the heavenly mysteries to babes. For it is to be understood in this way: "I give thanks unto thee, O Father, that thou hast revealed unto babes the mysteries which thou hast hidden from the wise." Christ does not give thanks to the Father that He has hidden the mysteries from the wise, for he prayed for the wise men of this world who crucified him. For the "princes of this world" are said to have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor. ii. 8), and he is said to have prayed for his persecutors, and particularly for those who crucified him. In what respect is it true that the revealed will "always agrees, in its beginning, end and scope," with the good-pleasure, in the ordinary acceptation of that phrase, since the revealed will has often a different object from that of the will of good-pleasure? Also, if both are in reference to the same object, there can not be the same beginning, and the same end and scope to both except it be also true that God wills by His good-pleasure, that which, in His revealed will, He declares that He wills, unless, indeed, that same beginning is considered universally to be God, and the same end to be the glory of God. But that "the revealed will of God seems often to be diverse, and, indeed, in appearance, to be contrary to the decree of God, and also in reference to the mode of proposing it," is true, if you mean that this "seems" so to ignorant men, and to those who do not rightly distinguish between the different modes and the various objects of volition. These two wills of God, however diverse, never seem contrary to those, who rightly look into these things, and so judge of them. As to the death of Hezekiah, and the destruction of Nineveh, God knew that it belonged to His justice, unless it should be attempered with mercy, to take away the life of Hezekiah, and to send destruction on the Ninevites; for the law of His justice claimed that these things should be denounced against them by Isaiah and Jonah. But God was not willing to satisfy the demands of justice, unless with the intervention of the decree of mercy, by which He determined that neither death should come on Hezekiah, nor destruction upon the Ninevites, unless they should be forewarned to seek the face of God by prayers, and, in this manner, to turn away the evil from themselves; and, if they should do this, they should be spared. But He knew that they would do this, being, indeed, assisted by grace and the divine aid, by which He had determined to co-operate with the external preaching; and so He determined to prolong the life of Hezekiah and to preserve the city of the Ninevites from destruction. Here, then, there seems to be not even apparent contrariety.
What you observe concerning "the human and the divine will of Christ," does not affect our present subject of discussion. It is true that there was such a difference; but this is not strange, since those wills belonged not to one origin, though they did belong to one person, embracing, in himself two natures and two wills. I may add, also, that Christ willed both to be freed and not to be freed from death. For as a man, he said, "O, my Father, let this cup pass from me," and as a man, also, he corrected himself, "nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt. xxvi. 39). That this is to be understood of the human will, is apparent, because there is one and the same will, as there is one nature to the Father and to the Son, as divine. I may say, in a word, that Christ, as to the outward man, willed to be freed from immediate death, but according to the inward man, he subjected himself to the divine will. And, if you will permit, I will say, that there was, in him, a feeling and a desire to be freed, not a volition. For volition results from the final decision of the reason and of wisdom, but desire follows the antecedent decision of the senses or the feelings.
That "Abraham was favourably inclined towards the Sodomites, who were devoted, by the decree of God, to destruction," the Scripture does not assert. It also does not seem to me to be very probable that "he could pray in faith" for those whom he knew to be devoted, by the decree of God, to irrevocable destruction. For prayer was not to be offered in behalf of such persons. God commands Jeremiah not to pray for the people, which He had, by an irrevocable decree, and by His will as its consequent, destined and devoted to captivity and destruction. For although it may not be requisite in prayers, offered for any thing whatever, that one should certainly believe that the thing, which he seeks, shall be granted, it is necessary that the mind of him, who prays, should certainly believe that God, in His omnipotence and mercy, is both able and willing to do that which is asked, if He knows that it will be in accordance with His own grace. But that, which God has decreed not to do, and what He has signified, absolutely, that He will not do, He neither can do, nor will He ever will to do, so long as the decree stands, and it is not right for a believer to intercede with God in his prayers for that thing, if the decree of God has been known to him.
Your third answer is, that "God, as a creditor, can require what Himself may not will to effect." But there is an equivocation or ambiguity in the words, "what Himself may not will to effect." They may be understood, either in reference to that concurrence of God, which is necessary to the doing of that, which He commands, or in reference to that efficacious concurrence by which that, which He commands, is certainly done. If in reference to the latter, it is true.
There is no kind of conflict or contrariety between these two
"demand or command that any thing should be done," and "yet not to do it efficaciously." If in reference to the former, it is not true. For God does not command that, in
reference to which He denies the aid necessary to effect it,
unless any one, of his own fault, deprives himself of that grace, and makes himself unworthy of that aid. The right of creditor remains, if he, who is in debt, is not able to pay by his own fault. But it is not so with the command, in which faith is prescribed; for faith in Christ is not included in the debt which a man was bound to pay according to his primitive creation in the image of God, and the primitive economy under which he lived. For it began to be necessary, after God changed the condition of salvation from legal obedience to faith in Christ.
We come now to "the presentation of the Mediator." consisted both in the fact that the Mediator presented himself to God, the Father, as a victim for the sin of the world, and that the Father, by the word and His spirit, presents the Mediator, having performed the functions of that office, and having obtained remission of sins and eternal redemption to the world, reconciled through him. The former pertains to the provision of salvation, the latter to its application by faith in the same Mediator. The former is the execution of the act of appointment and promise, the latter coincides with the actual offering, which we have previously considered in discussing the promise. But the presentation, as it is defined by you, not immediately antecedent to the application, for between that presentation, and the application, there intervenes the offering of the Mediator by the word and the Holy Spirit.
What you say concerning the virtue and efficacy of the price, paid by Christ, needs a more careful consideration. You say, that "the efficacy of that price, as far as merit is concerned, is infinite"; but you make a distinction between "actual and potential efficacy." You also define "potential efficacy" as synonymous with a sufficiency of price for the whole world. This, however, is a phrase, hitherto unknown among Theologians, who have merely made a distinction between the efficacy and the sufficiency of the merit of Christ. I am not sure, also, but that there is an absurdity in styling efficacy "potential," since there is a contradiction in terms. For all efficacy is actual, as that word has been, hitherto, used by Theologians. But, laying aside phrases, let us consider the thing itself. The ransom or price of the death of Christ, is said to be universal in its sufficiency, but particular in its efficacy, i.e. sufficient for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all sins, but its efficacy pertains not to all universally, which efficacy consists in actual application by faith and the sacrament of regeneration, as Augustine and Prosper, the Aquitanian, say. If you think so, it is well, and I shall not very much oppose it. But if I rightly understand you, it seems to me that you do not acknowledge the absolute sufficiency of that price, but with the added condition, if God had willed that it should be offered for the sins of the whole world. So then, that, which the School-men declare categorically, namely, that Christ’s death was sufficient for all and for each, is, according to your view, to be expressed hypothetically, that is, in this sense—the death of Christ would be a sufficient price for the sins of the whole world, if God had willed that it should be offered for all men. In this sense, indeed, its sufficiency is absolutely taken away. For if it is not a ransom offered and paid for all, it is, indeed, not a ransom sufficient for all. For the ransom is that, which is offered and paid. Therefore the death of Christ can be said to be sufficient for the redemption of the sins of all men, if God had wished that he should die for all; but it can not be said to be a sufficient ransom, unless it has, in fact, been paid for all. Hence, also, Beza notes an incorrect phraseology, in that distinction, because the sin-offering is said to be absolutely sufficient, which is not such, except on the supposition already set forth. But, indeed, my friend Perkins, the Scripture says, most clearly, in many places, that Christ died for all, for the life of the world, and that by the command and grace of God.
The decree of Predestination prescribes nothing to the universality of the price paid for all by the death of Christ. It is posterior, in the order of nature, to the death of Christ and to its peculiar efficacy. For that decree pertains to the application of the benefits obtained for us by the death of Christ: but his death is the price by which those benefits were prepared. Therefore the assertion is incorrect, and the order is inverted, when it is said that "Christ died only for the elect, and the predestinate." For predestination depends, not only on the death of Christ, but also on the merit of Christ’s death; and hence Christ did not die for those who were predestinated, but they, for whom Christ died; were predestinated, though not all of them. For the universality of the death of Christ extends itself more widely than the object of Predestination. From which it is also concluded that the death of Christ and its merit is antecedent, in nature and order, to Predestination. What else, indeed, is predestination than the preparation of the grace, obtained and provided for us by the death of Christ, and a preparation pertaining to the application, not to the acquisition or provision of grace, not yet existing? For the decree of God, by which He determined to give Christ as a Redeemer to the world, and to appoint him the head only of believers, is prior to the decree, by which He determined to really apply to some, by faith, the grace obtained by the death of Christ.
You allege these reasons in favour of your views, concerning the death of Christ. "Christ did not sacrifice for those for whom also he does not pray, because intercession and sacrifice are conjoined; -- But he prays, not for all, but only for elect and for believers, (John xvii. 9,) and, in his prayer, he offers himself to the Father; -- Therefore he sacrifices not for all, and, consequently, his death is not a ransom for all men.
I reply that the Major does not seem to me to be, in all respects, true. The sacrifice is prior to the intercession. For he could not enter into the heavens that he might intercede for us in the presence of God, except by the blood of his own flesh. It is also prior, as sacrifice has reference to merit, intercession to the application of merit.
For he is called the Mediator by merit and the efficacy of its application. He acquired merit by sacrifice; he intercedes for its application. He does both, as Priest; but he makes that application as King and Head of His church. It is indeed true that Christ, in the days of his flesh, offered up prayers with tears to God, the Father. But those prayers were not offered to obtain the application of merited blessing, but for the assistance of the Spirit, that he might stand firm in the conflict. If, indeed, he then offered up prayers to obtain the application referred to, they depended on the sacrifice, which was to be offered, as though it were already offered. In this order, sacrifice and intercession are related to each other.
In reference to the Minor, I assert, that Christ prayed also for the non-elect. He prayed for those who crucified him, for his enemies, among whom also were non-elect persons. For "the princes of this world" crucified him, and to most of them the wisdom and power of God, which is Christ, was not revealed (1 Cor. 2). Secondly, the prayer of Christ, which is contained in the 17th chapter of John, was offered, particularly for those who had believed, and those who should afterwards believe, and, indeed, to obtain and apply to them the blessings merited by the sacrifice of his death. He asks that they may be one with the Father and the Son, as the Father and the Son are one; which He could not ask unless reconciliation had actually been made, or was considered, by God, as having been made. But such is not the character of all the prayers of Christ. Thirdly, I remark that the word "world," in John xvii. 9, properly signifies those who rejected Christ, as preached to them in the word of the gospel, and those who should afterwards reject him. This is apparent from the contrast—"I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me," whom he describes as having believed (8th verse) and as believing at a future time (20th verse). The word is used similarly in many other passages—"The world knew him not" (John ii. 10); "Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light" (iii, 19); "The Spirit of truth, whom the world can not receive" (xvi, 17); "He will reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on me" (xvi, 8, 9); "How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" (xvi, 22.) Therefore the extent of the sacrifice is not to be limited by the narrow bounds of that intercession.
I could wish to learn from Illyricus how it can be in accordance with the justice of God, and the infinite value of Christ’s sacrifice, that "prayer is expiatory and the rule of the Sacrifice [Canon Sacrificii]. "I think, not only that Christ did not ask of the Father to regard favourably his sacrifice, but that it was not possible that He should present such a petition: if that is indeed true, which our churches teach and profess with one voice, that the most complete satisfaction was made to the justice of God by the sacrifice of Christ. But that idea originated in the Polish mass, in which, also, are those words-"Canon Sacrificii."
But the words, which contain your conclusion are remarkable, and have no right meaning. What is meant by this? -- "Christ was appointed to be a ransom by the intercession and oblation of the Son." Intercession is subsequent to ransom. Therefore the latter was not appointed by the former. Oblation belongs to the ransom itself, and is therefore prior to the intercession, and could, in no way, be concerned in the appointment of the ransom. But the action itself has the character of an oblation. Hence, also, the ransom itself, as I have already often said, is prior to election. For election is unto life, which has no existence except by the oblation of the ransom; unless we may say that election is unto life, not now existing, nor as yet merited, not even in the decree of God. For he is the "lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
You proceed further, and endeavour, but in vain, to confirm the same sentiment by other arguments. They seem to have some plausibility, but no truth. You say, that "Christ is only the Mediator of those, whose character he sustained on the cross;
But he sustained the character of the elect only on the cross; Therefore he is only the Mediator of the elect." I reply to the Major, that it belongs not to the essence or the nature of Mediator to sustain the character of any one. For he is constituted a Mediator between two dissident parties. Therefore, as Mediator, he sustains the character of neither; unless, indeed, the nature of the mediation be, of necessity, such as to demand that the mediator should sustain the character of one of the parties. But this mediation has such a nature as the justice of God required. For it could enter upon no way of reconciliation with a world, guilty of sin, unless the Mediator should pledge satisfaction, and, in fact, should make it in accordance with the right of surety. This is what is said in 2 Corinthians v. 19, 21, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself—for He hath made him to be sin" for the world, that is, a sin offering. In this sense, also, it is truly said that Christ is not a Mediator, except for those, whose character he sustained. I speak here in respect to the Sacrifice; "For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained from me," &c., (Heb. v. 5, 1.) Here, also, a distinction may be made between the act, by which reconciliation is obtained, and the completion of that act, which is reconciliation. The act, obtaining reconciliation, is the oblation of Christ on the cross. Its completion is the reconciliation. In respect to the act, he sustained our character, for we deserved death, not in respect to the completion. For the effect, resulting frown the oblation, depends on the dignity and excellence of the character of Christ, not of us, whose character he sustained. Indeed, if it be proper to use distinctions of greater nicety, in this place, I may say, that Christ sustained our character, not in respect to action, namely, that of oblation, but of passion. For He was made a curse for us, and an offering for sin. From which it is evident, that, as all men are sinners and obnoxious to the curse, and Christ assumed human nature common to all, it is probable that he sustained the character of all men.
We see this also in the Minor of your syllogism, which is "Christ sustained the character of the elect only on the cross," in which I notice a two-fold fault, that of falsity and that of incorrect phraseology. Its falsity consists in this, that Christ is said to have sustained on the cross the character of the Elect only. I prove it, from the fact that the Scripture no where says this; indeed it asserts the contrary in numerous passages. Christ is called "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John i. 29) God is declared to have "so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (iii, 16). Christ declares that he will give "his flesh for the life of the world" (vi, 51). "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. v. 19). "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John ii. 2). The Samaritans said "We know that this is indeed the Christ, the saviour of the world" (John iv. 42). Also 1 John iv. 14, "We have seen and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the saviour of the world." That, in the word "world," in these passages, all men, in general, are to be understood, is manifest from these passages and from Scriptural usages. For there is, in my judgment, no passage in the whole Bible, in which it can be proved beyond controversy that the word "world" signifies the Elect. Again, Christ it is said to have died for all, in Hebrews ii. 9, and elsewhere. He is said to be "the saviour of all men, especially of those that believe" (1 Tim. iv. 10), which declaration can not be explained to refer to preservation in this life without perversion and injury. Christ is also styled the "Mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. ii. 5). He is said to have died for those "without strength, ungodly, and yet sinners" (Rom. v. 6-8.)
What I said a little while since, is important also on this point; -- that the case of the whole human race is the same, all being alike conceived and born in sin, and the children of wrath; and that Christ assumed human nature, which is common to all men, not from Abraham only and David, as Matthew traces his genealogy, but also from Adam, to whom Luke goes back in his third chapter. He offered, therefore, the flesh which he had in common with all. "For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same, &c." (Heb. ii. 14). He offered that flesh for the common cause and the common sin, namely, for the sin of the world, in respect to which there is no difference among men, and the Apostle adds this cause in the passage just cited, "that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death." Let the dignity and excellence of the person, which could offer an equivalent ransom for the sin of all men be added to this. Let the gracious and tender affection of God towards the human race come into consideration, which, in the Scriptures, is usually spoke of by the general term filanqrwpia as in Tit. iii. 4. Which term signifies, in general terms, the love of God towards men; which affection cannot be attributed to God, if He pursues with hatred any man, without reference to his deserts and his sin.
I know that some will reply that God indeed hates no one except on account of sin, but that He destined some to His own just hatred, that is, reprobating some without reference to sin. But in that way the order of things is inverted; for God does not hate because He reprobates, but reprobates cause He hates. He reprobates a sinner, because the sinner and sin are justly hateful and odious to Him. Hatred is an affection in the Deity by which He hates unrighteousness and the unrighteous, as there is in Him also love for righteousness and the righteous. Reprobation is an act of God, internal in purpose, external in execution, and the act is, in the order of nature, subsequent to the affection. The destination of any one to hatred, however it may be considered, has necessarily these two things preceding it, hatred against unrighteousnes, and the foresight that the individual, by his own fault, will be guilty of unrighteousness, by omission or commission.
I know, indeed, that the love of God, referred to, is not in all respects equal towards all men and towards each individual, but I also deny that there is so much difference, in that divine love, towards men that He has determined to act towards some, only according to the rigor of His own law, but towards others according to His own mercy and grace in Christ, as set forth in his gospel. He willed to treat the fallen angels according to that rigor, but all men, fallen in Adam, according to this grace. For every blessing, in which also mercy and long suffering (Exod. xxxiii. 19 & xxxiv, 6-7) are comprehended, He determined to exhibit, in the deliverance and salvation of men. Some, however, may wish to do away with the distinction, which many Theologians make between the fall of angels and that of man. For they say that the angels fell beyond all hope of restoration, but that men could have a complete restoration, and they assign, as a reason, the fact that angels sinned, by their own motion and impulse, and man, by the instigation and persuasion of an evil angel. To all these things, we may add, by way of conclusion, the proper and immediate effect of the death and suffering of Christ, and we shall see that no one of the human race is excluded from it. It is not an actual removal of sins from these or those, not an actual remission of sins, not justification, not an actual redemption of these or these, which can be bestowed upon no one without faith and the Spirit of Christ; but it is reconciliation with God, obtainment from God of remission, justification, and redemption; by which it is effected that God may now be able, as Justice, to which satisfaction has been made, interposes no obstacle, to remit sins and to bestow the spirit of grace upon sinful men. To the communication of these effects to sinners He was already inclined, of His own mercy, on account of which, He gave Christ as the saviour of the world, but, by His justice, He was hindered from the actual communication of them. Meanwhile God maintained His own right to bestow on whom He pleased, and with such conditions as He chose to prescribe, those blessings, (which are His by nature,) the participation in which He, through His mercy, desired to bestow on sinners, but could not actually do it on account of the obstacle of His justice, but which He can now actually bestow, as His justice has been satisfied by the blood and death of Christ; since He, as the injured party, could prescribe the mode of reconciliation, which also He did prescribe, consisting in the death and obedience of His Son and because He has given him to us, to perform, in our behalf, the functions of the Mediatorial office. If we decide that any person is excluded from that effect, we decide, at the same time, that God does not remit his sins unto him, not because He is unwilling to do so, having the ability, but because He has not the ability, as justice presents an obstacle, and because He willed not to be able. He willed that His justice should be satisfied, before He should remit his sins unto any one, and because He did not will that His justice should be satisfied in reference to that person.
On the other hand, also, if we decide that the nature of the Mediation is such, as you seem to conceive, that the sins of all the Elect are taken from them and transferred to Christ, who suffered punishment for them, and, in fact, freed them from punishment, then obedience was required of him, who rendered it, and, by rendering it, merited eternal life, not for himself, but for them, not otherwise than if we had constituted him Mediator in our place, and through him had paid unto God our debt. We must also consider that, according to the rigor of God’s justice and law, immunity from punishment and eternal life are due to the elect, and they can claim those blessings from God, by the right of payment and purchase, and without any rightful claim, on the part of God, to demand faith in Christ and conversion to him. It is not easy to tell under how great absurdities, both the latter and the former opinion labour. I will refute each of them by a single argument. In reference to the former, I argue that, if God was unwilling that satisfaction, for the sins of any, should be rendered to Himself, by the death of His Son, then faith in Christ can not, justly, be demanded of them, they can not, justly, be condemned for unbelief, and Christ can not, justly, be constituted their judge. The latter, I compute by an argument, of very great strength, taken from the writings of the Apostle. The righteousness, rendered by Christ, is not ours in that it is rendered, but in that it is imputed unto us by faith, so that faith itself may be said to be "counted for righteousness" (Rom. iv. 5.) This phrase, if rightly understood, may shed the clearest light on this whole discussion. I conclude, therefore, that Christ bore the character of all men in general, as it is said, and not that of the elect only.
I notice incorrectness of phraseology in the statement that he bore, on the cross, the character of the Elect, when no one is elect, except in Christ, as dead and risen again, and now constituted by God the Head of the church, and the saviour of them who should believe in him, and obey him unto salvation. Therefore, there were no elect, when he was yet hanging on the cross, that is, both of these events being considered as existing in the foreknowledge of God; hence He could not have borne, on the cross, the character of the Elect. On this account, likewise, it would be absurdity to say that Christ bore the character of the reprobate, because reprobation had there no place. But he bore the character of men as sinners, unrighteous, enemies to God, apart from any consideration or distinction between Election and Reprobation. It is evident, then, from this reply, that it can not be concluded, from that argument, that Christ is the Mediator for the Elect only, the work of the Mediator being, now, restricted to the oblation made on the cross.
You advance, also, another argument to prove the truth of your sentiment, and say; -- "Whatever Christ suffered and did as Redeemer, the same things all the redeemed do and suffer in him, and with him; -- But Christ, as Redeemer, died, rose again, ascended, sat down on the right hand of the Father;
Therefore, in him and with him, all the redeemed died, rose again, ascended, sat down at the right hand of the Father." You then assume, as a position by consequence, that "The Elect only die, rise again, ascend, sit at the right hand of the Father, in and with Christ. Therefore, they alone are redeemed." We will inspect and examine both parts of this argument in order.
The Major of this prosyllogism seems to me to be chargeable with notorious falsity, as can, also, be easily demonstrated. For it confounds the sufferings and the actions, by which redemption is effected and obtained, with the completion of redemption itself, and the application of redemption. For redemption does not refer to suffering, or to any action of Christ, but to the completion, the event, and the fruit of that suffering and action; therefore, the sufferings and the actions of Christ are prior to redemption; but redemption is prior to its application. They, however, are called redeemed from the application. Therefore, that, which Christ suffered and did to obtain redemption, the redeemed did not suffer or do. For they were not at that time redeemed, but, by those actions, redemption was obtained, and applied to them by faith, and so they, as the result, were redeemed. The very nature of things clearly proves that redeemer and redeemed are things so related, that the former is the foundation, the latter, the terminus, not vice versa, and, therefore, in the former is comprehended the cause of the other, and indeed the cause, produced by its own efficiency; whence it follows that the redeemed did not that, which was done by the redeemed, since, in that case, they were redeemed before the act of redemption was performed by the redeemer, and the redemption itself was obtained. If you say that you consider the redeemed not as redeemed, but as men to be redeemed, I reply that, in whatever way, they are considered, it can never be truly said that they did, in and with Christ, what Christ did for the sake of redeeming them. For those, who were to be redeemed were not in Christ or with Christ, therefore, they could, neither in him nor with him, suffer or do any thing. You will say that "they suffered and acted in him as a surety and pledge;" but I say in him as constituted a surety not by them, but by God for them, and on him the work of redemption was imposed by God. It is true, indeed, that he assumed from men the nature in which redemption was performed; yet He, not men in him, offered it. But, if they may be said to have suffered, because their nature suffered in the form of Christ, you see that, in this way also, the redemption is general for all those to whom the same nature belongs. Perhaps you refer to those passages of Scripture, in which we are said to be "dead with Christ, buried with him and raised with him" (Rom. vi. 3, 4, 5). Your explanation is unsatisfactory, if it regards them as having reference to our present subject. For those passages treat of the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection, which we each, in our own person, endure and experience. But they do not pertain to the meritorious redemption, as the crucifixion, death, &c., of Christ. Again, in those passages, the subject of discussion is that of our engraftment into Christ by faith, and our communion with him, which pertain to the application of redemption; but, here, the subject of discussion is the obtainment of redemption, and the acts which pertain to it. Those passages teach, that we, being grafted into Christ by faith, received from him the power of the Spirit, by which our old man is crucified, dead and buried, and we are resuscitated and raised again into a new life. From this it is apparent that they have no connection with our present subject.
The right meaning of the Minor, is that Christ, performing the work of redemption, died, rose again, and ascended into the heavens. For he was not the redeemer, before he offered himself to death and rose again from the dead. I remark, more briefly, that Christ died and rose again in that he was Redeemer by the imposition and acceptance of the office, not by the fulfillment of the same. For the death and resurrection of Christ pertain to the function of the office of Redeemer. It now appears, from this, in what sense the conclusion is true. not in that in which you intend it, that they, whom you call "the redeemed," died and rose again in the person of Christ, but as I, a short time since, explained it, in a sense, pertaining, not to the obtainment of redemption, but to the application of the obtained redemption. For Christ is said to have "entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption," (Heb. ix. 12), which redemption he communicates to believers, by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.
These things being thus considered, your position by consequence does not weigh against the opinion, which I here defend. For it certainly happens to the Elect, only in the sense which we have set forth, with Christ to die, rise again, ascend, and sit at the right hand of the Father. They also, by reason of their being engrafted in Christ, and the application of the benefits of Christ, and of communion with Christ, are said to be "redeemed." "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. v. 9, l0). So, also, in Rev. xiv. 3, 4, the same are said to have been "redeemed from the earth, and from among men." It is, however, to be observed that this position is not a consequence of the antecedents, unless there be added, to the Major, a restrictive phrase, in this way:
"Whatever Christ suffered and did this all the redeemed, and they only, suffered and did in him, and with him.
The arguments which you adduce to prove this position, are readily conceded by me, in the sense which I have explained. But that, which you afterwards present to illustrate your meaning, deserves notice. For the sins of those, for whom Christ died, are condemned in the flesh of Christ, in such a manner that they may not, by that fact, be freed from condemnation, unless they believe in Christ. For "there is, therefore, now, no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. viii. 1).
The error of confounding things, which should be distinct, and uniting those which should be divided, is constantly committed. For obtainment, and the act itself, which obtains, are confounded with the application, and the former are substituted for the latter.
You say, also, "the expiatory victim sanctifies those for whom he is a victim. For victim and sanctification pertain to the same persons; -- But Christ sanctifies only the Elect and believers; -- Therefore, Christ is victim for the Elect only and believers."
I answer to your Major, that the expiatory victim sanctifies, not in that it is offered, but in that it is applied. This may be plainly seen in the passage cited by yourself (Heb. ix. 13, 14). "For if the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh—How much more shall the blood of Christ, &c." For which reason, it is called in Heb. xii. 24, "the blood of sprinkling." In the same manner, those, who, not only slew the paschal lamb, but also sprinkled the door-posts with its blood, were passed over by the destroying angel. If, then, the phrase "for whom" implies, not the oblation only, but also the fruit and advantage of the oblation, I admit the truth of the Major. But we are, here, discussing not the application of the victim Christ, but the oblation only, which, in the Scriptures, is simply said to be "for men" (Heb. v. 1). But faith must necessarily intervene between the oblation, and its application which is sanctification. The oblation, of the victim, then, was made, not for believers, but for men as sinners, yet on this condition, that He should sanctify only believers in Christ. Hence, it can not be considered, even though the Minor should be conceded, that Christ offered himself for the Elect only, since Election, as it is made in Christ, offered, dead, risen again, and having obtained eternal redemption by his blood, must be subsequent to the oblation.
You add—"Christ is the complete saviour of those, whom he saves, not only by his merits, but by efficaciously working their salvation." Who denies this? But the distinction is to be observed between these two functions and operations of Christ, the recovery, by his blood, of the salvation, which was lost by sin, and the actual communication or application, by the Holy Spirit, of the salvation obtained by his blood. The former precedes, the latter requires, in accordance with the Divine decree, that faith should precede it. Therefore, though Christ may not be said to completely save those who are not actually saved, yet he is said to be the saviour of others than believers (1 Tim. xiv. 10). I do not see how that passage can be suitably explained, unless by the distinction between sufficient and efficacious salvation, or salvation as recovered and as applied. The passages, which you cite from the Fathers, partly have no relation to the matter now discussed, and partly are related to it, but they teach nothing else than that the death and passion of Christ, which are a sufficient price for the redemption of the sins of all men, in fact, profit the Elect only, and those who believe unto salvation. What you say in reference to the application is correct; but I wish that you would distinguish between it, and those things which precede it.
From what has already been said, the decree, in reference to the bestowment of the Mediator and to the salvation of believers through the Mediator, is prior to the decree of predestination, in which some are destined to salvation in Christ, and others are left to condemnation out of Christ. But you say that "the decree of election is the cause and the beginning of all the saving gifts and works in men." I grant it, but not in view of the fact that it is the decree of election, but in that it is the desire of the bestowment of grace. In that it is the decree of election, it is the cause that grace is bestowed only on those: for it is the opposite of reprobation, and necessarily supposes it. For there is no election without reprobation, and the term elect itself signifies loved, with the contrast of not loved at least in the same mode and decree, and restricts love to those who are styled elect with the exclusion of those who are styled the non-elect or reprobate. So far, then, as saving gifts are bestowed upon any one in that act which is called election, it is properly love; in that the bestowment is restricted to some, to the exclusion of others, it is called election.
From this, it is apparent, in the first place, that the love which is according to election, would not be less towards the elect than it now is, even if God should declare the same favour, and His own love towards all men in general. Secondly, they, who make the love of God, in Christ, the cause of the salvation of men, and that alone, do no injury to grace, even if they deny that such love is according to election, that is, restricted to a few by the decree of God. They may, indeed, deny that which is true, but without injury to grace or mercy; for I presupposed that they make the same love to be the cause of salvation, as they do, who contend for election. I know, indeed, that Augustine often said against the Pelagians, that "they who make the grace of God common to all, in effect, deny grace altogether;" but this assertion is not, in all respects, true; but it was valid against the Pelagians, and all those who, at that time, made the grace of God universal. For they explained the grace of God, to be the gift bestowed equally on all by creation, in our original nature. I acknowledge, indeed, that, from the universality of grace, some consequences can be deduced, which will prove that the universality of grace may be indirectly opposed to that grace by which the elect are saved. But it should be known that those consequences are not, all of them, tenable, we examine them accurately, and I wish that you should demonstrate this.
You will thus effect much, not, indeed, in sustaining the view which you here specially advocate, but in sustaining the doctrine of election and reprobation in general. But it will be said that, by the reprobation of some, that is, by election joined with love, the elect are more fully convinced that the love of God towards themselves is not of debt, than they would be if that same love were bestowed by God upon all without any distinction. I, indeed, grant it, and the Scripture often uses that argument. Yet that love, toward us, can be proved to be gratuitous, and not of debt, and can be sealed upon our hearts, without that argument. It appears, then, that there is no absolute necessity of presenting that argument. I do not say these things because I wish that the doctrine of election should not be taught in our churches; far be it from me; but to show that this subject is to be treated with moderation, and without offense to weak believers, who, for the very reason that they hear that they can not be certain of salvation, unless they believe that which is taught concerning Election with the rejection of some, begin to doubt whether the sense of certainty of salvation, which they have at times enjoyed, is to be attributed to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, or to a certain persuasion and presumption in their own minds. I write this from experience. So much in reference to Election. Let us now consider its opposite—Reprobation.
But you define the decree of reprobation in a two-fold manner. First you say—"It is the work of divine providence, by which God decreed to pass by certain men, as to supernatural grace, that He might declare His justice and wrath in their due destruction." In my opinion, there are, in this definition, four faults, which, with your consent, I will exhibit, if I may be able to do so. The first fault is, you have made the decree of Reprobation, "the work, &c.," when, as it exists in God, it can, in no way, be called a work, which is something apart from that which produces it, existing after an act, and from an act produced by the efficaciousness or efficiency of an agent. I should prefer then to use the word "act" in this case, The second fault is you do not well describe the object of that act, when you say—"certain men are passed by," without any mention of any condition required in the object, or any reference to the fact that the men spoken of are sinners. For sin is a condition, requisite in a man, to be passed by in reprobation, or, so to speak, in one capable of being passed by. This I shall briefly prove in a few arguments.
First, the Scripture acknowledges no reprobation of men, as having been made by God, unless its meritorious cause is sin. Secondly, since reprobation is the opposite of election, it follows, if divine election has reference to sinners, that reprobation has reference to persons of the same character. But Election, as I have previously shown, has reference to sinners. Thirdly, because that supernatural grace, which is denied by reprobation, is grace necessary to sinners only—namely, that of remission of sins, and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. Fourthly, because justice and wrath can not be declared, except against a sinner, for where there is no sin there can be no place either for wrath or punitive justice, (of which you here necessarily speak). Fifthly, because punishment is due to no one, unless he is a sinner, and you say that "the wrath of God and His justice are declared in the due destruction of the Reprobate." When I make sin the meritorious cause of reprobation, do not consider me as, on the other hand, making righteousness the meritorious cause of Election. For sin is the meritorious cause of the reprobation of all sinners in general. But election is, not only of that grace which is not of debt, and which man has not merited, but also of that grace which takes away demerit. Even if the meritorious cause is supposed, the effect is not at once produced, unless by the intervention of His will, to whom it belongs to inflict due punishment, according to the merit of sin; but He has power to punish sin according to its desert, or to pardon it, of His grace in Christ. Therefore, in both cases, in election and in reprobation,. the free-will of God is considered the proximate and immediate cause. If you oppose to me the common distinction, by which sin is said to be required in the object of the execution, but not in the object of the decree itself, I reply that it is not right that God should will to condemn any one, or will to pass by him without consideration of sin, as it is not right for Him, in fact, to pass by or condemn any one without the demerit of sin. It is, then, truly said, the cause of the decree and of its execution is one and the same. Your third fault is, that of obscurity and ill-adjusted phraseology. For what is implied in the phrase "to pass by as to supernatural grace," instead of—to pass by in the dispensation and bestowment of supernatural grace? There is ambiguity, also, in the word "supernatural." Grace is supernatural, both as it is superadded to unfallen nature, bearing nature beyond itself, and as it is bestowed on fallen nature, changing it, and raising it to things heavenly and supernatural.
The fourth fault is, that you present a result of the preterition which coheres by no necessary copula, with the antecedent cause of the preterition. For sin is not presupposed to that act; sin does not of necessity exist from that act; one of which facts is necessarily required from the necessity of coherence between the act and its result. If, indeed, you say that sin necessarily results from that preterition, then you make God the Author of sin by a denial of the grace, without which, sin can not be avoided. But if that grace, which is denied to any one by preterition, is not necessary for the avoidance of sin, then a man could, without it, abstain from sin, and so not deserve destruction. If he could do this, that declaration of justice and wrath does not result from the act of decreed preterition. But you know that the parts of a definition should mutually cohere by a necessary copula, and that a result should not be proposed, which, even on the supposition of any act, does not result from that same act. For such a result would be incidental, and therefore, ought not to be found in a definition which is independent, and designed to convey absolute knowledge.
Let us, now, examine the other definition, which you have adduced, perhaps for the very reason, that you thought your former one somewhat unsound. It is this; -- "The decree of reprobation is the purpose to permit any one to fall into sin, and to inflict the punishment of damnation on account of sin." I know that this definition is used by the School-men, and, among others, by Thomas Aquinas, for whose genius and erudition I have as high an esteem as any one; but he, here, seems to me to be under a kind of hallucination. First, because he makes the decree of reprobation to be antecedent to sin, which opinion I have already refuted. Secondly, because he attributes that permission to the decree of reprobation, which ought to be attributed to a certain other, more general decree, that of providence, as I will show. An act which has reference to all men, in general, apart from the distinction between the elect and the reprobate, is not an act of reprobation; for, in that act, God had reference to the reprobate only; -- But that act of permission, by which God permitted man to fall into sin, is general, and extending to all men; for in Adam, all sinned (Rom. 5). And all are "by nature the children of wrath" (Ephes. ii. 3); -- That act, then, is not one of reprobation, but of mere general providence, regarding all men entirely without difference, and governing and administering their primitive state in the person of Adam. If you say that both are to be conjoined, the permission of the fall and the infliction of punishment, and that the whole subject, taken in a complex manner, is the proper act of reprobation, I answer that, on that principle, permission, according to which Adam, and in him, all his posterity fell, which is one and univocal, is resolved into two diverse matters, and thus becomes two-fold and equivocal; that is, into the decree of reprobation, by which the reprobate are permitted to fall, and the decree of providence, by which even the elect themselves are permitted to fall.
I add another argument, which, in my judgment indeed, is irrefutable. Reprobation and Election are spoken of as things separate and opposite; one is not without the other. Hence, no act can be attributed to one of them, the opposite of which, either affirmative or negative, may not be attributed to the other. But no act, opposite to that of permission to fall, can be attributed to Election. There is but one act which is opposite to the act of permission, namely, hindrance from failing into sin. But no man, not even one of the elect, is hindered from falling into sin. For the elect themselves sinned in Adam. Therefore, the act of permission is not to be assigned to the decree of Reprobation. If you diligently consider this argument, you will see that it is clearly evident, from it, that permission to fall was prior both to Reprobation and to Election, and therefore the decree of Permission was prior to the decree of Election and Reprobation—prior, in order and nature. Then, also, that other peculiarity of reprobation remains, and as it presupposes sin, I conclude that men, as sinners, are the object of reprobation.
You limit, moreover, the decree of reprobation to two acts. "The former is the purpose to pass by certain men, and to illustrate justice in them." But what justice, unless it is punitive? If it is punitive, then it coincides with the second act—"the ordination to punishment." Others distinguish that same decree into the negative act of preterition, and the affirmative act of ordination to punishment. If you meant the same thing, you have not expressed it well, for punitive justice superintends the ordination of punishment, but the freedom of the divine will superintends preterition. Your assertion that "this preterition has not its cause in men" will not be proved by any passage of Scripture, which every where teaches that all abandonment is on account of sin. Though this is so, yet it does not follow that "the mere good pleasure of God" is not the cause of abandonment. For God is free to leave or not to leave the sinner, who deserves abandonment; and thus, the will of God is the proximate and immediate cause of abandonment, and indeed the only cause in this respect, that when it is possible for Him not to forsake the sinner, He may yet sometimes do so. For God dispenses, absolutely according to His own will, in reference to the merit of sin, whether, in His Son, to take it away, or, out of His Son, to punish it. And how, I pray, does it "interfere with the liberty of the good pleasure"—I would prefer the word pleasure—"of God," if He is said not to be able to forsake one who is not a sinner? For it is only in view of His justice that He is able to forsake one unless he is a sinner. And liberty does not describe the objects with which God is concerned, in the operations of His will, but the mode in which He pleases to operate in reference to any object.
I could wish that you would not attribute any freedom to the will of God which may impinge upon His justice. For justice is prior to the will, and is its rule, and freedom is attributed to the will as its mode. That mode, then, is limited by justice. Yet it will not, therefore, be denied that God is completely free in the acts of His will. Since then He is completely free in the acts of His will, not because He wills all things, but because He wills freely whatever He wills, in what respect is it contrary to the freedom of God, if He is said not to will certain things? For He can not, in His justice, will them, and His freedom is not limited by a superior being out of Himself, but by His own justice. In this sense, also, the will of God is said to be "the cause of causes, and out of which, or beyond which no reason is to be sought," which is true also according to my explanation. For if any one asks, "why does God leave one, and choose another?" the answer is—"because He wills it."
If it be asked, -- "but why does He will it?" The cause is found not out of Himself. But there is a cause why He could justly will to leave any one, and that cause is sin, not effecting actual desertion, but deserving it, and making the sinner worthy of abandonment, and certainly to be abandoned, if God should choose to punish him according to his demerit, which choice is allowed to His free-will. Man is indeed as "clay in the hands of the potter," but it does not follow from this that God can justly make of that clay whatever it might be possible for Him to make by an act of His omnipotence. He can reduce to nothing the clay formed by Himself and made man, -- for this belongs to Him by supreme right: but He can not hate the same clay, or be angry with it, or condemn it forever, unless that lump has become sinful by its own fault, and been made a lump of corruption. Thus also Augustine explains the passage in Romans 9, as having reference to the lump of corruption. But you say, "if God had willed by His eternal decree to pass over men as sinners only, not as men, then He did not make them vessels of wrath, but He found them vessels of wrath, made such by themselves." I reply that ignorance of the phrase, which the apostle uses in Romans 9, is shown here. For "to make a vessel unto wrath," does not signify to sin or to make one worthy of wrath through sin; but it signifies to destine to just wrath him who has sinned and so made himself worthy of wrath, which is an act of the divine judgment, peremptory indeed, because it is an act of reprobation, but it has reference to man as a sinner, for sin alone is the meritorious cause of wrath. If you urge further that in the word "lump," men, not as made but as to be made, are signified, and that this is proved by the force of the word, shall deny that the force and radical meaning of the word is to be, here, precisely insisted upon, and shall assert that, in Scriptural use, the word is applied to men, not only as made but as sinners, and as those received into the grace of reconciliation, and transgressing of the covenant of grace; as in the prophet Jeremiah, "Behold as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel" (chapter xviii, 6.)
In your third argument you turn aside from the controversy, and from the real state of the case, contrary to the law of correct disputation, and, therefore, you do not come to the conclusion which is sought, unless you may say that to reject grace is the same as to sin, which two things are indeed often distinguished in the Scriptures. For the Pharisees were already, in Adam, and, indeed, in themselves, sinners before they "rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized" of John (Luke vii. 30). The Jews, of whom mention is made in Acts xiii. 46, were already sinners, in Adam and in themselves, before they made themselves unworthy of the grace of God, rejecting the word of life. But the question here is whether God passes by sinners, not whether he sees that they will reject grace.
Again, it does not follow that "reprobation, therefore, depends on men," if God reprobates no one unless reprobation and rejection is desired. For an effect can not be said to depend on that cause which, being in operation, does not certainly produce the effect. All men as sinners, but some of them, namely, the Elect, are not left; hence sin is not the cause of rejection, unless by the intervention of the damnatory sentence of the judge, in which it is decreed that sin shall be punished according to its demerit. Who does not know that the sentence depends on the judge, not on the criminal, even if the criminal has deserved that sentence by his own act, without which the judge could neither conceive, nor pronounce, nor execute the sentence. Nor does it follow "that God chooses some, and so they are chosen by Him, and that He rejects others, and, therefore, they are rejected." For sin, as to demerit, is common to the elect and the reprobate, according to the theory, which simply requires that men as sinners should be made the object of predestination, without any special distinction in the sin itself.
But you present, as a proof, that the foreseen neglect of grace is not the cause of rejection, the statement that "infants," dying out of the covenant of the gospel, have not neglected this grace, and yet are reprobate and "rejected by God." I affirm that they rejected the grace of the gospel in their parents, grand-parents, great-grand-parents, &c., by which act they deserved to be abandoned by God. I should desire that some solid reason might be presented to me why, since all his posterity have sinned, in Adam, against the law, and, on that account, have merited punishment and rejection, infants also, to whom, in their parents, the grace of the gospel is offered, and by whom, in their parents, it is rejected, have not sinned against the grace of the gospel. For the rule of the divine covenant is perpetual, that children are comprehended and judged in their parents. The fourth argument, which you draw from Romans 9, does not relate to the present subject. For the apostle there treats of the decree, by which God determined to justify and to save those, who should be heirs of righteousness and salvation, not by works, but by faith in Christ; not of the decree by which He determined to save these or those, and to condemn others, or of that by which He determined to give faith to some, and to withhold it from others. This might be most easily demonstrated from the passage itself, and from the whole context, and I should do it, if time would permit. But this being granted, yet not acknowledged, namely, that the apostle excludes works as the basis of the decree, of which he here treats, yet that, which you intend to prove, will not follow. For Augustine interprets it of works, which were peculiar to each of them (Esau and Jacob), not common to both, such as original sin, in which they were both conceived, when God spoke to Rebecca (12th verse). This interpretation of Augustine is proved to be true from the fact that the apostle regards Jacob, as having done no good, and Esau, no evil, when it was said to their mother Rebecca, "the elder shall serve the younger," as if it might be thought that Esau, by evil deeds, had merited that he should be the servant of his younger brother, who, by his good deeds, had acquired for himself that prerogative. Therefore, it does not exclude all respect of sin—sins, to which they were both equally subject. That "will" of God, in which "Paul acquiesces," is not that, by which He has purposed to adjudge any one, not a sinner, to eternal death, but by which, of those who are equally sinners, to one He shows mercy, but another He hardens; which words indeed mark the pre-existence of sin. For mercy can be shown to no one, who is not miserable; and no one is miserable, who is not a sinner. Hardening also has sin as its cause, that is, contumacious perseverance in sin.
But from your last argument, you deduce nothing against those, who make sin a requisite condition in the object of Predestination; for they acknowledge that "it is of the mere will of God that this one is elected, and that one rejected." The passage also which you cite from the author of the book "De vocatione gentium," also places sin as a condition, prerequisite to Predestination. For he is not "delivered" who has not been, first, made miserable and the captive of sin.
The second act of reprobation, you make to be "ordination to punishment," which you distinguish into "absolute and relative." There might be also a place for the same distinction, in the contrary act of election. For absolute election is a reception into favour; relative election is that, by which one person, and not another, is received into favour. You do rightly in making the will of God the cause of absolute ordination, yet not to the exclusion of sin. For it is very true that, in the Deity, there is the same cause of willing and doing that which He has decreed. Sin also has the same relation to ordination as to damnation. It has the relation of meritorious cause to damnation, hence it has also the relation of meritorious cause to, ordination. There is likewise no probable relation, to which a contrary can not be conceived. Therefore, it can not be absolutely denied that "sin is the cause of the decree of damnation." For though it may not be the immediate, proximate or principal cause, yet it is the meritorious cause, without which God can not justly ordain any one to punishment. But I should desire the proof that "sin does not precede, in the relation of order, in the divine prescience, that former act" of preterition and rejection. There is, indeed, in my judgment, no passage of Scripture, which contains that idea; I wish that one may be adduced. "Relative ordination is that by which this person, and not that, is ordained to punishment, and on the same condition." God has indeed the power of punishing and of remitting sin, according to His will, nor is He responsible to any one, unless so far as He has bound Himself by His own promises. In this, also, "the liberty of the divine goodness is exhibited," but not in this only. For the same thing is declared in creation itself, and in the dispensation of natural blessings, in this, that He determined that one part of Nothing should be heaven, another the earth, a third the air, &c. Indeed He has in creation demonstrated "the same liberty in the bestowment of supernatural blessings." For He has honoured some of His creatures with supernatural gifts, as angels and men, and others, indeed all others, He has made without supernatural gifts. He has likewise demonstrated the same freedom, not only in the creation, but in the government and care of His rational creatures, since He has made a communication of supernatural felicity, according to the fixed law and pleasure of His own will. From which angels and men could understand that God was free to communicate it to them according to His own will. This is declared by the arbitrary prescription of its condition. I make this remark that no one may think, that the act, which we now discuss, was the first act by which God evinced the freedom of His will.
Your words—"and indeed if God should destroy and damn all those who are rejected by Him, yet He would not be unjust," I can not approve, and you will not, if you compare your previous statements with them. For you said that ordination to punishment is subsequent to sin in the order of nature, and, here, you do not place sin between rejection, which is the first act of reprobation, and damnation, which is the second; while damnation does not follow rejection immediately, but it follows sin. Those words; so to speak, also contain a manifest falsity. First, because "the judge of all the earth can not do right, if He should slay the righteous with the wicked" (Gen. xviii. 25); and sin is the single and only meritorious cause of damnation. "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Exod. xxxii. 33). "The soul that sinneth it shall die" (Ezek. xviii. 4). Secondly, because that rejection is the cause into which sin can be resolved, and, therefore, the cause of sin, by the mode of removal, or non-bestowment of that aid, without which sin can not be avoided. No small error is committed here, in the fact that, when you do not suppose sin to be previous to rejection and divine preterition, you yet make ordination to punishment subsequent to rejection, without any explanation of the coherence of both those acts. If you attempt this, you will fall into no less a fault; for you will make God, on account of that rejection, the author of sin, as can be shown by irrefutable arguments. The illustrations, which you propose, are not adapted to your design, and fail through want of analogy. For it is one thing to kill a beast, by which deed it ceases to exist and is not rendered miserable, or to exclude from your house one whom you do not please to admit, and a very different thing to condemn a man to eternal punishment, which is far more severe than to annihilate the same person. "The cause of this relative reprobation is the mere will of God without any consideration of sin," namely, that which may have any effect in making a distinction between different persons, but not in giving the power to ordain certain persons to punishment, which power indeed exists in God as Lord and Judge, but can not really be exercised except towards a sinner who deserves punishment from the equity of divine justice. That which you quote from Augustine and Gregory agrees with this distinction. For both make sin the meritorious cause of reprobation, and consider sin and sinners as altogether prerequisite to predestination; but attribute the act of separation to the mere will of God.
In this "second act of reprobation," you make two "steps, just rejection, and, damnation on account of sin." It is apparent, from this, that you distinguish between that rejection which you made the first step of reprobation, and this latter rejection. Yet you do not state the distinction between those two rejections, which, however, ought to have been done, to avoid confusion. Yet it may be right to conjecture, since you make the former prior to sin, that you would make the latter consequent upon sin, and existing on account of the desert of sin. You make the divine rejection two-fold, but do not explain whether you mean, here, the latter, which you consider the first step in the second act of reprobation, or divine rejection in general. It is not the former, in my judgment, for that, as it pertains to the second act of reprobation, is on account of sin; and this is considered by you to be prior to sin. Perhaps it is the same with the rejection, which is the first act of reprobation. If so, you can not in the passages now referred to, escape the charge of confused discussion.
Let us see how you explain that two-fold rejection. You say that the former is "the denial of aid, confirmation, and assisting grace, by which the first is rendered efficacious for the resistance of temptations, and for perseverance in goodness," and you style it "rejection of trial or test" and affirm that it occurs in the case of those "who have not yet forsaken God," illustrating it from the example of the first man, Adam. But I inquire of you, whether you consider that aid, confirmation, and assisting grace so necessary for perseverance in goodness, that, without it, a man could not resist temptation? If you reply affirmatively, consider how you can excuse, from the responsibility of sin, the Deity, who has denied to man, apart from any fault in him, the gifts and aids necessary to perseverance in goodness. If negatively, then indeed, tell me by what right you call this a rejection by God. Can he be said to be rejected by God, who is adorned and endued with grace, rendering him acceptable, provided with all gifts and aids necessary to perseverance in goodness, and even fortified by the help of the Holy Spirit to resist temptation? If you speak in accordance with Scriptural usage you can not call it rejection. You will say that it is not called, in an absolute sense, rejection, but in a certain respect, -- that is, so far that God affords to him, on whom He has bestowed all those things—not efficacious aid, not actual confirmation in goodness, not that assisting grace, without which the former graces are inefficacious. This is apparent, you say, from the event, since, if he had obtained also those helps, he would have been steadfast in goodness, he would not have fallen. This you express in quoting from Augustine: -- "God rejected man, not as to ability, but as to will." If he had possessed the latter, he would have maintained his integrity.
Here we enter on a discussion of the utmost difficulty, and scarcely explicable, at least by myself, as yet but a tyro, and not sufficiently acquainted with those heights of Sacred Theology. Yet I will venture to present some thoughts, trusting to the grace of Him, who gives wisdom to babes, and sight to the blind. You will assist me in part, that, by our mutual conference, the light may shine with greater brightness. For I have undertaken to write not against you, but to you, for the sake both of learning and of teaching.
I see here two things which will need explanation from me.
First, in reference to sufficient and efficacious grace. Secondly, in reference to the administration and dispensation of both, and the causes of that dispensation.
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