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AN EXAMINATION OF THE TREATISE OF WILLIAM PERKINS CONCERNING THE ORDER AND MODE OF PREDESTINATION
PART 2 CONCERNING PREDESTINATION
In the first part of our treatise, we have examined, most learned Perkins, your sentiment concerning Predestination, and have proved that it is, by no means, consistent with the Holy Scriptures. Another labour now remains to us, to consider how you refute the opinion which you say is different from yours.
You, briefly, set forth that opinion, diligently gathered from the writings of others, consisting of four parts—
First, "God created all and each of mankind in Adam unto eternal life."
Secondly, "He foresaw the fall."
Thirdly, "Since He is good by nature, He seriously wills that all men, after the fall, should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth; and therefore He wills to bestow, on all men, all the aids both of nature and of grace that they might be saved, but indefinitely, that is if they should believe. This will of God" (they say) "is predestination, and is the same with that embraced in the gospel. The rule of this will is—‘He that believeth shall be saved, but he, that believeth not, shall be damned.’"
Fourthly, "Election is according to foreknowledge of future faith—to fail of which is possible, wholly, as some, or finally, as others claim, -- and Reprobation is according to foreknowledge of unbelief or contempt of the gospel."
I can not speak, with certainty, in reference to the statement of that theory, whether it agrees with the views of its authors or not, because you are silent concerning the authors from whom you have taken it: yet, with your permission, I may say that it does not seem to me to have been staged by you with sufficient correctness. Omitting the first two propositions, I think that, in enunciating the third, you make a frivolous statement, which will, I believe, be scarcely admitted by those, whose sentiment you profess to present. For what is the meaning of this—"God wills that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth, but indefinitely, if they should believe"? Is not faith itself the knowledge of the truth? Therefore the enunciation is deceptive and ridiculous—"God wills that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth, but indefinitely, if they should come to the knowledge of the truth, or he wills that all men should come to faith, if they should believe." The next sentence is of a similar character, -- "God wills to bestow, on all men, all the aids both of nature and of grace, that they may be saved, but indefinitely, if they should believe," when faith itself holds a distinguished place, among the aids of grace by which salvation is obtained. From the passage of the gospel, which is quoted, "He that believeth shall be saved," &c., it is apparent that they, whose sentiment you present, would, in this third proposition, have stated not that which you say, but this, "God determined to save, from the fallen human race, only those who should believe in His Son, and to condemn unbelievers."
The fourth proposition is not, I think, expressed sufficiently in accordance with the views of those authors. For, if I am not mistaken, their sentiment is this, --
"Election to salvation is according to foreknowledge of future faith, which God has determined to bestow of His own grace upon them by the ordinary means ordained by Himself. But Reprobation is according to foreknowledge of unbelief or contempt of the gospel, the fault of which remains, entirely, in the reprobate themselves." I admit that there may be need of some explanation of that sentiment, but you do not seem to have explained it correctly. You should have considered not one view only, adverse to your own view, but the others, also, which are opposed to it, and you should have refuted all of them, that, in this way, it might be evident that no view, other than yours, is true.
We may, now, consider in what way you refute that theory. You enumerate very many errors which, you think, result from it, which we will examine in order.
The first error; -- This either is not an error, or can not be deduced from that theory. It is not an error, if its hypothesis be correctly understood. For it is universally true that "God wills that all men should be saved, if they believe, and be condemned if they do not believe." That is, God has made a decree for electing only believers, and for condemning unbelievers. "But this," you say "is an error because it makes Election universal, and from it universal Reprobation is inferred, that is, by the added condition." But that sentiment makes neither Election nor Reprobation universal, which can not be done, but it establishes the particular Election of believers, and the particular Reprobation of unbelievers. Innumerable passages of Scripture present this Election and Reprobation. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life," &c. (John iii. 36). "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (John viii. 24). "To him give all the prophets witness, &c." (Acts x. 43). "Seeing that ye put it from you, &c." (Acts xiii. 46). "He, that hath the Son, hath life; and he, that hath not the Son of God, hath not life." (1 John v. 12). That Election and Reprobation is, therefore, evidently proved by many passages of Scripture. It does not follow, from this, that; "God always acts in the same manner towards all men." For though He may seriously will the conversion and salvation of all men, yet He does not equally effect the conversion and salvation of all. "What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, &c." (Deut. iv. 7.) "The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, &c." (Deut. vii. 6). "He hath not dealt so with any nation" (Psalm cxlvii. 20). "It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. xiii. 11). "Who, in times past, suffered all nations to walk in their own ways" (Acts xiv. 16).
But you have not distinguished, as you ought to have done, between the decree of God, by which He determined to save those who should believe in His Son, and to condemn
unbelievers, and that by which He arranged with Himself in reference to the dispensation of means, ordained by Him to faith and conversion. For those decrees "I will to give life to him who believes," and "I will to give faith to this man" are distinct. Faith, in the former, holds the place of subject, in the latter, that of attribute. If you had made this distinction, you would not have laid the burden of such an absurdity on that theory.
The second error; -- I remark that the highest and absolute design of the counsels of God "is not regarded by the authors of that theory to be the communication of the divine goodness in true happiness, to be made to all men." For they say that God destined salvation for believers alone; and, though He may not impart his goodness, and life eternal to a large number of persons, as unbelievers, yet they do not say this "without reference to the divine purpose." For they assert that one part of the divine purpose is that, by which He determined to deny eternal life to unbelievers. Therefore this is alleged in vain against that opinion. "But" you say "the ultimate design of the counsels of God either has an uncertain event, or is proposed in vain,"—which ideas coincide, and should not have been expressed distinctly—if "the theory is received." Its supporters will deny that conclusion. For the ultimate design of the divine counsels is not the life of one and the death of another, but the illustration of the goodness, justice, wisdom and power of God, which He always secures. Yet allow that the eternal life of these, and the death of those is the ultimate design of those counsels: it will not follow that it has an uncertain event, or is proposed in vain, if the former is bestowed upon no one, apart from the condition of faith, and the latter awaits no one, apart from unbelief. For God by His own prescience, knows who, of His grace, will believe, and who, of their own fault, will remain in unbelief. I wish that you would consider, that certainty of an event results properly from the prescience of God, but its necessity results from the omnipotent and irresistible action of God; which may, indeed, be the foundation of the prescience of some events, but not of this event, because He has determined to save believers by grace; that is, by a mild and gentle suasion, convenient or adapted to their free-will, not by an omnipotent action or motion, which would be subject neither to their will, nor to their ability either of resistance or of will. Much less does the damnation of some proceed from an irresistible necessity, imposed by the Deity.
The third error; -- You ought, here, first to have explained what is meant when it is said that "the will of God depends on the will of man." It may be that you extend that phrase further than is proper. It is, indeed, certain that the will of God, since He is entirely independent, -- or rather His volition—can not depend on the will of man, if that phrase be correctly understood, as signifying "to receive its law or rule from the volition of man." On the other hand, it is certain that God does will some things, which He would not will, if a certain human volition did not precede. He willed that Saul should be removed from the throne; He would not have willed it, if Saul had not willed to be disobedient to God. God willed that the Sodomites and their neighbours should be destroyed; He would not have willed it, if they had not willed to persevere obstinately in their sins. God willed to give His own Son as the price of redemption for sinners;
He would not have willed it, if men had remained in obedience to the divine command. God willed to condemn Judas; He would not have willed it unless Judas had willed to persist in His own wickedness.
It is not true, indeed, that "the will of God depends on the will of man." Man would, if he could, effect that the volition of God should not follow his own antecedent volition -- that punishment should not follow sin. Indeed God is purely the author of His own volition. For He has determined in His own free-will to follow a volition of His creature, by His own volition of one kind and not of another; the faith of His creature by the remission of sins and the gift of eternal life; the unbelief of the same, by eternal damnation. This is the meaning of that opinion, which you undertake to refute, and you therefore, with impropriety charge this absurdity upon it.
You, however, make an allegation of much greater weight, against this sentiment, that "by it the creature is raised to the throne of God, the Omnipotent Creator." How do you sustain that allegation? "It is claimed" you say "that God wills that all men should be saved through Christ, and that many of them are not saved because they, of themselves, refuse." But, good sir, does that doctrine say that "God wills that all men should be saved through Christ, whether they will or not? It does, indeed, assert that "God wills that they should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" which last can not be done, apart from their free-will. For no one can, if he is reluctant or unwilling, come to the knowledge of the truth, that is to faith. If God should will, absolutely and apart from any condition, that all men should be saved, and yet some should not be saved because they refused, then it would follow that the divine will was overcome by the human will, and the creature was raised to the throne of the Creator. But as God wills that His own volition, joined, in due order and mode, with the volition of man, should precede salvation, it is not wonderful that a man, who should deny his own assent unto God; should be excluded from salvation, by that same determination and purpose of the divine will. "But God" you say "ordains and disposes the action of the second cause; the divine will is not ordained by the will of the creature." Who denies these statements? That is not the doctrine which you here oppose. Therefore, here also, you attempt, in vain, to overthrow it by this absurdity.
You add another absurdity, as consequent on this opinion. "If that sentiment is true, then men elect themselves, by accepting the grace of God, which is offered to them, by the common aid of grace, and are reprobated by themselves, by rejecting offered grace." Let us examine this. Even if a man should, by accepting common grace, through the aid of common grace, make himself worthy of Election, and another, by rejecting the same, should make himself worthy of Reprobation, it would not follow that Election and Reprobation belong to the man, but to God, who judges and rewards worthiness and unworthiness. It is also entirely true, in reference to Reprobation, that man is the meritorious cause of his own damnation, and therefore of Reprobation which is the purpose of damnation. Wherefore he may be called the maker of his own damnation, in reference to its demerit; although God can, if He will, remit to him this demerit. But the relation of Election is different; for it is merely gratuitous, not only unmerited, but even contrary to the demerit of man. Whether the grace, which is offered to man, may be also received by him by the aid of grace, which is common to him with others who reject the same grace, or by grace peculiar to him, is perhaps in controversy. I do not, indeed, see that the sentiment, which you have presented, has given any prejudgment concerning that matter. It is a strange assertion that "God would not be extolled, if men should obtain his blessing merely by the aid of common grace." Who has deserved that a blessing should be offered to him? Who has deserved that grace of any kind should be bestowed on him to the obtainment of that blessing? Do not all these things pertain to gratuitous divine favour? If so, is not God to be extolled, on account of them, with perpetual praises by those, who, having been made partakers of that grace, have received the blessing of God? Of what importance to this matter is it, whether he may have obtained the offered blessing by the aid of common or of peculiar grace, if the former, as well as the latter, has obtained the free assent of man, and it has been foreknown by God that it certainly would obtain it? You will say that, if he has apprehended the offered grace by the aid of peculiar grace, it is, then, evident that God has manifested greater love towards him than towards another to whom He has applied only common grace, and has denied peculiar grace. I admit it, and perhaps the theory, which you oppose, will not deny it. But it will assert that peculiar grace is to be so explained as to be consistent with free-will, and that common grace is to be so described, that a man may be held worthy of condemnation by its rejection, and that God may be shown to be free from injustice.
The fourth error; -- The knowledge of God, as it has relation to his creatures, may be regarded in two modes. In one, as God knows that He can make those creatures, and at the same time that they can be made in this or in that mode, that they may not only exist, but may also be able to serve this or that purpose. This knowledge, in the Deity, is natural and precedes the act or the free determination of the will, by which God has determined in Himself to make the same creatures at such a time. In the other mode, as God knows that those creatures will exist at one time or another; and, regarded in this light, it depends on the determination of the divine will. This knowledge can be referred to the acts of the creatures themselves, which God has determined either to effect or to permit. Knowledge, considered in the former mode, refers to all acts in general, which can be performed by the creatures, whether God is efficient in them, or only permits them. From this, follows the decree to effect these and those acts, and to permit them, which decree is followed by the knowledge, by which God foreknows that those acts will occur, at any particular time. This latter knowledge, which is rightly called prescience, is not, properly, the cause of things or acts. But the former knowledge, with the will, is the cause of things and acts. For it shows the mode of operating, and directs the will. The will, however, impels it to execution. It is, therefore, certain that there is no determinate or definite prescience in reference to culpable evil, unless it has been preceded by a decree to permit sin.
For without this, sin will not exist. Prescience has also
reference to things future and certainly future; otherwise,
either it is not prescience or it is uncertain. These things are rightly said by you, and the order, which you have made in prescience and decree, is correct; but it is not contrary to the hypothesis of the doctrine, which you oppose, but so consistent with it, that it can not be defended without this order. For it states that God, from eternity, knew that it was possible that man, assisted by divine grace, should either receive or reject Christ; also, that God has decreed, either to permit a man to reject Christ, or to co-operate with him that he may accept Christ by faith, then, that God foreknows that one will apprehend Christ by faith, and that another will reject him by unbelief. From this follows the execution of that decree, by which he determined to justify and save believers, and to condemn unbelievers, which is an actual justification of the former, and a condemnation of the latter. It is, therefore, apparent that you improperly allege such absurdity against that doctrine. Your statement that "God permits evil, always, with respect to or on account of a conjoined good," deserves notice. Those words can be understood to mean that God would permit, an evil on account of a good, conjoined with the evil, which sentiment can not be tolerated. For the good, which comes out of evil, is not conjoined with the evil, but is wonderfully brought out of evil, as its occasion, by the wisdom, goodness and omnipotence of God. For He knows how to bring light out of darkness. The knowledge, also, by which God knows that he can use evil to a good end, is also the cause of the permission of evil. For, as Augustine well says, "God, in His goodness, never permits evil unless, in His omnipotence, He can bring good out of the evil."
The fifth error; -- Here three things must be properly distinguished. The acts and sufferings of Christ, the fruits and results of those acts and suffering, and the communication and application of those fruits, Christ, by the sacrifice of his own body, by his obedience and passion, reconciled us unto God, and obtained for us eternal redemption, without any respect or distinction of elect and reprobate, of believers and unbelievers; as that distinction is, in the order of nature, subsequent. That reconciliation and redemption is applied to us, when we, having faith in the word of reconciliation, believe in Christ, and in him are justified, or regarded as righteous, and are, in fact, made partakers of redemption. Hence it appears, according to that theory, "that not many of those, to whom reconciliation and redemption is, in fact, applied, by faith, are lost." Therefore, it will not follow, from this, that "sin, Satan, the world, death, hell, are more powerful than Christ the Redeemer. For, they could not, in the first place, prevent Christ from offering himself to the Father in sacrifice, obeying the Father, and suffering death; and, in the second place, that he should not thereby obtain reconciliation and eternal redemption before God. In reference to the application of these blessings, it is true that sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh, prevent many from believing in Christ, and being made partakers of them. Yet God is not overcome by these, both because it has seemed good to God not to use His omnipotent and irresistible power to cause men to believe, and because God has determined that no one shall be a partaker of those blessings, who does not believe in Christ. It is not true that "God is mutable, according to this hypothesis." For the theory does not state that God, absolutely and simply, wills to save all men, but conditionally: and according to His own prescience, He has determined to condemn, eternally, those who will not incline themselves to this counsel. This is also, finally, performed in fact without any charge. It is not sufficient to charge absurdity on any doctrine; it must be proved, by fair inference, to be a consequence of that doctrine.
The sixth error; -- I am very certain, from the Scriptures, "that saving grace is" not "universal" in the sense that it can be said to have been bestowed on all and each of mankind in all ages. But you ought to have said that "saving grace is stated to be universal" by that doctrine. You neglect to do that, and are much engaged in proving something else. I do not, indeed, object to this, but the other thing was equally necessary to reach the object, which you had proposed to yourself. But also, at this point, there are some things deserving consideration. You do not, with sufficient accuracy, regard the distinction between "the ability to believe, if one wills," and "the ability to will to believe." For each of these, the latter, as well as the former, must, and indeed does pertain to those, who will continue in unbelief. For unless they have the ability to believe, and, indeed, the ability to will to believe, they can not rightly be punished for their unbelief. Besides one includes the other, for no one can believe, unless he can will to believe. No one believes, without the exercise of his will. But the actual exercise of the will to believe is a different thing from the ability to will to believe; the latter belongs to all men, the former to the regenerate only, or rather to those enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Hence, you see that you ought to make corrections in many particulars, and that in place of "the ability to will to believe," should be substituted "the will to believe," which is most closely connected with the act of faith, while the other is removed to the greatest distance from actual faith. The distinction between the ability, the will, and the act, is here especially necessary: but not only is it to be suitably explained, but also the causes are to be referred to, by which it may be given to men to be able to will, and to act. In your third argument, in which you prove the speciality of grace, you use the disjunctive correctly in your expression, "who had not the knowledge of faith, or did not retain it." There is a greater emphasis, in that disjunctive, than one would, perhaps, at first, think. For, if they did not "retain it," they lost it by their own fault; they rejected it, and are, therefore, to be punished for the rejection of the gospel. If they are to be punished for this, they were destined to punishment, on this account. For the cause of the decree is not different from that of its execution. You present an objection to your own doctrine, deduced from the usual saying of the school-men, "A man can not be excused for a deficiency of supernatural knowledge, from the fact that he could, and indeed would, receive it from God, if he would do so according to his own ability, and since he does not do this, he is held guilty of that deficiency. You reply to this objection, but not in a suitable manner. For it is not a sufficient distinction that "grace is given either of merit or of promise:" nor, indeed, does it agree with the contrary or opposite parts. For God can give this, without either merit (I should have preferred the word debt), or promise, but of unpromised grace, since He does and gives many things of grace, which He has not promised. Let us look at that promise, which was made immediately after the fall; it was made, neither of debt, nor of promise, but of grace preceding the promise. For God gives life "to him that worketh," of promise and of debt (Rom. iv, 3, 4). But consider whether a promise is not contained in that declaration of Christ, "Unto every one which hath shall be given," by which God pledges himself to illuminate, with supernatural grace, him who makes a right use of natural grace, or at least uses it with as little wrong as is possible for him.
The argument, from idiots and infants, is wholly puerile. For who dares to deny that many idiots and infants are saved? Yet this, indeed, does not happen to them, apart from saving grace. Some remark is to be made in reference to the passages which you cite, though it may, perhaps, be irrelevant. In Romans ix. 16, where it is said "not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy," the word "righteousness" is understood. For the discussion in that place is in reference to those, to whom righteousness is properly imputed, not to them that work, but to them that believe, that is, righteousness is obtained not by him that willeth or that runneth, but by him to whom "God showeth mercy," namely, to the believer. Matt. xiii. 11, proves that grace is not given equally and in the same measure to all, and, indeed, that the knowledge of "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" is not divinely bestowed on all. In the other passages, the things which are opposed, do not belong in this relation. "The Spirit breathes not upon all, but on whom he wills" (John iii. 8). What if He wills to breathe upon all? From the statement, "he breathes where he wills," it does not follow that he does not breathe on any one, unless it is proved that he does not will to breathe upon him. So, also, "The Son revealeth the Father to whom he will" (Luke i. 29). What if he will to reveal himself to all? Not all believe, but those who are drawn" (John vi. 44). But, what if all are drawn? You see that those things are not rightly placed in opposition, though it may be true that the Spirit does not breathe upon all; that Christ does not reveal the Father to all; that all are not drawn by the Father.
I wish, also, that your remarks in reference to the disparagement of efficacious grace, had been more extended. First, indeed, the nature of grace itself, and its agreement with the free-will of man, then its efficacy, and the cause of that efficacy, ought to have been more fully explained. For I consider nothing more necessary to the full investigation of this subject. Augustine, because he saw this, treats, in very many places, of the agreement of grace and of free-will, and of the distinction between sufficient and efficacious grace. I remark here, in a word, that by efficacious grace is meant, not that grace is necessarily received and can not be rejected, which certainly is received, and not rejected, by all, to whom it is applied. I add that it is not to the disparagement of grace, that the wickedness and perversity of most men is so great that they do not suffer themselves to be converted by it unto God. The author of grace determined not to compel men, by his grace, to yield assent, but to influence them by a mild and gentle suasion, which influence, not only, does not take away the free consent of the free-will, but even establishes it. Why is this strange, since God, as you admit, does not choose to repress the perverse will, that is, otherwise than by the application of grace, which they reject in their perversity. I do not oppose those things which you present from the fathers, for I think that most of them can be reconciled with the theory which you here design to confute.
You also present certain objections, which can be made
against you, and in favour of that doctrine, and you attempt
to confute them. The first is this, "the promise, in
reference to the Seed of the woman, was made to all the
posterity of Adam, and to each of the human race, in Adam himself." This, indeed, is true, nor do those things, which are stated by you, avail to destroy its truth. For the idea that the promise pertained to all men, considered in Adam, is not at variance with the idea that the Jews were alone the people of God. These ideas are reconciled by the fact that the people of other nations were alienated from the promise by their own fault or that of their parents, as may be seen from the whole tenor of the Holy Scriptures.
The second and third objections are made by those who do not think that historical faith in Christ is necessary to salvation. Your refutation of these pleases me, and those objections are of no moment. You also meet, with a sufficient reply, the objection from the fathers. But that objection is not presented, oppositely to the views of those, whom, in this treatise, you oppose. For they admit that the grace, by which any one is enabled to will to be converted, and to will really to believe in Christ, is not common to all men, which idea they do not regard as opposed to their own sentiment concerning the election of believers, and the reprobation of unbelievers. The seventh error; -- Should I say that this dogma is falsely charged upon that doctrine, you will be at a loss, and indeed will not be able to prove your assertion. For they acknowledge that the rule of predestination is "the will and the decree of God." This declaration—"Believers shall be saved, and unbelievers shall be condemned"—was made apart from any prescience of faith or unbelief, by God, of His own mere will, and they say that in it is comprehended the definition of Predestination and Reprobation. But when the Predestination of certain individuals is discussed, then they premise the foreknowledge of faith and of unbelief, not as the law and rule, but as properly antecedent. To which view, the passage in Ephesians 1, is not opposed. For believers are "predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." The purpose, according to which Predestination is declared to have been made, is that of adopting believers in Christ to sonship and eternal life, as is apparent from many passages of Scripture, where that purpose is discussed (Rom. 8 and 9). From this, it is also evident that your first argument against those who hold that opinion, amounts to nothing.
In the second place, you assert, that "divine Election is rule of giving or withholding faith. Therefore Election does not pertain to believers, but faith rather pertains to the elect, or is from the gift of Election." You will allow me to deny this, and to ask for the proof, while I plead the cause of those, whose sentiment you here oppose. Election is made in Christ. But no one is in Christ, except he is a believer. Therefore no one is elected in Christ, unless he is a believer. The passage in Romans xi. 5, does not serve to prove that thesis. For the point, there discussed, is not the election of grace, according to which faith is given to some, but that, according to which, righteousness is imputed to believers. This may be most easily, proved from the context, and will be manifest to any one, who will more diligently inspect and examine it. For the people, "which God foreknew, (verse 2d,) that is which He foreknew according to His grace, is the people, which believed, not that which followed after righteousness by the works of the law (Rom. ix. 31). This people God "hath not cast away." For thus is to be understood the fifth verse, "there is a remnant according to the election of grace," that is, they, only, are to be esteemed as the remnant of the people of God, who believe in Christ, as they alone are embraced in the election of grace, the children of the flesh, who followed after righteousness by the law, being excluded. That, which follows, teaches the same thing, "if by grace, then it is no more of works." What is that which is "by grace "? Is it election to faith? By no means; but it is election to righteousness, or righteousness itself. For it is said to be "by grace" not "by works." For it is not, here, inquired whether faith, but whether righteousness belongs to any one by works. Consider also the next verse "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained, and the rest were blinded." What is that which Israel had sought for, and had not obtained? Not faith, but righteousness. See the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th chapters. They rejected faith in Christ, and endeavoured to obtain righteousness, by the works of the law, and this is the reason that they did not attain "to the law of righteousness." It is the same thing, also, which the elect are said to have obtained, not faith, but righteousness.
You will ask—"Is not faith, then, given according to Election?" I answer faith is not given according to that election, which is there discussed by the apostle, and therefore that passage does not conduce to your purpose. But, is there, then, a two-fold Election on the part of God? Certainly, if that is Election, by which God chooses to righteousness and life, that must be different, by which He chooses some to faith, if indeed he does choose some to faith: which, indeed, I will not now discuss, because it is my purpose only to answer your arguments.
Your third argument is equally weak, for prescience of faith and of unbelief has the same extent as predestination. In the first place, unbelief is a negative idea, that is, want of faith, and it was foreseen by God, when He decreed unto damnation. Secondly, the infants of believers are considered in their believing parents, and are not to be separated from the people of believers.
Your fourth argument is answered in the same way as the second. Faith is not the effect of that election, by which some are elected to righteousness and life. But it is this election to which they refer, in the examination of whose doctrine you are now engaged. The passage, in Ephesians 1, regards faith, as presupposed to predestination. For no one, but a believer, is predestinated to adoption through Christ - - "as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." The passages, adduced from the fathers, sustain the idea that faith is the effect of election, but, without doubt, that election is referred to, by which God makes a distinction among men in the dispensation of means, by which faith is attained, which will perhaps not be denied by those, with whom you are now engaged, if it may only be correctly explained according to the Scriptures.
The fifth argument amounts to this: -- "Election is not according to the foresight of faith, since the cause of the divine foresight of faith in one, and not in another, is the mere will of God, who purposes to give faith to one, and not to another." Your opponents would reply that faith is, in such a sense, of the mere will of God, that it does not use an omnipotent and irresistible influence in producing faith in men, but a mild suasion and one adapted to incline the will of man, according to the mode of the human will: therefore the whole cause of the faith of one, and the unbelief of another, is the will of God, and the free choice of man.
To the sixth argument, he, who acknowledges that faith can be wholly lost, will reply that the rule or rather the antecedent condition of election is not faith, but final perseverance in faith: of that election, I mean, by which God chose to salvation and eternal life.
The eighth error; -- That true and saving faith may be, totally and finally, lost, I should not at once dare to say: though many of the fathers frequently seem to affirm this. Yet the arguments, by which you prove that it can be, neither wholly nor finally, lost, are to be considered. Your first proof is deduced from Matt. xvi. 18 -- "upon this rock I will build," &c., and you argue in favour of your doctrine in a three-fold manner from that passage. Your first proof is equivocal on account of the double meaning of the word faith. For it means either the confession of faith made by Peter concerning Christ, or trust resting in that confession and doctrine of faith. Faith, understood in the former sense, is the rock, which remains unshaken and immovable, and is the foundation of the church; but faith, understood in the latter sense, is inspired in the members of the church, by the spirit and the word, by which they are built upon the rock as their foundation. Therefore the word faith is used in the antecedent in a sense, different from that, in which it is used in the consequent.
Your second proof is this; -- "They, who have been built on the rock do not wholly fall from it; -- But those, who truly believe, are built upon the rock; -- Therefore, they do not utterly fall from it." Answer. The Major of this proposition is not contained in the words of Christ, for he says not that "those built on the rock shall not fall from the rock," but "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (the rock, or the church)." It is one thing that the gates of hell should not prevail against the rock, but another that those who are built upon the rock shall not fall from it. A stone, built upon a foundation, may give way, and fall from it, while the foundation itself remains firm. If Christ referred to the Church, I say, even then, that to assert that those who are built upon the rock shall not fall from it, is not the same as to declare that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. For the act of falling pertains to the free will of the person who falls; but if the gates of hell should prevail against the church, this would occur on account of the weakness of the rock on which the church is founded. The Minor does not repeat the same idea as was contained in the Major. For, in the Minor, it is stated that believers are built, not having been built, completely, on the rock, on account of the continuation and confirmation of the work of building, which must, necessarily, continue while they are in this world. But while that continuation and confirmation lasts, believers do not seem to be out of danger of falling. For as any person may be unwilling to be built upon the rock, so it is possible that the same man, if he begins to be built, should fall, by resisting the continuation and confirmation of the building. But, it is not probable that Christ wished to signify, by those words, that believers could not fall, as such an assertion would not be advantageous. Since it is necessary that they should have their own strength in the rock, and therefore, that they should always bear upon and cling to the rock, they will give less earnest heed, in temptations, to adhere firmly to the rock, if they are taught that they can not fall from it. It may be sufficient to animate them, if they know that no force or skill can throw them from the rock, unless they willingly desert their station.
As to your third proof, even if it should be evident that Christ declared, that the gates of hell should not prevail against the church, yet it would not follow that no one could fall away from the faith. If any one should fall, nevertheless the church remaineth unshaken against the gates of hell. The defection of an individual, as was before said, is not caused by the power of hell, but by the will of him, who falls, in reference to the inflexibility of whose will the Scripture says nothing; the use of argument, presenting such consolation, would not be useful for the confirmation of the faithful. In reference to the sentiments of the fathers, you doubtless know that almost all antiquity is of the opinion, that believers can fall away and perish. But the passages, which you present from the fathers, either treat of faith in the abstract, which is unshaken and immutable, or concerning predestinated believers, on whom God has determined to bestow perseverance, who are always to be distinguished, according to the opinion of the fathers, and especially of Augustine, from those who are faithful and just, according to present righteousness.
Your second argument proves nothing, for, though it is true that he that asketh may be confirmed against temptations, and may not fall away, yet it is possible that he may not ask, and thus may not receive that strength, so that defection may follow. Hence arises the constant necessity of prayer, which does not exist, if one obtains that assistance from God, without daily prayers, nor is it, here, declared that believers may not intermit the duty of prayer, which must necessarily be presupposed to that conclusion, which you wish to deduce from prayer.
That "Christ undertakes to confess the elect" (Matt. x. 32) is true. But "elect" and "believers" are not convertible terms according to the view of the fathers, unless perseverance be added to faith. Nor is it declared, by Christ, in Matt. xxiv. 24, that the elect can not depart from Christ, but that they can not be deceived, by which is meant that though the power of deception is great, yet it is not so great as to seduce the elect: which serves as a consolation to the elect against the power and artifices of false Christ’s, and false prophets.
Your third argument can be invalidated in many ways. First, "entire defection from true faith would require a second engrafting, if indeed he, who falls away, shall be saved." It is not absolutely necessary that he, who falls away, should be again engrafted; indeed some will say, from Hebrews 6 and 10, that one, who wholly falls away from the true faith, can not be restored by repentance. Secondly, There is no absurdity in saying that they may be engrafted a second time, because in Romans xi. 23, it is said of branches, which had been cut or broken off, that "God is able to graft them in again." If you say that the same individuals are not referred to here, I will ask the proof of that assertion. Thirdly, It does not follow from the second engrafting that "a repetition of baptism would be necessary" because baptism, once applied to an individual, is to him a perpetual pledge of grace and salvation, as often as he returns to Christ: and the remission of sins, committed even after baptism, is given without a repetition of baptism. Hence, if it be conceded that "baptism is not to be repeated," as they, with whom you now contend, willingly admit, yet it does not follow that believers can not wholly fall away, either because those, who wholly fall away, may not be entirely restored, or because, if they are restored, they do not need to be baptized a second time. It does not seem that your fourth argument, from 1 John iii. 9, can be easily answered. Yet Augustine affirms that, here, they only are referred to who are called according to the divine purpose and are regenerated according to the decree of the divine predestination. If you say that it is here said of all, who are born of God, that they do not sin, and that the seed of God remains in them, I will reply that the word "remain" signifies inhabitation, but not a continuance of inhabitation, and that so long as the seed of God is in a person, he does not sin unto death, but it is possible that the seed itself should, by his own fault and negligence, be removed from his heart, and as his first creation in the image of God was lost, so the second communication of it may be lost. I admit, however, that this argument is the strongest of those which have been hitherto referred to.
To the fifth, I reply, that the seed of the word of God is immortal in itself, but it can be removed from the hearts of those, who have received it (Matt. xiii. 19, etc).
The Sixth argument. So long as the members abide in Christ as the branches in the vine, so long they can not indeed perish, as the vivifying power of Christ dwells in them. But if they do not bear fruit, they shall be cut off (John xv. 2). It is possible that the branches, even while abiding in the vine, may not bear fruit, not from defect of the root or of the vine, but of the branches themselves. Romans 6, is also an exhortation of the apostle to believers, that they should not live any longer in sin, because they, in Christ, are dead to sin. This admonition to Christians would be in vain, if it were not possible that they should live in sin, even after their liberation from its dominion. It is to be considered that the mortification of the flesh is to be effected through the whole life, and that sin is not, in a single moment, to be so extinguished in believers that they may not at some time bear the worst fruit, provoking the wrath of God, and deserving the destruction of the individual. But, if a person commit sins, deserving the divine wrath, and destruction, and God remits them, only on condition of contrition and serious repentance, it follows that those, who thus sin, can be cut off, and indeed finally, if they do not return to God. That they should return, is not made necessary by the efficacy of their engraftment into Christ, although that return will certainly occur in those, whom God has determined, by the immutable decree of His own predestination, to make heirs of salvation.
The Seventh argument. "All who are members of Christ attain the stature of a perfect man." This is true, if they do not depart from Christ. This they can do, but it is not included in the internal and essential definition of members, that they should not be able to recede and fall away from their head. It is declared, in John 15, that the branches which do not bear fruit are taken away; and in Romans 11, some branches are said to have been broken off on account of unbelief.
You, then inquire, as if you had fully proved that faith can not be wholly lost, -- "What is the reason that faith may not utterly fail?" and reply—"It is not from the nature of faith, but from the gift of grace, which confirms that which is promised to believers." You, here, incorrectly contrast faith itself, and confirming grace, when you ought to contrast a man, endued with faith, on one hand, and the gift of grace on the other. The reason that faith can not wholly perish, or rather that the believer can not wholly lose his faith, is found, either in the believer himself, or in grace, which confirms or preserves faith, that the believer may not lose it. It is not in the believer himself, for he, as a human being obnoxious to error and fall, can lose his faith. But if God has determined that he should not lose his faith, it will be preserved through the grace by which He strengthens him, that he may not fall. "Simon, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" (Luke xxii. 32). The faith, then, of Peter could have failed, if we consider his strength. But Christ, by his intercession, obtained for him that grace, by which its preservation was secured. The covenant of God, of which mention is made in Jer. xxxii. 40, does not contain in itself an impossibility of departure from God, but a promise of the gift of His fear, by which, so long as it shall continue in their hearts, they shall be restrained from departing from God. But the Scripture nowhere teaches that it is not possible to shake off that gift of fear, nor is it profitable that promises of such a character, should be made to those in covenant with God. It is sufficient that they should be sustained, by the promises, against all temptations of the world, the flesh, sin and Satan, and that they may be made strong against all their enemies, if they will only be faithful to themselves and to the grace of God.
You add another question: "How far can believers lose grace and the Holy Spirit?" You reply that this question can be solved by a two-fold distinction, both in believers and in grace. In the distinction, which you make among believers, those, whom you mention first, do not at all deserve to be called believers; for hearing and understanding the word, if approbation of the same is not added, do not constitute a believer. They, who occupy the second order, are called believers in an equivocal sense. For true faith can not but produce fruit, convenient to its own nature, confidence in Him, love towards Him, fear of Him, who is its object. You distinguish believers of the second and third order in such a manner as to make the latter those who "apprehend Christ the redeemer by a living faith unto salvation" which you deny in reference to the former; in the mean time conceding to both not only an approbation of evangelical truth, heard and understood, but also the production of certain fruits, when you ought, indeed, to have considered the declaration of Christ; "without me ye can do nothing; as the branch can not bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (John xv. 4, 5).
Can any one indeed abide in Christ, unless he apprehends him as a redeemer, by a living faith unto salvation. Therefore that whole distinction among believers is futile, since the last class only ought to receive this name. If you can prove that these can not fall away and perish, you fully accomplish your purpose. The other classes can not be said to lose grace and the Holy Spirit, but rather to reject grace and to resist the Holy Spirit, if they do not make further progress; though the hearing, understanding and approbation of the word may tend to this that they should, apprehend Christ Jesus as their Redeemer, by a living faith unto salvation.
Let us now come to your distinction of grace, and see how you from this distinction meet the question above presented. You say that "Grace is of a two-fold character. Primary grace is the gratuitous favour of God, embracing his own in Christ unto eternal life." Be it so. You also say that "some fall from this grace, in a certain manner, that is, according to some effects of that grace of which they must be destitute and the contrary of which they must experience, when they commit any grievous sin; not according to that grace, when God always preserves His paternal feelings towards them, and does not change His purpose concerning their adoption, and the bestowment on them of eternal life." But these things need more diligent consideration. The effect of grievous sin committed against the conscience is the wrath of God, the sting of conscience, and eternal damnation. But the wrath of God can not be consistent with His grace in reference to the same thing, at the same time, and in respect to the same person, so that he should, in reference to him with whom He is angry, in that very wrath, yet will eternal life. He can will to bestow on him certain effects of grace, by which he can be brought back to a sound mind, and, again to bestow on him, thus restored, that grace of God unto eternal life. An accusing conscience—one really accusing, can not be consistent with grace and the gratuitous favour of God unto eternal life. For, in that case, the conscience would not really accuse. God does not will to bestow eternal life on one, whom His own conscience testifies, and truly, to be unworthy of eternal life; unless repentance shall intervene, which, of the gracious mercy of God, removes unworthiness. God does not will to bestow eternal life on him who has, by his sin, merited eternal damnation, and has not yet repented, while he is in that state. Therefore he truly falls from that grace which is designed to embrace him unto everlasting life. But, since God knows that such a man wills; by those means, which He has determined to use for his restoration, rise from the death of sin, he can not be said to wholly fall from the Divine grace. But a distinction is to be made here in relation to the various blessings which God wills to bestow on such. He wills eternal life only to the believing and penitent. He wills the means of faith and conversion to sinners not yet converted, not yet believers. And it does not seem to be a correct statement that "God regards sin, but not sinners with hatred," since the sin and the sinner are equally odious to God. He hates the sinner on account of his sin, of which he is the author, and which, except by him, would not be perpetrated.
In the description of that primary grace, there is that, which weakens the answer itself. "It is the favour by which God embraces in Christ his own. He embraces no one in Christ, unless he is in Christ. But no one is in Christ, except by faith in Christ, which is the necessary means of our union with Christ. If any one falls from faith, he falls from that union, and, consequently, from the favour of God by which he was previously embraced in Christ. From which it is also apparent, that in this explanation there is a petitio principii. For the question is this, "Can believers fall from this primary grace, that is, from the favour of God, by which he embraces them in Christ?" It is certain that they can not, while they continue to be believers, because so long they are in Christ. But if they fall from faith, they also fall from that primary grace. Hence the question remains—"Can believers fall from faith?" But you concede that believers, do fall, so far as themselves are concerned. I conclude, then, that God does not remain in them, and that neither the right of eternal life, nor filiation belongs to them, according to the declaration, "as many as received him, &c." (John i. 12). Hence, if you had wished to make your statements consistent, it was necessary to deny that believers fall from faith, or, if you concede this, to concede, at the same time, that they can fall from the favour of God by which He embraces them in Christ unto eternal life. But, as I said, this whole subject may be elucidated, if the grace of God is suitably distinguished from its various effects.
Let the passages of Scripture, which you cite, be examined. "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John x. 28). Who will deny this? But some say—"The sheep can not be taken out of the hands of the shepherd, but can, of their own accord, depart from him." You affirm that "this is a weak statement." By what argument? "Because when they fall, they are taken by the Devil." Truly indeed, they are taken, when they fall, and it is not possible, that it should be done in any other way. For unless the sheep are in the hands of the shepherd, they can not be safe against Satan. But the question is—Does not the act of departure and defection in its nature, precede their seizure by Satan? If this be so, your answer is vain and futile. You argue again in this manner, "’If ye continue in my word, ye are my disciples indeed,’ (John viii. 31), therefore, he who continues to be one of the flock, and does not fall, is truly one of the flock." Answer.—In the first place, there is ambiguity in the word continue. It signifies either present observance of Christ’s word, or continuous observance, without defection from that word. Present observance, if it is sincere, makes one a disciple of Christ, or rather proves that one is a true disciple of Christ, otherwise one can never be truly called a disciple of Christ, unless when he has passed the limit of this life, when defection will be no longer to be feared, which is absurd. In the second place, I affirm that in the phrase "my disciples indeed" there is a two-fold sense; it signifies either that one, who at any time falls away from the word of Christ, was never a disciple indeed, though he may, at some time, have kept his word in sincerity; or that one, who at any time has kept the word of Christ and then obtained the name of disciple, if he yet falls away, is afterwards unworthy of the name of disciple. Therefore, if the relation of his present state is considered, He is "a disciple indeed;" if the relation of his subsequent state, he is not a disciple indeed, or does not deserve that name, because he, at some time, deserts it, unless one may say that no one has ever sincerely observed the word of Christ, who falls from it. This assertion needs proof. The passage in Romans 8, "Who shall separate us from the love of God?" is wholly irrelevant. For it is the consolation by which believers are strengthened against all present and assailing evils. None of these can at all effect that God should cease to love those, whom He has begun to love in Christ. Romans xi. 29 is not better adapted to your purpose. For though "the gifts of God are without repentance" yet one can reject the gifts of God, which he receives. Your quotation from (2 Tim. ii. 19,) "The Lord knoweth them that are His," does not favour your design. The Lord knoweth His own, even if some believers do fall away from faith. For it can be said that God has never known them as His own, by the knowledge, which is the handmaid of Predestination now under consideration. The distinction of Augustine may be applied here;-" some are children according to present justification, some according to the foreknowledge and predestination of God."
Secondary grace, you say, is either imputed or inherent. The phrase imputed grace does not sound well in my ears. I have heretofore thought that grace is not imputed, but imputes, as in Romans iv. 4, "the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt." Righteousness is said, in the same chapter, to be imputed of grace, without works. But, passing by this, let us examine the subject. The question proposed was—"How far may believers lose grace and the Holy Spirit?" You answer—in respect to imputed grace, which consists in justification, a part of which is the remission of sins—"The remission of sins is not granted in vain." Be it so. But believers may, after remission of some sins has been obtained, commit sin and grievously backslide. If, then, they should not repent of that act, will they obtain remission? You answer in the negative. I conclude from this, that they can lose that grace of the remission of their sins. But you reply—"It can not be that they should not repent." I know that this is asserted, but I desire the proof—not that the elect indeed, can not depart hence without final repentance, but that they, who have once been believers, can not die in final impenitence. When you shall have proved this, it will not be necessary to recur to this distinction of grace, for then you would be permitted to say that the believer never finally loses his faith and dies in impenitence.
You make a distinction in inherent grace, as "faith" and "the consequent gift of faith." In faith you consider "the act and the habit of faith." From this distinction, you answer the proposed question, thus—"Faith, considered in respect to habit and ability, can not be lost, on account of confirming grace, (though it can per se be lost,) but faith, in respect to any particular act, can be lost." First, I ask proof of your assertion. "Faith, in respect to habit, can not be lost, on account of confirming grace." I also inquire—"Is that act of faith, in respect to which faith can be lost, necessary or not, that any one may apprehend Christ? If it is, then a man can fall from grace, if he loses, as you say, the act of apprehension of Christ, or, rather, if he does not apprehend Christ by that act. If it is not necessary, then, it was indeed, of no importance to have considered that act, when the loss of grace was under discussion.
You attempt to prove, both by the example of David and by the opinions of the fathers, that the habit of faith and love can not be lost. The example of David proves nothing. For, should it be conceded that David, when he was guilty of adultery and murder, had not lost the Holy Spirit, it does not follow from this that the Holy Spirit can not be lost. For another might sin even more grievously, and thus lose the Holy Spirit. If, however, I should say that David had lost the Holy Spirit when he committed that adultery and murder, what would you answer, You might reply that it is evident that it was not so from the 51st Psalm. That Psalm, I reply, was composed by David after he had repented of those crimes, having been admonished by Nathan. God, at that time, according to the declaration of Nathan, restored the Holy Spirit to David (2 Sam. xii. 13). In reference to the assertions of the fathers, I consider that the case of Peter is not to the prejudice of the opinion, which states that faith can be destroyed. For Peter sinned through infirmity, which weakens faith, but does not destroy it. I pass over Gratiaus. It would be proper to discuss, at some length, the sentiment of Augustine, if it had been proposed to present it fully. If, however, any one wishes to know what was the opinion of Augustine concerning this matter, let him look at the following passages: "De Predestinatione Sanctorum" (lib 1, cap. 14), and "De Bono Perseverantiae" (lib. 2, cap. 13, 16, 19, 22, 23). Let some passages be added from Prosper, who holds and every where defends the opinions of Augustine, e.g. Ad cap. Gall. respons. vii, Ad objectiones Vincentinas, respons. 16; De vocatione Gentium, lib. 2, cap. 8, 9, and 28. From these passages, it will, in my judgment, be apparent that Augustine thought that some believers, some justified and regenerate persons, some, on whom had been bestowed faith, hope and love, can fall away and be lost, and indeed will fall away and be lost, the predestinate alone being excepted.
You quote some objections to the foregoing explanation. The first objection is this: "Sin and the grace of the Holy Spirit can not subsist together." You reply, that "this is true of reigning sin, or sin with the full consent of the will." But you deny that the regenerate sin with the full or entire consent of the will. I answer, first, that "reigning sin" is not the same as that which has the full consent of the will. For the former belongs, generically to quality or habit, the latter pertains generically to action, and by the latter is prepared a way for the former. From this, it is clearly manifest that reigning sin can not subsist with the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is also true that sin does not reign in the regenerate. For, before this can take place, it is necessary that they should reject the grace of the Holy Spirit, which mortifies sin and restrains its power. We must, then, examine the other mode of sin, and see whether some of the regenerate may sin or not with the full consent of the will. You deny this, and deduce the reason for your denial from the beginning and successive steps of temptation. You consider the beginning of temptation to be concupiscence or native corruption, and you say that "it exists alone in the unregenerate man, who is entirely carnal. That, in the renewed man, there is, at the same time, flesh and Spirit, but in various degrees, so that he is partly carnal, partly spiritual;" from which you conclude that "concupiscence can subsist with the grace of the Holy Spirit, but not reign." I reply that though I have but little objection to that conclusion, yet I can not altogether approve those things which precede. For some of them are not true, and the statement is imperfect.
It is not true that "an unregenerate man is wholly carnal," that is, that there is in him only the flesh. For by what name shall that truth be called which the wicked are said to "hold in unrighteousness" (Rom. i. 18)? What is that conscience which accuses and excuses (Rom. ii. 15)? What is the knowledge of the law by which they are convinced of their sins (Rom. iii. 20)? All these things can not be comprehended under the term flesh. For they are blessings, and are adverse to the flesh. Yet I admit that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in the unrenewed man. The statement is imperfect, because it omits the explanation of the proportion, which exists between the flesh and the Spirit in the renewed man, as the Spirit predominates in the regenerate person, and because, from the predominating element, he receives the name of spiritual man, so that he can not come under the term carnal. But observe, moreover, that your conclusion has reference to concupiscence, which is a quality, while the question related to actual sin, namely—"Can actual sin consist with the grace of the Holy Spirit?" You refer to "five steps, of temptation." You concede that the first step may pertain to the regenerate, also the second, and it is, indeed, true. But it can never be proved that Paul, for such a reason, "complained of his own captivity, because he could delight in sorrowful meditation in reference to the commission of sin." For he is treating there, of sin already committed. "The evil which I would not, that I do."
The third step, which is "the consent of the will to the perpetration of sin," you attribute also to the regenerate, "but a more remiss consent, according to which they will, in such a sense, that they are even unwilling to commit sin," and you think that this can be proved from the example of Paul in Romans 7. I wish you to consider, here, how these things harmonize together, that, in reference to one and the same act, the will or volition may be two-fold, and, indeed, contrary to itself, even at the very moment when the act is performed. Before the act, while the mind is yet in doubt, and the flesh is lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, this might be affirmed: but, when the flesh carries out its concupiscence into action, that is, does that which it has lusted against the Spirit, then, indeed, the Spirit has ceased to lust. The position must then be assumed, that the renewed man commits sin from the concupiscence of the flesh, the Spirit in vain lusting against it, that is, the flesh is stronger than the Spirit, and the desire of the Spirit is overcome by the flesh, contrary to the declaration of Scripture—"greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John iv. 4), and contrary to the condition of the regenerate, in whom the Spirit predominates over the flesh, nor does it occur that the flesh should conquer, unless when the Spirit is quiet, and intermits the contest.
"But the Scripture affirms (Rom. 7) that the renewed man would do good, yet does it not, and would not do evil, yet does it." I answer. in that passage, reference is made not to a regenerate person, but to a man under the law. But, even, if this point be conceded, I affirm that it is not possible that there should be volition and nolition, at the same time, concerning the same act; hence, that volition, which is followed by an act, is a pure and efficacious volition; the other is not so much volition as velleity, which is produced, not by the Holy Spirit striving against the flesh, but by the conscience, or the law of the mind, existing in man, which ceases not to struggle against the flesh, until it is seared, and deprived of all feeling. That struggle of the conscience does not effect that the man should not sin with his full consent, but rather aggravates the sin, and declares how vehement is the consent of the will to a sin, presented by the concupiscence of the flesh, when not even the conscience, exclaiming against it, has not power to restrain the will from that consent.
It is, then, an injurious and most dangerous opinion, which holds that the renewed man does not sin with full consent, when he feels the sting of conscience, opposing the sin which the will is about to perpetrate. As this happens to all, who are affected by any sense of right and wrong, it will be very easy for them to persuade themselves that, as they do not sin with the full consent of the will, they have a certain indication of their own regeneration. Therefore, if the full consent of the will to sin can not consist with the grace of the Holy Spirit, it is certain that the regenerate sometimes lose the grace of the Holy Spirit, because they sin with the full consent of the will, when they sin against the conscience.
You consider the fourth step to be "the carrying out of an evil work into an act." This is correct, but the distinction which you make, can not be proved from the Scriptures. When the regenerate person commits sin, he commits it being overcome by the concupiscence of the flesh, while the Spirit of regeneration is quiescent, and not testifying against the sin, unless before the sin, when the consent of the will has not yet been gained by the suasion of concupiscence, and after the sin when the Spirit has begun to revive. But the "testifying," of which you speak is nothing else than the act of the conscience accusing the person both before and after the commission of sin. The whole man, then, sins, but "not according to that principle by which he is renewed." This was unnecessarily added; for who would ever call this in question? This, also, can be said of a man placed under the law, as he does not sin according to the law of his mind, that is, of his conscience approving the law, but only according to the flesh. Hence, you see that the distinction in this case, ought to have been of another character. Nor does it seem necessary to concede, "that an action, performed by a regenerate person, may be less sinful than if performed by him in whom sin reigns."
For the fault and sinfulness of an action is to be judged from the strong consent of the will to the sin. But he is borne more vehemently towards sin, who rejects the act of the Holy Spirit striving in the contrary direction, and follows the concupiscence of the flesh, than he, who, opposing the concupiscence of the flesh by his conscience alone, at length yields. Thus the sin of David, committing adultery and murder was far more heinous than that of a heathen man committing the same sins; the inhabitants of Bethsaida and Chorazin sinned more grievously than the citizens of Tyre and Sidon, because the former, committing their sins, resisted more influences, adapted to restrain from the commission of sin, than the latter. You say that the last step is "when a sin, confirmed by frequent repetition, becomes a habit." That step or degree was called, you remark, by the Greeks to< ajpotelei~n But you will allow me to deny that the Greeks used that word, in that sense. For your fourth step was equivalent to ajpotelei~v the same as to commit sin. But this last step is a degree, not so much in sin, as in sinners, of whom some advance further than others. You deny that this step can happen to the regenerate.
This needs proof. In all those distinctions, there is a continual assumption of the point to be proved. For they, who say that the regenerate can lose the grace of the Holy Spirit, say, also, that the regenerate may not only sin, but may persevere in sin, and contract the habit of sin.
The second objection, which you adduce, is this: "Adam, being yet pure, fell wholly, therefore, much more may they fall, who, having been born and renewed after the fall of Adam, have believed." The force of the argument depends on the parity or equality of the conditions of the parties; that of Adam, in respect to which he was created in righteousness and true holiness; and that, of his descendants, in respect to which they have been renewed in righteousness and true holiness. You attempt to solve the difficulty by showing the dissimilarity of the cases. But the dissimilarity, which exists between the two conditions, does not effect that the regenerate may not be able, altogether, to fall away. Nor, indeed, is this affirmed, in the passage, which you cite from Augustine. For, though the regenerate may have the will to do according to their ability, of which gift Adam was destitute, according to the sentiment of Augustine, yet it does not follow that they can not repudiate and willingly reject this gift. You were permitted to add other things, in which the condition of believers in Christ differs from the original state of Adam in righteousness. Among other things, this is peculiar, that the latter state had not the promise of the remission of sins, if it should happen that Adam should ever once commit sin; but that of believers is rendered more blessed by the promise—"their sins will I remember no more" (Heb. viii. 12). Hence it is that the faith of God is not made "without effect," even if those in covenant with him do sin (Rom. iii. 3). For the covenant is one of grace and faith, not of righteousness and works. Yet make whatever differences you please between the two states, it will be always necessary to admit that perseverance, voluntary, free, and liable to change, was necessary to salvation in both states. Man does not persevere, either in the former or the latter state, unless freely and willingly. This is so far true "that God does not take away even from those, who are about to persevere, that liability to change, by which they may possibly not choose to persevere," as is affirmed in the treatise "De vocatione Gentium, lib. 2, cap. 28." You refer to a third objection, "This member of a harlot is not a member of Christ—But the believer, who is a member of Christ, can become the member of a harlot; -- Therefore, the believer may cease to be a member of Christ." You reply to this objection by making distinctions in the term member. But those distinctions are unnecessary. First, the subject of discussion is a member not in appearance, but in truth. An apparent member is, in an equivocal sense, a member, and therefore, does not belong to the definition; and there would be four terms to the syllogism. Nor is the subject of discussion a member, which is such in its destination, for we know that all men, who are in destination members of Christ, are, universally, members of Satan, before they are in fact brought to Christ, and united to him. Since, therefore, members, which are really such, are referred to in the objection, to what purpose are these niceties of distinction sought? "In reference to those who are really members," you say, "some are living, others are half dead. But both are members, according to election." If this be so, you attain your object; for who is so foolish as to say that the elect may finally be lost? But they whom you consider your opponents, will deny that all true members of Christ are such by predestination. They will affirm that some are such according to their present state, their righteousness and present engraftment in Christ. Let us however, consider your answer, in the supposition of the truth of that distinction. You assert that "a true and actual member, and one that remains such cannot be a member of a harlot." That, indeed, is not strange. For it is an identical proposition, and, therefore, amounts to nothing. The member of Christ, that remains such, is not a member of a harlot, but this does not answer the question—Will a living member of Christ always remain alive? It was affirmed in the objection that a living member of Christ may become a member of a harlot, and may, therefore, not remain a member of Christ. The point, to be proved, is again assumed in your answer to that argument. But you say that "the half dead may, as far as they are concerned, at any time, lose the Holy Spirit." But, from what state do they become half dead? Is it not from being wholly alive? You would not indeed say that any one is half dead, at the time, when he is engrafted in Christ. You see that such an assertion is absurd. The state of the case, according to those who argue against you, is like this. At the beginning of faith in Christ and of conversion to God, the believer becomes a living member of Christ. If he perseveres in the faith of Christ and maintains a good conscience, he remains a living member. But if he becomes indolent, has no care for himself, gives place to sin, he becomes, by degrees half-dead: and proceeding in this way he at length wholly dies, and ceases to be a member of Christ. You ought to have refuted these statements, which, so far from refuting, you rather confirm by your distinctions. You have indeed treated this subject, with less care than its dignity, and your learning deserved. The ninth error; -- That, which is so styled by you, is erroneously charged on the sentiment adverse to you: for they do not say this, nor can it, in any way, be deduced from their sentiment. This is their opinion. "A man, by his own freewill, receives the grace, which is divinely offered to him, whatever it may be." For as grace preserves, so the free-will is preserved, and the free will of man is the subject of grace. Hence it is necessary that the free-will should concur with the grace, which is bestowed, to its preservation, yet assisted by subsequent grace, and it always remains in the power of the free-will to reject the grace bestowed, and to refuse subsequent grace; because grace is not the omnipotent action of God, which can not be resisted by the free-will of man. And since the state of the case is such, those same persons think that a man can reject grace and fall away. From which you see that you have undertaken a futile task, when you refute the error which you charge on that sentiment. Yet we may consider, also, those same things: perhaps an opportunity will be afforded to note something, which will not be unworthy of knowledge. "This sentiment," you affirm, "attributes a free will, flexible in every direction, of grace, to all men." Do you deny that the free will is "flexible in all directions"—I add, even without grace? It is flexible by its own nature: and as it is addicted to evil in its sinful state, so it is capable of good, which capability grace does not bestow upon it; for it is in it by nature. But it is, in fact, only turned to good by grace, which is like a mold, forming the ability and capacity of the material into an act, though it may be, of itself, sufficiently evil. Augustine (de predestin Sanctorum, cap. 5) says, "It belongs to the nature of man to be able to have faith and love, but it pertains to the grace of believers to actually have them." But you may be dissatisfied that this is said "to exist in all men," but that dissatisfaction is without cause. Their meaning is not that grace is bestowed on all men, by which their free will may be actually inclined to good; but that in all there exists a will which may be flexible in every direction by the aid of grace. But they teach, you say, that "it is in the will of man to apply itself to the grace which is bestowed by the aid of universal grace, or to reject the same by the inability of corrupt nature." What do you desire at this point? You will answer "that for the phrase ‘universal grace’ should be substituted ‘particular grace.’" But who has ever said that "a man can apply himself to particular grace by the force of universal grace"? I think that no one can be so foolish: for the man is led to the use of particular grace, offered to him, by the free-will, assisted by particular grace. The expression, "to reject the same by the inability," &c., is ineptly used; for inability does not reject; a passive non-reception pertains to it, while it is the province of depravity to reject. When, therefore, you have introduced, according to your own judgment, the phrase "universal grace," you fight against your own shadow. For it is evident that "the ability to believe is not carried out into action, unless by the aid of other subsequent grace, which we call particular or special, since it does not happen to all and to each of mankind.
The passages of Scripture, which you adduce, do not answer your purpose. For the former two are adapted to prove that the faithful do not fall away from Christ; and let it be remembered that, according to Augustine and the author of the book, "De vocatione Gentium," that perseverance pertains only to believers, who are predestinated to life. The passages from Augustine show that the grace, prepared for the predestinate, will certainly incline their hearts, and will not be rejected by them because God uses such persuasions with them, as He knows to be suitable to them, and adapted to persuade them. This he calls efficacious grace, and always distinguishes it from efficient grace. You, however, in quoting Augustine, with sufficient superciliousness, repudiate that distinction. But what arguments do you use? You say that no grace is sufficient for conversion, which is not efficacious. I deny it, and nature itself exclaims against your assertion, while she distinguishes sufficiency from efficacy. God is sufficient for the creation of many worlds, yet He does not efficaciously perform it. Christ is sufficient for the salvation of all men, yet he does not efficaciously accomplish it. But you perhaps understand by efficacious cause that which can effect any thing, and so make it identical with efficient cause. But they who distinguish between sufficient and efficacious define the latter as that, which really produces the effect.
You do not prove that which you intend, when you say that "man has not free-will in spiritual things." Granted. But if grace may restore the freedom of the will, is it not then in the exercise of free-will, that he either can do sufficiently, or really does efficaciously? Nor is it to the purpose to say that "we are dead" (Col. iii. 3), and that "our sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor. iii. 5). This is not denied by those, who speak of sufficient grace. Nor does that three-fold inability do away with sufficient grace. They, who make the distinction, say that sufficient grace is able to remove that three-fold inability, and to effect that a man should receive offered grace, should use it when received, and should preserve it.
You endeavour to prove, in the next place, as the necessary consequence of "the five-fold nature of grace, preeminent, preparative, operative, co-operative, and persevering," that no single grace can be sufficient, because "no one of those five kinds of grace is alone sufficient for salvation, since all joined together are necessary." It is not a sound conclusion, that there is no sufficient grace because no one of those five kinds of grace is sufficient alone. The reasoning here is from a particular case to a general conclusion, and therefore is not valid; there is here also the fallacy of Composition. But the first two kinds of grace, namely, prevenient and preparative, are either sufficient or efficacious. For God precedes (by His grace) sufficiently and efficaciously; He also prepares sufficiently and efficaciously. It may be questioned, also, whether the same can not be said of operative and co-operative grace. Yet let us concede that those terms properly pertain to efficacious grace. Nevertheless they who defend the use of the phrase "sufficient," will say that these latter kinds of grace are prepared for and offered to all those, who have suffered themselves to be moved by prevenient and preparative grace, which is sufficient in its character, in the direction intended by that grace; and afterwards the gift of perseverance is also bestowed. Hence you have not, by that argument, disproved sufficient grace so far as it is distinguished from efficacious grace. But we will not examine the definitions of that five-fold grace, because this does not pertain to the scope of this discussion. You also endeavour to refute the same distinction by a simile. But in it there is a great want of analogy. For an inert mass is moved, naturally and necessarily, by the application of forces, which exceed the force of its gravity; but we, as human beings, are moved according to the mode of freedom, which God has bestowed on the will, from which it is called free-will. At this point, the similitude, which Cardinal Contarenus uses in reference to predestination, and the opposite of your simile, may be not ineptly mentioned. He supposes a two-fold gravity in a stone, one natural, the other adscititious. The strength which is sufficient to raise a stone, tending downwards by natural gravity alone, will not be sufficient, if that adscititious gravity shall be added, and the efficiency of sufficient strength will be hindered by the adscititious gravity. We see this clearly in athletes, engaged in wrestling. One endeavours to raise the other from the earth, and to prostrate him, thus raised up. Either of them would be able in a moment to effect this in reference to his antagonist, if the latter should only offer the resistance of the native weight of his body, but because he does not wish to be raised, he depresses himself and his adversary as much as he can, by using the strength of his nerves and bones, which far exceeds the weight of his body alone. So there is, in man, by derivation from the first sin of the first man, a weight, which is, or may be called, native. There is, in addition to this, another produced in each person by his own wickedness, which does not so much exist in him, as is present with him, serving as a hindrance that the power of that grace, which is sufficient to overcome the natural tendency, may not effect that which, without the interposition of that impediment, it would effect. Nor is the flexibility of our will, nor our power of choice taken away by the concurrence of those five gifts, but, by that concurrence, it is effected that the will, which by its own nature is flexible in every direction, and the choice, which is able to elect freely between two different things, should incline certainly and infallibly in that direction, towards which the motion of the five-fold grace impels it. Hence, also, I wish that instead of "inflexible inclination," you had said "certain and infallible inclination." For, if we do not say that the mind of a man may possibly be inclined in another direction, even at the time when it is inclined in a given direction by efficacious grace, it follows that the will of man acts not according to the mode of liberty, but according to the mode of nature, and thus not the free-will, but the nature of man, will be saved. But the free-will, at least as to its exercise, will be, in that case, destroyed by grace, while it belongs to grace not to take away, but to correct nature itself, wherein it has become corrupt.
Nor is what is said concerning the promised Spirit opposed to these views. For the "Spirit, who effects that, in fact, we may walk," does not take away the freedom of the will and of human choice, but he acts upon the flee-will, in such a manner, as he knows will be suitable and adapted to it, that it may be, certainly and infallibly, inclined. I wish that the same thing may be understood of the phrase, "the Father draweth." Those things, which follow, have not the effect of weakening this doctrine. For, by the supposition of "efficacious grace acting in those, concerning whom God, certainly and infallibly, wills their conversion and salvation," the existence of sufficient grace is not denied: nor indeed is that, which you infer, included in that supposition, namely, that they, who are truly believers, can not but persevere. We may be permitted to infer from it the certain, but not the necessary existence of an effect. Ignorance of this distinction is the cause of your idea that you must deny sufficient grace.
Next follows the explanation of some passages of Scripture, which they who hold to sufficient grace are accustomed to use in proof of it. You seem to have selected them from Bellarmine, who presents them, in the same order, as you use. We will consider your refutation.
The first passage is from Isaiah 5. Bellarmine deduces from that passage a two-fold argument in proof of sufficient grace. The first is like this, when put in a syllogistic form: "He, who did all things for his vineyard which were necessary that it might be able to bear fruit, used sufficient culture for its productiveness; -- But God, &c.; - - Therefore, &c." The truth of the Major is plain from its very terms. It consists in a definition, and is itself a definition. For sufficient culture is that in which all things necessary for fruitfulness are used." The truth of the Minor is contained in the text. For he, who has done all things which he might do for fruitfulness, has used all necessary means.
God could not, with justice, speak in such terms if He had not used all necessary means. Therefore the conclusion is a correct one. You reply by making a two-fold distinction in sufficiency, and in the nature of the vineyard; the sufficiency of external means, and that of internal grace; also of a good and bad vineyard. In the first part of this reply, you concede what is proved in the passage under consideration. For, if the external means are of such a character, that men would be sufficiently invited and led by them unto salvation, unless their minds were so perverse and depraved, as you say, then it follows that those means would have been sufficient. For is it necessary, in order that sufficiency, by those means, may be attributed to grace, that internal grace, certainly changing the bad vine into a good one, should be added. Indeed it can be said that so much internal grace, as would be sufficient for a change of heart, was not wanting, or at least would not have been wanting, if they had not, in their perversity, rejected the external means. The distinction between the good and the bad vineyard is of no importance in this place. For this is the very thing, concerning which God complains that His vineyard was so perverse that it would not respond to the sufficient culture which had been bestowed upon it.
The second argument of Bellarmine is like this. If God had not bestowed on that vineyard all things necessary for the production of grapes, then He would have said absurdly that He "looked that it should bring forth grapes;"—But He said, well and justly, that He "looked that it should bring forth grapes;"—Therefore he had bestowed on it all things necessary for the production of grapes. The truth of the Major is certain. For God knew that a vineyard could not produce fruit, which was destitute of any of the means necessary for fructification, and if He knew this, He knew, also, that it would be futile, nay, foolish to look for grapes from a vineyard, which could not bear grapes. The Minor is contained in the text. Therefore the conclusion is valid, that sufficient grace was not wanting to the vineyard.
It is worth the while to consider what is the meaning of that divine looking for or expectation, and how it may be correctly attributed to the Deity. An expectation, by which an act is looked for from any one, depends on a proper knowledge of the sufficiency, necessary for the performance of the act, which either exists in Him or is present with Him, on whom the act is incumbent, else, the expectation would be unreasonable. No one looks for figs from thistles, or roses from a thorn-bush. This divine expectation, therefore, if we do not wish to call it unreasonable, which would be blasphemy, depends on the same knowledge. Nor does the fact that, in the infinity of His knowledge, God knows that no effect will follow, from the sufficiency of those forces, to prevent us from attributing that expectation to Him. For that knowledge does not at all interfere with the sufficiency of causes on which depends the justness and reasonableness of the expectation. It is, indeed, true that the divine knowledge effects that God can not be deceived. But he, who looks for fruit in vain, and to whose expectation the event does not correspond, is deceived. From this, it is easy to infer that expectation is attributed to God only by anthropopathy. But, if even this be conceded, it will nevertheless follow from the consideration that expectation is attributed, with this appropriate qualification, to the Deity, that sufficient strength was present with the individual from whom something was expected. But if, in that expectation, we consider not only the knowledge referred to, but also the highest desire, with which, he, to whom expectation is attributed, demands the production of fruits, in that respect expectation is most properly attributed to God. For he desires nothing so much from men; in nothing is He equally delighted. This also is most plainly expressed in that parable. Let us now return from this digression.
To that second argument you make no reply, but propose another case which you think will be more easily managed. But let us examine this, also, with your answer. The case is this: "If he did not bestow grace to bear fruit, which could not be had, except by His gift, then God had no just cause of expostulating with the Jews." The reply consists in a denial of the consequence, for the denial of which, a three-fold reason is assigned. The first is this; "as He did not owe that grace, He was under obligation to no one." Secondly, "because they rejected it when offered to them in their parents." Thirdly, "because they did not, after having rejected it, seek it anew, or have any care concerning it." Indeed to one, who carefully considers the matter, the reason is a single one, though consisting of three parts. For the reason assigned that God could rightly expostulate with those, who do not bear fruit in this, that "they had grace sufficient for this purpose but rejected it." To confirm and strengthen this reason, it is added that God would not be obligated to give grace a second time, and that, even should He be obligated, He would not deny it to those desiring it, but He would not give it to those not desiring it, and not having any care whatever concerning that grace. That reason for just expostulation is to be examined, and even so much more diligently, as it is more frequently used. It is asked, then, "Could God rightly expostulate with them because they do not bear good fruit, who have rejected the grace received in their first parents, which is necessary for the production of those fruits, or rather who have lost it, by a judicial removal of it, on the part of God?"
For the discussion of this question, it is necessary to consider, first, "whether God could demand fruit from those who have, as a punishment from God, lost the grace necessary for that production, which was received in their first parents," that is, who are destitute of necessary grace, though by their own demerit. From this will readily follow the answer of the question "whether He can justly expostulate with such persons, if they do not produce fruit. We remark, then, -- every divine demand, by which He requires any thing from a creature, is prescribed by law. But a law consists of two parts, command and sanction. The command, by which an act is prescribed or forbidden, ought not to exceed the strength of him, on whom the command is laid. The sanction contains a promise of reward to the obedient, a denunciation of punishment against the transgressor. Hence it is evident that the demand of the law is two-fold, of obedience and of punishment. That of obedience is prior and absolute; that of punishment is subsequent, and has no place except when obedience is not yielded. Hence, also, there is a two-fold satisfaction of the law; one, in which the obedience, prescribed by the law, is rendered; the other, in which the punishment, required by the law is inflicted. He, who satisfies the claim of the law in one way, is free from its demands, in the other. He, therefore, who pays the penalty laid down in the law, is entirely free from obligation to render obedience. This is true, universally, of every kind of punishment. If the punishment of disobedience comprehends within itself a privation of that grace, without which the law can not be obeyed, then, indeed, by a two-fold right, he seems to be entirely free from obligation to obedience, both because he has suffered due punishment, and because he is deprived of that strength without which the law can not be obeyed, and deprived, punitively, by God Himself, the enacter of the law, which fact is of much importance. For thus is excluded that argument, which some present, saying, that the servant is bound to render obedience or servitude, even if he has cut off his own hands, without which he can not render it. The case is not analogous. For the fault and sin of the servant consists in the fact that he has cut off his hands, but in the other case, God himself the lawgiver, takes away the strength, because it has not been used by him, who had received, according to the declaration, "to him that hath shall be given, &c." That servant, indeed, deserved punishment by that crime, and if he should suffer it, his master could not afterwards demand from him service which he could not render without hands. Therefore it seems necessary to conclude that God can not demand fruit from those, whom he has deprived, though on account of their own demerit, if the strength necessary for producing fruit. Let us take the illustration of a tree. The tree, which does not bear fruit, deserves to die, but when that punishment has been inflicted upon it, no one can, by any right demand fruit from it. Hence, therefore it follows secondly "God can not justly expostulate with those, who do not bear fruit if they are destitute of grace necessary for this, even by the punishment of God. It is of no consequence that God is not obligated to restore grace to them. For as He is not obligated to bestow grace, so He can not demand the act of obedience; and, if He wills to demand an act, He is obligated to restore that grace, without which the act can not be performed. Thus also it is not to the purpose that they do not seek the grace, which they have lost. For thus they twice deserve not to receive grace, both because they have lost it, of their own fault, and because they do not seek it when lost. On this very account, God has not the right to demand an act, not susceptible of performance. These things are in reply to your answer to the case proposed.
The second passage is in (Matt. xxiii. 37). "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not." From this passage Bellarmine, to prove that there is sufficient grace, thus argues, "If Christ did not desire that the Jews should be able to will, then he could not, justly complain that they would not. But he did justly complain that they would not. Therefore he desired that they might be able to will." This reasoning is based on the supposition that no one can justly complain of any person that he has not performed an act, for the performance of which he had not sufficient strength.
Your reply to that argument is two-fold. The former part, which refers to the distinction of the will into that of good-pleasure, and that of sign or revelation has nothing whatever to do with the subject of the argument. For Bellarmine does not say that Christ wished to gather them according to his good-pleasure, but he openly denies it, and affirms that he can sustain that position from the passage itself. For a gathering, which is made according to the will of good-pleasure is not only sufficient but also efficacious. Let the gathering together here referred to, be according to the will, which is styled that of sign or revelation, and from it follows that, which is deduced by Bellarmine. For, in no mode of the will, does he wish to gather them unless he assists or is ready to assist, that they also, whom he wishes to gather, may be able to will; and thus it is a false assertion, that "God can, by the will of sign, will to gather the Jews together, though He may not aid them to be able to will." For the necessary consequences or effect of this will is sufficient aid, by which also the Jews themselves might be able to will. It is a contradiction in terms, though indirectly, to assert that "He wills to gather, and wills not to give sufficient aid by which the Jews may be able to will to be gathered, who can not, except by their own will, be gathered." You add, to this reply, that which has also been said in reference to the first argument, and its repetition is unnecessary. The latter part of your reply is, "Christ does not here speak as God, but as the minister of the circumcision." Granted. Then he wished to gather them together as the minister of the circumcision, and as a minister who had power to baptize with the Holy Ghost. Therefore, in that declaration of his will he showed that he either had given or was ready to give sufficient grace to them, without which they could not be gathered together. But in the passage in Isaiah 5, God Himself speaks, who is able efficaciously to soften and convert hearts, and says—"What could have been done more to my vineyard?" Who would reply, according to the meaning of your answer, "Thou mightest have softened their hearts and have converted them and it was suitable that thou shouldst do this. For thou art God, and speakest there as God." Therefore that distinction is absurd and not adapted to solve that objection. We see indeed on how weak foundations, that opinion rests, which can not present other answers to meet those arguments.
The third argument is from the 7th chapter of the acts, 51st verse. "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." From this passage Bellarmine argues in a two-fold manner. First, --
"Those, in whom good desires are not inspired, can not be said to resist the Holy Spirit, -- But the Jews are said to have resisted; Therefore good desires were inspired in them, by which they could have been converted." Secondly—"They, who can not but resist, can not be justly accused on account of their resistance; -- But the Jews were justly accused by Stephen; -- Therefore they were able to resist." From these two syllogisms can be deduced as a consequence, -- "They had grace sufficient to enable them not to resist and even to yield to the Holy Spirit." The latter argument is the stronger. Though something may be said against the former, yet a small addition may give to it also strength to withstand any opposition.
Let us examine your reply. It seems to us, not at all pertinent, and in part very ridiculous. For Bellarmine concedes that this is not said of "the efficacious operation of the Spirit." For he clearly distinguishes between sufficient and efficacious grace or operation. Indeed he does this very thing by quoting passages to show that there must be a division of special grace into sufficient and efficacious. "But this passage," (Acts vii. 51), you say "refers to the external ministration of the prophets." True; but that ministration was one, by which the Spirit chose to work; otherwise the man, who opposed that ministration, could not be said to resist the Holy Ghost. These things are co-ordinate and conjoined so far that the Spirit wills to work at least sufficiently through that ministration. The interpretation of Peter Lombardus is truly worthy of the parent of the Scholastic Theology, and unworthy of an introduction to the light by you, without stern reprehension. I do not add a refutation of it, because its perversity appears, on its very front, to those who examine it. The fourth passage, which you have made third in order, is from the 3d chapter of Rev. 20th verse. "I stand at the door and knock." On this Bellarmine remarks—"He, who knocks at a door, knowing with certainty that there is no one within, who can open, he knocks in vain, and indeed is a foolish person. Far from us be such an idea in reference to the Deity. Therefore when God knocks, it is certain that the man can open, and consequently he has sufficient grace." Your answer does not touch this argument of Bellarmine, for he does not wish to infer the universality of grace but that there is such a thing as sufficient grace, and this you do not, in your answer, contradict. Whether, indeed, that sufficient grace is universal, that is, is bestowed on all and each of mankind universally, is discussed, in another place, by Bellarmine, whose defense, indeed, I have not undertaken, and I am not desirous to do so, yet it is necessary to love the truth, by whatever person it may be spoken.
The tenth error; -- This, in your estimation, is that "the hypothesis, which you oppose, is at variance with itself." This is indeed a valid mode of confutation. But how do you prove the liability of that theory to the charge of self-contradiction? You very injuriously charge it with the opinion that "God determined to bestow all natural and gracious aids upon all men." Who can hold such an opinion, when he acknowledges that there is an "efficacious grace which God does not impart to all?" Indeed you are not consistent with yourself in the statement of their doctrine. For you say that it affirms that "God bestows all aids upon all men," and afterwards say that it asserts that "God does grant to all not actual perseverance, but the ability to persevere or to will to persevere." Is not the gift of actual perseverance one among all aids? How shall both these assertions be made without contradiction? Correct your error, and when you have corrected it, you will see that you ought to have made the remark "without which no one actually obtains salvation," as explanatory of efficacious grace. Yet God is not wanting to those to whom He gives the grace, by which they can be saved, though He may not give the grace by which they will actually be saved. Those words "by persevering, to obtain salvation," should have been arranged thus "to persevere and obtain salvation." You erroneously confound act with ability and efficacy with sufficiency.
The eleventh error; -- In this, you allege against this doctrine that "it introduces heresies long condemned," namely, those of the Pelagians. This assertion you indeed afterwards seem to soften down, because the Pelagians attribute the faculty of doing well either wholly to nature, or only in part to grace, while the doctrine attributes it wholly to grace. You, however, find fault with it because "it makes grace universal, and thus involves itself in yet greater difficulty." Something has been heretofore said on this point. Yet of what weight is your refutation? For what if any one should say that all men universally, have the power of believing and obtaining salvation, if they will, and that this very power is bestowed, divinely, upon the nature of mankind, by what argument will you disprove the assertion? It does not follow, from this statement, that nature and grace have an equally wide extent. For the ability to believe pertains to nature, actual belief is of grace. So with the ability to will, and actual volition, "It is God, which worketh in you, &c." (Phil. ii. 13). "Unto you it is given to believe, &c." (Phil. i. 29). You seem to do injury to the truth, when you say that it is a Pelagian idea that "a man can, by the opposition of his will, resist grace." There is no page in Scripture, where this is denied. Is a man a mere log that, by pure necessity of nature, he must yield to grace? If this is not true, then a man consents freely, and therefore has the ability not to consent, that is, to resist. Otherwise to what purpose are threats and promises? The opinion that "a man has ability in the exercise of the will, to yield to the grace of God, when explained to refer to remote ability, and which may, otherwise, be called capacity to receive active and immediate ability, by which any one can will to yield to grace," is not Pelagian. Would that they, who, at this day, hold the dogma of Predestination, might prove that it does not introduce, by fair inference, the idea of fatal necessity. You say also that the Papists formerly held these views. The fact that a similar crime is charged on both does not prove a similarity in other respects. It is possible that they, when you oppose, may differ from the Papists, and that the latter defend a doctrine which is obnoxious to your objections.
The twelfth error; -- You affirm that "this doctrine is in harmony with the Papish view of predestination. If that should be conceded, is the doctrine therefore false? You, indeed, present a statement of it, but do not refute it. You think that it is so absurd that it may be sufficient to have presented it—that the statement itself will be a sufficient refutation. But, if some one should undertake to defend that doctrine, how would you refute it? We may make the attempt, "God foresaw from eternity the natures and the sins of men; this foresight preceded the decree by which he gave Christ to be the saviour of the world." I should say—
"The foresight of most sins," for He did not foresee the sin of the crucifixion of Christ, until after that decree was made. You have given a careless statement of that doctrine, as you have not made that necessary distinction. Then God decreed "to give, for the sake of Christ, sufficient grace, by which men might be saved." To all? The Papists do not assert this. Then, "He predestinated to life those who, He foresaw, would finish their life in the state of grace, which was prepared for them by the predestination of God;" this is indeed not very far from the doctrine of Augustine.
Your theory is "God did not reveal Christ for all and each of mankind." This theorem is not of much service to you in proving the speciality of predestination and of grace, since those, with whom you contend, even on the supposition of its truth, meet you with a two-fold argument. First, -- the reason that God did not reveal Christ to all and to each of mankind was the fact that their parents rejected the word of the gospel; -- on which account He permitted both the parents and their posterity to go on in their own ways, and this, for so long a time, as the divine justice and their sins seemed to demand.
The second argument is, that, in the mean time, while they were destitute of the knowledge of Christ, God "left not himself without witness" (Acts xiv. 17) but even then revealed to them some truth concerning His power and goodness, and the law also, which He kept inscribed on their minds. If they had made a right use of those blessings, even according to their own conscience, He would have bestowed upon them greater grace, according to that declaration, "to him that hath shall be given." But by abusing, or not using, those blessings, they made themselves unworthy even of the mercy of God, and therefore were without excuse, and not having the law they were condemned, their own thoughts accusing them (Rom. ii. 14, 15). But that God concealed the promise of the Messiah from any man, before that, rejection can not be proved from the Scriptures. Indeed, the contrary can be proved from those things which are narrated of Adam and his posterity, and of Noah and his children in the Scriptures. The defection from the right way gradually progressed, and God is not bound at any particular time to send a new revelation to men, who do not rightly use the revelation which they already have.
From this, it is manifest what judgment must be passed on those consectaries.
To the first; -- The reason that the promise of the blessed seed was not revealed to all men is both the fault of their parents in rejecting it, and of themselves in holding the truth, which they now have, in unrighteousness.
To the second; -- The answer is the same.
To the third; -- All men are called by some vocation, namely, by that witness of God, by which they may be led to feel after God that they may find him (Acts xxvii. 27); and by that truth, which they hold in unrighteousness, that is, whose effect, in themselves, they hinder; and by that inscription of the law on their hearts, according to which their thoughts accuse one another. But this vocation, although it is not saving in the sense that salvation can be obtained immediately from it, yet it may be said to be antecedently saving, as Christ is offered for them; and salvation will, of the divine mercy, follow that vocation, if it is rightly used. To the fourth; -- It is stated that "no one has said that the prescience of faith or unbelief is the rule of predestination," and this charge is futile. But that some may be condemned, by the law alone, is most true, and on account of their impenitence, though not on account of their rejection of Christ.
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