The first theory is this, that God determined from eternity to illustrate his own glory by mercy and justice: and as these could be exercised in fact only in reference to sinners, that he decreed to make man holy and innocent, that is, after his own images yet, good in such a sense as to be liable to a change in this condition, and able to fall and to commit sin: that he ordained also that man should fall and become depraved, that He might thus prepare the way for the fulfillment of his own eternal counsels, that he might be able mercifully to save some and justly to condemn others, according to his own eternal purpose, to the declaration of his mercy in the former, and of his justice in the latter.


This view seems to have been stated not with sufficient fullness; for Calvin in his Institutes, (lib. 3,) eloquently refers to the words of Paul in Ephes. i, "He predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, &c.," and explains them, preserving the order which we noticed under Proposition I. God therefore from eternity determined to illustrate most wisely his own glory by the adoption of these and the preterition or non-adoption of those with the introduction also of mercy and justice. This being settled, that statement may be very well conceded, that "God determined to illustrate his own glory by mercy and justice, if it is rightly understood. But this will be hereafter explained in a summary manner. But it cannot be conceded, nor can I think that Calvin or Beza would have said simply that "mercy and justice cannot in fact be exercised except in reference to sinners. For in the first place (that we may sooner or later explain these things), sinners are such in act, in habit, or in capability. We are sinners in act when the depravity of our nature has carried out its own operations; we were sinners in habit in the womb and from the womb, before we wrought the works of the flesh. Adam was such in capability in some sense before the fall, when he had the power to lay aside his holy habits of life, and make himself the bond-slave of sin. So also they are miserable, in act, in habit, or in capability, who now endure miseries or have put on the habit of them, are capable of falling into them. The latter, however, are sinners and miserable, not absolutely but relatively; not fully but in a certain sense (kata ti) and only in a comparative mode of speaking as Job iv. 18, "Behold He put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly." Augustine refers to this (Lib. contra. Priscill et Origen, cap 10) concluding his remarks with this most elegant sentence: "for by participation in whom they are righteous, by comparison with Him they are unrighteous."

But in the second place it is not true that "mercy cannot be exercised except in reference to sinners," for all creatures, even the angels from heaven, when compared, according to their own nature, with the Deity, are wretched, since in comparison with Him they are not righteous, and because, by their own nature, they can sink into misery, (which is certainly the capability of misery; as, on the contrary, not to be capable of misery, is the highest happiness), they are miserable by capability. Therefore, He who has freed them from possible misery by His own election, has bestowed mercy on them; in reference to which they are called "elect angels" by Paul. (1 Tim. v. 21.) We may here merely refer to the fact that the word mercy (the Latin term misericordia being used in a more contracted sense) does not necessarily suppose misery, as will be seen by a reference to the original languages, the Hebrew and Greek, in which the men of God wrote. The Hebrews expressed that idea by two words dsj and symjr neither of which had reference properly and necessarily to misery e]leov of the Greeks does not necessarily suppose misery, if we regard the common usage of the Scriptures; for parents exercise it towards their children, though happy and free from misery. In the third place, it is by no means more true that "he can exercise justice only in reference to sinners." For he who renders to each his due, exercises justice: but God would clearly not be just if he did not render their due to the righteous as well as to the unrighteous. For even towards Adam, if he had remained righteous, God would have exercised justice both by the bestowment of his own reward upon him, analogous to his righteousness, and by that supernatural gift, analogous to his own power and grace, which He adumbrated to man by the symbol of the tree of life. It was possible that God should exercise justice in reference even to those who were not sinners. But concerning judgment to death, the case is different. From what has already been said, we readily conclude in reference to the rest. In reference to the word ordain, we shall speak under the sixth proposition.


I might show that the sentiments of Calvin and Beza were well and fully set forth by me in those words, by many passages selected from their writings. For though sometimes, when they make mention of adoption, and non-adoption, which is its contrary by logical division and opposition, yet they do not set forth their views, as it was explained by you in answer to my first proposition, and as you have just explained it in these words: "God, therefore, from eternity, determined to illustrate most wisely his own glory by the adoption of these, and the preterition or non-adoption of those, with the introduction of mercy and justice." For in two respects there is a departure in those words from their sentiment.

In the first place, because they do not consider that the illustration of the glory of God is effected immediately by the adoption of these and the non-adoption or preterition of those, but by a declaration of mercy and justice, which are unfolded in the acts of adoption or election, and of non-adoption or reprobation. It seems proper, according to the rule of demonstration, that this order should be preserved; the glory of God consists in the declaration of the attributes of God; the attributes of God are illustrated by acts suitable to those attributes.

Secondly, mercy and justice are not said by them to be introduced into the decree of predestination and reprobation. For those words signify that God, according to other attributes of his nature, decreed the adoption of these and the non-adoption of those, to the illustration of his own glory, in which deed he used also mercy and justice for the execution of that decree, and indeed with the condition of a change in the object. But this was not their view, but it was as I have already set it forth, namely, "God determined from eternity to illustrate his own glory by mercy and justice: since the glory of God can be neither acknowledged nor celebrated, unless it be declared by his mercy and his justice. But they consider mercy the appropriate cause of adoption, but justice the cause of non-adoption or reprobation, and they regard his purpose of illustrating both as the whole cause of predestination, that is, of election and reprobation; for they divide predestination into these parts or species. Therefore in my statement less was ascribed to mercy and justice in that decree than those authors think ought to be ascribed to those attributes, and than they do ascribe to them in the explanation of their entire view. Nor is it with justice denied that it is a part of their sentiment that mercy and justice can only be exercised in fact in reference to actual sinners. For they assert this most clearly, not indeed restricting the word justice to punitive justice, which, indeed, is my view, as is evident from my sixth proposition, and I think that this can be understood from them. I will adduce a few passages from many.

Beza (adversus calumnias Nebulonis, ad art. 2) "God, having in view the creation of man, to declare the glory both of his mercy and of his justice, as the result showed, made Adam in his own image, that is, holy and innocent; since as he is good, nothing depraved can be created by him. But they must be depraved on whom he determines to have mercy, and they also whom he justly determines to condemn." From this passage I quoted the words in which I stated this view. The same Beza again says (lib. 1, quest. et reap. fol. 126, in 8,) "Since God had decreed from eternity, as can be learned from events, to manifest in the highest degree his own glory in the human race, which manifestation might consist partly in the exercise of mercy, partly in the demonstration of hatred against sin, he made a man inwardly and outwardly pure, and endowed with right understanding and will, but susceptible of change. He, as supremely good, could not and would not indeed create any evil thing, and yet unless evil had entered into the world, there would have been no place for mercy or judgment." He expresses himself, in the plainest manner possible, in his conference with Mombelgartes; "Let us," says Beza "lay down these principles. God, an infinitely wise architect, and whose wisdom is unlimited, when He determined to create the world, and especially the human race had a certain proposed end, &c. For the eternal and immutable purpose of God was antecedent to all causes, because He decreed in Himself from eternity to create all men for His own glory. But the glory of God is neither acknowledged nor celebrated, unless his mercy and justice is declared. Therefore, He made an eternal and immutable decree by which He destined some particular individuals, of mere grace, to eternal life, and some, by an act of judgment, to eternal damnation, that He might declare His mercy in the former, but His justice in the latter. Since God had proposed this end to Himself in the creation of men, it was necessary that He should also devise the way and the means by which He could attain that end, that His mercy and His justice might be equally manifested. For since mercy presupposes misery, it can neither have place nor be declared where misery does not exist, it was then necessary that man should be created, that in him there might be a place for the mercy of God. This could not be found without preceding misery. So also, since justice presupposes crime, without which justice cannot be exercised, (for where there is no crime, there justice has no place,) it was necessary that man should be so created that, without the destruction of his nature, he might be a fit subject, that in him God might declare His own justice. For He could not declare His own justice in man unless He should have destined him to eternal damnation. Therefore, God proposed, &c." These things were published by James Andreas, but acknowledged by Beza, for in his answer to that discussion he does not say that views, not his own, are attributed to him. You see, therefore, that I have adapted the proper object to those attributes according to their opinion, which sentiment they without doubt think that they have derived from the Scripture; in which this is fixed that God cannot justly punish one who is not a sinner; in which also the same author will deny that the word mercy is so used that, when attributed to God, it may signify salvation from possible misery; since, in their view, it every where designates salvation from the misery which the sinner has merited, and which either has been or can be justly inflicted by the Deity. But I shall not wish to contend strenuously that it is not possible that mercy should be exercised towards those not actually miserable, and I can easily assent to those things which you have said concerning that subject, if they may have the meaning which I will give in my own words, namely, that all creatures, even angels and men, when compared with God, are miserable, misery being here taken for non felicity, not for that which is opposed to felicity in a privative sense, but for that which is opposed to it in a contradictory sense; as nothing more is proved by the reason from analogy. In comparison with God they are not just, therefore, in comparison with him they are not happy. For there are three antecedents, each of which has its consequent; just, unjust, not just; happy, unhappy or miserable, not happy. From justice results happiness, from injustice misery, from non-justice non-felicity.

But creatures as such can be compared with God, both in relation of the limit whence they proceed, and in relation to the limit to which they advanced by the Deity. In relation to the latter, angels and men exist, are just, are happy; in relation to the former, they do not exist, are not just, are not happy, since they come from nothing and can therefore be returned to nothing. But in this relation they cannot be called unjust or unhappy, since the limit, from which they were brought forward, is opposed, by contradiction, not by privation, to the limit to which they are borne by the divine goodness, or more briefly, since they are brought from possibility to actuality, which possibility and actuality are contradictory not privative, one of the other. Now, since they consist of possibility and actuality, it is not possible that they, if deserted by divine support, should return to nothing, but it is necessary that they, if thus deserted, should return to nothing. It is moreover possible that, continuing to exist by the divine power, yet being left to themselves and having power to decide their own course, they should, in their second action, not live according to the dictates of justice, by which they were governed in their first action, but do something contrary to it, and by this act become unrighteous and sinners, and, having become such, should put on the habit of unrighteousness, the habit of righteousness having been removed, either as an effect or on the ground of demerit, so that they would become miserable first by desert, next by act, and finally by habit. But if God should hinder them from deserving that misery that is from sinning and becoming actually miserable, I do not see why that act may not be ascribed to mercy since it originates in the desire to prevent misery, which desire pertains to mercy. I concede, indeed, that this is so, and that it is not therefore absolutely true that mercy can only be exercised towards actual sinners. But I wish that it should be observed that mercy is not used, in that sense, by Calvin and Beza, and indeed if mercy, thus understood, should be substituted for the same affection, as it is used by Calvin and Beza, the whole relation and description of the decree would be changed. I remark also that mercy, understood as you present it, does not come under consideration when the subject treated of is the predestination of men: for it is not exercised by God towards man, as one who has not been saved from possible misery by the divine predestination. Finally, it should also be considered that the relation between mercy understood in the latter, and mercy understood in the former sense is such that both cannot concur to the salvation of a man. For if there be occasion for the mercy, which saves from possible misery, there can be no place for that which delivers from actual misery, as the opportunity for the exercise of its peculiar functions is taken away, or, rather, precluded by the former; if on the contrary the mercy, which frees from actual misery, is necessary, the other does not act, and so the former excludes the latter in the relation of both cause and effect, and the latter consequently excludes the former, not succeeding after the fulfillment of its office, but existing by the necessity of its own action, as the man has failed of the former.

We remark in reference to justice that it is indeed very true that it can have place, and can be exercised towards those who are not sinners. For it is the rewarder not only of sinful, but of righteous conduct. But why may it not be deduced from these things, so considered by you, that the necessary existence of sin cannot be inferred even from the necessary declaration of the mercy and justice of God, since both, considered in a certain light, can be exercised towards those who are not sinners. In this way the order of predestination established by Calvin and Beza is wholly overthrown. But as mercy, saving from possible misery, and justice, rewarding virtue do not need the pre-existence of actual misery and sin, yet it is certain that mercy, freeing from actual misery and justice, punishing sin, can only be exercised towards the actually miserable and sinful. But Calvin and Beza every where use the terms, mercy and justice, in this sense, when they discuss the decree of predestination and probation. Since, also, mercy and justice, understood in the former sense, have no place in the predestination and reprobation of men, but only as they are received in the former signification, mercy, saving from possible misery and justice, rewarding good deeds, might be properly omitted in the discussion of the predestination and reprobation of men, though I do not deny that such a consideration may have its appropriate and by no means small advantages. Since we have entered on the consideration of mercy and justice, we may, if you have leisure and are so disposed, continue it for a short time, comparing each with the other, for the illustration of the subject which we now discuss, in reference first to the object of both, then to the order in which each acts on its own object.

Mercy and justice, the former saving from possible misery, the latter rewarding good conduct can be exercised towards one and the same object, as is manifest in the case of the elect angels, who are saved from possible misery, and have obtained from the divine goodness the reward of right conduct. But that same mercy cannot be exercised in reference to the same object with punitive justice. For whatever is worthy of the act of punitive justice is not saved from possible misery. The mercy, also which saves from actual misery is in this respect similar to the other kind of mercy, that it cannot concur in respect to the same object with punitive justice; but it is to be considered whether and how, like the other mercy, it can be exercised at the same time with the justice which rewards goodness. We, indeed see, that in the Scriptures the reward of a good deed is promised to those who have obtained mercy in Christ, and is in fact bestowed upon them, but the reward, though it may be of justice, is yet not of justice, understood in that sense in which justice is regarded, when rewarding a good deed, according to the promise of the law, and of debt; for the former remuneration is the grace of God in Jesus Christ, who is made unto us of God, righteousness, (justice) and sanctification. Justice, in one case bestowing a remuneration of debt, may be called legal, but, in the other, of grace, may not inappropriately be called evangelical, the union of which with the mercy saving from actual misery has been effected in a wonderful manner by God in Jesus Christ, our High Priest, and expiatory sacrifice. The object, then, of punitive justice is essentially and materially different from the object of mercy considered in either light, and of justice remunerating right conduct.

But the object of mercy, saving from possible misery, is different in its formal relation from the object of mercy, saving from actual misery, for the former is a creature, righteous and considered in his state as it was by creation, but the latter is a sinful creature, and fallen from his original state into misery by transgression. Of those two classes both of mercy and justice, the former in each case is to be excluded from the decree of the predestination and reprobation of men, namely, mercy-saving from possible misery and justice, rewarding goodness from a legal promise, but the latter, preside over that decree, namely, mercy-saving from actual misery, over predestination, and punitive justice over reprobation. Now let us examine the order, according to which each, compared by themselves and among themselves, tends to its own object. Mercy preventing misery and justice rewarding goodness according to law, tending towards one subject, take this order, that mercy should first perform its office, and then justice discharge its functions. For the prevention of sin, and therefore of misery, precedes any good deed, and therefore precedes the reward of that good deed, therefore, also, the misery which saves from actual misery precedes the justice which rewards a good deed, of grace. For that mercy not only takes away the guilt and dominion of sin, but creates in the believer a habit of righteousness, by which a good deed is produced, to be compensated of grace by the reward. But concerning mercy-saving from actual misery, which is the administration of predestination, and punitive justice which is the cause of reprobation, what judgment shall we form? We will say that both tend, at the same moment, to their own object, but we will [make] consider the former as an antecedent in the order of nature. For though he, who elects, in the very fact that he elects, reprobates also the non-elect, yet the act of election is antecedent in the order of nature, just as an affirmative is in the order of nature prior to negation. From which we infer (of this we will speak hereafter) that the decree to leave man to the decision of his own destiny, and to permit the fall, does not belong to the decree of reprobation, since it is prior to and more ancient than the decree of predestination.

I wish that this order may be considered with somewhat more diligence and at greater length, for it will open before us a way of knowing some other things, different from and yet by no means wholly foreign to the subject now under discussion. If the mercy, which bestows grace and life, holds the prior relation to this decree, and the justice, which denies grace and inflicts death, the posterior relation in the order of nature, though not of time, then it is still more to be considered, whether the object of this decree is adequately and with sufficient accuracy described by the term sinner; or whether something else ought not also to be added, which may so limit the object, that it may be made adequate to the decree which originated in such mercy and justice, and may be in harmony with it, namely the nature of the object thus made adequate, and, in its own capability, tending to its own peculiar and appropriate object. If any one thinks that the functions of justice towards sin and the sinner are prior to those of mercy and that the rendering of it’s due punishment to sin is prior by nature to the remission of the same to the sinner, I wish he would attend diligently to two points.

First, that a two-fold action is attributed, by those who discuss this matter, to justice, so far as it premises over the decree of reprobation, or preterition and predamnation, and this in harmony with the nature of the subject; the former is negative, the latter affirmative, and in this order that the negative precedes the affirmative. From this it follows that if that negative act is posterior, in the order of nature, to the affirmative act of predestination, as is the case, then the functions of mercy must be prior; for from mercy originates the affirmative act of predestination, which is antecedent to the negative act of reprobation. SECONDLY, that the punishment, due to sin, is by this decree destined for no one, unless so as it is not removed by mercy; and in this respect, though justice may in its own right claim the punishment of the sinner, yet it exacts that punishment, according to the decree of predomination which is made by justice, in view not of the fact that it is due to the sinner, but of the fact that it has not been remitted to him of mercy; else all men universally would be predamned, since they all have deserved punishment. Hence, this ought also to be considered whether the justice, which is the administratrix of the decree of reprobation or predamnation is revealed according to the Law or the Gospel, of legal rigor or softened by some mercy and forbearance. If mercy, the administratrix of predestination is revealed according to the Gospel, as is true, it seems from what has already been said, that justice the opposite of mercy, which is prior to it, in the order of nature, should be also revealed according to the Gospel. If any one thinks that these views are vain and useless, let him consider that what is said in the Scripture concerning legal righteousness is not useless—

"The man which doeth those things shall live by them," (Rom. x. 5,) and "cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (Gal. iii. 10.)

Let him also consider what is said concerning Evangelical righteousness, "He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life, (John iii. 36,) and "He that believeth not is condemned. (John iii. 18.) I wish that these things may be considered thoroughly by the thoughtful, and I ask a suspension of their decision until they have accurately weighed the matter.

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