Thirdly, because it leaves a hiatus in the decrees, not introducing, between the decree of preterition and that of reprobation, the decree concerning the certain and necessary existence of sin; for, sin, in my judgment, necessarily results from preterition itself, by the removal, as they say, of the hindrance


We deny that any intermediate decree is necessary between the decree of preterition and that of damnation, (for so you understand the word reprobation), or that any decree is interposed, and claim that this is so from the very nature of the decrees. For these decrees are of the divine efficiency, and they are effected by the Deity, immediately of His own will, and justly of His own wisdom. But the decree concerning the existence of sin pertains to the mediate work of nature, and is effected in that mode, in which God decreed, that is, contingently, from a contingent cause, for the will is, in this case, the principle of contingent causes, and that particular motion of Adam towards the fall was the contingent cause of the fall and of sin, which befell our race.

Therefore, it is necessary that a distinction should be made, in this mode, in what is said concerning the certain and necessary existence of sin. The existence of sin, if you regard its origin, was certain in the knowledge of God, but not necessary by the power of the decree as a cause, because God, as absolutely as possible and without any exception, by the order of nature in natural things, bestowed on the will of Adam, the free power of committing or avoiding sin. Thus, by the power of that decree, it was necessary that man should sin or should not sin; by the power of the will, it was contingent that man should sin; finally sin was committed contingently by the motion of the will, because it was decreed contingently.

But the existence of sin, if you have respect to the act in which our first parents fell, though contingent in its origin, is yet certain and necessary in the order of nature, by which it occurs that the leprosy of that sin, which infected them, is transmitted to their posterity. For an evil cause produces an evil effect, "a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit," (Matt. vii. 17), a serpent begets a serpent, a leper begets a leper. That, which pertains to nature, can, with no probable reason, be ascribed to a decree concerning supernatural things. The existence is, in every mode, of nature. It can not then be ascribed to supernatural decrees. You present, as the reason of your affirmation, that sin necessarily results from preterition itself, by the removal of the hindrance. This was, in my judgment, refuted with sufficient clearness, in the answer to your twenty-second proposition.



The mode should have been pointed out here, in which it could occur that the decree of preterition should necessarily cohere with the decree of predamnation, without a necessary copula. The foresight of contingent sin is not a necessary copula. That they may necessarily cohere, since the decree of preterition considers man, not as a sinner, and that of predamnation considers him only as a sinner, there must, of necessity, be the necessary existence of sin, either by the force of the decree of preterition, or of some other divine decree, such, for example, as Beza describes. We speak here of the existence of sin, in respect to the act of Adam, not of its necessary existence in respect to our corrupt conception and birth. For the latter is the effect of the former, by the mode of merit, by the intervention of the judgment and sentence of God, imputing the guilt of the first sin to all the posterity of Adam, not less than to Adam himself and to Eve, because they also sinned in Adam.

I concede the truth of what you say, at the end of your answer, that those things, which are natural, are not to be ascribed to supernatural decrees. But sin, if it is necessary, that is, if it is necessarily committed, and is not a natural act, namely, an act dependent on the will of man, as the principle of his own action; and if sin is natural, then its necessity would not have been ascribed, by Calvin and Beza, to the decree of predestination. We do not here discuss the thing considered in itself, but considered on the hypothesis of that theory which unites preterition with predamnation, by a necessary copula, not by sin, existing previously both to preterition and predamnation. Whether that, which I said concerning the necessary existence of sin as a result of the decree of preterition, by the mode of the removal of the hindrance, was refuted by you, may, perhaps, be decided by a reference to my reply to your answer to the twenty-second proposition.

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