THE DIVINE DECREES.
Augustine: De predestinatione; Epistola CXOIV., Ad Sixtum. Anselm: Concordia praescientiae et praedestinationis. Calvin: Institutes, I. xxi.-xxiv. Zanchius: On Predestination. Tr. by Toplady. TJrsinus: Christian Religion, Qu. 54. Howe: On Decrees, Oracles, Pt. n.; Prescience and sincerity reconciled. Witsius: Covenants, EL Turrettin: Institutio, IV. i.-xviii.; VI. v.viii. Edwards: Decrees and Election; On the Will, sub tine. Dabney: Theology, Lectures XX.-XXII. Strong: Theology, IV. iii. Cunningham: Historical Theology, XXV. Arminius: Works, HI. (Discussion with Junius). Tr. by Nichols. Episcopius: Institutions, IV. iv. Watson: Institutes, EL xxv.-xxxviii. Mozley: Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination. King; On Foreknowledge.
The consideration of the Divine Decrees naturally follows that of the divine attributes, because the decrees regulate the operation of the attributes. God's acts agree with God's determination. Hence the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 7, defines the decrees of God to be "his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his own will, whereby he hath foreordained whatsover comes to pass." God does not act until he has decided to act, and his decision is free and voluntary. Hence, the actions of God can no more be separated from the decrees of God, than the actions of a man can be from his decisions.
The Divine decree relates only to God's opera ad extra, or transitive acts. It does not include those immanent activities which occur within the essence, and result in the 'three trinitarian distinctions. All this part of the Divine activity is excluded from the Divine decree, because it is necessary and not optional. God the Father did not decree the eternal generation of the Son, nor did the Father and Son decree the spiration of the Holy Spirit. The triune God could no more decide after the counsel of his own will to be triune, than he could decide in the same manner to be omnipotent, or omniscient. The Divine decree, consequently, comprehends only those events that occur in time. God foreordains, "whatsoever comes to pass" in space and time. That which comes to pass in the eternity of the uncreated essence, forms no part of the contents of God's decree.
The Divine decree is formed in eternity, but executed in time. There are sequences in the execution, but not in the formation of God's eternal purpose. In his own mind and consciousness, God simultaneously because eternally decrees all that occurs in space and time; but the effects and results corresponding to the decree occur successively, not simultaneously. There were thirty-three years between the actual incarnation and the actual crucifixion, but not between the decree that the Logos should be incarnate and the decree that he should be crucified. In the Divine decree, Christ was simultaneously because eternally incarnate and crucified. "The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world," Rev. li: 8. Hence the Divine decrees, in reference to God, are one single act only. The singular number is employed in Scripture, when the Divine mind and nature are considered. "All things work together for good to them who are called according to his purpose (irpo!kaiv)" Rom. 8: 28. "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ," Eph. 3:11.
God's consciousness differs from that of his rational creatures, in that there is no succession in it. This is one of the differentia between the Infinite and the finite mind. For God there is no series of decrees each separated from the others by an interval of time. God is omniscient, possessing the whole of his plans and purposes simultaneously. "All things are naked and opened " to his view, in one intuition. God is immutable, and therefore there are no sequences and changes of experience in him. Consequently the determinations of his will, as well as the thoughts of his understanding, are simultaneous, not successive. In the formation of the Divine decree, there are no intervals; but only in the execution of it. Christ, the atoning lamb, "was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifested in these last times," 1 Pet. 1: 20. The decree that Christ should die for sin was eternal; the actual death of Christ was in time. There was an interval of four thousand years between the creation of Adam, and the birth of Christ; but there was no such interval between the decree to create Adam, and the decree that Christ should be born in Bethlehem. Both decrees are simultaneous, because both are eternal decisions of the Divine will. "We speak of the Divine decrees as many, because of the many objects which the decreeing act of God respects. The things decreed are many, but the act decreeing is but one only." Fisher: On the Catechism, Q. 7. The things decreed come to pass in time, and in a successive series; but they constitute one great system which as one whole, and a unity, was comprehended in the one eternal purpose of God. Augustine (Confess., XII. xv.) says, "God willeth not one thing now, and another anon; but once, and at once, and always, he willeth all things that he willeth; not again and again, nor now this, now that; nor willeth afterwards, what before he willed not, nor willeth not, what before he willed ; because such a will is mutable; and no mutable thing is eternal."
The Divine decree is a Divine idea or thought, and it is peculiar to a Divine thought, that it is equal to the thing produced by it. This earthly globe was decreed from eternity, but it did not actually exist from eternity. It was from eternity a Divine thought, but not a historical thing. But this Divine thought, unlike a human thought, is not in any particular inferior to the thing. Hence, though the thing is not yet actually created, and is only an idea, yet God is not for this reason ignorant in respect to the thing, as man is in respect to a plan which he has not yet executed. A man knows more about his work after he has finished it, than he did before. But God knows no more about the planet earth when his decree to create it is executed, than he did prior to its execution. In the case of the finite mind, the thought is always unequal to the thing; but in the case of the Infinite intelligence, the thought is always coequal with the thing. "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; aud in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there was none of them," Ps. 139:16. God knew what would be created before it was actually created. This knowledge was perfect. The actual creation did not add anything to it. God knew the whole universe in his eternal decree before it was an actual universe in time, with the same perfect omniscience with which he knew it ufter the decree was executed in space and time. "Did not God know what would be created by him, before it was created by him? Did he create he knew not what, and knew not beforehand what he should create? Was he ignorant before he acted, and in his acting, what his operation would tend to? or did he not know the nature of things, and the ends of them, till he had produced them, and saw them in being? Creatures must be known by God before they were made, and not known because they were made; he knew them to make them, and did not make them to know them. By the same reason that he knew what creatures should be before they were, he knew still what creatures shall be before they are." Charnocke: God's Knowledge, 276.
The Divine decree is the necessary condition of the Divine foreknowledge. If God does not first decide what shall come to pass, he cannot know what will come to pass. An event must be made certain, before it can be known as a certain event. In order that a man may foreknow an act of his own will, he must first have decided to perform it. So long as he is undecided about a particular volition, he cannot foreknow this volition. Unless God had determined to create a world, he could not know that there would be one. For the world cannot create itself, and there is but one being who can create it. If therefore this being has not decided to create a world, there is no certainty that a world will come into existence; and if there is no certainty of a world, there can be no certain foreknowledge of a world. So long as anything remains undecreed, it is contingent and fortuitous. It may or may not happen. In this state of things, there cannot be knowledge of any kind. If a man had the power to cause an eclipse of the sun, and had decided to do this, he could then foreknow that the event would occur. But if he lacks the power, or if having the power, he has not formed the purpose, he can have no knowledge of any kind respecting the imagined event. He has neither knowledge nor foreknowledge, because there is nothing to be known. Blank ignorance is the mental condition. See Smith: Theology, 119 (Note).
In respect to this point, the Socinian is more logical than the Arminian. Both agree that God does not decree those events which result from the action of the human will. Voluntary acts are not predetermined, but depend solely upon human will. Whether they shall occur rests ultimately upon man's decision, not upon God's. Hence human volitions are uncertainties for God, in the same way that an event which does not depend upon a man's decision is an uncertainty for him. The inference which the Socinian drew from this was, that foreknowledge of such events as human volitions is impossible to God. God cannot foreknow a thing that may or may not be a thing; an event that may or may not be an event. The Arminian, shrinking from this limitation of the divine omniscience, asserts that God can foreknow an uncertainty.; that is, that he can hare foreknowledge, without foreordination. But in this ease, there is in reality nothing to be foreknown; there is no object of foreknowledge. If the question be asked, ~What does God foreknow? and the answer be, that he foreknows that a particular volition will be a holy one; the reply is, that so far as the Divine decree is concerned, the volition may prove to be a sinful one. In this case, God's foreknowledge is a conjecture only, not knowledge. It is like a man's guess. If, on the contrary, the answer be, that God foreknows that the volition will be a sinful one, the reply is, that it may prove to be a holy one. In this case, also, God's foreknowledge is only a conjecture. To know, or to foreknow an uncertainty, is a solecism. For in order to either knowledge or foreknowledge, there must be only one actual tlling to be known, or foreknown. But in the supposed case of contingency and uncertainty, there are two possible things, either of which may turn out to be an object of knowledge, but neither of which is the one certain and definite object required. There is, therefore, nothing knowable in the case. To know, or foreknow an uncertainty, is to know or foreknow a non-entity. If it be objected, that since God, as eternal, decrees all things simultaneously, and consequently there is really no/oreordination for him, it is still true that in the logical order an event must be a certainty before it can be known as such. Though there be no order of time and succession, yet in the order of nature, a physical event or a human volition must be decreed and certain for God, that it may be cognized by him as an event or a volition.
The most important aspect of the Divine decree is, that it brings all things that come to pass in space and time into a plan. There can be no system of the universe, if there be no one Divine purpose that systematizes it. Schemes in theology which reject the doctrine of the Divine decree, necessarily present a fractional and disconnected view of God, man, and nature.
The following characteristics mark the Divine decree: 1. The Divine decree is founded in wisdom. This is implied in saying that God's purpose is " according to the counsel (fiovkrjv) of his will," Eph. 1:11. There is nothing irrational or capricious in God's determination. There may be much in it that passes human comprehension, and is inexplicable to the finite mind, because the Divine decree covers infinite space and everlasting time; but it all springs out of infinite wisdom. The "counsel" of the Divine mind does not mean any reception of knowledge ab extra, by observation, or comparison, or advisement with others; but it denotes God's wise insight and knowledge, in the light of which he forms his determination. It is possible, also, that there is a reference in the language, to the intercommunion and correspondence of the three persons in the Godhead. Ps. 33: 11, " The counsel of the Lord standeth forever." Job 12: 13, "With him is wisdom and strength; he hath counsel and understanding." Prov. 19 : 21, "The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." Mark 7 : 37, "He hath done all things well." Gen. 1:31, "God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good."
2. The Divine decree is eternal. Acts 15 :18, "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning." Matt. 25: 34, "The kingdom was prepared from the foundation of the world." Eph. 1: 4, "He hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world." 2 Thess. 2 :13, "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation." 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Cor. 2:7. Rev. 13 : 8, "The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world." 1 Pet. 1: 20, Christ as a sacrifice "was foreordained before the foundation of the world." This characteristic has been defined, in what has been said under the Attributes, respecting the simultaneousness and successionlessness of the eternal, as distinguished from the gradations and sequences of the temporal.
3. The Divine decree is universal. It includes " whatsoever comes to pass," be it physical or moral, good or eviL Eph. 1:10, 11, " He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Acts 15 :18, " Known unto God are all his works from the beginning." Prov. 16 :33. Dan. 4 : 34, 35. Matt. 10:29,30. Acts 17:26. Job 14: 5. Is. 46 :10. (a) The good actions of men. Eph. 2 :10, " Created nnto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (b) The wicked actions of men. Acts 2 : 23, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have crucified and slain." Acts 4: 27, 28. Ps. 76:10. Prov. 16:4. (o) So-called accidental events. Prov. 16 : 33, " The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." Gen. 45: 8; 50 : 20. John 20: 36, "A bone of him shall not be broken." Pa 34:20; Ex. 12:46. Numbers 9:12. (d) The means as well as the end. 2 Thess. 2 :13, "God hath chosen you to salvation, through sanctification (iv arytaafia) of the Spirit." Eph. 1:4," He hath chosen us that we should be holy." 1 Pet. 1:2, "Elect through sanctification of the Spirit." Acts 27:24, 31, "The same divine purpose which determines any event, determines that event as produced by its causes, promoted by its means, depending on its conditions, and followed by its results. Things do not come to pass in a state of isolation; neither were they predetermined so to come to pass. In other words, God's purpose embraces the means along with the end, the cause along with the effect, the condition along with the result or issue suspended upon it; the order, relations and dependences of all events, as no less essential to the divine plan than the events themselves. With reference to the salvation of the elect, the purpose of God is, not only that they shall be saved, but that they shall believe, repent, and persevere in faith and holiness in order to salvation." Crawford: Fatherhood of God, p. 426. (e) The time of every man's death. Job 14 : 5, "His days are determined." Ps. 39 :4, "The measure of my days." John 7:
30, The Jews could not kill Christ, "because his hour was not yet come." It is objected that fifteen years were added to Hezekiah's life after the prophet had said, "Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live," Is. 38 :1, 5. But this assertion of the prophet was not a statement of the Divine decree, but of the nature of his disease, which was mortal had not God miraculously interposed.
4. The Divine decree is immutable. There is no defect in God, in knowledge, power, and veracity. His decree cannot therefore be changed because of a mistake of ignorance, or of inability to carry out his decree, or of unfaithfulness to his purpose. Job 23:13, " He is in one mind, and who shall turn him?" Is. 46 :10, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." The immutability of the Divine decree is consistent with the liberty of man's will. "God ordains whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature; nor is the liberty, or contingency, of second causes taken away, but rather established." Westminster Confession, III. i. This is the doctrine of Christ. He asserts that his own crucifixion was a voluntary act of man, and also decreed by God. "They have done unto Elias whatsoever they listed (oaa rjSejaav): likewise shall the Son of man suffer of them," Matt. 17:12. "The Son of man goeth as it was determined (copurfievov), but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed," Luke 22 : 22. In Acts 2: 23, it is said, that Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel of God," and " by wicked hands was crucified and slain."
Respecting the alleged contradiction between the Divine decree and human freedom, the following particulars are to be noticed: (a) The inspired writers are not conscious of a contradiction, because they do not allude to any, or make any attempt to harmonize the two things. If a self-contradiction does not press upon them, it must be becanse there is no real contradiction. Revelation presents that view of truth which is afforded from a higher point of view than that occupied by the finite mind. Revealed truth is truth as perceived by the Infinite intelligence. If no contradiction is perceived by God in a given case, there really is none. The mind of Christ evidently saw no conflict between his assertion that he was to bo crucified in accordance with the Divine decree, and his assertion that Judas was a free and guilty agent in fulfilling this decree. (6) There is no contradiction between the Divine decree and human liberty, provided the difference between an Infinite and a finite being is steadily kept in mind. There would be a contradiction, if it were asserted that an event is both certain and uncertain for the same being. But to say that it is certain for one being, and uncertain for another, is no contradiction. The difference between the omniscience of an Infinite being, and the fractional knowledge of a finite being, explains this. For the Divine mind, there is, in reality, no future event, because all events are simultaneous, owing to that peculiarity in the cognition of an eternal being whereby there is no succession in it. All events thus being present to him are of course all of them certain events. But for a finite mind, events come before it in a series. Hence there are future events for the finite mind; and all that is future is uncertain. Again, it would be self-contradictory, to say that an act of the human will is free for man, and necessitated for God. But this is not said by the predestinarian. He asserts that an act of human will is free for both the Divine and the human mind, but certain for the former and uncertain for the latter. God as well as man knows that the human will is self-moved, and not forced from without. But this knowledge is accompanied with an additional knowledge on the part of God, that is wanting upon the part of man. God, while knowing that the human will is free in every act, knows the whole series of its free acts in one intuition. Man does not. This additional element in the Divine knowledge, arises from that peculiarity in the Divine consciousness just alluded to. All events within the sphere of human freedom, as well as that of physical necessity, are simultaneous to God. Man's voluntary acts are not a series for the Divine mind, but are all present at once, and therefore are all of them certain to God. From the view-point of the Divine eternity and omniscience, there is no /breknowledge of human volitions. There is simply knowledge of all of them, at once. (c) The alleged contradiction arises from assuming that there is only one way in which the Divine omnipotence can make an event certain. The predestinarian maintains that the certainty of all events has a relation to the Divine omnipotence, as well as to the Divine omniscience. God not only knows all events, but he decrees them. He makes them certain by an exercise of power; but not by the same kind of power in every case. God makes some events certain by physical power; and some he makes certain by moral and spiritual power. Within the physical sphere, the Divine decree makes certain by necessitating; within the moral sphere, the Divine decree makes certain without necessitating. To decree, is to bring within a plan. There is nothing in the idea of planning that necessarily implies compulsion. The operations of mind, as well as those of matter, may constitute parts of one great system, without ceasing to be mental operations. God decrees phenomena in conformity with the nature and qualities which he has himself given to creatures and things. God's decrees do not unmake God's creation. He decrees that phenomena in the material world shall occur in accordance with material properties and laws; and phenomena in the moral world, in accordance with moral faculties and properties. Within the sphere of matter, he decrees necessitated facts; within the sphere of mind, he decrees self-determined acts; and both alike are certain for God. The Westminster Confession (III. i.) affirms, that "the liberty or contingency of second causes is not taken away, but rather established" by the Divine decree. If God has decreed men's actions to be free actions, and as free actions, then it is impossible that they should be necessitated actions. His decree makes the thing certain in this case, as well as in every other. The question how God does this, cannot be answered by man, because the mode of the Divine agency is a mystery to him. The notion of a decree is not contradictory to that of free agency, unless decree is defined as compulsion, and it be assumed that God executes all his decrees by physical means and methods. No one can demonstrate that it is beyond the power of God to make a voluntary act of man an absolutely certain event. If he could, he would disprove the Divine omnipotence. "God, the first cause, ordereth all things to come to pass according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, or freely and contingently." Westminster Confession, V. ii. Turretin: Institutio, VI. vi. 6. The self-determination of the human will is the action of a free second cause. It is therefore decreed self-determination. In the instance of holiness, the certainty of the self-determination is explicable by the fact that God works in man "to will and to do." In the instance of sin, the certainty of the self-determination is inexplicable, because we cannot say in this case that God works in man "to will and to do."
5. The Divine decree is unconditional, or absolute. This means, that its execution does not depend upon anything that has not itself been decreed. The Divine decree may require means or conditions in order to its execution, but these means or conditions are included in the decree. For illustration, God decreed the redemption of sinners through the death of Jesus Christ. If he had not also decreed the manner of that death, the time of its occurrence, and the particular persons who were to bring it about, but had left all these means of attaining the end he had proposed to an undecreed act of man that was uncertain for Himself, then the success of his purpose of redemption would have depended upon other beings than himself, and upon other wills than his own. Consequently, his decree of redemption included the means as well as the end, and Jesus Christ was "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, taken, and by wicked hands crucified and slain," Acts 2 : 23. Again, God decrees the salvation of a particular sinner. One of the means or conditions of salvation is faith in Christ's atonement. This faith is decreed. "Elected unto sprinkling of the blood of Christ," 1 Peter 1:1. "The faith of God's elect," Tit. 1:1. "Faith is the gift of God," Eph. 2 : 8. But if faith depends upon the undecreed action of the sinner's will, the Divine predestination to faith is dependent for success upon the sinner's uncertain action, and is conditioned by it. The means to the decreed end, in this case, are left outside of the decree. The same remark applies to prayer, as a means of obtaining a decreed end, like the forgiveness of sins. If the forgiveness of his sins has been decreed to a person, his prayer for forgiveness has also been decreed.
The reasons why the Divine decree is independent of everything finite are the following: (a) It is eternal, and therefore cannot depend upon anything in time; but everything finite is in time. (5) The decree depends upon God's good pleasure (ivSoKia), Matt. 11:26; Eph. 1:5; Rom. 9:11. Therefore it does not depend upon the creature's good pleasure. (c) The Divine decree is immutable, Is. 46 :10; Rom. 9 :11. But a decree conditioned upon the decision of the finite will must be mutable, because the finite will is mutable. (d) A conditional decree is incompatible with the Divine foreknowledge. God cannot foreknow an event unless it is certain, and it cannot be certain if it ultimately depends upon finite will.
The Divine decrees are divided into efficacious and permissive. Compare Turrettin III. xii. 21-25.
1. The efficacious decree determines the event: (a) By physical and material causes. Such events are the motions of the heavenly bodies, and the phenomena of the material world generally. Job 28 : 26, "He made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder." (b) By an immediate spiritual agency of God upon the finite will, in the origin and continuance of holiness. Philippians 2 :13, " For it is God, which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Eph. 2:8," Faith is the gift of God." 2 Tim. 2: 25, "If God peradventure will give them repentance." Eph. 2 :10, "Created in Christ Jesus unto good works." Eph. 4 :24, " The new man is created in righteousness."
2. The permissive decree relates only to moral evil. Sin is the sole and solitary object of this species of decree. It renders the event infallibly certain, but not by immediately acting upon and in the finite will, as in the case of the efficacious decree. God does not work in man or angel "to will and to do," when man or angel wills and acts antagonistically to Him. Acts 14:16, "Who in times past suffered (eiaere) all nations to walk in their own ways." Acts 17:30, "The times of this ignorance God overlooked" (virepiSow). Ps. 78 :18, " He gave them their own desire." Ps. 106 :15, " He gave them their own request." Shedd: History of Doctrine, II. 135-138. As sin constitutes only a small sphere in comparison with the whole universe, the scope of the permissive decree is very limited compared with that of the efficient decree. Sin is an endless evil, but fills only a corner of the universe. Hell (Holle) is a hole or "pit." It is deep, but not wide; bottomless, but not boundless.
The permissive decree is a decree: (a) Not to hinder the sinful self-determination of the finite will. (5) To regulate and control the result of the sinful self-determination. "God's permissive will," says Howe (Decrees, Lecture I.), "is his will to permit whatsoever he thinks fit to permit, or, not to hinder; while what he so wills or determines so to permit, he intends also to regulate, and not to behold as an idle unconcerned spectator, but to dispose all those permissa unto wise and great ends of his own." It should be observed that in permitting sin, God permits what he forbids. The permissive decree is not indicative of what God approves and is pleasing to him. God decrees what he hates and abhors, when he brings sin within the scope of his universal plan. Calvin: Inst. I. xviii. 3, 4. The "good pleasure" (iv8oK(a), in accordance with which God permits siu, must not be confounded with the pleasure or complacency (ar/dirq) in accordance with which he promulgates the moral law forbidding sin. The term " good pleasure "has the meaning of "pleasure" in the phrase, "Be pleased, or please to do me this favor." What is asked for, is a decision to do the favor. The performance of the favor may involve pain, not pleasure; it may require a sacrifice of pleasure on the part of the one who is to "be pleased" to do it. Again, when the permissive decree is denominated the Divine will, the term "will" is employed in the narrow sense of volition, not in the wide sense of inclination. The will of God, in this case, is only a particular decision, in order to some ulterior end. This particular decision, considered in itself, may be contrary to the abiding inclination and desire of God as founded in his holy nature; as when a man by a volition decides to perform a particular act which in itself is unpleasant, in order to attain an ulterior end that is agreeable. Again, in saying that sin is in accordance with the Divine will, the term "will" implies "control." As when we say of a physician, "the disease is wholly at his will." This does not mean that the physician takes pleasure in willing the disease, but that he can cure it.
This brings to notice the principal practical value of the doctrine that God decrees sin. It establishes the Divine sovereignty over the entire universe. By reason of his permissive decree, God has absolute control over moral evil, while yet he is not the author of it, and forbids it. Unless he permitted sin, it could not come to pass. Should he decide to preserve the will of the holy angel, or the holy man, from lapsing, the man or the angel would persevere in holiness. Sin is preventable by almighty God, and therefore he is sovereign over sin and hell, as well as over holiness and heaven. This is the truth which God taught to Cyrus, to contradict the Persian dualism: "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things," Isa. 45:7. Compare Amos 3:6," Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" Gen. 20 : 6, "I withheld thee from sinning against me." To deny this truth, logically leads to the doctrine of the independence of evil, and the doctrine of the independence of evil is dualism, and irreconcilable with monotheism. Evil becomes like the v\V in the ancient physics, a limitation of the Infinite being. The truth respecting the efficacious and the permissive decree is finely expressed in the verse of George Herbert.
"We all acknowledge both thy power and love
To be exact, transcendent, and divine;
Who dost so strongly and so sweetly move,
While all things have their will—yet none but thine.
For either thy command, or thy permission
Lays hands on all; they are thy right and left.
The first puts on with speed and expedition;
The other curbs sin's stealing pace and theft.
Nothing escapes them both; all must appear,
And be disposed, and dressed, and tuned by thee,
Who sweetly temper'st all. If we could hear
Thy skill and art, what music it would be."
In purposing to permit sin, God purposes to overrule it for good. Ps. 76:10, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thon restrain." Gen. 45 : 8, " Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good." This part of the doctrine of the permissive decree may be overlooked or denied, and an inadequate statement result. The Council of Trent asserted that sin arises from the "mere permission " of God. The Reformers were not satisfied with this phraseology, because they understood it to mean that in respect to the fall of angels and men, God is an idle spectator (deo otioso spectante), and that sin came into the universe because he cannot prevent it, and has no control over it. This kind of permission is referred to in the Westminster Confession (V. iv.). "The almighty power, wisdom, and goodness of God extendeth even to the sins of angels and men; and this not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so that the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God." 1 Anselm
1 Calvin is sometimes represented aa differing from Augustine, and teaching that God decrees sin as he does holiness by an efficaclovt decree. Mbhler so asserts in his Symbolics, but Baur (Gegensatz, 744 sq.) shows that this is a mistake. Modern Lutheran theologians often make the same assertion. Fisher (Reformation, 202) says that in his Institutes, Calvin "makes the primal transgression the object of an efficient decree," but "in the Consensus Genevensis confines himself to the assertion of a permissive decree in the oase of the first sin." But in the Institutes (III. xxiiL 8), Calvin affirms that "the perdition of the wicked depends upon the divine predestination in such a manner that the cause and matter of it are found in themselves. Man falls according to the appointment of divine providence, but he falls by his own fault (suo vitio oadit)." In Institutes, LL iv. 8-5, Calvin, it is true, asserts that "prescience or permission" is not the whole truth respecting God's relation to sin, because he is said in Scripture "to blind and harden the reprobate, and to turn, incline, and influence their hearts." But the accompanying explanation shows that he has in mind the notion of permission in the case of an idle spectator, who cannot prevent an action, and can do nothing towards controlling it after it has occurred— the same notion that is alluded to in the Westminster Confession, and other Calvinistio creeds. The "blinding, hardening, turning," etc , Calvin describes as the consequence of the Divine desertion, not causation. Some of his phraseology in this place is harsh, but should be interpreted in harmony with his explicit teaching in Institutes, ID! xxiii. 8. One proof that Calvinism does not differ from Augustinianism on the subject of the origin of sin under the Divine decree, is the fact that the Dort canons, which are a very strict statement of Calvinism, reject supralapsarianism, and assert infralapsarianism. This means that the relation of God to the origin of sin is not efficacious, but permissive; which was Augustine's view.
(Cur deus homo, I. xv.) illustrates this truth in the following manner. "If those things which are held together in the circuit of the heavens should desire to be elsewhere than under the heavens, or to be further removed from the heavens, there is no place where they can be, but under the heavens; nor can they fly from the heavens without also approaching them. For whence, and whither, and in what way they go, they still are under the heavens; and if they are at a greater distance from one part of them, they are only so much nearer to the opposite part. And so, though man or evil angel refuse to submit to the Divine will and appointment, yet he cannot escape it; for if he wishes to fly from a will that commands, he falls into the power of a will that punishes."
Man may not permit sin, because he is under a command that forbids him to commit it, either in himself or in others. But God is not thus obliged by the command of a superior, to hinder the created will from self-determining to evil. He was bound by his own justice and equity to render it possible that man should not self-determine to evil; and he did this in creating man in holiness, and with plenary power to continue holy. But he was not bound in justice and equity to make it infallibly certain that man would not self-determine to evil. He was obliged by his own perfection to give man so much spiritual power that he might stand if he would, but not obliged to give so much additional power as to prevent him from falling by his own decision. Mutable perfection in a creature was all that justice required. Immutable perfection was something more. Compare Charnocke: Holiness of God, 496. We cannot infer that because it is the duty of a man to keep his fellowman from sinning, if he can, it is also the duty of God to keep man from sinning. A man is bound to exert every influence in his power to prevent the free will of his fellowcreature from disobeying God, only because God has commanded him to do so, not because the fellow-man is entitled to it. A criminal cannot demand upon the ground of justice, that his fellow-man keep him from the commission of crime; and still less can he make this demand upon God. The criminal cannot say to one who could have prevented him from the transgression, but did not: "You are to blame for this crime, because you did not prevent me from perpetrating it." Non-prevention of crime is not the authorship of crime. No free agent can demand as something due to him, that another free agent exert an influence to present the wrong use of his own free agency. The only reason, therefore, why one is obligated to prevent another from sinning, is the command of one who is superior to them both. God has made every man his "brother's keeper." And if God were man's fellow-creature, he also would be his " brother's keeper," and would be obligated to prevent sin. In creating man holy, and giving him plenary power to persevere in holiness, God has done all that equity requires, in reference to the prevention of sin in a moral agent.
How the permissive decree can make the origin of sin a certainty, is an inscrutable mystery. God is not the author of sin, and hence, if its origination is a certainty for him, it must be by a method that does not involve his causation. There are several attempts at explanation, but they are inadequate. 1. God exerts positive efficiency upon the finite will, as he does in the origination of holiness. He makes sin certain by causing it . But this contradicts James 1:13: "Neither tempteth he any man ;" 1 John 1:5," God is light, and in him is no darkness at all;" Eccl. 7 : 29," God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions." It also contradicts the Christian consciousness. In the instance of holiness, the soul says, "Not unto me, but unto thee be the glory;" but in the instance of sin, it says, "Not unto thee, but unto me be the guilt and shame." "By the grace of God, I am what I am," in respect to holiness; "by the fault of free will, I am what I am," in respect to sin. 2. God places the creature in such circumstances as render his sinning certain. But the will of the creature is not subject to circumstances. It can resist them. Circumstances act only ab extra. The conversion of the will cannot be accounted for by circumstances, and neither can its apostasy. 3. God presents motives to the will. But a motive derives its motive power from the existing inclination or bias of the will. There is no certainty of action in view of a motive, unless the previous inclination of the will agrees with the motive; and the motive cannot produce this inclination or bias. 4. God decides not to bestow that special degree of grace which prevents apostasy. But this does not make apostasy certain, because holy Adam had power to stand with that degree of grace with which his Creator had already endowed him. It was, indeed, not certain that he would stand; but neither was it certain that he would fall, if reference be had only to the degree of grace given in creation. When God decides not to hinder a holy being from sinning, he is inactive in this reference; and inaction is not causative. 5. God causes the "matter" but not the " form" of sin. There is a difference between the act, and the viciousness of the act. The act of casting stones when Achan was slain was the same act materially as when Stephen was martyred; but the formal element, namely, the intention, was totally different. God concurs with the act and causes it, but not with the intent or viciousness of the act. But the "form" or "viciousness" of the act is the whole of the sin; and God's concursus does not extend to this. Compare upon the Divine concursus, Charnocke, on the Holiness of God. Charnocke regards it as a valid explanation of the permissive decree.1
The Divine decree differs from the heathen fate." (a) Decree is the determination of a personal Being; fate is
'Alexander, in the Prinoeton Repertory, 1881, makes the same objection as above, to the doctrine of the concursus.
'On fate as presented in the pagan writers, see the appendix to Toplady'i translation of Zanchius, On Predestination.
merely the connection (nexus) of impersonal causes and effects. The Divine decree includes causes, effects, and their nexus. (5) The Divine decree has respect to the nature of beings and things, bringing about a physical event by physical means, and a moral event by moral means; fate brings about all events in the same way. (c) The Divine decree proceeds from a wise insight and knowledge. It adapts means to ends. Fate is fortuitous. It is only another word for chance, and there is no insight, or foresight, or adaptive intelligence, in mere chance. (d) God, according to the heathen view, is subject to fate: rrjv ireirpcofikvriv fioipdv Oswutsv earl airotjivyeiv Kal Seco. Herodotus, I. Says Plato (Laws, V. 741), "Even God is said not to be able to fight against necessity." But the Divine decree is subject to God.
"Necessity and chance
Approach not me, and what I will is fate."—Mtx/ton.
To predestinate voluntary action is, to make it certain. If it meant, as it is sometimes asserted, to force voluntary action, it would be a self-contradiction. To make certain is not the same as to compel, or necessitate, because there are different ways of making certain, but only one way of necessitating. An event in the material world is made certain by physical force; this is compulsory. An event in the moral world is made certain by spiritual operation; this is voluntary and free. The lines of Pope express this: God
"Binding nature fast in fate,
Left free the human will."
The distinction between compulsion and certainty is a real one, and if observed prevents the misrepresentation of the doctrine of predestination.1
1 On this point, see Clarke: Demonstration. Proposition X. snb fine. Clarke, however, contends only that foreknowledge does not necessitate, not that foreordination does not . He is Anninian upon the subject of decrees.
The following objection is made against certainty, namely, that it is equivalent to necessity. "Si praescita sunt omnia fntura, hoc ordine venient, quo ventura esse praescita sunt. Et si hoc ordine venient, certus est ordo rernm praescienti deo. Et si est certus ordo rerum, est certus ordo cansarum; non enim aliquid fieri potest, quod non aliqua efficiens causa praecesserit. Si autem certus est ordo causarum quo fit omne quod fit, fato fiunt omnia quae fiunt. Quod si ita est, nihil est in nostra potestate." There is something like this in Cicero, De Fato, xiv. But it is not the opinion of Cicero, but of certain philosophers whose views he criticises. He mentions two theories: 1. That all things happen by fate or necessity, and attributes this view to Democritus, Heraclitus, Empedocles, and Aristotle. 2. That the voluntary movements of the human soul do not happen by fate or necessity. Cicero favors the latter theory. De Fato, xvii. xviii. His view of the relation of human actions to the Divine will, was what would now be called the general providence of God. He did not maintain particular providence.
Magna dii curant, parva negligunt." De natura deorum. II. lxvi. The fallacy in the above extract consists in assuming that a " certain and fixed order" is identical with fate. This depends upon how the order is "fixed." If it is " fixed " in accordance with physical laws, it would be fate; but if " fixed " in accordance with the nature of mind and free will, it is not fate, but certainty only.
Certainty may or may not denote necessity. It denotea necessity when a physical event is spoken of; as when it is said that it is certain that a stone unsupported will fall to the ground. It does not denote necessity, when a mental or voluntary act is said to be certain. "If a man should be informed by prophecy, that he would certainly kill a fellowcreature the next day or year, and that in perpetrating this act he would be actuated by malice, it would not enter his mind that he would not be guilty of any crime because the act was certain before it was committed. But if the terms were changed, and he were informed that he would be necessitated to commit the act, it would enter his mind." Princeton Repertory, 1831, p. 159.
Predestination is the Divine decree or purpose (irpoSeaii, Rom. 8 : 28) so far as it relates to moral agents, viz. angels and men. The world of matter and irrational existence is more properly the object of the Divine decree, than of the Divine predestination. God decreed rather than predestinated the existence of the material universe. Again a decree relates to a thing or fact; predestination to a person. Sin is decreed; the sinner is predestinated. In 1 Cor. 2: 7, however, the gospel is described as predestinated: "The hidden wisdom which God foreordained (irpoiopurev) unto our glory." This is explained by the fact that the gospel relates eminently to persons, not to things.
Predestination is denoted in the New Testament, by two words: irpoop%eiv and 'irpoytyvcoo-Kelv. The former signifies "to circumscribe, or limit beforehand." The word oplgeiv is transferred in the English " horizon," which denotes the dividing line that separates the earth from the sky. Tlpoop'i^elv occurs in Acts 4 : 28, "To do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before (irpoaspiae) to be done." Pilate, and the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were the agents under this predestination. This is predestination to sin. Examples of predestination to holiness are: Rom. 8: 29, "Whom he did foreknow (irpoeyva), he also did predestinate (irpod>piae) to be conformed to the image of his son." Rom. 8 : 30, "Whom he did predestinate (irpocopMrev), them he also called." Eph. 1:5," Having predestinated (irpooplaas) us unto the adoption of children." Eph. 1:11, Being predestinated (irpoopitySevre?) according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." 1 Cor. 2:7," The hidden wisdom which God ordained before (irpodtpKrev) unto our glory."
The word irpoytyvcoaKeiv, " to foreknow," occurs in Rom. 8 : 29. "Whom he did foreknow (vpoeyvco), he also did predestinate." Kom. 11: 2, "God hath not cast away his people, whom he foreknew (irpoeyvco). 1 Pet. 1: 20, Christ "verily was foreknown (irpoeyvcoaftevo<;) before the foundation of the world." The noun irpoyvaxri<; occurs in Acts 2: 23, " Delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." 1 Pet. 1:2," Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God." The terms "foreknow" and "predestinate " denote two aspects of the same thing. Rom. 11:2, might read, "God hath not cast away his people whom he predestinated." When one is distinguished from the other, as in Rom. 8:29, to "foreknow" means, to "choose," or " single out," for the purpose of predestinating. Foreknowledge, in this use of the word, is election. It is the first part of the total act of predestinating. The word "know," in this connection, has the Hebraistic not the classical signification. To "know," in the Hebrew sense, means to regard with favor; denoting not mere intellectual cognition, but some kind of interested feeling or affection toward the object. Compare Gen. 18 :19 ; Ps. 1: 6 ; 36 :10 ; 144 : 3 ; Hosea 8:4; Amos 3:2; Nahum 1:7; Matt. 7 : 23 ; John 10:14; 1 Cor. 8 : 3 ; 16 :18; 2 Tim. 2: 19; 1 Thess. 5 :12. Shedd: On Romans 7 :15. Traces of this use of yiyvaxrKeiv are seen in the earlier Greek usage: •yvioro? = Y1/coo-to? signifies a kinsman or a friend. Iliad, XV. 350; Aeschylus, Choeph. 702. With this signification, may be compared still another Hebraistic use of the word "to know ;" namely, "to make known." Gen. 22 :12, "Now I know that thou fearest God." 1 Cor. 2 : 2, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ."
It is to be carefully observed, that foreknowledge in the Hebraistic sense of " election" means a foreknowledge of the person simply; not of the actions of the person. "Whom he foreknew," Rom. 8 : 29, does not mean "Whose acts he foreknew," but, " Whose person he foreknew." It signifies that God fixes his eye upon a particular sinful man, and selects him as an individual to be predestinated to holiness in effectual calling. This is proved by the remainder of the verse: "Whom he foreknew, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." The holy actions of the elect are the effect, not the cause, of their being foreknown and predestinated. In 1 Peter 1: 2, believers are " elected unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Christ;" that is, unto justification and sanctification. In 2 Tim. 1:9," God hath called us, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began ;" and certainly, therefore, before any obedience, either partial or total, could be rendered to be the ground of the calling. In Rom. 11 : 2, St. Paul affirms that "God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew." It would be nonsense, even to suppose that God has cast away a people whom he foreknew would keep his commandments. This, therefore, cannot be the sense of irpoeyvco. The ground of predestination, is God's foreknowledge; and this foreknowledge is not a foresight that a particular individual will believe and repent, but a simple pre-recognition of him as a person to whom God in his sovereign mercy has determined to "give repentance," 2 Tim. 2: 25; and to give faith, since "faith is the gift of God," Eph. 2: 8, and since "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed," Acts 13 : 48. In making the choice, God acts "according to the good pleasure (iv&oKiav) of his will," Eph. 1: 5, and not according to any good action of the creature, so "that the purpose of God according to election might stand not of works, but of him that calleth," Rom. 9 :11.
Foreknowledge, in the Hebraistic use of the word, is prior in the order to predestination, because it means electing compassion, and persons are referred to; but foreknowledge in the classical sense is subsequent in the order to decree, because it denotes cognition, and events are referred to. God " foreknows," that is, elects those persons whom he predestinates to life. God decrees the creation of the world, and thereby foreknows with certainty the fact.
Predestination makes the number of the predestinated "so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished." Westminster Confession, III. 4. 2 Tim. 2:19, "The Lord knoweth them that are his." John 13 :18, "I know whom I have chosen." Ex. 33 :17, "I know thee by name." Luke 10: 20, "Your names are written in heaven." Jer. 1: 5, ** Before thou earnest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Gal. 1: 15, "God separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace." John 10: 14, " I know my sheep."
The decree of predestination is divided into the decrees of election and reprobation. God's decree of election respects angels. 1 Tim. 5: 21, "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels." Jude 6, "The angels which kept not their first estate." It is not, in this case, a decree to deliver from sin, but to preserve from sinning. Those whom God determined to keep from apostasy, by bestowing upon them an additional degree of grace above what had been given them in creating them in holiness, are the elect angels. Those whom he determined to leave to their own will, and thus to decide the question of apostasy for themselves with that degree of grace with which they were endowed by creation, are the non-elect or reprobate angels. A non-elect angel is one who is holy by creation, and has ample power to remain holy, but is not kept by extraordinary grace from an act of sinful self-determination. The perseverance of the non-elect angel is left to himself; that of the elect angel is not. "The first object of the permissive will of God was to leave non-elect angels to their own liberty, and the use of their free-will, which was natural to them, not adding that supernatural grace which was necessary, not that they should not sin, but that they should infallibly not sin. They had a strength sufficient to avoid sin, but not sufficient infallibly to avoid sin; a grace sufficient to preserve them, but not sufficient to confirm them." Charnocke: Holiness of God.
Reprobation in the case of an unfallen angel does not suppose sin, but in the case of fallen man it does. A holy angel is non-elect or reprobate, in respect to persevering grace, and the consequence is that he may or may not persevere in holiness. He may continue holy, or he may apostatize. The decision is left wholly to himself. This is not v the case with the elect angel. He is kept from falling. A sinful man, on the other hand, is non-elect or reprobate in respect to regenerating grace. It is not bestowed upon bim, and his voluntariness in sin continues.
Election in reference to the angels implies: (a) Mutable holiness. Angelic holiness is not self-originated, hence not self-subsistent and unchangeable. Job 4: 18, " Behold he put no trust in his servants, and his angels he charged with folly." (5) It implies the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the finite will in all grades of being; and this in different degrees of efficiency. (c) It implies that a part, only, of the angels were placed upon probation. The perseverance in holiness of the elect angels was secured to them by electing grace.
The fall of the angels is the very first beginning of sin, and presents a difficulty not found in the subsequent fall of man; namely, a fall without an external tempter. This has been discussed in the profound treatise of Anselm, De casu diaboli. So far as God is concerned, the clue to the fall of a holy angel is in his decree not to hinder the exercise of angelic self-determination to evil. This, however, does not fully account for the origin of angelic sin. When God placed some of the holy angels upon probation, and decided not to prevent their apostasy by extraordinary grace, they might, nevertheless, have continued in holiness, had they so willed. The origin of their sin is not, therefore, fully accounted for by the merely negative permission of God. A positive act of angelic self-determination is requisite; and how this is made certain by God, is the difficulty. For it must be remembered, that in permitting some of the angels to fall, God did not withdraw from them any power or grace which was bestowed in creation. Nothing that was given in creation was withdrawn from Satan until after he had transgressed. This remark is true also of holy Adam, and his apostasy. How the fall of a holy will can be made a certainty by a merely permissive decree of God is inexplicable, as has already been observed. Neither temptation, nor the circumstances in which the creature is placed, make the event of apostasy infallibly certain. The will of the holy angel or man can resist both temptation and circumstances, and is commanded by God to do so. Nothing but the spontaneity of will can produce the sin; and God does not work in the will to cause evil spontaneity. The certainty of sin by a permissive decree, is an insoluble mystery for the finite mind. The certainty of holiness in the elect by an efficacious decree, is easily explicable. God, in this case, works in the elect "to will and to do." The efficient decree realizes itself by positive action upon the creature; but the permissive decree does not realize itself in this manner. God is the efficient author of holiness, but not of sin. The conviction that God is not the author of sin, is innate and irrepressible. Socrates gives expression to it in the Republic, II. 377. But he does so, somewhat from the view-point of dualism. While evil in his view, does not originate in God, and is punished by God, it is not, as in Revelation, under the absolute control of God, in such sense that it could be prevented by him.
The power to prevent sin is implied in its permission. No one can be said to permit what he cannot prevent. Sin is preventable, by the exercise of a greater degree of that same spiritual efficiency by which the will was inclined to holiness in creation. God did not please to exert this degree in the instance of the fallen angels and man, and thus sin was possible. God's power to prevent sin without forcing the will, is illustrated by the Christian experience. The mind can be so illuminated and filled with a sense of divine things by the Holy Spirit, as to deaden lust and temptation. Compare the temptability of such believers as Leighton and Baxter, with that of an ordinary Christian. Afflictions sometimes cause the common temptations of life to lose almost all their force. Now, carry this mental illnmination and this co-operation of the Divine Spirit with the human spirit to an extraordinary degree, and it is easy to see how God can keep a soul already holy from falling, and yet the process be, and be felt to be, spontaneous and willing. Only the First cause can work internally and directly upon the finite will. Second causes cannot so operate. No man can incline another man; but God the Holy Spirit can incline any man to good, however wickedly inclined he may already be. This is a revealed truth, not a psychological one. It could not be discovered by the examination of the selfconsciousness, for this does not give a report of a Divine agent as distinct from the human. Hence the doctrine of spiritual operation in the sonl is not found in natural religion. The "demon" of Socrates is the only thing resembling it; but this, probably, was only the personification of conscience.
The reason for the permission of sin was the manifestation of certain Divine attributes which could not have been manifested otherwise. These attributes are mercy and compassion, with their cognates. The suffering of God incarnate, and vicarious atonement, with all their manifestation of the Divine glory, would be impossible in a sinless universe. The "intent" was, " that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God," Eph. 3:10. The attributes of justice and holiness, also, though exhibited in natural religion, yet obtain a far more impressive display in the method of redemption. The glory of God, not the happiness of the creature, is the true theodicy of sin. As the mineral kingdom is for the vegetable, the vegetable for the animal, and the animal for man, so all are for God. The inferior grade of being, in each instance, justifies the subservience. This is not egotism or selfishness, because of the superior dignity in each case.
The position that sin is necessary to the best possible universe is objectionable, unless by the best possible universe be meant the universe best adapted to manifest the Divine attributes. If the happiness of the creature be the criterion of the best possible universe, then sin is not necessary to the best possible world. Sin brings misery, and the best possible world, looking at the happiness of the creature alone, would have no sin in it. Sin is very limited in comparison with holiness, in the universe of God. The earth is a mote in astronomy. The number of the lost angels and men is small compared with the whole number of rational creatures. Sin is a speck upon the infinite azure of eternity. Hell is a corner of the universe; it is a hole or "pit," not an ocean. It is "bottomless," but not boundless. The dualistic and gnostic theory, which makes God and Satan or the Demiurge nearly equal in sway, is not that of revelation. Because holiness and sin have thus far been so nearly balanced here on earth, it is not to be inferred that this will be the final proportion at the end of human history, or that it is the same throughout the universe. That sin is the exception, and not the rule, in the rational universe, is evinced by the fact that the angelic world was not created by species. Apostasy there is individual, not universal. The Scriptures denominate the good the heavenly "host," and allude to it as vast beyond computation; but no such description is given of the evil.
God's decree of election respects man. John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." 1 Cor. 1: 27, 28, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise." Eph. 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." James 2:5," Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith." Matt. 13:11; 20: 23; 22 : 14; 24 : 22, 40; 25 : 34; Mark 4 :11; Luke 10: 20; 12: 32; 17 :34 ; John 6: 37 ; Acts 13: 48 ; Rom. 8 : 28-33 ; Romans, chapters 9-11; Gal. 1:15; Eph. ch. 1; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; Isa. 42 :1; 45 : 4; 65 :9, 22. Human election differs from angelic, in that it is election to holiness from a state of sin, not to perseverance in a state of holiness. It supposes the fall of man. Men are chosen out of a state of sin. "They who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ." Westminster Confession, IH. 6. Human election is both national and individual. National election relates to the means of grace; namely, the revealed word, and the ministry of the word. Individual election relates to grace itself; namely, the bestowment of the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. National election is the outward call; "many are called," Matt. 20 :16. Individual election is the inward or effectual call; " few are chosen." This statement of our Lord that " few " are individually elected, in comparison with the "many" who are nationally elected, refers to the state of things at the time of his speaking. Christ was rejected by the majority of that generation to which he himself belonged, but this does not mean that he will prove to have been rejected by the majority of all the generations of mankind.
The following characteristics of the decree of election are to be noticed. 1. God's decree of election originates in compassion, not complacency; in pity for the sinner's soul, not delight in the sinner's character and conduct. Election does not spring out of the Divine love (aydirtj) spoken of in John 14: 23; but out of the Divine goodness and kindness (XPVa"r°'rV<y) spoken of in Rom. 11: 22. God sees no holiness in either the elect or the non-elect, and hence feels no complacent love towards either; yet compassion towards both. He has a benevolent and merciful feeling towards the fallen human spirit, (a) Because it is his own handiwork. Job 14 :15, " Thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands." Jonah 4 :11, " Should 1 not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand?" Ezek. 33 :11, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." Ps. 145: 8, "The Lord is full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy." Ps. 103 : 8; 86 :15; Micah 7 :18, "God delighteth in mercy." Ex. 34: 6, "The Lord passed by and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." (b) Because of its capacity for holiness and worship. Towards the non-elect, this compassion- • ate feeling exists in the Divine mind, because they, like the elect, are the creatures of God, and have the same capacities; but the expression of this compassion is restrained for reasons sufficient for God, and unknown to the creature. It appears strange that God should feel benevolent compassion towards the souls of all men alike, and yet not manifest saving compassion to all of them; that he should convert Paul, and leave Judas in sin. Yet there is no contradiction or impossibility in it. We can conceive of the existence of pity, without its actual exercise in some instances. We can conceive that there may be some men whose persistence in sin, and obstinate resistance of common grace, God decides for reasons sufficient to him not to overcome by the internal operation of his Spirit, while yet his feeling towards them as his creatures is that of profound and infinite compassion. Why he does not overcome their self-will by the actual exercise of his compassion, as he does that of others equally or perhaps even more impenitent and obstinate, is unknown, and perhaps unknowable. "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in
thy sight" (Matt. 11: 26), is all the reason which our Lord assigns.
2. God's decree of election is not chargeable with partiality, because this can obtain only when one party has a claim upon another. If God owed forgiveness and salvation to all mankind, it would be partiality should he save some and not others. Partiality is injustice. A parent is partial and unjust, if he disregards the equal rights and claims of all his children. A debtor is partial and unjust, if in the payment of his creditors he favors some at the expense of others. In these instances, one party has a claim upon the other. But it is impossible for God to show partiality in the bestowment of salvation from sin, because the sinner has no right or claim to it. "There is," says Aquinas (Summa, II. lxiii. 1), " a twofold giving: the one a matter of justice, whereby a man is paid what is due to him. Here, it is possible to act partially, and with respect of persons. There is a second kind of giving, which is a branch of mere bounty or liberality, by which something is bestowed that is not due. Such are the gifts of grace, whereby sinners are received of God. In this case, respect of persons, or partiality, is absolutely out of the question, because any one, without the least shadow of injustice, may give of his own as he will, and to whom he will: according to Matt. 20 :14, 15, 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own ?'"
A man cannot be charged with unjust partiality in the bestowment of alms, because giving alms is not paying a debt. He may give to one beggar and not to another, without any imputation upon his justice, because he owes nothing to either of thern. In like manner, God may overcome the resisting will of one man and not of another, without being chargeable with unjust partiality, because he does not owe this mercy to either of them. This truth is taught in Rom. 9:14, 15. "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Although feeling compassion toward all sinners in the universe because they are his creatures, God does not save all sinners in the universe. He does not redeem any of the fallen angels; and he does not redeem all of fallen mankind. He deals justly with both fatten angels and lost men; and justice cannot be charged with partiality. "Behold therefore the goodness (-XprjcnoTqra) and sevei'ity (airorofiiav) of God; on them which fell, severity (strict justice); but towards thee, goodness (mercy)," Rom. 11: 22. Under an economy of grace, there can be, from the nature of the case, no partiality. Only under an economy of justice, and of legal claims, is it possible. The charge of partiality might with as much reason be made against the gifts of providence, as against the gifts of grace. Health, wealth, and high intellectual power, are not duo to men from God. They are given to some and denied to others; but God is not therefore partial in his providence. The assertion that God is bound, either in this life or the next, to tender a pardon of sin through Christ to every man, not only has no support in Scripture, but is contrary to reason ; for it transforms grace into debt, and involves the absurdity, that if the judge does not offer to pardon the criminal whom he has sentenced he does not treat him equitably.
3. The decree of election is immutable, and the salvation of the elect is certain, because God realizes his decree, in this instance, by direct efficiency. He purposes that a certain individual shall believe and persevere to the end, and secures this result by an immediate operation upon him. The conversion of St. Paul is an example. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance," Hom. 11:29. "Whom he predestinated them he glorified," Rom. 8 : 30. "Let us not imagine," says St. Augustine, on Ps. 68, " that God puts down any man in his book, and then erases him; for if Pilate could say 'What I have written, I have written,' bow can it be tbougbt tbat the great God would write a person's name in the book of life, and then blot it out again?" The elect are not saved in sin, but from sin. Sauctification is as much an effect of the purpose of election, as justification. Christians are "elect unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Christ," 1 Pet. 1: 2. This accords with the previous statement, that the Divine decree is universal, including the means as well as the end. Says Milton,
In all things and all men, supposes means;
Without means used, what it predicts, revokes."
Paradise Regained, III. 364.
They who are predestinated to life are predestinated to the means and conditions. Acts 13 : 48, "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed." Eph. 1:4, "He hath chosen us in Him, that we should be holy." Eph. 2:10, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath foreordained that we should walk in them." Says Augustine (De correptione, VII. xiii.), "those who are made the objects of divine grace, are caused to hear the gospel, and when heard to believe it, and are made to endure to the end in faith that works by love; and should they at any time go astray, they are recovered." Says Luther (Preface to Romans), " God's decree of predestination is firm and certain; and the necessity resulting from it is in like manner immovable, and cannot but take place. For we ourselves are so feeble, that if the matter were left in our hands, very few, or rather none, would be saved; but Satan would overcome us all."
4. The grace of God manifested in the purpose of election is irresistible; not in the sense that it cannot be opposed in any degree, but in the sense that it cannot be overcome. In the same sense, the power of God is irresistible; a man may resist omnipotence, but he cannot conquer it. The army of Napoleon at Austerlitz was irresistible, though fiercely attacked. God can exert such an agency upon the human spirit as to incline or make willing. Ps. 110:3, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." Phil. 2 :13, " It is God which worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure." The doctrine of the internal operation of the Holy Ghost is the clue to this. The finite will cannot be made willing, or inclined: (a) By external force. (5) By human instruction. (c) By human persuasion. But it can be, by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit, upon the human will as spirit. This Divine agency is described in John 3 : 8. Because this action of the Infinite Spirit upon the finite spirit is in accordance with the voluntary nature of spirit, it is not compulsory. The creature is spontaneous and free in every act performed under the actuation of God, because God is the creator of the will, and never works in a manner contrary to its created qualities. God never undoes in one mode of his agency, what he has done in another mode. Having made the human spirit voluntary and self-moving, he never influences it in a manner that destroys its voluntariness. "God," says Howe, (Oracles, I. xx), "knows how to govern his creatures according to their natures, and changes the hearts of men according to that natural way wherein the human faculties are wont to work; a thing that all the power of the whole world could not do."
5. The decree of election is unconditional. It depends upon the sovereign pleasure of God, not upon the foreseen faith or works of the individual. Rom. 9:11 asserts "that the purpose of God according to election does not stand of works, but of him that calleth." Rom. 9 :11, 12 teaches that the election of Jacob and rejection of Esau was not founded upon the works of either. "The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, it was said, the elder shall serve the younger." 1 Pet. 1: 2 asserts that believers are "elected unto obedience," consequently, not because of obedience. 2 Tim. 1: 9 affirms that "God hath called us, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose." Rom. 8:29 teaches that " whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son." If God foreknew these persons as conformed to the image of his Son, he would have no need to predestinate them to this conformity. Acts 13 : 48 declares that " as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed." This shows that faith is the result, not the reason of foreordination.
If it be objected that election does not "stand of works," but that it stands of faith, the reply is that: (a) Faith is an inward work. John 6 : 29, "This is the work of God, that ye believe." Consequently election not does rest upon faith as a foreseen inward work, any more than upon a foreseen outward work. (5) Faith is a gift of God to man (Eph. 1:8); therefore it cannot first be a gift of man to God, as the ground and reason of his electing act. (c) If election depends upon foreseen faith, God does not first choose man, but man first chooses God; which is contrary to John 15: 16. (d) If election depends upon foreseen faith, there would be no reason for the objection in Hom. 9 :19: "Thou wilt say then, Why doth he yet find fault?" or for the exclamation, " O the depth!" Rom. 11:33. If it be said that election depends upon the right use of common grace by the sinner, this would make "the purpose of God according to election " to stand partly of works, and not solely "of him that calleth." Faith in this case is partly " the gift of God," and partly the product of the sinful will. This is contrary to those scriptures which represent God as the alone author of election, regeneration, faith, and repentance. Rom. 9: 16; 8:7; John 1:12,13; 3:5; 6 : 44,65.1
Reprobation is the antithesis to election, and necessarily follows from it. If God does not elect a person, he rejects him. If God decides not to convert a sinner into a saint,
> On this point, see Hodge: Theology, II. 639-710; Dabney: Theology, 580, 581; Watson: Institutes, H 395 »q.
he decides to let him remain a sinner. If God decides not to work in a man to will and to do according to God's will, he decides to leave the man to will and to do according to his own will. If God purposes not to influence a particular human will to good, he purposes to allow that will to have its own way. When God effectually operates upon the human will, it is election. When God does not effectually operate upon the human will, it is reprobation. And he must do either the one or the other. The logical and necessary connection between election and reprobation is seen also, by considering the two divine attributes concerned in each. Election is the expression of the divine mercy; reprobation of the divine justice. God must manifest one or the other of these two attributes towards a transgressor. St. Paul teaches this in Rom. 11: 22: "Behold the goodness and severity of God (the divine compassion, and the divine justice); on them which fell, severity; but towards thee goodness."
Consequently, whoever holds the doctrine of election, must hold the antithetic doctrine of reprobation. A creed that contains the former logically contains the latter, even when it is not verbally expressed. Such creeds are the Augsburg Confession, Part 1, Article 5; the First Helvetic, Article IX.; the Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 54. Drsinus, who drew up the Heidelberg Catechism, discusses reprobation in his system of theology founded upon it. The thirty-nine Articles mention election, and not reprobation. The following Reformed creeds mention both doctrines: Second Helvetic (1566), X. 4. "Et quamvis deus norit qui sunt sui, et alicubi mentio fiat paucitatis electorum, bene sperandum est tamen de omnibus, neque temere reprobis quisquam est adnumerandus." X. 6. "Alii dicunt: si vero sum de reproborum numero," etc. French Confession (1559), XII. "Nous croyons que de cette condemnation, Dieu retire ceux lesquels il a elus, laisaant les autres," etc. Belgic Confession (1561), XVI. "Nous croyons que Dieu s'est demontre" tel qu'il est; savoir misdricordieux et juste: mis^ricordieux, en retirant et sauvant ceux qu'en son conseil kernel il a elus; juste, en laissant les autres en leur ruine et trebucheinent ou ils se sont precipites." Scotch Confession (1560), VIIT. "And for this cause, ar we not affrayed to cal God our Father, not sa meikle because he hes created us, quhilk we have common with the reprobate." Irish Articles (1615). "By the same eternal counsel, God hath predestinated some unto life, and reprobated some unto death." Lambeth Articles (1595). "God from eternity hath predestinated certain men unto life; certain men he hath reprobated." Dort Canons (1619), I. 15. "Scriptura Sacra testatur non omnes homines esse electos, sed quosdam non electos, sive in aeterna dei electione j>raeteritos, quos scilicet deus ex liberrimo, justissimo, irrcprehensibili, et immntabilimi beneplacito decrevit in communi miseria, in quam se sua culpa praecipitarunt, relinquere." Westminster Confession (1647), III. 3. "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death." 1
Reprobation relates to regenerating grace, not to common grace. It is an error to suppose that the reprobate arc entirely destitute of grace. All mankind enjoy common grace. There are no elect or reprobate in this reference. Every
1 The Formula Concordiae (1576-1584) teaches that foreknowledge extends to both good and evil; that predestination extends to good only. The Waldensian Confession (1655) teaches inability, election, and pretention. It is on abridgment of the Gallican Confession, and is "highly prized" by the modern Waldensians. The Articles of the Congregational Union of England and Wales (1833) teach election. The creed of the Free Church of Geneva (1848) teaches inability and election. The Free Italian Church (1870) teaches inability. The Methodist Articles drawn up by Wesley (1784) teach inability; the sinner '•ca:inot turn and prepare himself to faith." The Five Arminian Articles (Remonstratia), 1610, teach impotence, and that "God by an eternal purpose hath determined to save those who believe and persevere." Niemeyer excludes this from his collection of "Reformed " Confessions. The Cumberland Presbyterian Confession (1813-1889) teaches inability, and that "God's sovereign electing love is as extensive as the legal condemnation or reprobation, in which all men arc by nature. Bnt in a particular and saving sense, none can be properly called God's elect till they be justified and united to Christ. None are justified from eternity. God has reprobated none from eternity." Schaflf: Creeds, IIL 772.
hnman being experiences some degree of the ordinary influences of the Spirit of God. St. Paul teaches that God strives with man universally. He convicts him of sin, and urges him to repent of it, and forsake it. Rom. 1:19, 20; 2:3, 4; Acts 17: 24-31. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness, so that they are without excuse. And thinkest thou, O man, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. God hath made of one blood all nations of men, and appointed the bounds of their habitation, that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him and find him: for in him we live and move and have our being."
The reprobate resist and nullify common grace; and so do the elect. The obstinate selfishness and enmity of the human heart defeats the Divine mercy as shown in the ordinary influences of the Holy Spirit, in both the elect and non-elect. Acts 7 : 51, " Ye stiff-necked, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." The difference between the two cases is, that in the instance of the elect, God follows up the common grace which has been resisted, with the regenerating grace which overcomes the resistance; while in the instance of the reprobate, he does not. It is in respect to the bestowment of this higher degree of grace, that St. Paul affirms that God "hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth" [i.e. does not soften]. "It is," says Bates (Eternal Judgment, II.), "from the perverseness of the will and the love of sin, that men do not obey the gospel. For the Holy Spirit never withdraws his gracious assistance, till resisted, grieved, and quenched by them. It will be no excuse, that Divine grace is not conferred in the same eminent degree upon some as upon others that are converted; for the impenitent shall not be condemned for want of that singular powerful grace that was the privilege of the elect, but for receiving in vain that measure of common grace that they had. If he that received one talent had faithfully improved it, he had been rewarded with more; but upon the slothful and ungrateful neglect of his duty, he was justly deprived of it, and cast into a dungeou of horror, the emblem of hell."
Reprobation comprises pretention, and condemnation or damnation. It is defined in the Westminster Confession, III. 7, as a twofold purpose: (a) " To pass by" some men in the bestowment of regenerating grace; and (b) "To ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin." The first is pretention; the last is condemnation, or damnation. Pretention must not be confounded with condemnation. This is done by Baier, Compendium, III. xii. 27. Much of the attack upon the general tenet of reprobation arises from overlooking this distinction. The following characteristics mark the difference between the two. (a) Pretention is a sovereign act; condemnation is a judicial act. God passes by, or omits an individual in the bestowment of regenerating grace, because of his sovereign good pleasure (evSoKia). But he condemns this individual to punishment, not because of his sovereign good pleasure, but because this individual is a sinner. To say that God condemns a man to punishment because he pleases, is erroneous; but to say that God omits to regenerate a man because he pleases, is true. (b) The reason of condemnation is known; sin is the reason. The reason of pretention is unknown. It is not sin, because the elect are as sinful as the non-elect. (c) In pretention, God's action is permissive; inaction rather than action. In condemnation, God's action is efficient and positive.
1. The decree of pretention, or omission, is a branch of the permissive decree. As God decided to permit man to use his self-determining power and originate sin, so he decided to permit some men to continue to use their self-determining power and persevere in sin. Pretention is no more exposed to objection than is the decree to permit sin at first. "It is no blemish," Bays Howe (Decrees, Lect. III.), " when things are thus and so connected in themselves naturally and morally, to let things in many instances stand just as in themselves they are." Pretention is "letting things stand" as they are. To omit or pretermit is to leave, or let alone. The idea is found in Luke 17: 34. "The one shall be taken, the other shall be left." God sometimes temporarily leaves one of his own children to his own self-will. This is a temporary reprobation. Such was the case of Hezekiah. "In the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart," 2 Chron. 32: 31. Compare Ps. 81:12, 13; and David's temporary reprobation in the matter of Uriah. Preterition in the bestowment of regenerating (not common) grace, is plainly taught in Scripture. Isa. 6: 9, 10; Matt. 11: 25, 26; 13 :11; 22 : 14; Luke 17 : 34; John 10 : 26; 12 : 39; Acts 1:16; 2 Thess. 2 :11, 12; 2 Tim. 2 : 20; 1 Pet. 2:8; Rom. 9 :17, 18, 21, 22; Jude 4. The passage in Isa. 6 : 9, 10 is quoted more often in the New Testament, than any other Old Testament text. It occurs six times in the Gospels (in every instance, in the discourse of our Lord), once in Acts, and once in Romans. Shedd: Romans 9 :18, 23, 33.
The decree of preterition may relate either to the outward means of grace, or to inward regenerating grace. The former is national, the latter is individual preterition. In bestowing a written revelation, and the promise of a redeemer, upon the Jews, under the Old economy, God omitted or passed by all other nations. Dent. 7:10, "The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself: not because ye were more in number, for ye were the fewest." Until the appointed time had come, Christ himself forbade his disciples to preach the gospel indiscriminately to Jews and Gentiles. Matt. 10 : 5, 6. After his resurrection, national preterition ceased. Mark 16 :15; Luke 24: 47. All nations are now elected to the outward means of salvation, viz., the Scriptures and the ministry of the word, so far as the command of God is concerned; thongh practically many are still reprobated, owing to the unfaithfulness of the Christian Chnrch. St. Paul teaches this, when he asks and answers: "Have they [Gentiles] not heard? Yes, verily, their sound [of the preachers] went into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world," Rom. 10:18. The proclamation of the gospel is universal, not national.
2. There may be individual pretention in connection with national election. Some of the Jews were individually and inwardly reprobated; but all of them were nationally and outwardly elected. Rom. 9:27; 11:7, "Israel [the nation] hath not obtained that which ho seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest [of the nation] were blinded." Matt. 10:16, " Many be [outwardly] called, but few [inwardly] chosen ;" Isa. 10 : 22, 23. Some in Christendom will in the last day prove to have been passed by, in the bestowment of regenerating grace. "All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible," Westminster S. C, 61. Reprobated persons are striven with by the Holy Spirit, and are convicted of sin, but they resist these strivings, and the Holy Spirit proceeds no further with them. In his sovereignty, he decides not to overcome their resistance of common grace. The non-elect are the subjects of common grace, to which they oppose a strenuous and successful determination of their own will. Every sinner is stronger than common grace, but not stronger than regenerating grace. The non-elect " may be and often are outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit, who for their wilful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ." "Westminster S. C, 68. Isa. 6 : 9, 10, " Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed." The resistance and abuse of common grace is followed by desertion of God; which negative desertion is, in this passage of the evangelical prophet, called, Hebraistically, a positive stupefying, hardening and deafening.
Preterition is not inconsistent with the doctrine of the Divine mercy. A man who has had common grace has been the subject of mercy to this degree. If he resists it, he cannot complain because God does not bestow upon him still greater mercy, in the form of regenerating grace. A sinner who has quenched the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit cannot call God unmerciful, because he does not afterwards grant him the converting influence. A beggar who contemptuously rejects the five dollars offered by a benevolent man cannot charge stinginess upon him, because, after this rejection of the five dollars, he does not give him ten. A sinner who has repulsed the mercy of God in common grace, and demands that God grant a yet larger degree, virtually says to the Infinite One: "Thou hast tried once to convert me from sin; now try again, and try harder."
3. There may be individual election in connection with national preterition. Some men may be saved in unevangelized nations. That God has his elect among the heathen, is taught in Calvinistic creeds. The Westminster Confession (X. 3.), after saying that "elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh, when, and where, and how, he pleaseth," adds; "so also are all other elect persons [regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit], who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word." This is not to be referred solely to idiots and insane persons, but also to such of the pagan world as God pleases to regenerate without the written word. The Second Helvetic Confession (I. 7.), one of the most important of the Reformed creeds, after saying that the ordinary mode of salvation is by the instrumentality of the written word, adds, " agnoscimus interim, deum illnminare posse homines etiam sine externo ministerio, quo et quando velit: id quod ejus potentiae est." Zanchius (Predestination, I.) says that "national reprobation does not imply that every individual person who lives in an unevangelized country, must therefore unavoidably perish forever: any more than that every individual who lives in a land called Christian is therefore in a state of salvation. There are no doubt elect persons amoiig the former; as well as reprobate ones among the latter." Again (IV.), after remarking that many nations have never had the privilege of hearing the word preached, he says, that "it is not indeed improbable that some individuals in these unenlightened countries, may belong to the secret election of grace, and the habit of faith may be wrought in them." By the term "habit" (habitus), the elder divines meant an inward disposition of the heart and will. The " habit of faith" is the believing mind, or disposition of soul. And this implies penitence for sin, and the longing for deliverance from it. The habit of faith is the broken and contrite heart which expresses itself in the publican's prayer: "God be merciful to me a sinner." It is evident that the Holy Ghost, by an immediate operation can, if he please, produce such a disposition and frame of mind in a pagan, without employing as he commonly does the preaching of the written word. That there can be a disposition to believe in Christ before Christ is personally known, is proved by the case of the blind man in John 9:36-38: "Jesus saith unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him." The case of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8 : 27 sq.) is a similar instance of a penitent sense of sin, and a desire for deliverance from it, before the Great Deliverer himself is actnally set before the mind. Calvin (Inst. IV. xvi. 19) remarks that " when the apostle makes hearing the source of faith, he only describes the ordinary economy and dispensation of the Lord, which he generally observes in the calling of his people; but does not prescribe a perpetual rule for him, precluding his employment of any other method; which he has certainly employed in the calling of many to whom he has given the true knowledge of himself in an internal manner, by the illumination of his spirit, without the intervention of any preaching." Calvin is speaking of infants in this connection; but the possibility of the regeneration of an infant without the written word, proves the same possibility in the instance of an adult. In Inst. III. xvii. 4, he describes Cornelius as having been "illuminated and sanctified by the Spirit," prior to Peter's preaching to him. Augustine (Letter to Deogratias, CIL) teaches that some are saved outside of the circle of special revelation. "Seeing that in the sacred Hebrew books some are mentioned, even from Abraham's time, not belonging to his natural posterity nor to the people of Israel, and not proselytes added to that people, who were nevertheless partakers of this holy mystery, why may we not believe that in other nations also, here and there, some names were found, although we do not read their names in these authoritative records?" In his Retractations (II. xxxi.), Augustine remarks upon this passage, that the salvation in such cases was not on the ground of personal virtue and merit, but by the grace of God in regenerating the heart, and working true repentence for sin in it. "This I said, not meaning that anyone could be worthy through his own merit, but in the same sense as the apostle said, 'Not of works, but of him that calleth'—a calling which he affirms to pertain to the purpose of God." Nicene Fathers, I. 418.
That the Holy Spirit saves some of the unevangelized heathen by the regeneration of the soul, and the production of the penitent and believing habit or disposition, is favored by Scripture; though from the nature of the case, the data are not numerous. The Bible teaches that the ordinary method of salvation is through the instrumentality of the word: "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Rom. 10 :14. But it also teaches that the Divine Spirit sometimes operates in an extraordinary manner, and goes before the preacher of the word. The case of Cornelius, which is one of a class, warrants the belief that the Holy Spirit sometimes works in the individual heart, and produces a sense of sin and a believing disposition, prior to the actual presentation of Christ, the object of faith. Cornelius, before Peter is sent to preach Christ to him, is described as " a just man " who "feared God," Acts 10 : 22. This does not mean that ho was a "virtuous pagan " who claimed to have lived up to the light he had, and who upon this ground esteemed himself to be acceptable to God; but it means that he was a convicted sinner, who was seriously inquiring the way of salvation from sin. This is evident from the fact that Peter preached to this "just man who feared God," the forgiveness of sin through Christ's blood, and that this "just man " believed and was baptized. Acts 10 : 44-47. Again, it is said, in Matt. 8 :11, "Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out." The individually and spiritually elect from outside of Israel, are here contrasted with the individually and spiritually reprobated from within Israel. Again, the universality of the gospel for the Gentiles as well as the Jews, taught in the promise to Abraham and in the prophesies of Isaiah, makes it probable that the Divine Spirit does not invariably, and without any exceptions, wait for the tardy action of the unfaithful church in preaching the written word, before he exerts his omnipotent grace in regeneration. Peter supposes the exertion of prevenient grace, when he says, "Whosoever among yon feareth God, to you is this word of salvation sent," Acts 13:26. The phrase "feareth God," here, as in Acts 10 : 22, denotes a sense of sin, and a predisposition of mind to receive the remission of sins produced by the Holy Spirit. The apostles seem to have found such a class of persons in their missionary tours among the unevangelized populations. The assertion of Christ (Matt. 13:17), that "many prophets and righteous men have desired to see" the Messiah, though referring primarily to the Old Testament prophets and righteous persons, may have a secondary reference to inquiring persons among the Gentiles, and to Christ as the "Desire of all nations."
Whether any of the heathen are saved outside of Christian missions depends, therefore, upon whether any of them are " regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit." The pagan cannot be saved by good works, or human morality, any more than the nominal Christian can be. Pagan morality, like all human morality, is imperfect; and nothing but perfection can justify. Hence, the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 60, affirms that pagans " cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature." The fathers of the English Church also deny " that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law, and the light of nature." Farrar: St. Paul, I. 280. The utmost diligence and effort of a pagan fails perfectly to obey the law of God written on the heart; and only perfect obedience is free from condemnation. The most virtuous heathen has an accusing conscience at times, and must acknowledge that he has come short of his duty. Rom. 2 :15. Yet missionary annals furnish instances of a preparation of heart to welcome the Redeemer, when he is offered. Pagans have been found with a serious and humble sense of sin, and a desire for salvation from it.1 Baxter, in his Personal Narrative, says: "I am not so much inclined to pass a peremptory sentence of damnation upon all that never heard the gospel: having some more reason than I knew of before, to think that God's dealing with such is unknown to us; and therefore, the ungodly here among us Christians are in a far more worse case than they."
4. The decree of pretention supposes the free fall of man, and his responsibility for the existence of sin. See Edwards: Decrees and Salvation, § 58. Man is already guilty, and deserving perdition, and the reprobating decree of God simply leaves him where he already is by an act of his own self-determination. The infra- or »«5-lapsarian theory is the correct one: infra or sub being used logically, not temporally. The sublapsarian order of the Divine decrees is this: 1. The decree to create man in holiness and blessedness. 2. The decree to permit man to fall by the self-determination of his own will. 3. The decree to save a definite number out of this guilty aggregate. 4. The decree to leave the remainder to their self-determination in sin, and to the righteous punishment which sin deserves. Sublapsarianism is taught by the synod of Dort: Decrees, Art. 7; and by Turrettin: Institutio, IV. ix. 5.
1 The case of the Indian described in Edward's Life of Brainerd is sometimes cited, bnt it is not so clear and satisfactory as some others. Brainerd describes the Indian as one who "had formerly been like the rest of the Indians, until about four or five years previously. Then, he said, his heart was very much distressed. At length God comforted his heart and showed him what he should do." Brainerd adds: "I must say that there was something in his temper and disposition which looked more like true religion than anything I ever observed amongst other heathens." But Brainerd does not say that thin Indian believed and trusted in Christ, when Christ was presented to him as the Saviour from sin: yet had he done so, he would certainly have mentioned it. On the contrary, Brainerd remarks that the Indian "disliked extremely" some of his teaching. He also continued to practise the tricks of a conjurer in connection with idolatrous worship. The evidence and criterion of a true sense of sin, and of a genuine work of the Holy Spirit in a heathen heart, is that readiness to welcome and believe in Christ, when preached, which was exhibited by Cornelius and the eunuch.
The supralapsarian theory places, in the order of decrees, the decree of election and pretention before the fall, instead of after it. It supposes that God begins by decreeing that a certain number of men shall be elected, and reprobated. This decree is prior even to that of creation, in the logical order. The supralapsarian order of decrees is as follows: 1. The decree to elect some men to salvation, and to leave some to perdition, for the divine glory. 2. The decree to create the men thus elected and reprobated. 3. The decree to permit them to fall. 4. The decree to justify the elect, and to condemn the non-elect. The objections to this view are the following: (a) The decree of election and pretention has reference to a non-entity. Man is contemplated as creatable, not as created. Consequently, the decree of election and pretention has no real object. "Ilomo creabilis et labilis non est objectum praedestinationis, sed creatus et lapsus." Turrettin: Institutio, IV. ix. 5. Man is only ideally existent, an abstract conception; and therefore any divine determination concerning him, is a determination concerning non-entity. But God's decrees of election and reprobation suppose some actually created beings, from which to select and reject. "On whom (ov) he will, he hath mercy; and whom he will, he hardeneth," Rom. 9:18. The first decree, in the order of nature, must therefore be a decree to create. God must bring man into being, before he can decide what man shall do or experience. It is no reply to say, that man is created in the Divine idea, though not in reality, when the decree of predestination is made. It is equally true that he is fallen in the Divine idea, when this decree is made. And the question is, What is the logical order, in tlie divine idea, of the creation and the fall?
(b) The Scriptures represent the elect and non-elect, respectively, as taken out of an existing aggregate of beings. John 15:19, "I have chosen you out of (iK) the world."
(c) The elect are chosen to justification and sanctification. Eph. 1:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:2. They must therefore have been already fallen, and consequently created. God justifies "the ungodly," Roin. 4:5; and sanctifies the unholy. (d) The supralapsarian reprobation is a Divine act that cannot presuppose sin, because it does not presuppose existence. But the Scriptures represent the non-elect as sinful creatures. In Jude 4, the men who were " of old ordained to this condemnation " are "ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness." Accordingly, the Westminster Confession (III. 7) affirms that God passes by the non-elect, and "ordains them to dishonor aud wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice."
The supralapsarian quotes Rom. 9:11, in proof of his assertion that election and pretention are prior to the creation of man. "The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil," Jacob was chosen and Esau was left. This is an erroneous interpretation. Birth is not synonymous with creation Parents are not the creators of their children. Man exists before he is born into the world.1 He exists in the womb; and he existed in Adam. Accordingly, in Rom. 9:10, 12, it is said that " when Rebecca had conceived, it was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger." The election and pretention related to the embryonic existence. Jacob and Esau had real being in their mother, according to Ps. 139:15, 16: "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there was none of them." St. Paul (Gal. 1:15) says that he was "separated and called from his mother's womb." God says to Jeremiah (1:5), "Before thou earnest out of the womb I sanctified thee." In saying
1 Says Hacckel (Evolution of Man, IL 3), "the human embryo passes through the whole course of its development in the space of forty weeks. Each man is really older, by this period, than is usually assumed. When, for example, a ohild is said to be 9)^ years old, he is really 10 years old."
that they had not "done any good or evil" at the moment of their election and pretention, actual transgression after birth is meant. Original sin, or corruption of nature, characterized them both; otherwise, it would be absurd to speak of electing one of them to mercy, and leaving the other to justice. Absolute innocence can neither be elected nor rejected, saved or lost. Eph. 3:9, 10 is explained by the supralapsarian, to teach that creation is subsequent in the order to redemption. But the clause, "who created all things by Jesus Christ," is parenthetical, not the principal clause. The clause iva yvcopurSy, etc., depends on evaryryeXlaaaSai. and (fxorurcu in ver. 8, 9. See Olshausen and Hodge, in loco.
5. The decree of pretention does not necessitate perdition, though it makes it certain. Because: (a) It has no effect at all, in the order of decrees, until after the free will of man has originated sin. The decree of pretention supposes the voluntary fall of man. It succeeds, in the order of nature, the decree to permit Adam's sin. Pretention, consequently, has to do only with a creature who is already guilty by his own act, and justly " condemned already," John 3:18. (5) It is a permissive not an efficient act on the part of God, that is exerted in pretention. In respect to regeneration, God decides to do nothing, in the case of a non-elect sinner. He leaves him severely alone. He permits him to have his already existing self-determination, his own voluntary inclination. This is not compulsion, but the farthest possible from it. Compulsion might with more color of reason be charged upon election, than upon pretention. For in this case, God works in the human will "to will."
The efficient and blameworthy cause of the perdition of the non-elect is not the decree of preterition, but the selfdetermined apostasy and sin of the non-elect. Mere permission is not causation. "Ubi nuda est permissio, ibi locum non habet causalitas." Quenstedt, U. ii. 2. The non-elect is not condemned and lost because God did not elect him, but because he "sinned and came short of the glory of God," Rom. 3 :23. "Well; because of unbelief, they were broken off," Rom. 11:20.
The sentence of the last day will not be founded upon God's negative act of not saving, but upon the sinner's positive act of sinning. Christ will not say to the impenitent, "Depart, because I did not save thee," but, " Depart, because thou hast sinned, and hast no sorrow for it." Should John Doe throw himself into the water and be drowned, while Richard Roe stood upon the bank and did nothing, the verdict would be that the act was suicide, not homicide: "Drowned, not because Richard Roe did not pull him out, but because John Doe threw himself in." It is true that Richard Roe, in this instance, would be guilty of a neglect of duty towards God, in not saving the life of John Doe, but he would not be guilty of the murder of John Doe. Richard Roe's non-performance of his duty towards God, would not transfer the guilt of John Doe's act of self-murder to him. Were God under an obligation to save the sinner, the decree of preterition would be unjustifiable. It would be a neglect of duty. But salvation is grace, not debt; and therefore the decision not to bestow it, is an act of justice without mercy. "On them that fell, severity," or exact justice, is inflicted. Rom. 11: 22.
While, then, election is the efficient cause of salvation, preterition is not the efficient cause of perdition. If I hold up a stone in my hand, my holding it up is the efficient cause of its not falling; but if I let it go, my letting it go is not the efficient cause of its falling. The efficient cause, in this case, is the force of gravity. Non-prevention is inaction, and inaction is not causation. On the side of election, the efficient cause of salvation is the Holy Spirit in regeneration; but on the side of reprobation, the efficient cause of perdition is the self-determination of the human will. See South: Sermon on Dent. 29:4. Bunyan (Reprobation Asserted, XI.) lays down the following propositions: 1. Eternal reprobation makes no man a sinner. 2. The foreknowledge of God that the reprobate will perish, makes no man a sinner. 3. God's infallible determining npon the damnation of him that perisheth, makes no man a sinner. 4. God's patience and forbearance until the reprobate fits himself for eternal destruction, makes no man a sinner.
6. The decree of preterition makes perdition certain, because the bondage of the sinner's will to evil prevents selfrecovery. There are but two agents who can be conceived of, as capable of converting the human will from sin to holiness: namely, the will itself, and God. If owing to its own action the human will is unable to incline itself to holiness, and God purposes not to incline it, everlasting sin follows, and this is everlasting perdition. The certainty of the perdition of the non-elect arises from his inability to recover himself from the consequences of his own free agency, and the decision of God to leave him " to eat of the fruit of his own way, and to be filled with his own devices," Pro v. 1:31.
7. The reason for preterition, or not bestowing regenerating grace, is secret and unknown to man. It supposes sin, but not a greater degree of sin than in the elect. This is taught in Rom. 9 :11: "The children not having done any good or evil, in order that the purpose of God might stand, not of works, it was said, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Election also snpposes sin, but not a less degree of sin than in the non-elect. Saul of Tarsus was a violent and bitter enemy of the gospel, but was " a chosen vessel." This is the sovereignty of God in election and preterition, tanght in Rom. 9:18: "He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." The meaning of " harden," here, is, " not to soften."1
1 "Pharaoh was hardened, because God with hia Spirit and grace hindered not his ungodly proceedings, but suffered him to go on and have bis way. Why God did not hinder or restrain him we ought not to inquire." Luther: Table Talk, 49, Ed. Bogue.
The meaning of "hate" in Rom. 9:11, is, "not to love." This text is equivalent to Luke 17:34: "The one shall be taken, the other shall be left." The word ifiiarjaa is employed Hebraistically, not classically. It does not denote the positive emotion of hatred against sin, because it is expressly said that in election and preterition reference is not had to holiness and sin. A man is not elected becanse he is holy, or omitted because he is sinful. "Hatred," here, denotes the withholding of regenerating mercy. It is the same Hebraistic use of the word "hate " with that of Christ, in Luke 14 : 26 compared with Matt. 10: 37. To "hate" father and mother is the same as to " love less," in comparison. Compare also the Hebraistic use of " hide," to denote, " not to reveal," in Matt. 12: 25. The popular signification of "reprobate" denotes an uncommonly wicked person. In this, it differs from the scriptural and theological signification, which denotes mere non-election, with no reference to degrees of sin. A similar Hebrew idiom is seen in Ps. 141: 4: "Incline not my heart to any evil thing." The negative permission to incline himself, the Psalmist calls a positive inclining by God. He asks God to keep him from his own inclination to evil. This idiom is found in the Turkish language. To "let fall," and " to cause to fall," are the same word. "I missed my steamer," in Turkish, is, literally, " I caused my steamer to run away." In the Oriental languages, the imperative form often expresses permission, instead of command. Herrick: Bib. Sacra, Oct . 1885.
Again, preterition, while supposing existing sin and unbelief, does not rest upon foreseen perseverance in sin and unbelief. God did not omit Esau in the bestowment of regenerating grace, becanse he foreknew that he would continue to do wrong in the future. He was passed by, "not having done any evil:" that is, without reference either to past or future transgressions. A reference to these, would have been a reason for passing by Jacob, as well as Esau. Perseverance in sin is the consequence of preterition, not the cause of it. God decides not to overcome the sinner's resistance and obstinacy, and the result is, that he persists in his wilful course. Hence, future perseverance in sin is not the reason why God does not bestow regenerating grace upon the non-elect.
8. The final end of both election and reprobation is the Divine glory, in the manifestation of certain attributes. It is no more true that God creates any "merely to damn them," than that he creates them merely to save them. The ultimate end of all of God's acts is in himself. Rom. 11: 36, " For of him, and through him, and to him are all things." When God elects and saves a sinner, the attribute of mercy is glorified. When he leaves a sinner in sin and punishes him, the attribute of justice is glorified. Neither salvation nor damnation are ultimate ends, but means to an ultimate end: namely, the manifested glory of the triune God. To exhibit justice is honorable to God, as well as to exhibit mercy. "The ministration of death was glorious. The ministration of condemnation is glory," 2 Cor. 3 : 7, 9.
The two great systems of theology which divide evangelical Christendom, Calvinism and Arminianism, are marked by their difference respecting the doctrines of election and preterition. 1. In the Calvinistic system, election precedes faith, and preterition precedes perseverance in unbelief. God elects a sinner to the bestowment of regenerating grace, and faith in Christ is the consequence. God passes by a sinner in the bestowment of regenerating grace (though he may bestow all the grades of grace below this), and endless unbelief is the consequence. God is thus the efficient cause and author of faith, but not of unbelief. The electing decree is efficacious, and originates faith. The nonelecting decree is permissive, and merely allows existing unbelief to continue. In the Arminian system, election is subsequent to faith, and preterition is subsequent to perseverance in unbelief. God elects an individual, because his faith is foreseen; and God omits to bestow regenerating grace upon an individual, because his persistence in sin and unbelief is foreseen. For the Divine mind, the faith and the perseverance in unbelief have occurred, and the election and pretention follow after them, as their consequence. Consequently, in the Arminian scheme, the reasons for election and pretention are not secret but known. Man's faith is the reason for election; man's perseverance in unbelief is the reason for pretention.1 2. The Arminian election and pretention are judicial, not sovereign acts of God. They are of the nature of reward and punishment. Because a man believes in Christ, he is elected: this is his reward. Because he persists in sin and unbelief, he is passed by: this is his punishment. The Calvinistic election and pretention are sovereign, not judicial acts. A man is elected, because of God's good pleasure (Karti evSoKiav), not because of faith; and a man is passed by, because of God's good pleasure, not because of persistence in sin. 3. Since the Arminian election succeeds saving faith, in the logical order, it must in the same order succeed death. Inasmuch as in the Arminian scheme the believer may at any time before death fall from faith, and therefore it cannot be determined until after death who has saving faith, it follows that a man cannot be elected until after he is dead. In the order of events, death is prior to election. 4.
'Respecting election, Watson (Institutes, IL 338) remarks as follows: "To be elected is, to be separated from the world (' I have chosen you out of the world'), and to be sanctified by the Spirit (' elect unto obedience'). It follows, then, that election is not only an act of God in time, but also that it is tubiequent to the administration of the means of salvation. Actual election cannot be eternal, for from eternity the elect were not aotnaUy chosen ontof the world, and could not be actually sanctified unto obedience.1' This explanation makes election to be sanctiScation itself, instead of its cause. "To be elected, is to be separated from the world, and to be sanctified." The term "separate" is used here by Watson not as St. Paul uses it to denote election, when he says that God "separated him from his mother's womb" (Gal. 1:15); but in the sense of sanctification, as St. Paul employs it in 2 Cor. 6:17, "Be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing." By this interpretation, election is made to be the same thing as sanctification, instead of being au act of God that produces it; as is taught in Eph. 1:4, "He hath chosen us that we should be holy," and in 1 Pet . 1:2," Elect unto obedience."
The Arminian election and pretention are the election and preterition of qualities: namely, of faith and persevering unbelief. The Calvinistic election and preterition are those of persons: namely, Peter, James, and John. 5. The Arminian election is inconsistent with a part of the Arminian statement respecting inability.1 If God elects a sinner because he foresees that he will believe and repent, it follows that the sinner has power to believe and repent. If election is conditioned by the act of the human will in believing, this act must be within the sinner's ability. But in the 17th chapter of the Declaration of the Remonstrants, the following statement is found: "Man has not saving faith from himself, neither is he regenerated or converted by the force of his own free will; since in the state of sin he is not able of and by himself, to think, will, or do any good thing—any good thing that is saving in its nature, particularly conversion and saving faith." If this were all that is said in the Arminian Articles respecting ability, it would be impossible to harmonize it with conditional election. Unconditional election alone is consistent with it. But in connection with this statement of inability, a view of grace is presented that modifies and really retracts this assertion of utter inability, and is consistent with conditional election. Though it is said that man by apostasy "is not able of and by himself to think, will, or do any good thing that is saving in its nature," yet, it is also said that " the Holy Spirit confers, or at least is ready to confer, upon all and each to whom the word of faith is preached, as much grace as is sufficient for generating faith, and carrying forward their conversion in its successive stages." Every man, therefore, that hears the gospel receives a degree of grace that is sufficient for regeneration, provided that he rightly uses it. If therefore he is not regenerated, it must be from the lack of
> B.nir (Gegensatz, 216) shows that the tame inconsistency, in first asserting and then denying inability, appears in the Lutheran doctrine of regeneration aa stated in the Formula Concordiae.
his human efficiency in cooperation with the Divine. The difference, consequently, between the believer and unbeliever, the elect and non-elect, is referable not wholly to God's electing grace, but partly to the right use made of grace by the man himself. Dependence upon regenerating grace in the Arminian scheme is partial, not total; and the Arminian election depends partly upon the act of the human will, and not wholly upon the will of God.
It is objected to the doctrine of pretention, that God cannot be sincere in the universal offer of the gospel in Mark 16 :15. 1. The first reply is: That sincerity depends upon the intrinsic nature of the thing desired, not upon the result of endeavors to attain it. A parent sincerely desires the reformation of a child, because his reformation is a good thing in itself. He may have little or no expectation of accomplishing it, but this does not weaken his longing, or impair the sincerity of his efforts. A miser upon his deathbed desires wealth as a species of good, as sincerely as ever, but he knows that he can no longer have it. In like manner, God, by reason of his inherent compassion, may sincerely desire the conversion of a sinner, as the sinner's highest good, though he knows that it will never take place. The Arminian theory has no advantage over the Calvinistic at this point. God, says the Arminian, sincerely desires the sinner's repentance, although he foreknows infallibly that his desire will not be gratified by the action of the sinner. 2. The decree of God is not always expressive of his desire, but sometimes may be contrary to it. God decreed sin, and yet prohibited it. A man's decision, which is his decree in a particular case, is frequently contrary to his natural inclination. He decides to suffer pain in the amputation of a limb, though he is utterly averse to pain. His natural spontaneous desire is to escape physical pain, but in this particular instance he decides not to escape it. If there are sufficient reasons for it, a man's particular decision may be not only no index of his general desire, but directly contrary to it. The same is true of God. The natural spontaneous desire of God towards all men, the non-elect as well as the elect, is expressed in Ezekiel 33 :11; 18 : 32. "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure (Ten1 = to desire) in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live. I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord; wherefore turn yourselves and live ye." This Divine desire is constitutional. It springs from the compassionate love of the Creator towards the soul of the creature, and is founded in the essential benevolence of the Divine nature. But this general and abiding desire is distinguishable from the realization or gratification of it by a particular decision in a particular instance. It is conceivable that God may sincerely desire that Judas Iscariot would believe on Christ, and repent of sin, and yet for some sufficient reason decide not to overcome his opposition, and incline him to the act of faith. God desires that there should be no physical pain in his creation. He takes no delight in physical distress. But in particular instances, he decides not to realize this desire by a special act of his own in preventing or removing pain. The purpose of God, in distinction from his desire, towards the non-elect, is expressed in Exodus 9 :16, "For this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth ;" and in Rom. 9:18, " Whom he will, he hardeneth." The purpose spoken of here, was the decision of God not to interfere with the will of Pharaoh. God desired that Pharaoh would spontaneously and of his own accord let the people go. Exodus 9:1," Let my people go." But he decided not to overcome the unwillingness of Pharaoh to let the people go. Ex. 9:12, "God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not." This " hardening" was the not softening of his al
1 The Septuagint, contrary to New Testament usage, incorrectly renders this by $o(i\oiuu instead of dc'Aw.
ready hard heart. God sent Moses to persuade Pharaoh. This indicated the divine desire. But God at the same time informed Moses that his persuasion would fail. Ex. 7:1-4. This indicated the divine purpose not to conquer Pharaoh's obstinacy. Christ, in deep sincerity and in tears, said: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not," Luke 13 : 34; 19 : 41. He unquestionably desired that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would yield to that degree of common grace with which they had been blest, and would repent and believe on him; and he unquestionably could have exerted upon them that degree of uncommon grace, by which he is "the author and finisher of faith," Heb. 12: 2; and by which he demonstrates that " all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth," Matt. 28 :18. Yet he did not exert his power to overcome the obstinacy and resistance of the human will in this instance. Those inhabitants of Jerusalem over whom he had wept were passed by in the bestowment of regenerating grace, but not of common.
One class of Scripture texts teaches that the benevolent desire of God is, that all men should turn from sin. Another class teaches that for reasons unknown to man, but sufficient for God, God determines in some instances not to gratify his own desire. There is nothing self-contradictory in this; for it finds a parallel in human action. It is indeed strange to human view, that an Omnipotent Being should, in even a single instance, forbear to bring about what he sincerely desires. But if there be a sufficient reason for it in the Divine mind, there is nothing intrinsically contradictory in the procedure, and there is certainly nothing unjust to the sinner in it. Says Turrettin (Institutio, IV. xvii. 33), "God delights in the conversion and eternal life of the sinner, as a thing pleasing in itself, and congruous with his own infinitely compassionate nature, rather than in his perdition; and therefore demands from man, as an act due from him, to turn if he would live. But although he does not will, in the sense of delighting in, the death of the sinner, he at the same time wills, in the sense of decreeing, the death of the sinner for the display of his justice. Even as an upright magistrate, though he does not delight in and desire the death of the criminal, yet determines to inflict the just penalty of the law."
God desires that the non-elect would turn of himself, by the spontaneous action of his own will under the operation of common grace. He would rejoice in such a conversion. The entreaty, "Turn ye, why will ye die," springs out of this desire. That this entreaty of God fails in this case is owing to the sinner, and therefore does not prove that God is insincere in his desire. Sincerity, we have seen, is independent of the result. If the failure of this entreaty were due to God's own action, then, indeed, insincerity might be charged. If God, at the time when he is entreating a man to turn, were at work to prevent him from turning, the entreaty would be hypocritical. But God, instead of hindering the sinner, is helping him with that degree of grace which is called "common." The reason why the Divine entreaty thus accompanied with common grace is unsuccessful, is the resistance of the sinner. Surely, the fact that God does not think proper to add a second degree of grace in order to overcome the sinner's resistance of the first degree of grace, does not prove that God is insincere in his desire for the sinner's conversion under the first degree of grace. If a man offer a beggar a small sum and it is rejected, it would be absurd to say that because he does not now offer him a large sum, he was insincere in the first offer. A parent wills the payment of a son's debts, in the sense of desiring that his son would by industry and economy pay the debts which he has contracted; but he may not will the payment of these debts in the sense of deciding to pay them for him; the reason being, that should he pay them he would do injustice to the other members of his family.
A certain class of objections to election and reprobation rests upon the assumption that God is not merciful, unless he shows special mercy, and not sincere, unless he does all thai he possibly can to save sinners. This is a fallacy. Sincerity in extending an invitation, does not involve an obligation to give a disposition to accept it. God is merciful in bestowing the gifts of providence and of common grace, though he go no farther than this; and he is sincere in doing what he does in common grace, though he does not exert saving grace. Says Richard Baxter, " If God please to stop Jordan and dry up the Red Sea for the passage of the Israelites, and to cause the sun to stand still for Joshua, must he do so for every man in the world, or else be accounted unmerciful? Suppose a king knew his subjects to be so wicked that they have everyone a design to poison themselves with something that is enticing by its sweetness: the king not only makes a law strictly charging them all to forbear to touch that poison; but sendeth special messengers to entreat them, and tell them the danger. If these men will not hear him, but wilfully poison themselves, is he therefore unmerciful? But suppose that he hath three or four of his sons that are infected with the same wickedness, and he will not only command and entreat them, but he will lock them up, or keep the poison from them, or feed them by violence with better food, is he unmerciful unless he will do so by all the rest of his kingdom?" If common grace should prevail over the sinner's resistance, it would be saving grace. This is not the same as saying, that the sinner by a right use of common grace makes it saving grace. In this latter case, there is a co-operation of the sinner with God in regeneration. The sinner by working concurrently with common grace renders it effectual. This is synergistic regeneration, and involves conditional election. But if without any right concurrent working of the sinner's will, common grace should overcome the sinner's rathttanoe and do the whole work, the regeneration would be due to God alone. To overcome the sinful will, is not the same as to assist it.1
The difference between the Divine desire and the Divine purpose or decree, is the same as between the revealed and the secret will of God, mentioned in Deut. 29 : 29. God's desire in reference to sin and salvation is expressed in all that he has revealed: (a) In the moral law. (b) In the plan of redemption. Everything in the law and the gospel implies that God does not take pleasure in sin, or in the death of the sinner. But there is nothing in the revealed will of God, as made known in the law and gospel, that indicates what he has decided to do towards actually converting particular persons from their sins. This decision is altogether different from his desire, and it is a secret with himself.
The phrase, " God's will," is ambiguous. It may mean what he is pleased with, loves, and desires. An example of this is, Heb. 13 : 20, 21. "Now the God of peace, make you perfect to do his will (&e}fm), working in you that which is well-pleasing (evdpeo~rov) in his sight." Here, God's " will " is something which he desires and delights in. An example of the secret will is found in Rom. 9 :19. "Who hath resisted his will?" Here, God's "will" is his purpose or decree to "harden," or not soften, and is designated by /3ovjfjia. What he "wills," i.e. decrees, in this instance, is the sinner's remaining in sin, which certainly is not well-pleasing in his sight. In the holy actions of elect men, the secret and the revealed will agree. God, in this case, decrees what he loves. In the sinful actions of nonelect men, the two wills do not agree. God, in this case,
i Compare Edwards: On Decrees and Eleotion. 59-62; Howe: Reconcilableness of God's Prescience with his Sincerity; Baxter: Directions for Spiritual Peace and Comfort. Bacon's Ed., I 252.
decrees what he hates.1 This distinction is sometimes designated by the terms, legislative, and decretive will; sometimes by will of complacency (complacentiae), and of good pleasure (beneplaciti): in which latter case, "goodpleasure" must not be confounded with " pleasure." The schoolmen employ the terms voluntas signi (signified), and voluntas beneplaciti. The Greeks speak of the will ivapearlas, and iuSoiclas
The universal offer of the gospel is consistent with the Divine purpose of predestination, because: 1. Christ's atonement is a sufficient satisfaction for the sins of all men. 2. God sincerely desires that every man to whom the atonement is offered would trust in it. His sincerity is evinced by the fact, that, in addition to his offer, he encourages and assists man to believe by the aids of his providence; such as the written and spoken word, parental teaching and example, favoring social influences, etc.; and by the operation of the common grace of the Holy Spirit. The fact that God does not in the case of the non-elect bestow special grace, to overcome the resisting self-will that renders the gifts of providence and common grace ineffectual, does not prove that he is insincere in his desire that man would believe under the influence of common grace; any more than the fact that a benevolent man declines to double the amount of his gift, after the gift already offered has been spurned, proves that he did not sincerely desire that the person would take the sum first offered. For a fuller statement upon this subject, see Soteriology, p. 482 sq.
The relation of the decree of election to that of redemption is important. The statement in the Westminster
1 Augustine (Enchiridion, 101) shows how one man in doing right, may agree with the revealed will of God, and disagree with the secret will; and another in doing wrong, may disagree with the revealed will, and agree with the secret. A sick father has two sons. One of them is godly, and desires and prays for his father's recovery. The other is wicked, and desires and prays for his father's death. God purposes that the father shall die, and he does die. See Owen: Arminianiam, V.
Shorter Catechism, Q. 20, is as follows: "God having elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them by a Redeemer." According to this statement, the decree to provide redemption succeeds the decree of election. God first decides to save certain individuals from sin and death, and an atoning Redeemer is the means of carrying out this design. This order is favored by the fact that Scripture speaks of a covenant between the Father and Son, respecting the redemption of men. Isa. 53:10, " When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed." Ps. 2:8, "I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance." Christ stipulates to suffer, provided actual not merely possible salvation shall be the result. lie volunteers to die, not only for the purpose of removing legal obstacles to salvation, but also with the view of actually delivering an immense multitude of particular persons from condemnation. Who these persons are, is determined by a previous election. Christ did not covenant with the Father merely to atone for human sin in the abstract. He covenants for more than this; because this of itself would not secure the salvation of a single individual, since the result would depend upon the hostile will of man. In this case, Christ would have died in vain, and would receive no reward for his incarnation, humiliation, and crucifixion. The Arminian order reverses the Calvinistic, in making the decree to provide redemption precede that of election. It is as follows: 1. The decree to appoint Christ as mediator. 2. The decree to make faith and perseverance on the part of man, the condition of salvation. 3. The decree appointing the means to faith and perseverance; namely, the scriptures, sacraments, and the influence of the Holy Spirit. 4. The decree to elect those whom God foresaw would employ the means, and to condemn those who would not. In this scheme, the success of Christ's atonement depends partly upon the action of the human will, and not wholly as in the Calvinistic scheme upon the Divine will, and efficiency.
The school of Saumur advanced a theory called Hypothetic Uuiversalism, which begins with Arminianism and ends with Calvinism. It is as follows: 1. God decreed to provide a redeemer for all men indiscriminately, without electing any to faith, but leaving wholly to man the act of faith in the provided redeemer. In this way, God has a general will or purpose that all men shall be saved, but its success is conditioned upon the act of man. 2. Foreseeing that no man will believe upon the provided redeemer, God then elects some in whom he works faith and secures perseverance. See Turrettin: Institutio, IV. xvii. The first part of this theory is Arminian; the second part is Calvinistic.
The objections to this theory are: 1. The decree of redemption is made to depend upon human action. Its success is therefore uncertain. But a divine decree is an independent and infallibly successful act of God. This doctrine therefore conflicts with the idea of a Divine decree. 2. This theory implies that one Divine decree may fail, and be replaced by another. The decree of redemption does not succeed in saving any of mankind, owing to their unbelief, and God supplements it with a successful decree of election. 3. The decree of redemption, in this theory, does not, as it professes, include all men indiscriminately. Large masses of mankind in heathenism have had no opportunity of deciding whether they will believe in Christ. 4. This theory implies that men are elected and saved after they have rejected Christ's atonement. But the Scripture teaches that there is no salvation, but, on the contrary, eternal death, in case there has been a rejection of Christ. Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26.
The doctrines of election and reprobation belong to the higher ranges of revealed truth. This is implied in 2 Pet. 3:15,16. Among the "things hard to be understood," are St. Paul's dogmatic teachings respecting the Divine decrees. And those who are "unlearned " in the Christian system, and " unstable " in the Christian experience, " wrest" them out of their true import. They are truths for the wellindoctrinated, and somewhat matured Christian. And this, because they combine and systematize all the other truths of the gospel. These doctrines are the outline and scheme under which the doctrines of grace and redemption are embraced. A man may trust in the atonement of Christ, and yet not be able to state accurately the relation of his act of faith to God's sovereignty and universal dominion. He may drink in the sincere milk of the word, while yet the strong meat belongeth not to him; because he is unskilful in the word of righteousness; because he is a minor and not of full age; and because he has not his senses exercised, by reason of use, to discriminate between truth and error. Heb. 5 :13,14.
Consequently, the doctrines of election and reprobation are not to be preached "out of season," or taught out of the logical order in the system. They are not to be preached to babes in Christ, but to those who are of full age. They suppose some ripeness and maturity of the Christian experience. In teaching geometry, an instructor does not put a beginner upon the 47th proposition. He leads him up to it, through the axioms and the preparatory theorems. He tells him that the 47th proposition is as certainly true as the axioms, and that he will see it to be so in the end. But he forbids him to perplex himself about it at first. Similarly, the beginner in religion, and still more the unregenerate man, is not to be instructed first of all in the doctrine of the Divine decrees. This is to be reserved for a later period in his mental history. The statement upon this point in the seventeenth of the Thirty-nine Articles is excellent. "As the godly consideration of predestination and our election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the workings of the Spirit of Christ, s0 for sinners and carnal persons lacking the Spirit of Christ to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into recklessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation." Says Selden, in his Table Talk, "They that talk nothing but predestination, and will not proceed in the way of heaven till they be satisfied in that point, do as a man that would not come to London unless at his first step he might set his foot upon the top of Paul's." Says Bengel, "Man must not attempt to look at God behind the scenes." But in all discussion of the subject of predestination, it should never be forgotten that the Scriptures teach a large, not a narrow decree of election. God's elect are " a multitude which no man can number." Redemption by election includes the vast majority of mankind, if the whole history of man is considered.
The doctrine of election and irresistible grace is more encouraging to the preacher of the word, than the opposite theory. It is more probable that an individual sinner will believe and repent, if faith and repentance depend wholly upon the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, than if they depend partly upon the energy of the sinner's will; and still more probable, if they depend wholly upon it. The Christian knows that if his faith and repentance had been left either partly or wholly, to his own separate agency, he would not have believed and repented, because he was strongly inclined to sin, loved its pleasure, and disliked humbling confession of sin and steady struggle against it.
On the same principle, it is more probable that the world of sinful men will come to faith and repentance, if this great event depends wholly upon God, and not wholly or partly upon the lethargic, fickle, and hostile will of man. If the success of the Holy Spirit depends upon the assistance of the sinner, He may not succeed. But if His suecess depends wholly npon Himself, He is certain to succeed. It is better to trust God for such an immense good as the salvation of the great mass of mankind, than to trust mankind themselves, either entirely or in part. The biographies of successful ministers and missionaries show, that the longer they preach, and the more successful their preaching, the less do they rely upon the will of the sinner for success. "Not by [human] might, nor by [human] power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts," Zech. 4:6. "We shall not walk in an even course, but still reeling and staggering, till faith be set wholly upon its own basis, the proper foundation of it; not set betwixt two, upon one strong prop and another that is rotten; partly on God and partly on creature helps and encouragements, or our own strength. That is the way to fall off. Our only safe and happy way is, in humble obedience, in God's own strength, to follow his appointments without standing and questioning the matter, and to resign the conduct of all to his wisdom and love; to put the rudder of our life into his hand, to steer the course of it as seemeth him good, resting quietly on his word of promise for our safety. Lord, whither thou wilt, and which way thou wilt, be thou my guide, and it sufficeth." Leighton; On 1 Pet. 3:19-21.