Chapter III--The Decrees of God



I. Definition Of Decrees.

By the decrees of God we mean that eternal plan by which God has rendered certain all the events of the universe, past, present, and future. Notice in explanation that:

(a) The decrees are many only to our finite comprehension ; in their own nature they are but one plan, which embraces not only the ends to be secured but also the means needful to secure them.

Iu Rom. 8 :28— "(ailed according to his purpose"—the many decrees for the salvation of many individuals are represented as forming but one purpose of God. Eph. 1:11—" foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will "—notice again the word "purpose," in the singular. Eph. 3 :11—" according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our lord." This ono purpose or plan of God Includes both means and ends, prayer and its answer, labor and Its fruit. Tyrolcse proverb: "God has his plan for every man." Every man, as well as Jean Paul, is "der Einzige "—the unique. There is a single plan which embraces all things; "we use the word 'decrees' when we think of It partitively" <Pepperl. See Hodge, Outlines of Theology, 1st ed. 165; 2nd ed. 300—" In fact, no event is isolated—to determine one involves determination of the whole concatenation of causes and effects which constitutes the universe."

(6) The decrees, as the eternal act of an infinitely perfect will, though they have logical relation to each other, have no chronological relation. They are not therefore the result of deliberation, in any sense that implies short-sightedness or hesitancy.

Logically, In God's decree the sun precedes the sunlight, and the decree to bring into being a father precedes the decree that there shall be a son. God decrees man before he decrees man's act; he decrees the creation of man before he decrees man's existence. Hut there is no chronological succession. "Counsel in Iph. 1:11—"the counsel of his will"— means, not deliberation, but wisdom.

(c) Since the will in which the decrees have their origin is a free will, the decrees are not a merely instinctive or necessary exercise of the divine intelligence or volition, such as pantheism supposes.

It belongs to the perfection of God that he have a plan, and the best possible plan. Here is no necessity, but only the certainty that infinite wisdom will act wisely. God's decrees are not God; they are not identical with his essence; they do not flow from his being in the same necessary way In which the eternal Son proceeds from the eternal Father. There is free will in God, which acts with infinite certainty, yet without necessity. To call even the decree of salvation necessary is to deny grace, and to make an unfroe God. See Dick, Lectures on Theology, 1: 355; lect. 34.

[d) The decrees have reference to things outside of God. God does

not decree to be holy, nor to exist as three persons in one essence.

Decrees are the preparation for external events —the embracing of certain things and acts in a plan. They do not include those processes and operations within the Godhead which have no reference to the universe.

(e) The decrees primarily respect the acts of God himself, in Creation, Providence, and Grace; secondarily, the acts of free creatures, which he foresees will result therefrom.

While we deny the assertion of Whedon that "the divine plan embraces only divine actions," we g-rant that God's plan has reference primarily to his own actions, and that the sinful acts of men, In particular, are the objects, not of a decree that God will efficiently produce them, but of a decree that God will permit men, in the exercise of their own free will, to produce them.

(/) The decree to act is not the act. The decrees are an internal exercise and manifestation of the divine attributes, and are not to be confounded with Creation, Providence, and Redemption, which are the execution of the decrees.

The decrees are the first operation of the attributes, and the first manifestation of personality of which we have any knowledge within the Godhead. They presuppose those essential acts or movements within the divine nature which we call generation and procession. They involve by way of consequence that execution of the decrees which we call Creation, Providence, and Redemption, but they aro not to be confounded with either of these.

(g) The decrees are therefore not addressed to creatures; are not of the nature of statute-law; and lay neither compulsion nor obligation upon the wills of men.

So ordering- the universe that men will pursue a given course of action is a very different thing: from declaring', ordering-, or commanding- that they shall. "Our acts are in accordance with the decrees, but not necessarily so—we can do otherwise and often Khmikl" (Park).

(A) All human acts, whether evil or good, enter into the divine plan and so are objects of God's decrees, although God's actual agency with regard to the evil is only a permissive agency.

No decree of God reads: "You shall sin." For (1) no decree is addressed to you: (2) no decree with respect to you says shaU; (3) God cannot cause sin, or decree to cause it. He simply decrees to create, and himself to act. In such a way that you will, of your own free choice, commit sin. God determines upon his own acts, foreseeing* what the results will be in the free acts of his creatures, and so he determines those results. This permissive decree is the only decree of God with respect to sin. Man of himself is capable of producing- sin. Of himself he Is not capable of producing- holiness. In the production of holiness two powers must concur, God's will and man's will, and God's will must act first. The decree of g-ood, therefore, is not simply a permissive decree, as in the case of evil. God's decree, in the former case, is a decree to bring- to bear positive ag-encies for its production, such as circumstances, motives, Influences of his Spirit. But, in the case of evil, God's decrees are simply his arrang-ement that man may do as he pleases, God all the while foreseeing- the result.

(i) While God's total plan with regard to creatures is called predestination, or foreordination, his purpose so to act that certain will believe and be saved is called election, and his purpose so to act that certain will refuse to believe and be lost is called reprobation. We discuss election and reprobation, in a later chapter, as a part of the Application of Redemption.

God's decrees may be divided into decrees with respect to nature, and decrees with respect to moral beinsrs. These last we call foreordination, or predestination; and of these decrees with respect to moral beings there are two kinds, the decree of election, and the decree of reprobation.

II. Proof Op The Doctrine Op Decrees.

1. From Scripture.

A. The Scriptures declare that all things are included in the divine decrees. B. They declare that special things and events are decreed; as, for example, (a) the stability of the physical universe; (b) the outward circumstances of nations; (c) the saving work of Christ; (d) the length of human life; (e) the mode of our death; (/) the free acts of men, both good acts and evil acts.

A. Is, 14 : 26—" This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations; for the Lord of hosts hath purposed and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" 46 : 10. 11—" Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not jet done, saying, mj counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure .... yea, I have spoken, I will also bring it to pass; I hare purposed. I will also do it" Dan. 4 : 35—"doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" Eph. 1:11—" the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will"

B. (a) Ps. 119 : 91—"For ever, 0 Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: Thou hast established the earth and it abideth. They abide this day according to thine ordinances: For all things are thy servants,1' (/>) Acts 17 : 26—" ha made of one every nation of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; cf. Zech. 6 :1—" came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass " = the fixed decrees from which proceed God's providential dealings? (c) 1 Cor. 2 : 7—"the wisdom which hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory "; Eph. 3 : 10,11—" manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (d) Job 14 : 5—"Seeing his days are determined, the number of bis months is with thee, and thou hast determined his bounds that he cannot pass." (e) John 21:19—"this he spake, signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God."

(f) Good acts: Is. 44 : 28—" that saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying of Jerusalem, She shalt be built; and to the temple. Thy foundation shall be laid "; Eph. 2 : 10—" for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them." Evil acts: Gen. 50 : 20—" As for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive "; 1 K. 12 : 15—" Wherefore the King hearkened not unto the people, for the cause was from the Lord "; 24—" for this tiling is from me "; Luke 22 : 22—" fir the Son of man indeed goeth, as it hath been determined: but woe unto that man through whom he is betrayed "; Acts 2 : 23—" him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay " ; 4 : 27, 28— "of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel foreordained to come to pass "; Rom. 9 :17—" for the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power": 1 Pet. 2: 8—"they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed "; Rev. 17 : 17—"for God did put in their hearts to do his mind, and to come to one mind, and to give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God should be accomplished."

2. From Heason.

(a) From the divine foreknowledge.

From eternity God foresaw all the events of the universe as fixed and certain. This fixity and certainty could not have had its ground either in blind fate or in the variable wills of men, since neither of these had an existence. It could have had its ground in nothing outside of the divine mind, for in eternity nothing existed besides the divine mind. But for this fixity there must have been a cause; if anything in the future was fixed, something must have fixed it. This fixity could have had its ground only in the plan and purpose of God. In fine, if God foresaw the future as certain, it must have been because there was something in himself which made it certain; or, in other words, because he had decreed it.

To meet the objection that God might have foreseen the events of the universe, not because he had decreed each one, but only because he had decreed to create the universe and institute its laws, we may put the argument in another form. In eternity there could have been no cause of the future existence of the universe, outside of God himself, since no being existed but God himself. In eternity God foresaw that the creation of the world and the institution of its laws would make certain its actual history even to the most insignificant details. But God decreed to create and to institute these laws. In so decreeing, he necessarily decreed all that was to come. In fine, God foresaw the future events of the universe as certain, because he had decreed to create; but this determination to create involved also a determination of all the actual results of that creation; or, in other words, God decreed those results.

We grant that God decrees primarily and directly his own acts of creation, providence, and grace; but we claim that this involves also a secondary and indirect decreeing of the acts of free creatures which he forsees will result therefrom. There is therefore no such thing in God as scientia media, or knowledge of an event that is to be, though it does not enter into the divine plan; for to say that God foresees an undecreed event, is to say that he views as future an event that is merely possible; or, in other words, that he views an event not as it is.

Knowledge of a plan as ideal or possible may precede decree; but knowledge of a plan as actual or fixed must follow decree. Only the latter knowledge is properly /oreknowledge. God therefore foresees creation, causes, laws, events, consequences, because he has decreed creation, causes, laws, events, consequences; that is, because he has embraced all these in his plan. The denial of decrees logically involves the denial of God's foreknowledge of free human actions; and to this Socinians, and some Arminians, are actually led.

An Armlnian example of this denial is found In McCabe, Foreknowledge of Rod, and Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity. Per cinttra, see notes on God'sforeknowledge, in this Compendium, pages 134, 135. Pepper: "Divine volition stands logically between two divisions and kinds of divine knowledge." God knew free human actions as possible, ltcforc he decreed them; he knew them as future, because he decreed them. Logically, though not chronologically, decree comes before foreknowledge. When I say, "I know what I will do," It is evident that I have determined already, and that my knowledge does not precede determination, but follows it and Is based upon it. It is therefore not correct to say that God foreknows his decrees. It is more true to say that he decrees his foreknowledge. He foreknows the future which he has decreed, and he foreknows it because he has decreed it. His decrees are eternal, and nothing that is eternal can be the object of foreknowledge. Finney, quoted In Bib. Sac, 1877 : 723—" The hnowMgc of God comprehended the details and incidents of every possible plan. The choice of a plan made his knowledge determinate as .foreknowledge."

There are therefore two kinds of divine knowledge: (1) knowledge of what may be— of the possible (scleniiii simplicU IntcUiQcntkv); and (2) knowledge of what is, and is tobe, because God has deen«d it {sclentUi riMimi*). Between these two Molina, the Spanish Jesuit, wrongly conceived that there was (3) a middle knowledge of things which were to be, although God had not decreed them (sclentla me<lfa). This would of course be a knowledge which God derived, not from himself, but from his creatures! See Dick, Theology, 1:351. A. S. Carman: "It is difficult to see how God's knowledge can be caused from eternity by something that has no existence until a definite point of time." If it be said that what is to be will be "in the nature of things," wo reply that there is no "nature of things " apart from God, and that the ground of the objective certainty, as well as of the subjective certitude corresponding to it, is to be found only in God himself.

But God's decreeing to create, when he foresees that certain free acts of men will follow, is a decreeing of those free acts, In the only sense in which we use the word decreeing, viz., a rendering certain, or embracing in his plan. No Armlnian who believes in God's foreknowledge of free human acts has good reason for denying God's decrees as thus explained. Surely God did not foreknow that Adam would exist and sin, whether God determined to create him or not. Omniscience, then, becomes /oreknowledge only on condition of God's decree. That God's foreknowledge of free acta is intuitive does not affect this conclusion. We grant that, while man can predict free action only so far as it is rational (i. «., in the line of previously dominant motive), God can predict free action whether it Is rational or not. But even God cannot predict what Is not certain to be. God can have intuitive foreknowledge of free human acts only upon condition of his own decree to create; and this decree to create, in foresight of all that will follow, is a decree of what follows. For Armiuian view, see Watson, Institutes, 2 : 3:5-398, 422-M8. Per contra, see Hill, Divinity, 512-533; Fiske, In Bib. Sac, April, 1862; Bennett Tyler, Memoir and Lectures, 214-254; Edwards the younger, 1 :398-120.

(b) From the divine wisdom.

It is the part of wisdom to proceed in every undertaking according to a plan. The greater the undertaking, the more needful a plan. Wisdom, moreover, shows itself in a careful provision for all possible circumstances and emergencies that can arise in the execution of its plan. That many such circumstances and emergencies are uncontemplated and unprovided for in the plans of men, is due only to the limitations of human wisdom. It belongs to infinite wisdom, therefore, not only to have a plan, but to embrace all, even the minutest details, in the plau of the universe.

No architect would attempt to build a Cologne cathedral without a plan; he would rather, if possible, have a design for every stone. The great painter does not study out his picture as he goes along: the plan is in his mind from the start; preparations for the last effects have to be made from the beginning. Ho in God's work every detail is foreseen and provided for; sin and Christ entered into the original plan of the universe. Raymond, Syst. Theol., 2:156, says this Implies that God cannot govern the world, unless all things be reduced to tho condition of machinery; and that it cannot be true, for the reason that God's government Is a government of persons and not of things. Bvit we reply that the wise statesman governs persons and not things, yet just In proportion to his wisdom he conducts his administration according to a preconceived plan. God's power might, but God's wisdom would not, govern the universe without embracing all things, even the least human action, in his plan.

(c) From the divine immutability.

What God does, he always purposed to do. Since with him there is noincrease of knowledge or power, such as characterizes finite beings, it follows that what under any given circumstances he permits or does, he must have eternally decreed to permit or do. To suppose that God has a multitude of plans, and that he changes his plan with the exigencies of the situation, is to make him infinitely dependent upon the varying wills of his creatures, and to deny to him one necessary element of perfection, namely, immutability.

Napoleon is said to have had a number of plans before each battle, and to have betaken himself from one to another as fortune demanded. Not so with God. Job 23 :13—" ha is in one mind and who can torn him?" James 1 :17—" the rather of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that it out bj turning.'' Contrast with tills Scripture McCabe's statement in his Foreknowledge of God, 62—"This new factor, the godlike liberty of the human will, is capable of thwarting, and in uncounted Instances does thwart, the divine will, and compel the great I Am to modify his actions, his purposes, and his plans, in the treatment of individuals and of communities."

(d) From the divine benevolence.

The events of the universe, if not determined by the divine decrees, must be determined either by chance or by the wills of creatures. It is contrary to any proper conception of the divine benevolence to suppose that God permits the course of nature and of history, and the ends to which both these are moving, to be determined for myriads of sentient beings by any

other force or will than his own. Both reason and revelation, therefore, compel us to accept the doctrine of the Westminster Confession, that " God did from all eternity, by the most just and holy couusel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass."

It would not be benevolent for God to put out of his own power that which wag so essential to the happiness of the universe. Tyler, Memoir and Lectures, 231-343—" The denial of decrees Involves denial of the essential attributes of God, Buch as omnipotence, omniscience, benevolence; exhibits him as a disappointed and unhappy being; implies denial of his universal providence; leads to a denial of the greater part of our own duty of submission; weakens the obligation to gratitude." We give thanks to God for blessings which come to us through the free acts of others; but unless God has purposed these blessings, we owe our thanks to these others and not to God. See Emmons, Works, 4 :273-401; Princeton Essays, 1: 57-78.

III. Objections To The Doctbine Of Decbees.

1. That they are inconsistent with the free agency of man. To this we reply that:

A. The objection confounds the decrees with the execution of the decrees. The decrees are, like foreknowledge, an act internal to the divine nature, and are no more inconsistent with free agency than foreknowledge is. Even foreknowledge of events implies that those events are fixed. If this absolute fixity and foreknowledge is not inconsistent with free agency, much less can that which is more remote from man's action, namely, the hidden cause of this fixity and foreknowledge—God's decrees—be inconsistent with free agency. If anything be inconsistent with man's free agency, it must be, not the decrees themselves, but the execution of the decrees in creation and providence.

On this objection, see Tyler, Memoir and Lectures, 244-240; Forbes, Predestination and Free Will, 3—"All things are prniextinatrd by God, both good and evil, but not prcmce*sitated, that is, causally preordained by him—unless we would make God the author of sin. Predestination is thus an indifferent word. In so far as the originating author of anything is concerned; God being the originator of good, but the creature, of evil. Predestination therefore means that God included in his plan of the world every act of every creature, good or bad. Some acta he predestined causally, others permissively. The certainty of the fulfilment of all God's purposes ought to be distinguished from their necessity." This means simply that God's decree is not the caunc of any act or event. God's decrees may be executed by the causal efficiency of his creatures, or they may be executed by his own efficiency. In either case it is, if anything, the execution, and not the decree, that is inconsistent with human freedom.

B. The objection rests upon a false theory of free agency—namely, that free agency implies indeterminateness or uncertainty; in other words, that free agency cannot coexist with certainty as to the results of its exercise. But it is necessity, not certainty, with which free agency is inconsistent. Free agency is the power of self-determination in view of motives, or man's power (a) to choose between motives, and (6) to direct his subsequent activity according to the motive thus chosen. Motives are never a cause, but only an occasion; they influence, but never compel; the man is the cause, and herein is his freedom. But it is also true that man is never in a state of indeterminateness; never acts without motive, or contrary to all motives; there is always a reason why he acts, and herein is his rationality. Now, so far as man acts according to previously dominant motive—see (b) above—we may by knowing his motive predict his action, and our certainty what that action will be in no way affects his freedom. We may even bring motives to bear upon others, the influence of which we foresee, yet those who act upon them may act in perfect freedom. But if man, influenced by man, may still be free, then man, influenced by divinely foreseen motives, may still be free, and the divine decrees, which simply render certain man's actions, may also be perfectly consistent with man's freedom.

There is, however, a smaller class of human actions by which character is changed, rather than expressed, and in which the man acts according to a motive different from that which has previously been dominant—see (a) above. These actions also are foreknown by God, although they cannot be predicted by man. Man's freedom in them would be inconsistent with ■God's decrees, if the previous certainty of their occurrence were, not certainty, but necessity; or, in other words, if God's decrees were in all cases decrees efficiently to produce the acts of his creatures. But this is not the case. God's decrees may be executed by man's free causation, as easily as by God's; and God's decreeing this free causation, in decreeing to create a universe of which he foresees that this causation will be a part, in no way interferes with the freedom of such causation, but rather secures and establishes it. Both consciousness and conscience witness that God's decrees are not executed by laying compulsion upon the free wills of men.

It may aid us, in estimating the force of this objection, to note the four senses in which the term 'freedom' may be used. It may be used as equivalent to (1) physical freedom, or absence of outward constraint; (2) formal freedom, or a state of moral indeterminateness; (3) moral freedom, or self-determinateness in view of motives; (4) real freedom, or ability to conform to the divine standard. With the first of these we are not now concerned, since all agree that the decrees lay no outward constraint upon men. Freedom in the second sense has no existence, since all men have character. Free agency, or freedom in the third sense, has just been shown to be consistent with the decrees. Freedom in the fourth sense, or real freedom, is the special gift of God, and is not to be confounded with free agency. The objection mentioned above rests wholly upon the second of these definitions of free agency. This we have shown to be false, and with this the objection itself falls to the ground.

A more full discussion of the doctrine of the Will is given under the head of Anthropology. It is sufficient here to say that the Arminian objections to the decrees arise almost wholly from erroneously conceiving- of freedom as the will's power to decide, in any given case, against its own character and all the motives brought to bear upon it. As we shall hereafter see, this is practically to deny that man has character, or that the will by Its right or wrong moral action gives to itself, as well as to the Intellect and affections, a permanent bent or predisposition to good or evil. It is to extend the power of contrary choice, a power which belongs to the sphere of transient volition, over all those permanent states of intellect, affection, and will which we call the moral character, and to say that we can change directly by a single volition that which, as a matter of fact, we can change only indirectly through processes and means. Yet even this exaggerated view of freedom would seem not to exclude God's decrees, or prevent a practical reconciliation of the Arminian and Calvinistic views, so long as the Arminian grants God's foreknowledge of free human acts, and the Calvinist grants that God's decree of these acts is not necessarily a decree that God will efficiently produce them. For a close approximation of the two views, see articles by Raymond and by A. A. Hodge, respectively, on the Arminian and the Calvinistic Doctrines of the Will, in Mc■Clintock and Strong's Cyclopedia, 10 : 989, 992.

We therefore hold to the certainty of human action, and so part company with the Arminlun. Wo cannot, with Whtdon (On the, Will), Tappon (On the Will), and Hazard ( Man a Creative First Cause I, attribute to the will the freedom of indifference, or the power to act without motive. We hold with Calderwood, Moral Philosophy, 183, that action without motive, or an act of pure will, is unknown in consciousness (see, however, an inconsistent statement of Calderwood, on paftre 188 of the same work). Every future human act will not only be performed with a motive, but will certainly be one thing rather than another: and Cod knows what it will be. Whatever may be the method of God's foreknowledge, and whether it be derived from motives or be intuitive, that foreknowledge presupposes God's decree to create, and so presupposes the making certain of the free acts that follow creation.

But this certainty is not necessity. In reconciling: God's decrees with human freedom, we must not go to the other extreme, and reduce human freedom to mere determinism, or the power of the agent to act out his character in the circumstances which environ him. Human action is not simply the expression of previously dominant affections; else neither Satan nor Adam could have fallen, nor could the Christian ever sin. We therefore part company with Jonathan Edwards and his Treatise on the Freedom of the Will, as well as with the younger Edwards (Works, 1 : 420), Alexander (Mornl Science, 107), and Charles Hodge (Syst. Theology, 2 : 278), all of whom follow Jonathan Edwards in identifying sensibility with the will, in regarding affections as the causes of volitions, and in speaking of the connection between motive and action as a necessary One. We hold, on the contrary, that sensibility and will are two distinct powers, that affections are occasions but never causes of volitions, and that, while motives may infallibly persuade, they never compel the will. The power to make the decision other than it is resides in the will, though it may never be exercised. With Charnock, the Puritan (Attributes. 1 : 448-4501, we say that "man hath a power to do otherwise than that which (Sod foreknows he will do." Since, then, God's decrees are not executed by laying compulsion upon human wills, they are not inconsistent with man's freedom. See article by A. H Strong, on Modified Calvinism, or Remainders of Freedom in Man, in Baptist Review, 1883: 219-243.

2. That they take aivai/ all motive for human exertion. To this we reply that:

(a) They cannot thus influence men, since they are not addressed to men, are not the rule of human action, and become known only after the event. This objection is therefore the mere excuse of indolence and disobedience.

Men rarely make this excuse in anj' enterprise in which their hopes and their interests are enlisted. It is mainly in matters of religion that men use the divine decrees as an apology for their sloth and inaction.

(I>) The objection confounds the decrees of God with fate. But it is to be observed that fate is unintelligent, while the decrees are framed by a personal God in infinite wisdom; fate is indistinguishable from material causation and leaves no room for human freedom, while the decrees exclude all notion of physical necessity; fate embraces no moral ideas or ends, while the decrees make these controlling in the universe.

North British Rev., April, 1870—" Determinism and predestination spring from premises which lie in quite separate regions of thought. The prcdestinarian is obliged by his theology to admit the existence of a free will in God, and, as a matter of fact, he does admit it in the devil. But the final consideration which puts a great gulf between the determinist and the predestiuarian is this, that the latter asserts the reality of the vulgar notion of moral desert. Even if he were not obliged by his interpretation of Scripture to assert this, he would be obliged to assert it in order to help out his doctrine of eternal reprobation."

(c) The objection ignores the logical relation between the decree of the end and the decree of the means to secure it. The decrees of God not only ensure the end to be attained, but they ensure free human action as logically prior thereto. All conflict between the decrees and human exertion must therefore be apparent and not real. Since consciousness and Scripture assure us that free agency exists, it must exist by divine decree; and though we may be ignorant of the method in which the decrees are executed, we have no right to doubt either the decrees or the freedom. They must be held to be consistent, until one of them is proved to be a delusion.

The double track of a railway enables a formidable approaching- train to slip by without colliding: with our own. Our globe takes us with it, as it rushes round the sun, yet we do our ordinary work without interruption. The two movements which at first sight seem inconsistent with each other are really parts of one whole. God's plan and man's effort are equally in harmony.

(d) Since the decrees connect means and ends together, and ends are decreed only as the result of means, they encourage effort instead of discouraging it. Belief in God's plan that success shall reward toil, incites to courageous and persevering effort. Upon the very ground of God's decree, the Scripture urges us to the diligent use of means.

God has decreed the harvest only as the result of man's labor in sowing and reaping; God decrees wealth to the man who works and saves; so answers are decreed to prayer, and salvation to faith. Compart? Paul's declaration of God's purpose (Acts 27 : 22, 24—" there shall b« no loss of life among you .... God hath granted thee all them that sail with thee " ) with his warning to the centurion and sailors to use the means of safety (verse 31—"Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved "). See also Phil. 2 :12,13—"work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in yon both to will and to work, for his good pleasure "; Eph. 2 :10—" we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them "; Deut. 29 : 29—" the secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but the things that are revealed belong unto its and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." See Bennett Tyler, Memoir and Lectures, 353-254.

3. That they make God the author of sin. To this we reply:

(a) They make God, not the author of sin, but the author of free beings who are themselves the authors of sin. God does not decree efficiently to work evil desires or choices in men. He decrees sin only in the sense of decreeing to create and preserve those who will sin; in other words, he decrees to create and preserve human wills which, in their own self-chosen courses, will be and do evil. In all this, man attributes sin to himself and not to God, and God hates, denounces, and punishes sin.

Joseph's brethren were none the less wicked for the fact that God meant their conduct to result in good (Gen. 50 : 20). Pope Leo X and his indulgences brought on the Reformation, but he was none the less guilty. Slaveholders would have been no more excusable, even if they had been able to prove that the negro race was cursed in tho curse of Canaan (Gen. 9 : 25—"Cursed be Canaan: a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren"). Fitch, in Christian Spectator, 3: 601—" There can be and Is a purpose of God which Is not an efficient purpose. It embraces the voluntary acts of moral beings, without creating those acts by divine efficiency."

(6) The decree to permit sin is therefore not an efficient but a permissive decree, or a decree to permit, in distinction from a decree to produce by his own efficiency. No difficulty attaches to such a decree to permit sin, which does not attach to the actual permission of it. But God does actually permit sin, and it must be right for him to permit it. It must therefore be be right for him to decree to permit it. If God's holiness and wisdom and power are not impugned by the actual existence of moral evil, they are not impugned by the original decree that it should exist.

Jonathan Edwards, Freedom of Will, in Works. 2: 254—" If by the author of sin be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing—so it

would be a reproach and blasphemy to suppose God to be the author of sin But if

by author of sin is meant the permitter or not-hinderer of sin, and at the same time a disposer of the state of events in such a manner, for wise, holy, and most excellent ends and purposes, that irtn, if it be permitted and not hindered, will must certainly foW/w. I do not deny that God is the author of sin; it is no reproach to the Most High to be thus the author of sin." On the objection that the doctrine of decrees imputes to God two wills, and that he has foreordained what he has forbidden, sec Bennett Tyler, Memoir and Lectures, 250-252—" A ruler may forbid treason; but his command does not oblige him to do all in his power to prevent disobedienee to it. It may promote the good of bis kingdom to suffer the treason to be committed, and the traitor to be punished according to law. That in view of this resulting good he chooses not to prevent the treason, does not imply any contradiction or opposition of will in the monarch."

(c) The difficulty is therefore one which in substance clings to all theistic systems alike—the question why moral evil is permitted under the government of a God infinitely holy, wise, powerful, and good. This problem is, to our finite powers, incapable of full solution, and must remain to a great degree shrouded in mystery. With regard to it we can only say:

Negatively,— that God does not permit moral evil because he is not unalterably opposed to sin; nor because moral evil was unforeseen and independent of his will; nor because he could not have prevented it in a moral system. Both observation and experience, which testify to multiplied instances of deliverance from sin without violation of the laws of man's being, forbid us so to limit the power of God.

Positively,—we seem constrained to say that God permits moral evil because moral evil, though in itself abhorrent to his nature, is yet the incident of a system adapted to his purpose of self-revelation; and further, because it is his wise and sovereign will to institute and maintain this system of which moral evil is an incident, rather than to withhold his self-revelation or to reveal himself through another system in which moral evil should be continually prevented by the exercise of divine power.

For advocacy of the view that God cannot prevent evil in a moral system, see Birks, Difficulties of Belief, 17; Young, The Mystery, or Evil not from God: Bledsoe, Theodicy; N. W. Taylor, Moral Government, 1; 288-349; 2: 327-386. According to Dr. Taylor's view, God has not a complete control over the moral universe; moral agents can do wrong under every possible influence to prevent it; God prefers, all things considered, that all his creatures should be holy and happy, and does all in his power to make them so; the existence of sin is not on the whole for the best; sin exists because God cannot prevent It in a moral system; the blessedness of God is actually impaired by the disobedienee of his creatures. For criticism of these views, see Tyler, Letters on the New Haven Theology, 120, 219. Tyler argues that election and non-election imply power in God to prevent sin: that permitting is not mere submitting to something which he could not possibly prevent. We would add that as a matter of fact God has preserved holy angels, and that there are "jmt men "who have been "nude perfect" (leb. 12 : 23) without violating the laws of moral agency. We Infer that God could have so preserved Adam. The history of the church leads us to believe that there is no sinner so stubborn that God cannot renew his heart—even a Saul can be turned into a Paul. We hesitate therefore to ascribe limits to God's power. While Dr. Taylor held that God could not prevent sin in a moral system, that is, in any moral system, Dr. Park is understood to hold the greatly preferable view that God cannot prevent sin in the bent moral system. Flint, Christ's Kingdom upon Earth, 59—" The alternative Is, not evil or no evil, but evil or the miraculous prevention of evil."

But even granting that the present is the best moral system, and that in such a system evil cannot be prevented consistently with God's wisdom and goodness, the question still remains how the decree to Initiate such a system can consist with God's fundamental attribute of holiness. Of this Insoluble mystery we must say as Dr. John Brown, in Spare Hours, 273, says of Arthur H. Hallam's Theodictra Novisslma: "As was to be expected, the tremendous subject remains where he found it. His glowing love and genius cast a gleam here and there across its gloom, but it is as brief as the lightning in the collled night—the jaws of darkness do devour it up—this secret belongs to GodAcross its deep and dazzling darkness, and from out its abyss of thick cloud, 'all dark, dark, irrecoverably dark,' no steady ray has ever or will ever come; over its face its own darkness must brood, till he to whom alone the darkness and the light are both alike, to whom the night shincth as the day, says 'Let there be light!'"

We must remember, however, that the decree of redemption is as old as the decree of the apostasy. The provision of salvation in Christ shows at how great a cost to God was permitted the fall of the race in Adam. He who ordained sin ordained also an atonement for sin and a way of escape from it. On the permission of moral evil, see Butler, Analogy, Bonn's ed., 177, 232—"The Government of God, and Christianity, as Schemes imperfectly comprehended "; Hill, System of Divinity, 828-559: Ulrici, art. Theodieee, in Herzog's EncyclopHdie; Cunningham, Historical Theology, 2: 41B-489; Patton, on Retribution and the Divine Purpose, in Princeton Rev., 1878: lci-23; Bib. Sac., 20: 471-488.

IT. Concluding Bemarks.

1. Practical uses of the doctrine of decrees.

(a) It inspires humility by its representation of God's unsearchable counsels and absolute sovereignty, (b) It teaches confidence in him who has wisely ordered our birth, our death, and our surroundings, even to the minutest particulars, and has made all things work together for the triumph of his kingdom and the good of those who love him. (c) It shows the enemies of God that, as their sins have been foreseen and provided for in God's plan, so they can never, while remaining in their sins, hope to escape their decreed and threatened penalty, (d) It urges the sinner to avail himself of the appointed means of grace, if he would be counted among the number of those for whom God has decreed salvation.

This doctrine is one of those advanced teachings of Scripture which requires for its understanding a matured mind and a deep experience. The beginner in the Christian life may not see its value or even Its truth, but with increasing years it will become a staff to lean upon. In times of affliction, obloquy and persecution, the church has found in the decrees of God, and in the prophecies in which those decrees are published, her strong consolation. It is only upon the basis of the decrees that we can believe that "all things work together for good" (Rom. 8 : 28) or pray "thy will be done" (Mat. 6 :10).

It is a striking evidence of the truth of the doctrine that even Arminians pray and sing like Cuivinists. Charles Wesley, the Arminian, can write: "He wills that I should holy be—What can withstand his will'/ The counsel of his grace in me He surely will fulfil." On the Arminian theory, prayer that God will soften hard hearts Is out of place —the prayer should be offered to the sinner; for it is his will, not God's, that is in the way of his salvation. And yet this doctrine of decrees, which at first sight might seem to discourage effort, is the greatest, in fact Is the only effectual, incentive to effort. For this reason Calvinists have been the most strenuous advocates of civil liberty. Those who submit themselves most unreservedly to the sovereignty of God are most delivered from the fear or man. Whitelield the Calvinist, and not Wesley the Arminian, originated the great religious movement in which the Methodist Church was born (see McFetrldge, Calvinism in History, 153), and Spurgeon's ministry has been as fruitful in conversions as Finney's. See Froude, Essay on Calvinism; Andrew, Calvinism and Soeinianism compared in their Practical Effects; Atwater, Calvinism in Doctrine and Life, in Princeton Review, 1875: 73.

2. True method of preaching the doctrine.

(a) We should most carefully avoid exaggeration or unnecessarily obnoxious statement, (b) We should emphasize the fact that the decrees are not grounded in arbitrary will, but in infinite wisdom, (c) We should make it plain that whatever God does or will do, he must from eternity have purposed to do. (d) We should illustrate the doctrine so far as possible by instances of completeness and far-sightedness in human plans of great enterprises, (e) We may then make extended application of the truth to the encouragement of the Christian and the admonition of the unbeliever.

For illustrations of foresight, instance Louis Napoleon's planning the Suez Canal, and declaring his policy as Emperor, long before he ascended the throne of Frauce. For instances of practical treatment of the theme in preaching, see Bushnell, Sermon on Every Man's Life a Plan of God, in Sermons for the Now Life ; also Nehemiah Adams, Evenings with the Doctrines, 243: Spurgeon'e Sermon on Ps. 44 : 3—"Because thou hidst > f»Tor unto them."