The Divine Decrees

by William G. T. Shedd

Preliminary Considerations

The consideration of the divine decrees naturally follows that of divine attributes because the decrees regulate the operation of the attributes. God’s acts agree with God’s determination. Hence 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 has foreordained whatsoever 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 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’s 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. 14:8). Hence 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 (prothesin)”1 (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 (Confessions 12.15) says, “God wills not one thing now and another anon; but once and at once and always, he wills all things that he wills; not again and again, nor now this, now that; nor wills afterward what before he willed not, nor wills not 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: “Your eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in your 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 after 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.
—Charnock, God’s Knowledge, 276
supplement 3.6.1)
The divine decree is the necessary condition of 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, 119n).
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 that 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 divine omniscience, asserts that God can foreknow an uncertainty, that is, that he can have foreknowledge without foreordination. But in this case, 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 thing 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 nonentity. If it be objected, that since God, as eternal, decrees all things simultaneously and consequently there is really no foreordination 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.
Characteristics of the Divine Decree
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 (boulēn)2 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,3 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: “The counsel of the Lord stands forever” (Ps. 33:11); “with him is wisdom and strength; he has counsel and understanding” (Job 12:13); “the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” (Prov. 19:21); “he has done all things well” (Mark 7:37); “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).
2.      The divine decree is eternal: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning” (Acts 15:18); “the kingdom was prepared from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34); “he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4); “God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Cor. 2:7); “the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8); Christ as a sacrifice “was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20). This characteristic has been defined in what has been said under 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: “He works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:10–11); “known unto God are all his works from the beginning” (Acts 15:18; Prov. 16:33; Dan. 4:34–35; Matt. 10:29–30; Acts 17:26; Job 14:5; Isa. 46:10): (a) The good actions of men: “Created unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10); (b) the wicked actions of men: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28; Ps. 76:10; Prov. 16:4); (c) so-called accidental events: “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Prov. 16:33; Gen. 45:8; 50:20); “a bone of him shall not be broken” (John 20:36; Ps. 34:20; Exod. 12:46; Num. 9:12); (d) the means as well as the end: “God has chosen you to salvation, through sanctification (en hagiasmō)4 of the Spirit” (2 Thess. 2:13); “he has chosen us that we should be holy” (Eph. 1:4; 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, 426
(e) the time of every man’s death: “his days are determined” (Job 14:5); “the measure of my days” (Ps. 39:4); the Jews could not kill Christ “because his hour was not yet come” (John 7:30). It is objected that fifteen years were added to Hezekiah’s life after the prophet had said, “Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live” (Isa. 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: “He is in one mind, and who shall turn him?” (Job 23:13); “my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). 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 3.1). 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 Elijah whatsoever they pleased (hosa ēthelēsan):5 likewise shall the Son of Man suffer them” (Matt. 17:12); “the Son of Man goes as it was determined (hōrismenon),6 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 because 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 be crucified in accordance with the divine decree and his assertion that Judas was a free and guilty agent in fulfilling this decree. (b) 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 divine knowledge arises from that peculiarity in 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 viewpoint of divine eternity and omniscience, there is no foreknowledge 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 divine omnipotence can make an event certain. The predestinarian maintains that the certainty of all events has a relation to divine omnipotence as well as to 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. Westminster Confession 3.1 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, 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 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 divine omnipotence: “God, the first cause, orders all things to come to pass according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, or freely and contingently” (Westminster Confession 5.2; Turretin 6.6.6). 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.” (See supplements 3.6.2 and 3.6.3.)
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 Pet. 1:1); “the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1); “faith is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). But if faith depends upon the undecreed action of the sinner’s will, 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. (See supplement 3.6.4.)
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; (b) the decree depends upon God’s good pleasure (eudokia)7 (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 (Isa. 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 divine foreknowledge; God cannot foreknow an event unless it is certain, and it cannot be certain if it ultimately depends upon finite will. (See supplement 3.6.5.)
Efficacious and Permissive Decrees
The divine decrees are divided into efficacious and permissive (cf. Turretin 3.12.21–25).
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: “He made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder” (Job 28:26); (b) by an immediate spiritual agency of God upon the finite will in the origin and continuance of holiness: “For it is God, who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13); “faith is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8); “if God peradventure will give them repentance” (2 Tim. 2:25); “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10); “the new man is created in righteousness” (4:24).
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: “Who in times past suffered (eiase)8 all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16); “the times of this ignorance God overlooked (hyperidōn)”9 (17:30); “he gave them their own desire” (Ps. 78:18); “he gave them their own request” (106:15) (Shedd, History of Doctrine 2.135–38). 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 (Hölle) is a hole or “pit.” It is deep but not wide, bottomless but not boundless. (See supplement 3.6.6.)
The permissive decree is a decree (a) not to hinder the sinful self-determination of the finite will and (b) to regulate and control the result of the sinful self-determination. “God’s permissive will,” says Howe (Decrees, lect. 1), “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 permissa10 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 1.18.3–4). The “good pleasure” (eudokia)11 in accordance with which God permits sin must not be confounded with the pleasure or complacency (agapē)12 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 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); “shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord has not done it?” (Amos 3:6); “I withheld you from sinning against me” (Gen. 20:6). 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 hylē13 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: “Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remainder of wrath shall you restrain” (Ps. 76:10); “you thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good” (Gen. 45:8). 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 Westminster Confession 5.4: “The almighty power, wisdom, and goodness of God extends even to the sins of angels and men; and this not by a bare permission, but such as has 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 proceeds only from the creature and not from God.”14 Anselm (Why the God-Man? 1.15) 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. (See supplement 3.6.7.)
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 (cf. Charnock, 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 fellow creature from disobeying God, only because God has commanded him to do so, not because the fellowman is entitled to it. A criminal cannot demand upon the ground of justice that his fellowman 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.” Nonprevention 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 prevent 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 the following texts: “Neither tempts he any man” (James 1:13); “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5); “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions” (Eccles. 7:29). It also contradicts the Christian consciousness. In the instance of holiness, the soul says, “Not unto me, but unto you be the glory”; but in the instance of sin, it says, “Not unto you, 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.15 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 (cf. Charnock’s Holiness of God on the divine concursus). Charnock regards it as a valid explanation of the permissive decree.16
Fate, Certainty, Compulsion, and Necessity
The divine decree differs from the heathen fate.17 (a) Decree is the determination of a personal being; fate is merely the connection (nexus) of impersonal causes and effects. The divine decree includes causes, effects, and their nexus. (b) 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: tēn peprōmenēn moiran adynaton esti apophygein kai theō18 (Herodotus 1). Says Plato (Laws 5.741), “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.
—Milton (See supplement 3.6.8)
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.19
The following objection is made against certainty, namely, that it is equivalent to necessity:
If all future events are foreknown, they will occur in that order in which they are foreknown to come about. Now if they will occur in that order, the order of things is certain to God who foreknows them. And if the order of things is certain, the order of their causes is certain; indeed, nothing can occur which some efficient cause has not preceded. But if the order of causes is certain, by which everything happens that comes to pass, then all things that come to pass happen by fate. Now if that is so, then we are powerless.20
There is something like this in Cicero’s Concerning Fate 14. But it is not the opinion of Cicero, but of certain philosophers whose views he criticizes. He mentions two theories: (1) that all things happen by fate or necessity (he attributes this view to Democritus, Heraclitus, Empedocles, and Aristotle) and (2) that the voluntary movements of the human soul do not happen by fate or necessity. Cicero favors the latter theory (Concerning Fate 17–18). 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: “The gods are concerned with weighty matters and ignore what is inconsequential”21 (Concerning the Nature of the Gods 2.66). 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 denotes 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 fellow creature 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: 159).
Predestination is the divine decree or purpose (prothesis;22 Rom. 8:28) so far as it relates to moral agents, namely, angels and men. The world of matter and irrational existence is more properly the object of the divine decree than of 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 (proōrisen)23 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: proorizein24 and progignōskein.25 The former signifies “to circumscribe or limit beforehand.” The word horizein26 is transferred in English horizon, which denotes the dividing line that separates the earth from the sky. Proorizein27 occurs in Acts 4:28: “To do whatsoever your hand and your counsel determined before (proōrise)28 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 the following: “Whom he did foreknow (proegnō),29 he also did predestinate (proōrise)30 to be conformed to the image of his son” (Rom. 8:29); “whom he did predestinate (proōrisen),31 them he also called” (8:30); “having predestinated (proorisas)32 us unto the adoption of children” (Eph. 1:5); being predestinated (prooristhentes)33 according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will” (1:11); “the hidden wisdom which God ordained before (proōrisen)34 unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7).
The word progignōskein35 (to foreknow) occurs in several texts: “Whom he did foreknow (proegnō),36 he also did predestinate” (Rom. 8:29); “God has not cast away his people, whom he foreknew (proegnō)37 (11:2); Christ “verily was foreknown (proegnōsmenos)38 before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20). The noun prognōsis39 occurs in two texts: “Delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23); “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” (1 Pet. 1:2). The terms foreknow and predestinate denote two aspects of the same thing. Romans 11:2, might read, “God has not cast away his people whom he predestinated.” When one is distinguished from the other, as in 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 (cf. Gen. 18:19; Ps. 1:6; 36:10; 144:3; Hos. 8:4; Amos 3:2; Nah. 1:7; Matt. 7:23; John 10:14; 1 Cor. 8:3; 16:18; 2 Tim. 2:19; 1 Thess. 5:12; Shedd on Rom. 7:15). Traces of this use of gignōskein40 are seen in the earlier Greek usage: gnōtos41 = gnōstos42 signifies a kinsman or a friend (Iliad 15.350; Aeschylus, Choephori 702). With this signification may be compared still another Hebraistic use of the word know, namely, “to make known”: “Now I know that you fear God” (Gen. 22:12); “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 2:2).
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 Pet. 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 has 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 has 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 proegnō.43 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 prerecognition of him as a person to whom God in his sovereign mercy has determined to “give repentance” (2 Tim. 2:25) and 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 (eudokian)44 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 calls” (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 3.4); “the Lord knows them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19); “I know whom I have chosen” (John 13:18); “I know you by name” (Exod. 33:17); “your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20); “before you came forth out of the womb, I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:5); “God separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace” (Gal. 1:15); “I know my sheep” (John 10:14). (See supplement 3.6.9.)
The decree of predestination is divided into the decrees of election and reprobation. God’s decree of election respects angels: “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21); “the angels which kept not their first estate” (Jude 6). 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 nonelect or reprobate angels. A nonelect 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 nonelect angel is left to himself; that of the elect angel is not: “The first object of the permissive will of God was to leave nonelect 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” (Charnock, 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 nonelect 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 the case with the elect angel. He is kept from falling. A sinful man, on the other hand, is nonelect or reprobate in respect to regenerating grace. It is not bestowed upon him, 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: “Behold he put no trust in his servants, and his angels he charged with folly” (Job 4:18); (b) the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the finite will in all grades of being, and this in different degrees of efficiency; and (c) 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, On the Fall of the Devil. 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 on 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 2.377, but he does so somewhat from the viewpoint 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. (See supplement 3.6.10.)
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 illumination and this cooperation 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 self-consciousness, for this does not give a report of a divine agent as distinct from the human. Hence the doctrine of spiritual operation in the soul 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. (See supplement 3.6.11.)
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 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 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: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16); “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27–28); “according as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4); “has not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith?” (James 2:5; 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; 9–11; Gal. 1:15; Eph. 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 3.6). 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. (See supplement 3.6.12.)
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 (agapē)45 spoken of in John 14:23, but out of the divine goodness and kindness (chrēstotēs)46 spoken of in Rom. 11:22. God sees no holiness in either the elect or the nonelect and hence feels no complacent love toward either, yet compassion toward both. He has a benevolent and merciful feeling toward the fallen human spirit (a) because it is his own handiwork: “You will have a desire to the work of your hands” (Job 14:15); “should I 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?” (Jon. 4:11); “as I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek. 33:11); “the Lord is full of compassion; slow to anger and of great mercy” (Ps. 145:8; 103:8; 86:15); “God delights in mercy” (Mic. 7:18); “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” (Exod. 34:6); and (b) because of its capacity for holiness and worship toward the nonelect; this compassionate 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 toward 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 toward 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 your sight” (Matt. 11:26) is all the reason that 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. Says Aquinas (Summa 2.63.1):
There is 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 anyone, 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 my 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 them. 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 says 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 fallen angels and lost men; and justice cannot be charged with partiality: “Behold therefore the goodness (chrēstotēta)47 and severity (apotomian)48 of God; on them which fell, severity (strict justice); but toward you, 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 due 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” (Rom. 11:22); “whom he predestinated them he glorified” (8:32). “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,’ how can it be thought that 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. Sanctification 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,
Prediction, still,
In all things and all men, supposes means;
Without means used, what it predicts, revokes.
Paradise Regained 3.364
They who are predestinated to life are predestinated to the means and conditions: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48); “he has chosen us in him that we should be holy” (Eph. 1:4); “we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has foreordained that we should walk in them” (2:10). Says Augustine (Concerning Rebuke 7.13), “those who are made the objects of divine grace are caused to hear the gospel, and when (it is) heard (they are caused) 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 (Romans, preface), “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.” (See supplement 3.6.13.)
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: “Your people shall be willing in the day of your power” (Ps. 110:3); “it is God who works in you to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). The doctrine of the internal operation of the Holy Spirit is the clue to this. The finite will cannot be made willing or inclined by (a) external force, (b) human instruction, or (c) 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 1.20), “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. Romans 9:11 asserts “that the purpose of God according to election does not stand of works, but of him that calls.” Romans 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.” First Pet. 1:2 asserts that believers are “elected unto obedience,” consequently, not because of obedience. Second Tim. 1:9 affirms that “God has called us, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose.” Romans 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 the following. (a) Faith is an inward work: “This is the work of God, that you believe” (John 6:29). Consequently, election not does rest upon faith as a foreseen inward work, any more than upon a foreseen outward work. (b) 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 Rom. 9:19: “You will say then, Why does he yet find fault?” or for the exclamation “O the depth!” (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 calls.” 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).49
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, 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 divine mercy, reprobation of divine justice. God must manifest one or the other of these two attributes toward a transgressor. St. Paul teaches this in Rom. 11:22: “Behold the goodness and severity of God (divine compassion and divine justice) on them which fell severity; but toward you 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 (e.g., Augsburg Confession 1.5; First Helvetic Confession 9; Heidelberg Catechism 54). Ursinus, 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 Confession 10.4: “And although God has known those who are his and mention is made somewhere of the small number of the elect, nevertheless we ought to hope the best for all people, nor fear that someone is numbered among the reprobate.”50
Second Helvetic Confession 10.6: “Others say, ‘But if I am numbered among the reprobate.’ ”51
French Confession 12: “We believe that God removes the elect from this condemnation, leaving the others”52 etc.
Belgic Confession 16: “We believe that God has shown himself as he is, that is, merciful and just. He is shown to be merciful in delivering and saving those who in his eternal counsel he has elected. He is shown to be just in leaving the others in their ruin and perdition in which they have involved themselves.”53
Scotch Confession 8: “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: “By the same eternal counsel, God has predestinated some unto life and reprobated some unto death.”
Lambeth Articles: “God from eternity has predestinated certain men unto life; certain men he has reprobated.”
Dort Canons 1.15: “Holy Scripture testifies that not all persons are elect, but that certain persons are nonelect or bypassed in the eternal election of God. Evidently God, in his most free, just, blameless, and immutable good pleasure, determined to abandon them in the common misery [i.e., of the fall], into which they cast themselves through their own fault.”54
Westminster Confession 3.3: “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.”55
Reprobation relates to regenerating grace, not to common grace. It is an error to suppose that the reprobate are entirely destitute of grace. All mankind enjoys common grace. There are no elect or reprobate in this reference. Every human 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 think you, O man, that you shall escape the judgment of God? Or despise you the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance. God has 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 divine mercy as shown in the ordinary influences of the Holy Spirit, in both the elect and nonelect: “You stiff-necked, you do always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51). 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 “has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens [i.e., does not soften].” Says Bates (Eternal Judgment, 2):
It is 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 dungeon of horror, the emblem of hell. (See supplement 3.6.14.)
Reprobation comprises preterition and condemnation or damnation. It is defined in Westminster Confession 3.7 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 preterition; the last is condemnation or damnation. Preterition must not be confounded with condemnation (this is done by Baier, Compendium 3.12.27). 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) Preterition 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 (eudokia).56 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 preterition is unknown. It is not sin, because the elect are as sinful as the nonelect. (c) In preterition, God’s action is permissive, inaction rather than action. In condemnation, God’s action is efficient and positive. (See supplement 3.6.15.)
The decree of preterition 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. Preterition is no more exposed to objection than is the decree to permit sin at first. “It is no blemish,” says Howe (Decrees, lect. 3), “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.” Preterition 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; cf. 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). Isaiah 6:9–10 is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament text. It occurs four times in the gospels (in every instance in the discourse of our Lord), once in Acts, and once in Romans (Shedd on Rom. 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 written revelation and the promise of a Redeemer upon the Jews under the old economy, God omitted or passed by all other nations: “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people unto himself: not because you were more in number, for you were the fewest” (Deut. 7:10). 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, namely, the Scriptures and the ministry of the word, so far as the command of God is concerned, though practically many are still reprobated, owing to the unfaithfulness of the Christian church. 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.
There may be individual preterition in connection with national election. Some of the Jews were individually and inwardly reprobated, but all of them were nationally and outwardly elected: “Israel [the nation] has not obtained that which he seeks for, but the election has obtained it, and the rest [of the nation] were blinded” (Rom. 9:27; 11:7); “many are [outwardly] called, but few [inwardly] chosen” (Matt. 10:16; 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 Shorter Catechism 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 nonelect 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 nonelect “may be and often are outwardly called by the ministry of the word and have some common operations of the Spirit, who for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 68). “Go and tell this people, Hear 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” (Isa. 6:9–10). 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. (See supplements 3.6.16 and 3.6.17.)
Preterition is not inconsistent with the doctrine of 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 afterward 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: “You have tried once to convert me from sin; now try again and try harder.”
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. Westminster Confession 10.3, after saying that “elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how he pleases,” 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, 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 (1.7), “We grant, meanwhile, that God can illuminate people even without the external ministry, how and when he wishes, for it lies within his power to do so.”57 Zanchi (Predestination, 1) 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 among the former, as well as reprobate ones among the latter.” Again (Predestination, 4), 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 Spirit 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 says unto him, Do you 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, You have both seen him, and it is he that talks with you. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshiped him.” The case of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27–28) is a similar instance of a penitent sense of sin and a desire for deliverance from it before the great deliverer himself is actually set before the mind. Calvin (4.16.19) remarks that “when the apostle makes hearing the source of faith, he describes only 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 3.17.4 he describes Cornelius as having been “illuminated and sanctified by the Spirit” prior to Peter’s preaching to him. Augustine (Letter 102 to Deogratias) 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 Retractationes 2.31 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 repentance 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 calls’—a calling which he affirms to pertain to the purpose of God” (Nicene Fathers 1.418).
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 he 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 facts 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 (10:44–47). Again, it is said, “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” (Matt. 8:11). 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 you fears God, to you is this word of salvation sent” (Acts 13:26). The phrase fears God here, as in 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, 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 professes, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature” (Farrar, St. Paul 1.280). 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.58 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.”
The decree of preterition 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 infralapsarian or sublapsarian 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, and (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 Turretin (4.9.5). (See supplement 3.6.18.)
The supralapsarian theory places, in the order of decrees, the decree of election and preterition 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 to salvation and to leave some to perdition for divine glory, (2) the decree to create the men thus elected and reprobated, (3) the decree to permit them to fall, and (4) the decree to justify the elect and to condemn the nonelect. The objections to this view are the following: (a) The decree of election and preterition has reference to a nonentity. Man is contemplated as creatable, not as created. Consequently, the decree of election and preterition has no real object: “Man as creatable and fallible is not the object of predestination, but man as created and fallen is”59 (Turretin 4.9.5). Man is only ideally existent, an abstract conception; and therefore any divine determination concerning him is a determination concerning nonentity. But God’s decrees of election and reprobation suppose some actually created beings from which to select and reject: “On whom (on)60 he will, he has mercy; and whom he will, he hardens” (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 the divine idea of the creation and the fall. (b) The Scriptures represent the elect and nonelect, respectively, as taken out of an existing aggregate of beings: “I have chosen you out of (ek)61 the world” (John 15:19). (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” (Rom. 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 nonelect 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, Westminster Confession 3.7 affirms that God passes by the nonelect and “ordains them to dishonor and 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 preterition 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.62 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 preterition 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 you, when I was made in secret and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in your 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 you came out of the womb I sanctified you.” In saying that they had not “done any good or evil” at the moment of their election and preterition, 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. Ephesians 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 hina gnōristhē63 depends on euangelisasthai64 and phōtisai65 in verses 8–9 (see Olshausen and Hodge in loco).
The decree of preterition does not necessitate perdition, though it makes it certain. (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 preterition supposes the voluntary fall of man. It succeeds, in the order of nature, the decree to permit Adam’s sin. Preterition, consequently, has to do only with a creature who is already guilty by his own act and justly “condemned already” (John 3:18). (b) It is a permissive not an efficient act on the part of God that is exerted in preterition. In respect to regeneration, God decides to do nothing in the case of a nonelect 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 preterition. For in this case, God works in the human will “to will.”
The efficient and blameworthy cause of the perdition of the nonelect is not the decree of preterition, but the self-determined apostasy and sin of the nonelect. Mere permission is not causation: “Causality has no place where there is bare permission”66 (Quenstedt 2.2.2). The nonelect 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); “because of unbelief, they were broken off” (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 you,” but, “Depart, because you have sinned and have 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 toward God in not saving the life of John Doe, but he would not be guilty of the murder of John Doe. Richard Roe’s nonperformance of his duty toward 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. Nonprevention 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 Deut. 29:4). Bunyan (Reprobation Asserted, 11) 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 upon the damnation of him that perishes makes no man a sinner, and (4) God’s patience and forbearance until the reprobate fits himself for eternal destruction makes no man a sinner.
The decree of preterition makes perdition certain, because the bondage of the sinner’s will to evil prevents self-recovery. 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 nonelect 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” (Prov. 1:31). (See supplement 3.6.19.)
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 supposes sin, but not a less degree of sin than in the nonelect. 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, taught in 9:18: “He has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will be hardens.” The meaning of “harden” here is “not to soften.”67 The meaning of “hate” in 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 emisēsa68 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 because 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 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 nonelection, 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 psalmist calls the negative permission to incline himself 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 in Bibliotheca sacra, Oct. 1885). (See supplement 3.6.20.)
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, because 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 willful course. Hence, future perseverance in sin is not the reason why God does not bestow regenerating grace upon the nonelect.
The final end of both election and reprobation is 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: “For of him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). 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 as well as to exhibit mercy is honorable to God: “The ministration of death was glorious. The ministration of condemnation is glory” (2 Cor. 3:7, 9). (See supplement 3.6.21.)
Arminian and Calvinistic Systems Compared
The two great systems of theology that 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 preterition follow after them as their consequence. Consequently, in the Arminian scheme, the reasons for election and preterition are not secret but known. Man’s faith is the reason for election; man’s perseverance in unbelief is the reason for preterition.69
2.      Arminian election and preterition 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. Calvinistic election and preterition are sovereign, not judicial acts. A man is elected because of God’s good pleasure (kata eudokian),70 not because of faith; and a man is passed by because of God’s good pleasure, not because of persistence in sin.
3.      Since 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.      Arminian election and preterition are the election and preterition of qualities, namely, of faith and persevering unbelief. Calvinistic election and preterition are those of persons, namely, Peter, James, and Judas.
5.      Arminian election is inconsistent with a part of the Arminian statement respecting inability.71 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 seventeenth 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 his human efficiency in cooperation with the divine. The difference, consequently, between the believer and unbeliever, the elect and nonelect, 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 Arminian election depends partly upon the act of the human will and not wholly upon the will of God. (See supplement 3.6.22.)
Objections to Election and Reprobation Answered
It is objected to the doctrine of preterition that God cannot be sincere in the universal offer of the gospel in Mark 16:15. 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. Second, 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 toward all men, the nonelect as well as the elect, is expressed in Ezek. 33:11; 18:32: “As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure72 (ḥāpēṣ)73 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 dies, says the Lord; wherefore turn yourselves and live.” This divine desire is constitutional. It springs from the compassionate love of the Creator toward 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—toward the nonelect is expressed in Exod. 9:16: “For this cause have I raised you up, for to show in you my power and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth”; and in Rom. 9:18: “Whom he will, he hardens.” 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: “Let my people go” (Exod. 9:1). But he decided not to overcome the unwillingness of Pharaoh to let the people go: “God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not” (9:12). This “hardening” was the not softening of his already hard heart. God sent Moses to persuade Pharaoh. This indicated divine desire. But God at the same time informed Moses that his persuasion would fail (7:1–4). This indicated divine purpose not to conquer Pharaoh’s obstinacy. Christ, in deep sincerity and in tears, said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets and stones them that are sent unto you—how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you 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 blessed 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. (See supplement 3.6.23.)
One class of scriptural texts teaches that the benevolent desire of God is that all 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 Turretin (4.17.33):
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 nonelect 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, why will you 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 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 that 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 sends special messengers to entreat them and tell them the danger. If these men will not hear him but willfully poison themselves, is he therefore unmerciful? But suppose that he has 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 cooperation 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 resistance 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.74 (See supplement 3.6.24.)
The difference between divine desire and 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 and (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 toward 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 (thelēma),75 working in you that which is well pleasing (euareston)76 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 has resisted his will?” Here, God’s will is his purpose or decree to “harden” (or not soften) and is designated by boulēma.77 What he wills, that is, 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, decrees what he hates.78 This distinction is sometimes designated by the terms legislative will and decretive will, sometimes by will of complacency (complacentiae) and will of good pleasure (beneplaciti), in which latter case, good pleasure must not be confounded with pleasure. The Schoolmen employ the terms voluntas signi79 (signified) and voluntas beneplaciti.80 The Greeks speak of the will euarestias81 and eudokias.82
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 and (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 nonelect 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 pp. 750–53.)
Decree of Election and the Decree of Redemption
The relation of the decree of election to that of redemption is important. The statement in Westminster 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: “When you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed” (Isa. 53:10); “I will give you the heathen for your inheritance” (Ps. 2:8). Christ stipulates to suffer, provided actual not merely possible salvation shall be the result. He 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: (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, and (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 universalism, which begins with Arminianism and ends with Calvinism. (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 Turretin 4.17). The first part of this theory is Arminian; the second part is Calvinistic.
The objections to this theory are the following:
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 Scriptures 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).
Teaching and Preaching the Doctrines of Election and Reprobation
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 well-indoctrinated 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 belongs not to him because he is unskillful 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 proposition 47. He leads him up to it, through the axioms and the preparatory theorems. He tells him that proposition 47 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, so 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 does thrust them either into desperation or into recklessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
Says Selden (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 success depends wholly upon 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, says 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 between 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 seems him good, resting quietly on his word of promise for our safety. Lord, whither you will and which way you will, be my guide, and it suffices. (Leighton on 1 Pet. 3:19–21).
3.6.1 (see p. 313). Owen (Saints’ Perseverance, chap. 3) observes that the divine decree relates only to what may or may not be, not to what must be; to what depends upon the optional will of God, not to what depends upon his intrinsic being and nature: “God’s purposes are not concerning anything that is in itself absolutely necessary. He does not purpose that he will be wise, holy, good, just.”
3.6.2 (see p. 317). “It does not follow that though there is for God a certain order of all causes, there must therefore be nothing depending on the free exercise of our own wills; for our wills themselves are included in that order of causes which is certain to God and is embraced by his foreknowledge, for human wills are also causes of human actions; and he who foreknew all the causes of things would certainly among those causes not have been ignorant of our wills” (Augustine, City of God 5.9). Augustine here uses “foreknow” in the common classical signification of simply knowing beforehand and not in the uncommon Hebrew signification of “choosing,” as in Rom. 8:29; 11:2. There is nothing in simply foreknowing or foreseeing that interferes with free agency, any more than the simple onlooking of a spectator interferes with the action of a thief or murderer. The difficulty arises when the reconciliation of free agency with foreknowledge, in the sense of foreordination or predestination, is attempted. In this latter instance God does not merely look on like a spectator, but he does something like an actor. And the problem is how to make his action consistent with the creature’s action. The clue to the reconciliation is in the distinction between God’s efficient and permissive action. But his does not clear up the mystery in the instance of the origination of sin by a holy being like unfallen Adam, though it does in the instance of the continuation of sin in a sinful being like fallen Adam.
3.6.3 (see p. 317). Schleiermacher directs attention to the fact that while God’s decree makes all events certain, it does not make them so by the same kind of power. He says (Doctrine §80) that “it leads to Manicheism [the doctrine of two eternal principles of good and evil] if sin is denied to have its ground in God in any sense whatever, and it leads to Pelagianism if this is asserted and no distinction is made in the manner of divine causality.” Here he evidently has in mind the permissive decree as distinguished from the efficient decree.
3.6.4 (see p. 318). Augustine teaches as distinctly as Calvin that sinners are elected to faith, not because of faith: “God elected us in Christ before the foundation of the world, predestinating us to the adoption of children, not because we were going to be of ourselves holy and immaculate, but he elected and predestinated that we might be so” (Predestination 37). “The elect are not those who are elected because they have believed, but that they might believe. For the Lord himself explains this election when he says: ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.’ If they had been elected because they first believed, they themselves would have first chosen him by believing in him, so that they should deserve to be elected” (Predestination 34). “Let us look into the words of the apostle and see whether God elected us before the foundation of the world because we were going to be holy or in order that we might be so. ‘Blessed,’ says he, ‘be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ; even as he has chosen us in himself before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and unspotted.’ Not, then, because we were to be so, but that we might be so” (Predestination 36).
3.6.5 (see p. 318). Charnock (Immutability of God, 222 [ed. Bohn]) thus remarks upon the relation of prayer to divine immutability: “Prayer does not desire any change in God, but is offered to God that he would confer those things which he has immutably willed and purposed to communicate; but he willed them not without prayer as the means of bestowing them. The light of the sun is ordered for our discovery of visible things; but withal it is required that we use our faculty of seeing. If a man shuts his eyes and complains that the sun is changed into darkness, it would be ridiculous; the sun is not changed, but we alter ourselves. Nor is God changed in his giving us the blessings he has promised, because he has promised in the way of a due address to him, and opening our souls to receive his influence, and to this his immutability is the greatest encouragement.”
3.6.6 (see p. 319). In endeavoring to explain how God decrees sin, some theologians make divine concursus to be identically the same thing in relation to both holiness and sin, namely, that of internal and positive actuation or inclining of the human will. In both cases God works in the finite will “to will and to do.” This destroys the distinction between the efficient and the permissive decree. Howe (Letter on God’s Prescience, postscript) discusses this point in his answer to the criticism of Theophilus Gale, who charged him with denying the divine concursus altogether, because he refused to make “the concurrence of God to the sins of men” identical with that to the holiness of men. The substance of his answer is that there is both an “immediate” and a “determinative,” that is, causative concourse of God to the will of man in good action, but only an “immediate,” not “determinative” or causative concourse in evil action. In the first instance God both upholds and inwardly inclines or actuates the will of man; in the second instance he upholds but does not inwardly incline it: “Divine concourse or influence (for I here affect not the curiosity to distinguish these terms, as some do), which I deny not to be immediate to any actions, I only deny to be determinative as to those that are wicked. It is only God’s determinative concurrence to all actions, even those that are most malignantly wicked, which is the thing I speak of; as what I cannot reconcile with the wisdom and sincerity of his councils and exhortations against such actions.” Howe sums up his view in the following declarations: “(1) That God exercises a universal providence about all his creatures, both in sustaining and governing them. (2) That, more particularly, he exercises such a providence about man. (3) That this providence about man extends to all the actions of all men. (4) That it consists not alone in beholding the actions of men, as if he were only a mere spectator of them, but is positively active about them. (5) That this active providence of God about all the actions of men consists not merely in giving them the natural powers whereby they can work of themselves, but in a real influence upon those powers. (6) That this influence is, in reference to holy and spiritual actions (whereto, since the apostasy, the nature of man is become viciously disinclined), necessary to be efficaciously determinative, that is, such as shall overcome that disinclination and reduce those powers into act. (7) That the ordinary way for the communication of this determinative influence is by the inducements which God presents in his word, namely, the precepts, promises, and threatenings which are the moral instruments of his government. [This is common grace, which Howe elsewhere describes as failing to overcome the sinner’s opposition.] No doubt but he may extraordinarily actuate men by inward impulse, but he has left them destitute of any encouragement to expect his influences in the neglect of his ordinary methods. (8) That, in reference to all other actions which are not sinful, though there be not a sinful disinclination to them, yet because there may be a sluggishness and ineptitude to some purposes God intends to serve by them, this influence is always determinative [causative] thereunto. [Howe here refers to the struggle with indwelling sin in the regenerate which is assisted by God.] (9) That, in reference to sinful actions, by this influence God does not only sustain men who do them and continue to them their natural faculties and powers whereby they are done, but also, as the first mover, so far excite and actuate those powers as that they are apt and habile for any congenerous action to which they have a natural [created] designation; and whereto they are not so sinfully disinclined. (10) That, if men do then employ them to the doing of any sinful action; by that same influence he does, as to him seems meet, limit, moderate, and, against the inclination and design of the sinful agent, overrule and dispose it to good. But now if, besides all this, they will also assert that God does by an efficacious influence move and determine men to wicked actions; this is that which I most resolvedly deny. That is, in this I shall differ with them; that I do not suppose God to have, by internal influence, as far a hand in the worst and wickedest actions as in the best. I assert more [internal influence] to be necessary to actions to which men are wickedly disinclined; but that less will suffice for their doing of actions to which they have inclination more than enough.”
Neander (History 1.374) remarks that “the gnostics would not allow any distinction between permission and causation on the part of God. To mē kōlouon aition estin83 is their usual motto in opposing the doctrine of the church.”
Milton (Paradise Lost 10.40–41) states the permissive decree as follows:
I told you then he should prevail, and speed
On his bad errand; man should be seduced,
And flattered out of all, believing lies
Against his Maker; no decree of mine
Concurring to necessitate his fall,
Or touch with lightest moment of impulse
His free will, to her own inclining left
In even scale.
Here the certainty of the fall is announced by God, but not the necessity in the sense of compulsion. There is no inward impulse and actuation of the will by God, when it inclines and falls from holiness to sin. This mode of internal and causative actuation is confined to the inclining of man’s will to holiness, to “working in him to will that which is pleasing to God” and accompanies the efficient decree, not the permissive.
The permissive decree is executed in part by the withdrawal of restraints, as a punitive act of God which St. Paul speaks of in Rom. 1:24, 28. This is a punishment for sin previously committed: “When God ‘gives up’ the sinner to sin, he does not himself cause the sin. To withdraw a restraint is not the same as to impart an impulse. The two principal restraints of sin are the fear of punishment before its commission and remorse after it. These are an effect of the divine operation in the conscience; the revelation of divine orgē84 in human consciousness. When God ‘gives over’ an individual he ceases, temporarily, to awaken these feelings. The consequence is utter moral apathy and recklessness in sin” (Shedd on Rom. 1:24). The view of Augustine is expressed in the following extracts and is the same as Calvin’s: “When you hear the Lord say, ‘I the Lord have deceived that prophet’ (Ezek. 14:9), and likewise what the apostle says, ‘He has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens’ (Rom. 9:18), believe that in the case of him whom he permits to be deceived and hardened his evil deeds have deserved the judgment. Nor should you take away from Pharaoh free will, because in several passages God says, ‘I have hardened Pharaoh’ or ‘I have hardened or will harden Pharaoh’s heart’; for it does not by any means follow that Pharaoh did not, on this account, harden his own heart” (Grace and Free Will 45). “From these statements of the inspired word (Ps. 105:25; Prov. 21:1; 1 Kings 12:15; 2 Chron. 21:16–17) and from similar passages, it is, I think, sufficiently clear that God works in the hearts of men to incline their wills85 whithersoever he wills, whether to good deeds according to his mercy or to evil after their own deserts; his own judgment being sometimes manifest, sometimes secret, but always righteous. This ought to be the fixed and immovable conviction of your heart, that there is no unrighteousness with God. Therefore, whenever you read in the Scriptures that men are led aside or that their hearts are blunted and hardened by God, never doubt that some ill deserts of their own have first occurred so that they shall justly suffer these things” (Grace and Free Will 43). “There are some sins which are also the punishment of sins” (Predestination of the Saints 19). The permission to sin, according to these extracts, is punitive. The sinner is left to his own will without restraint from God, as a punishment for his obstinacy in sin. When God, after striving with the sinner in common grace which is resisted and nullified, decides to desist from further striving with him, this is retribution. It is the manifestation of justice. The process is described in Rom. 1:21–24: The heathen “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man. Wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.” Man’s active commission of sin, St. Paul teaches, is punished by God’s subsequent passive permission of it. It will be noticed that Augustine says that “God works (operari) in the hearts of men to incline their wills to evil deeds.” To incline the will, strictly speaking, is to “work in it to will” (Phil. 2:13), is to originate an inclination or disposition in the voluntary faculty. Scripture everywhere asserts that God exerts such action whenever the human will wills holiness, but never when it wills sin. Respecting sin, it declares that God “suffered (eiase)86 all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16); “the times of this ignorance God overlooked” (17:30); God “gave them their own desire” (Ps. 78:29); God “gave them their own request” (106:15). That Augustine did not intend to use the term incline in the strict sense of causation or inward actuation is proved by his caution: “Nor should you take away from Pharaoh free will, because in several passages God says, ‘I have hardened Pharaoh’s heart; for it does not by any means follow that Pharaoh did not on this account harden his own heart.” The following extracts from Grace and Free Will 41 puts this beyond all doubt: “Was it not of their own will that the enemies of the children of Israel fought against the people of God, as led by Joshua the son of Nun? And yet the Scripture says, ‘It was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly’ (Josh. 11:20). And was it not likewise of his own will that Shimei, the wicked son of Gera, cursed King David? And yet what says David, full of true and deep and pious wisdom? ‘Let him alone, and let him curse, because the Lord has said unto him, Curse David’ (2 Sam. 16:9–10). Now what prudent reader will fail to understand in what way the Lord bade this profane man to curse David? It was not by literal command that he bade him, in which case his obedience would be praiseworthy; but he inclined (inclinavit) the man’s will, which had [already] become debased by his own perverseness, to commit this sin. Therefore it is said, ‘The Lord said unto him.’ ” The “inclining,” here, in Augustine’s use of the term, is not the origination by God of an evil inclination in Shimei’s will, for this already existed, but the permitting it to continue and the using it to accomplish his own purposes. “See, then,” concludes Augustine, “what proof we have here that God uses the hearts of even wicked men for the praise and assistance of the good. Thus did he make use of Judas when betraying Christ; thus did he make use of the Jews when they crucified Christ.” To incline the will of a wicked man in this qualified use of the term is to permit instead of restraining and stopping its sinful inclining—as in Ps. 119:36: “Incline my heart unto your testimonies and not to covetousness”—and to “make use” of it for a wise and benevolent purpose. But the term is liable to be understood to denote more than merely permissive divine agency, and it would have prevented some misapprehension and misrepresentation of the doctrine of predestination if it had always been strictly confined to the efficient agency of God in the origin of holiness. The author of sin is necessarily a sinner, and he who inclines a will to sin, in the strict sense of “incline,” is the author of sin. God is indisputably the author of holiness, when by regeneration he inclines the unregenerate to will holily. But Augustine invariably denies that God is the author of sin, while he invariably affirms that he is the author of holiness: “If anyone suffers some hurt through another’s wickedness or error, the man indeed sins whose ignorance or injustice does the harm; but God, who by his just though hidden judgment permits it to be done, sins not” (City of God 21.13).
For a fuller account of the double predestination to both holiness and sin, see Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, 88–95.
3.6.7 (see p. 321). Möhler in his Symbolics contends that the doctrine of the absolute dependence of man upon God, held by both Luther and Calvin, makes God the author of sin. Baur (Gegensatz, 145–46) replies as follows: “If man is absolutely dependent upon God, it seems, certainly, that with the same right and reason that all goodness is to be carried back to divine agency, all evil also has God for its efficient and working cause. Nevertheless the Reformers do not concede this inference, and as decidedly as they derive all goodness from God only, so decidedly do they also assert that man alone bears the guilt of evil. Often as Calvin speaks of the fall of man as a fall foreordained of God, he at the same time designates it as a fall self-incurred and culpable. ‘The first man fell,’ so reads the leading passage on this point (3.23.8–9), ‘because the Lord had considered it expedient for it to occur; he conceals from us why he considered it so. Nevertheless, it is certain that he would not have considered it unless he saw that the glory of his name would deservedly be illustrated from it. Wherever you hear mention of the glory of God, here think of justice. For that which deserves praise must be just. Therefore man fell, God’s providence so ordaining. Nevertheless, man fell through his own fault.87 [In a note Baur adds, “It is remarkable that Möhler repeatedly cites this passage from Calvin, but in every instance omits the clause upon which everything depends: ‘but he [man] fell through his own fault.’88 His bold assertion in his New Investigations §125 that the vitio suo cadere is not omitted is refuted by ocular demonstration (Augenschein).”] The Lord had declared a bit earlier that all things which he had made were exceedingly good. From where, therefore, did man acquire that depravity that he might fall away from God? Lest it should be supposed that it arose from his creation, God had given his approval by his own brief pronouncement (elogio) of what he himself had originated. Therefore, man corrupted the pure nature, which he had received from the Lord, through his own wickedness. By his own ruin he drew his entire posterity into his destruction. Consequently, let us much rather contemplate the evident cause of the damnation of the human race in the corrupt nature, which is nearer to us, than looking to God’s predestination, which is hidden and thoroughly incomprehensible. For even though man was created that the eternal providence of God should subject him to that calamity, nevertheless he derived the matter of it from himself, not from God. In no other way did he perish than by degenerating from the pure creation of God into corrupt and impure perversity.’89 Can it be said any more plainly than it is here by Calvin that man is fallen by his own fault alone?”
While, however, Baur accurately states the view of Luther and Calvin in correction of the misconception of Möhler, he follows it with an explanation which ascribes to them his own theory of the origin of sin as the necessary evolution of the divine idea, instead, as the Reformers held, of the origination of sin by an act of man’s free will in Adam. In this, as in other instances, the remarkable power which this dogmatic historian possessed of perceiving and stating the contents of a theological system is vitiated by an obtuseness in expounding it which leads him to suppose that his own pantheistic explanation of it is what its author really meant. After the above-given analysis of Calvin’s doctrine he thus proceeds: “Is not this view, however, a logical inconsistency, whereby what is affirmed on one side of the proposition is denied on the other? How can man have fallen by free will and culpably, if he fell only because God so willed and ordained? Does not the all-determining and ordaining agency of God necessarily exclude all freedom of will? So indeed it looks; but everything depends upon the view taken of the nature of the evil which man received into his nature by the fall. If the fall can be conceived of only as a deterioration of the originally pure and holy nature of man as created by God, then the fall, or the evil coming into this nature by the fall, is related to this nature only as the negative is to the positive. Hence we must distinguish a positive and a negative side of human nature; all that belongs to the positive side is the nature as it was created by God, but what is negative in the positive cannot be carried back, like the positive, to the same divine activity, since it is to be regarded as only the negation and limitation of the creative activity of God in respect to man. Accordingly, what can the Calvinistic proposition ‘man fell, God so ordaining, but by his own fault’90 mean but merely this: Man, so far as he is created by God, is originally pure and good, but he has also a side of his being (Wesen) which is averse from God and finite, and therefore perverse and evil? As upon the one side [of his being] he bears the image of God in himself, so on the other side he has a fallen nature, and for this very reason the fall is his own fault, since if he is to be man he cannot be conceived of without this negativity and finiteness of being which places him wholly in the antithesis (Gegensatz, point of indifference) between infinite and finite, perfect and imperfect, positive and negative, good and evil. He is therefore the original sin itself that is imputable to him, so far as this negativity and finiteness which is the source of all evil in him so belongs to the conception of his being that it cannot be separated from it; on which account the fall, at least ideally, must be eternally attributed to the nature of man. But since all that the fall potentially includes for human nature can be conceived only as something to be developed consequentially and additionally; inasmuch as the evil is ever only in the good and is antithetic to it as the negative is to the positive; therefore Calvin represents the fall not merely as an absolutely necessary consequence, but also as a contingent and arbitrary one. ‘In his perfect condition,’ says Calvin (1.15.8), ‘man was endowed with free will, by which if he had so inclined he might have obtained eternal life. Adam could have stood if he would, since he fell merely by his own will; but because his will was flexible to either side and he was not endowed with constancy to persevere in holiness, therefore he fell so easily. He had, indeed, received the power to persevere in holiness if he chose to exert it; but he had not the will to use that power, for perseverance would have been the consequence of this will.’ ”
This explanation of Calvin’s meaning in these extracts from the Institutes is as far as possible from the truth. Calvin teaches that human nature as created was positive only; Baur, that it was positive and negative together. Calvin teaches that it was good only; Baur, that it was good and evil together. Calvin teaches that God is unconditioned in the creative act; Baur, that there is “a negation and limitation of the creative activity of God.” Calvin teaches that sin is an origination from nothing91 by the self-determination of the human will; Baur, that it is a development of the positive and negative sides of human nature. Calvin makes original sin to be culpable because it is the product of man; Baur destroys its culpability (while at the same time asserting it) by making it to be the man himself in the necessary evolution of his being. Baur asserts that evil belongs necessarily and eternally to the idea of man and that he cannot be conceived of as man without it; Calvin denies this. Baur holds that “the idea of human nature can be realized only through the medium of the fall and of sin”; Calvin holds that sin is not only not necessary to the ideal and perfect condition of human nature, but is the absolute ruin of it. Baur declares that man is culpable for sin because while “on one side of his being he bears the image of God, on the other side of it he has a fallen nature which is averse from God and is evil because it is finite”; Calvin would deny that man is culpable for sin, if sin were one of two sides of his being and if finiteness is intrinsically evil. In brief, the difference between Calvin’s and Baur’s theories of sin is as wide as between the theistic and pantheistic views of God, man, and the universe, from which each theory takes its start and in which each has its basis.
There are some passages both in Calvin and Augustine which on the face of them seem to teach that God’s agency in relation to sin is efficient and not permissive. They are passages in which the term incline is used. Augustine (Grace and Free Will 41), after citing David’s words to Abishai respecting Shimei, “Let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him” (2 Sam. 16:11), remarks: “It was not by a command that he bade him, in which case his obedience would be praiseworthy; but by his own just and secret judgment. He inclined (inclinavit) the man’s will, which had become debased by his own perverseness, to commit this sin.” That “incline” does not here mean inward actuation or “working in the will to will and to do” is evident from the following considerations: (1) Augustine denies that God commanded Shimei to curse David; for in this case, says he, “he would have deserved to be praised rather than punished, as we know he was afterward punished for this sin.” But God works efficiently in the human will to do what he commands or to do duty. (2) Augustine, in the context, explains “incline” by “using the heart of a wicked man”: “See what proof we have here that God uses the hearts of even wicked men for the praise and assistance of the good.” (3) He describes Shimei’s will, which God inclined, as a will already wickedly inclined: “He inclined the man’s will, which had become debased by his own perverseness, to commit this sin.” These explanations show that Augustine employs the term incline in the biblical and oriental sense of giving the will up to its own inclining. When David prays to God: “Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity” (Ps. 141:4) or “incline not my heart to covetousness” (119:36), he prays that God would not leave his heart or will to its willful propensity to sin. This is not a prayer that God would work inwardly upon his will to make it wicked and covetous. It was already so. As in the biblical and oriental idiom when God is said to harden when he does not soften (Rom. 9:18) and to blind when he does not enlighten (11:8, 10; John 12:40; Isa. 6:10), so he is said to incline when he does not disincline. In all these instances of inclining, hardening, and blinding, the existence and presence of sin is supposed in the person of whom they are predicated. As Augustine (Grace and Free Will 43) says: “Whenever you read in the Scriptures of truth that men are led aside or that their hearts are blunted and hardened by God, never doubt that some ill deserts of their own have first occurred, so that they justly suffer these things. Then you will not run against that proverb of Solomon: ‘The foolishness of a man perverts his ways, yet he blames God in his heart’ (Prov. 19:3).”
The phraseology of Calvin upon this subject is like that of Augustine. In 2.4.4 he remarks: “Moses expressly declared to the people of Israel that it was the Lord who had made the heart of their enemies obstinate (Deut. 2:30). The psalmist, reciting the same history, says: ‘He turned their heart to hate his people’ (Ps. 105:25). Now, it cannot be said that they stumbled (impegisse) [merely] because they were destitute of the counsel of God. For if they are ‘made obstinate’ and are ‘turned,’ they are designedly inclined (destinato flectuntur) to this very thing. Besides, whenever it has pleased God to punish the transgressions of his people, how has he accomplished his work by means of the reprobate? In such a manner that anyone may see that the power of acting (efficaciam agendi) proceeded from him and that they were the ministers of his will.” Again, he says (1.18.2): “Nothing can be more explicit than God’s frequent declarations that he blinds the minds of men, strikes them with giddiness, inebriates them with the spirit of slumber, fills them with infatuation, and hardens their hearts. These passages many persons refer to permission, as though, in abandoning the reprobate, God only permitted them to be blinded by Satan. But this solution is frivolous, since the Holy Spirit expressly declares that their blindness and infatuation are inflicted by the righteous judgment of God.” That this phraseology is not intended to teach that God works in the human will “to will and to do” evil is evident for the following reason: Calvin teaches that the agency of God in relation to sin is different from that of man. He says (1.18.2): “Some elude the force of these expressions [concerning God’s hardening, etc.] with a foolish cavil; that since Pharaoh himself is said to have hardened his own heart his own will is the [only] cause of his obduracy; as if these two things did not agree well together, although in different modes (licet diversis modis), namely, that when man is made to act by God, he nevertheless is active himself (ubi agitur a deo, simul tamen agere).” The mode, according to Calvin, in which God acts when he “hardens” the human heart is …
1.      By voluntary permission, not involuntary or “bare” permission. God decides to permit the sinful will to sin, though he could prevent it: “It is nugatory to substitute for the [active] providence of God a bare [passive] permission; as though God were sitting in a watchtower awaiting fortuitous events, and so his decisions were dependent on the will of man” (1.18.1).
2.      By positively withdrawing the restraints of conscience and the common influences of the Spirit, after they have been resisted and made ineffectual, as taught by St. Paul in Rom. 1:24, 28
3.      By using the agency of Satan (described in John 13:2, 27): “I grant, indeed, that God often actuates (agere) the reprobate by the interposition of Satan; but in such a manner that Satan himself acts his part by the divine impulse and proceeds only so far as God appoints” (1.18.2). “According to one view of the subject, it is said: ‘If the prophet be deceived when he has spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet’ (Ezek. 14:9). But according to another, God is said himself to give men over to a reprobate mind (Rom. 1:28) and to the vilest lusts; because he is the principal author of his own righteous retribution, and Satan is only the dispenser of it” (1.18.1).
“The whole,” says Calvin (1.18.1), “may be summed up thus: that as the will of God is said to be the cause of all things, his providence is established as the governor in all the counsels and works of man, so that it not only exerts its power in the elect, who are influenced by the Holy Spirit, but also compels the compliance of the reprobate.” The term compel here, like the term necessitate, is employed in the sense of “making certain” (see also supplement 4.5.14).
Finally, while the inward actuation of the human will “to will and to do” right is invariably represented by Calvin as the agency of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing in his harshest and most unguarded teachings concerning God’s predestination of the nonelect to sin that can be construed to mean that the Holy Spirit in the same manner, by inward actuation, works in the sinner “to will and to do” wrong. Calvin drew up the Gallican Confession of 1559. Article 8 says: “We believe that God not only created all things, but that he governs and directs them, disposing and ordaining by his sovereign will all that happens in the world; not that he is the author of evil or that the guilt of it can be imputed to him, seeing that his will is the sovereign and infallible rule of all right and justice; but he has wonderful means of so making use of devils and sinners that he can turn to good the evil which they do and of which they are guilty.” Again, in his articles on predestination (Opera 9.713), he says: “Although the will of God is the first and highest cause of all things and God has the devil and all the wicked subject to his decree (arbitrio), yet he cannot be called the cause of sin nor the author of evil nor is he obnoxious to any blame. Although the devil and the reprobated are the servants and instruments of God and execute his secret judgments, yet God so operates in an incomprehensible manner in and by them that he contracts no corruption from their fault, because he uses their wickedness rightly and justly for a good end, although the mode and manner is often hidden from us. They act ignorantly and calumniously who say that God is the author of sin, if all things occur according to his will and ordination; because they do not distinguish between the manifested depravity of man and the secret decrees of God.”
3.6.8 (see p. 323). “What I will is fate,” says God, according to Milton; by which he means that what God wills is certain to occur. This statement does not imply that the action of the human will is necessitated because it is willed by God. For God wills this species of action as the action of mind not of matter, self-action, or self-motion and therefore it is free action. If he willed it as physical action ab extra,92 like the fall of a stone by the action of gravity which is extraneous to the stone, it would be involuntary and compulsory action. When God wills physical action in the material world, his “will is fate” in the sense of necessity, because he wills the action of impersonal and involuntary agents. But when he wills personal and voluntary action in the moral world, his “will is fate” in the sense of certainty, because he wills the action of self-determining agents. There is nothing in the idea of certainty that implies compulsion. It is certain that some men will steal tomorrow, but this does not make their theft involuntary and necessitated.
The pagan conception of fate, as something to which God is subject, is expressed by Aeschylus (Prometheus Bound 524–27):
Chorus: Who then is it that manages the helm of necessity?
Prometheus: The triform Fates and the unforgetful Furies.
Chorus: Is Jupiter less powerful than these?
Prometheus: Most certainly he cannot in any way escape his doom.
Cicero asserted human freedom, but denied divine foreknowledge as incompatible with it. Augustine (City of God 5.9) combats his view. Anselm (Why the God-Man? 2.18) makes a distinction between antecedent and subsequent necessity, which is valuable in explaining the self-motion and responsibility of the enslaved will: “There is an antecedent necessity which is the cause of a thing, and there is also a subsequent necessity arising from the thing itself. Thus when the heavens are said to revolve, it is an antecedent and efficient necessity, for they must revolve. But when I say that you speak of necessity because you are speaking, this is nothing but a subsequent and inoperative necessity. For I only mean that it is impossible for you to speak and not to speak at the same time and not that someone compels you to speak. This subsequent necessity pertains to everything, so that we say: Whatever has been necessarily has been. Whatever is must be. Whatever is to be of necessity will be. Wherever there is an antecedent necessity, there is also a subsequent one; but not vice versa. For we can say that the heaven revolves of necessity, because it revolves; but it is not likewise true that because you speak you do it of necessity.” In the instance of subsequent necessity within the voluntary or moral sphere, the necessity is made by a foregoing free act of the will. Says Anselm (Why the God-Man? 2.5): “When one does a benefit from a necessity to which he is unwillingly subjected, less thanks are due to him or none at all. But when he freely places himself under the necessity of benefiting another and sustains that necessity without reluctance, then he certainly deserves greater thanks for the favor. For this should not be called necessity but grace, inasmuch as he undertook it not with any constraint, but freely. For what you promise today of your own accord that you will give tomorrow, you give tomorrow with the same willingness that you promised it, though it be ‘necessary’ for you to redeem your promise or make yourself a liar.”
Applying this distinction to the fall of mankind in Adam: There was no antecedent necessity that this fall from holiness should occur. It was left to the self-determination of the human will whether it should occur. But having occurred, then there was a subsequent necessity of two kinds: (1) it was necessary that what is should be; and (2) it was necessary that sin having freely originated should continue to be, because of its enslaving effect upon the will that originated it.
Voluntary action, be it inclination or volition, is certain to occur, whether the certainty be ascribed to chance or to the divine decree. If it can be made certain by chance, this would not prove that it was necessitated in the sense of compelled. For the very object which the opponent of decrees has in view in asserting that voluntary actions are fortuitous is to evince thereby that they are free. If, again, a voluntary act can be made certain by leaving the will to itself and exerting no divine influence of any kind upon it, this would not prove that it was necessitated in the sense of compelled. This shows that certainty and necessity are not synonyms. In English usage the term necessity sometimes denotes compulsion and sometimes only certainty. Consider the two following propositions: It is certain and necessary that a stone will fall by gravitation; it is certain and necessary that man will incline and exert volitions. In the first of these propositions the certainty is also strict necessity, because it is brought about by a force of nature; in the last, the certainty is not strict necessity, because it is brought about by the self-motion of the human will.
3.6.9 (see p. 326). Augustine teaches that the number of the elect is definite and fixed: “I speak of those who are predestinated to the kingdom of God, whose number is so certain that a single one can neither be added to them nor taken from them. For that the number of elect is certain and neither to be increased nor diminished, it signified by John the Baptist when he says, ‘Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance, and think not to say within yourselves we have Abraham to our father; for God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.’ This shows that those who do not produce the fruits of true repentance will be cast off and others put in their places, so that the complete number of the spiritual seed promised to Abraham should not be wanting. The certain number of the elect is yet more plainly declared in the Apocalypse: ‘Hold fast that which you have, lest another take your crown’ (Rev. 3:11). For if another is not to receive unless one has lost, the number is fixed” (Rebuke and Grace 39).
3.6.10 (see p. 327). Milton (Paradise Lost 3.129) assigns as the reason for the preterition of the fallen angels and the election of fallen man the fact that the fall of the former was a more willful act than that of the latter, because it occurred without external temptation:
The first sort by their own suggestion fell,
Self-tempted, self-depraved; man falls deceived
By the other first: man therefore shall find grace,
The others none.
But this is contrary to St. Paul’s doctrine of election and preterition, according to which neither of the two is explicable by the fact of more or less sin in the parties, and the reason for the discrimination is wholly secret (Rom. 9:11–12). The difference in the treatment of individuals, both in regard to the gifts of providence and the gifts of grace, is like the difference in the world of material nature. If we ask, Why ten blades of grass rather than nine grow up in a particular spot, the answer is that it is the will of the Creator. But if we ask, Why the Creator so willed, the reply must be, as in the instance of election and preterition, that the reason is unknown.
Augustine (Rebuke and Grace 27) thus describes the elect and nonelect angels: “We believe that the God and Lord of all things, who created all things very good and foreknew that evil things would arise out of good and knew that it belonged to his omnipotent goodness even to educe good out of evil things rather than not to allow evil things to be at all, so ordained the life of angels and men that in it he might first of all show what their free will was capable of and then what the compassion of his grace and the righteousness of his justice was capable of. In brief, certain angels, of whom the chief is he who is called the devil, became by free will outcasts from the Lord God. Yet although they fled from his goodness wherein they had been blessed, they could not flee from his judgment by which they were made most wretched. Others, however, by the same free will stood fast in the truth and obtained the knowledge of that most certain truth that they should never fall.” Augustine omits to mention the reason why the free will of these latter persevered in holiness, namely, the bestowment of a higher grade of grace than that given in creation to both classes of angels alike. The grace given by creation to all angels was sufficient to enable them all to persevere in holiness, but not to prevent their apostasy. But the grace given to those who did not fall was sufficient to “keep them from falling.” This constituted them elect angels, the others being nonelect. Angelic election and nonelection have reference to perseverance or continuance in holiness; human election and nonelection, to perseverance or continuance in sin. A holy angel if kept in holiness is an elect angel; if not kept, but left to decide the event of apostasy for himself, is a nonelect angel. A sinful man if delivered from sin by regenerating grace is an elect man; if left in sin, is a nonelect man. Angelic election and nonelection relate to the perpetuity of holiness; human election and nonelection to the perpetuity of sin.
3.6.11 (see p. 328). The following is the view of Socrates concerning God and evil: “We must not listen to Homer or any other poet who is guilty of the folly of saying that ‘at the threshold of Zeus lie two casks full of lots, one of good, the other of evil’ (Iliad 24.527), and again, ‘Zeus is the dispenser of good and evil to us.’ And if anyone asserts that the violation of oaths and treaties of which Pandarus was the real author (Iliad 2.69) was brought about by Athena and Zeus, he shall not have our approval; neither will we allow our young men to hear the words of Aeschylus, when he says that ‘God plants guilt among men when he desires utterly to destroy a house.’ The poet may say that the wicked are miserable because they require to be punished and are benefited by receiving punishment from God; but that God, being good, is the author of evil to anyone is to be strenuously denied and not allowed to be sung or said in any well-ordered commonwealth by old or young. Such a fiction is suicidal, ruinous, impious. Let this then be one of the rules of recitation and invention—that God is not the author of evil, but of good only.” The good and evil spoken of in the first two extracts from Homer are physical good and evil, but that spoken of in the third extract from Homer and in the extract from Aeschylus is moral good and evil. God may be the author of the first without dishonor to his nature, but not of the second.
3.6.12 (see p. 329). While revelation teaches that the majority of the human race are saved by Christ’s redemption, it also teaches that the lost minority are a large multitude; but much less than those of the saved and infinitely less than the immense number of the holy and blessed in the whole universe of God. The fact of sin looks very differently when confined to the small sphere of earth from what it does when viewed from the immense range of the universe. Even if there had been no redemption of man and the whole family of mankind had been left like the fallen angels in their voluntary and self-originated ruin, the proportion of moral evil in the wide creation of God would still have been small. The kingdom of God is infinitely greater than that of Satan. Holy angels and redeemed men vastly outnumber lost angels and lost men. The human race has had an existence of only six or eight thousand years, but the “heavenly host” has existed ages upon ages. The supplication “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” implies that heaven is the rule in the universe of God, and hell the exception. God “inhabits the praises of eternity” and of infinity. This means that praises have been ascending to him from the hosts of holy intelligences during a past eternity, compared with which the short duration of man’s existence on earth is nothing. While, therefore, earth appears gloomy and dark because of apostasy, the illimitable universe looks bright and glorious because of obedience and holiness. This is often forgotten and explains the exaggerated statements of both infidels and Christians concerning the extent of moral evil, making the problem of sin more difficult of explanation with reference to the benevolence and power of God. For if sin had been permitted throughout all of God’s dominions in the same proportion that it has been in the little province called earth, it would have required a greater faith in God’s unsearchable wisdom than it does now. When, therefore, the theologian is depressed and tempted to “charge God foolishly” because of the reign of sin and death among the generations of men, let him look up and out into the immense universe of God and remember that through this vast range of being there is innocence and purity and the love and worship of God.
Leibnitz (Theodicy, 509 §1.19 [ed. Erdmann]), who with Augustine assumed that the majority of mankind are lost, relieves this opinion by the observation that this is an insignificant number compared with that of the holy and happy in the remainder of the universe. In this way he makes out that the existing universe is the best possible, notwithstanding that there is so much sin and misery in this planet on which man is placed. Howe (Christian’s Triumph) also says: “Consider how minute a part of the creation of God this globe of earth is, where death has reigned. For aught we know, death never reaches higher than this earth of ours; and therefore there are vast and ample regions, incomparably beyond the range of our thought, where no death ever comes. We are told (Eph. 1:20–21) that God has set the mediator in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and dominion; angels, authorities, and powers being made subject to him. Though we cannot form distinct thoughts what these dominions are, yet we cannot but suppose those inconceivably vast regions peopled with immortal inhabitants that live and reign in holy life and blessedness. Furthermore, death is to be confined and go no further. In the future state of things all death is to be gathered into death, and hell into hell (Rev. 20:14). It shall be contracted, gathered into itself. Whereas formerly it ranged to and fro uncontrolled, it now is confined to its own narrow circle and can get no new subjects and shall therefore give no further trouble or disturbance to the rest of God’s universe.”
Similarly, Baxter (Dying Thoughts) remarks that “God’s infinite kingdom is not to be judged of by his jail or gibbets. And what though God give not to all men an overcoming measure of grace, nor to the best of men so much as they desire, yet the earth is but a spot or point of God’s creation; not so much as an anthillock to a kingdom or perhaps to all the earth. And who is scandalized because the earth has a heap of ants in it, yea, or a nest of snakes that are not men? The vast, unmeasurable worlds of light which are above us are possessed by inhabitants suitable to their glory.”
Such a broad and lofty view of holiness compared with sin as this should be introduced into eschatology and mitigate the dark subject of moral evil, not by the unscriptural doctrine of future redemption and the denial of endless punishment, but by the biblical teaching of the infinitude of holiness and blessedness and the finiteness of sin and misery.
If it is proper to attempt to compute the number of lost men, perhaps the statement is measurably correct that most of them belong to early manhood, middle age, and old age. All infants who die in infancy are saved by infant regeneration. This constitutes one-half of the human family. Of the other half, there is reason to hope that the majority of those who die in childhood and youth are regenerated. Original sin, in their case, has not been intensified by actual transgression to the degree that it is in early manhood, middle life, and old age. Consequently, the influence of religious instruction in the family, the Sabbath school, and the sanctuary is more effective in them than upon adults generally. The total population of school age in the United States is 22,447,392. Of these, 9,718,422 are Sabbath school scholars. The majority of conversions are between the ages of six and twenty years. This leaves adults from twenty to seventy years; and looking abroad over the world as it now appears, the millennium not being considered, there is melancholy reason to fear that the majority of these do not turn from sin to God. This part of mankind is more inclined and self-determined to this world, more absorbed in its business and pleasures, more sunk in hardened vice and besotted luxury, and less susceptible to the influence of divine truth. Few of them are in the Bible class, and a very large number of them never enter the sanctuary for religious instruction. The greater part of the lost, consequently, come from this class. Few of this class, to human view, have the broken and contrite spirit of the publican respecting their personal sinfulness, and any son of Adam who goes into the divine presence unable, because unwilling, to pray, “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” is a lost spirit.
That more mankind are lost than are saved was, on the whole, the patristic and medieval opinion. The doctrine that baptism by the church is necessary to salvation, which prevailed universally in those periods, contributed to this. Augustine teaches that the elect are the minority of mankind: “St. Paul says, ‘Not as the offense so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many.’ Not many more, that is, many more men, for there are not more persons justified than condemned; but it runs, much more has abounded; since, while Adam produced sinners from his one sin, Christ has by his grace procured free forgiveness even for the sins which men have of their own accord added by actual transgression to the original sin in which they were born” (Forgiveness and Baptism 1.14). “As many of the human race as are delivered by God’s grace are delivered from the condemnation in which they are held bound by the sin in Adam. Hence, even if none should be delivered, no one can justly blame the judgment of God. That, therefore, in comparison with those that perish, few, but in their absolute number many, are delivered from this condemnation, is effected by grace (gratia), is effected gratuitously (gratis); and thanks must be given because it is effected so that no one may be lifted up as of his own deservings, but that every mouth may be stopped, and he that glories may glory in the Lord” (Rebuke and Grace 28). “It is a matter of fact that not all nor even a majority of mankind are saved” (Enchiridion 97).
3.6.13 (see p. 332). The following texts are sometimes erroneously explained to teach that election is mutable: “Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil” (John 6:70); the election meant here is not election to salvation; but to the apostolate. “He called unto him his disciples; and of them he chose twelve whom he also named apostles” (Luke 6:13). “Those whom you gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition: that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). The particles ei mē93 qualifying ho huios tēs apoleias94 are adversative, making two propositions, not exceptive, making only one. None of those whom the Father had given to Christ and whom Christ had kept were lost is the first proposition. But the son of perdition is lost that the Scripture might be fulfilled is the second. The son of perdition in the second proposition is not one of those whom Christ kept in the first proposition. Luke 4:27 (cf. 4:25–26) illustrates: “Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian.” The particles ei mē95 qualifying neeman ho syrios96 are not exceptive here, as the word saving implies, but adversative. Naaman was not one of the lepers of Israel and so was not an exception, belonging to them. The true rendering, therefore, of John 17:12 is as follows: “Those whom you gave me I have kept, and none of them [whom you gave me] is lost; but the son of perdition [is lost] that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” This is Turretin’s explanation (4.12.24).
3.6.14 (see p. 335). Bunyan (Reprobation Asserted, chap. 10) clearly states the difference between common grace and saving grace as follows: “There is a great difference between the grace of election and the grace in the general tenders of the gospel: a difference as to its timing, latituding, and working. (1) Touching its timing; it is before, yea, long before there was either tender of the grace in the general offer of the gospel to any or any need of such a tender. [The grace of election is from eternity; that of the general offer is at a particular time.] (2) Touching the latitude or extent; the tenders of grace in the gospel are common and universal to all, but the extension of that of election is special and peculiar to some. ‘There is a remnant according to the election of grace.’ (3) Touching the working of the grace of election, it differs from the working of grace in the general offers of the gospel in the following particulars: (a) The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel calls for faith to lay hold upon and accept thereof; but the special grace of election works that faith which does lay hold thereof. (b) The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel calls for faith as a condition to be performed by us, without which there is no life; but the special grace of election works faith in us without any such condition. [It imparts the life which produces the faith.] (c) The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel promotes happiness upon the condition of persevering in the faith; but the special grace of election causes this perseverance. (d) The grace offered in the general tenders of the gospel, when it sparkles most, leaves the greatest part of men behind it; but the special grace of election, when it shines least, does infallibly bring every soul therein concerned to everlasting life. (e) A man may overcome and put out all the light that is begotten in him by the general tenders of the gospel; but none shall overcome or make void or frustrate the grace of election. (f) The general tenders of the gospel, apart from the concurrence with them of the grace of election, are insufficient to save the elect himself as well as the nonelect.”
3.6.15 (see p. 336). Augustine teaches preterition in the following places: “Faith, as well in its beginning as in its completion, is God’s gift. But why it is not given to all ought not to disturb the believer who believes that from one all have gone into a condemnation which undoubtedly is most righteous; so that even if none were delivered therefrom there would be no just cause for finding fault with God. Whence it is plain that it is a great grace for many to be delivered, and that those who are not delivered should acknowledge what is due to themselves. But why God delivers one rather than another—his judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out” (Predestination 16). “So far as concerns justice and mercy, it may be truly said to the guilty who is condemned and also concerning the guilty who is saved, ‘Take what yours is, and go your way; I will give unto this one that which is not due. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye evil [envious] because I am good?’ And if he shall say, ‘Why not to me also?’ he will hear, and with reason, ‘Who are you, O man, that replies against God?’ And although in the one case you see a most benignant benefactor and in the other a most righteous exactor, in neither case do you behold an unjust God. For although God would be righteous if he were to punish both, yet he who is saved has good ground for thankfulness, and he who is condemned has no ground for finding fault” (Perseverance 16). “I do not know the reason why one or another is more or less helped or not helped by that grace which restrains sinful self-will and changes it; this only I know, that God does this with perfect justice and for reasons which to himself are known as sufficient” (Letter 95.6 to Paulinus, a.d. 408).
Augustine teaches that preterition does not apply to baptized infants: “Persons, whether parents or others, who attempt to place those who have been baptized under idolatry and heathen worship are guilty of spiritual homicide. True, they do not actually kill the children’s souls, but they go as far toward killing them as is in their power. The warning, ‘Do not kill your little ones,’ may with all propriety be addressed to them; for the apostle says, ‘Quench not the Spirit’; not that he can be quenched [in baptized infants], but that those who so act as if they wished to have him quenched are deservedly spoken of as quenchers of the Spirit. In this sense the words of Cyprian are to be understood respecting the ‘lapsed’ who in times of persecution had sacrificed to idols: ‘And that nothing might be wanting to fill up the measure of their crime, their infant children lost, while yet in their infancy, that which they had received [in baptism] as soon as life began.’ They lost it, he meant, so far as pertained to the guilt of those by whom they were compelled to incur the loss; that is to say, they lost it in the purpose and wish of those who perpetrated on them such a wrong [as to bring them up in idolatry]. For had they actually in their own persons lost it, they must have remained under divine sentence of condemnation. But shall not these infants say when the judgment day has come: ‘We have done nothing; we have not of our own accord hastened to participate in profane rites, forsaking the bread and the cup of our Lord; the apostasy of others caused our destruction.’ Hence, in the just dispensation of judgment by God, those shall not be doomed to perish whose souls their parents did, so far as concerns their own guilt in the transaction, bring to ruin” (Letter 98.3 to Boniface, a.d. 408). “You must refer it to the hidden determination of God when you see in one and the same condition, such as all infants unquestionably have who derive their hereditary sin from Adam, that one is assisted so as to be baptized, and another is not assisted so that he dies in bondage” (Grace and Free Will 45).
3.6.16 (see p. 337). It is impossible to make sense of Rom. 11:7 without supposing two kinds of election and preterition, namely, national and individual, and two corresponding grades of grace, namely, common and special. St. Paul says that “Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for, but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” The “rest” of whom? The rest of Israel, of course. Whom does he mean by “Israel”? All of the descendants of Abraham. These were all without exception nationally elected. They were all without exception “Israelites, to whom pertains the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the promises, whose are the fathers and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever” (9:4–5). This national election entitled the subjects of it to all the blessings of the theocracy on condition of observing the Mosaic ordinances and keeping the theocratic covenant, of which circumcision was the sign and seal. Ishmael as well as Isaac, Esau as well as Jacob, were sealed with the sign of circumcision and were entitled, together with their offspring, to the blessings of the theocracy, if faithful in this relation. By birth they all belonged to the chosen people and the national church. “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Heb. 11:20; Gen. 27:27, 39). But Ishmael and Esau and their descendants separated from the theocracy and renounced the messianic covenant and for this reason, though born of Abraham, failed to obtain the messianic salvation: “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord; yet I loved Jacob and I hated Esau” (Mal. 1:2–3). Jacob I effectually called, and Esau I left to his own will. Ishmael, Esau, and their descendants together with a part of the descendants of Isaac and Jacob were the “rest that were blinded” (Rom. 11:7); who “were Jews outwardly, but not inwardly” (2:28–29); who “were of Israel, but were not Israel” (9:6); who “were the seed of Abraham, but were not children” (9:7); who were nationally but not individually and spiritually elected. If there is but one election, namely, the national and universal, there can be no discrimination like this, no “rest that were blinded.” But in one case, according to the apostle, the election includes all of the descendants of Abraham; in the other, only a part of them. The entire Hebrew nation was outwardly called by the ministry of the law, moral and ceremonial. Many of them rejected this call and did not obtain salvation. A part of them were individually and effectually called and were saved.
Calvin (3.21.5–7) thus distinguishes between national and individual election: “Predestination we call the eternal decree of God by which he has determined in himself what he would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death. This, God has not only testified in particular persons, but has given a specimen of it in the whole posterity of Abraham, which should evidently show the future condition of every nation to depend upon his decision. ‘When the Most High divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, the Lord’s portion was his people; Jacob was the lot of his inheritance’ (Deut. 32:8–9). The separation is before the eyes of all; in the person of Abraham, as in the dry trunk of a tree, one people is peculiarly chosen to the rejection of others: no reason for this appears, except that Moses, to deprive their posterity of all occasion of glorying, teaches them that their exaltation is wholly from God’s gratuitous love (7:7–8; 10:14–15). There is a second degree of election, still more restricted, or that in which divine grace was displayed in a more special manner, when of the same race of Abraham God rejected some and by nourishing others in the church proved that he retained them among his children. Ishmael at first obtained the same station [of national election] as his brother Isaac, for the spiritual covenant was equally sealed in him by the symbol of circumcision. He is cut off [in individual election]; afterward Esau is and, last, an innumerable multitude, and almost all Israel are. In Isaac the seed was called; the same calling continued in Jacob. God exhibited a similar example in the rejection of Saul, which is celebrated by the psalmist: ‘He refused the tabernacle of Joseph and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah’ (Ps. 78:67–68). I grant that it was by their own crime and guilt that Ishmael, Esau, and persons of similar character fell from [national] adoption; because the condition annexed was that they should faithfully keep the covenant of God, which they perfidiously violated. Malachi thus aggravates the ingratitude of Israel, because though not only nationally elected out of the whole race of mankind, but also separated from a sacred family to be a peculiar people, they despised God, their most beneficent Father. ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord; yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau’ (Mal. 1:2–3).
“Though it is sufficiently clear that God in his secret counsel freely chooses whom he will and rejects others, his gratuitous election is but half displayed till we come to particular individuals to whom God not only offers salvation, but assigns it in such a manner that the certainty of the effect is liable to no suspense or doubt. That the general election of a people is not invariably effectual and permanent, a reason readily presents itself, because when God covenants with them he does not also give them the spirit of regeneration to enable them to persevere in the covenant to the end; but the external call, without the internal efficacy of grace, which would be sufficient for their preservation, is a kind of medium between the rejection of all mankind and the election of the small number of believers.”
3.6.17 (see p. 337). Calvin in his comment on Rom. 9:8 thus describes the difference between common and special grace: “Two things are to be considered in reference to the selection by God of the posterity of Abraham as a peculiar people. The first is that the promise of blessing through the Messiah has a relation to all who can trace their natural descent from him. It is offered to all without exception, and for this reason they are all denominated the heirs of the covenant made with Abraham and the children of promise. It was God’s will that his covenant with Abraham should be sealed by the rite of circumcision with Ishmael and Esau, as well as with Isaac and Jacob, which shows that the former were not wholly excluded from him. Accordingly, all the lineal descendants of Abraham are denominated by St. Peter (Acts 3:25) the ‘children of the covenant,’ though they were unbelieving; and St. Paul, in this chapter (v. 4), says of unbelieving Jews: ‘Whose are the covenants.’ The second point to be considered is that this covenant, though thus offered, was rejected by great numbers of the lineal descendants of Abraham. Such Jews, though they are ‘of Israel,’ they are not the ‘children of the promise.’ When, therefore, the whole Jewish people are indiscriminately denominated the heritage and peculiar people of God, it is meant that they have been selected from other nations, the offer of salvation through the Messiah has been made to them and confirmed by the symbol of circumcision. But inasmuch as many reject this outward adoption and thus enjoy none of its benefits, there arises another difference with regard to the fulfillment of the promise. The general and national election of the people of Israel not resulting in faith and salvation is no hindrance that God should not choose from among them those whom he pleases to make the subjects of his special grace. This is a second election, which is confined to a part, only, of the nation.”
3.6.18 (see p. 340). The preterition of a part of mankind in the bestowment of regenerating grace presupposes the fall, according to Calvin. This places him among the sublapsarians. The following extracts from his Institutes show this: “If anyone attack us with such an inquiry as this, ‘Why God has from the beginning predestinated some men to death, who not yet being brought into existence could not yet deserve the sentence of death’ [This is the objector’s, not Calvin’s phraseology. In his reply, Calvin says, “previously to birth adjudged to endless misery,” not previously to creation], we will reply by asking them in return, What they suppose God owes to man if he chooses to judge of him from his own [sinful] nature. As we are all corrupted by sin, we must necessarily be odious to God and that not from tyrannical cruelty, but in the most equitable estimation of justice. If all whom the Lord predestinates to death are in their natural condition liable to the sentence of death, what injustice do they complain of receiving from him? Let all the sons of Adam come forward; let them all contend and dispute with their Creator, because by his eternal providence they were previously to their birth [not previously to their creation and fall in Adam, as the objector states it] adjudged to endless misery. What murmur will they be able to raise against this vindication when God, on the other hand, shall call them to a review of themselves. If they have all been taken from a corrupt mass, it is no wonder that they are subject to condemnation. Let them not, therefore, accuse God of injustice if his eternal decree has destined them to death, to which they feel themselves, whatever be their desire or aversion, spontaneously led forward by their own [sinful] nature. Hence appears the perverseness of their disposition to murmur, because they intentionally suppress the cause of condemnation which they are constrained to acknowledge in themselves, hoping to excuse themselves by charging it upon God. But though I ever so often admit God to be the author of it [i.e., the condemnation], which is perfectly correct, yet this does not abolish the guilt impressed upon their consciences and from time to time recurring to their view” (3.23.3). “They further object, ‘Were they not by the decree of God antecedently predestinated to that corruption which is now stated as the cause of condemnation? When they perish in their corruption, therefore, they only suffer the punishment of that misery into which, in consequence of God’s predestination, Adam fell and precipitated his posterity with him. Is not God unjust, therefore, in treating his creatures with such cruel mockery? I confess, indeed, that all the descendants of Adam fell by the divine will into that miserable condition in which they are now involved; and this is what I asserted from the beginning, that we must always return at last to the sovereign determination of God’s will, the cause of which is hidden in himself. But it follows not, therefore, that God is liable to this reproach [of justice]” (3.23.4). Calvin then gives two replies to the allegation that the fall of Adam, by being decreed by God, was necessitated by him. The first reply is that of St. Paul, “O man, who are you that replies against God?” “What stronger reason,” says Calvin, “can be presented than when we are directed to consider who God is? How could any injustice be committed by him who is the judge of the world? If it is the peculiar property of the nature of God to do justice, then he naturally loves righteousness and hates iniquity. The apostle, therefore, has not resorted to sophistry, as if he were in danger of confutation, but has shown that the reason of divine justice is too high to be measured by a human standard or comprehended by the littleness of the human mind” (3.23.4). The second reply is that sin is decreed in such a manner as not to interfere with the free agency and responsibility of Adam and his posterity in the fall. Before proceeding to this important particular, Calvin first objects to that statement of the permissive decree which makes God a mere passive spectator of the fall without a positive act of will concerning it and asserts with Augustine that “the permission is not involuntary but voluntary” (1.18.3). “Here they recur to the distinction between will and permission and insist that God permits the destruction of the wicked, but does not will it. But what reason shall we assign for his permitting it, but because it is his will? It is not probable that man procured his own destruction by the mere permission without any appointment (ordinatione) of God; as though God had not determined what he would choose to be the condition of the principal of his creatures. I shall not hesitate, therefore, to confess plainly with Augustine ‘that the will of God is the certainty (necessitatem) of things, and that what he has willed will certainly (necessario) come to pass; as those things are surely about to happen which he has foreseen’ ” (3.23.8). Having given what he regards as the true view of God’s permission of sin by a voluntary decree to permit it, Calvin then affirms that the fall of Adam thus actively-permissively decreed was free and guilty: “Now, if either Pelagians or Manicheans or Anabaptists or Epicureans (for we are concerned with these four sects in this argument), in excuse for themselves and the impious, plead the certainty (necessitatem) with which they are bound by God’s predestination, they allege nothing applicable to the case. For if predestination [to death] is no other than a dispensation of divine justice, mysterious, indeed, but liable to no blame, since it is certain that they were not unworthy of being predestinated to that fate, it is equally certain that the destination they incur by predestination is consistent with the strictest justice. Moreover, their perdition depends on divine predestination in such a manner that the cause and matter of it are found in themselves. For the first man fell because the Lord had determined it was so expedient. The reason of this determination is unknown to us. Man falls, therefore, according to the appointment of divine providence; but he falls by his own fault. The Lord had a little before pronounced ‘everything that he had made’ to be ‘very good.’ Whence, then, comes the depravity of man to revolt from his God? Lest it should be thought to come from creation, God had approved and commended what had proceeded from himself. By his own wickedness, therefore, Adam corrupted the nature he had received pure from the Lord, and by his fall he drew all his posterity with him into destruction. Wherefore let us rather contemplate the evident cause of condemnation, which is nearer to us in the corrupt nature of mankind, than search after a hidden and altogether incomprehensible one in the predestination of God” (3.23.8). Calvin quotes from Augustine to the same effect: “Wherefore there is the greatest propriety in the following observations of Augustine (Letter 106; Perseverance of the Saints 12): ‘The whole mass of mankind having fallen into condemnation in the first man, the vessels that are formed from it to honor are not vessels of personal righteousness, but of divine mercy; and the formation of others to dishonor is to be attributed not to iniquity [i.e., to a greater degree of iniquity], but to the divine decree.’ While God rewards those whom he rejects with deserved punishment and to those whom he calls freely gives undeserved grace, he is liable to no accusation, but may be compared to a creditor who has power to release one and enforce his demands on another. The Lord, therefore, may give grace to whom he will, because he is merciful, and yet not give it to all, because he is a just judge; may manifest his free grace by giving to some what they do not deserve, while by not giving to all he declares the demerits of all” (3.23.11).
Respecting the preterition of some by Christ in the days of his flesh, Calvin remarks as follows: “Christ testifies that he confined to his apostles the explanations of the parables in which he had addressed the multitude; ‘because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given’ (Matt. 13:11). What does the Lord mean, you will say, by teaching those by whom he takes care not to be understood? Consider whence the fault arises, and you will cease the inquiry; for whatever obscurity there is in the word, yet there is always light enough to convince the consciences of the wicked. It remains now to be seen why the Lord does that which it is evident he does. If it be replied that this is done because men have deserved it by their impiety, wickedness, and ingratitude, it will be a just and true observation; but as we have not yet discovered the reason of the diversity, why some persist in obduracy while others are inclined to obedience, the discussion of it will necessarily lead us to the same remark that Paul has quoted from Moses concerning Pharaoh: ‘Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth’ (Rom. 9:17). That the reprobate obey not the word of God when made known to them is justly imputed to the wickedness and depravity of their hearts, provided it be at the same time stated that they are abandoned to this depravity because they have been raised up by a just but inscrutable judgment of God to display his glory in their condemnation. So when it is related of the sons of Eli that they listened not to his salutary admonitions ‘because the Lord would slay them’ (1 Sam. 2:25), it is not denied that their obstinacy proceeded from their own wickedness, but it is also plainly implied that though the Lord was able to soften their hearts, yet they were left in their obstinacy, because his immutable decree had predestinated them to destruction” (3.24.13–14). “Examples of reprobation present themselves every day. The same sermon is addressed to a hundred persons; twenty receive it with the obedience of faith; the others despise or ridicule or reject or condemn it. If it be replied that the difference proceeds from their wickedness and perverseness, this will afford no satisfaction, because the minds of the others would have been influenced by the same wickedness but for the correction of divine goodness. And thus we shall always be perplexed, unless we recur to Paul’s question ‘who makes you to differ?’ in which he signifies that the excellence of some men beyond others is not from their own virtue, but solely from divine grace. Why, then, in bestowing [regenerating] grace upon some does he pass over others? Luke assigns a reason for the former, that they ‘were ordained to eternal life’ (Acts 13:48). What conclusion, then, shall be drawn respecting the latter, but that they are vessels of wrath to dishonor? Therefore let us not hesitate to say with Augustine (on Gen. 11:10), ‘God could convert the will of the wicked because he is omnipotent. It is evident that he could. Why, then, does he not? Because he would not. Why he would not remains with himself.’ For we ought not to aim at more wisdom than becomes us [by assigning some other reason for preterition than the sovereign will of God]. That will be much better than adopting the evasion of Chrysostom that ‘God draws those that are willing and who stretch out their hands for his aid’ so that the difference may not appear to consist in the decree of God, but wholly in the will of man” (3.24.12–13).
The doctrine that the sin of man was decreed, but in such a manner as to leave the origination of sin to the free agency of man was also held by Descartes. In his Principles of Philosophy 1.40–41 he remarks as follows: “What we have already discovered of God gives us assurance that his power is so immense that we would sin in thinking ourselves capable of ever doing anything which he had not ordained beforehand, and yet we should soon be embarrassed in great difficulties if we undertook to harmonize the preordination of God with the freedom of our will and endeavored to comprehend both truths at once. But in place of this we shall be free from these embarrassments if we recollect that our mind is limited, while the power of God, by which he not only knew from all eternity what is or can be, but also willed and preordained it, is infinite. It thus happens that we possess sufficient intelligence to know clearly and distinctly that this power is in God, but not enough to comprehend how he leaves the free actions of men indeterminate; and, on the other hand, we have such consciousness of the liberty which exists in ourselves that there is nothing we more clearly or perfectly comprehend, so that the omnipotence of God ought not to keep us from believing it. For it would be absurd to doubt of that of which we are fully conscious and which we experience as existing in ourselves, merely because we do not comprehend another matter which from its very nature we know to be incomprehensible.” This presents the subject in a practical and conclusive manner. The omnipotence of God requires a decree by which all things are ordained and come to pass, both good and evil, holiness and sin. For unless all events are under the control of his will he is not almighty. And the justice of God requires that, in the execution of the decree that sin shall come into the world, the free self-determination of man and his responsibility for sin shall be intact.
The doctrine of the permissive decree, as explained by Calvin, must be associated with the following statement of his, which has often been misconceived and misrepresented: “I inquire, again, how it came to pass that the fall of Adam, apart from any remedy (absque remedio), should involve so many nations with their infant children in eternal death, but because it was the will of God. It is an awe-exciting (horrible)97 decree I confess; but no one can deny that God foreknew the future final state of man before he created him and that he foreknew it because it was appointed by his own decree. This subject is judiciously discussed by Augustine. ‘We most wholesomely confess, what we most rightly believe, that the God and Lord of all things, who created everything very good and foreknew that it was more suitable to his almighty goodness to bring good out of evil than not to suffer evil to exist, ordained the life of angels and men in such a manner as to exhibit in it, first, what free will was capable of doing and, afterward, what could be effected by the blessings of his grace and the sentence of his justice’ ” (3.23.7). These extracts show that both Augustine and Calvin assert the decreed origin of human sin only in connection with a free and responsible fall in Adam. All mankind, as a common mass and unity, sinned and fell in the first self-moved and uncompelled act of transgression. That act was permissively decreed, that is, foreordained in such a way as not to necessitate the act, but to leave it to the self-determination of Adam and his posterity in him. The election of some men from sin and the leaving of others in sin suppose this free but foreordained fall from the holiness in which Adam and his posterity were primarily created. If the facts and premises upon which both Augustine and Calvin reason are granted, there is no ground for charging the doctrine of predestination to sin with either compulsion or fatalism.
The biblical proof of a permissive decree that brings about the event without working efficiently in the human will “to will and to do” is abundant. Take the following as an example: God decrees that Magog shall invade Israel: “Son of Man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus says the Lord God, In that day when my people of Israel dwells safely, shall you not know it? And you shall come from your place out of the north parts, you and many people with you, all of them riding upon horses, a great company and a mighty army; and you shall come up against my people of Israel as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days and I will bring you against my land that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in you, O Gog, before their eyes” (Ezek. 38:14–16). God also decrees that Gog shall fail in this invasion and that he will punish him for the attempt: “It shall come to pass at the same time, when Gog shall come up against the land of Israel, says the Lord God, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I said, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel. Therefore you Son of Man prophesy against Gog and say, Thus says the Lord God, Behold I am against you, O Gog, and I will turn you back and leave but the sixth part of you and will cause you to come up from the north parts and will bring you upon the mountains of Israel, and I will smite your bow out of your left hand and will cause your arrows to fall out of your right hand. And you shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your bands and the people that is with you; I will give you to the ravenous birds of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. You shall fall upon the open field; for I have spoken it, says the Lord God” (38:18–19; 39:1–5). It is impossible to suppose that the holy and just God positively inclined and inwardly changed the heart of Magog and his hosts from friendship toward himself and his people to enmity against them and then punished them for their hostility. And there is no need of so supposing. Gog and his hosts were a part of the human race which fell from holiness in Adam. They already had the carnal mind which is enmity against God. The permissive decree that they should invade Israel supposed this fallen condition. God decided not to counterwork against this evil heart, but to permit its free self-moved operation. An evil heart, if not restrained by divine grace, is infallibly certain to act wrongly. In determining not to hinder and prevent Gog from following his own evil free will, God made his invasion of Israel a certainty. At the same time this sure and certain agency of Gog was his own voluntary self-determination and deserving of the retribution which it received. This same reasoning applies to the case of Pharaoh and many others like it mentioned in Scripture. It will not apply, however, to the fall of man itself. The first origin of sin by the permissive decree presents a difficulty not found in the subsequent continuance of sin by it. The certainty that sin will continue to be, if God decides not to overcome it by regeneration and sanctification, is explicable; but the certainty that sin will come to be, if God decides not to originate it himself in the created will, but leaves the origination to the creature alone, is an insoluble problem, yet a revealed truth. It should be observed, however, that the first origin of sin in the fall of Adam has no connection with the doctrines of election and preterition. It is only the subsequent continuance of sin that is so connected. Some men are not elected to apostasy, and others passed by. The apostasy is universal, and there is no discrimination in this respect. But some men are elected to deliverance from apostasy, and some are not elected to deliverance and are left in sin (see Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, 93).
3.6.19 (see p. 343). One of the best defenses of the doctrine of preterition is found in Charnock (Holiness of God, prop. 7): “That God withdraws his grace from men and gives them up sometimes to the fury of their lusts is as clear in Scripture as anything: ‘The Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear’ (Deut. 29:4). Judas was delivered to Satan after the sop and put into his power for despising former admonitions. God often leaves the reins to the devil that he may use what efficacy he can in those that have offended the majesty of God; and he withholds further influences of grace or withdraws what before he had granted them. Thus he withheld that grace from the sons of Eli that might have made their father’s pious admonitions effectual to them (1 Sam. 2:25): ‘They hearkened not to the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.’ He gave grace to Eli to reprove them and withheld that grace from them which might have enabled them, against their natural corruption and obstinacy, to receive that reproof. But the holiness of God is not blemished by withdrawing his grace from a sinful creature, whereby he falls into more sin (1) because the act of God in this is only negative. Thus God is said to ‘harden’ men, not by positive hardening or working anything in the creature, but by not working, not softening, leaving a man to the hardness of his own heart, whereby it is unavoidable by the depravation of man’s nature and the fury of his passions, but that he should be further hardened and ‘increase unto more ungodliness’ (2 Tim. 2:19). As a man is said to give another his life when he does not take it away when it lay at his mercy, so God is said to ‘harden’ a man when he does not mollify him when it was in his power and inwardly quicken him with that grace whereby he might infallibly avoid any further provoking him. God is said to harden man when he removes not from them the incentives to sin, curbs not those principles which are ready to comply with those incentives, withdraws the common assistance of his grace, concurs not with counsels and admonitions to make them effectual, and flashes not in the convincing light which he darted upon them before. If hardness follows upon God’s withholding his softening grace, it is not by a positive act of God, but from the natural hardness of man. If you put fire near to wax or rosin, both will melt; but when that fire is removed they return to their natural quality of hardness and brittleness; the positive act of the fire is to melt and soften, and the softness of the rosin is to be ascribed to that; but the hardness is from the rosin itself, wherein the fire has no influence but only a negative act by a removal of it: so when God hardens a man he only leaves him to that stony heart which he derived from [and originated in] Adam and brought with him into the world. (2) The whole positive cause of this hardness is from man’s corruption. God infuses not any sin into his creatures, but forbears to infuse his grace and restrain their lusts, which upon the removal of his grace work impetuously. God only gives them up to that which he knows will work strongly in their hearts. And therefore the apostle wipes off from God any positive act [actuation] in that uncleanness the heathen were given up to: ‘Wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts’ (Rom. 1:24). God’s giving them up was the logical [or occasional] cause [of the uncleanness]; their own lusts were the true and natural cause [of it]. Their own lusts they were before they were given up to them and belonging to no one as their author but themselves after they were given up to them. (3) God is holy and righteous because he does not withdraw from man till man deserts him. To say that God withdrew that grace from Adam which he had afforded him in creation or anything that was due to him till he had abused the gifts of God and turned them to an end contrary to that of creation would be a reflection upon divine holiness. God was first deserted by man before man was deserted by God; and man does first contemn and abuse the common grace of God and those relics of natural light that ‘enlighten every man that comes into the world’ (John 1:9) before God leaves him to the hurry of his own passions. Ephraim was first joined to idols before God pronounced the fatal sentence: ‘Let him alone’ (Hos. 4:17). God discovers himself to man in the works of his hands; he has left in him prints of natural reason; he does attend him with the common motions of his Spirit and corrects him for his faults with gentle chastisements. He is near to all men in some kind of moral instructions; he puts, many times, providential bars in the way of their sinning; but when they will rush into it as the horse into the battle, when they will rebel against the light, God does often leave them to their own course and sentence him that is ‘filthy to be filthy still’ (Rev. 22:11), which is a righteous act of God as the rector and governor of the world. It is so far from being repugnant to the holiness and righteousness of God that it is rather a commendable act of his holiness and righteousness, as the rector of the world, not to let those gifts continue in the hands of a man who abuses them. Who will blame a father that, after all the good counsels he has given to his son to reclaim him, all the corrections he has inflicted on him for his irregular practices, leaves him to his own courses and withdraws those assistances which he scoffed at and turned a deaf ear to? Or who will blame the physician for deserting the patient who rejects his counsel, will not follow his prescriptions, but dashes his physic against the wall? No man will blame him, no man will say that he is the cause of the patient’s death; but the true cause is the fury of the distemper and the obstinacy of the diseased person to which the physician left him. And who can justly blame God in a similar case, who never yet denied supplies of grace to any that sincerely sought it at his hands? What unholiness is it to deprive men of the assistances of common grace because of their sinful resistance of them and afterward to direct those sinful counsels and practices of theirs which he has justly given them up unto, to serve the ends of his own glory in his own plan and methods? (4) God is not under obligation to continue the bestowment of grace to any sinner whatever. It was at his liberty whether he would give renewing grace to Adam after his fall or to any of his posterity. He was at liberty either to withhold it or communicate it. But if the obligation were none just after the fall, there is none now since the multiplication of sin by man. But God is certainly less obliged to continue his grace after a repeated refusal and resistance and a peremptory abuse, than he was bound to proffer it after the first apostasy. God cannot be charged with unholiness in withdrawing his grace after we have received it, unless we can make it appear that his grace was a thing due to us, as we are his creatures and as he is the governor of the world. If there be an obligation on God as a governor, it would lie rather on the side of justice to leave man to the power of the devil whom he courted and the prevalency of those lusts he has so often caressed and to wrap up in a cloud all his common illuminations and leave him destitute of all the common workings of his Spirit.”
3.6.20 (see p. 343). Turretin (11.2.22) defines the Hebraistic “hate” as loving in a less degree: “To hate (to misein) should be understood comparatively, as standing for a lesser or smaller degree of love.”98 The hardening of a part of the Israelites is described as not softening them, in Deut. 29:4: “Yet the Lord has not given [all of you] a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, unto this day.” This identical process is described in Isa. 6:10 by “make the heart of this people fat and make their eyes heavy and shut their eyes” and in 63:17 by “O Lord, why have you made us to err from your ways and hardened our heart from your fear?” And in John 12:40, Christ himself adopts the same phraseology and teaches the doctrine of preterition: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes nor understand with their heart and be converted.”
3.6.21 (see p. 344). A common objection to the doctrine that God’s final end in all that he does is his own glory is that this is selfishness, and God is compared with man in proof. Should man do this, he would be actuated by egotism and self-love. But the argument from analogy between God and man cannot be carried beyond the communicable attributes. It stops at the incommunicable. We can argue from human justice to divine justice, from human benevolence to divine, etc., because man has these attributes by virtue of being made in the divine image. But neither man nor angel has the attributes of infinity, eternity, immensity, and omnipotence. These are incapable of degrees or of being bestowed upon a creature. There is no inferior degree of eternity or infinity, etc. These make no part of the divine image in which man was created. In such cases there must be the whole of the attribute or none of it. Consequently, to reason from analogy in regard to the incommunicable attributes of God is false reasoning, because there is no analogy.
Now, in the instance of the “glory of God,” the reasoning relates to a subject of this latter class. Divine glory or excellence is an infinite, eternal, omnipotent, and omnipresent excellence. No creature can have such an excellence as this. The glory or excellence of man or angel is a finite, temporal, local, weak, and dependent excellence. The two differ in kind, not merely in degree, as in the case of the communicable attributes. Consequently, the two “glories” cannot be used in an argument from analogy. It does not follow that because the glory of a man, say Napoleon, does not permit him to make it the chief end of his action, the glory of God does not permit him to do so. There are properties in God’s excellence that cannot possibly belong to manexcellence, so that what can be argued from the latter cannot be from the former, and the converse. If analogical reasoning should be pushed in reference to the subject of the worship of God, which has its ground in the glory of God, it would plainly be improper, because worship is incommunicable to the creature and is confined to the infinite. God demands that all his rational creatures adore and praise him. No man or angel has the right to make such a demand upon his fellow creatures.
3.6.22 (see p. 345). No logical intermediate between Calvinism and Arminianism is capable of combining both systems. It is impossible to say (a) that man is both totally and partially depraved; (b) that election is both unconditional and conditional; (c) that regenerating grace is both irresistible and resistible; (d) that redemption is both limited and unlimited; and (e) that perseverance is both certain and uncertain. Nor can there be a modification of one by the other. One or the other of the above-mentioned points must overcome the other. It is impossible to blend the two, which is requisite in order to a modification. This is not a gloomy view of Christian theology because (a) both systems hold in common the saving doctrines of the gospel (a sinner may be regenerated and sanctified under either) and (b) the influence of each upon the other is best when each is pure and simple. Medicines of opposite properties produce their good effect when they are unmixed with foreign ingredients. If the Calvinistic churches hold their ancestral Calvinism with frank sincerity and logical consistency and the Arminian churches hold their ancestral Arminianism in the same manner, they will have a better understanding with each other and do a greater work in extending the common gospel and destroying the common enemy, than they would by endeavoring to formulate a theology that should be neither Calvinistic nor Arminian. The endeavor of the Arminians in Holland in the seventeenth century to modify the Calvinistic Belgic Confession and of the Calvinists to suppress the Arminian Articles by the civil power resulted in one of the most bitter conflicts in church history and filled both parties with an unchristian spirit. Had there been no union of church and state at the time and had all denominations of Christians then stood upon an independent position, unrestrained by the civil authority, as is now the case very generally in Europe and America, neither of these two theological divisions would have interfered, by civil and military power, with the doctrine and practice of the other, and mutual respect would have characterized both. Whenever the endeavor is made to mix the immiscible and to fuse two types of theology that exclude each other, each party strives to outwit the other, and this produces jealousy and animosity. Mutual confidence is impossible. Hypocrisy and the pretense of being what one is not are liable to prevail. A Calvinist is a dishonest disorganizer if he poses as an Arminian, and so is an Arminian if he pretends to be a Calvinist. The recent attempt within the Northern Presbyterian Church in America to revise the Westminster standards, which was initiated by a very small minority of the whole body who were dissatisfied with Calvinism and who, under the claim of improving it by conforming it to popular opinion and the lax religious sentiment of the day, proposed changes that would utterly demolish it, was of the same general nature with that in Holland. But the rationalism and infidelity into which it developed under the leadership of the higher critics had nothing in common with the evangelical doctrines which were retained in their creed by Arminius and his followers.
3.6.23 (see p. 347). That the sincerity of God’s desires that the sinner would repent and forsake sin is independent of the result is evinced by the temporary preterition of his own church: “My people would not hearken to my voice and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies and turned my hand against their adversaries” (Ps. 81:11–14). In this instance God bestowed a certain degree of grace upon his chosen people. It was frustrated and unsuccessful. God might have increased the degree of grace and “made them willing in the day of his power.” He did not immediately do this, though he did subsequently to a part of them who were the individually called in distinction from the nationally called. Does this prove that Jehovah was insincere when he said, with reference to those who resisted and frustrated the lower grade of his grace, “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me and Israel had walked in my ways?”
Howe (Redeemer’s Tears) upon this text thus remarks: “We must take heed lest under the pretense that we cannot ascribe everything unto God that such expressions seem to import, we therefore ascribe nothing. We ascribe nothing if we do ascribe a real unwillingness that men should sin on and perish; and consequently a real willingness that they should turn to him and live, as so many plain texts assert. And therefore it is unavoidably imposed upon us to believe that God is truly unwilling of some things which he does not think fit to interpose his omnipotency to hinder and is truly willing of some things which he does not put forth his omnipotency to effect, that he makes this the ordinary course of his dispensation toward men, to govern them by laws and promises and threatenings, to work upon their minds, their hope, and their fear; affording them the ordinary assistances of supernatural light and influence, with which he requires them to comply and which, upon their refusing to do so, he may most righteously withhold and give them the victory to their own ruin; though oftentimes he does, from a sovereignty of grace, put forth that greater power upon others, equally negligent and obstinate, not to enforce, but effectually to incline their wills and gain a victory over them to their salvation.”
The question arises whether, when God offers salvation to all men without exception but does not save all men without exception by overcoming their opposition, this is real compassion. It is real but not so high a degree of compassion as actual salvation. There are degrees of compassion. To offer the sinner a full pardon of all his sins on condition of faith and repentance (which condition the sinner must fulfill), instead of making no such offer, but immediately punishing him for them, is certainly a grade of mercy. Because God manifests a yet higher grade in the case of those whose opposition he overcomes, it does not follow that the lower grade is not mercy. Charnock (God’s Patience, 733 [ed. Bohn]) argues that the patience of God in forebearing to inflict the penalty of sin immediately upon its commission is suggestive, even to the heathen, of mercy in remitting it, though not demonstrative of it. It is adopted to awaken hope, but cannot produce certainty. Only revelation does the latter: “The heathen could not but read in the benevolence of God, shown in his daily providences, favorable inclinations toward them; and though they could not be ignorant that they deserved the inflictions of justice, yet seeing themselves supported by God they might draw from thence the natural conclusion that God was placable.” St. Paul teaches the same truth in saying that the benevolence of God in his common providence is fitted to produce penitence for sin and hope in his mercy: “The goodness of God in his forbearance and long-suffering leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4).
3.6.24 (see p. 348). Christ (Luke 10:13) declares that if the common grace granted to Chorazin and Bethsaida, which was ineffectual with them, had been granted to Tyre and Sidon, it would have been effectual with these. The miracles (dynameis)99 together with the ordinary influences of the Holy Spirit which produced no repentance in the former case, he says, would have produced it in the latter. According to this statement of our Lord, the very same amount of divine influence may succeed in overcoming a sinner’s opposition in one instance and not in another. When it succeeds, it is effectual and irresistible grace; when it fails, it is ineffectual and resistible. This shows that grace is to be measured relatively by the result and not absolutely by a stiff rule which states arithmetically the amount of power exerted. All grace that fails, be it greater or less, is common; all that succeeds, be it greater or less, is special. In order to have effected repentance in the people of Chorazin, it would have been necessary to exert a higher degree of grace than was exerted upon them; while in order to effect repentance in the people of Tyre, no higher degree would have been requisite than that exerted upon Chorazin. But it is to be carefully noticed that the failure in the instance of Chorazin was owing wholly to the sinful resistance made to the grace; and the success affirmed in the instance of Tyre would be owing not to any assistance of the grace by the cooperation of the sinful will of Tyre, but wholly to the overcoming of Tyre’s resistance by the grace exerted. The sinful will of the inhabitants of Tyre, in the supposed case, was a wholly resisting will like that of the inhabitants of Chorazin and hence could not synergize with the divine Spirit any more than theirs could, but the degree of resistance, according to our Lord’s statement, was less.



1 1.      πρόθεσιν
2 2.      βουλήν
3 3.      from the outside
4 4.      ἐν ἁγιασμῷ
5 5.      ὅσα ἠθέλησαν
6 6.      ὡρισμένον
7 7.      εὐδοκία
8 8.      εἴασε
9 9.      ὑπεριδών
10 10.      permitted things
11 11.      εὐδοκία
12 12.      ἀγάπη
13 13.      ὕλη = matter
14 14.      WS: Calvin is sometimes represented as differing from Augustine and teaching that God decrees sin as he does holiness by an efficacious decree. Möhler so asserts in his Symbolics, but Baur (Gegensatz, 744–45) 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 case of the first sin.” But Calvin 3.23.8 affirms that “the perdition of the wicked depends upon 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 cadit).” Calvin, it is true, asserts (2.4.3–5) 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 toward controlling it after it has occurred—the same notion that is alluded to in the Westminster Confession and other Calvinistic creeds. The “blinding, hardening, turning,” etc., Calvin describes as the consequence of divine desertion, not causation. Some of his phraseology in this place is harsh, but should be interpreted in harmony with his explicit teaching in 3.23.8. 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/sublapsarianism. This means that the relation of God to the origin of sin is not efficacious, but permissive, which was Augustine’s view.
15 15.      from the outside
16 16.      WS: Alexander in the 1831 Princeton Repertory makes the same objection as above to the doctrine of the concursus.
17 17.      WS: On fate as presented in the pagan writers, see the appendix to Toplady’s translation of Zanchi, On Predestination.
18 18.      τήν πεπρωμένην μοιράν ἀδυνάτον ἐστὶ ἀποφυγεῖν καὶ θεῷ = no one can escape his appointed fate, not even a god
19 19.      WS: On this point, see Clarke, Demonstration, prop. 20, who contends, however, only that foreknowledge does not necessitate, not that foreordination does not. He is Arminian on the subject of decrees.
20 20.      Si praescita sunt omnia futura, hoc ordine venient, quo ventura esse praescita sunt. Et si hoc ordine venient, certus est ordo rerum praescienti deo. Et si est certus ordo rerum, est certus ordo causarum; 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.
21 21.      magna dii curant, parva negligunt
22 22.      πρόθεσις
23 23.      προώρισεν
24 24.      προορίξειν = to circumscribe or limit beforehand
25 25.      προγιγνώσκειν = to foreknow
26 26.      ὁρίξειν = to divide, define
27 27.      προορίξειν = to determine before
28 28.      προώρισε
29 29.      προέγνω
30 30.      προώρισε
31 31.      προώρισεν
32 32.      προορίσας
33 33.      προορισθέντες
34 34.      προώρισεν
35 35.      προγιγνώσκειν
36 36.      προέγνω
37 37.      προέγνω
38 38.      προεγνωσμένος
39 39.      πρόγνωσις = was foreknown
40 40.      γιγνώσκειν = to know
41 41.      γνωτός
42 42.      γνωστός
43 43.      προέγνω = to foreknow
44 44.      εὐδοκίαν
45 45.      ἀγάπη
46 46.      χρηστότης
47 47.      χρηστότητα
48 48.      ἀποτομίαν
49 49.      WS: On this point, see Hodge, Theology 2.639–710; Dabney, Theology, 580–81; Watson, Institutes 2.395–96.
50 50.      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.
51 51.      Alii dicunt: si vero sum de reproborum numero.
52 52.      Nous croyons que de cette condemnation, Dieu retire ceux lesquels il a élus, laissant les autres.
53 53.      Nous croyons que Dieu s’est demontré tel qu’il est; savoir miséricordieux et juste: miséricordieux, en retirant et sauvant ceux qu’en son conseil éternel il a élus; juste, en laissant les autres en leur ruine et trébuchement où ils se sont précipités.
54 54.      Scriptura Sacra testatur non omnes homines esse electos, sed quosdam non electos, sive in aeterna dei electione praeteritos, quos scilicet deus ex liberrimo, justissimo, irreprehensibili, et immutabilimi beneplacito decrevit in communi miseria, in quam se sua culpa praecipitarunt, relinquere.
55 55.      WS: The Formula of Concord (1576–84) teaches that foreknowledge extends to both good and evil, that predestination extends to good only. The Waldensian Confession (1655) teaches inability, election, and preterition. It is an 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 (1784) drawn up by Wesley teach inability; the sinner “cannot turn and prepare himself to faith.” The Arminian Articles (1610) teach impotence and that “God by an eternal purpose has determined to save those who believe and persevere.” Niemeyer excludes this from his collection of “Reformed” Confessions. The Cumberland Presbyterian Confession (1813–29) teaches inability and that “God’s sovereign electing love is as extensive as the legal condemnation or reprobation, in which all men are by nature. But 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” (Schaff, Creeds 3.772).
56 56.      εὐδοκία
57 57.      Agnoscimus interim, deum illuminare posse homines etiam sine externo ministerio, quo et quando velit: id quod ejus potentiae est.
58 58.      WS: The case of the Indian described in Edward’s Life of Brainerd is sometimes cited, but 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 among other heathens.” But Brainerd does not say that this Indian believed and trusted in Christ when Christ was presented to him as the Savior 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 practice 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.
59 59.      Homo creabilis et labilis non est objectum praedestinationis, sed creatus et lapsus.
60 60.      ὄν
61 61.      ἐκ
62 62.      WS: Says Haeckel (Evolution of Man 2.3): “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 child is said to be 9.25 years old, he is really 10 years old.”
63 63.      ἵνα γνωρισθῇ = in order that it might be made known
64 64.      εὐαγγελίσασθαι = to preach the gospel
65 65.      φωτίσαι = to bring to light
66 66.      Ubi nuda est permissio, ibi locum non habet causalitas.
67 67.      WS: “Pharaoh was hardened because God with his Spirit and grace hindered not his ungodly proceedings, but suffered him to go on and have his way. Why God did not hinder or restrain him we ought not to inquire” (Luther, Table Talk, 49 [ed. Bogue]).
68 68.      ἐμίσησα = I hated
69 69.      WS: Respecting election, Watson (Institutes 2.338) 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 subsequent to the administration of the means of salvation. Actual election cannot be eternal, for from eternity the elect were not actually chosen out of the world and could not be actually sanctified unto obedience.” This explanation makes election to be sanctification 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 separate and touch not the unclean thing.” By this interpretation, election is made to be the same thing as sanctification, instead of being an act of God that produces it, as is taught in Eph. 1:4 (“he has chosen us that we should be holy”) and in 1 Pet. 1:2 (“elect unto obedience”).
70 70.      κατὰ εὐδοκίαν
71 71.      WS: Baur (Gegensatz, 216) shows that the same inconsistency, in first asserting and then denying inability, appears in the Lutheran doctrine of regeneration as stated in the Formula of Concord.
72 72.      WS: The Septuagint, contrary to New Testament usage, incorrectly renders this by boulōai (βούλομαι = to decide) instead of thelō (θέλω = to desire).
73 73.      חָפֵץ
74 74.      WS: Cf. Edwards, On Decrees and Election §§59-62; Howe, Reconciliableness of God’s Prescience with His Sincerity; Baxter, Directions for Spiritual Peace and Comfort 1.252 (ed. Bacon).
75 75.      θέλημα
76 76.      εὐάρεστον
77 77.      βούλημα
78 78.      WS: 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, Arminianism, 5.
79 79.      voluntas signi = will of sign, i.e., his revealed will
80 80.      voluntas beneplaciti = will of good pleasure
81 81.      εὐαρεστίας = well pleased
82 82.      εὐδοκίας = satisfied
83 83.      τὸ μὴ κωλούον αἴτιον ἐστιν = that which does not hinder (an action) is responsible (for it)
84 84.      ὀργή = wrath
85 85.      ad inclinandas eorum voluntates
86 86.      εἴασε
87 87.      Lapsus est primus homo, quia Dominus ita expedire censuerat; cur censuerit nos latet. Certum tamen est non aliter censuisse, nisi quia videbat nominis sui gloriam inde merito illustrari. Ubi mentionem gloriae Dei audis, illic justitiam cogita. Justum enim oportet quod laudem meretur. Cadit igitur homo, Dei providentia sic ordinante: sed suo vitio cadit.
88 88.      sed suo vitio cadit
89 89.      Pronuntiaverat paulo ante Dominus omnia quae fecerat esse valde bona. Unde ergo illa homini pravitas ut a Deo deficiat? Ne ex creatione putaretur, elogio suo approbaverat Deus quod profectum erat a se ipso. Propria ergo malitia, quam acceperat a Domino puram naturam corrupit; sua ruina totam posteritatem in exitium suum attraxit. Quare in corrupta potius humani generis natura evidentem damnationis causam, quae nobis propinquior est, contemplemur, quam absconditam ac penitus incomprehensibilem inquiramus in Dei praedestinatione. Tametsi aeterna Dei providentia in eam cui subjacet calamitatem conditus est homo, a se ipso tamen ejus materiam, non a Deo, sumpsit; quando nulla alia ratione sic perditus est, nisi quia a pura Dei creatione in vitiosam et impuram perversitatem degeneravit.
90 90.      cadit homo Deo sic ordinante, sed suo vitio
91 91.      de nihilo (which carries essentially the same meaning as ex nihilo)
92 92.      from the outside
93 93.      εἰ μή = except
94 94.      ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπολείας = the son of perdition
95 95.      εἰ μή = except
96 96.      νεεμὰν ὁ σύρος = Naaman the Syrian
97 97.      In this connection Richard Muller’s observation about the “horrible decree” is worth repeating: “Decretum horrible: terrifying decree; a much-abused term from Calvin. It does not translate ‘horrible decree’ and in no way implies that the eternal decree is somehow unjust or horrifying, but only that the decree is awesome and terrifying, particularly to those who are not in Christ”; Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Greek and Latin Theological Terms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 88.
98 98.      Τὸ μισεῖν intelligendum est comparate pro amore minori et diminuto.
99 99.      δυνάμεις