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us feel that God is no less incomprehensible in and proceed to the fourth, in which we are to his manner of governing the world than in that treat of the depths of revelation. of creating it. It would be easy to prove this, IV. Shall we produce the mortifying list of if time would allow us to examine the secret unanswerable questions, to which many docway, which Providence uses to govern this uni- trines of our religion are liable; as for example
Let us be content to cast our eyes a those which regard the Trinity, the incarnation, moment on the conduct of Providence in the the satisfaction, the union of two natures in Jegovernment of the church for the last century sus Christ, the secret ways of the Holy Spirit and a half.
in converting the souls of men, the precise naWho would have thought that in a neigh- ture of the happiness to be enjoyed in the interbouring kingdom a cruel and superstitious mediate state between our death and our resurking, * the greatest enemy that the Reformation rection, the faculties of glorified bodies, the ever had, he, who by the fury of his arms and recollection of what we shall have seen in this by the productions of his pen, opposed this great world, and many more of the same kind? work, refuting those whom he could not perse- All this would carry us too far from the princute, and persecuting those whom he could not cipal design of the apostle. It is time to return refute, who would have thought that this mo- to the precise subject, which inspired him with narch should first serve the work he intended this exclamation. The words of the text are, to subvert, clear the way for reformation, and as we have intimated, the conclusion of a disby shaking off the yoke of the Roman pontiff course contained in the ninth, tenth, and eleexecute the plan of Providence, while he seemed venth chapters of this epistle. Those chapters to do nothing but satiate his voluptuousness and are the cross of divines. The questions there ambition?
treated of concerning the decrees of God are so Who would have thought that the ambitious abstruse, that in all ages of the church, and Clement, † to maintain some chimerical rights, particularly since the schism of Pelagius, diwhich the pride of the clergy had forged, and vines, orthodox and heterodox, have employed which the cowardice of the people and the all their efforts to give us a system free from effeminacy of their princes had granted, who difficulties, and they have all failed in their would have believed, that this ambitious pope, design. by hurling the thunders of the Vatican against To enable you to comprehend this, we are this king, would have lost all that great going succinctly to state their different systems; kingdom, and thus would have given the and the short view we shall take will be suffifirst stab to a tyranny, which he intended to cient to convince you, that the subject is beyond confirm?
the reach of the human mind, and that though Who would have imagined that Zuinglius the opinion of our churches has this advantage would have had such amazing success among above others, that it is more conformable to the people in the world the most inviolably at- right reason, and to the decisions of Scripture, tached to the customs of their predecessors, a yet it is not without its abysses and depths. people scrupulously retaining even the dress of Let us begin with the system of Socinus and their ancestors, a people above all so inimical | his followers. God, according to them, not to innovations in religion, that they will hardly only has not determined the salvation of his bear a new explication of a passage of Scripture, children, but he could not even foresee it. a new argument, or a modern critical remark, Whatever man resolves depends on his own who would have supposed, that they could have volition, and whatever depends on human vobeen persuaded to embrace a religion diametri- lition cannot be an object of the knowledge of cally opposite to that which they had imbibed God, so that God could not foresee whether I with their mothers' milk?
should believe or not believe, whether I should Who would have believed that Luther could obey or not obey, whether I should receive the have surmounted the obstacles that opposed the gospel or reject it. God made no other decree success of his preaching in Germany, and that than that of saving such as believe, obey, and the proud emperor, who reckoned among his submit to his gospel: these things depend on my captives pantiff's and kings, could not subdue / will, what depends on my will is uncertain, an one miserable monk?
uncertain object cannot be an object of certain Who would have thought that the barbarous knowledge: God therefore cannot certainly tribunal of the inquisition, which had enslaved foresee, whether my condition will be eternally so many nations to superstition, should have happy, or eternally miserable. been in these provinces one of the principal This is the system. Thanks be to God, we causes of our reformation?
preach to a Christian auditory. It is not neAnd perhaps the dark night, which now en- cessary to refute these errors, and you feel, I velops one part of the church, will issue in a persuade myself, that to reason in this manner bright morning. Perhaps they, who in future is not to elucidate, but subvert religion; it is at time speak of Providence, will have reason to once to degrade God from his deity, and Scripadd to a catalogue of the deep things of divine ture from its infallibility. government, the manner in which God shall This system degrades God, for what, pray, is have delivered the truth oppressed in a king- a God, who created beings, and who could not dom, where it once flourished in vigour and foresee what would result from their existence? beauty. Perhaps the repeated blows given to A God who formed spirits united to bodies by the reformed may serve only to establish the certain laws, and who did not know how to reformation. But we abridge this third article, combine these laws so as to foresee the effects
they would produce? A God forced to suspend Henry VIII. of England. Pope Clement VII. his judgment A God who every day learns Charles V.
something new, and who does not know to-day
what will happen to-morrow. A God who can- / allured them to deny? The bondage of the hunot tell whether peace will be concluded, orman will seems to destroy the nature of man: war continue to ravage the world; whether re- this bondage must be denied. But the doctrine ligion will be received in a certain kingdom, or of absolute decrees seems to disagree with the whether it will be banished; whether the right liberty of man: these absolute decrees must be heir will succeed to the crown, or whether the denied. But the foreknowledge of God cannot crown will be set on the head of a usurper? For be allowed without the doctrine of decrees; the according to the different determinations of the foreknowledge of God must be denied. But a wills of men, of kings, or people, the prince thousand prophecies prove this prescience; the will make peace, or declare war, religion will mystical sense of these prophecies must be debe banished or admitted, the tyrant or the law- nied. But Jesus Christ has verified them: then ful king will occupy the throne: for if God Jesus Christ must be denied his titles, his atcannot foresee how the volitions of men will be tributos, his works, his worship, his satisfaction, determined, he cannot foresee any of these his divinity, his union to God, his incarnation, events. What is this but to degrade God from must all be denied: he must be made a mere his Deity, and to make the most perfect of all man, a prophet, a teacher, distinguished from intelligences a being involved in darkness and others only by some extraordinary talents: the uncertainty like ourselves.
whole system of the gospel of salvation, and of Farther, to deny the presence of God is to redemption must be denied. To follow these degrade Scripture from its infallibility, for how ideas, my brethren, is to tumble from precipice can we pretend to respect Scripture when we to precipice without knowing where we shall deny that God knows the determinations, and stop. volitions of mankind? What then are we to We propose in the second place the system understand by all the express declarations on of our brethren of the confession of Augsburgh, this subject: For example, what does the and that of Arminius; for though they differ psalmist mean? "O God, thou hast searched in other articles, yet they both agree pretty and known me. Thou knowest my down- nearly in this point. Their system is this. sitting and up-rising, thou understandest my They grant foreknowledge; but deny foreapthoughts afar off. Thou art acquainted with pointment. They allow indeed that God alall my ways, for there is not a word in my ways foresaw who would be happy in heaven, tongue but thou knowest it altogether,” Ps. and who victims in hell; but they tremble at cxxxix. 1, &c. What means God himself, the thesis, which affirms that God predestinated speaking by Ezekiel? “Thus saith the Lord to the first to felicity, and the last to misery. Acthe house of Israel, I know the thoughts that cording to thein, God made no other decree came into your mind every one of them,” chap. than to save believers, and to condemn infidels; xi. 5. And again by Isaiah; “I know that thou he gave all men assistance sufficient to enable wouldst deal very treacherously," chap. xlviii. them to believe, and having only foreseen who 8. What did St. Peter mean? speaking of his would believe, and who would not believe, he own thoughts, he said, “Lord, thou knowest all made no decree to secure the faith of some, things," John xxi. 17. What does the Wise and the unbelief of the rest. Man mean, who assures us, not only that God Although it is never our custom to envenom knows the hearts of kings, but that he has them controversy, and to tax people with heresy for “in his hand, and turneth them whithersoever | not being of our opinion; though we would he pleaseth as rivers of water!” Prov. xxi. 1. rather reconcile opposite opinions than triumph
Above all, how can this principle be recon- in refuting them; yet we cannot help making ciled to many express prophecies of events three reflections. First, this system does not which being closely connected with the volitions agree with itself-secondly, it is directly oppoof men could not have been certainly foretold, site to many decisions of the Holy Spirit, and unless God at the time had a certain knowledge particularly to the doctrine of the three chapof these determinations? “ The prescience of ters before us—and thirdly, should we grant God," says Tertullian, “has as many witnesses the whole, a thousand difficulties would reas there are prophets and prophecies. "* Had main in the doctrine of the decrees of God, not God foreseen that Jesus Christ would preach and we should always be obliged to exclaim, the gospel in Judea, that the Jews would hate as these brethren must on this article, “O the him, that they would deliver him to Pilate, that depth!" they would solicit his death, that Pilate would 1. We affirm, that this system is inconsisthave the meanness and pusillanimity to yield ent with itself, that the doctrine of prescience to their entreaties; had not God known all these supposes that of predestination, and that unthings, how could he have predicted them? less we deny that God foresaw our salvation,
But the men we oppose do not much respect we are obliged by our own thesis to affirm that the decisions of Scripture. The principle to he predestinated us to it. I grant there is a which all this system tends, is, that reason is to sense, in which it is true that to foresee a thing decide on the doctrines of Scripture, and not is different from determining to bring it to that the doctrines of Scripture are to direct pass: but there is another sense, in which to
This principle once granted, all the foresee and foreappoint is one and the same doctrines of our faith are subverted, as expe- thing. If I foresee that a prince sending armrience proves. See into what rash declarations ed troops into the house of the widow and orthis principle had conducted Socinus and bis phan will expose that house to pillage, it is followers. What decision of Scripture, what certain, my foresight has no influence in the doctrine of faith, what truth however esta- fate of that house, and in this case to foresee blished, repeated, and enforced, has it not the act of plundering is not a determination to
* In his second book against Marcion. plunder. But if the prince foresee the event,
if he know the rage and fury with which his against the doctrine of prescience without pre-
the gospel would hereafter be the only econo-
and that the eternity promised to the Levitical There is a second inconvenience in the sys- economy signified only a duration till the ad. tem of bare prescience, that is, that it does not vent of the Messiah. Particularly we should square with Scripture, which clearly establishes inform him that his complaints against the the doctrine of predestination. We omit many Messiah were groundless. You complain, we passages usually quoted in this controversy; should say, that God makes void his fidelity as that Jesus Christ said to his father, “I thank by abandoning you, but your complaint is thee, O Father, that thou hast hid these things unjust. God made a covenant with your fafrom the wise and prudent, and hast revealed thers, he promised to bless their posterity, and them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it engaged to send your Redeemer to bestow seemed good in thy sight," Matt. xi. 25. And numberless benedictions and favours upon you. this of St. Paul, “God hath chosen us in him This Redeemer is come, he was born among before the foundation of the world, having pre- you in your nation, of a family in one of your destinated us to the adoption of sons," Eph. i. own tribes, he began to discharge his office 4. As this famous passage, “whom he did among you, and set salvation before you; you foreknow them he did predestinate, and whom rejected him, you turned his doctrine into ridihe did predestinate them he also called,” Rom. cule, you called hiin Beelzebub, you solicited viii. 28, 29.
his death, at length you crucified him, and We omit all these passages because our op- since that you have persecuted him in his minponents dispute the sense we give of them, and isters and disciples. On the contrary, the Genbecause it is but justice either to hear and an- tiles display his virtues, and they are prodigal swer their objections (which the limits of these of their blood to advance his glory. Is it surexercises will not allow) or not to make use of prising, that God so dispenses his favours as to them, for that would be taking for granted distinguish two nations so very different in the what is not allowed, that is, that these pas- manner of their obedience to his authority? sages speak of predestination in our sense of Instead of this, what does St. Paul Hear the term. Let us content ourselves to oppose his answers. “Before the children were born,
before they had done either good or evil, that glory; that his design in creating the universe the purpose of God according to election might was to manifest his perfections, and particularstand, he saith, the elder shall serve the ly his justice and his goodness; that for this younger. Jacob have I loved, but Esau have purpose he created men with design that they † hated. I will have mercy on whom I will should sin, in order that in the end he might have mercy, and I will have compassion on appear infinitely good in pardoning some, and whom I will have compassion. The Scripture perfectly just in condemning others; so that saith to Pharaoh, for this purpose have I raised God resolved to punish such and such persons, thee up that I might make my power known. not because he foresaw they would sin, but he He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, resolved they should sin that he might damn and whom he will he hardeneth. Who art them. This is their system in a few words. thou who repliest against God? Shall the It is not that which is generally received in our thing formed say to him that formed it, why churches, but there have been many members hast thou made me thus. Hath not the potter and divines among us who adopted and defendpower over the clay, of the same lump to make ed it: but whatever veneration we profess for one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour? their memory, we ingenuously own, we cannot What if God willing to show his wrath, and digest such consequences as seem to us necesmake his power known, endures with much sarily to follow these positions. We will just long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared to mention the few difficulties following. destruction?" Rom. ix. 11, &c. In all these First, we demand an explanation of what answers, St. Paul has recourse to the decrees they mean by this principle, “God has made of God. And one proof that this is the doc- all things for his own glory." If they mean trine he intends to teach the converted Jew, that justice requires a creature to devote himto whom he addresses himself, is, that this Jew self to the worship and glorifying of his Creator, makes some objections, which have no ground we freely grant it. If they mean that the ato in the system we attack, but which are pre-tributes of God are displayed in all his works, cisely the same that have been always urged we grant this too. But if this proposition bé against the doctrine of predestination. “Why intended to affirm that God had no other view doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his in creating men, so to speak, than his own will?” Thus the system of prescience without interest, we deny the proposition, and affirm predestination does not agree with Scripture. that God created men for their own happiness,
We ask, thirdly, what is the system good and in order to have subjects upon whom he for? Does it cast any light on the ways of might bestow favours. Providence? Does it fill up any of the depths We desire to be informed in the next place, which absorb our imperfect reason? In a word, how it can be conceived, that a determination is it not subject to the very same difficulties as to damn millions of men can contribute to that of predestination? These difficulties are “the glory of God?” We easily conceive that the following, how could a God supremely it is for the glory of divine justice to punish good create men, who he knew must be some guilty men: but to resolve to damn men withday infinitely miserable? How could a God in- out the consideration of sin, to create them that finitely holy permit sin to enter the world? they might sin, to determine that they should How is it, that a God of infinite love to justice, sin in order to their destruction, is what seems does not bestow on all mankind succour suffi- to us more likely to tarnish the glory of God cient to render them perfectly holy? How it than to display it. came to pass that a God, who declares he Thirdly, we demand, how according to this “would have all men to be saved,” did not hypothesis it can be conceived that God is not reveal his will for the space of four thousand the author of sin? In the general scheme of years to any but the single nation of the Jews our churches, God only permits men to sin, How is it that at this present time he does not and it is the abuse of liberty that plunges man extend our conquests to the ends of the earth, into misery. Even this principle, moderate as that we might carry thither the light of Chris- it seems, is yet subject to a great number of tianity, preach the gospel in idolatrous climes, difficulties: but in this of our opponents, God and the mosques of Mohammed? How does wills sin to produce the end he proposed in he afford life, and health, and strength, and creating the world, and it was necessary that courage, and opportunity to a creature, while men should sin; God created them for that. he prosecutes black and horrible crimes, which If this be not to constitute God the author of make nature tremble? These are great diffi- sin, we must renounce the most distinct and culties in Providence. Let any one inform us clear ideas. of a system without them, and we are ready Fourthly, we require them to reconcile this to embrace it: but in this system now before us system with many express declarations of all these difficulties are contained, and should Scripture, which inform us, that “God would we grant its advocates all they require, they have all men saved." How does it agree with would be obliged however to exclaim with us such pressing entreaties, such cutting reproofs, on the borders of the ways of God, “O the such tender expostulations as God discovers in depth!"
regard to the unconverted; “O that my people The third system is that of such divines as had hearkened unto me! O Jerusalem, Jeruare called Supralapsarians. The word supra- salem, how often would I have gathered thy lapsarian signifies above the fall, and these di- children together, even as a hen gathers her vines are so called because they so arrange the chickens under her wings, and ye would not?" decrees of God as to go above the fall of man, Matt. xxiij. 37. as we are going to explain. Their grand prin- Lastly, we desire to know how it is possible ciple is, that God made all things for his own / to conceive a Gud, who being in the actual
enjoyment of perfect happiness, incomprehen- that "the potter hath power over the clay, sible and supreme, could determine to add this of the same lump to make one vessel unto degree though useless to his felicity, to create honour, and another unto dishonour.” If you men without number for the purpose of con- still demand, what then is the use of our fining them for ever in chains of darkness, and ministry, and what right has God to complain burning them for ever in urquenchable flames. that so many sinners persist in impenitence,
Such are the gulfs opened to us by these since he has resolved to leave them in it? To divines! As they conceive of the ways of God this we answer, who art thou that repliest in a manner so much beyond comprehension, against God? Shall the thing formed say to him no people in the world have so much reason as that formed it, why hast thou made me thus?” they to exclaim, “O the depth! How un- After all these questions should you appeal to searchable are the ways of God!" For my our consciences to know whether our own anpart, I own I cannot enough wonder at men, swers fully satisfy ourselves; whether our arguwho tell us in cool blood, that God created this ments may not be turned against us; whether universe on purpose to save one man, and to the objections we have made against others do damn a hundred thousand; that neither sighs, not seem to conclude against ourselves; and nor prayers, nor tears, nor groans, can revoke whether the system we have proposed to you this decree; that we must submit to the sen- appears to ourselves free from difficulty; to this tence of God, whose glory requires the creation we reply by putting our finger upon our mouth: of all these people for destruction! I say I we acknowledge our ignorance, we cannot cannot sufficiently express my astonishment at rend the veil under which God has concealed seeing people maintain these propositions with his mysteries: we declare, that our end in inflexibility and insensibility, without attempt- choosing this subject was less to remove diffiing to mitigate or limit the subject, yea, who culties than to press them home, and by these tells us that all this is extremely plain and free means to make you feel the toleration which from every difficulty, and that none of our Christians mutually owe to one another on this objections deserve an answer.
article. It was with this view that we led you to Such being the difficulties of the several the brink of this abyss of God, and endeavoursystems of the decrees of God, it should seemed to engage you to exclaim here, as well as there is but one part to take, and that is to on the borders of other abysses,
“O the depth embrace the plan of our churches; for although of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge it is evident by the reflections we have made, of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, that the subject is obscure, yet it is that of all and his ways past finding out!" which is most conformable to the light of rea- So much for the deep things of God considerson, and to the Holy Seriptures. We believe ed as objects astonishing and transporting the that God from a principle of goodness, created mind. Now let us consider them as objects mankind—that it was agreeable to his wisdom productive of virtue and holiness. As the docto form man free-that the root of mankind, trine we have been establishing is most sublime Adam, our unhappy father, abused this liberty in speculation, so is it most effectual in practice. -that his descendants have added their natural Recall what we said on the darkness in which depravity, and to the sins of their ancestors, God conceals himself. Remember this obscumany crimes of their own—that a conduct so rity is every where mixed with light, a sort of monstrous rendered parents and children wor- twilight. There is obscurity in our natural thy of eternal misery, so that without violating ideas, obscurity in the works of nature, obscuthe laws of justice God might for ever punish rity in the conduct of Providence, obscurity in both—that having foreseen from all eternity many doctrines of revelation. Amidst all this these misfortunes, he resolved from all eternity darkness, I discover one certain principle, one to take from this unworthy mass of condemned particle of pure light emitting brightness withcreatures a certain number of men to be saved out obscurity, one truth which natural ideas, -that for them he sent his Son into the world the whole creation, the ways of Providence, -that he grants them his Spirit to apply the and the language of revelation, concur to teach benefits of the death of his Son--and that this us, that is, that a holy life is necessary. Spirit conducts them by the hearing of the We do not make this reflection by way of word to sanctification, and from sanctification introducing skepticism, and to diminish the to eternal felicity. This in a few words is the certainty of the doctrines, which it has pleased system of our churches.
God to reveal. Wo be to us, if while we laHereupon, if you ask how it happens that bour with one hand to establish the foundations two men to whom Christ is preached, the one of religion, we endeavour to subvert them with receives and the other rejects him? We an- the other! Far from us be those modern Vaswer with St. Paul, this difference is, “that ninis, who, under pretence of making us conthe purpose of God according to election might sider the Deity as covered with holy darkness,
If you ask again whence comes this would persuade us that he is an inconsistent choice, how is it that God chooses to give his being, and that the religion he addresses to us Spirit, and to display his mercy to one, and shocks reason, and is incompatible with itself. that he chooses to make the other a victim to But whence is it, pray, that amidst all the his justice? We answer, “God hath mercy obscurities that surround us, God has placed on whom he will have mercy, and whom he practical duties in a light so remarkably clear? will he hardeneth," that is, leaves him to Whence is it that doctrines most clearly rehis own insensibility. If you inquire farther vealed are however so expressed as to furnish how God can without injuring his holiness, difficulties, if not substantial and real, yet likely leave a man to his own hardness? We re- and apparent: and that the practical part is so ply, that God is master of his creature, and I clearly revealed that it is not liable to any