Mell, Predestination and the Saints’ Perseverence: Section II.Mell, Predestination and the Saints’ Perseverence: Section II.
It would be a sufficient defense of Predestination against our author, to show that, notwithstanding his professions, he does not attack it at all; but, as he seems to look upon his arguments with much complacency and the task is to us not destitute of entertainment, we waive this method of defense, and engage to ramble about with him, and to sustain any Calvinistic doctrines he may have attacked, whether designedly or by mistake. As we essay to answer Mr. Reneau, we must meet him where he is, since we cannot find him where he ought to be. Before doing so, however, we seem it proper to state the much abused doctrine of Predestination. We are the more inclined to do so, as we have reason to believe that our author is not the only one who entertains confused notions in regard to it.
“Predestination is that eternal, most wise, and immutable decree of God whereby he did, form before all time, determined and ordain to create, dispose of, and direct to some particular end, every person and thing to which he has given, or is yet to give, being; and to make the whole creation subservient to, and declarative of, his own glory.” “The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov. 16:4) — Zanchius.
The doctrine, as we think, necessarily grows out of the character of God, and his connection with the universe as its creator, upholder, and governor.
The following series of propositions, analytically disposed, contains, as we conceive, both the statement, and the proof of it:
1. This earth was created by God, and, consequently, there was a period when it began to exist.
2. God created it not of necessity, or from impulse, but according to the good pleasure of His will, and as the result of a settled purpose entertained from eternity.
3. As an infinitely wise and reasonable being, he had some ultimate object, well-defined, and specific, which he proposed to attain by its creation (Prov. 16:4; Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4:11).
4. Possessing infinite knowledge, he knew, by intuition not only all things that have existed, and shall exist, but all things possible — “all possible causes, and all their possible effects” (Ps. 147:5; 1 Sam. 23:11,12; Mt. 11:21,23). Therefore, out of an endless diversity of worlds comprehended in the divine knowledge as possible, he selected such an one as this composed as it is, and peopled as it is, — as the most suitable means for the accomplishment of his purpose: and decreed that it should exist (Col. 1:16).
5. That this ultimate object might be attained, and the end infallibly secured, he ordained, with unerring certainty, all the means necessary, both in the world of matter, and in the world of mind. He not only fixed, from eternity, all the forms, positions, relations, and motions of matter, even to the numbering of the hairs of our heads, and deciding when a sparrow should fall — in directing the motions of the particles of dust in the atmosphere, (Isa. 40: 12) and ordaining when the sun should shine, (Job 9:7) and when the wind should blow, (Ps. 135:7), but he “fixed from eternity all the circumstances in the life of every individual or mankind and all the particulars which will compose the history of the human race from its commencement to its close.”
6. God’s foreknowledge relates to those things that should occur in time; and he foreknew, therefore, that those would occur rather than the other innumerable things that were possible, because he had decreed that they, and not others, should exist. (Eph. 1:11; Acts 15:18; Ps. 115:6; Acts 17:26).
7. The world, therefore, in all its physical and moral details, is just as God designed it to be — the entrance of moral evil itself not excepted. He did not err in his plan, therefore evil did not enter unexpectedly to him — he has not been frustrated in his purpose, therefore it did not enter in spite of him. And this too is in perfect consistency with the declaration of scripture, that God is not the author of sin.
1. God is not only the creator but the upholder of all things (Heb. 1:3). In him we live, and move, and have our being. He not only bestowed upon men their faculties, but He gives them the ability to use them. He preserves those powers when they are employed in opposition to him, no less than when they are employed in his service.
2. This he does not from a choice of evils, i.e. not because he is compelled, by the force of circumstances, which he cannot control, to take this as an evil rather than some other that is greater, for, possessing almighty power, he might have paralyzed those faculties, or prevented their abuse by changing the hearts of their owners.
3. Possessing infallible prescience, he foresaw all the instances in which ungodly men would sin against him; and, permitting it in time, he determined to permit it from all eternity, and decreeing from eternity to permit it, it entered into his plan, and composed a part of the purpose which he entertained before the world was.
1. God, as the governor of the world, administers all things according to his sovereign pleasure. He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
2. “He did not merely decree that general laws should be established for the government of the world, but he settled the application of those laws to all particular cases.” Our days are numbered, and so are the hairs of our heads. His providence takes cognizance of, and controls everything however minute (Ps. 135:6; Acts 17:25, 26, 28; Matt. 6:26, 30, &c). “It upholds, directs, disposes, and governs all creatures, actions and things, from the greatest even to the least.”
3. Now, as known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world, and, as he is immutable in his nature, it follows that what he does in time he determined to do from eternity — that his providence is but the enforcement of those laws and the revealment of those plans, which existed before the world was. Finally, it follows that “whatever occurs in time was fore-ordained before the beginning of time.”
In reference to men, predestination is divided into two parts: 1st — as it relates to the elect, and 2nd — as it relates to the non-elect. Having decreed to create a world and to people it with beings who would voluntarily sin against him, he determined from eternity to save some and to leave others to perish in their sins. “Willing to show his wrath and to make his power known,” he “endured with much longsuffering” these as “the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on” those as “the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory” (Rom. 9:22-23).
To carry out his purpose of grace, he chose some to holiness and eternal life, entered for their sake into the Covenant of Redemption with the Son and the Holy Ghost, appointed his Son as their substitute, to suffer in their stead, and, having died, to rise again and appear as their advocate before his throne, appointed all the intermediate means necessary and, by an infallible decree, made their salvation sure. Those “whose names are not written in the book of life” (Rev. 20:15), who are “appointed to wrath” (1 Thes. 5:9), who were “before of old ordained to condemnation” (Jude 4), who would “stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Pet. 2:8), he determined to leave in their sins and to endure them with much long suffering, as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
The elect are chosen, not because God foresees faith and good works in them; but in part that they might have faith and might perform good works; or, in the language of the Confession of Faith, quoted by our author: “God hath chosen them in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto.” God’s act in electing some and not others is to be resolved into his sovereign will He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom 9:18).
While, by an immutable decree, He has made all things in time fixed and sure, all this occurs in perfect consistency with the free agency of the creature, and God is not the author of sin. The elect are, by the influence of sovereign grace made willing in the day of God’s power and those not elected have no active principle of disobedience imparted to them, and feel no restraint upon their wills — they are simply passed by, and permitted to follow the inclinations of their own hearts. While they work out God’s purposes, they do it unconsciously and wickedly. “Him (Christ) being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23).
REMARK 1. Whatever objections may be raised against this doctrine (and what doctrine is there against which objections cannot be raised) can be shown to press with greater weight upon the Arminian system.
REMARK 2. Much of the difficulty in the way of the reception of this doctrine grows out of the two following considerations:
1. We are too much disposed to think of the eternal God as if He were just such a being as we are. Looking too exclusively upon our free agency and accountability, we lose sight of God’s sovereignty and omniscience. Confining our observations only to the brief period which limits our existence on earth, we view Him as a mere contemporary with ourselves whose only jurisdiction is to reward us if we do well, to note our improper conduct if we act amiss, and to bring us into judgment hereafter. It does not enter into our conceptions that He existed from all eternity and, as our Creator, has supreme ownership of us — that He was under no obligation to create us nor to destine us for one end rather than another. Our pride and self-love cause us to rebel at the declaration that God, in making and in disposing of us, consults His sovereign pleasure and His glory rather then our interests. And we are disposed to reply against God. As if He had not, in the beginning, in reference to us, the same right and the same power that the potter has out of clay to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor (Rom. 9:21).
2. Another cause of hesitation to receive this doctrine springs from a desire to avoid any belief which seems dishonoring to God. Taking a partial and superficial (and sometimes distorted) view of the subject, some consider it to be inconsistent with His goodness and impartiality to decree to save some and to leave others to perish in their sins. But let them take care while they quarrel with what God decrees that they do not quarrel with what He does. It is evident that all men are not saved, and that those that are, are saved by the operations of His grace. Now, if it is consistent with God’s honor to save some in time and to leave others to perish in their sins, it is consistent with it to decree to do so from eternity. Besides, supposing we grant that there were no divine decrees, we see not how the difficulty is obviated. God knew before He created them and from eternity who would reject the gospel and finally perish, and yet He gave them being notwithstanding — though He was under no necessity to do so. He might have created them with dispositions to do His will, or He might have not created them at all. Is He not as much responsible for the destruction of the wicked on the one supposition as on the other? As much on the Arminian principle as on the Calvinistic? God knows better than we do what is consistent with His character and how to preserve His honor — we shall be perfectly safe, therefore, in believing implicitly all that He reveals on the subject. And this is His testimony: “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, (i.e. has immutably decreed) saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass: and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it! and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?”(Is. 14:24, 26, 27).
In the above, we have given a statement of Predestination in such terms as we think to carry the proof along with it; but as it is an eminently practical doctrine and one much caviled at, we proceed to argue its truth by starting from a different point. Be it remembered, however, that Mr. Reneau has laid us under no obligation to take this course nor, indeed, to have said any thing on Predestination proper. As it is, therefore, a mere gratuity to him, we hope he will not he insensible of the favor though — as his organs are weak, we are not sure that it may not prove too hard for him to digest. Indeed, it would not be surprising if it should turn out a file which he cannot bite.
That God, from all eternity, ordained all things that should occur in time both in the world of matter and in the world of mind will follow, as an inevitable conclusion, if we shall be able to establish the following premises:
Position 1. God has intimate relations with all the works of His hands. This, we suppose none of our readers will deny. No one entertains the Epicurean notion that God, after creating the world, and ordaining general physical laws for its government; withdrew into some distant part of His universe and since then has taken no cognizance of His creatures. Nor does any one believe that He is a mere unconcerned spectator of the actions and events that transpire in this lower world. He fills immensity with His presence and maintains intimate personal relations with all the works of His hands:
1st. He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). We suppose it susceptible of demonstration, were it necessary, that it requires as great an exertion of almighty power to preserve, as originally to have called into existence the universe; and that, if His upholding and sustaining power were removed, it would instantly fall back into the nothingness from whence it sprang. By Him, all inanimate matter, in the aggregate, and, therefore, in its minutest parts is preserved. In Him, the tallest Archangel and the most degraded descendant of Adam, live and move and have their being. “Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth with all things that are therein, the seas, end all that is therein, and thou preservest them all” (Neh. 9:6).
2nd. God provides for all His creatures — Whether directly or through the agency of second causes (which he controls). He gives to all His living creatures their meat in due season (Ps. 104:27). To men, He gives rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17) and commands His people to pray to Him daily: Give us this day our daily bread. He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (Ps. 145:16), gives to the beast his food and to the young ravens which cry (Ps. 147:9), feeds the fowls of the air (Mt. 6:26), and, in a word, giveth food to all flesh (Ps. 136:25).
3rd. God disposes and governs all His creatures. He appointed the limits to the land and said to the sea, Hitherto shalt thou come and no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed (Job 38:11). He gathered together in heaps those particles of earth that form the mountains, and he strewed the grains of sand that form the sea shore — giving to each one its allotted place. His hand keeps on their firm foundations the everlasting hills, and He disposes every particle of dust: by His direction, they float through the atmosphere or settle in the position to which His hand guides them (Is. 40:12). He scooped out the channels through which mighty rivers flow and sent the springs to run through the valleys (Ps. 104:10) — marking out all their sinuosities, directing all their mutations, and guiding all the watery particles that, from time to time, unite to replenish their failing waters. By His direction, some particles of moisture flow towards the sea and some, ascending in vapor form clouds. By His appointment, they descend in genial showers to fertilize the fields, or in torrents causing the channels of the rivers to overflow and bearing destruction to property and to life. The elements are ruled by Him (Job 37:9-13; Is. 50:2; Jn. 1:4,15; Neh. l:4). He covereth the heavens with clouds; He prepareth rain for the earth; He giveth snow like wool; He scattereth the hoar frost like ashes; He casteth forth His ice like morsels. Who can stand before His cold? He sendth out His word and melteth them; He causeth His winds to blow and the waters to flow (Ps. 147:8,16-18). In no less sovereign way does He dispose of His creature, man. He decides when he shall be born, and where, and of what parents, though the most momentous consequences attend upon the decision. By His appointment, some come into existence in the midst of a heathen community, where their whole lives are spent without an opportunity to hear of the God of the Bible or to learn the way of salvation through Christ. While, to others, their lives are cast by Him in pleasant places. They are nurtured, by His appointment, in a community in whose midst Christ Jesus is permanently set forth — evidently crucified among them. Some, He makes the offspring of ungodly parents, who rear them up in irreligion and vice and teach them to blaspheme His Name and to despise His authority; while others are descended from a long line of pious ancestry — are raised up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and, like Timothy, have from their childhood the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make them wise unto eternal life. He ordains all the worldly circumstances and conditions of men. However wise their plans and strenuous their exertions, without the blessing of the Lord upon their efforts, they fail of success. “The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich; He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (I Sam. 2:7,8, with Ps. 75:67). The ways of men are ordered by Him. However conscious they may be of their independence — that they are acting freely and following the bent of their own inclinations — an unseen power controls them in all their ways. “A man’s heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps” (Prov. 16:9). “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord that shall stand” (Prov. 19:21, with 20:24). They have no right to say: Today or tomorrow we will do thus and so; but: If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that (Ja. 4:15). He holds, with a firm grasp, the reins of dominion over His creatures and worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). All causes and all effects, in the material world, obey His command, and all the antecedents and consequents in the immaterial. He controls. The preparation of the heart and the answer of the tongue is with the Lord. He works in his obedient subjects to will and to do of His good pleasure; and the disobedient sin against Him, He not hindering — not, however, in spite of His power (John 19:11); and, in doing so, they accomplish ulterior objects that he has in view (Gen. 50:20; Is. 10:6,7,12; Rom. 9:17,11; Sam. 24:1,10, with 1 Chron. 21:1; Acts 4:27,28). God determines the period of human life (Ps. 31:15, 39:5; Acts 17:26). The days of all the descendants of Adam are numbered. Various are the terms allotted to individuals; but the times of all are in His hand (Ps. 31:15). Some, in early youth, are hurried in impenitency from time to eternity; while others, more favored, are spared to make their peace with God when their heads are frosted with age. In a word, God is nigh to every one of us, and His providence ruleth over all. Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places (Ps. 135:6). As an upholder, a provider, a disposer, and a governor, God maintains the most intimate relations with all the works of His hands.
Position 2. In all these relations with His creatures, God governs Himself by a determinate plan. To deny this is to rob Him of intelligence and wisdom. Even a wise man who has a valuable object to attain or is engaged in some important enterprise lays down a well-digested plan of operations and establishes those rules to govern his exertions which, in his opinion, will be most likely to insure him success. A skillful General marks out the plan of his campaigns; a farmer, a plan by which to cultivate his estate; a statesman, a plan by which to administer the affairs of the government; and so on to the end of the chapter. It is a mark of stupidity and of folly among men to attempt any thing without system and to expect to attain great results by impulse and at haphazard. God, therefore who possesses the attributes of wisdom and intelligence in an infinite degree knows what he intends and what will most infallibly secure that result. Now while it is not necessary for Him to make an array of forces so as to overcome obstacles in the way of the attainment of His results — while it is only necessary for Him to speak and it is done, to command and it stands fast — yet, as an infinitely wise Being, He knows the ends He proposes and the best means for the attainment of those ends: and these means He selects; and these means, selected constitute His plan. Again — When time shall be no more and the history of God’s actions towards His creatures shall be complete, the aggregate of those actions will constitute a system. Now, this system of actions, as a whole and in all its parts, is such as God designs it to be — or it is not, if not, then God acts fortuitously and impulsively without any definite object and at random. If it is, then He governs Himself in all these actions by a determinate plan which infinite wisdom devised. God works all things after the counsel of His will. Our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He pleased (Ps. 115:3).
Position 3. This determinate plan existed from all eternity. This follows from the infinite perfections of His nature – from His immutability. If He has a plan in time which He had not in eternity, then His mind has undergone a change. But, He says: I am the Lord I change not (Mal. 3:6). He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, without variableness or shadow of turning — from His infinite knowledge. If a plan exists in the Divine Mind, it is designed either to produce the occurrences in time or to meet them: either it is the cause of events or is caused by them. Upon either supposition, it existed from eternity. Though it be granted that it was devised to meet the events that occur, in time, it must have existed from eternity; since those events are as fully comprehended in the divine knowledge from eternity as after their occurrence in time. Known unto God are all His works from the beginnings, (or as the distinguished Arminian writer, Mr. Watson, translates it, from eternity).
Let these premises be granted (and we see not how they can be denied) and Predestination comes in like a flood. Now, God’s eternal decree, by which He makes all things in time fixed and sure, is nothing but His eternal plan, by which He governs Himself in His relations towards His creatures. And His works of providence and of grace are but the revealment of that eternal plan and, consequently, of His eternal purpose. Is it true that the elements and all inanimate nature are controlled by Him? Then all their conditions and mutations are foreordained by Him before the beginning of time. Is it true that He rules with as sovereign sway in the moral as in the physical world?- That the hearts of all men are in His hands and that He turns them as the rivers of water are turned? — Does He send His Spirit to a certain number and no more and convince them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment? Call them effectually by His grace-regenerate, sanctify, and save them? And does He do all this in accordance with a plan entertained from eternity? Then it follows that they were predestined to this grace according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. Has moral evil entered into His system, and do wicked men sin against Him, he not paralyzing their faculties nor changing their hearts? And does He leave some, as vessels of wrath, to hardness of heart and blindness of mind that they might be damned? And does all this occur too in accordance with a plan entertained from eternity? Then it follows that from all eternity He decreed for wise purposes to permit the entrance of moral evil into His system to permit men to use the powers He gave them in opposition to His authority; then, it follows that some were before of old (i.e. from eternity), ordained to condemnation (Jude 4). Finally, it follows that the world, in all its physical and moral details, is just as God designed it to be.
Objection 1. “But does not this make God the author of sin?” Let us get a definite idea of this phrase. What do you mean by the author of sin? Sin is the transgression of the law and the author of sin is one who is the perpetrator of such transgression. God, in this sense, cannot be the author of sin; nor can the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination be tortured into such a blasphemous testimony against Him. “But does it not teach that evil entered into His system in accordance with His eternal purpose and that He decreed all the acts of transgression that wicked men are guilty of; does it not, therefore make Him the approver of sin?” This question is a pertinent one, and we will meet it with all fairness. Predestination does assert that all the wicked acts of wicked men were foreordained before the beginning of time; but yet it as unequivocally asserts that God does not approve of them; since it teaches that He before of old ordained them to condemnation because of those very sins. “But how can God foreordain that of which He does not approve?” I will answer your question by propounding another: How can God, when He possesses infinite power permit that of which He does not approve? When you have answered my question, you will have furnished an answer to your own. Now that moral evil does exist — that wicked men do sin against God, are facts that are indisputable. This happens either by God’s permission or against His consent. Now let my Arminian interrogator take either supposition that he pleases. If he says it happens against God’s consent — in spite of God’s will, then he robs Him of His omnipotence; if by God’s permission, then he too is imperatively called upon to defend his system from the odious consequences which he ascribes to mine. The only difference between us is that he says God permits sin, and we say that He decreed from eternity to permit it. But the question again returns: “How can God decree to permit sin without favoring it?” Let us elucidate this by examples:
1. When the tempter approached our first parents in the garden of Eden, God was not absent and was not an unconcerned spectator of what was transpiring. He might, had He been so disposed, have prevented it by expelling the tempter or by strengthening our progenitors against his temptations. He did neither, however. They yielded to his wiles, transgressed and fell; and, in consequence, lost the favor of God and were expelled from Paradise. Now does this statement make God the author of sin? Surely not: for He was not the actor of the sin — Does it make Him the favorer of sin? Surely not; for, besides forbidding the act, He exhibited after its occurrence in the most tremendous manner His disapprobation by expelling them from Paradise and pronouncing upon them that awful curse under which their posterity are still suffering. “But if the sin of our first parents was so abhorrent to His mind as it seems to be from His treatment of it, how could He ordain from eternity that it should occur?” Why not shape the question thus: If it was so abhorrent to His mind why did He not prevent it since He had the power? Remove your own difficulty first before you condemn me for not removing mine when it is the same precisely with yours. If it was consistent with the divine character to permit the entrance of evil in time, surely it was not inconsistent to decree from eternity to permit it. Doubtless, it was for reasons known only to the most infinitely wise God that sin was permitted to enter into the world; some of which are manifest even to us. Had sin not entered, God, would not have been manifested in the flesh; Christ would not have been preached as the Saviour of sinners; the attributes of God’s character would not have been exhibited and harmonized before men by the cross of Christ at which mercy, and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other.
2. Again, take the case of Joseph. His brethren, through envy and hatred, “conspired against him to slay him,” but, changing their minds, they sold him to a company of Ishmaelites, who carried him down to Egypt and disposed of him to Potiphar. This act, wicked as it was, was foreordained of God; for we are told (Gen. 50:20) that though his brethren “thought evil against him, God meant it for good.” God ordained the act, just as it occurred, for the accomplishment of ulterior good. Was God therefore the author, i.e. the actor of their sin? Surely not. Did He approve of their conduct? Surely not; for it was in violation of all His precepts that had any reference to the case — He expressly forbid the act perpetrated and punished them for its commission in a marked manner. But yet we are expressly told that “God meant it unto good to bring to pass as it is this day to save much people alive.” “But how is it possible for God at the same time to ordain the act and yet disapprove of it?” And yet so it is revealed. We are not reasoning with an infidel now but with an Arminian who, while he rejects Calvinism, believes in Bibleism. (Perhaps, however, we should except Mr. Reneau who says: “convince me that Christianity tolerates such things, and I will plead its cause no more.”) To such, we will propound questions in return: Was not God present when this act was committed? Did He unsuccessfully attempt to hinder it? Did He not freely permit it? Nay, did He not mean that it should occur for good to save much people alive? Is not God, therefore, as much the author of sin on your principles as on the Calvinistic? You admit that God foreknew the act; that He permitted it when He might have prevented it; and, with the Bible, that God meant it for good; and yet that He neither performed nor approved it. How then upon these principles of yours is it possible for God at the same time to permit the act and mean that it should occur and yet disapprove of it? Until you can explain this, do not condemn us for that which we should not escape were we to abandon our ground and come over to yours.
3. Again, take the crucifixion of Christ. No act in the annals of the world was so heaven-daring and wicked as the violence offered to the Lord of glory. But yet God from eternity decreed this event; for grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the world was. For this purpose Christ came into the world, and, ages before the event, the minutest circumstances connected with it were foretold through His prophets. He was delivered to the Jews and Romans by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. It was the will of the Father that the Son should die on the cross. But does that make God the crucifier of Christ? Does that make Him an approver of the murder committed upon that innocent and glorious person! We think that even an Arminian must go as far as we do in reference to that most heinous of all the acts committed by men and believe that the crucifixion of Christ was ordained by the Divine Being from all eternity and that it could not in consequence of God’s appointment otherwise than happen. Let him, however, entertain whatever opinion on the subject he may — so that he does not make the Divine Being altogether such an one as we are — it will puzzle him as much as he thinks it does us to explain how it can be true that the crucifixion of Christ occurred not only according to God’s foreknowledge but by His determinate counsel, and yet the act did not meet with God’s approval. Examples of the same kind, enough to fill a volume, may be selected from the Bible; but let these suffice. (See Ex. 4:21, 7:2-5, 9:12, 10:1,2, 14:7,8; Gen. 45:5,7; Ps. 107:17; Deut. 2:30); Josh. 11:20; Jer. 52:3; 2 Kings 24:20; Jer. 25:9, 43:10,11, 51:20; Is. 14:4-6; 2 Sam. 16:10,11; Acts 22:21-22, 4:27,28, 3:17,18, &c.) It will be seen by what has been said that the Arminian system is just as liable as the Calvinistic to the odious objection that God is made the author of sin. But, worse than this, it lies open to a more valid objection still: that, if He is the author of sin, He has made Himself so without having any definite object in view or, in other words, without any reason for it! Arminians believe (and Mr. Reneau among them) that God not only knew from eternity all things that should occur in time but all things possible and, consequently, He knew that if He created Adam and Eve and placed them in Paradise and permitted the tempter to gain admittance to them in the way he did that they would fall. All this, however, He did knowing that sin would inevitably be committed, and thus evil inevitably enter into the system; and yet that most important event that has ever occurred in time did not occur under His direction nor by His appointment! Again, He knew that if He caused such a being as Judas to live in the time of Christ and preserved him by His providence that he would be admitted into the family of the Saviour and, such things happening as did happen, he would be guilty of the awful crime of betraying his master to the Jews; yet all these things He ordered and permitted without ordaining that Christ should be betrayed and crucified — nay; without even decreeing from eternity to permit it! Thus laying the Divine Being open, as much as Calvinists do, to the charge of being the author of sin and yet defying to him all the attributes of sovereignty and all the characteristics of a reasonable being! Is there not room here for some of that virtuous indignation vented by our author against the Calvinistic system?
Thus it is seen that the consequence of making God the author of sin does not flow from the Calvinistic system because of its difference from the Arminian; and thus it will be seen from the scriptures as well as from Calvinism that God ordains the sinful act and yet disapproves of and punishes it. If our object were merely to defend ourselves against the objections of an Arminian, we might rest the subject here and content ourselves with having closed his mouth; but, as we have a higher object, we will go further and attempt to show to the enquirer after truth that predestination is not only sustained by the Bible but is consistent with sound reason.
It is asserted that God, from all eternity, ordained every sin that is committed but yet is neither the author nor approver of it. How can these things be reconciled? The following remarks, it is thought, will aid us to arrive at a solution of the question.
1. A distinction is to be made, as existing in the divine mind, between the sinful act and the result to be attained by it. The one may be abhorrent to God and forbidden by Him and is sinful, because it is a violation of His law; the other may be good and infinitely worthy of accomplishment. Thus, eating the forbidden fruit was a sinful act, because forbidden by God and, as such, was infinitely abhorrent to Him; while the result attained by it was, in part, at least (and who will venture to say it was not as a whole, taking all things into consideration) a good infinitely valuable. It gave occasion for the advent of Christ; for the manifestation of the divine excellencies; and for the bestowal of that glorious grace which will constitute the theme for the praises of the redeemed, throughout eternity. Again, the outrage upon Joseph was, in the perpetrators of it, an unnatural sin and, as such, offensive in the sight of God; but the result attained by it was good and extorted the gratitude of all those affected by it. Joseph’s brethren “meant” it for evil, but God “meant” it for good, to save much people alive. Finally, the crucifixion of Christ was not only a violation of the commands of God against the shedding of innocent blood, but was infinitely heinous as a manifestation of the Jews’ hostility to Christ’s holiness and was, therefore, an awful act of wickedness; but what Christian is unconscious of the glorious consequences of the crucifixion of Christ? What humble soul does not adopt the language of the Apostle, and say — “God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
2. It follows from the above that if God knows that any thing will result in infinite good (as the wicked crucifixion of Christ, for instance), it is not unworthy in Him to decree that it should occur; on the contrary, it is infinitely worthy in Him to do so. Calvinists, therefore, divide the will of God into secret and revealed — the revealed to govern His creatures, the secret to govern Himself; and the latter will be attained, whether men regard or disregard the former. But here two other objections are started. 1st. “Does not this imply an inconsistency in God; as His secret will is sometimes one thing, and His revealed another?” and 2nd. “Is this not saying that God does evil, that good may come?”
1st. To the first, we answer that God’s revealed will is always consistent with itself, and His secret will is always consistent with itself. The former is given in His precepts, and all the commands, warning, threatening, persuasions, &c, are consistent therewith. He never commands anything without sincerely requiring it; and, having commanded it. He never authorizes anything that conflicts with it. His revealed and His secret will have reference to objects that are entirely distinct, and cannot, therefore, be compared together. Thus, as we have shown, His revealed will may be entirely opposed to the violence offered to the Saviour and to the motives and feelings that influenced the Jews in that transaction; and yet His secret will, having another object in view, decreed that event in order that the glorious blessings and results that flow from the atonement of Christ might be secured.
2nd. “Is this not saying that God does evil that good may come?”
God is not the doer of evil — the most that can be said, therefore, is that He permits evil that good may come. Substitute, therefore, for the word `does’, the word `permits’, and the question will stand: “Does God permit evil that good may come?” That He does permit evil is indisputable. Only three suppositions, therefore, can be made in the case: Either He permits it without any objection in view and for no reason at all; or He permits it that evil may come; or He permits it that good may come. The first, if we understand them, is the Arminian view; but which is the most honoring to God? Let the reader judge.
Finally, if there is any difficulty in this subject, it grows out of the connection that exists between the omnipotent and sovereign God and finite and responsible men. God’s sovereignty and man’s free agency are both revealed in the scriptures and, therefore, should be both believed. And if we cannot reconcile them, it is not because they are irreconcilable, but because the subject is above our faculties. We think it has been shown, however, that if the objection considered above can lie against the Calvinistic system, it can be alleged with as much reason against the Bible: and Calvinism is content to stand or fall with the Bible.
Objection 2. “Does not the doctrine which teaches that God foreordained all things even to the sins that wicked men commit, exonerate the sinner from all blame?” This is akin to the objection considered above, viz: that Predestination makes God the author of sin, and the answer to one is applicable to the other. The point of the objection is that, if the creature does what God in His secret counsels ordained should be done and thus becomes an instrument (though unconsciously) for the accomplishment of God’s purposes, no blame can be attached to him, and God has no right to find fault. Exactly such an objection and in the same connection is considered and answered by the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:5, 6, 7, 8. “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?” If our wickedness tends to the glory of God and to the accomplishment of His purposes, would it not be unjust in God to punish us? Certainly not, says he, “God forbid; for then how shall God judge the world?” “But,” says the objector, “if the truth of God hath more abounded through my life unto his glory, why am I also judged as a sinner?” “And not rather,” answers the Apostle (as we be slanderously reported, &c), “Let us do evil that good may come.” Secret things belong to God; and it is a worthy view of Him that He rules with such an omnipotent sway, then even our rebellion and wickedness cannot happen without His permission and cannot thwart His purposes. His revealed will is the rule of our action, and whenever we violate it thoughtlessly or through enmity to it, we are guilty of sin and are blameworthy, whatever may be the consequence of our act as it relates to God. As well might one say who, with malice aforethought, attempted to injure seriously another whom he hated but was thwarted by the skill or power of the latter and thus the act, that was meant for his injury, was made to subserve his interest in a high degree- as well might such an one say, that he was not blameworthy since his act (though unintentionally) wrought good and not evil. And the case supposed would be more pertinent still, and it would not in the slightest degree affect the moral character of the act, if the assailed, unknown to his adversary, became possessed of his intention before hand and determined to permit it, because he foresaw how he could turn it to a good account. Because the wrath of man is foreseen by God and is made to praise Him, that does not make it the less the wrath of man. That God does ordain particular events and all the minute circumstances connected therewith, and yet men act wickedly in bringing them to pass, is asserted by a multitude of scripture passages. Take the following: “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). See again, Matt. 17:12; Acts 4:27, 28, 27:23, 24, 34 and that remarkable passage John 19:11. “Jesus answered, thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” Our objector, however, differing from the Saviour, would say that, under the circumstances, he had no sin at all!
Objection 3. “But does not Predestination, as explained, destroy free-agency, and make men mere machines?” No, on the contrary, it establishes free-agency. Men are free-agents when they act according to their inclinations. Freedom of action is not opposed to necessity but to compulsion. A being may be necessarily holy or necessarily wicked, and yet a free-agent — nay, a free-agent for that very reason. Thus, God is a free-agent though He cannot sin and Satan though he cannot but sin. And so it is with men. Mr. Reneau cannot act otherwise than violently, illiberally, and uncandidly towards his opponents; yet he is a free-agent notwithstanding. Predestination asserts neither that God makes men serve Him against their consent nor that they disobey Him unwillingly. His chosen people He makes willing in the day of His power and so works in them to will and to do His good pleasure, that they find it to be their meat and their drink to do His will; the rest He leaves to themselves, and, in consequence, they sin against Him freely, and, in following their own inclinations, they work out their own destruction greedily. “But you say God does not infuse into the sinner any active principle of disobedience; how then can he fulfil that which God has appointed, and yet not be a mere machine?” And yet so it is; and my Arminian objector is as much responsible for it as I am. Did not Joseph’s brethren act freely in their violence to him? Yet God sent him to Egypt? Did not Pharaoh act freely in refusing to let the Israelites go? Yet God hardened his heart that he might not let them go. Was not the curse which Shimei uttered against David the offspring of the bitter feelings of his heart? Yet God told him to curse David. Did not Absalom and his advisers act in an untrammeled manner in adopting the counsel of Hushai rather than that of Ahithophel? Yet “the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom” (2 Sam. 17:14). Did not the Jews act freely in crucifying Christ? Yet He was delivered to them by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.
Objection 4. “Does not Predestination make God a respecter of persons?” He is a respecter of persons who favors some because of their rank, position, or circumstances — who accepts the persons of the rich and the exalted, and rejects the poor and the humble, and vice versa. Now, in the sight of God, all men by nature possess the same moral character; and all those extraneous circumstances which give dignity and excellency in this world’s estimation, are as nothing, and less than nothing, in His sight. Not many great, not many mighty, are called by Him; on the contrary, God hath chosen the poor of this world and the weak of this world declaring that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for those who trust in riches and station to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Looking upon all as sinners against Him, He chooses some of every condition — rich and poor, bond and free, male and female — not because of their moral or other character but in spite of it. If any system exhibits God as a respecter of persons, it is the Arminian, which represents Him as electing men because of their character — because of faith and good works foreseen in them.
Objection 5. “But in saying that He, by an immutable decree, fixed the eternal destiny of those who were `before of old ordained to condemnation’ (Jude 4), do you not represent God as unjust and cruel?” That part of Predestination which relates to the non-elect is divided by Calvinists into preterition and condemnation; i.e., 1st. God passes by some and leaves them in their sins; 2nd. God condemns and punishes them for their sins. Now in which of these resides injustice and cruelty?
1st. Has not the sovereign of heaven the right to with hold His grace from whomsoever He pleases when all are alike undeserving of it? Is it unjust in God to leave men to themselves — especially too when it is their wish that He should do so? Is there any man in a state of nature that desires the knowledge of God’s ways? And has He not a right to do as He pleases with His own? Establish it as a truth that God has no right to leave an immortal being to his own inclinations, and you lay Him under obligations to save every child of Adam — nay, to unpeople Hell itself and to restore the Devil and his angels to that estate from whence they fell.
2nd. Is it unjust and cruel in God to condemn and punish sinners for their transgressions? Under what circumstances then can condemnation righteously be pronounced and punishment righteously inflicted? Is the Judge unjust and cruel who pronounces sentence according to law upon the murderer or other capital offender? “But do you not say that God, for all eternity, ordained, before they committed good or evil, that they should come to this condemnation?” Our statement is that God from all eternity determined to pass by those whom He does pass by and to permit them to sin against Him when He knew that this preterition and permission would result in their continuance in sin, and in their final condemnation and perdition. Now is there any thing in this unjust and cruel? Is it unjust to pass them by? You cannot say so; for you know that He does pass them by. God does not give to all men repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth. You are unconscious of it; but it is God’s act that you complain of here under the name of His decrees. According to the Calvinistic system, God’s decrees are a rule to govern Him and can have no influence upon the creature for good or for evil unless followed by God’s act. Another may decree to take your life; but that will do you no harm unless the determination be followed up by the attempt. Will you say, therefore, looking now to what He does, that it is unjust in God to pass by any one, and withhold from Him His converting and His sanctifying grace? You dare not say so. If then, it is not unjust in God to pass by any one in time, surely it is consistent with His justice to decree to do so from eternity. “But does it not seem cruel in God to make men merely to damn them?” Doubtless, when put in this shape and expressed in this strong language, it seems to you a very “horrid” doctrine. We might object to this statement of it as incorrect: waiving this, however, we will meet you in a different way. What would my Arminian opposer say if I should assert that his system too teaches that God makes men merely to damn them? Let us see: You believe in God’s foreknowledge (even Mr. Reneau says he does — following Mr. Watson rather than Dr. Clarke). Known unto God then were all his works from eternity. He knew therefore perfectly long before He created them every individual that would live in sin, die in impenitency, and finally perish. Now, reasoning upon your own principles, was it not cruel in God to create them, seeing He was under no necessity to do so? Why did He give them existence? — for their final happiness? He knew as well, from eternity, as they do after they open their eyes in torment, that they would never attain to happiness. What object then did the Creator have in view in giving being to those who He knew would inevitably sin against Him and go to perdition? We should like much to see an intelligent and candid Arminian look at this question without blinking and answer without evasion. Upon your own principles then, may I not ask: Does it not seem cruel in God to make men (if not merely to damn them, at least) that they might be damned? Upon your principles God created the finally impenitent neither for any purposes of His own nor for their lasting welfare – no benefit accrues to Him nor to His system, and they spend on earth a few precarious days and full of troubles and then enter into a state of endless misery! “Cruelty” unmitigated by an incidental or ulterior good either to the creator or to the created! How “horrid” a doctrine, and how strange and unworthy a view of the infinitely wise and merciful God!
It will thus be seen that while Arminians raise such a hue and cry against Calvinism, their own system is liable to precisely the same objections with others that are greater superadded! It would lead us too far from the course marked out in this professed answer to Arminianism and cause us to trespass unreasonably upon the reader’s patience (already we fear, too much tried), to attempt an answer to this objection as coming from other than an Arminian. We refer the reader, however, to an able treatise on this subject by President Edwards, entitled, “God’s ultimate end in the creation.”
Objection 6. Does not Predestination render unnecessary the use of means? No; for it teaches that God ordains the means as well as the end. Thus, He ordains that His people shall enter into eternal life; and, that they might be prepared for this, that they shall be holy and without blame before Him in love, and that this state might be attained, that they shall have faith, which works by love and purifies the heart and overcomes the world; and that they might have faith, that they shall hear the gospel, and, therefore, that it shall be preached. Thus Paul stated to the ship’s company that it had been revealed to him that every soul on board should be saved, but yet, when the sailors essayed to lower the boat, Paul said to the centurion and the soldier, except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved (Acts 27:21-31). Did the centurion and the soldiers demur at this as inconsistent with the unqualified statement of the angel? No: believing that God had ordained the means as well as the end they cut the rope and thus detained the sailors on board.
Other minor objections are alleged against Predestination; but they can all be resolved into those mentioned above and answered upon the same principles.
Having stated the doctrine and answered the objections to it, let us see what are some of its practical influences.
1st. It tends to produce humility. When we feel that we shape our own destiny — that our own power or wisdom has procured for us our advantages or successes, we are attempted to entertain exalted conceptions of our own importance; but when we believe that God rules above and rules below and works all things after the counsels of His own will — that He not only called us into being, but selected according to His sovereign pleasure, the time and place and circumstances of our existence – circumstances too, that exert a controlling influence upon our destiny — that He chooses out our changes for us and directs our steps — that He accomplishes His own purposes in our lives, working in us, and by us for the manifestation of His own glory: we feel that, in the presence of God we are nothing and less than nothing and vanity.
2nd. It tends to make those engaged in the service of God labor with more diligence. While nothing is more paralyzing that the apprehension that with all our exertions, we shall fail of the attainment of our object: so, nothing is more stimulating than the assurance that success will crown our well-directed efforts. Now, if predestination be true, we know that God has purposes concerning us and that all those purposes will be infallibly secured. And whenever in a right spirit and in a proper way, we attempt any thing that is in accordance with His revealed will, we are assured that our labor will not be in vain in the Lord. Are we laboring for God’s glory by seeking to obey Him in heart and in life? We know that He wills the sanctification of His people, and therefore, we run not as uncertainly, we fight not as those that beat the air. Are we laboring as God’s ministers for the salvation of sinners and for the edification of His people? We have the strongest assurance in God’s purpose, and God’s promises that our sincere exertions will not be unavailing. Though all our unaided efforts will be ineffectual to destroy the enmity in the heart of a single sinner, yet, we know that the Lord has a purpose to accomplish in the preaching of the Gospel and that He has declared His word shall not return unto Him void, but shall accomplish the thing whereunto He sent it. Having, therefore, the conviction that He has called us into the ministry, though set down in the midst of the valley that is full of bones — many and very dry — we can, by the Divine command, prophecy unhesitatingly, and look with confidence, to see “bone come to his bone” and perhaps an exceeding great army standing up on their feet, having in their nostrils the breath of spiritual life (Ez. 37:10).
3rd. It tends to strengthen and support the Christian under all his calamities and sufferings. To the believer of the doctrine, nothing happens by chance, but all things, good or bad, prosperous or adverse, occur by God’s direct command or by His express permission. He feels persuaded that His providence ruleth over all and that His hand is to be seen in every thing that happens to him. Does he enjoy prosperity? He thanks God for His goodness. Does he suffer under affliction or calamity? His language is, “It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good.” Job saw the hand of God, not only in those calamities that came directly from Him through the agency of the powers of nature, but in those also that befell him through the agency of violent men; and he submitted to both, as being in accordance with the Divine will (Job 1:8, 21). Messengers came to him in haste and informed him that the Sabeans had taken away his oxen and his asses and slain his servants — that fire from heaven had consumed his sheep and his servants — that the Chaldeans had carried away the camels and slain the servants and that a great wind had overturned the house in which his sons and daughters were collected and slain them all. And, Job rent his mantel and said, “naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither, the Lord gave (oxen and asses and sheep and camels and servants and children) and the Lord hath taken away (through the agency in part of predatory and wicked hands of Sabeans and Chaldeans), blessed be the Name of the Lord.” The same resignation to the Divine will was exhibited by the company of primitive Christians when they tried unsuccessfully to dissuade Paul from placing himself in the power of the wicked Jews at Jerusalem, who, he was forewarned, would lay violent hands upon him. When Paul had been informed by the prophet Agabus, that the Jews would bind him hand and foot and deliver him to the Gentiles, the brethren tried to persuade him not to go to Jerusalem, but seeing that their importunity only served to distress him, they ceased saying, “the will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14).
To these we may add that it tends to excite gratitude to God in the heart of the believer, who can say, by the grace of God I am what I am and gives to him a solid foundation for Christian assurance when, having the scriptural reason for the hope that is within him, he can adopt exultingly the language of the Apostle, “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39).