WHEREIN THE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION IS EXPLAINED AS IT RELATES IN GENERAL TO ALL MEN.
Thus much being premised with relation to the Scripture terms commonly made use of in this controversy, we shall now proceed to take a nearer view of this high and mysterious article, and-
I.-We, with the Scriptures, assert that there is a predestination of some particular persons to life for the praise of the glory of Divine grace, and a predestination of other particular persons to death, which death of punishment they shall inevitably undergo, and that justly, on account of their sins -
(1) There is a predestination of some particular persons to life, so "Many are called, but few chosen" (Matt. xx. 15), i.e., the Gospel revelation comes, indiscriminately, to great multitudes, but few, comparatively speaking, are spiritually and eternally the better for it, and these few, to whom it is the savour of life unto life, are therefore savingly benefited by it, because they are the chosen or elect of God. To the same effect are the following passages, among many others "For the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened " (Matt. xxiv. 22). "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed" (Acts xiii. 48). "Whom He did predestinate, them He also called" (Rom. viii. 30), and ver. 33, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "According as He hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy . . . Having predestinated us to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. i. 4, 5). "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us, in Christ, before the world began" (2 Tim. i. 9).
(2) This election of certain individuals unto eternal life was for the praise of the glory of Divine grace. This is expressly asserted, in so many words, by the apostle (Eph. i. 5, 6). Grace, or mere favour, was the impulsive cause of all: it was the main spring, which set all the inferior wheels in motion. It was an act of grace in God to choose any, when He might have passed by all. It was an act of sovereign grace to choose this man rather than that, when both were equally undone in themselves, and alike obnoxious to His displeasure. In a word, since election is not of works, and does not proceed on the least regard had to any worthiness in its objects, it must be of free, unbiassed grace, but election is not of works (Rom. xi. 5, 6), therefore it is solely of grace.
(3) There is, on the other hand, a predestination of some particular persons to death. " If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" (2 Cor. iv. 3). "Who stumble at the word being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed" (1 Pet. ii. 8). "These as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed" (2 Pet. ii. 12). "There are certain men, crept in unawares, who were before, of old, ordained to this condemnation" (Jude 4). "Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world (Rev. xvii. 8). But of this we shall treat professedly, and more at large, in the fifth chapter.
(4) This future death they shall inevitably undergo, for, as God will certainly save all whom He wills should be saved, so He will as surely condemn all whom He wills shall be condemned; for He is the Judge of the whole earth, whose decree shall stand, and from whose sentence there is no appeal. "Hath He said, and shall He not make it good? hath He spoken, and shall it not come to pass?" And His decree is this: that these (i.e., the non-elect, who are left under the guilt of final impenitence, unbelief and sin)" shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous (i.e., those who, in consequence of their election in Christ and union to Him, are justly reputed and really constituted such) shall enter into life eternal" (Matt. xxv. 46).
(5) The reprobate shall undergo this punishment justly and on account of their sins. Sin is the meritorious and immediate cause of any man's damnation. God condemns and punishes the non-elect, not merely as men, but as sinners, and had it pleased the great Governor of the universe to have entirely prevented sin from having any entrance into the world, it would seem as if He could not, consistently with His known attributes, have condemned any man at all. But, as all sin is properly meritorious of eternal death, and all men are sinners, they who are condemned are condemned most justly, and those who are saved are saved in a way of sovereign mercy through the vicarious obedience and death of Christ for them.
Now this twofold predestination, of some to life and of others to death (if it may be called twofold, both being constituent parts of the same decree), cannot be denied without likewise denying (1) most express and frequent declarations of Scripture, and (2) the very existence of God, for, since God is a Being perfectly simple, free from all accident and composition, and yet a will to save some and punish others is very often predicated of Him in Scripture, and an immovable decree to do this, in consequence of His will, is likewise ascribed to Him, and a perfect foreknowledge of the sure and certain accomplishment of what He has thus willed and decreed is also attributed to Him, it follows that whoever denies this will, decree and foreknowledge of God, does implicitly and virtually deny God Himself, since His will, decree and foreknowledge are no other than God Himself willing and decreeing and foreknowing.
II.-We assert that God did from eternity decree to make man in His own image, and also decreed to suffer him to fall from that image in which he should be created, and thereby to forfeit the happiness with which he was invested, which decree and the consequences of it were not limited to Adam only, but included and extended to all his natural posterity.
Something of this was hinted already in the preceding chapter, and we shall now proceed to the proof of it.
(1) That God did make man in His own image is evident from Scripture (Gen. i. 27)
(2) That He decreed from eternity so to make man is as evident, since for God to do anything without having decreed it, or fixed a previous plan in His own mind, would be a manifest imputation on His wisdom, and if He decreed that now, or at any time, which He did not always decree, He could not be unchangeable.
(3) That man actually did fall from the Divine image and his original happiness is the undoubted voice of Scripture (Gen. iii.), and
(4) That he fell in consequence of the Divine decree we prove thus: God was either willing that Adam should fall, or unwilling, or indifferent about it. If God was unwilling that Adam should transgress, how came it to pass that he did? Is man stronger and is Satan wiser than He that made them? Surely no. Again, could not God, had it so pleased Him, have hindered the tempter's access to paradise? or have created man, as He did the elect angels, with a will invariably determined to good only and incapable of being biassed to evil? or, at least, have made the grace and strength, with which He endued Adam, actually effectual to the resisting of all solicitations to sin? None but atheists would answer these questions in the negative. Surely, if God had not willed the fall, He could, and no doubt would, have prevented it; but He did not prevent it: ergo He willed it. And if He willed it, He certainly decreed it, for the decree of God is nothing else but the seal and ratification of His Will. He does nothing but what He decreed, and He decreed nothing which He did not will, and both will and decree are absolutely eternal, though the execution of both be in time. The only way to evade the force of this reasoning is to say that "God was indifferent and unconcerned whether man stood or fell." But in what a shameful, unworthy light does this represent the Deity! Is it possible for us to imagine that God could be an idle, careless spectator of one of the most important events that ever came to pass? Are not "the very hairs of our head all numbered"? or does "a sparrow fall to the ground without our heaveuly Father"? If, then, things the most trivial and worthless are subject to the appointment of His decree and the control of His providence, how much more is man, the masterpiece of this lower creation? and above all that man Adam, who when recent from his Maker's hands was the living image of God Himself, and very little inferior to angels! and on whose perseverance was suspended the welfare not of himself only, but likewise that of the whole world. But, so far was God from being indifferent in this matter, that there is nothing whatever about which He is so, for He worketh all things, without exception," after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. i. 11), consequently, if He positively wills whatever is done, He cannot be indifferent with regard to anything. On the whole, if God was not unwilling that Adam should fall, He must have been willing that he should, since between God's willing and nilling there is no medium. And is it not highly rational as well as Scriptural, nay, is it not absolutely necessary to suppose that the fall was not contrary to the will and determination of God? since, if it was, His will (which the apostle represents as being irresistible, Rom. ix. 19) was apparently frustrated and His determination rendered of worse than none effect. And how dishonourable to, how inconsistent with, and how notoriously subversive of the dignity of God such a blasphemous supposition would be, and how irreconcileable with every one of His allowed attributes is very easy to observe.
(5) That man by his fall forfeited the happiness with which he was invested is evident as well from Scripture as from experience (Gen. iii. 7-24; Rom. V. 12; Gal. iii. 10). He first sinned (and the essence of sin lies in disobedience to the command of God) and then immediately became miserable, misery being through the Divine appointment, the natural and inseparable concomitant of sin.
(6) That the fall and its sad consequences did not terminate solely in Adam, but affected his whole posterity, is the doctrine of the sacred oracles (Psalm li. 5; Rom. v.12-19; 1 Cor. xv. 22; Eph. ii. 3). Besides, not only spiritual and eternal, but likewise temporal death is the wages of sin (Rom. vi. 23; James i. 15), and yet we see that millions of infants, who never in their own persons either did or could commit sin, die continually. It follows that either God must be unjust in punishing the innocent, or that these infants are some way or the other guilty creatures; if they are not so in themselves (I mean actually so by their own commission of sin), they must be so in some other person, and who that person is let Scripture say (Rom. v.12, 18; 1 Cor. xv. 22). And, I ask, how can these be with equity sharers in Adam's punishment unless they are chargeable with his sin? and how can they be fairly chargeable with his sin unless he was their federal head and representative, and acted in their name, and sustained their persons, when he fell?
III.-We assert that as all men universally are not elected to salvation, so neither are all men universally ordained to condemnation. This follows from what has been proved already; however, I shall subjoin some further demonstration of these two positions.
(1) All men universally are not elected to salvation, and, first, this may be evinced a posteriri; it is undeniable from Scripture that God will not in the last day save every individual of mankind! (Dan. xii. 2; Matt. xxv. 46; John v. 29). Therefore, say we, God never designed to save every individual, since, if He had, every individual would and must be saved, for "His counsel shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure." (See what we have already advanced on this head in the first chapter under the second article, Position 8). Secondly, this may be evinced also from God's foreknowledge. The Deity from all eternity, and consequently at the very time He gives life and being to a reprobate, certainly foreknew, and knows, in consequence of His own decree, that such a one would fall short of salvation. Now, if God foreknew this, He must have predetermined it, because His own will is the foundation of His decrees, and His decrees are the foundation of His prescience; He therefore foreknowing futurities, because by His predestination He hath rendered their futurition certain and inevitable. Neither is it possible, in the very nature of the thing, that they should be elected to salvation, or ever obtain it, whom God foreknew should perish, for then the Divine act of preterition would be changeable, wavering and precarious, the Divine foreknowledge would be deceived, and the Divine will impeded. All which are utterly impossible. Lastly, that all men are not chosen to life, nor created to that end is evident in that there are some who were hated of God before they were born (Rom. ix. 11-13), are "fitted for destruction" (ver. 22), and "made for the day of evil" (Prov. xvi. 1).
But (2) all men universally are not ordained to condemnation. There are some who are chosen (Matt. xx. 16). An election, or elect number, who obtain grace and salvation, while "the rest are blinded" (Rom. xi. 7), a little flock, to whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom (Luke xii. 32). A people whom the Lord hath reserved (Jer. 1. 20) and formed for Himself (Isa. xliii. 21). A peculiarly favoured race, to whom "it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," while to others "it is not given" (Matt. xiii. 11), a "remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. xi. 5), whom "God hath not appointed to wrath, but to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ" (1 Thes. v.9). In a word, who are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that they should show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvellous light" (1 Peter ii. 9), and whose names for that very end "are in the book of life" (Phil. iv. 3) and written in heaven (Luke x. 20; Heb. xii. 23). Luther observes that in Rom. ix., x. and xi. the apostle particularly insists on the doctrine of predestination, "Because," says he, "all things whatever arise from and depend upon the Divine appointment, whereby it was preordained who should receive the word of life and who should disbelieve it, who should he delivered from their sins and who should be hardened in them, who should be justified and who condemned."
IV.-We assert that the number of the elect, and also of the reprobate, is so fixed and determinate that neither can be augmented or diminished. It is written of God that "He telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names" (Psalm cxlvii. 4). Now, it is as incompatible with the infinite wisdom and knowledge of the all-comprehending God to be ignorant of the names and number of the rational creatures He has made as that He should be ignorant of the stars and the other inanimate products of His almighty power, and if He knows all men in general, taken in the lump, He may well be said, in a more near and special sense, to know them that are His by election (2 Tim. ii. 19). And if He knows who are His, He must, consequently, know who are not His, i.e., whom and how many He hath left in the corrupt mass to be justly punished for their sins. Grant this (and who can help granting a truth so self-evident?), and it follows that the number, as well of the elect as of the reprobate, is fixed and certain, otherwise God would be said to know that which is not true, and His knowledge must be false and delusive, and so no knowledge at all, since that which is, in itself, at best, but precarious, can never be the foundation of sure and infallible knowledge. But that God does indeed precisely know, to a man, who are, and are not the objects of His electing favour is evident from such Scriptures as these "Thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name" (Exod. xxxiii. 17). "Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee" (Jer i. 5). "Your names are written in heaven" (Luke x. 20). "The very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Luke xii. 7). "I know whom I have chosen" (John xiii. 18). "I know My sheep, and am known of Mine" (John x. 14). "The Lord knoweth them that are His" (2 Tim. ii. 19). And if the number of these is thus assuredly settled and exactly known, it follows that we are right in asserting-
V.-That the decrees of election and reprobation are immutable and irreversible. Were not this the case-
(1) God's decree would be precarious, frustrable and uncertain, and, by consequence, no decree at all.
(2) His foreknowledge would be wavering, indeterminate, and liable to disappointment, whereas it always has its accomplishment, and necessarily infers the certain futurity of the thing or things foreknown: "I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and, from ancient times, the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure" (Isa. xlvi. 9, 10).
(3) Neither would His Word be true, which declares that, with regard to the elect, "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. xi. 29); that "whom He predestinated, them He also glorified" (Rom. viii. 30); that whom He loveth, He loveth to the end (John xiii. 1), with numberless passages to the same purpose. Nor would His word be true with regard to the non-elect if it was possible for them to be saved, for it is there declared that they are fitted for destruction, etc. (Rom. ix. 22); foreordained unto condemnation (Jude 4), and delivered over to a reprobate mind in order to their damnation (Rom. i. 28; 2 Thess. ii. 12).
(4) If, between the elect and reprobate, there was not a great gulph fixed, so that neither can be otherwise than they are, then the will of God (which is the alone cause why some are chosen and others are not) would be rendered inefficacious and of no effect.
(5) Nor could the justice of God stand if He was to condemn the elect, for whose sins He hath received ample satisfaction at the hand of Christ, or if He was to save the reprobate, who are not interested in Christ as the elect are.
(6) The power of God (whereby the elect are preserved from falling into a state of condemnation, and the wicked held down and shut up in a state of death) would be eluded, not to say utterly abolished.
(7) Nor would God be unchangeable if they, who were once the people of His love, could commence the objects of His hatred, or if the vessels of His wrath could he saved with the vessels of grace. Hence that of St. Augustine. "Brethen," says he, "let us not imagine 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 tbe great God would write a person's name in the book of life and then blot it out again?" And may we not, with equal reason, ask, on the other hand, "How can it be thought that any of the reprobate sbould be written in that book of life, which contains the names of the elect only, or that any should be inscribed there who were not written among the living from eternity?" I shall conclude this chapter with that observation of Luther. "This," says he, "is the very thing that razes the doctrine of free-will from its foundations, to wit, that God's eternal love of some men and hatred of others is immutable and cannot be reversed." Both one and the other will have its full accomplishment.
Next > Chapter III: Predestination as it relates To The Elect
Index < Content
1. See this article judiciously stated and nervously asserted by Witsius in his Oecon. 1.1, cap. 8, s.1O-25. [Back]
2. In Praefat, ad Epist. ad Rom. [Back]
3. Tom. 8, in Psalm 68, col. 738. [Back]
4. De Serv. Arbitr. cap. 168. [Back]