ETERNAL PREDESTINATION OF GOD
The last subterfuge of Pighius in reference to the scripture before us is this: that God predestinated none unto salvation, but they were those whom He foreknew. But this way of escape I have already blocked up against these opponents; where I have shown that God could have foreseen nothing in man but what was worthy of eternal destruction, until He Himself should have created him anew by His Spirit. If, then, no one man has anything good which he hath not received from God, what can one man bring into God's sight more than another in which he can excel his fellow man? God therefore foreknew His own, not as foreseeing their merits?for they had none?but because He cast upon them an eye of mercy and favour, thus distinguishing them from others, and numbering them among His children, notwithstanding all their sin and unworthiness, according to that word of Paul, "Who maketh thee to differ?" But Pighius' free foreknowledge, which he calls naked (that is, naked of all preference in the mind of God), is no foreknowledge at all. With what feathers of merit or acceptableness, then, will Pighius adorn his foreseen and predestined man, so as to prevent him from coming before God naked and deformed in every part? For the Scripture declares aloud, that whatever there is in fallen and corrupt man by nature is hateful in the sight of God. And it pronounces, with a voice equally loud, that nothing is acceptable to God but His own image in those who are created anew in Christ.
Pighius next proceeds thus: When we are anxiously inquiring the reason why the wicked are eternally condemned, the Scripture does not cast in our teeth such tyrannical sentences as these in reply: Because they were distinguished from the elect by the eternal counsel of God, because it pleased God to ordain them to eternal destruction. We do not, I say, find in the Scripture such shocking and hard answers to our inquiries as these. These are merely the reasons assigned by men in order to make such sentences as these appear to be true?I will it so;. I command it to be so; My will is an all-sufficient reason. No! The reasons which we hear from the mouth of Christ Himself are these "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink," etc., etc. Similar to this argument is that also which Pighius advances in another place. Christ (says he) will not in the last day say to the wicked that they were eternally condemned, "because they were born of the corrupt seed of Adam, because they inherited the desert of eternal death from his sin, and because it was just and righteous that they should perish for his fault." No, says Pighius, the reasons that Christ Himself will assign before assembled worlds in that day will be these: because they did not give bread to the hungry, because they did not clothe the naked, nor perform other kindred works of charity.
But if original sin and guilt are not, in the estimation of Pighius, sufficient to condemn men eternally, and if the secret judgment of God can have no place with him, what will he make of the case of infant children who are taken out of this life before they could possibly have performed any of the works of charity above alluded to? Now there was the same natural condition of birth and of death both in those infants who died in Sodom and in those who died in Jerusalem, and their works, or rather no works, were precisely the same. How is it, then, that Christ will separate in the last day the one from the other, placing the one on His right hand and the other on His left? Who does not here adore the glorious judgment of God, who ordained that the one part of these children should be born at Jerusalem, whence, through the knowledge of the truth they might afterwards be translated to a better life, while the others should be born in that wide entrance into hell, Sodom? As therefore I hold, in truth, that Christ will in the last day recompense unto the elect the reward of righteousness, so I by no means speak falsely when I assert that the reprobate will in that day pay the punishment of their unrighteousness and of all their iniquities. And though I firmly maintain that God, in His eternal counsel, chose those whom He pleased unto life eternal, and left those whom He pleased to eternal destruction; yet there will not be found in the whole of my doctrine an assertion, either that there are no punishments ordained for evil works, or that there is no reward ordained for good works. No! "We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. v. 10). But the great question is, whence come that righteousness and holiness which will then be thus crowned? Whence but from God Himself, who begat these rewarded ones unto newness of life by His own Spirit? And whence is this gift of regeneration, but from God's free adoption?
Pighius' argument is just like the reasoning of a man who should maintain that the day WAS not originally made of created light, because it is the shining of the sun that now makes the day. This comparison is not, however, I confess, strictly true in all its parts. For the light that was created "in the beginning" has properly God as its author. Whereas our eternal condemnation so wholly rests in ourselves, that it is not, lawful for us to fetch from afar any foreign or representative colours which may tend in any way to lessen our sight of its mighty reality. My only object in adopting this comparison was to shew, in a concise manner, how preposterously Pighius withdraws from our view the great remote cause by setting immediately before our eyes the proximate cause in the consideration of these momentous matters. He contends that the wicked will be eternally condemned because they have brought upon themselves the wrath of God by their own evil doings. And on this ground he concludes that their eternal condemnation does not proceed from the decree of God. Whereas I maintain that they have heaped evil deeds upon evil deeds throughout their lives, because, being essentially depraved by their birth in sin, they could do nothing else but sin. Nevertheless. they sinned thus, not from any outward impulse or constraint, but knowingly and willingly from the spontaneous motion of the heart. Nay, that the corruption and depravity of nature are the source and fountain from which all sins of every kind flow can be denied by no one who would not root out the very rudiments of all godliness. But if you ask me the reason why God corrects sin in His own elect, and does not deem the reprobate worthy the same remedy; I reply, the reason lies hidden in Himself.
It is in this way that the apostle Paul reasons in the 9th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. After he had proved God to be the great disposer and ordainer of eternal life and eternal death, and had shewn that those will at length be saved whom He rescues from eternal destruction; and after He had loudly declared that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy on whom He will show mercy," and that "whom He will, He hardeneth"; after these declarations, the apostle brings forth copious and, as it were, palpable causes of the blindness of his own nation, namely, because the greatest part of them rejected Christ, and because they obstinately resisted God, "stretching out His hands unto them (as the prophet expresses it) all the day long." Wherefore, these two solemn principles divinely harmonise with each other, that every man is, in himself, the cause of his own eternal condemnation, and that, nevertheless, all those who are destitute of the Spirit of God rush blindly against Christ. Agreeably to these Divine principles, Paul, bringing in the Jews guilty, because, "going about to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God," and were, on that account, cast out of the Church of Christ; Paul, I repeat, having thus enforced these Divine principles, yet plainly teaches that it was entirely of grace that the rest stood in the truth and faith, and did not thus fall, according to that remarkable declaration of God Himself: "Yet have I left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him" (1 Kings xix.18). For, as Augustine is careful to remark, "These seven thousand did not stand by their own strength. It was God who reserved them to Himself, that they might be a remnant. But Paul still more expressly declares that the remnant gathered by the coming of Christ in His day was a 'remnant saved according to the free election of grace.' Hearest thou the term 'remnant'? By this expression is signified that a small number was separated from the general mass of mankind. And the apostle affirms that these were saved, not by their own will or strength, but by the free grace and mercy of God. He traces their salvation to God's free election, by which he plainly means that the sole cause of their not perishing with the rest of mankind was because they were freely elected of God. Whence follows the plain conclusion, that if all men were elected, no man would perish."
Now if a mortal man should pronounce his "I will" and his "I command," and should say that HIS will ought to be deemed a sufficient reason for HIS actions, I confess that such an "I will" would be tyrannical indeed! But to call God's "I will" and God's "I command" tyrannical is profanity, blasphemy and madness! For no mortal dares impute to God anything unequal or excessive, so as to imply that there can be in Him any inordinate will, wish, or desire, as in men. On the contrary, such honour and reverence are ever due to His will, that it is worthy of being considered as containing in itself all the validity of a just reason, because the will of God is the source and rule of all righteousness. For as to that distinction commonly held in the schools concerning the twofold will of God, such distinction is by no means admitted by us. The sophists of Sorbon prate about an ordinate will of God and an absolute will of God. But this is a blasphemy deservedly abhorred in its sound to all godly ears, but plausible and pleasant to the ears of Pighius and of all his fellows. I, however, on the contrary, contend that so far from there being anything inordinate in God, whatever there is of order, in heaven or in earth, flows from Him alone and from His will. Whenever, therefore, we carry the will of God to its utmost height, and show that it is higher than all reason, far be it from us to imagine that He ever wills anything but with the highest reason. We also deeply feel that He so possesses, as His own right, the sum of all power, that our sacred duty is to be content with the nod of His will alone in all things. For if that be true which the Psalmist saith, "Thy judgments, O Lord, are a great deep" (Ps. xxxvi. 6), when the mind of a man launches forth into that height of pride that it cannot rest in the alone good pleasure and will of God, let him take solemn heed that that "great deep" swallow him not up! Indeed, it must be so, it cannot be otherwise, and such vengeance is gloriously just!
Wherefore, let that noble and solemn appeal of Augustine never fall from our memory: "Listen to what God is and what thou art. He is God! Thou art man! If thou seem to thyself to be speaking of justice in the works and ways of God, is the Fountain of all justice, thinkest thou, dried up? Thou, as a man, expectest an answer from me, who also am a man. Therefore, let us both hear the apostle saying, with reference to all questioning of God, 'Nay, but who art thou, O man?' Better is believing ignorance than daring knowledge! Search for merit, and you will find nothing but punishment! 'O the depth!' etc. Peter denies; a robber believes! ? 'O the depth!' etc. Askest thou the reason? ?I tremble before 'the depth!' etc. Reason thou?I will wonder and admire! Dispute thou?I will believe! I see the height; I will not rush into the 'depth!' Paul quietly rested, because he found reason for wonder and admiration. He calls the judgments of God 'unsearchable'; and comest thou on purpose 'to search into them'? Paul says, 'His ways are past finding out;' and comest thou on purpose 'to find them out'?" Akin to these holy sentiments is that also where Augustine saith in another place: "Wilt thou join me in dispute? Nay, rather join with me in admiration and wonder! Rather join me in exclaiming, 'O the depth!' etc. Let us agree to tremble together, that we perish not in presumption together!"
Pighius displays, in his own estimation, great acuteness when he argues thus: "There would be no deep abyss at all if the will of God were to be considered as the highest of all reason, because nothing would be more easy than to say that all things were done because God so pleased, where His will ruled absolutely and alone." But by babbling thus sophistically, he ridiculously passes over that very point which forms the great question at issue. It is quite plain that all things are done because it so pleased God. But the great question is: Why did it please God that one thing should be done in one way, and another thing in a way quite the contrary? Pighius then proceeds with the same line of silly argumentation. And in order that he might show that God had a reason and a cause in all His counsels, he adduces, as a proof, the answer which Christ gave to His disciples in the case of a blind man: "That he was horn blind, that the works of God should be made manifest in him." Thus does Pighius make a shadow battle, and then fight it out, imagining that he has gained the victory. But when, and where, did the monstrous idea enter my mind that any counsel of God was without God's reason for it? As I constantly make God the RULE of the whole world, who by His incomprehensible and wonderful counsel governs and directs all things, will any man say that he can gather from my words that I make God to be carried this way and that way at random, or to do what He does with blindfold temerity?
Now, it is singular that Pighius quotes some words of mine by which, if I mistake not, he is himself most evidently refuted. The words to which I allude are those wherein I assert that God has a purpose in all His ways and works, how hidden soever they may be, Which purpose is that He may spread the glory of His Name. But my opponent would set before the eyes of his readers a colour of contradiction in my sentiments, because I hold that no reason for the goodwill of God in any of His works is to be required or investigated; and yet that I, at the same time, show what that reason is. But it is useless to waste time in exposing such cold and self-evident absurdities. The Lord has as a reason for all His works His own great glory. This is His ultimate object in them all. Hence, on the testimony of Paul, God raised up Pharaoh, "that He might show His power in him; and that His name might be declared throughout all the earth" (Rom. ix. 17). Now does the apostle Paul, I pray, contradict himself when he exclaims immediately afterwards that the judgments of God are "past finding out?" The same apostle declares also that the vessels of wrath "appointed" by the Lord "unto destruction" were "endured" by Him "with much longsuffering," in order that "He might show His wrath, and make His power known in them (Rom. ix. 22). Now, is the wondering admiration of Paul which immediately follows, "O the depth!" contrary, I pray you, to this his sentiment? Tell me, I repeat, does the apostle here contradict himself? If he does not, neither do I in my like solemn argument contradict myself!
But Pighius goes farther still into error, absurdity and confusion, in his way of arguing. He spreads a false colour over the very term cause by introducing the final cause in the place of the formal cause. For although the end to which God looks in His works be not obscure, namely, His own great and wide glory, yet the reason WHY it pleaseth Him so to work by no means appears so wholly and immediately plain. The pith, however, and sum of the present point of the whole great question is this: although God does not demonstrate to us by plain and satisfactory arguments His own righteousness in all His works, yet our bounden duty is to be assured that whatever He doeth, He doeth righteously. It is therefore our duty to rest in His will alone. So that our knowledge of His will and pleasure in whatsoever He doeth, though the cause of His doing it should surpass our comprehension, ought to suffice us more than a thousand reasons. Hence the folly of Pighius in quarrelling with me and accusing me of inconsistency, because, while I maintain that no reason for the Divine will should be inquired into, I yet loudly affirm that God willeth nothing but what He judgeth just and right to be done. For he asserts that this latter member of my argument is really rendering a reason for the will of God as the cause of all; the rendering of which reason (he says) I elsewhere declare to be inconsistent in myself or in anyone else. But what knowledge of the cause can I be said to profess if I only believe that God does what He does with a great design and what He judges right to be done, and especially if I profess myself to be all the while unable to comprehend the certain and special reason of the Divine work and counsel? Added to all this, my opponent, considering the mighty difference between the reverence of faith and the audacity of inquiry into God's will a matter, of no moment at all, seizes hold of that which I teach to be a matter of faith, and preposterously hurls it into the circle of that common knowledge which is of human conception.
Upon this absurd principle, if anyone should affirm that God hath a glorious object in His every act, and should shortly after exclaim, with the apostle, that God's "judgments are unsearchable" and "His ways past finding out," he must, at the moment of such exclamation, be set down as a man contradicting himself. Pighius however, is mistaken altogether. For he calls upon me to acknowledge my very own words, when the passage to which he refers is absolutely one which I had cited from Augustine. It is this: "When men ask us (says that holy man) why God did this or that, our answer is to be, 'Because it was His will.' If they go on to inquire, Why did He so will it? our reply should be, Now thou askest that which is greater and higher than the will of God itself! Thou askest that which none can find out!' Let human rashness, then, keep itself within bounds. Let it never seek after that which is not, lest it should not find that which is." Most truly does Augustine speak in these words, and he has my fullest assent. Nor do my above sentiments contain anything which does not perfectly harmonise with these words of the holy father. My sentiments and arguments are, that the will of God is the best and most rightful adjustment of all the things that He hath made and done.
There is another objection of the same chaff which Pighius raises against my following published sentiments: "I deny that the reprobate are distinguished and separated from the elect by any respect of God to the merits of the latter; because the grace of God makes them worthy of His adoption of them, it does not find them worthy" (as Augustine frequently remarks). In another place I thus express myself: "I deny that any injury is done to the reprobate by their reprobation, because they deserve eternal destruction." Here Pighius spreads out his wings in tumultuous exultation, noisily exclaiming that I neither understand myself nor my own sentiments, nor at all remember what I have myself before said. But so far am I from thinking it necessary to spend many words in my defence, that I can hardly bring myself to employ even a few words for that object. I will observe, then, that when God prefers some to others, when He chooses some and passes by others, the difference is not made on the ground of worthiness or unworthiness, either in the one or in the other. Therefore, it is false to say that the reprobate are worthy eternal destruction. If, therefore, in the former case, there is no comparison of men with each other, nor any connection of worthiness with the reward of eternal life; in the latter case, there is certainly no proof that the condition of all men is equal with reference to the election of God. Add to this, that Augustine, having asserted in one part of his writings that no man ever failed of salvation who was worthy of it, qualifies this expression in his subsequent recapitulations, carefully excluding all idea of works and referring all acceptable worthiness to the free grace calling of God.
Pighius, however, still pushes on his violent opposition, alleging that if what I teach be true, that those who perish were ordained unto everlasting death by the eternal will of God, of which the reason is imperceptible to us, the persons so ordained are made worthy of everlasting death, not found so. I reply that three things are here to be considered: 1. That the eternal predestination of God, by which He decreed, before the Fall of Adam, what should take place in the whole human race and in every individual thereof, was unalterably fixed and determined. 2. That Adam himself, on account of his departure from God, was deservedly appointed to eternal death. 3. And lastly, that in the person of Adam, thus fallen and lost, his whole future offspring were also eternally condemned; but so eternally condemned that God deems worthy the honour of His adoption all those whom He freely chose out of that future offspring. Of these mighty things I have neither dreamed any part, nor fabricated any part. Nor am I called upon, in the present instance, to prove each particular, for I consider that I have most effectually done that already. All I shall do is to wash off from myself the calumny with which my opponent has soiled me, when he says that these things can in no way be made to harmonise or consist with each other. Whereas, what I have ever invariably taught, and still teach at this day, is, that whenever election is the subject of discussion, the great point to be maintained, from first to last, is that all the reprobate are justly left under eternal death, because they died and were eternally condemned in Adam; also, that those perish justly who are by nature the children of wrath; and finally, that, therefore, no one can have cause to complain of the too great severity of God, seeing that all men bear, in themselves and in their individual persons, the guilt and desert of death eternal.
When we come to speak of the first man in our discussion of the doctrine of predestination, my teaching is that we ought ever to consider the solemn case to be this: that he, having been created perfectly righteous, fell of his own accord and willingly, and that, by that fall he brought destruction eternal on himself and his whole future race. And though Adam fell not, nor destroyed himself and his posterity, either without the knowledge or without the ordaining will of God, yet that neither lessens his own fault, nor implicates God in any blame whatever. For we must ever carefully bear in mind that Adam, of his own will and accord, deprived himself of that perfect righteousness which he had received from God; and that, of his own accord and will, he gave himself up to the service of sin and Satan, and thus precipitated himself into destruction eternal. Here, however, men will continually offer one uniform excuse for Adam?that it was not possible for him to help or avoid that which God Himself had decreed. But to establish the guilt of Adam for ever, his own voluntary transgression is enough, and more than sufficient. Nor, indeed, is the secret counsel of God the real and virtua1 cause of sin, but manifestly the will and inclination of man.
The folly of the complaint of Medea is justly derided even by the ancient poet, when he represents her as uttering the well-known lamentation, "O that the ship, made of planks cut down by axes from the Pelian grove, had never sailed from Egina to Colchis, my native land!" Medea had betrayed her country, carried away by the passion of a desperate love which she had conceived for a foreigner, and an entire stranger. And when her conscience smites her for her perfidy and barbarous cruelty, when the shame of unlawful indulgence overwhelms her, she absurdly turns her thoughts of regret to various remote circumstances as the causes of her misery. But since every human being can always find the cause of his evils in himself, of what avail is it to look about him on every side, or to seek that cause in heaven? Thus Medea's fault plainly appears in that she had sinned voluntarily and willingly. Why, then, does she plunge herself into a labyrinth of lost thought by rushing into the mysteries of heaven? For, although mortal men may employ their thoughts in circuitous reasonings, ever so long and deep, they never can so far delude or stupefy themselves as not to find and feel that they carry the originating cause of all their sins deeply seated in their own hearts. Impious reasoning, therefore, will attempt in vain to absolve from the guilt of sin that man who stands condemned by his own conscience. And as to God's having knowingly and willingly permitted man to fall, His reason for so doing may be hidden! UNJUST, it cannot be! And this, moreover, should ever be held fast without controversy, that sin was ever hateful to God. For that praise which David loudly bestows on the Most High strictly applies to His adorable Majesty in every respect: "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity" (Ps. v. 5). Wherefore, in ordaining the Fall of man especially, God had an end most glorious and most just; an end, into our contemplation of which the mention or idea of sin on the part of Cod can never enter; the very thought of its entrance strikes us with horror!
Although, therefore, I thus affirm that God did ordain the Fall of Adam, I so assert it as by no means to concede that God was therein properly and really the author of that Fall. That I may not, however, dwell extensively on this great point now, I will only express it as my view, belief and sentiment, that what Augustine so deeply teaches on this matter was fulfilled in God's ordaining the Fall of Adam: "In a wonderful and unutterable way that was not done without the will of God (says he), which was even done contrary to His will; because it could not have been done at all, if His will had not permitted it to be done And yet He did not permit it unwillingly, but willingly." The great and grand principle, therefore, on which Augustine argues cannot be denied: "That both man and apostate angels, as far as they were themselves concerned, did that which God willed not or which was contrary to His WILL; but that, as far as God's overruling omnipotence is concerned, they could not, in any manner, have done it without His will." To these sentiments of the holy man I subscribe with all my heart. I solemnly hold that man and apostate angels did, by their sin, that which was contrary to the will of God, to the end that God, by means of their evil will, might effect that which was according to His decreeing will. If anyone should reply that this is above the capability of his mind to comprehend, I also acknowledge and confess the same. But why should we wonder that the infinite and incomprehensible majesty of God should surpass the narrow limits of our finite intellect? So far, however, am I from undertaking to explain this sublime and hidden mystery by any powers of human reason, that I would ever retain in my own memory that which I declared at the commencement of this discussion?that those who seek to know more than God has revealed are madmen! Wherefore, let us delight ourselves more in wise ignorance than in an immoderate and intoxicated curiosity to know more than God permits. Let all the powers of our mind restrain themselves within the bounds of this reverential assurance, that God willed nothing by the sin of man, but what became of His infinite justice!
Pighius thus continues: "If the apostasy of man be the work of God, that which the Scripture declares is not true when it saith, 'That all things which God doeth are very good.'" Now I can sacredly testify, and with all candour confess, that this comment of my adversary never entered my mind. I have everywhere asserted that man was created in the beginning perfectly upright. I have constantly asserted this, I say, for the very purpose of preventing the depravity which he contracted by his Fall from being attributed to God. I have, with equal constancy, asserted that the eternal death to which man rendered himself subject so proceeded from his own fault that God cannot, in any way, be considered the author of it. Now, if I had ever asserted that the departure of the first man from God proceeded in any way from the inspiration or motion of the Spirit of God; if I had not, on the contrary, uniformly contended that Adam fell by the instigation of the devil and by the impulse of his own heart; then, indeed, Pighius might justly have made his furious attack upon me. But now, removing as I do from God all the proximate cause of the act in the Fall of man, I thereby remove from Him also all the blame of the act, leaving man alone under the sin and the guilt. While I thus teach, then, why does my opponent calumniously and wickedly slander me by asserting that I make the Fall of man "one of the works of God"? But how it was that God, by His foreknowledge and decree, ordained what should take place in Adam, and yet so ordained it without His being Himself in the least a participator of the fault, or being at all the author or the approver of the transgression; how this was, I repeat, is a secret manifestly far too deep to be penetrated by any stretch of human intellect. Herein, therefore, I am not ashamed to confess my utter ignorance. And far be it from anyone of the faithful to be ashamed to confess his ignorance of that which the Lord God has wholly enveloped in the blaze of His own inaccessible light!
And here, let my readers be assured that I offer no counsel to others which I do not follow myself with my whole heart. For the Lord is my witness, my conscience also bearing the same witness in the Holy Ghost, that I so meditate upon these His stupendous judgments of God daily, as not to feel the least curiosity or desire to know anything beyond that which I now know and have testified. Nor does any misgiving suspicion of God's all-surpassing justice ever steal into my mind. Nor does any inclination to murmur ever entice my spirit. In a word, I fully rest, not less calmly than willingly, in the following sentiments of Augustine: "God (says he), who created all things very good, foreknew that evil would arise out of that good; and He also knew that His glorious and omnipotent goodness would be the more highly exalted by His producing good out of evil, than by His not permitting evil to be at all. He ordained the life of angels and of men, that He might first of all make it manifest by that life what free will could do, and then afterwards show what the blessing of His grace and the judgment of His justice could do." To these Divine sentiments I would merely add (repeating my heartfelt assent to them), that if the ears of any persons so continually itch that they cannot let any one of the mysteries of God remain hidden and closed, that teacher would be worse than insane who should attempt to satisfy such disciples by his instructions.
No! Let us rather hear, and tremble at, that which happened to David when he was inclined to inquire into certain unusual judgments of God, which appeared in the external circumstances of persons and of this present life: "So foolish was I (says he), and ignorant; I was as a beast before Thee" (Ps. lxxiii. 22). An exalted prophet like David (we see) could not attempt to be wise beyond what is lawful without being confounded and made to feel himself to be, as it were, a brute beast. Is it to be supposed, then, that we can indulge with impunity a preposterous wantonness of mind in attempting to comprehend the counsel of God, the deepest of all things in heaven or earth? After Paul had testified that God chose whom He would out of the lost mass of mankind, and had reprobated whom He would, the apostle was so far from attempting to explain how or why God did so, that, overwhelmed with wonder, admiration and awe, he burst forth into the exclamation, "O the depth!" etc. Shall we, then, unawed by that "depth" and destitute of all reverence, dare to search into the "depth" of the Fall, and to inquire how it was that God suffered the whole human race to fall in Adam? I have already observed that the Fall of Adam is a standing lesson of humility to all his posterity; a lesson from which they may learn that they are nothing in themselves, and can do nothing to regard eternal life; that Adam was perfect, and could do perfectly, and yet he fell! "O the depth!" Now, the one and only right rule of being wise is for the mind of man to restrain itself by that bridle of wonder? ''O the depth!" etc.
We have not. however, touched upon this mighty question even thus lightly, merely because it was abstruse and hidden in the inmost recess of the sanctuary of God, but because an idle curiosity is not to be indulged, of which curiosity, high-minded speculation is the foster-mother and the nurse. And although I greatly approve all that Augustine says in his "Commentary on Genesis" (chap. xi. 4-8), where he is bringing all things down to form a lesson in the fear and reverence of God; yet that other part, where he shows that God chose out of the condemned race of Adam those whom He pleased, and reprobated those whom He pleased, appears to me to be far more calculated to inspire and exercise faith; and his treatment of that subject is likely to produce more abundant fruits. I, therefore, for my part, find more freedom and happiness in enforcing that doctrine which contains in its teaching the corruption, sin and guilt of human nature. This substance of doctrine appears to me, not only to be more conducive to instruction in all fundamental godliness, but to be more theological. Let us remember, however, that in this latter substance of doctrine, concerning the depravity and corruption of human nature, we must reason soberly and humbly. The greatest care must be taken that we go no farther than the Lord leads us by His Word. For we know too well how captivating the allurements of the reasonings and penetrations of human wit are. Wherefore, the greater caution is to be exercised that the simplicity of faith bind fast all our senses by her golden chain.
Now, that God draws men unto Himself by the secret inspiration and influence of His Holy Spirit even our daily prayers bear witness. For when we pray for our persecutors, what else do we petition for them than that they; may become willing to obey God who were before unwilling; that they may, with us, receive the truth who before resisted it; that they may love God who before fought against Him? But it is openly manifest that it is not given to all men indiscriminately; that God should, on a sudden, deem those worthy eternal life who had deserved eternal destruction a hundred times over. "But how it is (saith Augustine) that God bestows this grace, making some, according to their just desert, vessels of wrath, and making others, according to His grace, vessels of mercy; if we ask how this is, no other reply can be given than this, 'Who hath known the mind of the Lord?' And though the pride and insolence of the world kick violently at such a comparison, though made by the Holy Spirit Himself, yet it is by no means to be borne that the condition of God should be worse than that of man! For what creditor among men has not the privilege of demanding payment from one debtor, and of forgiving the debts of another?" This similitude is very frequently, and most appropriately, used by Augustine. "It cannot indeed be (says he) but that the natural mind of man must, in a moment, become ruffled when he hears that the same grace of God is denied to some who are indeed unworthy, and freely given to others who are manifestly equally unworthy. Let us, however, well consider that after all were equally under eternal condemnation, it is by no means lawful or right in us to impose on God a restraint that should prevent Him from having mercy on whom He will.'" Most rightly, however, does Augustine contend that the justice of God is by no means to be measured by the short rule of human justice. "After all has been said that can be said (observes he) upon this supendous subject, let the short but awe-filled exclamation of the apostle terminate all our disputations. Let us with him stand in awe of the unsearchable mind of God and breathe, 'O the depth!' etc. If impudent tongues make a noise, contending or demanding more, let us never be ashamed nor grieved to utter the apostle's loud rebuke, 'Nay, but who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?'"
Now, though I believe I have, in my "Institutes," already refuted with clearness and brevity the various absurdities of opposition which my adversaries heap upon my doctrine from all quarters, that they may calumniate and defame it; and though I think I have effectually met and exposed many of those figments by which ignorant persons delude and bewilder themselves; yet, as Pighius has found much delight in nibbling at my testimonies and my replies to opponents, I will not object to wash off from myself, as I proceed, his virulent soil.
Some of our adversaries have preposterously asked, How can men be certain of their salvation if it lies in the secret counsel of God? I have replied in these statements, which are the truth. Since the certainty of salvation is "set forth" unto us in Christ, it is useless, and not without dishonour to Christ Himself, to pass over this fountain of life, which is thrown open that men may draw out of it, and to labour and toil in vain to draw the water of eternal life out of the hidden abysses of the mind and counsel of God! Paul testifies, indeed, that we were "chosen before the foundation of the world," but it was in Christ." Let no one, then, seek confidence in his own election of God anywhere else than "in Christ," unless, indeed, he would blot out, and do away with, the "book of life" in which his name is written. God's adoption of us "in Christ" is for no other end than that we should be considered His children. Now the Scripture declares that all those who believe in the only-begotten Son of God are the children and heirs of God. Christ, therefore, is the clear glass in which we are called upon to behold the eternal and hidden election of God; and of that election He is also the earnest. But the eye, by which we behold that eternal life which God sets before us in this glass, is faith. And the hand by which we lay hold of this earnest and pledge is faith. If any will have the matter more plainly stated, let them take it thus: election precedes faith as to its Divine order, but it is seen and understood by faith. What I here just touch upon, however, readers will find more fully explained in my "Institutes." Hence Christ, when dwelling on the eternal election of His own in the counsel of the Father, points out, at the same time, the ground on which their confidence may safely rest; where He says, "I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word" (John xvii. 6). We see here that God begins with Himself, when He condescends to choose us and give us to Christ. But He will have us begin with Christ, if we would know that we are numbered among His "peculiar people." God the Father is said to have given us to His Son, to the end that each one of His chosen might enjoy the knowledge that he is an heir of His heavenly kingdom as long as he abides in Christ, out of whom death and destruction beset us on every side. Christ is therefore said to "manifest the name" of the Father unto us, because He seals on our hearts by His Spirit, the knowledge of our election by the Father, which is openly declared unto us by the voice of the Gospel of the Son.
Now, if we would believe what my friend, Pighius, says, he would make it appear that I so labour and sweat, and so turn things upside-down, so confound and transfound everything, as to make it perfectly evident that I am condemned by my own conscience in all I write or say. Pighius, indeed, can pour out the flood of his characteristic loquacity with all the ease in the world, and without one drop of sweat at all. But that his tongue might have full play, he seems always to take care to wet himself well with wine, that he may be able to blow forth at random, and without any check of shame whatever, those blasts of abuse that first fill his two swollen cheeks. Another objection is, "that if the predestination of God be the immutable and inevitable cause of salvation, all faith and confidence in us, and the need of them, are at once taken out of our hands." Without offering a word of my own argument in reply to a statement so preposterously absurd, I will merely observe, that when Paul testifies that we are made partakers of Divine adoption, because we were chosen before the foundation of the world; what is there, I pray, inexplicable or perplexed in this doctrine and its connection? For when the apostle teaches, in the same context, that those who were thus chosen of God first, were afterwards called according to His purpose, he beautifully harmonises, if I mistake not, the sure confidence of our faith with the immutable decree of the election of God.
Pighius farther reasons thus: "If all those who are members of the body of Christ are 'written in the book of life,' then drunkards, adulterers, thieves, perjured persons, murderers, etc., etc., will inherit the kingdom of God. All this, however, is flatly contrary to the plain testimony of the Apostle Paul, for multitudes of these have been 'engrafted into Christ' by baptism, and have 'put on Christ.'" Now, in the first place, I would entreat my readers to direct their thoughts for a minute to this loose-reined profanation of the Scripture, in which Pighius so much delights to revel; and next, that they would mark the just judgment of God in avenging that profanation, which judgment Pighius so evidently exemplifies in himself. For, with him, to trample under foot the whole of Scripture together is nothing! Provided that he can deceive the eyes of his readers by false colours of the Word of God, and make himself great in the estimation of the inexperienced, he will snap his finger at uprooting the very first principles of all godliness. The Lord, however, deprives him of his common senses, and exposes him to the ridicule even of children.
Now circumcision is represented by the Apostle Paul as being twofold: the circumcision of "the letter" and the circumcision of "the Spirit;" In the same manner also, we are ever to think and speak of baptism. Many bear in their bodies the sign only, but are far from the possession of the reality. Thus Peter also, after having said that we are saved by baptism, immediately declares, by way of an additional correction and caution, that the bare external washing of the flesh is not sufficient, unless there be also the answer of a good conscience. "Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh (saith he), but the answer of a good conscience towards God" (1 Peter iii. 21). Wherefore the Scripture, when setting forth the Sacraments, ever speaks of them in a twofold sense. When it is dealing with hypocrites who, glorying in the empty sign, disregard the reality, in order to prostrate the vain confidence of such, it carefully distinguishes the reality from the sign, by which distinction the perverseness of their minds is at once exposed and defeated. It is in this manner that Paul reminds the Corinthians (1 Cor. x. 5) that it was of no profit to the ancient people that they were all baptised in their passage through the Red Sea, and "did all eat the same spiritual food" with us, and "did all drink the same spiritual drink" with us; that is (Paul means), did all partake of the same outward signs of spiritual gifts with us. But when the apostle is addressing believers, he speaks of the Sacraments in their legitimate and efficacious use as answering the ends of their Divine institution. When, therefore, Paul is thus speaking of the Sacraments, he uses the phrases, who have "put on Christ," who have been "engrafted into His body," who have been "buried together with Him," who have been "baptised in His Name," etc., in their essential meanings. But Pighius absurdly concludes, from Paul's use of these expressions, that all those who have been sprinkled with the visible element of water are really regenerated by the Spirit and are really incorporated into the body of Christ, so as to live unto God and in His righteousness. Nor is he ashamed to fill page after page of his writings with such absurdities as these. Whereas, when I am speaking in my writings of men generally, I call all those "members of Christ" in an external sense who have been sprinkled with the water of external baptism. Shortly afterwards, however, Pighius draws in a little his expanded wings, and remarks that many fall away from Christ who had been really engrafted into His body; and he makes it out that those whom Christ received from the Father, as committed to His faithfulness and care, are so saved by Him as to have their salvation still dependent on their own free-will. "There are many (says he) who want not the protection of the grace of Christ, but who are wanting to themselves."
Most certainly the indolence and ingratitude of those can never be condemned with sufficient severity who willingly withdraw themselves from the protection of God. But it is an insult to Christ, by no means to be endured, for a man to say that the elect of God are saved by Him provided they take diligent care of themselves. In this manner that protection of Christ is rendered wholly precarious and doubtful, against which, however, Christ Himself declares that the devil and all the machinations of hell shall never prevail. Christ Himself promised that He would give eternal life unto all those that were given unto Him of the Father. And He testified that He had been a safe keeper of them all up to the day on which He thus promised, and that "none of them was lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John xvii. 2, 12). In another place He declares that the elect of God are in His hands, and that no one shall pluck them out, because God is mightier than the whole world. If, then, eternal life is certain to all the elect; if no one can be plucked from the hand of Christ; if they can be torn away from Him by no violence, no desperateness of assault; if their salvation stands in the invincible might of God; what a brazen and audacious brow must Pighius possess to attempt to shake such a certainty and security as this? But this is not all. He goes on to say, "Though Christ casts no one out, indeed; yet many of their own will depart from Him. And those who were the children of God for a time do not continue such." Pighius here betrays his wickedness and perverseness as an interpreter by his refusing to acknowledge that all those whom the Father gave unto Christ are safely preserved in His hands unto the end, that they might be saved. Because, all those who fall away are declared by John not to have been of Christ's flock at all. "They went out from us (says the evangelist), but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1 John ii. 19).
If your doctrine and argument be true, says Pighius, that all the elect are thus secure in the hand of Christ "unto the end," the condition of salvation on which Christ Himself lays down is proposed in vain, where He says, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matt. x. 22). Here, everyone must confess, that my opponent prevaricates. He had undertaken to prove that our confidence of our salvation could not consistently stand with our election of God. But now, his reasoning draws us away from that point, and leads us to prove that the former necessarily stands on the 1atter. I thus find myself so perpetually tossed to and fro by the billows of this man's violent attacks, that scarcely a moment passes in which I am not in danger of being drowned. But, as God ever upholds His elect to prevent them from sinking, I feel quite confident that I shall stand against all my adversary's incessant storms. When Pighius asks me how I know that I am elected, my answer is, "Christ is, to me, more than a thousand witnesses." For when I find myself engrafted into His body, my salvation rests in a place so safe, secure, and tranquil, that it is as if I already realised it in heaven. If Pighius say, in reply, that the eternal election of God cannot be judged of by present grace, I will not attempt, on my part, to bring forward as proofs those feelings which believers experience in this matter, because it is not given unto "strangers" even to taste that bread on which the "children" of God feed. But when Pighius dares to prate that it is nowhere found in the Scripture that the children of God know their eternal election by their present grace, a falsehood so bare and base is disproved by the Word of God in a moment. After Paul had testified that those who were elected are called and justified, and at length attain unto a blessed immortality, fortified, as it were, by a strong bulwark on every side, he thus exults and triumphs, "Who shall stand against God's elect?" etc. And that no one might suppose this doctrine of security to apply to all men generally, he directly afterwards applies it to the peculiar use of each believer: "For I am persuaded (says he), 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 us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. viii. 33, 38, 39). Now, whereas Pighius will have it that the believer's confidence of eternal salvation may be broken short at any moment, Paul extends it into futurity and into an eternity beyond the limit of this present life, and demonstrates that such a confidence proceeds from no other source than from God's election! Pighius, on the contrary, so represents the believer's confidence and his election as opposite and contradictory, that he makes them destroy each other.
"What, then, does Ezekiel mean (inquires Pighius) when he denounces destruction on the righteous man, if he shall turn aside from the right way?" (Ezek. xviii. 26.) Now we deny not that there are sometimes in the reprobate many things which are found also in the children of God; but how brightly so ever they may shine with the appearance of righteousness, it is quite certain that they never proceeded from the spirit of adoption. Such reprobate persons, thus apparently righteous, could never truly call upon God as their Father. For Paul testifies that none are ever "led" by that spirit of adoption but the sons o/ God, whom he also pronounces to be "heirs" of eternal life. Were it otherwise, that which the same apostle testifies in another place would not stand good, where he says, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God." And again, "But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. ii. 12, 16). Were it otherwise (we repeat), the apostle Paul would have in vain called that Spirit, by which the faithful are sealed, "the earnest of their future inheritance." But, that the right knowledge of our election of God strengthens our faith in our final perseverance, that one prayer of Christ ought to furnish an abundant proof, in which He commends all the elect to His heavenly Father, separating them by name from the world, and praying that when this world should be no more, they might remain saved from all its evil, being made "perfect" and "one" with Himself and the Father in glory (John xvii.).