ETERNAL PREDESTINATION OF GOD
The third account or cause why we are in error, according to our worthy friend Georgius, is because, though the Scripture does indeed make mention of men being "blinded" and hardened," yet we do not bear in mind that such greater punishments are inflicted on sins of greater magnitude. We, however, on our part, do not deny that which is clearly confirmed by numberless testimonies of the Scripture, that God punishes with blindness, and with many other modes of judgment, contempt of His grace, pride, obstinacy, and many other kindred sins. And, indeed, all those conspicuous punishments, of which mention is made throughout the Scriptures, ought to be referred to that general view of the righteous judgment of God in the display of which we ever see, that those who have not duly feared God, after they had known Him, nor have reverenced Him as they ought, have been "given over to a reprobate mind," and left to wallow in every kind of uncleanness and lust. But on this deep subject we shall dwell more fully hereafter.
Although, therefore, the Lord doth thus strike the wicked with vindictive madness and consternation, and doth thus repay them with the punishment they deserve; yet this does not at all alter the fact that there is, in all the reprobate generally, a blindness and an obstinate hardness of heart. So, when Pharaoh is said to have been "hardened" of God, he was already, in himself, worthy of being delivered over unto Satan by the Most High. Moses, however, also testifies that Pharaoh had been before blinded of God "for this very purpose" (Exod. ix. 16). Nor does Paul add any other cause for this, than that Pharaoh was one of the reprobate (Rom. ix. 17). In this same manner also does the apostle demonstrate that the Jews, when God had deprived them of the light of understanding, and had permitted them to fall into horrible darkness, suffered thereby the righteous punishments of their wicked contempt of the grace of God. And yet the apostle plainly intimates that this same blindness is justly inflicted of God upon all reprobates generally. For he testifies that the "remnant were saved "according to the election of grace," but that all "the rest were blinded." If, then, all "the rest," in the salvation of whom the election of God does not reign, are "blinded," it is doubtlessly and undeniably manifest that those same persons who, by their rebellion and provocation of the wrath of God, procured to themselves this additional blindness, were themselves from the beginning ordained to blindness. Hence the words of Paul are manifestly true, where he says that the vessels of wrath were "afore prepared unto destruction"; namely, all those who, being destitute of the Spirit of adoption, precipitated themselves into eternal destruction by their own sin and fault. Wherefore, I hesitate not to confess that in the secret judgments of God something always precedes, but "hidden." For how God condemns the wicked, and yet justifies the wicked, is a mystery that is shut up in that secret mind of God, which is inaccessible to all human understanding. Wherefore, there remains nothing better, nothing more becoming us, than to stand in awe with the apostle, and exclaim, "How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Rom. xi. 33.) For God's judgments are a profound abyss.
Georgius then goes on to say "that no one syllable can be found in the whole Scripture from which it can be lawfully concluded that those who were reprobated by the eternal judgment of God were 'blinded,' and that all which we testify concerning predestination rests on the mere craft of philosophic invention; for that God could not be ignorant of any of those things which should come to pass, and that whatsoever things He did foresee, could not but come to pass according to that foreknowledge." To this lying misrepresentation of our doctrine I give no answer. My books are its standing refutation. The fact is, that as the unbounded favour of the reverend abbot gave this conceited fellow the license of saying what he pleased among his silly brethren, and as he had the audacity to puff off among them all the dreams that entered his brain as the oracles of God, he really promised himself the same credit outside the monastery. But what is the benefit of my now using many words to prove that which I have proved a thousand times over? ?that we do not gather that difference between the elect and the reprobate (against which Georgius so violently but vainly wars) from the bare foreknowledge of God (according to this fellow's stupid perversion of our testimony), but that we prove it to be taught in numberless manifest and said passages of the Holy Scripture. And yet, this fellow imagines, and would make it appear, that we war with the prescience of God alone. Readers, however, will find above twenty plain passages already cited by me which prove the contrary to this vain imagination. He boasts that special and particular election is a fiction of our own; for that God chooses no special or particular persons. Christ Himself, however, declares aloud on the contrary, "That He knows whom He has chosen" (John xiii. 18).
Behold, then, readers, with what mighty war-engines of his own fabrication Georgius labours to shake that eternal counsel of God, by which some are chosen to salvation and others ordained unto destruction! Paul does indeed make the righteousness of God common to all by faith, nor does he admit any distinction whatever, testifying that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." I also confess with my whole heart, according to Paul, that the righteousness of God is freely extended to all through faith. But whence cometh faith unto men? Only from the free illumination of the Spirit. And whom does Paul consider to be those who believe in Christ? Those only whom His heavenly Father has drawn. And most certainly Christ on His part reckons no one among His own but him who was given to Him by His Father. He accordingly declares that those who were given to Him were before, His Father's. Georgius, we well know, will here thrust in our faces his mad dream about natural faith, which absurdity it does not belong to my present purpose to stop to refute. I shall only say that the righteousness of God is "unto all, and upon all them that believe" in Christ. But on the testimony of the same apostle, I assert that where one believeth and another doth not believe, it is God alone that makes the difference; that it is of God alone that some have the advantage of others in obtaining the blessing, that no one might glory. I affirm that, in order that we might know the things which are freely given to us of God, our eternal inheritance is sealed upon our hearts by the earnest and seal of the Spirit. I also affirm that our ability to believe in Christ is given to us of God. I moreover maintain that "the eyes of our understanding are enlightened" of God, that we might know "what is the hope of His calling." And finally, I testify that faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Paul does indeed declare that "there is no difference." But his meaning is that there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, for that God invites both, equally, unto salvation. Now Georgius here affirms that these two races of men comprehend all mankind. Be it so, he cannot by that argument prove that righteousness is promised severally and separately to each individual of mankind. And suppose we were to grant this last point, we must come after all to the original proposition and fact, that no one can become a partaker of the good offered him, but by faith. By this argument, then, the monk must be driven to the necessity of making faith common to all men. And this, as we have before abundantly proved, is directly contrary to the mind of the apostle Paul. Our monk will follow up his argument by saying, that according to our doctrine the elect alone have "come short of the glory of God." And how does he arrive at this conclusion? Because (says he) the grace of Christ is poured out on all who have sinned. But I so hold the grace of God to be universal, as to make the great difference consist in this: that all are not called "according to God's purpose."
Georgius imagines himself to argue very cleverly when he says, "Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Therefore, those who would exclude the reprobate from a participation in the benefits of Christ, must, of necessity, place them somewhere out of the world." Now we will not permit the common solution of this question to avail on the present occasion, which would have it that Christ suffered sufficiently for all men, but effectually for His elect alone. This great absurdity, by which our monk has procured for himself so much applause amongst his own fraternity, has no weight whatever with me. John does indeed extend the benefits of the atonement of Christ, which was completed by His death, to all the elect of God throughout what climes of the world soever they may be scattered. But though the case be so, it by no means alters the fact that the reprobate are mingled with the elect in the world. It is also a fact, without controversy, that Christ came to atone for the sins "of the whole world." But the solution of all difficulty is immediately at hand, in the truth and fact, that it is "whosoever believeth in Him" that "shall not perish, but shall have eternal life." For our present question is, not what the power or virtue of Christ is, nor what efficacy it has in itself, but who those are to whom He gives Himself to be enjoyed. Now if the possession of Christ stands in faith, and if faith flows from the Spirit of adoption, it follows that he alone is numbered of God among His children who is designed of God to be a partaker of Christ. Indeed, the evangelist John sets forth the office of Christ to be none other than that of "gathering together all the children of God" in one by His death. From all which we conclude that although reconciliation is offered unto all men through Him, yet, that the great benefit belongs peculiarly to the elect, that they might be "gathered together" and be made "together" partakers of eternal life.
Be it observed, however, that when I speak of reconciliation through Christ being offered to all, I do not mean that that message or embassy, by which Paul says God "reconciles the world unto Himself," really comes or reaches unto all men; but that it is not sealed indiscriminately on the hearts of all those to whom it does come, so as to be effectual in them. And as to our present opponent's prating about there being "no acceptance of persons with God," he must first "go and learn" what the word "person" meaneth agreeably to our preceding explanations of it; and then we shall have no more trouble with him on that score.
"But Paul teaches us (continues Georgius) that God 'would have all men to be saved.'" It follows, therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should reply that God wills all men to be saved on His part, or as far as he is concerned, seeing that salvation is, nevertheless, left to the free will of each individual; I, in return, ask him why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached to all men indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? why He suffered so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death? Now it follows, in the apostle's context, that God "would have all men come to the knowledge of the truth." But the sense of the whole passage is perfectly plain, and contains no ambiguity to any reader of candour and of a sound judgment. We have fully explained the whole passage in former pages. The apostle had just before exhorted that solemn and general prayers should be offered up in the Church "for kings and princes," etc., that no one might have cause to deplore those kings and magistrates whom God might be pleased to set over them; because, at that time, rulers were the most violent enemies of the faith. Paul, therefore, makes Divine provision for this state of things by the prayers of the Church, and by affirming that the grace of Christ could reach to this order of men also, even to kings, princes and rulers of every description.
But it is no matter of wonder that the more audacity this worthless fellow betrays in wresting the Scriptures, the more profuse he should be in heaping passages on passages to suit his purpose, seeing that he does not possess one particle of religion or of shame which might restrain his headlong impudence. But the more diffuse he is in his wild discussions, the more brief I shall study to be in my answers, by which I hope to curb his pretentions. He cites that passage of Isaiah lvi.3: "Neither let the son of the stranger speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from His people." And he takes it for granted that that text can never be applied to the reprobate. For he judges it absurd to suppose that the elect are ever called "the sons of the stranger." To this I reply that it is by no means unusual to find in the Scriptures those who were elected before the foundation of the world considered, nevertheless, "strangers," or "the sons of the stranger," until they are gathered into the family and among the children of God by faith. The words of Peter, borrowed from the prophet Isaiah, are: "Which in time past were not a people; but now are the people of God" (1 Pet. ii. 10). Now to whom is Peter here speaking? Is it not to those of whom he had testified in the beginning of the epistle, that they were "elect according to the foreknowledge of God"? Paul sets this matter forth in a still more open light in his Epistle to the Ephesians. After he had therein dwelt very largely on their eternal election of God, he subsequently reminds them that, "At that time they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. ii. 12). And is it any cause of wonder if Isaiah, building thus, under the inspiration of the Spirit, the temple of God out of profane stones, should declare that there would be a new consecration of it! For as the calling of the Gentiles lay hidden all along in the heart of God, what else appeared in them outwardly than all damnable uncleanness? All those among them who were at length incorporated in the spiritual body of Christ by faith were, indeed, all that time really the sheep of God, as Christ Himself testifies (John x. 16). But they were sheep as yet shut out of the fold, and "wandering upon the dark mountains." And though they themselves all the while knew it not, yet the Shepherd knew them, according to that eternal predestination by which He chose His own unto Himself before the foundation of the world. Augustine sets this forth very soundly and beautifully.
"Now if that word of the prophet Ezekiel be true (continues Georgius), 'The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father,' no part of mankind are left in original sin." But I really will have nothing to do with this unclean beast at all (Deut. xiv. 7). My purpose is to come to the help of the ignorant only, that they may not be taken and carried away with such worthless cavillings as these. No one thing is more certain, than that all those remain under the general destruction who are not engrafted into the body of Christ. This good brother monk, prodigal of dealing with strangers, huddles all together and presses into the household even those against whom God has shut and barred the door. But that man is wilfully mad, whoever he may be, who does not confess that no one of those who died naturally in Adam can be restored unto eternal life in any other way than in that ordained of God. The manifest difference between the seed of a believing and that of an unbelieving man, as determined by the apostle, is this, that the former is "holy," but the latter "unclean." And on this sacred principle, before the Gentiles were ingrafted into the Church with the Jews by the breaking down of "the middle wall of partition between them," the apostle calls the branches of Abraham "holy" from their holy root. But what need is there of a lengthened discussion of this point? Did not the same prophet Ezekiel, whose word this monk so abuses, frequently condemn the uncircumcised Gentiles to destruction as profane persons? Nor would circumcision be the covenant of life even now on any other grounds. How, then, can it be true to assert that the son shall not bear the punishment of the sin of the father? And, on the other hand, I ask, How shall that man boast himself to be innocent who is born an unclean raven from an unclean egg? For original sin is so derived from Adam universally, that it becomes the peculiar property of the nature of every man. No one, therefore, can justly complain, under an imagination that he is bearing the guilt of another's sin, and considering himself free from fault. But if it is not lawful for God to punish, in their children, the sins of their fathers, what is the meaning of that word, "Visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation"? (Exod. xx. 5.) And, again, "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation"? (Exod. xxxiv. 17.) Moreover, the first part of this visiting vengeance is, that the non-elect children of Adam, being left destitute of the Spirit of God, remain sunk in the original sin of their nature.
When Georgius argues thus: "John says he that sinneth, I will blot his name out of the book of life; if you explain this applying to the reprobate, they never were written in the book of life. If you interpret it as referring to the elect, the eternal counsel of God will be mutable and fail" Now, our monk prates in this way, as if God did not always address us in a manner adapted to our comprehension as men. How base a specimen of ingratitude thus to insult God, for having, through the greatest indulgence towards us and our limited comprehension, expressed Himself in such simple terms! If this worthless fellow goes on with his interpretation of the Scriptures at this rate, according to the letter, he will by-and-bye fabricate for us a corporeal God, assigning as his reason, because the Scripture speaks of God as having ears, eyes, feet and hands. The meaning of the passage, however, is most simple and plain: that those are "blotted out of the book of life" who, having been considered for a time the children of God, as being among them, afterwards draw back and fall away into their own place, as Peter most truly describes Judas to have done. Such characters, however, as John testifies, "were never of us; for if they had been of us, they would not have gone out from us" (1 John ii. 19). That, however, which John expresses thus summarily, the prophet Ezekiel sets forth essentially and circumstantially: "They shall not be in the secret assembly of My people; neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel." The same key also will unlock the difficulty that may appear in the cases where Moses and Paul express their willingness "to be blotted out of the book of life." The fact is, that they were so carried out of themselves, as it were, by the excess of their grief, that they uttered their readiness rather to perish than that the Church of God, populous as it then was, should be extinguished. When, however, Christ bids His disciples "rejoice because their names were written in heaven," He speaks of that as an everlasting blessing, of which they never should be deprived. In a word, Christ unites and harmonises both meanings, concerning names being written in the book of life, when He says, "Every tree that My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up." Whereby He plainly intimates that the reprobate also sometimes take root, in appearance, and yet are not planted by the hand of God.
On that comparison of the Apostle Paul (Rom. v. 12), where he says, "As by one man sin came into the world unto condemnation; so by one Man came the gift of righteousness unto life," Georgius argues thus: "If, therefore, many died through one, much more must the grace of God abound, that many may reign in life by Christ." Now if the apostle were here proving that the grace of Christ extended unto all men, acknowledging myself vanquished, I would be silent and say no more on the subject. But as the apostle's purpose is simply to show how much more powerful the grace of Christ is in the faithful than the curse which they derived from Adam, what is there in this blessed truth to shake the eternal election of those whom Christ has restored from the ruins of the Fall to the possession and enjoyment of everlasting life, leaving the rest to perish in their sins? But our monk wishes to dwell on the particular expressions of the apostle. "Paul (he says) comprehends the whole race of mankind when he uses the terms, 'the sin of one man,' and 'came upon all men.' Therefore, no one can be lawfully excluded from the participation of eternal life." But if we are allowed to reason at this rate, I should be inclined to contend that, if it be so, God must needs, and as a natural consequence, create some new worlds, that in them things might be managed better than in this! Christ declares that the curse in Adam by no means equalled the grace in Himself, because, as His apostle saith, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Now if the numbers of the sons of men (of the elect and the reprobate, of those under the curse and those under grace) be reduced into one, Christ could not certainly save more than Adam destroyed, namely, more than these two numbers of men. Therefore, the faith of Paul must be altogether imperilled in his own election and salvation, unless some new world should immediately rise out of the sea! I will use, however, in the defence of the truth, no other shield than that which our monk himself fits on my arm by another passage of Paul, which he boastingly adduces, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." If this worthless opponent of the truth applies the second member of this text to all the sons of Adam, Paul immediately holds up his hand to stop him. For he plainly testifies, directly afterwards, that he is therein speaking of the members of Christ only. "Christ (saith he), the Firstfruits; afterwards, they that are Christ's at His coming." Now, Paul is here undeniably speaking of the resurrection, which shall be followed by a blessed immortality?that immortality in which, in our creed, we confess our faith when we utter, " I believe in . . . the life everlasting."
That I may not, however, wear out my readers to no purpose by taking up the absurd arguments of this worthless person one after the other, my purpose now shall be to lay hold of a few more out of the many that still remain unnoticed. In what sense we are to understand that God willeth not the death of a sinner, but that all should turn and live, I have explained at length in former pages. For when God exhorts men to repentance, and offers life to them upon their return, that exhortation and offer are common to all men. But with respect to His own children, God makes them worthy of the inestimable privilege of His taking out of them their "stony hearts," and giving them "hearts of flesh." Nor do I by any means concede to the monk that all those words of the Lord are spoken in vain, and into the air, by which He leaves all the wicked who are convicted of their malice against Him without excuse; while He so works in His elect that the doctrine of His truth becomes effectual in their hearts by the secret power of His Spirit, while the Word sounds in their ears. Nor is there the least reason why that common slander should distress the mind of anyone, which profanely intimates "that God merely mocks men by exhorting them to walk, when He knows that they are disabled in their feet." For surely God doth men no injury whatever when He demands nothing more of them than that which they really owe Him, unless indeed the debtor, who has nothing to pay, may boast before his creditor that he has paid him all; and that, too, while the creditor laughs at his boasts with astonishment! But I will pursue this part of the serious battle no farther. The truth involved cannot be destroyed without the destruction of every man's conscience also.
God commands the ears of His people Israel to be stricken by, and filled with, the voice of His prophet. For what end? That their hearts might be touched? Nay; but that they might be hardened! That those who hear might repent? Nay; but that, being already lost, they might doubly perish! If thou reply, O monk, that the cause was mightier, and so ruled over all the consequences; this confession is all I wish to be granted me in the present instance. Hence, it is by no means absurd that the doctrine of the truth should, as commanded of God, be spread abroad; though He knows that, in multitudes, it will be without its saving effects. Nor less frivolous is the cavil, when the monk declares that that word of Christ cannot be made to stand consistently with the doctrine of election, where He is speaking of the "sheep" that was "brought back" after it had been "lost." I am satisfied, however, that I can, with much more propriety and effect, hurl back at the monk the javelin which he launches at me. The very reason why Christ represents that it was a sheep that was thus "brought back" after having been "lost" for a time, was because, being a sheep, in reference to its free and eternal election of God, it was safe all the while it was lost under the protection of the eternal Shepherd!
Of the same trash is that logical dilemma which he introduces, and by which he hopes to bewilder us all: "If (argues he) there were such a thing as special election, the exhortation of the prophet could not possibly be made consistent with it, where he says, 'Let the wicked forsake his way.' For if that exhortation be addressed to the elect, how can those be 'wicked' in whom 'all things work together for good '? If it be addressed to the reprobate, how can the reprobate be exhorted to repentance?" My reply is, that the exhortation of the prophet is addressed both to the elect and to the reprobate?to the former, that those among them who have, for a time, shaken off the yoke, and have wantonly gone out of the way, might, by being thus warned, return to a right mind; to the latter, that lying stupefied in their iniquities, they might, by such piercing appeals, be goaded into a sense of their awful condition. For we never imagine to ourselves, nor falsely picture to others, that the elect always hold on the right course, under the constant direction of the Holy Spirit; on the contrary, we ever affirm that they slip with their feet, wander out of the way, and dash against various rocks of sin and of error, and frequently are quite out of the right way of salvation. But as the protection of God, by which they are governed and defended, is stronger than all things, it is impossible that they should fall into utter ruin. "Men (continues the monk) are commanded to take heed lest they perish. But it is all the while certain that the elect are placed beyond all danger. And to the reprobate all heed or caution must be vain." To this argument also I reply: There is nothing strange in this sacred matter at all. The elect, who are engaged in a perpetual conflict, require to be thus furnished with armour necessary for the battle. Moreover, the diligence of all men, generally is stimulated by such exhortations. While the reprobate, by disregarding all exhortation, prove themselves at length to be incurable. For medicine is sedulously administered in diseases until despair of all cure makes its irremediable appearance.
Another objection urged by Georgius is, "That Abraham is not called the father of the elect, but the father of the faithful; and that salvation is not promised to the elect, but to the believing." Whom, then, will he make those to be, who are to be gathered together with their father Abraham into the kingdom of heaven? For Christ most certainly declares that this great blessing belongs to the elect alone. Nay, Christ also declares that a limit shall be put to the horrible coming destructions, "for the elect's sake!" What! Shall we deny that those are the children of Abraham who, together with him, are made the members of God's household, the Church? And how was it, I pray you, that so great an honour was conferred on Abraham, as that he was called the father of the faithful, unless it was because he was chosen of God? And how is it that those are accounted degenerate children of his who do not duly represent their believing father by their faith?
In fact, the audacity of this worthless renegade is perfectly execrable. He labours with all his might, in all his arguments, to deface, blot out, and do away with, that very mark by which God, more especially than by any other, designates and distinguishes His people. I confess, without any hesitation, that eternal life is promised "to them that believe," provided, however, that the monk deny not, on his part, that eternal life is in like manner promised to the elect; for thus saith Isaiah, "And Mine elect shall possess it" (Isaiah V. 9). I shall demand also of my opponent, that he confess that those only believe whom God enlightens by His Spirit, and that he confess, moreover, that election is the mother of faith. Paul testifies that he is ready "to endure all things for the elect's sake" (2 Tim. ii. 10). And Christ proclaims aloud that God the Father "is the avenger" of all the elect (Luke xviii. 7). Paul, moreover, exhorts the Colossians that they "put on, as the elect of God, and as the holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering," etc. (Col. iii. 12). In another place the apostle declares the elect to be free from every charge of sin or guilt. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Rom. viii. 33. Are, then, believers to be robbed of all these blessings? This would be making a worse than hostile separation of those things which God hath mutually, and indeed inseparably, joined together. Nay, "that the election of God might stand," those who were once blind are "illuminated" unto faith. By that faith they receive the righteousness of Christ; and by that faith they are "kept" and "persevere unto the end."
Georgius farther argues: "When the Scripture denounces destruction on them that are lost, it by no means refers or attributes the cause of that destruction to the eternal counsel of God, but declares that it rests with the lost themselves." We, however, never so represent the reprobate to be left destitute of the Spirit of God, in His appeals to their resisting consciences, as to charge the fault of their iniquities on God. What sins soever men commit, let them charge all the fault on themselves alone. And if any man should attempt to escape the fault or guilt of his sin, I affirm that such an one would find himself bound too securely by the chains of his own conscience ever to free himself from righteous condemnation for his transgressions. Let Adam excuse himself as long as he will, by saying that he was deceived by the enticements of the wife which God gave him. Within himself, nevertheless, will be found the deadly poison of infidelity; within himself will be found that worst of all counsellors, depraved ambition; within himself will be found the flaming torch of a devilish defiance of God! Far less excusable, therefore, shall they be who attempt to force, out of the profound secrets of the eternal counsel of God, that cause of their iniquities, which is ever putting forth its awful head from the deep corruption of their own hearts. Richly do they deserve to be "given over to a reprobate mind," who have not glorified God as they ought, even as far as He may be known by the contemplation of "His works that are seen "?the heavens and the earth. Those who wilfully, deliberately, and maliciously reject the grace of Christ, and turn their backs upon the burning and shining light of the gospel, deserve still heavier punishment. Wherefore, let each one acknowledge his own sins and condemn himself alone, and, confessing from his heart all the fault to be his own, let him supplicate the mercy of his Judge.
If any reprobate one should cavil, and be inclined to make a noise, the Scripture furnishes a ready and silencing reply, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself!" (Hosea xiii. 9). For, as we have observed towards our commencement, if the complaint of Medea of old, in the classic poet, is utterly ridiculous, when she laments that the trees were ever cut down from Mount Pelion to furnish wood for building the ship Argo, when the fact was, that the flame of love, burning out of her own lustful heart, was the real cause of her destroying her father and her whole kingdom, together with herself; much less, most certainly, are their arguments to be listened to who would fetch from afar, even from the clouds themselves, remote causes of their sin and fault; when the sight of it is ever before their eyes, issued forth continually from the deep-seated fountain of their own hearts, the evidences of which are plain and perpetual, how much soever they may strive to hide them. The Scripture therefore assigns the cause of all evils to the natural sins of men!
Indeed, the great question between me and the monk is not whether men yield necessary obedience to the secret judgment of God, or are inevitably carried on in their sin by it without any fault of their own, which we not only declare to be a false tenet, but a foul and detestable profanity; but the question between us is whether the wicked, who by their voluntary sins provoke the wrath of God against themselves, were afore reprobated of God (as the righteous but incomprehensible cause of all) "according to the counsel of His own will." Now, as Paul severely condemns the sins of men, powerfully pressing them home upon their own conscience, and determinately vindicating, at the same time, the justice of God from the profane slanders of men; so he openly declares and dissembles not, that those who precipitate themselves into destruction by their sins, are "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.'' Christ also charges home their guilt on the reprobate as they deserve. But He at the same time, shows that the great cause of all was that they were "trees, not planted by the hand of His Father." In a word, we are told that the Father gave unto the Son those that were His, that He might sanctify them. In the opposite view, Paul, having shewn that "the elect obtained it (namely, "the righteousness of faith"), adds, that all the rest were blinded." Vain, therefore, are all the arguments of Georgius, who, fixing his eyes on the open sins of men only, never thinks of that hidden source of all the wickedness of mankind, the corruption of nature!
The monk considers that we are implicated in a great absurdity because we make the will of man free to sin, when the reprobate certainly sin of necessity. But that freedom of will in man of which we speak, and with which our monk is so familiarly acquainted, is, after all, quite unknown to him. Now Paul calls some "free" who are "free from righteousness," namely, those who, destitute of the fear of God and of all temperance, revel in iniquity. Does it follow, then, that such are not "the servants of sin"? Our monk condemns us also for limiting and binding the power of God. "For (says he) if God foreknows and ordains all things that shall come to pass, He has not power to change them afterwards." A prodigious wonder this, truly, that God is not like a mortal man, who is ever flexible and variable, and changes his mind and purposes every hour! Why, the very thing against which the monk so violently fights is that the adorable God is ever of one mind and consistent with Himself Hence, his great hallucination is, that by separating the fixed decrees of God from His power, he makes Him to be divided against Himself. If we were to speak as the Stoics, we should say, according to the noted sentiment of Seneca, "that God is a necessity in Himself." We, however, with greater reverence and sobriety, say "that God always wills the same thing; and that this is the very praise of His immutability." Whatever He decrees, therefore, He effects; and this is in Divine consistency with His Omnipotence. And the will of God, being thus inseparably united with His power, constitutes an exalted harmony of His attributes worthy that Divine Providence, by which all things in heaven and earth are governed.
As to this miserable being's vain display of heaping testimonies upon testimonies of the Scripture which have nothing to do with each other, and have often contrary meanings and applications; to all this I pay but the least regard. But though I am willing to pass by his ignorance, I am anxious to put a rein upon his impudence, to prevent his causing any distress to the simple-minded. After having shown, from one passage of the apostle Paul, that God "sends upon those that receive not the truth, strong delusion that they should believe a lie " (2 Thess. ii. 10, 11); he brings forward, on the back of this, another passage of a reference quite diverse, where the apostle says that the doctrine of the Gospel is "hid in them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (2 Cor. iv. 3, 4). I confess, indeed, that these blind ones are called "those that believe not." But if unbelief is the sole cause of the blindness in these characters, what is the meaning of the words which immediately follow, "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts"? We know that darkness rules everywhere; but it is God alone, as we here see, that brings light out of darkness.
As Georgius moreover accuses us of cruelty, averring that we block up the way of salvation against ourselves and many others also, while Christ Himself most kindly invites Canaanitish women and "lost sheep," and even "strange dogs"?to all this we reply that we faithfully set forth before all men the doctrines of faith and repentance, to the end that all men (if God will) might be profited by Christ. When our Lord Himself was entreated by the wife of Zebedee that He would set one of her sons on His right band and the other on His left, by way of restraining this foolish and untimely desire, our Lord declares that such a wish was unbecoming her present state and calling; and He, at the same time, intimates by no means obscurely that there is a place decreed of His heavenly Father for everyone, which shall be revealed in its time. In this same manner, also, that superstition of men that dwells on future events and issues (which rest with God alone), and which superstition is so plainly revealed in the Scripture, ought ever to be exposed by us, and not indulged by our keeping silence. For until the day of the revelation of the issues shall come, our duty is to do what God commandeth: to exhort all men, without exception, to repentance and faith. For the doctrine and preaching of the Gospel belong to all men, and are for the benefit of all men; and for those ends are they committed unto us, to be openly declared by us, even until the reprobate shall, by their deplorable obstinacy, block up our way and shut the door.
Finding himself compelled by our testimony to admit the doctrine of predestination, confirmed as it is by the multiplied testimony of so many passages of the Scripture, Georgius throws a new cavil into the field, than which nothing can be imagined more stupid or more putrid: "That the believers of the New Testament are said to be 'chosen' of God, as being those to whom God made known the riches of the mystery, which had been hidden from ages." To confirm this sense which he puts upon the subject by his own silly invention, he collects together all those texts of the Scripture which set forth the excellency of the grace revealed by Christ. And then he arrives at the conclusion, that whatever is contained in the first chapter to the Ephesians, has no other intent than to show that God condescended to dignify the believers of the New Testament by bestowing on them this peculiar treasure. And when pushed to state the time to which this grace refers, he says that it was made common unto all men, without distinction from the coming of Christ to the end of the world.
The words of Paul, however, show a very different boundary to this grace. The sum of Paul's testimony is, that those only are illuminated unto faith who were predestinated unto eternal life "according to the eternal good pleasure of God." Nor can it be denied that there was, at the first preaching of the Gospel, a special call of certain persons. Nor was the Gospel published to all. And suppose it he granted that it did sound in the ears of all, as proclaimed by the external voice; yet Paul's testimony refers to a far deeper call, even to that call by which the Spirit of God penetrates into the hearts of men. When, however, we make this great distinction between the outward and the internal and effectual call, such a distinction is, to Georgius, all a dream! But whether the making of this difference be a trifling or a grave matter, the experience of faith furnishes a rich understanding. Moreover, the apostle does not treat of election in this chapter to the Ephesians in any other sense, or with any other object, than he does elsewhere, as when (2 Thess. ii. 13) he "gives thanks to God, because He had, from the beginning, chosen the Thessalonians to salvation." And Paul, be it remembered, is here separating a small company of believers from the multitude of the wicked.
The monk will here reply, "That lawless despisers of grace, when spoken of, are always set forth in opposition to the elect." But this is nothing whatever to the purpose; for all I am contending for, in the present instance, is that some are specially chosen of God in preference to others. Whereas Georgius, on the other hand, continues to prate that we are only predestinated to be born at a certain time, namely, after the coming of Christ, as he argues above. How stands the case, then, with the reprobate Judas, of whom Christ declares that he was not one of the elect, but "had a devil," though he had heard the words of his Divine Master and had enjoyed His domestic fellowship? But Christ immediately and distinctively adds, "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen" (John xiii. 18). If, however, we are to listen to this fanatical being, the condition of Herod, who was since Christ, was better than that of David, who was before Christ; and, according to him, the impious Scribes and Pharisees will precede the holy prophets in the honour of election! For he will say that the latter, by reason of their age and time, were not in the number of elect believers. Nay, he everywhere clamours that the grace of election belongs generally to a certain age. In a word, he offers himself as a guarantee that the apostle has nowhere spoken of predestination otherwise. What! Does the apostle include all the men of his own age, when he says, "Whom God did predestinate, them He also called"? What! Does he not separate from the general multitude of men those of whom he speaks as "being the called, according to His purpose"? Finally, when the apostle elsewhere says, "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor. i. 27), does he, when making so evident a distinction; intend his words to apply to his whole generation?
But finding himself still entangled in the net of the truth, he seizes upon another way of escape: "That those are not called the elect whom God preferred above others, but those who persevere in the common election and grace." By which he means that those are at length considered of God the elect who distinguish themselves from the common multitude of men by the constancy of their faith. The passage of the apostle Paul, which he adduces to prove his doctrine, is this: "I charge thee before God and the elect angels." Now what the monk requires to be granted to him from this passage is, that as the elect angels did not separate themselves and fall away with the apostate angels, they procured for themselves, by such high merit, the grace of election. But suppose we should assert, on the contrary, that it was because of their being elect angels they stood fast, how much more near the truth would be such an assertion!
When Christ predicts that the delusion of Satan shall be so great as even, if it were possible, to "deceive the very elect," He implies the impossibility that Satan ever should carry away the elect by any violence he may adopt. By what power, then, are we to suppose that the elect will be thus secure? Georgius dreams, by their own strength! Far different, however, is the positive declaration of Christ: "No one (says He) shall pluck out of My hand those sheep which My Father hath committed to My charge. My Father that gave them to Me is greater than all; and no one can pluck them out of My Father's hand" (John x. 29). In the same manner the apostle by no means commends believers to depend upon their own faithfulness; but, on the contrary, he reminds them that "God is faithful, who hath called them: who also will do it" (1 Thess. v. 24). The monk, however, makes each one the author and disposer of his own election. Whereas Christ positively declares that those whom He hath chosen out of the world are His own (John xv. 19). In perfect harmony with which declaration of Christ, Paul asserts aloud that "all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. viii. 28). And he asserts the same great truth, as loudly, concerning children not yet born: "That the purpose of God might stand; not of works, but of Him that calleth. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Romans ix. 11-13). To what necessity, then, is the monk here driven? Why, this worthless being will positively have to prove, according to his own doctrine, that Jacob, even while yet enclosed in the womb of his mother, procured for himself, by his own industry, the honour of his own election; and that he stood in the possession of it, by his own faithfulness, unto the end.
Just the same amount of common reason and common sense is there in the monk's dispute, "That the casting off, concerning which Paul speaks, did not refer to single persons, but to the whole body of the Jewish people." For his exposition of the passage is, that the nation of the Jews, by rejecting Christ, deprived themselves of the inheritance of eternal life. Now, I am free to confess, that on this one point has been founded the cause of all dispute, upon the mighty subject now in question. But no one of a sound mind will conclude, or suppose, that the whole great question is bounded by these narrow limits. For, in the first place, the apostle Paul plainly teaches that the generation of Abraham consisted both of elect and reprobate individuals, promiscuously mingled together. And in the next place, the same apostle declares, generally, that from the mixed multitude of the human race are produced by birth, as distinctive classes, the "vessels of wrath" and the "vessels of mercy," for the manifestation of the glory of God.
Paul does, indeed, make the first proximate cause of the reprobation of Israel to be their not having believed the Gospel. That this cause is plainly set forth by the apostles I by no means deny. But he first clearly lays down, be it remembered, the great doctrine concerning the secret judgments of God. Two things are distinctly dwelt on by the apostle. First, that God was never so bound to one people, as to prevent His free election from reigning in the choice or reprobation of certain individuals. And secondly, that the Jews, by their ingratitude, shut themselves out from the family of God, when they were the peculiar heirs of the covenant of eternal life. But lest the appearance of change in the purposes of God should disturb the mind of anyone, by this later rejection of the Jews seeming to shake the secret counsel of God, the apostle guards against such a consequence by the appropriate declaration that "the gifts and callings of God are without repentance" (Rom. xi. 29), and that, therefore, "the remnant according to the election of grace" should be saved (Rom. xi. 5). By which words the apostle means that the election of God, which stands in His secret counsel, remains firm and immovable.
But the impudence of this worthless mortal discovers itself more basely still in his declaring that Esau was not reprobated before he sold his birthright. I willingly acknowledge the testimony of the apostle, where he says that after Esau had deprived himself of his inheritance he was rejected (Heb. xii. 17). But are we to suppose that his rejection by his father Isaac, which he was then suffering, entirely did away with that former judgment and purpose of God, which was the original cause of his reprobation? Most certainly not. No more than the faith and obedience of Jacob did away with his free and eternal adoption of God.
The observation with which I opened this discussion, I now repeat at its close: that no one will ever attempt to disprove the doctrine which I have set forth herein, but he who may imagine himself to be wiser than the Spirit of God. Now-a-days, however, the soured opposition of men has attained to such a height, that they will not willingly and quietly receive even that which is evidently taken from the Scripture itself, without arrogating to themselves the prerogatives of God by imposing on others the law of speech and of silence. And yet some of these insolent ones wish to conceal their real principles under the garb of modesty, professing that, for themselves, they would not dare to deny that which had been testified by all the servants of God. For my part, I soberly and reverently profess that I know no other law of modesty than that which I have learnt in the school of my heavenly Master! I am, however, fully aware that all possible prudence should be adopted in tempering all things to the building up of men in the most holy faith. But as I have studied to do that throughout my ministry, and in the present TREATISE also, with faith and a good conscience?if the nice objections of some are not yet satisfied, I feel, for myself, that I have done my duty. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."