ETERNAL PREDESTINATION OF GOD
NINE years have now elapsed since Albertus Pighius, the Campanian, a man of evidently phrensied audacity, attempted, at the same time, and in the same book, to establish the free-will of man, and to subvert the secret counsel of God, by which He chooses some to salvation and appoints others to eternal destruction. But as he attacked me by name, that he might stab, through my side, holy and sound doctrine, I have deemed it necessary to curb the sacrilegious madness of the man. At that time, however, being distracted by various engagement, I could not embrace, in one short space of time, the discussion of both subjects; but having published my thoughts upon the former, I promised to consider, when an opportunity should be given, the doctrine of predestination. Shortly after my book on free-will appeared, Pighius died. And that I might not insult a dead dog, I turned my attention to other serious matters. And from that time till now I have always found plenty to do. Moreover, as I had already copiously treated of this great point of doctrine, and had set it forth clearly, and confirmed it by solid testimonies of Scripture, this new labour upon it did not seem so absolutely necessary, but that it might safely be suffered to rest for a time.
But since, at the present day, certain maddened and exulting spirits strive, after the example of Pighius with all their might to destroy all that is contained in the Scriptures concerning the free election of the godly and the eternal judgment of the reprobate, I have considered it my duty to prevent this contagion from spreading farther, by collecting and summarily refuting those frivolous objections by which such men delude themselves and others. Among these characters there started forth, in Italy, a certain one, Georgius, a Sicilian?an ignorant man indeed, and more worthy of contempt than public notice in any form, were it not that a notoriety, obtained by fraud and imposture, has given him considerable power to do mischief. For when he was a monk he remained unknown in his cell, until Lucius Abbas, one of the Tridentine fathers, raised him on high by a lying commendation, hoping that he himself should be able, from the shoulders of his favourite, to take a flight into heaven itself. This abandoned fellow, having mendaciously given it out that Christ had appeared to him, and appointed him an interpreter of the whole Scripture, persuaded many, without much trouble, to believe, with a stupid, shameless, and more than vain folly, that which he had thus published. And that he might push the drama to the last act, he so trumpeted forth his insane visions, that he rendered his ignorant adherents, already fast bound by prejudice, perfectly astonished. And certain it is, that the greater part of men in our day are worthy of just such prophets. For the hearts of most of them, hardened and rendered obstinate by wickedness, will receive no healing; while the cars of others are ever itching with the insatiable desire of depraved speculations. There are, perhaps, others who are exceptions, and whom we might mention willingly and becomingly; but we will leave them unmentioned, resolving to make all our readers see and understand how frivolous and worthless are the objections of all the enemies of the truth.
I propose, now, to enter into the sacred battle with Pighius and George, the Sicilian, a pair of unclean beasts (Lev. xi. 3) by no means badly matched. For though I confess that in some things they differ, yet, in hatching enormities of error, in adulterating the Scripture with wicked and revelling audacity, in a proud contempt of the truth; in forward impudence, and ? in brazen loquacity, the most perfect likeness and sameness will be found to exist between them. Except that Pighius, by inflating the muddy bombast of his magniloquence, carries himself with greater boast and pomp; while the other fellow borrows the boots by which he elevates himself from his invented revelation. And though both of them, at their commencement, agree in their attempt to overthrow predestination, yet they afterwards differ in the figments which they advance. An invention of them both is, that it lies in each one's own liberty, whether he will become a partaker of the grace of adoption or not; and that it does not depend on the counsel and decree of God who are elect and who are reprobate; but that each one determines for himself the one state or the other by his own will, and with respect to the fact that some believe the Gospel, while others remain in unbelief; that this difference does not arise from the free election of God, nor from His secret counsel, but from the will of each individual.
Now Pighius explains his mind on the great matter before us thus: that God, by His immutable counsel, created all men to salvation without distinction; but that, as He foresaw the Fall of Adam, in order that His election might nevertheless remain firm and unaltered, He applied a remedy which might, therefore, be common to all, which remedy was His confirmation of the election of the whole human race in Christ; so that no one can perish but he who, by his own obstinacy, blots his name out of the book of life. And his view of the other side of the great question is that, as God foresaw that some would determinately remain unto the last in malice and a contempt of Divine grace, He by His foreknowledge reprobated such, unless they should repent. This, with him, is the origin of reprobation, by which he makes it out that the wicked deprive themselves of the benefit of universal election, irrespectively and independently of the counsel and will of God altogether. And he moreover declares that all those who hold and teach that certain persons are positively and absolutely chosen to salvation, while others are as absolutely appointed to destruction, think unworthily of God, and impute to Him a severity utterly foreign to His justice and His goodness. And our human reasoner here condemns the sentiments of Augustine, mentioning him by name.
And in order to show, as he thinks, that the foreknowledge of God detracts nothing from the freedom of our own will, our impostor betakes himself to that cunning device of Nicolaus of Cusa, who would make us believe that God did not foresee, in their future aspect and reality, those things that were known to Him from all eternity, but viewed them, as it were, in a then present light. And here, moreover, he elevates his brow in a manner peculiar to himself, as if he had discovered some deeply hidden thing; whereas this subterfuge of his is in the mouth of every schoolboy. But as he still finds himself truth-bound by the leg, he struggles to escape by introducing a twofold foreknowledge of God. He asserts that God formed the design of creating man to life before He foreknew his Fall, and that therefore the thought of man's salvation preceded the foreknowledge of his death, as to its order, in the mind of God Himself. And as he rolls out these sentiments in a muddy torrent of words, he thinks that he thereby so befloods the senses of his readers, that they can perceive nothing distinctly and clearly. I hope, however, by my brevity, to dispel presently the darkness of this man's loquacity.
It is the figment of Georgius. that no man whatever, neither one nor another, is predestinated to salvation, but that God pre-appointed a time in which He would save the whole world. In his attempt to prove this, he wrests certain passages of Paul, such as this: "Even the mystery, which hath been hid from ages, and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints" (Col. i. 26). Having twisted this passage of the apostle to his purpose, he slips away in security, thinking himself victorious. Just as if no testimony of Scripture plainly declares that some are chosen of God to salvation, while others are passed by. In a word, in the matter of election this man considers nothing but the time of the New Testament.
What my mind on this momentous subject is, my "Institute" furnishes a full and abundant testimony, even if I should now add nothing more. I would, in the first place, entreat my readers carefully to bear in memory the admonition which I there offer: that this great subject is not, as many imagine, a mere thorny and noisy disputation, nor a speculation which wearies the minds of men without any profit; but a solid discussion eminently adapted to the service of the godly, because it builds us up soundly in the faith, trains us to humility, and lifts us up into an admiration of the unbounded goodness of God towards us, while it elevates us to praise this goodness in our highest strains. For there is not a more effectual means of building up faith than the giving our open ears to the election of God, which the Holy Spirit seals upon our heart while we hear, shewing us that it stands in the eternal and immutable goodwill of God towards us; and that, therefore, it cannot be moved or altered by any storms of the world, by any assaults of Satan, by any changes, or by any fluctuations or weaknesses of the flesh. For our salvation is then sure to us, when we find the cause of it in the breast of God. Thus, when we lay hold of life in Christ, made manifest to our faith, the same faith being still our leader and guide, our sight is permitted to penetrate much farther, and to see from what source that life proceeded. Our confidence of salvation is rooted in Christ, and rests on the promises of the Gospel. But it is no weak prop to our confidence, when we are brought to believe in Christ, to hear that all was originally given to us of God, and that we were as much ordained to faith in Christ before the foundation of the world, as we were chosen to the inheritance of eternal life in Christ.
Hence, therefore, arises the impregnable and insubvertible security of the saints. The Father, who gave us to the Son as His peculiar treasure, is stronger than all who oppose us; and He will not suffer us to be plucked out of His hand. What a cause for humility then in the saints of God when they see such a difference of condition made in those who are, by nature, all alike! Wherever the sons of God turn their eyes, they behold such wonderful instances of blindness, ignorance and insensibility, as fill them with horror; while they, in the midst of such darkness, have received Divine illumination, and know it, and feel it, to be so. How (say they) is it that some, under the clear light, continue in darkness and blindness? Who makes this difference? One thing they know by their own experience, that whereas their eyes were also once closed, they are now opened. Another thing is also certain, that those who willingly remain ignorant of any difference between them and others, have never yet learned to render unto God the glory due to Him for making that difference.
Now no one doubts that humility lies at the bottom of all true religion, and is the mother of all virtues. But how shall he be humble who will not hear of the original sin and misery from which he has been delivered? And who, by extending the saving mercy of God to all, without difference, lessens, as much as in him lies, the glory of that mercy? Those most certainly are the farthest from glorifying the grace of God, according to its greatness, who declare that it is indeed common to all men; but that it rests effectually in them, because they have embraced it by faith. The cause of faith itself, however, they would keep buried all the time out of sight, which is this: that the children of God who are chosen to be sons are afterwards blessed with the spirit of adoption. Now, what kind of gratitude is that in me if, being endowed with so pre-eminent a benefit, I consider myself no greater a debtor than he who hath not received one hundredth part of it? Wherefore, if, to praise the goodness of God worthily, it is necessary to bear in mind how much we are indebted to Him, those are malignant towards Him and rob Him of His glory who reject and will not endure the doctrine of eternal election, which being buried out of sight, one half of the grace of God must of necessity vanish with it.
Let those roar at us who will. We wilt ever brighten forth, with all our power of language, the doctrine which we hold concerning the free election of God, seeing that it is only by it that the faithful can understand how great that goodness of God is which effectually called them to salvation. I merely give the great doctrine of election a slight touch here, lest anyone, by avoiding a subject so necessary for him to know, should afterwards feel what loss his neglect has caused him. I will, by and by, in its proper place, enter into the Divine matter with appropriate fulness. Now, if we are not really ashamed of the Gospel, we must of necessity acknowledge what is therein openly declared: that God by His eternal goodwill (for which there was no other cause than His own purpose), appointed those whom He pleased unto salvation, rejecting all the rest; and that those whom He blessed with this free adoption to be His sons He illumines by His Holy Spirit, that they may receive the life which is offered to them in Christ; while others, continuing of their own will in unbelief, are left destitute of the light of faith, in total darkness.
Against this unsearchable judgment of God many insolent dogs rise up and bark. Some of them, indeed, hesitate not to attack God openly, asking why, foreseeing the Fall of Adam, He did not better order the affairs of men? To curb such spirits as these, no better means need be sought than those which Paul sets before us. He supposes this question to be put by an ungodly person: How can God be just in showing mercy to whom He will and hardening whom He will? Such audacity in men the apostle considers unworthy a reply. He does nothing but remind them of their order and position in God's creation: "Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?" (Rom. ix. 20.) Profane men, indeed, vainly babble that the apostle covered the absurdity of the matter with silence for want of an answer. But the case is far otherwise.
The apostle in this appeal adopts an axiom, or universal acknowledgment, which not only ought to be held fast by all godly minds, but deeply engraven in the breast of common sense; that the inscrutable judgment of God is deeper than can be penetrated by man. And what man, I pray you, would not be ashamed to compress all the causes of the works of God within the confined measure of his individual intellect? Yet, on this hinge turns the whole question: Is there no justice of God, but that which is conceived of by us? Now if we should throw this into the form of one question?whether it be lawful to measure the power of God by our natural sense?there is not a man who would not immediately reply that all the senses of all men combined in one individual must faint under an attempt to comprehend the immeasurable power of God; and yet, as soon as a reason cannot immediately be seen for certain works of God, men somehow or other are immediately prepared to appoint a day for entering into judgment with Him. What therefore can be more opportune or appropriate than the apostle's appeal: that those who would thus raise themselves above the heavens in their reasonings utterly forget who and what they are?
And suppose God, ceding His own right, should offer Himself as ready to render a reason for His works? When the matter came to those secret counsels of His, which angels adore with trembling, who would not be utterly bereft of his senses before such glorious splendour? Marvellous, indeed, is the madness of man! who would more audaciously set himself above God than stand on equal ground with any Pagan judge! It is intolerable to you, and hateful, that the power and works of God should exceed the capacity of your own mind and yet you will grant to an equal the enjoyment of his own mind and judgment. Now, will you, with such madness as this, dare to make mention of the adorable God? What do you really think of God's glorious Name? And will you vaunt that the apostle is devoid of all reason, because he does not drag God from His throne and set Him before you, to be questioned and examined?
Let us, however, be fully assured that the apostle, in the first place, here curbs with becoming gravity the licentious madness of these men, who make nothing of attacking openly the justice of God; and that, in the next place, he gives to the worshippers of God a more useful counsel of moderation, than if he had taught them to soar on eagles' wings above the forbidden clouds. For that soberness of mind which, regulated by the fear of God, keeps itself within the bounds of comprehension prescribed by Him, is far better than all human wisdom. Let proud men revile this sobriety if they will, calling it ignorance. But let this sober-mindedness ever hold fast that which is the height of all true wisdom; that by holding the will of God to be the highest rule of righteousness, we ascribe to Him His own proper and peculiar glory.
But Pighius and his fellows are not hereby satisfied. For, pretending a great concern for the honour of God, they bark at us, as imputing to Him a cruelty utterly foreign to His nature. Pighius denies that he has any contest with God. What cause, or whose cause is it, then, that Paul maintains? After he had adopted the above axiom?that God hardens whom He will and has mercy on whom He will?he subjoins the supposed taunt of a wicked reasoner: " Why doth He yet find fault ? For who hath resisted His will?" (Rom. ix. 19.) He meets such blasphemy as this by simply setting against it the power of God. If those clothe God with the garment of a tyrant, who refer the hardening of men even to His eternal counsel, we most certainly are not the originators of this doctrine. If they do God an injury who set His will above all other causes, Paul taught this doctrine long before us. Let these enemies of God, then, dispute the matter with the apostle. For I maintain nothing, in the present discussion, but what I declare is taught by him. About these barking dogs, however,I would not be very anxious. I am the rather moved with an anxiety about some otherwise good men, who, while they fear lest they should ascribe to God anything unworthy of His goodness, really seem to be horror-struck at that which He declares, by the apostle, concerning Himself.
Now, we are holding fast, all the while, a godly purpose of vindicating the justice of God from all calumny. And the modesty of these timid ones would be worthy of all praise, if it were not the offspring of moroseness, inflated with a certain secret pride. For such men speak according to their own natural sense and understanding. But why do they fear to concede to the power of God that which is beyond the power of their own mind to comprehend, lest His justice should be endangered? Why, I say, is this? It is because they presume to subject the tribunal of God to their own judgment. Now Paul shows us that it is an act of intolerable pride in any man to assume to himself the judgment of his brother, because there is one Judge by whom we all stand or fall, and to whom every knee must bow. What madness is it, then, for a man to raise his crest against this only Judge Himself, and to presume to measure His infinite power by natural sense!
They, therefore, who allege as an excuse that modesty prevents them from subscribing to the Apostle Paul's testimony, must of necessity, in the first place, confess that whatever praise they give to the justice of God is restricted to the bounds of their own natural comprehensions. And in the next place, if agreeing in reality with us, they choose rather to suppress this part of the great doctrine, lest they should give rein to the insolence of the wicked, such caution is quite preposterous. As if the honour of God could be protected by our lies! God Himself not only rejects such protection as this, but declares, in the Book of Job, that it is hateful to Him. Let such defenders take care, lest by affecting greater caution than the Lord prescribes in His Word, they become guilty of a twofold madness and folly.
The moderation and caution which these men recommend are, indeed, beneficial in repressing the blasphemies of the impious. But if such persons persuade themselves that they shall be able by their words to put the bridle on rebels against God and His truth, their hope and expectation are ridiculous. The Apostle Paul, after having dwelt upon the secret counsels of God as far as was needful, puts forth his hand, as it were, to forbid us to go farther. Restless spirits, however, will kick and butt, and, with unsettled levity, leap over the barrier placed before them. How think ye, then, that such will stop at the nod of this or that sober mind, that would set still narrower bounds to their headlong course? You may as well attempt to hold with a cobweb a fierce-spirited horse, that has burst the bars and prances in his strength. But you will say, In a matter so difficult and deep as this, nothing is better than to think moderately. Who denies it ? But we must, at the same time, examine what kind and degree of moderation it is, lest we should be drawn into the principle of the Papists, who, to keep their disciples obedient to them, make them like mute and brute beasts.
But shall it be called Christian simplicity to consider as hurtful the knowledge of those things which God sets before us? But (say our opponents), this subject is one of which we may remain ignorant without loss or harm. As if our heavenly Teacher were not the best judge of what it is expedient for us to know, and to what extent we ought to know it! Wherefore, that we may not struggle amid the waves, nor be borne about in the air, unfixed and uncertain, nor, by getting our foot too deep, be drowned in the gulph below; let us so give ourselves: to God, to be ruled by Him and taught by Him, that, contented with His Word alone, we may never desire to know more than we find therein. No! not even if the power so to do were given to us! This teachableness; in which every godly man will ever hold all the powers of his mind under the authority of the Word of God, is the true and only rule of wisdom.
Now wherever, and how far soever, He who is "the Way", thus leads us with His outstretched hand, whose Spirit spoke by the apostles and the prophets, we may most safely follow. And the remaining ignorant of all those things which are not learnt in the school of God far excels all the penetration of human intellect. Wherefore Christ requires of His sheep that they should not only hold their ears open to His voice, but keep them shut against the voice of strangers. Nor can it ever be but that the vain winds of error from every side must blow through a soul devoid of sound doctrine. Moreover, I can, with all truth, confess that I never should have spoken or written on this subject unless the Word of God in my own soul had led the way. All godly readers will, indeed, gather this from my former writings, and especially from my "Institute" But this present refutation of my enemies, who oppose themselves to me, will, perhaps, afford my friends some new light upon the matter.
But since the authority of the ancient Church is, with much hatred, cast in my teeth, it will perhaps be worth our while to consider at the commencement how unjustly the truth of Christ is smothered under this enmity, the ground of which is, in one sense, false, and in another frivolous. This accusation, however, such as it is, I would rather wipe off with the words of Augustine than with my own; for the Pelagians of old annoyed him with the same accusation, saying, that he had all other writers of the Church against him. In his reply he remarks that before the heresy of Pelagius, the fathers of the primitive Church did not deliver their opinions so deeply and accurately upon predestination, which reply, indeed, is the truth. And he adds: "What need is there for us to search the works of those writers, who, before the heresy of Pelagius arose, found no necessity for devoting themselves to this question, so difficult of solution? Had such necessity arisen, and had they been compelled to reply to the enemies of predestination, they would doubtless have done so." This remark of Augustine is a prudent one, and a wise one. For if the enemies of the grace of God had not worried Augustine himself, he never would have devoted so much labour (as he himself confesses) to the discussion of God's election.
Hence, in reference to his book, entitled, "On the Blessing of Perseverance," he pointedly says, "This predestination of the saints is certain and manifest; which necessity afterwards compelled me to defend more diligently and laboriously when I was discussing the subject in opposition to a certain new sect. For I have learned that every separate heresy introduces into the Church its peculiar questions, which call for a more diligent defence of the Holy Scripture, than if no such necessity of defence had arisen. For what was it that compelled me to defend, in that work of mine, with greater copiousness and fuller explanation those passages of the Scriptures in which predestination is set before us? What, but the starting up of the Pelagians, who say that the grace of God is given to us according as we render ourselves deserving of it?
Augustine had, moreover, just before denied that any prejudice against his books could be justly entertained because of their want of the authority of the ancient Church. "No one," says he, "can surely be so unjust, or so invidious, as not to allow me to gain some instruction and profit for myself from this important subject." And he afterwards contends that it could be gathered from the testimonies of some of the ancient fathers, that their sentiments and teaching were the same as his own. Not to mention other authorities to which he refers, that is a more than satisfactory one which he cites from Ambrose: "Whom Christ has mercy on. He calls." Again. "When He will, He makes out of careless ones devoted ones." And again, "But God calls whom He condescends to call; and whom He will, He makes religious." Now who does not see that the sum of the whole Divine matter is comprehended in these few words? Ambrose here assigns the reason or cause why all men do not come to Christ that they may obtain salvation. Because God does not effectually touch their hearts. The holy man declares that the conversion of a sinner proceeds from the free election of God, and that the reason why He calls some, while others are left reprobate, lies solely in His own will. Ambrose neither hesitates nor dissembles here. Now, who that is endowed with the most common judgment does not perceive that the state of the whole question is contained in, and defined by, these three summaries?
In a word, Augustine is so wholly with me, that if I wished to write a confession of my faith, I could do so with all fulness and satisfaction to myself out of his writings. But that I may not, on the present occasion be too prolix. I will be content with three or four instances of his testimony, from which it will be manifest that he does not differ from me one pin's point. And it would be more manifest still, could the whole line of his confession be adduced, how fully and solidly he agrees with me in every particular. In his book, "Concerning the Predestination of the Saints," he has these words: "Lest any one should say, My faith my righteousness (or anything of the kind) distinguishes me from others; meeting all such thoughts, the great teacher of the Gentiles asks, 'What hast thou that thou hast not received?' As if the apostle had said. From whom indeed couldst thou receive it, but from Him who separates thee from every other, to whom He has not given what He has given to thee?" Augustine then adds, "Faith, therefore, from its beginning to its perfection is the gift of God. And that this gift is bestowed on some and not on others, who will deny but he who would fight against the most manifest testimonies of the Scripture? But why faith is not given to all ought not to concern the believer, who knows that all men by the sin of one came into most just condemnation. But why God delivers one from this condemnation and not another belongs to His inscrutable judgments, and 'His ways are past finding out.' And if it be investigated and inquired how it is that each receiver of faith is deemed of God worthy to receive such a gift, there are not wanting those who will say, It is by their human will. But we say that it is by grace, or Divine predestination."
The holy father then makes these beautiful and striking observations: "Indeed the Saviour of the world Himself, the adorable Son of God, is the brightest luminary of Divine grace and eternal predestination, not only with respect to His Divine nature as the Son of God, but especially also in reference to His human nature as 'Man.' For in what way, I pray you, did 'THE MAN Christ Jesus,' as Man, merit so great a glory as that, being taken into union with the Divine Person of the Son by the word of the co-eternal Father, He should become the 'only-begotten Son of God'? What good word or work preceded in this glorious case? What good thing did 'THE MAN' perform? What act of faith did He exercise? What prayer did He offer up that He should be exalted to such preeminent dignity? Now here, perhaps, some profane and insolent being may be inclined to say, 'Why was it not I that was predestinated to this excellent greatness?' If we should reply in the solemn appeal of the apostle, 'Nay, but who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?" and if such an one should not even then restrain his daring spirit, but should give more rein to his blasphemy and say, 'Why do you utter to me the caution, "Who art thou, O man? " etc. Am I not a man as He was, concerning whom thou speakest? Why, then, am I not now what He is? He, forsooth, is what He is, and as great as He is, by grace. Why, then, is the grace different where the nature is the same? For most assuredly there is no acceptance of persons with God.' Now I would solemnly ask, What Christian man, nay, what madman, would thus reason, speak, or think? Let, then, our glorious Head Himself, the Fountain of all grace, be an ever-shining luminary of eternal predestination and a Divine example of its sovereign nature. And from Him let the stream of electing grace flow through all His members, 'according to the measure of the gift' in each. This, then, is the eternal predestination of the saints, which shone with such surpassing splendour in the SAINT of saints! And as He alone was predestinated, as MAN, to be our HEAD, so many of us are also predestinated to be His members."
Now, that no one might attribute it to faith that one is preferred above another, Augustine testifies that men are not chosen because they believe, but, on the contrary, are chosen that they might believe. In like manner, when writing to Sextus, he says, "As to the great deep?why one man believes and another does not, why God delivers one man and not another?let him who can, search into that profound abyss; but let him beware of the awful precipice." Again, in another place he says: "Who created the reprobate but God? And why? Because He willed it. Why did He will it? ?'Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?'" And again, elsewhere, after he had proved that God is moved by no merits of men to make them obedient to His commands, but that He renders unto them good for evil, and that for His own sake and not for theirs, he adds, " If anyone should ask why God makes some men His sheep and not others, the Apostle, dreading this question, exclaims, ' O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!'
And as Augustine, tracing the beginning or origin of election to the free and gratuitous will of God, places reprobation in His mere will likewise, so he teaches that the security of our salvation stands in that will also, and in nothing else. For, writing to Paulinus, he affirms that those who do not persevere unto the end, belong not to the calling of God, which is always effectual and without any repentance in Him. And, in another work, he maintains more fully that perseverance is freely bestowed on the elect, from which they can never fall away. "Thus," says he "when Christ prayed for Peter, that his faith might not fail, what else did He ask of God, but that there might be with, or in, Peter's faith a fully free, fully courageous, fully victorious, fully persevering will, or determination? And He had just before said, 'The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.' The faith of such, which worketh by love, either faileth not at all, or, if there be any in whom it does partially fail, it is renewed and restored before this life is ended. That iniquity which had interrupted it is done away, and the faith still perseveres unto the end. But those who are not designed of God to persevere?if they fall from the Christian faith, and the end of life finds them in that state thus fallen?such, doubtless, could not have been of this number of God's elect, even while they were, to all appearance, living well and righteously. For such were never separated from the general mass of perdition by the foreknowledge and predestination of God, and therefore were never 'called according to His purpose.'" And, that no one might be disturbed in mind because those sometimes fall away who had been considered the sons of God, he meets such perplexed ones thus: "Let no one think that those ever fall away who are the subjects of predestination, who are the called according to God's purpose, and who are truly the children of promise. Those who live godly in appearance are, indeed, called by men the children of God; but, because they are destined sometime or other to live ungodly, and to die in that ungodliness, God does not call them His children in His foreknowledge. They who are ordained unto life are understood, by the Scripture, to be given unto Christ. These are predestinated and called, according to God's purpose. Not one of these ever perishes. And on this account no such one, though changed from good to bad for a time, ever ends his life so, because he is for that end ordained of God, and for that end given unto Christ, that he might not perish, but have eternal life."
A little afterwards the same Augustine saith, " Those who, by the all-foreseeing appointment of God, are foreknown, predestinated, called, justified and glorified, are the children of God, not only before they are regenerated, but before they are born of woman; and such can never perish." He then assigns the reason: "Because (says he) God works all things together for the good of such; and He so makes all things thus to work together for their good, that if some of them go out of the way, and even exceed all bounds, He makes even this to work for their good and profit; for they return to Him more humble and more teachable than before."
And if the matter be carried higher, and a question be moved concerning the first creation of man, Augustine meets that question thus: "We most wholesomely confess that which we most rightly believe, that God, the Lord of all things, who created all things 'very good,' foreknew that evil would arise out of this good; and He also knew that it was more to the glory of His omnipotent goodness to bring good out of evil, than not to permit evil to be at all! And He so ordained the lives of angels and of men that He might first show in them what free-will could do, and then afterwards show what the free gift of His grace and the judgment of His justice could do."
In his "Manual" to Laurentinus, he more freely and fully explains whatever of doubt might yet remain. "When Christ shall appear (says he) to judge the world at the last day, that shall be seen, in the clearest light of knowledge, which the faith of the godly now holds fast, though not yet made manifest to their comprehension; how sure, how immutable, how all-efficacious is the will of God; how many things He could do, or has power to do, which He wills not to do (but that He wills nothing which He has not power to do); and how true that is which the Psalmist sings, 'The Lord hath done in heaven whatsoever pleased Him." This, however, is not true, if He willed some things and did them not. Nothing, therefore, is done but that which the Omnipotent willed to be done, either by permitting it to be done or by doing it Himself. Nor is a doubt to be entertained that God does righteously in permitting all those things to be done which are done evilly. For He permits not this, but by righteous judgment. Although, therefore, those things which are evil, in so far as they are evil, are not good, yet it is good that there should not only be good things, but evil things also. For, unless there were this good, that evil things also existed, those evil things would not be permitted by the Great and Good Omnipotent to exist at all. For He, without doubt, can as easily refuse to permit to be done what He does not will to be done, as He can do that which He wills to be done. Unless we fully believe this the very beginning of our faith is perilled, by which we profess to believe in God ALMIGHTY!"
Augustine then adds this short sentence: "These are the mighty works of the Lord, shining with perfection in every instance of His will; and so perfect in wisdom, that when the angelic and human nature had sinned ?that is, had done not what God willed, but what each nature itself willed ?it came to pass that by this same will of the creature, God, though in one sense unwilling, yet accomplished what He willed, righteously and with the height of all wisdom, overruling the evils done, to the damnation of those whom He had justly predestinated to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom He had mercifully predestinated to grace. Wherefore, as far as these natures themselves were concerned, they did what they did contrary to the will of God; but, as far as the omnipotence of God is concerned, they acted according to His will; nor could they have acted contrary to it. Hence, by their very acting contrary to the will of God, the will of God concerning them was done. So mighty, therefore, are the works of God, so gloriously and exquisitely perfect in every instance of His will, that by a marvellous and ineffable plan of operation peculiar to Himself, as the 'all-wise God,' that cannot be done, without His will, which is even contrary to His will; because it could not be done without His permitting it to be done, which permission is evidently not contrary to His will, but according to His will." I have gladly extracted these few things out of many like them in the writings of Augustine, that my readers may clearly see with what a very modest face it is that Pighius represents him as differing from me! and makes use of him to support his own errors. I shall, indeed, hereafter occasionally refer to the testimonies of this same holy man in the course of this discussion.
I will now enter upon the more express subject and object of the present undertaking, which are to prove that nothing has been taught by me concerning this important doctrine but that which God Himself clearly teaches us all in the Sacred Oracles. The sum of which is this: that the salvation of believers depends on the eternal election of God, for which no cause or reason can be rendered but His own gratuitous good pleasure. Most plain and eloquent on this point are the words of the Apostle Paul in his first chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians: "Blessed (saith he) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world." Now I hear, in a moment, the babble of Pighius, that the whole human race were chosen in Christ; that whosoever should take hold of Him by faith should obtain salvation. In this absurd invention of his there are two most gross blunders, which may be immediately refuted by the words of the apostle.
In the first place, there is, most certainly and evidently, an inseparable connection between the elect and the reprobate. So that the election, of which the apostle speaks, Cannot consist unless we confess that God separated from all others certain persons whom it pleased Him thus to separate. Now, this act of God is expressed by the term predestinating, which the apostle afterwards twice repeats. He moreover calls those "chosen" (or elected) who are engrafted by faith into the body of Christ; and that this blessing is by no means common to all men is openly manifest. The apostle, therefore, by the "chosen," evidently means those whom Christ condescends to call after they have been given to Him by the Father. But, to make faith the cause of election is altogether absurd, and utterly at variance with the words of the apostle. "Paul does not (as Augustine wisely observes) declare that the children of God were 'chosen,' because He foreknew they would believe, but in order that they might believe. Nor does the apostle (says he) call them 'chosen,' because God had foreseen that they would be holy and without spot, but in order that they might be made such" Again, "God did not (says he) choose us because we believed, but in order that we might believe, lest we should appear to have first chosen Him. Paul loudly declares that our very beginning to be holy is the fruit and effect of election. They act most preposterously, therefore, who put election after faith." He further observes, "When Paul lays down, as the sole as the of election, that good pleasure of God which He had in Himself, he excludes all other causes whatsoever." Augustine, therefore, rightly admonishes us ever to go back to that first great cause of election, lest we should be inclined to boast of the good pleasure of our own will!
Paul then proceeds to declare that "God abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence, according to the riches of His grace, having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself." Thou hearest in these words, reader, the grace of illumination, flowing like a river from the fountain of that eternal counsel which had been before hidden. Far, very far, is this removed from the idea that God had any respect to our faith in choosing us, which faith could not possibly have existed except that God had then appointed it for us by the free grace of His adoption of us. And Paul farther confirms all this by declaring that God was moved by no external cause?by no cause out of Himself?in the choice of us; but that He Himself, in Himself, was the cause and the author of choosing His people, not yet created or born, as those on whom He would afterwards confer faith: "According to the purpose of Him (saith the apostle) who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. i. 11).
Who does not see that the eternal purpose of God is here set in diametrical opposition to our own purpose and will? This passage also was deeply weighed by Augustine, who, in his interpretation of it, observes "that God so works out all things, that He works also in us the very willingness by which we believe." It is thus, I think, clearly brought out and proved who they are whom God calls by the Gospel to the hope of salvation, whom He engrafts into the body of Christ, and whom He makes heirs of eternal life; that they are those whom He had adopted unto Himself by His eternal and secret counsel to be His sons; and that he was so far from being moved by any faith in them to come thus to adopt them, that this His election is the cause and the beginning of all faith in them; and that, therefore, election is, in order, before faith.
Equally plain and manifest is that which we have in the eighth chapter of the apostle's Epistle to the Romans. For after he had said that all things work together for good (or are a help) to the faithful who love God; that men might not trace the source of their happiness to themselves, or suppose that by their first loving God they had, by thus first loving Him, merited such goodness at His hands; the apostle, by way of correcting every error of that kind, immediately adds, "Who are the called according to His purpose." Whereby we see that Paul is anxious to secure to God Himself all the originating glory, for he shews that it is He Who, by His calling, causes men to love Him, who of themselves could do nothing but hate Him. For if you thoroughly examine the whole human race, what inclination will you find in any one of them by nature to love God? Nay! Paul in this very same chapter declares that all the senses of the flesh, the whole "carnal mind, is enmity against God." Now, if all men are, by nature, enemies to God and His adversaries, it is quite evident that it is by His calling alone that some are separated from the rest, and caused to lay aside their hatred, and brought to love Him. Moreover, there can exist no doubt that the apostle here designs that effectual calling, by which God regenerates those whom He had before adopted unto Himself to be His sons. For the apostle does not simply say "who are the called" (for this is sometimes applicable to the reprobate whom God calls, or invites, promiscuously, with His own children, to repentance and faith), but he says, in all fulness of explanation, "Who are the called according to His purpose;" which purpose must, from its very nature and effect, be firm and ratifying.
Now, to explain this text as applying to the purpose of man is (as Augustine argues) absurd in the extreme. Indeed, the context itself banishes every scruple, as if to render the intrusion of an interpreter wholly unnecessary. For the apostle immediately adds, "Whom He did predestinate (or definitely appoint), them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified." Here it is evident that the apostle is speaking of a certain number whom God destined for Himself as a peculiar property and treasure. For although God calls very many?by many means, and especially by the external ministry of men?yet He justifies, and at last glorifies, no one but him whom He had ordained unto eternal life. The calling of God, therefore, is a certain special calling, which so seals and ratifies His eternal election, as to manifest openly what was before hidden in God concerning each one so called.
I know well what are the cavillings of many here. They say that when Paul affirms that those were predestinated whom God foreknew, he means that each one was chosen in respect of his future faith when he should believe. But I do not concede to these that which they falsely imagine, that we are to understand that God foresaw something in them which would move Him to confer upon them His favour and grace. For it is evident that the elect of God were foreknown when, and because, they were freely chosen. Hence, the same apostle elsewhere teaches that God knoweth them that are His, because, that is, He has them marked as it were, and holds them as numbered on His roll.
Nor is even this important point omitted by Augustine: that by the term foreknowledge we are to understand the counsel of God by which He predestinates His own unto salvation. Now that it was foreknown of God who should be heirs of eternal life no one will deny. The only question that can possibly arise is this: Whether God foreknew what He would do in them, or what they would be in themselves. But it is a piece of futile cunning to lay hold on the term foreknowledge, and so to use that as to pin the eternal election of God upon the merits of men, which election the apostle everywhere ascribes to the alone purpose of God. Peter also salutes the Church as "elect according to the foreknowledge of God." Did he do this believing that some virtue in them foreseen of God gained them His favour? No! Peter is not comparing men with men, so as to make some of them better or more worthy than others, but he is placing on high, above all other causes, that decree which God determined in Himself. As if he had said, that those to whom he wrote were now numbered among the children of God, because they were chosen or elected of Him before they were born. On this same principle he afterwards teaches, in the same chapter, that Christ was "verily foreordained before the foundation of the world" to be the Saviour, Who should wash away by His blood the sins of the world; by which that apostle doubtless means that the expiation of sin. completed by Christ, was preordained by the eternal counsel of God. Nor can that be otherwise explained, which we find in the sermon of Peter, recorded by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, that Christ was delivered to death "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." Peter here joins "foreknowledge" to "counsel," that we may learn that Christ was not hurried away to death by any casualty, nor by the mere violent assault of men; but because the all-good and all-wise God, who knoweth all things, had thus purposely decreed it. Indeed, one passage of the Apostle Paul ought to suffice for the end of all controversy among those who have really a sound mind. He says, "God hath not cast away His people, which He foreknew." And what that foreknowledge was he shortly after explains, where he says that a "remnant according to the election of grace" were saved. And again, that Israel did not obtain by works that which they sought after, but that "the election" did obtain it. Now that which in the former passage he called foreknowledge, he here afterwards defines to be election, and that gratuitous and free.
The fiction of Pighius is puerile and absurd, when he interprets grace to be God's goodness in inviting all men to salvation, though all were lost in Adam. For Paul most clearly separates the foreknown from those on whom God deigned not to look in mercy. And the same is expressed, without any obscurity, in the memorable words of Christ: "All that the Father giveth Me shall come unto Me; and him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.'' Here we have three things briefly indeed, but most perspicuously expressed. First, that all who come unto Christ were before given unto Him by the Father; secondly, that those who were thus given unto Him were delivered, as it were, from the hand of the Father into the hand of the Son, that they may be truly His; thirdly, that Christ is the sure keeper of all those whom the Father delivered over to His faithful custody and care, for the very end that He might not suffer one of them to perish. Now if a question be raised as to the beginning of faith, Christ here gives the answer, when He says that those who believe, therefore believe because they were given unto Him by the Father.
The unbelief of the Scribes was a great obstacle to the ignorant multitude, because they always persuaded them that no doctrine was worthy of belief but that which was received under their sanction. On the other hand, Christ declares aloud that that light by which we are guided into the way of salvation is the gift of God. And if anyone be inclined to turn his back upon the truth that all those whom the Father chose in Christ were given unto Him, it nevertheless remains fixed and a fact that that gift was not only antecedent to faith, but the cause and origin of it. Now in the remaining member of the sentence of Christ, "Shall come unto Me," there is a more marvellous weight still. For He not only declares that none ever come to Him, but those to whom the hand of God is stretched out; but He asserts that all who were given unto Him by the Father are, without exception, brought to believe in Him. And this He still more fully confirms in the context of His divine discourse: "No one," says He, "can come unto Me except My Father draw him."
Pighius will himself confess that there is need of illumination to bring unto Christ those who were adversaries to God; but he, at the same time, holds fast the fiction that grace is offered equally to all, but that it is ultimately rendered effectual by the will of man, just as each one is willing to receive it. Christ, however, testifies that the meaning of His worlds is very different from this. For He adds immediately afterwards, "There are some among you who believe not. Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me except it were given unto him of My Father." You see here that Christ excludes those that "believer not" from the number of them who are "drawn." Now Christ would have uttered all this in vain, and out of place, if faith were not an especial gift of God. But that is the clearest of all which He conclusively adds in continuation of His discourse. After having cited the prophecy of Isaiah, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord;" He subjoins, by way of interpretation, "Every one therefore that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto Me." Herein He shews that the prophecy of Isaiah is then fulfilled when God, by His Spirit, speaks to His children and disciples within, in order that He may deliver them into the hands and possession of Christ. Isaiah defines this to be the manner in which God renews and increases His Church, by teaching His children from above: "And they shall be all taught of God." The prophet, therefore, is recording a peculiar favour of God, of which none are deemed worthy but His own children. Christ also here declares, by this His doctrine, that those are effectually drawn to Him whose minds and hearts God "compels."
Thus does God (saith Augustine) teach those within who are 'the called according to His purpose,' at the same time giving them to know what they ought to do, and giving them the power to do what they know. He, therefore, who knows what he ought to do, and does it not, has not yet learned of God according to grace, but according to the law only; not according to the spirit, but only according to the letter." And again a little afterwards, "If as 'the Truth' saith, 'Every one that hath learned cometh,' he that cometh not most certainly hath not learned." At length the holy father arrives at this conclusion: "It does not follow (saith he) that he who can come, therefore does come. The sacred matter is not perfected unless he is willing to come, and does come. Now every one that hath learned of the Father has not only the power to come, but does come." Here, therefore, we have the forward movement of the power, the affection of the will, and the effect of the act.
Nor do I thus adduce Augustine as a witness on this occasion, that I may fight my enemies under cover of his authority; but because I cannot find words more appropriate than his wherewith to express the mind of Christ in the Evangelist. If there be any not yet quieted, he discusses the matter more fully elsewhere thus: "What doth Christ mean (argues he) when He says, 'Every one that hath learned of the Father cometh unto Me' (John vi. 45.) What is it, but as if He had said,: 'There is no one who heareth and learneth of the Father that cometh not unto Me.' For if everyone who hath heard and learned of the Father cometh (unto Christ), most certainly whoso cometh not unto Him hath never heard or learned. For if he had heard and learned he would certainly come. This school of God is very far removed from all carnal sense and understanding. In it the Father teaches, and is heard, that 'those who hear and learn may come to the Son."
A little farther on Augustine observes, " This grace. which is secretly communicated to the hearts of men, is received by no heart that is hardened. Indeed, it is given for the very end that the hardness of the heart may be first taken away. When, therefore, the Father is heard within, He takes away the stony heart ' and gives ' a heart of flesh.' For it is thus that He makes His own the children of promise and vessels of mercy. which He had before prepared unto glory. If it be asked, Why He does not thus teach all men, in order that they may come to Christ F the answer is, Because those whom He does teach, He teaches in mercy; but those whom He does not teach, in judgment He teaches them not. For 'He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth'" (Rom. ix. 18).
The sum of this sacred matter, however, may be compressed into a smaller compass still. Christ does not say that those are drawn by the Father who have a flexible heart given them to render them able to come to Him; but that those who do come to Him are they whom God by His Spirit touches within, and who, under the efficacy of that touch, actually come. Now that this privilege is not given to all promiscuously is a fact which universal experience makes manifest. even to the blind.
And next, when Christ declares that He will by no means cast out one of those who do come unto Him; nay, that the life of all such is hidden and kept in security, in Himself, until He shall raise them up at the last day; who does not see here that the final perseverance of the saints (as it is commonly termed) is in like manner ascribed to the election of God? It may be, and has been, that some fall from the faith; but those who are given to Christ by the Father are, as Christ Himself declares, placed beyond the peril of destruction. In the same manner also, when, in another place, Christ had said that some of the Jews did not believe "because they were not of His sheep," He places, as it were, the sheep themselves in a sure haven of safety. "They shall never perish (saith He), neither shall any one pluck them out of My hand. My Father who gave them Me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand." Now Pighius will not, surely, dare to rest the safe state of the salvation of these sheep on their present faith. Yet he would suspend it all upon the free will of man!
Nor are we to consider it a point for ambiguous discussion when Christ here sets Himself alone as a sufficient protection against all the machinations of Satan, and when He declares that we shall be safe even unto the end, because it is His will to save us. But that there might remain no doubt upon the subject in any one's mind as to the persons whom He does undertake in His faithfulness to protect and preserve, He calls our attention a second time to the gift of the Father, declaring both the gift of the Father and the teaching of the Father. Nor should we pass, without especial notice, Christ's making the Father greater than all adversaries that can possibly oppose His people. Our Lord does it, that our confidence in the security of our salvation might be as great as our reverence for the power of God. For our security and God's omnipotence are equal; the former not being less than the latter. Wherefore, amidst all the violent assaults, all the various dangers, all the mighty storms, and all the shakings convulsions and agitations, with which we have to contend, the continuance and perpetuity of our standing lie in this: that God will constantly defend that which He hath decreed in Himself concerning our salvation by the omnipotent power of His arm. If any one of us but look into himself, what can he do but tremble? For all things shake to their centre around us, and there is nothing more weak and tottering than ourselves. But since our heavenly Father suffers not one of those whom He gave to His Son to perish, as great as is His power, so certain is our confidence, and so great our glorying. And His omnipotence is such that He stands the invincible vindicator of His own gift.
Hence, Augustine advisedly observes, "If any one of these should perish God would be deceived. But no one of them ever does perish, because God never is, or can be, deceived. If any one of these should perish. God is overcome and outdone by the sin of man. But no one of them ever does perish, because God can be conquered or outdone by nothing. The elect of God are chosen that they may reign with Christ for ever. They are not like Judas, who was chosen to a temporary office only, for which he was naturally fitted." Again, "Of these not one perishes, because they are all chosen according to a purpose; not their own purpose, but God's. Seeing that there is not conferred upon them such a gift of perseverance, by which they may persevere if they will; but a gift by which they cannot but persevere." Augustine then confirms this by the following excellent argument: "If, in the great weakness of this life (in the midst of which weakness there is nevertheless need of mighty power to keep down human vanity and pride), men were left to their own will, whether they would persevere or not, so that, under the helping power of God (without which they could not persevere at all), they might stand still if they pleased; and if God did not work in them that will, man's own will itself would, amid such and so great temptations, sink under its own infirmity. And thus men could not persevere at all, because, sinking under their own weaknesses, they would not be willing to persevere, or, being willing, would not have the power. A remedy, therefore, is provided for the infirmity of human will by its being caused to act, unceasingly and inseparably, under Divine grace. Thus, the human will, though infirm in itself, cannot fail, nor be overcome by any infirmity of its own."
Now let that memorable passage of Paul (Rom. ix. 10-13) come forth before us. This passage alone should abundantly suffice to put an end to all controversy among the sober-minded and obedient children of God. And although it is no wonder that that eyeless monster, Pighius, should mock with contempt the words of the apostle himself, yet I hope I shall bring all readers of a sound mind to abhor such barbarous audacity in profaning the Scripture as this monster evinces. As the Jews, priding themselves on the name of the Church, rejected under this pretext the Gospel of Christ, because it had been condemned by the consent of the (so-called) Church, the apostle, to prevent the majesty of the Gospel from being overshadowed by such shameless pride, tears from the faces of these enemies of Christ the mask, under cover of which they falsely boasted. It was, indeed, a very great difficulty, and a formidable obstacle, in the way of the weak when they saw the doctrine of Christ rejected by nearly all these very persons whom God had appointed the heirs of His everlasting covenant. The apostles had all along preached that Jesus was the Messiah of God. But the whole of this nation, to whom the Messiah had been promised, opposed and rejected Him. And what wonder! when at this very day we see thousands totter, fail and faint, frightened by this very Church mask which the Papists hold before their eyes, boasting themselves to be the Church!
The apostle, therefore, enters into the battle with the Jews in this manner: He by no means makes the fleshly seed the legitimate children of Abraham, but counts the children of promise alone for the seed. Now he might have counted the seed according to their faith. And that indeed would have been consistent, when, in reference to the promise, he was stating the difference between the genuine and the spurious offspring; and that, indeed, he had before done. But now he ascends higher into the mind of God, and declares that those were the children of promise whom God chose before they were born. In proof of which he cites that promise which was given by the angel to Abraham, "At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son (as if the apostle had added, before Isaac was conceived in the womb, he was chosen of God). And not only this (saith the apostle), but when Rebecca also had conceived by one (embrace), even by our father Isaac (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth), it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written. Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. ix. 10).
Pighius would slide away under the excuse that this is one of the most difficult places of Scripture. And suppose I concede this; I do not thereby acknowledge that his impious barking is to be endured, when he boastingly asserts that it is a labyrinth in which no straight way can be found. What! are we to suppose that the Holy Spirit, speaking by the mouth of the apostle, went out of His way or lost Himself, so as to lead us aside and beyond what it is useful or proper for us to know? It would have been very easy (as I have just said) for the apostle to distinguish the true children of Abraham from the spurious ones by the mark of faith alone. But he on purpose introduces the question of election, far higher and much farther removed. And most certainly as, according to his own record of himself, he had been carried up into the third heaven, and those secrets of God had been revealed to him which it is not lawful for a man to utter, it must be evident that he well knew how far it was expedient, and how far it was lawful, for him to go in publishing the secret things of the Most High. When, therefore, he purposely carries the question to so great a height, and brings it down to so important a point, when it might have been settled in so general, brief and compendious a manner, what godly person will hesitate to lend an attentive and teachable ear to what he testifies? Unless we are to entertain a supposition that this furious, blind monster would restrain, by his great moderation (!), the Spirit of God Himself, wantoning (in his own opinion) beyond due bounds! Our very modest (!) opponent adds, "This is one of the portions of Scripture which unlearned and unstable persons corrupt to their own destruction." Now this is the very fact which, by the plainest proof, he forces us to declare concerning himself, so lawlessly does he twist and pervert the whole context of the Apostle Paul. And when he exhorts his readers to hold themselves obedient to the Church, in the interpretation of all such difficult passages of Scripture, he should have me a seconder of his grave admonition, if he would shew to his readers, as the Church, a sheepfold of Christ, and not a stinking sty of swine! For which is Pighius' Church but that vortex, formed of the congregated mass of all iniquities, and ever filling, but not yet full, of every kind of error?
Pighius' last admonition is, that his readers would admit nothing that is inconsistent with the infinite goodness of God, nor anything by which they might be incited to hate God rather than to love Him. And yet he runs full sail directly against God, because He predestines some to destruction from their very creation. But suppose the whole of this doctrine were suppressed, the reprobate would ever find occasion for hating God, and for assailing Him with their impious reasonings and arguments. What real reason they have for their noisy opposition shall be duly considered, in its place, when we shall have fully explained the mind of the apostle. At the present moment, let all those who are willing to be taught in the school of God hear what the apostle plainly, and without any ambiguity, really says and means.
The apostle places before us the two sons of Isaac, who, when begotten together in the secret and sacred womb of nature, as in a temple of God, as it were, were nevertheless, while in the womb together, separated by the oracular word of God to an entirely different destiny. Now the apostle assigns the cause of this difference (which otherwise might have been sought in the merits of the lives of these two children) to the hidden counsel of God: "That the counsel of God might stand." We here distinctly learn that it was determined of God to choose one only out of these two children. And yet Pighius, by a senseless cavil, as by a hog's snout, tries to root up these words of the apostle with all their positive plainness of meaning. He replies that the election of grace here means that Jacob had merited no such thing beforehand. But since the apostle commends this electing grace of God on the very ground that while the one was elected, the other was rejected, the vain fiction of Pighius concerning universal grace falls to the ground at once. The apostle does not here simply say that Jacob was appointed heir of life, that the election of God might stand, but that his brother being rejected, his brother's birthright was conferred on him. I am fully aware of what some other dogs here bark out, and what are the murmurings of many ignorant persons, that the testimonies of the apostle which we have cited do not treat of eternal life, nor of eternal destruction, at all. But if such objectors held the true principles of theology in any degree (which ought to be well known by all Christian men), they would express their sentiments with a little less confidence and insolence. For the answer of God to Rebecca's complaint was designed to shew her that the issue of the struggling which she felt in her womb would be that the blessing of God and the covenant of eternal life would rest with the younger. And what did the struggling itself signify, but that both the children could not be heirs of the covenant at the same time, which covenant had already, by the secret council of God, been decreed for the one?
Objectors here allege that this covenant and its decree referred to Canaan, on which the Prophet Malachi dwells (Mal. i. 1~3). And, indeed, this objection might be worthy of notice if God had designed merely to fatten the Jews in Canaan as pigs in a sty. But the mind of the prophet is very different from this. God had promised that land to Abraham as an outward symbol or figure of a better inheritance, and had given it to Abraham's posterity for a possession, that He might there collect them together as a peculiar people unto Himself, and might there erect a sanctuary of His presence and grace. These great ends and objects are those which the prophet is revolving in his deep and reflective mind. In a word, the prophet is holding Canaan to be the sacred habitation of God. And as Esau was deprived of this habitation, the prophet sacredly gathers that he was hated of God, because he had been thus rejected from the holy and elect family, on which the love of God perpetually rests. We also with the prophet, must carefully consider the particular nature of that land, and the peculiar quality which God assigns to it, that it might he a certain earnest or pledge of that spiritual covenant which God entered into with the seed of Abraham. It is in full sacred point, therefore, that the apostle records that the free election of God fell upon Jacob, because, being yet unborn, he was appointed to enjoy the inheritance, while his brother was, at the same time, rejected. But Paul is proceeding much farther still in his sacred argument, and maintaining that this inheritance was not obtained by works, nor conferred on Jacob from any respect to works which he should in his after life perform. Nor is even this all. The apostle expressly declares that the brothers were thus separated, and this difference made between them, before either of them had done any one thing good or evil. From these facts the apostle solemnly settles it, that the difference made between the children was not from any works whatever, but from the will of Him that called.
Here Pighius thrusts upon us that rancid distinction of his: that works performed were not indeed taken into the Divine consideration (for no works as yet existed), but that the election of God was ratified in the person of Jacob, because God foresaw what his faith and obedience would be. And he philosophises, in a most ingenious way, on the name Israel ? that Jacob was so named from seeing God, that we may know that those are true Israelites (not who are blind from their own malice and wickedness, but blind only with respect to God), and who, when God presents Himself to be seen by them, open their eyes. But is it not a most ridiculous circumstance that, while this being is anxious to make others so clear-sighted, he should himself be blinder than a mole? An utterly different etymology is that which is given us by Moses! He says the name Israel was given to Jacob by the angel with whom he wrestled, and came off victorious. For ISRAEL signifies "having power with God." or "prevailing over God."