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Objection answered, that God is the author of sin, refuted and Augustine’s answer and admonition

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Objection, that God is the author of sin, refuted by examples. Augustine’s answer and admonition.

4. In the same way is solved, or rather spontaneously vanishes, another objection, viz., If God not only uses the agency of the wicked, but also governs their counsels and affections, he is the author of all their sins; and, therefore, men, in executing what God has decreed, are unjustly condemned, because they are obeying his will. Here “will” is improperly confounded with precept, though it is obvious, from innumerable examples, that there is the greatest difference between them. When Absalom defiled his father’s bed, though God was pleased thus to avenge the adultery of David, he did not therefore enjoin an abandoned son to commit incest, unless, perhaps, in respect of David, as David himself says of Shimei’s curses. For, while he confesses that Shimei acts by the order of God, he by no means commends the obedience, as if that petulant dog had been yielding obedience to a divine command; but, recognizing in his tongue the scourge of God, he submits patiently to be chastised. Thus we must hold, that while by means of the wicked God performs what he had secretly decreed, they are not excusable as if they were obeying his precept, which of set purpose they violate according to their lust.

How these things, which men do perversely, are of God, and are ruled by his secret providence, is strikingly shown in the election of King Jeroboam, (1 Kings 12:20,) in which the rashness and infatuation of the people are severely condemned for perverting the order sanctioned by God, and perfidiously revolting from the family of David. And yet we know it was God’s will that Jeroboam should be anointed. Hence the apparent contradiction in the words of Hosea, (Hosea 8:4; 13:11,) because, while God complained that that kingdom was erected without his knowledge, and against his will, he elsewhere declares, that he had given King Jeroboam in his anger. How shall we reconcile the two things, — that Jeroboam’s reign was not of God, and yet God appointed him king? In this way: The people could not revolt from the family of David without shaking off a yoke divinely imposed on them, and yet God himself was not deprived of the power of thus punishing the ingratitude of Solomon. We, therefore, see how God, while not willing treachery, with another view justly wills the revolt; and hence Jeroboam, by unexpectedly receiving the sacred unction, is urged to aspire to the kingdom. For this reason, the sacred history says, that God stirred up an enemy to deprive the son of Solomon of part of the kingdom, (1 Kings 11:23.) Let the reader diligently ponder both points: how, as it was the will of God that the people should be ruled by the hand of one king, their being rent into two parties was contrary to his will; and yet how this same will originated the revolt. For certainly, when Jeroboam, who had no such thought, is urged by the prophet verbally, and by the oil of unction, to hope for the kingdom, the thing was not done without the knowledge or against the will of God, who had expressly commanded it; and yet the rebellion of the people is justly condemned, because it was against the will of God that they revolted from the posterity of David. For this reason, it is afterwards added, that when Rehoboam haughtily spurned the prayers of the people, “the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah,” (1 Kings 12:15.) See how sacred unity was violated against the will of God, while, at the same time, with his will the ten tribes were alienated from the son of Solomon. To this might be added another similar example, viz., the murder of the sons of Ahab, and the extermination of his whole progeny by the consent, or rather the active agency, of the people. Jehu says truly “There shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the Lord has done that which he spake by his servant Elijah,” (2 Kings 10:10.) And yet, with good reason, he upbraids the citizens of Samaria for having lent their assistance. “Ye be righteous: behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him, but who slew all these?”

If I mistake not, I have already shown clearly how the same act at once betrays the guilt of man, and manifests the righteousness of God. Modest minds will always be satisfied with Augustine’s answer, “Since the Father delivered up the Son, Christ his own body, and Judas his Master, how in such a case is God just, and man guilty, but just because in the one act which they did, the reasons for which they did it are different?” (August. Ep. 48, ad Vincentium.) If any are not perfectly satisfied with this explanation, viz., that there is no concurrence between God and man, when by His righteous impulse man does what he ought not to do, let them give heed to what Augustine elsewhere observes: “Who can refrain from trembling at those judgments when God does according to his pleasure even in the hearts of the wicked, at the same time rendering to them according to their deeds?” (De Grat. et lib. Orbit. Ad Valent. c. 20.) And certainly, in regard to the treachery of Judas, there is just as little ground to throw the blame of the crime upon God, because He was both pleased that his Son should be delivered up to death, and did deliver him, as to ascribe to Judas the praise of our redemption. Hence Augustine, in another place, truly observes, that when God makes his scrutiny, he looks not to what men could do, or to what they did, but to what they wished to do, thus taking account of their will and purpose. Those to whom this seems harsh had better consider how far their captiousness is entitled to any toleration, while, on the ground of its exceeding their capacity, they reject a matter which is clearly taught by Scripture, and complain of the enunciation of truths, which, if they were not useful to be known, God never would have ordered his prophets and apostles to teach. Our true wisdom is to embrace with meek docility, and without reservation, whatever the Holy Scriptures, have delivered. Those who indulge their petulance, a petulance manifestly directed against God, are undeserving of a longer refutation.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 18-Henry Beveridge Translation

Augustine and ‘The City of God’

Author: Charmley, Gervase N.

Augustine of Hippo is without doubt one of the most significant figures of the early Church, and perhaps the most important of all those to write in Latin. It has been said that, ‘Apart from the Scriptural authors, no other figure had a greater impact on Christian life and thought up to the time of the Reformation.’1 No less a figure than B. B. Warfield wrote that Augustine, ‘not merely created an epoch in the history of the Church, but has determined the course of its history in the West up to the present day.’2 Of all of his many writings, it is his book The City of God that is widely agreed to be his greatest.3

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

The Doctrine of Predestination Should be Openly Preached

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

I.-The Gospel is to be preached, and that not partially and by piece-meal, but the whole of it. The commission runs, “Go forth and preach the Gospel”; the Gospel itself, even all the Gospel, without exception or limitation. So far as the Gospel is maimed or any branch of the evangelical system is suppressed and passed over in silence, so far the Gospel is not preached. Besides, there is scarce any other distinguishing doctrine of the Gospel can be preached, in its purity and consistency, without this of predestination. Election is the golden thread that runs through the whole Christian system; it is the leaven that pervades the whole lump. Cicero says of the various parts of human learning:”Omnes artes, quae ad humanitatem pertinent, habent quoddam commune vinculum, et quasi cognatione quadam inter se continentur,” 1:e., The whole circle of arts have a kind of mutual bond and connection, and by a sort of reciprocal relationship are held together and interwoven with each other. Much the same may be said of this important doctrine:it is the bond which connects and keeps together the whole Christian system, which, without this, is like a system of sand, ever ready to fall to pieces. It is the cement which holds the fabric together; nay, it is the very soul that animates the whole frame. It is so blended and interwoven with the entire scheme of Gospel doctrine that when the former is excluded, the latter bleeds to death.

An ambassador is to deliver the whole message with which he is charged. He is to omit no part of it, but must declare the mind of the sovereign he represents, fully and without reserve. He is to say neither more nor less than the instructions of his court require, else he comes under displeasure, perhaps loses his head. Let the ministers of Christ weigh this well.

Nor is the Gospel to be preached only, but preached to every creature, 1:e., to reasonable beings promiscuously and at large, to all who frequent the Christian ministry, of every state and condition in life, whether high or low, young or old, learned or illiterate. All who attend on the ministrations of Christ’s ambassadors have a right to bear the Gospel fully, clearly and without mincing. Preach it, says Christ (Mark 16:15), publish it abroad, be its cryers and heralds, proclaim it aloud, tell it out, keep back no part of it, spare not, lift up your voices like trumpets. Now, a very considerable branch of this Gospel is the doctrine of God’s eternal, free, absolute and irreversible election of some persons in Christ to everlasting life. The saints were singled out, in God’s eternal purpose and choice, ut crederent, to be endued with faith, and thereby fitted for their destined salvation. By their interest in the gratuitous, unalienable love of the blessed Trinity they come to be, subjectively, saints and believers, so that their whole salvation, from the first plan of it in the Divine mind to the consummation of it in glory, is at once a matter of mere grace and of absolute certainty; while they who die without faith and holiness prove thereby that they were not included in this elect number, and were not written in the book of life.

The justice of God’s procedure herein is unquestionable. Out of a corrupt mass, wherein not one was better than another, He might (as was observed before) love and choose whom and as many as He pleased. It was likewise, without any shadow of injustice, at His option, whom and how many He would pass by. His not choosing them was the fruit of His sovereign will, but His condemning them, after death, and in the last day, is the fruit (not of their non-election, which was no fault of theirs, but) of their own positive transgressions. The elect, therefore, have the utmost reason to love and glorify God which any beings can possibly have, and the sense of what He has done for them is the strongest motive to obedience. On the other hand, the reprobates have nothing to complain of, since whatever God does is just and right, and so it will appear to be (however darkly matters may appear to us now) when we see Him as He is and know Him even as we are known.

And now why should not this doctrine be preached and insisted upon in public? – a doctrine which is of express revelation, a doctrine that makes wholly for the glory of God, which conduces, in a most peculiar manner, to the conversion, comfort and sanctification of the elect, and leaves even the ungodly themselves without excuse. But perhaps you may still be inclined to question whether predestination be indeed a Scripture doctrine. If so, let me by way of sample beg you to consider the following declarations – first, of Christ; secondly, of His apostles.

“If the mighty works that have been done in thee had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented,” etc. (Mat 11:), whence it is evident that the Tyrians and Sidonians, at least the majority of them, died in a state of impenitency, but that if God had given them the same means of grace afforded to Israel they would not have died impenitent, yet those means were not granted them. How can this be accounted for? Only on the single principle of peremptory predestination flowing from the sovereign will of God. No wonder, then, that our Lord concludes that chapter with these remarkable words, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Where Christ thanks the Father for doing that very thing which Arminians exclaim against as unjust and censure as partial.

“To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Mat 13:). To sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, except to them for whom it hath been prepared by My Father,” q.d., salvation is not a precarious thing; the seats in glory were disposed of long ago in My Father’s intention and destination; I can only assign them to such persons as they were prepared for in His decree” (Mat 20:23).

“Many are called, but few chosen” (Mat 22), 1:e., all who live under the sound of the Gospel will not be saved, but those only who are elected unto life.

“For the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Mat 24.), and ibid, “If it were possible, they should deceive the very elect,” where, it is plain, Christ teaches two things:(1) that there is a certain number of persons who are elected to grace and glory, and (2) that it is absolutely impossible for these to be deceived into total or final apostasy.

“Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mat 25.).

“Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to them that are without” (i.e., out of the pale of election) “all these things are done in parables; that seeing, they may see, and not perceive and hearing, they may hear, and not understand: lest at any time, they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (Mark 11:).

“Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:).

“It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:).

“One shall be taken and the other shall be left” (Luke 17:).

“All that the Father hath given Me shall come unto Me” (John 6:), as much as to say these shall but the rest cannot.

“He that is of God, heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:), not chosen of Him.

“Ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep” (John 10:).

“Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:).

I come now, second, to the Apostles.

“They believed not on Him, that the saying of Esais the prophet might be fulfilled which he spake; Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:37,40). Without certain prescience there could be no prophecy, and without predestination no certain prescience. Therefore, in order to the accomplishment of prophecy, prescience and predestination, we are expressly told that these persons could not believe; they were not able, it was out of their power. In short, there is hardly a page in St. John’s Gospel which does not, either expressly or implicitly, make mention of election and reprobation.

St. Peter says of Judas, “Men and brethren, the Scriptures must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake before concerning Judas” (Acts 1:). So, “That he might go to his own place” (ver. xxv.), to the place of punishment appointed for him. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:).

“Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:):predestinated should come to pass.

“And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:):designed, destined or appointed unto life.

Concerning the Apostle Paul, what shall I say? Everyone that has read his epistles knows that they teem with predestination from beginning to end.* I shall only give one or two passages, and begin with that famous chain: “whom He did foreknow” (or forelove, for to know often signifies in Scripture to love) “He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren,” that, as in all things else, so in the business of election Christ might have the pre-eminence, He being first chosen as a Saviour, and they in Him to be saved by Him: “moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom 8:).

* A friend of mine, who has a large property in Ireland, was conversing one day with a popish tenant of his upon religion. Among other points, they discussed the practice of having public prayers in an unknown tongue. My friend took down a New Testament from his book case and read part of 1Co 14: When he had finished, the poor zealous papist rose up from his chair and said with great vehemence, “I verily believe St. Paul was a heretic!” Can the person who carefully reads the epistle of that great apostle doubt of his having been a thorough-paced predestinarian?

Chapters 9:, 10: and 11: of the same epistle are professed dissertations on, and illustrations of the doctrine of God’s decrees, and contain, likewise, a solution of the principal objections brought against that doctrine.

“Who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace” (Gal 1:).

The first chapter of Ephesians treats of little else but election and predestination.

After observing that the reprobates perish wilfully, the apostle, by a striking transition, addresses himself to the elect Thessalonians, saying, “But we are bound to give thanks unto God always for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath, from the beginning, chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2Th 2:).

“Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose, and grace, which was given us in Christ before the world began” (2Ti 1:). St. Jude, on the other hand, describes the reprobate as “ungodly men, who were, of old, foreordained to this condemnation.”

Another apostle makes this peremptory declaration, “Who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed: but ye are a chosen generation [an elect race], a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, a people purchased to be His peculiar property and possession” (1 Peter 2:8,9); to all which may be added, “Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Rev 17:8).

“Who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed: but ye are a chosen generation [an elect race], a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, a people purchased to be His peculiar property and possession” (1 Peter 2:8,9); to all which may be added, “Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Rev 17:8).

All these texts are but as an handful to the harvest, and yet are both numerous and weighty enough to decide the point with any who pay the least deference to Scripture authority. And let it be observed that Christ and His apostles delivered these matters, not to some privileged persons only, but to all at large who had ears to hear and eyes to read. Therefore, it is incumbent on every faithful minister to tread in their steps by doing likewise, nor is that minister a faithful one, faithful to Christ, to truth and to souls, who keeps back any part of the counsel of God, and buries those doctrines in silence which he is commanded to preach upon the house-tops.

The great St. Augustine, in his valuable treatise, De Bono Persever., effectually obviates the objections of those who are burying the doctrine of predestination in silence. He shows that it ought to be publicly taught, describes the necessity and usefulness of preaching it, and points out the manner of doing it to edification. And since some persons have condemned St. Augustine, by bell, book and candle, for his stedfast attachment to and nervous, successful defences of the decrees of God, let us hear what Luther, that great light in the Church, thought respecting the argument before us.

Erasmus (in most other respects a very excellent man) affected to think that it was of dangerous consequence to propagate the doctrine of predestination either by preaching or writing. His words are these: “What can be more useless than to publish this paradox to the world, namely, that whatever we do is done, not by virtue of our own free-will, but in a way of necessity, etc.? What a wide gap does the publication of this tenet open among men for the commission of all ungodliness! What wicked person will reform his life? Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven? Who will fight against his own corrupt inclinations? Therefore, where is either the need or the utility of spreading these notions from whence so many evils seem to flow?”

To which Luther replies: “If, my Erasmus, you consider these paradoxes (as you term them) to be no more than the inventions of men, why are you so extravagantly heated on the occasion? In that case, your arguments affect not me, for there is no person now living in the world who is a more avowed enemy to the doctrines of men than myself. But if you believe the doctrines in debate between us to be (as indeed they are) the doctrines of God, you must have bid adieu to all sense of shame and decency thus to oppose them. I will not ask, ‘Whither is the modesty of Erasmus fled?’ but, which is much more important, ‘Where, alas! are your fear and reverence of the Deity when you roundly declare that this branch of truth which He has revealed from heaven, is, at best, useless and unnecessary to be known?’ What! shall the glorious Creator be taught by you, His creature, what is fit to be preached and what to be suppressed? Is the adorable God so very defective in wisdom and prudence as not to know till you instruct Him what would be useful and what pernicious? Or could not He, whose understanding is infinite, foresee, previous to His revelation of this doctrine, what would be the consequences of His revealing it until those consequences were pointed out by you? You cannot, you dare not say this. If, then, it was the Divine pleasure to make known these things in His Word, and to bid His messengers publish them abroad, and leave the consequences of their so doing to the wisdom and providence of Him in whose name they speak, and whose message they declare, who art thou, O Erasmus, that thou shouldest reply against God and say to the Almighty, ‘What doest Thou?’

“St. Paul, discoursing of God, declares peremptorily, ‘Whom He will He hardeneth,’ and again, ‘God willing to show His wrath,’ etc. And the apostle did not write this to have it stifled among a few persons and buried in a corner, but wrote it to the Christians at Rome, which was, in effect, bringing this doctrine upon the stage of the whole world, stamping an universal imprimatur upon it, and publishing it to believers at large throughout the earth. What can sound harsher in the uncircumcised ears of carnal men than those words of Christ, ‘Many are called, but few chosen’? And elsewhere, ‘I know whom I have chosen.’ Now, these and similar assertions of Christ and His apostles are the very positions which you, O Erasmus, brand as useless and hurtful. You object, ‘If these things are so, who Will endeavour to amend his life?’ I answer, ‘Without the Holy Ghost, no, no man can amend his life to purpose.’ Reformation is but varnished hypocrisy unless it proceed from grace. The elect and truly pious are amended by the Spirit of God, and those of mankind who are not amended by Him will perish.

“You ask, moreover, ‘Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven?’ I answer, ‘It is not in man’s own power to believe himself such upon just grounds until he is enabled from above.’ But the elect shall be so enabled; they shall believe themselves to be what indeed they are. As for the rest who are not endued with faith, they shall perish, raging and blaspheming as you do now. ‘But,’ say you, ‘these doctrines open a door to ungodliness.’ I answer, ‘Whatever door they may open to the impious and profane, yet they open a door of righteousness to the elect and holy, and show them the way to heaven and the path of access unto God.’ Yet you would have us abstain from the mention of these grand doctrines, and leave our people in the dark as to their election of God; the consequence of which would be that every man would bolster himself up with a delusive hope of share in that salvation which is supposed to lie open to all, and thus genuine humility and the practical fear of God would be kicked out of doors. This would be a pretty way indeed of stopping up the gap Erasmus complains of! Instead of closing up the door of licentiousness, as is falsely pretended, it would be, in fact, opening a gulf into the nethermost hell.

“Still you urge, ‘Where is either the necessity or utility of preaching predestination?’ God Himself teaches it or commands us to teach it, and that is answer enough: We are not to arraign the Deity and bring the motives of His will to the test of human scrutiny, but simply to revere both Him and it. He, who alone is all-wise and all-just, can in reality (however things appear to us) do wrong to no man, neither can He do anything unwisely or rashly. And this consideration will suffice to silence all the objections of truly religious persons. However, let us for argument’s sake go a step farther. I will venture to assign over and above two very important reasons why these doctrines should be publicly taught:-

“(1) For the humiliation of our pride and the manifestation of Divine grace. God hath assuredly promised His favour to the truly humble. By truly humble, I mean those who are endued with repentance, and despair of saving themselves; for a man can never be said to be really penitent and humble until he is made to know that his salvation is not suspended in any measure whatever on his own strength, machinations, endeavours, free-will or works, but entirely depends on the free pleasure, purpose, determination and efficiency of another, even of God alone. Whilst a man is persuaded that he has it in his power to contribute anything, be it ever so little, to his own salvation, he remains in carnal confidence; he is not a self-despairer, and therefore he is not duly humbled before God; so far from it, that he hopes some favourable juncture or opportunity will offer when he may be able to lend a helping hand to the business of his salvation. On the contrary, whoever is truly convinced that the whole work depends singly and absolutely on the will of God, who alone is the author and finisher of salvation, such a person despairs of all self-assistance, he renounces his own will and his own strength, he waits and prays for the operation of God, nor waits and prays in vain. For the elect’s sake, therefore, these doctrines are to be preached, that the chosen of God, being humbled by the knowledge of His truths, self-emptied and sunk, as it were, into nothing in His presence, may be saved in Christ with eternal glory. This, then, is one inducement to the publication of the doctrine, that the penitent may be made acquainted with the promise of grace, plead it in prayer to God, and receive it as their own.

“(2) The nature of the Christian faith requires it. Faith has to do with things not seen. And this is one of the highest degrees of faith, stedfastly to believe that God is infinitely merciful, though He saves, comparatively, but few and condemns so many, and that He is strictly just, though of His own will He makes such numbers of mankind necessarily liable to damnation. Now, these are some of the unseen things whereof faith is the evidence, whereas, was it in my power to comprehend them or clearly to make out how God is both inviolably just and infinitely merciful, notwithstanding the display of wrath arid seeming inequality in His dispensations respecting the reprobate, faith would have little or nothing to do. But now, since these matters cannot be adequately comprehended by us in the present state of imperfection, there is room for the exercise of faith. The truths therefore, respecting predestination in all its branches, should be taught and published, they, no less than the other mysteries of Christian doctrine, being proper objects of faith on the part of God’s people.”*

* Lutherus, De Serv. Arbitr. in respons. ad ult. part. praefat. Erasmi.

With Luther the excellent Bucer agrees, particularly on Eph 1:, where his words are: “There are some who affirm that election is not to be mentioned publicly to the people. But they judge wrongly. The blessings which God bestows on man are not to be suppressed, but insisted and enlarged upon, and, if so, surely the blessing of predestination unto life, which is the greatest blessing of all, should not be passed over.” And a little after he adds: “Take away the remembrance and consideration of our election, and then, good God! what weapons have we left us wherewith to resist the temptations of Satan? As often as he assaults our faith (which he is frequently doing) we must constantly and without delay have recourse to our election in Christ as to a city of refuge. Meditation upon the Father’s appointment of us to eternal life is the best antidote against the evil surmisings of doubtfulness and remaining unbelief. If we are entirely void of all hope and assurance, respecting our interest in this capital privilege, what solid and comfortable expectation can we entertain of future blessedness? How can we look upon God as our gracious Father and upon Christ as our unchangeable Redeemer? Without which I see not how we can ever truly love God; and if we have no true love towards Him, how can we yield acceptable obedience to Him? Therefore, those persons are not to be heard who would have the doctrine of election laid (as it were) asleep, and seldom or never make its appearance in the congregations of the faithful.”

To what these great men have so nervously advanced permit me to add, that the doctrine of predestination is not only useful, but absolutely necessary to be taught and known.

(1) For without it we cannot form just and becoming ideas of God. Thus, unless He certainly foreknows and foreknew from everlasting all things that should come to pass, His understanding would not be infinite, and a Deity of limited understanding is no Deity at all. Again, we cannot suppose Him to have foreknown anything which He had not previously decreed, without setting up a series of causes, extra Deum, and making the Deity dependent for a great part of the knowledge He has upon the will and works of His creatures, and upon a combination of circumstances exterior to Himself. Therefore, His determinate plan, counsel and purpose (i.e., His own predestination of causes and effects) is the only basis of His foreknowledge, which foreknowledge could neither be certain nor independent but as founded on His own antecedent decree.

(2) He alone is entitled to the name of true God who governs all things, and without whose will (either efficient or permissive) nothing is or can be done. And such is the God of the Scriptures, against whose will not a sparrow can die nor an hair fall from our heads (Mat 10:) Now what is predestination but the determining will of God? I defy the subtlest semi-pelagian in the world to form or convey a just and worthy notion of the Supreme Being without admitting Him to be the great cause of all causes else, Himself dependent on none, who willed from eternity how He would act in time, and settled a regular, determinate scheme of what He would do and permit to be done from the beginning to the consummation of the world. A contrary view of the Deity is as inconsistent with reason itself, and with the very religion of nature, as it is with the decisions of revelation.

(3) Nor can we rationally conceive of an independent, all-perfect first cause without allowing Him to be unchangeable in His purposes. His decrees and His essence coincide, consequently a change in those would infer an alteration in this. Nor can that being be the true God whose will is variable, fluctuating and indeterminate, for His will is Himself willing. A Deity without decrees and decrees without immutability are, of all inventions that ever entered the heart of man, the most absurd.

(4) Without predestination to plan, and without providence to put that plan in execution, what becomes of God’s omnipotence? It vanishes into air. It becomes mere nonentity. For what sort of omnipotence is that which may be baffled and defeated by the very creatures it has made? Very different is the idea of this attribute suggested by the Psalmist, “Whatsoever the Lord willed, that did He, in heaven and in earth, in the sea and in all deep places” (Psalms 113.), 1:e., He not only made them when He would, but orders them when made.

(5) He alone is the true God, according to Scripture representation, who saves by His mere mercy and voluntary grace those whom He hath chosen, and righteously condemns (for their sins) those whom He thought fit to pass by. But without predestination there could be no such thing either as sovereign mercy or voluntary grace. For, after all, what is predestination but His decree to save some of His mere goodness, and to condemn others in His just judgment? Now it is most evident that the Scripture doctrine of pre-determination is the clearest mirror wherein to see and contemplate these essential attributes of God. Here they all shine forth in their fullness of harmony and lustre. Deny predestination and you deny (though, perhaps, not intentionally, yet by necessary consequence) the adorable perfections of the Godhead in concealing that, you throw a veil over these; and in preaching that, you hold up these to the comfort, the establishment and the admiration of the believing world.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

Many interpret Augustine wrongly concerning believing the Gospel and the authority of the church

November 13, 2013 2 comments

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015A third objection founded on a sentiment of Augustine considered.

3. I am aware it is usual to quote a sentence of Augustine in which he says that he would not believe the gospel, were he not moved by the authority of the Church, (Aug. Cont. Epist. Fundament. c. 5.) But it is easy to discover from the context, how inaccurate and unfair it is to give it such a meaning. He was reasoning against the Manichees, who insisted on being implicitly believed, alleging that they had the truth, though they did not show they had. But as they pretended to appeal to the gospel in support of Manes, he asks what they would do if they fell in with a man who did not even believe the gospel — what kind of argument they would use to bring him over to their opinion. He afterwards adds, “But I would not believe the gospel,” etc.; meaning, that were he a stranger to the faith, the only thing which could induce him to embrace the gospel would be the authority of the Church. And is it any thing wonderful, that one who does not know Christ should pay respect to men?

Augustine, therefore, does not here say that the faith of the godly is founded on the authority of the Church; nor does he mean that the certainty of the gospel depends upon it; he merely says that unbelievers would have no certainty of the gospel, so as thereby to win Christ, were they not influenced by the consent of the Church. And he clearly shows this to be his meaning, by thus expressing himself a little before: “When I have praised my own creed, and ridiculed yours, who do you suppose is to judge between us; or what more is to be done than to quit those who, inviting us to certainty, afterwards command us to believe uncertainty, and follow those who invite us, in the first instance, to believe what we are not yet able to comprehend, that waxing stronger through faith itself, we may become able to understand what eve believe — no longer men, but God himself internally strengthening and illuminating our minds?” These unquestionably are the words of Augustine, (August. Cont. Epist. Fundament. cap. 4;) and the obvious inference from them is, that this holy man had no intention to suspend our faith in Scripture on the nod or decision of the Church, but only to intimate (what we too admit to be true) that those who are not yet enlightened by the Spirit of God, become teachable by reverence for the Church, and thus submit to learn the faith of Christ from the gospel. In this way, though the authority of the Church leads us on, and prepares us to believe in the gospel, it is plain that Augustine would have the certainty of the godly to rest on a very different foundation.

At the same time, I deny not that he often presses the Manichees with the consent of the whole Church, while arguing in support of the Scriptures, which they rejected. Hence he upbraids Faustus (lib. 32) for not submitting to evangelical truth — truth so well founded, so firmly established, so gloriously renowned, and handed down by sure succession from the days of the apostles. But he nowhere insinuates that the authority which we give to the Scriptures depends on the definitions or devices of men. He only brings forward the universal judgment of the Church, as a point most pertinent to the cause, and one, moreover, in which he had the advantage of his opponents. Any one who desires to see this more fully proved may read his short treatises De Utilitate Credendi, (The Advantages of Believing,) where it will be found that the only facility of believing which he recommends is that which affords an introduction, and forms a fit commencement to inquiry; while he declares that we ought not to be satisfied with opinion, but to strive after substantial truth.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 7-Henry Beveridge Translation

What Does Love Look Like?

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

Saint Augustine (354-430)

Concerning Understanding

Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.

Saint Augustine (354-430)

 

Concerning Punishment

Punishment is justice for the unjust.

Saint Augustine (354-430)