Monday, October 12, 2015

The Preface




(Along with some propositions concerning the true nature of election)


Upon encountering these words, “Quoad sententiarum diversitatem in hoc argumento quod Deus respexit hominem in hoc decreto nondum creatum, vel creatum & lapsum; quia hoc ad fundamentum hujus doctrin non pertinent libenter alii alios equitate Christiana toleramus.” [We gladly bear with one another regarding the diversity of opinion that God regards men either before the fall or after it, for is not at the base of Christian teaching.] I was moved to change my opinion on some controversies lately debated between the Remonstrants and their opponents. I do present them to you now that I may show you the due respect to answer your questions, and so that you may see I have reason on my side. If however I can be convinced the grounds for believing thee arguments are weak and insufficient, then I shall think better of the opinion which I have forsaken.

As the title of the book indicates, I justly reject an absolute decree for the damnation of any particular person; as such a decree was never enacted in Gods eternal counsel nor ever published in His revealed word. Reprobation is understood only to mean that preterition, non-election, or negative decree of predestination which is contradictorily opposed to the decree of election. It is however as absolute as the other, and neither depends upon the foreseen difference of men’s actions, but upon the absolute will of God. (For if God from eternity past absolutely elected some unto the infallible attainment of grace and glory, then we cannot but grant that those who are not comprised within this decree are as passed by as the other are chosen.)


The decree of damnation must not be confounded with the decree of negative predestination, which (according to the phrase of the school rather than of the Scripture) is usually termed reprobation.  But because the negation is measured by the affirmation, unless we are agreed what is meant when we say, “Peter was predestined before the foundation of the world” we cannot rightly judge what is meant when we say, “Judas was reprobated before the foundation of the world.”

Some understand reprobation to mean the denial of election, but others mean not only the negative decree of preparing such effectual grace as would bring men most certainly to glory but an affirmative decree for the punishing of men eternally in hell fire. The absolute decree of predestination and the absolute decree of negative reprobation must not be reduced to foreseen good or bad acts in men, since this crosses the received Doctrine of the Church of England. For myself, I intend only to prove that the adjudication of men unto eternal life or eternal death and the temporal introduction of men into the kingdom of heaven, or carting of men into the torments of hell, are always accompanied with the Divine prescience or intuition. Predestination and Preterition are eternal acts immanent in God the Creator, and Salvation and Damnation are temporal effects terminated unto the creature. Therefore the latter maybe suspended upon many conditions, though the former be in God never so absolute.

The ensuing book would have had much more perspicuity if I had briefly and plainly set down what I understood by the word election, and whether or not I conceive it to be an absolute or a conditional decree.
If conditional I would have to show with whom God conditioned, upon what terms, and where the conditions stand.
If I grant absolute predestination , my plea for conditional preterition will be to little purpose with those who understand that the absolute election of such a certain number does in eodem figno rationis [for the same reason] imply a certain number of men not elected.

The Church of England in her wisdom lays down the doctrine of predestination in the 17th article and does not meddle with reprobation for even a single word. This leaves men to conclude that reprobation is the denial of that special favor which is freely intended and mercifully bowed in predestination, and would to God the children of this Church had imitated the wisdom of their Mother in this and not taken a quite contrary course as they’ve done today. I don’t know which I find more defective, the one who in disputing about reprobation runs into impertinence, or the one who handles the question without understanding the true nature of predestination.  No man needs to fear that he’ll find that manner of handling this controversy here. We accept that a man’s sin and damnation is his own, but his Justification, Sanctification, Glorification owe not to any foreseen goodness springing out of his free-will, but instead to the free mercy of God , according to His eternal purpose effectually working in men those gifts and as of grace, which are the means to bring them into glory.

Having thus briefly spoken of the Title and Preface, I will lay down such fundamental doctrines concerning election as I conceive are grounded upon the 17th article, and have always been taken for the common received doctrine of our church. Opposition from our universities and referend bishops (when they have occurred) has always been censured as erroneous. And after that, I will begin the treatise itself, not intending to defend the particular opinions or people, but only to defend our well settled doctrine against all opposition.

Proposition One


Predestination is an eternal decree or purpose of God, causing effectual grace in time for those whom He has chosen, and by this effectual grace He brings them infallibly to glory.

For proof of this proposition these passages of Scripture might serve: Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:4-5; Luke 12:32; Matt 24:24. Other definitions prove the same:

·         St. Augustine said in De Bono Perseverantiae [The Good Perseverance] “Praparatio gratiae in praesenti & gloria in futuro.” [The preparation for glory in the present and the future.]

·         Aquinas said, “Pradestinatinatio est ratio ordinis aliquorum in salute aternam in mente Divina exsistens.” [Predestination in the mind of God is the reason some are ordered to salvation and eternal life.]

·         The Jesuit Vasquez: “Pradestinatio est propositum eternum Dei quo gratium alicui praeparat in vitam eternam.” [Predestination is the purpose of the eternal God to give grace which prepares some for eternal life.]

·         Arminius himself said, “Praedestinatio est decretum beneplaciti Dei in Christo, quo apud se abeterno statuit, fideles quos fide donare decreuit vita eternal donare.” [Predestination is the decree of Gods good pleasure in Christ to eternally give faith to the faithful, along with eternal life.]

·         And our learned Bishop of Norwich, Dr. Overall, explaining the 17th of the Church of England article has these words, “Nostra Ecclesia conjungit particulare decretum absolutum, non exprascientia humane fidei aut voluntatis dependens fed ex proposito Divina voluntatis et gratia de his quos deus elegit in Christo liberandis, cum generali et conditionata voluntate, seu generali promissione etc.” [Predestination is the particular, absolute decree to form the church. It is not of the faith or will of man but on the will, grace, and purpose of God who chose in Christ those whom He would liberate, and this is conditioned with a general promise.]

Consequently


In every definition predestination is seen to be an eternal, absolute, infallible decree, which effectually gives grace to certain persons, and brings them to glory hereafter. (Arminius however, perceiving this problem for him in his private disputations, later wipes out those words quos fide donare decreuit which he had used in public.) The Jesuit Vasquez, though he found predestination unto glory upon foreseen merits, yet in this he is sounder than the Arminians, in that he makes the difference of the predestination from the reprobated to begin before foresight of their free will consenting the one way or the other. Dr. Overall acknowledges an eternal, secret, absolute decree which predestinates particular persons unto eternal life without depending on their foreseen faith or perseverance. (Though with that he also asserts an open, revealed and evangelical decree of brining men into the possession of eternal life by the way and upon the condition of their faith, repentance, and perseverance.)

Predestination is therefore an immanent and eternal act of the Divine understanding and will, which means it cannot be conceived as dependent upon any foreseen temporal acts of man’s free will, since a prime and eternal cause cannot depend on the selfsame temporal effects which are caused by it. Predestination was the prime and eternal cause of Peter’s salvation, and his foreseen faith, repentance and perseverance were not in any sense antecedent causes, merits, conditions, or motives to Gods electing.

Proposition Two


Election considers all men in the same condition, and it is this grace prepared for them that makes them holy and happy.

If predestination is conceived antecedent to the fall, then it takes all men in statu innocentis [in condition of innocence] and so considers them all alike. Or if it is considered in statu lapso [in a fallen condition] then it also finds all the sons of Adam alike, only in misery and damnation.

Consequently


Those who have God looking at all men and electing those whom He considers as believing and persevering in faith and holiness until the last gasp are in error. Because:

1.       This is to elect men neither when considered in statu integro [in a state of integrity] nor in statu lapso [in a fallen state], but in stature reparato et tantum non glorificato. [In a repaired but not yet glorified state.]

2.       This makes election the byproduct of the foreseen acts of believing, obeying, and persevering , rather than the thing which produces faith, holiness, and perseverance—quite contrary to the doctrine of both our Church and the truth.

3.       If we admit this opinion of conditional predestination following upon the eternal foresight of men’s final obedience and perseverance then we must of necessity grant that the benefit of Predestination has never afforded any man help at all in the way of salvation or glorification—but this no Christian ear can patiently endure. For how can predestination lead infallibly to enteral life if it doesn’t come into consideration until a man has run out his race in faith and godliness and arrived at the heavenly gates? Such a falsely named predestination ought to be called rather, post-destination.
Call it however you please, it enacts only
per modum legis [in a legal mode], that men thus living and dying shall be received into the kingdom of heaven, and it does not per modum decreti operantis [in a decretive mode operate] infallibly work those graces and gracious actions whereby men are brought into heaven.

Proposition Three


The grace prepared for the elect in predestination and bestowed upon them in the temporal dispensation causes their belief, repentance, and perseverance. Moreover it imposes no necessity or violence upon the wills of men, but instead causes their free and voluntary endeavors.

The grace prepared in predestination is the infallible cause of faith and perseverance in the elect, and this is evident from the nature of predestination itself. Being a special part of the divine providence, it is distinguished from the more general providence in that its means never fail to produce in man end to which it is fitted, which is why St. Augustine infers that if the grace prepared for the elect in predestination does not result in glorification then aut vinceretur aut falleretur Deus.[God Himself must either be overcome or deceived.]
Augustine also defends the proposition that effectual grace does no violence in its operation to the will, but causes it to work by its own freedom when he says, “Stat libertas arbitrii cum Divina motione voluntatem nostrum ad id quod vult applicante.” [By visit and application of the Divine essence on our wills we are instantly given freedom of judgment.] And, “Deus omnipotentisima facilitate convertit, ac volentes ex nolentibus facit.” [God omnipotent facilitates the turn around, making the unwilling to be willing.]

This is because in predestination God joins together the invincible operation of grace with the free operation of mans will. In fact the grace flowing from the decree of predestination is so far from putting a necessitation upon the will that it is the very cause which frees the will from the slavery of sin, and makes it free to move and work its good acts. It’s what gives the will the deed, and therefore implies a contradiction to say it makes a man does good by way of necessity. Ubi consensus ibi voluntas ubi voluntas, ibi libertas. [Where the will consents, the will is free.] When God has predestined Peter to believe in Christ, to repent, to persevere, He did it by the special grace moving him and working in him to the most free and willing performance of all these things. As St. Augustine again said, “Cum deus vult fieri quod non nisi volentibus hominibus oportet fieri, inclinat eorum corda ut hoc velint.” [When God wants it to happen, it must be that the will of man inclines itself to want the same.]

Consequently


The horrible arguments which the Semi-Pelagian sect thrust upon us no longer have force in them. They misunderstand predestination when say, “nemo vigilet, nemo jejunet, nemo libidini contradicat, etc. [No one would have noticed it, no one would care to abstain from it, and no would desire to speak against it.]
And they mischaracterize it when they say, “Ad vitam rectam non suo ductu, sed violento tantum Dei imperio homines pertrahuntur” [Men cannot find life but through violently being drawn to God’s authority]
or intra gratia vocabulum absconditur fatale venenum.” [In this grace is hiding a deadly poison.]

Faustus, and other of the semi-pelagians sect boldly maintain their proposition in defiance of God’s free election when they assert, “Hoc propositum vocationis Dei, quo eligendorum & rejiciendorum dicitur fact a discretion secundum quod placuit Creatori lapsis curam resurgendi adimit, sanctis oceasionem affert etc. Prior est hominis obedientia quam Dei gratia. Initium salutis ex co est qui salvatur, non ex Deo qui salvat.” [This calling from God, whereby He selects candidates according to his discretion, disconnects the Creator from His free offer of salvation. Man’s obedience comes first, and then the grace of God comes. It is man who initiates salvation, and God who co-saves. It is not God alone who saves us.]

Or Flavius Rhegientis when he says, “Salus hominis non in pradestinatione sactoris, sed in operatione famulantis collocate est. Non est specialis circa credentes Dei munificentia. Pradestinatio ad justitiam pertinent. Nifi praescientia exploravcrit, pradestinatio nihil decernit. Sustitia periclitabitur si sine merito indignus eligitur.” [The salvation of man is not in the decree of predestination but in the acts of service set up for him. There’s no special virtue in believing in the generosity of God. Predestination is not pertinent to justice. Unless foresight is included predestination decides nothing. A man is in danger if he is elected and still unworthy.]

To these charges we’ll say three things briefly.  

1.       First, predestination is absolute. Not because it intends the bringing of any man into enteral life without performing the conditions which God requires in the Gospel, but because God in His most gracious decree does absolutely ordain men to temporal saving graces as much as to everlasting glory.

2.       Secondly, in predestination there’s always included a foreknowledge of the faithfulness of the elect, and though their faithfulness isn’t antecedent to their election, it is a real consequence of it.

3.       Lastly, in addition to the unconditional decree, there’s likewise a conditional decree about man’s salvation established by God—all who repent, believe, and persevere shall be saved. And this truth stands good and firm, even if no man ever attained eternal life by it. But it is an abuse to equate predestination which infallibly produces faith in those who are known only to God and brings them to eternal life with the conditions of salvation. 

To summarize, we not only agree with St. Augustine concerning the truth of predestination, but we state it’s allowed by the Church, and easily cleared from all those absurd consequences which our adversaries would fasten upon it. We assert that the newly devised platform of the Arminians (predestination upon foreseen faith and perseverance) is false and vain, a disagreement from all catholic and orthodox doctrines, and that predestination is rightly settled upon these four pillars:

1.       An absolute decree of giving Christ for a mediator and Redeemer to mankind (considered as fallen) in the state of time.

2.       A promise to receive into favor all such as shall repent and believe, and to save them, preserving them to the end. And with this, another promise: to leave the impenitent and unfaithful under God’s wrath and condemn them as men out of Christ.

3.       A decree to effectually administer to all men the means of generating faith and repentance.

4.       A decree to save for condemn certain singular persons, grounded upon the Divine foresight, who will repent, believe, and persevere, and who will not.

To this we should to also add that the marshaling the eternal immanent acts on this topic into four simple points is only a weak imagining of man’s brain, and so uncertain that if you were to gather twenty men and asked them to delineate Gods eternal decrees you’ll not find two who agree on their numbering and ordering. One might make four, another six, seven, etc, and that which one man puts in first place another might put in last. Every man orders them secundum suum modum imaginandi [By way of his own imagination.] To build therefore any doctrines of faith upon the priority of such decrees is to build castles in the air. For as Hilarius says, “Omnia penes Deum equabili eternitais infinitate consistent.” [Everything with God is equally, eternally, and infinitely consistent.]

Arminian Decrees Rejected


Now in closing let me say a few words about Arminius and his decrees.
Whereas the true decree of election is an operative and practical decree, prepared from all eternity, revealed in time, which causes general grace and glory to selected singular persons, Arminius has instead articulated a doctrine concerting the general cause and means of salvation, which pertains prominently to all men, elected or not, and upon the grounds of Divine foresight which does not cause faith, repentance, perseverance, or salvation. He argues that Peter’s faith, repentance, and perseverance cause (or draw after them) his predestination, and there is not a single decree which infallibly causes justification, sanctification, or glorification.

1.       Arminius’ scheme is defective with respect to the first decree because it gives us a predestined Mediator and Redeemer in separato signo rationis [separately from] from the persons predestined to participate in those benefits (reconciliation and effectual grace in this world, and eternal glory hereafter). It’s absurd to conclude that God first decreed to make Adams head, then used another decree to make the members subordinate to His headship. Likewise it’s absurd to think He framed particular decree for the predestining of Christ, and then another for the predestining of His people.

2.       The second decree is defective because it’s actually about the manner of how men must be brought to heaven, not the men themselves. It’s an open decree in time, not a secret decree from God in eternity to bring those whom He pleased to the infallible obtainment of the kingdom of heaven. Quicunque crediderit & perseverauerit salvus erit [whomever believes and perseveres will be saved] stands true though no man in the world should either believe or be saved, but the decree of election is per modum cause infallibiliter operantis [on account of His operation]. The faith, perseverance, and salvation of a number of singular persons known to God, and cannot be otherwise.

3.       The third decree is at fault because for the Arminian grace isn’t effectual—God in this scheme has sufficiently and effectually administered the means of grace and salvation to millions of men who notwithstanding never receive salvation, even though the grace which flows from predestination never fails to bring those particular men to whom it’s vouchsafe to glory. These decrees concern Cain as well as Abel, and Judas as well as Peter, but yet we see in Judas or Cain no decree of Election.

4.       The last decree is the only one officially affirmed by Arminius, and yet even this one has as little of real predestination in it. For first, it is a decree for the temporal and actual introduction of certain singular persons into the kingdom of glory, whereas predestination is a decree fore-appointing and preparing that effectual grace where those person were brought to glory. Secondly this decree is founded upon the foresight of man’s right use of Gods grace, but the decree causes the right use of grace. As Aquinas said, “Hoc ipsum velle accipere gratiam est ex pradestinatione Divina.” [The willingness to receive grace is itself from God’s predestining.]
This brief discourse concerning predestination was necessary for a true understanding of reprobation, since it’s probable that those who error in the one are not free from error in the other. And now a word about the format of the following chapters in this book: for the rest of the structure I will first state the opinion which I dislike, and then I’ll lay down my reasons against it.with some propositions concerning the true nature of election

CONTINUE ON

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