De Moor VI:12: The Object of the Divine Decrees, Part 2

God also decreed the certain and immutable End of Life of each and every Man, no less than He determined and foreordained by His Decree the Whole Life of Man with all its lesser and greater Occurrences, Psalm 139:16; Acts 17:26. Among the most notable occurrences of human Life, and upon which depend matters of the greatest moment, is Marriage: but, that in the business of marriage a singular direction of divine Providence is to be acknowledged with awe-filled admiration, the Most Illustrious LODEWIJK VAN RENESSE[1] painstakingly taught, van de Voorzienigheid Godts in ’t beleid der Huwelyken.

Gisbertus Voetius

If in particular you ask concerning the Fated End, whether it be movable or immovable? THOMAS Aquinas will respond, Summa, part I, question CXVI, article III, page 212 at the beginning, Fate, with respect to second causes, is movable: but, as it is subject to divine Providence, it shares in the its immobility, not indeed of a necessity absolute, but conditioned: according to which we say that this conditional is true and Necessary: If God foresaw it, it is going to happen. Concerning the fixed End of Life, see among others GISBERTUS VOETIUS’ Dissertationem Epistolicam de Termino Vitæ ad Johannem Beverovicium,[2] which was printed separately, and also subjoined to Part V of VOETIUS’ Disputationum Selectarum, pages 1-136; RIVET’S[3]Dissertationem ad Beverovicium de Termino Vitæ fatali an mobili, opera, tome 2, pages 413 and following; MARESIUS’ Dissertationem de Termino Vitæ, Sylloge Disputationum, tome I, pages 564 and following; TURRETIN’S Theologiæ Elencticæ,[4]locus IV, question V, part I, pages 354-361.

Simon Episcopius

The Adversaries here are the same as in § 11, with the same πρώτῳ ψεῦδει, fundamental error, concerning the nature of Contingency and Liberty, and Prayer and Means otherwise to be neglected. Among the Remonstrants see Episcopius’ Responsionem ad duas Epistolas Beverovicii de Vitæ Termino, Fatalisne is sit, an vero mobilis, opera Episcopii, tome I, part II, pages 378-387. Among the Lutherans Buddeus, in his Institutionibus Theologiæ dogmaticæ, tome I, book II, chapter II, § 52, pages 578-582, rejects on the one hand our opinion, which establishes that the End of human Life is fixed and immovable by the Decree of God; on the other hand, the Epicurean opinion, which derives the End of human Life from natural causes in such a way that it removes all Providence of the Deity from it: but he chooses a middle opinion, according to which God according to the order of nature, exerting itself through second causes, foreordained a certain End for each one, which nevertheless He Himself could change, if He will; which he attempts to prove by arguments, which are recounted by our AUTHOR in Objectionibus. Jasper de Hartogh inculcates the same, Wegwyzer der Eenvuldigen, chapter I, pages 34, 35.


But, that the End of Life of individuals is immutably fixed, is proven by,


α. Express Testimonies: Job 14:5, 6, in which, not only the Brevity, but also the Determination of a brief Life, is treated, in definite Days, a certain Number of Months, appointed bounds not to be Transgressed. It is not to be said that the saying is conditional because of the particle אִם at the beginning of verse 5, because the sequence of the speech indicates that this is not to be taken conditionally, but ratiocinatively, as seeing that, seeing that the days of a man are determined…turn from him, etc.: or asseveratively as certainly, surely, in which case at the beginning of verse 6 therefore is to be supplied, certainly his days are decided; therefore, turn from him. As if Job would say, it is certainly sufficient, that man was made so wretched through sin, that he must be cut off in a short time; so that there is no need or it is not fitting to load him with more grievous evils: compare VOETIUS’ Dissertationem argumento primo, page 15-24; SCHULTENS’[5]Commentarium on the passage. Add Psalm 31:15; 39:5, in which both the brevity of Life is signified, when the days of David are said to be an handbreadth; and the brevity of Life determined by God, since God is said to have disposed these handbreadth days,[6] see VOETIUS’ Dissertationem argumento secundo, pages 24-26; Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2.


β. Are added the special Examples of those that died by an especially fortuitous sort of Death, and yet whose Death is said to depend on divine Providence, both actual and eternal: then of others, whose Death is said to have been determined, or End of Life is foretold with certainty, which Prescience is only able to be founded on the divine Decree: Exodus 21:13; Isaiah 65:12; Acts 13:36; 2 Peter 1:14, on which place see my Commentarium; John 7:30; 8:20. Now, in the Death of the Lord especially the greatest possible number of effects contingent and free concur, but all which served for the fulfillment of the divine Counsel, Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28: see VOETIUS’ Dissertationem, arguments 7, 8, pages 33-38.


γ. An Argument is able to be added, 1. From the far lesser example of Animals and Hair, Matthew 10:29, 30; for, if not even a Little Sparrow falls without the Will of the heavenly Father, how much less is man able to be thought to take up or to relinquish the Station of this Life without the divine nod? if the Hairs of our Head are numbered, how much more our days, months, and years? see VOETIUS’ Dissertationem, argument 9, pages 38, 39. 2. From the Judgments of God exercised in Death, for example, in the Death of the sons of Eli, 1 Samuel 2:34, of David’s infant, 2 Samuel 12:14, of Israel’s Prefect, 2 Kings 7:2, 17-20, of the Sennacherib’s army, 2 Kings 19:35, of Belshazzar, Daniel 5:25-30, of Herod, Acts 12:23; etc. 3. From the innumerable Accidental Happenings in human Life, and those of greatest moment, indeed, with Salvation itself depending on them; whence the End of Life of individuals appears to be a more worthy object of singular divine Care than many other things: since otherwise with the End of Life of individuals we are obliged to withdraw from the divine determination all remaining Accidental Happenings and the exceedingly great changes thence depending: VOETIUS’ Dissertationem, arguments 10, 11, pages 39-42.


Hence even the Gentiles acknowledged that this time of each Life has been determined: SENECA,[7]de Consolatione ad Marciam, chapter XX, No one dies too swiftly, who was not going to live any longer than he lived. An end has been fixed for each: it will always remain where it has been placed: neither shall diligent care or grace move it any further away: compare VOETIUS’ Dissertationem, argument 19, where he appeals to the universal Consent of Gentiles, Jews, and Christians.


They Object, 1. Passages, in which a Prolonging or Multiplication of Days is mentioned, attributed to God or to man; likewise, a Breaking off, Shortening, and Diminishing, etc. Response: α. Never in passages of this sort is regard had to the Prolonging or Shortening of Life beyond the Bound of Life of each one fixed in God’s Decree: but, β. Either the Length and Brevity of Life are regarded simply: just as the language of הֶאֱרִיח, to prolong, Exodus 20:12;[8] 1 Kings 3:14;[9] etc., does not denote to make the days longer than God had determined; but speaks absolutely, to make the days long, to extend for a while; as Paul also translated it positively, not comparatively, Ephesians 6:3, ἵνα—ἔσῃ μακροχρόνιος ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, that thou mayest live long on the earth. γ. Or regard is had to the Common End of human Life ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ, in a general way, Psalm 90:10, or hoped for by Men themselves, just as the impious readily conceive the hope of long Life according to their most earnest desire, ever shunning Death, and wretchedly fearing it: or of the Natural Strength of men, which, apart from an accident sent from heaven, or sins greatly debilitating the body, of which sort are drunkenness, whoremongering, etc., appears is going to allow one to live longer: who hence had been able to live longer than the possibility of second causes, but not the possibility of the effect, which depends on the concurrence of the first Cause and second causes: he had been able to live longer, in a divided sense and with God’s Decree disregarded; although not in a composite sense and from the hypothesis of the Decree. δ. When the Prolonging of Days assigned to the Pious, and the Shortening of Days to the Impious, the End of Life is not in this manner placed in their power, and suspended upon an uncertain condition: but God, who decreed to draw these to Piety, also decreed to grant Longevity to them, crowning His own gifts: and if He shortens the Life of the impious on account of their sins, by the same Counsel whereby He decreed to permit them, He also decreed to punish them in this manner. Therefore, the Promises and Threats do not declare what God will have determined within Himself concerning individuals; but what sort He wills to bless with Longevity, or to punish with brevity of Life: and they are Motives added to the Precepts, to urge the observing of them; nevertheless, in such a way that these, according to the nature of Promises and Threats regarding temporal things, are always to be understood with the condition of God’s determining Will, who is able, as He has judged it to be expedient for His eternal Counsel, either to shorten Life for the pious for the sake of their salvation, 1 Kings 14:12, 13, or to prolong it to the impious for their more grievous punishment, Isaiah 65:20: compare VOETIUS’ Dissertationem, Objections 1, 2, pages 66-81.


They Object, 2. the Example of Hezekiah, to whose Life fifteen years were added, Isaiah 38:1, 5. Response: The Counsel of God was not initially announced to him; but, either, α. a Conditional Threat, of which sort was the preaching of Jonah concerning the destruction of the Ninevites, Jonah 3:4. Thou shalt die, unless thou approach me with renewed Repentance, and seek my face: that a Condition of this sort is hidden under the Threat, the event at length makes manifest; and this Threat, although it was not destined to be fulfilled, was not ceasing to be exceedingly serious, as appointed by God, so that, with this intervening, He might deliver His Decree concerning the preservation of the King for execution. β. Or rather the Lethal Danger of his Illness, unless the miraculous Power of God intervene, whence the King is already at that time said to be dead, מֵ֥ת אַתָּ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תִֽחְיֶֽה׃, thou art dead, and shalt not live, thou art unable to evade Death, according to the natural constitution of the Disease, and by human means. While Hezekiah nevertheless understood that the Power of God is greater, to whom he then flees in Prayer, which would have been impious, if Hezekiah had believed that God’s Decree concerning the End of his Life had been announced to him: for it is never to be asked that God would change His Will, but rather that His Will would be done: compare VOETIUS’ Dissertationem, Objection 3, pages 81-88.


They Object, 3. that thus with good reason Prayers and Means for the preservation of Life are neglected. A Response is able to be sought from those things that have already been set down in reply to Objection 3 in § 11; namely, that Means here, as everywhere, are subordinated by God to the End, and by Commandment are to be applied by us, being uncertain of the Outcome. Thus, α. with the divine determination not withstanding, Prayer are able rightly to be conceived for Longevity: since that End, fixed by the Decree of God, is unknown to us; and we always pray under the condition of the divine Will, to which we willingly submit ourselves and everything that is ours. β. That the Means of the preservation of Life are ordained together with the End, is evident from the example of Paul and his speech in Acts 27:24, 30, 31, 33-35; and so, even if the outcome is evident to us, the Means are still to be employed by us, which we know to be ordained in the way of common Providence, so that by their intervention we might arrive at the End. Hezekiah, after the words spoken to him in Isaiah 38:5, knew that he was going to live for fifteen more years, which would be added, not to the End previously fixed by God and now changed, but to the days that he had already now lived, and to the End of his Life, which seemed to have now come by the Lethal Danger of the Disease: at the same time, it would have been of the greatest stupidity, and a most impious tempting of God, if, being secure concerning the fulfillment of the divine promise, he had refused to make use of food and drink any longer. γ. But the labor of Physicians for the curing of Diseases is to be despised no more than of food and drink for the sustaining of Life; since God Himself willed to free Hezekiah from disease only with the use of medicines intervening, Isaiah 38:21; only let us not trust in the power of medicines, 2 Chronicles 16:12. δ. Neither does this fixed End of Life permit us to tempt God with rash, presumptuous acts, and to rush upon the dangers of Life without necessity, after the likeness of the Turks, who by this pretext fear nothing for themselves from the infection of plague; according to BUSBECQ, Epistle[10] IV, this opinion prevails, that they are secure from the Plague, but not safe. ε. Neither does it in any manner justify αὐτοχειρίαν/suicide, any more than the laying of violent hands upon another: since the Lives of all equally have been determined by God, and are in His hand, and it is not lawful for us to dispose of our Lives any more than the Lives of others: compare VOETIUS’ Dissertationem, Objection 4, pages 88-101, Objection 11, pages 119-124, where one may see also the solutions to many other Objections.


What things I have thus disputed for the End of the Life certainly and immutably determined for individual men, are also to be held against Pierre Chauvin, de Religione naturali, part I, chapter XIII, pages 143-156, on this matter incorrectly defended by BUDDEUS, chapter IV Animadversionum in Petri Chauvini librum de Religione naturali, which things are found in his Parergis historico-theologicis; while in other heads of the same Dissertation Buddeus rightly registers his dissent from Chauvin.

[1] Lodewijk Gerardus van Renesse (1599-1671) was a Dutch pastor and theologian. He was appointed to work on the revision of the Dutch translation. [2]Johan van Beverwijck, or Johannes Beverovicius (1594-1647) was a Dutch physician and writer. [3] Andrew Rivet (1573-1651) was a Huguenot minister and divine. He ministered at Sedan and at Thouara; he went on to teach at the University of Leiden (1619-1632) and at the college at Breda. His influence among Protestants extended well beyond France. [4] Francis Turretin (1623-1687) was a Genevan Reformed theologian of Italian descent. After studying at Geneva, Leiden, Utrecht, Paris, Saumur, and Montauban, he was appointed as the pastor of the Italian refugee congregation in Geneva (1648), and later Professor of Theology at the academy (1653). His Institutio Theologiæ Elencticæ has been heavily influential in the Reformed tradition, shaping Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology and Herman Bavinck’s Gereformeerde dogmatiek. [5] Albert Schultens (1686-1750) was a Reformed scholar and philologist. He served as Professor of Hebrew at Franeker (1713-1729), and Professor of Oriental Languages at Leiden (1732-1750). In his day, he was the pre-eminent teacher of Arabic in Europe. [6] Psalm 39:5: “Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth (טְפָח֙וֹת׀ נָ֘תַ֤תָּה יָמַ֗י); and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.” [7] Lucius Annæus Seneca (c. 4 BC-65 AD) was a Roman philosopher and dramatist. [8] Exodus 20:12: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long (יַאֲרִכוּן) upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” [9] 1 Kings 3:14: “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen (וְהַאַרַכְתִּי) thy days.” [10] Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq (1522-1592) was a Flemish writer, naturalist, and diplomat. He served as the Austrian ambassador to the Ottoman Empire; his letters are an invaluable source concerning the politics of the sixteenth century Ottoman court.

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