De Moor VI:13: The Object of the Divine Decrees, Part 3

The Decree of God is also extended, both to Good Things, whether such naturally and metaphysically, or morally: Natural or Physical Goodness properly consists in the congruence of one bodily nature with another; that is, to the extent one of those conduces to the preservation or pleasure of the other. Metaphysical Goodness is the conformity of Being with the approving divine Will, whereby the first Cause with utmost reason takes pleasure in matters that are called good, and completely acquiesces in the same. Ethical Goodness consists in the conformity of rational Being with the prescribing divine Law. What things are thus said to be Good in one or the other way, God decreed to bring to pass by His Effective Decree. To this the Lamentable Evils of Punishment also have regard, which, although physically evil with respect to him upon whom they are inflicted, are metaphysically God, and are sent upon the sinner by God for His Glory and the demonstration of His Justice.

But the Evils of Fault formally considered, insofar as they are Ethically evil, and are destitute of the Goodness prescribed by the Law, are Decreed by God in His Permissive Decree, whereby He determines, not to effect, but to permit, Shameful evils: although the same Decree is Effective with respect to the underlying power and action, and in both cases Efficacious to this extent, that this Evil certainly follows in time upon the Decree.

Again, making for this, besides the general things reviewed in § 3, 11, 12, are:

α. The Examples of Joseph and of Christ in the worst conditions, Genesis 50:20; Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; and, that Prescience is not here to be disjoined from the Decree, is evident from the conjoined τῇ ὡρισμένῃ βουλῇ καὶ προγνώσει τοῦ Θεοῦ, determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. While Episcopius torments himself in vain, seeking to evade this argument in various ways; to whose Exceptions TRIGLAND responds at length in his Antapologia, chapter X, pages 164-167.

β. The manifold Decree, in which future Sin is supposed; of which sort are those that have regard to the punishment of sin, chastisement because of sins, restoration from the Fall, and the whole business of Redemption; just as the Decrees concerning the sending and offering of Christ, the promising and furnishing of Salvation to believers, which our very Adversaries themselves hold as Eternal.

γ. Actual Providence in evils, which governs and orders the same, often even unto punishment, both of the same men, and of others: see Chapter X, § 19-21: but in actual Providence is the execution of the eternal Counsel of God.

δ. The sin/defect of all Human Actions, which thus would have to be withdrawn equally from the Decree and the divine Providence.

ε. Otherwise the Foreknowledge of God in these matters would be very slippery and easily able to fail; since there is no firm foundation for fixed divine Prescience except the Decree. Certainly, with God’s Omniscience admitted, an infallible Foreknowledge of Sins is not able to be denied to Him. But this requires a foundation, which would explain why it never fails. This will be either God’s Decree, or God’s Nature, or the sinning Creature’s Constitution. If you select the Nature of God, or the Constitution of the Creature, to furnish it, Sin will be absolutely necessary: for what flows from the necessary Nature of God, it is contradictory for those things to be Contingent; and what things follow from the internal Constitution of the Creature, with the same Constitution actually existing, it is necessary that those things be posited: therefore, nothing remains, except that this Prescience of God depends upon the decree: in such a way that, according to AUGUSTINE, Enchiridion, chapter C, “in a marvelous and ineffable manner what happens against God’s Will would not happen at this point without His Will; because it would not happen, if He had not allowed it: but He allows, not as one unwilling, but willing.”

Against the More Recent Lutherans VITUS[1] also argues in his Apologia Synodi Dordracenæ contra Moshemium,[2] § 40, 41, pages 256-268.

Again, the Adversaries here are the same, the patrons of Free Will: the Socinians; see Crellius’ de Deo et Attributis ejus, chapter XXIV, opera, tome 4, page 69.

The Arminians, who in their Confession hold, chapter VI, § 3, But He never ordains evil actions, that they should happen. Their Apologia, chapter VI, page 78, demonstrates that the Remonstrants are ignorant of, or are unwilling to understand, the mind of our men in this business, and are unwilling to distinguish things that must be distinguished in this matter; but nevertheless they pronounce: This very thing, not to be able not to sin, which necessarily follows from or upon that divine operation, makes God the author and cause of that work or sin, and absolves man of the fault and guilt of sin.

Thus also the More Recent Lutherans contend, that, if all things happen as a result of God’s predetermining Decree, God is made the cause and author of all evil, and of all sins; see BUDDEUS’ Institutiones Theologiæ dogmaticæ, tome 1, book II, chapter I, § 22, page 294, who in book III, chapter II, § 35, pages 876-878, admits that he is not able to grasp in what manner the Reformed are able to deny, as long as they affirm that all things flow from absolute divine Decrees, that God is the cause and author of sin. With similar argument Jasper de Hartogh, Wegwyzer der Eenvuldigen, chapter I, page 33, also denies that human Actions, the bad as well as the good, have been predetermined by the absolute Decree of God.

The divine Decree concerning the permission of sin is denied as well by Pierre Chauvin, de Religione naturali, part I, chapter XVI, pages 188-191.

They Object, 1. various Passages of Scripture, in which God is said not to will, but to hate, Sin, Psalm 5:4, 5; Ezekiel 18:23; Habakkek 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

I Respond, that in the passages cited there is a treatment of the Will of Precept, Complacency, and Approbation, which is here diverse from the Will of Good Pleasure or Decree, yet not adverse to it; since the Precept concerns the duty of man, which God decreed to set forth to him by the Will of Precept, and which, having been fulfilled by man, He Himself approves: but the Good Pleasure or Decree determines the futurition and outcome of things; and, among other things, God also decreed to permit Sins, yet not with Ethical Permission, but merely Physical, for His own Glory: while at the same time He decreed, through just and holy Punishment of Sin, to demonstrate His aversion to the same.

They Object, 2. Arguments, α. from God being thus made the Author of Sin.

I Respond in the negative, because the Decree concerning the Evil of Guilt is not Effective, but Permissive; from which, although the certain Futurition of a thing follows, yet such a Decree, or God decreeing, is not able to be called the Cause of Sin. For God, in decreeing the Permission of Sin, or even in any other way, does not enter into Sin as a true effect, that He produces by His own causality: indeed, Sin is not a real Effect, but the Privation of the Rectitude due, as we shall see in Chapter XV, § 4; hence it ought to be called the Deficient, rather than Efficient, Cause of Sin; and Nothing Privative of this sort is a worthy object upon which might be terminated the divine Power executing the command of the Effective Decree. And so here the Decree will merely be the antecedent, upon which the consequent follows certainly and infallibly.

But, for example, Zoroaster,[3] in the Dictionary of Bailey,[4] under the heading of Manicheans,[5]pages 1899, 1900, insists that to determine such a Permission of Sin does not befit God, neither is it able to be reconciled with His Goodness or Holiness; since the Goodness of God does not allow Him to permit anything whereby the work of His hands might be made miserable: and so he concludes that God for the sake of His own Goodness is obliged to hinder sin. Likewise, he gathers from the Holiness of God that He is obliged to avert Sin.

I Respond with a denial that by God’s Permissive Decree of Sin He acts inconsistently with those Virtues, in such a way that, with this Decree standing, those Virtues are not able to remain intact. More specifically, one is able to act inconsistently with his own Goodness in two ways, either when he does things directly contrary to his Goodness, or when in his action his Goodness does not so clearly express itself: thus a Judge in punishing the guilty acts inconsistently with his Mercy, not that this punishment overturns his Mercy, but that it is not conspicuous in the inflicting of the punishment. The matters stands similarly in the divine Permission of Sin; whence a higher conclusion is able to be drawn, that the Goodness of God is not so clearly revealed in this Permission of Sin. But it is not necessary that in all the works of God His one Virtue of Goodness so clearly shines: it suffices, if God merely does nothing whereby this Essential Attribute of His might be overturned, of which He decreed to give so many illustrious proofs in so many other works. Therefore, God was able to have decreed to permit Sin, so that He might reveal His Wisdom, avenging Justice, and other Perfections, yet with His Goodness intact, since He is not bound by the force of His nature to demonstrate His Goodness alone. Neither is the Independent God able to be said to be bound to anything, in such a way that He would do injury to Himself, if He did not hinder sin. Indeed, according to His inscrutable Wisdom, by the decreed Permission of Sin God willed to lay out for Himself the way to reveal His Mercy in the gracious Remission of Sin to be granted to the Elect in a most illustrious manner. And in general AUGUSTINE wrote truly, Enchiridion to Laurentius, chapter C, “Good would not allow evil to be done, unless it were omnipotent and able to make good out of evil:” compare Chapter X, § 10, 21, 23.

β. Concerning the Excusing of Man from Sin; upon which matter they thus reason:

Whoever does the Will of God does not sin.

Whoever carries out the Decree does the Will of God.

Therefore, whoever carries out the Decree does not sin.

Responses: a. It is a Syllogism of four Terms; since Will in the Major Premise denotes the Will of Precept, but in the Minor the Will of Decree. b. Carrying out the divine Decree, man is nevertheless able to sin, because, not the Decree, or Hidden Will, but the Precept, or Revealed Will, is the Rule of our Actions: c. man does not sin, so that he might obey the decreeing Will of God; but, being generally ignorant of this, he desires to serve his own affections. d. Indeed, although the sin of denial and betrayal was foretold of Peter and Judas, they did not for this reason believe themselves excusable: but they acknowledged their fault, Matthew 26:75; 27:4, being aware that they, although the divine Decree was revealed to them through the prediction of the Lord, in sinning where not deprived of their rational Liberty; and that they did not commit this sin, so that they might satisfy the divine Decree.

γ. Or concerning Man Compelled to Sin. Our AUTHOR will furnish the Response. The Necessity of sinning is truly in the Creature by the Decree, but that is extrinsic, and only of Consequence, which does not take way that intrinsic Spontaneity, whereby the Creature does not will to do those things that it knows to belong to its duty; there is no Necessity of Coaction present, of which the rational creature is not aware.

[But, that this Decree is Permissive…it certainly follows.] Compare the Censuram Confessionis Remonstrantium, chapter VI, § 6, 7, pages 93-96; Apologiam Remonstrantium, chapter VI, pages 77, 78; TRIGLAND’S Antapologiam, chapter VIII, pages 116b, 117, chapter IX, pages 148-150.

[Indeed, that it extends…to the first Fall of our First Parents.] Compare below, Chapter XV, § 11.

On § 13, compare SPANHEIM, Decadum Theologicarum VI, § 5, numbers 3-5, opera, tome 3, columns 1229, 1230; and MARESIUS’ Disputationem theologicam de Permissione Peccati, in his Sylloge Disputationum, part II, pages 600-611.

[1] Stephanus Vitus (1687-1736) was a German Reformed theologian. He was a fierce opponent of Lutheranism. [2] Johann Lorenz von Mosheim (1693-1755) was a German Lutheran church historian. He is especially remembered for his Institutionum historiæ ecclesiasticæ. [3] Zoroaster (probably living circa 600 BC) was an Iranian prophet, and founder of a dualistic religion, which survives to the present day. [4] The Universal Etymological English Dictionary was published in London in 1721 by Nathaniel Bailey, an English philologist. [5] Manichæism was a dualistic Pseudo-Christianity. It was founded by a Persian prophet by the name of Mani (c. 216-276). It thrived after its first founding until the seventh century, and exerted influence from the Roman Empire to China.

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