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De Moor VII:17: The Object of Predestination, Part 3

With respect to the State of Men, in which they appear to the predestinating God, our AUTHOR mentions two diverse opinions, both of which find their champions among the Orthodox. Of which some, called Sublapsarians, have thought the Decree concerning Creation and Permission of the Fall, for the Glory of divine power, wisdom, and freedom, to be set before the Decree concerning Salvation and Damnation; who therefore maintain that men are regarded in Predestination as Fallen, that is, not only Creatable and Liable to Fall, but certainly to be Created and to Fall, and who are considered as lying in that Fall by God, decreeing concerning the same, either their abandonment in the Fall, or their liberation from it. Others, called Supralapsarians, comprehending all these works of God in a single Decree, and referring them to the one ultimate End of divine Righteousness and Mercy, asserted that antecedently to this decree men are only Creatable and Liable to Fall: compare TRIGLAND’S Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, volume 3, pages 293b-296; VOETIUS’[1]Disputationum Selectarum, part V, pages 602-607; BUDDEUS’Institutiones Theologiæ dogmaticæ, tome 2, book V, chapter II, § 12, pages 1626, 1627. Between whom middle men, as it were, come, who do indeed consider man in Predestination only as Liable to Fall, but yet as Created or to be Created, and so subjoin Predestination immediately after the decree of Creation.

Our AUTHOR dismisses the opinion of the Arminians, who maintain that in the Decree of Predestination concerning individual, definite persons, Man appeared to God, not only as Created and Fall, but additionally as Believing or Unbelieving, and that finally. Besides those things that we observed in Chapter VI, § 14, this thesis falls from those things that we saw in § 10 of this Chapter, devised solely to uphold the strength of Free Will. On this it is able briefly to be noted, 1. that an effect of Election is not able to be a prerequisite, condition, or preceding cause of the same. But Faith is an effect of Election, and a means of execution following upon Election. 2. What follows Vocation is not a prerequisite of Election: but Faith follows Vocations. 3. If Faith preexisted in an eligible subject before Election, it preexisted by some cause. That cause is either the Grace of God, or the Will of man. Not the former, because Election is the fount and principium of all Grace, than which there is not able to be a prior or superior, Ephesians 1:3-5. Not the latter, because the Will of man is expressly disqualified, Ephesians 2:8. Therefore, that Faith does not exist before Election, but follows it eventually, it is must be.

Now, that the quarrel that is agitated at this point between the Orthodox Supralapsarians and Sublapsarians was not settled Synodically at Dort, our AUTHOR observes; that is, in such a way that they painstakingly deliberated over this controversy and concerning the same forged a decree: while others otherwise observe that most members of it agreed most with the Sublapsarians, and that hence the Decrees of the Synod here and there incline to that side. MARESIUS, Systemate Theologico, locus IV, § 35, note d, has this: “Since the Synod explains divine Predestination with respect to both of its members no otherwise than in accordance with the sublapsarian hypothesis, those that ascend supra Lapsum plainly recede from the mind of the Synod. Let all the Judgments of the Theologians, both Provincial and Foreign, in the Synod of Dort be searched, and the individual Judgments in it will be discovered unanimously to agree, with the exception of Gomarus and the Deputies of the Synod of South Holland, who made no mention of the Fall in their suffrage concerning Predestination:” see what things more MARESIUS has there, page 164b, and also note c, page 162b, 163a, who in addition, at length and painstakingly, in his Theologo paradox retecto et refutato, pages 97-106, contends against VOETIUS, that the National Synod at Dort upheld the opinion of the Sublapsarians; that the opinion of the Supralapsarians is able easily to be reconciled with this, and that both are able to be true at the same time, MARESIUS denies; whom see in addition in Tetradecade Assertionum theologicarum, § IV-X, in his Sylloge Disputationum, part II, pages 231-241. Unto which same sense in favor of the Sublapsarians TURRETIN cites the Synod of Dort and its words, Theologiæ Elencticæ, chapter IV, question IX, § 5. What things occur in the Actis Synodi Nationalis Dordracenæ, Session CVII: “At the same Session, the reading of the Judgments (concerning the first article of the Remonstrants) of the Most Illustrious Dutch Professors, the Reverend Polyander,[2] the Reverend Thysius, and the Reverend Walæus, was continued. To whose judgment the Reverend Sibrandus Lubbertus[3] had also subscribed. The Reverend Gomarus was publicly testifying that he also was approving of their Judgment in all things, with the exception of the Article concerning the object of Predestination, which he was thinking was to be established, that in the Predestination man was considered by God, not only as fallen, but also before the fall. The Judgment of the Reverend Sibrandus Lubbertus was also read; to which the Reverend Polyander, the Reverend Thysius, and the Reverend Walæus had in turn subscribed. The Reverend Gomarus was testifying that he was also approving of it, with the same Article excepted. Finally, the Judgment of the Reverend Gomarus was read, to whom the rest of the Professors were testifying that they were giving their approval also, with the exception of this same Article.” The Deputies of the Synod of South Holland do not at all openly uphold the opinion of the Supralapsarians in their Judgment concerning the first Article of the Remonstrants, after the Actus Synodi Nationalis Dordracenæ, pages 34, 35, where they discourse concerning the Object of Election in this way: “Whether God in electing men considered them as fallen, or also as not yet fallen, they think that it is not necessary to be determined, but only let it be established that in election God considered all men in the same state, in such a way that one that was chosen was not considered, either of himself and his merit, or by gracious estimation, to be more worthy than another, who was not chosen: in which way learned and pious men have reconciled the opinions concerning the object of Predestination, which appear to be out of harmony with each other, and they think that they are able to be not unprofitably reconciled.”

Johannes a Marck

Our AUTHOR judges that this controversy is less momentous, since according to his judgment there is Consensus here on both sides:

1. That the Decree in God is One and Simple, which concerns both the end and the means, and through which all the works of God in time are connected with the utmost wisdom: so that the various objects of the divine Decrees are observed at one and the same time, coordinately, as it were, to the divine mind; and the subordination, which we conceive among the things decreed, only obtains on our part, with respect to our manner of conception and the mutual relation of the things decreed among themselves, not with respect to the act of determining and the divine conception, as if in it obtained the prior and the posterior.

2. That the same Decree is here altogether Free and Independent; since the Sublapsarians, no less than the Supralapsarians, reject here every various condition of the creatures, and their greater or lesser dignity, that might antecedently move God to this Decree, and cause His Will to incline to this or that.

3. That, moreover, the same Decree is here Most Holy and altogether worthy of God; so that God ordained Punishment only for the Deserving, and Grace only for the Needy. For, even the Supralapsarians do not deny that Sin comes into consideration here, but consequently, so that no one is condemned except because of sin, and no one is saved except one miserable and ruined. But they do differ from the Sublapsarians in this, that according to the latter Sin is antecedent to Predestination, insofar as it is foreseen to be.

And so our AUTHOR observes that the whole Dispute is concerning the Method; insofar as either the Decrees are ordered according to the Event, as it is done by the Sublapsarians, with the Decree of creating man, and of permitting the Fall, going before: or according to the nature of the matter the Decree concerning the Ultimate End is set before the Decree concerning the means, all the intervening works, and so also concerning the Permission of the Fall. More specifically, the Supralapsarians chiefly brandish this spear, as if they were so much more tenacious of Logical order, and were following a more careful Method, since What is Last in Execution ought to be First in Intention: but, say they, the revelation of the Glory of God through Mercy in the salvation of the Elect, and through Justice in the damnation of reprobates, is last in execution: Therefore, it ought to be first in intention. But the Sublapsarians Object various Axioms to this: 1. that That does indeed prevail with respect to the ultimate End, but not with respect to a subalternate End or Ends; since otherwise what is penultimate ought in execution to be second in intention, and what is antepenultimate ought to be third, and so on. Thus, because God in execution, 1. creates man, 2. permits the Fall, 3. redeems, 4. calls, 5. justifies, 6. sanctifies, 7. and glorifies; all these ought to have been arranged in inverse order in the Decree of God, which, in meditating upon these things, you will discern to be not very congruous. They also observe that the revelation of divine Justice and Mercy in the salvation or damnation of men is not simply and absolutely the Ultimate End with respect to the Government of man in general, but only particularly and relatively with respect to the Government of Fall man. And what they say is a circular argument, that the manifestation of the divine Justice and Mercy is the sole and supreme End of God in all His counsels and works regarding men, as much of Creation as of the Fall and Redemption; as if His Glory might not shine forth from any other source than from the exercise of those two Perfections; and as if God might not in fact beyond this end might not purse His manifold Glory from the Creation of man and the permission of the Fall. Hence the Sublapsarians do indeed say that the Decree of Election and Reprobation for the glory of Mercy and Righteousness is first, yet not absolutely, but in the class of Decrees concerning the Salvation of man as sinner, and with respect to the means subordinated to it. 2. The same say that the Axioms only exert influence in the same order of things, and where a necessary and essential subordination of things occurs, or in things subordinated by nature. But no necessary connection and subordination is granted between Creation and the Fall and Redemption: man could have been created as not Liable to Fall; all could have been left in the Fall; and the Fall is no more a means of Redemption than sickness is a means of healing: Redemption, on the other hand, is the remedy to restore that which by the Fall was declining to ruin and destruction. Sin is contrary to nature, not a means, either with respect to salvation, except circumstantially, that is, the occasion; or with respect to damnation, since damnation is rather said to be because of sin, than sin because of damnation. Hence the Sublapsarians say: Creation and the Fall are not ordered after the likeness of Means, of themselves subordinated to the End of Predestination; but they are presupposed after the likeness of a Condition or Quality prerequisite in the object: just as existence and malleability in Clay are not means, which a potter makes subservient to his intention concerning the preparation of vessels for honor and dishonor; but they are a condition or quality prerequisite in the object, and a cause sine qua non:[4] for, unless man had been created and fall, the Decree of Predestination concerning him could not come into execution.

There are those indeed that think that the opinions of the Supralapsarians and of the Sublapsarians are able easily to be reconciled, according to a broader or stricter use of the term Predestination: for, if Predestination strictly denotes the Decree of Election and Reprobation, they say that man as Going to Fall or Fallen (that is, as far as it is known and foreseen, not as far as it is real) is its object: but, if Predestination, not taken strictly, only means the Counsel of God that concerns the Salvation and Damnation of man; but every Decree in general that concerns man has regard either to Providence, or to the economy of Salvation, then man as Creatable and Liable to Fall could be called its object, since Creation and the Fall are then comprehended and ought to be determined in this Decree also. But others observe: 1. That general signification of Predestination is not exactly according to the usage of Scripture; although to this Acts 17:26 could be set in opposition. 2. Thus are confounded the works of nature and of grace, of Creation and of Redemption; 3. And thus the Decree concerning the creation of man creatable and liable to fall and the permission of his Fall is actually set before the Decree of electing the same to Salvation or of reprobating, in which manner it is not able to satisfy the Supralapsarians. Hence they believe it to be safer, to distinguish, according to our manner of conception, the Decree of Providence that determines concerning the Creation of man and the permission to Fall, from the Decree of Predestination concerning the Salvation and Damnation of man, and to set that Decree of Providence before Predestination.

Moreover, both methods, according to the opinion of our AUTHOR, follow Scripture, which,

α. Is to be said to favor the former Method, that is, of the Sublapsarians, teaching that in Election God shows mercy, Romans 9:15, 16, and that we are chosen in Christ, Ephesians 1:4, 5. Of course, 1. when Paul had considered the revelation of the Glory of God through the demonstration of Mercy in the Elect and Justice in Reprobates as the End of Predestination, Romans 9:15, 16, 22, 23, that requires the condition of sin in the object; because Mercy is not able to be exercised without misery foreseen, nor Justice without sin foreseen; whence the foresight of the Fall ought to be considered as much in Election as in Reprobation.

William Twisse

TWISSE[5]Takes Exception, Vindiciis Gratiæ, etc., book I, part I, section II, page 41, section IV, digression IV, chapter I, page 76, etc., that the Exercise of Mercy and Justice considered effectively does indeed suppose men miserable and guilty; but not likewise the intention of mercy: while he pursues the others by analogy, seeing that the object of salvation is a believer, the same is also the object of eternal destination to salvation, as the Remonstrants maintain.

But the Sublapsarians Respond, a. that Mercy and Justice, considered both effectively with respect to exercise and effect in man, and affectively in God, require the same object. For, although the intention to show Mercy is not Mercy itself effectively considered, yet it is an internal act of Mercy, which hence ought to presuppose Misery and the Fall. Just as a Prince, who decides to deal graciously with one guilty, in that very thing puts forth an act of mercy towards him, although he has not yet in fact signified his intention toward this guilty man or commanded its implementation. b. They say that the reasoning of the learned Man by analogy concerning the Decree of Salvation does not succeed, because a foreseen Condition is confounded with a subsequent Means: But a foreseen condition, of which sort is the Fall, ought to precede as much in intention, as in execution: on the other hand, a Means, of which sort is Faith with respect to Salvation ought indeed to precede in execution, but not likewise in intention; indeed, as a Means, it ought to follow the intention of the End.

2. For this also makes the fact, that we are said to be chosen in Christ, Ephesians 1:4; that is, not only by Him as God, but in Him as Mediator, Redeemer: for we are said to be Chosen in Christ, in just the same way that we are blessed and have redemption in Him, verses 3, 7: but this ought to be understood of Christ, not simply as God, but as Mediator and Redeemer. Similarly, in 1 Timothy 2:9, Grace is said to be given to us in Christ Jesus before the times of the world; not simply as God, but as Mediator. But thus Election has regard to man as Fallen, because for that reason we are chosen in Christ, so that we, redeemed and sanctified through Him, might be brought to salvation, and, having been reconciled to God through His intervening Mediation, might be able to enjoy His blessed fellowship forever.

β. Now, the Supralapsarians contend that Scripture makes for them, when in Romans 9:21-23 it introduces God as willing to show His Glory and acting according to His altogether free Dominion. But how little they are helped by God’s intention of revealing His Justice and Mercy, we have already heard above. But they especially appeal to the similitude of the potter and the Clay, and the fashioning of a vessel either to honor or to dishonor according to His will only; where they observe, 1. That the φύραμα/mass/lump ought to be understood as pure, with the example of children brought to bear, who had done nothing good or evil:[6] 2. That the lump ought to be observed, from which Vessels might be made to dishonor, and so not corrupt but whole; because otherwise man would have already been a Vessel unto dishonor: 3. That the lump ought to be understood, not of sin, but of the clay from which Adam was formed; and that the account of God here is somewhat different from that of a potter, who does not bring the very Clay into being, but finds it: 4. That the lump is not able to be understood as corrupt, because thus the scruples that the Apostle moves in verses 14, 19, would be easily removed: 5. That thus Adam and Eve would be excluded from Predestination, because these were not able to be formed from a corrupt Mass.

But the Sublapsarians, acknowledging that this Lump is the Lump of Predestination, at the same time contend, that Paul understands a corrupt Lump: 1. Because that Lump is understood, from which are made Vessels of mercy and Vessels of wrath, the former to honor, the latter to dishonor, verses 21-23. But Wrath and Mercy presuppose sin and misery. 2. That is the Lump from which Jacob and Esau were selected, who in verses 11-13 are set forth as an example of gracious Election and just Reprobation: but this was a corrupt Lump, because Paul speaks of the twins already conceived in the womb, verse 11, compared with Job 14:4. 3. That Lump is understood, lying in which men are able to be held in Hatred by God, like Esau in verse 13; but God is not able to hate a pure and untouched creature: therefore, that Lump was corrupt.

But they cast back the Instances of the Supralapsarians:

1. When the Twins are said to have done nothing good or evil, by that very fact they are not established as pure and without sin, verse 11, but this is to be understood both of actual sin, and comparatively concerning good and evil, whereby they might be distinguished one from another. Jacob had done nothing of the good, because of which he might be chosen before Esau: Esau had done nothing of the bad, because of which he might be reprobated instead of Jacob.

2. From this fact, that from this Lump are made Vessels unto dishonor, it does not follow that the Lump is considered as untouched, as if otherwise the Vessels would already be unto dishonor. Since ἀτιμία/dishonor here is to be understood, not so much of sin, as of the punishment of sin; as honor denotes the crown of glory, to which a man is prepared, Romans 2:10; 1 Peter 1:7. And so to be made a Vessel unto dishonor is not to be created for destruction; but to be reprobated and prepared for ruin, which only is applicable to a sinner. For which matter it is able to be observed, that concerning the σκεύεσι ὀργῆς, vessels of wrath, it is not said, that God προητοίμασεν, afore prepared, them, as it is said of the σκεύεσι ἐλέους, vessels of mercy; but that they are κατηρτισμένα εἰς ἀπώλειαν, fitted unto destruction, that is, for God finds Vessels of Wrath fitted for destruction by their own fault, while the Vessels of Mercy God Himself is obliged to prepare for glory.

3. To whatever Paul might have had regard in the similitude of the Potter, the Lump is not able to be understood as anything but corrupt; for not from another Clay were they able to be made before God Vessels of Mercy and of Wrath; the comparison of the Potter has regard to no other thing than to show the consummate Liberty of God in the Election and Reprobation of men. Not unto that in which God and a Potter differ is respect paid here; but to that in which they agree. God here comes under the image of a Potter as potter; just as in Isaiah 5 He is described under an image of a Farmer as such. And so, according to the intention of Paul, the counsel of God concerning the making of some Vessels unto honor and others unto dishonor by the decree of Predestination presupposes Clay, already existing and malleable to either order: but whence that, except after the Decree concerning the creation of man and the permission of the Fall. But thus it is also able to be said on Isaiah 5: a farmer does not make fertile ground, but finds it. Therefore, God as God will have made it, but as farmer will have found it. Likewise, God will have made that Clay malleable (although this is not able to be said without caution and restriction, lest God be thought to have made Sin also, having regard to this, that He permitted it to come): nevertheless, as a Potter, being about to make from the Lump Vessels of diverse orders, that He did not make as much as find, according to the Decree of reason preceding in the sign.

4. Although a corrupt Lump be understood, scruples always remain in the comparison of Election and Reprobation, since no reason is able to be given, why God elected or reprobated this one rather than that one, neither is anything able to be answered beyond that saying of the Apostle, verses 20, 21, μενοῦνγε, ὦ ἄνθρωπε, σὺ τίς εἶ, etc., nay but, O man, who art thou, etc.?

5. Finally, in this way Adam and Eve are not excluded from Predestination; because that formation of Vessels unto honor and dishonor is to be understood, not physically by Creation, but ethically through Predestination; just as also those first parents were able to be formed from the corrupt Lump, because they, as miserable and sinful, were elected unto salvation.

[1] Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676) was a Dutch Reformed minister and theologian. In 1619, he attended the Synod of Dort as its youngest member. Some years later he was appointed as Professor of Theology at Utrecht (1636-1676). [2] Johannes Polyander (1568-1646) was a Dutch Reformed theologian of French extraction. He served as Professor of Theology at Leiden (1611-1646), in the aftermath of the Arminian controversy. Although orthodox, Polyander was of an irenic and conciliatory spirit. [3] Sibrandus Lubbertus (c. 1556-1625) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Franeker (1585-1625), and was a prominent participant in the Synod of Dort. [4] That is, without which not. [5] William Twisse (1578-1646) was an English Puritan. He served as the prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly until his death in 1646. He is remembered for his exposition and defense of Supralapsarian Calvinism. [6] See Romans 9:11.

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