top of page

Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Doctrine of Providence, Part 2

THESIS V: The form is the act divine and whole, whereby all things and each are preserved, governed, and directed to their ends. Whence there are three steps of divine providence: (1.) Preservation; (2.) Government, especially so called; (3.) Ordination.

EXPLANATION: From these individual steps of divine providence shine God’s wisdom, freedom, power, and goodness. Whence God is said to administer all things wisely, freely, powerfully, and well.

Wisely: because to His eyes all things are open,[1] all things most suitably disposed, destined cause agreeing with their effects, and all things ordered unto good and certain ends.

Freely: because He is compelled by no one to the administration of the universe: neither does He do anything outside Himself by necessity of nature, but by the freedom of His own choice.

Powerfully: because by His nod and command, whatever He wills is accomplished, without any difficulty, without weariness: neither is His action able to be inhibited by the strength of any.

Well: because He never and nowhere fails in acting, is seduced by no error of understanding, is carried away by no ἀταξίᾳ/disorder of will from the path of goodness.

THESIS VI: Preservation is an act of God, whereby He continues the essences of the creatures, with respect to kinds or individuals, and preservation their strength to act.

EXPLANATION: I. Concerning this step of divine providence the Scripture speaks, Nehemiah 9:6, thou, O God, preservest them all. And Hebrews 1:3, He upholdeth all things by His powerful word.

II. God preserves things, with respect to kinds, or individuals. With respect to kinds He preserves those things which are corruptible, that is, liable to death or destruction with respect to the individuals: of which sort are trees, herbs, beasts, men, etc. With respect to individuals He preserves things that are incorruptible with respect to individuals, of which sort are Angels, stars, heaven, etc. At the same time, He also preserves the individuals of corruptible things, however long it pleases Him.

III. This preservation of the creature is necessary: because the creature is dependent upon the Creator in every way, with respect to coming into being, with respect to continuing, and to operating. Hence, with this preservation ceasing, the creature passes into nothingness.

Some say that the mere cessation of divine preservation, without any other operation, reduces a thing immediately to nothing. Whether this is stated in a helpful way, I doubt. For, as the production of a being out of nothing is a work of divine omnipotence, so also is the reducing of the same unto nothing. But, whether that which is characterized by its cessation alone is able to be called a work of omnipotence, and, if I might speak so, rest, with absolutely no action intervening, let the learned consider. See Exercitation 25.

IV. God preserves things immediately or mediately. What things are subject to God alone, and do not depend upon the influx of secondary causes, are said to be preserved immediately. Thus God preserves Angels, heaven, and the stars. By some this preservation is called a continuous creation, and is believed to differ from creation only in reason: because creation includes novelty, which preservation excludes; and creation excludes preceding existence, which preservation includes. Those things that are subjected to God in such a way that they nevertheless also depend upon the influx of second causes, are preserved thereby, are preserved mediately. In this way God preserves the sublunary world through the heavenly, and the mutual ministries of sublunary things.

God expresses both sorts of preservation, Hosea 2:21, 22, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine and the oil, and those shall hear Jezreel.

THESIS VII: Government is an act of God, whereby in keeping with His consummate authority, power, and wisdom, He disposes all things, and governs them according to His own will.

THESIS VIII: This government is effectual accomplishment or permission.

THESIS IX: Effectual accomplishment is the government of God, whereby, whatever good is in the world, God effects and perfects it.

EXPLANATION: The manner, wherein God effects good things, is able to be suitably delineated in the following aphorisms.

(1.) God effects good things immediately or mediately.

(2.) God effects a thing immediately, when He does not make use of instruments or second causes; and that unto this end, that He might testify, that He is not bound to second causes. Thus He created the world immediately, without any instruments.

(3.) God effects a thing mediately, when He makes use of an organ, or the ministry of second causes.

But God makes use of instruments or second causes, not of necessity; because He is able to effect by the mere nod of His will whatever He wills: but of the liberty and good pleasure of His will. He makes use of them, not for want of power, but out of the abundance of His goodness, so that He might acquire and communicate some dignity of efficacy to creatures, and so that they might know that use is to be made of the means ordained by God.

(4.) The instruments, of which God makes use, are good or evil, ordinary or extraordinary.

(5.) God makes use of good instruments, when, for example, He calls men to salvation through pious ministers of the word, governs peoples through pious kings, defends believers through good Angels.

(6.) God also makes us of evil organs. 1. So that He might punish the impious: when He removes tyrants or magicians from the midst through Satan, or other wicked men. 2. So that He might chastise His own believers because of their sins, whom He often delivers into the hands of tyrants, so that they, afflicted by them, might acknowledge their sins, repent, and flee to God. 3. So that He might try the faith and patience of His children. Thus He afflicted Job through Satan and the Chaldeans, so that his patience might be made known to the entire world.

(7.) But, although evil organs, when God makes use of them, sin; nevertheless, God, who makes use of their wickedness and sins, does not sin: because He does not infuse wickedness into the evil organs, but only makes a good use of that already indwelling, for the execution of His own righteous judgments. In one and the same work, says Augustine, God is found to be just, but man guilty: because in that one thing that they do, the reason on account of which they do it is not one. At this point, those things from Luther ought to be observed, de servo Arbitrii, page 206, 1526 edition in octavo: You see, that, when He (God) works in evil men and through evil men, evil things are indeed done, yet God is not able to act evilly, although He works evil things through evil men: because He, being good, is not able to act evilly, yet does make use of evil instruments, which are not able to escape seizure and movement by His power.

(8.) God’s ordinary organs are second cause determined in nature to certain effects. Thus God’s ordinary organ, whereby He warms the sublunary world, is the Sun: because it is determined to this effect, and is always employed to the same. The ordinary organ for the conversion of men to God is the word of God, of which God makes use in converting men.

(9.) God’s extraordinary organs are those things that are not ordered to these or those effects in such a way that they always or generally produce them, but are various employed according to the will of God, sometimes to these effects, sometimes to those: as when God sometimes kills a man by lightning, sometimes by the fall of his house, sometimes by an encounter with a cruel beast or brigands, etc. From this flows the distinction of providence into ordinary and extraordinary.

It is ordinary, when God observes the order in nature constituted by Himself from the beginning: the rationale of which is this, that from certain causes, acting according to the perpetual law of nature, a certain effect follows, which is proportioned to the strength of the causes. Hence the annual succession of seasons, and the constant rise and setting of the stars, the generation and corruption of perishable things.

It is extraordinary, when God, even beyond the constituted order in nature, above the strength of second causes, provides for things through His omnipotence. Whence arise miracles, which are works of divine omnipotence, exceeding the strength of second causes. Hence the second causes that are sometimes applied by God in the production of miracles, with respect to the miraculous effect, are signs or indications, rather than causes.

THESIS X: Permission is the government of God, whereby He does not restrain men or Devils, prone to sin, from sin; but, with the help of His grace denied or removed, He allows them to fall into sins, yet in such a way that He bends their fury to the execution of His judgments, and directs those things that are undertaken by them with the worst intention unto the best ends.

EXPLANATION: I. God, in permitting the fault, or sin, of an evil man, is not an idle spectator, but the powerful, just, and wise judge. And so:

(1.) He denies or removes the efficacious help of His grace, without which men, dead in sins,[2] are not able not to sin.

(2.) He does not very frequently restrain men or Devils, prone to sin by nature and habit, from sins, whom He nevertheless is able easily to restrain: but He allows them to fall into sins.

(3.) The sin conceived in their souls, or the fury of their sinning, He overrules in such a way that He does suffer it to be carried unto whatever objects, but bends and directs it unto objects of this sort, or men, whom He wills to punish, to chastise, or to test.

(4.) Those things that are perpetrated by impious men, or Devils, for an evil end, He directs unto the best ends.

For example:

If a traveler be killed in the way by a brigand, God is said to have permitted the murder:

(1.) Because He removed or denied to him the efficacious help of His grace, without which he was infallibly going to perpetrate the murder.

(2.) Because He did not restrain the soul of the brigand, prone to murder by nature or habit, from murder, which He was nevertheless easily able to have done: but He permitted him to fall into this crime.

(3.) Because He directed and bent the intention of perpetrating murder, and the very fury of the brigand, in such a way that he was not willing or able to kill just any man promiscuously: but he killed this one, rather than another one. Whence before the fury of the brigand He set this traveler, rather than another man: by a certain just judgment; the rationale of which generally lies hidden from men.

(4.) Because what was perpetrated by the brigand for a bad end; perhaps to acquire money, which he would wickedly squander; He directed unto a good end: which is the punishment either of the brigand himself, or of him that was killed by the brigand: or even another end unknown to us.

II. Therefore, in the sins of men, concerning which the divine permission is occupied, there are especially four things to be observed and distinguished:

(1.) The action per se, as far as it is an action.

(2.) The vice adhering to the action.

(3.) The direction of the evil organ and vicious action unto a certain object.

(4.) The end of the direction, according to which the manner of the divine judgment alights upon the sin: so that by the sins of men God executes His just judgments.

The first, third, and fourth are from God, and have God as author. For all action, to the extent that it is action, is good: the direction of action is also itself good: finally, the end of the direction is the best, namely, the execution of divine judgment. The second, in which the consideration of sin properly consists, is not from God, but from man alone: and so man alone is the author of sin, to the extent that it is sin: see Exercitation 26.

This opinion of the Orthodox is explained and professed by Beza in heavily discussed words, who together with Calvin is lashed in unworthy manners by calumniators in this argument. His words, in wiping away the calumnies of Heshusen, are these: The whole cause of sin is in Satan and in us: but at what time and unto what end ought it to erupt is in the power of God, who does not infuse a new cause: but that which is innate in men He moves, governs, bends, rules, and finally moderates according to His infinite wisdom, when and how He pleases, for the glory of His own name, even with the wicked being ignorant, and so undertaking an altogether contrary course before Him. Let the same be seen contra Castellionem,[3] volume I, page 373. Calvin thinks the same, in his book de prædestinatione: I acknowledge that evils, says he, to the extents that they are evils, which men perpetrate with evil intent, are not at all pleasing to God. Both are following Augustine, de gratia et libero arbitrio, chapter 20: Divine Scripture, if it be diligently inspected, shows that, not only the good wills of men, which He makes from evil wills, and directs the good wills made by Himself unto good acts and unto eternal life: but also those that follow the course of the world are so in the power of God that He causes them to be inclined wherever He wills, and whenever He wills, either to bestow kindness on some, or to heap punishment on others, as He Himself judges right by a counsel most secret to Himself, indeed, but beyond all doubt most righteous. The same, in the same chapter, concerning the manner in which the Lord commanded Shimei to curse David,[4] thus writes: It was not by a command that He bade him, in which case his obedience would have been commended: but He inclined his will, evil by his own perverseness, unto this sin by His own just and secret judgment; and so it is said, The Lord said to him. And in chapter 21: Who does not tremble at those divine judgments, whereby God does in the hearts even of evil men whatever He will, yet rendering to them according to their deserts. In the same place, after he had taught from Scripture, that it was of the Lord that Rehoboam by his own will preferred the perverse counsel; and that the Spirit of the Philistines and Arabs was roused by the Lord, so that they would come against Jehoram in order to spoil Judah: he subjoins these things: In the hearts of men the Almighty urges the movement of their will, so that through them He might do what through them He willed to do, who is altogether incapable of willing anything unjustly. And, after he had alleged many other testimonies upon this matter, which things shall also be alleged by us a little later, he at last draws a conclusion in this manner: From these and such testimonies of the divine pronouncements it is sufficiently manifest, that God works in the hears of men to incline their wills, as He wills, whether unto good things, according to His mercy, or unto evil things, according to their deserts, by His judgment, sometimes hidden, but always just. The same on Exodus, question 18: He [God] makes a good use of evil hearts, for that which He wills to show to the good, or which He is going to do for the good. And, although the quality of each heart in wickedness arises from its own viciousness, which developed from the choice of the will: yet, that by its ill quality it might be moved here and there, it happens by the causes wherewith the soul is propelled: that these causes exist or do not exist, is not in the power of man, but they arise from hidden providence, altogether just and wise, of God, disposing and administrating the universe that He created. Thus against Pelagius Augustine teaches and disputes; who could not argue otherwise against those that vomit out whole wagon-loads of abuses against us, because of the assertion of the same doctrine.

III. Those that in permission attribute to God nothing but that He allows the impious to act according to their choice, and to turn themselves to these or those objects, and directs what things are undertaken and perpetrated by them with a bad end unto a good end: to these one or the other of these is to be conceded: either that by the sins of the impious God does not execute His judgments: which is false, and contrary to Scripture: or that many judgments of God are executed only occasionally and by chance. So that God decreed to punish David through his son Absalom, because He foresaw that Absalom was going to undertake to overthrow his father. And so that He decreed to punish the Jews through the king of Assyria or Persia, because He foresaw that Assyria was going to wage war against Israel. Which is altogether absurd, and also contrary to Scripture: which expressly says, that tyrants are called by God and sanctified for the execution of His judgments; and calls them God’s axes, saws, rods, and hammers, whom He governs according to His will and uses to beat the impious. Let passages be considered: Isaiah 13:3, 6, I have commanded my sanctified ones (the Medes and the Persians); I have also called my mighty one to execute mine anger. And Isaiah 10:5, 6, O Assyrian, rod of mine anger, although in their hand is the staff of mine indignation: against an hypocritical nation I will send him: and against the people of my wrath will I have him a charge, to take the spoil, etc.

Hence we solidly conclude, that with God’s permission also concur God’s efficacious action and the direction of vicious instruments unto a certain object, against which it seemed good to God to execute His judgment: as we have shown at length out of Augustine above.

Orthodox Theologians, from many other testimonies of Scripture also, prove the efficacious concursus of God with the vicious actions of men, against those that admit only a bare permission and ordination of evil unto an end. There are, therefore, expressions of Scripture in this argument, so express and demonstrative, that they most efficaciously shatter the figment of bare permission. A few testimonies shall suffice for us. Scripture says, that the wives of David were delivered by God to Absalom for violation, 2 Samuel 12:11: Indeed, that God by Absalom did openly in the sight of Israel, what David had done secretly, verse 12. That God told Shimei to curse David, 2 Samuel 16:10. That the false Prophets were enticed and seduced by God, Ezekiel 14:9. That evil spirits are sent forth by God, with instructions to harm added, 1 Kings 22:22. That the destroyer is sent, Jeremiah 25:9. That a strong delusion is sent by God, to believe a lie, 2 Thessalonians 2:11. That God mingles a spirit of error, Isaiah 19:14. That He fills with a spirit of drunkenness, Jeremiah 13:12, 13. That the murderer is created by God to destroy, Isaiah 54:16. That Christ was wounded by God, Isaiah 53:10. That by His hand and counsel God predestined what things Herod and Pilate did, Acts 4:28. That the defection of the ten tribes was the work of God, 2 Chronicles 11:4. Let similar passage be considered: 1 Kings 12:15; 22:20; 1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Chronicles 22:7; 10:15; Joshua 11:20; Judges 4:7; 9:23. If by these expressions Scripture does not express an efficacious concursus of God with the wicked actions of men, then all the actions of God expressed in Scripture are going to be transformed into bare permission. See the παρερμηνείας/misinterpretations and permissionary glosses dashed out in Exercitation 27.

A hater of the Orthodox name and notorious calumniator, Graver, on article 19 of the Confessionis Augustanæ, pages 112 and following, not only calumniously thrusts the portentous dogma concerning God as the author of sin upon our Churches, but also attaches fifteen arguments to us, whereby he would prove this his thesis, that God is the author of sin, to the extent that it is sin: but especially that the passages just now alleged are adduced by us in order to prove this infamous and blasphemous doctrine. But we ourselves say, as to so shameless calumniators, so to all that either approve, or profess and defend, that blasphemous doctrine, anathema; and we appeal to the avenger of our innocence, the judge of the world, even now girding himself for judgment. In Explanation 2, we express our opinion, which Graver confirms with his own judgment, in the solution of feigned arguments: see the solutions of arguments 3, 4, 7, 9, 13-15. See also on page 131 how God concurs with sin. A great many others of the more learned also give their assent. Let one suffice, Johannes Forster of Wittenberg,[5] in his disputation de causa peccati, thesis 14: Where the incest of Absalom, as it is a crime, he attributes to Absalom and Ahithophel;[6] but, as it is the punishment of the adultery committed by David, to God.[7] In the same place, in thesis 152, the numbering of the people performed by David, as it was a fault, he attributes to the Devil;[8] but, as it was a punishment, to God.[9] Calvin teaches the same, as do we all: see Exercitations 28, 29.

Concerning actual and efficacious Providence concerning the sins of men, the Lutherans, and among them especially Luther himself, speak no more gently than our men (which is able to be to shown by most evident examples): and yet what things in our men are blasphemies, in Luther are pure oracles. See our Exercitations vindicating the orthodox doctrine concerning the Providence of God, especially Exercitation 26.

IV. At this point it is objected:

(1.) He that denies and removes help from man, without which he is not able not to sin, bears some fault for the sin. But God often denies or removes help of grace from men, without which he is not able not to sin.

Therefore, God bears some fault for the sin.

Response to the major premise, by distinction. He that denies or removes help from man, namely, help that he was obliged to provide, bears fault for the sin that follows the denial of help. But God is in no way obliged to provide to man the help of His grace: Therefore, He does not bear any fault for the sin that follows the denial or removal of His gracious help.

(2.) If the judgments of God are executed by the wicked, and indeed in such a way that the impetus of those to certain objects is directed and determined by God Himself; it follows that, either they sin not, or, if they do sin, God is unjustly angry with them, who are not able to resist so powerful a Lord. But the consequent is false and absurd: Therefore also the antecedent.

Response: I deny the consequent of the hypothetical proposition. Neither thing follows. The wicked sin, because they do not do this, so that they might execute the judgments of God, but so that they might satisfy their own lusts, contrary to the law of God. Therefore, God is able, without any fault, to make use of their sins, but they are not able to be excused; because they fall from, and act contrary to, the law of God, which is not permitted, even if God works through them, which is lawful.

Neither is God unjustly angry with them: because they sin without any coaction, and by their sins they strive to serve, not God, but themselves; neither do they bring the holy providence of God into their counsel, but their own unbridled wickedness.

Paul in Romans 9:19 sets forth this Objection in this way: Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hat resisted His will?

He responds in verses 20, 21: Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thin formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? etc.

That tyrants are not able to be excused of cruelty and iniquity, nor ought to promise themselves impunity, even if they are the ministers and organs of God, God Himself teaches, Isaiah 10:5, O Assyrian, rod of mine anger, although the staff of mine indignation is in their hand, in which the King is said to have regard, not to the just judgment of God, but to his own advantage.

(3.) He that urges and directs men to these or those sins, and makes use of them as instruments, is the author, indeed the primary author, of the sins.

But God, according to the opinion of the Orthodox, that is, our opinion, urges and directs men to these or those sins, and makes use of them as instruments.

Therefore, God is the author, even the primary author, of the sins.

The Major is proven, inasmuch as the effect of an instrument, insofar as it is an instrument, by all right and the consent of nations is rightly attributed, and indeed principally, to the one that makes use of the instrument.

Response: I introduce a distinction into the Major. He that urges and directs unwilling and resisting men, and those free from the defect of sin, to these or those sins, insofar as they are sins, and makes use of them as instruments in this manner and sense, namely, to perpetrate sins, insofar as they are sins, is, etc.

We deny the Minor, received and understood with this limitation. For God urges, as some of our men say with the Scripture, that is, He bends and directs, as an altogether wise and just judge, men, not unwilling and resisting, but willing and ready, not free from the defect of sin, but corrupted with an inhering defect of sin, to these or those sins, not insofar as they are sins, but insofar as they are actions, whereby He, as an altogether just judge, executes His judgments in sinners and against sinners, according to His eternal decree. Thus he that urges a horse, being lame with some natural defect, yet prone to motion, is indeed the cause of the motion, but not of the limping, which is conjoined with the motion.

Unless we admit this, blasphemy, concerning God as the author of sin, shall necessarily redound upon the Sacred Scripture. For it expressly calls the impious God’s instruments, axes, hammers, and rods: it attributes their works to God: it expressly teaches that they were incited to evils by God, and also excited by precepts. Let the passages before alleged be considered; Bellarmine, having been drawn by their evidence, after he prolixly raged against our men, at length began to speak concerning this business even more harshly than any of our men. For thus he writes, de amissione gratiæ et statu peccati, book 2, chapter 13: God not only permits the impious to do many evils, not only deserts the pious, so that they might be compelled to endure what things are inflicted by the impious: but also presides over the evil wills themselves, and rules and governs them, twists and bends them by invisibly working upon them.

(4.) Those that teaches that men, with God will and destining, sin, make God the author of sin.

But the Reformed teach that men, with God willing and destining, sin.

Therefore, they make God the author of sin.

Response: For confirmation of the minor, the author of those words was to be alleged, so that from consideration of antecedents and consequents, the scope, and doctrine, the mind of the author could so much more easily be investigated. But let us posit, that this is the doctrine of the Reformed. Therefore, we respond to the major, by way of a distinction between the divine will and the sin. The will of God is either effective, or permissive, and directive. Sin is considered either materially, insofar as it is an action: or formally, insofar as it is ἀταξία/disorderliness and defect of action; or finally, insofar as it has regard to punishment and divine justice. With this distinction premitted, we declare our opinion in such a way that our adversaries have not anything with which they might justly find fault.

Sins materially considered are from effective and approbative will of God: for action, as action, is being, and something positive, and so good, and from the highest good.

Sins formally considered are not from the will of God, either preceptive, or approbative, or effective; yet they are done by the permission and direction of the divine will: not by the fault of God, but of man alone.

Sins finally considered, as punishment and divine justice, are from the effective and approbative will of God.

Therefore, it is evident that the conclusion, that the Reformed make God the author of sin, insofar as it is sin and is considered formally, is in no way inferred from the premises.

(5.) Those that teach that by the absolute will of God certain men are predestined to the causes of damnation, that is, sins, make God the author of sin.

But the Reformed teach that by the absolute will of God certain men are predestined to the causes of damnation, that is, sins. Therefore.

Response: 1. The minor is not universally true. That certain men are predestined by God to sisn, as the causes of damnation, exceedingly few of the Reformed teach. But contrariwise they teach that sinners are predestined to damnation: but a man does not for that reason sin, because he was predestined to damnation; but he was predestined to damnation, because he is a sinner. Let the Synod of Dort be considered. Therefore, the singular dogma of a few is not without calumny charged to the whole Church.

2. Those that concede the minor deny the major. For He is not the author of sin, who created man liable to sin; and who decreed to permit man to succumb to temptation, and to fall into sin, to illuminate the glory of His justice, through the just damnation of man as sinner.

Our adversaries rejoin.

In this manner God would not have found one liable to be punished, but have made one such, which is not just judgment: as Fulgentius writes, book I ad Monimum, page 47.

Response: It does not follow. God did not make one liable to punishment, but rather permitted him to become such a one: who, having been made guilty by his own fault, is justly punished by God.

(6.) Whatever is the cause of a cause is also the cause of the thing caused. But, according to the Reformed, the will of God is the sole and absolute cause of reprobation, and reprobation in turn is the necessary cause of sin.

Therefore, the will of God is the sole and absolute cause of sin. Graver, on article 19 of the Confessionis Augustanæ, pages 100, 139.

Response: With a distinction introduced into the major, which is not true, except concerning an effect of itself and necessary: we deny the minor, with respect to the prior part, in a certain respect: with respect to the latter part, absolutely. It is not the universal doctrine of the Reformed, that the will of God is the sole and absolute cause of reprobation. But, that reprobation is the necessary cause of sin, no one has either said or written: it is false and blasphemous: unless perhaps one misuse the term cause, and apply to it a thing without which a thing or defect is not.

[1] See Hebrews 4:13. [2] Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13. [3] Sebastian Castalio (1515-1563) distinguished himself as a scholar by means of his linguistic talents, evident in his Annotationes in Vetus et Novum Testamentum. After a period of working closely with Calvin, the two fell into controversy. Castalio was inclined towards Pelagianism, and his views were influential in the development of Socinianism. [4] 2 Samuel 16:5-14. [5] Johannes Forster (1576-1613) was a German Lutheran Theologian and Churchman. He served as Professor of Theology at Wittenberg (1607-1613). [6] See 2 Samuel 16:20-23. [7] See 2 Samuel 12:11, 12. [8] See 1 Chronicles 21:1 [9] See 2 Samuel 24:1.

149 views1 comment

1 Comment

Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Jul 29, 2023
bottom of page