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Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Doctrine of Providence, Part 3

THESIS XI: Hitherto the second degree of divine providence, namely, Government. The third now follows, which is ordination, whereby God for the admiration of His wisdom and power reduces all things to order, by appointing definite and good ends, and by disposing means to the ends, and by guiding the things disposed.

EXPLANATION: Concerning the degrees of the divine providence this is properly to be observed, that in the divine effecting, permission, and ordination there is not only a general concursus and influx of God, but also and especially a particular, and individual, according to the individual acts of creatures. Let God be not imagined, says our Chamier, in his Panstratia, tome 2, book 2, chapter 4, § 5, to be after the likeness of some workman, who regards in a leisurely manner a beautifully constructed clock, and with the weights raised by himself, to travel down its interval by means of its wheels and gears. But rather after the likeness of someone skilled after the manner of a Musician, who makes use of the strings in such a way that he effects the individual tones and chords by as many strikes. This singular providence is proven first in general, out of John 5:17; Acts 17:25, 28; Psalm 113:5-9; 146:6-9. Then in particular, concerning natural things, out of Matthew 6:26-28, etc.; 10:29, 30; John 9:3; Genesis 15:5; 16:10; 17:2, 4, 16, 20; 21:13; 28:13, 14; Exodus 1:20, 21; Deuteronomy 10:22; Job 31:4; 14:6; 37:1-3, etc.; with which the Psalms and Prophets are superabounding. Concerning voluntary things, Exodus 3:21; 12:36; Judges 14:5; Proverbs 16:1; 20:24; 21:1, etc. Concerning contingent things, Proverbs 16:33; Matthew 10:29, 30, etc. See Chamier in the passage cited, and Moulin in his Enodatione, pages 31, 32: just so many are the testimonies of the singular providence and divine influx upon the individual acts of creatures, as examples occurring the Scriptures: which are innumerable: not only concerning good things, but also concerning evil things, which God no less rules particularly, than good things: even if He is not the author of evils, as they are such. See § 10, Explanation 3. But it is not the case that, if He is not the author, He is not the governor: it is not the case that, if He is not the actor, He is an idle spectator: although there are functions even of the actor not simply to be denied to God: since He governs vicious instruments according to His choice, however He pleases, and applies them to whatever uses He pleases: yet with His holiness and righteousness always intact. Those that deny God’s immediate influx into all and each action of the creature err in the faith, says Suarez, tome I disputationibus metaphysicis 22, section 1, note 6, in which as patrons of his opinion he cites the Prophets, Apostles, Fathers, and Schoolmen. See also Fonseca,[1] in his Metaphysicorum 5, chapter 2, question 9, section 2. These controversies have been treated by us in contemplationum physicarum, section 1, chapter 4, § 5, Explanation § 7.

THESIS XII: Hitherto the form of divine providence. The end is the glory of God and the salvation of the elect, to which all things are serviceable.

EXPLANATION: To this pertains the doctrine concerning the use of the divine providence, which is various.

(1.) That from the administration of all things we might acknowledge the immense wisdom, power, and goodness of God.

(2.) That we might cast our confidence upon God, as a father benignly providing for us in all things.

(3.) That in adversities we might not so much set our eyes upon second causes, as lift our gaze to the first, even God, and acknowledge that whatever we suffer is from God. But that in prosperity we might celebrate God as the author of all good things.

(4.) That we might fear and reverence God almighty, who has all creatures in His hand, and is able to arm them against us.

(5.) That we might love God, whose care for us, so paternal, never sleeps.

(6.) That we might cherish mutual love among ourselves, who are the children of the same Father.

(7.) That we might make use of the means ordained by God, yet in such a way that we do not place our faith in them, nor despair of their deficiencies; since we know that God is not at all bound to means.

(8.) That, after the example of God, we might most diligently apply ourselves to our calling.

THESIS XIII: Hitherto the causes of divine providence. Its Adjuncts are four, wisdom, power, holiness, and immutability; for God governs all things most wisely, most powerfully, most holily, and immutably.

EXPLANATION: I. That the providence of God is immutable, that is, that all things come to pass immutably in such a way, according to the providence of God, as they do, is proven:

(1.) Inasmuch as whatever happens in time, God from eternity immutably decreed to effect or to permit.

(2.) Inasmuch as whatever happens, God from eternity infallibly foresaw that it was going to happen. Therefore, it is not able to happen differently than God foresaw that it was going to happen: or, if it should happen otherwise, God would be mistaken in His prescience, or could be mistaken; which is absurd.

(3.) Inasmuch as the divine providence or government is not able to be impeded: since there is nothing more powerful than God. Whence Paul: Who hath resisted His will? Romans 9:19. And God Himself: I will do all my will, Isaiah 46:10.

(4.) Inasmuch as for the ends that God predetermined for Himself He ordains means of this sort, that are suited, sufficient, and efficacious to the things to be obtained: otherwise it would be that God sometimes fails of His end; which is foreign to the wisdom and power of God. See Exercitation 30.

II. Against the immutability of divine providence it is objected:

(1.) If all things happen immutably according to the immutable providence of God, it follows that nothing happens contingently and freely.

But the consequent is false: Therefore also the antecedent.

The rationale of the hypothetical statement: it does not appear that the same thing is able to happen immutably and contingently at the same time. For, what happens contingently, happens in such a way that it is also able not to happen, and so happens mutably.

Response: I deny the hypothetical statement: the proof is ineffectual. The immutability of the divine providence does not remove the contingency of these, but rather establishes it: because through its disposition most things happen from causes that God has willed to be contingent and free in themselves, and has made them, and preserves them, as such. Whence the effects f those are rightly said to be contingent, even if with respect to divine providence they happen immutably.

Therefore, the contingency of things is to be assessed from the proximate causes, second and particular, not from the first and universal cause; with respect to the latter nothing is contingent, but rather all things necessary, with the necessity of immutability, not of cause, as we have shown above.

(2.) If by the inevitable necessity of divine providence all things come to pass, it follows that the counsels, precepts, and prayers of the pious are in vain.

But the consequent is false: Therefore also the antecedent.

The rationale of the hypothetical statement: counsels are applied to obtain successful outcomes of actions, and to avoid adverse outcomes: prayers are conceived so that God might be turned to confer goods upon us, or to avert evils. But if all things happen by the immutable law of providence, and by our counsels and prayers its course is not able to be changed or impeded; what is the point of consultation or prayer?

Response: The consequent of the hypothetical statement is denied: the proof is inconsequent. Counsels and prayers are means subordinated to divine providence. Whence God bestows successful outcomes upon those prudently deliberating and piously praying. To these means God binds us in His word: even if sometimes He does not grant our prayer. Yet even then, neither are the counsels of the prudent, nor the prayers of the pious, altogether in vain. For those that make use of the means prescribed by God, discharge their duty, and honor God, never without fruit. The Saints also seek those things to be done, which they know to be infallibly future, Daniel 9; Revelation 21. In like manner do those dispute, who want to strangle prayer with this argument; and also those that deny that the world is going to be consumed by fire: because by the immutable decree of GOD it is going to be consumed.

It is to be observed, that counsels and prayers are not employed with this end, that through these as impediment the decrees of God might be changed, and the destined course of providence might be inhibited: that, by furnishing obedience to the divine law, and observing the normal order of providence, the conscience might be quieted, and filled with good hope.

(3.) If the actual providence of God be immutable, no precepts or promises of God were conditional.

But the consequent is false: Therefore also the antecedent.

The rationale of the hypothetical statement: a condition implies and argues the possibility of change unto the opposite, if it could be posited or denied.

Response: The hypothetical statement is denied. The proof is not universally true: and in particular it is false concerning the conditional precepts or promises of GOD: for a hypothesis is not uncertain before God: but most certainly determine and decree unto the one side or the other.

III. Because the Lutherans are wont to be troublesome to the orthodox over this argument concerning the immutability of divine providence, and the necessity of things, I send them away to Luther, for whom, with respect to the divine will and prescience, all things are necessary and immutable: I have alleged passages in my Exercitationibus, Exercitations 4, § 6, 25, § 6, 26, § 16, 30, § 2, 4. Let them now observe those things out of servo Arbitrii, page 222, If God foreknows a thing, it happens necessarily: since this will have been presupposed out of the Scriptures, that God errs not, neither is He deceived. I acknowledge that the question is indeed difficult, indeed, impossible, if you wish at the same time to establish both the foreknowledge of God and the freedom of man. For what is more difficult, indeed, impossible, than to contend that contradictories or contraries do not oppose one another; or than that a number should be ten and nine at the same time. On page 219, he says, that the prescience of GOD is a cause of the things foreknown, and he that grants not to Him the necessary effect of His prescience remove the faith and fear of God, undermines all the divine promises and threats, and denies divinity itself. What things Luther expressly teaches here, by calumny are wont to be attached to us by some. See Exercitation 31.

* Philipp also, in the times of Luther, in his Communibus locis, plainly removed contingency. Divine predestination, says he, removes liberty from man. For all things come to pass according to divine predestination: indeed, the external and internal works, the cogitations in all creatures: I ask, what was able to be said with greater clarity concerning this opinion? The Lord hath made all things for Himself, even the wicked for the evil day.[2]

IV. In particular concerning the liberty of the will, which is also subject to divine providence and government, let it be observed, that not every sort of necessity stands in opposition to it, but only absolute, coactive, and Physical necessity. Absolute necessity belongs to God alone, outside of whom whatever is, with respect to Him, is also able not to be. Whence God was, when there was nothing outside of Him: and He could still be, even if there were nothing outside of Him. Coactive necessity is simply incompatible with will, in such a way that one and the same thing in no manner is able to be voluntary and simply coerced. Neither is it consistent with Physical necessity, which is the determination of brute and inanimate nature to act, always and in the same manner, according to the order of creation and the inclination of nature. But, consistent with will is a necessity of dependence, because a creature is not able not to depend upon its Creator: a necessity of immutabilty, with respect to the divine will and decree: a necessity of infallibility, with respect to divine prescience: a necessity of determination, made by the last practical judgment of reason, in which respect it is called ἑκούσιον προβεβουλευμένον, premeditated volition, determined by a preceding judgment of the mind to will this and to nil that.

[1]Pedro da Fonseca (1528-1599) was a Portuguese Jesuit philosopher and theologian. [2] Proverbs 16:4.

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