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Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Doctrine of the Government of Rational Creatures

THESIS I: Hitherto the causes and adjuncts of divine providence. The sorts follow. Divine providence, or government, is distinguished by its object, inasmuch as there is one of irrational creatures, another of rational creatures.

THESIS II: Irrational creatures, in addition to their preservation, God governs by His incitement alone to their predetermined ends, which they themselves do not discern.

EXPLANATION: I. That brutes at appointed times come together for procreation; that birds build nests, that they brood over their eggs and hatch them, that they feed their young, that some observe certain months for migration to warmer places, etc.: all things things come from divine providence, and have their fixed ends, even if the brutes do not understand them. So also on many occasions do men, according to the intention of the principal agent, act because of an end, which they themselves do not know.

II. In the government of irrational creatures four distinct things present themselves:

(1.) The law of nature, which is a participation in the divine will imparted to all things from the beginning.

(2.) The inclination of nature, which is the principle of acting according to that nature.

(3.) The instinct of nature, which is the instigation of irrational things to certain nobler acts, which sort are observed in many brutes, as if indicators of a kind of imperfect reason, as in ants, bees, dogs, birds, horses, elephants, etc.

(4.) Obediential potency, whereby all creatures are suited to obey their creator, whence whatever God is able to make out of anything, all things stand ready for His command.

THESIS III: God governs rational creatures by the declaration of His will, and by permission of free choice, and direction of the same.

EXPLANATION: I. God declares His will to Angels and men, so that they might know what is to be done, what is to be omitted, with the threat of punishments added, should they obey not, and with the promise of rewards, should they obey. Hence arise the force and reckoning of conscience, either excusing oneself, and hoping for the reward of obedience with a certain joy; or accusing oneself, and fearing the punishment of disobedience with sorrow.

II. To the same He permits free choice, so that to the free and rational creature obedience might be suited, which is able to be compensated by a worthy reward. For disobedience also, unless it be in some manner free, is not able justly to be punished: indeed, it is not disobedience, unless it be free in some manner.

Free choice is the faculty of willing or not willing an object, or a thing presented.

THESIS IV: This government of rational creatures was one thing before the fall, another after the fall.

THESIS V: Government before the fall is considered in itself, or in the event.

THESIS VI: Considered in itself, it was the declaration of the divine will, made either commonly to Angels and Men, or in particular to Men alone.

THESIS VII: God declared His will commonly to Angels and men, by imprinting His law in the first creation, so that they might reverently subject themselves to God their creator, proclaim His glory, and cherish a holy life among themselves.

EXPLANATION: That law, with respect to its substance, was the same with the moral law, which is contained in the Decalogue; in which what things are purely spiritual oblige both men and Angels: what things require bodily obedience have regard to men alone.

THESIS VIII: In particular He declared His will to men alone, setting forth laws both bodily and spiritual.

THESIS IX: The Law concerning the sanctification of the Sabbath was spiritual.

EXPLANATION: For, after God created and completed the whole world in the space of six days, He rested on the seventh, that is, He ceased from creation, and this day of rest and cessation He willed to be observed and sanctified thereafter by men, Genesis 2:1-3. By the Hebrews, the Sabbath is called שַׁבָּתוֹן, from the verb שָׁבַת, to cease, to rest.

THESIS X: The corporal Law was threefold: (1.) concerning the tending of paradise; (2.) concerning the reckoning of marriage as holy; (3.) concerning not eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

EXPLANATION: I. The Law concerning the tending of paradise occurs in Genesis 2:15; concerning the reckoning of marriage as holy in Genesis 2:23, 24; concerning not eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 2:17. But, because the law concerning not touching the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was set forth in a special way by God, so that by the observance of it the obedience of man might be tried in a special way: to it a threat was added, that it would come to pass, that he would be punished with death, both temporal and eternal, should he violate it.

* II. Concerning the location of Paradise the opinion of Theologians are various. Doubtlessly the the most widely received and closest to the true is that which places it in those regions where the Tigris and Euphrates run their courses. Moses calls the tract Eden. Now, Eden is a part of Babylonia: Babylonia is a part of Mesopotamia, the most fertile and pleasant region by far.

III. Inquiry is also made concerning the tree of life, concerning which Genesis 3:22, whether it is thus called Physically or Sacramentally. Response: To affirm that it is the tree of life Physically is to hold that it had the natural power of preserving human life from languishing: but to affirm that it is the tree of life Sacramentally is to hold that it is a sign and Symbol of human life never to be ended, but to be continued perpetually, should man persevere in obedience. Some Theologians think that without absurdity it is called, or is able to be called, the tree of life in both senses: although Adam would not have averted the necessity of death from himself and his posterity, if he had eaten from the fruit of the tree of life, especially after the fall. Because through the fall, by the irrevocable sentence of God, liability to death came upon Adam and his posterity. Whence those words of God in Genesis 3:22 shall be Ironic: as also the preceding words of the same verse: Behold, the man is become as one of us. See Rivet, Exercitation 40 on Genesis, pages 202, 203, etc.

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