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blessed us with all spiritual blessings, according as he hath chosen us before the foundation of the world;” that therefore these treasures are not common to all, because God hath chosen only such as he pleased. This is the reason why, in another place, he commends “the faith of God's elect;” (m) that none may be supposed to acquire faith by any exertion of their own, but that God may retain the glory of freely illuminating the objects of his previous election. For Bernard justly observes, “Friends hear each one for himself when he addresses them, Fear not, little flock, for to you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven. Who are these? Certainly those whom he hath foreknown and predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son. The great and secret counsel has been revealed. The Lord hath known who are his, but what was known to God is manifested to men. Nor does he favour any others with the participation of so great a mystery, but those particular individuals whom he foreknew and predestinated to be his own.” A little after he concludes, “The mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him; from everlasting in predestination, to everlasting in beatification; the one, the beginning; the other knowing no end.” But what necessity is there for citing the testimony of Bernard, since we hear from the Master’s own mouth, that “no man hath seen the Father save he which is of God,” (n) which implies, that . all who are not regenerated by God, are stupified with the splendour of his countenance. Faith indeed is properly connected with election, provided it occupies the second place. This order is clearly expressed in these words of Christ; “This is the Father's will, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which believeth on the Son, may have everlasting life.” (2) If he willed the salvation of all, he would give them all into the custody of his Son, and unite them all to his body by the sacred bond of faith. Now it is evident, that faith is the peculiar pledge of his paternal love, reserved for his adopted children. Therefore Christ says in another place, “The sheep follow the shepherd, for they know his voice; and a
(m) Titus i. 1. (n) John vi. 46. (o) John vi. 39, 40.
stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers.” (p.) Whence arises this difference, but because their ears are divinely penetrated? For no man makes himself a sheep, but is created such by heavenly grace. Hence also the Lord proves the perpetual certainty and security of our salvation, because it is kept by the invincible power of God. (7) Therefore he concludes that unbelievers are not his sheep, because they are not of the number of those whom God by Isaiah promised to him for his future disciples. (r) Moreover, the testimonies I have cited, being expressive of perseverance, are so many declarations of the invariable perpetuity of election.
XI. Now with respect to the reprobate, whom the apostle introduces in the same place: as Jacob, without any merit yet acquired by good works, is made an object of grace; so Esau, while yet unpolluted by any crime, is accounted an object of hatred. (s) If we turn our attention to works, we insult the apostle, as though he saw not that which is clear to us. Now that he saw none, is evident, because he expressly asserts the one to have been elected and the other rejected while they had not yet done any good or evil, to prove the foundation of Divine predestination not to be in works. (t) Secondly, when he raises the objection whether God is unjust, he never urges, what would have been the most absolute and obvious defence of his justice, that God rewarded Esau according to his wickedness; but contents himself with a different solution, that the reprobate are raised up for this purpose, that the glory of God may be displayed by their means. Lastly, he subjoins a concluding observation, that “God hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” (u) You see how he attributes both to the mere will of God. If, therefore, we can assign no reason why he grants mercy to his people but because such is his pleasure, neither shall we find any other cause but his will for the reprobation of others. For when God is said to harden or shew mercy to whom he pleases, men are taught by this declaration to seek no cause beside his will.
A Refutation of the Calumnies, generally, but unjustly, urged against this Doctrine.
WHEN the human mind hears these things, its petulance breaks all restraint, and it discovers as serious and violent agitation as if alarmed by the sound of a martial trumpet. Many indeed, as if they wished to avert odium from God, admit election in such a way as to deny that any one is reprobated. But this is puerile and absurd, because election itself could not exist without being opposed to reprobation. God is said to separate those whom he adopts to salvation. To say, that others obtain by chance, or acquire by their own efforts, that which election alone confers on a few, will be worse than absurd. ‘Whom God passes by, therefore, he reprobates, and from no other cause than his determination to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his children. And the petulance of men is intolerable, if it refuses to be restrained by the word of God, which treats of his incomprehensible counsel, adored by angels themselves. But now we have heard that hardening proceeds from the Divine power and will, as much as mercy. Unlike the persons I have mentioned, Paul never strives to excuse God by false allegations; he only declares that it is unlawful for a thing formed to quarrel with its maker. (x) Now how will those, who admit not that any are reprobated by God, evade this declaration of Christ; “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up?” (y) Upon all whom our heavenly Father hath not deigned to plant as sacred trees in his garden, they hear destruction plainly denounced. If they deny this to be a sign of reprobation, there is nothing so clear as to be capable of proof to such persons. But if they cease not their clamour, let the sobriety of faith be satisfied with this admonition of Paul, that there is no cause for quarrelling with God, if, on the one hand, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, he endures, “with much long-suffering, the vessels o wrath fitted
(r) Rom. ix. 20. (y) Matt. xv. 13.
to destruction;” and, on the other, “makes known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, whom he had afore prepared unto glory.”(z) Let the reader observe that, to preclude every pretext for murmurs and censures, Paul ascribes supreme dominion to the wrath and power of God; because it is unreasonable for those deep judgments, which absorb all our faculties, to be called in question by us. It is a frivolous reply of our adversaries, that God does not wholly reject the objects of his long-suffering, but remains in suspense towards them, awaiting the possibility of their repentance: as though Paul attributed patience to God, in expectation of the conversion of those whom he asserts to be fitted to destruction. For Augustine, in expounding this passage, where power is connected with patience, justly observes, that God's power is not permissive, but influential. They observe also, that it is not said without meaning, that the vessels of wrath are fitted to destruction, but that God prepared the vessels of mercy; since by this mode of expression, he ascribes and challenges to God the praise of salvation, and throws the blame of perdition upon those who by their choice procure it to themselves. But though I concede to them, that Paul softens the asperity of the former clause by the difference of phraseology, yet it is not at all consistent to transfer the preparation for destruction to any other than the secret counsel of God; which is also asserted just before in the context, that “God raised up Pharaoh, and whom he will he hardeneth.” Whence it follows, that the cause of hardening is the secret counsel of God. This however I maintain, which is observed by Augustine, that when God turns wolves into sheep, he renovates them by more powerful grace to conquer their obduracy; and therefore the obstinate, are not converted, because God exerts not that mightier grace, of which he is not destitute, if he chose to display it. II. These things will amply suffice for persons of piety and modesty, who remember that they are men. But as these virulent adversaries are not content with one species of opposition, we will reply to them all as occasion shall require. Foolish mortals enter into many contentions with God, as though they
(2) Rom. ix. 22, 23,
could arraign him to plead to their accusations. In the first place they inquire, by what right the Lord is angry with his creatures who had not provoked him by any previous offence; for that, to devote to destruction whom he pleases, is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge; that men have reason, therefore, to expostulate with God, if they are predestinated to eternal death without any demerit of their own, merely by his sovereign will. If such thoughts ever enter the minds of pious men, they will be sufficiently enabled to break their violence by this one consideration, how exceedingly presumptuous it is only to inquire into the causes of the Divine will; which is in fact, and is justly entitled to be, the cause of cvery thing that exists. For if it has any cause, then there must be something antecedent, on which it depends; which it is impions to . the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what he wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because he wills it. When it is inquired, therefore, why the Lord did so, the answer must be, Because he would. But if you go further, and ask why he so determined, you are in search of something greater and higher than the will of God, which can never be found. Let human temerity, therefore, desist from seeking that which is not, lest it should fail of finding that which is. This will be a sufficient restraint to any one disposed to reason with reverence concerning the secrets of his ‘God. Against the audaciousness of the impious, who are not afraid openly to rail against God, the Lord will sufficiently defend himself by his own justice without any vindication by us, when, depriving their consciences of every subterfuge, he shall convict them and bind them with a sense of their guilt. Yet we espouse not the notion of the Romish theologians concerning the absolute and arbitrary power of God, which, on account of its profaneness, deserves our detestation. We represent not God as lawless, who is a law to himself; because, as Plato says, laws are necessary to men who are the subjects of evil desires; but the will of God is not only pure from every fault, but the highest standard of perfection, even the law of all laws. But we deny that he is liable to be called to any account; we deny also that we are proper judges, deciding on this cause according to our own apprehen