« AnteriorContinuar »
at the same time, be added, that he is debtor to none; for no man “hath first given to him,” to entitle him to demand a recompence. (m) o XII.sanother argument often urged to overthrow predestination is, that its establishment would destroy all solicitude and exertion for rectitude of conduct. For who can hear, they say, that either life or death is appointed for him by God’s eternal and immutable decree, without immediately concluding that it is of no importance how he conducts himself; since no action of his can in any respect either impede or promote the predestination of God? Thus all will abandon themselves to despair, and run into every excess to which their licentious propensities may lead them.]And truly this objection is not altogether destitute of truth; for there are many swine who bespatter the doctrine of predestination with these impure blasphemies, and with this pretext elude all admonitions and reproofs: God knows what he has determined to do with us: if he has decreed our salvation, he will bring us to it in his own time; if he has destined us to death, it will be in vain for us to strive against it. But the Scripture, while it inculcates superior awe and reverence of mind in the consideration of so great a mystery, instructs the faithful in a very different conclusion, and fully refutes the wicked and unreasonable inferences of these persons. For the design of what it contains respecting predestination is, not that being excited to presumption we may attempt with nefarious temerity to scrutinize the inaccessible secrets of God, but rather that, being humbled and dejected, we may learn to tremble at his justice and admire his mercy. At this object the
faithful will aim. But the impure cavils of the wicked are justly
restrained by Paul. They profess to go on securely in their vices; because if they are of the number of the elect, such conduct will not prevent their being finally brought into life. But Paul declares the end of our election to be, that we may lead a holy and blameless life. (n) If the object of election be holiness of life, it should rather awaken and stimulate us to a cheerful practice of it, than be used as a pretext for slothfulness. But how inconsistent is it to cease from the practice of virtue
(m) Rom. xi. 35. (n) Ephes. i. 4.
because election is sufficient to salvation, while the end proposed in election is our diligent performance of virtuous actions? Away then with such corrupt and sacrilegious perversions of the whole order of election. They carry their blasphemies much farther, by asserting, that any one who is reprobated by God will labour to no purpose if he endeavour to approve himself to him by innocence and integrity of life; but here they are convicted of a most impudent falsehood. For whence could such exertion originate but from election?]Whoever are of the number of the reprobate, being vessels made to dishonour, cease not to provoke the Divine wrath against them by continual transgressions, and to confirm by evident proofs the judgment of God already denounced against them: so that their striving with him in vain is what can never happen. XIII. This doctrine is maliciously and impudently calumniated by others, as subversive of all exhortations to piety of life. This formerly brought great odium upon Augustine, which he removed by his Treatise on Correction and Grace, addressed to Valentine, the perusal of which will easily satisfy all pious and teachable persons. Yet I will touch on a few things, which I hope will convince such as are honest and not contentious." How openly and loudly gratuitous election was preached by Paul, we have already seen; was he therefore cold in admonitions and exhortations? Let these good zealots compare his vehemence with theirs; theirs will be found ice itself in comparison with his incredible fervour! And certainly every scruple is removed by this principle, that “God hath not called us to uncleanness, but that every one should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;” (o) and again, that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them.” (p) Indeed, a slight acquaintance with Paul will enable any one to understand, without tedious arguments, how easily he reconciles things which they pretend to be repugnant to each other. Christ commands men to believe in him. Yet his limitation is neither false nor contrary to his command, when he says, “No man can come unto me, except it were given
(o) 1 Thess. iv. 4, 7. (p) Ephes. ii. 10.
unto him of my Father.” (7) “Let preaching therefore have its course to bring men to faith, and by a continual progress to promote their perseverance. Nor let the knowledge of predestination be prevented, that the obedient may not be proud as of any thing of their own, but may glory in the Lord. Christ had some particular meaning in saying, ‘Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (r) Therefore when we exhort and preach, persons endued with ears readily obey; and those who are destitute of them exhibit an accomplishment of the Scripture, that hearing they hear not. (s)}But why (says Augustine) should some have ears and others not? “Who hath known the mind of the Lord?” (t) Must that which is evident be denied, because that which is concealed cannot be comprehended?” These observations I have faithfully borrowed from Augustine, but as his words will perhaps have more authority than mine, I will proceed to an exact quotation of them. “If on hearing this, some persons became torpid and slothful, and exchanging labour for lawless desire pursue the various objects of concupiscence, must what is declared concerning the foreknowledge of God be therefore accounted false? If God foreknew that they would be good, will they not be so, in whatever wickedness they now live; and if he foreknew that they would be wicked, will they not be so, in whatever goodness they now appear? Are these, then, sufficient causes why the truths which are declared concerning the foreknowledge of God should he either denied or passed over in silence? especially when the consequence of silence respecting these would be the adoption of other errors. The reason of concealing the truth (he says) is one thing, and the necessity of declaring it is another. It would be tedious to inquire after all the reasons for passing the truth over in silence; but this is one of them: lest those who understand it not should become worse, while we wish to make those who understand it better informed; who indeed are not made wiser by our declaring any such thing, nor are they rendered worse."But since the truth is of such a nature, that when we speak of it he becomes worse who cannot understand it, and when we are silent
about it, he who can understand it becomes worse: what do we
think ought to be done? Should not the truth rather be spoken, that he who is capable may understand it, than buried in silence; the consequence of which would be, not only that neither would know it, but even the more intelligent of the two would become tworse, who, if he heard and understood it, would also teach it to many others.] And we are unwilling to say, what we are authorised to say by the testimony of Scripture. For we are afraid, indeed, lest by speaking we may offend him who cannot understand, but are not afraid lest in consequence of our silence he who is capable of understanding the truth may be deceived by falsehood.” And condensing this sentiment afterwards into a smaller compass, he places it in a still stronger light. “Wherefore if the apostles and the succeeding teachers of the Church both piously treated of God's eternal election, and held the faithful under the discipline of a pious life, what reason have these our opponents, when silenced by the invincible force of truth, to suppose themselves right in maintaining that what is spoken of predestination, although it be true, ought not to be preached to the people? But it must by all means be preached, that he who hath ears to hear may hear. But who has them, unless he receives them from him who hath promised to bestow them? Certainly he who receives not may joi. he who receives, takes and drinks, drinks and lives.) For as piety must be preached that God may be rightly worshipped, so also must predestination, that he who hath ears to hear of the grace of God, may glory in God, and not in himself.” XIV. And yet, being peculiarly desirous of edification, that holy man regulates his mode of teaching the truth, so that of. fence may as far as possible be prudently avoided. For he suggests that whatever is asserted with truth may also be delivered in a suitable manner.If any one address the people in such a way as this, If you believe not, it is because you are by a Divine decree already destined to destruction; he not only cherishes slothfulness, but even encourages wickedness. If any one extend the declaration to the future, that they who hear will never believe because they are reprobated; this would be rather imprecation than instruction Such persons, therefore, as foolish teachers, or inauspicious ominous prophets, Augustine charges to depart from the Church. In another place, indeed, he justly maintains, “that a man then profits by correction when he, who causes whom he pleases to profit without correction, compassionates and assists. But why some in one way, and some in another? Far be it from us to ascribe the choice to the clay instead of the potter.” Again afterwards, “When men are either introduced or restored into the way of righteousness by correction, who works salvation in their hearts, but he who giveth the increase, whoever plants and waters? he whose determination to save is not resisted by any free-will of man? It is beyond all doubt therefore that the will of God, who hath done whatever he hath pleased in heaven and in earth, and who hath done even things that are yet future, cannot possibly be resisted by the will of man, so as to prevent the execution of his purposes; since he controls the wills of men according to his pleasure.” Again, “When he designs to bring men to himself, does he bind them by corporeal bonds? He acts inwardly, he inwardly seizes their hearts, he inwardly moves their hearts, and draws them by their wills, which he has wrought in them.” But he immediately subjoins, what must by no means be omitted; “that because we know not who belongs, or does not belong to the number of the predestinated, it becomes us affectionately to desire the salvation of all. The consequence will be, that whomsoever we meet we shall endeavour to make him a partaker of peace. But our peace shall rest upon the sons of peaceJOn our part, therefore, salutary and severe reproof, like a medicine, must be administered to all that they may neither perish themselves nor destroy others; but it will be the province of God to render it useful to them whom he had foreknown and predestinated.”