The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination
Stated and Asserted
WHEREIN THE THERMS COMMONLY MADE USE OF IN TREATING OF THIS SUBJECT ARE DEFINED AND EXPLAINED.
Having considered the attributes of God as laid down in Scripture, and so far cleared our way to the doctrine of predestination. I shall, before I enter further on the subject, explain the principal terms generally made use of when treating of it, and settle their true meaning. In discoursing on the Divine decrees, mention is frequently made of God’s love and hatred, of election and reprobation, and of the Divine purpose, foreknowledge and predestination, each of which we shall distinctly and briefly consider.
I.-When love is predicated of God, we do not mean that He is possessed of it as a passion or affection. In us it is such, but if, considered in that sense, it should be ascribed to the Deity, it would be utterly subversive of the simplicity, perfection and independency of His being. Love, therefore, when attributed to Him, signifies- (1) His eternal benevolence, i.e., His everlasting will, purpose and determination to deliver, bless and save His people. Of this, no good works wrought by them are in any sense the cause. Neither are even the merits of Christ Himself to be considered as any way moving or exciting this good will of God to His elect, since the gift of Christ, to be their Mediator and Redeemer, is itself an effect of this free and eternal favour borne to them by God the Father (John iii. 16). His love toward them arises merely from “the good pleasure of His own will,” without the least regard to anything ad extra out of Himself.
(2) The term implies complacency, delight and approbation. With this love God cannot love even His elect as considered in themselves, because in that view they are guilty, polluted sinners, but they were, from all eternity, objects of it, as they stood united to Christ and partakers of His righteousness.
(3) Love implies actual beneficence, which properly speaking, is nothing else than the effect or accomplishment of the other two: those are the cause of this. This actual beneficence respects all blessings, whether of a temporal, spiritual or eternal nature. Temporal good things are indeed indiscriminately bestowed in a greater or less degree on all, whether elect or reprobate, but they are given in a covenant way and as blessing to the elect only, to whom also the other benefits respecting grace and glory are peculiar. And this love of beneficence, no less than that of benevolence and complacency, is absolutely free, and irrespective of any worthiness in man.
II.-When hatred is ascribed to God, it implies (1) a negation of benevolence, or a resolution not to have mercy on such and such men, nor to endue them with any of those graces which stands connected with eternal life. So, “Esau have I hated” (Rom. ix.), i.e., “I did, from all eternity, determine within Myself not to have mercy on him.” The sole cause of which awful negation is not merely the unworthiness of the persons hatred, but the sovereignty and freedom of the Divine will. (2) It denotes displeasure and dislike, for sinners who are not interested in Christ cannot but be infinitely displeasing to and loathsome in the sight of eternal purity. (3) It signifies a positive will to punish and destroy the reprobate for their sins, of which will, the infliction of misery upon them hereafter, is but the necessary effect and actual execution.
III.-The term election, that so very frequently occurs in Scripture, is there taken in a fourfold sense, and most commonly signifies (1) “That eternal, sovereign, unconditional, particular and immutable act of God where He selected some from among all mankind and of every nation under heaven to be redeemed and everlastingly saved by Christ.”
(2) It sometimes and more rarely signifies “that gracious and almighty act of the Divine Spirit, whereby God actually and visibly separates His elect from the world by effectual calling.” This is nothing but the manifestation and partial fulfilment of the former election, and by it the objects of predestinating grace are sensibly led into the communion of saints, and visibly added to the number of God’s declared professing people. Of this our Lord makes mention: “Because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John xv. 19). Where it should seem the choice spoken of does not refer so much to God’s eternal, immanent act of election as His open manifest one, whereby He powerfully and efficaciously called the disciples forth from the world of the unconverted, and quickened them from above in conversion.
(3) By election is sometimes meant, “God’s taking a whole nation, community or body of men into external covenant with Himself by giving them the advantage of revelation, or His written word, as the rule of their belief and practice, when other nations are without it.” In this sense the whole body of the Jewish nation was indiscriminately called elect, because that “unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Deut. vii. 6). Now all that are thus elected are not therefore necessarily saved, but many of them may be, and are, reprobates, as those of whom our Lord says (Matt. xiii. 20), that they “hear the word, and anon with joy receive it,” etc. And the apostle says, “They went out from us” (i.e. , being favoured with the same Gospel revelation we were, they professed themselves true believers, no less than we), “but they were not of us” i.e. , they were not, with us, chosen of God unto everlasting life, nor did they ever in reality possess that faith of His operation which He gave to us, for if they had in this sense “been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us” (1 John ii. 19), they would have manifested the sincerity of their professions and the truth of their conversion by enduring to the end and being saved. And even this external revelation, though it is not necessarily connected with eternal happiness, is nevertheless productive of very many and great advantages to the people and places where it is vouchsafed, and is made known to some nations and kept back* from others, “according to the good pleasure of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.”
(4) And, lastly, election sometimes signifies “the temporary designation of some person or persons to the filling up some particular station in the visible church or office in civil life.” So Judas was chosen to the apostleship (John vi. 70), and Saul to be the king of Israel (1 Sam. X. 24). Thus much for the use of the word election.
IV.-On the contrary, reprobation denotes either (1) God’s eternal preterition of some men, when He chose others to glory, and His predestination of them to fill up the measure of their iniquities and then to receive the just punishment of their crimes, even “destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” This is the primary, most obvious and most frequent sense in which the word is used. It may likewise signify (2) God’s forbearing to call by His grace those whom He hath thus ordained to condemnation, but this is only a temporary preterition, and a consequence of that which was from eternity. (3) And, lastly, the word may be taken in another sense as denoting God’s refusal to grant to some nations the light of the Gospel revelation. They may be considered as a kind of national reprobation, which yet does not imply that every individual person who lives in such a county must therefore unavoidably perish forever, any more than that every individual who lives in a land called Christian is therefore in a state of salvation. There are, no doubt, elect persons among the former as well as reprobate ones among the latter. By a very little attention to the context any reader may easily discover in which of these several senses the words elect and reprobate are used whenever they occur in Scripture.
V.-Mention is frequently made in Scripture of the purpose*of God, which is no other than His gracious intention from eternity of making His elect everlastingly happy in Christ.
VI.-When foreknowledge is ascribed to God, the word imports (1) that general prescience whereby He knew from all eternity both what He Himself would do, and what His creatures, in consequence of His efficacious and permissive decree, should do likewise. The Divine foreknowledge, considered in this view, is absolutely universal; it extends to all beings that did, do or ever shall exist, and to all actions that ever have been, that are or shall be done. Whether good or evil, natural, civil or moral. (2) The word often denotes that special prescience which has for its objects His own elect, and them alone, whom He is in a peculiar sense said to know and foreknow (Psalm i:6; John ii.19; Rom. viii. 29; 1 Pet. i:2), and this knowledge is connected with, or rather the same with love, favour and approbation.
VII.-We came now to consider the meaning of the word predestination, and how it is taken in Scripture. The verb predestinate is of Latin original, and signifies, in that tongue, to deliberate beforehand with one’s self how one shall act: and in consequence of such deliberation to constitute, fore-ordain and predetermine where, when, how and by whom anything shall be done, and to what end it shall be done. So the Greek verb, IIροοριζω, which exactly answers to the English word predestinate, and is rendered by it, signifies to resolve beforehand within one’s self what to do; and, before the thing resolved on is actually effected, to appoint it to some certain use, and direct it to some determinate end. The Hebrew verb Habhdel has likewise much the same signification.
Now, none but wise men are capable (especially in matters of great importance) of rightly determining what to do, and how to accomplish a proper end by just, suitable and effectual means; and if this is, confessedly, a very material part of true wisdom, who so fit to dispose of men and assign each individual his sphere of action in this world, and his place in the world to come, as the all-wise God? And yet, alas! How many are there who cavil as those eternal decrees which, were we capable of fully and clearly understanding them, would appear to be as just as they are sovereign and as wise as they are incomprehensible! Divine preordination has for its objects all things that are created: no creature, whether rational or irrational, animate or inanimate, is exempted from its influence. All beings whatever, from the highest angel to the meanest reptile, and from the meanest reptile to the minutest atom, are the objects of God’s eternal decrees and particular providence. However, the ancient fathers only make use of the word predestination as it refers to angels or men, whether good or evil, and it is used by the apostle Paul in a more limited sense still, so as, by it, to mean only that branch of it which respects God’s election and designation of His people to eternal life (Rom. viii. 30: Eph. i. 11).
But, that we may more justly apprehend the import of this word, and the ides intended to be conveyed by it, it may be proper to observe that the term predestination, theologically taken, admits of a fourfold definition, and may be considered as (1) “that eternal, most wise and immutable decree of God, whereby He did from before all time determine and ordain to create, dispose of and direct to some particular end every person and thing to which He has given, or is yet to give, being, and to make the whole creation subservient to and declarative of His own glory.” Of this decree actual providence is the execution. (2) Predestination may be considered as relating generally to mankind, and them only; and in this view we define it to be “the everlasting sovereign and within himself to create Adam in His own image and likeness, and then to permit his fall; and to suffer him thereby to plunge himself and his whole posterity” (inasmuch as they all sinned in him, not only virtually, but also federally and representatively) “into the dreadful abyss of sin, misery and death” (3) Consider predestination as relating to the elect only, and it is “that eternal, unconditional, particular and irreversible act of the Divine will whereby, in matchless love and adorable sovereignty, God determined with Himself to deliver a certain number of Adam’s degenerate* offspring out of that sinful and miserable estate into which, by his primitive transgression, they were to fall,” and in which sad condition they were equally involved, with those who were not chosen, but, being pitched upon and singled out by God the Father to be vessels of grace and salvation (not for anything in them that could recommend them to His favour or entitle them to His notice, but merely because He would show Himself gracious to them), they were, in time, actually redeemed by Christ, are effectually called by His Spirit, justified, adopted, sanctified, and preserved safe to His heavenly kingdom. The supreme end of this decree is the manifestation of His own infinitely glorious and amiably tremendous perfections; the inferior or subordinate end is the happiness and salvation of them who are thus freely elected. (4) Predestination, as it regards the reprobate, is “that eternal most holy, sovereign and immutable act of God’s will, whereby He hath determined to leave some to perish in their sins, and to justly them.” (Pp, 57-64)
*See Psalm clxvii. 19, 20.
*The purpose of God does not seem to differ at all from predestination, that being, as well as this, an eternal, free and unchangeable act of His will. Besides, the word “purpose,” when predicated of God in the New Testament, always denotes His design of saving His elect, and that only (Rom 8:28; 9:11; Eph 1:11; 3:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). As does the term “predestination,” which throughout the whole New Testament never signifies the appointment of the non-elect to wrath, but singly and solely the fore-appointment of the elect to grace and glory, though, in common theological writings, predestination is spoken of as extending to whatever God does, both in a way of permission and efficiency, as, in the utmost sense of the term, it does. It is worthy of the reader’s notice that the original word which we render purpose, signifies not only an appointment, but a fore-appointment, and such a fore-appointment as is efficacious and cannot be obstructed, but shall most assuredly issue in a full accomplishment, which gave occasion to the following judicious remark of a late learned writer:”a Paulo saepe usurpatur in electionis negotio, ad designandum consilium hoc Dei non esse inanem quandam et inefficacem velleitatem; sed constans, determinatum, et immutabile Dei propositum. Vox enim est efficaciae summae, ut notant grammatici veteres; et signate vocatur a Paulo, consilium illius, qui efficaciter omnia operatur ex beneplacito suo.” -Turretin. Institut. Tom. 1, loc. 4, quaest. 7. s.12.
* When we say that the decree of predestination to life and death respects man as fallen, we do not mean that the fall was actually antecedent to that decree, for the decree is truly and properly eternal, as all God’s immanent acts undoubtedly are, whereas the fall took place in time. When we intend, then, is only this viz., that God (for reasons, without doubt, worthy of Himself, and of which we are by no means in this life competent judges), having, from everlasting, peremptorily ordained to suffer the fall of Adam, did likewise, from everlasting, consider the human race as fallen; and out of the whole mass of mankind, thus vied and foreknow as impure and obnoxious to condemnation, vouchsafed to select some particular persons (who collectively make up a very great though precisely determinate number) in and on whom He would make known the ineffable riches of His mercy.