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WORKS OF ARMINIUS - DIVINE PREDESTINATION
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III. DIVINE PREDESTINATION
With respect to the article of predestination, my sentiments upon it are the following: It is an eternal and gracious decree of God in Christ, by which he determines to justify and adopt believers, and to endow them with life eternal, but to condemn unbelievers, and impenitent persons; as I have explained in the theses on the same subject, which were publicly disputed, and in which, no one found any thing to be reprehended as false or unsound. Only it was the opinion of some persons that those theses did not contain all the things which belong to this decree; nay, that the predestination about which there is the greatest controversy at this time, is not the subject of investigation in those theses. This indeed I confess; for I considered it the best course to discuss that decree of predestination which is the foundation of Christianity, of our salvation, and of the assurance of salvation, and upon which the apostle treats in the eighth and ninth chapters of the epistle to the Romans, and in the first chapter of that to the Ephesians-
But such a decree as I have there described is not that by which God resolves to save some particular persons, and, that he may do this, resolves to endow them with faith, but to condemn others and not to endow them with faith. Yet many people declare, that this is the kind of predestination on which the apostle treats in the passages just cited. But I deny what they assert.
I grant that there is a certain eternal decree of God, according to which he administers the means necessary to faith and salvation, and this he does in such a manner as he knows to be suited to righteousness, that is, to his mercy and his severity. But about this decree, I think nothing more is necessary to be known, than that faith is the mere gift of the gracious mercy of God; and that unbelief is partly to be attributed to the fault and wickedness of men, and partly to the just vengeance of God, which deserts, blinds and hardens sinners.
But concerning that predestination by which God has decreed to save and to endow with faith some particular persons, but to damn others and not endow them with faith, so various are the sentiment, entertained even by the divines of our profession, that this very diversity of opinion easily declares the difficulty with which it is possible to determine any thing respecting it. For while some of them propose, as the object of predestination generally considered, that is, of election and reprobation, man as a sinner and fallen in Adam, others lay it down, man considered as created and placed "in puris naturalibus." Some of them consider this object to be, man to be created, or, as some of them express it, man as salvable and damnable, as capable of being created and of falling. Others of them lay down the object of election and reprobation, which they denominate Nonelection and Preterition, man considered in common and absolutely; but they lay down the object of reprobation, on which they bestow the appellation of Predamnation and Affirmative Reprobation, man a sinner and guilty in Adam. Lastly, some of them suppose that the object must be considered entirely in common, man as yet to be created, as created, and as fallen.
I am aware that when this diversity of opinion is offered as an objection, it is usual to reply that, in the substance of the matter there is complete agreement, although some difference exists in the circumstances. But it would be in my power to prove, that the preceding opinions differ greatly in many of the things which conduce to the very matter and substance of this kind of predestination; but that of consent or agreement there is nothing except in the minds of those who hold such sentiments, and who are prepared to bear with those who dissent from them as far as these points extend.
Such a mode of consent as this, [of which they are themselves the patrons,] is of the highest necessity in the Christian church -- as, without it, peace can by no means be preserved. I wish that I also was able to experience from them any such benevolent feelings towards me and my sentiments. In that species of predestination upon which I have treated, I define nothing that is not equally approved by all. On this point, alone, I differ -- I dare not with a safe conscience maintain in the affirmative any of the preceding opinions. I am also prepared to give a reason for this conscientious scruple when it shall be demanded by necessity, and can be done in a suitable manner.