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WORKS OF ARMINIUS - THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE CONCERNING EVIL
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ON THE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND EFFICACY OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD CONCERNING EVIL
RESPONDENT: RALPH DE ZYLL
I. Among the causes and pretenses by which human ignorance has been induced, and which human perverseness has abused, to deny the providence of God, the entrance of evil (that is, of sin) into the world, and its most wonderful and fertile exuberance, do not by any means occupy the lowest stations. For since, with Scripture as our guide and Nature as our witness, we must maintain that God is good, omniscient, and of unbounded power; (Mark x, 18; Psalm cxlvii, 5; Rev. iv, 8; Rom. i, 20;) and since this is a truth of which every one is fully persuaded who has formed in his mind any notion of the Deity; men have concluded from this that evil could not have occurred under the three preceding conditions of the divine Majesty, if God managed all things by his providence, and if it was his will to make provision respecting evil, according to these properties of his own nature. And therefore, since, after all, evil has occurred, they have concluded that the providence of God must be entirely denied. For they thought it better to set up a God that was at repose, and negligent of mundane affairs, especially of those in which a rational creature's freedom of will intervened, than to deprive Him of the honour of his goodness, wisdom and power. But it is not necessary to adopt either of these methods; and that it is possible to preserve to God, without disparagement, these three ornaments of Supreme Majesty, as well as His providence, will be shewn by a temperate explanation of the efficacy of God concerning evil.
II. A few things must be premised about this evil itself, as a basis for our explanation.
(1.) What is properly sin?
(2.) Was it possible for it to be perpetrated by a rational creature, and how?
(3.) That a chief evil cannot be granted, which may contend on an equality with the chief Good, as the Manichees asserted; otherwise, of all the evils which can be devised, sin, of which we are now treating, is, in reality, the chief; and, if we may speak with strictness, sin is the only and sole evil; for all other things are not evils, in themselves, but are injurious to some one.
III. 1. Sin is properly an aberration from a rule. This rule is the equity which is preconceived in the mind of God, which is expressed to the mind of a rational creature by legislation, and, according to which it is proper for such a creature to regulate his life. It is therefore defined by St. John in one compound word, anomia "the transgression of the law;" (1 John iii, 4;) whether such a law be preceptive of Good, or prohibitory of evil, (Psalm xxxiv, 14,) hence the evil of commission is perpetrated against the prohibitory part, and that of omission against the preceptive. But in sin, two things come under consideration:
(1.) The act itself, which has reference to natural good; but under the act, we comprehend likewise the cessation from action.
(2.) Anomy, or "the transgression of the law," which obtains the place of a moral evil. The act may be called the substance or material cause of sin; and the transgression of the law, its form or formal cause.
IV. II. But it was possible for sin to be perpetrated by a rational creature; for, as a creature, he was capable of declining or revolting from the chief Good, and of being inclined towards an inferior good, and towards the acts by which he might possess this minor good. As rational, he was capable of understanding that he was required to live in a godly manner, and what that equity was according to which his life and actions were to be specially regulated. As a rational creature, a law could be imposed on him by God, nay, according to equity and justice, it ought to be imposed, by which he might be forbidden to forsake the chief good, and to commit that act, though it was naturally good. The mode is placed in the freedom of the will, bestowed by God on a rational creature, according to which he was capable of performing the obedience which is due to the law, or could by his own strength exceed or transgress its limits.
V. III. But since a chief evil cannot be allowed, it follows from this, that, though evil be contrary to good, yet it cannot pass beyond the universal order of that good which is chief, but can be reduced to order by this chief good, and evil can thus be directed to good, on account of the infinite wisdom of this chief good, by which he knows what is possible to be made from evil; and on account of this power, by which he can make from this evil what he knows may be made from it. Granting, therefore, that sin has exceeded the order of every thing created, yet it is circumscribed within the order of the Creator himself and of the chief good. Since it is apparent from all these premises, that the providence of God ought not to intervene, or come between, to prevent the perpetration of evil by a free creature; it also follows, from the entrance of evil into the world, and it has entered so far "that the whole world lieth in wickedness," (1 John v, 19,) -- that the Providence of God cannot be destroyed. This truth we will demonstrate at greater length, when we treat upon the efficacy of the providence of God concerning evil.
VI. We have already said, that, in sin, the act or the cessation from action, and "the transgression of the law," come under consideration: But the efficiency of God about evil, concerns both the act itself and its viciousness, and it does this, whether we have regard to the beginning of sin, to its progress, or to its end and consummation. The consideration of the efficiency which is concerned about the Beginning of sin, embraces either a hindrance or a permission; to which we add, the administration of arguments and occasions inciting to sin; that which regards its Progress, has direction and determination; and that concerning The End and Termination, punishment and remission. We will refrain from treating upon the concurrence of God, since it is only in reference to the act, considered, also, as naturally good.
VII. The First efficiency of God concerning evil, is a hindrance or the placing of an impediment, whether such hindrance be sufficient or efficacious. (Jer. xxxi, 32, 33.) For it belongs to a good, to hinder an evil as far as the good knows it to be lawful to do so. But a hindrance is placed either on the power, on the capability, or on the will, of a rational creature. These three things must also be considered in that which hinders.
(1.) On the power an impediment is placed, by which some act is taken away from the power of a rational creature, to the performance of which it has an inclination and sufficient powers. By being thus circumscribed, it comes to pass, that the creature cannot perform that act without sin, and this circumscription is made by legislation. The tasting of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was thus circumscribed, when leave was granted to eat of all others: (Gen. ii, 17) and this is the hindrance of sin as such; and it is placed by God before a rational creature as he has the right and power over that creature.
(2.) On the capability also an impediment is placed. The effect of this is, that the rational creature cannot perform the act, for the performance of which he has an inclination, and powers that, without this impediment, would be sufficient. But this hindrance is placed before a rational creature by four methods:
(1.) By depriving the creature of essence and life, which are the foundation of capability. Thus was the attack upon Jerusalem hindered, (2 Kings 19,) as was also the forcible abduction of Elijah to Ahaziah, (2 Kings 1,) when, in the former instance, "an hundred fourscore and five thousand men were slain by the angel of the Lord," and, in the latter, two different companies, each containing fifty men, were consumed by fire.
(2.) The second method is by the taking away or the diminution of capability. Thus Jeroboam was prevented from apprehending the prophet of the Lord, by "the drying up of his own hand." (1 Kings 13, 4.) Thus, sin is hindered, so as not to exercise dominion over a man, when the body of sin is weakened and destroyed. (Rom. vi, 6.)
(3.) The third is by the opposition of a greater capability, or at least of one that is equal. Thus was Uzziah prevented from burning incense unto Jehovah, when the priests resisted his attempt. (2 Chron. xxvi, 18, 21.) Thus also is "the flesh" hindered from "doing what it would,"because the Spirit lusteth against the flesh," (Gal. v, 17,) and because "greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world." (1 John iv, 4.)
(4.) The fourth method is by the withdrawing of the object. Thus the Jews were frequently hindered from hurting Christ, because He withdrew himself from the midst of them. (John viii, 59.) Thus was Paul taken away, by the Chief Captain, from the Jews, who had conspired together for his destruction. (Acts xxiii, 10.)
(3.) An impediment is placed on the will, when by some argument it is persuaded not to will to commit a sin. But we refer the arguments by which the will is moved, to the following three classes. For they are taken,
(i.) either from the impossibility or the difficulty of the thing,
(ii.) from its unpleasantness or inconvenience, its usefulness or injuriousness,
(iii.) or from its being dishonourable, unjust and indecorous.
(i.) By the first of these, the Pharisees and Scribes were frequently prevented from laying violent hands on Christ: (Matt. xxi, 46) for they were of opinion, that he would be defended by the people, "who took him for a prophet." In the same manner were the Israelites hindered from departing to their lovers, to false gods; for God "hedged up their way with thorns, and made a wall, so that they could not find their customary paths." (Hosea ii, 6, 7.) Thus the saints are deterred from sinning, when they see wicked men "wearied in the ways of iniquity and perdition." (Wisdom v, 7.)
(ii.) By the second argument, the brethren of Joseph were hindered from killing him, since they could obtain their end by selling him. (Gen. xxxvii, 26, 27.) Thus Job was prevented from sinning "with his eyes" because he knew what was "the portion of God from above, and what the inheritance of the Almighty from on high," for those who have their eyes full of adultery. (Job xxxi, 1, 2.)
(iii.) By the third, Joseph was hindered from defiling himself by shameful adultery, (Gen. xxxix, 8, 9,) and David was prevented from "stretching forth his hand against the Lord's anointed." (1 Sam. xxiv, 7.)
X. The permission of sin succeeds, which is opposed to hindering. Yet it is not opposed to hindering, as the latter is an act which is taken away from the power of a rational creature by legislation; for, in that case, the same act would be a sin, and not a sin. It would be a sin in reference to its being a forbidden act; and it would be no sin in reference to its being permitted in this manner, that is, not forbidden. But permission is opposed to hindrance, in reference to the latter being an impediment placed on the capability and will of an intelligent creature. But permission is the suspension, not of one impediment or two, which may be presented to the capability or the will, but of all impediments at once, which, God knows, if they were all employed, would effectually hinder sin. Such necessarily would be the result, because sin might be hindered by a single impediment of that kind.
(1.) Sin therefore is permitted to the capability of the creature, when God employs none of those hindrances of which we have already made mention in the 8th Thesis: for this reason, this permission consists of the following acts of God who permits, the continuation of life and essence to the creature, the conservation of his capability, a cautiousness against its being opposed by a greater capability, or at least by one that is equal, and the exhibition of an object on which sin is committed.
(2.) Sin is also permitted to the will; not because no such impediments are presented by God to the will, as are calculated to deter the will from sinning; but because God, seeing that these hindrances which are propounded will produce no effect, does not employ others which He possesses in the treasures of his wisdom and power. (John xviii, 6; Mark xiv, 56.) This appears most evidently in the passion of Christ, with regard not only to the power but also to the will of those who demanded his death. (John xix, 6.) Nor does it follow from these premises, that those impediments are employed in vain: for though such results do not follow as are in accordance with these hindrances, yet God in a manner the most powerful gains his own purposes, because the results are not such as ought to have followed. (Rom. x, 20, 21.)
XI. The foundation of this permission is
(2.) The infinite wisdom and power of God, by which he knows and is able out of darkness to bring light, and to produce good out of evil. (Gen. i, 2, 3; 2 Cor. iv, 6.) God therefore permits that which He does permit, not in ignorance of the powers and the inclination of rational creatures, for he knows them all, not with reluctance, for he could have refrained from producing a creature that might possess freedom of choice, not as being incapable of hindering, for we have already seen by how many methods he is able to hinder both the capability and the will of a rational creature; not as if at ease, indifferent, or negligent of that which is transacted, because before anything is done he already ["has gone through"] has looked over the various actions which concern it, and, as we shall subsequently see, [§ 15-22,] he presents arguments and occasions, determines, directs, punishes and pardons sin. But whatever God permits, He permits it designedly and willingly, His will being immediately occupied about its permission, but His permission itself is occupied about sin; and this order cannot be inverted without great peril.
XII. Let us now explain a little more distinctly, by some of the differences of sin, those things which we have in this place spoken in a general manner concerning hindering and permission.
(ii.) On a sin of infirmity, by the strengthening influence of the Holy Spirit against the machinations or the world and Satan, and also against the weakness of our flesh. (Ephes. iii, 16; vi, 11-13.)
(iv.) And on a sin of negligence, by exciting in the hearts of believers a holy solicitude and a godly fear. (Mark xiv, 38; Jer. xxxii, 40.) From these remarks those acts will easily be manifest, in the suspension of which consists the permission of sins of every kind. God permitted Saul of Tarsus, a preposterous zealot for the law, to persecute Christ through ignorance, until "he revealed his Son in him," by which act out of a persecutor was formed a pastor. (Gal. i, 13-15.) Thus, he permitted Peter, who loved Christ, though he was somewhat too self-confident, to deny Him through infirmity; but, when afterwards endued with a greater energy of the Holy Spirit, he confessed him with intrepidity even unto death. (Matt. xxvi, 70; Acts v, 41; John xxi, 19.) God permitted Saul, whom "in his anger he had given to the Israelites as their king" (Hosea xiii, 11; 1 Sam. ix, 1,) through malignity to persecute David, of whose integrity he had been convinced, (1 Sam. xxiv, 17-19,) while his own son Jonathan resisted [his father's attempts against David] in vain. And God permitted David, after having enjoyed many victories and obtained leisure and retirement, to defile himself with the foul crime of adultery at a moment when he was acting with negligence. (2 Sam. 11.)
(2.) Sin, in the next place, is distinguished with respect to the two parts of the law -- that which is perceptive of good, and that which is prohibitory of evil. [§ 3.] Against the latter of these an offense may be committed, either by performing an act, or by omitting its performance from an undue cause and end. Against the former, either by omitting an act, or by performing it in an undue manner, and from an undue cause and end. To these distinctions the hindering and the permission of God may likewise be adapted. God hindered Joseph's brethren from killing him; while he permitted them to spare his life, from an undue cause and end; for since it was in their power to sell him, the opportunity for which was divinely offered to them, they considered it unprofitable or useless to kill him. (Gen. xxxvii, 26, 27.) Thus Absalom was hindered from following the counsel of Ahithophel, though it was useful to himself and injurious to David; not because he considered it to be unjust, but because of its supposed injury to David; for he persisted in the purpose of persecuting his father, which he also completed in fact. (2 Sam. 17.) God hindered Balaam from cursing the children of Israel, and caused him to bless them; but so that he abstained from the former act, and performed the latter, with a perverse mind. (Num. 23.) We shall in some degree understand the reasons of this hindering and permission, if, while distinctly considering in sin the act and the anomy or "transgression of the law," we apply to each of them divine hindrance and permission.
XIV. But though the act, and "the transgression of the law," are inseparably united in one sin, and therefore neither of them can be hindered or permitted without the other; yet they may be distinguished in the mind; and hindrance as well as permission may be effected by God, sometimes chiefly with regard to the act, and at other times chiefly with regard to "the transgression of the law," and, when so done, they may be considered by us in these relations not without high commendation of the wisdom of God and to our own profit. God hindered Joseph's brethren from killing him, not as it was a sin, (because He permitted them, while remaining in the same mind to sell him,) but as it was an act. For they would have deprived Joseph of life, when it was the will of God that he should be spared. God permitted his vendition, not chiefly as it was a sin, but as an act; because by the sale of Joseph as it was an act, God obtained his own end. (Gen. xxxvii, 27.) God hindered Elijah from being forcibly brought to Ahaziah to be slain, not as that was a sin, but as it was an act. This is apparent from the end, and from the mode of hindering. From the end; because it was His will that the life of his prophet should be spared, not lest Ahaziah should sin against God. From the mode of hindering; because he destroyed two companies, of fifty men each, who had been sent to seize him; which was a token of divine anger against Ahaziah and the men, by which sin as such is not usually hindered, but as it is an act which will prove injurious to another; yet, through grace, sin is hindered as such. (2 Kings 1.) God permitted Satan and the Chaldeans to bring many evils on Job, not as that was a sin, but as it was an act: for it was the will of God to try the patience of his servant, and to make that virtue conspicuous to the confusion of Satan. But this was done by an act, by which, as such, injuries were inflicted on Job. (Job 1, 2.) David was hindered from laying violent hands on Saul, not as it was an act, but as it was a sin: this is manifest from the argument by which being hindered he abstained [from completing the deed.] "The Lord forbid," said he, "that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord's anointed." This argument deterred him from the sin as such. The same is also evident from the end of the hindrance: for it was the will of God for David to come to [the possession of] the kingdom through the endurance of afflictions, as a type of Christ the true David. (1 Sam. xxiv, 7.) God permitted Ahab to kill Naboth, not as that foul deed was an act, but as it was a sin: for God could have translated Naboth, or taken him to himself, by some other method; but it was the divine will, that Ahab should fill up the measure of his iniquities, and should accelerate his own destruction and that of his family. (1 Kings 21.) Abimelech was hindered from violating the chastity of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, both as it was an act, and as it was a sin. For it was not the will of God, that Abimelech should defile himself with this crime, because "in the integrity of his heart" he would then have done it. It was also His will to spare his servant Abraham, in whom indelible sorrow would have been produced by the deflowering of his wife, as by an act. (Gen. xx, 6.) God permitted Judah to know Tamar his daughter-in-law, both as it was an act, and as it was a sin: because it was the will of God, to have his own Son as a direct descendant from Judah; and at the same time to declare, that nothing is so polluted as to be incapable of being sanctified in Christ Jesus. (Gen. xxxviii, 18.) For it is not without reason that St. Matthew says, "Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar;" and "David the king begat Solomon of her who had been the wife of Urias;" (i, 3, 6;) and from whom in an uninterrupted line Christ was born.
XV. But since an act, though permitted to the capability and the will of the creature, may have been taken away from its power by legislation; [§ 7;] and since, therefore, it will very often happen, that a rational creature not altogether hardened in evil is unwilling to perform an act which is connected with sin, unless when some arguments and opportunities are presented to him, which are like incentives to commit that act; the management of this presenting of arguments and opportunities, is also in the hands of the Providence of God, who presents these excitements.
(1.) Both to try whether it be the will of the creature to abstain from sinning, even when it is excited by these incentives; since small praise is due to abstaining in cases in which such excitements are absent. (S. of Syrach xx, 21-,3; xxxi, 8-10.)
(2.) And then, if it be the will of the creature to yield to these incentives, to effect His own work by the act of the creature; not impelled by necessity, as if God was unable to produce his own work without the intervention of the act of his creature; but moved to this by the will to illustrate his own manifold wisdom. Thus the arguments by which Joseph's brethren were incited through their own malice to wish to kill him, and the opportunities by which it was in their power to send him out of their way, were offered by Divine dispensation, partly in an intervening manner by the mediate act of men, and partly by the immediate act of God himself. The arguments for this malignity were, Joseph's accusation, by which he revealed to his father the wicked actions of his brethren, the peculiar regard which Jacob entertained for Joseph, the sending of a dream, and the relation of the dream after it had occurred. By these, the minds of his brethren were inflamed with envy and hatred against him. The opportunities were, the sending of Joseph to his brethren by his father, and the presenting of the Ishmaelites journeying into Egypt, at the very moment of time in which they were in deliberation about murdering their brother. (Gen. 37.) The preceding considerations have related only to the Beginning of sin; to its Progress belong direction and determination. [§ 6.]
XVI. The Direction of sin is an act of Divine Providence, by which God in a manner the wisest and most potent directs sin wherever he wills, "reaching from one end to another mightily, and sweetly ordering all things." (Wisd. viii, 1.) We must consider in this direction the point at which it has its origin and that at which it terminates. For when God directs sin wherever he wills, it is understood that he leads it away from the point to which it is not His will that it should proceed. But this direction is two-fold, unto an Object, and unto an End. Direction unto an Object is when God allows the sin which He permits, to be borne, not at the option of the creature, towards an object which in any way whatsoever is exposed and liable to the injury of sin; but which he directs to a particular object, which on some occasions has either been no part of the sinner's aim or desire, or which at least he has not absolutely desired. The Scriptures enunciate this kind of direction, generally, in the following words: "A man's heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps." (Prov. xvi, 9.) But, Specially, concerning the heart of a King: "As the rivers of water are in the hand of the Lord, he turneth the heart of the king whithersoever he will." (Prov. xxi, 1.) Of which we have a signal example in Nebuchadnezzar, who, after he had determined in his own mind to subjugate the nations, and hesitated whether he should move against the Ammonites, or against the Jews, God managed the king's divinations so, that he resolved to march against the Jews, and to abstain from an attack upon the Ammonites. (Ezek. xxi, 19- 22.)
XVII. Direction unto an End is, when God does not allow the sin (which he permits,) to be subservient to the end of any thing which the creature intends; but he employs it to that end which he himself wills, whether the creature intend the same end, (which if he were to do, yet he would not be excused from sin,) or whether he intend another, and one quite contrary. For God knows how to educe the light of his own glory, and the advantage of his creatures, out of the darkness and mischief of sin. Thus "the thoughts of evil," which Joseph's brethren entertained against him, were converted by God into a benefit, not only to Joseph, but also to the whole of Jacob's family, and to all the kingdom of Egypt. (Gen. i, 20, 21.) By the afflictions which were sent to Job, Satan endeavoured to drive him to blasphemy. But by them, God tried the patience of his servant, and through it triumphed over Satan. (Job i, 11, 12, 22; ii, 9, 10.) The king of Assyria had determined "in his heart to destroy and cut off all nations not a few." But God executed his own work by him, whom "he sent against an hypocritical nation and the people of his wrath." (Isa. x, 5-12.) Nor is it at all wonderful, that God employs acts, which his creatures do not perform without sin, for ends that are pleasing to himself; because he does this most justly, for three reasons:
(i.) For He is the Lord of his creature, though that creature be a sinner; because he has no more power to exempt or deliver himself from the dominion of God, than he has to reduce himself into nothing.
(iii.) Because the creature is a saw, in the hands of the Creator; and instrumental causes do not reach to the intention of the first agent. (Isa. x, 15.)
XVIII. Determination is an act of Divine Providence, by which God places a limit on his permission, and a boundary on sin that it may not wander and stray in infinitum at the option of the creature. The limit and boundary are placed by the prescribing of the time, and the determination of the magnitude. The prescribing of the time, is the prescribing of the very point or moment when it may be done, or the length of its duration.
(i.) God determines the moment of time, when he permits a sin, to the commission of which his creature is inclined, to be perpetrated, not indeed at the time when it was the will of the creature to commit it; but He wisely and powerfully contrives for it to be done at another time. "The Jews sought to take Jesus: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come." (John vii, 30.) "Yet when the time before appointed of the Father" approached, Christ said to them, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness." (Luke xxii, 53.)
(2.) A limit is placed on the duration, when the space of time in which the permitted sin could endure, is diminished and circumscribed so as to stop itself. Thus Christ says, "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved," &c. (Matt. xxiv, 22.) But in this part of the discussion also, regard must be had to the act as such, and to the sin as such.
(i.) A limit is placed on the duration of the act, in the following passages: "The rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity." (Psalm cxxv, 3.) "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations," &c. (2 Pet. ii, 9.)
(ii.) A limit is placed on the duration of the sin, in these passages: "Therefore I will hedge up thy way with thorns, &c. And she shall not find her lovers: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband." (Hosea ii, 6.) "In times past God suffered all nations to walk in their own ways: but now he commandeth all men every where to repent." (Acts xiv, 16; xvii, 30.)
XIX. A limit is placed on the magnitude of sin, when God does not permit sin to increase beyond bounds and to assume greater strength. But this also is done, with regard to it both as an act, and as a sin.
(i.) With respect to it as an act, in the following passages of Scripture: God permitted "the wrath of their enemies to be kindled against" the Israelites, but "he did not suffer them to swallow them up." (Psalm cxxiv, 2, 3.) "There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man." (1 Cor. x, 13.) "We are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." (2 Cor. iv, 8, 9.) God permitted Satan, first, "To put forth his hand upon all that Job had," but not to touch him; (Job i, 12;) and, secondly, "To touch his bone and his flesh, but to save his life." (ii, 6.) "I will not destroy them by the hand of Shishak; nevertheless, they shall be his servants." (2 Chron. xii, 7, 8.)
(ii.) With respect to it as a sin, God permitted David to resolve in his mind to destroy with the sword, Nabal and all his domestics, and to go instantly to him; but he did not permit him to shed innocent blood, and to save himself by his own hand. (1 Sam. xxv, 22, 26, 31.) God permitted David to flee to Achish, and to "feign himself mad;" (1 Sam. xxi, 13;) but he did not permit him to fight, in company with the army of Achish, against the Israelites, or by the exercise of fraud to prove injurious to the army of Achish. (xxvii, 2; xxix, 6, 7.) For he could have done neither of these deeds without committing a most flagrant wickedness: though both of them might have been determined [by David] as acts, by which great injury could be inflicted on those against whom it was the will of God that no mischief should be done.
XX. On account of this Presenting of incitements and opportunities, and this Direction and Determination of God, added to the Permission of sin, God is said himself to do those evils which are perpetrated by bad men and by Satan. For instance, Joseph says to his brethren, "It was not you that sent me hither, but God:" (Gen. xlv, 8;) because, after having completed the sale of their brother, they were unconcerned about the place to which he was to be conducted, and about his future lot in life: but God caused him to be led down into Egypt and there to be sold, and he raised him to an eminent station in that country by the interpretation of some dreams. (xxxvii, 25, 28; xl, 12, 13; xli, 28-42.) Job says, "The Lord hath taken away" what was taken away at the instigation and by the aid of Satan; (Job 1 & 2;) both because that evil spirit was of his own malice instigated against Job by God's commendation of him; and because, after having obtained power to do him harm, he produced no further effect than that which God had determined. Thus God is also said to have done what Absalom did; (2 Sam. xii, 11, 12; 15, 16;) because the principal parts, in the various actions employed for producing this consummation, belonged to God. To these we must add the remark, that since the wisdom of God knows that if he administers the whole affair by such a presenting, direction, and determination, that will certainly and infallibly come to pass which cannot be done by the creature without criminality; and since His will decrees this administration, it will more clearly appear why a deed of this kind may be attributed to God.
XXI. Last in the discussion follow the punishment and the pardon of sin, by which acts Divine Providence is occupied about sin already perpetrated, as it is such, not as it is an act: for sin is punished and pardoned as it is an evil, and because it is an evil.
(1.) The Punishment of sin is an act of the Providence of God, by which sin is recompensed with the chastisement that is due to it according to the righteousness of God. This punishment either concerns the life to come, or takes place in the ages of the present life: the former is an eternal separation of the whole man from God; the other, which is usually inflicted in this life, is two-fold: corporal and spiritual. The punishments which relate to the body, are various; but it is not necessary for our purpose to enumerate them at present. But spiritual punishment deserves to be diligently considered: for it is such a chastisement of sin, as to be also a cause of other [sins] which follow on account of the wickedness of him on whom it is inflicted. It is a privation of grace, and a delivering up to the power of evil [or the evil one].
(i.) Privation of Grace is two-fold according to the two kinds of grace, that which is Habitual and that which is Assisting. The former is the taking away of grace, by blinding the mind and hardening the heart. (Isa. vi, 9, 10.) The other, is the withdrawing of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, who is wont inwardly "to help our infirmities," (Rom. viii, 26,) and outwardly to restrain the furious rage of Satan and the world, by employing also the ministration and care of good angels. (Heb. i, 14; Psalm xci, 11.)
(ii.) A delivering up to the power of evil is, either "giving sinners over to a reprobate mind," and to the efficacy of error, (Rom. i, 28; 2 Thess. ii, 9-11,) or to the desires of the flesh and to sinful lusts, (Rom. i, 24,) or to the power of Satan, "the god of this world," (2 Cor. 4,) "who worketh powerfully in the children of disobedience." (Ephes. ii, 2.) But because from this punishment arise many other sins, and this not only according to the certain knowledge of God, by which he knows that if he thus punishes they will thence arise, but likewise according to his purpose, by which he resolves so to punish as, on account of more heinous sins thence committed, to punish with still greater severity; therefore these expressions occur in the scriptures: "But I will harden the heart of Pharaoh, that he shall not let the people go; he shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt." (Exod. iv, 21; vii, 4.) "Notwithstanding, the sons of Eli hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them." (1 Sam. ii, 25.) "But Amaziah would not hearken to the answer of Joash king of Israel; for it came of God, that he might deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought after the gods of Edom." (2 Chron. xxv, 20.) This consideration distinguishes the governance of God concerning sins, so far as it is concerned about those sinners who are hardened, or those who are not hardened.
XXII. The Pardon or remission of sin is an act of the Providence of God, by which the guilt of sin is forgiven, and the chastisement due to sin according to its guilt is taken away. As this remission restores, to the favour of God, the man who had before been an enemy; so it likewise causes the Divine administration concerning him to be afterwards entirely gracious so far as equity and justice require: that is, through this pardon, he is free from those spiritual punishments which have been enumerated in the preceding paragraph; (Psalm ii, 10-12;) and though not exempt from corporal chastisements, yet he is not visited with them through the anger of God as the punisher of sin, but only through the desire of God thus to declare that he hates sin, and besides so to chastise as to deter him from falling again into it. (2 Sam. xii, 11-13.) For which reason, the government of Providence with regard to this man is entirely different from that under which he remained before he obtained remission. (Psalm cxix, 67; 1 Cor. xi, 32; Psalm xxxii, 1-6.)
XXIII. From those topics on which we have already treated, it is clearly evident, we think, that, because evils have entered into the world, neither Providence itself, nor its government respecting evil, ought to be denied. Neither can God be accused as being guilty of injustice on account of this his governance; not only because he hath administered all things to the best ends; that is, to the chastisment, trial, and manifestation of the godly -- to the punishment and exposure of the wicked, and to the illustration of his own glory; (for ends, alone, do not justify an action;) but, much more, because he has employed that form of administration which allows intelligent creatures not only of their own choice or spontaneously. but likewise freely, to perform and accomplish their own motions and actions.