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uation. So in the other passage, those of the Gentiles whose thoughts were already devoted to serious subjects, worthy the attention of men, believed, and gave themselves up to instruction with docility and gladness of heart, glorifying the word of the Lord. Such Peter declared were accepted of God in every nation, and such Luke in conformity with Peter's opinion asserts to be ordained to, that is, qualified for eternal life, even though they were Gentiles.
But an objection of another kind may perhaps be made. If God be said to have predestinated men only on condition that they believe and continue in the faith, predestination will not be altogether of grace, but will depend on the will and belief of mankind; which will be derogatory to the exclusive efficacy of divine grace. But this is so far from being true, that the doctrine of grace is thus placed in a much clearer light than by the theory of those who make the objection. For the grace of God is acknowledged to be infinite, in the first place, inasmuch as he showed any pity at all for man, whose fall was to happen through his own fault. Secondly, because he so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son' for its salvation. Thirdly, because he has again granted us the power of volition, that is, of acting freely, in consequence of recovering the liberty of the will by the renewing of the Spirit. It was thus that he opened the heart of Lydia, Acts xvi. 14. But if the condition whereon the decree depends, that is to say, the will enfranchised by God himself, and faith which is required of mankind be left in the power of beings who are free agents, there is nothing in the doctrine either derogatory to grace, or incon
sistent with justice ; since the power of willing and believing is either the gift of God,* or, so far as it is inherent in man, partakes not of the nature of merit or of good works, but only of a natural faculty. Nor does this reasoning represent God as depending upon the human will, but as fulfilling his own pleasure, whereby he has chosen that man should always use his own will with a regard to the love and worship of the Deity, and consequently with a regard to his own salvation. If this use of the will be not admitted, whatever worship or love we render to God is entirely vain and of no value ; the acceptableness of duties done under a law of necessity is diminished, or rather is annihilated altogether, and freedom can no longer be attributed to that will over which some fixed decree is inevitably suspended.
Man shall find grace ;
Happy for man, so coming; he her aid
Paradise Lost, III. 227.
God made thee perfect, not immutable;
Paradise Lost, V. 524. Many there be that complain of Divine Providence for suffering Adam to transgress. Foolish tongues ! when God gave himn reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing ; he had been else a mere artificial Adam, such an Adam as he is in the motions.
The objections, therefore, which are so vehemently urged by some against this doctrine, are of no force whatever ;-namely, that on this theory, the repentance and faith of the predestinated having been foreseen, predestination becomes posterior in point of time to works,—that it is rendered dependent on the will of man,--that God is defrauded of part of the glory of our salvation,—that man is puffed up with pride,—that the foundations of all Christian consolation in life and in death are shaken,-that gratuitous justification is denied. On the contrary, the scheme, and consequently the glory, not only of the divine grace, but also of the divine wisdom and justice, is thus displayed in a clearer manner than on the opposite hypothesis ; which was the principal end that God proposed to himself in predestination.
Since then it is so clear that God has predestinated from eternity all those who should believe and continue in the faith, it follows that there can be no reprobation, except of those who do not believe or continue in the faith, and even this rather as a consequence than a decree; there can therefore be no reprobation of individuals from all eternity. For God has predestinated to salvation, on the proviso of a general condition, all who enjoy freedom of will; while none are predestinated to destruction, except through their own fault, and as it were, per accidens, in the same manner as there are some to whom the Gospel itself is said to be a stumbling-block and a We ourselves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or gift, which is of force ; God therefore left him free, set before him a provoking objects ever almost in his eyes; herein consisted bis merit, herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence.' Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing. Prose Works, I. 305.
savour of death.
Of this assertion proof shall be given from the testimony of Scripture no less explicit than of the doctrine asserted in the former part of the chapter.
Isai. 1. 1. • where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away ?.....behold for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves.' Hos. iv. 6. because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.....seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Rev. xiii. 8. all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.? And who are they but such as have not believed ? whom God has therefore deserted* because they • wandered after the beast,' y. 3. Nor should I call the decree mentioned in Zephaniah ii. 1—3. a decree of eternal reprobation, but rather of temporal punishment, and at any rate not an absolute decree, as the passage itself is sufficient to show : “gather yourselves together,' &c. before the decree bring forth.....&c. &c. • it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the anger of Jehovah.' '
For if God had decreed any to absolute reprobation, which we do not read, he must, even according to their system who affirm that reprobation is an absolute decree, have likewise decreed the means without which his own decree could not be fulfilled. Now these means are neither more nor less than sin. Nor will the common subterfuge avail, namely, that God did not decree sin, but only its permission : this is a contradiction in terms; for at this rate he does more than simply permit it: he who permits a thing does not decree it, but leaves it free.
* Thence faintings, swoonings of despair, And sense of heaven's desertion.
Samson Agonistes, 631
But even if there be any decree of reprobation, Scripture everywhere declares, that as election is established and confirmed by faith, so reprobation is rescinded by repentance.* Jer. vi. 30. reprobate silver shall men call them, because Jehovah hath rejected them ;' and yet in the third verse of the following chapter God addresses himself to the same people--amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.' So too in chap. xyiii. 6, &c. where God compares his own right with that of the potter, (whence St. Paul seems to have taken his metaphor, Rom. ix.) • if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.' So too where God defends in the clearest manner the justice of his ways, Ezek. xviii. 25--27. when the wicked man turneth away from the wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawsul and right, he shall save his soul alive.' xxxii. 14, 15. when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die, if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right,' &c. &c. ' he shall surely live, he shall not die.' The same is inculcated in other parts of the chapters just quoted : xviii. 31, 32. why will ye die, O house of Israel? for I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith
* To prayer, repentance, and obedience due,
Though but endeavour'd with sincere intent,
Paradise Lost, ILI. 191