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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Predestination

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according to some, is a judgment, or decree of God, by which he has resolved, from all eternity, to save a certain number of persons, hence named elect. Others define it, a decree to give faith in Jesus Christ to a certain number of men, and to leave the rest to their own malice and hardness of heart. A third, more Scripturally, God's eternal purpose to save all that "truly repent and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel,"—according to the Apostle Paul, "Whom he did foreknow" as believers "them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son;" to his moral image here, and to the image of his glorified humanity in heaven. According to the Calvinistical scheme, the reason of God's predestinating some to everlasting life is not founded in a foresight of their faith and obedience; nevertheless, it is also maintained on this scheme, that the means are decreed as well as the end, and that God purposes to save none but such as by his grace he shall prepare for salvation by sanctification. The Remonstrants define predestination to be God's decree to save believers, and condemn unbelievers. Some represent the election and predestination spoken of in Scripture, as belonging only to nations, or, at least, bodies of men, and not to particular persons. The greatest difficulties with which the modern theology is clogged turn on predestination; both the Romish and Reformed churches are divided about it; the Lutherans speak of it with horror; the Calvinists contend for it with the greatest zeal; the Molinists and Jesuits preach it down as a most dangerous doctrine; the Jansenists assert it as an article of faith; the Arminians, Remonstrants, and many others, are all avowed enemies of absolute predestination. Those strenuous patrons of Jansenism, the Port- royalists, taught, that God predestinates those whom he foresees will cooperate with his grace to the end. Dupin adds, that men do not fall into sin because not predestinated to life, but they are not predestinated because God foresaw their sins. See CALVINISM .

This doctrine has already been treated of. We shall here therefore merely subjoin a sketch of its history previous to the Reformation. The apostolic fathers, men little accustomed to the intricacy of metaphysical disquisition, deeply impressed with the truth of the Gospel, powerfully influenced by its spirit, and from their particular situation naturally dwelling much upon it as a system of direction and consolation, do not, in their writings, at all advert to the origin of evil, or to predestination, so closely allied to it. They press, with much earnestness, upon those in whom they were interested the vast importance of practical holiness, exhibit the motives which appeared to them calculated to secure it, and represent the blessedness which awaits good men, and the condemnation reserved for the wicked; but they do not once attempt to determine whether the sin which they were solicitous to remove could be accounted for, in consistency with the essential holiness and the unbounded mercy of the Deity. In short, they just took that view of this subject which every man takes when he is not seeking to enter into philosophical disquisition; never for one moment doubting that whatever is wrong was ultimately to be referred to man, and that the economy of grace proceeding from God was the most convincing proof of the tenderness of his compassion for mankind.

When, however, the church received within its communion those who had been educated in the schools of philosophy, and to whom the question as to the origin of evil must, while they frequented these schools, have become familiar, it was not to be supposed that, even although they were convinced that we should be chiefly solicitous about the formation of the Christian character, there would be no allusion to what had formerly interested them, or that they would refrain from delivering their sentiments upon it. Agreeably to this, we find, in the works of Justin Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen, sufficient intimations that they had directed their attention to the difficulty now under review; and that, whether upon adequate grounds or not, they had come to a decision as to the way in which it should be explained consistently with the divine perfections. It is evident that they did not investigate the subject to the depth to which it is requisite for the full discussion of it to go; and that various questions which must be put before it can be brought completely before us, they either did not put, or hastily regarded as of very little moment: but it is enough to dwell upon the fact, that they did employ their thoughts upon it, and have so expressed themselves as to leave no doubt of the light in which it was contemplated by them. Justin, in his dialogue with Trypho, remarks that "they who were foreknown as to become wicked, whether angels or men, did so not from any fault of God, αιτια του

Θεου , but from their own blame;" by which observation he shows it to have been his opinion that God foresaw in what manner his intelligent creatures would act; but that this did not affect their liberty, and did not diminish their guilt. A little after he says more fully, that "God created angels and men free to the practice of righteousness, having planted in them reason, through which they knew by whom they were created and through whom they existed, when before they were not, and who prescribed to them a law by which they were to be judged, if they acted contrary to right reason. Wherefore, we, angels and men, are through ourselves convicted as being wicked, if we do not lay hold of repentance. But if the Logos of God foretels that some angels and men would go to be punished, he does so because he foreknew that they would certainly become wicked; by no means, however, because God made them such." Justin thus admits that man is wholly dependent upon God, deriving existence and every thing which he has from the Almighty; but he is persuaded that we were perfectly able to retain our integrity, and that, although it was foreseen that we should not do so, this did not abridge our moral power, or fix any imputation on the Deity in consequence of our transgression. Tatian, in his oration against the Greeks, an excellent work, which, although composed after the death of Justin, was written, in all probability, before its author had adopted the wild opinions which he defended toward the conclusion of his life, expresses very much the same sentiments avowed by Justin. He says, "Both men and angels were created free, so that man becoming wicked through his own fault may be deservedly punished, while a good man, who, from the right exercise of his free will, does not transgress the law of God, is entitled to praise; that the power of the divine Logos having in himself the knowledge of what was to happen, not through fate or unavoidable necessity, but from free choice, predicted future things, condemning the wicked and praising the righteous."

Irenaeus, in the third book of his work against heresies, has taken an opportunity to state his notions about the origin of evil. The seventy-first chapter of that book is entitled, "A proof that man is free, and has power to this extent, that of himself he can choose what is good or the contrary."

In illustration of this he remarks, "God gave to man the power of election as he did to the angels. They, therefore, who do not obey are justly not found with the good, and receive deserved punishment, because God having given them what was good, they did not keep it, but despised the riches of the divine mercy." The next chapter is entitled, "A proof that some men are not good by nature, and others wicked, and that what is good is within the choice of man." In treating on this subject, Irenaeus observes, that "if the reverse were the case, the good would not merit praise nor the wicked blame, because being merely what, without any will of theirs, they had been made, they could not be considered as voluntary agents. But," he adds, "since all have the same nature, and are able to retain and to do what is good, and may, on the other hand, lose it and not do it, some are, even in the sight of men, and much more in that of God, deservedly praised and others blamed." In support of this he introduces a great variety of passages from Scripture. It appears, however, that the real difficulty attending the subject had suggested itself to his mind; for he inquires in the seventy-third chapter, why God had not from the beginning made man perfect, all things being possible to him. He gives to this question a metaphysical and unsatisfactory answer, but which so far satisfied himself as to convince him that there could not, on this ground, be any imputation justly cast on the perfections of the Almighty, and that, consequently, a sufficient explanation of the origin of evil and of the justice of punishing it, was to be found in the nature of man as a free agent, or in the abuse of that liberty with which man had been endowed. Tertullian had also speculated upon the moral condition of man, and has recorded his sentiments with respect to it. He explicitly asserts the freedom of the will; lays down the position, that, if this be denied, there can be neither reward nor punishment; and, in answer to an objection, that since free will has been productive of such melancholy consequences, it would have been better that it had not been bestowed, he enters into a formal vindication of this part of our constitution. In reply to another suggestion, that God might have interposed to prevent the choice which was to be productive of sin and misery, he maintains that this could not have been done without destroying that admirable constitution by which alone the interests of virtue can be really promoted. He thus thought that sin was to be imputed wholly to man, and that it was perfectly consistent with the attributes of God, or rather illustrated these attributes, that there should be a system under which sin was possible, because without this possibility there could have been no accountable agents.

From what has been stated on this subject, it seems unquestionable that the apostolic fathers did not at all enter upon the subject of the origin of evil; that the writers by whom they were succeeded were satisfied that, in the sense in which the term is now most commonly used, there was no such thing as predestination; that they uniformly represented the destiny of man as regulated by the use or abuse of his free will; that, with the exception of Irenaeus, they did not attempt to explain why such a creature as man, who was to fall into sin, was created by a Being of infinite goodness; that the sole objection to their doctrine seemed to them to be, that prescience was incompatible with liberty, and that, when they answered this, they considered that nothing more was requisite for receiving, without hesitation, the view of man upon which they often and fondly dwelt, as a free and accountable agent, who might have held fast his integrity, and whose fall from that integrity was to be ascribed solely to himself, as it did not at all result from any appointment of the supreme Being.

Although opinions respecting original sin, directly tending to a very different view of the subject than had been previously taken, had been stated by Cyprian, yet a thorough investigation of it, and the sentiments which afterward were widely received in the Christian church, took their rise from the discussions to which the Pelagian controversy gave occasion. Previous to the part which Augustine took in that controversy, he seems to have been very much of the same sentiments with Origen and the other early fathers. But, either from what he considered as a more deliberate and complete examination of Scripture, or from perceiving the necessity imposed on him, in consequence of some of the positions which he had laid down in his writings against Pelagius, he soon changed his opinion, and advanced a notion more in harmony with these positions. Having to show the absolute necessity of divine grace, he inculcated that, in consequence of original sin, man was infallibly determined to evil, and was therefore in a state of condemnation, and he thus took away the foundation upon which the prevailing tenets rested; because it was impossible that men could be predestined to life, or the reverse, from prescience of their actions, when, without the special grace of God, they were absolutely incapacitated for obedience to the divine law. To get rid of this difficulty, Augustine, in some degree, transferred the search for the origin of sin from the state of man to the purposes of God, asserting that from all eternity the Almighty had determined to choose from the mass of mankind, lost in guilt and corruption, a certain number to be transformed to holiness, and to be admitted after this life to eternal happiness; that he did this to promote his own glory; and that, by the operation of his Spirit, granted of his own free and undeserved mercy, he produced in the elect or chosen the fruits of righteousness, and qualified them for the enjoyment of heaven. The whole of the remainder of the human race were, according to this system, left in their condition by nature, or in other words, were given up to endless misery. There immediately arose out of this view of the subject, the formidable and heart-rending objection, that God was really the author of sin; that, having so created mankind that of themselves they could not be holy, there was on the part of those delivered no virtue, as there was on the other part no blame; the case being quite different from what it would have been had God interposed with respect to creatures who had not received from himself their physical and moral constitution. Accordingly, it has been asserted that a sect did arise, which, carrying out, as the members of it affirmed, the principles of Augustine, maintained that God not only predestinated the wicked to eternal punishment, but also to the guilt and transgression for which they were punished; that the human race was thus wholly passive, the good and bad actions of men, or what were commonly termed such, being determined from all eternity by a divine decree, or fixed by hopeless, irresistible necessity. These opinions it is said that the venerable and enlightened bishop of Hippo zealously opposed, labouring to show that they were not fairly deduced from what he had taught, making a distinction probably between his account of free will and the necessity here confounded with it, and perhaps reluctant to push his tenets so far as apparently they might be carried. The fact is, that although the doctrine of absolute predestination is occasionally clearly taught by Augustine, and obviously follows from his other principles, yet he does not always write consistently with regard to it; or, at least, there is sometimes so much vagueness in his assertions and illustrations, that his authority has been claimed in support of their peculiar tenets both by the Jansenists and the Jesuits, opposite to each other as the sentiments of these two orders are upon the subject of which we are treating. Still it is beyond a question that this celebrated theologian did fix the attention of the church upon that subject much more closely than before his age had been the case, and gave rise to those discussions in relation to it which have so often agitated Christians, and tended much more to destroy the mild and tolerant spirit of the Gospel, than to throw light upon its momentous truths. The subject of predestination, however, was long regarded as one which it was not esteemed requisite absolutely to define, and which might be very much left open to speculation; for although in different countries decrees were passed, guarding against what were viewed as errors resulting from it, it is plain, from what took place upon the revival of the controversy in an after age, that there had not been formed any standard to which ecclesiastical authority required that all who were esteemed orthodox should strictly conform. See AUGUSTINE .

In the ninth century, Godeschalchus, a man of illustrious birth, who had, contrary to his inclinations, been devoted by his parents to a monastic life, and who had, with unwearied diligence, studied the science of theology, inflamed by an unhappy desire to unravel all the difficulties with which that science abounds, occupied his mind with the consideration of the question of predestination, and finally adopted, with regard to it, the doctrine of Augustine. Not satisfied with having convinced himself, he conceived it to be his duty to labour for the conviction of others; and he accordingly openly and zealously inculcated that the elect were predestinated to life, and the rest of mankind to everlasting misery. Rabanus, archbishop of Mentz, who had for some reason before this been inspired with enmity to Godeschalchus, having been informed of the tenets which he was publishing, and, as has too often been the case, veiling private antipathy under the cloak of anxiety for the purity of divine truth, opposed him with the utmost vehemence; and, having assembled a council in his own metropolitan city, procured the condemnation of the views which he reprobated. The matter was afterward taken up by Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, who was the zealous friend of Rabanus; and he also having procured the meeting of a council, confirmed the sentence that had been already passed. Not satisfied with this, he degraded Godeschalchus from the priesthood; and, with an inhumanity infinitely more detestable than heresy, he put the unfortunate monk to the torture. The fortitude of Godeschalchus was for a moment overpowered, and he consented to commit to the flames a justification of his opinions which he had presented to his execrable tormentors. It was not to be supposed that by atrocious violence like this, sincere conviction could be produced in the person against whom it was directed, or that others would be disposed universally to submit to it. The controversy, accordingly, soon was renewed; writers on both sides of the question contended with the utmost warmth, and eagerly displayed the extent of their erudition. New councils were summoned, by which the decrees of former councils were reversed, and the tenets of Godeschalchus were confirmed; and the whole agitation terminated by leaving the subject in the same undefined state on the part of the church in which it had been before it was thus intemperately and cruelly discussed.

To the schoolmen, who delighted much more in losing themselves amidst inextricable difficulties and endless distinctions, than in opening the sources of knowledge and rumoring the difficulties with which these were surrounded, this subject, from its intricate or inexplicable nature, was admirably adapted; and they did not fail to exercise upon it their diligence and their ingenuity. Thomas Aquinas, who flourished during the thirteenth century, was a man who in more enlightened times would have really merited the high reputation which he enjoyed, and which procured for him from his contemporaries the appellation of the Angelic Doctor. He was capable of vast mental exertion, and, amidst all his avocations, produced works so voluminous that in modern days even students would shrink from the perusal of them as an overwhelming task. He wrote largely upon the nature of grace, and predestination, so intimately connected with it. His opinions upon these subjects were nearly the same with those of Augustine; and so much, indeed, was he conceived to resemble in genius and understanding that distinguished prelate, that it was asserted the soul of Augustine had been sent into the body of Aquinas. He taught that God had, from all eternity, and without any regard to their works, predestinated a certain number to life and happiness; but he found great delight in endeavouring to reconcile this position with the freedom of the human will. His celebrated antagonist, John Duns Scotus, an inhabitant of Britain, surnamed, from the acuteness and bent of his mind, the Subtile Doctor, also directed his attention, in the subsequent century, to the same thorny speculations, taking a different view of them from Aquinas; and we find in the works of these two brilliant lights of the schoolmen all that the most learned in the dark ages thought upon them.

It is unnecessary to trace the various shades of opinion which existed in the church as to predestination from this era till the Reformation: it is enough to remark, that, after all which had been written upon it, it does not appear that any peculiar sentiments with respect to it were, by the reformers, judged essential to orthodoxy. It was more wisely considered that, upon a point involved in impenetrable difficulties, and raised far above human comprehension, men might be allowed to differ, while their attachment to the best interests of pure religion could not be called in question. See CALVINISM and See LUTHERANS .

The seventeenth article of the church of England is often adduced by Calvinists as favourable to their peculiar views of absolute predestination; but such a representation of it is rendered plausible only by adding to its various clauses qualifying expressions to suit that purpose. Under the articles Church of England, Confessions, and Calvinism, have been exhibited the just and liberal views of Cranmer and the principal English reformers on this subject,—the sources from which they drew the articles of religion and the public formularies of devotion,—and some of the futile attempts of the high predestinarians in the church to inoculate the public creed with their dogmas. Cartwright and his followers, in their second "Admonition to the Parliament" in 1572, complained that the articles speak dangerously of "falling from grace;" and in 1587 they preferred a similar complaint. The labours of the Westminster Assembly at a subsequent period, and their abortive result, in relation to this subject, are well known. Long before Arminius had turned his thoughts to the consideration of general redemption, a great number of the English clergy had publicly taught and defended the same doctrine. It was about 1571 when Dr. Peter Baroe, "a zealous Anti-Calvinian," as one of our church historians observes, was made Margaret Professor of Divinity in the university of Cambridge; and "he went on teaching in his lectures, preaching in his sermons, determining in the schools, and printing in several books, divers points contrary to Calvinism. And this he did for several years, without any manner of disturbance or interruption. The heads of the university, in a letter to the Lord Burleigh, dated March 8, 1595, say, he had done it for fourteen or fifteen years preceding, and they might have said twenty; for he printed some of his lectures in 1574, and the prosecution he was at last under, which will be considered hereafter, was not till 1595. In 1584, Mr. Harsnet, afterward archbishop of York, preached against absolute reprobation at St. Paul's Cross, the greatest audience then in the kingdom; as did the judicious Mr. Hooker at the Temple in the year following. In the year 1594, Mr. Barret preached at St. Mary's in Cambridge against Calvinism, with very smart reflections upon Calvin himself, Beza, Zanchy, and several others of the most noted writers in that scheme. In the same year, Dr. Baroe preached at the same place to the same purpose. By this time Calvinism had gained considerable ground, being much promoted by the learned Whitaker and Mr. Perkins; and several of the heads of the university being in that scheme, they complained of the two sermons above mentioned to the Lord Burleigh their chancellor. Their heads endeavoured to bring Barret to a retraction, to which whether he ever submitted according to the form they drew up, may reasonably be doubted. At length the matter was laid before Archbishop Whitgift, who was offended at their proceedings, and writes to the Lord Burleigh, that some of the points which the heads had enjoined Barret to retract were such as the most learned Protestants, then living, varied in judgment upon; and that the most ancient and best divines in the land were in the chiefest points in opinion against the heads and their resolutions. Another letter he sent to the heads themselves, telling them that they had enjoined Barret to affirm that which was contrary to the doctrine holden and expressed by many sound and learned divines in the church of England, and in other churches likewise men of best account; and that which for his own part he thought to be false and contrary to the Scriptures; for the Scriptures are plain, that God by his absolute will did not hate and reject any man. There might be impiety in believing the one, there could be none in believing the other: neither was it contrary to any article of religion established by authority in this church of England, but rather agreeable thereto. This testimony of the archbishop is very remarkable; and though he afterward countenanced the Lambeth articles, that is of little or no weight in the case. The question is not about any man's private opinion, but about the doctrine of the church; and supposing the archbishop to be a Calvinist, as he seems to have been at least in some points, this only adds the greater weight to his testimony, that our church has no where declared in favour of that scheme. The archbishop descended to the particulars charged against Barret, asking the heads what article of the church was contradicted by this or that notion of his; and Whitaker in his reply does not appeal to one of the articles, as against Barret, but forms his plea upon the doctrines which then generally obtained in pulpits. His words are, ‘We are fully persuaded that Mr. Barret hath taught untruth, if not against the articles, yet against the religion, of our church, publicly received, and always held in her majesty's reign, and maintained in all sermons, disputations, and lectures.' And even this pretence of his, weak as it would have been though true, is utterly false, directly contrary, not only to what has been already shown to be the facts of the case, but also to what the archbishop affirmed, and that too, as must be supposed, upon his own knowledge. As to Dr. Baroe, he met with many friends, who espoused his cause. Mr. Strype particularly mentions four, Mr. Overal, Dr. Clayton, Mr. Harsnet, Dr. Andrews; all of them great and learned men, men of renown, and famous in their generation. How many more there were, nobody can tell. The heads in their letter to the Lord Burleigh do not pretend that the preaching against Calvinism gave a general offence, but that it offended many; which implies that there were many others on the opposite side; and they expressly say there were divers in the Anti-Calvinian scheme, whom they represent as maintaining it with great boldness. But what put a stop to this prosecution against Baroe was, a reprimand from their chancellor, the Lord Burleigh, who wrote to the heads, that as good and as ancient were of another judgment, and that they might punish him, but it would be for well doing."

But Dr. Whitaker, Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge, could not endure the farther prevalence of the doctrines of general redemption in that university; he therefore, in 1595, drew up nine affirmations, elucidatory of his views of predestination, and obtained for them the sanction of several Calvinian heads of houses, with whom he repaired to Archbishop Whitgift. Having heard their ex parte statement, his grace summoned Bishops Flecher and Vaughan, and Dr. Tyndal, dean of Ely, to meet Dr. Whitaker and the Cambridge deputation at his palace in Lambeth. on the tenth of November, 1595; where, after much polishing and altering, they produced Whitaker's affirmation in the following form, called the "Lambeth Articles," from the place in which their secret sittings had been held:—

" 1. God from eternity hath predestinated certain men unto life; certain men he hath reprobated.

2. The moving or efficient cause of predestination unto life is not the foresight of faith or of perseverance, or of good works, or of any thing that is in the person predestinated; but it is only the good will and pleasure of God.

3. A certain number of the predestinate is predetermined, which can neither be augmented nor diminished.

4. Those who are not predestinated to salvation shall be necessarily damned for their sins.

5. A true, living, and justifying faith, and the Spirit of God justifying, is not extinguished, doth not fall off, or vanish away, in the elect, either totally or finally.

6. A man who is a true believer, that is, one who is endued with a justifying faith, is assured with a plerophory, or firm persuasion, of faith concerning the remission of his sins, and his eternal salvation through Christ.

7. Saving grace is neither given, communicated, nor granted to all men, by which they can be saved if they will.

8. No one is able to come unto Christ unless it shall be given unto him, and unless the Father shall draw him; and all men are not drawn by the Father, that they may come unto the Son.

9. It is not placed in the choice, will, or capacity of every one to be saved."

Dr. Whitaker died a few days after his return from Lambeth, with the nine articles to which he had procured the patronage of the primate. After his demise, two competitors appeared for the vacant King's Professorship, Dr. Wotton, of King's College, a professed Calvinian, and Dr. Overal of Trinity College, "almost as far," says Heylin, "from the Calvinian doctrine in the main platform of predestination as Baroe, Harsnet, or Barret are conceived to be. But when it came to the vote of the university, the place was carried for Overal by the major part; which plainly shows, that though the doctrines of Calvin were so hotly stickled here by most of the heads, yet the greater part of the learned body entertained them not." "The Lambeth articles," it is well observed, "are no part of the doctrine of the church of England, having never had any the least sanction either from the parliament or the convocation. They were drawn up by Professor Whitaker; and though they were afterward approved by Archbishop Whitgift, and six or eight of the inferior clergy, in a meeting they had at Lambeth, yet this meeting was only in a private manner, and without any authority from the queen; who was so far from approving of their proceedings, that she not only ordered the articles to be suppressed, but was resolutely bent for some time to bring the archbishop and his associates under a premunire, for presuming to make them without any warrant or legal authority." Such, in brief, was the origin and such the fate of the Lambeth articles, without the countenance of which the defenders of Calvinism in the church of England could find no semblance of support for their manifold affirmations on predestination and its kindred topics. These articles afford another instructive instance of the extreme ignorance of the real sentiments of their opponents, which often betrays itself in the conduct of many eminent men, when they rashly begin to fence off the reputed heterodoxy of their brethren from the sacred precincts of their own orthodoxy. Two of the ablest and most consistent Arminians of the old English school, Baroe and Plaifere, have lucidly shown how every one of these nine assertions may, without difficulty, be interpreted in accordance with their individual belief. Baroe's clever dissertation on this subject will be found in Strype's "Life of Whitgift;" and that of Plaifere, in his own unanswerable "Apello Evangelium."


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Predestination'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/p/predestination.html. 1831-2.

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