The
CAUSE OF GOD AND TRUTH.

Part 4
Chapter 1—Of Predestination

Introduction


That the doctrine of absolute election and reprobation bears a contradiction to the sentiments of the ancient fathers, Dr. Whitby says,[1] is so evident, that Calvin, Beza, and many other patrons of it do partly confess it; and therefore he shall content himself with three or four demonstrations of this truth. As to the confessions of Calvin and Beza, the former only observes,[2] that the doctrine of election and reprobation, according to God's foreknowledge, has had magnos authores, "great authors," or abettors, in all ages; and the latter, (In Romans 11:35) that Origen led most of the Greek and Latin writers into that gross error, that the foresight of works is the cause of election. But these confessions, as they are called, are so far from granting that the doctrine of absolute election and reprobation contradicts the sentiments of all the ancient fathers, that they plainly suppose that some were for it. As for his three or four demonstrations, they are taken from several passages of the ancients, respecting the power of man's free will; from their exposition of the 8th and 9th chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, which will be considered hereafter, and from the testimonies of Vossius and Prosper. The words of Vossius, but not as the Doctor for has rendered them, are these:[3] "The Greek fathers always, and those of the Latin fathers who lived before Austin, are wont to say, that they were predestinated unto life, whom God foresaw would live piously and rightly; or as others say, whom he foresaw would believe and persevere." The Doctor ought to have transcribed what Vossius adds, which serves to explain their sense: "which," says he, "they so interpret, that predestination to glory may be said to be made according to prescience of faith and perseverance;" but they did not mean the prescience of those things which man would do from the strength of nature, but what he would do from the strength of grace, both preventing and subsequent. So that the consent of antiquity nothing helps the Pelagians, or Semipelagians, for they both believed that the cause of predestination is given on the part of man, according to all effects. But the Catholics owned that the first grace is bestowed freely, and not of merit. Wherefore neither did they think, that on the part of man is given "any cause of predestination unto preventing grace: yea, it is very probable that all, or most of them, when they make faith prior to election, yet do not consider faith as the cause of election properly so called; as if God, moved with the worthiness of faith, chose some to holiness and life." From whence it appears, that though they held predestination to glory, according to God's prescience of faith and perseverance, which prescience of faith and perseverance proceeds from God's absolute decree to give them both, in which sense none deny it; yet they make predestination to grace to be absolute, without any cause or condition on man's part; for otherwise grace must be given according to man's merits, which was the doctrine of Pelagius, condemned by the ancients, and something in man must be the cause of the divine will; whereas, as Aquinas[4] observes, "no man was ever of so unsound a judgment, as to say that merits are the cause of divine predestination with respect to the act of God predestinating." What is alleged from Prosper, is out of an epistle of his to Austin,[5] in which he observes to him, "that many of the servants of Christ, at Marseilles, thought that what Austin had wrote against the Pelagians, concerning the calling of the elect according to God's purpose, was contrary to the opinion of the fathers, and sense of the church; and that they defend their obstinacy by antiquity, affirming that what are brought out of the epistle of the apostle Paul to the Romans, to prove divine grace preventing the merits of the elect, were never so understood as they are now, by any ecclesiastical men. "This objection, how it may be removed," says he, "we pray that you would show, patiently bearing with our folly; namely, that they (the Massilians, and not Prosper, as the Doctor translates it, which spoils the ingenuous confession of Prosper the Doctor boasts of) having again perused the opinions of almost all those that went before, concerting this matter, their judgment is found to be one and the same, by which they embraced the purpose and predestination of God according to prescience." The sum of which is, that some Frenchmen of Marseilles caviled at Austin's doctrine, and pleaded antiquity on their side; having, as they said, perused almost all,not all,that went before them, and which they own did not please them. Austin's answer to this is cited already. And certain it is, that as his doctrines were then generally esteemed, except by these few Frenchmen, so he verily thought that the writers before him were of the same mind with him; for which purpose he cites[6] particularly Cyprian, Nazianzen, and Ambrose. But what was the sense of these, and other writers before him concern-this point, will be seen in the following Sections.


ENDNOTES:

[1] Discourse, etc., p. 96; ed. 2. 95. Postscript, p. 557; ed. 2. 534.

[2] Instit. 50:3, c. 22, s. 1.

[3] Hist Pelag. 50:6, thes. 8, p. 538, 539.

[4] Sum. pur. 1, in. 23, art. 5, concl, p. 77.

[5] Pages 879, 881, 886.

[6] De Perseverantia, c. 19.