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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : ARTICLE V Naught among things contingent can be said to be NECESSARILY done in respect to the Divine decree.

The Works Of James Arminius Vol 1 by James Arminius

ARTICLE V Naught among things contingent can be said to be NECESSARILY done in respect to the Divine decree.

Naught among things contingent can be said to be NECESSARILY done in respect to the Divine decree.


My opinion concerning Necessity and Contingency is |that they can never be applicable at once to one and the same event.| But I speak of the necessity and contingency that are both of the same kind, not those which are different in their genus. The schoolmen state, that there is one necessitas consequentis -- an absolute necessity -- , and another, necessitas consequentiæ -- a hypothetical necessity. The former is, when the necessity arises from a cause antecedent to the thing itself. But necessitas consequentiæ -- a hypothetical necessity -- arises from certain premises, or principles, antecedent to the conclusion. A consequent, or absolute contingency cannot consist with a consequent, or absolute necessity; nor can they meet together in one event. In the same manner, one conclusion cannot be both necessary and contingent in regard to its consequence; that is, it cannot have, at the same time, a necessity and a contingency that are hypothetical. But the cause why one thing cannot be necessary and contingent at the same time, is this |that what is necessary, and what is contingent, divide the whole amplitude of being. For every being is either necessary or contingent. But those things which divide the whole of being, cannot coincide or meet together in any single being. Otherwise they would not divide the whole range of being. What is contingent, and what is necessary, likewise, differ in their entire essences and in the whole of their definition. For that is necessary which cannot possibly not be or not be done. And that is contingent which is possible not to be or to be done. Thus contradictorily are they opposed to each other; and this opposition is infinite, and, therefore, always dividing truth from falsehood: as, |this thing is either a man or it is not a man;| it is not possible for any thing to be both of these at once -- that is, it is impossible for any thing of one essence. Otherwise, in another sense,| Christ is a man,| as proceeding from his mother, Mary; |he is not a man,| in reference to his having been begotten of the Father from all eternity; but these are two things and two natures.

But they say: |It is possible for one and the same event to be necessary and contingent in different respects -- necessary with regard to the first cause, which is God -- and contingent in respect to second causes.| I answer, FIRST. Those things which differ in their entire essences, do not coincide in respects. SECONDLY. The necessity or contingency of an event is to be estimated, not from one cause, but from all the causes united together. For after ten causes have been fixed, from which a thing is produced, not necessarily but contingently, if one be added from which the thing may be necessarily completed, the whole of that thing is said to have been done not contingently but necessarily. Because, when all these causes were together appointed, it was impossible for that thing to hinder itself from being produced, and from being brought into existence. That thing, I confess indeed, when distinctly compared by our mind with each of its causes, has a different relation to them respectively. But since none of those causes is the total cause of that event, and since all of them united together form the total cause, the thing ought itself to be accounted and declared to have been done from that total cause, either necessarily or contingently.

It is not only a rash saying, but a false and an ignorant one, |that a thing which, in regard to second causes, is done contingently is said to be done necessarily in regard to the divine decree.| For the divine decree itself, being an internal action of God, is not immediately the cause of the thing; but, whatever effects it may produce, it performs them by power, according to the mode of which a thing will be said to be either necessarily or contingently. For if God resolve to use an irresistible power in the execution of his decree, or if he determine to employ such a quantum of power as nothing can resist or can hinder it from completing his purpose, it will follow that the thing will necessarily be brought into existence. Thus, |wicked men who persevere in their sins, will necessarily perish,| for God will by an irresistible force, cast them down into the depths of hell. But if he resolve to use a force that is not irresistible, but that can be resisted by the creature, then that thing is said to be done, not necessarily but contingently, although its actual occurrence was certainly foreknown by God, according to the infinity of his understanding, by which he knows all results whatever, that will arise from certain causes which are laid down, and whether those causes produce a thing necessarily or contingently. From whence the school-men say that |all things are done by a necessity of infallibility,| which phrase is used in a determinate sense, although the words in which its enunciation is expressed are ill-chosen. For infallibility is not an affection of a being, which exists from causes; but it is an affection of a Mind that sees or that foresees what will be the effect of certain causes. But I readily endure a catachrestic metalepsis, when it is evident concerning a thing, although it is my wish that our enunciations were always the best accommodated to the natures of the things themselves.

But the inventors of these articles try to prove by the examples which they produce, that |one and the same thing, which, with respect to second causes, is done contingently, is, in respect to the Divine Decree, done necessarily.| They say |It was possible for the bones of Christ to be broken, or not to be broken. It was possible for them to be broken, if any person considers the nature of bones; for they were undoubtedly fragile. But they could not be broken, if the decree of God be taken into the account.| In answer to this, I deny that in respect of the DIVINE DECREE, they could not be broken. For God did not decree that it was impossible for them to be broken, but that they should not be broken. This is apparent from the manner in which the transaction was actually conducted. For God did not employ an irresistible power by which he might prevent the bones of Christ from being broken by those who approached to break them; but by a mild kind of suasion, he caused that they should not will to break the bones of Christ, by an argument drawn from its inutility. For, since Christ had already given up the ghost, before those who broke the legs had arrived at the cross, they were not at all inclined to undertake a vain and fruitless labour in breaking the legs of our saviour. Because the breaking of legs, with the design to hasten death, was only done lest the bodies should remain suspended on the cross on a festival or sacred day, contrary to the divine law. Indeed, if the divine Wisdom knows how to effect that which it has decreed, by employing causes according to their nature and motion -- whether their nature and motion be contingent or free, the praise due to such Wisdom is far greater than if it employ a power which no creature can possibly resist. Although God can employ such a power whensoever it may seem expedient to his Wisdom. I am therefore, of opinion that I committed no offense when I said, |No contingent thing -- that is, nothing which is done or has been done CONTINGENTLY -- can be said to be or have been done NECESSARILY, with regard to the divine decree.|

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