ARTICLE XXIII (III.) It frequently happens that a creature who is not entirely hardened in evil, is unwilling to perform an action because it is joined with sin; unless when certain arguments and occasions are presented to him, which act as incitements to its commission. The management of this presentation, also, is in the hand of the providence of God, who presents these incitements, that he may accomplish his own work by the act of the creature. It frequently happens that a creature who is not entirely hardened in evil, is unwilling to perform an action because it is joined with sin; unless when certain arguments and occasions are presented to him, which act as incitements to its commission. The management of this presentation, also, is in the hand of the providence of God, who presents these incitements, that he may accomplish his own work by the act of the creature.
Unless certain persons were under the excitement of a licentious appetite for carping at those things which proceed from me, they would undoubtedly never have persuaded themselves to create any trouble about this matter. Yet, I would pardon them this act of officiousness, as the rigid and severe examiners of truth, provided they would sincerely and without calumny relate those things which I have actually spoken or written; that is, that they would not corrupt or falsify my sayings, either by adding to or diminishing from them, by changing them or giving them a perverted interpretation. But some men seem to have been so long accustomed to slander, that, even when they can be openly convicted of it, still they are not afraid of hurling it against an innocent person. Of this fact, they afford a luminous example in the present article. For those things which I advanced in the Theses, On the Efficacy and Righteousness of the Providence of God concerning evil, and which were disputed in the month of May, 1605, are here quoted, but in a mutilated manner, and with the omission of those things which are capable of powerfully vindicating the whole from the attacks of slander. The following are the words which I employed in the fifteenth thesis of that disputation.
|But since an act, though it be permitted to the ability and the will of the creature, may yet be taken away from his actual power or legislation; and since, therefore, it will very frequently happen, that a creature, who is not entirely hardened in evil, is unwilling to perform an act because it is connected with sin, unless when some arguments and occasions are presented to him, which resemble incitements to its commission. The management of this presenting (of arguments and occasions) is also in the hand of the Providence of God, who presents these incitements, both that He may fully try whether the creature be willing to refrain from sinning, even when urged on, or provoked, by incitements; because the praise of abstaining from sin is very slight, in the absence of such provocatives; and that, if the creature wills to yield to these incitements, God may effect his own work by the act of the creature.|
These are my words from which the brethren have extracted what seemed suitable for establishing the slander, but have omitted and quite taken away those things which, in the most manifest manner, betray and confute the calumny. For I laid down two ends of that administration by which God manages the arguments, occasions, incitements, and irritatives to commit that act which is joined with sin. And these two ends were neither collateral, that is, not equally intended; nor were they connected together by a close conjunction. The FIRST of them, which is the exploration or trial of his creature, God primarily, properly, and of himself intends. But the LATTER, which is, that God may effect his own work by the act of the creature, is not intended by God, except after he has foreseen that his Creature will not resist these incitements, but will yield to them, and that of his own free will, in opposition to the command of God, which it was his duty and within his power to follow, after having rejected and refused those allurements and incitements of arguments and occasions. But this article of theirs propounds my words in such a way, as if I had made God to intend this last end only and of itself, omitting entirely the first; and thus omitting the previous condition under which God intends this second end through the act of his creature, that is, when it is the will of the creature to yield to these incitements.
This calumny, therefore, is two-fold, and evidently invented for the purpose of drawing a conclusion from these, my words -- that I have in them represented God as the author of sin. A certain person, having lately quoted my expressions in a public discourse, was not afraid of drawing from them this conclusion. But this was purely through calumny, as I will now prove with the utmost brevity.
The reason by which it can be concluded, from the words that have been quoted in this article from my Thesis, |that God is the author of the sin which is committed by the creature,| when God incites him by arguments and occasions, is universally, three-fold:
The FIRST is, that God absolutely intends to effect his own work by the act of the creature, which act cannot be performed by the creature without sin. This is resolvable into two absolute intentions of God, of which the first is that by which he absolutely intends to effect this, his work; and the second, that by which he absolutely intends to effect this work in no other way, than by such an act of a creature as cannot be done by that creature without sin.
The SECOND REASON IS, that the creature being invited by the presenting of these allurements and provocatives to commit that act, cannot do otherwise than commit it; that is, such an excitation being laid down, the creature cannot suspend that act by which God intends to erect his work, otherwise God might be frustrated of his intention: Hence arises
The THIRD REASON which has its origin in these two -- that God intends by these incentives to move the creature to perform an act which is joined to sin, that is, to move him to the commission of sin.
All these things seem, with some semblance of probability, to be drawn as conclusions from the words thus placed, as they are quoted in this their article, because it is represented as the sole and absolute end of this administration and presenting-that God effects his work by the act of the creature. But those words which I have inserted, and which they have omitted, meet these three reasons, and in the most solid manner, confute the whole objection which rests upon them.
1. My own words meet the FIRST of these reasons thus: For they deny that God absolutely intends to effect his own work by the act of the creature; because they say that God did not intend to employ the act of the creature to complete his work, before he foresaw that the creature would yield to those incitements, that is, would not resist them.
2. They meet the SECOND by denying that, after assigning this presentation of incitements, the creature is unable to suspend his act; since they say, likewise, that, if it be the will of the creature to yield to these incitements, then God effects his own work by the act of the creature. What does this mean if it be his will to yield? Is not the freedom of the will openly denoted, by which, when this presenting of arguments and occasions is laid down, the will can yet refuse to yield,
3. They also meet the THIRD: For they deny that God intends by those incitements to move the creature to the commission of an act which is joined to sin, that is, to commit sin, because they say, that God intends the trial of his creature, whether he will obey God even after having been irritated by these incitements. And when God saw that the creature preferred to yield to these incitements, rather than to obey him, then he intended, not the act of the creature, for that is unnecessary; because, his intention being now to try, he obtains the issue of the act performed by the will of the creature. But God intended to effect his own work by an act founded on the will and the culpability of the creature.
It is apparent, therefore, that these words which my brethren have omitted, most manifestly refute the calumny, and in the strongest manner solve the objection. This I will likewise point out in another method, that the whole iniquity of this objection may be rendered quite obvious.
That man who says, |God tries his creature by arguments and occasions of sinning, whether he will obey him even after he has been stirred up by incitements,| openly declares that it is in the power of the creature to resist these incitements, and not to sin: otherwise, this [act of God] would be, not a trial of obedience, but a casting down, and an impelling to necessary disobedience. Then, the man who says -- |God, by these provocatives and incitements, tries the obedience of his creature,| intimates by these expressions, that those occasions and arguments which are presented by God when he intends to try, are not incitements and irritations to sin, through the end and aim of God. But they are incitements, first, by capability according to the inclination of the creature who can be incited by them to commit an act connected with sin. They are also incitements, secondly, in their issue, because the creature has been induced by them to sin, but by his own fault; for it was his duty, and in his power, to resist this inclination, and to neglect and despise these incitements.
It is wonderful, therefore, and most wonderful indeed, that any man, at all expert in theological matters, should have ventured to fabricate from my words this calumny against me. Against me, I say, who dare not accede to some of the sentiments and dogmas of my brethren, as they well know, for this sole reason -- because I consider it flows from them that God is the author of sin. And I cannot accede to them on this account -- because I think my brethren teach those things from which I can conclude by good and certain consequence, that God absolutely intends the sin of his creature, and thence, that he so administers all things, as, when this administration is laid down, man necessarily sins, and cannot, in the act itself, and in reality, omit the act of sin. If they shew that the things which I say, do not follow from their sentiments, on this account at least, I shall not suffer myself to be moved by their consent in them. Let the entire theses be read, and it will be evident how solicitously I have guarded against saying any thing, from which by the most distant probability, this blasphemy might be deduced; and yet, at the same time, I have been careful to subtract from the providence of God nothing, which, according to the Scriptures, ought to be ascribed to it. But I scarcely think it necessary, for me now to prove at great length, that the fact of God's providential efficacy respecting evil is exactly as I have taught in those words; especially after I have premised this explanation. I will, however, do this in a very brief manner.
Eve was not only |a creature not entirely hardened in evil,| but she was not at all evil; and she willed to abstain from eating the forbidden fruit because |it was connected with sin,| as is apparent from the answer which she gave to the serpent: |God hath, said, Ye shall not eat of it.| Her compliance with this command was easy, in the midst of such an abundance of fruit; and the trial of her obedience would have been very small, if she had been solicited with no other argument by the tempter. It happened, therefore, that, in addition to this, the serpent presented to Eve an argument of persuasion, by which he might stimulate her to eat, saying, |Ye shall not surely die, but ye shall be as gods.| This argument, according to the intention of the serpent, was an incitement to commit sin: Without it, the serpent perceived, she would not be moved to eat, because he had heard her expressing her will to abstain from the act because it was |connected with sin.|
I ask now, Is the whole management of this temptation to be ascribed to God, or not? If they say, |It must not be attributed to him,| they offend against Providence, the Scriptures, and the opinion of all our divines. If they confess that it should be ascribed to him, they grant what I have said. But what was the end of this management? An experiment, or trial, whether Eve, when solicited by arguments, and stimulated by Satan, would resolve to refrain from an act, that she might obtain from her Lord and Creator, the praise of obedience. The instance of Joseph's brethren, which is quoted in the fifteenth thesis of my ninth public disputation, proves this in the plainest manner, as I have shown in that thesis.
Let the case of Absalom be inspected, who committed incest with his father's concubines. Was not this the occasion of perpetrating that act -- God gave his father's concubines into his hands, that is, he permitted them to his power. Was not the argument inducing him to commit that act, from which nature is abhorrent, furnished by the advice of Ahithophel, whose counsels were considered as oracles? (2 Sam. xvi.20-23.) Without doubt, these are the real facts of the case. But that God himself managed the whole of this affair, appears from the Scripture, which says that God did it. (2 Sam. xii.11-12.)
Examine what God says in Deut. xiii.1-3, |Thou shalt not obey the words of that prophet, who persuades thee to worship other gods, although he may have given thee a sign or a wonder which may have actually come to pass? Is not the diction of |the sign,| [by this false prophet,] when confirmed by the event itself, an argument which may gain credit for him? And is not the credit, thus obtained, an incitement, or an argument to effect a full persuasion of that which this prophet persuaded? And what necessity is there for arguments, incitements and incentives, if a rational creature has such a propensity to the act, which cannot be committed without sin, that he wills to commit it without any argument whatsoever, Under such circumstances, the grand tempter will cease from his useless labour. But because the tempter knows, that the creature is unwilling to commit this act, unless he be incited by arguments, and opportunities be offered, he brings forward all that he can of incentives to allure the creature to sin. God, however, presides over all these things, and by his Providence administers the whole of them, but to an end far different from that to which the temptor directs them. For God manages them, in the first place, for the trial of his creatures, and, afterwards, (if it be the will of the creature to yield,) for Himself to effect something by that act.
If any think, that there is something reprehensible in this view, let them so circumscribe the right and the capability of God, as to suppose Him unable to try the obedience of his creature by any other method, than by creating that in which sin can be committed, and from which He commanded him by a law to abstain. But if He can try the obedience of his creature by some other method than this, let these persons shew us what that method is beside the presenting of arguments and occasions, and why God uses the former method more than the preceding one which I have mentioned. Is it not because he perceives, that the creature will not, by the former, be equally strongly solicited to evil, and that therefore it is a trivial matter to abstain from sin, to the commission of which he is not instigated by any other incentives?
Let the history of Job be well considered, whose patience God tried in such a variety of ways, and to whom were presented so many incitements to sin against God by impatience; and the whole of this matter will very evidently appear. God said to Satan; |Hast thou considered my servant Job, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and departeth from evil,.| Satan answered the Lord and said: |What wonder is there in this, since thou hast so abundantly blessed him. But try him now by afflictions.| And the Lord said unto Satan: |Behold, all that he hath is in thy power. Only upon himself put not forth thine hand.| What other meaning have these words than, |Behold, incite him to curse me! I grant thee permission, since thou thinkest small praise is due to that man who abounds with blessings, and yet fears me. Satan did what he was permitted, and produced none of the effects; [which he had prognosticated]; so that God said, |Job still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him.| (ii, 3.) This trial being finished, when Satan asked permission to employ against him greater incentives to sin, he obtained his request; and, after all, effected nothing. Therefore God was glorified in the patience of Job, to the confusion of Satan.
I suppose these remarks will be sufficient to free the words of my Theses from all calumny and from sinister and unjust interpretations. When I have ascertained the arguments which our brethren employ to convict these words of error, I will endeavour to confute them; or if I cannot do this, I will field to what may then be deemed the truth.