Arminius on Predestination (Part 11)
XIX. This doctrine completely subverts the foundation of religion in general, and of the Christian Religion in particular.
1. The foundation of religion considered in general, is a two-fold love of God; without which there neither is nor can be any religion: The first of them is a love for righteousness [or justice] which gives existence to his hatred of sin. The second is a love for the creature who is endowed with reason, and (in the matter now before us,) it is a love for man, according to the expression of the Apostle to the Hebrews. “for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (xi, 6.) God’s love of righteousness is manifested by this circumstance, that it is not his will and pleasure to bestow eternal life on any except on “those who seek him.” God’s love of man consists in his being willing to give him eternal life, if he seek Him.
A mutual relation subsists between these two kinds of love, which is this. The latter species of love, which extends itself to the creatures, cannot come into exercise, except so far as it is permitted by the former, [the love of righteousness]: The former love, therefore, is by far the most excellent species; but in every direction there is abundant scope for the emanations of the latter, [the loveof the creature,] except where the former [the love of righteousness] has placed some impediment in the range of its exercise. The first of these consequences is most evidently proved from the circumstance of God’s condemning man on account of sin, although he loves him in the relation in which he stands as his creature; which would by no means have been done, had he loved man more than righteousness, [or justice,] and had he evinced a stronger aversion to the eternal misery of man than to his disobedience. But the second consequence is proved by this argument, that God condemns no person, except on account of sin; and that he saves such a multitude of men who turn themselves away [or are converted] from sin; which he could not do, unless it was his will to allow as abundant scope to his love for the creatures, as is permitted by righteousness [or justice] under the regulation of the Divine judgment.
But this [Supralapsarian] doctrine inverts this order and mutual relation in two ways:
(1.) The one is when it states, that God wills absolutely to save certain particular men, without having had in that his intention the least reference or regard to their obedience. This is the manner in which it places the love of God to man before his love of righteousness, and lays down the position — that God loves men (as such) more than righteousness, and evinces a stronger aversion to their misery than to their sin and disobedience.
(2.) The other is when it asserts, on the contrary, that God wills absolutely to damn certain particular men without manifesting in his decree any consideration of their disobedience. In this manner it detracts from his love to the creature that which belongs to it; while it teaches, that God hates the creature, without any cause or necessity derived from his love of righteousness and his hatred of iniquity. In which case, it is not true, “that sin is the primary object of God’s hatred, and its only meritorious cause.”
The great influence and potency which this consideration possesses in subverting the foundation of religion, may be appropriately described by the following simile: Suppose a son to say, “My father is such a great lover of righteousness and equity, that, notwithstanding I am his beloved son, he would disinherit me if I were found disobedient to him. Obedience, therefore, is a duty which I must sedulously cultivate, and which is highly incumbent upon me, if I wish to be his heir.” Suppose another son to say: “My father’s love for me is so great, that he is absolutely resolved to make me his heir. There is, therefore, no necessity for my earnestly striving to yield him obedience; for, according to his unchangeable will, I shall become his heir. Nay, he will by an irresistible force draw me to obey him, rather than not suffer me to be made his heir.” But such reasoning as the latter is diametrically opposed to the doctrine contained in the following words of John the Baptist: “And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matt. iii, 9.)
2. But the Christian religion also has its superstructure built upon this two-fold love as a foundation. This love, however, is to be considered in a manner somewhat different, in consequence of the change in the condition of man, who, when he had been created after the image of God and in his favour, became by his own fault a sinner and an enemy to God.
(1.) God’s love of righteousness [or justice] on which the Christian religion rests, is, first, that righteousness which he declared only once, which was in Christ; because it was his will that sin should not be expiated in any other way than by the blood and death of his Son, and that Christ should not be admitted before him as an Advocate, Deprecator and Intercessor, except when sprinkled by his own blood. But this love of righteousness is, secondly, that which he daily manifests in the preaching of the gospel, in which he declares it to be his will to grant a communication of Christ and his benefits to no man, except to him who becomes converted and believes in Christ.
(2.) God’s love of miserable sinners, on which likewise the Christian religion is founded, is, first, that love by which he gave his Son for them, and constituted him a saviour of those who obey him. But this love of sinners is, secondly, that by which he hath required obedience, not according to the rigor and severity to which he was entitled by his own supreme right, but according to his grace and clemency, and with the addition of a promise of the remission of sins, provided fallen man repent.
The [supralapsarian] doctrine of Predestination is, in two ways, opposed to this two-fold foundation: first, by stating, “that God has such a great love for certain sinners, that it was his will absolutely to save them before he had given satisfaction, through Christ Jesus, to his love of righteousness, [or justice,] and that he thus willed their salvation even in his own fore-knowledge and according to his determinate purpose.” Besides, it totally and most completely overturns this foundation, by teaching it to be “God’s pleasure, that satisfaction should be paid to his justice, [or righteousness,] because he willed absolutely to save such persons:” which is nothing less, than to make his love for justice, manifested in Christ, subordinate to his love for sinful man whom it is his will absolutely to save. Secondly. It opposes itself to this foundation, by teaching, “that it is the will of God absolutely to damn certain sinners without any consideration of their impenitency;” when at the same time a most plenary and complete satisfaction had been rendered, in Christ Jesus, to God’s love of righteousness [or justice] and to his hatred of sin. So that nothing now can hinder the possibility of his extending mercy to the sinner, whosoever he may be, except the condition of repentance. Unless some person should choose to assert, what is stated in this doctrine, “that it has been God’s will to act towards the greater part of mankind with the same severity as he exercised towards the devil and his angels, or even with greater, since it was his pleasure that neither Christ nor his gospel should be productive of greater blessings to them than to the devils, and since, according to the first offense, the door of grace is as much closed against them as it is against the evil angels.” Yet each of those angels sinned, by himself in his own proper person, through his individual maliciousness, and by his voluntary act; while men sinned, only in Adam their parent, before they had been brought into existence.
But, that we may more clearly understand the fact of this two-fold love being the foundation of all religion and the manner in which it is so, with the mutual correspondence that subsists between each other, as we have already described them, it will be profitable for us to contemplate with greater attention the following words of the Apostle to the Hebrews: “He that cometh to God, must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” In these words two things are laid down as foundations to religion, in opposition to two fiery darts of Satan, which are the most pernicious pests to it, and each of which is able by itself to overturn and extirpate all religion. One of them is security, the other despair. Security operates, when a man permits himself, that, how inattentive soever he may be to the worship of God, he will not be damned, but will obtain salvation. Despair is in operation, when a person entertains a persuasion, that, whatever degree of reverence he may evince towards God, he will not receive any remuneration. In what human mind soever either of these pests is fostered, it is impossible that any true and proper worship of God can there reside. Now both of them are overturned by the words of the Apostle: For if a man firmly believes, “that God will bestow eternal life on those alone who seek Him, but that He will inflict on the rest death eternal,” he can on no account indulge himself in security. And if he likewise believes, that “God is truly a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” by applying himself to the search he will not be in danger of falling into despair. The foundation of the former kind of faith by which a man firmly believes, “that God will bestow eternal life on none except on those who seek Him,” is that love which God bears to his own righteousness, [or justice,] and which is greater than that which he entertains for man. And, by this alone, all cause of security is removed. But the foundation of the latter kind of faith, “that God will undoubtedly be a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” is that great love for man which neither will nor can prevent God from effecting salvation for him, except he be hindered by his still greater love for righteousness or justice. Yet the latter kind of love is so far from operating as a hindrance to God from becoming a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, that on the contrary, it promotes in every possible way the bestowment of that reward. Those persons, therefore, who seek God, can by no means indulge in a single doubt concerning his readiness to remunerate. And it is this which acts as a preservative against despair or distrust. Since this is the actual state of the case, this two-fold love, and the mutual relation which each part of it bears to the other and which we have just unfolded, are the foundations of religion, without which no religion can possibly exist. That doctrine, therefore, which is in open hostility to this mutual love and to the relation that mutually subsists between them, is, at the same time, subversive of the foundation of all religion.