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§ 113. Predestination.

1. Inst. bk. III. chs. XXI.–XXIV. Articuli de Praedestinatione, first published from an autograph of Calvin by the Strassburg editors, in Opera, IX. 713. The Consensus Genevensis (1552), Opera, VIII. 249–366. Calvin’s polemical writings against Pighius (1543), vol. VI. 224–404; Bolsec (1551), vol. VIII. 85–140; and Castellio (15, 57–58), vol. IX. 253–318. He treats the subject also in several of his sermons, e.g. on First and Second Timothy.

2. Alex. Schweizer: Die Protestantischen Centraldogmen (Zuerich, 1854), vol. I. 150–179.—Staehelin, I. 271 sqq.—Dorner: Geschichte der protest. Theol., 386–395.—Philip Schaff: Creeds of Christendom, I. 451–455.

Luther and Calvin.

The dogma of a double predestination is the cornerstone of the Calvinistic system, and demands special consideration.

Calvin made the eternal election of God, Luther made the temporal justification by faith, the article of the standing or falling Church, and the source of strength and peace in the battle of life. They agreed in teaching salvation by free grace, and personal assurance of salvation by a living faith in Christ and his gospel. But the former went back to the ultimate root in a pre-mundane unchangeable decree of God; the latter looked at the practical effect of saving grace upon the individual conscience. Both gave undue prominence to their favorite dogma, in opposition to Romanism, which weakened the power of divine grace, magnified human merit, and denied the personal certainty of salvation. They wished to destroy all basis for human pride and boasting, to pluck up Phariseeism by the root, and to lay a firm foundation for humility, gratitude, and comfort. This was a great progress over the mediaeval soteriology.

But there is a higher position, which modern evangelical theology has reached. The predestinarian scheme of Calvin and the solifidian scheme of Luther must give way or be subordinated to the Christocentric scheme. We must go back to Peter’s confession, which has only one article, but it is the most important article, and the oldest in Christendom. The central place in the Christian system belongs to the divine-human person and work of Christ: this is the immovable rock of the Church, against which the gates of Hades shall never prevail, and on which the creeds of Christendom will have to unite (Matt. 16:16–18; comp. 1 Cor. 2:2; 3:11; Rom. 4:25; 1 John 4:2, 3). The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed are Christocentric and Trinitarian.

The Reformers All Predestinarians.

All the Reformers of the sixteenth century, following the lead of Augustin and of the Apostle Paul,—as they understood him,—adopted, under a controlling sense of human depravity and saving grace, and in antagonism to self-righteous legalism, the doctrine of a double predestination which decides the eternal destiny of all men.818818    The essential agreement of the Reformers on the doctrine of free-will and predestination has been proven by scholars of different schools, as Jul. Mueller (Lutheri doctrina de praedestinatione et libero arbitrio, and in his Dogmatische Abhandlungen, pp. 169-179), Hundeshagen (Conflicte des Zwinglianismus, Lutherthums, und Calvinismus in der Bernischen Landeskirche von 1532-1558), Baur (Der Gegensatz des Katholicismus und Protestantismus, and in hisDogmengeschichte), Schweizer (Centraldogmen), Gieseler, Hagenbach, Dorner, Luthardt, Loofs, and others. Nor does it seem possible, logically, to evade this conclusion if we admit the two premises of Roman Catholic and Evangelical orthodoxy—namely, the wholesale condemnation of all men in Adam, and the limitation of saving grace to the present life. All orthodox Confessions reject Universalism, and teach that some men are saved, and some are lost, and that there is no possibility of salvation beyond the grave. The predestinarians maintain that this double result is the outcome of a double decree, that history must harmonize with the divine will and cannot defeat it. They reason from the effect to the cause, from the end to the beginning.

Yet there were some characteristic differences in the views of the leading Reformers on this subject. Luther, like Augustin, started from total moral inability or the servum arbitrium; Zwingli, from the idea of an all-ruling providentia; Calvin, from the eternal decretum absolutum.

The Augustinian and Lutheran predestinarianism is moderated by the churchly and sacramental principle of baptismal regeneration. The Calvinistic predestinarianism confines the sacramental efficacy to the elect, and turns the baptism of the non-elect into an empty form; but, on the other hand, it opens a door for an extension of electing grace beyond the limits of the visible Church. Zwingli’s position was peculiar: on the one hand, he went so far in his supralapsarianism as to make God the sinless author of sin (as the magistrate in inflicting capital punishment, or the soldier in the battle, are innocently guilty of murder); but, on the other hand, he undermined the very foundation of the Augustinian system—namely, the wholesale condemnation of the race for the single transgression of one; he admitted hereditary sin, but denied hereditary guilt; and he included all infants and pious heathen in the kingdom of heaven. Such a view was then universally abhorred, as dangerous and heretical.819819    Calvin expressed to Bullinger, in a confidential letter, January, 1552, his dissatisfaction with the paradoxical expressions of Zwingli’s tract De Providentia. "Zwinglii libellus," he writes, "ut familiariter inter nos loquamur, tam duris paradoxis refertus est, ut longissime ab ea quam adhibui moderatione distet." Bullinger, however, never contradicted the liberal sentiments of his teacher and friend, and believed in extraordinary modes of salvation, "sine externo ministerio, quo et quando velit (Deus)., et quod ejus potentiae est." Second Helv. Conf. I. 7.

Melanchthon, on further study and reflection, retreated in the Semi-Pelagian direction, and prepared the way for Arminianism, which arose, independently, in the heart of Calvinism at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He abandoned his earlier view, which he characterized as Stoic fatalism, and proposed the Synergistic scheme, which is a compromise between Augustinianism and Semi-Pelagianism, and makes the human will co-operate with preceding divine grace, but disowns human merit.820820    For a fuller exposition of Melanchthon’s Synergism see Herrlinger’s monograph; Frank, Theologie der Concordienformel; Dorner, Geschichte der Protest. Theologie, pp. 361-374, and his System der christl. Glaubenslehre, II. 706 sq. and 716 sq.; Schweizer, Centraldogmen, I. 380 sqq.; Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, I. 262 sq.; Loofs, Dogmengeschichte, pp. 403 sq. (2d ed.).

The Formula of Concord (1577) rejected both Calvinism and Synergism, yet taught, by a logical inconsistency, total disability and unconditional election, as well as universal vocation.

Calvin’s Theory.

Calvin elaborated the doctrine of predestination with greater care and precision than his predecessors, and avoided their "paradoxes," as he called some extravagant and unguarded expressions of Luther and Zwingli. On the other hand, he laid greater emphasis on the dogma itself, and assigned it a higher position in his theological system. He was, by his Stoic temper and as an admirer of Seneca, predisposed to predestinarianism, and found it in the teaching of Paul, his favorite apostle. But his chief interest in the doctrine was religious rather than metaphysical. He found in it the strongest support for his faith. He combined with it the certainty of salvation, which is the privilege and comfort of every believer. In this important feature he differed from Augustin, who taught the Catholic view of the subjective uncertainty of salvation.821821    De Dono Persev., ch. XXXIII. Calvin made the certainty, Augustin the uncertainty, a stimulus to zeal and holiness.

Calvin was fully aware of the unpopularity of the doctrine. "Many," he says, "consider nothing more unreasonable than that some of the common mass of mankind should be foreordained to salvation, and others to destruction … When the human mind hears these things, its petulance breaks all restraint, and it discovers a serious and violent agitation as if alarmed by the sound of a martial trumpet." But he thought it impossible to "come to a clear conviction of our salvation, till we are acquainted with God’s eternal election, which illustrates his grace by this comparison, that he adopts not all promiscuously to the hope of salvation, but gives to some what he refuses to others." It is, therefore, not from the general love of God to all mankind, but from his particular favor to the elect that they, and they alone, are to derive their assurance of salvation and their only solid comfort. The reason of this preference can only be found in the inscrutable will of God, which is the supreme law of the universe. As to others, we must charitably assume that they are among the elect; for there is no certain sign of reprobation except perseverance in impenitence until death.

Predestination, according to Calvin, is the eternal and unchangeable decree of God by which he foreordained, for his own glory and the display of his attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation. "Predestination," he says, "we call the eternal decree of God, by which he has determined in himself the destiny of every man. For they are not all created in the same condition, but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death."822822    "Praedestinationem vocamus aeternum Dei decretum, quo apud se constitutum habuit, quid de unoquoque homine fieri vellet. Non enim pari conditione creantur omnes; sed aliis vita aeterna, aliis damnatio aeterna praeordinatur. Itaque, prout in alterutrum finem quisque conditus est, ita vel ad vitam, vel ad mortem praedestinatum dicimus." Inst. III. ch. XXI. § 5 (Opera, vol. II. pp. 682, 683).

This applies not only to individuals, but to whole nations. God has chosen the people of Israel as his own inheritance, and rejected the heathen; he has loved Jacob with his posterity, and hated Esau with his posterity. "The counsel of God, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on his gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but to those whom he devotes to condemnation the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, though incomprehensible judgment."823823    Ibid. III. ch. XXI. § 7. God’s will is the supreme rule of justice,824824    "Summa justitiae regula est Dei voluntas." so that "what he wills must be considered just for the very reason that he wills it. When you ask, therefore, why the Lord did so, the answer must be, Because he would. But if you go further and ask why he so determined, you are in search of something higher and greater than the will of God, which can never be found. Let human temerity, therefore, desist from seeking that which is not, lest it should fail of finding that which is. This will be a sufficient restraint to any one disposed to reason with reverence concerning the secrets of his God."825825    Inst. III. ch. XXII. § 1. Calvin infers from the passage, "God hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will, he hardeneth "(Rom. 9:13), that Paul attributes both equally "to the mere will of God. If, therefore, we can assign no reason why God grants mercy to his people but because such is his pleasure, neither shall we find any other cause but his will for the reprobation of others. For when God is said to harden or show mercy to whom he pleases, men are taught by this declaration to seek no cause behind his will."826826    Ibid. III. ch. XXII. II. Calvin’s definition of divine justice is contrary to the general conception of human justice, which must be a reflection of divine justice.

Predestination, therefore, implies a twofold decree—a decree of election unto holiness and salvation, and a decree of reprobation unto death on account of sin and guilt. Calvin deems them inseparable. "Many indeed," he says, "as if they wished to avert odium from God, admit election in such a way as to deny that any one is reprobated. But this is puerile and absurd, because election itself could not exist without being opposed to reprobation … . Whom God passes by, he reprobates (Quos Deus praeterit, reprobat), and from no other cause than his determination to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his children."827827    Ibid. III. ch. XXIII. § 1. The scholastic Calvinists distinguished in reprobation a negative element, namely, praeteritio or indebitae gratiae negatio, and a positive element of predamnation, praedamnatio or debitae poenae destinatio. See the definitions of Wolleb, Keckermann, Heidegger, etc., in Heppe’s Dogmatik der evang. reform. Kirche (1861), p. 132. The Westminster Confession (ch. III. 7) uses the term "passing by," which is equivalent to preterition or omission; the Gallican Conf. (ch. XII.) and the Belgic Conf. (ch. XVI.) use the milder term laisser, relinquere, to leave, namely, in the natural state of condemnation and ruin. Shedd (Syst. Theol. I. 433) says: "Reprobation comprises preterition and condemnation or damnation," and he makes these distinctions: 1) Preterition is a sovereign act; condemnation is a judicial act. 2) The reason of preterition is unknown; the reason of damnation is sin. 3) In preterition God’s action is permissive (inaction rather than action); in condemnation, God’s action is efficient and positive. His proof text is Luke 17:34: "The one shall be taken, and the other shall be left."

God bestows upon the reprobate all the common mercies of daily life as freely as upon the elect, but he withholds from them his saving mercy. The gospel also is offered to them, but it will only increase their responsibility and enhance their damnation, like the preaching of Christ to the unbelieving Jews (Isa. 6:9, 10; Matt. 13:13–15). But how shall we reconcile this with the sincerity of such an offer?

Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism.

Within the Calvinistic system there arose two schools in Holland during the Arminian controversy, the Infralapsarians (also called Sublapsarians) and the Supralapsarians, who held different views on the order of the divine decrees and their relation to the fall (lapsus). The Infralapsarians adjust, as it were, the eternal counsel of God to the temporal fall of man, and assume that God decreed, first to create man in holiness; then to permit him to fall by the self-determination of his free will; next, to save a definite number out of the guilty mass; and last, to leave the rest in sin, and to ordain them to eternal punishment.828828    This is the order given in the Formula Consensus Helvetica, canon IV. (in Niemeyer, p. 731): "Ita Deus gloriam suam illustrare constituit, ut decreverit, primo quidem hominem integrum creare, tum ejusdem lapsum permittere, ac demum ex lapsis quorundam misereri, adeoque eosdem eligere, alios vero in corrupta massa relinquere, aeternoque tandem exitio devovere." This does not go beyond the limits of Augustinianism. Van Oosterzee errs when he says (Christian Dogmatics, vol. I. p. 452) that the Form. Cons. Helv. asserts the supralapsarian view. The Supralapsarians reverse the order, so that the decree of election and reprobation precedes the decree of creation; they make uncreated and unfallen man (that is, a non-ens) the object of God’s double decree. The Infralapsarians, moreover, distinguish between an efficient or active and a permissive or passive decree of God, and exclude the fall of Adam from the efficient decree; in other words, they maintain that God is not in any sense the author of the fall, but that he simply allowed it to come to pass for higher ends. He did not cause it, but neither did he prevent it. The Supralapsarians, more logically, include the fall itself in the efficient and positive decree; yet they deny as fully as the Infralapsarians, though less logically, that God is the author of sin. The Infralapsarians attribute to Adam before the fall the gift of free choice, which was lost by the fall; some Supralapsarians deny it. The doctrine of probation (except in the one case of Adam) has no place in the Calvinistic system, and is essentially Arminian. It is entirely inapplicable to infants dying in infancy. The difference between the two schools is practically worthless, and only exposes the folly of man’s daring to search the secrets of God’s eternal counsel. They proceed on a pure metaphysical abstraction, for in the eternal God there is no succession of time, no before nor after.829829    On the distinction, see Beza, Summa totius Christianismi (Opera, I. 170); Limborch, Theol. Christ. IV. 2; Heppe, Dogmatik der evang. reform. Kirche, pp. 108 sqq., and the curious order of Beza there printed, as if the order of the divine counsels were a mathematical problem. The infralapsarian view is milder and passed into most of the Calvinistic Confessions. The Westminster Confession is a compromise between the two schools, and puts the fall of Adam under a permissive decree (ch. V. 4), and yet not under a bare permission, but including it in the purpose of God, who ordered it for his own glory (VI. 1).

Calvin was claimed by both schools. He must be classed rather with the Supralapsarians, like Beza, Gomarus, Twysse, and Emmons. He saw the inconsistency of exempting from the divine foreordination the most important event in history, which involved the whole race in ruin. "It is not absurd," he says, "to assert that God not only foresaw, but also foreordained the fall of Adam and the ruin of his posterity." He expressly rejects the distinction between permission (permissio) and volition (voluntas) in God, who cannot permit what he does not will. "What reason," he asks, "shall we assign for God’s permitting the destruction of the impious, but because it is his will? It is not probable that man procured his own destruction by the mere permission, and without any appointment of God. As though God had not determined what he would choose to be the condition of the chief of his creatures. I shall not hesitate, therefore, to confess with Augustin, ’that the will of God is the necessity of things, and what he has willed will necessarily come to pass; as those things are really about to happen which he has foreseen."830830    Inst. III. XXIII. 7 and 8. The passage quoted from Augustin is De Gen. ad lit., l. VI. c. 15. In Inst. III. ch. XXIV. 12, Calvin uses strong supralapsarian language: "Those whom God has created to a life of shame and death (quos in vitae contumeliam et mortis exitium creavit), that they might be instruments of his wrath, and examples of his severity, he causes to reach their appointed end; sometimes depriving them of the opportunity of hearing the Word, sometimes by the preaching of it increasing their blindness and stupidity." Then he illustrates this by examples, especially that of Pharaoh, and the aim of the parables of Christ (Matt. 13:11; John 12:39, 40). In the Consensus Genevensis (Niemeyer, p. 251), he says that the fall was ordained by the admirable counsel of God (admirabili Dei consilio fuisse ordinatum). Beza understood Calvin correctly.

But while his inexorable logic pointed to this abyss, his moral and religious sense shrunk from the last logical inference of making God the author of sin; for this would be blasphemous, and involve the absurdity that God abhors and justly punishes what he himself decreed. He attributes to Adam the freedom of choice, by which he might have obtained eternal life, but he wilfully disobeyed.831831    He gives his view of the primitive state in Inst. I. ch. XV. § 8: "God has furnished the soul of man with a mind capable of discerning good from evil, and just from unjust; and of discovering, by the light of reason, what ought to be pursued or avoided: whence the philosophers called this directing faculty τὸ ἡγεμονικόν, the principal or governing part. To this he hath annexed the will, on which depends the choice. The primitive condition of man was ennobled with those eminent faculties; he possessed reason, understanding, prudence, and judgment, not only for the government of his life on earth, but to enable him to ascend even to God and eternal felicity. To these were added choice, to direct the appetites, and regulate all the organic motions, so that the will was entirely conformed to the government of reason. In this integrity man was endued with free will, by which, if he had chosen, he might have obtained eternal life. For here it would be unreasonable to introduce the question respecting the secret predestination of God, because we are not discussing what might possibly have happened or not, but what was the real nature of man. Adam, therefore, could have stood if he would, since he fell merely by his own will; but because his will was flexible to either side, and he was not endued with constancy to persevere, therefore he so easily fell. Yet his choice of good and evil was free; and not only so, but his mind and will were possessed of consummate rectitude, and all his organic parts were rightly disposed to obedience, till destroying himself he corrupted all his excellencies." Hence his significant phrase: "Man falls, God’s providence so ordaining it; yet he falls by his own guilt."832832    "Lapsus est enim primus homo, quia Dominus ita expedire censuerat; cur censuerit, nos latet. Certum tamen est non aliter censuisse, nisi quia videbat, nominis sui gloriam inde merito illustrari. Unde mentionem gloriae Dei audis, illic justitiam cogita. Justum enim esse oportet quod laudem meretur. Cadit igitur homo, Dei providentia sic ordinante, sed suo vitio cadit …. Propria ergo malitia, quam acceperat a Domino puam naturam corrupit; sua ruina totam posteritatem in exitium secum attraxit." Inst. III. ch. XXIII. § 8 (vol. II. p. 705). In his reply to Castellio Opera, IX. 294) he says: Praevidit Deus lapsum Adae: penes ipsum facultas erat prohibendi: noluit. Cur noluerit, alia non potest afferri ratio nisi quia alio tendebat ejus voluntas." Here we have supralapsarian logic combined with ethical logic. He adds, however, that we do not know the reason why Providence so ordained it, and that it is better for us to contemplate the guilt of man than to search after the bidden predestination of God. "There is," he says, "a learned ignorance of things which it is neither permitted nor lawful to know, and avidity of knowledge is a species of madness."

Here is, notwithstanding this wholesome caution, the crucial point where the rigorous logic of Calvin and Augustin breaks down, or where the moral logic triumphs over intellectual logic. To admit that God is the author of sin would destroy his holiness, and overthrow the foundation of morality and religion. This would not be Calvinism, but fatalism and pantheism. The most rigorous predestinarian is driven to the alternative of choosing between logic and morality. Augustin and Calvin could not hesitate for a moment. Again and again, Calvin calls it blasphemy to make God the author of sin, and he abhorred sin as much as any man ever did. It is an established fact that the severest Calvinists have always been the strictest moralists.833833    Comp. here the powerful sections against the abuse of the doctrine of election, in III. ch. XXIII. 12 sqq.

Infant Salvation and Damnation.

Are infants dying in infancy included in the decree of reprobation? This is another crucial point in the Augustinian system, and the rock on which it splits.

St. Augustin expressly assigns all unbaptized children dying in infancy to eternal damnation, because of original sin inherited from Adam’s transgression. It is true, he mitigates their punishment and reduces it to a negative state of privation of bliss, as distinct from positive suffering.834834    See the passages in vol. III. 835 sq. Augustin was called durus infantum pater. But his view was only the logical inference from the doctrine of the necessity of baptism for salvation, which was taught long before him on the ground of John 3:8 and Mark 16:16. Even Pelagius excluded unbaptized infants from the kingdom of heaven, though not from eternal life. He assigned them to a middle state of half-blessedness. This does credit to his heart, but does not relieve the matter; for "damnatio," though "levissima" and "mitissima," is still damnatio.

The scholastic divines made a distinction between poena damni, which involves no active suffering, and poena sensus, and assigned to infants dying unbaptized the former but not the latter. They invented the fiction of a special department for infants in the future world, namely, the Limbus Infantum, on the border region of hell at some distance from fire and brimstone. Dante describes their condition as one of "sorrow without torment."835835    Inferno, IV. 28, duol senza martiri, i.e. mental, not physical pain. Roman divines usually describe their condition as a deprivation of the vision of God. The Roman Church maintains the necessity of baptism for salvation, but admits the baptism of blood (martyrdom) and the baptism of intention, as equivalent to actual baptism. These exceptions, however, are not applicable to infants, unless the vicarious desire of Christian parents be accepted as sufficient.

Calvin offers an escape from the horrible dogma of infant damnation by denying the necessity of water baptism for salvation, and by making salvation dependent on sovereign election alone, which may work regeneration without baptism, as in the case of the Old Testament saints and the thief on the cross. We are made children of God by faith and not by baptism, which only recognizes the fact. Calvin makes sure the salvation of all elect children, whether baptized or not. This is a great gain. In order to extend election beyond the limits of the visible means of grace, he departed from the patristic and scholastic interpretation of John 3:5, that "water" means the sacrament of baptism, as a necessary condition of entrance into the kingdom of God. He thinks that a reference to Christian baptism before it was instituted would have been untimely and unintelligible to Nicodemus. He, therefore, connects water and Spirit into one idea of purification and regeneration by the Spirit.836836    "Aqua nihil aliud est quam interior Spiritus Sancti purgatio et vegetatio." Com. in loco. He takes καὶ epexegetically and lays the stress on πνεῦμα, which alone is mentioned in the following verses, 6 and 8. Similarly Grotius: "Spiritus aquaeus, i.e. aquae instar emundans." But the natural reference is to baptismal water, as the symbol of purification and remission of sins. Comp. John 1:33; Tit. 3:5; Eph. 5:26. The different interpretations are discussed at length in Schaff’s ed. of Lange’s Comm. on John pp. 126 ff.

Whatever be the meaning of "water," Christ cannot here refer to infants, nor to such adults as are beyond the reach of the baptismal ordinance. He said of children, as a class, without any reference to baptism or circumcision: "Of such is the kingdom of God." A word of unspeakable comfort to bereaved parents. And to make it still stronger, he said: "It is not the will of your Father, who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:14). These declarations of our Saviour, which must decide the whole question, seem to justify the inference that all children who die before having committed any actual transgression, are included in the decree of election. They are born into an economy of salvation, and their early death may be considered as a sign of gracious election.

But Calvin did not go so far. On the contrary, he intimates very clearly that there are reprobate or non-elect children as well as reprobate adults. He says that "some infants," having been previously regenerated by the Holy Spirit, "are certainly saved," but he nowhere says that all infants are saved.837837    Inst. Bk. IV. ch. XVI. 17: "Infantes, qui servandi sint—ut certe ex ea aetate omnino aliqui servantur—antea a Domino regenerari minime obscurum est." This was the doctrine of the Westminster divines, and is expressed in the Westminster Confession, ch. X. 3: "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth." Although this passage admits of a liberal construction, yet the natural sense, as interpreted by the private opinions of the framers of the Confession, makes it almost certain that the existence and damnation of non-elect infants is implied. The Presbyterian Revisionists, therefore, wishing to avoid this logical implication, propose to strike out elect, or to substitute all for it (as the Cumberland Presbyterians have done in their Confession). The change will be acted upon by the General Assembly in May, 1892. In his comments on Rom. 5:17, he confines salvation to the infants of pious (elect) parents, but leaves the fate of the rest more than doubtful.838838    "De piorum liberis loquor, ad quos promissio gratiae dirigitur; nam alii a communi sorte nequaquam eximuntur." Arguing with Catholic advocates of free-will, who yet admitted the damnation of unbaptized infants, he asks them to explain in any other way but by the mysterious will of God, the terrible fact "that the fall of Adam, independent of any remedy, should involve so many nations with their infant children in eternal death. Their tongues so loquacious on every other point must here be struck dumb."839839    "Tot gentes una cum liberis eorum infantibus." Inst. III. ch. XXIII. § 7. To this should be added the challenge to Castellio: "Put forth now thy virulence against God, who hurls innocent babes even from their mothers’ breast into eternal death." Calvin here argues e concessis. The passage has been often distorted. We give it in Latin with the connection (Opera, IX. 289): "Negas Deo licere nisi propter facinus damnare quenquam mortalium. Tolluntur e vita innumeri adhuc infantes. Exsere nunc tuam virulentiam contra Deum, qui innoxios foetus a matrum uberibus avulsos in aeternam mortem praecipitat. Hanc blasphemiam, ubi palam detecta est, quisquis non detestabitur, mihi pro sua libidine maledicat." In the same way he challenges Castellio (fol. 289), to explain the admitted fact, that God allows innocent infants to be devoured by tigers or lions or bears or wolves ("qui fit ut Deus parvulos infantes a tigribus vel ursis vel leonibus vel lupis laniari vorarique sineat"). The attempt of Dr. Shields of Princeton to prove that Calvin believed in the salvation of all infants, is an entire failure ("The Presbyt. and Ref. Review " for October, 1890).

And in this connection he adds the significant words:, It is an awful (horrible) decree, I confess, but no one can deny that God foreknew the future, final fate of man before he created him, and that he did foreknow it, because it was appointed by his own decree."840840    "Decretum quidem horribile fateor." This famous expression is often ignorantly applied to the whole doctrine of predestination, while Calvin only uses it of the decree of reprobation. The decree of election is glorious and most comforting. There is no need, therefore, of moderating the term horribile, which means horrible, terrible., dreadful. In French he calls it "ce décret qui nous doit espouvanter," a decree which should terrify us. Hase (Kirchengeschichte, III. I. 196) says: "Calvin ist ein dogmatischer Dante: dieselbe grauenvolle Lust, die Majestaet Gottes auch in der Hoelle anzuerkennen und zu preisen, diese grauenvolle Macht, welche fuehlende Wesen geschaffen hat zu ewiger Qual."

Our best feelings, which God himself has planted in our hearts, instinctively revolt against the thought that a God of infinite love and justice should create millions of immortal beings in his own image—probably more than half of the human race—in order to hurry them from the womb to the tomb, and from the tomb to everlasting doom! And this not for any actual sin of their own, but simply for the transgression of Adam of which they never heard, and which God himself not only permitted, but somehow foreordained. This, if true, would indeed be a "decretum horribile."

Calvin, by using this expression, virtually condemned his own doctrine. The expression so often repeated against him, does great credit to his head and heart, and this has not been sufficiently appreciated in the estimate of his character. He ventured thus to utter his humane sentiments far more strongly than St. Augustin dared to do. If he, nevertheless, accepted this horrible decree, he sacrificed his reason and heart to the, rigid laws of logic and to the letter of the Scripture as he understood it. We must honor him for his obedience, but as he claimed no infallibility, as an interpreter, we must be allowed to challenge his interpretation.

Zwingli, as already remarked, was the first and the only Reformer who entertained and dared to express the charitable hope and belief in universal infant salvation by the atonement of Christ, who died for all. The Anabaptists held the same view, but they were persecuted as heretics by Protestants and Catholics alike, and were condemned in the ninth article of the Augsburg Confession.841841    "They condemn the Anabaptists, who disapprove the baptism of children, and affirm that children are saved without baptism." The edition of 1540 adds after "baptism" "et extra ecclesiam Christi," which must refer to heathen infants. The German text omits the clause and condemns the Anabaptists simply for rejecting infant baptism. This shows that Melanchthon was in doubt on the subject of infant damnation. The Second Scotch Confession of 1590 was the first and the only Protestant Confession of the Reformation period which uttered a testimony of abhorrence and detestation of the cruel popish doctrine of infant damnation.842842    "Abhorremus et detestamur ... crudele judicium contra infantes sine baptismo morientes."

But gradually the doctrine of universal infant salvation gained ground among Arminians, Quakers, Baptists, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, and is now adopted by almost all Protestant divines, especially by Calvinists, who are not hampered by the theory of baptismal regeneration.843843    Among English Calvinists, who teach universal infant salvation, are Doddridge, Thomas Scott, John Newton, Toplady, Robert S. Candlish; among American Calvinists, Drs. Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and B. B. Warfield, of Princeton, and Drs. H. B. Smith, G. L. Prentiss, and Shedd, of Union Seminary, New York. Comp. on this subject Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, I. 378, 381, 794, 898; Dr. Prentiss, who brings out the theological bearings, in the "Presbyterian Review" for 1883; Benjamin B. Warfield, The Development of the Doctrine of Infant Salvation, New York (Christ. Lit. Co.), 1891, pp. 61; also Chas. P. Krauth (Lutheran), Infant Baptism and Infant Salvation, Philadelphia (Lutheran Book Store), 1874, pp. 83.

Zwingli, as we have previously shown, was equally in advance of his age in regard to the salvation of pious heathens, who die in a state of readiness for the reception of the gospel; and this view has likewise penetrated the modern Protestant consciousness.844844    See above, pp. 95 sqq.

Defence of the Doctrine of Predestination.

Calvin defended the doctrine of predestination in his Institutes, and his polemical writings against Pighius, Bolsec, and Castellio, with consummate skill against all objections, and may be said to have exhausted the subject on his side of the question. His arguments were chiefly drawn from the Scriptures, especially the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans; but he unduly stretched passages which refer to the historical destiny of individuals and nations in this world, into declarations of their eternal fate in the other world; and he undervalued the proper force of opposite passages (such as Ezek. 33:11; 18:23, 32; John 1:29; 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 4:14; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) by a distinction between the secret and revealed will of God (voluntas arcani and voluntas beneplaciti), which carries an intolerable dualism and contradiction into the divine will.

He closes the whole discussion with this sentence: "Now while many arguments are advanced on both sides, let our conclusion be to stand astonished with Paul at so great a mystery; and amidst the clamor of petulant tongues let us not be ashamed to exclaim with him, ’O man, who art thou that repliest against God?’ For, as Augustin justly contends, it is acting a most perverse part to set up the measure of human justice as the standard by which to measure the justice of God."

Very true; but how can we judge of God’s justice at all without our own sense of justice, which comes from God? And how can that be justice in God which is injustice in man, and which God himself condemns as injustice? A fundamental element in justice is impartiality and equity.

Practical Effect.

The motive and aim of this doctrine was not speculative but practical. It served as a bulwark of free grace, an antidote to Pelagianism and human pride, a stimulus to humility and gratitude, a source of comfort and peace in trial and despondency. The charge of favoring license and carnal security was always indignantly repelled as a slander by the Pauline "God forbid!" and refuted in practice. He who believes in Christ as his Lord and Saviour may have a reasonable assurance of being among the elect, and this faith will constrain him to follow Christ and to persevere to the end lest he be cast away. Those who believe in the perseverance of saints are likely to practice it. Present unbelief is no sure sign of reprobation as long as the way is open for repentance and conversion.

Calvin sets the absolute sovereignty of God and the infallibility of the Bible over against the pretended sovereignty and infallibility of the pope. Fearing God, he was fearless of man. The sense of God’s sovereignty fortified his followers against the tyranny of temporal sovereigns, and made them champions and promoters of civil and political liberty in France, Holland, England, and Scotland.

Confessional Approval.

The doctrine of predestination received the official sanction of the pastors of Geneva, who signed the Consensus Genevensis prepared by Calvin (1552).845845    The Consensus Genevensis was occasioned by the controversy with Pighius and Bolsec, but received no authority outside of Geneva. The attempt to enlist Zuerich, Bern, and Basel in favor of this dogma created disturbance and opposition. See Schaff, Creeds, etc., I. 474 sqq. It was incorporated, in its milder, infralapsarian form, in the French Confession (1559), the Belgic Confession (1561), and the Scotch Confession (1560). It was more logically formulated in the Lambeth Articles (1595), the Irish Articles (1615), the Canons of Dort (1619), the Westminster Confession and Larger Catechism (1647), and the Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675). On the other hand, the First Helvetic Confession (1536), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), and the Anglican Articles (1571, Art. XVII.) indorse merely the positive part of the free election of believers, and are wisely silent concerning the decree of reprobation and preterition; leaving this to theological science and private opinion.846846    The Second Helvetic Confession (chs. VIII. and IX.) uses the term reprobate (ἀδόκιμος, reprobus), but says nothing of a decree of reprobation. Reprobate is descriptive of moral character, and means not approved, unfit, Rom. 1:28; 1 Cor. 9:27; 2 Cor. 13:5-7; 2 Tim. 3:8; Tit. 1:16. The plural reprobates is an inaccurate rendering of the A. V. in 2 Cor. 13:6, 7, and 2 Tim. 3:8, and suggests the idea of a class of persons. The R. V. correctly has reprobate, since the Greek word is an adjective, not a noun. It is noteworthy that Calvin himself emitted the doctrine of predestination in his own catechism. Some minor Reformed Confessions, as that of Brandenburg, expressly declare that God sincerely wishes the salvation of all men, and is not the author of sin and damnation.



I. Calvin’s Articuli de Praedestinatione.

Calvin gave a condensed statement of his system in the following articles, which were first published by the Strassburg editors, in 1870, from his autograph in the University library of Geneva: —

[Ex autographo Calvini Bibl. Genev., Cod. 145, fol. 100.]

"Ante creatum primum hominem statuerat Deus aeterno consilio quid de toto genere humano fieri vellet.

"Hoc arcano Dei consilio factum est ut Adam ab integro naturae suae statu deficeret ac sua defectione traheret omnes suos posteros in reatum aeternae mortis.

"Ab hoc eodem decreto pendet discrimen inter electos et reprobos: quia alios sibi adoptavit in salutem, alios aeterno exitio destinavit.

"Tametsi justae Dei vindictae vasa sunt reprobi, rursum electi vasa misericordiae, causa tamen discriminis non alia in Deo quaerenda est quam mera eius voluntas, quae summa est justitiae regula.

"Tametsi electi fide percipiunt adoptionis gratiam, non tamen pendet electio a fide, sed tempore et ordine prior est.

"Sicut initium et perseverantia fidei a gratuita Dei electione fluit, ita non alii vere illuminantur in fidem, nec alii spiritu regenerationis donantur, nisi quos Deus elegit: reprobos vero vel in sua caecitate manere necesse est, vel excidere a parte fidei, si qua in illis fuerit.

"Tametsi in Christo eligimur, ordine tamen illud prius est ut nos Dominus in suis censeat, quam ut faciat Christi membra.

"Tametsi Dei voluntas summa et prima est rerum omnium causa, et Deus diabolum et impios omnes suo arbitrio subiectos habet, Deus tamen neque peccati causa vocari potest, neque mali autor, neque ulli culpae obnoxius est.

"Tametsi Deus peccato vere infensus est et damnat quidquid est iniustitiae in hominibus, quia illi displicet, non tamen nuda eius permissione tantum, sed nutu quoque et arcano decreto gubernantur omnia hominum facta.

"Tametsi diabolus et reprobi Dei ministri sunt et organa, et arcana eius judicia exsequuntur, Deus tamen incomprehensibili modo sic in illis et per illos operatur ut nihil ex eorum vitio labis contrahat, quia illorum malitia iuste recteque utitur in bonum finem, licet modus saepe nobis sit absconditus.

"Inscite vel calumniose faciunt qui Deum fieri dicunt autorem peccati, si omnia eo volente et ordinante fiant: quia inter manifestam hominum pravitatem et arcana Dei iudicia non distinguunt."

II. The Lambeth Articles.

In full agreement with Calvin are the Lambeth Articles, 1595. They were intended to be an obligatory appendix to the Thirty-nine Articles which, in Art. XVII., present only the positive side of the doctrine of predestination, and ignore reprobation. They were prepared by Dr. Whitaker, Professor of Divinity in Cambridge, and approved by, Dr. Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Hutton, Archbishop of York, and a number of prelates convened at Lambeth Palace, London; also by Hooker (with a slight modification; see Hooker’s Works, ed. by Keble, II. 752 sq.). But they were not sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth, who was displeased that a Lambeth Synod was called without her authority, nor by James I., and gradually lost their power during the Arminian reaction under the Stuarts. They are as follows: —

"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 anything that is in the person predestinated, but only the good will and pleasure of God.

"3. There is predetermined a certain number of the predestinate, 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 [sanctifying] is not extinguished, falleth not away; it vanisheth not away in the elect, either finally or totally.

"6. A man truly faithful, that is, such a one who is endued with a justifying faith, is certain, with the full assurance of faith, of the remission of his sins and of his everlasting salvation by Christ.

7. Saving grace is not given, is not granted, is not communicated to all men, by which they may be saved if they will.

"8. No man can 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 to the Son.

"9. It is not in the will or power of every one to be saved."

The Lambeth Articles were accepted by the Convocation at Dublin, 1615, and engrafted on the Irish Articles of Religion, which were probably composed by the learned Archbishop Ussher (at that time Professor of Divinity in Trinity College, Dublin), and form the connecting link between the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Westminster Confession. Some of the strongest statements of the Irish Articles passed literally (without any acknowledgment) into the Westminster Confession. The Irish Articles are printed in Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom, III. 526–544.

III. The Westminster Confession.

Chap. III. Of God’s Eternal Decree.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, prepared by the Westminster Assembly in 1647, adopted by the Long Parliament, by the Kirk of Scotland, and the Presbyterian Churches of America, gives the clearest and strongest symbolic statement of this doctrine. It assigns to it more space than to the holy Trinity, or the Person of Christ, or the atonement.

"1. God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

"2. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

"3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.

"4. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

"5. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.

"6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

"7. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.

"8. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel."

IV. Methodism And Calvinism.

The severest condemnation of the Westminster Calvinism came from John Wesley, the most apostolic man that the Anglo-Saxon race has produced. He adopted the Arminian creed and made it a converting agency; he magnified the free grace of God, like the Calvinists, but extended it to all men. In a sermon on Free Grace, preached at Bristol (Sermons, vol. I. 482 sqq.), he charges the doctrine of predestination with "making vain all preaching, and tending to destroy holiness, the comfort of religion and zeal for good works, yea, the whole Christian revelation by involving it in fatal contradictions." He goes so far as to call it "a doctrine full of blasphemy," because "it represents our blessed Lord as a hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity, as mocking his helpless creatures by offering what he never intends to give, by saying one thing and meaning another." It destroys "all the attributes of God, his justice, mercy, and truth, yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust." This is as hard and unjust as anything that Pighius, Bolsec, Castellio, and Servetus said against Calvin. And yet Wesley cooperated for some time with George Whitefield, the great Calvinistic revival preacher, and delivered his funeral sermon in Tottenham-Court-Road, Nov. 18, 1770, on the text, Num. 23:10, in which he spoke in the highest terms of Whitefield’s personal piety and great usefulness (Sermons, I. 470–480). "Have we read or heard," he asked, "of any person since the apostles, who testified the gospel of the grace of God through so widely extended a space, through so large a part of the habitable world? Have we read or heard of any person, who called so many thousands, so many myriads of sinners to repentance? Above all, have we read or heard of any, who has been a blessed instrument in his hand of bringing so many sinners from ’darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God?’ "— This is a striking illustration how widely great and good men may differ in theology, and yet how nearly they may agree in religion.

Charles Wesley fully sided with the Arminianism of his brother John, and abused his poetic gift by writing poor doggerel against Calvinism.847847    This is a specimen:—
   "O Horrible Decree,

   Worthy of whence it came!

   Forgive the ir hellish blasphemy,

   Who charge it on the Lamb!"
He had a bitter controversy on the subject with Toplady, who was a devout Calvinist. But their theological controversy is dead and buried, while their devotional hymns still live, and Calvinists and Methodists heartily join in singing Wesley’s "Jesus, Lover of my Soul," and Toplady’s "Rock of Ages, cleft for me."

V. Modern Calvinism.

Modern Calvinism retains the doctrine of an all-ruling providence and saving grace, but denies reprobation and preterition, or leaves them to the sphere of metaphysical theology. It lays also great stress on the moral responsibility of the human will, and on the duty of offering the gospel sincerely to every creature, in accordance with the modern missionary spirit. This, at least, is the prevailing and growing tendency among Presbyterian Churches in Europe and America, as appears from the recent agitation on the revision of the Westminster Confession. The new creed of the Presbyterian Church of England, which was adopted in 1890, avoids all the objectionable features of old Calvinism, and substitutes for the eight sections of the third chapter of the Westminster Confession the following two articles, which contain all that is necessary in a public confession: —

ART. IV. Of Providence.

"We believe that God the Creator upholds all things by the word of his power, preserving and providing for all his creatures, according to the laws of their being; and that he, through the presence and energy of his Spirit in nature and history, disposes and governs all events for his own high design; yet is he not in any wise the author or approver of sin, neither are the freedom and responsibility of man taken away, nor have any bounds been set to the sovereign liberty of him who worketh when and where and how he pleaseth."

ART. XII. Of Election and Regeneration.

"We humbly own and believe that God the Father, before the foundation of the world, was pleased of his sovereign grace to choose unto himself in Christ a people, whom he gave to the Son, and to whom the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual life by a secret and wonderful operation of his power, using as his ordinary means, where years of understanding have been reached, the truths of his Word in ways agreeable to the nature of man; so that, being born from above, they are the children of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works."

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