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Calvin and Calvinism » God who Ordains

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John Alphonso Turretine (1671-1737) on Supralapsarianism

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Thus when the Anthropomorphitœ asserts that the Deity is possessed of a human form, because the scripture speaks of his face, his eyes, his ears and arms; Natural Theology’, at once convinces us of the delusion, teaching us that God is a being absolutely perfect, and therefore must of consequence be immaterial. In like manner, when we meet with some Divines whose principle it is, that God has formed the greatest part of mankind in order to consign them to eternal misery, for the display of his own glory; this opinion of such Divines (they are called Supralapsarians) is most convincingly refuted, by appealing to our natural sentiments of the perfections of God, more particularly, his goodness, justice and wisdom.

The scripture itself frequently appeals to there natural perceptions we have of the attributes of the supreme Being, and points out to us their great importance and excellence. Thus in the place quoted above from the nineteenth psalm, and ill many others of the Psalms and Prophets, the greatness, wisdom, power and goodness of the Deity are demonstrated from his works Agreeable to this, Job xii. i, 8, 9. “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee, and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee; or speak to the earth, &c., who knows not that in all these, the hand of the Lord has wrought this?”

John Alphonso Turretine, Dissertations on Natural Theology, trans., William Crawford, (Belfast: Printed by James MaGee, at the Bible and Crown, in Bridge-Street, 1777), 13-14. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

[Credit to Michael Lynch for the find.]

[Note: Not exactly bullet-proof, but interesting nonetheless.]


John Cameron (1579-1625) on the Order of the Decrees

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This matter stands thus in my view. In God, ther are two kinds of perfections and propertys, (I speak after our narrow way of considering God,) from which as many kinds of actions proceed. Ther are some divine perfections and propertys, wherof the actions or excercises require not only ane object and matter upon which they are to work, but also certain qualitys and dispositions. For instance, the divine justice and mercy. For justice, whether vindictive or remunerative, not only goes upon a person, but a person so and so affected and situated; vindictive supposes sin, remunerative according to the law supposes a person free of sin. Again, mercy, as it pardons sin, requires in its object faith and repentance. Ther are other propertys or perfections in God, quhich,1 in the excercise of them, either require no object at all, or, if they suppose an object, yet they do not require any conditions or qualifications, such as the divine power and wisdom, quhich displayed themselves in the creation of the world. These did not suppose, but made their object. And in the restoration of a fallen world, although those perfections have an object,–man dead in trespases and sins, or rather the actions coming from those, for example, the effectuall call,–those perfections and actions do not require any condition in the object, but they constitute the condition and qualification in the object, to wit, faith and repentance. From quhich it is plain, that those last kind of actions are merely and every way free, en no condition or qualification is required in the object, but quhat2 is wrought and given; and God may do them, or not do them. The first kind of actions, indeed, are in God free; but not so, but [that is, as if] God certainly must do them. That is, God could creat or not create the world, restore a fallen creature or not restore him. But when he exerts justice or mercy, its necessary ther be some conditions and qualifications according to which he must proceed. Accordingly, ther are two kinds of decrees, one of them requires a condition, the other not. Those may be termed conditional, and the last absolut. Upon the first sort depends justification, and so that requires necessarily faith and repentance. On the last sort hangs effectuall calling, and that requires no conditions and dispositions. But then the divine propertys, actions, and decrees of the last kind subserve, as it wer, to the propertys, actions, and decrees of the first kind, and prepare and constitute their object. And the propertys, actions, and decrees of the first kind are taken up about the object already constitute and prepared for them. The first decree, then, is to restore the divine image upon the creature, in a way wherein the rights of justice may be safe. The second is to send God’s Son into the world to save every one who believes in him, that is, are his members. The third is to render men fit and able to believe. The fourth is to save those who believe. The first two are generall, the last two speciall and particular. In our method of considering things, the principall are before the less principall. The generall ones are prior to the speciall and particular. Since, therfor, the restoring of the divine image, in a consistency with justice, is the principall thing, I have given it the first room. And since it may be considered two ways, generally, so that if one would say, God wills to restore the human race in a consistency with justice, he tells the thing, but not the manner of it–or more specially, as if any should say, God willeth, by his Son crucifijed and raised from the dead, to restore the human race, then he not only signifyes the thing, but the manner of it; yet because this is a speciall designation of the thing, it comes in the second room to be considered in God. The third and the fourth decrees are not only speciall, but have a relation to individuals and single persons, and yet not without an order. For God considers man first as believing, and then as to be saved; and therefore in the decree faith is before salvation. The third decree, then, to make men able and fit to believe, goes befor the fourth. But all this is to be understood as spoken of God, in a way accomodated to the infirmity of the human mind.

Cited from, Robert Wodrow, Collections Upon the Lives of the Reformers and Most Eminent Ministers of the Church of Scotland (Glasow: Edward Khull, Printer to the University, 1845), 2:179-181. [Spelling original; formatting original; bracketed inserts original; and footnotes mine.]


1Archaic form of “which.”

2Archaic form of “what.”


William Barlee on Reprobation

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Dr Twisse, Synod of Dort and Arles, p. 10, 11.

God did decree to damn no man, but for his sin, is the unanimous consent of all of our divines, &c., And accordingly, Tilenus1 himself, when he was on our side, took exception against Arminius, his stating the decree of predestinaton and reprobation, according to our opinion, to proceed, citra omnem considerationem restspistentiæ & fidei en illis, aut impenitentiæ & infidelitatis in hisce, ie., “without all consideration of repentance and faith in those, or of impentitence and infidelity in these.” And tis that Rev. Dr. further proves, p 11, out of Piscator, and out of the Contra-Remonstrants, in the conference at the Hague, &c. So opposing his adversary, p. 38, he had these words.

Secondly, he aggravates it by the circumstance of the least consideration of sin, which we are said to deny to have place in reprobation; whereas Divine consideration has no degrees at all, whereby it may be capable of greater or less (a fair answer to what Mr. T[homas] P[ierce] has, p.6). Sin has degrees in man, but Divine consideration has no degrees at all.

To come near to the point and to discover their juggling, in stating our tenor most calumniously. Consider, I pray do any of our divines maintain that God ordain to damn any man but for sin? (And by positive reprobation in my p. 121, I meant nothing, or could mean nothing but damnation.) It is apparent, they do not, all acknowledging that like as God does damn no man for sin, so does he ordain to damn no man but for sin. A little after, to add one thing more, not for their sin which they sinned in Adam only, but for those very actual sins and transgressions which they are guilty of. And if anything can be spoken yet more plainly in the same book, p. 40 41, having spoken of election, eh speaks thus about the decree to reprobation. The like distinction is considerable on the part of reprobation, which also is the will of God in a certain kind. I say, we must distinguish in this decree, the act of God’s decreeing, and the thing decreed by him. And these things are of a different nature, and so different, that what alone is the cause of the act, that alone is the one thing decreed by it, but not so of the other. As for example, the things denied by reprobation are,

1. The denial of grace.

2. The denial of glory, together, with the inflicting of damnation. As touching the first of these, look what is the cause of reprobation, as touching the act of God reprobating, that and that alone is the cause of the denial of grace, viz., that faith and repentance, to wit, the mere pleasure of God. But as touching the denial of glory, and inflicting of damnation. God does not proceed according to the mere pleasure of his will, but according to a Law, which is this, “Whosoever believes shall not be damned.” And albeit, God made that law according to he mere pleasure of his will, yet no wise man will say, that God denies glory, and inflicts damnation on men, according to the mere pleasure of his will. The case being clear, that God denies the one, and inflicts the other merely for their sins who are these dealt withal. William Barlee, A Necessary Vindication of the Doctrine of Predestination (London: Printed for George Sawbridge, at the Bible on Ludgate-Hill, 1658), 78-79. [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; italics original; and underlining mine.]


1Daniel Tilenus (also Tilenius) (1563–1633) was a German-French Protestant theologian. Initially a Calvinist, he became a prominent and influential Arminian teaching at the Academy of Sedan. He was an open critic of the Synod of Dort of 1618-9.”


Ralph Wardlaw (1779-1853) on Supralapsarianism

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(3.) We must repeat it, amongst our important general principles, necessary to the full clearing of our way, that predestination ought, in strict propriety, to be regarded as relating to one side only of the alternative of life or death. The sovereign right of God to bestow His favors on whom He will among the universally undeserving, we have seen to be unequivocally affirmed in the portion of God’s word already considered.1 Predestination to life is an act of sovereignty infinitely honorable to every attribute of the divine character and every principle of the divine government. But predestination to death, if the phrase be admissible at all (and I own my dislike to it), can mean no more than the published determination of the Supreme and Righteous Governor to punish transgressors for their sins. Now sovereignty has nothing to do with this. It comes under the category of equity. It has no freedom of selection. It proceeds in every case on the principle of desert, and bears to the desert a scrupulously just proportion. Sovereignty is the supreme right to do whatever is not inconsistent with equity. It has, therefore, and can have, no application to punishment. " The punishment of the guilty is not an object of divine sovereignty. To punish the guilty is the office of equity, which gives to all their due. For mercy to punish, or justice to confer undeserved favour, is discordant in thought and language; but not more so than sovereign punishment, without assuming another meaning of the term, or disputing about words. In brief, as equity never disapproves of any creature, especially a moral agent, where there is nothing wrong or no desert, so divine sovereignty is in no case displayed but for the welfare of its objects. In proportion as any creature has no equitable claim upon God, all he is and possesses, that may be denominated good, must be the effect of sovereignty."2 The Bishop of Lincoln (Tomlin) lays down the following extraordinary position: "It is not denied that God had a right, founded on the incontrovertible will of the Creator over His creatures, to consign the far greater part of men to eternal misery, and to bestow eternal happiness on a select few, although there was in themselves no ground whatever for such distinction. But the question is, whether such conduct would have been consistent with the principles of infinite justice and of infinite mercy."3 I have called this an extraordinary position; and from such a quarter most extraordinary it is ; the abhorrer and refuter of Calvinism asserting what Dr. Williams justly denominates "the most exceptionable part of hyper-Calvinism." " That must be a very anomalous and strange kind of right," observes Dr. Williams,

which is not consistent with infinite justice. If men were consigned to eternal misery without desert, and this founded in right, what is it but saying that the Creator had a right to be unjust? But if men so consigned deserved it by previous delinquency, how could it be inconsistent with justice? Is it not of the essence of justice to give every one his due ? To ascribe to the Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor of His creatures a right, an arbitrary right of conferring benefits upon them beyond their due, is infinitely worthy of Him; but to ascribe to Him the same right to render the undeserving miserable is to offer Him ‘a compliment which He must needs reject with infinite disdain; a right to be unjust, were He not infinitely just, wise, and merciful!4

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Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) on the Decrees of God

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But while the Bible, throughout, ascribes the occurrence of all events, of every kind, to the will of God; yet, it as uniformly represents man as a free, accountable agent; yea, it represents him as acting most wickedly, in those very transactions which are most expressly declared to be determined by the counsel of God. It would seem from this, that the inspired writers perceived no inconsistency between a purpose of God, that a certain event should occur, and that it should be brought about by the free and accountable agency of man. And it is believed, also, that men of sound minds, who have never heard of any objections to this doctrine, are not apt to be perplexed with any apparent inconsistency between these two things. And, we are persuaded, that were it not for the ambiguity of certain words, and the artful sophistry with which truth and error are confounded by those who oppose the doctrine, very few persons would experience any difficulty on this subject. If a man of plain sense should be informed by prophecy, that he would certainly kill a fellow creature the next day or year, and that in perpetrating this act he would be actuated by malice, it would never be likely to enter his mind, that he should not be guilty of any crime, because the action was certain before it was committed. But if you change the terms, and say, that he would be under a necessity to perform this act; that it being absolutely certain, he could not possibly avoid it; immediately the subject becomes perplexed, and involved in difficulty; for every man of common sense feels that he cannot justly be accountable for what he could not possibly avoid; and that for what he does from absolute necessity he cannot, in the nature of things, be culpable. Here, the whole difficulty is produced by the use of ambiguous and improper terms. While nothing was presented to the mind, but the certainty of the event, coupled with voluntary action, no relief from responsibility was felt: but the moment we speak of the act as produced by necessity, and as being unavoidable, the judgment respecting its nature is changed. These terms include the idea of a compulsory power acting upon us, not only without, but in opposition to our own will. A necessary event is one which cannot be voluntary or free; for if it were spontaneous, it could not be necessary; these two things being diametrically opposite. So, an unavoidable action is one which takes place against our wishes and will. But a voluntary action may be as certain as any other; and by one who knows futurity, may be as certainly predicted. Even a man may often be certain beforehand, how a voluntary agent will act in a given circumstances, provided he knows the moral character of the agent. As if a being actuated by no other feeling towards another but malice, should be placed in such circumstances, that he has the choice of performing a benevolent action towards that individual or omitting it, he will most certainly neglect to do it, or, if he may with impunity injure such an one, or do him good, he will most certainly choose the former; yet is such a malignant agent perfectly free, and perfectly accountable. These things are agreeable to the common feelings of all men, and depend on no metaphysical niceties. And there can be no doubt, but that a large share of the difficulty which perplexes honest minds, in the contemplation of the divine purpose, which fixes the certainty of events, arises from the confounding of things totally distinct, by the use of ambiguous terms.

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