Davenant:

1) Before we come to answer particular objections, we must put this author1 in remembrance of these few things which he has not well considered.

1. First, where as he troubles himself with distinguishing the supralapsarian and the sublapsarian doctrine, calling them supralapsarians, who in ordering the eternal decrees of God concerning election and preterition or reprobation place them before the consideration of the fall, and of those sublapsarians, who place them after; this pains might well have been spared. For priorities and posteriorities in the eternal immanent decrees of God are but imaginations of man’s weak reason, and framed diversely (nay contrarily) as well by Schoolmen and Papists, as by Protestants, or those which are termed Calvinists; and finally they have little or no use in this controversy. Aquinas thought it no such matter of moment, whether predestination be considered before man’s fall and state of misery or after: Motus non accepit speciem a termino a quo, sed a termino ad quem. Nihil enim refert quantum ad rationen dealbationis, utrum ille qui dealbatur fuerit niger, aut pallidus, aut rubeus: & simileter nihil refert ad rationem prædestinationis, utrum aliquis prædistinetur in vitiam æternam a statumiseriæ vel non.2 And for Reprobation, he seems rather to incline to their opinion, who place it in order of consideration before the fall in making it such a part of the divine providence as permits some men, deficere a fine.3 So that this distinction of supralapsarians and sublapsarians, as served this author to no other purpose but to the inculcating of the same objections again and again. John Davenant, Animadversions Written by the Right Reverend Father in God, John Lord Bishop of Sarisbury, upon the Treatise intitled, Gods love to Mankinde (London: Printed for Iohn Partridge, 1641), 160-161. [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; italics original; side references to Scripture cited inline; references to external works cited as footnote; [bracketed footnote content mine; and underlining mine.]

2) For the positive act, which this author describes to be a pre-ordination unto hell-torments; those who comprise them both under this one word reprobation, do notwithstanding make this act or decree respective unto sin, as we have already shown. As for those of our Church in this controversy, whether predestination and non-predestination be grounded upon the prime absolute will of God, or upon his prescience of good and bad acts to be performed by men, they do and must understand by the word reprobation, not the decree of damnation of any particular persons, but only the absolute decree of non-preparing for them that effectual grace, qua certissum liberarentur, and of leaving them to such means of grace under which by their own default infallibiliter ruunt ad interitum voluntarium. Thus our English divines in their suffrage have described it, and thus the reverent and judicious Bishop of Norwich conceived it, when he made both Remonstrants and Puritans (as the term calls them) to err out of the true middle way which the Church of England holds in opposition to them both. In election, he makes this the error of the Remonstrants, “That they ground the absolute decree of men’s particular election upon the prescience of their faith and perseverance (as this author does) whereas that reverent Prelate holds with the Church of England, and Saint Augustine, Electio non invenit fideles, sed facit. As for the errors of the Puritans about Predestination or election, he reduces them to these heads, the excluding of the conditional decree or evangelical promise, the disordering of the decree of predestination by bringing it in before the fall, and the decree of Christ’s incarnation. As for the preparation and donation of such special grace per quam non solium possint credere aut obediant, he makes it the proper fruit of election: whereas he grants unto the non-elect only salutem gratiamque communem & sufficientem in mediis Divinutus ordinatis, si verbo Dei spirituque sancto deese noluerint. Unto which add that wherein all divines of all sides agree, “That God administers this common grace with an eternal and infallibly prescience that it will be rejected or abused by the non-elect, and with an absolute decree of permitting it so to be; and then it is clear, the English divines with the Church of England nec divertisse ad dextram in illorum sententiam qui ex præscita fida & perseverantia per liberam cooperationem arbitrii humani gratiæ prævenientis deducunt, nec ad finistram declinasse & gratiam sufficientem tollunt, &c. They are the words of that reverent Prelate Doctor Overall. John Davenant, Animadversions Written by the Right Reverend Father in God, John Lord Bishop of Sarisbury, upon the Treatise intitled, Gods love to Mankinde (London: Printed for Iohn Partridge, 1641), 199-201. [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; italics original; side references to Scripture cited inline; references to external works cited as footnote; [bracketed footnote content mine; and underlining mine.]

3) Men’s practice cannot be guided by decrees of God concealed from their knowledge, though they be decrees concerning their good or evil. But if men will show themselves reasonable men, and not mad men, they must take their rules of practice from such revealed decrees as teach what actions are means to attain good, and what are means to draw evil upon ourselves.

He has a crazed brain that will draw practical conclusions or logical sequels from decrees or antecedents, whereof he knows not the particular tenor, or how in singular they concern himself. John Davenant, Animadversions Written by the Right Reverend Father in God, John Lord Bishop of Sarisbury, upon the Treatise intitled, Gods love to Mankinde (London: Printed for Iohn Partridge, 1641), 339. [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; italics original; side references to Scripture cited inline; references to external works cited as footnote; [bracketed footnote content mine; and underlining mine.]

4) Secondly, those do abuse this must true doctrine, who when they explain it unto the people do wonder into such questions as though there to much subtlety to exceed the vulgar capacity, and are more fit for the Schools then the pulpit; yea, indeed, unfit even in the Schools to be meddled withal, if the importunity of our adversaries and the necessity of maintain our own cause did not sometimes drive us even against our wills to these nice speculations. Such are the discussions which are made by divines about the signs of priority and posteriority in the eternal decrees of God, with great labor and little profit. Some affirm that the first decree in the divine understanding and will was of sending the redeemer, and then another of saving the elect by this redeemer. Others hold the contrary way. Yea, so boldly curious have some mortal men been, that when they have laid down the order of the divine decrees as a thing where they had certain knowledge, affirming this to have been the first decree of the divine will, that the second, another, the third, and so on, at length they stick not to avouch, that if God had not observed this very order which they approve of, he should have done either unwisely or unjustly. A wise minister should wholly abstain from handling these thorny questions: however the business never ought to come to that point, that if we fail in these our speculations, any reproach should fasten upon God himself. The ministers of the Word, therefore, as oft as occasion is offered of treating predestination before the people, must be content to contain themselves within those bounds which the Holy Scripture has clearly chalked out unto us. Let them teach, how God elected his own unto life eternal before the foundations of the world were laid. Let them teach, how election flowed not from the foresight of man’s merits, but from the free will and gracious pleasures of God electing. Let them teach, that whatsoever saving good is found in us, is the effect of this free and gracious mercy. Let them teach, that the assurance of our election is not to be sought in God’s secret decrees or our own idle imaginations, but in the effects and operations of the faithful and sanctified soul. These and other such doctrines which are clear, sound and profitable, may and ought to be preached unto Christians. But those which are either too knotty or else altogether fruitless (especially when they are not clearly grounded and revealed in the Word of God) ought quite to be excluded out of vulgar congregations. And here I cannot but tax the folly and rashness of some (especially young) preachers, who as soon as they hear any new controversy concerning predestination started among divines, be it never so intricate, never so unfruitful, yet presently they acquaint the people with it: This they press, this they daily stand upon, and think in an argument of great learning to discuss those points amongst the unlearned, which their auditors do not at all understand. Against these they may take up that of the son of Sirach, “A fool travels with a word as a woman with a labor of a child: as an arrow that sticks in a man’s thigh, so is a word in a fool’s belly” [Ecclus 9:12.]. This abuse, therefore, is chiefly to be avoided by the ministers of the Word; who as they may deliver the simple, clear and fundamental doctrine of predestination with profit and edification to the people of God rightly trained up, so can they not run out into intricate questions, and curiously discuss both sides of the controversy after the manner of the Schools, but by this their superfluous diligence they needs train up their people rather unto curiosity and itch of contention, then unto faith and zeal of a godly life. Yea, what Prudentius said of wrangling sophisters may well be applied unto these men:

Fidem minutis dissecant ambagibus.

They mince the faith into petty circumstances: or rather that the Apostle, “They dote (or, are sick, about questions or strife of words, whereof comes envy, strife,” &c [1 Tim. 4.]. John Davenant, Animadversions Written by the Right Reverend Father in God, John Lord Bishop of Sarisbury, upon the Treatise intitled, Gods love to Mankinde (London: Printed for Iohn Partridge, 1641), 375-377. [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; italics original; side references to Scripture cited inline; references to external works cited as footnote; [bracketed footnote content mine; and underlining mine.]

[Notes: 1) Jonathan Moore misrepresents Davenant, when he asserts that in Animadversions, Davenant, “explicitly and at great length defended an infralapsarian position.”4 On the contrary, repeatedly Davenant rejected all such ordering of the decrees. What Davenant did defend and sustain the basic and proper claim that election and non-election are out of a corrupt mass. However, this presupposition is common to both the infralapsarian and, so-called, Amyraldian ordering of the decrees. Thus, there is no evidence that Davenant later strongly defended infralapsarianism, as per Moore’s claims. 2) Indeed, Davenant quite apparently agrees with Overall, that it is erroneous to place the decree of predestination before the fall and before the decree of Christ’s incarnation. 3) On another note, when I read Davenant’s comments regarding “young preachers” I could not but think of the Puritanboard and other hypercalvinist nests on the web.]

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1[Throughout, “the author” is a reference to Davenant’s literary opponent.]

2Part. 1.qu. 23. art. 1.

3Ibid. art. 3.

4[Jonathan Moore, English Hypothetical Universalism; John Preston and the Softening of Reformed Theology (Grand Rapids, MI:, William B. Eerdmans, 2007), 188; fnt. 74.]

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