Synopsis Purioris Theologiae:

20 At this point we should see whether sins, too, fall under divine providence. We assert that it is wrong to say God provides sins in the sense that to provide means to attend and to care for. But we do not doubt that it may, and indeed should be said that God exercises providence concerning sins. For He foresees sins in advance, and wills to permit them; and as they are seen beforehand, He destines them to some universal or particular good, whether for a display of his mercy or justice, or for some other good. And so it is rightly said that He exercises providence regarding them, since He disposes to do well regarding them. But if one considers only that which is real in sin and ‘positive,’ as they say, what others call ‘the matter’ of sin, namely, as an entity or as an action, in this sense sins can be said even to be provided by God, but only in a relative sense and not in itself. That is because the formal structure of sin exists in the absence of being and of good, in a certain deformity and disorderliness, which does not come from God and so cannot have been provided for by Him.

21 Here is a place for a distinction in the ways God handles providence when He implements it—it is either effective, or permitting. The first is the one whereby God works effectually, and in all things generally and individually perfects his work (namely all things both general and specific in nature), not only the essential good—the substances, motions, actions and completions of things—but also the moral good, such as all civic and spiritual virtues. Because, as the highest good, He is also the author and source of all good.

22 The second is attributed to God also in Scripture, in which it is often said that He permits something; not only when He allows us to obtain what we wish in actions and affairs that are good, or middling actions that make no difference, for which the permission is linked to God’s approval and effective operation (Hebrews 6:3 and 1Corinthians 16:7). But even when He does not prevent the evils and the sins which He forbids (though He is able to), as He does not have a law about hindering things. For this permission is granted; nevertheless, the things that are permitted by it are not approved continuously. In this way the following texts are interpreted: Isaiah 2:6, Jeremiah 16:13, Acts 14:16; Romans 1:24 and 28; Psalm 81:13.

23 We acknowledge that this permission for all sins belongs to God’s providence. For although sins are evil, and accordingly cannot be provided by God, nevertheless the permission of them is good. So then, God both wills and directly decrees the permission, and ordains it for some good purpose that is greater than that of which the absence is the evil that is permitted. For since God is good to the highest degree, He would in no way permit there to be anything evil in his workings, unless He were not so almighty that even concerning evil He would still do good, as Augustine justly states (Enchiridion chapter 11).

24 And so we think that God’s permission is not idle, or that something happens without the will of God, or without his care, or that He is neglecting anything that happens. And accordingly his permission should not be understood as opposed to his will and counsel. For it is in accordance with his will and after taking counsel that God grants permission. And He powerfully controls direction over sins, and it is not unusual for Him to apply his permission to carry out his judgements, occasionally even as a recompense for previously committed sins. In this sense the Schoolmen acknowledge that God “possesses a practical knowledge of sins, insofar as He permits, or prevents, them, or—once committed—appoints a goal for them” (Thomas Aquinas 1.14. art. 16).

25 In addition to this we state that before they occur, and while they are occurring, God in his great and most holy wisdom directs the arguments and opportunities that are like incentives to an act that does not happen without sin on the creatures’ part, yet these opportunities are not evil in and of themselves, so that He does not refuse his concurrence to the act as such (though not as sin).26 We state “that He presides (as Bellarmine himself admits) over wrongful wills, and rules and governs them, is invisibly at work in them, so that from his divine providence, though evil by their own vice, they are led more to the one than to the other.” Likewise he adds that God “bends and twists the wills” of the ungodly (On the Loss of Grace and the State of Sin, chapter 13), not shunning those types of expressions, instead using even harsher ones than those he adopts from others and distorts into a false accusation.

26 The goal of this teaching is the same as that of teaching that God has created everything: the glory of God, to which is joined the salvation of the elect, who derive manifold benefits from it. By his government of everything the elect come to acknowledge God as most wise, good, and powerful, the Lord of all things, upon whom all creatures depend. They learn to place their trust in Him like a Father who in all things provides for their best interests, as they rest securely in the protection of the one to whose judgement they subject themselves. They are patient in times of adversity, as they raise their eyes up to the prime cause, acknowledging and correcting their own sinful ways. They are grateful in prosperous times, bringing praise to his name; they fear and honour God in whose hand are all creatures, and with the utmost love they follow after Him whom they know exercises his particular care for those who are his own, and who has prepared for them an inheritance in heaven.

27 If anyone desires more and expects answers to all the minor questions arising from human reason, let him listen to the same person whom we praised at the outset of this disputation, Salvian: “I can say with sufficient reason and confidence: I do not know what is hidden, and I am ignorant of the counsel of the divine. In support of this position the revelation of the heavenly statement is sufficient for me: God says that by Him all things are observed, by Him all things are governed, and by Him all things are judged. If you wish to know what it is you must hold on to, you have the sacred writings. There is a perfect reason to hold on to what you have read. However, I do not wish that you ask me for what reason God so performs the things about which we are speaking. I am only a man; I do not understand the secret things of God. I do not make bold to search into them and therefore I am afraid even to attempt it, because if you desire to know more than is permitted to you, that too is a kind of irreverent impudence. Let it be sufficient for you that God bears witness that all things are performed and managed by Him” (On God’s Government book 3).

28 Since these things are so, “we recoil in terror from the madness and folly [the words are those of Isidore of Pelusium,28 book 3 Epistle 154] of those who posit either that there is no God, or that there is one, yet who by no means whatsoever founded the world. Or that if He had founded it, does not govern it at all; or that if He governs it, He takes delight in those who embrace vice. Or that if He does not enjoy it, that He forfeits rule over it to others; or that if He has not forfeited the rule, that it was snatched away from Him against his will. Or that if the rule was not snatched away, that He is unwilling to avenge evil-doers; or that if He did wish to avenge, that He is not able to. Or that if He is able to, He has been idle for a very long time. Or that if He has nothing more valuable to do, that He is being over-ruled by the motion of the stars; or if He is not being over-ruled, that He wishes to be idle and lazy.” And if the mouths of the wicked spew forth any other blasphemies like this, they will in the end realize that:

Great in Heaven
Is God who beholds and rules over every thing,
To whom belongs the glory for ever and ever.

[Johannes Polyander, Antonius Walaeus, Antonius Thysius, & Andreas Rivetus], Synopsis Purioris Theologiae ed. Dolf te Velde, tran. Riemer A. Faber (Brill: Leiden, 2015), 1: 277-283. [Some minor reformatting; editorial and translator footnotes not included, Latin text not included; textual notation not included; italics original; and underlining mine.]

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