Bucanus on Divine Permission of Sin

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Is the execution of reprobation, or the appointing of wicked means subject to the decree of God, as faith and other means of salvation as to the decree of election?

It is, and it is not: because the decree of God is said to be two-fold, simple in some respect: the decree is called simple, when God wills and approves somewhat simply, whereof himself is truly, properly, and principally the efficient cause in his own time: from whence also the decree may be called effective, of which sort is they decree of the salvation, as of creation, effectual calling, faith, justification, and sanctification. Whereupon God, Hos 13:9. Thy salvation is of me. Moreover God is the Author and cause of the substance (that I may so speak) of all the actions and qualities, both good and evil. For the action is one thing by itself, the faulty quality of the action is another.

But the decree in respect is when God discerns, and will permit somewhat to be done, and that also in his due time: but he does not truly effect it himself, but suffers it to be done of wicked instruments, not as though he beheld the affairs of men negligently and from a far, but as the ruler of all. For Paul affirms that God provoked Pharaoh, and whom he wills he can harden, Rom. 9. 17,18. for God is not a negligent God, neither were God omnipotent, if against this will he should suffer any thing. Whereupon also this may be called a Decree of permission, of government, or of dispensation. And of this sort is the Decree of all evil means, which tend to destruction, as of the fall of man, his hardening, and the like: for they come not to pass without the will and knowledge of God, because by this means Atheism or Epicurism must necessarily follow, but of all these man’s will is chief, purchasing God’s wrath, hereupon is that rightly said. Thy destruction is of thyself O Israel. Hos 3:9. And nevertheless they are subject to the Decree, because though not by the decree, yet for the decree, and not without the decree they come to pass, and whereof the deficient, but not the efficient cause is surely purposed in God. For as God creates faith in them that believe; so, when God left the will, sin came upon mankind. As the Sun makes the day of itself, and with his own light, when it rises and shines, and the night likewise, but by the retiring of his light and the shadow of the earth. Furthermore it is no decree of a sufferance of malice, in that it is malice, but in that it has a purpose of goodness. For if we consider the decree of God, the very evil (though bred in itself) has a purpose of good: for what God has determined to suffer, and what he permits, he does it for some good end, as for the evidence of his glory and justice. Wherefore in respect of God, who in determining to suffer and in permitting does always behold a good end, the darkness helps forward the light, and the malice which proceeds wholly from the evil instrument is converted to good, as the punishment of sin, and the mean of God’s glory, as that paradox of Augustine might be verified. That it is good also there should be evils for else God would not suffer evils to be: but he suffers them not as against his will, but as willing, and as the same father says truly and wisely: that which is contrary to the will of God, comes not to pass against his will.

William Bucanus, Institutions of Christian Religion, Framed Out of God’s Word, and the Writings of the Best Divines, Methodically Handled by Questions and Answers, Fit For All Such as Desirous to Know, or Practice the Will of God, trans., by Robert Hill (Printed in London by George Snowden, 1606), 443-444.

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