Friday, December 28, 2012
Arminius on the Righteousness and Efficacy of the Providence of God Concerning Evil (Disputation 10)
DISPUTATION 10-ON THE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND EFFICACY OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD CONCERNING EVIL
Respondent: Gerard Adrians
I. The consideration of evil, which is called "the evil of culpability" or "of delinquency," has induced many persons to deny the providence of God concerning creatures endowed with understanding and freedom of will, and concerning their actions. These persons have denied it for two reasons: (1.) They have thought that, because God is good and just, omniscient and omnipotent, he would have entirely prevented sin from being committed, if in reality he cared by his providence for his rational creatures and there actions. (Mark x, 18; Psalm cxlvii, 5; Rev. iv, 8; Mal. ii, 17; iii, 14.) (2.) Because they can conceive in their minds no other administration of Divine Providence concerning evil, than such as would involve God himself in the culpability, and would exempt from all criminality the creature, as if he had been impelled to sin by an irresistible act of God’s efficiency. For this reason, then, since a belief in the Providence of God is absolutely necessary, (Luke xii, 28,) from whom a considerable part of his government is taken away if it be denied that he exercises any care over rational creatures and their actions; we will endeavour briefly to explain the Efficiency of Divine Providence concerning evil; and at the same time to demonstrate from this efficiency, that God cannot possibly be aspersed with the charge of injustice, and that no stain of sin can attach to him, on the contrary, that this efficiency is highly conducive to the commendation of God’s righteousness.
II. But in sin are to be considered not only the act, (under which we likewise comprise the omission of the act,) but also "the transgression of the law." The act has regard to a natural good, and is called the material cause of sin; the transgression is a moral evil, and is called the formal cause of sin. An investigation into both of them is necessary, when we treat upon the efficiency of God concerning sin: for it is occupied about the act as it is an act, and as it is done against the law which prohibits its commission; about the omission of the act as such, and as it is against the law which commands its performance. But this efficiency is to be considered: (1.) With regard to the beginning of sin, and its first conception in the heart of a rational creature; (2.) its attempt, and, through this attempt, its perpetration; and, (3.) with regard to sin when finished. The efficiency of God concerning the beginning of sin is either its hindrance or permission; and, added to permission, the administration both of arguments and occasions inciting to sin; as well as an immediate concurrence to produce the act. The Divine efficiency concerning the progress of sin comprises its direction and determination; and concerning the completion of sin, it is occupied in punishing or pardoning.
III. The First efficiency of God concerning sin, is Hindrance or the placing of a hindrance, which, both with regard of the efficiency and of the object, is three-fold. With respect to efficiency: For (i.) the impediment is either of sufficient efficacy, but such as does not hinder sin in the act. (Matt. xi, 21, 23; John xviii, 6.) (ii.) Or it is of such great efficacy as to render it impossible to be resisted. (iii.) Or it is of an efficacy administered in such a way by the wisdom of God, as in reality to hinder sin with regard to the event, and with certainty according to the foreknowledge of God, although not necessarily and inevitably. (Gen. xx, 6.) With respect to the object, it is likewise three-fold: for a hindrance is placed either on the power, the capability, or the will of a rational creature. (i.) The impediment placed on the power, is that by which some act is taken away from the power of a rational creature, for the performance of which it has an inclination and sufficient powers. This is done by legislation, through which it comes to pass that the creature cannot perform that act without sin. (Gen. ii, 16, 17.) (ii.) The impediment placed on the capability, is that by which this effect is produced, that the creature cannot commit the deed, for the performance of which it possesses an inclination, and powers which, without this hindrance, would be sufficient. But this hindrance is placed on the capability in four ways: First. By depriving the creature of the essence and life, which are the foundation of capability. (1 Kings 19; 2 Kings 1.) Secondly. By the ablation or diminution of capability. (1 Kings xiii, 4; Rom. vi, 6.) Thirdly. By the opposition of a greater capability, or at least of one that is equal. (2 Chron. xxvi, 18-21; Gal. v, 17.) Fourthly. By the withdrawing of the object towards which the act tends. (John viii, 59.) (iii.) An impediment is placed on the will when, by some argument, it is persuaded not to will the perpetration of a sin, whether this argument be taken from the impossibility or the difficulty of the thing; (Matt. xxi, 46; Hosea ii, 6, 7;) from its unpleasantness or inconvenience, its uselessness or injuriousness; (Gen. xxxvii, 26, 27;) and, lastly, from its injustice, dishonour, and indecency. (Gen. xxxix, 8, 9.)
IV. The Permission of sin is contrary to the hindering of it. Yet it is not opposed to hindrance as the latter is an act which is taken away from the power of a creature by legislation; for, in this case, the same act would be a sin, and not a sin — a sin as it was an act forbidden to the power of the creature, and not a sin as being permitted, that is not forbidden. But permission is opposed to this hindrance, by which an impediment is placed on the power and the will of the creature. This permission is a suspension of all impediments, that, God knows, if they were employed, would in fact, hinder the sin; and it is a necessary result, because sin might be hindered by a single impediment of this description. (1.) Sin, therefore, is permitted to the power of the creature, when God employs none of those impediments which have been mentioned in the third thesis of this disputation: on which account, this permission has the following, either as conjoint or preceding acts of God. The continuance of essence and life to the creature, the preservation of his power, a care that it be not opposed by a greater power, or at least by one equal to it, and, lastly, the exhibition of the object on which sin is committed. (Exod. ix, 16; John xviii, 6; 1 Sam. xx, 31, 32; Matt. xxvi, 2, 53.) (2.) Sin is permitted also to the will, not by the suspension of every impediment suitable to deter the will from sinning, but by not employing those which in reality would hinder, of which kind God must have an immense number in the treasures of his wisdom and power.
V. The foundation of this permission is, (1.) The liberty of choice, which God, the Creator, has implanted in his rational creature, and the use of which the constancy of the Donor does not suffer to be taken away from this creature. (2.) The infinite wisdom and power of God, by which He knows and is able to produce good out of evil. (Gen. i, 2, 3; 2 Cor. iv, 6.) And therefore, God permits that which he does permit, not in ignorance of the powers and the inclination of rational creatures, for he knows all things; (1 Sam. xxiii, 11, 12;) - -not with reluctance, for it was in his power, not to have produced a creature who possessed freedom of will, and to have destroyed him after he was produced; (Rev. iv, 11;) — not as being incapable of hindering, for how can this be attributed to Him who is both omniscient and omnipotent? (Jer. xviii, 6; Psalm xciv, 9, 10;) not as an unconcerned spectator, or negligent of that which is transacted, because even before any thing is done, he has already gone through the various actions concerning it, and has, besides, an attentive eye upon it to direct and determine to punish or to pardon it. (Psalm lxxxi, 12, 13.) But whatever God permits, he permits it designedly and voluntarily, His will being immediately concerned about its permission, which permission itself is immediately occupied about sin, which order cannot be inverted without injury to divine justice and truth. (Psalm v, 4, 5.)
VI. We must now, with more distinctness, explain, by some of the differences of sin, those things which we have spoken thus generally about hindering and permitting. (1.) The distinction of sin, from its causes, into those of ignorance, infirmity, malignity, and negligence, will serve our purpose. For an impediment is placed on a sin of ignorance, by the revelation of the divine will; (Psalm cxix, 105;) on a sin of infirmity, by the strengthening of the Holy Spirit; (Ephes. iii, 16;) on a sin of malignity, by "taking away the stony heart, and by bestowing a heart of flesh," (Ezek. xi, 19,) and inscribing on it the law of God; (Jer. xxxi, 33;) and on a sin of negligence, by a holy solicitude excited in the hearts of believers. (Jer. xxxii, 40.) From these, it will be easily evident, in the suspension of which of these acts consists the permission of sins under each of the preceding classes. (2.) The distinction of sin according to the relation of the law which commands the performance of good, and of that which prohibits the commission of evil, has also a place in this explanation. For, against the prohibitory part, an offense is committed, either by performing an act, or from an undue cause and end, omitting its performance — against the perceptive part, either by omitting an act, or by performing it in an undue manner, and from an undue cause and end. To these distinctions also, God’s hindering and permitting may be adapted. For Joseph’s brethren were hindered from killing him; but they were induced to omit that act from an undue cause and end. (Gen. xxxvii, 26, 27.) Absalom was hindered from following the counsel of Ahithophel, which was useful to himself, and hurtful to David; but he did not abstain from it through a just cause, and from a good end. (2 Sam. 17.) God hindered Balaam from cursing the children of Israel, and caused him to bless them; but it was in such a manner that he abstained from the former act, and performed the latter with an insincere and knavish mind. (Num. 23.)
VII. We shall more correctly understand the reasons and causes both of hindering and permitting, if, while distinctly considering in sin the act, and the transgression of the law, we apply to each of them the divine hindrance and permission. But though, in sin, the act and the transgression of the law are inseparably connected, and therefore neither can be hindered or permitted without the other; yet they may be distinguished in the mind, and God may hinder and permit sometimes with regard to the act or to the transgression alone; at other times, principally with regard to the one of them or to both, and these his acts may become objects of consideration to us. God hindered Elijah from being forcibly brought to Ahaziah to be killed, not as that was a sin, but as it was an act. This is apparent from the end and the mode of hindering. From the end, because it was His will that the life of His prophet should be spared, not lest Ahaziah should sin against God. From the mode of hindering, because he destroyed two companies, of fifty men each, who had been sent to seize him, which was a token of divine anger against Ahaziah and the men, by which sin is not usually hindered as such, but as it is an act which will prove injurious to another: but through Grace, sin is hindered as such. (2 Kings 1.) God permitted Joseph to be sold, when he hindered his murder. He permitted his vendition, not more as it was a sin than as it was an act; for by the sale of Joseph, as it was an act, God obtained his end. (Gen. xxxvii, 1, 20; Psalm cv, 17.) But God hindered David from laying violent hands on Saul, not so much as it was an act, as in reference to its being a sin. This appears from the argument by which David was induced to refrain. "The Lord forbid," said he, "that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed." (1 Sam. xxiv, 7.) God permitted Ahab to kill Naboth, rather as it was a sin than as it was an act; for thus Ahab filled up the measure of his iniquities, and accelerated the infliction of punishment on himself; for, by some other way than this, God could have taken Naboth to himself. (1 Kings 21.) But Abimelech was hindered from violating the chastity of Sarah — both as it was an act by which indelible grief would have been brought down upon Abraham, whom He greatly loved, and as it was a sin; for God was unwilling that Abimelech should defile himself with this crime, because "in the integrity of his heart," he would have done it. (Gen. xx, 6.) On the contrary, God permitted Judah to know Tamar, his daughter-in-law — both as an act because God willed to have Christ born in direct descent from Judah, and as it was a sin, for it was the will of God thus to declare: Nothing is so polluted that it cannot be sanctified in Christ Jesus. (Gen. xxxviii, 18.) For it is not in vain that Matthew has informed us, that Christ was the Son of Judah by Tamar, as he was also the Son of David by the wife of Uriah. (Matt. 1.) This matter when diligently considered by us, conduces both to illustrate the wisdom of God, and to promote our own profit, if in our consciences, we solicitously observe from what acts and in what respect we are hindered, and what acts are permitted to us.
VIII. Beside this permission, there is another efficiency of the providence of God concerning the Beginning of Sin, that is, the Administration or management of arguments and occasions, which incite to an act that cannot be committed by the creature without sin, if not through the intention of God, at least according to the inclination of the creature, and not seldom according to the events which thence arise. (2 Sam. xii, 11, 12; xvi, 21-23.) But these arguments are presented either to the mind, (2 Sam. xxiv, 1; 1 Chron. xxi, 1; Psalm cv, 25,) or to the senses, both external and internal; (Job 1 & 2; Isa. x, 5-7;) and this indeed, either by means of the service or intervention of creatures, or by the immediate act of God himself. The end of God in this administration is — to try whether it be the will of the creature to abstain from sinning, even when it is excited by these incentives; (for small praise is due to the act of abstaining, in those cases in which such excitements are absent,) and, if it be the will of the creature to yield to these alluring attractions, to effect his own work by the act of the creature; not impelled by necessity, as if He was unable to complete his own work without the aid of the creature; but through a desire to demonstrate his manifold wisdom. Consider the Arguments by which the brethren of Joseph, through their own malice, were incited to will his murder: these were — Joseph’s accusation, by which he disclosed to his father the deeds of his brethren, the peculiar affection which Jacob cherished for Joseph, the sending of a dream, and the relation of it. Consider also the Occasions or opportunities, the mission of Joseph to his brethren at his father’s request, and the opportune appearance of the Ishmaelites who were traveling into Egypt, (Gen. 37.)
IX. The last efficiency of God concerning the Beginnings of sin, is the divine concurrence, which is necessary to produce every act; because nothing whatever can have an entity except from the first and chief Being, who immediately produces that entity. The concurrence of God is not his in, mediate influx into a second or inferior cause, but it is an action of God immediately flowing into the effect of the creature, so that the same effect in one and the same entire action may be produced simultaneously by God and the creature. Though this concurrence is placed in the mere pleasure or will of God, and in his free dispensation, yet he never denies it to a rational and free creature, when he has permitted an act to his power and will. For these two phrases are contradictory, "to grant permission to the power and the will of a creature to commit an act," and "to deny the divine concurrence without which the act cannot be done." But this concurrence is to the act as such, not as it is a sin: And therefore God is at once the effector and the permittor of the same act, and the permittor before he is the effector. For if it had not been the will of the creature to perform such an act, the influx of God would not have been upon that act by concurrence. And because the creature cannot perform that act without sin, God ought not, on that account, to deny the divine concurrence to the creature who is inclined to its performance. For it is right and proper that the obedience of the creature should be tried, and that he should abstain from an unlawful act and from the desire of obeying his own inclinations, not through a deficiency of the requisite divine concurrence; because, in this respect, he abstains from an act as it is a natural good, but it is the will of God that he should refrain from it as it is a moral evil.
X. The preceding considerations relate to the Beginnings of sin. In reference to the Progress of sin, a two-fold efficiency of divine providence occurs, direction and determination. The direction of sin is an act of divine providence, by which God wisely, justly, and powerfully directs sin wherever he wills, "reaching from one end to another mightily, and sweetly ordering all things." (Wisdom viii, 1.) In the divine direction is likewise contained a leading away from that point whither it is not the will of God to direct it. This direction is two-fold, unto an object, and unto an end. Direction unto an object is when God allows the sin, which he permits, to be borne, not at the option of the creature, towards an object which, in any way whatsoever, is exposed and liable to the injury of sin; but which he directs to a particular object that sometimes has been no part of the sinner’s aim or intention, or that he has at least not absolutely intended. (Prov. xvi, 9; xxi, 1.) Of this we have a signal example in Nebuchadnezzar, who, when he had prepared himself to subjugate nations, preferred to march against the Jews rather than the Ammonites, through the divine administration of his divinations. (Ezek. xxi, 19-22.) Direction unto an end is, when God does not allow the sin, which he permits, to be conducive to any end which the creature intends; but he uses it for that end which he himself wills, whether the creature intend the same end, (by which he would not still be excused from sin,) or whether he has another purpose which is directly contrary. The vendition of Joseph into Egypt, the temptation of Job, and the expedition of the king of Assyria against the Jews, afford illustrations of these remarks. (Gen. i, 20, 21; Job 1 & 2; Isa. x, 5-12.)
XI. The determination of sin is an act of divine providence by which God places a measure or check on his permission, and a boundary on sin, that it may not, at the option and will of the creature, wander in infinitum. This mode and boundary are placed by the circumscription of the time, and the determination of the magnitude. The circumscription of the time is, when the space of time, in which the permitted sin could continue, is diminished and circumscribed so as to stop itself. (Matt. xxiv, 22.) In this part also, regard must be had to the act as such, and to the sin as such. (i.) God places a boundary to the duration of the act, when he takes the rod of iniquity from the righteous, lest they commit any act unworthy of themselves; (Psalm cxxv, 3;) and when "he delivers the godly out of temptation." (2 Pet. ii, 9.) (ii.) God places a boundary to the duration of the sin when he "hedges up the way of the Israelites with thorns," that they may no longer commit idolatry; (Hosea ii, 6, 7;) when "He commands all men every where to repent," among "all nations, whom he suffered, in times past, to walk in their own ways." (Acts xiv, 16; xvii, 30.) A boundary is fixed to the magnitude of sin, when God does not permit sin to increase to excess and assume greater strength. This also is done with respect to it as an act, or as a sin. (i.) In the former respect, as an act, God hindered "the wrath of their enemies from swallowing up" the children of Israel, though he had permitted it to rise up against them; (Psalm cxxiv, 2, 3;) He permitted "no temptation to seize upon" the Corinthians "but such as is common to man"; (1 Cor. x, 13;) He hindered the devil from putting forth his hand against the life of Job; (1 & 2;) He prevented Shishadk, the king of Egypt, from "destroying" the Jews, and permitted him only to subject them to servitude. (2 Chron. xii, 7-9.) (ii.) In respect to it as a sin, God hindered David from contaminating himself with the blood of Nabal and his domestics. which he had sworn to shed, and with whom he was then in a state of contention. (1 Sam. xxv, 22, 26.) He also prevented David from going forth to battle in company with the army of Achish, (xxvii, 2; xxix, 6, 7,) to whom he had fled, and "before whom he had reigned himself mad," (xxi, 13,) thus, at the same time he hindered him from destroying his own countrymen, the Israelites, and from bringing disasters on the army of Achish. For he could have done neither of these things without the most flagrant wickedness; though the sin, also, as an act, seems thus to have been hindered.
XII. On account of this divine permission, the offering of arguments and opportunities in addition to permission, also on account of this direction, determination, and divine concurrence, God is said himself to do those evils which are perpetrated by men and by Satan: To have sent Joseph down into Egypt, (Gen. xlv, 8,) — to have taken the property of Job, (1 & 2,) — to have done openly "and before the sun" what David had perpetrated "secretly" against Uriah. (2 Sam. xii, 11, 12; 16.) This mode of speech is adopted for the following reasons: (i.) Because the principal parts, in the actions which are employed to produce such effects, belong to God himself. (ii.) Because the effects and issues, which result from all these, even from actions performed by the creature, are not so much in accordance with the intention of the creatures themselves, as with the purpose of God. (Isa. x, 5-7.) (iii.) Because the wisdom of God knows, if an administration of this kind be employed by him, that will certainly arise, or ensue, which cannot be perpetuated by the creature without wickedness; and because His will decrees to employ this administration. (1 Sam. xxiii, 11-13.) (iv.) A fourth reason may be added — Because God, who is the universal cause, moves into the effect with a stronger influence than the creature does, whose entire efficacy depends upon God.
XIII. Lastly, follows the efficiency of divine providence concerning sin already perpetrated; which consists in its punishment and remission. This efficiency is occupied about sin as it is such: For sin is punished and pardoned as it is an evil, and because it is an evil. (1.) The Punishment of sin is an act of the providence of God, by which sin is repaid with the punishment that is due to it according to the justice of God. This punishment either belongs to the present life, or to that which is to come. (i.) The latter is the eternal separation of the whole man from God, and his anguish and torture in the lake of fire. (Matt. xxv, 41; Rev. xx, 15.) (ii.) The punishment inflicted in this life, is either corporal or spiritual. Those chastisements which relate to the body, and to the state of the animal life, are various; but the enumeration of them is not necessary for our purpose. But spiritual punishment must be diligently considered; which is such a punishment of a previous sin, as to be also the cause of other subsequent sins, through the malice of him on whom it is inflicted. It is a privation of grace, and a delivering up to the power of evil. But Privation is either that of habitual grace, or that of assisting grace. The former is through the blinding of the mind, and the hardening of the heart. (Isa. vi, 9, 10.) The latter is the withdrawing of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, who is wont, inwardly "to help our infirmities," (Rom. viii, 26,) and outwardly to repress the temptations of Satan and the world both on the right hand and on the left; in this holy service, he also engages the ministry and the care of good angels. (Heb. i, 14; Psalm xci, 11.) A Delivering Up to the power of evil is, either "giving sinners over to a reprobate mind" and to the efficacy of error, (Rom. i, 28; 2 Thess. ii, 9-11,) or to the desires of the flesh and to the lusts of sin, (Rom. i, 24,) or lastly to the power of Satan, "the god of this world," (2 Cor. iv, 4,)" who worketh powerfully in the children of disobedience." (Ephes. ii, 2.) But because from this punishment arise many other sins, and this not only according to the certain knowledge of God, by which He knows that if He thus punishes, they will thence arise, but likewise according to his purpose by which He resolves thus to punish — hence occur the following expressions: "I will harden the heart of Pharaoh," &c. (Exod. iv, 21; vii, 4.) "Notwithstanding, the sons of Eli harkened not unto the voice of their father, because it was the will of the Lord to slay them." (1 Sam. ii, 25.) "But Amaziah would not hearken to the answer of Joash, king of Israel; for it came of God, that he might deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought after the gods of Edom." (2 Chron. xxv, 20.) This consideration distinguishes the governance of God concerning sins, so far as it is occupied concerning either those sinners who are hardened, or those who are not hardened.
XIV. (2.) The Pardon or remission of sin is an act of the Providence of God, by which the guilt of sin is forgiven, and the punishment due to sin on account of its guilt is taken away. As this remission restores, to the favour of God, the man who had previously been an enemy; so it also causes the Divine administration respecting him to be afterwards entirely gracious, so far as equity and justice require. That is, through this pardon, he is free from those spiritual punishments which have been enumerated in the preceding Thesis; (Psalm ii, 10-12;) and though not exempt from corporal chastisements, yet he is not visited with them through the anger of God as the punisher of sin, but only through the desire of God thus to declare that He hates sin, and besides so to chastise as to deter the sinner from again falling into it. (2 Sam. xii, 11-13.) For which reason, the government of Providence with regard to this man is entirely different from that under which he remained before he obtained remission. (Psalm cxix, 67; 1 Cor. xi, 32; Psalm xxxii, 1, 6.) This consideration is exceedingly useful for producing in man a solicitous care and a diligent endeavour to obtain grace from God, which may not only be sufficient to preserve him in future from sinning but which may likewise be so administered by the gracious Providence of God, as God knows to be best fitted to keep him in the very act from sin.
XV. This is the efficiency of Divine Providence concerning sin, which cannot be accused of the least injustice. (1.) For with respect to the Hindering Of Sin, that which is employed by God is sufficient in its own nature to hinder, and by which it is the duty of the creature to be hindered from sin, by which also he might actually be hindered unless he offered resistance and failed of the proffered grace. But God is not bound to employ all the methods which are possible to Him for the hindrance of sin. (Rom. 1 and 2; Isa. v, 4; Matt. xi, 21- 23.) (2.) But the cause of sin cannot be ascribed to the Divine Permission. Not the efficient cause; for it is a suspension of the Divine efficiency. Not the deficient cause; for it pre-supposed, that man had a capability not to commit sin, by the aid of Divine grace, which is either near and ready; or if it be wanting, it is removed to a distance by the fault of the man himself. (3.) The Presenting of Arguments and Occasions does not cause sin, unless, per accidens, accidentally. For it is administered in such a manner, as to allow the creature not only the spontaneous but also the free use of his own motions and actions. But God is perfectly at liberty in this manner to try the obedience of his creature. (3.) Neither can injustice be ascribed with any propriety to The Divine Concurrence. For there is no reason in existence why God ought to deny his concurrence to that act which, on account of the precept imposed, cannot be committed by the creature without sin; (Gen. ii, 16, 17;) which concurrence God would grant to the same act of the creature, if a law had not been made. (5.) Direction and Determination have no difficulty. (6.) Punishment and Pardon have in them manifest equity, even that punishment which contains blinding and hardening; since God is not wont to inflict it except for the deep demerit and the almost desperate contumacy of his intelligent creature. (Isa. vi, 7; Rom. 1; 2 Thess. 2, 9-12.)
DISPUTATION 9-ON THE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND EFFICACY OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD CONCERNING EVIL
Respondent: Ralph De Zyll
I. Among the causes and pretenses by which human ignorance has been induced, and which human perverseness has abused, to deny the providence of God, the entrance of evil (that is, of sin) into the world, and its most wonderful and fertile exuberance, do not by any means occupy the lowest stations. For since, with Scripture as our guide and Nature as our witness, we must maintain that God is good, omniscient, and of unbounded power; (Mark x, 18; Psalm cxlvii, 5; Rev. iv, 8; Rom. i, 20;) and since this is a truth of which every one is fully persuaded who has formed in his mind any notion of the Deity; men have concluded from this that evil could not have occurred under the three preceding conditions of the divine Majesty, if God managed all things by his providence, and if it was his will to make provision respecting evil, according to these properties of his own nature. And therefore, since, after all, evil has occurred, they have concluded that the providence of God must be entirely denied. For they thought it better to set up a God that was at repose, and negligent of mundane affairs, especially of those in which a rational creature’s freedom of will intervened, than to deprive Him of the honour of his goodness, wisdom and power. But it is not necessary to adopt either of these methods; and that it is possible to preserve to God, without disparagement, these three ornaments of Supreme Majesty, as well as His providence, will be shewn by a temperate explanation of the efficacy of God concerning evil.
II. A few things must be premised about this evil itself, as a basis for our explanation. (1.) What is properly sin? (2.) Was it possible for it to be perpetrated by a rational creature, and how? (3.) That a chief evil cannot be granted, which may contend on an equality with the chief Good, as the Manichees asserted; otherwise, of all the evils which can be devised, sin, of which we are now treating, is, in reality, the chief; and, if we may speak with strictness, sin is the only and sole evil; for all other things are not evils, in themselves, but are injurious to some one.
III. 1. Sin is properly an aberration from a rule. This rule is the equity which is preconceived in the mind of God, which is expressed to the mind of a rational creature by legislation, and, according to which it is proper for such a creature to regulate his life. It is therefore defined by St. John in one compound word, anomia "the transgression of the law"; (1 John iii, 4;) whether such a law be preceptive of Good, or prohibitory of evil, (Psalm xxxiv, 14,) hence the evil of commission is perpetrated against the prohibitory part, and that of omission against the preceptive. But in sin, two things come under consideration: (1.) The act itself, which has reference to natural good; but under the act, we comprehend likewise the cessation from action. (2.) Anomy, or "the transgression of the law," which obtains the place of a moral evil. The act may be called the substance or material cause of sin; and the transgression of the law, its form or formal cause.
IV. II. But it was possible for sin to be perpetrated by a rational creature; for, as a creature, he was capable of declining or revolting from the chief Good, and of being inclined towards an inferior good, and towards the acts by which he might possess this minor good. As rational, he was capable of understanding that he was required to live in a godly manner, and what that equity was according to which his life and actions were to be specially regulated. As a rational creature, a law could be imposed on him by God, nay, according to equity and justice, it ought to be imposed, by which he might be forbidden to forsake the chief good, and to commit that act, though it was naturally good. The mode is placed in the freedom of the will, bestowed by God on a rational creature, according to which he was capable of performing the obedience which is due to the law, or could by his own strength exceed or transgress its limits.
V. III. But since a chief evil cannot be allowed, it follows from this, that, though evil be contrary to good, yet it cannot pass beyond the universal order of that good which is chief, but can be reduced to order by this chief good, and evil can thus be directed to good, on account of the infinite wisdom of this chief good, by which he knows what is possible to be made from evil; and on account of this power, by which he can make from this evil what he knows may be made from it. Granting, therefore, that sin has exceeded the order of every thing created, yet it is circumscribed within the order of the Creator himself and of the chief good. Since it is apparent from all these premises, that the providence of God ought not to intervene, or come between, to prevent the perpetration of evil by a free creature; it also follows, from the entrance of evil into the world, and it has entered so far "that the whole world lieth in wickedness," (1 John v, 19,) — that the Providence of God cannot be destroyed. This truth we will demonstrate at greater length, when we treat upon the efficacy of the providence of God concerning evil.
VI. We have already said, that, in sin, the act or the cessation from action, and "the transgression of the law," come under consideration: But the efficiency of God about evil, concerns both the act itself and its viciousness, and it does this, whether we have regard to the beginning of sin, to its progress, or to its end and consummation. The consideration of the efficiency which is concerned about the Beginning of sin, embraces either a hindrance or a permission; to which we add, the administration of arguments and occasions inciting to sin; that which regards its Progress, has direction and determination; and that concerning The End and Termination, punishment and remission. We will refrain from treating upon the concurrence of God, since it is only in reference to the act, considered, also, as naturally good.
VII. The First efficiency of God concerning evil, is a hindrance or the placing of an impediment, whether such hindrance be sufficient or efficacious. (Jer. xxxi, 32, 33.) For it belongs to a good, to hinder an evil as far as the good knows it to be lawful to do so. But a hindrance is placed either on the power, on the capability, or on the will, of a rational creature. These three things must also be considered in that which hinders. (1.) On the power an impediment is placed, by which some act is taken away from the power of a rational creature, to the performance of which it has an inclination and sufficient powers. By being thus circumscribed, it comes to pass, that the creature cannot perform that act without sin, and this circumscription is made by legislation. The tasting of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was thus circumscribed, when leave was granted to eat of all others: (Gen. ii, 17) and this is the hindrance of sin as such; and it is placed by God before a rational creature as he has the right and power over that creature.
VIII. (2.) On the capability also an impediment is placed. The effect of this is, that the rational creature cannot perform the act, for the performance of which he has an inclination, and powers that, without this impediment, would be sufficient. But this hindrance is placed before a rational creature by four methods: (1.) By depriving the creature of essence and life, which are the foundation of capability. Thus was the attack upon Jerusalem hindered, (2 Kings 19,) as was also the forcible abduction of Elijah to Ahaziah, (2 Kings 1,) when, in the former instance, "an hundred fourscore and five thousand men were slain by the angel of the Lord," and, in the latter, two different companies, each containing fifty men, were consumed by fire. (2.) The second method is by the taking away or the diminution of capability. Thus Jeroboam was prevented from apprehending the prophet of the Lord, by "the drying up of his own hand." (1 Kings 13, 4.) Thus, sin is hindered, so as not to exercise dominion over a man, when the body of sin is weakened and destroyed. (Rom. vi, 6.) (3.) The third is by the opposition of a greater capability, or at least of one that is equal. Thus was Uzziah prevented from burning incense unto Jehovah, when the priests resisted his attempt. (2 Chron. xxvi, 18, 21.) Thus also is "the flesh" hindered from "doing what it would," "because the Spirit lusteth against the flesh," (Gal. v, 17,) and because "greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world." (1 John iv, 4.) (4.) The fourth method is by the withdrawing of the object. Thus the Jews were frequently hindered from hurting Christ, because He withdrew himself from the midst of them. (John viii, 59.) Thus was Paul taken away, by the Chief Captain, from the Jews, who had conspired together for his destruction. (Acts xxiii, 10.)
IX. (3.) An impediment is placed on the will, when by some argument it is persuaded not to will to commit a sin. But we refer the arguments by which the will is moved, to the following three classes. For they are taken, (i.) either from the impossibility or the difficulty of the thing, (ii.) from its unpleasantness or inconvenience, its usefulness or injuriousness, (iii.) or from its being dishonourable, unjust and indecorous. (i.) By the first of these, the Pharisees and Scribes were frequently prevented from laying violent hands on Christ: (Matt. xxi, 46) for they were of opinion, that he would be defended by the people, "who took him for a prophet." In the same manner were the Israelites hindered from departing to their lovers, to false gods; for God "hedged up their way with thorns, and made a wall, so that they could not find their customary paths." (Hosea ii, 6, 7.) Thus the saints are deterred from sinning, when they see wicked men "wearied in the ways of iniquity and perdition." (Wisdom v, 7.) (ii.) By the second argument, the brethren of Joseph were hindered from killing him, since they could obtain their end by selling him. (Gen. xxxvii, 26, 27.) Thus Job was prevented from sinning "with his eyes" because he knew what was "the portion of God from above, and what the inheritance of the Almighty from on high," for those who have their eyes full of adultery. (Job xxxi, 1, 2.) (iii.) By the third, Joseph was hindered from defiling himself by shameful adultery, (Gen. xxxix, 8, 9,) and David was prevented from "stretching forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed." (1 Sam. xxiv, 7.)
X. The permission of sin succeeds, which is opposed to hindering. Yet it is not opposed to hindering, as the latter is an act which is taken away from the power of a rational creature by legislation; for, in that case, the same act would be a sin, and not a sin. It would be a sin in reference to its being a forbidden act; and it would be no sin in reference to its being permitted in this manner, that is, not forbidden. But permission is opposed to hindrance, in reference to the latter being an impediment placed on the capability and will of an intelligent creature. But permission is the suspension, not of one impediment or two, which may be presented to the capability or the will, but of all impediments at once, which, God knows, if they were all employed, would effectually hinder sin. Such necessarily would be the result, because sin might be hindered by a single impediment of that kind. (1.) Sin therefore is permitted to the capability of the creature, when God employs none of those hindrances of which we have already made mention in the 8th Thesis: for this reason, this permission consists of the following acts of God who permits, the continuation of life and essence to the creature, the conservation of his capability, a cautiousness against its being opposed by a greater capability, or at least by one that is equal, and the exhibition of an object on which sin is committed. (2.) Sin is also permitted to the will; not because no such impediments are presented by God to the will, as are calculated to deter the will from sinning; but because God, seeing that these hindrances which are propounded will produce no effect, does not employ others which He possesses in the treasures of his wisdom and power. (John xviii, 6; Mark xiv, 56.) This appears most evidently in the passion of Christ, with regard not only to the power but also to the will of those who demanded his death. (John xix, 6.) Nor does it follow from these premises, that those impediments are employed in vain: for though such results do not follow as are in accordance with these hindrances, yet God in a manner the most powerful gains his own purposes, because the results are not such as ought to have followed. (Rom. x, 20, 21.)
XI. The foundation of this permission is (1.) The liberty of choosing, with which God formed his rational creature, and which his constancy does not suffer to be abolished, lest he should be accused of mutability. (2.) The infinite wisdom and power of God, by which he knows and is able out of darkness to bring light, and to produce good out of evil. (Gen. i, 2, 3; 2 Cor. iv, 6.) God therefore permits that which He does permit, not in ignorance of the powers and the inclination of rational creatures, for he knows them all, not with reluctance, for he could have refrained from producing a creature that might possess freedom of choice, not as being incapable of hindering, for we have already seen by how many methods he is able to hinder both the capability and the will of a rational creature; not as if at ease, indifferent, or negligent of that which is transacted, because before anything is done he already "has gone through" has looked over the various actions which concern it, and, as we shall subsequently see, § 15-22, he presents arguments and occasions, determines, directs, punishes and pardons sin. But whatever God permits, He permits it designedly and willingly, His will being immediately occupied about its permission, but His permission itself is occupied about sin; and this order cannot be inverted without great peril.
XII. Let us now explain a little more distinctly, by some of the differences of sin, those things which we have in this place spoken in a general manner concerning hindering and permission. (i.) From its causes, sin is distinguished into that of ignorance, infirmity, malignity and negligence. (1.) An impediment is placed on a sin of ignorance, by the revelation of the divine will. (Psalm cxix, 105.) (ii.) On a sin of infirmity, by the strengthening influence of the Holy Spirit against the machinations or the world and Satan, and also against the weakness of our flesh. (Ephes. iii, 16; vi, 11-13.) (iii.) On a sin of malignity, by "taking away the stony heart, and bestowing a heart of flesh," (Ezek. xi, 19,) and inscribing upon it the law of God: (Jer. xxxi, 33.) (iv.) And on a sin of negligence, by exciting in the hearts of believers a holy solicitude and a godly fear. (Mark xiv, 38; Jer. xxxii, 40.) From these remarks those acts will easily be manifest, in the suspension of which consists the permission of sins of every kind. God permitted Saul of Tarsus, a preposterous zealot for the law, to persecute Christ through ignorance, until "he revealed his Son in him," by which act out of a persecutor was formed a pastor. (Gal. i, 13-15.) Thus, he permitted Peter, who loved Christ, though he was somewhat too self-confident, to deny Him through infirmity; but, when afterwards endued with a greater energy of the Holy Spirit, he confessed him with intrepidity even unto death. (Matt. xxvi, 70; Acts v, 41; John xxi, 19.) God permitted Saul, whom "in his anger he had given to the Israelites as their king" (Hosea xiii, 11; 1 Sam. ix, 1,) through malignity to persecute David, of whose integrity he had been convinced, (1 Sam. xxiv, 17-19,) while his own son Jonathan resisted his father’s attempts against David in vain. And God permitted David, after having enjoyed many victories and obtained leisure and retirement, to defile himself with the foul crime of adultery at a moment when he was acting with negligence. (2 Sam. 11.)
XIII. (2.) Sin, in the next place, is distinguished with respect to the two parts of the law — that which is perceptive of good, and that which is prohibitory of evil. § 3. Against the latter of these an offense may be committed, either by performing an act, or by omitting its performance from an undue cause and end. Against the former, either by omitting an act, or by performing it in an undue manner, and from an undue cause and end. To these distinctions the hindering and the permission of God may likewise be adapted. God hindered Joseph’s brethren from killing him; while he permitted them to spare his life, from an undue cause and end; for since it was in their power to sell him, the opportunity for which was divinely offered to them, they considered it unprofitable or useless to kill him. (Gen. xxxvii, 26, 27.) Thus Absalom was hindered from following the counsel of Ahithophel, though it was useful to himself and injurious to David; not because he considered it to be unjust, but because of its supposed injury to David; for he persisted in the purpose of persecuting his father, which he also completed in fact. (2 Sam. 17.) God hindered Balaam from cursing the children of Israel, and caused him to bless them; but so that he abstained from the former act, and performed the latter, with a perverse mind. (Num. 23.) We shall in some degree understand the reasons of this hindering and permission, if, while distinctly considering in sin the act and the anomy or "transgression of the law," we apply to each of them divine hindrance and permission.
XIV. But though the act, and "the transgression of the law," are inseparably united in one sin, and therefore neither of them can be hindered or permitted without the other; yet they may be distinguished in the mind; and hindrance as well as permission may be effected by God, sometimes chiefly with regard to the act, and at other times chiefly with regard to "the transgression of the law," and, when so done, they may be considered by us in these relations not without high commendation of the wisdom of God and to our own profit. God hindered Joseph’s brethren from killing him, not as it was a sin, (because He permitted them, while remaining in the same mind to sell him,) but as it was an act. For they would have deprived Joseph of life, when it was the will of God that he should be spared. God permitted his vendition, not chiefly as it was a sin, but as an act; because by the sale of Joseph as it was an act, God obtained his own end. (Gen. xxxvii, 27.) God hindered Elijah from being forcibly brought to Ahaziah to be slain, not as that was a sin, but as it was an act. This is apparent from the end, and from the mode of hindering. From the end; because it was His will that the life of his prophet should be spared, not lest Ahaziah should sin against God. From the mode of hindering; because he destroyed two companies, of fifty men each, who had been sent to seize him; which was a token of divine anger against Ahaziah and the men, by which sin as such is not usually hindered, but as it is an act which will prove injurious to another; yet, through grace, sin is hindered as such. (2 Kings 1.) God permitted Satan and the Chaldeans to bring many evils on Job, not as that was a sin, but as it was an act: for it was the will of God to try the patience of his servant, and to make that virtue conspicuous to the confusion of Satan. But this was done by an act, by which, as such, injuries were inflicted on Job. (Job 1, 2.) David was hindered from laying violent hands on Saul, not as it was an act, but as it was a sin: this is manifest from the argument by which being hindered he abstained from completing the deed. "The Lord forbid," said he, "that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed." This argument deterred him from the sin as such. The same is also evident from the end of the hindrance: for it was the will of God for David to come to the possession of the kingdom through the endurance of afflictions, as a type of Christ the true David. (1 Sam. xxiv, 7.) God permitted Ahab to kill Naboth, not as that foul deed was an act, but as it was a sin: for God could have translated Naboth, or taken him to himself, by some other method; but it was the divine will, that Ahab should fill up the measure of his iniquities, and should accelerate his own destruction and that of his family. (1 Kings 21.) Abimelech was hindered from violating the chastity of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, both as it was an act, and as it was a sin. For it was not the will of God, that Abimelech should defile himself with this crime, because "in the integrity of his heart" he would then have done it. It was also His will to spare his servant Abraham, in whom indelible sorrow would have been produced by the deflowering of his wife, as by an act. (Gen. xx, 6.) God permitted Judah to know Tamar his daughter-in-law, both as it was an act, and as it was a sin: because it was the will of God, to have his own Son as a direct descendant from Judah; and at the same time to declare, that nothing is so polluted as to be incapable of being sanctified in Christ Jesus. (Gen. xxxviii, 18.) For it is not without reason that St. Matthew says, "Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar"; and "David the king begat Solomon of her who had been the wife of Urias"; (i, 3, 6;) and from whom in an uninterrupted line Christ was born.
XV. But since an act, though permitted to the capability and the will of the creature, may have been taken away from its power by legislation; § 7; and since, therefore, it will very often happen, that a rational creature not altogether hardened in evil is unwilling to perform an act which is connected with sin, unless when some arguments and opportunities are presented to him, which are like incentives to commit that act; the management of this presenting of arguments and opportunities, is also in the hands of the Providence of God, who presents these excitements. (1.) Both to try whether it be the will of the creature to abstain from sinning, even when it is excited by these incentives; since small praise is due to abstaining in cases in which such excitements are absent. (S. of Syrach xx, 21-, 3; xxxi, 8-10.) (2.) And then, if it be the will of the creature to yield to these incentives, to effect His own work by the act of the creature; not impelled by necessity, as if God was unable to produce his own work without the intervention of the act of his creature; but moved to this by the will to illustrate his own manifold wisdom. Thus the arguments by which Joseph’s brethren were incited through their own malice to wish to kill him, and the opportunities by which it was in their power to send him out of their way, were offered by Divine dispensation, partly in an intervening manner by the mediate act of men, and partly by the immediate act of God himself. The arguments for this malignity were, Joseph’s accusation, by which he revealed to his father the wicked actions of his brethren, the peculiar regard which Jacob entertained for Joseph, the sending of a dream, and the relation of the dream after it had occurred. By these, the minds of his brethren were inflamed with envy and hatred against him. The opportunities were, the sending of Joseph to his brethren by his father, and the presenting of the Ishmaelites journeying into Egypt, at the very moment of time in which they were in deliberation about murdering their brother. (Gen. 37.) The preceding considerations have related only to the Beginning of sin; to its Progress belong direction and determination. § 6.
XVI. The Direction of sin is an act of Divine Providence, by which God in a manner the wisest and most potent directs sin wherever he wills, "reaching from one end to another mightily, and sweetly ordering all things." (Wisd. viii, 1.) We must consider in this direction the point at which it has its origin and that at which it terminates. For when God directs sin wherever he wills, it is understood that he leads it away from the point to which it is not His will that it should proceed. But this direction is two-fold, unto an Object, and unto an End. Direction unto an Object is when God allows the sin which He permits, to be borne, not at the option of the creature, towards an object which in any way whatsoever is exposed and liable to the injury of sin; but which he directs to a particular object, which on some occasions has either been no part of the sinner’s aim or desire, or which at least he has not absolutely desired. The Scriptures enunciate this kind of direction, generally, in the following words: "A man’s heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps." (Prov. xvi, 9.) But, Specially, concerning the heart of a King: "As the rivers of water are in the hand of the Lord, he turneth the heart of the king whithersoever he will." (Prov. xxi, 1.) Of which we have a signal example in Nebuchadnezzar, who, after he had determined in his own mind to subjugate the nations, and hesitated whether he should move against the Ammonites, or against the Jews, God managed the king’s divinations so, that he resolved to march against the Jews, and to abstain from an attack upon the Ammonites. (Ezek. xxi, 19- 22.)
XVII. Direction unto an End is, when God does not allow the sin (which he permits,) to be subservient to the end of any thing which the creature intends; but he employs it to that end which he himself wills, whether the creature intend the same end, (which if he were to do, yet he would not be excused from sin,) or whether he intend another, and one quite contrary. For God knows how to educe the light of his own glory, and the advantage of his creatures, out of the darkness and mischief of sin. Thus "the thoughts of evil," which Joseph’s brethren entertained against him, were converted by God into a benefit, not only to Joseph, but also to the whole of Jacob’s family, and to all the kingdom of Egypt. (Gen. i, 20, 21.) By the afflictions which were sent to Job, Satan endeavoured to drive him to blasphemy. But by them, God tried the patience of his servant, and through it triumphed over Satan. (Job i, 11, 12, 22; ii, 9, 10.) The king of Assyria had determined "in his heart to destroy and cut off all nations not a few." But God executed his own work by him, whom "he sent against an hypocritical nation and the people of his wrath." (Isa. x, 5-12.) Nor is it at all wonderful, that God employs acts, which his creatures do not perform without sin, for ends that are pleasing to himself; because he does this most justly, for three reasons: (i.) For He is the Lord of his creature, though that creature be a sinner; because he has no more power to exempt or deliver himself from the dominion of God, than he has to reduce himself into nothing. (ii.) Because, as a creature endowed by God with inclination and capability, he performs those acts, though not without sin, as they have been forbidden. (iii.) Because the creature is a saw, in the hands of the Creator; and instrumental causes do not reach to the intention of the first agent. (Isa. x, 15.)
XVIII. Determination is an act of Divine Providence, by which God places a limit on his permission, and a boundary on sin that it may not wander and stray in infinitum at the option of the creature. The limit and boundary are placed by the prescribing of the time, and the determination of the magnitude. The prescribing of the time, is the prescribing of the very point or moment when it may be done, or the length of its duration. (i.) God determines the moment of time, when he permits a sin, to the commission of which his creature is inclined, to be perpetrated, not indeed at the time when it was the will of the creature to commit it; but He wisely and powerfully contrives for it to be done at another time. "The Jews sought to take Jesus: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come." (John vii, 30.) "Yet when the time before appointed of the Father" approached, Christ said to them, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness." (Luke xxii, 53.) (2.) A limit is placed on the duration, when the space of time in which the permitted sin could endure, is diminished and circumscribed so as to stop itself. Thus Christ says, "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved," &c. (Matt. xxiv, 22.) But in this part of the discussion also, regard must be had to the act as such, and to the sin as such. (i.) A limit is placed on the duration of the act, in the following passages: "The rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity." (Psalm cxxv, 3.) "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations," &c. (2 Pet. ii, 9.) (ii.) A limit is placed on the duration of the sin, in these passages: "Therefore I will hedge up thy way with thorns, &c. And she shall not find her lovers: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband." (Hosea ii, 6.) "In times past God suffered all nations to walk in their own ways: but now he commandeth all men every where to repent." (Acts xiv, 16; xvii, 30.)
XIX. A limit is placed on the magnitude of sin, when God does not permit sin to increase beyond bounds and to assume greater strength. But this also is done, with regard to it both as an act, and as a sin. (i.) With respect to it as an act, in the following passages of Scripture: God permitted "the wrath of their enemies to be kindled against" the Israelites, but "he did not suffer them to swallow them up." (Psalm cxxiv, 2, 3.) "There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man." (1 Cor. x, 13.) "We are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." (2 Cor. iv, 8, 9.) God permitted Satan, first, "To put forth his hand upon all that Job had," but not to touch him; (Job i, 12;) and, secondly, "To touch his bone and his flesh, but to save his life." (ii, 6.) "I will not destroy them by the hand of Shishak; nevertheless, they shall be his servants." (2 Chron. xii, 7, 8.) (ii.) With respect to it as a sin, God permitted David to resolve in his mind to destroy with the sword, Nabal and all his domestics, and to go instantly to him; but he did not permit him to shed innocent blood, and to save himself by his own hand. (1 Sam. xxv, 22, 26, 31.) God permitted David to flee to Achish, and to "feign himself mad"; (1 Sam. xxi, 13;) but he did not permit him to fight, in company with the army of Achish, against the Israelites, or by the exercise of fraud to prove injurious to the army of Achish. (xxvii, 2; xxix, 6, 7.) For he could have done neither of these deeds without committing a most flagrant wickedness: though both of them might have been determined by David as acts, by which great injury could be inflicted on those against whom it was the will of God that no mischief should be done.
XX. On account of this Presenting of incitements and opportunities, and this Direction and Determination of God, added to the Permission of sin, God is said himself to do those evils which are perpetrated by bad men and by Satan. For instance, Joseph says to his brethren, "It was not you that sent me hither, but God": (Gen. xlv, 8;) because, after having completed the sale of their brother, they were unconcerned about the place to which he was to be conducted, and about his future lot in life: but God caused him to be led down into Egypt and there to be sold, and he raised him to an eminent station in that country by the interpretation of some dreams. (xxxvii, 25, 28; xl, 12, 13; xli, 28-42.) Job says, "The Lord hath taken away" what was taken away at the instigation and by the aid of Satan; (Job 1 & 2;) both because that evil spirit was of his own malice instigated against Job by God’s commendation of him; and because, after having obtained power to do him harm, he produced no further effect than that which God had determined. Thus God is also said to have done what Absalom did; (2 Sam. xii, 11, 12; 15, 16;) because the principal parts, in the various actions employed for producing this consummation, belonged to God. To these we must add the remark, that since the wisdom of God knows that if he administers the whole affair by such a presenting, direction, and determination, that will certainly and infallibly come to pass which cannot be done by the creature without criminality; and since His will decrees this administration, it will more clearly appear why a deed of this kind may be attributed to God.
XXI. Last in the discussion follow the punishment and the pardon of sin, by which acts Divine Providence is occupied about sin already perpetrated, as it is such, not as it is an act: for sin is punished and pardoned as it is an evil, and because it is an evil. (1.) The Punishment of sin is an act of the Providence of God, by which sin is recompensed with the chastisement that is due to it according to the righteousness of God. This punishment either concerns the life to come, or takes place in the ages of the present life: the former is an eternal separation of the whole man from God; the other, which is usually inflicted in this life, is two-fold: corporal and spiritual. The punishments which relate to the body, are various; but it is not necessary for our purpose to enumerate them at present. But spiritual punishment deserves to be diligently considered: for it is such a chastisement of sin, as to be also a cause of other sins which follow on account of the wickedness of him on whom it is inflicted. It is a privation of grace, and a delivering up to the power of evil or the evil one. (i.) Privation of Grace is two-fold according to the two kinds of grace, that which is Habitual and that which is Assisting. The former is the taking away of grace, by blinding the mind and hardening the heart. (Isa. vi, 9, 10.) The other, is the withdrawing of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, who is wont inwardly "to help our infirmities," (Rom. viii, 26,) and outwardly to restrain the furious rage of Satan and the world, by employing also the ministration and care of good angels. (Heb. i, 14; Psalm xci, 11.) (ii.) A delivering up to the power of evil is, either "giving sinners over to a reprobate mind," and to the efficacy of error, (Rom. i, 28; 2 Thess. ii, 9-11,) or to the desires of the flesh and to sinful lusts, (Rom. i, 24,) or to the power of Satan, "the god of this world," (2 Cor. 4,)" who worketh powerfully in the children of disobedience." (Ephes. ii, 2.) But because from this punishment arise many other sins, and this not only according to the certain knowledge of God, by which he knows that if he thus punishes they will thence arise, but likewise according to his purpose, by which he resolves so to punish as, on account of more heinous sins thence committed, to punish with still greater severity; therefore these expressions occur in the scriptures: "But I will harden the heart of Pharaoh, that he shall not let the people go; he shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt." (Exod. iv, 21; vii, 4.) "Notwithstanding, the sons of Eli hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them." (1 Sam. ii, 25.) "But Amaziah would not hearken to the answer of Joash king of Israel; for it came of God, that he might deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought after the gods of Edom." (2 Chron. xxv, 20.) This consideration distinguishes the governance of God concerning sins, so far as it is concerned about those sinners who are hardened, or those who are not hardened.
XXII. The Pardon or remission of sin is an act of the Providence of God, by which the guilt of sin is forgiven, and the chastisement due to sin according to its guilt is taken away. As this remission restores, to the favour of God, the man who had before been an enemy; so it likewise causes the Divine administration concerning him to be afterwards entirely gracious so far as equity and justice require: that is, through this pardon, he is free from those spiritual punishments which have been enumerated in the preceding paragraph; (Psalm ii, 10-12;) and though not exempt from corporal chastisements, yet he is not visited with them through the anger of God as the punisher of sin, but only through the desire of God thus to declare that he hates sin, and besides so to chastise as to deter him from falling again into it. (2 Sam. xii, 11-13.) For which reason, the government of Providence with regard to this man is entirely different from that under which he remained before he obtained remission. (Psalm cxix, 67; 1 Cor. xi, 32; Psalm xxxii, 1-6.)
XXIII. From those topics on which we have already treated, it is clearly evident, we think, that, because evils have entered into the world, neither Providence itself, nor its government respecting evil, ought to be denied. Neither can God be accused as being guilty of injustice on account of this his governance; not only because he hath administered all things to the best ends; that is, to the chastisment, trial, and manifestation of the godly — to the punishment and exposure of the wicked, and to the illustration of his own glory; (for ends, alone, do not justify an action;) but, much more, because he has employed that form of administration which allows intelligent creatures not only of their own choice or spontaneously. but likewise freely, to perform and accomplish their own motions and actions.