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Home arrow Griffin's History arrow Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 17
Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 17 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Oliphant   


It has been urged that the fact, that every event, both good and evil, was foreknown of God, is proof that all things were POSITIVELY predestinated.

While the foreknowledge of an event is proof of its certainty, it is not the cause of its certainty. Foreknowledge makes nothing certain, while the positive decree of God makes events certain. In some degree our learned men foreknew the eclipses, changes of the moon, etc. We also know that it will be cold in January and warm in August, but our knowledge has nothing to do in producing these events. The general of an army may foreknow the movements of an enemy without any decree on his part, that the enemy shall do so. We all know we will die, yet we do not propose to decree this event. It is clear that there is an important distinction between foreknowledge and predestination. It is clear that God may foreknow events of which he is not the cause. Either this is true, or he causes all things, and if so, he is the CAUSE of sin. But he is not the cause of sin, and hence his foreknowledge of sin must rest on a different footing from what his foreknowledge of events of which he is the cause rests. His foreknowledge of all his OWN acts rests on the fact that all his acts are decreed. We should not say he has PURPOSED these things BECAUSE he FOREKNOWS them, but he foreknows all his own works because all these are decreed.

We cannot know what we will do about anything, until we determine, we may know what others will do without determining what they shall do, but in all our OWN acts our knowledge of what our acts shall be, rests upon our DECREE of our own acts, and what they shall be. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning." His knowledge of all his OWN acts rests upon the fact that all his own acts are decreed. But the conduct of Devils and evil men is not included in "All his works," and hence, while it is true that he foreknows all the conduct of evil men, it is not true that he positively decrees all the evil events that occur in the world. His foreknowledge of an event is proof that the event is CERTAIN to be, as he could not certainly foreknow an event which was, or is not certain to be. God is not the author of sin; so his foreknowledge of sin rests upon a different footing from that on which his foreknowledge of events, of which he is the author rests. To say, "all things are decreed because all things are foreknown is misleading and liable to lead men to attribute evil to God, just as they attribute good to him. "His knowledge is infinite," and so his foreknowledge. Yet his knowledge of sin, and every evil work rests upon a different principle from that on which his foreknowledge of his own work rests. This distinction between God’s decree and his foreknowledge should be maintained. We should also distinguish between God’s foreknowledge of his own works, and his foreknowledge of the conduct of Devils and evil men.

"Predestination" signifies, for one to determine what he will do, and is essential to every intelligent action. It is essential to intelligence. The predestination of God denotes that all his own actions, of whatever nature, were decreed from eternity. If God be infinite in wisdom from all eternity, then we cannot think of him as forming new purposes respecting any thing. The forming of new purposes or the changing of old ones, could only occur upon the acquisition of new knowledge, and as God is eternally, infinitely wise, it must be true that no changes ever occur in his purposes. It is objected that on this view God is bound by his own decree to a certain groove of conduct, so he cannot change his procedure, no matter how great a need might occur for him to do otherwise than he had decreed. But as there never can arise state of things unforeseen, and as not one circumstance can ever take place unforeseen; so there can never arise conditions making it best to do otherwise than he purposed to do.

Some make a distinction between God’s decree of the salvation of his people, and his decree of his own works in providence. This distinction appears to me to be groundless. Creation and providence are as truly and really the works of God as are redemption and regeneration, and hence as absolutely decreed. His eternal power and Godhead are as truly seen in creation and providence as in his works of mercy and grace. The universe is now what he eternally intended it to be, as truly as the church at last will be what he purposed it should be. In all his acts, either of providence or grace, his eternal purposes are carried out; we must not single out one particular class of his acts as a matter of decree, but we must take all his acts, of every kind, in making, upholding and directing the universe, his choice of his people, their redemption, regeneration, and resurrection; in short, every act of God of whatever nature is an object of his eternal decrees. So when we read, "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will," we are to understand that his decrees extend efficaciously to all his works.

It has been urged that if the salvation of his people was eternally decreed, then the fall and sins of men must also be eternally decreed. This is misleading. It tends to destroy the distinction between right and wrong; for if all sin is decreed just as holiness is predestinated, then the distinction between right and wrong is destroyed. But few believe God to be the author of sin, yet, where they use the same terms to express God’s relation to sin that they use to express his relation to holiness they cannot complain if men regard them as holding that God is the author of sin. Take the words, "Absolute predestination of all things" both good and evil. This language is misleading if those who use it deny God’s being the author of sin, for God’s decree of holiness is efficacious, and if he has decreed holiness then his decree of sin is also efficacious. So the expression, "Absolute predestination of al things," implies that sin is decreed just as holiness is decreed. God’s decree of the existence of the universe, and its perpetuity, and the salvation of his people is plainly CAUSATIVE. Now, if we use the same terms to express God’s attitude to wickedness that we use to express his relation to holiness, and at the same time hold that his decree of holiness is efficacious, we plainly teach that God is the author of sin. Hence, the words "Absolute predestination of all things" ought not to be used. We must maintain a clear distinction between right and wrong. If we would defend the doctrine of grace, we must not in any way apologize for sin, or for mitigating circumstances connected with it.

The first lesson our Lord taught us was that we were justly condemned. When we think of our hope, or the graces that make us differ from what we were, we always trace them up to God as their cause, but when we think of our sins, and the record, we never trace them to God as their cause. Let our doctrine on the subject of predestination accord with our experience and we will surely regard sin and holiness as having very different sources. It has been held that God makes his people humble, and adorns and beautifies them with the graces of the Spirit and that we admire them for these excellencies. And so he makes others to be evil and sinful, and that we may despise them for these qualities as truly as if they were the authors of their own sinfulness. The voice of experience from Jacob down to this day is that we bless and thank God for our virtues and ever gracious temper, but we trace our sins of life and nature to another cause. Let our doctrine accord with experience and we will not disturb the peace of Zion in discussing predestination. "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." Darkness cannot proceed from God or "in him is no darkness at all." The sun is the source of light and heat to our world, but not the source of darkness and frost and ice. These things do not proceed from the sun. So the Lord God is a sun and shield. He is the sun of the moral universe and no darkness, or sin, is in him; hence none can proceed from him, but all the moral light and warmth proceeds from him.

Respecting sin, James says, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil neither tempted he any man." Evil influences do not proceed from God. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death." Do not err, my beloved brethren! We will err if we hold that sin and holiness have the same origin. It would be as foolish to say, "Darkness and light have the same source." That which makes frost and darkness does not come from the great source of light and heat.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the father of lights," etc. So James teaches us to look within for the source of all our sins, and to look up to the "Father of light" for the source of all our spiritual light and life.

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