Concerning the Predestination of the Papists.

It is asserted that Augustine and Aquinas were ”two champions for predestination,” and “their names have much weight in the Church of Rome.” I am apt to think that such acquaintance, either with St. Augustine’s writings or with those of Aquinas, is, at best, extremely slender. Whatever may be said for the truly admirable Bishop of Hippo, it is certain that the ingenious native of Aquino was by no means a consistent predestinarian. He had, indeed, his lucid intervals, but if the Arminians should find themselves at a loss for quibbles, I would recommend to them a diligent perusal of that laborious hair-splitter, who will furnish them, in their own way, with many useful and necessary quirks, without the assistance whereof their system had, long ago, lost its hold even on the prejudicial and superficial.

Of all Aquinas’ numerous writings, which are said to amount to seventeen folio volumes, I have only his Summa Theologicae, and his Commentaries on the Gospels and St. Paul’s Epistles. To collect all the semi-Pelagian passages with which those two performances are fraught would be a task equally prolix and unprofitable. My citations, therefore, shall be few and short, but such as may suffice to evince that this scholastic papist does, in many material points respecting the present argument, shake hands from his grave with his younger brethren the modern Arminians. “The book of life,” says he, “is the enrolement of those who are ordained to life eternal. Whoever is in present possession of grace is, by virtue of that very possession, deserving of eternal life. This ordination, however, sometimes fails, for some people are ordained to have eternal life by the [inherent] grace they possess, which eternal life they, notwithstanding, come short of by the commission of deadly sin. They who are appointed to life eternal, not by God’s predestination, but only through the grace [they are partakers of] are said to be written in the book of life, not absolutely, but under certain limitations.”

Let me add a word from this author concerning justification, which he supposes to be synonymous with the infusion of grace. “Free-will,” says he, “is essential to the nature of man, consequently, in that person who has the use of his free-will, God worketh no motion unto righteousness without the motion of the man’s free-will.”

In his comment on the first epistle to Timothy he thus asserts the merit of works: “Spiritual treasure is no other than an assemblage of merits, which merits are the foundation of that future building which is prepared for us in heaven, for the whole preparation of future glory is by merits, which merits we acquire by grace, and this grace is the fountain of merit.”

Now let any man judge whether this popish writer does not in these and similar passages, speak the language of Pelagius. That he sometimes stumbles on great and precious truths cannot be denied. Where this is the case, let him have his due commendation. But the least that can be said is that those of his lucubrations which I have met with abound with such astonishing self-contradictions as are only to be paralleled in some puny publications lately published on this matter.

So much for Thomas Aquinas. Next, for the celebrated African bishop, concerning whom it is said: “Augustine’s writings are judged to confirm the popish doctrines so much that the effigy of that father is set with three others to support the papal chair.” And suppose I was to make the effigy of Arminius serve as a leg to my chair, would it thence follow that I am an Arminian? As little it does follow that the doctrine of predestination asserted by St. Augustine is the received doctrine of Rome, only because the Pope affects to sit on the shoulders of Augustine’s wooden image. If my adversary has only such wooden arguments to urge, the interest of his dearly beloved Arminianism will be as ridiculously and as feebly supported as is the Pope’s[1] chair by the worm-eaten effigy. Is it true the system of grace maintained by Augustine is espoused by the Roman Church? Quite the reverse. The writers of that communion do, indeed, make very pompous use of St. Augustine’s name, and pretend to pay no little deference to his authority, but with just as much sincerity as some of our Arminians profess to revere and vindicate the Church of England. Papists dazzle the vulgar by the mention of St. Augustine, that the brightness of his name may render their apostacy from his doctrines imperceivable.

With what propriety St. Augustine’s image lends its shoulder to the Pope’s haunch may be judged from the following brief sketch of Augustine’s doctrine, which I shall give in the words of the honest and learned Mr. Du Pin.

“Sinners,” says St. Augustine, “sin voluntarily, and without compulsion, and they cannot complain that God hath denied them His grace, or the gift of perseverance since He owes His grace to nobody.”[2] The historian goes on: “He (Augustine) again insisteth upon the same matter and upon the same principles in both the books which he writ in answer to Hilary’s and Prosper’s letters. The first is of the predestination of the saints, and the second of the gift of perseverance, wherein he demonstrates that the beginning of faith and good purposes is the gift of God, and that so our predestination, or vocation, doth not depend upon our merits. The second book concerns the gift of perseverance, which he shows to depend equally on God as the beginning of our conversion. St. Augustine composed these treatises in the year 429.[3]

“St. Augustine’s principles, concerning predestination and reprobation, do exactly agree with his opinion touching grace. Both those decrees, according to him, suppose the foreknowledge of original sin, and of the corruption of the whole mass of mankind. If God would suffer all men to remain there, none could complain of that severity, seeing they are all guilty and doomed to damnation, because of the sin of the first man. But God resolved from all eternity to deliver some, whom He had chosen out of pure mercy, without any regard to their future merits, and from all eternity He prepared, for them that were thus chosen, those gifts and graces which are necessary to save them infallibly, and these He bestows upon them in time. All those therefore that are of the number of the elect hear the Gospel, and believe, and persevere in the faith working by love to the end of their lives. If they chance to wander from the right way, they return and repent of their sins, and it is certain that they shall all die in the faith of Jesus Christ.”[4]

Let the reader but compare the above summary of St. Augustine’s doctrine with the determinations of the Council of Trent, and he will, at first view, perceive how little stress is to be laid on the Pope’s reposing his loins upon St. Augustine’s effigy, while he tramples the leading[4] doctrines of that predestinarian saint under foot, and anathematise all who embrace them.

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[1] After all, what if none of the four supporting images should be really representative of St. Augustine? I am aware that the contrary has been affirmed by authority, incomparably more credible than that of Mr. Sellon. I, therefore, only start the query as a bare possibility. But were it even fact, it would not be the first mistake of the kind into which the Holy Infallible See hath fallen. “Witness the following famous instance:” Till the year 1662 the Bishops of Rome thought they had a pregnant proof, not only of St. Peter’s erecting their chair, but of hie sitting in it himself, for till that year the very chair on which they believed, or would make others believe, he [St. Peter] had sat was shown and exposed to public adoration on the 18th of January, the festival of the said chair. But while it was cleaning, in order to be set up in some conspicuous place of the Vatican, the twelve labours of Hercules unluckily appeared to be engraved on it. ‘Our worship, however,’ says Giacomo Bartolin, who was present at this discovery, and relates it, ‘was not misplaced, since it was not to the wood we paid it, but to the prince of apostles, St. Peter.'”—Bower’s Hist, of the Popes, Vol. 1, p. 7.
[2] Dupin’s Hist, of Ecclesiastical Writers, Vol. 3, p. 203.
[3] bid., pp. 205-206. These citations demonstrate the justness of Mr. Bayle’s following remark. “It is certain,” says this shrewd, perspicacious writer, “that the engagement which the Church of Home is under to respect St. Augustine’s views casts her into a perplexity which is very ridiculous. It is manifest to all men, who examine things without prejudice and with sufficient abilities, that Augustine’s doctrine and that of Jansenius are one and the same, so that we cannot without indignation behold the court of Borne boasting to have condemned Jansenius, and yet to have preserved St. Augustine in all his glory. These are two things altogether inconsistent. More than this, the Council of Trent, in condemning Calvin’s doctrine of free-will, did necessarily condemn that of St. Augustine, for no Calvinist ever denied, or can deny, the concurrence of the human will and the liberty of the soul in that sense which St. Augustine has given to the words concurrence, cooperation and liberty. So that when they {i.e., the Papists] boast of having St. Augustine’s faith, it is only meant to preserve a decorum, and to save their system from the destruction which a sincere confession of the truth must necessarily occasion.”—Bayle’s Hist. Diet., Vol. 1, art. Augustine.
[4] This is evident among other proofs from the following instance: Some of St. Augustine’s works, concerning grace and against free-will, are actually under the black mark of the Romish index Expurgatorius, for the knowledge of which I am indebted to the information of Spanhemius. “In doctrinam illius [Augustin] de gratia et Ubero arbitrio, iniquiora sunt scepe judicio famila Jesuitarum et obvia. Nee pauca inquisitores hispanci et index Expurgatorius in Augustino damnant, obelo iis configenda.”—Spanhem. Opernm. torn. 1 925.



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