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Jerome Zanchius, Absolute Predestination

Preface

26 Mar 2012, by

The Doctrine Of Absolute Predestination


Stated and Asserted: With A Preliminary Discourse On The Divine Attributes.

Translated, In Great Measure, From The Latin Of Jerom Zanchius:
With Some Account Of His Life.

By: Augustus Toplady

When I consider the absolute independency of God, and the necessary, total dependence of all created things on him their first cause; I cannot help standing astonished at the pride of impotent, degenerate man, who is so prone . . .

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Some Account of the Life of Jerom Zanchius

It has been asserted[1] that this great divine was born at Alzano, a town of Italy, situate in the valley of Seri, or Serio. But the learned John Sturmius, who was not only Zanchy’s contemporary, but one of his most intimate friends, expressly affirms, in a speech[2] delivered on a public and important occasion . . .

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Observations on the Divine Attributes, Necessary to be Premised, in Order to Our Better Understanding the Doctrine of Predestination.

Although the great and ever-blessed God is a being absolutely simple and infinitely remote from all shadow of composition, He is, nevertheless, in condescension to our weak and contracted faculties, represented in Scripture as possessed of divers Properties, or Attributes, which, though seemingly different from His Essence, are in reality essential to Him, and constitutive of His very Nature.

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The Divine Wisdom and Foreknowledge of God.

I.—With respect to the Divine Wisdom and Foreknowledge, I shall lay down the following positions:—

Position 1.—God is, and always was so perfectly wise, that nothing ever did, or does, or can elude His knowledge. He knew, from all eternity, not only what He Himself intended to do, but also what He would incline and permit others to do. “Known unto God are all His works from eternity ” (Acts 15:18).

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II. The Will of God, with regard to which we assert as follows:—

Position 1.—The Deity is possessed not only of infinite knowledge, but likewise of absolute liberty of will, so that whatever He does, or permits to be done, He does and permits freely and of His own good pleasure.

Consequently, it is His free pleasure to permit sin, since, without His permission, neither men nor devils can do anything. Now, to permit is, at least, the same as not to hinder, though it be in our power to hinder if we please, and this permission, or non-hinderance, is certainly an act of the Divine will. Hence Augustine[1] says, ”Those things which, seemingly, thwart the Divine will are, nevertheless, agreeable to it, for, if God did not permit them, they could not be done, and whatever God permits, He permits freely and willingly. He does nothing, neither suffers anything to be done, against His own will.” And Luther[2] observes that “God permitted Adam to fall into sin because He willed that he should.

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Position 5.— God’s hidden will is peremptory and absolute, and therefore cannot be hindered from taking effect. God’s will is nothing else than God Himself willing, consequently it is omnipotent and unfrustrable. Hence we find it termed by Augustine and the schoolmen, voluntas omnipotentissima, because whatever God wills cannot fail of being effected. This made Augustine say,[1] “Evil men do many things contrary to God’s revealed will, but so great is His wisdom, and so inviolable . . .

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Position 8.—Since, as was lately observed, the determining will of God being omnipotent cannot be obstructed or made void, it follows that He never did, nor does He now, will that every individual of mankind should be saved. If this was His will, not one single soul could ever be lost (for who hath resisted His will?), and He would surely afford all men those effectual means of salvation, without which it cannot be had. Now, God could afford these means as easily to all mankind as to some only, but experience proves . . .

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Position 10.—From what has been laid down, it follows that Augustine, Luther, Bucer, the scholastic divines, and other learned writers are not to be blamed for asserting that “God may in some sense be said to will the being and commission of sin.” For, was this contrary to His determining will of permission, either He would not be omnipotent, or sin could have no place in the world; but He is omnipotent, and . . .

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Position 13.—The absolute will of God is the original spring and efficient cause of His people’s salvation.

I say the original and efficient, for, sensu complexo, there are other intermediate causes of their salvation, which, however, all result from and are subservient to this primary one, the will of God. Such are His everlasting choice of them to eternal life—the eternal covenant of grace, entered into by the Trinity, in behalf of the elect; the incarnation, obedience, death and intercession of Christ for them—all which are so many links in the great chain of causes, and not one of these . . .

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Position 1.—God is essentially unchangeable in Himself. Were He otherwise, He would be confessedly imperfect, since whoever changes must change either for the better or for the worse; whatever alteration any being undergoes, that being must, ipso facto, either become more excellent than it was or lose some of the excellency which it had. But neither of these can be the case with the Deity: He cannot change for the better, for that would necessarily imply that He was not perfectly good before; He cannot change for the worse, for then He could . . .

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Position 1.—God is, in the most unlimited and absolute sense of the word, Almighty. “Behold Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee” (Jer. 32:17). “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). The schoolmen, very properly, distinguish the omnipotence of God into absolute and actual: by the former, God might do many things which He does not; by the latter, He actually does whatever He will. For instance, God might, by virtue of His absolute power . . .

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Position 3.—God, as the primary and efficient cause of all things, is not only the Author of those actions done by His elect as actions, but also as they are good actions, whereas, on the other hand, though He may be said to be the Author of all the actions done by the wicked, yet He is not the Author of them in a moral and compound sense as they are sinful; but physically, simply and sensu diviso as they are mere actions, abstractedly from all consideration of the goodness or badness of them.

Although there is no action whatever which is not in some sense either good or bad, yet we can easily conceive . . .

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I shall conclude this article with two or three observations, and—

(1) I would infer that, if we would maintain the doctrine of God’s omnipotence, we must insist upon that of His universal agency; the latter cannot be denied without giving up the former. Disprove that He is almighty, and then we will grant that His influence and operations are limited and circumscribed. Luther[1] says, “God would not be a respectable Being if He were not almighty, and the doer of all things that are done, or if anything could come to pass in which He had no hand.” God has, at least, a physical influence on whatsoever is done by His creatures, whether trivial or important, good or evil. Judas as truly lived, moved and had his being from God as Peter, and Satan himself as much as Gabriel, for to say . . .

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The justice of God may be considered either immanently, as it is in Himself, which is, properly speaking, the same with His holiness; or transiently and relatively, as it respects His right conduct towards His creatures, which is properly justice. By the former He is all that is holy, just and good; by the latter, He is manifested to be so in all His dealings with angels and men. For the first, see . . .

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The Deity is, throughout the Scriptures, represented as infinitely gracious and merciful (Exod. 34:6; Nehem. 9:17; Psalm 103:8; 1 Peter 1:3). When we call the Divine mercy infinite, we do not mean that it is, in a way of grace, extended to all men without exception (and supposing it was, even then it would be very improperly denominated infinite on that account, since the objects of it, though all men taken together, would not amount to a multitude strictly and properly infinite), but that His mercy towards His own elect . . .

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