Jerome Zanchius on Absolute Predestination (Complete)

Appendix (2): The Predestination of the Muslims

Concerning the Predestination of the Muslims.

The reader may, if he pleases, consider himself as entered, at present, on a kind of historical voyage. Some people pretend to think that we are in full sail for Constantinople, and that predestination is at once the compass by which we steer, and the breeze by which we are carried plump into the Grand Seignior’s harbour. Predestination and the ineluctabilis ordo rerum are, according to these sage Arminian geographers, situate only in the latitude of Muhammad, and every man who believes with Scripture that God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will,” and, with our Church, that all things, both in heaven and earth, are ordered by a never-failing providence—every man who thus believes is, in our adversaries’ estimation, a Muslim.

I must acknowledge that such a contemptible cavil as this is too low and ridiculous to merit a single moment’s attention. However, as it has been urged formerly by the wretched authors of “Calvino Turcismus,” and now repeated, with an air of seeming seriousness, by a modern Arminian, I beg permission to touch at Constantinople in earnest, not with a view to stay there for good, but just to look about us, and determine for ourselves whether those of us who hold the Christian doctrine of predestination are to be classed among the Muslims.

Dean Prideaux shall set us on shore. This learned historian observes that the religion of Muhammad is ”made up of three parts, whereof one was borrowed from the Jews, another from the Christians, and the third from the heathen Arabs.”[1] A whole third, then, of the Muslim system is neither more nor less than Christianity at second hand. But shall we, therefore, disclaim any article of our Christian creed because that article was adopted by Muhammad? What a prodigious gap such absurd conduct would make in our confession of faith, may be easily judged of from the ensuing specimen:—

”The first doctrine that Muhammad propagated among them, that is, among his followers at Mecca, was that there is but one God, and that He only is to be worshipped; and that all idols were to be taken away, and their worship utterly abolished. He allowed both the Old and the New Testament, and that Moses and Jesus Christ were prophets sent from God. They (i.e., the Muslims) own that there are angels, executioners of God’s commands, designed for certain offices both in heaven and earth. They believe a general resurrection of the dead. They hold both a general judgment and a particular one (at death). If a person ask why God hath created the infidels and wicked, their answer is that we ought not be over-curious to search into the secrets of God. The morals of the Muslims consist in doing good and shunning evil. Their casuists hold that actions done without faith in God are sins. They forbid to judge of uncertain things, because it doth not belong to us to judge of the things which God hath concealed from us. Their devotion extends even to the sacred names: when they pronounce the name of God they make a bow, and add most high, most blessed, most strong, most excellent, or some such epithet. The Muslims tolerate all religions. They are commanded to pray at the appointed times, and to give alms. They hold a heaven and hell. Muhammad forbade adultery to his followers. They assert the immortality of the soul.”

Among the maxims of the Koran are, “Forgive those who have offended thee. Do good to all.”

Now, would any reasonable Christian strike out these articles from his creed only because Muhammad has inserted them in his? And does it follow that the most respectable persons in the world, who are influenced by these excellent principles of faith and practice, are, for that reason, to be dubbed Muslims? But the plain truth is, that our adversaries know no more of Constantinople than they do of Geneva, and are equally unacquainted with the real systems both of Turcism and Christianity. Even a superficial survey of this subject would have sufficed to inform them that “the questions relating to predestination and free grace have been agitated among the Muslim doctors with as much heat and vehemence as ever they were in Christendom.” The Muslims have their sort of Arminians no less than we. It is asked, “How goes the stream of doctrines at Constantinople?” I also can ask, in my turn, ”How goes the stream at Ispahan?” If the Muslim Turks, of the sect of Omar, believe an absolute predestination and providence, it is no less certain that the Muslim Persians, of the sect of Hali, deny predestination, and assert free-will with as much outrageous fervour as any Arminian. But shall I from hence infer that they are Muslims? I cannot in justice pay the Muslims such a compliment.

After all, there is not that conformity between the Christian and the Turkish doctrine of predestination which is asserted, and our Arminian consistory would have us believe. Do Muslims assert an election in Christ to grace and glory? Do they maintain that, in the preordination of events, the means are no less preordained than the end? Do they consider the Son of God as joint agent with His Father in the providential disposure of all things below? Do they hold the eternal covenant of grace, which obtained among the Persons of the Godhead, in behalf of and for the salvation of a peculiar people, who shall, by the regenerating efficacy of the Holy Ghost, be made zealous of good works? Do the Muslims believe anything about final perseverance and the inadmissibility[2] of saving grace? No such thing. I can easily prove their denial of these Gospel doctrines whenever that proof shall be necessary. And even as to the predestination of temporal events, the disciples of Omar (so far as I can hitherto find, and unless their doctrine be greatly misrepresented) seem to have exceeding gross and confused ideas. They appear to consider predestination as a sort of blind, rapid, overbearing impetus, which, right or wrong, with means or without, carries all things violently before it, with little or no attention to the peculiar and respective nature of second causes. Whereas, according to the Christian scheme, predestination forms a wise, regular, connected plan, and providence conducts the execution of it in such a manner as to assign their due share of importance to the correlative means, and secure the certainty both of means and end, without violating or forcing the intellectual powers of any one rational agent.

I have scrupled to enrol a particular opponent of mine, himself on the list of Muslims. Some of his tenets, however, are so nearly related to the worst branches of the Muslim system that he might very readily be mistaken, at first sight, for a disciple of Hali. Survey the dark side of Islam, and you will almost aver that the portrait was intended for him:—

The Muslims would have us believe that he (namely, Muhammad) was a saint from the fourth year of his age, for then, say they, the angel Gabriel took him from among his fellows while at play with them, and, carrying him aside, cut open his breast and took out his heart, and wrung out of it that black drop of blood, in which, say they, was contained the fomes peccati, so that he had none of it ever after.”[3] So much for Muhammad’s sinless perfection.

“They hold it unlawful to drink wine, and to play at chess, tables, cards, or such-like recreations. They esteem good works meritorious of heaven.”[4]

“Some will be honoured for their abstinence, in eating and drinking sparingly and seldom. Some profess poverty, and will enjoy no earthly things. Others brag of revelations, visions and enthusiasms. Some are for traditions and merits, by which (they suppose) salvation is obtained, and not by grace.”[5]

Beside the above articles, the Muslims hold that there is a third, or middle place, for the reception of some departed souls.

They deny the perpetuity of faith, believing that whosoever renounceth it, loseth the merit of all his good works, and that, during all that time, he can do nothing acceptable to God until he hath repented, and then he becomes a Muslim or faithful again. Their dervishes “live a very retired and austere life, going bare-foot, with a leathern girdle round their bodies, full of sharp points, to mortify the flesh.”

“The Muslim bigotry is so excessive that they esteem themselves only to be wise, valiant and holy; the rest of the world they look upon to be fools and reprobates, and use them accordingly.”

Among the followers of Muhammad, “any person may be a priest that pleases to take the habit and perform the functions, and may lay down his office when he will, there being nothing like ordination amongst them.”

By this time the reader may judge whether the Church of England or our adversaries make the nearest approaches to Islam.

[1] Prideaux’s Life of Mahomet, p. 49, edit. 1713.
[2] Indefectibility.
[3] Prideaux’s Life of Mahomet, p. 141.
[4] Boss’ View of all Eeligions, p. 164, edit. 1683.
[5] Ibid., p. 169.

Jerome Zanchius (1516-1590) was an Italian pastor, theologian, writer and reformer during the Protestant Reformation. After the death of Calvin, Zanchius’ influence filled the void, which was copiously met by a large written ministry. Among his most popular works are, “Confession Of The Christian Religion”, “Observation On The Divine Attributes” and “The Doctrine Of Absolute Predestination”.

Jerome Zanchius on Absolute Predestination (Complete)