Jerome Zanchius on Absolute Predestination (Complete)

Chapter 39. It Should Be Openly Preached – Part 13

IX.—Lastly, without a due sense of predestination, we shall want the surest and the most powerful inducement to patience, resignation and dependence on God under every spiritual and temporal affliction.

How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer! (1) There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God. (2) He has given me in times past, and is giving me at present (if I had but eyes to see it), many and signal intimations of His love to me, both in a way of providence and grace. (3) This love of His is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it. (4) Whatever comes to pass in time is the result of His will from everlasting, consequently (5) my afflictions were a part of His original plan, and are all ordered in number, weight and measure. (6) The very hairs of my head are (every one) counted by Him, nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His determination. Hence (7) my distresses are not the result of chance, accident or a fortuitous combination of circumstances, but (8) the providential accomplishment of God’s purpose, and (9) designed to answer some wise and gracious ends, nor (10) shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees meet. (11) He who brought me to it has promised to support me under it and to carry me through it. (12) All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good, therefore (13) “The cup which my heavenly Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” Yes, I will, in the strength He imparts, even rejoice in tribulation; and using the means of possible redress, which He hath or may hereafter put into my hands, I will commit myself and the event to Him, whose purpose cannot be overthrown, whose plan cannot be disconcerted, and who, whether I am resigned or not, will still go on to work all things after the counsel of His own will.[1]

Above all, when the suffering Christian takes his election into the account, and knows that he was by an eternal and immutable act of God appointed to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ; that, of course, he hath a city prepared for him above, a building of God, a house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens; and that the heaviest sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in the saints, what adversity can possibly befall us which the assured hope of blessings like these will not infinitely overbalance? “A comfort so divine, May trials well endure.” However keenly afflictions might wound us on their first access, yet, under the impression of such animating views, we should quickly come to ourselves again, and the arrows of tribulation would, in great measure, become pointless. Christians want nothing but absolute resignation to render them perfectly happy in every possible circumstance, and absolute resignation can only flow from an absolute belief of, and an absolute acquiescence in, God’s absolute providence, founded on absolute predestination. The apostle himself draws these conclusions to our hand in Rom. 8, where, after having laid down, as most undoubted axioms, the eternity and immutability of God’s purposes, he thus winds up the whole: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

Such, therefore, among others, being the uses that arise from the faithful preaching and the cordial reception of predestination, may we not venture to affirm, with Luther, that “our faith and all right worship of God, depend in no small degree upon our knowledge of that doctrine”[2]

The excellent Melancthon, in his first Common Places (which received the sanction of Luther’s express approbation), does, in the first chapter, which treats professedly of free-will and predestination, set out with clearing and establishing the doctrine of God’s decrees, and then proceeds to point out the necessity and manifold usefulness of asserting and believing it. He even goes so far as to affirm roundly that “a right fear of God and a true confidence in Him can be learned more assuredly from no other source than from the doctrine of predestination.” But Melancthon’s judgment of these matters will best appear from the whole passage, which the reader will find in the book and chapter just referred to.

Divine predestination quite strips man of his boasted liberty, for all things come to pass according to God’s fore-appointment, even the internal thoughts of all creatures, no less than the external works. Therefore the apostle gives us to understand that God “performeth all things according to the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1), and our Lord Himself asks, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? yet one of them falleth not to the ground without your Father” (Matt. 10). Pray what can be more full to the point than such a declaration? So Solomon, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov. 16), and in chap, 20, “Man’s goings are of the Lord: how then can a man understand his own way?” To which the prophet Jeremiah does also set his seal, saying (chapter 10), “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” The historical part of Scripture teaches us the same great truth. So (Gen. 15) we read that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. In 1 Sam. 2 we are told that Eli’s sons hearkened not to his reproof, because the Lord would slay them. What could bear a stronger resemblance to chance and accident than Saul’s calling upon Samuel, only with a view to seek out his father’s asses? (1 Sam. 9). Yet the visit was fore-ordained of God, and designed to answer a purpose little thought of by Saul (1 Sam. 9:15,16). See also a most remarkable chain of predestinated events in reference to Saul, and foretold by the prophet (1 Sam. 10:2,8).

In pursuance of the Divine preordination, there went with Saul a band of men, whose hearts God had touched (1 Sam. 10:26). The harshness of king Rehoboam’s answer to the ten tribes, and the subsequent revolt of those tribes from his dominion, are by the sacred historian expressly ascribed to God’s decree: “Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that He might perform His saying, which the Lord spake by Abijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 12:15). What is the drift of the Apostle Paul (Rom. 9 and 11), but to resolve all things that come to pass into God’s destination? The judgment of the flesh, or of mere unregenerate reason, usually starts back from this truth with horror; but, on the contrary, the judgment of a spiritual man will embrace it with affection. You will not learn either the fear of God or affiance in Him from a surer source than from getting your mind deeply tinctured and seasoned with this doctrine of predestination.

Does not Solomon, in the Book of Proverbs, inculcate it throughout, and justly, for how else could he direct men to fear God and trust in Him? The same he does in the Book of Ecclesiastes, nor had anything so powerful a tendency to repress the pride of man’s encroaching reason, and to lower the swelling conceit of his supposed discretion, as the firm belief, that all things are from God. What invincible comfort did Christ impart to His disciples in assuring them that their very hairs were all numbered by the Creator? Is there, then (may an objector say), no such thing as contingency, no such thing as chance or fortune? No. The doctrine of Scripture is, that all things come to pass necessarily. Be it so that to you some events seem to happen contingently, you nevertheless must not be run away with by the suggestions of your own narrow-sighted reason. Solomon himself, the wisest of men, was so deeply versed in the doctrine of inscrutable predestination as to leave this humbling maxim on record: ”When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth, then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun, because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it, yea, farther, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it” (Eccl. 8:16,17).

Melancthon prosecutes the argument much further, but this may suffice for a specimen; and it is not unworthy of notice that Luther so highly approved of Melancthon’s performance, and especially of the first chapter (from whence the above extract is given), that he (Luther) thus writes of it in his epistle to Erasmus, prefixed to his book “De Serv. Arb.,” “That it was worthy of everlasting duration, and to be received into the ecclesiastical canon.” Let it likewise be observed that Melancthon never, to the very last, retracted a word of what he there delivers, which a person of his piety and integrity would most certainly have done had he afterwards (as some have artfully and falsely insinuated) found reason to change his judgment on these heads.

[1] The learned Lipsius thus writes to an unmarried friend, who appears to have referred himself to his judgment and direction: Whether you marry or live single, you will still have something or other to molest you, nor does the whole course of man’s present sublunary life afford him a single draught of joy without a mixture of wormwood in the cup. This is the universal and immutable law, which to resist were no less vain than sinful and rebellious. As the wrestlers of old had their respective antagonists assigned them, not by their own choice, but by necessary lot, in like manner each of the human race has his peculiar destiny allotted to him by Providence. To conquer this is to endure it. All our strength in this warfare is to undergo the inevitable pressure. It is victory to yield ourselves to fate.”—Lips. Epist. miscell. cent. 1, ep. 43, oper tom., 2, p. 54, Edit. Vesaliens, 1675
About two years after, this celebrated Christian Seneca wrote as follows to the same person (Theodore Leewius), who had married and just lost his wife in child-bed: “What is fate? God’s everlasting ordinance—an ordinance settled in eternity and for eternity, an ordinance which He can never repeal, disannul or set aside, either in whole or in part. Now, if this His decree be eternal, a retro, and immovable, quoad futurum, why does foolish man struggle and fight against that which must be? Especially, seeing fate is thus the offspring of God, why does impious man murmur and complain? You cannot justly find fault with anything determined or done by Him, as though it were evil or severe, for He is all goodness and benevolence. Were you to define His nature, you could not do it more suitably than in those terms. Is, therefore, your wife dead? Debuit: it is right she should be so. But was it right that she should die, and at that very time, and by that very kind of death? Most certainly. Lex ita lata: the decree so ordained it. The restless acumen of the human mind may sift and canvass the appointments of fate, but cannot alter them. Were we truly wise, we should be implicitly submissive, and endure with willingness what we must endure, whether we be willing or not. A due sense of our inability to reverse the disposals of Providence, and the consequent vanity of resisting them, would administer solid repose to our minds, and sheathe, if not remove, the anguish of affliction. And why should we even wish to resist? Fate’s supreme ordainer is not only the all-wise God, but an all-gracious Father. Embrace every event as good and prosperous, though it may, for the present, carry an aspect of the reverse. Think you not that He loveth and careth for us more and better than we for ourselves? But as the tenderest parent below doth oftentimes cross the inclinations of his children, with a view to do them good, and obliges them both to do and to undergo many things against the bent of their wills, so does the great Parent of all.”—Ibid, epist. 61, p. 82.
[2] De Serv. Arbilr., cap. 20.

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)