Jerome Zanchius on Absolute Predestination (Complete)

Chapter 5: The Will of God, Part 4

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 sin has a place in the world, which it could not have if God willed otherwise; for who hath resisted His will? (Rom. 9). No one can deny that God permits sin, but He neither permits it ignorantly nor unwillingly, therefore knowingly and willingly (vide Aust. Enchir. c. 96). Luther steadfastly maintains this in his book de Serv. Arbitr. and Bucer in Rom. 1. However, it should be carefully noticed: (1) That God’s permission of sin does not arise from His taking delight in it; on the contrary, sin, as sin, is the abominable thing that His soul hateth, and His efficacious permission of it is for wise and good purposes. Whence that observation of Augustine,[1] “God, who is no less omnipotent than He is supremely and perfectly holy, would never have permitted evil to enter among His works, but in order that He might do good even with that evil,” i.e., over-rule it for good in the end. (2) That God’s free and voluntary permission of sin lays no man under any forcible or compulsive necessity of committing it; consequently the Deity can by no means be termed the author of moral evil, to which He is not, in the proper sense of the word, accessory, but only remotely or negatively so, inasmuch as He could, if He pleased, absolutely prevent it.

We should, therefore, be careful not to give up the omnipotence of God under a pretence of exalting His holiness; He is infinite in both, and therefore neither should be set aside or obscured. To say that God absolutely wills the being and commission of sin, while experience convinces us that sin is acted every day, is to represent the Deity as a weak, impotent being, who would fain have things go otherwise than they do, but cannot accomplish His desire. On the other hand, to say that He willeth sin doth not in the least detract from the holiness and rectitude of His nature, because, whatever God wills, as well as whatever He does, cannot be eventually evil: materially evil it may be, but, as was just said, it must ultimately be directed to some wise and just end, otherwise He could not will it; for His will is righteous and good, and the sole rule of right and wrong, as is often observed by Augustine, Luther and others.

Position 11.—In consequence of God’s immutable will and infallible foreknowledge, whatever things come to pass, come to pass necessarily, though with respect to second causes and us men, many things are contingent, i.e., unexpected and seemingly accidental.

That this was the doctrine of Luther, none can deny who are in any measure acquainted with his works, particularly with his treatise, “De Servo Arbitrio, or Free-will a Slave,” the main drift of which book is to prove that the will of man is by nature enslaved to evil only, and, because it is fond of that slavery, is therefore said to be free. Among other matters, he proves there that ”whatever man does, he does necessarily, though not with any sensible compulsion, and that we can only do what God from eternity willed and foreknew we should, which will of God must be effectual and His foresight must be certain.” Hence we find him saying,[2] “It is most necessary and salutary for a Christian to be assured that God foreknows nothing uncertainly, but that He determines, and foresees, and acts in all things according to His own eternal, immutable and infallible will,” adding, “Hereby, as with a thunderbolt, is man’s free-will thrown down and destroyed.” A little after, he shows in what sense he took the word “necessity.” “By it,” says he, “I do not mean that the will suffers any forcible constraint or co-action, but the infallible accomplishment of those things which the immutable God decreed and foreknew concerning us.” He goes on: “Neither the Divine nor human will does anything by constraint, but whatever man does, be it good or bad, he does with as much appetite and willingness as if his will was really free. But, after all, the will of God is certain and unalterable, and is the governess of ours.”

Exactly consonant to all which are those words of Luther’s friend and fellow-labourer, Melancthon[3]: “All things turn out according to Divine predestination, not only the works we do outwardly, but even the thoughts we think inwardly,” adding, in the same place, “There is no such thing as chance or fortune, nor is there a readier way to gain the fear of God, and to put our whole trust in Him, than to be thoroughly versed in the doctrine of predestination.” I could cite, to the same purpose, Augustine, Aquinas, and many other learned men, but, for brevity’s sake, forbear. That this is the doctrine of Scripture every adept in those sacred books cannot but acknowledge. See particularly Psalm 135:6; Matt. 10:29; Prov. 16:1; Matt. 26:54; Luke 22:22; Acts 4:28; Eph. 1:11; Isa. 46:10.

Position 12.—As God knows nothing now which He did not know from all eternity, so He wills nothing now which He did not will from everlasting.

This position needs no explanation nor enforcement, it being self-evident that if anything can accede to God de novo, i.e., if He can at any time be wiser than He always was, or will that at one time which He did not will from all eternity, these dreadful consequences must ensue: (1) That the knowledge of God is not perfect, since what is absolutely perfect non recipit mag is et minus cannot admit either of addition or detraction. If I add to anything, it is from a supposal that that thing was not complete before; if I detract from it, it is supposed that that detraction renders it less perfect than it was. But the knowledge of God, being infinitely perfect, cannot, consistently with that perfection, be either increased or lessened. (2) That the will of God is fluctuating, mutable and unsteady; consequently, that God Himself is so, His will coinciding with His essence, contrary to the avowed assurances of Scripture and the strongest dictates of reason, as we shall presently show when we come to treat of the Divine immutability.

[1] Enchir. c. 11.
[2] Cap. 17, in Heap, ad praf.
[3] In Eph. 1.

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)