Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary

53 Supralapsarians


Persons who hold that God, without any regard to the good or evil works of men, has resolved, by an eternal decree, supra lapsum, antecedently to any knowledge of the fall of Adam, and independently of it, to save some and reject others: or, in other words, that God intended to glorify his justice in the condemnation of some, as well as his mercy in the salvation of others; and, for that purpose, decreed that Adam, should necessarily fall.

Dr. Gill gives us the following account of Supralapsarianism.–The question which he proposes to discuss, is, “Whether men were considered in the mind of God in the decree of election as fallen or unfallen, as in the corrupt mass through the fall, or in the pure mass of creatureship, previous to it, and as to be created?” There are some who think that the latter, so considered, were the objects of election in the divine mind. These are called Supralapsarians, though of these, some are of opinion that man was considered as to be created or creatable, and others as created but not fallen. the former seems best, that, of the vast number of individuals which came up in the divine mind whom his power could create, those whom he meant to bring into being he designed to glorify himself by them in some way or other. The decree of election respecting any part of them, may be distinguished into the decree of the end and the decree of the means. The decree of the end respecting some is either subordinate to their eternal happiness, or ultimate, which is more properly the end, the glory of God; and if both are put together, it is a state of everlasting communion with God, for the glorifying of the riches of his grace. The decree of the means includes the decree to create men to permit them to fall, to recover them out of it through redemption by Christ, to sanctify them by the grace of the Spirit, and completely save them; and which are not to be reckoned as materially many decrees, but as making one formed decree; or they are not to be considered as subordinate, but as co-ordinate means, and as making up one entire complete medium; for it is not to be supposed that God decreed to create man, that he might permit him to fall, in order to redeem, sanctify, and save him; but he decreed all this that he might glorify his grace, mercy, and justice. And in this way of considering the decrees of God, they think that they sufficiently obviate and remove the slanderous calumny cast upon them with respect to the other branch of predestination, which leaves men in the same state when others are chosen, and that for the glory of God. Which calumny is, that, according to them, God made man to damn him; whereas, according to their real sentiments, God decreed to make man, and made man neither to damn him nor save him, but for his own glory, which end is answered in them some way or other.–Again; they argue that the end is first in view before the means, and the decree of the end is, in order of nature, before the decree of the means; and what is first in intention, is last in execution. Now, as the glory of God is last in execution, it must be first in intention, wherefore men must be considered in the decree of the end as not yet created and fallen; since the creation and permission of sin belong to the decree of the means, which in order of nature is after the decree of the end. And they add to this, that if God first decreed to create man, and suffered him to fall, and then out of the fall chose some to grace and glory, he must decree to create man without an end, which is to make God to do what no wise man would; for when a man is about to do any thing, he proposes an end, and then contrives and fixes on ways and means to bring about that end. They think also that this way on conceiving and speaking of these things, best expresses the sovereignty of God in them, as declared in the 9th of Romans, where he is said to will such and such things, for no other reason but because he wills them.

The opponents of this doctrine consider, however, that it is attended with insuperable difficulties. We demand, say they, an explanation of what they mean by this principle. “God hath made all things for his own glory.” If they mean that justice requires a creature to devote himself to the worship and glorifying of his Creator, we grant it; if they mean that the attributes of God are displayed in all his works, we grant this too: but if the proposition be intended to affirm that God had no other view in creating men, so to speak, than his own interest, we deny the proposition, and affirm that God created men for their own happiness, and in order to have subjects upon whom he might bestow favours.

We desire to be informed, in the next place, say they, how it can be conceived that a determination to damn millions of men can contribute to the glory of God? We easily conceive, that it is for the glory of divine justice to punish guilty men: but to resolve to damn men without the consideration of sin, to create them that they might sin, to determine that they should sin in order to their destruction, is what seems to us more likely to tarnish the glory of God than to display it.

Again; we demand how, according to this hypothesis, it can be conceived that God is not the author of sin? In the general scheme of our churches, God only permits men to sin, and it is the abuse of liberty that plunges man into misery: even this principle, all lenified as it seems, is yet subject to a great number of difficulties; but in this scheme, God wills sin to produce the end he proposed in creating the world, and it was necessary that men should sin: God created them for that. If this be not to make God tha author of sin, we must renounce the most distinct and clear ideas.

Again; we require them to reconcile this system with many express declarations of Scripture, which inform us that God would have al men to be saved. How doth it agree with such pressing entreaties, such cutting reproofs, such tender expostulations, as God discovers in regard to the unconverted? Matt. 23:37.

Lastly, we desire to know, how is it possible to conceive a God, who, being in the actual enjoyment of perfect happiness, incomprehensible, and supreme, could determine to add this decree, though useless, to his felicity, to create men without number for the purpose of confining them for ever in the chains of darkness, and burning them for ever in unquenchable flames.

Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.

Charles Buck on the Biblical Covenants (Complete)
Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary