Samuel Trott

Objections To Absolute Predestination

The objection most frequently made to this doctrine is that it represents God as the author of sin. Most of those who make this objection will allow that God governs the world and that no event takes place but by His permission. Where is the difference between them and us? It appears to be something like this: We believe that God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will,” that He has a wise design in every event which He either permits or causes to take place, that each event and all the transactions of men, even the vilest, are as so many links in the great chain of that Providence by which the eternal purpose of God are connected together, and drawn on to their ultimate and glorious consummation; that from eternity God drew the wondrous plan of His government, saw through the operations and bearing in the every event, and assigned to each its place and use in the dispensation of His Providence, His justice, or His grace.

They, if I can comprehend their views, believe that God has not beforehand determined the wicked actions of men, that merely as a spectator He suffers the wicked to go on according to their own “free wills.” Of course, if God has had no previous determination relative to their acts, He can have no design in permitting them unless it be simply the general design of leaving those persons to aggravate their condemnation. Now it would seem to me that if either of these systems makes God the author of sin it is their view, for it makes God to be, in a most wanton manner, accessory to the vices of men. But why is such a system preferred? Surely, only, because it takes the government of God from Him and gives it to the will of man.

But says one in the case of an assassin’s way-laying a man and murdering him, it would be horrid to suppose that God had predestinated this barbarous act. Where is the preacher who talks thus, if called to preach on this funeral occasion, that would tell the afflicted relatives that God had nothing to do with the affair, and therefore instead of exhorting them to eye the hand of God in it, and to be submissive to His will, would direct them to regard only the hand of the assassin? And yet he ought thus to tell them to be consistent.

The Master said to His disciples, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father? But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29- 31). Christ had been telling them not to fear them that kill the body, &c., in reference to persecutors, and then brings in the case of the sparrows. Would not the disciples naturally be led to think of the sparrows as exposed to the ravages of birds of prey? And when thus assured that the hawks could not seize their prey but by the will of God they would feel such confidence in the care of their heavenly Father, as to believe that their bloody persecutors could not take their lives until His gracious purpose was accomplished, and He for wise purposes saw fit to suffer them to be put to death.

If God thus takes care of sparrows, can it be supposed that any human being will be left to fall by the hand of an assassin without our heavenly Father? If any can find comfort in believing that men’s lives are thus left to the sport of chance, I envy them not that comfort.

Let us take another view of this subject. I think it more consistent with what God has revealed of His universal government to suppose that the days of this murdered man were numbered, that the designs of God in his existence on earth were accomplished, and the period had arrived for his being taken from it; and that God had determined to leave him who was the assassin thus to manifest the enmity and depravity of his own heart, to be a warning to others, and to receive that open punishment that his depraved principles merited. Also that such afflictions are attended this affair God had seen fit to appoint unto relatives, if not to result in their good, yet for wise and good purposes. “It is appointed unto men once to die, etc.”

I do not see that this view of the subject any more makes God the author of sin than any other system would short of that of the Magi which supposed the existence of two gods, the one good and the other evil [Zoroastrianism]. Not any more than the Lord’s having appointed Peter the death by which he should glorify God made Him the author of the sin of his persecutors (See John 21:18-19).

But to give, if possible, a clearer illustration of this subject, I will offer a few remarks on the text, Luke 13:4-5, “Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” I have said above that there is no movement either of matter or mind but what has been fixed by the counsel of God to work for His glory. In the text above I think there is an illustration of this fact. In the case of the eighteen being slain by the fall of the tower of Siloam, are the following circumstances to be noticed:

First, the passage gives no statement of the special case that produced the fall of the tower; neither is there any intimation that it was occasioned by anything miraculous. The whole account appears clearly to imply that it was what would be termed at this day a mere casual event. Second, the Jews having been taught by their lively oracles, to acknowledge the hand of God in every event, considered this a special visitation of God upon those who were slain and accounted for it by supposing that they were sinners above others. This latter idea the Master evidently designed to correct and to impress upon the minds of His audience that they were sinners equally with those eighteen, and like them, exposed to the judgments of God, unless they repented with that repentance which their law required of them as national Israelites.

While we are left ignorant of the direct cause of the tower’s falling, whether it was carelessness in building, negligence in repairing, the wear of time, or some other circumstances, the fact is evident that the materials of which it was built, having been undermined or in some other way removed from their proper balance one upon the other, fell by the regular operation of the law of gravitation, and in their fall killed eighteen persons. Can any be so hardened in opposition to the sovereignty of God as to contend that He by whom alone the sparrow falls, had no hand in the death of these persons? Yea, is it not manifest from the improvement which the Savior made of the event that it was designed as a warning to the inhabitants of Jerusalem of the impending judgments that hung over their heads? These impending judgments of which the Jews were thus warned were brought upon them, as the events of history shows, by the instrumentality of the Roman arms. That these impending judgments were limited and bound by the predestination of God is evident from Matthew 24: 15-28, and Luke 21: 17,24. It is equally manifest that it was the ambition and pride of the Romans that impelled them forward to the destruction of this devoted people.

Now if in the one case God could accomplish His purpose of cutting off those eighteen persons by the instrumentality of the effect of the law of gravitation upon the materials of the tower of Siloam without diverting that law from its regular course of operation, why could He not in the other case bring His threatened and defined judgments upon the Jews by the instrumentality of the Romans’ thirst for conquest and blood without being the author of their sin or without infringing upon their will in the act? Some may say that God was the author of the law of gravitation. True, God did establish it in the original creation of matter; and so did He originally permit sin to enter into the world and man to become so depraved as that it is as natural for him to sin as it is for a heavy body to fall to the earth. And there was no more necessity for God, in the one case, to produce a new principle of depravity in the hearts of the Romans than, in the other case, to produce a new principle of gravitation or give a new bias to that heart. In the one instance God had only to permit the interposition of certain occasions to bring the law of gravitation into effect upon the materials of the tower and to bring those eighteen persons together within its reaches to accomplish His purpose concerning them. So in the other case, He had only to permit the Jews, by their turbulence and rebellion, to provoke the resentment of the Romans to be the occasion of their acting out their bloody cruelty, so far as God had determined to permit them.

What I have said upon this subject is probably not sufficient to satisfy the minds of some who may think they are honest inquirers after the truth. But it is not dependent upon me to vindicate the revelation and ways of God from the charge of sin. Let those who charge that doctrine which God has revealed, with sinful tendency, answer to Him for it.

I will offer a few remarks for the consideration of those who think that God has too great affairs to manage to concern Himself with the smaller particles of matter, such as are seen floating in the air; for such professors there are. I would ask them whether they believe in the resurrection of the body? If so, whether they believe that God will raise the bodies of all or only such bodies He can find on the resurrection morn? We know that the bodies of many have been burned to ashes, and those ashes scattered towards the four winds of heaven; the bodies of others have been left to molder to dust on the surface of the earth; the graves of many have been opened and the dust that once composed the bodies mingled with other particles of earth, not to insist upon the continual process through which matter is passing of decomposition and new organization, by which that which was once the component part of an animal body becomes incorporated in a vegetable substance, etc. How can any person with these facts in view believe that God will or can raise the bodies of all persons unless they believe that He exercises infinite knowledge and that universal disposal of all things, that every particle of matter is present to His notice, passing through what process it may, filling by His direction the very place and accomplishing the very object He designed? Is this knowledge too wonderful for your comprehension? So it is for mine. But is it too extensive for our God whose understanding is infinite ?

Another objection urged against the doctrine of predestination is that it would involve the notion of the Fatalist and destroy the “free-agency” of man and consequently his accountability. These notions must arise from ignorance of the true character of God who, as an efficient Intelligence, governs the world in wisdom and righteousness, causing everything to result in the greatest good. But in answer to the objection, suffice it to say that the universal experience of man and the sure word of prophecy both unite in establishing the fact that man in all his sinful transactions acts freely, and is accountable there for. I will notice a few instances in which the consciousness of guilt was manifested in persons, relative to transactions manifestly predestinated of God.

We have an instance in the case of Joseph’s brethren. Although Joseph declared that it was God who sent him to Egypt, yet when their father was dead his brethren sent unto him saying, “We pray thee forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father” (Genesis 50:17). We have another instance in Judas who committed the very crime which had long been predicted, and which the Master pointed him out as the one destined to perform, yet when he had committed the base act, he in contrition said, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). An instance of acknowledged free volition we have in the case of the Assyrian, who was “the rod of God’s anger against the Jews.” God says of him, “I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, by the strength of my hand I have done it and by my wisdom, &c.” (Isaiah 10:12,13). Thus it is that men and devils, instead of frustrating or retarding the righteous government of God by the acting out of their enmity, are, in their very acts of sinning against Him, made by His wise government to bring about His holy and eternal purposes. This view of the holiness and majesty of God, manifested in His overruling the sins of men to the promotion of His purpose of grace while it fills His enemies with wrath, constrains the true believer to “exalt Him and to worship at His footstool” (Psalm 99:5) under a feeling sense that “He is holy.”

I now pass to the consideration of an objection made by the popular Baptists, more particularly against this doctrine as held by the Old School Baptists. Even those who profess to believe the doctrine of predestination make it, when professed by an Old School Baptist to be a very Pandora’s Box from whence springs Antinomianism and everything which they are accustomed to consider as evil in us. It is, according to their representation, our belief in the Absolute Predestination of all things that keeps us from engaging in the Benevolent Enterprises [Modern missionary and social gospel movement – Editor] of the day and prevents us from preaching repentance and faith as conditions of salvation, and from making any efforts to convert sinners, and in a word that it makes us very idle and wicked professors. This is the most unhallowed of all the objections made against this doctrine! It is the very course pursued by the Jews against our Master, that by raising a prejudice in the public mind against Him and His doctrine that they might more easily accomplish His death. As they thus succeeded against Him to do “with wicked hands,” what the “counsel of God had before determined to be done,” so will they succeed against the two witnesses.

But let us, Dear Brethren, rejoice with His early disciples in being accounted worthy to suffer persecution for our Lord’s name sake. This course pursued by the popular Baptists in reproaching this doctrine, and us for holding it, while they admit it even to be a Bible doctrine, is the most decisive testimony as to what manner of spirit they are of, that could be had. It is, I sometimes think, undeniably an instance of our being reviled and having evil said of us falsely for His sake. The Christian knows ordinarily, owing to the sense of the corruption of his own heart, the instances are not many when he can clearly draw the conclusion that it is for Christ’s sake that he is reviled. Hence, how thankful ought we to be for the privilege granted us of having such an unequivocal testimony that the blessing recorded in Matthew 5:11 and 12 belongs to us.

It is not in one solitary instance, or two that we are reproached for holding this doctrine. There appears for a few months past to have been a general concert on the subject. Preachers while professing to preach the doctrine of predestination, have in the very same discourses, represented it to be Antinomianism and to have the most deadening influence when held by certain “Baptists,” meaning the Old School brethren. Others have given the same views on the subject in their publications in the religious papers: witness the letter of a certain celebrated preacher in Virginia published in the Religious Herald of December 20th, 1833. But it is perhaps proper to answer the objection, however unprincipled it is. The objection seems to imply that the whole sum of our faith is the doctrine of predestination; that all our religious course is determined by our belief in this one point of revelation.

It is true that believing in the predestination of God, we have no idea of procuring or of being instrumental in producing the salvation of one individual not chosen of God unto salvation; nor that one of the “travail” (Isaiah 53:11) of Christ’s soul will die without experiencing the renewing of the Holy Ghost and thus being prepared for the society of Heaven, whether that individual die in infancy or in old age, whether he was born in New York, in Rome, in Mecca or in Peking. But we as firmly believe that God “has chosen” His people “to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth;” that: “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,” (II Thessalonians 2:13) and that while the “preaching of the cross is unto them that perish, foolishness; unto us who are saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).

Let those who think and speak of tracts and Sunday Schools as the more efficient means of converting the world ponder this text and think seriously on the distinction drawn between those who perish and those who are saved. The one class esteem the “preaching of the cross,” or Christ crucified, as far surpassing any scheme of men as the power of God surpasses the weakness of man. But they do not consider the difference between the preaching of the cross, and Sunday School teaching or reading of tracts to consist so much in any natural superiority of the one over the others, but simply in the fact that the one is the appointment of God delivered to us through the volume of eternal truth and that the others are not. Attendance therefore on the one calls for and authorizes the exercise of faith in God, that He will bless His own appointments, whereas there can be no authorized faith in relation to the others because God has made no revelation concerning them. And according to the apostle’s views of the subject, the reason why God has instituted the simple preaching of the cross, unadorned with wisdom of words, is that by such preaching God might “make foolish the wisdom of the world,” and that the faith of His people “should no t stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18-29, and 2:4,5). The above may suffice to show that it is not our belief in the doctrine of predestination alone that prevents us from uniting in the “benevolent enterprises” of the day, as they are styled, but the fact that God has appointed the one institution and but one has its due weight with us, and ought to have with all who have confidence in the wisdom of God. But again our belief in the predestination of all things gives us confidence to believe that not an instrument shall be wanting, or a circumstance fail, that God ever designed to employ, or ever would own for bringing an individual of the election of God into the liberty of the gospel, or for establishing him in the hope and consolations thereof. It also leads us to believe that Christ’s people will all “be willing in the day of His power” (Psalm 110:5), according as they are called to believe in Him, to confide in Him, to profess His name, to enter the ministry, and that with just such gifts as He has bestowed on them, and to go and occupy these gifts wherever God in His providence directs; and that their willingness to these things will be from a manifestation of the “day of His power” to their souls, and not from any offered worldly accommodations. Hence we have no confidence in the Divine call of any person to the ministry who enters it or goes forward in it only as some salary or mission fund is proffered for his accommodation. Neither when they go forth from these considerations can be believe that God will make their labors a blessing. Consequently we stand opposed to Missionary and Theological school systems. The preacher made willing in the day of Christ’s power to enter the ministry does not need these proffered accommodations to stimulate him to action. Neither does he need for this end the notion of becoming popular by a display of “school polish” or by multiplying converts. He has to preach to answer his own conscience. Being an ear-bored servant, he will desire to be found faithful. And feeling that he is a servant, he will feel it to be his province to follow the directions of his Lord, to keep strictly to his written orders: to preach the Word, to be instant in season and out of season, and to leave it to his Master’s will to accomplish His own purpose by the Word preached. Thus the predestination of God has secured that belief in the Absolute Predestination of all things will not make His servants idle, but on the contrary, it becomes an incentive to active obedience. The same is the case, as might be shown from the Word, with all His other children in their several relations.

It is true that the servant of the Lord may sometimes be left to seek his own accommodation, rather than do his Master’s will, but when this is the case, the Lord will assuredly send leanness into his soul, or otherwise so chastise him as to bring him back to a cheerful discharge of duty.

As to Antinomianism, those who know the meaning of the word, when they use it certainly do know that it is a base calumny upon us. They know that what offends them in our preaching relative to the law is our contending so strongly for the spirituality and unchangeable nature of the law, and that nothing but that full and perfect righteousness, found in the obedience of Christ as the representative of His people, could release from condemnation. If instead of preaching the apostle’s doctrine which establishes the law, we preach the abrogation of the eternal law and that man is, as they say, on pleasing terms with God, and by which many seem to mean that man is on grounds for proposing terms of acceptance, with God, we should then in the estimation of the popular be very lawful and holy men.

In reference to the charge that our belief in the doctrine of predestination occasions our not preaching that men should repent and believe, I would remark in the first place that according to our understanding of the Scriptures, “repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” are essential parts of that salvation to which the elect of God are predestinated. These things therefore we preach. But the repentance to which God has predestinated His people is a heart repentance, a “godly sorrow for sin” (II Corinthians 7:10); a turning with heart-loathing from self and all self-doing, as being defiled with sin. We do not, therefore, and dare not, preach a mere Ahab or Ninevite repentance, as that which characterizes persons as entitled to the consolations of the gospel. There is the same corresponding difference between the one repentance and the other, that there is between the deliverance granted Ahab and Nineveh, and that salvation that comes by Christ. It is true that if we could satisfy our consciences by preaching the word “repent” instead of preaching that repentance that is the result of the regenerating operation of the Holy Ghost, we should much better please the unregenerate and popular professors as we should then preach a repentance of which they have some conception.

Again, Christ, by “nailing the handwriting of ordinances to His cross” (Colossians 2:14), so took the Sinai covenant, as such, out of the way that it never after should, by all the contrivances of men, be introduced into the plan of God as any part of salvation. Hence Christ, after His resurrection, made known to His disciples that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name” (Luke 24:47), among all nations beginning in Jerusalem. The law was given by Moses, “but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” If therefore there is any meaning in the expression, “In His name,” it must mean something very different from preaching repentance and remission of sin in a legal form. So we understand it as fixed by the predestination of God, and therefore we do not preach repentance as a condition upon which salvation is suspended. But while we preach the manifested obligation of all, both Jews and Gentiles, as the creatures of God to return unto Him by repentance, or as the apostle has it, “but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), and while we preach the absolute necessity of heart repentance as a predestinated part of the salvation of God, we preach that Jesus Christ is “exalted as a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31); and that no repentance short of that which He gives in making His Word as a “fire and a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29), either manifests the person as entitled to, capacitates him for receiving the consolations of the gospel. Hence, that no other is of any avail. Thus far our belief in the predestination of God affects our preaching repentance.

So faith we preach, not as a condition of salvation, but as the “gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). And the faith we preach is as distinct from any natural belief of the human mind as the internal revelation or testimony of the Spirit of God is distinct from the testimony of men: the one is external and natural, the other is internal and spiritual; the one is comprehended and received by the natural powers of the human mind, the other can be understood and relied on only by spiritual life imparted. In a word, we believe that the predestination of God has fixed eternally the point that none but that system of salvation that God has decreed, that truth which God has revealed, and that order which He has established, shall stand. We would, therefore, be wholly conformed in understanding, in feeling and walk to that system, be grounded in that truth, and bounded and defined by that order which God has revealed. Being thus established in the truth of God and sustained by His word, if persecution come, let it come, we shall feel the assurance that the “two beasts,” that the “Image”, and all their drilled and mustered forces, can go no farther in their rage than our God has determined to permit them, that they cannot afflict us, only as He has designed the affliction in mercy upon us, that they cannot take our lives one moment before our Father has accomplished His wise purposes with us in this vale of tears.

Such an established belief in the predestination of God serves to preserve us, amidst the various trials of life, and amidst the rage of persecution from that fretful, sullen, and heart-sunken spirit manifested by Saul when he said, “Hear now, ye Benjamites, will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, &c., that all of you conspired against me; and there is none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, &c. (I Samuel 22:7,8). But on the contrary, it will enable us to manifest that patient, resigned spirit which David manifested when he said to Saul, “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee, but mine hand shall not be upon thee” (I Samuel 24:12), and when he said of Shimei who cursed him, “So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David, who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? Let him alone and let him curse for the Lord hath bidden him, it may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day”(II Samuel 16:10- 12). In the case of Saul we see manifested the genuine temper of that spirit which will not have the Lord to reign over him, and which therefore rejects the purpose of God; in the other that humility and meekness which is incident to a belief and acquiescence in the Sovereignty of God. But David did not believe that God’s having bidden Shimei to curse, or in other words, His having predestinated this act, exonerated him from guilt. Hence David’s directions to Solomon in I Kings 2:8,9).

I will here leave the subject, praying that while others reproach us for believing in the Absolute Sovereignty of God, the Lord would bless us with more unshaken confidence in His universal predestination and with a more entire submission to His Sovereign Will in all things, and that while others indirectly charge God with revealing a doctrine they think leads to licentiousness, God may manifest in us that the belief of the truth and the power of His grace can so overcome the corruptions of our nature as to enable us to lead quiet, peaceable and godly lives.

Samuel Trott (1783-1866) was an American Primitive Baptist preacher. He was appointed pastor of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church, Newark, Delaware. In 1832, he drafted the Black Rock Address which drew a line between the Hyper and Moderate Calvinists. The Hypers assumed the name “Old School” while the Moderates were called “New School”. The Schools were based on the writings of two English theologians—John Gill (1770’s), representing the Old School; Andrew Fuller (1780’s), representing the New School. Henceforth, the Fullerite teachings which splintered the Particular Baptist churches of England eventually divided the Primitive Baptist churches of America.