This sentiment, “The absolute predestination of all things” as expressed in the Prospectus of The Signs Of The Times, has called forth so much invective from some, and so much ridicule from others of the popular Baptists of this region that one would conclude some strange and absurd idea had been advocated; some whim daringly promulgated as a part of the secret things of God (Deuteronomy 29:29).
It therefore, may not be amiss, to re-examine the subject, and inquire whether it be a revealed truth of God, or a visionary notion of man, which is calling forth such malicious sneers from those who profess to be the servants of God.
Predestination is the same in meaning, with fore-ordination or fore- appointment; and is with God, one with pre-determination; for as God declares, so He determines, “the end from the beginning; saying My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10). Thus the pre-determination of God, to admit sin into the world embraced in it the decreeing of the time, manner, results &c. of that event. And His pre- determination to bruise His Son in the place of sinners included in it the instruments, time, place and manner of His death. (Compare Acts 2:23 and 4:25-28, and John 17:1, and Hebrews 13:11,12). The doctrine of predestination, then, is this, that God has so predetermined every event, as to fix with such precision its limits and bounds, its causes and effects, that with Him it is divested of all contingency. This, Brother Beebe, is the monstrous doctrine, that you engage to maintain, in your paper, and which we Old Fashioned Baptists, some of us, profess to believe, and which is drawing down upon you and us the reproaches and contempt of all the learned gentry among Baptists.
The term “absolute” has been prefixed to the word “predestination” by yourself and others, to distinguish the doctrine you hold from the idea of a conditional predestination. Strictly speaking, however, this is an unnecessary appendage. A conditional predestination, is no predestination at all; for the predestination of an event conditionally, is but a pre-determination to leave the event undetermined, and therefore excludes predestination altogether.
Having thus briefly explained what we mean by predestination, I will proceed to show that it is a doctrine taught in the Scriptures. In relation to the salvation of the elect we have the doctrine of predestination expressed in direct terms, as in Romans 8: 29,30 – “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, &c. – Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called &c., and Ephesians 1:5 – “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ &c.” and verse 11 – “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will.” In these passages, we have not the word “predestination” used in the translation, but in the original the Greek word employed is of a corresponding signification; being proorizo, formed of pro – before, and Orizo – to bound, or limit, to determine, to define &c., and is derived from the theme: oros – a bound or limit, or the end of a thing. Hence the literal signification of the word, used is: a fixing before, the bounds or limit, of a thing or event.
If we look at the connection, we find the idea conveyed by the word, fully sustained by its use in these cases. In Romans 8:29 & 30, the whole of the apostle’s argument in these and the following verses of this chapter are in support of the declaration he makes. Verse 28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” To this the inquiry might be made: How, Paul, can we know this? “For,” or because, is the answer, “whom He did foreknow” that is, as the objects of His purpose and call, “He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” This did decree that they should be like Christ, should partake of His image; should as His brethren participate in that life that is in Him, in a justification from the demands of the law, in the Father’s peculiar love and care, in the resurrection, and in the glory that the Father gave Him, &c. And this was no inefficient purpose, “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called, and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified; them He also glorified” (Romans 8:28). Paul now retorts some inquiries to those who might doubt the assertion made in verse 28, He asked in verse 31, “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Or more emphatically, “Who against us,” that is, who is it that is against us? He goes on to confirm his position by a series of inquiries in which he shows that the predestination of God is firm against all the assaults of tribulation or distress, &c., and against death and life, and angels and principalities, and powers, and things present, and things to come, and heights and depth, &c. Thus we see that predestination of God in this case not only secures the leading purpose that the elect shall be conformed to the glorious image of His Son, but also fixes the limits and determines the end of all things that transpire in relation to them.
Again, if we refer to the use of the word in Ephesians we shall find that the predestination and the determination or purpose of God goes together. Thus Chapter 1, verses 4-6, “According as He hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” Predestination is here represented to be according to the good pleasure of His will, and is a decreeing of the objects of His choice unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus, before the foundation of the world; but determines at that period their being “accepted in the Beloved;” and of course decides with certainty their repenting, believing, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise; things necessarily embraced in their experimental acceptance in Christ. Again, in verse 11, the apostle speaks of having obtained an inheritance as the result of that predestination of God which is according to the purpose of Him “who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” Here then we have in these and the connecting verses every part of salvation brought to view as the predestination of God. For He “ worketh all things,” not according to the caprice of fallen men, or according to any fortuitous circumstances which may transpire, but “according to the counsel of His own will.” If then it is a fact, as the apostle declares, that God works all things after the counsel of His own will; then does the counsel of God’s own will not only determine with certainty all the parts of salvation and fix the whole chosen race, “blameless before Him in love” in possession of their inheritance, as “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,” but also decrees the result of all events according to His good pleasure?
If all persons with whom we have to do were disposed, cheerfully, to submit to the decision of Divine revelation, there would be but one question more to decide in order to determine whether all things, absolutely, or things in a limited sense, are predestinated, or worked according to the decision of the counsel of God’s own will, and that question is: How far does the government of God extend? If His government extends universally over matter and mind, then there is no movement either of matter or mind but what God “works after the counsel of His own will,” or determines the result thereof according to the “good pleasure of His will.” King Nebuchadnezzar evidently thought that God’s dominion was universal over both heaven and earth for he said of Him, “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, what doest Thou?” (Daniel 4:35). And the king was certainly correct in this, for Christ assured His disciples in Matthew 28:18, that “all power is given unto Me in heaven and earth;” that is, as Mediator. If so, God had it in His own hands to give. Again, Christ said in John 17:2, “As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou has given Him.” Hence, His power is over the wicked as well as over those to whom He “gives eternal life;” and it being all power, it must extend to both matter and mind, as there can be no disposing influence, or power, besides, and therefore, the devices both of men and devils, as well as their actions, must be under His control.
Still, however, many persons are unwilling to believe that the predestination of God has anything to do with the wicked actions of men or devils. They, in order to be consistent with themselves, ought to believe that wickedness is under the control of an opposite power, and that God exercises no control over wicked actions or thoughts, to limit their extent, or to overrule their results in accordance with His purposes; lest thereby He should be charged with being the author of sin.
I think, however, I shall be able to bring from the Scriptures of truth several facts which go to prove that the predestination of God determines the results, fixes the limits and so controls the actions and devices of both good and wicked men and devils, so as to cause them to terminate in the furtherance of His own glorious purposes.
The first proof I shall bring in support of this position is the declaration of the apostle, relative to the crucifixion of Christ as recorded in Acts 2:23, “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, YE have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” I know there are those who say that the event accomplished by the death of Christ was so glorious and of so great magnitude as to justify the making use of wicked men or predestinating their acts relative to it. But this is measuring the Mind of God by our little contracted views. We are apt to be so dazzled by splendid events as to overlook the necessary means by which the event may have been accomplished; whereas if the event had been less splendid, we should have condemned those means. But let us beware of attaching such imperfections to God. As great as was the benefit accomplished by the death of Christ, it did not lead God to overlook the perpetrators of the act. Judas received his marked punishment, and “went to his own place” (Acts 1:25), and the Jews are to this day receiving the punishment of their crime, as denounced upon them by Moses in Deuteronomy 28:49-68; and by David, of Judas, in Psalm 109: 6-20. As great as was this event, there were many circumstances connected with it that were done by “wicked hand” and yet were revealed beforehand by God, and of course, had been determined. He “was delivered up,” that is, to be slain, “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” Jesus says of His life, “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” (John 10:18). Yet, in this laying down of His life was involved the wicked acts of Judas in betraying Him to the Jews (Zechariah 11:12; Psalm 109), of the Jews in delivering Him to Pilate, of Pilate sending Him to Herod, of His being sent back, and of Pilate’s delivering Him up to be crucified though “he found no fault in Him” (See Psalm 69:19,21; Deuteronomy 21:7; Psalm 22:18). Judas’ act was evidently predestinated; for Christ said to His disciples, “One of you shall betray Me,” and when asked of John who it was, He designated Judas by this sign: “And after the sop Satan entered into him” (Psalm 109:6; John 13: 21-27). And even farther back than this, it was designated (Compare Acts 1:15-20 with Psalm 41:9, and 109:8). All of these are wicked acts of wicked men. Thus also Herod and Pilate’s combining to deliver up Christ as also the Jews and Gentiles being united in that act was predestinated (See Acts 4: 25-28 compared with Psalm 2: 1,2). The circumstance of the Jews wagging their heads at Him and mocking Him, etc., their parting His garments among them were prophesied (See Psalm 22:7, and 8:16); and that these circumstances were not foretold upon the mere ground God’s foreknowing that they would do these things. See the circumstance of their giving Christ gall mingled with vinegar as prophesied of in Psalm 69:21, and the fulfillment as recorded in John 19: 28-30; from which it is manifest that the prediction governed the event, hence that the prediction might be fulfilled, Jesus says, “I thirst.” Indeed it is altogether idle to attempt to separate the foreknowledge of God from His predestination; for how could God foreknow that certain persons would give to Christ vinegar and gall unless He had predestinated to bring those very persons into existence to preserve them alive to that time, to give them health and strength sufficient to attend on the crucifixion, to leave them to the enmity of their hearts, and to give them the occasion to act out this enmity by Christ’s saying, “I thirst,” and then suffer them to offer that insult? So of every event fore-known of God. If God then foreknows all things, all the circumstances necessary to bring those “all things” to pass must have been predestinated of God. It is said by the apostle relative to what Herod and Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, did to Christ, that they did “whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27,28).
Another proof in support of the doctrine that the wicked actions of wicked men are predestinated of God is found in Isaiah 10: 5,6 – “O Assyrian; the rod of Mine anger, and staff in their hand is Mine indignation, I will send him against an hypocritical nation and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the street.” Here God in the clearest manner possible declares what use He will make of the Assyrian. Can any say that He did not predestinate the Assyrians taking the prey, &c.? Yet, these were acts of violence and cruelty in the Assyrians as is manifest from the connection, verse 7, “Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.” And in verse 12, “Wherefore it shall come to pass that when the Lord hath performed His whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of Assyria and the glory of his high looks.” In perfect accordance with what God says of the Assyrians relative to their ambitions, murderous course, that they were the “rod of His anger.” The Psalmist in praying to be delivered from the wicked that opposed him, and from his deadly enemies, says, “Deliver my soul from the wicked which is Thy sword, from men which are Thy hand, O Lord, &c.” (Psalm 17:9-13, 14). Can the wicked thus be God’s rod, sword, and hand, and He not determine and govern their acts? And if their acts were foreknown to God, did He not predetermine or predestinate those acts? Hence it is said in Proverbs 16:4, “The Lord made all things for Himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” Some may suppose that by “the day of evil,” for which the wicked are made, we are to understand their own destruction. But such is not the faith of the Old School Baptists. They do not believe that God in bringing the wicked into existence had no higher object in view than their destruction. By the “day of evil,” we understand, the day in which God brings evil upon His people or upon others. It has pleased God to bring His Church and people “through great tribulation” (Acts 14:22); from whence are their tribulations to arise but from the persecutions of the wicked? God will give those blood to drink that have shed the blood of saints and prophets; by whom will He do it? Not by the righteous. He has made the “wicked for the day of evil;” and so has He prepared instruments for every evil day. Thus says the Psalmist, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee; and the remainder of wrath Thou shalt restrain” (Psalm 76:10). What is this but a predestination, that limits and bounds even the wrath of man, letting it go just so far as to accomplish the purpose of God, and no further?
If the above is not sufficient to establish the fact that God predestinates and controls the evil acts of men, we have additional proof from the history of Joseph and his brethren. Joseph says to his brethren, “Be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither, for God did send me before you to preserved life;” and again, “God sent me before you to preserve a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So it was not you that sent me hither, but God” (Genesis 45: 5-7,8). And in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Thus we see that while Joseph’s brethren thought evil against him and wickedly devised means to put him out of the way, in order to disappoint his prophetic dreams, God had determined that this very wickedness of theirs should be the means of bringing about the fulfillment of those dreams, and to terminate in His and their good. So also He employed the wickedness of Potipher’s wife, to bring about the ultimate exaltation of Joseph, and consequently to fulfill the purpose for which God sent him into Egypt. So full was Joseph in the belief of the predestination of God in that thing from the manifestation he had received that he said plainly to his brethren: “It was not you that sent me hither, but GOD.” And as full proof that this affair was determined on beforehand, or predestinated of God, we have not only the thing revealed to Joseph in dreams, but the dwelling of Israel in Egypt and the actual length of time they should be there was foretold to Abraham, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;” and “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Genesis 50:13,16).
These several proofs that I have brought forward are not to be considered as so many peculiar instances in which God’s government is exerted over the wicked actions of men; but rather as special illustrations of the universal government of God. They show how “surely He will cause the wrath of man to praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain” (Psalm 76:10). The soldiers must not break the legs of Jesus though so commanded, but they pierced His side “that the Scripture might be fulfilled;” that is, that the foretold purpose of God should stand (See John 19:31-37). So Joseph’s brethren could neither kill him, (as they first considered) nor leave him to perish in the pit, (where they had put him next) nor could Reuben deliver him (though he desired to do so); but the company of Ishmeelites must needs come along at that exact juncture of time and place and they sell Joseph to be carried down into Egypt, and not somewhere else! These several instances that are thus particularly recorded of God’s making the wickedness of men and devils serve His purpose, are sure pledges that in spite of the combined malice and rage of both, He will roll on His gracious purposes, accomplish all His promises, and fulfill every prophecy. He that could make the enmity of Joseph’s brethren, and desire of gain in the Ishmeelites, the wickedness of Potipher’s wife and the ingratitude of Pharaoh’s steward all combine to accomplish the exaltation of Joseph and the purpose of God had in view, will while He causes judgment to begin at the house of God, surely accomplish at the appointed time, the complete destruction of the man of sin, in all his branches.
And dear child of grace, however much men may revile you and hate you, or Satan may “desire to have you,” you have a sure pledge both from the declaration of God, and from what you have seen of His overruling Providence that “all things work together for your good,” as they did for the good of Joseph when taken from his father, and for the good of David when “hunted as a partridge upon the mountain” (I Samuel 26:20b). For as it is said in Proverbs 16:9, “Man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.”
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.