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Divine nature, which is free from all kinds of mutability, no one in his senses will deny: especially since it seems not only consonant to the dictates of right reason, and agreeable to the decrees of the sounder philosophy, which teaches that the same by the same always does the same, that is, that the same thing being done in the same way always produces the same effect; but also may be confirmed and established by not a few, and those most beautiful passages of the holy Scriptures, as from that testimony of the prophet Malachi (iii. 6) For I am the Lord, I change not; according to Junius, 1, Jehovah, change not. Also of Numbers xxiii. 19, God is not a man, that he should lie; nor the son of man, that he should change. A passage plainly like to this is brought from the epistle of the Apostle St. James (i. 17), Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. There is so far from being any change in God, that in him there is not even the least shadow of turning. But if it could be affirmed of God, that at one time he is placable, at another time pacified; at one time only reconcileable, at another reconciled, it might truly be doubted, and not improperly, whether God is always like himself, and always is disposed evidently in the same manner. For placability seems to intiinate only some previous disposition and inclination to future pacification and reconcileability, a facility and propensity in God to reconciliation, which is brought into action towards believing men from his power.
REPLY. That God is reconcileable to any elect person before his faith and repentance, and is actually reconciled to him after his faith and repentance, does not more argue a change in God from act to power, than this man's not being justified until he believes and his being actually justified after he believes, argues a changeableness in God; or than his sins being remissible, and after his repentance being actually forgiven, proves a temporary change of the Divine essence or will from power to act. For no man could truly say, because Paul was justified when he believed in Christ, but was not justified while he was a blas
phemer against Christ, that therefore a change took place in God; therefore, neither because at one time he was reconcileable to God, at another time actually reconciled : since to be justified and to be reconciled to God are altogether the same, or at least are inseparably connected. But that we may remove this scruple more clearly, we must observe, that although nothing absolute can anew be added to God without his changing, yet infinite relative denominations may anew, and according to difference of time, at one time he predicated of God, and at another time not be predicated of him; the Divine essence and will all the while remaining without any shadow of turning. For those things of a mutable and temporary kind which are affirmed of God, are not so affirmed on account of any change taking place in God, but according to the change which happens to the creature. For instance, It may be truly said, That Adam was creatable by God, when it could not be truly said, That Adam was created by God. In like manner, Adam is justifiable before God, or Adam is reconcileable to God, might be said before his actual repentance, when it could not be said, Adam is actually justified and reconciled to God. Notwithstanding we do not apply to God acts and powers, or any kind of mutability ; because these things are spoken of God in a different way, not of any change which takes place in himself, but of the change of a creature, which is from him. For as Albertus learnedly remarks, (Tract. 4. qu. 21, de Immutab. Dei.) In those things which are done essentially, he acts in one way, and it is not said, that he acts now and not before, except so far as he has acted now and not before. Nor do we think that there is any new or temporary act in the will of God, when we state that he is actually reconciled to any man on believing, to whom before believing he was only reconcileable; because God does not then begin to will that this believer should be actually reconciled to him, who before he had faith was reconcileable, but from all eternity willed that at that moment he should both believe and be actually reconciled. In the Willer, then, there are not successive changes, but in the thing willed, and those changes are according to one eternal and most unchangeable will of God.
Objection 2. God is actually reconciled to him whom he actually loves, But be loves all the elect from eternity; Therefore he is actually reconciled to them from eternity : Therefore they are also actually reconciled and justified from eternity.
Reply. A distinction is to be made with Aquinas, that God is said to love in a twofold manner; according to his purpose of communicating his goodness, and according to the act of communication. (In 3, Sent. dist. 19.) The love according to his eternal purpose, which Divines call The love of eternal benevolence, does not make him who is loved in this manner to be esteemed by God as actually justified or actually reconciled; but that he should be reckoned among those who are infallibly to be justified and reconciled. There is, therefore, a different kind of words which denote acts inherent in God and acts which flow from God to us. The former, such as love, election, predestination, are eternal and internal acts of God himself, and from them men are called beloved, elect, predestinated, on account of the secret good pleasure of the Divine will conceived and hidden in himself. The latter, such as calling, justification, reconciliation, glorification, are external acts, which terminate in the creature in whom they exist, and are as it were received by him; and from these no one is properly said to be called, justified, reconciled, glorified, solely from the secret and eternal purpose of the Divine will, but from the covenanted performance of the same purpose, and from the effect being produced in men. We confess, therefore, the eternal will in God of justifying and reconciling to himself all the elect; but we deny that they ought to be said to have been justified or reconciled from eternity : In the same manner as we acknowledge that there was in God an eternal will of creating the world, and yet we deny that the world was created from eternity. What Zanchius says of the actual remission of sins, we say of the actual reconciliation of the elect, (Thomson. Diatr. p. 96) It is in
deed most certain in the Divine predestination from eternity : but it is not actually given on the part of God, nor actually received on the part of man, until he repents and believes.
OBJECTION 3. The efficacy itself of the means in some men rather than in others, arises not from the difference of free-will, but from hence, that God was reconciled to all the elect in Christ before the foundation of the world, but to others he was not reconciled : Therefore, we ought not to deny that all the elect are actually reconciled to God before their conversion and faith, since that dispensation derives its origin and the efficacy of the means to produce in them faith and repentance, from their eternal and antecedent reconciliation.
Reply. We willingly grant that the infallible efficacy of the means ordained to salvation does not depend upon the human will, but upon the eternal and special love of God towards his own elect. But we assert that this love does not regard those who are as yet unbelieving and unconverted, otherwise than as a gratuitous purpose of providing for them, that hereafter they should be converted, and justified, and reconciled to God, and infallibly brought to eternal life. It is, therefore, equally false to infer eternal justification, and the eternal reconciliation of the elect, and their eternal glorification from this eternal love ; since from thence ought to be collected only their certain and infallible justification, reconciliation, and glorification ; which certainty or infallible efficacy of means tending to salvation, arises from the aforesaid love of God, and not by virtue of free-will. If any one pleases to call this love, on which depends the certainty of conversion and reconciliation to be produced in time, actual reconciliation, since God himself calleth those things which be not as though they were, (Rom. iv. 17) I find no fault, provided he allows at the same time that he calls the purpose of the thing to be done by the name of the thing done; because, as Augustine says, It was fixed in the predestination of God that it should take place in his own time. (De Civit. Dei, lib. 12, cap. 16.) VOL. II.
OBJECTION 4. Some passages may be produced from the Scriptures which seem to assert, as to the elect, actual and eternal reconciliation with God before their faith and repentance. Ephes. i. 4, God is said to have chosen them before the foundation of the world, and ver. 6, to have made them accepted in his beloved Son. They were therefore elected, and actually justified and reconciled, from eternity; for although their reconciliation was made on the part of God when they believed the Gospel, yet that rather then began to be manifested and revealed which had been done from the foundation of the world.
Reply. It is one thing to choose a person to life before the formation of the world, another thing actually to justify and reconcile him to himself before the formation of the world. Election bespeaks in God an eternal will of justifying, reconciling, and saving the person elected; but of justifying, reconciling, and saving him in his own time by faith. Therefore, the actual justification, reconciliation, and sanctification of the person elected, flows from eternal election, but is not co-eternal with it. It is easy to collect this from the whole discourse of St. Paul in the first chapter to the Ephesians. He affirms (ver. 4) that we were chosen before the foundation of the world, but he does not therefore say, that we were sanctified before the foundation of the world, but, that we were chosen that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Nor does he teach us, that by virtue of eternal election we were justified or reconciled from eternity, but in the dispensation of the fulness of times, (ver. 9, 10, &c.) after having first trusted in Chrisi, and believed the Gospel which was made known to us. Nor are the words, He hath made us accepted in his beloved Son, opposed to this idea; for the Greek word EXQPITWdEv seems to refer rather to the present state of the elect now regenerate, than to the eternal purpose of God. From whence Beza translates it, Freely he made them acceptable to himself, namely, he freely justified them and admitted them on believing into a state of actual reconciliation. But if any one interprets that acceptance as relating to the eternal love of God, by which he embraces the elect before