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THE word “predestinate” signifies, according to the Imperial Dictionary, “to predetermine or foreordain,” “to appoint or ordain beforehand by an unchangeable purpose.” The noun, according to the same authority, denotes the act of decreeing or foreordaining events; the act of God, by which He hath from eternity unchangeably appointed or determined whatsoever comes to pass. It is used particularly in theology to denote the preordination of men to everlasting happiness or misery. The term is used four times in the New Testament, and comes from the Greek word proorizo, which signifies, “to determine beforehand,” “to predetermine” (Liddell and Scott). Robinson gives as its meaning, “to set bounds before,” “to predetermine,” “spoken of the eternal decrees and counsels of God.” According to the lexicographers, the meaning as far as the word is concerned is plain enough. It is quite clear from the Scriptures that God predestinates or foreordains. This is admitted on all sides. But here the questions arise What is the nature of God’s predestination? and does it embrace all events? The Confession of Faith gives the following deliverance on the subject “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably foreordain whatsoever comes to pass.” The Larger and Shorter Catechisms express the same idea. This was the opinion of the Westminster divines, and is the professed faith of Presbyterians in general in Scotland. One of the most eminent theologians of the school of Calvin Dr. C. Hodge vindicates this deliverance of the Assembly. He says, “The reason; therefore, why any event occurs, or that passes from the category of the possible into that of the actual, is that God has so decreed”. He says again, “The Scriptures teach that sinful acts, as well as those which are holy, are foreordained”. And, again, “The acts of the wicked in persecuting the early Church were ordained of God, as the means of the wider and more speedy proclamation of the Gospel”. He says, moreover, “Whatever happens God intended should happen, that to Him nothing can be unexpected, and nothing contrary to His purposes”. The same writer, in speaking of the usage of the term “predestination,” remarks, “It may be used first in the general sense of foreordination. In this sense it has equal reference to all events, for God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass:” It will thus be seen that the Confession, and the Catechisms, and Hodge, as one of the most eminent expounders of these formularies, uphold the doctrine, that everything which happens was foreordained by God to happen. The doctrine as thus stated is clearly the foundation of the whole system of Calvinism. If this is shaken, the entire structure topples to its base. Being so important, its advocates have sought to strengthen it by appealing to the Divine attributes and to passages from holy writ. Let us then examine their arguments derived from the attributes, and the texts they have adduced.


THE wisdom of God is held as proving universal foreordination. Being infinitely wise such is the argument He will act upon a plan, as in creation, and as wise people do in regard to affairs in general. And this is perfectly correct. The question, however, is not whether God has a plan, but what that plan comprehends? Sin being a factor in the programme of life, the Divine wisdom or plan will be exercised in reference to it. There are two ways in which this may be done. It may be foreordained as part of the plan, as is seen in the above extracts. But another way is this: The Divine wisdom may be exercised in regard to sin, not as ordaining it, but as overruling it, and in turning it to account. That the evil deeds of men bring into view features of the Divine character which would not otherwise have been seen, is no doubt true, but this does not save the wrong-doers from the severest blame. But what is wisdom? It is the choosing of the best means to effect a good end. The ultimate end of creation is the glory of God, as He is the highest and the best of beings. There can be nothing higher than himself He desires the confidence and the love of men.

“Love is the root of creation, God’s essence.
Worlds without number
Lie in His bosom like children; He made them for this purpose only,
Only to love and be loved again.” TEGNER.

Men are asked to give Him their trust and love. It is right that they should do so, for He is infinitely worthy of them. But what are sinful actions? Essentially they are foolish, and issue in misery. And if God foreordained them, how can we esteem Him as wise and good? And if not to our intelligence wise and good, how can we give Him our confidence and love? Trust and love are based upon the perception of the true and the good. If I find a man who is destitute of these qualities of character, to love him with approval is, as I am constituted, an impossibility. But to ordain the “acts of the wicked,” as Hodge says that God did, in order to spread Christianity, was neither just nor good. It was doing evil that good might come. Instead of being wise it was, if it were so, an exhibition of unwisdom as regards the very end of creation, as it was fitted to drive men away from, instead of bringing them to, God. And yet wisdom, Divine wisdom, was exercised in reference to those very persecutions. It was true, as Tertullian said, that the “blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.” By means of the sufferings of the early Christians men’s minds were directed to that religion which supported its adherents in the midst of their accumulated sorrows. Their patience, their heroic bravery in facing grim death, threw a halo of moral glory around the martyrs which touched the hearts of true men who lived in the midst of general degeneration. The Christians were driven from their homes, but they carried the truth with them.

“The seeds of truth are bearded, and adhere we know not when, we know not where.” In the world of nature there are seeds with hooks, and others have wings to be wafted by the breeze to their proper habitat. And if Divine wisdom watches over the seeds of the vegetable kingdom, does it not stand to reason that it will do so in regard to truth? God overrules the evil, and makes it the occasion of good. Joseph was immured in jail, but from it he ascended to a seat next the throne. Christ was crucified, but from the blessed cross came streams of blessing. Paul was incarcerated, but from his prison came “thoughts that breathe and words that burn,” that have kept alive the flame of piety for more than a thousand years. The people of God still suffer, but, like the asbestos cloth when thrown into the fire, they, by these sufferings, become purified and made meet for the coming glory. In thus overruling evil, God, we say, shows the highest wisdom and love fitted to secure our trust and affection; but to ordain evil would be an illustration of supreme folly, fitted to lower him in the estimation of angels and of men.


THE POWER OF GOD is held as supporting universal foreordination. As in the case of wisdom, God’s power must be recognised as infinite. It is true, indeed, that creation does not prove this, since it is limited, and no conclusion can be more extensive than the premises. But looking at the nature and multitude of His works, we cannot resist the conviction that there is nothing (which does not imply a contradiction) that is “too hard for the Lord.” He is infinite in power. But the power of God is guided by His wisdom and His love, just as is the power of a good and a wise king. In governing His creation, it stands to reason that He will govern each creature according to its nature brute matter by physical law, animals by instinct, and man in harmony with his rational constitution. God does not reason with a stone, or plead with a brute; but He does so with man. “Come, now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord”. It would be absurd to punish a block of granite because it was not marble, or to condemn the horse because he could not understand a problem in Euclid. To do so would be to treat the creatures by a law not germane to their nature. It is, indeed, a radical vice in Calvinistic reasoning that, because God is omnipotent, He can as easily therefore create virtue in a free being as He can waft the down of the thistle on the breeze. It is quite true that “whatsoever the Lord pleased that did He in heaven and in earth”. But the question is What is His pleasure in regard to the production of virtue? Is it a forced or free thing? Every good man will cheerfully ascribe to God the praise of his (the good, man’s) virtue. God gave him his constitution; God’s Spirit brought to bear on him the motives of a holy life. Had there been no Spirit, there would have been no holy life. Yet there is a sense in which the personal righteousness of the good man is his own righteousness. It consists in right acts, in right acts as regards God and as regards man. God told him what to do, and when he did it the acts became his acts, and were not the acts of God, nor of any other. When he does the thing that was right, he is commended when he does not, he is blamed. Conversing one day with a Calvinistic clergyman, he intimated that a certain person had declared that the only thing stronger than God in the world was the human will. We remarked that we did not approve of such a mode of expression. And rightly so. It implies a confusion of ideas, confounding physical power which is almighty, and moral power, which is suasory and resistible. Stephen charged the Jews with resisting the Spirit. “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye”. Because they resisted him, would it be right to say that they were physically stronger than God? We replied to the clergyman that we supposed that the person who used the expression meant that God did not get people to do what He wished. The reply was that we were equally wrong. We then asked, “Do you think that God wishes people to keep His law?” He refused to answer the question. But why would he not? Aye, why? He was in this dilemma: If he said that He did wish them to keep His law, he would have been met by the question, Why then does He not make them do so? Everywhere the law is broken. If he said that God did not wish them to keep His law, would not this have been to put the Holy One on a level with the great enemy of man? This brings out the idea that whilst God is possessed of infinite power, in the exercise of that power He has respect to the constitution of man in the production of virtue. He does not override the constitution, and treat it as if it were a nullity. To do so would be absurd, for forced virtue is not virtue at all. God is all-powerful, but He is also ALL-WISE.


THE FOREKNOWLEDGE of God is held as evidence that He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. He foreknows, so it is argued, but He does so because He has foreordained. Calvin says, “Since He (God) doth not otherwise foresee the things that shall come to pass than because He hath decreed that they should so come to pass, it is vain to move a controversy about foreknowledge, when it is certain that all things do happen rather by ordinance and commandment” Toplady says “that God foreknows futurities, because by His predestination He hath rendered their futurition certain and inevitable. Bonar says, God foreknows everything that takes place, because he Has fixed it. The same doctrine is held by the younger Hodge that foreknowledge involves foreordination.

There have been some who have denied the infinitude of God’s knowledge, notably Dr. Adam Clarke. He held that God, although possessed of omnipotence, yet as He chooses not to do all things, so also although He possesses the power of knowing all things, yet He chooses to be ignorant of some things. In refuting this notion, Dr. Hodge remarks, “But this is to suppose that God wills not to be God, that the Infinite wills to be finite. Knowledge in God is not founded on His will, except so far as the knowledge of vision is concerned i.e., His knowledge of His own purposes, or what He has decreed shall come to pass. If not founded on His will it cannot be limited by it. Infinite knowledge must know all things actual or possible”. Although the motive underlying Clarke’s argument is good, yet it is not wise to sacrifice the Divine intelligence to the Divine goodness. God is the infinitely perfect one, but to suppose that He is ignorant of what will happen tomorrow is to limit His perfections, and make Him a dependent being. But neither can we accept the Calvinistic doctrine, that God foreknows because He has foreordained. This, properly speaking, is not foreknowledge, but after knowledge, since it comes after the decree. It is, moreover, simply assertion. It is not a self-evident proposition, and is neither backed by reason nor Scripture. The great difficulty, however, with our Calvinistic friends is regarding certainty. If God is certain that an event will happen, then, so it is argued, it must happen. If we deny that there is an absolute necessity for the event as an event happening, then it is replied that God in that case was not certain. But this is sophistical reasoning slipshod philosophy. God was certain that the event would happen, but He was also certain that it need not have happened. The Divine knowledge is simply a state of the Divine intelligence, and never causes any thing. It comprehends all that is past, all that now is, and all that will ever be. But it comprises more than this, and herein lies the key of the mystery. It takes in the possible, or that which is never realised in the actual. Human knowledge does this and how much more the Divine! God knows that the thief will steal; He is certain that he will do it, but He is also certain that he need not do it. His being certain that the theft will take place does not necessitate the theft. It (the certainty) exercises no controlling agency upon the wrong-doer. Dr. W. Cooke remarks, “What is involved in necessity? It is a resistless impulse exerted for a given end. What is freedom? It involves a self-determining power to will and to act. What is prescience? It is simply knowledge of an event before it happens. Such being, we conceive, a correct representation of the terms, we have to inquire, where lies the alleged incompatibility of prescience and freedom? Between freedom and necessity there is, we admit, an absolute and irreconcilable discrepancy and opposition; for the assertion of the one is a direct negation of the other. What is free cannot be necessitated, and what is necessitated cannot be free. But prescience involves no such opposition. For simple knowledge is not coercive; it is not impulse; it is not influence of any kind: it is merely acquaintance with truth, or the mind’s seeing a thing as it is. If I know the truth of a proposition of Euclid, it is not my knowledge that makes it true. It was a truth, and would have remained a truth, whether I knew it or not, yea, even, if I had never existed. So of any fact in history; so of any occurrence around me. My mere knowledge of the fact did not make it fact, or exercise any influence in causing it to be fact. So in reference to the Divine prescience; it is mere knowledge, and is as distinct from force, constraint, or influence as any two things can be distinct one from the other. It is force which constitutes necessity, and the total absence of force which constitutes liberty; and as all force is absent from mere knowledge, it is evident that neither foreknowledge nor afterknowledge involves any necessity, or interferes in the least degree with human freedom. Man could not be more free than he is, if God were totally ignorant of all his volitions and actions. Calvinists sometimes entrench themselves behind God’s foreknowledge as behind a rampart of granite, but it gives in reality no support to their system. That God knows the possible, and the contingent, was illustrated in the case of David at Keilah. He had taken up his temporary residence in this town. Saul was out on the war path, and David wished to know if he would visit Keilah, and if so, whether the men of Keilah would deliver him up. The answer was that Saul would come, and the people would deliver him up. Receiving this answer from God, he left. This shows that Gods knowledge does not necessitate an event.

He knows what might be, but which never will be. He saw how men would act in regard to David, but His knowledge did not make them do it. And He knows how men will act regarding the rejection of salvation, but this does not necessitate them to ruin their souls. He is certain that they might have been saved. There was a perfect remedy for their need; they had power to take it, and refused. The lost might have been saved; or, in other words, every man in hell might have been in heaven.

The late Lord Kinloch in his Circle of Christian Doctrine, has several judicious remarks on this subject. In his chapter on predestination he says: “The choice of free agents cannot have been predestinated in any proper sense of the word, that is, cannot have been fixed beforehand so as to fall out in one way, and no other, irrespectively of his own will. To say that it has been so, involves a contradiction in terms, for it is to say that a man chooses and does not choose at one and the same moment. The choice may be foreseen, must indeed in every case be foreseen by God, otherwise the government of the universe could not be conducted. But to foresee and foreordain are essentially different things”. He says again, “What God appoints; He, to whom the whole of futurity lies open at a glance, necessarily appoints beforehand. Hence arises the axiomatic distinction which I find the key to the subject. All that God is himself to do He not merely foresees but foreordains. All that He does not do himself, but leaves man to do by the very act of creating him a free agent, the choice, namely, between one course and another, is foreseen but not predestined”. The ideas of Lord Kinloch are sound, and we deem them irrefutable.


THE Scriptures are supposed to teach the doctrine that God hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. It were impossible within the compass of this short treatise to consider at large all the passages that have been imported into this controversy. We shall, however, consider a few which seem to favour the dogma.

THE SONS OF ELI. In 1 Sam. i, it is written regarding the sons of Eli, “Notwithstanding they hearkened not to the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.” The whole stress of the argument from this passage lies in the word “because.” They were not able to hearken to their father, because God had determined to slay them. There are two objections to this view, the first critical and the second moral. The Hebrew particle translated because is ki. It is again and again translated by the word “that,” and there is no reason in the world why it should not have been so translated in this passage. By substituting “that” for “because,” there is no support to predestination. It simply denotes, in such case, that they would not believe their father, which doubtless was the case from their depraved habits. The moral objection is that God had made their return to good impossible, whilst He declares that He is not willing that any should perish. On these grounds we reject the interpretation.

MICAIAH AND AHAB. The parabolic representation of Micaiah is held as proving not the bare permission of an event, but the actual deception of Ahab. The matter is recorded in 1 Kings xxii. Jehoshaphat had paid a visit to his neighbour, the King of Israel, Ahab. The latter proposed that the former should accompany him in an attack upon Ramoth-gilead. Ahab’s prophets had promised success to the enterprise. Jehoshaphat wished to inquire of the prophet of the Lord. Ahab told them that there was one, Micaiah by name, but that he hated him as he always prophesied evil of him. He was sent for, however, and when he came he was asked if they should go up against Ramoth-gilead. He answered, “Go and prosper; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.” This was evidently spoken in such a tone and manner, that Ahab said, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the Lord?” The prophet then uttered a few words about the dispersion of the army, which were very unpalatable to the king. He then said, “I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right hand and on His left.” A question was asked who would persuade Ahab to go up, and at last one answered that he would go and be a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets, and that he would persuade him. The narrative proceeds, and it is added, “And He (the Lord) said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets” (1 Kings xxii.) It is held that this narrative proves that God intended to deceive Ahab. I could understand an infidel trying to make capital out of such a passage; but for a professed Christian to go to it to prove that God intended to deceive Ahab, appears at first sight to transcend belief. To do so is to sap the foundations of religion. How much reason has the Bible to say, “Save me from my friends!” No doubt, the interpretation of the passage given lies on the same lines with the general system of the true Calvinists, and is quite of a piece with their declaration that God foreordained the Jews to crucify Christ. But, let us look at the passage. If God had intended to deceive Ahab, as saith Calvin, the course taken was the very opposite of what was fitted to secure the end. Micaiah was His recognised prophet; He spoke through him, and warned Ahab against going up. The result, if he did, was predicted; was this deception? The method adopted by the prophet was highly dramatic, and fitted to impress both the kings with the folly of the enterprise. It was a LYING spirit that was to inspire the emissaries of Baal, and advise the attack. And if God’s prophet intimated disaster which actually occurred where was there deception? When it is said that God told the lying spirit to go and deceive Ahab, this is the mere drapery of the parable, and must be held as denoting sufferance, and not authoritative command. When the literal meaning of a passage leads to absurdity, we are required, to seek for its spirit or other explanation. Christ said, “Give to him that asketh of thee; and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.” To carry this out literally would be impossible; but the spirit of the passage is beautiful, teaching, as it does, the heavenly charity characteristic of the good man. Christ demanded of those who would become His disciples, that they should hate their brethren; but no honest interpreter would take this literally. The passage evidently means that we owe a higher allegiance and love to Christ than any earthly relationship. The parable of Micaiah, taken literally, makes God to take part in the work of Satan, whilst He also works against himself, in inspiring His own prophet. Such a method must be rejected. The great truth brought out in the parable is this viz., that a man rejecting heavenly counsel becomes a prey to evil spirits, which drive him to ruin.

LIMITATION OF DAYS. Job xi is appealed to. The words are, “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” We do not see any bearing the passage has upon the subject under discussion universal predestination, It brings before us the Divine Sovereignty, by virtue of which God has determined the laws of the constitution of man, and that there is a period in his life beyond which he cannot go. But he may shorten this period, for “bloody and deceitful men do not live half their days,” and many people commit suicide, and break one of God’s commands. Does God determine the number of suicides? Yes, if Calvinism is true; for, according to it, He hath “foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

RESTRAINT ON WRATH. Psalm lxxv is appealed to. The words are, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” Dying men catch at straws, and, to appeal to this passage is as if one were catching at a straw. It brings before us the great truth that God overrules evil, and brings good out of it. The methods by which God does this are not stated, but would be suited to the peculiar circumstances of each case. We see illustrations of the principle in the destruction of the Egyptians, the deliverance of the three Hebrews from the furnace, and the general history of the Church. But to bring good out of evil and cut down persecutors, are very different things from “foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass.”

THE STANDING OF THE COUNSEL. Isaiah xlv is appealed to. It is as follows: “My counsel shall stand, and I shall do all my pleasure.” Now there is no doubt that God’s counsel shall stand, nor that He will do all His pleasure; but the questions are, what is His counsel, and what is His pleasure? To bring the passage forward on behalf of universal foreordination is to assume the point in debate, and it is therefore inadmissible. God has a definite purpose regarding individuals and nations. It is to make the best out of every man that He can in harmony with the freedom of the will; and it is the same regarding nations. The principle of His dealing is stated in these words, “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured by the sword” (Isa. . This is the Divine counsel and pleasure regarding man still.

EVIL IN THE CITY. Amos ii is appealed to. It is as follows: “Shall the trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” The word rendered “evil” (ra) occurs more than 300 times in the Old Testament, and has various shades of signification. It is translated as meaning “sorrow” (Gen. xli, “wretchedness” (Neh. x, “distress” (Neh. i. It is applied to “beasts,” “diseases,” “adversity,” “troubles.” It stood as the opposite of “good,” and sometimes meant “sin.” To determine its meaning in any particular instance, we must consider the context. In the beginning of the third chapter of Amos, punishment is threatened against the people: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities.” When trouble and distress come upon a people, they may be said to come from God as the result of their disobedience. He vexes them in His “sore displeasure.”

There are various species of evil as metaphysical evil, or the evil of limitation; physical evil, or departure from type; moral evil, or sin; and penal evil, or the punishment of sin. Looking at the context, it is perfectly clear that the prophet has reference to the last-mentioned. The people had broken God’s laws, and were punished by God for their misdeeds. It might take the form of pestilence or famine, but whatever was its shape, it was a messenger from God. He sent it because the people had done wrong. This interpretation is in harmony with the usage of the word, and satisfies the moral conscience.

The passage in Isaiah xl, “I make peace and create evil,” has obviously the same meaning, as it stands in contrast to “peace.” “Peace” is representative of blessings; “evil” is the synonym of distress and sorrow. The prophet is supposed to allude to the Persian religion, according to which there were two great beings in the universe viz., Oromasden, from whom comes good, and Ahriman, from whom comes evil. It is very doubtful whether the prophet had any such reference. Barnes says, “The main object here is, the prosperity which should attend the arms of Cyrus, the consequent reverses and calamities of the nations whom he would subdue, and the proof thence furnished that Jehovah was the true God; and the passage should be limited in the interpretation to this design. The statement, then, is that all this was under His direction.”

PREDESTINATION AND THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST. Acts i is appealed to. It reads thus: “Having been delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” But how can these words prove universal foreordination? It might be said, that if God foreordained the bad deeds of the crucifiers, the principle is established. True; but did He foreordain them? The words simply declare that God had given up Christ, and that in so doing He had acted in harmony with a settled plan, and that the Jews had wickedly taken the Saviour and slain Him. From the throne of His excellency God saw the character of the people that lived in A.D. 33; that they stood upon religious punctilio, and “as having the form of godliness whilst destitute of its power,” that they would do as the Scriptures foretold; and yet He determined to send His son into their very midst, and when He came, they took Him and crucified Him. In all that they did they acted freely. Had it not been so, had they been acting under an iron necessity, then the apostle could not have brought against them the charge of having done what they did with “wicked hands.” That charge, that homethrust, explodes the Calvinistic argument, as far as the verse is concerned.

Another passage is Acts i, 28. It reads thus: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel had determined before to be done.” But the question is simply this, what was it that God had determined to be done? We cannot admit that God had fixed unalterably the doings of Herod, Pilate, and their unholy allies, for the simple reason given in explaining Acts i viz., that if such were the case, then there is no foothold upon which to condemn those high-handed sinners. They were verily guilty, but we cannot find a shadow of fault with them if they were only doing what they were foreordained to do. What, then, had God determined to be done? He had determined to send His son into the world to make an atonement for sin. But this might have been done without the betrayal, the trial, and the crucifixion. I may determine to go to a distant city without determining the mode of travel. One way may be pleasant, another disagreeable in the highest degree, and yet the latter may be chosen because of certain collateral issues.

So Christ’s death might have been determined on, but not the mode. Atonement might have been made in another way than on the cross. It was not the crucifixion that made the atonement, but its value lay in the death of the Son of God. Had He expired during the sore agony in the garden, would not His death have been meritorious? The adjuncts, the trial and crucifixion, were not therefore necessary to give His death atoning power. But God saw what the Jews would do, that they would, in the exercise of their free agency, and without any decree, put Christ to death; and yet He sent Him at the time He did. All the glory of grace, therefore, redounds to the praise of the Lord, and the ignominy rests upon the Jews and the Gentiles. As a proof of universal foreordination, the passage proves nothing.

GOD WORKETH ALL THINGS. Ephes. is adduced as upholding the predestination of all events. It reads thus: “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.” The stress of the passage as a proof rests on the words, “who worketh all things.” But according to the canon of interpretation already stated viz., that when the literal interpretation of a passage leads to absurdity, it cannot be the true one. John in his first epistle (i says, “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” To take these words literally would be to make those Christians to whom they were addressed to possess all knowledge, and thus make them equal to God, which is absurd. The words must be limited to the subject matter in which they are found. The apostle is speaking of the anointing of Christians, the imparting unto them of the Holy Ghost, and the phrase “all things” denotes things necessary to salvation, It is said (Acts i that the first Christians “had all things common.” But to take the words literally would be to outrage propriety. In Philippians i, it is written: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” Here, again, the words must be limited in their application, otherwise the Christians were commanded to do all kinds of evil if commanded, without a murmur or dispute. This could not be, hence the words must be restricted to the duties devolving on them. So there must, of necessity, be restriction upon the passage in Ephesians quoted in the Confession of Faith. It must be restricted, otherwise it will follow that God is the only worker in the universe. And what is done in the world? God’s laws are broken; but if He is the only worker, then He is the only breaker of His own laws! This is absurd, hence the literality must be given up. The obvious meaning is, that in the redemptive scheme God has wrought it all out according to the wise plan He had formed respecting it, just as He works out all His plans in nature and in providence.

We know of no stronger passages than those mentioned, although others have been quoted. It is the easiest thing in the world to quote verses from the Bible as supporting a dogma; it is quite a different thing to show that they prove it.


THERE are very grave objection’s to this doctrine, that God hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. They are so formidable, indeed, that in view of them the doctrine to our finding must be rejected. On another occasion we stated several of these, which, with a few modifications, were the following:

(1.) In the first place, we object to the doctrine of universal foreordination because, if adhered to, it makes science and philosophy impossible. These are all based upon the trustworthiness of consciousness, and if this is false we have no foundation to build upon. When we interrogate consciousness it testifies to our freedom. But if every volition is fixed, as it is held it is, by a power ab extra from the mind exercising the volition, then consciousness is mendacious; it lies when it testifies to our freedom, and, therefore, cannot be trusted; thus, science, philosophy, and religion become impossible. The old Latin saw falsum in uno, falsum in omnibus, which, when freely translated, is one who gives false evidence on one point may be doubted on all points. And where does this lead to? It leads to Pyrrhonism in science and philosophy, and indifferentism in religion. The doctrine is thus a foundation for universal scepticism.

(2.) In the second place, we object to universal foreordination because it leads to Pantheism, a phase of Atheism. Pantheism as Pantheism may be viewed statically or dynamically. The static Pantheist assumes that all properties are properties of one substance. This was the feature of the vedanta system of Hindu philosophy, which holds that nothing exists but Brahma. “He is the clay, we are the forms; the eternal spider which spins from its own bosom the tissue of creation; an immense fire, from which creatures ray forth in myriads of sparks; the ocean of being, on whose surface appear and vanish the waves of existence; the foam of the waves, and the globules of the foam, which appear to be distinct from each other, but which are the ocean itself.” Now, if our consciousness is only a dream, which this doctrine of foreordination makes it out to be, what are we all, in such a case, but mere simulacra, ghosts, shadows? This, and nothing more. We thus reach the fundamental principle of the Hindu philosophy, which is this, Brahma only exists, all else is an illusion.

The dynamic Pantheist holds that all events are produced by one and the same cause. This is precisely the doctrine of the out-and-out Calvinist. God is said to be the “fixer” of whatsoever comes to pass; and Pantheism says every movement of nature is necessary, because necessarily caused by the Divine volition. He is the soul of the world, or as Shelley says

“Spirit of nature, all-sufficing power,
Necessity, thou mother of the world.”

The only platform from which Pantheism can be assailed is our consciousness of self, of our own personality and freedom, from which we rise to the personality and the freedom of God. The tenet of universal foreordination takes from us this “coigne of vantage,” and lands us in dynamic Pantheism.

(3.) In the third place, we object to universal foreordination because it destroys all moral distinctions. Praise has been bestowed upon Spinoza because he showed that moral distinctions are annihilated by the scheme of necessity. But, indeed, it requires very little perception to see that this must be the case. If God has, as is said, determined every event, then it is impossible for the creature to act otherwise than he does. A vast moral difference stands between the murderer and the saint. But if the doctrine of universal foreordination is true, we can neither blame the one nor praise the other. Each does as it was determined he should do, and could not but do, and to blame or praise anyone is impossible.

“Man fondly dreams that he is free in act;
Naught is he but the powerless worthless plaything
Of the blind force that in his will itself
Works out for him a dread necessity.”

There is therefore, according to this system, no right, no wrong, no sin, no holiness; for wherever necessity reigns, virtue and vice terminate. “Evil and good,” says the Pantheist, “are God’s right hand and left evil is good in the making.” Everything being fixed by God we can no more keep from doing what we do, than we can keep the earth from rolling round the sun. Since this monstrosity in morals results from the doctrine, it is evidently false.

(4.) We object, in the fourth place, to universal foreordination, because it makes God the author of sin, the caveat of the Confession notwithstanding. It is said that God’s foreknowledge involved foreordination. If so, the matter may be easily settled thus: Does God foresee that men will sin? Of course He does. But if foreknowledge involves foreordination, then by the laws of logic He has foreordained sin. Syllogistically thus: God only foreknows what He has fixed; but He foreknows sin, ergo, He fixed sin. We cannot resist this conclusion if we hold the premises. The Confession says He has foreordained everything, yet is He not the author of sin. But is it not clear as day that the author of a decree is the author of the thing decreed? David was held responsible for his decree regarding Uriah, and justly so. Had he been as clever as the authors of the Confession he could have parried that homethrust of Nathan, “Thou art the man.” If everything that comes to pass was foreordained; David might have said, “I beg pardon, Nathan; it is true that I made the decree to have Uriah killed, but I did not kill him. Is it not the case that the author of a decree is not responsible for the sin of the decree?” Would Nathan have understood this logic? We think not. But if the Confession had been then in existence (if the anachronism may be pardoned), he might have appealed to it against Nathan; and we never should have had that awful threnody the fifty-first Psalm. There is, then, no escape from the conclusion, that if everything that comes to pass has been foreordained, so also must it be the case with sin, for it also comes to pass. I open the page of history, and find it bloated with tears and blood. It is full of robberies, massacres, and murders. As specimens, look at the Murder of John Brown by Claverhouse; the massacre of St. Bartholomew; the sack of Magdeburg, when the Croats amused themselves with throwing children into the flames, and Pappenheim’s Walloons with stabbing infants at their mothers’ breasts. Who ordained these and a thousand such horrid deeds? The Confession says that God ordained them, for He foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. Tilly, the queen-mother, the infamous Catherine de Medici, Charles IX., the bloody “Clavers” were mere puppets. The Confession goes past all these, and says that God fixed them to take place. This is nothing else, in effect, than to place an almighty devil on the throne of the universe. This is strong language, but it is time, and more than time, that sickly dilettanteism should be left behind, and this gross libel on the Creator should be utterly rejected. He foreordains all His own deeds, but not the deeds of men.

(5.) We object to the doctrine of universal foreordination, in the fifth place, because it makes the day of judgment a farce. The books are opened, and men are about to receive acquittal or condemnation. This is perfectly right if men were free when on earth, but not so if all their deeds were foreordained by God. One of the most interesting sights in Strasbourg is the clock of the cathedral when it strikes twelve. Then the figures move. A man and a boy strike the bell, the apostles come out, and Christ blesses them. It is a wonderful piece of mechanism. But the figures are simply automatic. They move as they are moved. To try them in a court of justice (should anything go wrong), would be simply ridiculous a farce. And if every one of our deeds is fixed, what better are men than mere automata? To try them, to judge them, and to award praise and blame for what was done, would be to burlesque justice. The judgment day, therefore, and foreordination of all things cannot stand in the same category. If we hold by the one we must give up the other. God foreknows all things, but foreordains only what He himself brings to pass. Man will be judged, condemned, or rewarded, according as he has acted in life; which judgment implies his freedom or the non-foreordination of his acts.

The objections thus adduced are, in our judgment, quite sufficient to condemn the dogma of universal foreordination. Yet others of a grave character may be urged against it. It is a sacred duty as well as a privilege of the Christian, to defend the Divine administration when attacked by infidels. But if everything has been fixed how can this be done? Look at the fall. God knew that it would occur, but, according to Calvinism, He knew it because He had foreordained it. But the actors in the whole transaction were severely blamed and punished. To the serpent it was said, “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle and above every beast of the field.” The woman was told that because she had done what she did, her sorrow was to be multiplied; and the man was driven out of Paradise, because he had hearkened unto the voice of his wife. Can such declarations be justified if the transactions recorded were all foreordained? Each of the parties condemned might have asked, and done so pertinently Why put this punishment upon me when I was simply carrying out the Divine decrees? And what answer could be given? None that we know of which would satisfy the reason. And what, then? This viz., that in the light of the drama of the fall, the doctrine of universal foreordination must be given up as a myth which ignores philosophy, and reflects injuriously upon the Divine character.

In Jeremiah vi-31 it is written: “Cut off thy hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places . . . for the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, . . . to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, nor came it into my heart.” Here the Lord expressly declares, that instead of having foreordained these deeds, such an idea was never in His heart. There is here a clear “Thus saith the Lord” against the dogma of universal predestination.

In Mark , it is said of Jesus that “He marvelled because of their unbelief.” But we only marvel when we are ignorant of the cause of a phenomenon. As soon as we know this the marvel ceases. Had Jesus, therefore, known that all was fixed, He never would have marvelled. Would you marvel that the fire had gone out when it was decreed not to give additional fuel? Would the miller marvel that the mill did not go when he had ordained that the water should be shut off? The prefixing of all events, and “marvelling” at anything, are out of the question. But since Christ did “marvel” it shows that He believed that they could and ought to have believed, and that He knew of no reason why they did not. It may be said that He was a man, and spake and felt like a man. True, but will the followers of Calvin maintain that he knew more of divinity than Christ? We should think not.


WE have thus endeavoured to show that the doctrine of universal predestination the foundation of the Calvinistic theology is not based upon the principle of the Divine wisdom, nor upon Divine power, nor upon Divine foreknowledge, nor proved by the Scripture texts advanced on its behalf. It is closely allied to Pantheism and the fate of the Stoics. It shakes hands with Socialism, which maintains that man can have no merit or demerit, that he could not be otherwise than he has been and is (Socialism, by Owen). It is the creed of the Mahometans. According to them every action in a man’s life has been written down in the preserved tablets, which have been kept in the seventh heaven from all eternity. “No accident,” saith the Koran, “happeneth on the earth, or on your persons, but the same was entered into the book of our decrees before we created it. Verily this is easy with God: and this is written lest ye immoderately grieve for the good which escapeth you, or rejoice for that which happeneth unto you.” They might fall in battle, but it was so decreed, and at the resurrection they would appear with their “wounds brilliant as vermilion, and odorous as musk.” Since the primary principle of Calvinism is a foundation principle of Pantheism, Socialism, Stoicism, and Mahometanism, Calvinists may well question whether they have not been building upon the sand, instead of the eternal rock of immutable truth.

In view of the doctrine we have advocated, viz., that God has not ordained whatsoever comes to pass, but has left each man to be the arbiter of his own fate, we can see the propriety of the exhortation, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. xx. It is the same still. God has provided a Saviour for all, and, therefore, for each. It is the province of the Holy Spirit to testify respecting Christ, that He is able to save the very worst, and as willing as He is able. Each may choose to neglect this Saviour, or reject Him by choosing some other ground; or may choose Him as his only refuge. This choice has to be made by each man himself. No man can choose for another any more than he can eat or drink for another. It belongs entirely to each to do this. To choose Him is to choose life. To neglect or reject Him is to choose death. Which will it be? The principle viz., of choice, runs through life. Your happiness here depends on it in numberless instances. It is recognised everywhere in the Bible. Its exhortations summed up are expressed thus “Turn ye, turn ye, why will you die?” It thus rests with you, and with you only after what God has done for you whether you shall live or die.