The Actual Providence of God

First Question

Is there a providence? We affirm

I. As the works of nature are usually distributed into the works of creation and providence, the doctrine of creation is rightly followed by an examination of providence (which cannot be ignored without serious loss or be known without singular consolation).

Meaning of the word "providence".

II. The word "providence" was called by the Greeks pronoia because proteron noei (as Favorinus says, Dictionarium Varini Phavorini [1538], pp. 1569–70) embraces three things especially: prognōsin, prothesin and dioikēsin—the knowledge of the mind, the decree of the will and the efficacious administration of the things decreed; directing knowledge, commanding will and fulfilling power, as Hugo St. Victor expresses it. The first foresees, the second provides, the third procures. Hence providence can be viewed either in the antecedent decree or in the subsequent execution. The former is the eternal destination of all things to their ends; the latter is the temporal government of all things according to that decree. The former is an immanent act in God; the latter is a transitive action out of God. We here treat principally of the providence of God in the second respect (schesei).

Is there a providence?

III. The first question (concerning providence—whether there is any) ought scarcely to come up among Christians (unless not a few atheists may still be found among them who, professing the name of Christ, yet deny the truth of Christ both with their tongues and in their lives and not only question that saving doctrine, the true inheritance of the church, with the old Epicureans, but presume to deny it altogether, ascribing all things to fortune and chance and either endeavor to remove God himself away from the world or make him listless [apronoēton], caring for neither his own nor other things). Against such human monsters, the orthodox truth must be confirmed. From this it will be evident that there is a providence in the world by which all things (even the smallest) are not only at the same time most wisely and powerfully directed, but also so connected with the divinity that it cannot be wholly denied without at the same time denying God.

Providence is proved: (1) from nature and the consent of the nations.

IV. To demonstrate this primary head of faith and religion (and so overthrow the impiety of the scoffing enemies of God [theomachōn]) even the very voice of nature and the consent of nations, and the vote of the wisest among the heathen can suffice. They all with one mouth (if you except a few Epicureans) have borne constant testimony to this truth. Plato, in his discourse concerning God, lays down this foundation: "The gods have a care for all things, small and great" (hōs eisin epimeloumenoi theoi pantōn mikrōn kai meizonōn, Epinomis 980d [Loeb, 12:448–49]). Aristotle, or whoever is the author of the book: "What the helmsman in the ship, the charioteer in a chariot, the leader in a choir, the law in a state, the general in an army is, the same is God in the world" (hōsper ev nēi kybernētēs, en harmati hēniochos, en chorō de koryphaios, en polei de nomos, en stratopedō hēgemōn, touto theos en kosmō, On the Cosmos 6 [Loeb, 402–3]). The Stoics constantly maintain this. So frequently and solidly is it asserted by them, says Lipsius, that they were a joke and sport to their opponents who were accustomed to calling this the prophesying old woman of the Stoics. Seneca proves it by many arguments in a special treatise dealing with why evils happen to good men: "Providence is over all and God takes care of us"; and afterwards, "It is superfluous at present to obtrude the truth that so great a work cannot stand without a guardian and that this certain revolution of the stars is not by fortuitous impulse and that what chance incites is often disturbed and quickly destroyed; that this uninterrupted velocity proceeds under the government of eternal law, that this order is not wandering matter" (De Providentia 1.1, 2 [Loeb, 1:2–4]). Cicero solidly builds it up by various arguments from the motion, situation, etc. of the heavens; the stability, form, adornment of the earth and other similar arguments (De Natura Deorum 2 [Loeb, 19:122–285]). And providence (pronoia) was made so much of among the heathen that she was worshipped as a goddess in Delos because she assisted Latona in labor (to wit, under this covering signifying that nature, designated by Latona, can do nothing without the midwife providence, who assists her as if pregnant and laboring in birth, i.e., that second causes can do nothing without the first).

(2) From the Scriptures.

V. It is more strongly and clearly established by the testimony of Scripture. Scripture is accustomed to joining the creation of things with their providence. It sets forth God, who is not only the Creator (ktistēs), but also the pronoētēs (not only the momentary Creator, departing immediately from the work made by him, but also the constant provider, cherishing and sustaining his own work by his continual influx and taking perpetual care of it); "for neither as one departs from the structure of the house he has built and, he stopping and departing, his work stands, can the world so stand even an instant if God withdraw from it his control" (as Augustine says, The Literal Meaning of Genesis 4.12 [ACW 41:117; PL 34.304]). "To make well and so take good care of what is made both belong to God" (kalōs poiēsai, kai tōn genomenōn kalōs epimelēthēnai, Nemesis, The Nature of Man 42.2* [1636], pp. 594, 595–96; PG 40.788). There is no need to heap up the Scripture passages establishing this point. They are almost as many as there are pages in the Bible, since nothing is inculcated more frequently, nothing more clearly in the word of God. You may consult Job 12, 38, 39, 40, 41; Pss. 19, 91, 104, 107, 136; Prov. 16, 20; Jer. 10; Mt. 6, 10; Acts 14, 17. Christ says, "My father worketh hitherto" (Jn. 5:17), not as if creating new things, but conserving and governing those already created. Thus "not even one sparrow can fall without the will of our heavenly father, and the very hairs of our head are all numbered" (Lk. 12:6, 7). And Paul says, "God has not left himself without witness (amartyron) in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). He testifies, "God giveth to us life, and breath and all things, and we live and move and have our being in him" (Acts 17:25, 28*). And elsewhere he teaches that "God works all things according to the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11); "the Son upholds all things by the word of his power" (Heb. 1:3); and "by him all things consist" (Col. 1:17) and so in innumerable passages. This very thing is also shadowed forth by various symbols, but most especially by the threefold type: (1) Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:8), where God gives a most illustrious proof in the conservation of Isaac and the substitution of a ram in his place, whence the church claims this symbol as proper and peculiar to herself—"the Lord will provide" (yhvh yr'h). (2) Jacob's ladder (Gen. 28:12, 13), called by Philo the heavenly ladder (ouranoklimaka, On Dreams 1.3 also 1.159 and 2.3 [Loeb, 5:294–95, 380–81, 442–45]), in which God is represented as sitting upon the ladder, governing and regulating most wisely all heavenly, earthly, visible and invisible things. (3) The chariot of Ezk. 1 in which not only "the eyed wheels" with the vital spirit in them, by which they were moved, indicates not only intimate providence (which has both an eternal and most piercing eye, beholding all things [as it is elsewhere described, Zech. 4*:10*] and a most efficacious power by which it is moved); but a wheel is also placed "in a wheel" (the lesser in the greater) to denote the concatenation and dependence of second causes upon the first.

(3) From the nature of God.

VI. Third, the same thing is proved: (1) from the nature of God himself. "For if God is, he is assuredly provident" (Lactantius, The Wrath of God 9 [FC 54:75; PL 7.98]). Nor can the world consist without him anymore than it can be created because the same reasons which impelled him to create also impel him to govern. (2) From his independency and causality, by which all created things and second causes must depend upon him both in being and in operation. (3) From his wisdom, power and goodness. For if God does not care for the world, it is either because he does not know or because he cannot or because he does not wish to. But how can this be said without the greatest blasphemy against him, since he is most wise (foreseeing all things and for all) and most powerful (with whom nothing is impossible [adynaton]) and the best (who as he created the world at first with the highest goodness, so he cannot but conserve and govern it when created by the same).

(4) From the nature of created things; (5) from the harmony and order of the world; (6) from predictions; (7) from the revolutions of empires; (8) from blessings and judgments; (9) from conscience.

VII. Fourth, the same thing is demonstrated a posteriori. (a) By the nature and condition of created things. For since they were produced from nothing, they neither have of themselves any power of subsisting nor could they subsist even for a moment, if not continually sustained by the same hand that formed them. "Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth" (Ps. 104:29, 30). Besides since many of them neither foresee nor can foresee their end (and yet are carried towards it by certain laws and a constant course), they must be directed altogether by a superior mind prescient of all things. (b) The admirable harmony and order observable in the world among so many things (both confused in species and mutually opposed to each other) cannot be granted without a superior ruler and governor. (c) The predictions of future events a long while before they happened, which (without a divine providence) could be neither granted nor conceived. For unless all things were disposed (and happened) by his immutable will such predictions would be merely conjectures and would rest upon an uncertainty. (d) The establishment and revolutions of empires and republics in which the secret providence of the deity intervenes—taking away and conferring crowns at pleasure, raising up and putting down, transferring and constituting kings, changing times and seasons (as even the worst men are compelled to confess). For whence is it that empires are erected in the world and are conserved when established, that a regard is paid to law and political order, and that the world does not become a hive of robbers (since the multitude of evilly disposed persons is always greater, who wish the laws to be removed, than of the good, who defend them)? Assuredly it cannot be supposed that this happens without God, and that it can be directed by another than him "by whom kings rule" (Prov. 8:15); "who ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will" (Dan. 4:32). (e) The extraordinary blessings and judgments which God pours out either upon the good or upon the evil (beyond and above all order or apparatus of human things), (f) The sense of conscience; for "the conscience is a God to all mortals" (brotois hapasin hē syneidēsis Theos, Menandri sententiae 107 [ed. S. Jaekel, 1964], p. 39). For if there is no providence, and all things are directed by chance and fortune, why does conscience accuse and excuse men (Rom. 2:15)? Why do they tremble at the recollection of crimes and the sense of the judgment? Why do the wicked, driven by the furies of their own evil conscience, "tremble and turn pale at every flash when it thunders; and also sink under the first murmur of heaven" (as Juvenal says, Satires 13.223–24 [Loeb, 262–63])? Why can this witness and inexorable judge not be driven out altogether so that it can never return? For what is more vain than this fear, if, the care of the universe being neglected, God regards and esteems equally the piety and wickedness of mortals?

VIII. Finally, all the arguments by which we have already proved the existence of God favor also his providence. For providence is so connected with the divinity that it cannot be asserted or denied without either asserting or denying God himself. Hence the Scriptures everywhere separate God from idols by the argument of providence (Is. 41:22, 23; 42:8, 9; Job 12:7–9). By the heathen, God and providence (theos kai pronoia) are used promiscuously. Not only they who deny the existence, but also they who deny the providence of God, are condemned as atheists (atheotētos).

Sources of explanation.

IX. The providence of God neither takes away the contingency of things (because it always remains indifferent with respect to the second cause, what becomes necessary by providence with respect to the first cause); nor overthrows the liberty of the will (because the hypothetical necessity of the decree brings no coaction to the will, but permits it to exercise its own movement most freely, although inevitably); nor does away with the use of means (because the certainty of the end does not take away, but supposes the necessity of the means). The concourse of the first cause does not exclude the concourse of second causes; yea, it draws this after itself, since as God decreed to produce such an effect by the action of providence, he decreed equally to carry it out by the intervention of means and second causes. Nor does it abolish the relation of punishments and rewards because the necessity which providence brings is not absolute, physical and compulsory (which does destroy liberty), but relative (from the hypothesis of the decree of immutability, which indeed renders man dependent and accountable [hypeuthynon], but always leaves him rational and free, and so worthy of reward or punishment in good and evil deeds).

X. Sin (which is repugnant to the divine will) cannot be produced by the providence of God effectively; but nothing hinders it from being ordained by his providence permissively and directed efficaciously without any blame upon divine providence (as will hereafter be proved more fully).

XI. Things so confused in themselves as to be incapable of being reduced to order in any way cannot be said to be governed by providence. But in this sense, nothing can be called confused and disordered (atakton) in the world. For if some things seem confused and disarranged, they are so only with respect to us (who cannot see the causes of things, their modes and ends), not in themselves and with respect to God (by whom they are most wisely directed). For nothing appears to be so disturbed to us, yet still shines with a remarkable order of divine wisdom and justice. Thus in the selling of Joseph and the crucifixion of Christ, there was a horrible disorder (ataxia) as to the counsels of men, but a most wise order as to the decree of God (who as he elicits light from darkness, so also good from evil). Thus he wished to manage these events to the manifestation of his own glory and the safety of the church, since nothing was done here which "the hand and counsel of God had not even before decreed to be done" (Acts 4:28). "Ye thought evil against me," says Joseph to his brethren, "but God meant it unto good" (Gen. 50:20).

XII. Although the happiness of the wicked and the calamities of the pious often inspired the heathen with doubts concerning providence; yea, have frequently tried even believers themselves and most holy men of God (who so often complained of them as we find in Scripture), yet this ought not to weaken our belief in providence. (1) Because the relation of providence and justice indeed demands that it be well with the good and evil with the wicked, but does not equally demand that it be always well with the good and always evil with the wicked; yea, God's wonderful wisdom shines out in this dispensation of things, while he wishes many wickednesses to be punished now in this life (that men may be instructed concerning justice and providence), but many also he leaves unpunished here to intimate that another world exists after this life (in which he will render to each according to his deeds). Augustine unfolds this excellently: "If every sin should now be punished with manifest punishment, it would be supposed that nothing would be left for the last judgment. Again, if the divinity did not now openly punish any sin, it would be supposed that there is no providence" (CG 1.8 [FC 8:29; PL 41.20]). He had already given the reason for this dispensation: "It has pleased divine providence to prepare good things for the righteous hereafter which the unrighteous will not enjoy, and evils for the wicked with which the good will not be tormented. He wished, however, those temporal goods and evils to be common to both so that neither the good should be sought too eagerly, which the wicked also are seen to have, nor the ills be ignobly shunned, with which the good also are for the most part affected" (ibid., p. 28; PL 41.20). (2) If we enter into the shrine of God, we will readily discover that neither are they properly evils by which the faithful are exercised (although they seem so to us) because the issue is good to them (Rom. 8:28); nor are the goods (in which the wicked abound) such to them because they are turned into their destruction. For to the good, even the very worst things are turned into blessings; so to the wicked even their best things issue in evil. "Assuredly thou didst set them in slippery places," says Asaph, "thou castedst them down into destruction, how are they brought into desolation, as in a moment" (Ps. 73:18, 19*). Claudian beautifully follows this out: "The thought has often entered my wavering mind, whether the gods above have a care for the earth or no ruler is present and mortal things flow along by uncertain chance. For when I had sought the covenants of the arranged world, and the prescribed boundaries of the sea, and the ebb and flow of rivers, and the changes of day and night, then I supposed all things to be established by the counsel of God … But when I beheld the affairs of men involved in so great darkness and the wicked flourishing long in joy and the pious troubled, again weakened religion totters … At length the punishment of Rufinus removes this tumult and absolves the gods; now I do not complain that the unjust have reached the height of prosperity, they are raised on high that they may experience a greater fall" (The First Book Against Rufinus [Loeb, 1:26–29]). Nor otherwise Seneca: "When you see good men and accepted of God labor and sweat and toil, while the wicked grow wanton and roll in pleasures, think that we are pleased with the modesty of children, the license of slaves; that the former are restrained by a severer discipline, and the boldness of the latter is encouraged. The same thing is evident to you concerning God; he does not hold the good man in pleasures; he tries, strengthens and prepares him for himself" (De Providentia 1.6 [Loeb, 1:6–7]). "Calamity is the occasion of virtue. Anyone would rightly call them miserable who become sluggish with too great happiness, whom inactive tranquility holds as it were on a motionless sea. Whatever happens to them comes new; adversity presses more those who have never experienced it. The yoke is grievous to the tender neck. The recruit grows pale at the mere thought of a wound; the veteran looks at his gore without flinching because he knows that he has often conquered after blood. And thus God strengthens, examines, exercises those whom he approves and loves, while he preserves for many evils to come those whom he seems to favor, and spares" (De Providentia 4.6–7 [Loeb, 1:26–28]). There are in the same place many other similar things worthy to be read in which the most wise providence is established from this distribution of good and evil. So it is a wonder that Christians should doubt concerning providence on account of that from which the Gentiles themselves elicit an undoubted argument in favor of it.

Second Question

Is the providence of God rightly called "fate," and is a fatal necessity properly ascribed to it? We distinguish

Occasion of the question.

I. The question is necessary not only that it may be evident what ought to be the use of the word "fate" among Christians (about which divines are not agreed), but also that our doctrine may be freed from the calumnies of Romanists and others (who continually oppose to it the tables of the fates and the fatal and Stoical necessity of all things and events).

Derivation of the word "fate".

II. The word fatum is Latin derived from fando (i.e., "speaking" as if the utterance or word, decree, command and will of God). Priscian says, "Speaking after the manner of the Gentiles it was called fate because Jupiter spoke that to the fates who inscribed his will upon brazen tablets, or because the Parcae spoke it" (cf. Priscian, Opera 1 [ed. A. Krehl, 1819], pp. 396, 627). Minucius Felix says, "What else is fate than what God has spoken of each one of us?" (Octavius 36 [ANF 4:195; PL 3.365]). By the Greeks, it is called eimarmenē, from the verb meirō ("I divide, distribute, appoint"), and to peprōmenon (i.e., ordained, determined) from apo tou peratoō ("I end, finish") because by it things are determined by God. The Stoic philosophers used this word to signify providence, from whom the Christians, both ancient and more modern, borrowed it and frequently use it.

How many kinds of fate are there?

III. However, it is used in many ways by authors, whence a fourfold fate arises, as Pico della Mirandola observes—"physical, mathematical, Stoical and Christian fate" (Disputationes Adversus Astrologiam Divinatricam 4.4 [1943], pp. 442–56). First, physical fate, which is nothing else than the order and series of natural causes defined to their effects (whose necessity is natural). Its principle is nature or the power of acting (which God imparted to things in creation). The effects are all those events which depend in themselves upon natural causes. Such as depend upon the free will of man or also happen by chance are opposed to this.

2. Mathematical.

IV. Second, fate is mathematical, of the Chaldeans and astrologers (called by Bradwardine "astral"). It is the necessity of things and events arising from the position of the heavens and of the stars (or from constellations) by which not only the elements and mixed bodies, but also the wills of men are said to be necessarily impelled to their acts. In this sense, Manilius often uses the word fate: "The fates have given to you the laws of life and of death" (Astronomica 4.23 [Loeb, 224–25]). Augustine says, "When men hear the word fate, they understand nothing but the force of the position of the stars, such as it is when anyone is born or conceived" (CG 5.1 [FC 8:242; PL 41.141]). This fate he elsewhere calls foolish: "If thy heart were not foolish, thou wouldst not believe in fate" ("Tractate 37," On the Gospel of St. John [NPNF1, 7:216; PL 35.1674]). Indeed it contends against Scripture, right reason and universal experience. To this some refer the Jewish and Pharisaical fate, concerning which Josephus (speaking of the Pharisees) says that they ascribe to fate whatever happens, which belongs to nothing else than the astrological fate as sufficiently appears from their trite axiom, "all things depend upon planets" (hkhl thlvy bmtsl, AJ 18.13 [Loeb, 9:10–11]). They "ascribe all things to fate and to God" (JW 2.163 [Loeb, 2:384–85]). However Josephus teaches this, it must be understood with a certain limitation, since he says, "The Pharisees attribute some, not all things to fate" (AJ 13.172 [Loeb, 7:310–11]).

3. Stoical fate.

V. The third is the Stoical fate, which (according to Chrysippus) "is a certain natural order and connection of all things from eternity, some being consequent upon others, and an immutable complication of this kind remaining" (in Gellius, Attic Nights 7*2.3 [Loeb, 2:94–95]); or (according to Cicero) "the order and series of causes when cause woven with cause produces the thing from itself" (De Divinitate 1.55.125 [Loeb, 20:360–61])—to which they subject and bind God himself. Seneca says, "One and the same chain of necessity ties God and men. The same irrevocable and unalterable course carries on divine and human things. The very maker and governor of all things that write the Fates, follows them. He did but once command, but he always obeys" (De Providentia 5.8 [Loeb, 1:38–39]). But the real opinion of the Stoics on this subject is not very clear (viz., whether they held that all causes by fate were natural and defined, so that the liberty of the human will and the contingency of events would be taken away by it; and God would be so bound to the order of causes or of things made by him that he could not act otherwise—which is commonly ascribed to them; or whether they wished only to assert the immutability of the divine decrees, not however to take away either the liberty of man or the contingency of events). The latter Lipsius maintains and many with him (Physiologiae Stoicorum 1, Diss. 12 [1604], pp. 28–32). Augustine unfolds this opinion in these words: "who call by the name fate not the constitution of the stars just as it is, when anything is conceived or born or begun, but the connection and series of all causes by which everything is done which is done; we must not labor and contend with them in a controversy of words since they ascribe to the supreme will and power of God that order and certain connection of causes, who is believed best and most truly both to know all things before they happen, and leaves nothing unarranged, from whom are all powers, although not the wills of all. And that they so call fate especially the will itself of the supreme God whose power is insuperably perceived through all things, is thus proved" (CG 5.8 [FC 8:254; PL 41.148]). If this is truly the genuine opinion of the Stoics (as seems to be evident from Seneca), they are not to be disturbed as they approach very near to the truth. But because it is the custom among many to impute a different fate to the Stoics which (namely) imposes a fatal and ineluctable necessity upon all things and an eternal and natural series of causes and things among themselves (to which God himself is subjected), we profess to be most widely separated from them. For since they are said commonly to place a necessity out of God in the perpetual and eternal connection of things, we place it in God himself and his eternal decree. They subject God to necessity, we subject necessity to God. They pretend that all causes are natural and defined; we constantly maintain a difference between natural and free causes and believe that both depend on the providence of God. Hence it is evident that the Stoical fate understood in this sense cannot without injustice be charged against our doctrine. For although we hold that all things happen by an inevitable necessity through providence, still there is nothing common to us with them. We do not urge an absolute necessity in the causes themselves (as they do), but only a hypothetical from the decree. Nor do we feign a natural and eternal series of causes and so inevitable even as to God, but a temporal (as are the causes themselves, made by God himself—to whose good pleasure and rule it is so subject that he can at pleasure either change or hinder or take it away).

4. Christian fate.

VI. The fourth fate (which we call Christian) is the series and order of causes depending on divine providence by which it produces its own effects. In this sense, the fathers frequently used the word "fate" and Thomas Aquinas proves it at length and establishes its certainty and immobility (ST, I, Q. 116*, pp. 566–68). However, this is now taken actively for the divine decree itself (and so does not differ from providence), then passively, for the very complexion and disposition of all causes to their own effects (according as they depend upon the immutable providence of God). Thus it is distinguished from providence by reason of the subject (because providence is in God, while fate is from God in second causes) and by reason of order (because fate depends on providence, not the contrary) and in the object (because all things lie under providence, but not under fate; those, for instance, which take place immediately by God). Boethius thus defines it: "An immovable disposition inherent in movable things, by which divine providence weaves together each in its own orders" (The Consolation of Philosophy 4*.6.34–35 [Loeb, 358–59]).

VII. Hence we readily gather the answer to be given to the proposed question of whether providence is rightly called "fate" or whether we may properly use the word "fate" in this argument. For although we grant it may be used in a sound sense and do not believe that a controversy ought to arise on that account, if it is evident concerning the thing itself and nothing else is understood by the word than the Christian fate (just explained by us). Still we think it safer with Calvin to abstain from the word in the Christian school (ICR 1.16.8, p. 207–8). First, because it is contaminated by heathenism, superstition and impiety and belongs to the number of those whose profane novelties Paul commands us to flee. Second, because it is too much exposed to the calumnies of opponents, who with the name charge us with receiving also the doctrine and so endeavor to fasten its odium upon the truth of God. Nor can there be the same reasons against the word "providence" (also used by the heathen to confirm their own figments) because this is handed down to us in Scripture itself. Fate, however, by no means appears in Scripture. This was the opinion of Augustine: "If anyone calls the very power and will of God fate, let him hold the opinion, but let him correct the language" (CG 5.1 [FC 8:242; PL 41.141]).

Third Question: The Object of Providence

Do all things come under providence—small as well as great, contingent and free, natural and necessary? We affirm

The occasion of the question.

I. The occasion for the question arises from those who, although seeming to acknowledge the providence of God, still shut it up in too narrow limits. These either restrict it to heavenly things only, so that in the sublunary there is room for chance and fortune and the contingency of things (as the Peripatetics); or extend it to the sublunary also, but natural, not free and contingent (as the Pelagians, who to make men free have made them sacrilegious); or refer it to great things, the mean and minute being excepted, which after the Peripatetics some of the Scholastics also held. Thomas Aquinas especially asserts this: "Although God may know the number of individuals, yet the number of oxen and gnats and other similar things was not preordained by him" (ST, I, Q. 23, Art. 7, p. 131). However, we believe that all things without exception are under divine providence: whether heavenly or sublunary, great or small, necessary and natural or free and contingent. Thus nothing in the nature of things can be granted or happen which does not depend upon it.

All things are under providence.

II. The reasons are: (1) God created all things, therefore he also takes care of all things. For if it was glorious for God to create them, it ought not to be unbecoming in him to take care of them. Nay, as he created, he is bound to conserve and govern them continually, since he never deserts his own work, but ought to be perpetually present with it that it may not sink back into nothingness.

III. Second, Scripture most clearly establishes this both in general and in particular. In general, in those passages which claim the care and government of all things for God: "Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, and thou preservest them all" (Neh. 9:6); "He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; for in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:25, 28); "He upholds all things by the word of his power" (Heb. 1:3); "The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing" (Ps. 145:15, 16); and so in innumerable passages.

Even the smallest.

IV. In particular, in those passages which subject to the providence of God all the species of things and especially those which come into controversy, the smallest things no less than the greatest are said to depend upon it. What is more insignificant than "the hairs of our head"? And yet "all" are said to be "numbered by God" (Lk. 12:7). What is more unimportant than a sparrow? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without the will of the heavenly Father (Mt. 10:29) who feeds all the fowls of the air by his providence (Mt. 6:26) and gives food to the young ravens (Ps. 147:9). What is of less importance than the grass and the flowers of the field? And yet God clothes and makes them grow (Mt. 6:28, 30). What is more mean than lice, frogs, locusts, worms and other insects? Yet God is said to raise up these for the execution of his judgments (Ex. 8:16, 17; 10:12); nay, they are called "his strong army, executing his word" (Joel 2:11).

V. Although the providence of God is exercised about rational creatures far more illustriously and efficaciously, other things are not therefore to be withdrawn from it, since it extends to both (Ps. 36:6; 145:15, 16). And what Paul says ("Doth God take care for oxen?" 1 Cor. 9:9) must not be understood simply and absolutely because oxen are a care to God who conserves and nourishes them (Ps. 36:6); but only relatively, to teach that the command ("muzzle not the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn") has most special reference to the minister of the gospel and is given for their sake, that men may know what is their duty towards those who minister to them (an argument from the lesser to the greater). If God wishes the ox to live by his labor, much more just is it that the minister should live by the gospel (which is clear from the antecedents and consequents). Nor does Paul here speak properly so much of providence that he may bring oxen under it, as of the legislation which was instituted; not so much for the sake of beasts as of men for whose institution alone it was appointed.

VI. God is so great in great things as not to be small in small. Nor is he said to have so given the earth to the sons of men (Ps. 115:16), but that from the heaven of heavens he always looks down upon and retains them in his care. The psalmist means this—that God, content with his own glory, inhabits the heavens and does not need to seek anything out of himself, but has made the earth for the use of men and has enriched it with all goods that they might want nothing. Therefore he is said to have preserved the heavens for himself, as a seat of glory and the sanctuary of his majesty, and to have given the earth to men; not for supreme dominion and absolute power, but only for use with a dependence on his providence.

VII. If it was not unworthy of the majesty of God to create even the meanest and smallest things because they contribute to the greater demonstration of his wisdom and the perfection of the universe in so great a variety of creatures, why should it be derogatory to his glory to conserve them? It is not beneath the glory of the sun to illuminate with his rays the very lowest places (nay, even filthy and polluted); but in this way the greatness of its splendor is rather shown. Nor must we say (with Corvinus) that God does not care for the smallest things. For this has no relation of goodness and justice, since indeed it cannot be said that goodness or divine justice can shine forth from the smallest creatures. Besides the fact that there are other properties of God by the manifestation of which (in the smallest things) his glory is illustrated (to wit, wisdom and power), it is certain that God wished to exhibit his goodness even in things most mean, often to exercise justice through the smallest animals—frogs, vermin, worms, etc. See Topic III, Question 12, Section iv, where the passage of Jerome on Hab. 1 is explained and excused (Commentariorum in Abacuc 1 [PL 25.1275–88]); to this add Sixtus of Senensis (Bibliotheca sancta 5, annot. 257 [1575], 2:193–94) who from Jerome himself (Commentariorum in Evangelium Matthaei [PL 26.68–69 on Mt. 10:29–30]) and from Lombard (Sententiarum 1, Dist. 39 [PL 192/2.630]) softens his words and draws them to a better sense.

2. Contingent and fortuitous.

VIII. Second, Scripture in many places asserts that contingent and fortuitous events fall under providence. Nothing is more contingent than the killing of a man by a woodcutter contrary to his own intention, and yet this is ascribed to God, who is said to deliver him into the hand of the slayer (Ex. 21:12, 13; Dt. 19:4f.). Nothing is more casual and fortuitous than lots, and yet their falling out is referred to God himself: "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord" (Prov. 16:33). Nothing was more contingent than the selling of Joseph and his incarceration and exaltation, yet Joseph himself testifies that these were all ordered in the providence of God: "So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God" (Gen. 45:8). "Ye meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, that he might preserve in life a great people as he has done this day" (Gen. 50:20). Innumerable similar events, plainly contingent and fortuitous, are expressly ascribed to providence (cf. Gen. 22:8, 13; 24:12, 13ff.; Gen. 27:20; Prov. 21:31; Mt. 10:29, 30).

IX. Therefore, nothing in the nature of things can be granted as so fortuitous and casual as not to be governed by the providence of God and so not happening necessarily and infallibly with respect to the divine decree. Hence we proscribe the impious and blasphemous voices of the heathen who substitute Fortune (blind and standing upon a rolling globe) for the most wise and powerful providence: such as that of Pliny who holds that "Fortune alone fills both pages in the account-book of mortals" (Natural History 2.5.22 [Loeb, 1:184–85]); and Juvenal, "Thou hast no divinity, O Fortune, if there be prudence; but we make thee a goddess, and place thee in heaven" (Satires 10.365–66 [Loeb, 220–21])!

X. Still it must not on this account be supposed that all contingency is removed from the world. For God, who works all in all, so governs and rules second causes as not to take away their nature and condition. Rather he keeps, conserves and permits them also to exercise and act out their own motions (as the prime mover may be considered so to hurl along the lower spheres that nevertheless their own proper and special motion remains to them and that does not cease to be the considered contingent with respect to the second cause, from which the denomination and specification of the act is taken, whose mode of acting is contingent and not determined to one direction, which still happens certainly and infallibly from the immutable disposition of divine providence). For that infallibility of the event from the hypothesis does not take away their contingency from the condition of second causes and from their mode of acting (in which there is always an intrinsic faculty and indifference to the opposite). So it was necessary for Joseph to be sold by his brethren and to go down to Egypt because it had been so determined by God for the preservation of Jacob's family. Yet it was contingent with respect to the brothers of Joseph who might either have killed him or not have sold him. Therefore things which are absolutely and in every way necessary (both as to their futurition and as to the mode in which they are done and produced) differ from those which are of a hypothetical necessity from the divine ordination. The former cannot consist with contingency, but nothing prevents those things (which as to mode of production take place contingently with respect to second causes) from still having a necessity of consequence or of the infallible futurition of the event from the order of providence (cf. Topic IV, Question 4).

3. Voluntary and free.

XI. Third, it is evident from the Scriptures that free and voluntary things, which are in our power (eph' hēmin) and are done with purpose (ek proaireseōs), are governed by providence. "The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord" (Prov. 16:1); "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps" (Prov. 16:9); "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Prov. 21:1); "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). "From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works" (Ps. 33:14, 15). This is clearly confirmed by the examples of Laban (Gen. 31:29), Esau (Gen. 33:4), the Egyptians (Ex. 12:36), Balaam (Num. 22, 23), Saul (1 S. 24:15, 18; 26:17) and others. Manifold reason also convinces us of it. As man depends upon God as to essence and life, so he must depend upon him as to the actions and movements of his soul (the better part of man). For to pretend that man is independent in will and action is to make him independent in being because whatever he is in acting such he is in being. Finally, if free actions do not depend upon God and are not governed by him, they would be performed, God being either ignorant and unconscious or neglecting or unwilling (which cannot be said and thought without impiety). In what way the providence of God concurs with the will of man (yet without destroying his liberty) will be seen in what follows.

Fourth Question: The Acts of Providence

Is providence occupied only in the conservation and sustentation of things; or also in their government (through which God himself acts and efficaciously concurs with them by a concourse not general and indifferent, but particular, specific and immediate)? We deny the former and affirm the latter, against the Jesuits, Socinians and Remonstrants

I. This question has two parts: the first, concerning the conservation of things; the second, concerning the government of them. By these two acts, God's providence is usually described. Conservation is that by which God conserves all creatures in their own state (which is done by a conservation of essence in the species, of existence in individuals and of virtues to their operations). Government is that by which God governs universals and singulars, and directs and draws them out to ends foreappointed by him.

Statement of the question.

II. As to the first, the question is not whether the providence of God is concerned with the conservation of things. This is acknowledged on both sides. Scripture teaches (Neh. 9:6; Ps. 36:6; 104:27, 29; Heb. 1:3; Acts 17:28) and reason approves it. As things could not have been made without God, so neither without him could they subsist even for a moment; otherwise they would be independent, which pertains to God alone. But the question is whether the whole relation of providence consists in that conservation and in this—that God gives and conserves to second causes the power of acting and permits them to act; or whether it consists also in government by which God himself acts and efficaciously concurs with his creatures.

Opinion of Durandus.

III. The controversy here is with Durandus and some of the Romanists who agree with him. They place providence and the concourse of God only in this—that to the creature, previously made capable of acting, he merely conserves the strength and permits actions at pleasure (as if sufficient of itself alone to act). Louis de Dola thus explains this: "For God to concur is either to create a free will, as in natural acts, or to give in supernatural the potency of habit of acting or not acting, by which the will itself performs the whole in every supernatural act, and without any other concourse of God actually exciting the action" (Disputatio … de modo coniunctionis concursuum Dei et creaturae [1634]+). He so approved this comment as to think it the only means fit to remove the controversies which have been agitated for so many years between the Dominicans and Jesuits about the method of the divine concourse.

Of the Jesuits.

IV. The Jesuits (although confessing that God's providence does not consist in the mere conservation of things, but also in the influx and concourse of God) still (when they come to the explanation of concourse) maintain it to be only general and indifferent, determined by second causes: as the sun, the universal generating cause, is determined by man generating as a particular cause—hence not a horse is generated but a man, since the influx of the sun is of itself indifferent to the generation of a man and of a horse. So they hold the influx of the first cause to be indifferent to this action or the contrary. Nor is it antecedent and previously moving, but on the contrary the second cause determines itself before the first cause acts (which does not excite the second cause to motion, but the second cause is the occasion of the acting of the first cause). This is the common opinion of the Jesuits followed by the Socinians and Remonstrants. Both profess to have embraced it principally for two reasons: one is to vindicate God from the causality of sin; the other to establish the liberty and indifference (adiaphoria) of the human will in all acts (especially in conversion) and to reconcile it with divine providence.

Of the Thomists.

V. But far differently do the Thomists and Dominicans in the Romish communion determine, who urge a physical predetermination, that all second causes are predetermined to acting by God, and he not only acts with the second cause in the effect, but also immediately on itself, and so the will is by him determined to will or nill this in particular, not only in good but also in evil actions. Hence Thomas Aquinas says, "When the free will moves itself, this does not exclude its being moved by another, from whom it receives the very power to move itself" (ST, I, Q. 83, Art. 1, p. 418). Elsewhere he places the concourse of God in these five things: (1) inasmuch as he gives to second causes the strength and faculty to act; (2) inasmuch as he keeps and sustains them in being and vigor; (3) inasmuch as he excites and applies second causes to acting; (4) inasmuch as he determines them to acting; (5) inasmuch as he rules and directs them that they may accomplish the ends determined by himself (ST, I, Q. 105, pp. 515–21; Summa Contra Gentiles 3.70 [trans. J.V. Bourke, 1956], pp. 235–37). Alvarez, the Dominican, has written copiously on this subject (De auxiliis divinae gratiae [1620]). The orthodox approach is the last of these. As much against Durandus as against the Jesuits, Socinians and Arminians, they maintain that the providence of God consists not only in the conservation of things, but also in the concourse of God; not indifferent and general, but particular and specific (by which it flows immediately into both cause and effect).

Providence does not consist only in the conservation of things, but also in a particular and immediate concourse.

VI. First, because Scripture everywhere ascribes to God (as the first cause) the actions of causes. This would not be truly said if the whole method of providence consisted in conservation alone and the sustentation of faculties, and God did not effectively concur with them. Thus God is said to have "sent Joseph into Egypt" (Gen. 45:7); "to have the heart of the king in his hand and so turn it whithersoever he will" (Prov. 21:1); "to use the wicked as an axe," rod, saw, staff, for his work (Is. 10:15, 26; 13:5). For as these do not work of themselves unless the artificer concurs, so second causes (compared to these instruments) do not act by their own power alone, but are moved at length by the first cause. Nor can it be objected that God can be said to concur, inasmuch as he gives to creatures the faculty of acting and preserves it (although he does not concur effectively with them). It is one thing to concur with the conservation of faculties; another with their operations. God, however, in the adduced passages is said to have concurred with the actions themselves, and the similitude quoted proves this necessarily. For although instruments may themselves have the faculty of operating, yet they cannot operate without the concurrence of the artificer and the application of his hand.

VII. The following passages in which we are said "to live and move and have our being in God" (Acts 17:28; cf. Col. 1:17) apply here. For in and by whom we are and are moved, from him all our actions must also effectively depend. To these, others can be added in which the works of believers are ascribed to God. For how can God be said "to work in us to will and to do" (Phil. 2:13) and "to work all things in us" (1 Cor. 12:6 and others of the same kind), if his providence consists only in the preservation of faculties or in a general and indifferent concourse?

VIII. (2) Because God is the regulator and Lord of the world and by consequence of all that exists or is done in it. This cannot be done by mere conservation or a general concourse because to regulate is so to preside over that he who presides, rules by a destined order (which embraces both the settling of the end and the ordination of the means). Thus because he is the Lord of singulars, he holds subject to his sway all and every motion, action and event—external and internal, good and bad.

IX. (3) As the creature has itself in being with respect to God, so also it ought to have itself in working, for the mode of working follows the mode of being (for these walk side by side). Now every creature depends upon God in being, therefore also in operation. But if God by his providence is occupied only with the conservation of things (or with a general and indifferent concourse determined by the second cause), the creature in working will not depend upon God; nay, God will rather depend upon the creature, and the first cause will be made the second and the second the first. Nor will this second be any longer subordinate, but coordinate and independent. So there will be many first beings and first principles; yea as many principles as there are causes and wills of men and angels. For as Thomas Aquinas well remarks, it is essential to a first principle that it can act without the help or influence of a prior agent.

X. (4) If only a general concourse of God is granted, in vain is he prayed to for obtaining anything because he can neither avert evil nor confer good, unless just as it pleases men to determine the motion of God himself. To no purpose also do we give thanks for blessings procured through free agencies; to no purpose do we trust and hope in God and patiently submit our wills to him. For God concurring, the good or evil which we hope or fear can as much not happen as happen.

XI. (5) On the ground of a general and indifferent concourse, God will be no more the cause of good than of evil since he is not determined to species or quality; nor is either able to be determined from God himself, but it will be determined and specificated by the human will. The absurdity of this is evident in many ways: (a) because the providence of God about human things would lie under men themselves or their will; (b) the parts of man's will would be better and prior and God (being inferior) who would only follow man's will; (c) the determination of the influx indifferent to this or that particular action (and the very action in particular) would be independent, resting upon the mere will of man. All these are blasphemous and atheistical (atheologa); also contrary to what is written (antigrapha) since Scripture repeatedly testifies that God is the cause of all good, whether natural or moral (Jam. 1:17; 1 Cor. 4:7; Rom. 11:36; Gen. 1:31).

XII. (6) If God concurs with creatures only by conservation or by a general and indifferent concourse: (a) the disposing of lots could not be said to be from God, because from the concourse of God plainly indifferent to this or that lot, the falling out of this rather than of that lot is not, but it is either from fortune or the hand taking up the lot; (b) the fall of a sparrow will not be from God because the flying rather than the not flying is not determined by God; (c) all these things will be false: "God gives the snow, showers, ice, winds, food to ravens, wings to the stork, strength to the horse" (Job. 37, 38, 39; Pss. 104, 147); "food to the famished"; "opens the eyes of the blind"; "helps orphans and widows"; "brings to death, and raises from the sepulchre" (1 S. 2:7–9; Ps. 146:7, 8 and the like, attributed in Scripture to him). All these effects are determined and cannot be ascribed to an indifferent and indeterminate concourse of God, on which these effects no more than the contrary can depend. This holds good also as to free acts. Nor can Bellarmine escape while he maintains "that the human action is evidently wholly from God and receives from him not only generic, but also specific and singular being; but it receives that by a concourse determined to such action by the human will or by the creature, and therefore does not receive specific being from the mode of God's acting, but from the mode of acting of the human will" ("De amissione gratiae et statu peccati," 2.18* in Opera [1858], 4:117). He either speaks absurdly (asystata) or takes for granted what must be proved. For if the whole human action has from God specific being, how is it said afterwards not to have it from the mode of God's acting? (2) If the action of God is determined to such action by the human will, the event ought therefore to be ascribed to the human will principally, not however to the concourse of God who is indifferent to this effect.

XIII. (7) Finally, the general and indifferent concourse being posited: (a) the decree of God would be rendered uncertain and prescience fallible because both these would depend upon the mutable will of man. (b) The operations of the will would be withdrawn from the dominion of God; man would become independent and from a subject become an ally of God (on whose nod God himself ought to depend), (c) The creature would act more than God because the special motion is better than the general; he would be more perfect because what determines is more perfect than that which is determined. (d) The special reason of piety (situated in the dependence of our will upon the will of God) would be subverted. We could no longer say, "If the Lord will, we shall do this or that" (Jam. 4:15). Rather God (as if reduced to order) ought to say, "If man wills to do, let this or that be done."

Sources of explanation.

XIV. There is one universal cause (relatively so called) acting by a physical necessity (as the sun and the stars); another, however, universal absolutely, most wisely and freely operating (such as God is). The former indeed concurs only by a general and indifferent influx, but not the latter. It is so universal with respect to objects distinct in species that as to mode of concourse it acts also particularly and, as it wishes, concurs with second causes.

XV. Although God conserves the free will (because he created it), it does not follow that he ought to govern it by a general concourse only. The liberty of the will is not absolute and independent, but limited and dependent upon God (to whose condition it suffices that man act by his own motion and from preference [ek proaireseōs]). This is not taken away by a special and determinate influx (which does not overthrow the nature of things), but acts suitably to their properties.

XVI. The power which is absolutely and every way indifferent and inderminate and depends upon no other thing cannot be determined by the providence of God. The human will is not so called indifferent; rather relatively (inasmuch as if considered in itself), it is indifferent to various objects, although otherwise it depends upon God and his providence (by which it exists and is moved). Although it determines itself, this nonetheless does not hinder it from being determined by God because the determination of God does not exclude the determination of man.

XVII. The determination made by the manner of efficient cause differs from that made by the manner of a formal and subjective cause. Effects are determined by second causes by manner of a formal and material cause, but by the first cause by way of the efficient cause.

XVIII. The particular cause which concurs by a particular influx is denominated from its effect, since it is not only efficient, but also proximate (formal and subjective) and produces the effect of itself. But in this sense God cannot be called the particular cause (although he concurs by a particular influx) because he is not the proximate or formal cause, but only the efficient cause working in another.

XIX. The general influx is falsely maintained to be necessary either to preserve the liberty of man or to remove from God the causality of sin. For neither follows from a particular influx, as will be proved in the following question.

Fifth Question: The Concourse of God

Does God concur with second causes not only by a particular and simultaneous, but also by a previous concourse? We affirm

I. Since the question concerning the concourse (concursus) of God is one of the most difficult in theology (in the explanation of which, if anywhere else, great labor must be employed) and error is most dangerous, it demands a peculiar and accurate discussion.

Physical and moral concourse.

II. On the state of the question observe: (1) One concourse is physical by which one concurs and acts after the manner of a physical cause, i.e., truly and efficaciously and really flows into the effect by a certain positive influx; another is moral by which he operates after the manner of a moral cause, i.e., by persuading or dissuading or by proposing or removing the objects and occasions. We do not treat here of moral, but of physical concourse.

Mediate and immediate.

III. 2) One concourse is mediate; another immediate. For a cause can be said to act either mediately or immediately both as to the subsisting substance and as to virtue. That cause acts immediately by the immediation of the subsisting substance between which and the effect no other singular subsisting substance (subsisting of itself) is interposed (which previously receives in itself the action of the agent, as water which washes and cools the hand). The other, on the contrary, acts mediately by the mediation of the subsisting substance between which and the effect another subsisting substance falls (as the chisel between the artist and the statue). A cause acts immediately by the immediation of virtue which acts by a virtue or power proper to itself and not received from any other source (as fire warms by its own heat). A cause acts mediately, however, by the mediation of virtue which operates by a virtue not its own or proper to itself, but received and borrowed from another source (as when the moon by light borrowed from the sun illuminates the earth, she is said to illuminate mediately by a mediation of virtue, i.e., the virtue of the sun mediating). Now God concurs with second causes immediately by an immediation both of virtue (because he acts by his proper power not furnished from another source) and of subsisting substance (because by his own essence he attains the thing). Nor, if he uses second causes as means, does it follow that he does not act immediately also. For he uses them not with respect to the action of the creature and consequently of the effect itself (as if he did not reach it immediately), but inasmuch as he subordinates second causes to himself (by flowing into which he also reaches the effect itself immediately).

3. Concourse by way of principle and by way of action.

IV. (3) Again, concourse is so called either by way of principle or by way of the first act by which God conserves the power of the second act and permits it to act; or by way of action, inasmuch as God is the proximate principle of the operation put forth by the second cause so that the operation and action of God concurring is the very same as that which is included in the action itself of the creature (as if by itself also and immediately tending to the same end to which the action of the creature tends). With regard to the end, the latter is the same with the very cooperation of God. We do not treat here of the first, but of the second.

4. Previous and simultaneous concourse.

V. (4) Finally, one concourse is called previous and predetermining; another simultaneous or concomitant. The previous is the action of God by which he, flowing into causes and their principles, excites and previously moves creatures to action and directs to the doing of a particular thing. Simultaneous, however, is that by which God produces the action of the creature as to its being or substance by which he is supposed to flow together with creatures into their actions and effects, but not into the creatures themselves. Although they do not differ really, but only in reason (because the simultaneous concourse is nothing else than continued previous concourse which not only flows into the causes themselves, that it may work in them, but into the effect itself, so as to act with them), yet they can be considered distinctly.

Statement of the question.

VI. However, what is understood by previous concourse (with greater propriety termed "preconcourse"), that very thing is usually designated by the name of predetermination or premotion, by which God excites and directs the second cause to acting. Thus antecedently to all operation of the creature or before the creature operates by nature and reason, he really and efficaciously moves it to act in single actions so that without this premotion the second cause could not operate, but (this premotion being posited) it would be impossible in the compound sense for the second cause not to do that same thing to which it was previously moved by the first cause. The question therefore about concourse comes to this—whether it is only simultaneous or also previous. There are various opinions among Romanists about this. For some (as the Jesuits who maintain a middle knowledge) recognize only a simultaneous concourse and deny the previous or predetermination (maintaining that God indeed flows in, but not into the second cause, but with the second cause into its action). However others (as the Thomists and Dominicans) stand up for a previous concourse or predetermination. They are therefore called "Predeterminers" and hold the predetermination of God to be necessary in all the acts of his creatures, whether natural or free. Some of our divines admit the previous concourse only as to the good works of grace, but think the simultaneous is sufficient in all others. Others think that both the previous and simultaneous should be joined together here in order that the whole method of God's providence may be truly explained. Now although weighty reasons are not wanting on both sides (by which the negative or affirmative opinion may be strengthened), still we believe the latter to be the truer and safer.

Previous concourse is proved.

VII. Besides the arguments adduced in the preceding question to prove the particular concourse of God, the following also favor this opinion. (1) From the nature of the first cause and the subordination of second causes. The first cause is the prime mover in every action so that the second cause cannot move unless it is moved, nor act unless acted upon by the first. Otherwise it would be the principle of its own motion and so would no longer be the second cause, but the first. Nor can it be objected that the second cause is always subordinated to the first, both by reason of simultaneous concourse (which is by nature and order prior to the concourse of the creature) and by reason of the sustentation of the faculties through which the second cause acts. We answer that neither can save the dependence of the second cause in acting. Not the former, because where only a simultaneous concourse is granted, there God operates indeed with the creature, but not in it; so the first and second causes are partial and allied causes of the same action (like two horses drawing a chariot) and so each uses its proper and peculiar influx (which it has from itself) so that in flowing in it does not depend upon the influx of the other cause as upon a cause truly efficient (although the effect depends on both). Not the latter, because the conservation of its nature and powers makes the second cause depend upon God in being, but not in operating and causing (which is what the question is about). Since we deal here with the motion and determination of the second cause, which (if not maintained to be done by God, but from the creature alone) on that very account it will be independent in acting and God could not be considered as the first cause of that motion (which as an entity ought still to depend upon him).

VIII. (2) What is of itself indifferent to many acts, to act or not act, must necessarily be determined to act by another because what is potential (in potentia) cannot be reduced to actuality except by something which is in act (in actu). But every second cause (especially the will of man) is such. Therefore it is necessary that it be determined to actuality by some other external principle (which can be no other than God himself). Nor ought it to be said that the indifference of the will or of the second cause does not hinder them from determining themselves when the proper objects are presented to them. Although second causes have sufficient power to act in the order of second causes and can determine themselves to act in a particular way, yet they do not cease to have need of the previous motion of God in order to obtain the certainty of the event. Otherwise no prescience of God could be held certain concerning them, since from their own nature they are indifferent.

IX. Third, if God does not concur by a previous concourse (by determining the creature antecedently to his act), neither could he be joined in acting with the creature by a simultaneous concourse. That two free wills may be joined together and agree to elicit the same common action at the same time and immediately (and proximately and undividedly) and that not casually and fortuitously but infallibly and so certainly as to imply a contradiction for one to elicit such an action without the other, either both ought to be conjoined by a very powerful superior cause to elicit the same action in the same point of time or both are by their own nature determined to that operation so that they cannot help producing it; or one determines the operation of the other and consequently determines the other cause to act. Besides these no other method of conjunction and of concurrence for the production of one and the same operation can be imagined. But no one of these three (except the third) can belong to the first cause. Not the former, because since God is the first cause (having none above himself), he cannot be subordinated to a third superior cause. Not the latter, because God is not determined necessarily to operating, since in all external concourse he is perfectly free. Nor do many second causes act from necessity of nature, but freely (which therefore ought to be masters of their own acts, so however as to depend always upon the first cause both in being and in operation). Hence it follows that the infallibility of the event cannot arise from any other cause than the divine predetermination.

X. Fourth, God by an absolute and efficacious will decreed from eternity all acts (even free) antecedently to the foresight of the determination of the free will itself. Therefore he ought also in time to predetermine the will to the same acts; otherwise God's eternal decree could be frustrated. The reason of the consequence is drawn from the connection of God's decree with its execution. Whatever he decreed, that he follows out; and whatever he performs in time, he decreed from eternity. The antecedent is proved because since the futurition of things depends upon no other than God's decree, nothing can be done in time which has not been decreed by him from eternity. The objection is frivolous that God did not decree to effect all things, but only to permit many. For although the decree is only permissively occupied about the wickedness of the act, it nevertheless does not hinder it from being effectively occupied about the physical entity of the action itself (as will be more fully proved hereafter).

Sources of explanation.

XI. Predetermination does not destroy, but conserves the liberty of the will. By it, God does not compel rational creatures or make them act by a physical or brute necessity. Rather he only effects this—that they act both consistently with themselves and in accordance with their own nature, i.e., from preference (ek proaireseōs) and spontaneously (to wit, they are so determined by God that they also determine themselves). Now although what is predetermined is not any more indifferent to act or not to act in the second act and in the compound sense, yet it can always be indifferent in the first act and in the divided sense (as the will, when it determines itself, can still be in itself indifferent). The fount of error is the measuring of the nature of liberty from equilibrium (isorropia) and making indifference (to amphirrepes) essential to it. Liberty must be defined by willingness and spontaneity (as will be seen in the proper place).

XII. The necessity carried into things by predetermination is not destructive of liberty because it is not consequent. Nor does it make either the cause itself to be necessary or the effect to proceed just as from the cause itself, but of consequence which only secures the action of a cause of this kind and indeed agreeably to itself and so spontaneously and willingly. Hence these two can at the same time be true: man wills spontaneously, and, with respect to providence or premotion, he cannot help willing. For that premotion of God is such that it takes place in accordance with the nature of things and does not take away from second causes the mode of operation proper to each.

XIII. Although creatures (in the genus of second causes and dependent upon God) have sufficient intrinsic power to act, it does not follow that the extrinsic premotion of God is unnecessary by which they may be excited to operation. Rather because they ought to be subordinated to the first cause and depend upon it, that premotion must necessarily be supposed in order that they may elicit their own acts. And it cannot be concluded from this that creatures are only passive because that premotion secures the action of creatures and elicits their own actions from themselves (which both their diverse essences and also faculties and strength, of which there would be no need if they did not act, show). Therefore it does not follow from the premotion of God that second causes do nothing, but only do nothing independently.

XIV. Although God previously moves second causes, still he cannot be said to produce the actions of second causes (for instance, to make warm or to walk). These actions belong to God only efficiently, but to creatures they belong not only efficiently, but also formally and subjectively (as from them the creatures are better denominated than God himself).

XV. Although creatures are the instruments which God uses for the execution of their own works, they do not cease to have a proper influx and to hold the relation (schesin) of principal causes (not indeed with respect to God, but to the remaining causes subordinate to him). Nor is it absurd that there should be two totally acting causes of the same numerical effect of a different order, since the action of both causes is only one, by which they concur to the effect.

XVI. Although the premotion of God is extended to evil actions, it does not on that account make God guilty of the fault or the author of sin. It only pertains to actions inasmuch as they are material and entitative (entitative), not however as they are moral, i.e., to the substance of the act, but not to its wickedness. Nor is it a new thing for one and the same action to be considered in different ways, either physically or morally. The magistrate is the cause of the death inflicted on the guilty person by the executioner, but is not the cause of the cruelty exhibited in that execution; the harp player is the cause of the sound, but not of the dissonance arising from the strings; and he who drives a lame horse is the cause of the motion, but not the lameness. Nor is it an objection that the wickedness is necessarily and inseparably annexed to such action. Hence it would seem to follow that he who is the cause of the action, must also be the cause of the wickedness because the created will is otherwise the moral cause of the wickedness, except inasmuch as it is the material cause of the act, to which the wickedness is necessarily bound. We answer that it is falsely supposed that the created will is not otherwise the cause of the wickedness than inasmuch as it is the cause of the act to which wickedness is annexed. The will, as a physical agent, is the physical cause of the act; but as a moral agent, the will is the moral cause of the wickedness, not simply because it produces the act, but because it produces such an act against the law to which man is subject. Therefore, the reason why wickedness may be imputed to the human will is not simply because it produces the act in the genus of being (as a physical agent), but because it is man subject to the law who performs a forbidden act (as a moral agent). Hence moral wickedness does not follow intrinsically and from the nature of the thing to the act (as the act is in the genus of nature), but as it proceeds from a deficient created will (to which moreover the causality of sin must be attributed and not to God). Finally, reason no less contends against simultaneous concourse than against previous because according to it God concurs even truly and efficiently to the material act of sin, therefore he ought also to be the cause of the wickedness annexed to it. The sounder Scholastics agree with us. Thomas Aquinas says, "God in an action connected with deformity, does what belongs to the action, does not do what belongs to the deformity; for although in any effect there are many things inseparably connected, it does not behoove that whatever may be the cause of it as to one, should also be the cause as to the other" (2 Dist. 37, Q. 2, Art. 2+). Thus Cajetan: "Thirdly, it follows that it is not the same to concur with such an act according to what it has from the agent as such, and according to what it has from the agent as deficient, just as it is not the same to be an agent and to be deficient" (Commentaria in Summam Theologicam Divi Thomae, I–II, QQ. LXXI–CXIV [1948], p. 50 on I–II, Q. 79, Art. 1). Alvarez says, "It does not follow that God is the cause of sin because he determines to the act; because the deformity follows the act, not as it is in the genus of nature, but as it is in the genus of morals and as it is caused by the free will" (lib. 2, cap. 9+).

XVII. Since in every moral action we must necessarily distinguish the substance of the act in the genus of being from the goodness and wickedness of the same in the genus of morals—the action of understanding and willing simply (which has a material relation) from the action of understanding and willing this or that lawful or unlawful object (which has a formal relation)—it is evident that no action can be called essentially good or bad, but only as it is here and now circumstantiated in the genus of morals, i.e., with a relation (schesei) to this or that good or bad moral object. Thus the volition of stealing reduplicatively and circumstantiated here and now, is indeed essentially evil with regard to another's property; but the volition, to which that circumstance happens by which it is a volition to steal, is not essentially evil in like manner. Therefore, nothing hinders God from being the cause of the action itself, except inasmuch as it is a singular action simply in the genus of being (with regard to materiality, but not with regard to its formality) and inasmuch as it is an action circumstantiated in the genus of morals to such an action, i.e., inasmuch as it is an act of stealing. The same can be said of hatred of God which is objected by various persons as intrinsically and essentially evil. For although hatred of God reduplicatively and formally as such and circumstantiated to such an object, is intrinsically evil and can be nothing else than sinful, yet if considered simply as a physical action abstracted from this object, it can have a metaphysical goodness of being and be morally indifferent and so far can be from God. Although therefore on the determination of God as to the substance of the act, transgression (anomia) necessarily follows (marked in hatred of God), yet it must not be thought to depend effectively on it, so that the causality of sin can be referred to it (for that determination is only physical, not moral—which alone is sinful).

XVIII. The predetermination of God in evil acts is not repugnant to his permission because they are not occupied about the same things. The former regards the substance of the act, the latter, however, its wickedness; the former reaches the material (effecting it), but the latter the formality (leaving it to the free will of man, which alone is the deficient moral cause). For as in an evil act, there is, as it were, a twofold formal relation (one having the relation of effect, the other having the relation of defect), God can move and predetermine to that which has the relation of effect, but can only permit the other which has the relation of defect.

XIX. Since the will of precept and of decree respect diverse objects, nothing prevents God from willing a thing by his will of decree which he does not will (but prohibits) by his will of precept. Thus what is contrary to the revealed will of sign can be done according to the secret will of good purpose. God was unwilling that the brethren of Joseph should sell him and that the Jews should crucify Christ, since they were most heinous crimes against the law. Yet he is said to have willed, yea, even to have done these things (Gen. 45:7; Acts 4:28).

Sixth Question

How can the concourse of God be reconciled with the contingency and liberty of second causes—especially of the will of man?

Difficulty of the question.

I. This question is no less difficult than the preceding; nay somewhat more difficult and incapable of being sufficiently explained, unless we follow the light of the divine word and religiously restrain ourselves within the bounds prescribed by it. These two things we derive most clearly from the Scriptures: that the providence of God concurs with all second causes and especially with the human will; yet the contingency and liberty of the will remain unimpaired. But how these two things can consist with each other, no mortal can in this life perfectly understand. Nor should it seem a cause for wonder, since he has a thousand ways (to us incomprehensible) of concurring with our will, insinuating himself into us and turning our hearts, so that by acting freely as we will, we still do nothing besides the will and determination of God. Thus here deservedly, if anywhere else, we may exclaim: "O the depth (ō bathos) how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33).

II. Now although the method of this reconciliation cannot in this life be clearly and perfectly explained by us, still it can in some measure be described as far as is sufficient for salvation by the previous light of the divine word. Before all things, this must always be remembered, that things the most certain and evident of themselves are not to be called into question on account of other uncertain and inevident things (i.e., we must distinguish the thing from the mode of the thing). Although ignorant of the mode of a thing, still we ought not on that account to deny the thing itself. With regard to the latter there is a certainty, since numberless things are most true which yet in the very highest degree surpass our comprehension. Therefore these two things are indubitable: that God on the one hand by his providence not only decreed but most certainly secures the event of all things, whether free or contingent; on the other hand, however, man is always free in acting and many effects are contingent. Although I cannot understand how these can be mutually connected together, yet (on account of ignorance of the mode) the thing itself is (which is certain from another source, i.e., from the word) not either to be called in question or wholly denied.

False methods of reconciliation must be rejected; the first by prescience.

III. Many attempts at reconciliation have been made, but with little success. For whether we look to the prescience of God or to his permission or to the indifferent influx of providence (the three principal modes of reconciliation brought forward by our opponents), it is easy to show that they are not only vain and fictitious, but false, impious, contrary to the Scriptures and derogatory to the providence of God. And indeed as to the last, nothing more need be said here because we have fully treated of it in the preceding question. Of the other two, the same thing must be briefly demonstrated—that they will by no means suffice. For as to prescience, it is first gratuitously supposed that the providence of God is contained in the act of prescience alone by which future things are known. But since it also includes an act of will (by which their infallible futurition is decreed) so all contingent and free causes must have a relation (schesin) to providence, not only inasmuch as they are known before by God as future, but also inasmuch as from eternity they were decreed to be future and in time should be infallibly moved and ordained to their effects. (2) Again it is falsely supposed that there is no connection of foreknown things with prescience and that it imposes no necessity upon them. Yet Scripture teaches both most clearly in numberless passages (Mt. 18:7; 26:54; Mk. 8:31; Lk. 24:7, 46; 1 Cor. 11:19); and reason proves it. Otherwise (unless there existed this necessary connection between them), the prescience of God could be deceived and his decree changed (both of which are blasphemous).

2. By permission.

IV. They who have recourse to permission succeed no better. Although permission ought to have its own place in explaining the providence of God in evil (as will hereafter be seen), yet it is falsely used for this reconciliation: both because more acts of God than a bare permission are granted here (implying his special and efficacious concourse), and because it is improperly supposed that the permission is conjoined with the indifference of sinners as to the event. The permission of God being posited, sin necessarily follows; if not on the part of man's free will, yet on the part of God's decree. Otherwise that action might be prevented and thus the decree of God concerning it be frustrated; for example, the selling of Joseph or the crucifixion of Christ, which nevertheless Scripture denies and the nature of the thing itself forbids.

The true method is founded upon the order of causes and the mode of acting proper to them.

V. The true method of harmonizing them must therefore be sought from some other source (viz., from the order of causes among themselves and the mode of acting proper to them). This can be explained in the following propositions. First, the concourse of providence and of the human will is not of collateral and equal causes, but of unequal and subordinate. The reason is drawn from the nature of each. Since the former is the concourse of the Creator and the latter of the creature (the one a concourse of the first, universal and hyperphysical cause; the other, however, of the second, particular and physical cause), there cannot be granted a coordination between them such as exists between allied and partial causes joined together to the production of one and the same effect (to which they do not singly suffice). Rather a subordination must necessarily be admitted by which the first presides, the second are subject; the former act independently, the latter, however, dependently. This is so necessary that without the second causes neither can exist nor be even imagined.

VI. Second, God so concurs with second causes that although he previously moves and predetermines them by a motion not general only but also special, still he moves them according to their own nature and does not take away from them their own proper mode of operating. The reason is because as the decree of God is occupied not only about the determination of things which ought to be done, but also of the means according to which they are to be done relative to the nature and condition of each, thus actual providence (which is the execution of this decree) secures not only the infallible futurition of the thing decreed, but also its taking place in the very manner decreed (to wit, agreeably to the nature of each; i.e., necessary things take place necessarily, free and contingent things, however, freely and contingently). For as there are two kinds of causes, some definite and general (always acting in the same way—as fire which burns, the sun which shines), others indefinite and free (which can act or not act in this or that way); so God conserves their nature and concurs in acting with them according to it. With the definite, he himself determines them without a proper determination; with the indefinite and free, however, they also determine themselves by the proper judgment of reason and the free disposition of the will (which God does not take away from man because he would thus destroy his own work, but leaves and strengthens it). And further, that admirable force of providence here displays itself by which it so joins itself to the nature of each thing that although infallibly and necessarily carrying out the thing decreed, still this is accomplished conveniently to its nature by the intervention of the second cause by reaching from end to end strictly and disposing all things sweetly.

VII. Third, it follows, since providence does not concur with the human will, either by coaction (compelling the unwilling will) or by determining it physically (as a brute and blind thing without judgment), but rationally (by turning the will in a manner suitable to itself), that it may determine itself as the proximate cause of its own actions by the proper judgment of reason and the spontaneous election of the will so that it does no violence to our will but rather kindly cherishes it. These two are the only kinds of necessity which destroy liberty and are incompatible (asystatoi) with it: natural and coactive necessity. The others (arising from God's decree and the motion of the first cause or from the object and the last judgment of the practical intellect) so far from overthrowing liberty, rather defend it, because they turn, do not compel, the will and make it willing from unwilling. For whoever does spontaneously what he wills from a judgment of reason and a full consent of will cannot help doing that freely even if he does it necessarily (from whatever source that necessity flows, whether from the very existence of the thing [because whatever is, when it is, is necessarily] or from the object efficaciously moving the mind and the will or from a first cause decreeing and concurring).

VIII. Fourth, God so concurs with the human will as still to determine it differently in good and evil. For in the good actions, God so previously moves the will as to be the author of them (not only in the genus of nature, but also according to their moral goodness) by determining the will not only as to the thing (i.e., the good) either in general or in particular, but also as to the mode so that what is done should be well done. He does this partly by giving to it good qualities through special help or supernatural grace, partly by exciting them when given (helping and leading into act through their cooperation [synergeian]). Hence while he suggests pious thoughts to man (2 Cor. 3:5), he causes man also to consider his own way (Prov. 16:9; Hag. 1:5); while he gives a new heart and puts a new spirit within us, he makes us also to walk in his commandments (Ezk. 36:27); while he works in us both to will and to do, he sees to it that we ourselves also work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12, 13). In evil actions, however, he so concurs as neither to effect, assist, nor approve of them, but to permit and efficaciously direct; not by infusing wickedness, but by so determining rational creatures physically to the substance of the act in the genus of being, that they (when left to themselves failing from the law) move and determine themselves to bad actions in the genus of morals, performing them freely and voluntarily (hekousiōs). Hence the guilt rests upon them alone, from which God is therefore free (as will be more fully proved in the following question).

Sources of explanation.

IX. Absolute and independent liberty (belonging to God alone) differs from the limited and dependent (proper to creatures). By the former, God so determines himself as to be ruled and determined by no other; but the determination of another consists best with the latter because man does not cease to act spontaneously and from preference (ek proaireseōs), although these motions are excited and ordered from another source.

X. Although the will (relative to providence and with respect to the second act) while exerting its operation cannot be indifferent to doing or omitting this or that thing (because it is determined to one of opposites), yet this does not prevent it (considered in itself and in the first act) from being indifferent in its own nature and undetermined to many things and from freely determining itself. It is indeed certain that there cannot be a determinate effect of an indeterminate cause, if this is the only one; but if to produce one and the same effect, a superior cause concurs with the human will (acting not only by it but also with it), the proximate causes (of themselves indeterminate of the effect) can be so determined by that superior cause that it does not do violence to the will, but suffers it to act by its own motion and free will. Nay, it uses this very liberty to execute its own counsels because God also decreed that man should spontaneously and freely serve his decree. The same must be said of contingency which can be attributed to the effect with respect to the second cause which in other respects is necessary with respect to the first cause (as has already been seen). The other matters belonging here were discussed in the preceding question.

XI. Moreover if any scruple still remains in a most obscure subject or anything which surpasses our comprehension (as indeed it must not be denied that many things here are impervious to us), it is more satisfactory to be humbly ignorant than rashly to define. It is fitting that we remember that the ways of God are not our ways; they are to be admired, not thoughtlessly searched into. And we (insignificant mortals) ought to be satisfied with firmly retaining the fact (to hoti) (which is most clearly revealed in the word), although it is not granted to us now to know fully the why (to dioti) or the how (to pōs).

Seventh Question: The Providence of God in Evil

Do sins fall under providence, and how is it applied to them?

Pelagians sin in defect.

The Manichaeans and Libertines in excess.

I. In this question, which all confess to be the most intricate and difficult among those agitated concerning providence, two extremes occur which are equally dangerous and to be avoided. First in defect, wherein an otiose permission about sins is ascribed to God. The other in excess, when the causality of sin is charged upon God. The former clashes with the providence of God, but the latter with his justice and holiness. Into the former, the Pelagians, who refer the method of God's providence about evil to a bare and idle permission, run (as if he put forth no action in reference to it, but only indifferently beheld and permitted it). On the latter, however, the Manichaeans, Simonians and Priscillianists formerly struck who made God the cause of wickedness and of sins. This sinners readily seize to excuse their crimes: as Homer's Agamemnon, "I am not to be blamed, but Jupiter and fate" (egō d' ouk aitios eimi, alla Zeus kai Moira, Iliad 19.86–87 [Loeb, 2:342–43]); and Lyconides in the Aulularia of Plautus, "God was the instigator, I believe the gods wished it" (The Pot of Gold [Loeb, 1:310–11]). This impiety is indulged by the Libertines of the present time.

II. The orthodox hold the mean between these extremes, maintaining that the providence of God is so occupied about sin as neither idly to permit it (as the Pelagians think) nor efficiently to produce it (as the Libertines suppose), but efficaciously to order and direct it. However, in order that this may be readily understood, we must treat of it a little more distinctly.

How God concurs to the act of sin.

To the adjunct.

III. First, three things must be accurately distinguished in sin: (1) the entity itself of the act which has the relation of material; (2) the disorder (ataxia) and wickedness joined with it (or its concomitant) which puts on the notion of the formal; (3) the consequent judgment called the adjunct. God is occupied in different ways about these. As to the first, since an act as such is always good as to its entity, God concurs to it effectively and physically, not only by conserving the nature, but by exciting its motions and actions by a physical motion, as being good naturally (in which sense we are said "to live, move and have our being in him," Acts 17:28). As to the third (which is related to the judgment of God) which is joined with sin, not of itself in relation to the sinner (who thinks or intends no such thing, Gen. 50:20; Is. 10:5–7), but accidentally in relation to God permitting sins and ordaining them to a good end beyond their own nature—God holds himself also positively and efficaciously, since what as such has the relation of good must be from God. And although both the fault and the punishment can be the same materially, yet formally and according to different relations (scheseis) vice and judgment, wickedness and guilt can always be distinguished in the same evil action.

To the wickedness.

IV. As to the second, which is the lawlessness (anomia) itself, God can be called neither its physical cause (because he neither inspires nor infuses nor does it) nor its ethical cause (because he neither commands nor approves and persuades, but more severely forbids and punishes it). Thus God is said to nill iniquity (Pss. 5:4–6; 45:7), so to detest as not to be able to endure it: "He is of purer eyes than to behold evil" (Hab. 1:13); "God tempts no one, nor can he be tempted by any man" (viz., to sin, Jam. 1:13) because he is guiltless of evil (kakōn anaitios). But yet sin ought not to be removed from the providence of God, for it falls under it in many ways as to its beginning, progress and end. As to its beginning, he freely permits it; as to its progress, he wisely directs it; as to its end, he powerfully terminates and brings it to a good end. These are the three degrees of providence about sin of which we must speak.

1. As to the beginning, God acts: (a) by permission.

V. The first grade respects the beginning of sin, about which we say God is occupied permissively (about which Scripture frequently testifies: "I gave them up to their own hearts' lusts," Ps. 81:12; and "God in times past suffered all to walk in their own ways," Acts 14:16). But because this permission is not explained by all in the same way, its true method must be distinctly stated before all other things.

Which is not ethical, but physical.

VI. First, this permission is not ethical or moral (which is of right by a relaxation or dispensation of the law, which is opposed to prohibition). In this sense, if God permitted sin, he would also approve it as lawful or just (which is absurd). Rather this permission is physical (which is of fact by a not hindering, which is opposed to effecting). The former regards God as legislator and Judge; the latter, however, as the supreme Lord and ruler of the world, governing and regulating the events of all things according to his will. The former is done by justice when he gives the license to do something; the latter by power when he does not exert the strength which could actually prevent this or that from being done.

Not idle, but efficacious.

VII. Second, this permission must not be conceived negatively, as if it was a mere keeping back (anergia) or cessation of his will and providence in evil works (by which God, sitting as it were on a watchtower, should behold only the event of the permitted action and who, therefore, would be left uncertain and doubtful—as the old Pelagians thought and as their followers of the present day hold obtruding upon us the comment of an otiose and inert permission; cf. Bellarmine, "God does not hold himself towards sins positively to will or nill, but negatively not to will" ("De amissione gratiae et statu peccati," 2.16 in Opera 4:107). But it must be conceived positively and affirmatively; not simply that God does not will to hinder sin (which is an otiose negation), but that he wills not to hinder (which is an efficacious affirmation). Thus the permission involves a positive act of the secret will by which God designedly and willingly determined not to hinder sin, although he may be said to nill it as to the revealed will of approbation. In this sense, our divines do not refuse to employ the word "permission" with the Scriptures. And if at any time they reject it (as Calvin, Beza and others), they understand it in the Pelagian sense of otiose "permission" which takes away from God his own right and sets up the idol of free will in its place. Hence Beza: "If by the word permission is meant this distinction (to wit, since God does not act in evil, but gives them up to Satan and their own lusts) that I repudiate not in the least. But if permission is opposed to will, this I reject as false and absurd; its falsity appearing from this, that if God unwillingly permits anything, he is not certainly God, i.e., Almighty; but if he is said to permit anything as not caring, how much do we differ from Epicureanism? It remains, therefore, that he willingly permits what he permits. Will then is not opposed to permission" (A Little Book of Christian Questions and Responses, Q. 179 [trans. K.M. Summers, 1986], pp. 72–73).

VIII. However when we say that permission is occupied positively with sin (if not on the part of the term, at least on the part of the principle, inasmuch as it includes a positive act of the will), this we understand not as if the divine will has sin as an object precisely of itself. For since his will can have for its object nothing but good, it cannot will evil as evil, but as terminated on the permission of that which is good. God, therefore, properly does not will sin to be done, but only wills to permit it. And if at any time sin is called the means of illustrating God's glory, it does not follow that God (who wills the end) ought also to will sin as such (which is the means to it). For it is called the means not so much causally and effectively (as if concurring finally to effect that end) as materially and objectively (because it is the occasion from which God illustrates his own glory). Again, it is not the means of itself because this rather obscures than illustrates the glory of God, but by accident from the wisdom of God (who elicits good from evil, as light from darkness). (3) He who wills the end wills also the means, but not always by the same volition. If the means are of a diverse nature, he can will the end by an effective volition because the end is of itself good; but he wills the means only by a permissive volition (if it is evil) not so much willing the means itself as the use of the means (to wit, the permission and ordination of sin itself).

IX. However, because it seems strange that God should permit sin, inquiry was made into the causes of that permission. The Arminians think the cause (either sole or principal) is that God is unwilling to help the free will granted to the creature by himself. But this cause does not avail because besides the fact that it is falsely supposed that providence cannot efficaciously concur with the sinning will without doing violence to the free will (which we have already refuted), if this were so, God could never hinder sin, lest the free will be compelled (which nevertheless he evidently often does). Therefore the causes of this permission must be sought elsewhere, and they can be various according to the various states of the creatures. For if innocent creatures are referred to, Scripture says nothing expressly as to the reason why he permitted angels or men to fall. However, because nothing takes place without his knowledge or against his will, it ought not to be doubted that it happened by a certain and deliberate counsel (which it is safer to admire than curiously to pry into). Of this only ought we to be certainly persuaded—that God has done nothing in this business either repugnant to his justice (because he was not bound to hinder sin; or to his wisdom, because since he willed the condition of the creature to be mutable, there was no reason to oblige him to do anything towards it exceeding the mode of nature) or to his goodness (because the love with which he pursues the creature, as long as he continues in his integrity, does not forthwith proceed so far as to be bound to keep him from falling, especially since he can even from that evil elicit also good). Having this in view, Augustine says, "God knew that it pertained more to his most almighty goodness, even to bring good out of evil, than not to permit evil to be" (Admonition and Grace 10 [27] [FC 2:278; PL 44.932]). For if he had not permitted evil, his punitive justice would not have appeared, nor his pardoning mercy, nor the wisdom by which he turns evil into good, nor that wonderful love manifested in sending his Son into the world for the salvation of the church. As to the fallen creature, it is easier to assign the causes of the permission of sin because, since he is already corrupt, God can most justly permit sin either as a punishment (that preceding sins may be punished) or for chastisement (that the faithful, being thus admonished of their natural depravity, may be anxious to correct it) or for an example (that some may learn from the fall of others and walk more cautiously).

X. Now although the man is a partaker of the fault who does not turn anyone away from sin when he can, it does not follow that God in permitting sin becomes in any way guilty of sin because men are bound to hinder sin, both in themselves and in others. Hence the fault of his sons is imputed to Eli (whom he had by his indulgence permitted to sin, 1 S. 3:13); but God is bound to this by no law. Again, that permission bespeaks no influx and causality with respect to the creature sinning as to lawlessness (anomian), but a mere suspension of a hindrance; nor does it take away the spontaneity and choice (proairesin) of the creature, nor prevent it from acting most freely. Nor if sin infallibly follows upon the permission, can he therefore be called its cause but only the antecedent (which is necessarily supposed).

(b) By desertion.

XI. To permission, desertion must be added, by which God, in order not to hinder man from sinning, deserts him by withdrawing the grace opposed to sin or by not giving it so efficaciously as to enable him to overcome the assailing temptation. This withdrawal is either privative (when he takes away the grace given before) or negative (when he does not furnish new grace necessary to persist). In the former sense, God deserts sinful men when he takes away from them the light they abuse and draws back his restraining Spirit. (In consequence of the removal of this barrier they rush with loosened reins into wickedness.) In the latter way, he deserted Adam by not giving (with the help without which he could not stand and by which he had the power if he wished) the help by which he might actually stand and might have the will which could.

Desertion is threefold: of exploration; of correction; penal.

XII. However, this desertion can be threefold: (1) of exploration, when God deserts man to prove him, such as is attributed to Hezekiah when he admitted the Babylonian ambassadors and opened all his treasures to them. God is said to "have left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart" (2 Ch. 32:31). So he deserted Adam, when, permitting the temptation, he did not give him efficacious help by which he might resist it. God, as it were, retired to a distance in order to show how great is the weakness of human nature without the help of the Creator. (2) Of correction, with respect to the church and believers whom God is said to desert for a time that he may afterwards gather them with his everlasting mercies (Is. 54:7; Ps. 125:3 [?103:4]). (3) Penal, of the judgment, such as is denounced against sinners (2 K. 21:14; Jer. 7:29; 23:33) and is attributed to the Gentiles, whom he is said to have left in and given over to their own impure desires (Rom. 1:24).

XIII. The cause of this desertion, however, is always just and holy with God. At one time, it is manifest (as the desertion of sinners who deserve it on account of their preceding sins), at another it remains concealed (as in the first sin of Adam). In the meantime, its causality cannot in any way be ascribed to God because by that desertion he neither compelled him to fall, nor breathed into him the will to fall, nor took away any internal grace given in creation. He only denied the undue grace of confirmation (not given) by the most free good pleasure of his own will (by which he dispenses of his own as he will—the equally free denier and bestower of his own gifts). Now although the necessity of the fall was with a denial of that grace, yet the liberty and spontaneity of man sinning was not destroyed. Rather it was shown that God willed that man should certainly fall. But as God willed his certain fall by an eternal decree, so at the same time he willed him to fall most freely; nor did his fall cease to be most free on account of that concourse of God denied to his actual perseverance any more than on account of the most free concourse of God with a necessary cause, the operation of that cause ceases to be necessary or natural.

XIV. However whether besides God's permission and desertion, there is a certain ulterior operation on his part is not undeservedly questioned. Some sharply contest, others assert it: the former, lest they should bring upon God some taint of wickedness or injustice (which would make him the author of sin); the latter, that they may not withdraw anything from divine providence. It is not indeed to be denied that many passages of Scripture, actively enunciating, can and ought to be explained passively, so that one may be said to do what he only permits and does not hinder: as when David is said to have "kept the Moabites alive" (2 S. 8:2), i.e., did not kill them; and Noah to have kept the animals alive (Gen. 6:19), i.e., conserved them. Thus certain passages which indicate action concerning the providence of God in evil, can be explained of his permission or the simple denial of grace (as Augustine often explains "to harden" by "not to soften"). Scripture, however, speaks too emphatically (emphatikōteron) to allow us to rest in permission alone; and we think something more is signified by those efficacious expressions employed, in which not only a certain withdrawal and not hindering on God's part is marked, but also a certain efficacious action is designated. Hence the Holy Spirit uses verbs not only in the Hiphil, but also in the Piel, by which the action is strengthened: as when he says "God hardened Pharaoh" (Ex. 4:21; 7:3); and elsewhere the Scripture says, "The wives of David were given to his son Absalom by God to be violated" (2 S. 12:11); yea, "God told Shimei to curse David" (2 S. 16:10); "Evil spirits were sent by God being commanded to injure" (1 K. 22:23); "He sends a spirit of error" (Is. 19:14); "fills with drunkenness" (Jer. 13:12, 13); "sends strong delusion that they should believe a lie" (2 Thess. 2:11); and innumerable other passages which are too strong to be explained of bare permission. Otherwise many of God's judgments (executed by the reprobate) would be weakened and be the work of bare permission. And so it would be of the death of Christ itself on which our whole redemption hangs; nevertheless, the Holy Spirit expressly testifies that Herod and Pontius Pilate did nothing but what the hand and counsel of God (i.e., his efficacious decree) had determined before should be done (Acts 4:28).

The efficacy of providence appears: (1) in the presentation of occasions.

XV. No mortal, however, can either conceive or sufficiently explain what that efficacy of providence is. Three things most especially belong to it: (1) the offering of occasions; (2) the delivering over to Satan; (3) the immediate operation of God in the heart. First, the offering of occasions which can be procured only by the peculiar providence of God by the concourse of circumstances and the proposition of objects, fitted to move faculties constituted in this or that way (in which manner God does not infuse wickedness into the minds of men, but draws out into action the wickedness latent there). So for the sale of Joseph, he made the Midianite merchants come along; he willed the avarice of Achan to be excited by the sight of the Babylonian garment (Jos. 7:21); and that David's lust should be inflamed by the nakedness of Bathsheba. Such things affecting the senses are said and done as that although good in themselves and of a kind by which they ought to be softened, yet the impious falsely abuse them and are hardened by their own fault (as the commandments of God, the Egyptian plagues and the miracles wrought before Pharaoh; and the miracles of Christ: the former ought to have turned the heart of Pharaoh, the latter the hearts of the Jews, yet they hardened them the more).

(2) In delivering over to Satan.

XVI. (2) He not only presents occasions and objects, but delivers men over to Satan and their own evil desires (as God is said to have "given the Gentiles over to their own vile lusts, and to a reprobate mind" [Rom. 1:24, 26, 28] as a punishment of previous sins). So "an evil spirit from the Lord" is said to have "troubled Saul" (1 S. 16:14) and a lying spirit to have been sent by God into the mouth of the false prophets (1 K. 22:22). Hence God, loosening the reins, works efficaciously in the "children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). For although actuated by so great a hatred against God and men as to be spontaneously intent upon all occasions of injuring and thus needing no spur, yet because he cannot attempt or carry out anything against the pleasure of God, he is sometimes sent by God and by his command is said to fulfil his own wicked designs. Now as Satan can be considered in three ways with respect to man (either as a tempter or an accuser or an executioner and tormenter), God can deliver men over to him in these three ways. As a tempter, when he sends the efficacy of error that men may believe a lie and be blinded by Satan (2 Thess. 2:9, 11; 2 Cor. 4:4); or as an accuser, when he exposes men to his accusations, as was the case with Job (cf. chap. 1) and Joshua (Zech. 3:1); or as an executioner and tormenter, when he delivers man to be vexed by him both in body and soul (in which sense the incestuous person is "delivered to Satan" by Paul [1 Cor. 5:5], and Hymenaeus and Alexander, 1 Tim. 1:20).

XVII. Satan, however, acts upon men in two ways: either externally by tempting the heart, now by the proposition of objects pleasing to the flesh, so as to impel them to license and rebellion (as was the case with our first parents) then by the sending of calamities and evils to cast them down into despair (as observed in Job and others); or internally by acting on the fancy and through the fancy affecting the intellect (by the representation of those phantasms which can seduce men and excite to evil or recall from good; or by operating on the humors and by the humors exciting the bodily appetites, either to inflame lust, or excite anger or to do other things to kindle the passions [to thymikon] or the desires [to epithymētikon] whose power is great especially in the unrenewed). In this sense, he is said to send into the heart of man what may persuade him; yea, to enter into man himself, as is said of Judas (Jn. 13:2, 27).

(3) In the internal operation of God.

XVIII. Third, besides the delivering over to Satan, there is also sometimes a certain internal operation of God in man by which he turns the heart of man to the execution of his counsel. Solomon refers to this when he says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Prov. 21:1). Augustine says, "God operates in the hearts of men to incline their wills whithersoever he will, whether to good according to his mercy, or to evil according to their desert, as by his own judgment, now open, then secret, yet always just" (On Grace and Free Will 43 [NPNF1, 5:463; PL 44.909]). However this can be done either by an internal proposition of objects (which can move the mind and will) or by the impression of thoughts (which although good in themselves, are yet accidentally converted into evil by the vice of corrupt man). Thus the brothers of Joseph think that he is loved by his parents and is honored with dreams by God; these are good thoughts which they impiously abused. Wresting them to envy, they take counsel concerning the removal of him. Pharaoh after the death of Joseph thinks he should see to it that the empire suffers no harm; a good thought undoubtedly sent from God, but falling into an evil mind was perverted to the destruction of the people. So what came into the mind of Caiphas, "It is expedient that one man should die for the people" (Jn. 11:50), was good, but was most wickedly abused to the nefarious slaughter of Christ. Again, God internally works in man when he causes objects to move him in a particular direction. For since man is prone to every evil (as containing in himself the seeds of all vices), yet that he inclines to this rather than that arises from no other source than the secret providence of God, inclining him rather in this than in that direction, not otherwise than a stream flowing downwards is turned by the industry of the conduit master in this rather than that direction. Since to men there lie open many ways of injuring, God (shutting others up) leaves one open that they may be moved in that way. Thus the wicked serve to execute his judgments, when he wishes to use them either to punish the wickedness of anyone or to test the faith of the pious or to arouse them from slothfulness. A remarkable instance of this occurs in Nebuchadnezzar drawing out an army against Judea rather than against Egypt (Ezk. 21:21–24). Therefore, since in these and other wonderful and ineffable ways, God can operate in men to execute his own judgments, it is not without reason that their actions are ascribed to the efficacious power of God.

Second, providence is occupied about the progress of sin by termination.

XIX. Thus it is occupied about the beginning of sin. It exerts itself also as to its progress by a powerful termination of it, placing limits to it, both of intension (that it may not grow out into immenseness) and of extension (that it may not spread more widely) and of duration (that it may not continue longer and so do more injury both to the sinner himself and to others). This he does either internally (by enlightening the mind to perceive the turpitude of sin and the greatness of the punishment due to it or by restraining and curbing the depraved desires) or externally (by repressing the fury of Satan and the world, removing the occasions of evil and also by calling away from sin by commands and threatenings). All this appears from the examples of Laban, Esau, Balaam, Sennacherib and many others (and especially from the history of Job and of Christ).

Third, about the end, by direction.

XX. Finally, as to the end in its wise ordination and direction, when beyond the nature of sin and the will of the sinner, by his wisdom and power he converts the evil into good and directs and draws it to a good end. "Ye thought evil against me," said Joseph (Gen. 50:20), "but God meant it unto good." Similar examples occur in Is. 10:5–7, Job 1:20–22, 2:9, 10, Acts 3:13–15. Now this ordination is not to be understood a posteriori (as if God, the existence of sin being foreseen, thought concerning its end), but a priori, by which God proposes an end to himself which he wills to bring about by sinners and their sinful actions (to which he also directs them by his providence because otherwise that ordination of the end would be only occasional and accidental).

XXI. But whatever may be the action of God about sins, still his providence always remains holy and free from all fault (as the solar rays are not affected although they may flow into filth or a carcass). And if at any time the same work is ascribed to God, to the Devil and the wicked (as the selling of Joseph, the hardening of Pharaoh, the calamity of Job, the deceit of Ahab, the numbering of the people, the death of Christ), yet it is ascribed to them in different ways: to God indeed as a most holy work because from a good principle it tends to a good end; to men, however, as most wicked because from an evil principle, by evil means, they tend to an evil end. So the work which the Assyrian was about to perform by the command of God in the abduction of the people was good with respect to God (who willed in this way to chastise his own people). He is on this account called "the rod of God's anger, to whom he gave charge to take the spoil" (Is. 10:5, 6). Yet it is evil with respect to the Assyrian because he had no other end in view than the cutting off of the people and the fulfilling of his own desires: "I will send him against a hypocritical nation.… 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" (Is. 10:6, 7). Therefore as a judge rightly employs lions and other wild beasts for the punishment of the guilty, a physician leeches (yea, even vipers) to cure the sick, so in this, the most wise counsel of God and his admirable power shines forth—that he uses the sins of creatures beyond their intention to good end; not by making the wills or actions of creatures evil, but ordaining them to a good end. As, however, the concourse of God's providence does not excuse the sinner (because he takes away neither liberty nor choice [proairesin] nor spontaneity), so neither can God be made guilty of sin (because he is always most holily employed in the most wicked works of men and for a good end). Now it is known that impelling and final causes make differences of actions and when there are many causes of the same effect (some good, others evil) such effect is good with respect to the good causes and evil with respect to the evil. "Since the Father delivered up the Son, and Judas delivered up his master, why in this delivery is man guilty and God righteous, unless because in the one thing which they did, the cause on account of which they did it is not the same?" as Augustine says (Letter 93, "To Vincent" [FC 18:63; PL 33.324]).

Sources of explanation.

XXII. God can rightly be called the cause of what he wills and decrees simply and by itself. But he did not decree sins simply, but relatively (inasmuch as they are actions); nor by themselves (inasmuch as they are evil works), but by accident (inasmuch as by these actions he willed to carry out his secret judgments). So he willed and decreed the selling of Joseph and the crucifixion of Christ, but with the best end. The former, that the family of Jacob might be preserved; the latter, that the church might be redeemed. Each work was just and holy on the part of God although he willed to follow it out by the wickedness of men (which he did not will to effect, but only to permit). Bellarmine, however, falsely maintains that Gen. 45:7 and Acts 4:28 are not to be referred to the evil works, but to the "good passions" in them (as what on the part of the agents were most grevious crimes, on the part of the patients, Christ and Joseph bearing with equanimity the selling and the death, were works of the highest patience and consequently very good); cf. "De amissione gratiae et statu peccati," 2.2 in Opera (1858), 4:79. For Scripture ascribes to God not only the suffering of Joseph and of Christ, but also the action expressly from which that suffering arose. Joseph does not speak passively of himself—"I was sent hither by God"—but actively—"God sent me hither." The apostles do not say God willed that Christ should die, but actively the counsel and hand of God predetermined the very thing which Herod and Pontius Pilate did. Besides, since action and passion differ not really but rationally, whoever decrees the passion must also decree the action itself. If God willed Joseph to be sold and Christ to be crucified, he also by that very thing willed that the brothers should sell Joseph, and the Jews should nail Christ to the cross.

XXIII. He who impels men to evil (making good wills bad, either drawing them unwilling and nilling or inciting them morally to evil as evil by precept or suasion) is the cause of sin. But God is said to impel wills in themselves evil and spontaneously rushing into evils; not to evils as evils, but as they are his secret judgments. So that he is here to be regarded not simply as Lord (freely permitting the creature to fall), but as a most just Judge (punishing sin by sin) who, therefore, cannot be considered the author of sin, but only the administrator of punishment. Therefore there is one impulsion properly so called (of compulsion) by which violence is done to the free will; another improper and relative which conspires with liberty and involves only a necessity of consequence; or a conditioned necessity (not absolute and consequent). The former is faulty and makes him who uses it the author of sin; but not the latter which God employs towards the wicked.

XXIV. The common axiom—action and effect belong rather to the principal than the instrumental cause; hence it would seem to be inferred that God is the cause of sin because he uses Satan and the wicked as instruments for his work. This common axiom suffers various limitations. (1) It holds good in homogeneous causes, when both causes (the principal as well as the instrumental) are either positive or privative, physical or moral. For example, the word of God as an instrument sanctifies us; therefore much more the Holy Spirit by the word; the false prophet seduces Ahab, therefore much more the devil who acts through him. In the first, each cause is positive; in the last, each is privative. But this is not the case in heterogeneous causes when one (viz., the principal) is positive and physical, the other (viz., the instrumental) is privative and moral; or when one is subject to law, the other, however, irresponsible (anypeuthynos) and above law (or incapable of law). Hence the following do not hold good because the causes are heterogeneous: the sword as an instrument killing a man is not the culpable cause of the homicide, therefore neither is the man wielding the sword; or the executioner, as the instrument of a just judge, punishes the guilty animated by revenge, therefore much more the just judge. In the first, the principal cause is privative, obnoxious to law and moral; the instrumental cause is physical, positive and amenable to no law. In the other, however, the principal cause is positive, moral and congruous with law, but the instrumental is privative, moral and dissonant to law. So here God is the positive, physical, irresponsible (anypeuthynos) cause; men, however, are the privative and moral cause and obnoxious to law.

XXV. (2) It holds good in proper, pure and irrational instruments which borrow whatever they are and do from the principal agent and have nothing of their own intermixed. For there is no principal causality in them, but only an organic which flows from the virtue of the principal agent (as the cause of the homicide, committed with the sword, ought to be imputed not to the sword, but to the man who used it, because the sword is a pure and irrational [alogon] instrument). But it does not hold good in metaphorical and mixed instruments which have something of their own mixed (by which they work), and this they do not borrow from the principal cause. For example, the following does not hold good: a horse struck by the spur of its rider goes lame, therefore the rider himself is more lame. This is not the pure instrument of the rider, but such as has something of its own mixed in the motion of lameness in which it is not subordinated to the rider (viz., a loosened shin bone) which is the adequate and principal cause of the lameness. Thus sinners are not proper and pure instruments, but rational, metaphorical and mixed (which have wickedness from themselves as the proper and adequate cause of sin). (3) The axiom holds good when the action of the principal cause is morally the same as the action of the instrument (as the disciple of Pelagius has a poor opinion of grace, therefore much more Pelagius himself; here the moral action of each cause is the same, of the principal and of the organic). But not equally, when the action is indeed the same materially and physically, but not morally. For then not only is the action of the organic cause not to be ascribed more especially to the principal cause, but it is not to be ascribed at all to it (as the Scholastics rightly teach: "Not from the substance of the real physical act arises the specification of the act as to moral being, but from the diverse moral circumstances"). For the same physical action can be just or unjust according to the diversity of agents, either of those subject to the law or of those unbound by law. And yet here, as was just said, the action of God is not morally the same as the action of the instrument, but only physically. Hence the fault in the instrument is not to be attributed to the principal cause.

XXVI. God commanded Shimei to curse David (2 S. 16:10) by a command of providence, not by a legal command; by a command physically directive, not morally suasive; by a judicial command of the will of good pleasure, as he is a just Judge, punishing and castigating, not by an approving command, of the signified will, as a lawgiver commanding; by a command not properly so called which he made known to Shimei and willed him to obey, but improper and figurative; as God is said to have commanded the fish to throw up Jonah (Jon. 2:10). In David's case, this is nothing else than the efficacious motion of God by which he inclined the evil will of Shimei to this sin for the punishment of David. Augustine explains it thus: "The Lord said to Shimei, curse David, not by commanding where obedience would be praised, but because he inclined his will, evil by his own proper fault, to this sin by his just and secret judgment" (On Grace and Free Will 1.20 [NPNF1, 5:461; PL 44.906]). Thus when God is said to have sent a lying spirit to deceive Ahab (1 K. 22:22), it is not of him approving, but permitting and efficaciously ordaining it for the punishment of the wicked king. He did not give to that lying spirit the license to lie, but loosened the reins to it desirous and offering its aid.

XXVII. The cause of a cause is also the cause of the thing caused, holds good: (1) in adequate causes, provided another true and proximate cause of the thing caused itself does not intervene; (2) in causes by themselves, which produce the effect, inasmuch as they are such when they cause and when it is the cause both of the cause and the thing caused by itself; (3) in causes subordinated essentially and by necessity of nature and mutually depending on each other. But not in like manner, if it is indeed the cause by itself of the cause, but of the thing caused only accidentally (when the inferior cause produces the effect not simply from its own nature, but from some acceding defect). So this does not hold good—the human will is the cause of sin; God is the cause of the human will; therefore he is the cause of sin—for when the created will sins, it turns aside and fails from the order of the first cause. And God who is the cause of the will per se, cannot be called the cause of the evil action, which is from the will not simply in the genus of being (as it is from God), but from the will failing as to the law in the genus of morals.

How hardening and blinding are ascribed to God.

XXVIII. God is said to blind and to harden men not only negatively (by not enlightening and softening) and privatively (by withdrawing his grace whatever it may have been after men have abused it) and permissively (by not hindering), but also positively. Not by bringing in blindness or hardness (which is natural to man), but both objectively by presenting external objects to them which although ordained to another direction by their own nature, yet he knows will be drawn in a different way by their vice; and judicially by smiting them internally with blindness (the light which they abused being taken away or extinguished); and by loosening the reins to their lusts and delivering them up and enslaving them to Satan; and acting in many other inexplicable ways by which he exercises the judgment of just blinding and hardening upon the contumacious. Yet this does not hinder the wicked also from blinding and hardening themselves by the abuse of those things by which especially they ought to be softened (such is the longsuffering and kindness of God, Rom. 2:4). The light of the word and the sweetness of the gospel, which becomes to them "a savor of death unto death" (2 Cor. 2:16), and the very castigations of God by which they ought to be corrected, make them more obstinate—"O Lord, thou has stricken them, but they have not grieved; they have made their faces harder than a rock" (Jer. 5:3). So one hardening is culpable on the part of men who harden themselves; just and penal on the part of God who hardens them by his righteous judgment for the punishment of previous sins.

And temptation.

XXIX. Temptation may be of trial or of seduction; the former good, the latter evil; that belongs to God, this to the Devil (who on that account is called the tempter [ho peirazōn] because as he tempted Adam and Christ, so every day he tempts believers to evil). In this sense, James says "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man" (1:13) because God has nothing in himself which inclines in the slightest degree to sin (nay, which is not most widely separated from it). Thus he cannot be said to solicit others to sin, either by commands or counsels or any internal persuasion. If at any time he is said to tempt men (as Abraham [Gen. 22:1] and the Israelites [Dt. 8:2]), this must be understood of the temptation of trial, not of seduction. It is done to explore the faith and constancy of man (not that he is ignorant of them who is omniscient, but to make them known to man himself and to others). When we seek in the Lord's Prayer, "Lord, lead us not into temptation," we do not depreciate the former temptation (which is good), but the latter (which is evil). Into the latter, God can be said to lead us when he not only permits us to fall into it, but delivers us over to our lusts and to Satan (by which we are tempted). Thus we seek from the hypothesis of the divine will (i.e., if it so pleases God) that he may so provide for us that we be not led into the danger of temptation. But if it otherwise pleases God, either to permit it and to deliver us over to the will of our spiritual enemies that we should succumb to their temptations, but that strengthened by grace we may overcome them. Thus "he will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13). Hence Augustine says, "What is it, however, we say every day—Lead us not into temptation—except that we be not delivered over to our lusts, for each one is tempted being drawn away and allured by his own lusts?" (Against Julian 5.4* [FC 35:259; PL 44.793]). And "Lead us not into temptation, means, permit us not to be drawn into it by desertion" (Letter 157 [89], "To Hilary," 2.5 [FC 20:321; PL 33.675]).

And seduction Jer. 20:7.

XXX. What is said in Jeremiah ("O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived," 20:7) is not to be so understood as if God led him into dishonesty and error. For although God is said at one time to have put a lying spirit into the mouth of the false prophets of Ahab, yet it cannot be said that any of the holy prophets, whom God inspired, ever so erred as to predict a false thing in his name; or ever wandered from the truth in the prophetic office (although otherwise not infallible). But it can be understood in different ways. Either phthh (whence the Greek peithō seems to be derived) may be taken in a good sense for "to allure," "entice" or "persuade" (as also elsewhere, Gen. 9:27; Prov. 25:15; Hos. 2:14); or in this sense, "Thou hast allured me, and I was allured," i.e., to enter upon and perform my office, thou alone art to me the author of my calling and thou hast in some measure constrained me refusing. Or if it is taken in a bad sense for seduction (as in Ezk. 14:9), it must be understood hypothetically: if I am seduced that I may seduce others (as my enemies calumniate me), thou, O Lord, hast seduced me. But this is false, therefore that is too—intimating that their calumnies fall upon God (the author) or his doctrine. Or the words are humanly spoken according to the carnal sense and perturbation of mind (to wit, Jeremiah from weakness and the judgment of the flesh complains of being deceived by God and that too, because from the words of God falsely understood, he had experienced far otherwise than he thought God had indicated to him; not with the fault of the speaker, but of the hearer; for God had not said that he would not suffer, but that he would deliver him). If elsewhere he is said to seduce prophets or the people (Ezk. 14:9; Jer. 4:10), this is rightly referred both to God's permission and desertion because he permits men to be deceived and opposes no obstacle; and to the delivering over to Satan because he gives them up to Satan and impostors to be deceived.

Error, Job 12:16, 17.

XXXI. When it is said "the deceiver and the deceived are God's" (Job 12:16*), it can be understood in two ways: either in the dative ("the deceiver and the deceived are to God") to intimate that both the ignorance of deceived man and the wickedness of impostors and deceivers serve God (i.e., divine providence) as if his ministers, while God performs his secret (euarestias) will by them who resist his revealed will (eudokias) (inasmuch as he elicits good from evil). Or it may be understood in the genitive ("the deceiver and the deceived are of God") because each is in his power, so that no one errs or leads into error unless so far forth as it pleases him to permit (who can, if he will, both hinder and remove the error and the seduction; or because the very act of erring, when anyone seduces, is from God).

XXXII. When God says, "I gave my people also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live" (Ezk. 20:25), he seems not only to permit, but to command sin. The passage is explained in different ways. Some by "statutes not good" understand the idolatrous precepts of the Gentiles to which God in anger subjected his people (whose observance would bring eternal death upon them). Thus he may be said to have "given" because he permitted them to be given or because he blinded them by his just judgment (as unworthy of his government and enslaved to the empire of Satan) to obey a lie (which is the same as, I have taken away their understanding so that, my laws being despised, they may make severe and destructive laws for themselves). Others more fitly hold that they designate the very law of God, moral as well as ceremonial. Thus it is called "not good" either because it is useless for salvation (being "weak through the flesh," Rom. 8:3) or because ungrateful and unpleasant (as good is often taken for agreeable, Gen. 3:6) and so it is called elsewhere a grevious and intolerable yoke (abastakton, Acts 15:10); or because noxious and deadly, not per se, but by accident on account of the perversity of man (in which sense it is elsewhere called "the letter which killeth" and "the ministry of condemnation," 2 Cor. 3:6, 9*).

XXXIII. When we say with the Scriptures that the sins of men are permitted by God and efficaciously directed to a good end, we do not mean that the sins and crimes of the wicked are good works. Rather in the works done by the wicked, the motions and actions are good works in the genus of being and just judgment of God, as the lawlessness (anomia) of the motions and actions is morally evil and from evil persons. So the evil intention of man is not from God in the genus of morals, but only in the genus of being. And if the end is said to conciliate goodness and loveliness to the means, it does not follow that sins (because ordained by God to a good end) are good. The axiom avails only of means (which of themselves tend to a good end) not of those which (beyond their own nature) are directed to it by the wisdom and power of God (such as sin is).

XXXIV. The rule of the apostle "We must not do evil, that good may come" (Rom. 3:8) does not apply here. It is one thing to do evil, but another to permit it, or to direct it to a good end and turn it into good. The former indicates injustice; the latter wisdom, goodness and power. (2) It is not lawful for men, who are accountable (hypeuthynoi), either to do evil, or to permit it; nor can such permission be granted in them without fault. But this cannot be said of God, who is not responsible (anypeuthynos), who has the best and wisest reasons for permitting. (3) If at any time Scripture says that God does evil, it does not mean evil reduplicatively as evil (in which sense it cannot have the relation of good), but inasmuch as it has the relation of judgment and is conducive and ordainable to the manifestation of his own glory (in which sense it has the relation of good).

XXXV. Whatever may be the action of God about sin, no reason for excuse can on that account be brought forward by the sinner: whether because he fulfils the will of God (because the will is not revealed and signified, proposed for a rule of life, but secret and of good purpose, which he does not know and least attends to, not approving or commanding, but most justly decreeing); or because that will cannot be resisted by man (because whatever of necessity is here happens by reason of the event, not by reason of the mode of action; of infallibility, not of compulsion; of consequence and relative, not of the consequent and absolute). Hence Paul, stopping the mouth of the wicked, says, "Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?" (Rom. 9:19, 20). Or because God himself is said to harden and to blind (because the action of God does not overthrow man's liberty of action, for he is so hardened and blinded by God that he also most freely blinds and hardens himself; and because God's action is judicial, which men have already deserved on account of their previous sins).

Eighth Question

Whether it follows and can be elicited by legitimate consequence from our doctrine that we make God the author of sin. We deny against the Romanists, Socinians, Remonstrants and Lutherans

I. Although the innocence of the orthodox doctrine about this argument has been often so clearly and solidly proved by our divines (against the atrocious calumnies of illiberal flings commonly directed against it by our opponents) that there would be no need to labor in its vindication; yet because they do not cease to renew that most unjust accusation and to traduce the purity of our faith in every way they can, it is just that we should drag the falsity of that calumny into the open light and free the religion we profess from their unjust criminations.

II. Before all things, however, we must observe that the question is not new and recently coined, but old. It was started even formerly by the Pelagians and assailed by Augustine (as his books against Julian abundantly testify). The occasion of the question was no other than this—that in the sins of men, Augustine maintained that God is not a bare permitter and idle spectator, but a most holy governor and most just Judge. There is no other reason why modern Pelagians endeavor to make the orthodox doctrine infamous (whose mouth it is not difficult to stop by the example of Augustine).

Statement of the question.

III. The question here, however, is not whether we in express words assert God to be the cause of sin! For although some do not blush to charge this blasphemy upon us (openly calumniating us as confirming this hypothesis by the words and examples of Scripture), yet others (more modest) do not dare to prefer this charge and acknowledge that no such thing is brought forward by us. "And if the question should be so formed," says Bellarmine, "there would be none, since not only the Catholics, but also the Calvinists deny this" ("De amissione gratiae et statu peccati," 2.2 in Opera [1858], 4:79). But the question is whether any such thing can be deduced necessarily and evidently from our doctrine. They charge us with really thinking what we do not dare to profess in words and "if not in express words certainly by necessary arguments." Tirinus says, "They make God the author and cause of all sin" (Theologicae elenchticae … controversiarum fidei, Cont. 1.12, number 8 [1648], p. 604). In this he follows the footsteps of Bellarmine (ibid., 2.3f. in Opera [1858], 4:80–85) and of Becanus (Summa Theologicae Scholasticae 2.2.6 [1651], p. 264); with whom agree Brochmand ("De Providentia Divina," 2, Q. 3 in Universae theologicae systema [1638], 1:527–37), Eckhard (Fasciculus controversiarum Theologicarum 1.10 [1631], pp. 205–11), Graverus (on Article 19*, "De causa peccati," in Graverus redivivus … praelectiones … in Augustanam Confessionem [1659], pp. 1036–68) and other Lutherans; Crellius ("De Deo et Ejus Attributis," 1.25 in Opera [1656], 4:75–89), Tilenus (Traicte de la cause et de l'origine du peche [1621]), Episcopius ('De Providentia,' in "Institutiones theologica," 4 sec. 4 of Opera Theologica [1678], pp. 360–400) and other Remonstrants in the synodical writings, p. 249+.

IV. To draw the sting of this calumny, however, even the following alone suffices: the public confessions of the Reformed churches, in express, careful and authoritative words condemn and censure this impiety: as the Augsburg, Art. 19 (Schaff, 3:20), the French, Art. 8 (Cochrane, 147), the (Second) Helvetic, chap. 8 (Cochrane, 236–37), the Belgic, Art. 13 (Cochrane, 197), the Canons of the Synod of Dort, First Head, Art. 1, 5, 15 (Schaff, 3:581–82, 584). To these are to be added the catechisms, defenses and other symbolic writings, the public and established testimonies of our innocence (which the adversaries themselves cannot distrust). Hence they are accustomed to drawing nothing from public standards to prove their calumnies, but only from the writings of private divines from which they falsely weave consequences.

V. Concerning the public and received opinion of any church, a judgment cannot and ought not to be formed from the writings of private persons. Thus it would be lawful, without compromising the doctrine of the Reformed churches, to pass over this crimination as a matter foreign to the subject and to leave it with its authors because we do not stand or fall with the judgment of each private divine, however illustrious. Still because we are persuaded of the sincerity of the doctrine of Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, Martyr, Beza and other distinguished servants of God (charged with this crime), and it is evident that considerable injury has been done to these great heroes (deserving the gratitude of the church of God), and because it is also known that through them the doctrine of our churches is maliciously aimed at and blasphemously assailed, justice and equity demand that we permit them not to be overwhelmed by these unjust calumnies, since they furnish us with so many arguments to defend them.

VI. First, although they sometimes used harsh and not sufficiently accurate and fit phrases in explaining a difficult thing, they are not on that account to be violently attacked or abused. It is evident that their meaning was sound and pious, which they often professed both orally and in their writings concerning God, the sole author of all good and the strict punisher of evil. For it is calumnious to feign heresy in words which heresy "is in things, not in words" according to Jerome,* with whom Luther agrees—"it is wicked to determine heresy in words, since it is in the meaning alone, not in the words." Second, no expressions are found so harsh in any of them that analogous ones do not exist in the Scriptures; as when they say God blinds, hardens, seduces, sends the efficacy of error, gives men over to a reprobate mind. If these phrases are properly explained and vindicated by our opponents themselves according to the analogy of faith, why may not even the same similar phrases occuring in our divines be equally drawn to a kinder and more suitable sense according to the canon of charity? Nor ought the reply to be made here that the consequence does not hold good, both because men are variously deceived and err (especially about the divine mysteries), while God cannot err or be deceived; and because Scripture so fully and plainly declares itself that there can be no room for such a charge. We answer that the consequence remains unshaken whose force rests not upon the parity or equality of the authority of human and divine writings, but upon the identity or similarity of the phrases employed in both. As indeed such veneration is deservedly due to Scripture that what seems to be said more obscurely or even harsher in one place should be understood and explained according to others more clear; why should not a like equity be extended according to the law of charity to the men of God (as often as they strive not only to think but also to speak with Scripture)?

VII. Third, nothing is said by our party on this subject which cannot also be culled from our various opponents who speak more harshly; nay, stronger words have not been asserted by whole societies in the Romish communion. For it is known that the Thomists and Dominicans agree here with us and sometimes used even harsher phrases. It is known that Occam and Gabriel Biel (according to Bartolomo Medina, in Expositio in primam secundae … Thomae Aquinatis, Q. 79*, Art. II [1580], p. 419) did not fear to maintain that "God in strictness and propriety of speech is the cause of sin." But to omit others, Bellarmine, who fired with such a frenzy for calumniation inveighs against our divines, may be convicted of the same impiety and blasphemy. For he says, "God not only permits the wicked to do many evils, nor only deserts the pious, but also presides over the evil wills themselves, and rules and governs them, he twists and turns them by his invisible operation, that although by their own fault they are evil, yet by divine providence they are ordained to one evil rather than another, not positively, but permissively" ("De amissione gratiae et statu peccati," 2.13 in Opera [1858], 4:100). Nothing harsher than these words occurs among our divines. When, however, he adds that it is done permissively not positively, he shamefully contradicts himself. For he opposes that action by which he twists and turns the will of the wicked to bare permission. The thing itself cries out that the words "govern," "twist," "rule," "bend" signify a positive act and not a bare permission. Here belongs what he brings forward from Thomas Aquinas in the same place: "that God not only inclines evil wills to one rather than another thing, by permitting them to be carried to one and not permitting them to be carried to another, as he rightly taught but also by positively inclining them to one and turning them away from another" (ibid.). Thus in chapter 14 he says, "When in Scripture God is said to harden, to blind, he does that as a just Judge, and from God intervenes the punishment and ruin of those who are hardened and blinded" (ibid., 2.14, p. 104). So Cornelius a Lapide says, "God holds the wills of all men in his hand, so that he can bend them in any way whatsoever; now the will of man can exert itself in no work at all, whether good or evil, except God loosens the reins of his permission to it, nay, positively concurs and cooperates with it to produce this action and work" (Commentaria in Sacram Scripturam [1854], 1:316 on Ex. 7). Yet our divines intend nothing else, while asserting the efficacy of providence in evil. In this sense many others speak: as Pererius (Selectarum disputationum … super libro Exodi [1607], "In Cap. xi Exodi: De induratione Pharaonis," pp. 308–39), Suarez ("De Concursu et Efficaci Auxilio Dei," 2.3 in Opera [1856–78], 11:106–16), Ruiz and others. Arminius acknowledges that besides permission there "is the presentation of occasions and objects and the concourse of God which is necessary to the production of every act, since nothing at all can have any entity, unless from the first and highest being immediately producing it; this concourse, however, is not an immediate influx into the second cause, but the action of God immediately flowing into the effect of the creature, so that the same effect is produced by one and the same total action by God and the creature at the same time … So God is at the same time the effector and permitter of the same act" (Disputation 10, 'On the Righteousness and Efficacy of the Providence of God Concerning Evil,' "Public Disputations," 9 in Works [1956], 1:517). The same might easily be shown of the Lutherans and of that great man of God, Luther, who followed out this argument in far stronger terms than our divines when he says, "It is to torture the Word for anyone to say the sense of these words, I will harden the heart of Pharaoh, is 'I will permit it to be hardened,' 'I will give the occasion of hardening, while the sinner is not at once corrected' " (On the Bondage of the Will [LCC 17:223]); "The expression must be taken simply, as the words sound;" "since God works in evil and by evil, the evil is indeed done, yet God cannot do evil, although he does evil by evil persons, because being himself good he cannot do evil, yet he uses evil instruments which cannot escape the seizure and motion of his power. It is a fault therefore in the instruments, which God does not allow to remain idle, that they do evil, God himself employing them" (ibid., pp. 232–33). "In us, that is, by us, God works evil, not through his, but our own fault" (ibid., p. 234). "God deserting and Satan sinning, the will of Satan and of man being made evil, in working is seized by God and moved whithersoever he wills"; "the words of God, 'I will harden the heart of Pharaoh,' must be thus understood, 'I will cause the heart of Pharaoh to be hardened,' or 'that it be hardened, I operating and making it so' " (ibid., p. 235). He says the same in innumerable other passages of like import which are not dissimilar to the expressions of our divines. Therefore if these have a sound sense in the judgment of Lutherans, why can they not explain the words of our divines kindly also from the same charitable judgment?

VIII. Fourth, our divines so clearly explain their meaning and so expressly condemn this impious dogma in their writings that it cannot be charged upon them without the most gross injustice. Here belong the passages of Zwingli, Calvin, Beza, Peter Martyr and others (cited by Bellarmine, "De amissione gratiae et statu peccati," 2.2 in Opera [1858], 4:79–80 and Becanus, Manuale controversariarum 3.5.6 [1750], pp. 462–65). Calvin indeed was not only clearly the first, nay almost the only one to refute the Libertines in asserting the holiness of God. Also in his book concerning predestination (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God [trans. J.K.S. Ried, 1961], pp. 168–82), he authoritatively strikes down this calumny (cf. also ICR 1.17.3*, pp. 214–15). Beza in this matter fully vindicates both Calvin and himself, and shows at length that from the doctrine of Calvin and his own "none of these blasphemies follow as consequences, to wit, either that God is the author of sin or delights in iniquity or even wills iniquity; or that Satan or men, doing wickedly, obey God, or inasmuch as they do evil, do what God wills, and so far forth are without blame. Let all blasphemies of this kind," says he, "be removed as far as possible not only from our tongues, but also from our thoughts" ("Ad Sebastioni Castellionis calumnias … aeternam Dei praedestionem," in Volumen tractationum Theologicarum [1582], p. 372). See also his refutation of the calumnies of Heshius, where he explains the same thing at large (Kreophagia, sive Cyclops [1561]).

IX. Fifth, if the foundation of the charge is examined, it will be evident that it is drawn from no other source than certain truncated words and phrases, twisted and by sophistical consequences drawn to a sense most foreign to their intention and scope. Hence, since they neither saw these consequences nor acknowledge them as their own (nay frequently express their hearty detestation of them and pronounce an anathema upon those holding such opinions), they cannot without great injustice be imputed to them, as if this was their genuine meaning and proper doctrine; especially since the antecedent from which they elicit them is from Scripture itself and for the most part expressed in its proper words.

Sources of explanation.

X. Although God may be said from eternity not only to have foreseen and permitted, but also to have willed and predestinated, the fall of man, and that all things are done not only with the permission but even with the will of God (as Calvin asserts, ICR 1.18.1, pp. 228–31 and 3.23.6, 8, 9, pp. 953–55, 956–58), it does not follow that God is held by him to be the author of sin. For he only can be esteemed the author of sin who decrees and wills sins as to efficiency and approbation, not however as to permission and ordination only. That this is the meaning of Calvin, the passages cited prove. They have no other object than to oppose the will of God to the figment of bare and idle permission (which the Pelagians and most of the Scholastics obtrude), and to teach that the sin of Adam happened and that other things which take place in the world turn out, not at random and fortuitously, but by the certain counsel and providence of God. For God is occupied not only in permitting, but also in governing, terminating and directing them to a good end. It is one thing therefore to will sin itself, but another to will its permission and event; the latter Calvin says with Scripture, not the former.

XI. The dispensation of God by which crimes are said to be committed (Calvin, ICR 1.17.8, pp. 220–21) is not the efficiency of crimes, but the permission; yet not idle permission, but the governing of them and directing them to certain objects and ends. Nor if by that just dispensation of God, it is said that "whatever enemies" do "wickedly against us is not only permitted but also sent in by him" (ibid., p. 221) does it follow that the causality of sin is ascribed to God, because that application of Calvin is not the infusion of wickedness but the direction of the enemies (in whom wickedness is congenital) to certain objects by God, to execute his just judgments (as when bears were brought against the children at Bethel [2 K. 2:24] and the lion against the disobedient prophet [1 K. 13:24]). Thus he is said to have raised up Pharaoh against the Israelites (Ex. 9:16; Rom. 9:17).

XII. The secret nod of God, without which men are said to effect nothing (ICR 1.18.1, pp. 228–31), is not the complacency of God in their sins or an impulse to sins as such. Rather it is the motion: (1) physical; (2) judicial (in those whose sins are punished by sins by God as a just Judge); (3) directive to objects and certain ends (as when a rider with the bit drives and directs a horse whithersoever he wills, it does not become lame by the fault of the rider).

XIII. When Calvin says that the devil and all the wicked conceive, attempt and commit no evil deed except as God has permitted (nay, as far as God has commanded since they are compelled to perform his service), there is nothing to favor the crime charged against him (ICR 1.17.11, pp. 224–25). (1) Because he says here nothing beyond what is written (ater graphēs). The phrase is Scriptural for it says that God commanded Shemei to curse David. (2) The command is understood not of moral preception (against the express prohibition of God, Ex. 22:28), but partly of prophetic prediction (2 S. 16:10), partly of secret motion and direction towards objects. (3) Coaction is not involved (or a violent impulsion or an inclination to evil of the will either indifferent or good), but a necessity only of infallibility, depending partly objectively on the natural wickedness of the devil and the impious, partly dispositively on the immutable counsel of God. (4) The passage is adduced in bad faith against the meaning of Calvin, for his design there is to console the pious against the fear and anxiety by which they are disturbed that they may know that the devil and the wicked are not permitted to torment them at pleasure, but are restrained by the powerful rein of providence that in all things (though raging and champing) they are subject to it, and their fury is turned even into the salvation of believers. "But," says he, "when they recall to mind that the devil and the whole cohort of the wicked are so thoroughly restrained by the hand of God as by a bit, as not to conceive any evil deed against us, nor attempt it when conceived, nor can move a finger to perpetrate what they consummately plot, unless so far as he permits, nay, unless so far as he commands, nor are held bound by fetters only, but even compelled by the bit to render obedience; they have a source of abundant consolation" (ibid., p. 224). Now who does not see that it is one thing for God to restrain the devil and the wicked as with a bit that they may not attempt and conceive evil deeds against the pious, but another for God to compel them to evil deeds? He wishes to intimate that they are compelled not to the evil deed (which they do voluntarily), but to obedience, that in acting badly they may serve God's counsel and do his will beyond their own mind and will.

XIV. If Calvin says that God works in the minds of the wicked and as the first cause does by them as instruments all those things which with respect to men are and are called true sins (ICR 1.17.5, pp. 216–17 and 1.18.1, 2, pp. 228–32), he ought not on that account to be accused of introducing theomartēsian. (1) He follows Scripture which frequently so speaks (as we have already seen). (2) God is said to work evils, but not as evils formally and in the abstract, but in the concrete and materially (inasmuch as they are works) or judicially (inasmuch as they are his just judgments). (3) That God can use the wicked as instruments, yet without any taint of disgrace in himself, has been shown before. (4) Calvin so explains and vindicates himself that no room for the charge can remain: "Still what the Lord does stands always at a great distance from what Satan and the wicked undertake. He makes the evil instruments which he holds in his hand and can turn in any direction he pleases, to serve his justice. These, as they are evil, bring into effect the wickedness conceived by the depraved soul" (ICR 2.4.5, p. 313). In the work Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, he shows at length that God so acts that by the wicked even themselves (although unconscious and unwilling) he fulfils what he has ordained; nor on that account is he either a partaker of any fault, nor are the evil instruments free from sin. But he explains his meaning more clearly still in his Contre la secte phantastique des Libertins (1545). After saying that those (who maintain that the providence of God effects all things) mingle all things and not only confound heaven with earth, but also God with the devil, he adds "this results from their not paying the slightest attention to two very necessary exceptions. The former is that Satan and the wicked are not so instruments of God that they also do not themselves act their own part. The other exception to which these unhappy persons pay no regard is this—that there is a great difference between the work of God and the work of the wicked, since God uses him in place of an instrument. For the wicked man is incited to his own crime by avarice or ambition or envy or cruelty and has in view no other end. And thus from that root, that is, from the affection of his mind and the end it has in view, the work derives its quality and is deservedly judged to be evil. But God has an altogether contrary relation, to wit, to exercise his justice for the preservation of the good; he uses his grace and goodness towards believers, but punishes the ill-deserving. Behold how we are to distinguish between God and men, that on the one side in the same work we contemplated his justice, goodness and judgment; on the other the wickedness of the devil and unbelievers" (CR 35.188–89; cf. also his Calumniae nebulonis cuiusdam … de occulta Dei Providentia [1558], where he answers the calumnies of the abandoned man who traduced his doctrine as impious and blasphemous). Nor dissimilarly Beza ("Ad Sebastioni Castellionis calumnias … aeternam praedestionem," in Volumen tractationum Theologicarum [1582], pp. 337–424, where he refutes the slanders of Heshius) who clearly explains the mind of Calvin and his own; the passages in both should be consulted. (5) Bellarmine cannot find fault with Calvin for such modes of expression, since he himself used harsher when he says God "twists and bends wills, working invisibly in them" (as was noted before).

XV. When Peter Martyr says, "God is in some way the cause of sin" (Most learned … commentaries … upon … Romaines [1568], p. 26); and "God in a certain measure willed the sin of Adam, and is its author, so far" (ibid., p. 302), it must be understood in a sound sense, not that he can be called the cause properly, but improperly and abusively (katachrēstikōs), to denote the adjoined antecedent, or the cause sine qua non, or to point out only the cause of action and not of the bad quality connected with it.

XVI. When Zwingli says, "Nor can anyone say, the robber is innocent; for he acted, God impelling him; for he sinned against the law. And yet you will say, he was forced to sin. I grant, I reply, that he was forced, but in this, that the one should be translated and the other crucified" (On Providence 6 [ed. S.M. Jackson, 1922], p. 183). Although the words may be a little too harsh if pressed closely, still they admit of a sound sense if impulsion and coaction are taken improperly for the efficacious and determinate motion not to the sinning but to the acting. Hence he does not say, "the thief sinned, God being the impeller," but only "he acted." It is one thing to act; another, however, to sin. Again, he does not assert properly that he was compelled, but as if by concession he says, "I grant that he was forced" (which is the expression of one granting, but not always of one approving the hypothesis).

XVII. From these, not to consume time in enumerating or pointing out other passages, it is clearly evident that the reputation of these great men is most unjustly traduced (as if they made God the author of sin, since it appears that they were the farthest removed from that blasphemy and more than once solidly refuted it; nor can any such thing be elicited from their writings except by false and violent consequences). But it is evident that this blasphemous opinion is still unjustly attributed to our churches, which our public confessions, and symbolical writings constantly reject and treat with detestation. Other defenses against these calumnies can be found in Topic IV, Question 14, "On the Absolute Decree of Reprobation."

Ninth Question

Is there a use and an abuse of the doctrine of providence?

I. As they err in many ways theoretically about providence who either entirely deny it or are ignorant of it or corrupt its true nature and mode of operation (concerning whom we have already spoken), no less dangerously do they sin against it practically who are ignorant or neglect the right and lawful use of the doctrine.

Providence is sinned against as to the past: (1) by murmuring; (2) by desperation.

II. A manifold sin can be committed whether it is concerned with the past or the future. For as to the past, it is sinned: (1) by murmuring, when sinners rave against the providence of God and charge it with injustice. This is attributed to the wicked (Ezk. 18:29), as if they were visited undeservedly on account of others' sins, while yet they might find in themselves the most just causes of punishment (Ezk. 33:20). This sometimes happens to the pious also through the impatience of the flesh when they see the prosperity of the wicked and the adversity of the pious (Job 21:7, 8; Ps. 73:2, 3; Jer. 12:1). To this must be opposed a most humble submission which always adores the ways of providence as most holy, whatever they may seem to be to our flesh: such as in Job (1:21; 2:10), in David (Ps. 39:9), in Eli (1 S. 3:18) and others. (2) By desperation, when they sink into despair in evils as if it was all over with them and no hope of restoration remained: examples of which are found in Cain, Saul, Judas and others. Such was the young man in Plautus. As if seized by the fates, in his desperation, he plunged into destruction. "Unstable," said he, "is the lot of things; the fates drive men at pleasure. I will take myself to the precipice that I may there end the matter with my life" (cited in Calvin, ICR 1.17.3, p. 214). To this must be opposed a firm trust in God which will make us immovable and unshaken in the midst of trials and the high waves of calamities, when all things seem desperate on the part of men and second causes. Such was the hope of Job ("though he slay me, yet will I trust in him," 13:15) the faith of David (Ps. 23:6), the constancy of the three companions of Daniel (Dan. 3:16, 17).

(3) By the excusing of crimes.

III. Third, by the excusing of crimes when sinners set the providence of God over against their wickedness; for nothing is done except as God wills and permits (and nothing is more wicked than this thought). For although sins are not committed without the providence of God, yet neither does God come into alliance with the sin, nor are the wicked on that account freed from blame because they obey not the will of God, but their own lust. For true obedience answers to the revealed will set forth in the word, not to the secret will hidden in God. He obeys God who, being informed of his will, goes where he is called by it. But if men attempt anything against his command, it is not obedience, but rebellion and transgression (although otherwise they fulfil God's secret will). He, contrary to their intention, uses their evil works by his most wise and just ordination to execute his judgments (as has already been said).

As to the future: (1) by security and sloth; (2) by anxiety and distrust.

IV. As to the future, providence is sinned against: (1) by security and sloth by those who, wantonly despising the means most wisely instituted by divine providence, seek hiding places for their idleness and torpor in this most holy doctrine and, under the certainty of providentially ordained events give themselves up to carnal security, neglecting the means necessary for their conservation and salvation (as if the certainty of the end could take away the necessity of means, and the same God, who preordained the future event, did not also appoint beforehand the means to be used by men according to his precept and will). If he bounded man's life by certain limits, he committed the care of it to man and instructed him in the methods and helps for conserving it; made him also prescient of dangers, lest they should come upon him unawares; suggested cautions and remedies which he should use. Here belongs the rashness of those who (with an overweening confidence, without a call and necessity) refuse not to rush into dangers of any kind and are unwilling to use second causes (which are at hand) and the means divinely appointed (which is to tempt God). For although he can preserve us no less without than with means, yet because he wills ordinarily that our desire and care also should be exercised, we cannot without guilt neglect those things which he willed to appoint for our use, whether in avoiding danger or averting evils. (2) By anxiety and distrust, when we are concerned unduly about the morrow's food and clothing and the necessities of life, as if God was not a provident Father making abundant provision for all. The words of Christ are very pertinent here: "Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment" (Mt. 6:25). He does not wish his creatures to divest themselves entirely of all care, since indeed men were born under this law that they should have some care; nay, this is not the last part of the miseries which the Lord has imposed upon us in punishment in order to humble us. But he condemns only the anxious care and superfluous solicitude with which the unbelieving and heathen usually distress themselves (arising from a distrust of providence), as if God (inactive) slept in heaven or paid no attention to human things. He therefore wishes believers to rest in the fatherly goodness and care of God and tranquilly to expect from him, in the exercise of their lawful calling, whatever they feel to be necessary for themselves.

(3) By a too great reliance upon second causes.

V. (3) By a too great reliance upon second causes; for as they who entirely neglect them tempt God, seeking whether he will even without means conserve them, no less do they also sin against him who ascribe too much to them, placing their confidence in them and clinging to these certain means as it were to a spike (clavo), leave no room for divine providence on account of their distrust (as for example Asa "who in his disease sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians," 2 Ch. 16:12). For although we ought to love and honor creatures (since God condescended to employ them in some part of his work), yet we are permitted to trust in God alone and to rest upon him as their most wise and provident Father (who is never wanting to them in time of need).

The use of providence.

VI. However, the use of this doctrine is far more fruitful and excellent, both in asserting the glory of God (to whom is here ascribed the praise of the highest wisdom, power and goodness) and in cherishing our faith and increasing our confidence which, when involved in the storms of trial, the persuasion of providence strengthens, like a most sure anchor in the sea of this wicked world. Here, therefore, is the first duty of the pious man—as to intellect, that he should not only raise his eyes to God as the first and primary cause of all things (being persuaded that nothing happens by chance, but that all things are directed by the most wise providence of God)—but also cherish the thought that the singular and special providence of God watches for his safety, whether his business is with men or with other creatures. This is taught not only by the clear promises of Scripture (Pss. 34; 37; 55; 91; Zech. 2:8; Is. 26:3; 49:15; Mt. 6; 10; Lk. 12; 1 Pet. 5:7), but also by the examples of the saints (whose ways he everywhere reads were guarded by God). The various passages which teach that all creatures are under the power of God so that they can attempt to perform nothing without his nod, favor this view.

Whence arises: (1) a desire of holiness; of gratitude; of patience; of repentance?

VII. (1) From this contemplation of God's providence, there ought to arise in the hearts of believers an earnest desire: (a) of holiness, that we may be made more cautious in our daily life because we are everywhere acting under the eye of God, who always stands nearest to us and from whose presence we can never withdraw ourselves, whatever we may do because "he sees and hears all things" (pant' ephora kai pant' epakouei). (b) Of gratitude, that we may in prosperity and favorable circumstances not sacrifice to our net, but tenderly kiss and reverence with a grateful mind the benevolent providence of God (Ps. 115:1), ascribing the glory not to ourselves, but to his name. He is the primary benefactor, whose beneficent hand embraces all second causes, whether they be men or inanimate creatures (Hos. 2:21, 22). (c) Of patience and humility in adversity by the example of Christ (Lk. 22:42), of Joseph (Gen. 45:8; 50:20), of Job (1:21), of David (2 S. 16:10*; Ps. 39:9), that in all things which happen somewhat harshly to us we may acquiesce without a murmur in the will and providence of God (to which the Gentiles themselves were not strangers). "Our mind," says Seneca, "being adopted to this law, follows and obeys it and thinks whatever is done ought to be done, nor wishes to find fault with nature; it is best to suffer what you cannot alter and to follow without murmuring, God from whom as the author all things proceed. He is a bad soldier who follows his general with groans. Wherefore let us zealously and with alacrity take up his commands, nor desert this march of a most admirable work, into which whatever we suffer is woven" (Epistle 107.9–10 [Loeb, 3:226–29]). And this must be done the more willingly because it becomes us to be persuaded that the evil deeds of even the bitterest enemies are both permitted and sent only by the just dispensation of God, since not even the devil himself comes forth to assail us without the nod of God; and so all things work together for good to us (synergein, Rom. 8:28), and the cups offered by so friendly a hand, although bitter to the flesh, are yet healthful to the spirit (Heb. 12:11). (d) Of repentance, for as the blessings of God invite us to gratitude, so adversities are his scourges which call us to repentance (Lam. 3:39; Is. 45:7; Am. 3:6; Heb. 12:9, 10).

2. Consolation.

VIII. Finally, from the belief in providence arises the greatest consolation and incredible tranquility of mind for the pious. It causes them, resting peacefully in the bosom of God and commending themselves entirely to his paternal care, always to hope well from him in the future, not doubting but that he will ever perform the office of a Father towards them in conferring good and turning away evils: examples of which are given in David (1 S. 17:37; Ps. 23:1, 4, 6) and in Paul (2 Tim. 4:17, 18). They feel that under his protection (who has all creatures in his power) nothing is to be feared by them, while walking in their proper calling. Hence, neither supinely neglecting means, nor carefully trusting to them, but prudently using them according to his command, they cast all their care upon the Lord (1 Pet. 5:7), and in all their perplexities always exclaim with the father of the faithful, "The Lord will provide" (yhvh yr'h).

Turretin, F. (1992–1997). Institutes of Elenctic Theology. (J. T. Dennison Jr., Ed., G. M. Giger, Trans.) (Vol. 1–3). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

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