This sentiment as expressed in the Prospectus of the Signs of the Times, has called forth so much invective from some, and so much ridicule from others of the popular Baptists of this region that one would conclude some strange and absurd idea had been advanced; some whim daringly promulgated as a part of the secret things of God.
It therefore, may not be amiss, to re-examine the subject, and enquire whether it be a revealed truth of God, or a visionary notion of man, which is calling forth such malicious sneers from those who profess to be the servants of God.
Predestination is the same in meaning, with fore-ordination or fore-appointment; and is with God, one with pre-determination; for as God declares, so He determines, the end from the beginning; saying my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. Thus the pre-determination of God, to admit sin into the world embraced in it the decreeing of the time, manner, result &c. of that event. And His pre-determination to bruise His Son in the place of sinners included in it the instruments, time, place and manner of His death. Compare Acts 2:23 and 4th, 25-28, and John 13:1, and Heb.13:11,12. The doctrine of predestination, then, is this, that God has so pre-determined every event, as to fix with such precision its limits and bounds, its causes and effects, that with Him it is divested of all contingency. This Brother Beebe, is the monstrous doctrine, which you engage to maintain, in your Paper, and which we Old Fashioned Baptists, some of us, profess to believe, and which is drawing down upon you and us the reproaches and contempt of all the learned gentry among the Baptists.
The term absolute, has been prefixed by yourself and others to the word predestination, to distinguish the doctrine you hold from the idea of a conditional predestination. Strictly speaking, however, this is an unnecessary appendage. A conditional predestination, is no predestination; for the predestination of an event conditionally, is but a pre-determination to leave the event undetermined, and therefore excludes predestination altogether.
Having thus briefly explained what we mean by predestination, I will proceed to show that it is a doctrine taught in the Scriptures. In relation to the salvation of the Elect we have the doctrine of predestination expressed in direct terms, as in Rom.8:29,30 – “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son &c. – Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called &c.” And Eph.1:5 – “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ &c.” and verse 11 – “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” In these passages, we have not only the word predestination used in the translation, but in the original the Greek word employed is of a corresponding signification; being Proorizo, formed of Pro = before, and Orizo = to bound, or limit, to determine, to define &c., and is derived from the theme: oros = a bound or limit, or the end of a thing. Hence the literal signification of the word, used is: a fixing before, the bound or limit, of a thing or event. If we look at the connection, we shall find the idea conveyed by the word, fully sustained by its use in these cases. In Rom.8:29 & 30 the whole of the Apostles argument in these and the following verses of this chapter are in support of the declaration he makes. Verse 28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” To this the inquiry might be made, How, Paul, can we know this? “For,” or because, is the answer, “whom He did foreknow” that is as the objects of His purpose and call, “He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brethren.” This did decree that they should be like Christ, should partake of His image; should as His brethren participate in that life that is in Him, in a justification from the demands of the law, in the Father’s peculiar love and care, in the resurrection, and in that glory which the Father gave Him, &c. And this was no inefficient purpose, “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called, and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified; them He also glorified.” Paul now retorts some inquiries to those who might doubt the assertion made in verse 28. He asks in verse 31, “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Or more emphatically, “who against us,” that is, who is it that is against us? He goes on to confirm his position by a series of inquires in which he shows that the predestination of God is firm against all the assaults of tribulation or distress, &c., and against death and life, and angels and principalities, and powers, and things present, and things to come, and height and depth, &c. Thus we see that the predestination of God in this case not only secures the leading purpose that the elect shall be conformed to the glorious image of His Son, but also fixes the limits, and determines the end of all things which transpire in relation to them.
Again, if we refer to the use of the word in Ephesians we shall find that the predestination and the determination or purpose of God go together. Thus Chapter 1, verses 4-6, “According as He hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will. To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Predestination is here represented to be according to the good pleasure of His will, and is a decreeing of the objects of His choice unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus, before the foundation of the world; but determines at that early period their being accepted in the Beloved; and of course decides with certainty their repenting, believing, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise; things necessarily embraced in their experimental acceptance in Christ. Again, in verse 11 the Apostle speaks of having obtained an inheritance as the result of that predestination of God which is according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. Here then we have in these and the connecting verses every part of salvation brought to view as the predestination of God. For He worketh all things, not according to the caprice of fallen men, nor according to any fortuitous circumstances which may transpire, but according to the counsel of His own will. If then it is a fact, as the Apostle declares, that God worketh all things after the counsel of His own will; then does the counsel of God’s own will not only determine with certainty all the parts of salvation and fix the whole chosen race, blameless before Him in love in the possession of their inheritance, as heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, but also decrees the result of all events according to His good pleasure. If all persons with whom we have to do were disposed, cheerfully, to submit to the decision of Divine Revelation, there would be but one question more to decide in order to determine whether all things, absolutely, or things in a limited sense, are predestinated, or worked according to the decision of the counsel of God’s own will, and that question is: How far does the government of God extend? If His government extends universally over matter and mind, then there is no movement either of matter or mind but what God works after the counsel of His own will, or determines the result thereof according to the good pleasure of His will. King Nebuchadnezzar evidently thought that God’s Dominion was universal over Heaven and earth for he said of Him, “He doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, what doest thou?” Dan.4:35. And the king was certainly correct in this, for Christ assured His Disciples in Matthew 28:18, that all power was given to Him in Heaven and in earth; that is, as Mediator. If so, God had it in His own hands to give. Again, Christ says in John 17:2 – “As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou has given Him.” Hence, His power is over the wicked as well as over those to whom He gives eternal life; and it being all power, it must extend to both matter and mind, as there can be no disposing influence, or power, besides, and therefore, the devices both of men and devils, as well as their actions, must be under His control.
Still, however many persons are unwilling to believe that the predestination of God has anything to do with the wicked actions of men or devils. They, in order to be consistent with themselves, ought to believe that wickedness is under the control of an opposite power, and that God exercises no control over wicked actions or thoughts, to limit their extent, or to overrule their results in accordance with His purposes; lest thereby He should be charged with being the author of sin. I think, however, I shall be able to bring from the Scriptures of truth several facts which go to prove that the predestination of God determines the results, fixes the limits and so controls the actions and devices of wicked men and devils, so as to cause them to terminate in the furtherance of His own glorious purposes.
But as I wish not to be tedious, I will leave the further consideration of this subject for another number.
Elder Samuel Trott
Fairfax County, Virginia
SIGNS of the TIMES – 1833