Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Excerpt from Jonathan Edwards

This is a rather long excerpt from Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards. It is the most difficult book I have ever read. It is around 300 pages or so but has taken me almost half of the year to read it, and I am reading it every night. I pray that you make soak these words into your soul and that God may open our eyes to see what we must and must not say and infer about the nature of evil and God's relation to evil. God does will that evil will come to pass while at the same time not being the Author of evil. Edwards addresses this issue and gives an excellent example to help explain it.

I do not believe that as Christian's we must learn and know the in's and outs of God (in all that we can know) as deep as a theologian, but because of the nature of the church in America and the heretical teachings coming into Evangelicalism, many of God's sheep are being mislead. This is a damning thing for a follower of Christ when troubles come. If they are, in fact, saved they will finish the race but the level of difficulty will be greatly increased. Not only will the level of difficulty increase, but the joy of knowing who God is as depicted in the Word and showing others the truth of Christ will not be as full or effective if we have a false image of God.

The Church desperately needs to go back to the Bible and leave behind the culture drab that trails along our understanding of faith. Not only does this apply for modern evangelicalism, but also people who base their understanding strictly from the Reformation period as well. Edwards does an excellent job of holding out the Word of God in truth in this work and I hope that this excerpt blesses you.

Dr. Whitby supposes, that if sin necessarily follows from
God's withholding assistance, or if that assistance be not given which is
absolutely necessary to the avoiding of evil; then in the nature of the thing,
God must be as properly the author of that evil, as if he were the efficient
cause of it. From whence, according to what he himself says of the devils and
damned spirits, God must be the proper author of their perfect unrestrained
wickedness: he must be the efficient cause of the great pride of the devils, and
of their perfect malignity against God, Christ, his saints, and all that is
good, and of the insatiable cruelty of their disposition. For he allows, that
God has so forsaken them, and does so withhold his assistance from them, that
they are incapacitated from doing good, and determined only to evil. Our
doctrine, in its consequence, makes God the author of men's sin in this world,
no more, and in no other sense, than his doctrine, in its consequence, makes God
the author of the hellish pride and malice of the devils. And doubtless the
latter is as odious an effect as the former.

Again, if it will follow at all, that God is the author of
sin, from what has been supposed of a sure and infallible connection between
antecedents and consequents, it will follow because of this, viz. that for God
to be the author or orderer of those things which he knows beforehand, will
infallibly be attended with such a consequence, is the same thing in effect, as
for him to be the author of that consequence. But if this be so, this is a
difficulty which equally attends the doctrine of Arminians themselves; at least,
of those of them who allow God's certain foreknowledge of all events. For on the
supposition of such a foreknowledge, this is the case with respect to every sin
that is committed: God knew, that if he ordered and brought to pass such and
such events, such sins would infallibly follow. As for instance, God certainly
foreknew, long before Judas was born, that if he ordered things so, that there
should be such a man born, at such a time, and at such a place, and that his
life should be preserved, and that he should, in divine providence, be led into
acquaintance with Jesus; and that his heart should be so influenced by God's
spirit or providence, as to be inclined to be a follower of Christ; and that he
should be one of those twelve, which should be chosen constantly to attend him
as his family; and that his health should be preserved so that he should go up
to Jerusalem, at the last Passover in Christ's life; and it should be so ordered
that Judas should see Christ's kind treatment of the woman which anointed him at
Bethany, and have that reproof from Christ, which he had at that time, and see
and hear other things, which excited his enmity against his master, and other
circumstances should be ordered, as they were ordered; it would be what would
most certainly and infallibly follow, that Judas would betray his Lord, and
would soon after hang himself, and die impenitent, and be sent to hell, for his
horrid wickedness.

Therefore this supposed difficulty ought not to be brought as
an objection against the scheme which has been maintained, as disagreeing with
the Arminian scheme, seeing 'tis no difficulty owing to such a disagreement; but
a difficulty wherein the Arminians share with us. That must be unreasonably made
an objection against our differing from them, which we should not escape or
avoid at all by agreeing with them.

And therefore I would observe,

II. They who object, that this doctrine makes God the author
of sin, ought distinctly to explain what they mean by that phrase, "the author
of sin." I know, the phrase, as it is commonly used, signifies something very
ill. If by "the author of sin," be meant the sinner, the agent, or actor of sin,
or the doer of a wicked thing; so it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to
suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the
author of sin; rejecting such an imputation on the most High, as what is
infinitely to be abhorred; and deny any such thing to be the consequence of what
I have laid down. But if by "the author of sin," is meant the permitter, or not
a hinderer of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in
such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if
it be permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow: I
say, if this be all that is meant, by being the author of sin, I don't deny that
God is the author of sin (though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which
by use and custom is apt to carry another sense), it is no reproach for the most
High to be thus the author of sin. This is not to be the actor of sin, but on
the contrary, of holiness. What God doth herein, is holy; and a glorious
exercise of the infinite excellency of his nature. And I don't deny, that God's
being thus the author of sin, follows from what I have laid down; and I assert,
that it equally follows from the doctrine which is maintained by most of the
Arminian divines.

That it is most certainly so, that God is in such a manner the
disposer and orderer of sin, is evident, if any credit is to be given to the
Scripture; as well as because it is impossible in the nature of things to be
otherwise. In such a manner God ordered the obstinacy of Pharaoh, in his
refusing to obey God's commands, to let the people go. Exodus 4:21: "I will
harden his heart, and he shall not let the people go." Ch. Exodus 7:2-5: "Aaron
thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of
his land. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my
wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that I may
lay mine hand upon Egypt, by great judgments," etc. Ch. Exodus 9:12: "And the
Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord
had spoken unto Moses." Ch. Exodus 10:1, Exodus 10:2: "And the Lord said unto
Moses, go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his
servants, that I might shew these my signs before him, and that thou mayst tell
it in the ears of thy son, and thy son's son, what things I have wrought in
Egypt, and my signs which I have done amongst them, that ye may know that I am
the Lord." Ch. Exodus 14:4: "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall
follow after them: and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host."
Ver. Exodus 14:8: "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh King of Egypt, and
he pursued after the children of Israel." And it is certain that in such a
manner, God for wise and good ends, ordered that event, Joseph's being sold into
Egypt by his brethren. Genesis 45:5: "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry
with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to
preserve life." Ver. Genesis 45:7, Genesis 45:8: "God did send me before you to
preserve a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great
deliverance: so that now it was not you, that sent me hither, but God." Psalms
105:17: "He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant."
'Tis certain, that thus God ordered the sin and folly of Sihon King of the
Amorites, in refusing to let the people of Israel pass by him peaceably.
Deuteronomy 2:30: "But Sihon King of Heshbon would not let us pass by him; for
the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he
might deliver him into thine hand." 'Tis certain, that God thus ordered the sin
and folly of the kings of Canaan, that they attempted not to make peace with
Israel, but with a stupid boldness and obstinacy, set themselves violently to
oppose them and their God. Joshua 11:20: "For it was of the Lord, to harden
their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might
destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor; but that he might
destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses." 'Tis evident, that thus God ordered
the treacherous rebellion of Zedekiah, against the King of Babylon. Jeremiah
52:3: "For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem, and
Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled
against the King of Babylon." So 2 Kings 24:20. And 'tis exceeding manifest,
that God thus ordered the rapine and unrighteous ravages of Nebuchadnezzar, in
spoiling and ruining the nations round about. Jeremiah 25:9: "Behold, I will
send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar
my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against all the nations
round about; and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and
an hissing, and perpetual desolations." Ch. Jeremiah 43:10, Jeremiah 43:11: "I
will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon, my servant; and I will
set his throne upon these stones that I have hid, and he shall spread his royal
pavilion over them. And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and
deliver such as are for death to death, and such as are for captivity to
captivity, and such as are for the sword to the sword." Thus God represents
himself as sending for Nebuchadnezzar, and taking of him and his armies, and
bringing him against the nations which were to be destroyed by him, to that very
end, that he might utterly destroy them, and make them desolate; and as
appointing the work that he should do, so particularly, that the very persons
were designed, that he should kill with the sword; and those that should be
killed with famine and pestilence, and those that should be carried into
captivity; and that in doing all these things, he should act as his servant: by
which, less can't be intended, than that he should serve his purposes and
designs. And in Jeremiah 27:4, Jeremiah 27:5, Jeremiah 27:6, God declares how he
would cause him thus to serve his designs, viz. by bringing this to pass in his
sovereign disposals, as the great possessor and governor of the universe, that
disposes all things just as pleases him: "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God
of Israel; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the
ground, by my great power, and my stretched out arm, and have given it unto whom
it seemed meet unto me: and now I have given all these lands into the hands of
Nebuchadnezzar my servant, and the beasts of the field have I given also to
serve him." And Nebuchadnezzar is spoken of as doing these things, by having his
"arms strengthened" by God, and having "God's sword put into his hands, for this
end" (Ezekiel 30:24, Ezekiel 30:25, Ezekiel 30:26). Yea, God speaks of his
terribly ravaging and wasting the nations, and cruelly destroying all sorts,
without distinction of sex or age, as the weapon in God's hand, and the
instrument of his indignation, which God makes use of to fulfill his own
purposes, and execute his own vengeance. Jeremiah 51:20, etc.: "Thou art my
battle-axe, and weapons of war. For with thee will I break in pieces the
nations, and with thee I will destroy kingdoms, and with thee I will break in
pieces the horse and his rider, and with thee I will break in pieces the chariot
and his rider; with thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with
thee will I break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces
the young man and the maid," etc. 'Tis represented, that the designs of
Nebuchadnezzar, and those that destroyed Jerusalem, never could have been
accomplished, had not God determined them, as well as they; Lamentations 3:37,
"Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, and the Lord commandeth it not?"

And yet the King of Babylon's thus destroying the nations, and
especially the Jews, is spoken of as his great wickedness, for which God finally
destroyed him (Isaiah 14:4, Isaiah 14:5, Isaiah 14:6, Isaiah 14:12; Habakkuk
2:5-12; and Jer. ch. Jeremiah 50 and Jeremiah 51). 'Tis most manifest, that God,
to serve his own designs, providentially ordered Shimei's cursing David. 2
Samuel 16:10, 2 Samuel 16:11: "The Lord hath said unto him, curse David.… Let
him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him."

'Tis certain, that God thus, for excellent, holy, gracious and
glorious ends, ordered the fact which they committed, who were concerned in
Christ's death; and that therein they did but fulfill God's designs. As, I
trust, no Christian will deny it was the design of God, that Christ should be
crucified, and that for this end, he came into the world. 'Tis very manifest by
many scriptures, that the whole affair of Christ's crucifixion, with its
circumstances, and the treachery of Judas, that made way for it, was ordered in
God's providence, in pursuance of his purpose; notwithstanding the violence that
is used with those plain Scriptures, to obscure and pervert the sense of 'em.
Acts 2:23: "Him being delivered, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of
God, ye have taken, and with wicked hands, have crucified and slain." Luke
22:21, Luke 22:22"But behold the hand of him that betrayeth me, is with me on
the table: and truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined." Acts 4:27,
Acts 4:28: "For of a truth, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast
anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of
Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel
determined before to be done." Acts 3:17, Acts 3:18: "And now brethren, I wot
that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers: but these things,
which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should
suffer, he hath so fulfilled." So that what these murderers of Christ did, is
spoken of as what God brought to pass or ordered, and that by which he fulfilled
his own word.

In Revelation 17:17, "the agreeing of the kings of the earth
to give their kingdom to the beast," though it was a very wicked thing in them,
is spoken of as "a fulfilling God's will," and what "God had put it into their
hearts to do." 'Tis manifest, that God sometimes permits sin to be committed,
and at the same time orders things so, that if he permits the fact, it will come
to pass, because on some accounts he sees it needful and of importance that it
should come to pass. Matthew 18:7: "It must needs be, that offences come; but
woe to that man by whom the offence cometh." With 1 Corinthians 11:19, "For
there must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved, may be made
manifest among you."

Thus it is certain and demonstrable, from the holy Scriptures,
as well as the nature of things, and the principles of Arminians, that God
permits sin; and at the same time, so orders things, in his providence, that it
certainly and infallibly will come to pass, in consequence of his

I proceed to observe in the next place,

III. That there is a great difference between God's being
concerned thus, by his permission, in an event and act, which in the inherent
subject and agent of it, is sin (though the event will certainly follow on his
permission), and his being concerned in it by producing it and exerting the act
of sin; or between his being the orderer of its certain existence, by not
hindering it, under certain circumstances, and his being the proper actor or
author of it, by a positive agency or efficiency.

And this, notwithstanding what Dr. Whitby offers about a
saying of philosophers, that causa deficiens, in rebus necessariis, ad causam
per se efficientem reducenda est. As there is a vast difference between the
sun's being the cause of the lightsomeness and warmth of the atmosphere, and
brightness of gold and diamonds, by its presence and positive influence; and its
being the occasion of darkness and frost, in the night, by its motion whereby it
descends below the horizon. The motion of the sun is the occasion of the latter
kind of events; but it is not the propel cause, efficient or producer of them;
though they are necessarily consequent on that motion, under such circumstances:
no more is any action of the divine Being the cause of the evil of men's wills.
If the sun were the proper cause of cold and darkness, it would be the fountain
of these things, as it is the fountain of light and heat: and then something
might be argued from the nature of cold and darkness, to a likeness of nature in
the sun; and it might be justly inferred, that the sun itself is dark and cold,
and that his beams are black and frosty. But from its being the cause no
otherwise than by its departure, no such thing can be inferred, but the
contrary; it may justly be argued, that the sun is a bright and hot body, if
cold and darkness are found to be the consequence of its withdrawment; and the
more constantly and necessarily these effects are connected with, and confined
to its absence, the more strongly does it argue the sun to be the fountain of
light and heat. So, inasmuch as sin is not the fruit of any positive agency or
influence of the most High, but on the contrary, arises from the withholding of
his action and energy, and under certain circumstances, necessarily follows on
the want of his influence; this is no argument that he is sinful, or his
operation evil, or has anything of the nature of evil; but on the contrary, that
he, and his agency, are altogether good and holy, and that he is the fountain of
all holiness.

It would be strange arguing indeed, because men never commit
sin, but only when God leaves them to themselves, and necessarily sin, when he
does so, that therefore their sin is not from themselves, but from God; and so,
that God must be a sinful being: as strange as it would be to argue, because it
is always dark when the sun is gone, and never dark when the sun is present,
that therefore all darkness is from the sun, and that his disk and beams must
needs be black.

IV. It properly belongs to the supreme and absolute Governor
of the universe, to order all important events within his dominion, by his
wisdom: but the events in the moral world are of the most important kind; such
as the moral actions of intelligent creatures, and their

These events will be ordered by something. They will either be
disposed by wisdom, or they will be disposed by chance; that is, they will be
disposed by blind and undesigning causes, if that were possible, and could be
called a disposal. Is it not better, that the good and evil which happens in
God's world, should be ordered, regulated, bounded and determined by the good
pleasure of an infinitely wise Being, who perfectly comprehends within his
understanding and constant view, the universality of things, in all their extent
and duration, and sees all the influence of every event, with respect to every
individual thing and circumstance, throughout the grand system, and the whole of
the eternal series of consequences; than to leave these things to fall out by
chance, and to be determined by those causes which have no understanding or aim?
Doubtless, in these important events, there is a better and a worse, as to the
time, subject, place, manner and circumstances of their coming to pass, with
regard to their influence on the state and course of things. And if there be,
'tis certainly best that they should be determined to that time, place, etc.
which is best. And therefore 'tis in its own nature fit, that wisdom, and not
chance, should order these things. So that it belongs to the Being, who is the
possessor of infinite wisdom, and is the creator and owner of the whole system
of created existences, and has the care of all; I say, it belongs to him, to
take care of this matter; and he would not do what is proper for him, if he
should neglect it. And it is so far from being unholy in him, to undertake this
affair, that it would rather have been unholy to neglect it; as it would have
been a neglecting what fitly appertains to him; and so it would have been a very
unfit and unsuitable neglect.

Therefore the sovereignty of God doubtless extends to this
matter; especially considering, that if it should be supposed to be otherwise,
and God should leave men's volitions, and all moral events, to the determination
and disposition of blind and unmeaning causes, or they should be left to happen
perfectly without a cause; this would be no more consistent with liberty, in any
notion of it, and particularly not in the Arminian notion of it, than if these
events were subject to the disposal of divine providence, and the will of man
were determined by circumstances which are ordered and disposed by divine
wisdom; as appears by what has been already observed. But 'tis evident, that
such a providential disposing and determining men's moral actions, though
it infers a moral necessity of those actions, yet it does not in the least
infringe the real liberty of mankind; the only liberty that common sense teaches
to be necessary to moral agency, which, as has been demonstrated, is not
inconsistent with such necessity.

On the whole, it is manifest, that God may be, in the manner
which has been described, the orderer and disposer of that event, which in the
inherent subject and agent is moral evil; and yet his so doing may be no moral
evil. He may will the disposal of such an event, and its coming to pass for good
ends, and his will not be an immoral or sinful will, but a perfectly holy will.
And he may actually in his providence so dispose and permit things, that the
event may be certainly and infallibly connected with such disposal and
permission, and his act therein not be an immoral or unholy, but a perfectly
holy act. Sin may be an evil thing, and yet that there should be such a disposal
and permission, as that it should come to pass, may be a good thing. This is no
contradiction, or inconsistence. Joseph's brethren's selling him into Egypt,
consider it only as it was acted by them, and with respect to their views and
aims which were evil, was a very bad thing; but it was a good thing, as it was
an event of God's ordering, and considered with respect to his views and aims
which were good. Genesis 50:20: "As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God
meant it unto good." So the crucifixion of Christ, if we consider only those
things which belong to the event as it proceeded from his murderers, and are
comprehended within the compass of the affair considered as their act, their
principles, dispositions, views and aims; so it was one of the most heinous
things that ever was done; in many respects the most horrid of all acts: but
consider it, as it was willed and ordered of God, in the extent of his designs
and views, it was the most admirable and glorious of all events; and God's
willing the event was the most holy volition of God, that ever was made known to
men; and God's act in ordering it, was a divine act, which above all others,
manifests the moral excellency of the divine Being.

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