Systematic Theology - Volume I
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§ 3. Different Theories of the Divine Government.

A. The Deistical Theory of God’s Relation to the World.

The first of the general views of God’s relation to the world is that which has ever been widely adopted by Rationalists, Deists, and men of the world. It is founded on the assumption that the Supreme Being is too exalted to concern Himself with the trifling concerns of his creatures here on earth. He made the world and impressed upon it certain laws; endowing matter with its properties, and rational beings with the powers of free agency, and having done this, he leaves the world to the guidance of these general laws. According to this view, the relation which God bears to the universe is that of a mechanist to a machine. When an artist has made a watch it goes of itself, without his intervention. He is never called to interfere with its operation, except to remedy some defect. But as no such defect can be assumed in the works of God, there is no call for his intervention, and He does not interfere. All things come to pass in virtue of the operation of causes which He created and set in motion at the beginning. According to this view God in no wise determines the effects of natural causes, nor controls the acts of free agents. The reason that one season is propitious and the earth produces her fruits in abundance, and that another is the reverse; that one year pestilence sweeps over the land, and another year is exempted from such desolation; that of two ships sailing from the same port, the one is wrecked and the other has a prosperous voyage; that the Spanish Armada was dispersed by a storm and Protestant England saved from papal domination; that Cromwell and his companions were arrested and prevented from sailing for America, which decided the fate of religious liberty in Great Britain, — that all such events are as they are, must, according to this theory, be referred to chance, or the blind operation of natural causes. God has nothing to do with them. He has abandoned the world to the government of physical laws and the affairs of men to their own control. This view of God’s relation to the world is so thoroughly anti-Scriptural and irreligious that it never has been, and never can be adopted by any Christian church. So long as even the simple words of our Lord are remembered and believed, so long must this doctrine be rejected with indignation. “Consider the ravens; for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” “Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Our Lord, therefore, teaches us to confide in the universal providence of God which supplies the wants and controls the destiny of all his creatures, so that a hair does not fall from our heads without his notice.

B. Theory of Entire Dependence.

Another theory, the very opposite of the one just mentioned, is founded on the principle that absolute dependence includes the idea that God is the only cause. This principle has been widely adopted, even in the Church. It has been strenuously advocated by many theists, not only among the schoolmen, but by some of the Reformers, and by a large class of modern theologians. There was a class of the scholastic divines who were virtually pantheistic in their philosophical views. John Scotus Erigena had taught, in the ninth century,540540De Divisione Naturæ, lib. iii. 19, edit. Monast. Guestphal. 1838, p. 240. that “omnis visibilis et invisibilis creatura theophania, i.e., divina apparitio recte potest appellari.” He had his followers, even in the thirteenth century.541541See Rixner’s Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. ii. § 40, p. 72. Those who did not go the length of asserting that “Deus est essentia omnium creaturarum et esse omnium,” still maintained that He so operated in all as to be the only efficient cause. According to Thomas Aquinas, they argued, “Nulla insufficientia est Deo attribuenda. Si igitur Deus operatur in omni operante, sufficienter in quolibet operatur. Superfluum igitur esset quod agens creatum, aliquid operaretur.” Again, “Quod Deum operari in quolibet operante, aliqui sic intellexerunt, quod nulla virtus creata aliquid operaretur in rebus, sed solus Deus immediate omnia operaretur: puta quod ignis non calefaceret, sed Deus in igne. Et similiter de omnibus aliis.542542Summa Theologiæ, part I., quest. cv., art. 5, edit. Cologne, 1640, pp. 192, 193. Of all the Reformers, Zwingle was the most inclined to this extreme view of the dependence of the creature on God. “Omnis virtus,” he says,543543De Providentia Dei; Works, edit. Turici, 1832, vol. iv. p. 85.numinis virtus est, nec enim quicquam est quod non ex illo, in illo et per illud sit, imo illud ipsum sit — creata inquam virtus dicitur, eo quod in novo subiecto et nova specie, universalis aut generalis ista virtus exhibetur. Deus est causa rerum universarum, reliqua omnia non sunt vere causæ.544544Ibid. Page 95. Constat causas secundas non rite causas vocari. . . . . Essentiam, virtutem, et operationem habent non suam sed numinis. Instrumenta igitur sunt.545545Ibid. Page 96. Viciniora ista, quibus causarum nomen damus, non jure causas esse sed manus et organa, quibus æterna mens operatur.546546Zwingle, iv. 97. Calvin did not go so far, although he uses such language as the following, when speaking of inanimate things, “Sunt nihil aliud quam instrumuenta, quibus Deus assidue instillat quantum vult efficaciæ et pro suo arbitrio ad hanc vel illam actionem flectit et convertit.547547Institutio, I. xvi. 2, edit. Berlin, 1834, vol. i. p. 135. He admits, however, that matter has its own properties, and second causes a real efficiency. The whole tendency of the Cartesian philosophy, which came into vogue in the seventeenth century, was to merge second causes into the first cause, and it thus led the way to idealism and pantheism. Malebranche admitted, on the testimony of Scripture, which declares that God created the heaven and the earth, that the external world has a real existence. But he denied that it could produce any effects, or that the soul could in any way act upon matter. We see all things in God. That is, when we perceive anything out of ourselves, the perception is not due to the impression made by the external object, but to the immediate agency of God. And the activity of our own minds is only a form of the activity of God. The first fruit of this system was avowed idealism, as all evidence of the existence of an external world was destroyed; and the second was the pantheism of Spinoza, which Leibnitz calls Cartesianism en outre. It must be admitted that the devout desire of the Reformed theologians to vindicate the sovereignty and supremacy of God, in opposition to all forms of Pelagian and semi-Pelagian doctrine, led many of them to go to an extreme in depreciating the efficiency of second causes, and in unduly exalting the omnipresent efficiency of God. Schweizer548548Glaubenslehre der Reformirten Kirche, p. 318. represents the great body of the Reformed theologians as teaching that the dependence of creatures on the Creator supersedes all efficiency of second causes. “Die schlechthinige Abhängigkeit des Bestehens und Verlaufes der Welt gestattet keinerlei andere Ursächlichkeiten als nur die göttliche, so dass Zwischenursachen nur seine Instrumente und Organe sind, er die durch ihre Gesammtheit wie durch alle einzelnen Zwischenursachen allein hindurchwirkende Causalität. Dieses ist er vermöge der præsentia essentialis numinis oder doch divinæ virtutis, welche das Sein alles Seins, die Bewegung aller Bewegungen ist.” This is Schweizer’s own doctrine, as it is that of the whole school of Schleiermacher, to which he belongs; but that it is not the doctrine of the Reformed theologians is plain from their all teaching the doctrine of concursus, which Schweizer admits to be inconsistent with the assumption that God is the sole cause of all things. It was this false assumption that no creature can act; that dependence on God is absolute; and that all power however manifested is the power of God, which led to the doctrine of a continued creation, as stated when speaking of the efficiency of God in the preservation of the world. It led also to the doctrine of occasional causes; that is, to the theory that what we call second causes have no real efficiency, but are only the occasions on which God manifests his power in a particular way. The world of matter and mind exists indeed, but it is perfectly inert. It is only the instrument or means by which the manifold and everywhere present efficiency of God is manifested. “Consideremus,” says Leibnitz, “eorum sententiam, qui rebus creatis veram, et propriam actionem adimunt, . . . . qui putant non res agere, sed Deum ad rerum præsentiam, et secundum rerum aptitudem; adeoque res occasiones esse, non causas, et recipere, non efficere aut elicere.”549549De ipsa Natura, 10; Works, edit. Berlin, 1840, p. 157. The same views of the dependence of creatures on God lies at the foundation of the whole system of Dr. Emmons. He held that if any creature were endowed with activity or power to act, it would be independent of God. “We cannot conceive,” he says, “that even Omnipotence itself is able to form independent agents, because this would be to endow them with divinity. And since all men are dependent agents, all their motions, exercises, or actions must originate in a divine efficiency.” This is not to be understood as simply asserting the necessity of a divine concursus in order to the operation of second causes, for Emmons expressly teaches that God creates all the volitions of the soul, and effects by his almighty power all changes in the material world.

Objections to this Doctrine of Dependence.

To this whole doctrine, which thus denies the existence of second causes, and refers all action both in the material and spiritual world to God, it is to be objected, (1.) That it is founded on an arbitrary assumption. It starts with the à priori idea of an absolute and infinite being, and rejects everything inconsistent with that idea. It cannot be proved that it is inconsistent with the nature of God that He should call into existence creatures capable of originating action. It is enough that such creatures should derive all their powers from God, and be subject to his control in all their exercises. (2.) This doctrine contradicts the consciousness of every man. We know, as certainly as we know anything, that we are free agents, and that free agency is the power of self-determination, or of originating our own acts. It contradicts not only our self-consciousness, but the laws of belief which God has impressed upon our nature. It is one of those laws that we should believe in the reality of the objects of our senses; and that belief involves the conviction not only that they really are, but also that they are the causes of the impressions which they make on our sensibility. It is to put philosophy in conflict with common sense, and with the universal convictions of men, to teach that all this is a delusion; that when we see a tree we are mistaken, that God immediately creates that impression in our mind; or that when we will to move the power is not in us, that it is not we that move, but God that moves us; or when we think, that it is God creates the thought. (3.) As has been before remarked, this system naturally leads, and has led to idealism and pantheism, and therefore is utterly inconsistent with all liberty and responsibility, and destroys the possibility of moral distinctions.

C. The Doctrine that there is no Efficiency except in Mind.

According to this view, there are no such things as physical forces. The mind of man is endowed with the power of producing effects; but apart from mind, divine or created, there is no efficiency in the universe. This doctrine finds its way into many theological, as well as philosophical disquisitions. Thus Principal Tulloch says, a cause is “coincident with an agent.” It “therefore implies mind. More definitely, and in its full conception, it implies a rational will.”550550Theism; The Witness of Reason and Nature to an All-Wise and Beneficient Creator, by the Rev. John Tulloch, D. D., Principal and Primarius Professor Theology, St. Mary’s College, St. Andrews, edit. New York, 1855, p. 43. Physical causes are therefore regarded as the ever operating will of God. “The idea of causation,” he says, “we found to resolve itself into that of the operation of a rational mind or will in nature.”551551Ibid. p. 47. Providence is nothing else than a “continued forth-putting of that [originally creative] efficiency.”552552Ibid. p. 93. Dr. Tulloch very correctly assumes that a cause is that which has power to produce effects; and that we get our idea of power, and therefore of the nature of causation, from our own consciousness of efficiency. He hence infers that, as mind is the only cause of which we have immediate knowledge, therefore it is the only one that exists. But this is a non-sequitur. That mind is a cause, is no proof that electricity may not be a cause. The facts, as understood by the mass of men are, First, we are conscious of efficiency, or the power to produce effects. Second, the exercise of this power awakens, or gives occasion to the intuition of the universal and necessary truth that every effect must have an appropriate cause. Thirdly, as we see around us effects of different kinds, it is a law of reason that they should be referred to causes of different kinds. The evidence that this is a law of reason, is the fact that men everywhere assume physical causes to account for physical effects, as uniformly as they assume mind for intelligent effects. The theory, however, which resolves all forces into the everywhere operative will of God has great attractions. It makes a way of escape from many of the difficulties which beset the question of God’s relation to the world. Even men devoted to the study of nature get so puzzled by such questions, as, What is matter? or What is force? that they are disposed, in many cases, to merge all things into God. The Duke of Argyle says, “Science, in the modern doctrine of Conservation of Energy and the Convertibility of Forces, is already getting something like a firm hold of the idea that all kinds of Force are but forms or manifestations of some one Central Force issuing from some one Fountain-head of Power. Sir John Herschel has not hesitated to say, that ‘it is but reasonable to regard the Force of Gravitation as the direct or indirect result of a consciousness or a will existing somewhere.’ And even if we cannot certainly identify Force in all its forms with the direct energies of the One Omnipresent and all-pervading Will, it is at least in the highest degree unphilosophical to assume the contrary, — to speak or to think as if the Forces of Nature were either independent of, or even separate from, the Creator’s Power.”553553Reign of Law, 5th ed. London, 1867, p. 123.

It was remarked on a previous page that Wallace still more decidedly adopts the same view. In his book on “Natural Selection,” after he had defended Darwin’s theory on the origin of species (except in its application to man), he comes in the end to start the question, What is matter? This question he answers by saying, “Matter is essentially force, and nothing but force. Matter, as popularly understood, does not exist, and is, in fact, philosophically inconceivable.”554554Natural Selection, pp. 365, 366. The next question is, What is force? The ultimate answer to this is, that it is the will of God. “If,” says Mr. Wallace, “we have traced one force, however minute, to an origin in our own Will, while we have no knowledge of any other primary cause of force, it does not seem an improbable conclusion that all force may be will force; and thus the whole universe is not merely dependent on, but actually is, the Will of higher intelligences or of one Supreme Intelligence.”555555Contribution to the Theory of Natural Selection, by Alfred Russel Wallace. London, 1870, p. 368.

This theory is substantially the same as that previously mentioned. They differ only as to the extent of their application. According to the doctrine of “Absolute Dependence,” God is the only agent in the universe; according to the doctrine just stated, He is the only agent, or his will is the only energy in the material world. Matter is nothing. “It does not exist.” It is nothing but force, and force is God; therefore the external world is God, In other words, all the impressions and sensations made upon us, as we suppose, by things without us, are in fact made by the immediate power of God: there is no earth; there are no stars; no men or women; no fathers or mothers. Men cannot believe this. By the constitution of our nature, which no man can alter, we are forced to believe in the reality of the external world; that matter is, and that it is the proximate cause of the effects which we attribute to its agency.

D. Theory of Preëstablished Harmony.

Another assumption made by philosophers is, that one substance cannot act upon another substance of a different kind; what is extended cannot act upon what is not extended; matter cannot act on mind, nor mind on matter. It is, however, a fact of consciousness and of daily observation, that, apparently at least, material objects by which we are surrounded are the causes of certain sensations and perceptions, that is, they act upon our minds; and it is no less a matter of consciousness that our minds do act, at least so it seems, upon our bodies. We can move, we can control the action of all our voluntary muscles. This, however, must be a delusion if matter cannot act on mind nor mind on matter. To account for the relation in which mind and matter stand to each other in this world, and for the apparent action of the one on the other, Leibnitz adopted the theory of a preëstablished harmony. God created two independent worlds, the one of matter, the other of mind; each has its own nature and its own principle of activity. All the changes in matter, all the actions of our bodies, are determined from a source within the matter and within our bodies, and would occur in the same order in which they actually take place if no created mind were in existence. In like manner, all the varying states of the human mind, all its sensations, perceptions, and volitions are determined from within, and would be just what they are though the external world had no existence. We should see the same sights, hear the same sounds, have the same volitions to move this or that muscle, though there were nothing to see, hear or move. These two worlds, thus automatically moved, coexist, and are made to act in harmony by a prearrangement divinely ordered. Hence the sensation of burning arises in the mind, not because fire acts on the body and the body on the mind, but because, by this preëstablished harmony, these events are made to coincide in time and space. From eternity it was determined that I should have a volition to move my arm at a certain time; and from eternity it was determined that the arm should move at that time. The two events therefore concur as immediate antecedent and consequent, but the volition stands in no causal relation to the motion. The volition would have been formed had there been no arm to move; and the arm would have moved, although the volition had never been formed. Leibnitz’s hand would have written all his wonderful books, mathematical and philosophical, and conducted all his controversies with Bayle, Clarke, and Newton, though his soul had never been created.556556See his Systeme Nouveau de la Nature; Works, edit. Berlin, 1840, p. 124.

E. Doctrine of Concursus.

A far more widely adopted and permanently influential principle is that no second cause can act until acted upon. Nothing created can originate action. This principle, carried to a greater or less extent, was adopted by Augustine, by the schoolmen, by the Thomists and Dominicans in the Latin Church, and by Protestants, whether Lutherans, Reformed, or Remonstrants. It was assumed as a philosophical axiom, to which all theological doctrines should be conformed. “Ad gubernationem concursus pertinet, quo Deus non solum dat vim agendi causis secundis et eam conservat, sed et easdem movet et applicat ad agendum. Præcursus etiam dicitur, nam causæ secundm non movent nisi motæ.557557Mares, Collegium Theologicum, loc. iv. 29; Gröningen, 1659, p. 42, b. “Prima causa,” says Turrettin, “est primum movens in omni actione, ideo causa secunda non potest movere, nisi moveatur, nec agere, nisi acta a prima; alioqui erit principium sui motus, et sic non amplius esset causa secunda, sed prima.”558558Locus VI. quæstio, v. 7, edit. Edinburgh, 1847, vol. i. p. 455. In the production of every effect, therefore, there is the efficiency of two causes, the first and second. But this is not to be considered as involving two operations, as when two horses are attached to the same vehicle, which is drawn partly by the one and partly by the other. The efficiency of the first cause is in the second, and not merely with it. Deus “immediate influit in actionem et effectum creaturæ, ita ut idem effectus non a solo Deo, nec a sola creatura, nec partim a Deo, partim a creatura, sed una eademque efficientia totali simul a Deo et creatura producatur, a Deo videlicet ut causa universali et prima, a creatura ut particulari et secunda.”559559Quenstedt, Theologia, cap. XIII. i. 15, edit. Leipzig, 1715, vol. i. p. 760. Non est re ipsa alia actio influxus Dei, alia operatio creaturæ, sed una et indivsibilis actio, utrumque respiciens et ab utroque pendens, a Deo ut causa universali, a creatura ut particulari.560560Ibid. cap. XIII. ii. 3, vol. i. p. 782.

This concursus is represented, first, as general; an influence of the omnipresent power of God not only sustaining creatures and their properties and powers, but exciting each to act according to its nature. It is analogous to the general influence of the sun which affects different objects in different ways. The same solar ray softens wax and hardens clay. It calls the germinating force of all seeds into action, but does not determine the nature of that action. All seeds are thus quickened; but one develops as wheat, another as barley, not because of the solar force, but because of its own peculiar nature. This is all that the Franciscans and Jesuits among the Romanists, and the Remonstrants among the Protestants allow. The Thomists and Dominicans among the former, and the Augustinian theologians generally, insist that, besides this general concursus, there is also a previous, simultaneous, and determining concourse of the first, in all second causes, both in the cause and in the effect; that is, not only exciting to action, but sustaining, guiding, and determining the act; so that its being as it is, and not otherwise, is to be referred to the first, and not to the second cause in every case. On this point, however, the Reformed theologians are not agreed, as Turrettin admits. “Ex nostris,” he says, “quidam concursum tantum prævium volunt quoad bona opera gratiæ, sed in aliis omnibus simultaneum sufficere existimant.”561561Locus VI. quæst. v. 6. By previous concursus is meant, he says, “Actio Dei, qua in causas earumque principia influendo, creaturas excitat, et agendum præmovet, et ad hoc potius quam ad illud agendum applicat. Simultaneus vero est per quam Deus actionem creaturæ, quoad suam entitatem, vel substantiam producit; quo una cum creaturis in earum actiones et effectus influere ponitur, non vero in creaturas ipsas.562562Locus VI. quæst. v. 5. It is admitted that these do not differ really, “quia concursus simultaneus, nihil aliud est, quam concursus prævius continuatus.” This previous concursus is also called predetermining. “Id ipsum etiam nomine Prædeterminationis, seu Præmotionis solet designari, qua Deus ciet et applicat causam secundam ad agendum, adeoque antecedenter ad omnem operationem creaturæ, seu prius natura et ratione quam creatura operetur, eam realiter et efficaciter movet ad agendum in singulis actionibus, adeo ut sine hac præmotione causa secunda operari non possit, ea vero posita impossibile sit in sensu composito causam secundam non illud idem agere ad quod a prima causa præmovetur.563563Turrettin, locus VI. quæst. v. 6.

Concursus, therefore, assumes, (1.) That God gives to second causes the power of acting. (2.) That He preserves them in being and vigour. (3.) That He excites and determines second causes to act. (4.) That He directs and governs them to the predetermined end. All this, however, was so understood that —

1. The effect produced or the act performed is to be referred to the second, and not to the first cause. When the fire burns, it is to the fire, and not to God that the effect is to be attributed. When a man speaks, it is the man, and not God who utters the words. When the moon raises the tidal wave, and the wave dashes a vessel on the shore, the effect is to be attributed, not to the moon, but to the momentum of the wave. The force of gravity acts uniformly on all ponderable matter, and yet that force may be indefinitely varied in the effects which are produced by intervening causes, whether necessary or free.

2. The doctrine of concursus does not deny the efficiency of second causes. They are real causes, having a principium agendi in themselves.

3. The agency of God neither supersedes, nor in any way interferes with the efficiency of second causes. “Ad providentiam divinam non pertinet, naturam rerum corrumpere, sed servare: unde omnia movet secundum eorum conditionem: ita quod ex causis necessariis per motionem divinam consequuntur effectus ex necessitate; ex causis autem contingentibus sequuntur effectus contingentes. Quia igitur voluntas est activum principium non determinatum ad unum, sed indifferenter se habens ad multa, sic Deus ipsam movet, quod non ex necessitate ad unum determinat, sed remanet motus ejus contingens et non necessarius, nisi in his ad quæ naturaliter movetur.564564Aquinas, Summa, part II. i. quæst. x. art. 4, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 22 of second set.Concurrit Deus cum naturalibus ad modum causæ naturalis, cum causis liberis per modum causæ liberæ.565565Quenstedt, cap. XIII. i. 15, vol. i. p. 761. Duo sunt causarum genera, aliæ definitæ et generales, quæ eodem modo semper agunt, ut ignis qui urit, sol qui lucet; aliæ indefinitæ et liberæ, quæ possunt agere vel non agere, hoc vel illo modo agere: ita Deus naturam earum conservat, et cum illis juxta eam in agendo concurrit; cum definitis, ut ipse eas determinet sine determinatione propria; cum indefinitis vero et liberis, ut ipsæ quoque se determinent proprio rationis judicio, et libera voluntatis dispositione, quam Deus non aufert homini, quia sic opus suum destrueret, sed relinquit et confirmat.566566Turrettin, locus VI. quæst. vi. 6, edit. Edinburgh, 1847, vol. i. p. 460. To the same effect the “Westminster Confession”567567Chap. v. sect. 2. says: God ordereth events “to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.”

4. From this it follows that the efficiency or agency of God is not the same in relation to all kinds of events. It is one thing in coöperating with material causes, another in coöperating with free agents. It is one thing in relation to good acts, and another in relation to evil actions; one thing in nature, and another in grace.

5. The divine concursus is not inconsistent with the liberty of free agents. “Moveri voluntarie est moveri ex se, id est, a principio intrinseco. Sed illud principium intrinsecum potest esse ab alio principio extrinseco. Et sic moveri ex se, non repugnat ei, quod movetur ab alio. — Illud quod movetur ab altero, dicitur cogi, si moveatur contra inclinationem propriam: sed si moveatur ab alio quod sibi dat propriam inclinationem, non dicitur cogi. Sic igitur Deus movendo voluntatem, non cogit ipsam: quia dat ei ejus propriam inclinationem.568568Aquinas, Summa, part I. quæst. cv. art. 4. edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 193. This is undoubtedly true. Nothing is more certain from Scripture than that God is the author of faith and repentance. They are his gifts. They are blessings for which we pray, and which He promises. Yet nothing is more certain from consciousness, than that faith and repentance are our own free acts. Therefore moveri ab alio is not inconsistent with moveri ex se. On this point Turrettin569569Locus VI. quæstio v. 7. says: “Cum providentia non concurrat cum voluntate humana, vel per coactionem, cogendo voluntatem invitam, vel determinando physice, ut rem brutan et cæcam absque ullo judicio, sed rationaliter, flectendo voluntatem modo ipsi convenienti, ut seipsam determinet, ut causa proxima actionum suarum proprio rationis judicio, et spontanea voluntatis electione; eam libertati nostræ nullam vim inferre, sed illam potius amice fovere.

6. All the advocates of the doctrine of concursus admit that the great difficulty attending it is in reference to sin. The difficulty here is not so much in relation to the responsibility of the sinner. If sin be his own act, and if the divine concursus does not interfere with his freedom, it does not interfere with his responsibility. When God by his grace determines the will of his people to holy acts, the holiness is theirs. It constitutes their character. When God gives a man beauty, he is beautiful. And if his coöperation in the sins of men leaves their freedom in sinning unimpaired, they are as truly sinful as though no such coöperation existed. This is not the difficulty. The real question is, how can God’s coöperation in sin be reconciled with his own holiness? We can easily see how God can coöperate in good acts, and rejoice in the goodness which is his gift; but how can He so concur in sinful acts as not only to preserve the sinner in the exercise of his ability to act, but also to excite to action, and determine his act to be what it is, and not otherwise? This difficulty was, as has been remarked, freely acknowledged. It was met by defining sin as mere defect. It is a want of conformity to the moral law. As such it requires not an efficient, but only a deficient cause. God is the source immediately or remotely of all efficiency, but is not the source of mere deficiency. In every sinful act, therefore, there was distinguished the act as an act requiring an efficient cause; and the moral quality of that act, or its want of conformity to law, a mere relation, which is not an ens, and therefore is in no way to be referred to God. This is the answer to this objection given by Augustine, and repeated from his day to this. Aquinas570570Summa, part I. quest. xlix. art. 2, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 95. says: “Quicquid est entitatis et actionis in actione mala, reducitur in Deum sicut in causam: sed quod est ibi defectus non causatur a Deo, sed ex causa secunda deficiente.” Quenstedt571571Theologia, cap. XIII. i. 15, vol. i. p. 761. says: “Distinguendum inter effectum et defectum, inter actionem et actionis ἀταξίαν. Effectus et actio est a Deo, non vero defectus et ἀταξία sive inordinatio et exorbitatio actionis. Ad effectum Deus concurrit, vitium non causat, non enim in agendo deficit aut errat, sed causa secunda.” Bucan572572Bucan, Institutiones Theologici, edit. Geneva, 1625, p. 142. says: “Malorum opera quoque decernit et regit. Tamen non est autor mali, quia mali sic aguntur a Deo, ut sponte, libere et sine coactione et impulsu violento agant. Deinde non infundit malitiam sicut bonitatem, nec impellit aut allicit ad peccandum.” To the same effect Turrettin573573Locus VI. quæstio vii. 3, 4, edit. Edinburgh, 1847, vol. i. p. 462. says: “Cum actus qua talis semper bonus sit quoad entitatem suam, Deus ad illum concurrit effective, et physice. . . . . (quoad malitiam) Deus nec causa physica potest ejus dici, quia nec illam inspirat aut infundit, nec facit; nec ethica, qui nec imperat, aut approbat et suadet, sed severissime prohibet et punit.” As the same solar influence quickens into life all kinds of plants, whether nutritious or poisonous; as the same current of water may be guided in one channel or another; as the same vital force animates the limbs of the sound man and of the cripple; as the same hand may sweep the keys of an instrument when in tune and when out of tune: so it is urged that the same divine efficiency sustains and animates all free agents. That they act at all is due to the divine efficiency, but the particular nature of their acts (at least when evil) is to be referred, not to that all-pervading efficiency of God, but to the nature or character of each particular agent. That God controls and governs wicked men, determines their wickedness to take one form, and not another, and guides it to manifestations which will promote good rather than evil, is not inconsistent with the holiness of God. He did not infuse envy and hatred into the hearts of Joseph’s brethren, but He guided the exercise of those evil passions, so as to secure the preservation of Jacob and the chosen seed from destruction.

Remarks on the Doctrine of Concursus.

The above statement of the doctrine of concursus is designed merely to give the views generally entertained by Augustinians, as to the nature of God’s providential government. Whether those views are correct or not, it is important that they should be understood. It is very evident that there is a broad distinction between this theory of concursus and the theory which resolves all events, whether necessary or free, into the immediate agency of God. The points of difference between the two theories are, (1.) That the one admits and the other denies the reality and efficiency of second causes. (2.) The one makes no distinction between free and necessary events, attributing them equally to the almighty and creative energy of God; the other admits the validity and unspeakable importance of this distinction. (3.) The one asserts and the other denies that the agency of God is the same in sinful acts that it is in good acts. (4.) The one admits that God is the author of sin, the other repudiates that doctrine with abhorrence. The Reformed theologians protested against the aspersion freely made by Romanists, and afterwards by the Remonstrants, that the Augustinian doctrine led by any fair process of reasoning to the conclusion that God is the cause of sin. They quote from their opponents admissions which involve all that they themselves teach in reference to the agency of God in the wicked acts of men. Thus Bellarmin, who freely brings this objection against the Protestants, himself says,574574De Amissione Gratiæ et Statu Peccati, II. xiii. edit. Paris, 1608, p. 132.Deus non solum permittit impios agere multa mala, nec solum deserit pios ut cogantur pati quæ ab impiis inferuntur; sed etiam præsidet ipsis voluntatibus malis, easque regit et gubernat, torquet ac flectit in eis invisibiliter operando, ut licet vitio proprio malæ sint, tamen a divina providentia ad unum potius malum, quam ad aliud, non positive sed permissive ordinentur.” As to this passage, Turrettin says, “Quibus verbis nihil durius apud nostros occurrit.” Bellarmin also quotes575575Ibid. and adopts the language of Aquinas when he says, “Deum non solum inclinare voluntates malas ad unum potius, quam ad aliud permittendo, ut ferantur in unum, et non permittendo, ut ferantur in aliud, ut Hugo recte docuit, sed etiam positive inclinando in unum et avertendo ab alio.” It is of importance, not only as a matter of historical truth, but also for its moral influence, that the fact should be distinctly known and recognized that the Reformed theologians, with all Augustinians before and after the Reformation, earnestly rejected the doctrine that God is the author or the efficient cause of sin.

The objection to the doctrine of concursus is not that it intentionally or really destroys the free agency of man; or that it makes God the author of sin, but (1.) That it is founded on an arbitrary and false assumption. It denies that any creature can originate action. This does not admit of proof. It is an inference from the assumed nature of the dependence of the creature upon the creator; or from the assumed necessity of the principle in question, in order to secure the absolute control of God over created beings. It however contradicts the consciousness of men. That we are free agents means that we have the power to act freely; and to act freely implies that we originate our own acts. This does not mean that it is inconsistent with our liberty that we should be moved and induced to exert our ability to act by considerations addressed to our reason or inclinations, or by the grace of God; but it does mean that we have the power to act. The power of spontaneous action is essential to the nature of a spirit and God, in creating us in his own nature as spirits, endowed us with the power to originate our own acts. (2.) A second objection to the doctrine is that it is an attempt to explain the inexplicable. Not content with the simple and certain declaration of the Bible, that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions, it undertakes to explain how this is done. From the nature of the case this is impossible. We see that material causes act, but we cannot tell how they act. We are conscious of the power to guide our own thoughts, and to determine our own wills; but how it is we exercise this efficiency, passes our comprehension. We know that the will has power over certain muscles of the body; but the point of connection, the nexus between volition and muscular action, is altogether inscrutable. Why then should we attempt to explain how it is that the efficiency of God controls the efficiency of second causes? The fact is plain, and the fact alone is important; but the mode of Gods action we cannot possibly understand. (3.) A third objection is that this doctrine multiplies difficulties. By attempting to teach how God governs free agents, that He first excites them to act; sustains them in action; determines them to act so, and not otherwise; that He effectually concurs in the entity, but not necessarily in the moral quality of the act, we raise at every step the most subtle and perplexing metaphysical questions, which no man is able to solve. And even admitting the theory of concursus, as expounded by the schoolmen and scholastic theologians, to be true, what does it amount to? What real knowledge does it communicate? All we know, and all we need to know, is, (1.) That God does govern all his creatures; and (2.) That his control over them is consistent with their nature, and with his own infinite purity and excellence.

As this doctrine of Providence involves the question of Gods relation to the world, it is confessedly the most comprehensive and difficult in the compass either of theology or of philosophy. As the world, meaning thereby the universe of created beings, includes the world of matter and the world of mind, the doctrine of providence concerns, first, the relation of God to the external or material universe; and secondly, his relation to the world of mind, or to his rational creatures.

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