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Systematic Theology - Volume II
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§ 3. Infralapsarianism.

According to the infralapsarian doctrine, God, with the design to reveal his own glory, that is, the perfections of his own nature, determined to create the world, secondly, to permit the fall of man; thirdly, to elect from the mass of fallen men a multitude whom no man could number as “vessels of mercy;” fourthly, to send his Son for their redemption; and, fifthly, to leave the residue of mankind, as He left the fallen angels, to suffer the just punishment of their sins.

The arguments in favour of this view of the divine plan have already been presented in the form of objections to the supralapsarian theory. It may, however, be further remarked, —

1. That this view is self-consistent and harmonious. As all the decrees of God are one comprehensive purpose, no view of the relation of the details embraced in that purpose which does not admit of their being reduced to unity can be admitted. In every great mechanism, whatever the number or complexity of its parts, there must be unity of design. Every part bears a given relation to every other part, and the perception of that relation is necessary to a proper understanding of the whole. Again, as the decrees of God are eternal and immutable, no view of his plan of operation which supposes Him to purpose first one thing and then another can ho consistent with their nature. And as God is absolutely sovereign and independent, all his purposes must be determined from within or according to the counsel of his own will. They cannot be sup.. posed to he contingent or suspended on the action of his creatures, or upon anything out of Himself. The infralapsarian scheme, as held by most Augustinians, fulfils all these conditions. All the particulars form one comprehensive whole. All follow in an order which supposes no change of purpose; and all depend on the infinitely wise, holy, and righteous will of God. The final end is the glory of God. For that end He creates the world, allows the fall; from among fallen men He elects some to everlasting life, and leaves the rest to the just recompense of their sins. Whom He elects He calls, justifies, and glorifies. This is the golden chain the links of which cannot be separated or transposed. This is the form in which the scheme of redemption lay in the Apostle’s mind as he teaches us in Rom. viii. 29, 30.

Different Meanings assigned the Word Predestination.

2. There is an ambiguity in the word predestination. It may be used, first, in the general sense of foreordination. In this sense it has equal reference to all events; for God foreordains whatever comes to pass. Secondly, it may refer to the general purpose of redemption without reference to particular individuals. God predetermined to reveal his attributes in redeeming sinners, as He predetermined to create the heavens and the earth to manifest his power, wisdom, and benevolence. Thirdly, it is used in theology generally to express the purpose of God in relation to the salvation of individual men. It includes the selection of one portion of the race to be saved, and the leaving the rest to perish in sin. It is in this sense used by supralapsarians, who teach that God selected a certain number of individual men to be created in order to salvation, and a certain number to be created to be vessels of wrath. It is in this way they subordinate creation to predestination as a means to an end. It is to this that infralapsarians object as inconceivable, repugnant to the nature of God, and unscriptural. Taking the word predestination, however, in the second of the senses above mentioned, it may be admitted that it precedes in the order of thought the purpose to create. This view is perfectly consistent with the doctrine which makes man as created and fallen the object of predestination in the third and commonly received meaning of the word. The Apostle teaches in Col. i. 16, that all things visible and invisible were created by and for Him who is the image of the invisible God, who is before all things, by whom all things consist, and who is the head of the body, the Church. The end of creation, therefore, is not merely the glory of God, but the special manifestation of that glory in the person and work of Christ. As He is the Alpha, so also is He the Omega; the beginning and the end. Having this great end in view, the revelation of Himself in the person and work of his Son, He purposed to create, to permit the fall, to elect some to be the subjects of his grace and to leave others in their sin. This view, as it seems, agrees with the representations of the Scriptures, and avoids the difficulties connected with the strict supralapsarian doctrine. It is to be borne in mind that the object of these speculations is not to pry into the operation of the divine mind, but simply to ascertain and exhibit the relation in which the several truths revealed in Scripture concerning the plan of redemption bear to each other.

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