May 25, 2017

Anthony Burgess (d.1664) on God’s Will for Adam’s Obedience

3. Why God would make this law, seeing he fore-knew his [Adam’s] fall, and abuse of it. For such is the prophane boldness of many men, that would have a reason of all God’s actions, whereas this is as if the Owl would look into the Sun, or the Pygmy measure the Pyramids. Although this may be answered without that of Paul’s, Who art thou, O Man, &c. for God did not give him this law to make him fall; Adam had power to stand. Therefore the proper essential end of this commandment was to exercise Adam’s obedience. Hence there was no iniquity or unrighteousness in God. Bellarmine doth confess, that God may do that, which if man should do, he sinned: as, for instance, Man is bound to hinder him from sin that he knoweth would do it, if it lay in his power; but God is not so tied, both because he hath the chief providence, it’s fit he should let causes work according to their nature; and therefore Adam, being created free, he might sin, as well as not sin; as also because God can work evil things out of good; and lastly, because God, if he should hinder all evil things, there would many good things be wanting to the world, for there is nothing which some do not abuse. The English Divines in the Synod of Dort held, that God had a serious will of saving all men, but not an efficacious will of saving all: Thus differing from the Arminians on one side, and from some Protestant Authors on the other side; and their great instance of the possibility of a serious will and not efficacious, is this of God’s to Adam, seriously willing him to stand, and withal giving him ability to stand: yet it was not such an efficacious will, as de facto did make him stand; for, no question, God could have confirmed the will of Adam in good, as well as that of the Angels and the glorified Saints in heaven. But concerning the truth of this their Assertion, we are to inquire in its time. But for the matter in hand, if by a serious will be meant a will of approbation and complacency, yea and efficiency in some sense, no question but God did seriously will his standing, when he gave that commandment. And howsoever Adam did fall, because he had not such help that would in the event make him stand, yet God did not withdraw or deny any help unto him, whereby he was enabled to obey God. To deny Adam that help, which should indeed make him stand, was no necessary requisite at all on God’s part.

But secondly, that of Austin’s [Augustine’s] is good, God would not have suffered sin to be, if he could not have wrought greater good then sin was evil: not that God needed sin to show his glory; for he needed no glory from the creature: but it pleased him to permit sin, that so thereby the riches of his grace and goodness might be manifested unto the children of his love. And if Arminians will not be satisfied with these Scripture considerations, we will say as Austin to the Heretics, Illi garriant, nos credamus, Let them prate while we believe.

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