Decrees and freedom seem to be mismatched, but they are not so. Even Jonathan Edwards, with his deterministic theory of the will, could, in his sermon on Pressing into the Kingdom, insist on the use of means, and could appeal to men as if they had the power to choose between the motives of self and of God. God?s sovereignty and human freedom are like the positive and the negative poles of the magnet ? they are inseparable from one another and are both indispensable elements in the attraction of the gospel.
Peter Damiani, the great monk-cardinal, said that the sin he found it hardest to uproot was his disposition to laughter. The homage paid to asceticism is the homage paid to the conqueror. But not all conquests are worthy of homage. Better the words of Luther: ?If our God may make excellent large pike and good Rhenish wine, I may very well venture to eat and drink. Thou mayest enjoy every pleasure in the world that is not sinful; thy God forbids thee not, but rather wills it. And it is pleasing to the dear God whenever thou rejoicest or laughest from the bottom of thy heart.? But our freedom has its limits. Martha Baker Dunn: A man fishing for pickerel baits his hook with a live minnow and throws him into the water. The little minnow seems to be swimming gaily at his own free will, but just the moment he attempts to move out of his appointed course he begins to realize that there is a hook in his back. That is what we find out when we try to swim against the stream of God?s decrees.?
3. That they make God the author of sin.
To this we reply:
(a) They make God, not the author of sin, but the author of free beings who, in themselves, are the authors of sin. God does not decree efficiently to work evil desires or choices in men. He decrees sin only in the sense of decreeing to create and preserve those who will sin; in other words, he decrees to create and preserve human wills which, in their own self-chosen courses, will be and do evil. In all this, man attributes sin to himself and not to God, and God hates, denounces, and punishes sin.
Joseph?s brethren were none the less wicked for the fact that God meant their conduct to result in good ( <015020>Genesis 50:20). Pope Leo X and his indulgences brought on the Reformation, but he was none the less guilty. Slaveholders would have been no more excusable, even if they had been able to prove that the Negro race was cursed in the curse of Canaan
( <010925>Genesis 9:25 ? ?Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.?) Fitch, in Christian Spectator, 3:601 ? ?There can be
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