X. Providence

X.1. Definition of providence

By His providence,[1] God rules not only the whole fabric of the world and its several parts, but also the hearts and even the actions of men. A mass of literature confronts anyone who will write on this subject. But since I have already so dealt with the subject as to give considerable satisfaction to sound and fair readers, I shall summarise it now with as much brevity as is possible. It cannot be hoped that what I say will match in splendour the greatness and excellence of the subject. I shall refer in a few words to what was expounded at greater length in my Institutes; and, if authority is needed, I shall attach scriptural proof. Thus I shall dispose of the sinister and malignant observations of Pighius and others like him, which evilly distort what is well said, lest pious minds should be hindered or disturbed.

We mean by providence not an idle observation by God in heaven of what goes on in earth, but His rule of the world which He made; for He is not the creator of a moment, but the perpetual governor. Thus the providence we ascribe to God belongs not only to His eyes but to His hands.[2] So He is said to rule the world in His providence, not only because He watches the order of nature imposed by Himself, but because He has and exercises a particular care of each one of His creatures. For it is indeed true, that, as the creation of the world was beautifully ordained by the admirable wisdom of God, so it is unable to persist in being unless it be sustained by His virtue. That the, sun should daily rise for us, that in its swift course it has degrees so fitly tempered,[3] that the separate orbits of the stars are wonderfully undisturbed, that the seasons continually recur; that the earth yields its annual produce for the nourishment of men, that the elements and particles do not cease to discharge their office, that finally the fertility of nature never fails as though it were fatigued - this is to be ascribed solely to His directing hand who once made all things. Psalm 104 is nothing but a eulogy of this universal providence. So too Paul declares, when he says that in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17.28). Since this is the essential property of the one God, so faith must consider the secret vitality it communicates, by which it comes about that creatures exist, though they will also soon perish.

X.2. Particular application of providence

But knowledge of universal providence is by itself vague and confused, unless at the same time we hold that God embraces individual creatures in His care; as Christ also teaches when He says that not even a little sparrow, sold for half a farthing,[4] falls to the ground without the will of the Father (Mt 10.29). In this special providence which watches over the individual works of God particularly, it is convenient to determine certain distinct grades. For since man is the most noble work of God, for whose good everything which heaven and earth contain was made, Scripture chiefly commends to us the providence of God in governing the human race. Paul in ex- pounding the passage: Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the treading ox (I Cor 9.9), says that oxen are not a concern to God; which means that He does not preoccupy Himself with their care, though it is within His competence, but rather concerns Himself with man. But because God deals here with men equipped with reason, the reason of His providence manifests itself more certainly and clearly. For His judgments show themselves wonderful, whether for punishing crimes, or instructing the faithful in patience and the subduing of the flesh, or purging the vices of the world, or rousing many from indolence, or opposing the pride of the ungodly, or deriding the stratagems of the wise, or demolishing the machinations of the wicked. On the other side there is reflected His incomparable goodness in assisting the wretched, protecting and defending the safety of the innocent, and bringing help to the despairing. Of this providence which concerns men, there is a beautiful description in Psalm 107. For there the prophet shows that what in common estimation are thought whims of fortune, are in fact so far from being imposed by blind chance, that they clearly mirror the goodness or the wrath or the justice of God. So he concludes: If they will prudently consider what changes of fortune take place in the world, it will be a matter of joy to the godly; such examples of the works of God are potent enough to shut up the mouth of the wicked (Ps 107.42).[5]

X.3. Providence specially directed to the Church

But here again there are degrees of direction. For though God shows Himself father and judge of the whole human race, yet, since the Church is the sanctuary in which He resides, He there displays His presence with clearer evidence; and there performs the office of father of His family, and honours it, as I may say, in its proper aspect. Scripture refers to testimonies of this kind when it affirms that God keeps even closer watch over the faithful (Ps 33.18). The Lord keeps watch over the souls of His saints (Ps 97.10).[6] God cares for you (I Pet 3.7). The hairs of your head are all numbered (Mt 10.30). For the Church is God's own workshop, in which He exercises His providence-the chief theatre of the same providence. For the same reason it is said that the angels, who are as it were His hands, have been appointed watchmen for His faithful (Ps 34.8), lest they should be in any way separated from the body of Christ whose members they also are. Therefore, to put the matter within the comprehension of the simple, there is first to be asserted before the eyes of all the general government of the world, by which all thing are cherished and nourished, so that their natural state may remain intact.[7] Then there are to be considered the guards God sets for the government and care of particular parts--of such a kind, indeed, that nothing happens but by His will and assent. Then there must come to mind His particular care of the human race, by which it comes about that the life and death of men, the condition of public kingdoms and peoples no less than of private individuals, and everything commonly ascribed to fortune, all depend upon a single heavenly control.[8] Lastly, there is the truly paternal protection with which He guards His Church, to which the most present help of God is attached.[9]

X.4. Exposition of providence requires discretion

No words can worthily and sufficiently express how great and how diverse is the usefulness of this doctrine. No one can profitably weigh up what Scripture testifies to us about the providence of God in governing the world, or what is known by means of faith, unless he reminds himself that he has here to do with his maker and with the creator of all things, and first submits himself in fear and reverence of such majesty[10] as befits humility. For if anyone is accustomed to have honour from his equals, so that he candidly and modestly judges in matters concerning them that are obscure or insufficiently known, sedulously enquires their significance, and prefers to suspend judgment rather than by too much precipitation to do injury, would it not, I ask, be a more than monstrous enormity to show less discretion and to measure the works of God by our standards,[11] investigate His hidden counsels, and trifle in a profane way with mysteries so great and so profoundly adorable?[12] But if such petulance has rioted in all ages, it displays itself much more insolently today than ever before. And many Epicureans, as we may call them, because they are unable to drag God down from heaven, show their godless rage in trying, by deliberation and example, to expel at least His worship and all religion from the conscience of themselves and all others, by emitting detestable and unworthy blasphemies. But for the most part, the origin of the evil is clearly this, that superficial and impetuous spirits indulge primarily their own frivolous curiosity, so as to set themselves no limit and to apply themselves to quite empty speculations. Then unbridled audacity arises, and stimulates other tongues to emulate their lack of moderation with their petulance. Others attempt the same thing, having different faults but doing no less injury. For, implicated in absurd fancies, they destroy their minds voluntarily either in desperation or in carelessness.[13] It is the device of the devil to involve pious and sound doctrine in monstrous fictions,[14] and so not only to snatch from us its enjoyment, but also to render it partly hateful and partly disastrous. But, whatever he attempts, a warning will show us that it is all perverse; for, as they run into such dangers, they find no other summary principle, than to corrupt or obscure what is simply set forth in Scripture.

X.5. The end of providence a proper confidence

The remedy is much more fitting: to learn how and for what end the providence of God is to be understood. The first end is to divest us[15] of rash confidence, so as to hold us in the fear of God and then to arouse us to invoke Him. The second is to teach us to rest in God with quiet and tranquil minds[16] and to despise with confidence and courage the perils that surround us and the hundred deaths that threaten us. Let me expound both items. When men imagine that anything is fortuitous, or ascribe anything to their own industry, wisdom, wealth, or human assistance, proceed audaciously to attempt all things, strive, travel all over, move some mountain, and constantly think up something novel, as though free to wander in empty space,[17] then there is no invocation of God and no fear. But where men acknowledge their purpose and the issue of all things to be governed by the providence of God, admit fearfully with Jeremiah (10.23): I know, O Lord, that the way of a man is not in himself, nor is it for man to direct his footsteps; thinking like Solomon (Prov 20.24): The steps of a man are from the Lord, and what man will dispose his way?, there they subject themselves wholly to the Lord and depend upon Him. Then there follow prayers, that God may begin and complete in us whatever works we confidently undertake. Similarly the man who invents an empire of chance or the devil,[18] relaxes the reins for the ungodly and other brute beasts, as if they were able to do anything outside the assent and ordinance of God - he will continually fret with miserable anxiety, will turn his life round and round as though it were suspended by a thread, and will hardly dare to move a foot, lest he should despair of life.[19] But the faithful, since they set before themselves the directing hand of God, will not hesitate to cast all their cares upon Him. And as they know that the devil and all the ungodly, however much uproar they may make, are not only tied fast by the chains of God but even compelled to render Him obedience, they will proceed quietly on their way.

X.6. Providence refers to past as well as future

Two other distinctions add some light. The first is that the providence of God is to be referred to past as well as future time; the other, that, sometimes with and sometimes without and sometimes contrary to all means, the highest power is to be ascribed to Him who ordains and creates all things. To consider the reference to past time: if anything follows according to one's wish or desire, let mortal man not sacrifice to his own net, as Habbakuk says (1.16), nor exalt his prudence or virtue or good fortune; let him not make the offering to men or creatures which is properly God's own. But let him be persuaded that God is the prime author of his blessing, how- ever it come about. But in adversity, let him rest in this consolation: As God pleased, so it has come about; by revolting against God, I profit nothing and only involve myself in the guilt of impious contumacy. Then let the memory of his past life come before him, so that, from the punishments inflicted upon him, he may learn his sins. As for future time, the providence of God is to be thought of in this way by pious minds. There is always an intention in His promises and threats. If there should be any discrepancy, there will remain no building up in the fear of God and no progress in faith. But the man who observes the omnipotence of God in the mirror of His word will not only rise above the innumerable perils of the world on the wings of faith, but also be less subdued and humiliated by daily aggravations. When I said that the providence of God is to be considered along with the means employed, I meant, that if anyone give help to those who labour in the last extremity, the deliverance is not human, but divine by the hand of man. The sun rises daily, but it is God that gives light to the earthly globe. The earth produces fruit, but it is God that supplies bread and by bread imparts vigour to us in our need. In a word, when inferior causes, like veils, withdraw God from our sight, as they usually do, we must penetrate higher by the eye of faith, so as to discern God's hand working in these instruments. Christ teaches by an example how to look away from the means and give place to the providence of God, when He repelled the assault of Satan with the shield: Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mt 4.4). For, as He knew the power of God needed no external support, He concludes that it is supplied without bread as well as being mercifully supplied by bread. Hence, we are to guard against being so attached to inferior means, as to think that the hand of God alone by itself cannot supply us abundantly with all help. Apart from mere means, the providence of God attains its deserved praise from us, when we are persuaded that it is superior to all obstacles[20] and we conquer all assembled terrors by faith alone. For this is a real wrestling school in which God tests our faith, for every day obstacles arise to impede His counsel up and down through all creation. What then is to be done? If only faith will ascend to the level of divine power, it will without great trouble overcome all agents that seem to oppose it.

X.7. God the cause of all happenings, yet not the author of evil

Whoever continues in such godly fear will not worry himself with devious speculations, nor because he knows that all things are divinely created will he think this a pretext for ignorance, nor yield to desperation, nor fly off to frivolous nothings and things unworthy of God's majesty. But now there arises the question of the origin of these battles. We are not to think that the providence of God, rightly understood, generates them out of itself. The cause is rather that, in thinking about the works of God, human reason is blind and prone to disputation.[21] But it is no wonder if the counsels of God, which the angels look into from the height of heaven (I Pet 1.12); are little congruous with the flesh. But it is an insufferable wickedness to think that we, who can hardly crawl on the earth, should take nothing as true except what submits itself to investigation by our eyes. But care is needed, if the doctrine is to be, fruitful in fortifying the simple and inexperienced and in refuting the falsehoods of the ungodly.[22] First, it must be observed that the will of God is the cause of all things that happen in the world; and yet God is not the author of evil. I will not repeat here with Augustine what yet I willingly accept from him as true: There is nothing positive in sin and evil:[23] for this subtlety does not satisfy many. For myself, I take another principle: Whatever things are done wrongly and unjustly by man, these very things are the right and just works of God. This may seem paradoxical at first sight to some; but at least they should not be so offended that they will not suffer me to search the word of God for a little to find out what should be thought here. But lest we should look with pride and stubbornness, as if it were proper for God to fit Himself to our standards, we must first listen to Scripture, where the whole definition of the works of God is to be found.[24]

That God directs by His counsel the things that seem most fortuitous, is clearly attested by Scripture when it says: The lot is thrown into the lap, but the judgment of things is from the Lord (Prov 16.33).[25] Similarly, if a branch cut from a tree, or an axe slipping unintentionally from a man's hand, strike a passerby on the head, Moses testifies that God did it on purpose, because He willed the man to be killed (Ex 21.13). Other Scriptural evidence I omit for the time being, because the thing is so expressly pointed out. But because the necessity of Stoicism seems to be established by what is said, the dogma is hateful to many who would not dare to call it false. The calumny is an old one, and Augustine complains that he was frequently charged with it falsely.[26] But it ought now to be regarded as obsolete. It is certainly unworthy of honest and wise men, if only they be properly instructed. The nature of the Stoics' supposition is known. They weave their fate out of a Gordian complex of causes. In this they involve God Himself, making golden chains, as in the fable, with which to bind Him, so that He becomes subject to inferior causes. The astrologers of today imitate the Stoics, for they hold that an absolute necessity for all things originates from the position of the stars. Let the Stoics have their fate; for us, the free will of God disposes all things. Yet it seems absurd to remove contingency from the world.[27] I omit to mention the distinctions employed in the schools. What 1 hold is, in my judgment, simple, and needs no force to accommodate it usefully to life. What necessarily happens is what God decrees, and is therefore not exactly or of itself necessary by nature. I find a familiar example in the bones of Christ. Scripture testifies that Christ assumed a body quite like our own. That its bones were frangible no sane man doubts. But another and distinguishable question seems to arise here, whether any bone of His could be broken. For all things must necessarily remain intact and unimpaired because they are so determined by the fixed decree of God. And though I shrink from the received forms of speech, and the distinction between absolute and consequential necessity, I use them, but only lest any subtlety should prevent even the most simple of my readers from understanding what I say. Hence, considered naturally, the bones of Christ were frangible; but considered in the decree of God, which in His own time was manifested, they were no more liable to fracture than angels to the troubles of humanity. But though it is proper for us to regard the order of nature as divinely determined, I do not at all reject contingency in regard to human understanding.

X.8. God's use of inferior causes

Further what I said before is to be remembered, that since God manifests His power through means and inferior causes, it is not to be separated from them. It would be foolish to think that, because God has decreed what is future, all care and endeavour on our part is rendered superfluous. If there was anything that we must do, He prescribed it, and willed us to be the instruments of His power; and it is right for us not to separate what He has joined together. In the beginning, He commanded that the earth produce all kinds of herbs and fruit without the aid of human art or cultivation; but He now invites the hand of man and works by means of it. If anyone boast that he expects to have bread by mere idle desire, because it is the blessing of God that makes the earth fruitful, does he not simply spurn the providence of God in preaching such an understanding of it? For this is to separate and distinguish what belong together by divine connection. Hence as to future time, because the issue of all things is hidden from us each ought so to apply himself to his office, as though nothing were determined about any part. Or, to speak more properly, he ought so to hope for the success that issues from the command of God in all things, as to reconcile in himself the contingency of unknown things and the certain providence of God. And God promises His blessing to the labour of our hands. By this word, the pious man comprehends that he is constituted an instrument of divine providence. Supported by this same promise, he girds himself for the work with alacrity,[28] because he is persuaded that his pains are not airily thrown to chance, and that as he puts his trust in the word of God he will be directed to the best of ends by His secret counsel. Then, since the providence of God as rightly expounded does not bind our hands,[29] I so it does not discourage invocation but rather confirms it. Whatever happens, it is right to temper our judgments with the same soberness as in past time. There is no more apt exhortation to patience than to hear that nothing occurs fortuitously and that what seems good to God will be done. Meantime it does not follow that the blame for the adversity of things is not carried by our laziness or temerity or thoughtless- ness or any other vice. If it be not right to think that the things that happen, happen without any reason, as often seems to be the case, no pious minds will cease to ascribe praise to the wisdom and justice of God.

X.9. Man's counsels overruled by God

But where it is a matter of men's counsels, wills, endeavours, and exertions, there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here too, so that nothing happens but by His assent and that men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it. The clear evidence of His providence daily shows how He relaxes the reins to the foolish counsels of men, and yet, concealing from them the means He uses, He frustrates them in the last resort. But Scripture praises His strong hand and dominion in another direction, when He is shown inflaming the ungodly, striking them with giddiness, and driving them into madness or stupefaction; or again weakening their hearts and filling them with terror, so that they collapse at the sound of a falling leaf. Pighius too little considers this, and restricts God within too narrow limits; whereas, like a prudent man[30] or a general expert in military affairs, He foresees the plans of His enemies and counters them with timely measures. Both things are expressly stated: He seizes the wise in their craftiness, takes away the spirit of princes, and makes their prudence vanish (Job 5.13; Ps 76.13). Gross, too, is the lack of perception which denies that the man who is killed by the deliberation of men dies by the will of God, merely because where the will of man interposes the action of God is not present.[31] What then of the innumerable passages of Scripture which testify that the swords of the wicked are overruled by the hand of God? Were the sons of Eli killed without human intention (I Sam 4.11)? But there is a eulogy given, because God willed to kill them. For that God overrules the hands of men, now binding them and now directing them here or there for the execution of His purposes, no one of even mediocre acquaintance with the

Scriptures will call in question. But it is accepted almost universally by common sense that, though men may labour, the issue is in the hand of God. But because of the dense darkness of the human mind by which all knowledge is rendered thin and perishable, Scripture builds for us a higher watchtower from which to observe God overruling all the works of men so as to direct them to the end appointed by Him.

It comes to this, that though men wanton like untamed animals bound by no ties, yet they are ruled by a secret rein so that they cannot move a finger without performing God's rather than their own work. As for the faithful who render spontaneous obedience to Him, they are like angels, reckoned as His hands. It is of this chiefly that I would remind those who never think that they have a concern in the counsel of God or a relation to His will. Indeed the ungodly pride themselves on being competent to effect their wishes.[32] But the facts show in the end that by them, unconsciously and unwillingly, what was divinely ordained is implemented. Further, God sometimes uses the ungodly like scourges for the punishment of men's sins; and sometimes He forces them, as though He took and twisted them round, to be ministers of His benefits. To assemble the examples of first kind would be an immense task; but a few may be mentioned. After inciting Assyria to war and calling it the rod of His anger (Is 10.5), He teaches that it is equipped with nothing less than the staff of His wrath. Then He attacks their pride, for not acknowledging that they are the axe or saw wielded from elsewhere. On these grounds, they are said to be sanctified by God, to be His conscripted soldiers, and to render Him assistance. From another point of view it is their own ambition and cruelty and avarice that impels them; yet God on His side testifies that with whistle or trumpet-call it is He that calls them to arms. One passage from Moses shows clearly enough how the way is prepared for the benefits of God by the misdeeds of men. The conspiracy of Joseph's brothers when they sold him was a worse than perfidious and cruel crime. But, from another point of view, the cause of his being sold is transferred to God: It is not you but God who sold me, that I should give you food (Gen 45.5). It follows then that God operates even through those who act impiously, so that they find life in death. As far as lay in them, they had killed their brother; yet from this, life shone forth for them. Similarly with the prince of crimes and the head of the impious, Satan himself. God had sent him to deceive Ahab with the design that there should be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets (I Ks 22.23)- So this spiritual impostor for the wrath of God is minister for the blinding of the impious who would not tolerate the truth. On the other hand, Paul, lest he should be proud in the greatness of revelation given to him,[33] records that he was given a messenger of Satan to keep boxing him on the ear (II Cor 12.7). The poison of Satan is the antidote and remedy for pride. What kind of a doctor, I ask, can Satan be, who learned only to kill and to destroy? But God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness (II Cor 4.6), has marvellously brought salvation out of these depths, as it appears, and turned darkness into light. What Satan does, Scripture affirms to be from another point of view the work of God. By this is meant that God holds Himself bound in obedience to His own providence and turns His face so that He may direct attention to His own ends.

X.10. God moves in the hearts of the ungodly

However, even if Scripture did not present one way of solving this problem, it would not be really difficult to find another. More arduous is the other question: Does God work in the hearts of men, directing their plans and moving their wills this way and that, so that they do nothing but what He has ordained? We do not ask here whether He inspires the pious and holy affections in their hearts, for about this there is no controversy. The question is whether He has in His power also the depraved affections of the ungodly, moving them here and there so that they will what He has decreed they should do. Certainly when Solomon declares (Prov 21.1) that the heart of kings are in the hand of God so that He inclines it as He pleases, he shows that in general the will not less than external works are governed by the determination of God. Moses says that the heart of Pharaoh was hardened by Him (Ex 4.21, 7.3). It is useless to have recourse here to the concept of per- mission, as if God were said to do what was done only in the sense that He allowed it. For clearly Moses says that the hardening was a work of God. Nor indeed is the savagery of Pharaoh ascribed to God in any other sense than is the grace which He is elsewhere said to give to His people in the eyes of the Egyptians (Ex 3.21). For who does not see that fierce beasts were being tamed and subdued by the power of God, when the Egyptians were suddenly turned towards clemency? We ask, then, how it comes about that Pharaoh should rage so inhumanely, unless it so pleased God, partly to show His tolerance towards His own, and partly to exercise His power. On the same principle it is said that God turned the hearts of enemies in hatred towards His people (Ps 105.25). But this does not prevent it being said elsewhere that Pharaoh himself aggravated the condition of his heart (Ex 8.32). We do not make the minds of men to be impelled by force external to them so that they rage furiously; nor do we transfer to God the cause of hardening, in such a way that they did not voluntarily and by their own wickedness and hardness of heart spur themselves on to obstinacy. What we say is that men act perversely not without God's ordination that it be done, as Scripture teaches. Similarly it is said elsewhere that the fact that the inhabitants of Gibeon opposed Israel was ordained by God who made their heart obstinate (Josh 11.20).

The way in which this happens is expressed by Scripture when in one passage God is said to have incited the angry heart of David to number the people (II Sam 24.1), while in another Satan is made the author of the incitement (I Chron 21.1). From this we understand that Satan is God's fan for impelling the hearts of men just as He pleases. This is said more explicitly elsewhere, where an evil spirit of the Lord enters Saul (I Sam 16.14ff). Saul is certainly moved by his own criminality, and indulges his fury consciously and voluntarily. But none the less Satan impels him, and this with God not idly observing but actively willing. Elsewhere the Spirit of the Lord is said to be evil; and this must be improper, unless he is sent as minister and executioner of God's vengeance - the minister of the wrath of God not only in the sense of soliciting minds to evil cupidities, but of effectively drawing them. In this sense, Paul records error to be effectively and divinely sent, to make those believe a lie who were unwilling to obey the truth (II Thess 2.11). It is clear that not only is Satan by the command of God a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets, but his substitutes ensnare the reprobate so that they lose understanding and are drawn necessarily into error. What Paul says is to be understood in this way (Rom 1.28): those who are ungrateful to God, He gives over to a reprobate mind, and delivers them into foul and ignominious lusts, so that they do what is unspeakable and their bodies are outraged. We hear that, not by the permission of a quiescent God, but by His just judgment, they are abandoned to their lusts, for shamefully profaning His glory. How this happens, the passage itself states: God sent them an effective spirit of error. It is clear from this what conclusion must be drawn. The hand of God rules the interior affections no less than it superintends external actions; nor would God have effected by the hand of man what He decreed, unless He worked in their hearts to make them will before they acted. So Augustine's opinion is to be accepted:[34] When God wills to be done what cannot be done but by willing men, their hearts being so inclined that they will, He Himself effects this, not only by helping in their hearts but by determining them, so that, though they had no such intention, they fulfil what His hand and His counsel decreed. Even in the very elements of nature He wisely suggests this thought from which so many shrink.[35] For the great diversity in human talents to be observed,[36] since it is divinely implanted in them, is a splendid example of that secret working by which He rules and moves our hearts.

X.11. No mere permission in God

From this it is easy to conclude how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice afforded by the suggestion that evils come to be not by His will, but merely by His permission. Of course, so far as they are evils, which men perpetrate with their evil mind, as I shall show in greater detail shortly, I admit that they are not pleasing to God. But it is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them. Augustine conceded this to the accustomed and accepted forms of speech, for the time being; but when he proceeds farther to examine the thing more closely, he quite prohibits permission from taking the place of action. I shall not refer to all that he says about this matter in Book 5 of the Contra Iulianum. This will be enough:[37] These things He does in marvellous and ineffable ways, who knows how to execute His just judgments not only upon men's bodies but in their hearts; who does not make wills evil but uses them as He wills, while being Himself unable to will evil. Elsewhere in the same sense:[38] If diligently searched, Scripture shows not only the good wills of men, which He Himself made out of evil wills and are made good by Him, to be directed to good actions and to eternal life; even those which conserve the creatureliness of this world are so within the power of God, that He inclines them when He wills and as He wills, either to the enjoyment of benefits in the case of some, or to the imposition of penalties in the case of others. He adds:[39] Who does not tremble at these judgments with which God works in the hearts of even the wicked whatever He will, rewarding them none the less according to desert? Again it is quite clear from the evidence of Scripture that God works in the hearts of men to incline their wills just as He will, whether to good for His mercy's sake or to evil according to their merits, His judgment being sometimes open and sometimes concealed, but always just. For it ought to be fixed in your hearts that there is no iniquity with God. The reason recorded for God's judgment being sometimes concealed is to be sought in another passage.[40] Here he frequently declares that sins are penalties which God justly returns upon those who had first sinned; and then he rises to that higher and greater hidden secret. God finds the material cause for exercising His wrath in all except those whom He gratuitously elected. For, he says, the rest of mortal men, who are not of that number, are born of the same human race from which those come and are made vessels of Wrath for their benefit. For God creates none of them rashly or fortuitously or because He did not know what good He might work by them. For He effects this good, that in them He creates a human nature and out 6f them He effects order in the world.

The reason why He should sometimes fill the heart with anxiety and fear and sometimes confirm it with courage, why He should take away the spirit from princes and infatuate the counsels of the wise, why He should bestow on some the spirit of temperance and supply others with the spirit of wild fury - the reason for all this He will one day make clear and conspicuous. But it will equally appear that His hidden judgment is paramount, as He converts wills as seems good to Him. For nature is common to all men, but not grace. So in another place speaks the holy man.[41]

X.12. The will of God the necessity of all things

For the man who honestly and soberly reflects on these things, there can be no doubt that the will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things. It is fitting to restrain our minds by this knowledge, lest we pursue our investigations beyond what is lawful. Augustine's word, that the will of God is the necessity of things,[42] always seems at first hearing to be a hard saying. But he adds[43] by way of explanation that God made interior causes in such a way that out of them that of which they are the causes is possible but not necessary. But the higher remote causes He hides in Himself, so that out of them what He makes possible by them is necessary. To the man who more attentively considers the matter, the harshness is easily mitigated. For as he elsewhere says[44] in different words, the facts and the meaning are wholly the same and they contain in them no contradiction. God holds within Himself the hidden causes of whatever is made, and these are not made resident in created things. He gives effect to them not by the operation of providence by which He upholds the nature of things in being but as He administers them as He willed, so He created them as He willed. Here is the grace by which those are saved[45] who were lost.[46] For what is more true than that God in ruling His creatures should hold hidden in Himself more than He implanted in their natures? But of all the things which happen, the first cause is to be understood to be his will, because He so governs the natures created by Him, as to determine all the counsels and the actions of men to the end decreed by Him. Thus a limitation is imposed on us by this doctrine which restrains us within the bounds of modesty, not undeservedly, as I have said. For it is too absurd not to allow existence to the will of God which is superior to all causes unless His reason be apparent.

X.13. God's reasons

What I said earlier is to be borne in mind. God does nothing without the best of reasons. But since the most certain rule of righteousness is His will, it ought, as I may say, to be the principal reason of all our reasonings. For the humility of faith, as it is born out of a living reverence for the divine righteousness, is no figment of ignorance.[47] For who that does not have the persuasion fixed deeply in his mind that God is righteous and all His works are right, can acquiesce simply in His good pleasure? Hence, I detest the doctrine of the Sorbonne, for which the papal theologicians applaud themselves, that invents for God an absolute power.[48] For it is easier to dissever the light of the sun from its heat, or for that matter its heat from fire, than to separate God's power from His righteousness. Let these monstrous speculations be put far away from pious minds, that God should be able to do more than is proper to Him or to act without rule or reason. Nor indeed do I accept the suggestion that, because God in doing anything is free from all law, He therefore is without censure. For to make God beyond law is to rob Him of the greatest part of His glory, for it destroys His rectitude and His righteousness. Not that God is subject to law, except in so far as He Himself is law. For such is the consent and agreement between His power and His righteousness, that nothing proceeds from Him that is not considered, legitimate and regular. And certainly the faithful both preach His omnipotence and necessarily acknowledge at the same time that He is judge of the world, so that they understand His power, in their meaning of the term, to be tempered with righteousness and equity.

X.14. God not the author of evil

But the objection is not yet resolved, that if all things are done by the will of God, and men contrive nothing except by His will and ordination, then God is the author of all evils. It is a true distinction that is current in the schools and is generally practised: rightly understood, the evil of punishment but not of guilt originates from God. Thinking that the difficulty here may be resolved by a single word, some are foolish enough serenely to overlook what occasions the greatest ambiguity; namely, how God may be free of guilt in doing the very thing that He condemns in Satan and the reprobate and which is to be condemned by men. For the work is the same, not different; and it is thought an evil on both sides, that praise for just punishment should necessarily be ascribed to God and blame to men. Robbers steal the cattle of the saintly Job. The deed is cruel and shameful. Satan by this means tempts him to desperation - an even more detestable machination. But Job himself indicates another author of the deed: The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away. He not unjustly transfers to God[49] what could not be attributed without the robbers. For, just as if he had witnessed with his eyes[50] what the story[51] narrates took place in the heavenly council, he confesses that God took away by the hands of plunderers what was none the less taken by His consent and authority. This he explains in the following words: As it pleased the Lord, so was it done. We learn then that the work was jointly the work of God and of Satan and of the robbers. We learn that nothing happens but what seems good to God. How then is God to be exempted from the blame to which Satan with his instruments is liable? Of course a distinction is made between the deeds of men and their purpose and end; for the cruelty of the man who puts out the eyes of crows or kills a stork is condemned, while the virtue of the judge is praised who puts his hand to the killing of a criminal. Why should the case of God be worse so that we may not distinguish Him in His justice from the misdeeds of men? To come to a closer analogy: the prince is praised who repels rapine and pillage from his borders in a just and legitimate war. For this purpose he will arm many soldiers whose lust to shed blood, to plunder the goods of the poor and for every kind of violent lawlessness are certainly not praiseworthy. Suppose that two armies engage in battle; suppose you discern in the general, under whose auspices and by whose command the battle is joined, an upright disposition though he be only a mortal man; do you not absolve him, while condemning the soldiers who set their hands to murder for shameful reward? and do you defraud God of the glory of His justice because He works by means of Satan? It comes to this: as the clouds which emanate from the earth obscure the splendour of the sun, so that it does not penetrate to the eyes of men, while the sun itself none the less remains resplendent, so the vanity of men gives rise to many impediments like vapours, which conceal the countenance of the divine righteousness, though it itself remain intact and unimpaired. This is what those do who wish to implicate God and the ungodly in an equal guilt. Not so David: when Shimei hurled insults and stones at him, he does not pass judgment upon the man himself, but considers the precept of God: The Lord, he said, bade him curse (II Sam 16.11). Nor did he revolt against God, but, humbly submitting his back to the rod, he said: Who will dare to ask why this is done? Similarly in the Psalm: I was silent, because thou has done it (Ps 39.10). For what pious man is not reduced to silence by the majesty of God? and from whom does His righteousness not elicit a confession of praise? Surely he will break out in exclamation: Let him curse according to the precept of the Lord, if only the Lord have respect to the affliction of His servant (II Sam 16.11).

Hence, since the criminal misdeeds perpetrated by men proceed from God with a cause that is just, though perhaps unknown to us, though the first cause of all things is His will, I nevertheless deny that He is the author of sin. What I have maintained about the diversity of causes must not be forgotten: the proximate cause is one thing, the remote cause another. Then we shall know how great is the distinction between the equitable providence of God and the stormy assaults of men. Certain shameless and illiberal people charge us with calumny by maintaining that God is made the author of sin, if His will is made first cause of all that happens. For what man wickedly perpetrates, incited by ambition or avarice or lust or some other depraved motive, since God does it by his hand with a righteous though perhaps hidden purpose-this cannot be equated with the term sin. Sin in man is made by perfidy, cruelty, pride, intemperance, envy, blind love of self, any kind of depraved lust. Nothing like this is to be found in God. Shimei assaults his king with monstrous petulance; and sin appears. God uses this agent for the just humiliation of David, as a rod to chastise him. Who accuses Him of sin? Arabs and Sabaeans carry off booty from a stranger's goods. It is clearly the crime of pillage. God exercises the patience of His servant by their violence. There emerges from the whole affair the noble confession: Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1.21), instead of audible and sacrilegious complaints. In. a word, such is the principle with which God works in the sins of men, that when the matter is referred to Him, He entirely removes every spot by His purity.

Augustine has a useful admonition,[52] that, for all their agreement here, there is a great difference between God and man. For God wills for good what men will for evil; and He does not will for good what men do not will for evil. So too, in their disagreement, men and God are not quite incongruous. For men will for good what God does not will for good; and they do not will for good what God does will for good. A son may wish for the death of his father, so that he may take over the inheritance; and God, too, may will that he die.[53] God willed that Jerusalem be destroyed, the temple profaned and pulled down to the foundations, and the Jews vexed with such extreme griefs; but the Idumeans wished for the same thing.[54] So that the stern and obstinate man who spares no one may have the same measure in the end measured to him, God does not will that any of his wealth be contributed when urgent need arises. The son may refuse every office of piety to his father, and be unwilling to support him. God did not will to supply wiser counsels to the sons of Eli, for it was decreed that he should lose them (I Sam 2.25); for they did not will to listen to their father. All this shows that there is from the beginning a kind of congruity; yet with respect to good and evil there is no less incongruity than between water and fire. The husband wishes for longer life for his wife, but God calls her from this world. Christ Himself shrinks and begs for deliverance from a death which was a sacrifice of the sweetest odour to God. The will of each though differently orientated, is free of guilt. It is, then, not the case that God is to be included in the society of crime whenever some similarity appears between His hidden counsel and the manifestly vicious lusts of men. Augustine has this passage:[55] Therefore the great works of the Lord are contrived according to His desire, so that in a wonderful and ineffable way what is done against His will is yet not done beyond His will; for it would not be done did He not allow, and allow it not unwillingly, but willingly.

X.15. God's nature and will are simple

Thus is refuted the ignorance or wickedness of those who deny that the nature of God is single and simple, if another will than that disclosed by Him in the law is attributed to Him. Some in ridicule even ask, supposing there is a will of God not revealed in the law,[56] how we are to call it. But they must be crazy, if they dismiss the significance of so much scriptural evidence,[57] which declares with admiration how profound are the depths contained in the judgments of God. When Paul exclaims: O the height and the depth! how inscrutable are His judgments! (Rom 11.33), what he plainly teaches about the judgment of God concerning the Jews is not different from what is expressed in the words of Christ: O Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered your chickens! (Mt 23.37; Lk 13.34). In that Eli did not require his sons to be obedient to their father, his will differed from the precept of the law by which the son is required to be obedient to his parents. In a word, whenever Scripture preaches the wonderful counsels and profound intentions of God, it speaks not of the precepts manifestly put before our eyes, but praises that inaccessible light in which His counsel is hidden, and so forces us more profoundly to honour and adore, so far as our understanding permits. Someone will say: If the light is inaccessible, how is there access to it for us? But I do not accede to the demand to investigate what God wills to hide far from inquisitive curiosity; and whatever Scripture pronounces, I receive and embrace in assured faith and reverence.[58] But how is it that God remains perpetually identical with Himself, without any shadow of turning (Jas 1.17), while yet willing something different from what He manifests? I reply that it is no wonder if God in speaking to men should accommodate Himself to their measure. Who will say that God appears in visions as He really is? For the splendour of His glory is such that its mere appearance would rob us of all our senses. He therefore manifests Himself as men are able to comprehend. For either God prattles with us, or He veils what He knows to be incomprehensible to us, though I deny that there is any pretence or deception in His word. What the Psalm says (5.5) is very true, that God does not willingly allow iniquity. This evidence from the mouth of David is no different from what is in fact daily proved,[59] in that God exacts penalties on the sins of men. He would not punish if He did not hate. You see an avenger? - He certainly does not approve. Many go astray in not holding that God wills what men by sinning do. You ask how[60] He abominates incest and fornication. Is the deed of Absalom in publicly violating his father's concubine (II Sam 16.21) done with God unwilling? But He had Himself already predicted through His servant Nathan that He would do this: I shall take away your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbour to lie with them under this sun. Thou hast done it in secret, but I am about to do it in face of the whole people and under this sun (ibid., 12.11). Scripture is full of such examples.[61] Must we then impute the guilt of sin to God, or invent a double will for Him so that He falls out with Himself? I have shown that He wills the same as the criminal and the wicked, but in a different way. So now it is to be maintained that there is diversity of kinds while He wills in the same way, so that out of the variety which perplexes us[62] a harmony may be beautifully contrived. So far as Absalom's crime is a monstrous impiety against his father, a perfidious violation of a wife and a foul profanation of the order of nature, it certainly is displeasing to God; for He takes pleasure in honesty, chastity, good faith and modesty, and it is this order that He prescribes and wills to be obeyed and observed unimpaired among men. But because He is pleased to avenge the adultery of David in this way, He wills in the same way things that seem different to us.[63] For His will is single and simple, and by it He prescribes what ought to be done and also avenges transgressions of His law.[64] Elsewhere it is said that sins are the punishments which God exacts for previous sins. In such suggestions, there are two things to be taken into account. There is the righteous judgment of God by which He declares His hatred of sin and prescribes its penalty; and there is the wickedness of man which is apparently contrary to the will of God. Is it any wonder that such immense splendour should blunt the acuteness of our mind? Our physical eyes are not enough to sustain a contemplation of the sun. Is our spiritual insight greater than our natural powers, or the majesty of God interior to the glory of the sun? It is becoming in us, then, not to be too inquisitive; only let us not dare to deny the truth of what Scripture plainly teaches and experience confirms, or even to suggest[65] that it does not reach agreement in God. When the last day dawns, as Augustine says,[66] there will be seen in the clear light of wisdom what pious faith now maintains before it is seen as manifest knowledge, namely, that the will of God is certain, immutable and most efficacious,[67] and that there are many things which it is able but does not will to do and nothing which it wills and is not able.



[1] In the French alone, there is this inscription: Concerning Providence in General. In the Latin original, only the titles of the columns, as they are called, or pages change.

[2] French adds: that is to say, He does not only contemplate what He has made, but cares for His work as seems good to Him.

[3] French has: none the less within certain limits better than any clock.

[4] French has: for a farthing.

[5] French adds: Then he adds that it is great wisdom to come to this conclusion, in order that we may the more carefully apply our study (ibid., v. 43).

[6] French inserts: He does not allow the righteous to be ever overcome (cf. perhaps Ps 37).

[7] French has: though created for a moment only.

[8] French has: this is the true reference for all that men attribute to fortune; in brief, it is there that the whole condition of men should be referred.

[9] French adds: which is joined and united with His own by means of His Son.

[10] French adds: which ought to make us tremble in His sight. Anyone proceeding with such modesty will learn what profit and reassurance there is in apprehending by faith that God governs the world. On the other hand, audacity and temerity will only render us blind and deaf.

[11] French has: at the bar of our judgment.

[12] French adds: and in babbling without consideration as if they were only worthless trash.

[13] French has: they are consciously careless or are driven to despair.

[14] French adds: confusing it among foolish comments and absurdities.

[15] French adds: and knowing that we can do nothing, but that all is from the hand of God, let us be humbled to fear, etc.

[16] French adds: in the confidence that He will conduct our affairs well.

[17] French has: they behave like an unbridled horse in a spacious and beautiful countryside.

[18] Beza and Amst. have the bad reading: or as for the devil.

[19] French adds: in a word, he will be as though numbed.

[20] French adds: and, though all creation revolts against God, He will in the end make His will prevail.

[21] French has: ... as though it squinted, being half blind ... if it so bother skirmishing here and there and rushing about in this direction and in that.

[22] French adds: so far as they can discuss the truth.

[23] French has: evil and sin are nothing in themselves but only a disorder or corrup- tion of what ought to be.

[24] French adds: As for sin, I protest that I wish to ascribe nothing to God out of my own brain; but we must leave with Him what are His proper attributes.

[25] French adds: If there were any cases of chance, these would be: but we see that they are governed by God from above.

[26] Ad Bonif., lib. 2, cap. 5.

[27] French has: as for what is called contingency, it means that things can happen either in one way or another.

[28] French has: to put one's hands to the dough, as one says.

[29] French has: to make us idle or lazy.

[30] French adds: who can destroy the grass under the feet of His enemies.

[31] Lib. 8, cap. 3. Beza amends: is judged.

[32] French adds: as if they had conquered God and were masters of all.

[33] Lest ... given him - lacking in all but the chief edition; French includes.

[34] De Praedest. Sanct., cap. 20.

[35] De Peccat. Merit. et Remiss., lib. 1, cap. 22.

[36] French adds: some being fools, some stupid, some sharp, some prudent, some serious and some lightweight, etc.

[37] Cap. 3.

[38] De Gratia et Libero Arbitr. ad Valent., cap. 20.

[39] Cap. 21.

[40] Contra Iulianum, lib. 5, cap. 7.

[41] De Verbis Apostoli, serm. 11.

[42] De Genes. ad Liter., lib. 6, cap. 15.

[43] Cap. 18.

[44] Ibid., lib. 9, cap. 18.

[45] So the chief authority alone; others have: are safe.

[46] French inserts: I pray you, what fault is to be found in these words?

[47] French has: a stupid ignorance which shuts the eyes to what Scripture shows us.

[48] French adds: so as to be beyond law.

[49] French has: In thus speaking, he does not wish to do injustice to God, nor to impute to Him a guilt which belongs to the brigands.

[50] French has: like an angel.

[51] French has: the Holy Spirit.

[52] Enchir. ad Laur., cap. 101.

[53] French adds: It may seem that there is agreement where there is only contradiction.

[54] French has: as is written in the Psalms (137.7).

[55] Enchir. ad Laur., cap. 100.

[56] supposing . . . - so the best reading found in the chief version following Gallasius and French; Beza has the bad reading: if there is anything it is not revealed; emended in Amst.: if there is anything which is not revealed.

[57] French adds: and so explicit.

[58] French adds: For it is not for us knowingly to ignore what God has willed to teach us.

[59] French adds: by experience.

[60] Sentence omitted in versions.

[61] Sentence wanting in French edition.

[62] French has: which troubles us.

[63] French has: in the same way and in very close accord.

[64] French adds: In this God varies not at all.

[65] French has: to keep nagging (literally: peck).

[66] Enchir. ad Laur., cap. 95.

[67] French has: virtuous.