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Twenty-Nine Propositions.

Database

Twenty-Nine Propositions.

James Dodson

by
THEODORE BEZA
MINISTER AND DEFENDER OF THE GOSPEL. 
Against
Sebastian Castalio, 
Captain of the AnaBaptist Heretics.

Translated by John Knox.

[Addressing the AnaBaptist whose attack on the doctrine of Predestination Knox is refuting, he says]: These Propositions following have I translated forth of the work written by that learned and godly man, Theodorus Beza,[1.] against the calumnies of your captain, Castalio.

1. The first Proposition: God effectually worketh and bringeth to pass all things, according to the counsel of his own will.

2. This counsel doth God execute in certain moments of time; nevertheless the counsel itself is eternal, and passeth before all things, not only in time (as it that is before all time), but also in order. For otherwise the will of God should not be the principal and first rule of God's counsel, but rather the qualities of things foreseen and foreknown, and moving God to take this counsel, or that should prescribe a rule to the will of God.

3. This counsel may not be separated from the will of God, only of necessity we spoil God of his Godhead.

4. This counsel is not put in moderation and in direction of chance or fortune, but it hath an effectual and working strength in all things, as Paul speaketh.

5. This strength and efficacy is attributed to God working, but it is not said to be of God; therefore by this word efficacy, or strength, is not declared any nature and power given by God the Creator to the things that be created, that they should do this or that, but thereby is understood the power of God, which he hath in himself to do all things.

6. This universal particle, 'all,' in the words of Paul, can by no manner of exception be restrained, but that God in that part shall be judged idle, as Epicurus did falsely affirm. And if we shall say that any thing is done which God may not impede, then shall he be spoiled of his infinite power.

7. So that the conclusion is, sithence that God himself, even as it hath pleased him to determine all things to come from eternity, even so he worketh by his own power, that the same things come to pass in their time as he willeth.

8. Of these things notwithstanding none of those blasphemies doth follow, wherewith we be burdened; to wit, that God is the author of sin; either that he delighteth or willeth iniquity; either that Satan or men doing wickedly do obey God; either in so far as they do evil, that they do the thing that God will, and therefore be blameless. Let such blasphemies be far not only from our mouths, but also from our cogitations and thoughts.

9. That none of these blasphemies may be concluded of our doctrine may thus be proved.

10. God putteth in execution the counsels of his will, by second causes and mid instruments, not as bound unto them, as the Stoics did affirm, but freely and potently making, moving, and directing them, as it pleaseth his wisdom.

11. Of those instruments there are two principal kinds. The one hath life and moving, the other be without life, which rather be moved by force of others than move themselves. There be two sorts of those that have life, the one be endued with reason and judgment, the other be without reason, and are only carried by the blind force of nature.

12. Those that be without life, and those also that have life, but lack reason, can neither be said to do well nor evil; but those that use them as instruments may be said either to do well or evil.

13. Those that have life endued with reason, are either angels or men. The angels be of two sorts, some good, some bad; but as for men, all by nature are evil: but by grace they are so separated, that some are utterly evil, some partly good, to wit, in so far as the Spirit of God hath sanctified them.

14. Such as in any action are moved by their own inward motion, justly may be said to work, and therefore in that kind of instruments falleth the difference of good and evil works; neither yet properly, in that respect, may they be called instruments, but the causes efficient.

15. An evil action I call that which hath not the revealed will of God for the assurance and end; and by the contrary, the work is good when the worker looketh to obey God's express commandment.

16. These same, although they be causes, in so far as they work by their own proper motion, yet are they in another respect called instruments, in so far as they are moved by another. As when the hangman, by the commandment of the magistrate, killeth a man; or when, by instigation of the Devil, men hurt others; or when, at the commandment of any, we do either good or evil to any man.

17. In this kind of actions, it is evident, that one work is attributed to two; to the one, as to him that worketh by an instrument, and to the other, as to the worker by motion or commandment; such workers are instruments, not simply as the hammer or axe is in the hand of the smith or hewer, but they are such instruments as also move by their own inward motion.

18. And for this double respect, a double work appeareth sometimes to be done; insomuch that the one may be laudable and the other wicked. As if the Magistrate shall commit an offender worthy of death to the executor of justice, this work is praise-worthy of all good men. But if the Lictor [Executioner], inflamed rather with envy, avarice, or any other wicked affection, then looking to the commandment of the judge, shall kill the same offender, most certain it is, that before God he can not avoid the crime of murder.

19. Now, let us apply these things to God, whose efficacy before we have proved to work in all things without exception; and so that by those things which he hath made as by instruments, he executeth in time whatsoever he hath decreed from eternity.

20. Whatsoever God worketh is good, seeing from him, who is infinitely good, no evil thing can proceed; but he worketh all things, therefore all things be good insofar as they are done by God. And that difference of good and evil hath only place in the instruments, and in those of whom we have spoken in the 14th proposition [see above].

21. For if those instruments be good, and if their actions look to the revealed will of God, they do well, and God also doth well by them. Wherefore that work is always good; as when the good angels execute that which God commandeth, and holy men do follow, God calling them.

22. Evil instruments, evil, I say, not by creation but by corruption, insofar as they work always, they do evil, and therefore justly do they incur the wrath of God. But insofar as God worketh by them, they either by ignorance, or else against their purposes, serve to the good work of God. But God himself, by whatsoever instruments he worketh, worketh at all times well.

23. And so he worketh by those instruments, that not only he permitteth and suffereth them to work, neither doth he only moderate the event or change, but also he raiseth them up. He moveth, he directeth, and that which is most of all, he also createth, to the end that by them he shall work that which he hath appointed. Which things God doth righteously, and without any injustice.

24. For when the wicked man sinneth, either against himself, either against any wicked person, God without any sin, doth, and bringeth to pass, that the wicked man shall take vengeance upon himself, or that evil men shall take vengeance upon other wicked men who have deserved punishment. And this one and other work of God is most just; and by such examples of his judgment, God erecteth and comforteth his afflicted.

25. How oft that evil men hurt good men, the wicked men sin, and in the end they suffer just punishment, and yet by them, nevertheless, doth God chasten, instruct, and confirm his own; and by the manifest enemies of his Church doth God make glorious his Church.

26. Yet can it not be said that those evil instruments do obey God. For albeit that God worketh his work by them, yet they, so far as in them lieth, and as concerning their own counsel and will, do not the work of God, but their own work, for the which meritably they are punished. Albeit, whatsoever God worketh by the wicked is good, yet whatsoever the wicked men work is evil.

27. Neither is the consequent, God worketh all things, ergo, he worketh sin, for the name of sin is not but in the vicious and faulty quality, which is altogether in the instrument that worketh.

28. By reason of this corrupted quality, the work which in the self is one, some manner of way is double, and may be divided: Insomuch that the one, that is, the just work of God, directly fighteth [opposeth] and repugneth against the unjust work of man.

29. God, nevertheless, far other ways worketh by his good instruments than he doth by his evil instruments. For besides that by his good instruments he worketh his work, the good instruments also do their work by that strength and efficacy which the Lord ministereth unto them. And God also worketh his work by them, and in them he worketh to will and to perform; but by the evil, as by Satan and wicked men, in so far as they are not regenerate, as oft as God doth execute the just counsels and decrees of his eternal will, he declareth his own strength and efficacy in his work by them, which they do either ignorantly, or else against their purpose. And yet, insofar as they work, God worketh not in them, but he looseth the bridle to Satan, to whom, by his just judgment, he giveth them over, to be moved and possessed forward to all iniquity, that they may be carried to perdition, even by the instigation of the Devil, and by their own proper will.

Thus have you briefly the sum of our doctrine in this matter; which if ye be able by manifest Scriptures, or yet by good arguments from the same deduced, to improve, then can we not refuse to make satisfaction, as the Church of Christ Jesus shall require of us. But if that unjustly ye have accused us, and have further imputed cruelty upon God, by reason that his judgments, most just in themselves, are to your senses incomprehensible; then can we not of conscience cease to require of you a greater modesty, and also of the lawful Magistrate, an order to be taken that your malice and venom may be repressed, assuring them, that if betimes your enterprises be not impeded, that they shall shortly feel what confusion ye have of long fostered in your breasts; your poison is more pestilent than that of the Papistry was in the beginning. God, for his mercy's sake, preserve his church, and purge your hearts to his glory.

 


Footnote:

[1.] Beza's Propositions against Castalio occur in his treatise entitled, "Ad Sabastiani Castellionis calumnies, quibus unicum Salutis nostræ fundamentum, id est Æternam Dei Predestinationem, evertere nititur, Responsio." (Theod. Bezæ Volumen Primum Tractationum Theologicorum, p. 371. Editio Secunda, Genevæ, 1582, 3 vol. in 1, folio.)