13 July 2010

Christopher Ness on Foreknowledge

The foreknowledge of God is so often misinterpreted and/or misunderstood that a Biblical understanding of it must by obtained. Christopher Ness (1621-1705) has written:

That which is the fruit and effect of the Divine decree cannot be the cause of it; and faith, perseverance, etc., are but the fruits and effects of electing love.

Such as are given to Christ in the decree of election, do come to, or believe in Christ; others do not come, do not believe; and the cause assigned is, because they are not of His sheep, because they are not given to Him. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me” (John 6:37). Coming to Christ is believing on Him. “Ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep” (John 10:26). “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Ac 13:48). We may not (according to the Arminian notion) read it, “as many as believed were ordained unto life;” for this would be setting the cart before the horse, as if the means were ordained before the end. We are predestinated that we should be holy, not because we are holy (Eph 1:4). We are foreordained to walk in good works, not because we do so (Eph 2:10). We are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, not because we are so (Ro 8:29). It is the election that obtains faith, and not faith that obtains election (Ro 11:7). And the Apostle, in 2 Timothy 1:9, excludes all works (both foreseen and existing), showing that God's gracious purpose is the original of all. Yea, Paul himself was chosen that he might know the will of God, not that he was foreseen to do so (Ac 22:14); and he tells the Thessalonians, that “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess 2:13). We may not make that an antecedent to election which is but the consequent of it. “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit” (John 15:16).

...God is the cause of causes, and the first cause of all things. There can be no being but from Him, there can be nothing before Him. “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things” (Ro 11:36). “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Ac 17:28). O Lord, “Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev 4:11). God is the chief efficient cause, and the ultimate end of all beings; but if any being be antecedent to the determinations of God's will, this would take away the dignity of the supreme cause, and make an act of man superior to that of God. (From An Antidote Against Arminianism by Christopher Ness.)

So we can see from these two brief passages from Hess' brilliant work on Arminianism that is not of ourselves that we believe. To embrace such a belief is to aceppt that man is the controlling factor in his own salvation. If that be the case, who should desire to worship a god who man can manipulate with such ease?

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