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God Cannot Be the Author of Sin

48. Dear Reader, you will be horrified to hear the blasphemies which those sectarians, and especially Calvin, vomited forth, concerning sin. They are not afraid to say that God ordains all the sins committed on this earth. Here are Calvin’s own words (1): "Nec absurdum videri debet, quod dico, Deum non modo primi hominis casum, et in eo posteriorum ruinam prævidisse, sed arbitrio quoque suo dispensasse." And again he says (2): " Ex Dei ordinatione reprobis injicitur peccandi necessitas." He says, in the second place (3), that God pushes on the devil to tempt man to sin: " Dicitur et Deus suo modo agere, quod Satan ipse (instruuientum cum sit irso ejus) pro ejus nutu, atque imperio se inflectit ad exequenda ejus justa justitia." And again (Sec. 5), he says: " Porro Satanæ ministerium intercedere ad reprobos, instigandos, quoties hue atque illuc Dominus providentia sua eos destinat." He says, thirdly (4), that God instigates man to sin: " Homo justo Dei impulsu agit, quod sibi non licet." In the fourth place (5), he says, that God himself operates sin in us and with us, and makes use of men as instruments for the execution of his judgments: " Concede lures, homicidas, &c., Divinæ esse providentiæ instrumenta, quibus Dominis ad exe quenda sua judicia utitur." In this respect, Calvin’s doctrine approaches Luther’s and Zuinglius’s. Luther says: " Mala opera in impiis Deus operatur." And Zuinglius (6) writes: " Quando facimus adulterium, homicidium, Dei opus est auctoris." In fine, Calvin (7) is not ashamed to say that God is the author of all sin: " Et jam satis aperte ostendi, Deum vocari omnium eorum (peccatorum) auctorem, quæ isti Censores volunt tantum ejus permissu contingere." Soothed by such doctrines, the sectarians flatter themselves that their vices are excusable; for, if they sin, they do it through necessity, and if they are damned, it is by necessity also, for all the damned are destined to be so by God, even before their creation. This monstrous doctrine will be refuted in the next Section. (1) Calvin, Inst. l. 3, c. 23, sec. 7, infra. (2) Idem, ibid, sec. 39. (3) Idem, l. 3, c. 4, sec. 3. (4) Calvin, Inst, l.1, c. 18, sec. 4. (5) Idem, l. 1, c. 17, sec. 5. (6) Zuing. Serm. de Provid. c. 6. (7) Calv. l.1, c. 1, sec. 3.  

49. Calvin maintains this horrible opinion by the following reasons: God never, he says, could have had the foreknowledge of the eternal happiness or misery of any of us, if he had not ordained by his decree the good or bad works we perform during our lives: "Decretum quidem horribile fateor, inficiari tamen nemo poterit, quin praisciverit Deus, quem exitum esset habiturus homo; et ideo præsciverit, quia decreto suo sic ordinaverat." We answer, that there is a great difference between foreseeing and predestining the sins of mankind. There is not the least doubt but that God, by his infinite intelligence, knows and comprehends every thing that will come to pass, and, among the rest, all the sins which each one will commit; but some things he foresees according to his positive decree; others according to his permission; but neither the Divine decree nor the permission are opposed to man’s free will, for when God foresees our good or evil works, he foresees them all performed freely. The sectaries argue thus: If God has foreseen Peter’s sin, for example, he cannot be mistaken as to his knowledge of what will happen when the time foreseen arrives; therefore Peter must necessarily sin. Here they are in error, however, when they say necessarily; he will infallibly sin, because God has foreseen it, and cannot err in his foresight; but he will not necessarily sin, because, if he wishes to sin, he will do so of his own free will, by his own malice, and God will permit him to do so, solely not to deprive him of that free will which he gave him.  

50. We shall now see how many absurd consequences proceed from this sectarian doctrine. First absurdity They say that God, for his own just ends, ordains and wills the sins committed by mankind. But nothing can be clearer than the Scriptures on this point, which tell us that God not only does not wish sins, but looks on them with horror, and wishes nothing so much as our sanctification: " Thou art not a God that wiliest iniquity”(Psalm v, 5). "To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike" (Wisdom, xiv, 9); " Thy eyes are too pure to behold evil, and thou canst not look on iniquity" (Habak. i, 13). Now, when God protests that he does not wish sin, but hates and prohibits it, how can the sectarians say, that, contradicting himself, he wishes it and predestines it? Calvin himself (8) takes notice of this difficulty: " Objiciunt" he says, " Si nihil eveniat, nisi volente Deo, duas esse in eo contr arias voluntates, quia occulto consilio decernat, quæ lege sua palam vetuit, facile diluitur." How does he get out of the difficulty? merely by saying, " We cannot understand it." The true answer, however, is, that his supposition is totally false, for God can never wish that which he hates and forbids. Melancthon, even in the Augsburg Confession, says; " Causa peccati est voluntas impiorum, quæ avertit se a Deo." The will of the wicked turned away from God is the cause of sin.  

51 . The second absurdity is this God, they say, incites the devil to tempt us, and he himself even tempts man, and drives him on to sin. How can that be, however, when God prohibits us from following our evil inclinations: " Go not after thy lusts" (Eccles. xviii, 30); and to fly from sin as from a serpent: " Flee from sin as from the face of a serpent" (Eccles. xxi, 2). St. Paul tells us to clothe ourselves with the armour of God, that is, prayer, against temptations: " Put on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil" (Ephes. vi, 11). St. Stephen reproaches the Jews, that they resisted the Holy Ghost; but if it were true that God moved them to sin, they might answer, we do not resist the Holy Ghost, by any means, but do what he inspires us, and on that account we stone you. Jesus Christ teaches us to pray to God not to permit us to be tempted by those dangerous occasions, which may lead to our fall: " Lead us not into temptation." Now, if God urges on the devil to tempt us, and even tempts us himself, and moves us to sin, and decrees that we sin, how can he command us to fly from sin and resist it, and to pray that we may be free from temptations. If God has decreed that Peter, for example, should have a certain temptation, and succumb to it, how can he command this same Peter to pray that he may free him from this temptation, and change his own decree? God never urges the devil to tempt us, but merely permits him to do so to prove us. When the devil tempts us, he commits a wickedness, and God cannot command him to do this: " He hath commanded no man to do wickedly, and he hath given no man license to sin" (Eccles. xv, 21). Our Lord himself promises, even, that whenever we are tempted he will assist us, and give us sufficient grace to resist, and declares that he will never allow us to be tempted beyond our strength: " God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able" (I. Cor. x, 13). (8) Calvin, Inst. l. 1, c. 10, sec. 3.  But they still insist God, as we read in the Scriptures, several times tempted man: " God hath tried them" (Wisdom, iii, 5). " After these things God tempted Abraham" (Gen. xxii, 1). We must here draw a distinction: the devil tempts men to make them fall into sin, but God tempts them, solely to prove their fidelity, as he did in Abraham’s case, and does continually, with his faithful servants: " God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself" (Wisdom, iii, 5); but he never tempts man to fall into sin, as the devil does: " For God is not a tempter of evils, and he tempteth no man" (James, i, 13).  

52. The third absurdity is this God says: "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of God" (I. John, iv, 1). Hence, we Catholics are bound to examine the resolutions we take, as well as the counsels we receive from others, even when at first they appear good and holy, because frequently what we believe to be an inspiration from God is nothing but a snare of the devil. According to Calvin’s doctrine, however, we are not obliged to make this examination, and see whether the spirit is good or bad, because whether it be one or the other, it is all from God, who wills that we should put in practice whatever he inspires to do, whether it be good or bad. According to this, then, the reformer’s own maxim of understanding the Scriptures, according to our private judgment falls to the ground, for no matter what we do, or what erroneous or heretical interpretation we may give to Holy Writ, it is all an inspiration from God.

53. The fourth absurdity The whole Scriptures teach us that God leans much more to mercy and pardon than to justice and punishment: " All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth" (Psalm xxiv, 10); " The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord. His tender mercies are above all his works" (Psalm cxliv, 9); " Mercy exalteth itself above judgment" (James, ii, 13). The Almighty, therefore, superabounds in mercy, not alone to the just, but to sinners. The great desire He has to make us live well, and work out our salvation, is manifest from that passage so frequently repeated in the Gospel: " Ask and ye shall receive" (John, xvi, 24); " Ask and it shall be given to you" (Matt, vii, 7): " Every one that asketh receiveth" (Luke, xi, 1 0). To all he offers the treasures of enlightenment, of Divine love, of efficacious Grace, of final perseverance, and of eternal salvation, if we only pray for them. He is faithful, and cannot fail in his promises, and so, whoever is lost, is solely through his own fault. Calvin says the elect are few; these are Beza and his own disciples, and all others are reprobates, on whom God exercises his justice alone since he has predestined them to hell, and therefore deprives them of all grace, and incites them to sin. According to Calvin’s doctrine, then, we should imagine the Almighty not as a God of mercy, but the most unjust and cruel of tyrants, since he wishes us to sin that he may torment us for all eternity. God, says Calvin, only acts thus to exercise his justice, but this is what all cruel tyrants do; they wish others to commit crimes, that by punishing them they may gratify their own cruel dispositions.  

54. The fifth absurdity As man is obliged to sin, for God wishes that he should, and pushes him on, it is unjust to punish him, for as he is forced to sin he has no freedom, and therefore commits no sin; nay more, as he does the will of God, who wishes him to sin, he ought to be rewarded for conforming to the Divine will; how, then, can God punish him in justice? Beza says, the Apostle tells us that God " worketh all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephes. i, 11). If every thing is done, then, by the will of God, sins, also, he says, are committed by his will. Beza, here, however, is in error; every thing except sin is done by the will of God. God does not wish sin, nor that any one should be lost through sin: " Is it my will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord?" (Ezech. xviii, 23); "Not willing that any should perish, but that all should rather do penance" (II. Peter, iii, 5). The Almighty wishes that we should all become Saints: "For it is the will of God your sanctification" (I.Thess. iv, 3.)  

55. The sixth absurdity These sectarians say that God himself operates sins with us, and uses us as instruments for the accomplishment of sin, and hence Calvin, as we have already remarked, calls God the author of sin. This is condemned by the Council of Trent (Sess. vi, can. 6): " Si quis dixerit, non esse in potestate hominis vias suas malas facere, sed mala opera, ita ut bona, Deum opcrari; non permissive solum, sed etiam proprie, et per se, adeo ut sit proprium ejus opus, non minus proditio Judæ quam vocatio Pauli; anathema sit." If God, then, be the author of sin, since he wishes it, and urges us on to commit it, and operates it with us, how is it that man sins, and God does not sin? When this difficulty was put to Zuinglius, he only answered: " Ask God himself; I am not one of his counsellors." When Calvin himself was asked: How is it that God condemns men for executing sin, when he himself operates it through their means; in every wicked work it is not the instrument but the operator who is culpable? and hence, if man sins alone as the instrument of God, it is not he but God who is culpable? he answered that " our carnal minds could not understand it" (9). Some sectaries answer this by saying that God does not sin by operating the sin, but man alone, for man does it for an evil end, but God for a good end, to wit, exercising his justice by punishing the sinner for his crime. But this answer will not excuse God, because, according to Calvin, the Almighty decrees and predestines man not alone to do the work of sin, but to do it with an evil end, for otherwise he could not punish him. Hence God is the true author of sin, and truly sins. Zuinglius gives another answer (10): Man, he says, sins because he acts against the law, but God does not sin, because he has no law; but this ridiculous answer is rejected by Calvin himself (11), who says, " we cannot suppose God without a law." And it stands to reason, for though no one can give a law to God, still his own goodness and justice are a law to him. Hence as sin is contrary to the law of nature, it is also opposed to the goodness of God, and he, therefore, never can will sin. Now, as Calvinists assert, that whatever a man does, good or bad, he does through necessity, for it is all the work of God, I would like to see if one broke another’s head, and he asked him, Why do you strike me? and the other would answer, It is not I who strike you, but God who makes me, and forces me to do so, would his coreligionist be satisfied with the excuse? What God are you talking about? he would say; away with such nonsense, it is you have done it, and I will punish you for it. Poor people ! We hope they are not wilfully blind, for really it would appear that those who entertain such extravagant opinions must be so. (9) Calvin. Inst. l. 1, c. 18, s. 1. (10) Zuing. Serm. de Provident, c. 5. (11) Calv. l. 3, c. 23. s. 2. 

56. The sectarians adduce several portions of Scripture to prove that God wishes, commands, and operates sins. He says, in Isaias, "I make peace, and create evil" (Isaias, xlv, 7); but Tertullian answers that there are two sorts of evil crimes and punishments. God performs punishments, but not crimes, for the crimes of the wicked, he says, belong to the devil, the punishments to God. When Absalom rebelled against his father, David, God wished the chastisement of David, but not the sin of Absalom. But, say they, we read in II. Kings, xvi, 10, that the Lord bid Semei " curse David," and in Ezech. xiv, 9, " I, the Lord, have deceived that Prophet"; in the 104th Psalm, ver. 25: " He turned their heart to hate his people;" and in St. Paul (II. Thess. ii, 10): " God shall send them the operation of error to believe lying." Behold then, say they, how God commands and operates sins. They do not, however, in these texts distinguish between the will of God and his permission. God, for his own just ends, permits that man jnay deceive or sin, either for the punishment of the wicked or for the advantage of the just, but he neither wishes nor operates sin. Tertullian (12) says, God is not the author nor the actor of sin, though he undoubtedly permits it. St. Ambrose (13) says he does what is good, but not what is evil, and St. Augustine (14) writes: He (God) knows how to condemn iniquity, but not to do it. (12) Tertull. le cont. Hermog. (13) St. Ambr. i. de Par. c. 15. (14) St. Augus. l. 105, ad Sixtum.

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