Textes inédits tome 2
Gaston Grua (ed)
pp 501-503

Date: 29 December 1707

Translated from the French

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[Gr p501]


     I am much obliged to you for the gift of your new book, which I glanced through straight away, as much as other matters have allowed me. I think you have argued very well that the supralapsarians themselves are able to respond effectively to the objections of the Manichaeans, provided that supralapsarianism is not pushed too far, and provided that the right of God is not founded only on his power. The comparison of men with ants does not work too well: we cannot have the cares of these small animals, because we are too occupied with more important cares. But God is sufficient for everything, and with him nothing is disregarded. If beasts were to have reason, our ways of dealing with them would be unjust, and our power would not be sufficient, in all fairness, to make their misery serve our pleasures and conveniences: thus these comparisons are not characteristic of my opinion to justify the actions of God. His goodness must not be taken into account any less than his other perfections, and I am entirely persuaded that it would do harm to his justice to believe, for example, that children who die without being baptised, and men living morally who have never heard of Jesus Christ, are damned eternally for that. Moreover, these kinds of unreasonable dogmas have no foundation in Holy Scripture, and nothing is more likely to malign Christianity than to support them.
     Now although I believe that particularism, and even supralapsarianism, can be given a reasonable sense, I nevertheless prefer to have recourse to the universalities, and I find that their expressions are more in keeping with the Holy Scriptures as well as with reason. Thus I am astonished, Sir, that you suggest only supralapsarians are able to respond effectively to Mr Bayle, and that you even treat as heretics those who distance themselves from the synod [Gr p502] of Dordrecht. In my opinion every wise man has a genuine inclination towards everything good, which is an object of his knowledge and power, so that he would produce it if other, more powerful, considerations did not prevent him. This is what is called the antecedent will. But the result of all the inclinations joined together makes the consequent will, or the decree, which is always effective in God; whereas the antecedent will is often prevented from saving all men. In no way do I condemn those who believe in God's absolute decree of election, provided that they agree that this decree, which is absolute in as much as it is anterior to the condition of foreknowing our good actions or dispositions, is not absolutely absolute, that is, without reason - the will is what stands in place of reason - but that it is founded in reasons that are holy and just, although unknown to us. This is also how it is explained by Calvin, who is reasonable enough. Nevertheless I find it more acceptable to reason and Holy Scripture to say that God elected those whose final faith he had foreseen, which was the motive for his choice in accordance with what he had ordained through Jesus Christ. But we must nevertheless acknowledge that when we look for the reasons God could have had for arranging circumstances in a way that contributed to bringing it about that some attain faith while others do not, we are ultimately obliged to resort to the depth of his wisdom, that is, to reasons that are good, holy and just, but to us unknown. Thus foreseen faith can be conceived as the reason of election, but not as the ultimate reason, because faith itself also has its causes and reasons, which is where it becomes a matter for the unconditional goodness of God.
     I beg your pardon, Sir, for freely telling you my sentiments since I know that you have the goodness to make some reflections on this yourself. As I have previously meditated a lot on these matters I have had consideration for what are, in my opinion, the most sturdy sentiments and the most edifying expressions; and I find also that these are the ones that are most appropriate to re-establish peace in the Church. You will perhaps remember the Latin discourse I previously passed on to you, on the principle of right of a certain scholarly Professor,1 in which I noted this same fault of those extreme supralapsarians, who derive justice from the power of an arbitrary will alone, whereas justice is ultimately nothing other than the goodness of the wise. I would not want to say [Gr p503] along with Mr Poiret and some Cartesians that the ideas of things come from the will of God. They come from his understanding, as much as they contain only possibility; but without the will of God things would not attain existence.


1. Henri Coccejus.

© Lloyd Strickland 2003