Sämtliche schriften und briefe series I, volume 16
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
pp 597-599

Date: 20 February/2 March 1699

Translated from the French

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[A I 16, p597]

     To Mr Spanheim, envoy of Brandenburg in France.

Hanover, 20 February 1699


     It is rather I who has need for apologies for not yet having replied to the letter that I had the honour to receive from you some time ago. For your great [A I 16, p598] occupations sufficiently justify your delay, but it is not the same in my case since I have all the spare time necessary. What caused my delay, however, was my desire to give you something positive on the important matter of which you have been the mediator. It is true that our Theologians have not replied in the conventional way since, moreover, the document of your theologians was unsigned and undated. Nevertheless they have made very significant remarks which I have conveyed, and which will give your gentlemen the opportunity to provide clarifications capable of satisfying reasonable persons. These remarks turn on the attributes of God, on predestination, on the person of Jesus Christ, and on St. Cene. As Regards the attributes of God, there is no doubt at all that your gentlemen grant that God can do anything which does not imply contradiction or imperfection in the agent; that the wills of God are always founded in reason or in wisdom (although his motives are often unknown to us), that he only permits evil for a greater good, that he is naturally inclined to produce the good, and would always do so if other, stronger reasons of a greater good do not prevent him; that his justice does not consist only in his exalted power, which exempts him from any higher authority, but also in the perfectly wise dispensation of goods and evils. Finally, it is supposed that the prescience and preordination of God, again according to you gentlemen, do not destroy freedom or contingency. Moving on to predestination, it is again supposed that, with us, your gentlemen will grant that God does not predestine anyone to sin, and that he only predestines to damnation those whose sin he has foreseen. But with regard to the predestination to glory, with your gentlemen claiming that the decree to grant glory is prior to the one granting faith, and ours supporting the opposite view, we find that there is nothing dangerous in the sentiment of your gentlemen, provided that they grant that the choice of God which inclines him to give glory or faith to some is not so absolute that he does not have his reasons within his wisdom, whatever they might be. For if one were to want him to chose absolutely without reason, one would destroy his perfection. We content ourselves with the words of one of your authors, who says: 'Causæ (electionis) occultæ esse possunt, injustæ esse non [A I 16, p599] possunt.'1 As for grace which is effective by itself, we do not see anything at all which forces us to permit it always, nevertheless we do not see any danger in that either, provided that it is not explained in a way that renders it contrary to freedom.
     With regard to those who are called particularists, we believe that the difficulty is only in the formulas, according to the different meaning of the term 'will'. For if this term is taken for an inclination so strong that it makes a person employ all his power to obtain the effect, as it is in the philosophers' axiom, 'qui vult et potest, ille facit',2 it is certain that God does not will the salvation of all by such a will. But when the term is taken more generally for an inclination that tends towards the effect, provided that greater reasons do not prevent it, it can be said that it is in this way that God seriously wills the salvation of all. And we do not see anything which should prevent your gentlemen from speaking a language which appears to be that of Holy Scripture and the ancients, and from using the distinction of Damascène and the Scholastics between the antecedent will, which always aims to produce good, and the consequent or resultant will, which arises out of the final clash [of all antecedent wills], and makes it so that the good willed antecedently is not always willed effectively and consequently, on account of stronger reasons that divert it.
     With regard to the person of Jesus Christ, our gentlemen are happy with the declarations of Jean Louis Fabrice, theologian at Heidelberg, in a discourse especially on this matter.
     And finally, touching on St. Cene, our gentlemen ask only that your gentlemen explain themselves on the real and substantial perception of the body and blood of Our Lord, as did Calvin, and as some of your confessions have done, and the convent of Sendomir as well as the profession of Thorn.3 People on our side are not attached at all to the existence of the body of Jesus Christ in the bread or in the mouth of those receiving communion, provided that his substance is really united with ours, in a way which divine power alone is able to accomplish. In fact I find that Calvin explains the heart of the matter most satisfactorily...


1. 'It is possible that the cause of the choice is obscure, it is not possible that it is unjust'.
2. 'whoever wills and is able, will do it'.
3. The Conference of Thorn, 1645.

© Lloyd Strickland 2003