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Vermigli on 1 Tim 2:4

September 2, 2007

45. They also put forward the statement to Timothy, “God will have all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).” Pighius regularly repeats this passage as if it were invincible. Yet Augustine often taught that it may be expounded in such a way that it lends no weight at all to prove their fond invention [Augustin Corrept. 14.44 (PL 44.943); idem, Ep. 217.6.19 (PL 33.985-86); idem, C. Jul. 8.42 (PL 44.75940), idem, Praed. 8.14 (PL 44.971)]. First, we take it to be spoken of all states and kinds of men, that is, that God will have some of all kinds of men to be saved. This interpretation agrees perfectly well with the purpose of the apostle. He had instituted that prayers and supplications should be made for all men, especially kings and those in public authority, so that under them we may live a quiet life in all piety and chastity (Tim. 2:l-2). Therefore, to declare that no state or kind of person is excluded, he added, “God will have all men to be saved.” It is as if he had said that no one is prevented by that calling and level in which he is placed, so long as it is not repugnant to the word of God, but that he may come to salvation; therefore, we should pray for all kinds of men. Yet we cannot infer from this that God endows everyone in particular with grace, or predestines everyone to salvation. Similarly, in the time of the flood, all living creatures are said to have been saved in the ark with Noah, but only some of every kind were gathered together in it. 

Or we may understand it like this: God will have all men to be saved, for as many as are saved, they are saved by his will. It is as if one should say of a teacher of rhetoric in a city that he teaches all men. This kind of speech does not mean that all the citizens are hearers of rhetoric, but that as many as learn are taught by him. It is also like someone pointing to the gate of a house and saying that everyone enters this way. We must not understand from this that everyone enters that house, but that as many as enter do so by way of that gate alone.

Third, there are some who interpret these words of the apostle as referring to the signified will or antecedent will, that all men are invited since preaching is set forth to all indifferently.  No one fails inwardly to feel some spur by which he is continually stirred up to do well. Thus if we relate this to the will of God, we will easily grant that he will have all men to be saved. They will not have it to be understood of the hidden and effective will which they call the consequent will. In this way one may understand such speech as “God illumines every man who comes into this world and “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden,”(John1 9; Matt. 11:21), for all are provoked by the oracles of God and all are inwardly moved by some spur.

All these interpretations are quite probable and also fitting, yet beside these there is another, both ready and plain. The Holy Scriptures set forth two human societies: one of the godly and the other of the ungodly. Both societies have universal propositions attached which should be restricted to their own category by j the careful reader. The prophets say, and Christ cites them: “All shall be taught by God (theodidaktos) and all shall know me from the least to the greatest”; and again he says, “When I shall be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself (John:4 5; Jer. 31:33). Unless these universal propositions refer to the godly who are elected, they are not true. This is also true of these passages: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” and “All flesh shall come in my sight and shall worship in Jerusalem:’ and again, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God:’ and finally, “God lifts up all who fall (Joel 2: 28; Isa. 66:23; Luke 35; Ps. 145:14). Who does not see that these passages are to be understood only of the saints? 

In contrast, these following passages refer to the ungodly: “No one receives his testimony” yet many believed, and “You will be hated by all.” Again it is stated, “They all seek after their own interests”; and “They have all turned aside together; they have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one” (John 3: 32; Matt. 10:22; Phil. 2:21; Ps. 14:3). Those who are pious and regenerate are acceptable to God and endeavor to show him some obedience to the law, but these universal sayings should not be extended beyond their own society.

Augustine had this distinction in mind in his book The City of God, where he proves that there have always been two cities, one the city of God and the other the city of the devil. Therefore, in these general propositions we must always give due consideration as to which class or group of men they refer. If we do so here, we will apply the statement to the saints and the elect, namely, that “God will have all men to be saved”: and so all doubt is removed. Otherwise, it seems that God does not effectively will the salvation of all men, as is demonstrated by the many infants who have perished without Christ and many also which have been born fools, and deaf, and never had the right and proper use of reason. It often happens that some have had long lives, honest and faithful enough, and yet suddenly fall at last and are taken out of the world to perish eternally. Others, on the contrary, who have perpetually led a life of wickedness, are at the end of their lives endowed with faith and repentance and are saved. Yet they I might have been taken away first, so that evil would not have changed their minds. Who will in these examples say that God wills the salvation of all with the same effectiveness? They bring up a saying of Christ’s: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks, and you would not?” (Matt. 23:37) Here also it is the antecedent will of the sign that is meant. God through his prophets, preachers, apostles, and Scriptures invited the Jews to fly to him by repentance time after time, but they refused, but by his effective will, which is called consequent, he always drew to himself those who were his. Nor was there any age when he did not gather as many of the Hebrews as he had predestined. Therefore, as Augustine said, those that I would, I have gathered together, although you would not. 

Peter Martyr Vermigli, Predestination and Justification, trans., by Frank A. James, (Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, 2003),  8:62-64.

 

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