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Heinrich Heppe on some early references to the Reformed doctrine of common grace

November 5, 2007

1) 25.–But while by praeteritio God refuses His redeeming grace to the rejected He does not deprive them of His common grace, which latter would have sufficed man in his original state to attain to eternal blessedness, and of which man continues to receive so much that he has no ground for excuse left at the judgment seat of God.

–LEIDEN SYNOPSIS (XXIV, 54-55): “For this to be understood correctly, careful note must be taken that this praeterition does not remove or deny all grace in those passed over, but that only which is peculiar to the elect. But that which through the dispensation of common providence, whether under the law of nature or under gospel grace, is dispensed to men in varying amount, is not by this act. of praeterition removed but is rather presupposed; the non-elect are left under the common government of divine providence and the exercise of their own arbitrium. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, 185.

2) God thus wrought in upon Adam’s fall by His permissio and ordinatio HOTTINGER (160-161) is the most adequate in making it clear, how this permissio and ordinatio is to be conceived. “Negatively: (I) God did not drive Adam to sin (a) because He severely forbade him, (b) in narrating the causes Moses makes no mention of God, (c) God made man upright, but he of his own motion forsooth, at the suasion and instigation of Satan, sought out a host of reasons. (2) God did not withdraw from him grace combating sin, because (a) that followed him into the punishment of the sin, according as it is the deprivation of the image of God because of sin, (b) because otherwise He would have been driving man to sin: just as when a house necessarily collapses when the pillars are withdrawn. (3) Nor did He in any way co-operate with his sin. Affirmatively: (i) He did not confer on Adam the aid of new and special grace or help him with extraordinary aid, so that he might will to persevere. (2) Nor did He hinder Satan from tempting him and him from obeying the tempter. (3) He ordered and directed the fall to the ends which He had predetermined by his eternal counsel. Not the ends of sin, which of themselves are nil, but of the divine permission. Some ends are in respect of men, others in respect of God. As regards the former the proximate end was the manifestation of the creature’s infirmity; the remote major was the felicity and more perfect salvation in the second Adam, Christ. In respect of God: the proximate end is the beauty of the whole which arises out of this permission and consists in this, that in the world as in a great house there are various vessels; the remote end is the revealing of His glory, primarily the display of His actual mercy in the salvation of the elect for Christ’s sake”.
–Hence above all it must be insisted that God effected Adam’s fall not by withdrawing His common grace.
–MARESIUS (VI, 29): “Much less must it be said that God positively withdrew His grace from man before the act of sin, because then God would be set up as the author of it; but man freely sinning rejected and repudiated that aid”.
–v. TIL (Hypotyposis p.I22): “God withdrew no strength from man before the sin”. But the permissio peccati was also not a mere non-impeditio of sin. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, 309-310.

3) 36.–It must also be recognized that, supported by the common grace of God fallen man is capable of producing an ordinary morality and of doing good in external and natural things, or at least of exercising himself in them. But even the goodness that man does in external, natural and ordinary things is not truly good and pleasing to God. He never achieves it entirely from the right motive, i.e., never from love and obedience to God alone, He always admits the joint influence of his concupiscence. As a result, it is true, the naturally and the ordinarily good works are rewarded by God with temporal benefits. But in truth they are sinful and condemnable. And in spiritual things man can do absolutely nothing good, since his spiritual eye is veiled from the knowledge of God that brings blessing and his will can do and achieve only what is contrary to God’s good pleasure.

RISSEN (IX, 45): “The question is not as to outward civil and moral good. We do not deny that some powers still survive in man after the lapse, as regards those outward works and civil goods, so that he exercises justice and temperance and emits an act of mercy and charity, so that he keeps his hands from theft and murder and emits operations of like virtues by the antecedent concurrence or God and His general assistance; this is the outlook of Gentile virtues, of which later. But the question is of spiritual and supernatural good which is pleasing and acceptable to God: whether man in the state of sin is so corrupt, that the power of his liberum arbitrium as regards the good in question are not only slipped and worn but quite perished, so that he cannot know anything truly saving or do anything good: which is what we affirm”. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, 363.

4) 37,–Hence fallen man enslaved by sin cannot in any way personally grasp gracious aid when offered to him, or rise to a positive non-resistance to it, or prepare in an external disciplinary or pedagogic way to receive. a redemptive favour.

–POLAN (VI, 6): “The man who is not reborn has no strength or very little, by which in any way to respond to God if He called him, or to open the door to His knock, or to assent to His proposal of salvation, or in short to co-operate with Him, if He operated upon him”.

–MASTRICHT (iV, iv, 33): “Although the Reformed grant readily that man can non-resist in a negative way, as a man naturally dead can non-resist attempts to restore him to life, and although they concede that unregenerate man may frequent churches, pour forth prayers and other outward things, they deny that he can non-resist positively; they deny that an unregenerate can perform these outward good things by the sheer strength of their natural arbitrium, save by common grace; on which see Paul, Heb. 6, 4, 5,6 (as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the H. Ghost, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then fall away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. . .)”. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, 366.

6) But further HEIEGGER still recognizes the essential prerogatives of the “baptized non-elect over the unbaptized” (XXV, 49): “Even in early times circumcision also conferred upon the circumcised among the non-elect a privilege above the non-circumcised. To them were entrusted the oracles of God Rom. 3. 1-2.-By a like reasoning there is a common grace and favour of God which all baptized persons possess, even the non-elect, viz., initiation and ingrafting into the outward body of the Church, in virtue of which even though perishing they have a right to the name of ‘uieis basilasias and enjoy the outward privieges of God’s covenanted.-But this is the mere Gourtyard, shell and surface of baptism.” Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, 623.

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