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James Saurin (1677-1730) on Supralapsarianism

March 16, 2009

Saurin:

The third system is that of such divines as are called Supralapsarians. The word supralapsarian signifies above the fall, and these divines are so called because they so arrange the decrees of God as to go above the fall of man, as we are going to explain. Their grand principle is, that God made all things for his own glory; that his design in creating the universe was to manifest his perfections, and particularly his justice and Ins goodness; that for this purpose he created men with design that they should sin, in order that in the end he might appear infinitely good in pardoning some, and perfectly just in condemning others; so that God resolved to punish such and such persons, not because he foresaw they would sin, but he resolved they should sin that he might damn them. This is their system in a few words. It is not that which is generally received in our churches, but there have been many members and divines among us who adopted and defended it; but whatever veneration we profess for their memory, we ingenuously own, we cannot digest such consequences as seem to us necessarily to follow these positions. We will just mention the few difficulties following.

First, we demand an explanation of what they mean by this principle, ” God hath made all things for his own glory.” If they mean that justice requires a creature to devote himself to the worship and glorifying of his Creator, we freely grant it. If they mean that the attributes of God are displayed in all his works, we grant this too. But if this proposition be intended to affirm that God had no other view in creating men, so to speak, than his own interest, we deny the proposition, and affirm that God created men for their own happiness, and in order to have subjects upon whom he might bestow favours. We desire to be informed in the next place, how it can be conceived, that a determination to damn millions of men can contribute to the glory of God? We easily conceive that it is for the glory of divine justice to punish guilty men: but to resolve to damn men without the consideration of sin, to create them that they might sin, to determine that they should sin in order to their destruction, is what seems to us more likely to tarnish the glory of God than to display it.

Thirdly, we demand, how according to this hypothesis it can be conceived that God is not the author of sin? In the general scheme of our churches, God only permits men to sin, and it is the abuse of liberty that plunges man into misery. Even this principle, all lenified as it seems, is yet subject to a great number of difficulties: but in this of our opponents, God wills sin to produce the end he proposed in creating the world, and it was necessary that men should sin; God created them for that. If this be not to constitute God the author of sin, we must renounce the most distinct and clear ideas.

Fourthly, we require them to reconcile this system with many express declarations of scripture, which inform us that God would have all men saved. How doth it agree with such pressing entreaties, such cutting reproofs, such tender expostulations as God discovers in regard to the unconverted; “O that my people had hearkened unto me! O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under Her wings, and ye would not?” Matt, xxiii. 37.

Lastly, we desire to know how it is possible to conceive a God, who being in the actual enjoyment of perfect happiness, incomprehensible and supreme, could determine to add this degree though useless to his felicity, to create men without number for the purpose of confining them for ever in chains of darkness, and burning them for ever in unquenchable flames.

James Saurin, “The Deep Things of God,” in Sermons Translated from the Original French of The Late. Rev. James Saurin, (Schenectady: Printed by William J. M’Cartee, 1813), 362-364.

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