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William Sclater (1575-1627) on Zanchi on ‘Each Man is Bound to Believe he has been Elected’

March 17, 2009

Sclater:

The second argument was, as I conceived it, on this manner: To faith justifying, all men are bound: To particular persuasion, of God’s will to pardon sins, all are not bound: For God binds no man to believe an untruth: there are some of whom it never was, nor shall be true, that God will pardon their sins as Reprobates: Ergo. Answ. That which is the ground of his Argument I confess I found amongst our Divines, more resolutely determined, then distinctly explained. Their conclusion is, that all men, even Reprobates, are bound to believe, that they are in Christ Elected to Salvation [Zanch. de natura Dei, lib. 5.c.2.]. These reasons seem to make against it. First, for that there are, and ever have been many, to whom the name of Christ, or the benefits in him conveyed unto us, were never known. And Paul seems to say “of such, as sin without the Law, they shall perish without the law.” By proportion we may say, “They that sin without the Gospel, shall perish without the Gospel.” The not giving credit thereto shall not be imputed to their condemnation, in as much as it was never revealed unto them. By consequence therefore, there is no bond upon their conscience to believe. Moreover, particular assent rises from that particular Testimony of God’s Spirit with ours, Rom. 8:16. Which who can say to be vouchsafed to Reprobates? But yield ex abundanti that Reprobates at least in the Church are bound to believe it. What then? Answ. An untruth in the thing, No untruth to them, except by their own default; because, that howsover God has revealed that there are some Reprobates; Yet reveals he to no man, in this life, his own Reprobation. And as the rule of our actions is not God’s secret, but revealed will; so the rule, and measure of Faith is not truth secreted, but truth revealed. St. Augustine sticks not to say, that a man may will what is contrary to the will of God [August. Enchirid. Laurent.]. He means his secret will, and yet in so willing Not sin. For example, A child in the mortal disease of his father, may desire the life of his father; such desire the proves contrary to the will of God; yet is no sin; because God’s will revealed warrants such desire to us. Let us see, whether we may find some semblance i this the point of Believing. In Hezekiah his sickness, the Lord sends Isaiah with that message: “Thou must die,” [Isa. 38.]. An untruth in the event, and according to God’s secret purpose; yet can we doubt, but Hezekiah therein was bound to give credit to the Prophet? Similiter, To make full answer: Thus let us conceive; Look as God’s promises are propound to be believed in the particulars; so and no otherwise are we bound to believe them. How are they propounded? Hypothetically, rather, then Categorically; with limitation, rather than Absolutely. For example, How to believe, I shall be saved? To wit, Hypothetically: if I keep precisely the way that leads unto life. Separate the Hypothesis, either in mine understanding, or practice, I am bound not to believe it. For there is no mandate in the word, that types an impenitent sinner, so continuing, to believe, that his sins are forgiven; nay, there is something equivalent to a mandate, enjoining, in such case, to believe the contrary; inasmuch as God has revealed, that he will not be merciful to such an one, as goes on still in his wickedness. The sum is this, Reprobates are bound to particular faith Hypothetically; Absolutely they are not bound. Shall we say now, their binding to such belief binds them to believe an untruth? Nothing less. For it is true, of every particular, “if he repent, His sins shall be forgiven him:” This is even true, and thus only are promises propounded to faith of particulars. And it is never true, that God will pardon any man’s sins except he repent, and believe the Gospel. Thus far by the way, in answer to these Arguments; rather wittily couched, then foundly concluding the purpose.

William Sclater, An Exposition on The Whole Fourth Chapter to the Romanes (London: Printed by J.L. for Christopher Meredith at the sign of the Crane in Pauls Church-yard, 1650), 173-174.

[Notes: Some spelling modernized, some reformatting; underlining mine. I have edited some of Sclater’s frequent use of the colon, replacing it with a period which is followed by a new sentence. Sclater is here cited primarily for his recognition of Zanchi’s position, rather than his particular rebuttal. Lastly, I would suspect that Sclater has misread Zanchi on this point, as it is probable that when Zanchi claimed that “all men are bound to believe they are elected”: this was an election according to the revealed will. That is, all men must believe they are appointed to life, in and by the Gospel, such that no man may exclude himself from salvation.  And this “appointment” or “election” to life is conditional, or hypothetical to use more classic terminology.]

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