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Thomas Blake (1596-1657) on Reprobation and the Cause of Sin, by way of William Ames, Franciscus Gomarus, John Prideaux and John Ball

May 12, 2009

Blake:

Argument 5.

Fifthly, from verse 25, “If the breaking of the Jews be by blinding; ten the engrafting is by giving Faith, but the former us true, ver. 25. Ergo the latter.

Answer. Here is the third Argument, I grant conclusion, and return to the same answer. Jewish blindness keeps them out of a church-state, and so from all the Faith in the Covenant; and when the veil shall be taken away, they shall be reinvested in a church-state and Covenant-condition. For proof there is added, porosis, “blinding or hardening is,” verse 7, “opposed to that state which the Election obtained, by which,” ver. 8, “they had a spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, ears that they should not hear,” verse 10, “Whereby their eyes were darkened that they might not see,” from which Anti-Arminians gather absolute reprobation, Ames animad. in Remom. Script. Act 1. Cap. 16. Hoc ipsum ad reprobationen spectare Apostolus Paulus claré Opposition opposita sunt attributa: “If the blinding be the effect of reprobation, and the breaking off to be by blinding, then the engrafting is by enlightening, and that enlightening is according to Election, and so is all one with giving of Faith.”

The proposition being; if the blinding be the effect of reprobation, and the breaking is by blinding, then engrafting is by enlightening, and that according to Election, then the assumption can be no other, but that blindness is the effect of reprobation, and the breaking off is by blinding. No one of the Contra-Remonstrates worthy the name of an adversary has taught this doctrine: It that which their adversaries indeed charge upon them, but that which they unanimously do disclaim. I have heard that reprobation is the antecedent of sin, but never that it was the cause; and that sin is a consequent of it, but never the effect. Reprobation is the Act of God, and in case it be the cause of blindness, then God is the cause of blindness; so that the Contra-remonstrants have got a sweet Advocate to cast that upon them, that none of their adversaries (though they have turned every stone to do it) could never prove by them. And the other member, that casting away is by blinding, is little better. The Apostle speaks in another manner; Blindness was their guilt, and casting off, “because of unbelief they were broken off,” verse 20, upon this account “God did not spare them,” as it follows in the next verse. The work, and the wages, the guilt, and the punishment are not one: Unbelief and breaking off, are the work and the wages, the guilt and the punishment: breaking off then, as not blinding. The Apostle lays all at man’s door, makes this blindness the moving case, according to that of the Prophet, “Thy destruction us of thyself,” and God only the severe, but just Judge. Our Author lays all upon God, God’s reprobation causes blindness, and their breaking off is by blinding; here is no hand but God’s, in their destruction. And now the blasphemy of the consequence being denied, so that blindness is no effect of reprobation, breaking off is by blinding; here is no hand but God’s, in their destruction. And now the blasphemy of the consequence being denied, so that blindness is no effect of reprobation, breaking off being not by blinding; what becomes of the rule of opposites here produced? Election and reprobation in the work of salvation and damnation, do not per omnia quadrare, otherwise as Election leads to salvation without any merit of works, so Reprobation should lead to destruction without any merit of sin, which Contra-remonstrants unanimously deny, though we find it here affirmed. It is further said, that from verse 8, 10, of this chapter. Anti-Arminians gather absolute Reprobation, and then explaining what this absolute Reprobation is, in the words spoken to. But though much be spoke of the irrespective decree both between us and Arminians, and also among ourselves: yet I would fain learn what one Anti-Arminian ever made Reprobation absolute in this sense; Amesius is quoted, but the word [absolute] is not found in him; And Gomarus, a man for the irrespective decree as much as any (and upon that account entered his dissent in the Synod of Dort, where respective to reprobation was denied, and Sublapssarian opinions established) yet he peremptorily denies any reprobation absolute in this sense; “(a) Neither does God,” (says he) “absolutely and barely destinate any man to destruction, without subordinate means; but he destinates him to just destruction, that is by, and for, sin justly to be executed.” Analysis Epist. Ad Rom. Cap. 9, p., 60. Neither will he have this decree to effect the sin; that is the just Medium of destruction. In the same page he says; “(b) God does not decree to effect sin, but to suffer, or not to hinder, and to govern for his glory; Neither does God effect all that he doth decree, but those things which eh decreed to effect, of those he is the author, us all the good that is done: “But the evil which is decreed not to hinder in his creature, that he does not effect, because he did not decree to effect them; but only permits, and governs them; and at least justly according to his decree, punishes them.” And Doctor Prideaux, Lect. 1. de absoluto decreto. “(c) That necessary distinction between the effect and consequent (viz., of reprobation) loses not a few knots; which many understanding, or not duly heeding, are brought into straits by their adversaries. The condensation of water (that I may use Augustine’s instance), is consequent of the absence of the Sun, not an effect. The ruin of a house, of itself tending to decay, necessarily follows upon the want of repair, which the Master might do in case he pleased, but will not, neither is he bound. Sin, no otherwise follows upon reprobation; not as a cause efficient, but deficient, not whereby any thing is removed that is present, but that is not supplied which is wanting.” And Master Ball in his larger Catechism, p., 57, “Sin is the effect of man’s free will, and condemnation is an effect of justice inflicted upon man for sin and disobedience; but the decree of God which is good, is the cause of neither.” The signs of Reprobation may appear in those that are thus dischurched, according to that which is quoted out of Ames, but not as an effect of it. The severity which God shows in not sparing, but breaking off these natural Branches, is explicitly no more then that which Jesus Christ did threaten against them, Mat. 21:43. That the Kingdom of Heaven should be taken from them, and given to a Nation bringing forth the fruits thereof; the same which he threatens against Ephesus, Rev 2:5, in taking away their Candlestick, which is the effect of their own sin, and not of God’s decree.

Thomas Blake, Vindiciæ Foederis; Or, A Treatise of the Covenant of God Entered with Man-Kinde (London: Printed for Abel Roper, at the Sun against St. Dunstins Chirch in Fleet-street, 1658), 340-342  [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; Latin marginal references not included; square brackets original; and underlining mine.]

[Notes:  Fristly, the author Blake alludes to was Tombs.  Secondly, I have used the earlier edition, even though the later 1562 edition adds material, the comments which are of interest here on Reprobation and the causation of sin are identical.]

Thomas Blake (1596-1657) was a Puritan minister in the Church of England, who wrote and published a number of works in the middle of the 17th century. Blake was also closely connected to the Westminster Assembly, involved with debates arising out of the committee that examined the issue of infant baptism. Moreover, his writings on baptism carried the endorsement of several members of the Assembly. Source: sacra doctrina

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