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The Aberdeen Doctors
Appendix VII - Proceedings against Sibbald


(Vita Joh. Forb., pp. 54-58.)

Sibbald's Criticisms on certain Articles of his Accusation.

i have in my possession a certain paper in Sibbald's own handwriting containing certain observations on this lawsuit, of which I shall here give a brief summary.

1. As regards his own papers, he says, " Out of my own plundered papers they seize an opportunity of accusing me concerning certain articles, and before I distinctly knew what they were, I answered that these papers could not be brought as evidence against me, since some of them were short summaries of works read by me which I had written out that I might use them either in refuting or approving of them ; others were collections from commentaries on other books which I had written out as material for meditations in composing lectures, so that I might be able either to approve or reject them in accordance with reason after a proper examination ; and all were private, not public, and not intended for the public use, but for my own private use only."

For greater satisfaction Sibbald considers several articles of the accusation, and says what he thinks of them.

He thinks it is impossible to deny that the forty days' fast is lawful, and he shows that the opinion of those who approve of this fast, as it was observed by the pure primitive Church, agrees with the unanimous opinion of Antiquity, even of learned Protestant theologians. As a proof of this he brings evidence from Zanchius, Doctors Field and Andrews, and Pieter Molanaeno, and he concludes with this question, viz. : Whether those who do not approve of this fast, disapprove of all fasts ? if they do not, why do they reject this rather than any other, especially seeing it is so ancient and instituted for serious reasons ? but if they do not approve of any fixed fasts (which is their doctrine and practice), how shall they avoid the charge of Acrius, who, according to Epiphanius, said there is no reason for instituting a fast, all these things are peculiar to the Jews, and are brought under a certain yoke of slavery, for no law is imposed on the just man, but only that of parricide and matricide and that kind of law ; for if I shall decide to fast at all, on any day that pleases me, I shall fast of my own accord, with my liberty untouched. Hence is it, says Epiphanius, that those people rather aim at fasting on Sunday ; but on the fourth and sixth holiday they take food, not from any law, but of their own will, as those who have been introduced assert. Moreover, on those very days of Easter which we are wont to celebrate by sleeping on the ground, preserving our chastity, and afflicting the body as well as by using dry foods, praying, watching, vigils and fasting, .and other most wholesome tortures of the body, they on the contrary are wont to feast until dawn and swollen with meat and wine, to laugh at, ridicule, and hold in scorn those who spend that week of Easter in most holy religious exercises.

§ xciii. Concerning Expiation of Sin by Almsgiving.

To another article adduced from his papers, viz. that sin is expiated by alms, he replies that he never either in public or in private had said that sin was expiated by alms, but had recommended them so far only as being exceedingly pleasing and acceptable to God when duly made ; and if any such opinion be found in his papers, it had merely been written out, and as it seems to him, this may be from the writings of Fr. White Orthodox, &c. Besides, if he has said in so many words, that sin was in a certain sense purged by alms, what more had he asserted than what is distinctly handed down in Scripture. See Proverbs xvi. 6.

§ xciv. Concerning the Dedication and Sanctity of Churches.

To other two articles concerning the dedication and sanctity of churches, he answers, that he thought that churches may and ought to be consecrated to prayer and thanksgivings, in token of their separation from profane and common use, and of their being set apart for sacred and pious exercises.

2. He says that places so consecrated are more sacred than common houses ; that he was not so absurd as to think that there was any sanctity in them such as to be endowed with reason, but only that which can belong to places and times ; and what sanctity can belong to them no one can call in question who believes Holy Scripture, since it is clear from it that there are holy days, and that the earth can be holy (Ex. iii. 5 ; Acts vii. 33; John v. 15 ; Lev. xxvii. 28 ; 1 Tim. iv. 5).

Who dares to say that the elements of bread and wine are not more sacred after consecration than common bread and wine ? But this peculiar degree of sanctity they have because they have been destined and consecrated by the most holy and religious use : in the same manner, though not in the same degree, churches are holy since they are set apart and destined for sacred use, and by prayers and thanksgivings consecrated to that end. If the mere destination of a thing to sacred use renders it holy, and if prayers and thanksgivings make that on a certain degree holy which is destined only for common use, as is our ordinary food, it is foreign to all reason to affirm that churches are not in the same category.

3. There is a sin called sacrilege (Paul, Rom. ii. 22). One of the most distinct kinds of sacrilege is the violation and spoliation of churches and their gifts.

4. He shows that it was the practice of the old church, as is clear from ancient writers and learned Protestant theologians, so that in the time of Sibbald these distinguished men could not have been received into the Scottish Church.

§ xcv. Concerning the Afflictions of the Good, and whether they can be called Punishment, and may be said to proceed from the Justice of God.

Sibbald says that there was another article adduced from his papers concerning the afflictions of the good, viz. as to whether they may be said to be punishments, and to proceed from the justice of God. His opinion is that they may truly be called punishments, and for the following reasons : (1) Because in them all things necessarily required for punishment are found, viz. they have regard to fault as the source and original spring from which they flow, for death and all its consequent miseries entered through it (Rom., Gen.) Besides Scripture expressly teaches that the most beloved servants of God were afflicted on account of their own sin. The second thing required for punishment is that they should suffer and suffer much through it. Third, that it is opposed to their natural inclination. (2) The iniquities of those from whom God does not withdraw His compassion are visited with the rod. (3) Scripture asserts that they are judged by God (1 Cor. ii. 32), and that judgment shall begin at the house of God (1 Pet. iv. 17). Accordingly, if the afflictions of the just come from God they are His judgments, and if He judges them when He afflicts them, hence it is clear that they are punishments and come from the justice of God, which two things are inseparably connected. When it is said that afflictions are only a medium for curing the soul from past diseases and preserving it from future ones, and that God does not in them intend vengeance or the satisfaction of His justice, but the spiritual and eternal good of the afflicted ones and of those who see their afflictions, Sibbald answers that it is true that these afflictions are like medicine, and that the afflicting God is like a physician, but not only so. The physician has no right of ownership in his patient, but God, as our Supreme Lord and Judge, has an absolute and supreme right of ownership in usMnd He^S it in afflicting us, but only in the way in which a father acts who chastises his son for his fault. And as the chastisement of a father does not cease to be punishment because it has the healing virtue of preserving from sin, so is it with the rod with which God chastises his children. So, in like manner, the divine intention of promoting the good of the afflicted and of the others who see them, by no means takes away the nature of punishment from their afflictions; just as among men a judge condemns a culprit, perhaps to be beaten or sent to prison, in order that he may become better in future, and that others may take warning to themselves to abstain from a similar offence. Granted that afflictions are nothing more than paternal chastisements, yet it does not follow from that that they are not punishments ; nay, rather the contrary, even chastisements are a kind of punishment. Nothing else, however, can be inferred from it except that they are not that kind of punishment which is inflicted for the sake of vengeance alone.

As to the saying that the sins of the Saints are pardoned, and that therefore they cannot afterwards be punished for them—since it seems inconsistent that a sin should be remitted and that the man can nevertheless be punished on account of it—Sibbald answers : The Remission of Sin by God and His reconciliation with the sinner has, he says, great and blessed results. In this way the full punishment of sin, which in justice suits it, is taken away ; in this way we get possession of His grace, and have right to all its beneficent effects, namely, the full freedom which we shall at the right time acquire from all the ills which we suffer here.

Grace also is bestowed, whereby our afflictions may be sanctified, and may minister to our spiritual and eternal good. Yet he reserves to Himself the point of chastising us, even as a father his son, for our present and future good, and to manifest His own justice and holiness. Is there anything in this repugnant to divine justice and goodness ? Says the Apostle, There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, but he does not say that there is nothing wanting of condemnation. Our theologians hold that the original wickedness in the Saints is really sin. And there is no one who does not sin. It is plain, therefore, that the punishments of the Saints are temporal, and are not inconsistent with the justice of God, nor do they derogate from His kindness in pardoning or from the worthiness of our justification. So far are we from having a just cause of quarrel thence, that in our affliction we are bound to recognise the justice of God (Ps. cxix. 137), to adore His wisdom, to wonder at His goodness, who has rescued us from so great evils, and will free us from all evils in His good time, which must be patiently waited for by us.

Next he shows that these afflictions come not from His justice only and solely, nor are they altogether penal, but from justice so tempered with mercy that they scarcely deserve to be called punishments, if they are compared with our sins and their deserved punishments ; if the reason by which He is moved to afflict us be considered by His love, not less rather more than His compassion ; if they are considered with respect to the effects set before Him and produced by God, such as the mortification of our innate corruption, the sense of sin and the means of avoiding it, the exercise of the gifts of God begun in us, and their proof; the HBer conformity to the likeness of His Son, how they themselves are a source of eternal joy and happiness. Sibbald concludes by showing the difference between his doctrine and the papistical one.

§ xcvi. Concerning the Difference of the Will of God Antecedent and Consequent.

In the next place Sibbald treats of the destination of the will of God into antecedent and consequent; and having shown that the distinction was in use among the Fathers, both scholastic and modern, he observes that the antecedent will can mean either the bare and simple leaning towards something which considered in itself is good, and in that sense may be ascribed to God as much as to the holiness and salvation of all rational creatures. For salvation, both of men and angels, considered in itself, he says, is desirable, regarding in its own nature the glory of God and the usefulness of men and angels who are made in the image of God. It is therefore in itself an object in the highest degree conformable to the divine pleasure, which is itself goodness and love and cannot refuse to have pleasure in any good thing, especially its own glory and likeness.

2. The antecedent will, he says, can mean not only a simple wish, but also the act which, by way of following it up, aims at its object; for which reason he who has this will gives, or is prepared to give, that which is sufficient to accomplish the thing wished for ; and this will is either absolute and effective ; and so the will by which God has decided to call men is antecedent, since it arises from nothing in ourselves, and can come about without any foreseeing of the determining of the human will, proceeding from the divine goodness alone ; and this will is effective ; for whomsoever God has decided to call, those He calls, and in the manner in which He has decided, or (2) this will may be conditioned; as when any one having this will, wishes such and such things to be done, but not absolutely, nor without all limitation, but so far as foresight demands, which is sufficient for him who so wishes, so when this will is ascribed to God as regards the holiness and salvation of those who perish, it includes, formally or virtually, this condition, that He will accomplish it, if man does not place any obstacle in the way, that He, to that end, will do those things which are agreeable to His providence, and will in no way obstruct them.

Then he goes on to inquire whether there be such will in God, and having considered the arguments adduced against it, and the answers to them, which he recounts at great length, he further discusses whether such a will be in God and how far it may be ascribed to Him.

And in the first place, he says, that antecedent will of holiness and salvation appears to be in God in respect of all men considered in Adam ; seeing that in him He gave them not only a nature capable of eternal happiness, but also that justice by which all may be saved.

2. If it be considered in respect to fallen man, it is not clear that it is in God as regards all men, since innumerable men (he says), so far as we perceive, are deprived of the necessary and sufficient means of salvation.

3. It seems to be in God so far as regards all who are in the Church to whom sufficient means are offered.

4. He says that he by no means approves the doctrine of the Arminians, who assert that God loves the elect more than others by His consequent will, although He loves all equally by His antecedent will.

5. He does not approve the doctrine of those who assert that God by His antecedent will has willed the condemnation of the greater part of the human race, and that, before the foreseeing of any sin in them. He recognises that there is nothing in a man on account of which God has ordained some to life, others being passed over. He says that he, with Scripture, attributes to the decree of the Divine Will that it is always just though hidden. But if there be a discussion concerning positive reprobation, which is the divine decree of punishment, he says that it is in accordance with the consequent will of God, and presupposes the foreseeing of sin not as it were the cause of the will but as it were the reason of the thing willed. He shows : (1) that the Synod of Dordrecht was of the same opinion, and that that is manifest from its own canons and those of the Theologians, and especially those of Britain. (2) The most learned of the Scholastics (were of the same opinion). (3) The Fathers (Augustine). (4) That all the ways of God are mercy and justice. Since, therefore, the ordaining of certain men to eternal death is not a work of mercy, it must be an act of justice, and thus supposes the foreknowledge of sin. In regard to its being said that the punishment of sin is pleasing to God, and therefore it seems as if He had wished it by His antecedent will, no less than the salvation of man ; he answers, that the salvation of man is in itself pleasing to God, although we regard it not at all from the part of mankind, and in like manner it is an object in conformity with the antecedent will of God because the thing is bound to be desirable in itself. But as to the punishment of man considered simply and in itself, it is not pleasing to God, except so far as it is a just punishment of sin (Jer. iii. 33 ; Aug. Confess, i. 3, C. 2).

6. He says that he cannot understand how it can be said that God wills sin either by His antecedent or consequent will; he says, He permits it only and ordains it when permitted. Ancien4". Councils have banned the opposite doctrine (Arausican Council and Council of Valentin). It also clearly appears to be contrary to Scripture (Ps. v. 4 ; Hab. i. 13), and to the infinite holiness of God revealed in it, to which nothing appears to be more repugnant than to will wicked and sinful acts, and to predetermine to them, since some of them are in themselves bad, from which acts wickedness cannot be separated by any circumstance of efficient or final cause, and which, therefore, are prohibited because they are bad, and do not become bad on account of the prohibition alone,—as hatred of God, blasphemy, perjury, lying. If it were otherwise, and these acts could be purged of evil by the will and efficacy of God, then it would follow that God could have commanded such and prohibited their contraries. This is conceded by some. (If God had commanded both angels and men very differently, nay the very opposite of that which He does in fact command, He would be no less than He now is the divine Jehova some one asserts.) In this way God could enjoin on angels and men hatred of Himself and prohibit the love of Himself, which, says Sibbald, appears to me in the highest degree absurd. In such a case the hatred of God would be a good thing, and the love of Him a bad thing. (2) It would follow from this that God could deny Himself, which blasphemy is opposed to Holy Scripture (2 Tim. ii.). For God is essentially the love of Himself and conformity with right reason, and the hatred of Him is really and positively opposed to the love of Him and to right reason. (3) To take an example in lying : if the doing of this were not in itself bad, then God could will this act, far be blasphemy from the word. But (1) Holy Writ contradicts it (Heb. 6), which says it is impossible for God to lie. (2) It contradicts the truth and faithfulness which are essential in Him. (3) If it were possible either for Him to speak what is opposed to the truth, and to move and predetermine others to it, the foundation of our faith should be overturned. For our faith is founded on the infallible truth of God, which can neither deceive nor be deceived.

If it be said that God is not bound by law, like us, and that His will is a law to itself, and therefore that everything is either good or bad according as He Himself wishes it to be so or not ; he answers that although God has no superior, yet His own intrinsic, natural, and essential Tightness and goodness are a law which is in essence His own goodness or virtue itself ; or, which is the same thing, He has for a law to Himself the dictates of His own wisdom concerning what is good and true, joined with the natural love of Himself; by force of which it is necessary that He love Himself as if He were the highest truth and goodness, and therefore it is impossible that He should wish to hold that creature in hatred, or to despise him, or should predetermine him his real and positive acts of hatred and contempt of Himself, for in this way He would act contrary to the love of Himself and to the dictates of His own wisdom, which dictate is, that, since it is the highest good to be loved by all, He should be held in hatred by none. (See August.)

In the next place, he observes that those who assert that God wills bad actions and predetermines men to them, confess that they cannot conceive in what way God can be willing thus. (See Twiss, bk. 2, viii. 323. Moreover, says Twiss, I do not blush to confess, although I never doubted the holy nature of God, as most foreign to every charge of wickedness, that, nevertheless, this kept me long in suspense, namely, what was the true reason, what was the method of the divine working, whereby it happens that He mingles in every action as it were the most efficacious cause, yet beyond all contagion of error, on this side of the just suspicion of fault ? And whether to this day we have a sufficient explanation of everything, God only knows.)

Finally, he concludes with the moderation which, he thinks, ought to be deservedly noted, of the Church of Lyons, in the article concerning God wishing all to be saved. " May there be therefore among us," they say, " also concerning this matter, such good caution and moderation, so far that due honour may be paid to the Holy Fathers, and in whatsoever manner any one may acquiesce in those meanings which have been laid down by them concerning this sentence, let us not judge him to be a heretick ; but rather let us avoid the evil of contention, by which, even in the matter of peaceful and ecclesiastical meanings, he who would like to be contentious, is able to make out that to be heretical which he finds signified. Therefore in such matters let us restrain ourselves with a wholesome moderation, so that w^nay neither be bold to despise things nor attempt to affirm them as if necessary, always keeping in mind that Apostolic sentence: If, however, any one appears to be contentious, neither have we any such habit nor the Church of God. Let us read therefore in a peaceful frame of mind, and so far as the Lord gives, let us understand the dogmas of ecclesiastics, nor let us take part in fighting with some doctors against others ; because both they themselves have been abounding in peace in their own meaning, one in one way and one in another, waiting faithfully and humbly, for what the Apostle promises, saying : ' And if you are at all wise in other respects, this also will He reveal to you.' For he who does not express his meaning calmly and peacefully, but forthwith rises up in contention, dissension, and quarrels, even if he have not the heretical intention or sense, certainly has the heretical mind : And if even those good men who framed this definition wished to preserve the moderation of their piety, they would have done better to pass this matter over in silence, and have allowed to each his opinion concerning it according to his own faith and authority which he should think most to be recognised, and the quarrel between them of such a long and pernicious contention, being finished, the peace and unity of the Church of Christ would be restored."

So far the Church of Lyons. A wholesome and truly Christian warning, and if the Rulers and Pastors of the Christian world would obey it universally and seriously, there would not be so many contentions and quarrels in the Church of God.


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