08 February, 2017

John Knox (c.1514-1572) on Ezekiel 33:11

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezek. 33:11)


[Source: On Predestination, in Answer to the Cavillations by an Anabaptist [1560], pp. 406, 408-410; spelling and punctuation modernized; emphasis added]

But here you say, that God wills the death of no creature [Eze. 33:11], but that he wills all men to be saved [I Tim. 2:4]; which last words being understand as you do urge them, must destroy the former nature of God, and take away his justice. For if he absolutely wills the death of no creature, then wills he no punishment to follow sin. And if he will no punishment, then willeth he his justice to cease, and so, consequently, must one of the properties of his godly nature cease. Study for an answer, to make your former words and latter words better agree, or else you will be compelled to confess, that God, for some respect, willeth both death and damnation to come upon some creatures ... Now it resteth to declare how violently you wrest the words of the Prophet and of the Apostle. The Prophet, speaking in the person of God, saith, ‘I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he convert, and live.’ And the Apostle affirmeth, that God will all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Hereupon you conclude, God wills the death of no creature: this is your first violence which you do to the text. For the Prophet saith not, ‘I will the death of no creature,’ but saith, ‘I will not the death of a sinner.’ You are not ignorant, I suppose, what difference there is betwixt a universal negative and an indefinite, or particular. Where you say, God willeth the death of no creature, you speak generally and universally, excepting none. But so doth not the Prophet, for he saith not, ‘I will the death of no creature,’ neither yet ‘I will the death of no sinner,’ but simply saith, ‘I will not the death of a sinner.’ I wonder that you consider not that as there is difference betwixt creatures and creature, so that also there is difference betwixt sinners and sinner. Some creatures are appointed to death, for the use and sustentation of man. And dare you say, that this is done against God’s will! We be taught the contrary by his own mouth. If you, correcting your generality, shall say, that you mean only that God wills the death of no man. And I fear not yet to join with you, and against you to affirm, that God hath willed, doth will, and shall will the death of some men. The Holy Ghost, speaking of the sons of Eli the high priest saith, ‘But they did not hear the voice of their father, because the Lord would kill them’ [I Sam. 2:25]. And Moses saith, ‘Sihon king of Heshbon would not suffer us to pass through his country for the Lord thy God did harden his mind, and strengthen his heart, that he should give him into thy hands’ [Deut. 2:30]. How often doth Moses and Joshua declare unto the people, that God would kill, root out, and destroy, those wicked nations from before the face of his people! And were all those kings, whom Joshua did kill, killed against God’s will? The Holy Ghost affirmeth the contrary. For it is written, ‘the Lord did trouble them before Israel, and he did strike them with a great slaughter. And while that they did flee before the Israelites, and were in the descent of Beth-horon, the Lord cast down upon them from heaven great stones; and many more perished by the hail stones that were slain with the sword of the children of Israel’ [Josh. 10:10-11]. If the destruction, slaughter, and death, of these wicked men, and of the great host of Sennacherib, was not the will of God, I can not tell how man shall be assured of his will. For the plain word did before promise, that the Lord should destroy them; and the fact doth witness the constancy and performance of his will. And the same thing doth God this day, and shall do to the end of the world, when he shall adjudge the reprobate (as before is said) to the death perpetual; and that not against his will, but willingly, for the manifestation of his just judgments, and declaration of his own glory [Rom. 9:22-23]. And therefore, I say, that your proposition, saying, ‘God willeth the death of no creature,’ is manifestly false, as it that repugneth to God’s justice and to his evident Scriptures. The minds of the Prophets was to stir such as had declined from God, to return unto him by true repentance. And because their iniquities were so many, and offences so great, that justly they might have despaired of remission, mercy, and grace, therefore doth the Prophet, for the better assurance of those that should repent, affirm. ‘That God delighteth not, neither willeth the death of the wicked,’ but of which wicked? Of him, no doubt, that truly should repent, in his death did not, nor never shall God delight. But he delighteth to be known a God that sheweth mercy, grace, and favour to such as unfeignedly call for the same, how grievous soever their former offences have been. But such as continue obstinate in their impiety, have no portion of these promises. For them will God kill, them will he destroy, and them will he thrust, by the power of his Word, into the fire which never shall be quenched.

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