William Twisse on John Cotton and the doctrine of reprobation

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Reformed Covenanter, Sep 7, 2019.

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  1. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    I just read this extract in the preface to one of William Twisse's books (Twisse was the moderator of the Westminster Assembly), which was written in response to John Cotton of New England: William Twisse on John Cotton and the doctrine of reprobation

    Does anyone have any background information regarding this disagreement? I presume from what I have read in Twisse thus far that the divergence was caused primarily by different stances towards the lapsarian question, but I cannot say much else as the infra-supra debate is one that I have never been able to wrap my head around.

    @py3ak might know something about this subject . . .
     
  2. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    I'm interested in hearing this too. I can only imagine that conversations on the lapsarian topic would have been interesting with Twisse since he was both supralapsarian and also tended towards hypothetical universalism--a very rare combination indeed!
     
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  3. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    From what I am reading, there seems to have been a disagreement about the relationship of Christ to our election. William Twisse seemed to think that John Cotton was coming too close to certain Arminian errors on the subject. Francis Turretin, writing somewhat later, says that the Arminians and Lutherans held to the view that Christ was the cause of election rather than the good pleasure of God alone (Institutes, 1.14.1-19, 1: 350ff). Twisse also cites Thomas Aquinas against this view, but in Latin (I do seem to recall reading something in Summa Theologica to the same effect). Of course, my reading of Twisse may be totally wrong.
     
  4. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Here is an extract from the book, which seems to suggest that Cotton's view of reprobation was not high enough for Twisse:

    If God’s purpose to condemn to death, be an act of justice vindicative; then also God’s purpose to remunerate with eternal life, is an act of justice remunerative: And if God’s purpose of condemnation presuppose sin, it follows, that God’s purpose of remunerating with eternal life must also presuppose obedience; even obedience of faith, repentance, and good works; for all these God doth remunerate with eternal life. Here appeareth the foul tail of Arminianism, in the doctrine of Election, which this plausible doctrine of yours and of Master Moulin's, in the point of Reprobation, draws after it.

    William Twisse, A treatise of Mr. Cotton’s, Clearing certain doubts concerning predestination. Together with an examination thereof (London: Andrew Crook, 1646), p. 46.
     
  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Twisse also appears to suggest that his opinions on the subject are not the majority Reformed view:

    Perhaps you may say, Is not the contrariety between Election and Reprobation sufficiently maintained, by saying, the one is God's purpose ordaining to salvation; the other God's purpose ordaining to condemnation? I confess, it seems so, and is generally reputed to be so: and this I take to bee the principal cause of this error; one confusion drawing on more and more after it. But, I say, there is no congruous opposition between salvation and damnation; for, to damn is either finally to punish, or to adjudge to punishment.

    William Twisse, A treatise of Mr. Cotton’s, Clearing certain doubts concerning predestination. Together with an examination thereof (London: Andrew Crook, 1646), p. 47 (emphasis added).
     
  6. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    More on the same theme:

    So that Election, as it is God’s purpose ordaining to salvation, by way of reward, is only opposite contrarily to Reprobation, as it signifies God’s purpose ordaining to condemnation. More fairly, and void of all equivocation, thus: Like as Reprobation is God’s purpose to punish with everlasting death; so Election is God’s purpose to remunerate with everlasting life. And thus the contrariety of these acts being rightly stated, it follows as evidently, that Election must presuppose, not obedience, but the fore-sight of obedience; as Reprobation presupposeth not sin, but the fore-sight of sin. And thus are wee tumbled into the very gulf of Arminianism, over head and ears, before we are aware. But it may be this discourse of mine may raise such a Spirit as will not easily be laid; and hereupon some may the more profusely be carried to embrace Arminianism, in the very point of Election also; because, as Reprobation seems to be an act of justice vindicative; so Election also, as here it is stated, seems to be an act of justice remunerative. And I willingly confess, I never found any Arminian that discerns the advantage which our Divines do afford them, by shaping the doctrine of Reprobation as they do

    William Twisse, A treatise of Mr. Cotton’s, Clearing certain doubts concerning predestination. Together with an examination thereof (London: Andrew Crook, 1646), p. 48 (emphasis added).

    Twisse seems to be saying here that the way most divines frame the doctrine of reprobation affords an advantage to the Arminians, as it would (at least as he sees it) logically lead to an Arminian view of election.
     
  7. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I suppose the best way to gain some light on the subject would be to track down the original treatise by Mr. Cotton. It was ingenuous of Twisse to confess that none of the Arminians had perceived the polemical advantage given to them by the way Reformed divines framed their doctrine of election. To an outside observer, it raises the possibility that Twisse discerned an advantage that may not have been there.

    His axiom that what is first in intention is last in execution admits of the qualification that some things are co-ordinate not subordinate. And it is less simplistic than it might seem, since he explicitly connects it only to those things that bear a relationship of means and ends. I think some lapsarian discussions go astray because they don't stay focused on the question of ends and means, and when the kitchen sink gets added in it's inevitable that things get confusing. But although Twisse's favorite axiom bears careful consideration, the repetition of that phrase tends to come across as somewhat sloganeering.

    My brother was considering doing his Ph.D. on Twisse, but wound up working on Peter Sterry instead.
     
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  8. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    To be perfectly truthful, I have always found William Twisse to be something of an odd fish. Even his book on the fourth commandment was a bit weird. I saw an interesting quote from the above-cited book and decided to read the whole thing, but, in hindsight, it would have been better to have begun by reading John Cotton's work.
     
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