1505 Scotland Street
November 6, 1959
Dear Dr. Cole:
Do you think you can stand another letter from me? I shall try not to be so verbose this time!
Your wonderful and most helpful letter came two weeks ago tomorrow, so you can see it was in plenty of time for our meeting last night. I was going to acknowledge it immediately; then it occurred to me that if I waited till after the meeting, I could “kill two birds with one stone,” so to speak—thank you for the letter and report on the meeting as well.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate the time and trouble you have taken to help a complete stranger—and yet, perhaps, we are not such strangers after all, as we are related through the bonds of the gospel. But you went to a great deal of work, I am afraid, to answer my letter at such length and in such detail and I appreciate it more than I can say. But above all, I feel I owe you a debt of boundless gratitude for your article on Election which sparked off my interest in it and subsequent study of it. I feel as if a completely new world has opened up to me; I get almost excited over it all, Dr. Cole. I do hope it is not wrong to attach so much importance to it, but somehow, I feel as if it is the most significant and personal doctrine in the whole Bible. Nothing should eclipse the Atonement I know; but I feel that even my conversion, somehow, never made the impression on me that Election has. When you have been brought up in a Christian family, heard the Scriptures from childhood and been active in the Church, there isn’t the marked cleavage, somehow, when one becomes a Christian that there is if you have been turned from a life of vice. Is it because we don’t feel, in the innermost recesses of our being, that we need Christ as badly as the other type does?
I don’t know; but I have often felt that I didn’t have the joy in my Christian life that I should. It seemed stale and flat, so often; one did things for the Lord from a sense of duty. Sometimes I have even wondered if I were saved at all. Now all that is changed. The very fact that my salvation is all of grace—in the application of it as well as the provision of it—has transformed everything for me. And I have you to thank for it. Oh, how wonderful it must be to a minister to be so used of God.
When I first read your pamphlet, in addition to all my other objections to Election, I didn’t like the idea that (in a sense) I had nothing to do with becoming a Christian. I had always supposed that, with the Spirit’s help, I had had sense enough and intelligence enough to recognize something worthwhile and take it! It didn’t appeal to me at all to think that if I had been elected, I really had nothing to do with my salvation at all—even in the accepting of it. But now that is almost the best part of it! It is humbling and breath-taking and frightening and thrilling all at once. I just can’t get over it, Dr. Cole. To think that all these years (I am 41), I have missed this tremendous teaching and the thrill and joy of it.
It has made my salvation and conversion much more real and personal. I have always envied people who spoke with such joy of their conversion and felt that something had happened, I never could. I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t believe, if you know what I mean. And it has worried me; I’ve had a sneaking fear that maybe all I had was a head or credal belief because I was brought up in a Christian home and accepted that as I did other patterns of behaviour and thought. I have prayed off and on for months that if I were saved the Lord would make me realize it beyond all shadow of doubt and give me “the joy of His salvation”. Not just a barren orthodoxy.
Never did I dream of getting the “witness of the spirit” through the doctrine of Election. I wouldn’t want the Lord to think I’m not grateful for salvation. I am; but right now, I feel as if I’m more grateful for Election. Is that wrong?
Over and over I keep saying to myself, like someone rescued from a sinking vessel, when others are lost, “Why me? Why me?”. When I wake up in the morning, I used to feel tired and exhausted and wish I didn’t have to go to work (I am a war widow); now, almost as soon as I am conscious, I have the feeling that something new and exciting has happened—and then it flashes across my mind in a wave of remembrance—”you are elected” and I get so excited I am wide awake instantly and ready to be up and doing.
I cannot explain it—but somehow as long as you feel that you had the least little bit to do with your own conversion, it takes away some of the thrill and bloom of it. But when the full impact of the thought and realization hits you—that not only the provision of salvation is due to God’s grace but also His choice of you as recipient, one can only stand back and marvel—lost in wonder, love and praise.
Now, I must tell you about last night. There were nearly 30 women out. Nothing that we have studied in the 7 or 8 years that I have taught that class has so stirred them as this Doctrine! They came with Bibles and pens—and objections! I went all over it again very carefully, reminding them first that:
1. The depravity of man required it (election) elaborating on your point that we are just deceiving ourselves if we think any of us would ever want or seek God in our unregenerate state apart from the Holy Spirit and election. (#Ge 6:5 Ps 14:3 Isa 64:3 Ro 3:10 Eph 2:1 —I had them look up and read aloud these references).
2. The sovereignty of God justifies it—He has the same rights over us as the potter with the clay, etc., emphasising such qualities of God as His absolute Righteousness, Holiness, Omniscience, Self-Existence, etc. which entitles Him to act in a sovereign way.
3. The righteousness and Holiness of God safe-guards it; it cannot be unjust for it is absolutely impossible for God to do anything wrong, be unfair, unjust, unfaithful… “He cannot deny Himself”. Regardless of how it may appear to us we have this knowledge and comfort that the Judge of all the earth will do righteously.
Well, after I had made my points, the members asked questions. I felt really sorry for one woman in my class. She has come to our church from the United Church. I think she is saved—but periodically one detects in her thinking and from her remarks, a throwback to the United Church doctrine of salvation through works! Evidently she has been really wrought up over this subject—which I consider a good sign. I told her she couldn’t have been any more disturbed than I was at first. She cannot see that it is not unjust of God. I thought your illustration of being on the fence and God pushing them to one side or the other excellent, so I elaborated on that. I think, with most of them, they finally began to see a glimmer of light that if God hadn’t elected some, none would be saved.
We all seem to have the same reaction—that if the decision had been left to us, we had a better chance of getting saved than by having God settle it all in Eternity; because we don’t or won’t accept that teaching that of ourselves we are incapable of reaching out for God. I told them that in our natural state, we are dead in trespasses and sins and a corpse just cannot flicker even an eyelash! So they were just deceiving themselves if they thought for one minute that they would ever accept Christ, apart from God taking certain measures to make them.
Well, our discussion went on for about 1 1/2 hours! This woman also thought as did others that Scriptures elsewhere we contradicted by Election—such as #Joh 3:16 1Jo 2:2. I was glad to have your explanation of “all” and “world” rarely being used in the absolute sense.
Also, #Joh 6:37 —”Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out” —I told them to look up the first part of that verse and they would get a shock! I had! “All that the Father hath given unto me shall come unto me—etc.” Of course Christ wouldn’t cast out any who came because any who came would be those whom the Father had given! They were simply stunned! But seemed to react more as if it made sense and were opening up new worlds of thought.
Afterwards, while we were waiting for tea, this one particular woman came to me. I did feel so sorry for her; she was flushed and almost tearful and I said, “Edythe, is it any clearer?” She hesitated and said, “Yes, in some respects. But there are other things that I just feel I can’t reconcile with my ideas of God and the Bible”. I said, “Don’t try, Edythe, Dr. Cole told me not to attempt to reconcile all points of this teaching with other passages of Scripture because I would only confuse myself, and I believe he is right”. By the way, that was a wonderful help to me, personally, what you told me about just getting a confused mind. I just let go all the arguments, after reading your letter, and told the Lord that I guessed I had struggled long enough trying to crowd the ocean of His theology into the teacup of my mind and I wasn’t going to fuss anymore about the points I didn’t understand. He understood them and that was good enough for me. And it is since then that I have had such peace.
I tried to tell something of this to Edythe; she said, “Marjorie, I have nearly gone out of my mind this week”. And her voice broke. She said, “I can’t think of anything else and I go over and over it until I am nearly crazy”. I just ached with pity for her because I had been through the same thing until I got your letter back.
It flashed across my mind that perhaps your letter would help her too. So I asked her if she would like a copy of my questions to you and your reply. She was terribly grateful. I had them with me so was able to let her have them right away. Would you pray with me that she will get peace and learn, by the help of the Holy Spirit to love this doctrine as we do?
One other member, a new-comer to my class although she has been in our church several years, said to me with the sweetest smile afterwards, “I am like you; I know now I have been elected and it is simply thrilling. I wish you could have seen my husband, though. He wanted to come so badly tonight—he asked me if I thought you would mind if he slipped into a back seat”! It seems her husband took her pamphlet and read it; was so thrilled and worked up over it, he read it again and said that never in all his life had he heard anything like it—why don’t we hear about it? And do you know, Dr. Cole, person after person has said that to me; “Why don’t our ministers preach it??”
One girl, also from the southern states (Texas—but not the one I mentioned in my first letter; she wasn’t out last night) has been very keen on this, but admitted to me on different occasions that it simply upset a lot of her ideas and understandings! However, last night, as I closed she said, in front of all the others, almost with a blissful sigh, “Well, it certainly takes the fear out of dying, doesn’t it”? And you know, that is what I have felt so strongly. I just stared at her for a minute when she said it—it was the echo of my own heart. Sometimes I feel I can’t wait to get to heaven and learn more about Election and all the rest of the Bible.
A third woman, mother of a 6 year old boy, said to me, “Marjorie, I don’t know. It is wonderful. I feel that since this study and the thought I have given to Election that everything has cleared up in my mind. And so many passages of Scripture fit in and make sense now when they didn’t before”.
Yet another girl has talked to me different times and said that at first she felt (when I taught my first lesson in Sept.) that she was opposed to it. But the more she read your pamphlet and thought about it, the more she thought the doctrine really was taught in the Bible and therefore she should be willing to believe it and leave the parts she didn’t understand until she got to heaven! Last night, after we were finished, she whispered to me across the table, “Well, I’m happy too, tonight Marjorie. But I’m afraid some aren’t. But it’s more a case of won’t with them.
However, I am praying that the Holy Spirit will do His work in the hearts of those that are confused or resisting. I feel their very interest is encouraging and, as you so truly put it, none of us likes this doctrine; it takes the Holy Spirit to teach a person to love it.
Now, I promised you I wouldn’t write such a long letter and I have. I do hope you aren’t bored. But I am so full of it all and so indebted to you that I felt I had to overflow to you. Have you, by any chance, had any of your other teachings put up in pamphlet form? I was looking over some old Witnesses the other day and saw several of yours in serial form, on Sin, Salvation, etc. I should love to have them complete. I sent away for 40 copies of your ELECTION pamphlet and distributed them to my class in Sept., so they have had them to study and mull over ever since! I can never thank you enough for your article. Certainly God must have led you to have it printed.
It would be so wonderful to sit under that kind of preaching today. Why don’t ministers preach doctrinal sermons anymore—instead of this milky, predigested, topical preaching that so many give? No wonder Christians today aren’t strong and virile and know what they stand for—they have never got off the milk of the Word onto the strong meat. I heard one Baptist minister say that we are “snackbar” Christians today when we should be dining-room Christians. And I think he had something.
Now, I must go. Again, my heartfelt thanks for all you have done for me. I pray God’s richest blessings upon you and yours and your ministry for Him which will be fruitful, I am sure, beyond your deepest imaginings and hopes.
Yours in Him,
(Mrs.) Marjorie Bond
Dr. C. D. Cole-The Bible Doctrine of Election-Part II-Questions and Answers on Election
UNDER THE BLOOD.
JEHOVAH our God, we thank Thee for leaving on record the story of Thine ancient people. It is full of instruction to ourselves. Help us to take its warning to avoid the faults into which they fell! Thou art a covenant God, and Thou keepest Thy promises and Thy Word never faileth. We have proved this so hitherto : —
“Thus far we find that promise good,
Which Jesus ratified with blood.”
But as for ourselves we are like Israel of old, a fickle people, and, we confess it with great shame, there are days when we take the timbrel and we sing with Miriam “unto the Lord who triumphed gloriously;” and yet, we grieve to say it, not many hours after, we are thirsty, and we cry for water, and we, murmur in our tents; the brackish Marah turns our heart and we are grieved with our God. Sometimes we bow before Thee with reverence and awe when we behold Thy Sinai altogether on a smoke; but there have been times when we have set up the golden calf and we have said of some earthly things, “These be Thy gods, O Israel.” We believe with intensity of faith and then doubt with a horribleness of doubt.
Lord, Thou hast been very patient with us. Many have been our provocations, many have been Thy chastisements, but : —
“Thy strokes are fewer than our crimes,
And lighter than our guilt.”
“Thou hast: not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Blessed be Thy name!
And now fulfill that part of the covenant wherein Thou hast said, “A new heart also will I give thee and a right: spirit will I put within thee. I will put My fear in their hearts and they shall not depart from Me.” Hold us fast and then we shall hold fast to Thee. Turn us; and we shall be turned; keep us and we shall keep Thy statutes.
We cry to Thee that we may no more provoke Thee. We beg Thee rather to send the serpents among us than to let sin come among us. Oh! that we might have our eye always on the brazen serpent that healeth all the bites of evil, but may we not look to sin nor love it. Let not the devices of Balaam and of Balak prevail against us, to lead Thy people away from their purity. Let us not be defiled with false doctrine or with unholy living, but may we walk as the separated people of God and keep ourselves unspotted from the world. Lord, we would not grieve Thy Spirit. Oh! may we never vex Thee so as to lead Thee in Thy wrath to say, “They shall not enter into my rest.” Bear with us still for His dear sake whose blood is upon us. Bear with us still and send not the destroying angel as Thou didst to Egypt, but again fulfill that promise of Thine, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.”
Just now may we be consciously passed over by the Spirit of condemnation; may we know in our hearts that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” May we feel the peace giving power of the Divine absolution. May we come into Thy holy presence with our feet washed in the brazen laver, hearing our great High Priest say to us, “Ye are clean every whit.” Thus made clean may we draw near to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Further, our heavenly Father, we come before Thee now washed in the blood, wearing the snow white robe of Christ’s righteousness, and we ask Thee to remember Thy people. Some are sore burdened; lighten the burden or strengthen the shoulder. Some are bowed down with fear; peradventure they mistrust; forgive the mistrust and give a great increase of faith that they may trust Thee where they cannot trace Thee. The Lord remember any who bear the burden of others. Some cry to Thee day and night about the sins of the times, about the wanderings of Thy Church. Lord, hear our prayers! We would bear this yoke for Thee, but help us to bear it without fearing so as to distrust Thee. May we know that Thou wilt take care of Thine own case and preserve Thine own truth, and may we therefore be restful about it all.
Some are crying to Thee for the conversion of relatives and friends; this burden they have taken up to follow after Jesus in the cross bearing. Grant them to see the desire of their heart fulfilled. God, save our children and children’s children, and if we have unconverted relatives of any kind, the Lord have mercy upon them for Christ’s sake. Give us joy in them — as much joy in them as Christians as we have had sorrow about them as unbelievers.
Further, be pleased to visit Thy Church with the Holy Spirit. Renew the day of Pentecost in our midst, and in the midst of all gatherings of Thy people may there come the downfall of the holy fire, the uprising of the heavenly wind. May matters that are now slow and dead become quick and full of life, and may the Lord Jesus Christ be exalted in the midst of His Church which is His fullness, “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” May multitudes be converted; may they come flocking to Christ with holy eagerness to find in Him a refuge as the doves fly to their dovecotes.
Oh! for salvation work throughout these islands and across the sea and in every part of the world, specially in heathen lands. Bring many to Christ’s feet, we pray Thee, everywhere where men are ready to lay down their lives that they may impart the heavenly life of Christ. Work, Lord, work mightily! Thy Church cries to Thee. Oh, leave us not! We can do nothing without Thee! Our strength is wholly Thine! Come to us with great power, and let Thy Word have free course and be glorified.
Remember every one that calls Thee Father. May a Father’s love look on all the children. May the special need of each one be supplied, the special sorrow of each one be assuaged. May we be growing Christians, may we be working Christians, may we be perfected Christians, may we come to the fullness of the stature of men in Christ Jesus. Lord Jesus, Thou art a great pillar; in Thee doth all fullness dwell. ‘Thou didst begin Thy life with filling the waterpots to the full; Thou didst fill Simon Peter’s boat until it began to sink; Thou didst fill the house where Thy people were met together with the presence of the Holy Ghost; Thou dost fill heaven; Thou wilt surely fill all things; fill us, oh! fill us to-day with all the fullness of God, and make Thy people thus joyful and strong, and gracious and heavenly!
But we cannot leave off our prayer when we have prayed for Thy people, though we have asked large things; we want Thee to look among the thousands and millions round about us who know Thee not. Lord, look on the masses who go nowhere to worship. Have pity upon them; Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. Give a desire to hear Thy Word. Send upon the people some desire after their God. O Lord take sinners in hand Thyself. Oh! come and reach obstinate, obdurate minds; let the careless and the frivolous begin to think upon eternal things. May there be an uneasiness of heart, a sticking of the arrows of God in their loins, and may they seek too the great Physician and find healing this very day. Ah! Lord, Thou sayest “To-day, if ye will hear His voice,” and we take up the echo. Save men to-day, even to-day. Bring them Thy Spirit in power that they may be willing to rest in Christ. Lord, hear, forgive, accept and bless, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
C. H. Spurgeon’s Prayers
The angel who appeared to the fathers under the Law asserts that he is Jehovah. That angel was the Logos of the Eternal Father. The Son being that Logos is Eternal God. Impiety of Servetus refuted. Why the Son appeared in the form of an angel.
10. But if this does not satisfy the Jews, I know not what cavils will enable them to evade the numerous passages in which Jehovah is said to have appeared in the form of an Angel, (Judges 6:7:13:16-23, etc.) This Angel claims for himself the name of the Eternal God. Should it be alleged that this is done in respect of the office which he bears, the difficulty is by no means solved. No servant would rob God of his honor, by allowing sacrifice to be offered to himself. But the Angel, by refusing to eat bread, orders the sacrifice due to Jehovah to be offered to him. Thus the fact itself proves that he was truly Jehovah. Accordingly, Manoah and his wife infer from the sign, that they had seen not only an angel, but God. Hence Manoah’s exclamation, “We shall die; for we have seen the Lord.” When the woman replies, “If Jehovah had wished to slay us, he would not have received the sacrifice at our hand,” she acknowledges that he who is previously called an angel was certainly God. We may add, that the angel’s own reply removes all doubt, “Why do ye ask my name, which is wonderful?” Hence the impiety of Servetus was the more detestable, when he maintained that God was never manifested to Abraham and the Patriarchs, but that an angel was worshipped in his stead. The orthodox doctors of the Church have correctly and wisely expounded, that the Word of God was the supreme angel, who then began, as it were by anticipation, to perform the office of Mediator. For though he were not clothed with flesh, yet he descended as in an intermediate form, that he might have more familiar access to the faithful. This closer intercourse procured for him the name of the Angel; still, however, he retained the character which justly belonged to him — that of the God of ineffable glory. The same thing is intimated by Hosea, who, after mentioning the wrestling of Jacob with the angel, says, “Even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial,” (Hosea 12:5.) Servetus again insinuates that God personated an angel; as if the prophet did not confirm what had been said by Moses, “Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?” (Genesis 32:29, 30.) And the confession of the holy Patriarch sufficiently declares that he was not a created angel, but one in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt, when he says, “I have seen God face to face.” Hence also Paul’s statement, that Christ led the people in the wilderness, (1 Corinthians 10:4. See also Calvin on Acts 7:30, and infra, chap. 14 s. 9.) Although the time of humiliation had not yet arrived, the eternal Word exhibited a type of the office which he was to fulfill. Again, if the first chapter of Zechariah (ver. 9, etc.) and the second (ver. 3, etc.) be candidly considered, it will be seen that the angel who sends the other angel is immediately after declared to be the Lord of hosts, and that supreme power is ascribed to him. I omit numberless passages in which our faith rests secure, though they may not have much weight with the Jews. For when it is said in Isaiah, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord: we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation,” (Isaiah 25:9,) even the blind may see that the God referred to is he who again rises up for the deliverance of his people. And the emphatic description, twice repeated, precludes the idea that reference is made to any other than to Christ. Still clearer and stronger is the passage of Malachi, in which a promise is made that the messenger who was then expected would come to his own temple, (Malachi 3:1.) The temple certainly was dedicated to Almighty God only, and yet the prophet claims it for Christ. Hence it follows, that he is the God who was always worshipped by the Jews.
John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation
The preacher’s task is both the most honorable and the most solemn of any calling, the most privileged and at the same time the most responsible one. He professes to be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, a messenger sent forth by the Most High. To misrepresent his Master, to preach any other Gospel than His, to falsify the message which God has committed to his trust, is the sin of sins, which brings down upon him the anathema of heaven (Galatians 1:8), and will be visited with the sorest punishment awaiting any creature. Scripture is plain that the heaviest measure of Divine wrath is reserved for unfaithful preachers (Matthew 23:14; Jude 1:13). Therefore the warning is given,
“be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1)
if unfaithful to our trust. Every minister of the Gospel will yet have to render a full account of his stewardship unto the One whom he claims called him to feed His sheep (Hebrews 13:17), to answer for the souls who were committed to his charge. If he fails to diligently warn the wicked, and he dies in his iniquity, God declares “his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezekiel 3:18).
Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures
Mp3 Download Click here.
We shall divide God’s gifts into five classes. First, we shall have gifts temporal; second, gifts saving; third, gifts honorable; fourth, gifts useful; and fifth, gifts comfortable. Of all these we shall say, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”
5. Lastly, GIFTS COMFORTABLE are of God. O, what comfortable gifts do some of us enjoy in the ordinances of God’s house, and in a ministry that is profitable. But how many churches have not a ministry of that kind; and why then have we? Because God hath made a difference. Some here have strong faith, and can laugh at impossibilities; we can sing a song in all ill weathers — in the tempest as well as in the calm. But there is another with little faith who is in danger of tumbling down over every straw. We trace eminent faith entirely to God. One is born with a melancholy temperament, and he sees a tempest brewing even in the calm; while another is cheerful, and sees a silver lining to every cloud, however black, and he is a happy man. But why is that? Comfortable gifts come of God. And then observe that we ourselves, differ at times. For a season we may have blessed intercourse with heaven, and be permitted to look within the veil? But anon, these delightful enjoyments are gone. But do we murmur on that account? May he not do as he will with his own ? May he not take back what he has given ? The comforts we possess were his before they were ours.
“And shouldst thou take them all away,
Yet would I not repine,
Before they were possessed by me
They were entirely shine.”
There is no joy of the Spirit — there is no exceeding blessed hope — no strong faith — no burning desire — no close fellowship with Christ, which is not the gift of God, and which we must not trace to him. When I am in darkness and suffer disappointment, I will look up and say, he giveth songs in the night; and when I am made to rejoice, I will say, my mountain shall stand fast for ever. The Lord is a Sovereign Jehovah; and, therefore, prostrate at his feet I lie, and if I perish, I will perish there.
But let me say, brethren, that so far from this doctrine of Divine Sovereignty making you to sit down in sloth, I hope in God it will have a tendency to humble you, and so to lead you to say, “I am unworthy of the least of all thy mercies. I feel that thou hast a right to do with me as thou wilt. If thou dost crush me, a helpless worm, thou wilt not be dishonored; and I have no right to ask thee to have compassion upon me, save this, that I want thy mercy. Lord, if thou wilt, thou art able to pardon, and thou never gavest grace to one that wanted it more. Because I am empty, fill me with the bread of heaven; because I am naked, clothe me with thy robe; because I am dead, give me life.” If you press that plea with all your soul and all your mind, though Jehovah is a Sovereign, he will stretch out his scepter and save, and thou shalt live to worship him in the beauty of holiness, loving and adoring his gracious sovereignty. “He that believeth” is the declaration of Scripture “and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” He that believeth in Christ alone, and is baptized with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, shall be saved, but he who rejecteth Christ and believeth not in him, shall be damned. That is the Sovereign decree and proclamation of heaven — bow to it, acknowledge it, obey it, and God bless you.
Charles H. Spurgeon-Sermon-Divine Sovereignty-Delivered May 4 1856
746 West Noel Madisonville, Kentucky October 20, 1959
Mrs. Marjorie Bond
1505 Scotland Street
My Dear Mrs. Bond:
Greetings in the Name of His whose Name is above every name!
Your good letter under date of the 5th, was duly received. And it could not have reached me at a busier time, which accounts for my delay in making reply. I am a clerk of Little Bethel Association, and your letter came the first day of our annual meeting. There was a lot of work in preparing for the meeting, and much more work in getting the material in the hands of the printer. At first, I thought I would write briefly, stating my situation, and promising to get to it as soon as possible. And then it occurred to me that I might save this time in the hope of getting to the matter before the time you mentioned ran out. I trust you will not take my delay as evidence of indifference on my part. Moreover, due to infirmities of age, I do not have the capacity for work I once enjoyed.
First of all, let me commend you for your honest attitude towards the doctrine of ELECTION and related subjects; and may I also congratulate you on your grasp of these doctrines. I rarely receive such a well-written letter on any subject. You put your problems in a clear perspective, which makes it easier to deal with them. And I can answer sympathetically because your problems are also my own problems. Much as I would like to solve them for you, I fear my efforts will be disappointing.
I believe you are unduly disturbed over your inability to harmonize all that is in the Bible. This Book is the revelation of the Infinite and the finite mind cannot understand to perfection all that God has revealed. To be able to do so would be an argument against the Bible as God-breathed, and reduce it to a mere human production. Moreover, the determination to harmonize apparent contradictions is sure to result in one of three things, found in actual life. One will either ignore Sovereignty on the one hand, or human responsibility on the other hand, or else be plagued with a disturbed mind as you confess to having. On the one side are the so-called Primitive Baptist (Hardshells), who cannot reconcile human inability with responsibility in the matter of repentance and faith. And so they emphasize the doctrines of sovereignty, the Divine decrees, and human inability, and ignore the Scriptures which command sinners to repent and believe the gospel, hence they have no gospel for the lost. On the other hand there are those who preach the doctrines of human responsibility and the command to repent and believe, and have nothing to say about human inability, the Divine decrees, and sovereignty. Here in my own church and association, as well as throughout the South generally, there is little heard of Election, Depravity, and Sovereignty in salvation. It is because the brethren feel they cannot preach both; that the two are beyond reconciliation—the one being true, the other must be false. Now, in your case there is both the determination to accept all Scripture and to harmonize them, resulting in a confused and disturbed mind. Let us, at the risk of being called inconsistent, take all the Scriptures whether we can harmonize them or not. Dr. J.B. Moody ( one of my fathers in the faith) used to say, that if one waited to accept the doctrines until he could harmonize them, he would never accept them; the way to harmonize them is to receive them without question, and they will harmonize on the inside of the soul. This may not be exactly true, but it will be of help. I am not saying that we should make no effort to harmonize seeming contradictory doctrines, but I do warn against a persistent determination to do so. With this introduction, I will now take up your questions in their order.
1. It is true that most (I would say all) people feel that election is unjust. This is not strange since the carnal mind is enmity against God. People may love a god of their own invention, but only born-again believers can love a Sovereign God who does what He will with His own (1Jo 4:7). God’s rights with the sinful human race are the rights of a potter over the clay. We can readily see that the criminal has no claims upon the human court, and it is just as true that the sinner has no claims upon an offended God. Moreover, to say that election is unjust is to put salvation on the basis of justice, thus robbing every sinner of any hope.
When we find people who seem to be interested in salvation, we are encouraged to think they are of the elect, for the elect are not saved without becoming interested in salvation. When we pray for their salvation, we are not asking the Holy Spirit to put them on the fence where they may fall off on either side. They are already on the wrong side—the attitude of ignorant rejection of Christ —and we pray that He may translate them from the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son (#Col 1:13). We pray for their conversion to faith in Christ, that they may not be left to the choice of a depraved nature. Why He does not convict and convert everybody we preach to and pray for is due to His sovereignty and not to His weakness. We do not pray to a weak God. However, we must distinguish between the desire to be saved from sin and the desire to be saved from Hell. Nobody wants to burn, but the desire to be saved from sin is a holy desire created by the Holy Spirit. When He creates such a desire His further work of conversion will follow, but we cannot assuredly determine the motive of the desire.
You ask to what extent are they (the non-elect) responsible for being lost? They are responsible for all the sins they commit and for their sinful nature also. What one does is a revelation of what he is. This is not apparent to our sense of justice. I cannot see how God can justly hold me responsible for the exercise of a sinful nature inherited—for a nature I had nothing to do with acquiring—for a nature I was born with. If I were to sit in judgment on God (perish the thought) I would say that it is not right to punish me for an inherited sinful nature. I accept my responsibility for sin even though I cannot understand the justice of it. Those who have not been “ear-marked” for salvation fall into two groups—those who have the gospel preached to them, and those who never hear of Christ as Saviour. Those who have the gospel preached to them are responsible for all their sins, including the sin of rejecting Christ, while those who never hear of Him are free from the sin of rejecting Him, although they are guilty of other sins for which they are held responsible. The heathen who have never heard the gospel will not have to answer for the sin of unbelief. Whether we can understand it or not, the sinner in all his depravity and helplessness is accountable to God.
The woman in your class who remarked that the doctrine of election makes everything so hopeless, adding that she thought anyone could be saved; that the decision was “theirs,” might be answered this way. Anyone can be saved who is willing to be saved God’s way through faith in Christ, but nobody, left to himself, wants to be saved this way. God’s way is foolishness to him #1Co 2:14 2Co 4:3-6 Ro 10:1-3
The decision is “theirs” but the decision to trust Christ is the result of a renewed mind—the result of grace in the soul. Paul speaks of the time when he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 26:9). In the telling of his conversion he ascribes it to the grace of God #1Co 15:10 Ga 1:14-16 There is no self-salvation, either in providing it or applying it. The work of the Spirit in us is as essential as the work of Christ for us. Paul says that the Jews were asking for a sign (they wanted him to perform a miracle) and that the Greeks were clamouring for wisdom (they wanted him to philosophize), but without catering to the wishes of either, he preached Christ crucified. Salvation through faith in a crucified Christ was to the natural Jew a scandal, and to the Greek it was foolishness. Those effectually called by the Holy Spirit were able to see the power and wisdom of God in such a plan of salvation #1Co 1:22-31 Why God does not effectually call more than He does is not due to inability but to sovereignty. As I say in my article on election, we must either limit God’s power or His mercy, or go over boots and baggage to universalism. If God is trying to save everybody and does not succeed, He is not almighty; if He is not trying to save everybody His mercy is not universal. #Ro 9:18 makes it clear that His mercy is limited and is sovereignly bestowed. Deserving mercy is a contradiction of terms. The flesh in us—remnants of depravity—rebels at this aspect of Divine sovereignty. The writer is aware of this, just as you seem to be.
2. There are passages like #Joh 3:16 1Jo 2:2 which seem to teach that Christ died for every individual. However, the word “world” rarely ever means every individual of the human race. The word “world” is sometimes used to distinguish between the saved and the lost (#1Jo 5:19); between the Jew and the Gentile (#Ro 11:11-15) and between the few and the many (#Joh 12:19). I believe #Joh 3:16 1Jo 2:2 teach that Christ died for Gentiles as well as Jews. He died for men as sinners and not as any class or kind of sinners. The Jews thought their Messiah, when He came, would deliver them and destroy the Gentiles. John says that He is the propitiation or Mercy-seat for all believers regardless of class or colour. In other words, Christ is no tribal Saviour. If we think of Christ’s death as substitutionary, then I agree with Spurgeon, that He died for the elect only. If he died as the substitute for every individual, then every individual would be saved, else His death was in vain. Now I believe there is a sense in which Christ’s death affects every person. By His death He bought the human race, not to save every individual, but in order to dispose of every individual. The right to judge this world is Christ’s reward for His suffering. All judgment has been committed unto the Son (#Joh 5:22). In the parable of the hid treasure, Christ is the man who bought the field (world) for the sake of the treasure (the elect) for the sake of those given Him by the Father (#Mt 13:44). See also #Joh 17:6-11 2Pe 2:1. Incidentally, the word for Lord in #2Pe 2:1 is Despot (Gk. despotes), and indicates more authority than Kurios (Lord).
In #2Pe 3:9, the apostle is explaining why the Lord has not returned to this earth, the reason being, that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This refers to His will of purpose. It is God’s purpose that all should come to repentance and be saved. In longsuffering He waits until all the “us-ward” have been brought to repentance. The “us-ward” are described as those who had obtained the like precious faith (#2Pe 1:2); who had ben given all things that pertain to life and godliness (#2Pe 1:3); and who had escaped the corruption that is in the world (#2Pe 1:4). In #2Pe 3:15, the apostle tells the same “us-ward,” that they are to account the longsuffering of the Lord as salvation. Christ’s longsuffering towards the elect keeps Him on His mediatorial throne until all have been saved. Had He come sooner than planned, many of the elect would not have been saved. I have been a Christian for 51 years, and if He had come before my conversion, I would have perished in my sins. It is not His will of purpose that any of those given to Him by the Father shall perish. The words “all” and “every” are hardly ever used in the absolute sense #Mt 3:5-7 1Co 4:5 The “all” of #2Pe 3:9 are all of the “us-ward” who shall be brought to repentance. This is not good grammar, but it is good theology and necessary to plainness. Christ will not come in judgment until all those given Him by the Father have come to repentance. When He comes He will usher in the new era of the “New heavens and a new earth,” wherein dwelleth righteousness.
3. The story told you by your dear father has been duplicated in many cases of people who seem to be under deep conviction, and yet oppose those who try to lead them to Christ. Such conviction is not of the Holy Spirit, who convicts of the sin of unbelief and leads to faith in Christ. Such cases do reveal the fact of the enmity of the carnal mind towards God, and not a mind wrought upon by the Holy Spirit. A case in point is that of Felix who trembled at the preaching of Paul and then dismissed him until a more convenient season (#Ac 24:25).
There is a natural conviction of sin which may be felt by everybody when confronted by his sin (#Joh 8:9), and there is evangelical conviction by the Holy Spirit, and leading to repentance and faith. God never abandons the good work He begins in the soul (#Php 1:6). The Holy Spirit, in my judgment, never tries to regenerate one of the non-elect. There is much Scripture for this. The New Testament speaks often of those given to the Son by the Father and their salvation is assured. These are called “sheep” and “elect” before they come to Christ. #Joh 6:37-44 10:14-16,25-28 2Ti 2:10 You ask whether or not the woman referred to was an “elect”? I do not know. I can only say that at the time she gave no evidence of being an elect. However, later she may have been convicted by the Holy Spirit of the sin of unbelief and brought to repentance. We can only judge whether a person is an elect or not by his attitude toward the gospel of Christ. If she were a sheep of Christ, she did come to His at some later date, for Christ says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”.
4. “Many are called, but few are chosen” (#Mt 20:16 22:14). Calling in the New Testament usually means the effectual call to salvation—saints are made by a Divine call, but it cannot mean that many hear the invitation to accept Christ who have not been chosen by God to salvation (#1Th 1:4-7 2Th 2:13). Calling and choosing are not the same. The choosing or electing took place in eternity past; calling takes place in time and brings about conversion to faith in Christ. There is a general call given to every sinner in gospel preaching, and there is the special call of the Holy Spirit, inducing acceptance of the general call. The general call in gospel preaching is to men as sinners; the special call by the Holy Spirit is to the elect and results in salvation. Romans 8:28 refers to this effectual call. #1Co 1:26 Ga 1:15,16
5. You complain of being “caught up in a sort of fatalistic attitude —that what is to be will be”. There is a vast difference between cold, impersonal something called “fate,” and the providential workings of a great and wise God. Things do not come to pass by cold fate, but by God, “Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (#Eph 1:11). Dr. Charles Hodge was once asked if he believed what is to be will be. He replies, “Why yes I do; would you have me believe that what is to be won’t be?” Prophecy is the Divine prediction of many things which are to be, and these predictions have been or will yet come to pass.
The second paragraph of your letter on this subject expresses a glorious truth. God is ruling this world, making even the wrath of man to praise Him; the remainder of wrath men might do, He restrains. #Ps 76:10 Pr 21:1
Referring to the 1st paragraph of your letter on page 27 it is true that the elect will be saved, and that my failure to witness will not thwart God’s purpose to save them. God uses me, but He is not dependent upon me. I dare not think that God is helpless without me; if I fail He can use someone else. I am not to witness because of any assured results, but in obedience to His will of command. I cannot know His will of purpose concerning those to whom I bear testimony, We are to witness to people as sinners and not as elect sinners. Election has nothing to do with our obligation to witness. Isaiah preached when he was told there would be no good results in the way of response from the people. #Isa 6:8-13
Your letter closes with questions concerning prayer. I have no hope of giving much help here, but will make some observations. Prayer is one of the means by which God brings to pass what He has decreed. Answered prayer is indited by the Holy Spirit. He knows the mind and will (purpose of God) and makes intercession for us according to the will of God (#Ro 8:26,27). How one may know that his prayer is indited by the Holy Spirit, I cannot tell. But the Holy Spirit leads us to pray for that which is within the circle of the Divine will, and if we ask anything according to His will He heareth us (#1Jo 5:14). We are taught to pray for His will to be done. This shows we are not to try to change His will by our praying. This would take control out of His hands and put us in charge.
Whether we can harmonize our praying with His decrees or not; It is our duty to pray because He commands it (#Lu 18:1). Prayer implies two things: our inability and His ability. Prayer is an act of dependence upon God who is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” #Eph 3:20.
I do not presume to be able to reconcile the doctrine of Divine decrees with such passages as #Jas 4:2,3 5:16. But I can see how prayer can prevail without changing God, when I think of it as one of the means by which His will of purpose is effected. In Mueller’s case, I can think that he was led by the Holy Spirit to spend the night on his knees as the means of getting milk for the children. We have the same difficulty in the case of Paul’s ship-wreck as recorded in Acts 27. When all hope of being saved was gone (#Ac 27:20), the angel of God told Paul there would be no loss of life. He then comforts the despairing sailors, soldiers, and prisoners, saying, Be of good cheer; for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me (#Ac 27:25). Then later when the sailors were about to abandon the ship, Paul said to the centurion and soldiers “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” (#Ac 27:31). God had declared there would be no loss of life, and Paul believed Him, and yet he believed their safety depended upon the sailors staying with the ship. We might charge Paul with inconsistency but there it is.
As to praying for the sick, we must always pray without knowing what the Divine will is in every particular case. It is appointed unto men once to die, and when the appointed time comes our praying will not cancel the Divine will. David recognized this in praying for his sick child. He fasted and prayed while the child was alive, but when the child died, he bowed to the manifest will of God and said, “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me that the child may live?” #2Sa 12:22. Paul’s prayer for the thorn to be removed is another case of asking for something outside the circle of God’s will of purpose. Paul prayed without knowing the will of God, and when it was made known to him, that sustaining grace would be given rather than the removal of the thorn, he bowed in sweet submission and said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (#2Co 12:9).
My mind often reverts to the terrible war between our North and our South—the so-called “Civil War”. There were men of God on both sides—men of piety and prayer—who pleaded with God for victory. I believe it is conceded that the most outstanding men of God belonged to the Southern Army—such men as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Johnston. And now all of us rejoice that it was God’s will for the Union to be saved.
It is becoming in all of us to seek our Father’s face and pray for His blessings, and then bow in reconciliation to His mysterious providence in our lives.
“God holds the key of all unknown, and I am Glad;
If other hands should hold the key, Or if He trusted it to me,
I might be sad
“What if tomorrow’s cares were here Without its rest!
I’d rather He unlocked the day; And as the hours swing open, say,
‘My will is best.’
“The very dimness of my sight Makes me secure;
For groping in my misty way, I feel His hand; I hear Him say
‘My help is sure.’
I cannot read his future plans; But this I know;
I have the smiling of His face, And all the refuge of His grace,
While here below.
“Enough! this covers all my wants, And so I rest!
For where I cannot He can see, And in His care I safe shall be,
We are all poor sinners in the need of an adequate Saviour. This Saviour is the Lord Jesus Christ Who says, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”. If Christ is the Saviour of sinners, this poor sinner can qualify for salvation. I praise Him for dying for me, and I praise the Holy Spirit for making me to realize my helplessness and for taking the things of Christ and showing them to me (#Joh 16:14,15).
May the Lord bless you in the coming discussion on Nov. 5th, and make you a blessing to others! I wish I might have been of more help in this reply to your questions. Let me exhort you not to worry over failure to be able to reconcile doctrines which seem to our finite minds to be contradictory.
With heartfelt thanks for this opportunity to discuss with you some of the deep things of God, I am
Yours in gospel bonds,
Dr. C. D. Cole-The Bible Doctrine of Election-Part II-Questions and Answers on Election