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Charles Spurgeon’s Letters-Letter 171

WORDS OF SYMPATHY

To [Mr. and Mrs. Charles Spurgeon].

WESTWOOD, Sept. 11, 1890.

MY DEAR CHILDREN,—

The Lord Himself comfort you. I want comforting myself. To think of that dear little creature being taken away! It must be right! It must be goody Our Father is never mistaken nor unkind.

You are acting wisely in not bringing the little one from the place. You will be setting an example of common sense which is greatly needed in an age which is so sentimental as it is false-hearted.

If you would like a wreath from me, kindly order it in Herne Bay, and send the bill to me. I would try to send one, but if you are not going to have any, I should be setting an ill example.

I feel sure you will both find a secret strength poured into your souls, and in this also faith shall have the victory.

I shall never forget the day. For a wonder your dear mother went with me to the Orphanage, and was very happy. We came home, and the telegram came at once, — just the bitter herbs with the feast.

To you it must be a sharp cut; but our Lord has an almighty salve.

Your loving father,

C. H. SPURGEON.

The Wednesday Word: Our Saviour Attacked!

Don’t you just hate it when our Saviour is attacked?

Recently my friends from the International English Church in Seoul, S. Korea were sent a troubling Facebook Message penned by a gentleman named Michael Schermer. It read,

“Jesus died for our sins but he was only dead for three days. So what did He sacrifice? His weekend. Jesus gave up his weekend for our sins.”

I could not help but reply. Here’s what I wrote. “Good gracious! Mr. Schemer seems painfully ignorant of the remarkable Christ event and its ramifications. He thinks that a few short hours on the cross constitute our Saviour’s sacrifice. What has he been smoking? Does He not know that the entire incarnation was a sacrifice?

For God to leave his throne and become a member of the race He’d created was a sacrifice.

To empty Himself of the vestiges of Glory was a sacrifice.

To be born to a teenage Virgin with a controversial story (in the eyes of many) was a sacrifice.

To be a refugee in Egypt was a sacrifice.

To be spat upon was a sacrifice.

For the darling of heaven to be scorned and rejected was a sacrifice.

To be called demon possessed was a sacrifice.

To make Himself of no reputation was a sacrifice.

His entire 33 yrs was a sacrifice in which He demonstrated both to man and God what man should be.

Then he went to the cross to sacrifice Himself as a perfect ransom, sin offering, and wrath offering.

Everything he did for His people was a perfect sacrifice. Now, as P. T. Forsyth said, “Christianity is not the sacrifice that we make; it is the sacrifice that we trust.”

One can only pray that Mr. Schemer’s eyes will be opened to see the Glory of Christ and the magnitude of His sacrifice on behalf of His people.

As believers, we need to learn to say something when Jesus is attacked.

Some years ago E.V. Hill said, “There once was a Baptist deacon who was a very excellent deacon except for one matter… When annoyed, he was much given to the use of oaths and expletives. So, the Pastor, wanting to talk to the Deacon about this character flaw decided to take the gentleman fishing.

They’d been out in the water for 6 hours and had caught nothing. But all was not lost for the pastor had been able to gain assurances that the deacon would actively seek to amend the wicked ways of his wayward tongue.

Suddenly, the Pastor’s line had a bite. It was a big one! In fact, the two stalwart fishermen could see that this hooked fish was one of the largest either men had ever seen. Carefully, the pastor reeled the great fish towards the waiting net, but just as they were about to land it, the line snapped, and the inordinate fish got away.

The two men just sat still in dismayed silence, staring at each other. Eventually, the Deacon said, “Pastor, I thank you for your wise counsel earlier today, but in times like these, something needs to be said.” Yes indeed, something needs to be said.”

In times like these when people ridicule and attack our Saviour, something needs to be said.”

In times like these, when Islam says that Christ is one of many prophets and not God manifest in the flesh, something needs to be said.”

In times like these, when Mormons say that God created Jesus through a relationship with one of His celestial wives, something needs to be said.”

In times like these, when Jehovah Witness teach that Jesus was and is merely an angel who is just one of many “gods,” something needs to be said.”

In times like these when so called ministers of the gospel are silent on the murder of children in the womb, something needs to be said.”

In times like these when famous preachers deny the doctrine of Penal Substitution calling it ‘cosmic child abuse,’ instead, something needs to be said.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter II-Statement of the Doctrine

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter II

Statement of the Doctrine

In the Westminster Confession, which sets forth the beliefs of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches and which is the most perfect expression of the Reformed Faith, we read: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” And further, “Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet hath He not decreed any thing because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.”

This doctrine of Predestination represents the purpose of God as absolute and unconditional, independent of the whole finite creation, and as originating solely in the eternal counsel of His will. God is seen as the great and mighty King who has appointed the course of nature and who directs the course of history even down to its minutest details. His decree is eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise, and sovereign. It extends not merely to the course of the physical world but to every event in human history from the creation to the judgment, and includes all the activities of saints and angels in heaven and of reprobates and demons in hell. It embraces the whole scope of creaturely existence, through time and eternity, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be in their causes, conditions, successions, and relations. Everything outside of God Himself is included in this all-embracing decree, and that very naturally since all other beings owe their existence and continuance in existence to His creative and sustaining power. It provides a providential control under which all things are hastening to the end of God’s determining; and the goal is,

“One far-off divine event
Toward which the whole creation moves.”

Since the finite creation through its whole range exists as a medium through which God manifests His glory, and since it is absolutely dependent on Him, it of itself could originate no conditions which would limit or defeat the manifestation of that glory. From all eternity God has purposed to do just exactly what He is doing. He is the sovereign Ruler of the universe and “does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?” Dan_4:35. Since the universe had its origin in God and depends on Him for its continued existence it must be, in all its parts and at all times, subject to His control so that nothing can come to pass contrary to what He expressly decrees or permits. Thus the eternal purpose is represented as an act of sovereign predestination or foreordination, and unconditioned by any subsequent fact or change in time. Hence it is represented as being the basis of the divine foreknowledge of all future events, and not conditioned by that foreknowledge or by anything originated by the events themselves.

The Reformed theologians logically and consistently applied to the spheres of creation and providence those great principles which were later set forth in the Westminster Standards. They saw the hand of God in every event in all the history of mankind and in all the workings of physical nature so that the world was the complete realization in time of the eternal ideal. The world as a whole and in all its parts and movements and changes was brought into a unity by the governing, all-pervading, all-harmonizing activity of the divine will, and its purpose was to manifest the divine glory. While their conception was that of a divine ordering of the whole course of history to the veriest detail, they were especially concerned with its relation to man’s salvation. Calvin, the brilliant and systematic theologian of the Reformation, put the matter thus: “Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death.” 1

That Luther was as zealous for absolute predestination as was Calvin is shown in his commentary on Romans, where he wrote: “All things whatever arise from, and depend on, the divine appointment; whereby it was foreordained who should receive the word of life, and who should disbelieve it; who should be delivered from their sins, and who should be hardened in them; and who should be justified and who should be condemned.” And Melanchthon, his close friend and fellow-laborer, says: “All things turn out according to divine predestination; not only the works we do outwardly, but even the thoughts we think inwardly”; and again, “There is no such thing as chance, or fortune; nor is there a readier way to gain the fear of God, and to put our whole trust in Him, than to be thoroughly versed in the doctrine of Predestination.”

“Order is heaven’s first law.” From the divine viewpoint there is unbroken order and progress from the first beginnings of the creation to the end of the world and the ushering in of the kingdom of heaven in all its glory. The divine purpose and plan is nowhere defeated nor interrupted; that which in many cases appears to us to be defeat is not really such but only appears to be, because our finite and imperfect nature does not permit us to see all the parts in the whole nor the whole in all its parts. If at one glance we could take in “the mighty spectacle of the natural world and the complex drama of human history,” we should see the world as one harmonious unit manifesting the glorious perfections of God.

“Though the world seems to run at random,” says Bishop, “and affairs to be huddled together in blind confusion and rude disorder, yet, God sees and knows the concatenation of all causes and effects, and so governs them that He makes a perfect harmony out of all those seeming jarrings and discords. It is most necessary that we should have our hearts well established in the firm and unwavering belief of this truth, that whatever comes to pass, be it good or evil, we may look up to the hand and disposal of all, to God. In respect of God, there is nothing casual nor contingent in the world. If a master should send a servant to a certain place and command him to stay there till such a time, and, presently after, should send another servant to the same place, the meeting of these two is wholly casual in respect to themselves, but ordained and foreseen by the master who sent them. They fall out unexpectedly as to us, but not so as to God. He foresees and He appoints all the vicissitudes of things.” 2

The psalmist exclaimed, “O Jehovah our Lord, How excellent is thy name in all the earth!” And the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “He hath made everything beautiful in its time.” In the vision which the prophet Isaiah saw, the seraphim sang, “Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts: The whole earth is full of His glory.” When seen from this divine view-point every event in the course of human affairs in all ages and in all nations has, no matter how insignificant it may appear to us, its exact place in the development of the eternal plan. It has relations with preceding causes and exerts an ever widening influence through its effects so that it is related to the whole system of things and has its individual part in maintaining the perfect equilibrium of this world-order. Many instances might be given to show that events of the greatest importance have often depended upon what at the time appeared to be the most fortuitious and trivial events. The inter-relation and connection of events is such that if one of these were to be omitted or modified, all that follows soon would be modified or prevented. Hence the certainty that the divine administration rests on the foreordination of God extending to all events both great and small. And, strictly speaking, no event is really small; each one has its exact place in the divine plan, and some are only relatively greater than others. The course of history, then, is infinitely complex, yet a unit in the sight of God. This truth, together with the reason for it, is very beautifully summed up in the Shorter Catechism which states that, “The decrees of God are, His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

Dr. Abraham Kuyper, of Holland, who is recognized as one of the outstanding Calvinistic theologians in recent years, has given us some valuable thought in the following paragraph: “The determination of the existence of all things to be created, or what is to be camellia or buttercup, nightingale or crow, hart or swine, and equally among men, the determination of our own persons, whether one is to be born as boy or girl, rich or poor, dull or clever, white or colored or even as Abel and Cain, is the most tremendous predestination conceivable in heaven or on earth; and still we see it taking place before our eyes every day, and we ourselves are subject to it in our entire personality; our entire existence, our very nature, our position in life being entirely dependent on it. This all-embracing predestination, the Calvinist places, not in the hands of man, and still less in the hand of blind natural force, but in the hand of Almighty God, sovereign Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth; and it is in the figure of the potter and the clay that Scripture has from the time of the prophets expounded to us this all-dominating election. Election in creation, election in providence, and so election also to eternal life; election in the realm of grace as well as in the realm of nature.”3

We can have no adequate appreciation of this world-order until we see it as one mighty system through which God is working out His plans. Calvin’s clear and consistent theism gave him a keen sense of the infinite majesty of the Almighty Person in whose hands all things lay, and made him a very pronounced predestinarian. In this doctrine of the unconditional and eternal purpose of the omniscient and omnipotent God, he found the program of the history of the fall and redemption of the human race. He ventured boldly but reverently upon the brink of that abyss of speculation where all human knowledge is lost in mystery and adoration.

The Reformed Faith, then, offers us a great God who is really the sovereign Ruler of the Universe. “Its grand principle,” says Bayne, “is the contemplation of the universe of God revealed in Christ. In all places, in all times, from eternity to eternity, Calvinism sees God.” Our age, with its emphasis on democracy, doesn’t like this view, and perhaps no other age liked it less. The tendency today is to exalt man and to give God only a very limited part in the affairs of the world. As Dr. A. A. Hodge has said, “The new theology, asserting the narrowness of the old, is discarding the foreordination of Jehovah as a worn-out figment of the schools, discredited by the advanced culture of today. This is not the first time that the owls, mistaking the shadow of a passing eclipse for their native night, have prematurely hooted at the eagles, convinced that what is invisible to them cannot possibly exist.4

This, in general, is the broad conception of predestination as it has been held by the great theologians of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches.

Foreordination is explicitly stated in Scripture.

Act_4:27, Act_4:28: For of a truth in this city against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel foreordained to come to pass.

Eph_1:5: Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

Eph_1:11: In whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will.

Rom_8:29, Rom_8:30: For whom He foreknew, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom He foreordained, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.

1Co_2:7: But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory.

Act_2:23: Him (Jesus) being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hands of lawless men did crucify and slay.

Act_13:48: And as the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Eph_2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.

Rom_9:23: That He might make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, which He afore prepared unto glory.

Psa_139:16: Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance; And in thy book they were all written, Even the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was none of them.

1 Institutes, Book III, Ch. XXI, sec. 5.

2 Quoted by Toplady in Preface to Zanchius’ Predestination.

3 Lectures on Calvinism, p. 272.

4 Popular Lectures on Theological Themes, p. 158.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

Truth itself is ever twofold, and hence the Word of God is itself likened to a two-edged sword

As pointed out on a previous occasion, Truth itself is ever twofold, and hence the Word of God is itself likened to a two-edged sword. Not only is it, first, a revelation from God, and, second, addressed to human responsibility; but a great many passages in it have a twofold force and meaning, a literal and a spiritual; many of its prophecies possess a double fulfillment, a major and a minor; while promise and precept, or privilege and corresponding obligation, are ever combined. Cases of pairs are numerous. The two great lights (Genesis 1:16); two of every sort entering the ark (6:19). The two tables on which the Law was written. The two birds (Leviticus 14:4-7); the two goats (16:7); the twotenth deals of fine flour and the two loaves (23:13, 17). The repeated miracle of water from the smitten rock (Exodus 17, Numbers 20), as Christ also duplicated the feeding of a great multitude with a few loaves and fishes. The two signs to Gideon (Judges 6). The two olive trees (Zechariah 4). The two masters (Matthew 6:24); the two foundations (7:24-27). The two debtors (Luke 7:41); the two sons (15:11); the two men who went into the temple to pray (18:10). The two false witnesses against Christ (Matthew 26:60); and the two thieves crucified with Him. The two angels (Acts 1:10). The two “immutable things” of Hebrews (6:18). The two beasts (Revelation 13).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

A second argument arises from the fact, that the Holy Ghost has actually made different appearances on earth

A second argument arises from the fact, that the Holy Ghost has actually made different appearances on earth. The Great Spirit has manifested himself to man; he has put on a form, so that whilst he has not been beheld by mortal men, he has been so veiled in appearance that he was seen, so far as that appearance was concerned, by the eyes of all beholders. See you Jesus Christ our Savior? There is the river Jordan, with its shelving banks, and its willows weeping at its stale. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, descends into the stream, and the holy Baptist, John, plunges him into the waves. The doors of heaven are opened; a miraculous appearance presents itself, a bright light shineth from the sky, brighter than the sun in all its grandeur, and down in a flood of glory descends something which you recognize to be a dove. It rests on Jesus — it sits upon his sacred head, and as the old painters put a halo round the brow of Jesus, so did the Holy Ghost shed a resplendence around the face of him who came to fulfill all Righteousness, and therefore commenced with the ordinances of baptism. The Holy Ghost was seen as a dove, to mark his purity and his gentleness, and he came down like a dove from heaven to show that it is from heaven alone that he descendeth. Nor is this the only time when the Holy Ghost has been manifest in a visible shape. You notice that company of disciples gathered together in an upper room, they are waiting for some promised blessing, by-and-by it shall come. Hark! there is a sound as of a rushing mighty wind, it fills all the house where they are sitting, and astonished, they look around them, wondering what will come next. Soon a bright light appears, shining upon the beads of each: cloven tongues of fire sat upon them. What were these marvellous appearances of wind and flame but a display of the Holy Ghost in his proper person? I say the fact of an appearance manifests that he must be a person. An influence could not appear — an attribute could not appear: we cannot see attributes — we cannot behold influences. The Holy Ghost must then have been a person; since he was beheld by mortal eyes, and came under the cognizance of mortal sense.

Charles H. Spurgeon- “The Personality of the Holy Ghost,” A Sermon Delivered On Sabbath Morning, January 21, 1855

Updated: Free Ebooks Page

Just wanted to let you all know that my Free Ebooks Page has been updated. All links have been checked and a lot of new titles have been added. I hope you enjoy.

If you find a broken link, then please let me know. Thanks.

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If Christ should now appear to any one as he did on the mount at his transfiguration; or if he should appear to the world in his heavenly glory, as he will do at the day of judgment; without doubt, his glory and majesty would be such as would satisfy every one, that he was a divine person, and that religion was true

III. To show the truth of the doctrine, that is, to show that there is such a thing as that spiritual light that has been described, thus immediately let into the mind by God. And here I would show briefly, that this doctrine is both scriptural and rational.

Secondly, This doctrine is rational.

1. It is rational to suppose, that there is really such an excellency in divine things — so transcendent and exceedingly different from what is in other things — that, if it were seen, would most evidently distinguish them. We cannot rationally doubt but that things divine, which appertain to the Supreme Being, are vastly different from things that are human, that there is a high, glorious, and God-like excellency in them, that does most remarkably difference them from the things that are of men, insomuch that if the difference were but seen, it would have a convincing, satisfying influence upon any one, that they are divine. What treason can be offered against it? unless we would argue, that God is not remarkably distinguished in glory from men.

If Christ should now appear to any one as he did on the mount at his transfiguration; or if he should appear to the world in his heavenly glory, as he will do at the day of judgment; without doubt, his glory and majesty would be such as would satisfy every one, that he was a divine person, and that religion was true: and it would be a most reasonable and wellgrounded conviction too. And why may there not be that stamp of divinity, or divine glory, on the word of God, on the scheme and doctrine of the gospel, that may be in like manner distinguishing and as rationally convincing, provided it be but seen? It is rational to suppose, that when God speaks to the world, there should be something in his word vastly different from men’s word. Supposing that God never had spoken to the world, but we had notice that he was about to reveal himself from heaven, and speak to us immediately himself, or that he should give us a book of his own indicting; after what manner should we expect that he would speak? Would it not be rational to suppose, that his speech would be exceeding different from men’s speech, that there should be such an excellency and sublimity in his word, such a stamp of wisdom, holiness, majesty, and other divine perfections, that the word of men, yea of the wisest of men, should appear mean and base in comparison of it ? Doubtless it would be thought rational to expect this, and unreasonable to think otherwise. When a wise man speaks in the exercise of his wisdom, there is something in every thing he says, that is very distinguishable from the talk of a little child. So, without doubt, and much more, is the speech of God to be distinguished from thee of the wisest of men; agreeable to Jeremiah 23:28, 29. God having there been reproving the false prophets that prophesied in his name, and pretended that what they spake was his word, when indeed it was their own word, says, “The prophet that bath a dream, let him tell a dream, and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: what is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord: and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.”

Jonathan Edwards- A Divine And Supernatural Light Immediately Imparted To The Soul, By The Spirit Of God, Shown To Be Both A Scriptual And Rational Doctrine. [Preached at Norhampton, and published at the desire of some of the hearers, in the year 1734.]

Charles Spurgeon’s Letters-Letter 170

TO MESSRS. FULLERTON AND SMITH

WESTWOOD, Nov. 8, 1890.

DEAR FRIEND, —

Hearty thanks for notes better than those of the Bank. I shall try to issue notes on Genesis like your notes. Any on the first six chapters greatly valued.

My head! My head!

Yours heartily,

C. H. SPURGEON.

The Wednesday Word: The Overcoming Blood

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11).

Satan knows that if he can cause us to be occupied more with our failures than with the Gospel, he can destroy our peace and thus our effectiveness. The Lord, however, wants us to know that those old sins, those sins that cast long shadows, those particular, shameful, embarrassing sins that loom up in the rear view mirror to condemn us are all done away with through the blood. It is crucial that we grasp this truth and let it soak into our thinking. We must continually remember that God has dealt graciously and justly with all our failures through the blood of Jesus Christ.

But, how do we make this knowledge work practically?

Let’s say you are a believer in Jesus Christ, but you have just sinned. You disobeyed a clear command in God’s Word. Maybe it was anger or lust or swearing or stealing or whatever. The Holy Spirit immediately convicts you of sin. So, you repent and confess to God and appropriate His cleansing (1 John 1:9).

So far so good!

But, then the enemy comes and whispers, “A fine Christian you are! Do you really think your sins are forgiven? Ha! You’re not even saved! You’re guilty my friend, and you know it. Forget all of this nonsense about being saved by grace!”

How do we answer him? It would seem that he is right. We claim to be Christians and yet we deliberately and knowingly sinned against God. Here’s what we do. Respond to the devil’s accusations by the Gospel. Tell him, “You’re right, Satan, I did that sin. Nevertheless, my salvation does not rest on my performance, but on the perfect performance of the Lord Jesus who shed His blood for me. I’m trusting in Him and His shed blood. So the Lord rebuke you, Satan!” (Zechariah 3:1-5).

Now notice what our text says about overcoming the devil, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony!”

Did they overcome by ceaseless incantations? No!

Was it by the casting out of demons? No!

“But what formula did they use to overcome?” None!

“Did they overcome by binding and loosing?” No!

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by making their testimony what the blood had done. They testified that their sins had been taken away by the Lamb.

No accusation against us can stand before the throne of God because all Satan’s charges against us fall on deaf ears in heaven. That’s the power of the blood!

The blood of the Lamb is sufficient for our victory over Satan. Throughout the ages, the blood of Christ, the sacrificial lamb, has been the refuge and fortress to those who believe. By faith, we know and claim that the blood of Christ is entirely effective. It’s like this, either the Lord Jesus put away sin, or He didn’t. If He did not, how will it ever be put away? If He did, then Believers are in the clear.

By the way, when the enemy attacks us and accuses us, we shouldn’t take it personally. The attack is not against us. It’s against the Lord Jesus and His honour. The Devil always loves to attack the integrity and effectiveness of the blood as he insinuates that the Cross has not done enough for us. How he delights to cast aspersions on the Lord Jesus. How he enjoys trying to get believers to lose confidence in the blood of the Lamb.

However, the blood of the Lord Jesus is the conquering weapon. Had He not poured out His soul unto death, had He not been numbered with the transgressors we should have had no weapon with which to overcome the evil one.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter I-Introduction

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter I

Introduction

The purpose of this book is not to set forth a new system of theological thought, but to give a re-statement to that great system which is known as the Reformed Faith or Calvinism, and to show that this is beyond all doubt the teaching of the Bible and of reason.

The doctrine of Predestination receives comparatively little attention in our day and it is very imperfectly understood even by those who are supposed to hold it most loyally. It is a doctrine, however, which is contained in the creeds of most evangelical churches and which has had a remarkable influence both in Church and State. The official standards of the various branches of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Europe and America are thoroughly Calvinistic. The Baptist and Congregational Churches, although they have no formulated creeds, have in the main been Calvinistic ff we may judge from the writings and teachings of their representative theologians. The great free church of Holland and almost all the churches of Scotland are Calvinistic. The Established Church of England and her daughter, the Episcopal Church of America, have a Calvinistic creed in the Thirty-nine Articles. The Whitefield Methodists in Wales to this day bear the name of “Calvinistic Methodists.”

Among the past and present advocates of this doctrine are to be found some of the world’s greatest and wisest men. It was taught not only by Calvin, but by Luther, Zwingli, Melanchthon (although Melanchthon later retreated toward the Semi-Pelagian position), by Bullinger, Bucer, and all of the outstanding leaders in the Reformation. While differing on some other points they agreed on this doctrine of Predestination and taught it with emphasis. Luther’s chief work, “The Bondage of the Will,” shows that he went into the doctrine as heartily as did Calvin himself. He even asserted it with more warmth and proceeded to much harsher lengths in defending it than Calvin ever did. And the Lutheran Church today as judged by the Formula of Concord holds the doctrine of Predestination in a modified form. The Puritans in England and those who early settled in America, as well as the Covenanters in Scotland and the Huguenots in France, were thorough-going Calvinists; and it is little credit to historians in general that this fact has been so largely passed over in silence. This faith was for a time held by the Roman Catholic Church, and at no time has that church ever openly repudiated it. Augustine’s doctrine of Predestination set against him all the half-hearted elements in the Church and arrayed him against every man who belittled the sovereignty of God. He overcame them, and the doctrine of Predestination entered the belief of the universal Church. The great majority of the creeds of historic Christendom have set forth the doctrines of Election, Predestination, and final Perseverance, as will readily be seen by any one who will make even a cursory study of the subject. On the other hand Arminianism existed for centuries only as a heresy on the outskirts of true religion, and in fact it was not championed by an organized Christian church until the year 1784, at which time it was incorporated into the system of doctrine of the Methodist Church in England. The great theologians of history, Augustine, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Zanchius, Owen, Whitefield, Toplady, and in more recent times Hodge, Dabney, Cunningham, Smith, Shedd, Warfield, and Kuyper, held this doctrine and taught it with force. That they have been the lights and ornaments of the highest type of Christianity will be admitted by practically all Protestants. Furthermore, their works on this great subject have never been answered. Then, too, when we stop to consider that among non-Christian religions Mohammedanism has so many millions who believe in some kind of Predestination, that the doctrine of Fatalism has been held in some form or other in several heathen countries, and that the mechanistic and deterministic philosophies have exerted such great influences in England, Germany, and America, we see that this doctrine is at least worthy of careful study.

From the time of the Reformation up until about one hundred years ago these doctrines were boldly set forth by the great majority of the ministers and teachers in the Protestant churches; but today we find far the greater majority holding and teaching other systems. It is only rarely that we now come across those who can be called “Calvinists without reserve.” We may quite appropriately apply to our own churches the words of Toplady in regard to the Church of England: “Time has been when the Calvinistic doctrines were considered and defended as the Palladium of our Established Church; by her bishops and clergy, by the universities, and the whole body of the laity. It was (during the reigns of Edward VI, Queen Elizabeth, James I, and the greater part of Charles I) as difficult to meet with a clergyman who did not preach the doctrines of the Church of England, as it is now to find one who does. We have generally forsaken the principles of the Reformation, and Ichabod, or ‘the glory is departed,’ has been written on most of our pulpits and church-doors ever since.”1

The tendency in our enlightened age is to look upon Calvinism as a worn-out and obsolete creed. At the beginning of his splendid article on “The Reformed Faith in the Modern World,” Prof. F. E. Hamilton says, “It seems to be tacitly assumed by a large number of people in the Presbyterian Church today that Calvinism has been outgrown in religious circles. In fact, the average church member, or even minister of the gospel, is inclined to look upon a person who declares that he believes in Predestination, with a glance of amused tolerance. It seems incredible to them that there should exist such an intellectual curiosity as a real Calvinist, in an age of enlightenment like the present. As for seriously examining the arguments for Calvinism, the idea never enters their heads. It is deemed as out of date as the Inquisition, or the idea of a fiat world, and is looked upon as one of the fantastic schemes of thought that men held before the age of modern science.” Because of this present day attitude toward Calvinism, and because of the general lack of information concerning these doctrines, we regard the subject of this book as one of great importance.

It was Calvin who wrought out this system of theological thought with such logical clearness and emphasis that it has ever since borne his name. He did not, of course, originate the system but only set forth what appeared to him to shine forth so clearly from the pages of Holy Scripture. Augustine had taught the essentials of the system a thousand years before Calvin was born, and the whole body of the leaders of the Reformation movement taught the same. But it was given to Calvin with his deep knowledge of Scripture, his keen intellect and systematizing genius, to set forth and defend these truths more clearly and ably than had ever been done before.

We call this system of doctrine “Calvinism,” and accept the term “Calvinist” as our badge of honor; yet names are mere conveniences. “We might,” says Warburton, “quite as appropriately, and with equally as much reason, call gravitation ‘Newtonism,’ because the principles of gravitation were first dearly demonstrated by the great philosopher Newton. Men had been fully conversant with the facts of gravitation for long ages before Newton was born. These facts had indeed been visible from the first days of creation, inasmuch as gravitation was one of the laws which God ordained for the governing of the .universe. But the principles of gravitation were not fully known, and the far-reaching effects of its power and influence were not understood until they were discovered by Sir Isaac Newton. So, too, was it with what men call Calvinism. The inherent principles of it had been in existence for long ages before Calvin was born. They had indeed been visible as patent factors in the world’s history from the time of man’s creation. But inasmuch as it was Calvin who first formulated these principles into a more or less complete system, that system, or creed, if you will, and likewise those principles which are embodied in it, came to bear his name.”2 We may add further that the names Calvinist, Lutheran, Puritan, Pilgrim, Methodist, Baptist, and even the name Christian, were originally nicknames. But usage has established their validity and their meaning is well understood.

The quality which gave such force to Calvin’s teaching was his close adherence to the Bible as an inspired and authoritative book. He has been referred to as preeminently the biblical theologian of his age. Where the Bible led, there he went; where it failed him, there he stopped short. This refusal to go beyond what is written, coupled with a ready acceptance of what the Bible did teach, gave an air of finality and positiveness to his declarations which made them offensive to his critics. Because of his keen insight and power of logical development he has often been referred to as merely a speculative theologian. That he was a speculative genius of the first order is, of course, not to be denied; and in the cogency of his logical analysis he possessed a weapon which made him terrible to his enemies. But it was not on these gifts that he depended primarily when forming and developing his theological system.

Calvin’s active and powerful intellect led him to sound the depths of every subject which he touched. In his investigations about God and the plan of redemption he went very far, penetrating into mysteries concerning which the average man seldom if ever dreams. He brought to light a side of Scripture which had as yet been very much in the shade and stressed those deep truths which in the ages preceding the Reformation had comparatively escaped notice in the Church. He brought to light forgotten doctrines of the apostle Paul, and fastened them in their full and complete sense upon one great branch of the Christian Church.

This doctrine of Predestination has perhaps raised a greater storm of opposition, and has doubtless been more misrepresented and caricatured, than any other doctrine in the Scriptures. “To mention it before some,” says Warburton, “is like shaking the proverbial red flag before an enraged bull. It arouses the fiercest passions of their nature, and brings forth a torrent of abuse and calumny. But, because men have fought against it, or because they hate it, or perhaps misunderstand it, is no reasonable or logical cause why we should turn the doctrine adrift, or cast it behind our backs. The real question, the all-important question, is not: How do men receive it? but, Is it true?”3

One reason why many people, even supposedly educated people, are so quick to reject the doctrine of Predestination is because of pure ignorance of what the doctrine really is and of what the Bible teaches in regard to it. This ignorance is not at all surprising when one considers the almost complete lack of Bible training in our day. A careful study of the Bible would convince many people that it is a very different book than they assume it to be. The tremendous influence which this doctrine has exerted in the history of Europe and America should at least entitle it to a respectful hearing. Furthermore, we submit that according to all the laws of reason and logic a person has no right to deny the truth of a doctrine without first having studied in an unprejudiced manner the evidence on both sides. This is a doctrine which deals with some of the most profound truths revealed in Scripture and it will abundantly repay careful study on the part of Christian people. If any are disposed to reject it without first making a careful study of its claims, let them not forget that it has commanded the firm belief of multitudes of the wisest and best men that have ever lived, and that there must, therefore, be strong reasons in favor of its truth.

Perhaps a few words of caution should be given here to the effect that while the doctrine of Predestination is a great and blessed Scripture truth and a fundamental doctrine of several churches, it must never be looked upon as the sum and substance of the Reformed Faith. As Dr. Kuyper has said, “It is a mistake to discover the specific character of Calvinism in the doctrine of Predestination, or in the authority of Scripture. For Calvinism all these are logical consequences, not the point of departure — foliage bearing witness to the luxuriousness of its growth, but not the root from which it is sprouted.” If the doctrine is detached from its natural association with other truths and exhibited alone, the effect is exaggerated. The system is then distorted and misrepresented. A statement of any principle, in order to be true, must present it in harmony with all the other elements of the system of which it forms a part. The Westminster Confession of Faith is a balanced statement of this system as a whole, and it gives due prominence to those other doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the personality of the Holy Spirit, the Inspiration of the Scriptures, Miracles, the Atonement, Resurrection, the personal return of Christ, and so forth. Furthermore, we do not deny that the Arminians hold many and important truths. But we do hold that a full and complete exposition of the Christian system can be given only on the basis of the truth as set forth in the Calvinistic system.

In the minds of most people the doctrine of Predestination and Calvinism are practically synonymous terms. This. however, should not be the case, and the too close identification of the two has doubtless done much to prejudice many people against the Calvinistic system. The same is true in regard to a too close identification of Calvinism and the “Five Points,” as will be shown later. While Predestination and the Five Points are all essential elements of Calvinism, they by no means constitute its whole.

The doctrine of Predestination has been made the subject of almost endless discussion, much of which, it must be admitted, was for the purpose of softening its outlines or of explaining it away. “The consideration of this great doctrine,” says Cunningham, “runs up into the most profound and inaccessible subjects that can occupy the minds of men, — the nature and attributes, the purposes and the actings of the infinite and incomprehensible Jehovah, — viewed especially in their bearings upon the everlasting destinies of His intelligent creatures. The peculiar nature of the subject certainly demands, in right reason, that it should ever be approached and considered with the pro-foundest humility, caution, and reverence, as it brings us into contact, on the one side, with a subject so awful and overwhelming as the everlasting misery of an innumerable multitude of our fellow men. Many men have discussed the subject in this spirit, but many also have indulged in much presumptuous and irreverent speculation regarding it. There is probably no subject that has occupied more of the attention of intelligent men in every age. It has been most fully discussed in all of its bearings, philosophical, theological, and practical; and if there be any subject of speculation with respect to which we are warranted in saying that it has been exhausted, it is this.

“Some, at least, of the topics comprehended under this general head have been discussed by almost every philosopher of eminence in ancient as well as in modern times. * * * All that the highest ability, ingenuity, and acuteness can effect, has been brought to bear upon the discussion of this subject; and the difficulties attaching to it have never been fully solved, and we are well warranted in saying that they never will, unless God gives us either a fuller revelation or greatly enlarged capacities, — although, perhaps, it would be more correct to say that, from the very nature of the case, a finite being can never fully comprehend it since this would imply that he could fully comprehend the infinite mind.”4

In the development of this book much use has been made of other books in order that this one may contain the very cream and quintessence of the best authors on the subject. Consequently many of the arguments found here are from men very superior to the present writer. Indeed, when he glances at the whole he is inclined to say with a celebrated French writer, “I have culled a bouquet of varied flowers from men’s gardens, and nothing is my own but the string that binds them.” Yet much is his own, especially as regards the organization and arrangement of materials.

Throughout this book the terms “predestination” and “foreordination” are used as exact synonyms, the choice being deterrained only by taste. If a distinction be desired the word “foreordination’ can perhaps better be used where the thing spoken of is an event in history or in nature, while “predestination” can refer mainly to the final destiny of persons. The Scripture quotations have been made from the American Standard Version of the Bible rather than from the King James Version since the former is more accurate.

The author wishes particularly to thank Dr. Samuel G. Craig, Editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Dr. Frank H. Stevenson, President of the Board of Trustees of Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, Professor of Apologetics in Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. C. W. Hodge, Professor of Systematic Theology in Princeton Theological Seminary, under whose supervision this material in much shorter form was originally prepared, and Rev. Henry Atherton, General Secretary of the Sovereign Grace Union, London, England, for valuable assistance.

This book, we repeat, is designed to set forth and defend the Reformed Faith, commonly known as Calvinism. It is not directed against any particular denomination, but against Arminianism in general. The author is a Presbyterian,5 but he is well aware of the radical departure that the rank and file of Presbyterians have made from their own creed. The book is sent forth with the hope that those who profess to hold the Reformed Faith may have a better understanding of the great truths which are here treated and may value their heritage more highly; and that those who have not known this system, or who have opposed it, may be convinced of its truth and come to love it.

The question which faces us then, is. Has God from all eternity foreordained all things which come to pass ? If so, what evidence do we have to that effect. and how is the fact consistent with the free agency of rational creatures and with His own perfections?

1 Preface to Zanchius’ Predestination. p. 16.

2 Calvinism, p. 23.

3 Calvinism, p.23.

4 Cunningham, Historical Theology II, pp. 418, 419.

5 The author, a layman, is a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This is one of the smaller denominations, but one that seeks faithfully to maintain the Reformed heritage.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination