Home > Calvinism, Election > The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XVIII- That it Discourages all motives to exertion

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XVIII- That it Discourages all motives to exertion

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XVIII

That It Discourages All Motives to Exertion

2. PRACTICAL RESULTS

The genuine tendency of these truths is not to make men indolent and careless, but to energize and stimulate them to redoubled efforts. Heroes and conquerors, such as Cæsar and Napoleon, have often been possessed with a sense of destiny which they were to fulfill. This sense steels the nerve, redoubles the courage, and fixes in of an indomitable purpose to carry his work through to a successful finish. Large and difficult objects can only be achieved by men who have confidence in themselves, and who will not allow obstacles to discourage them. “This idea of destiny once embraced,” says Mozley, “as it is the natural effect of the sense of power, so in its turn adds greatly to it. The person as soon as he regards himself as predestined to achieve some great object, acts with so much greater force and constancy for the attainment it; he is not divided by doubts, or weakened by scruples or fears; he believes fully that he shall succeed, and that belief is the greatest assistance to success. The idea of a destiny in a considerable degree fulfills itself . . . . It must be observed that this is true of the moral and spiritual, as well as of the natural man, and applies to religious aims and purposes, as well as to those connected with human glory.” 4

E. W. Smith, in his valuable little book, “The Creed of Presbyterians,” writes as follows: “The most comforting and ennobling is also the most energizing of faiths. That its grim caricature, fatalism, has developed in human hearts an energy at once sublime and appalling is one of the common-places of history. The early and overwhelming onrush of Mohammedanism, which swept the East and all but overthrew the West, was due to its devotees’ conviction that in their conquests they were but executing the decrees of Allah. Attila the Hun was upborne in his terrible and destructive course by his belief that he was the appointed ‘Scourge of God.’ The energy and audacity which enabled Napoleon to attempt and achieve apparent impossibilities was nourished by the secret conviction that he was ‘the man of destiny.’ Fatalism has begotten a race of Titans. Their energy has been superhuman, because they believed themselves the instruments of a super-human power.

“If the grim caricature of this doctrine has breathed such energy, the doctrine itself must inspire a yet loftier, for all that is energizing in it remains with added force when for a blind fate, or a fatalistic deity, we substitute a wise, decreeing God. Let me but feel that in every commanded duty, in every needed reform, I am but working out an eternal purpose of Jehovah; let me but hear behind me, in every battle for the right, the tramp of the Infinite Reserves; and I am lifted above the fear of man or the possibility of final failure.” (pp. 180, 181).

In an English newspaper, “The Daily Express,” of April 18, 1929, we read the following concerning Earl Haig, who was Commander-in-Chief of the British armies in the First World War, and who was a Scotsman and a Calvinistic Presbyterian: “Most remarkable as regards Haig’s own personality is the disclosure that this reserved, cold, formal man had a profound faith, and in the greatest crises of the war believed implicitly that help would come from above, and that he regarded himself as the chosen of the Lord, the Cromwell who alone could smite the foe. He was genuinely convinced that the position to which he had now been called was one which he and he alone in the British Army could fill. It was not conceit. There was no man who was less inclined to over-estimate his own value or capacity; it was opinion based upon the discernment of all the factors. He came to regard himself with almost Calvinistic faith as the predestinated instrument of Providence for the achievement of victory for the British armies. His abundant self-reliance was reinforced by this conception of himself as the child of destiny.”

The genuine tendency of these truths, then, as stated before, is not to make men indolent and careless, nor to lull them to sleep on the lap of presumption and carnal security, but to energize and to inspire confidence. Both reason and experience teach us that the greater one’s hope of success, the stronger becomes the motive to exertion. The person who is sure of success in the use of appropriate means has the strongest of incentives to work, while on the other hand, where there is but little hope there will be but little disposition for one to exert himself; and where there is no hope, there will be no exertion. The Christian, then, who has before him the definite commands of God, and the promise that the work of those who obediently and reverently avail themselves of the appointed means shall be blessed, has the highest possible motives for exertion. Furthermore, he is elevated and inspired by the firm conviction that he himself is marked out for a heavenly crown.

Who ever stated the doctrine of election more plainly or in more forcible language than did the Apostle Paul? And yet who was ever more zealous and more untiring in his labors than Paul? His theory made him a missionary and impelled him to set forth Christianity as final and triumphant. How cheering it must have been for him in Corinth to hear the words, “Be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to harm thee; for I have much people in this city,” Acts 18:10. What greater incentive to action could have been given him than this, that his preaching was the divinely appointed means for the conversion of many of those people? Notice, God did not tell him how many people He had in that city, nor who the individuals were. The minister of the Gospel can go forward confident of success, knowing that through this appointed means God has determined to save a vast number of the human family in every age. In fact, one of the strongest pleas for missions is that evangelism is the will of God for the whole world; and only when one acknowledges the sovereignty of God in every realm of life can he have the deepest passion for the Divine glory.

The experience of the Church in all ages has been that this doctrine has led men, not to neglect, nor to stolid unconcern, nor to rebellious opposition to God, but to submission and to a sure trust in Divine power. The promise given to Jacob that his posterity was to be a great people did not in the least prevent him from using every available means for protection when it looked as though Esau might kill him and his family. When Daniel understood from the prophecies of Jeremiah that the time for the restoration of Israel was at hand, he set himself earnestly to pray for it (Daniel 9:2, 3). Immediately after it had been revealed to David that God would establish his house, he prayed earnestly for that very thing (2 Samuel 7:27-29). Although Christ knew what had been appointed for His people, He prayed earnestly for their preservation (John, Ch. 17). And although Paul had been told that he was to go to Rome and bear witness there, it did not in the least cause him to be careless of his life. He took every precaution to protect himself against an unfair trial by the Jerusalem mob, and against an unwise voyage (Acts 23:11; 25:10, 11; 27:9, 10). The decree of God was that all those on board the ship should be saved, but that decree took in the free and courageous and skillful activity of the seamen. Their freedom and responsibility were not in the least diminished. The practical effect of this doctrine, then, has been to lead men to frequent and fervent prayer, knowing that their times are in God’s hands and that every event of their lives is of His disposing.

Furthermore, it may be said that so long as the sinner remains ignorant of his lost and helpless condition, he remains negligent. Probably there is not a careless sinner in the world who does not believe in his perfect ability to turn to God at any time he pleases; and because of this belief he puts off repentance, fully intending to come at some more convenient time. Just in proportion as his belief in his own ability increases, his carelessness increases, and he is lulled to sleep on the awful brink of eternal ruin. Only when he is brought to feel his entire helplessness and dependence upon sovereign grace does he seek help where alone it is to be found.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

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