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The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXI- That it precludes a sincere offer of the Gospel to the non-elect

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXI

That It Precludes A Sincere Offer Of The Gospel To The Non-elect

2. THE OFFER IS SINCERELY MADE

God commanded Moses to gather together the elders of Israel, to go to Pharaoh and demand that they be allowed to go three days’ journey into the wilderness to hold a feast and offer sacrifices. Yet in the very next verse God Himself says, “I know that the king of Egypt will not give you leave to go, no, not by a mighty hand,” Exodus 3:18,19. If it is not inconsistent with God’s sincerity for Him to command all men to love Him, or to be perfect (Luke 10:27; Matthew 5:48), it is not inconsistent with His sincerity for Him to command them to repent and believe the Gospel. A man may be altogether sincere in giving an invitation which he knows will be refused. A father who knows that his boys are going to do wrong feels constrained to tell them what is right. His warnings and pleadings are sincere; the trouble is in the boys.

Will any one contend that God cannot sincerely offer salvation to a free moral agent unless in addition to the invitation He exerts a special influence which will induce the person to accept it? After a civil war in a country it often happens that the victorious general offers free pardon to all those In the opposing army, provided they will lay down their arms, go home, and live peaceable lives, although he knows that through pride or malice many will refuse. He makes the offer in good faith even though for wise reasons he determines not to constrain their assent, supposing him possessed of such power.

We may imagine the case of a ship with many passengers on board sinking some distance out from shore. A man hires a boat from a near-by port and goes to rescue his family. Incidentally it happens that the boat which he takes is large enough to carry all the passengers, so he invites all those on the sinking vessel to come on board, although he knows that many of them, either through lack of appreciation of their danger, or because of personal spite toward him, or for other reasons, will not accept. Yet does that make his offer any the less sincere? “If a man’s family were with others held in captivity, and from love of them and with the purpose of their redemption, a ransom should be offered sufficient for the delivery of the whole body of captives, it is plain that the offer of deliverance might be extended to all on the ground of that ransom, although specially intended only for a part of their number. Or, a man may make a feast for his own friends and the provisions be so abundant that he may throw open his doors to all who are willing to come. This is precisely what God, according to the Calvinistic doctrine, has actually done. Out of special love to His people, and with the design of securing their salvation He has sent His Son to do what justifies the offer of salvation to all who choose to accept it.1

When the Gospel is presented to mankind in general nothing but a sinful unwillingness on the part of some prevents their accepting and enjoying it. No stumbling block is put in their way. All that the call contains is true; it is adapted to the conditions of all men and freely offered if they will repent and believe. No outside influence constrains them to reject it. The elect accept; the non-elect may accept if they will, and nothing but their own nature determines them to do otherwise. “According to the Calvinistic scheme,” says Dr. Hodge, “the non-elect have all the advantages and opportunities of securing their salvation, that, according to any other scheme, are granted to mankind indiscriminately. Calvinism teaches that a plan of salvation adapted to all men and adequate for the salvation of all, is freely offered to the acceptance of all, although in the secret purpose of God He intended that it should have precisely the effect which in experience it is found to have. He designed in its adoption to save His own people, but consistently offers its benefits to all who are willing to receive them. More than this no anti-Calvinist can demand.” 2

Arminians object that God could not offer the Gospel to those who in His secret counsel were not designed to accept it; yet we find the Scriptures declaring that He does this very thing. His commands to Pharaoh have already been referred to. Isaiah was commissioned to preach to the Jews, and in 1:18, 19, we find that he extended a gracious offer of pardon and cleansing. But in 6:9-13, immediately following his glorious vision and official appointment, he is informed that this preaching is destined to harden his countrymen to their almost universal destruction. Ezekiel was sent to speak to the house of Israel, but was told beforehand that they would not hear, Ezekiel 3:4-11. Matthew 23:33-37 presents the same teaching. In these passages God declares that He does the very thing which Arminians say He must not do. Hence the objection now under consideration has arisen not because of any Calvinistic misstatement of the divine plan, but through erroneous assumptions made by Arminians themselves.

The decree of election is a secret decree. And since no revelation has been given to the preacher as to which ones among his hearers are elect and which are non-elect, it is not possible for him to present the Gospel to the elect only. It is his duty to look with hope on all those to whom he is preaching, and to pray for them that they may each be among the elect. In order to offer the message to the elect, he must offer it to all; and the Scripture command is plain to the effect that it should be offered to all. Even the elect must hear before they can believe and accept, Romans 10:13-17. The attentive reader, however, will perceive that the invitations are not, in the strict sense, general, but that they are addressed to the “weary,” the “thirsty,” the “hungry,” the “willing,” those who “labor and are heavy laden,” and not to those who are unconscious of any need and unwilling to be reformed. While the message is preached to all, it is God who chooses among the hearers those to whom He is speaking, and He makes this selection known to them through the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. The elect thus receive the message as the promise of salvation, but to the non-elect it appears only as foolishness, or if their conscience is aroused, as a judgment to condemnation. As a rule, the non-elect are not concerned about salvation, do not envy the elect their hope of salvation, but rather laugh and scorn at them. And since the secret as to which ones in the audience belong to the elect is hidden from the preacher, usually he does not know who got the message to salvation and who got it to judgment. Among the elect themselves there are so many weaknesses, and on the other hand the evil one is so able to appear as an angel of light and to make such an outward show of good deeds and words, that the preacher usually cannot be sure of the outcome. The effect of the preaching is not in the preacher’s hands, but in God’s hands; and it often happens that the sermons which seemed unsuccessful were strengthened and made effective by the Holy Spirit.

Yet while it is certain that the non-elect will not turn to God, repent of their sins, and live good moral lives, it is, nevertheless, their duty to do so. Though members of a fallen race, they are still free moral agents, responsible for their character and conduct. God is, therefore, perfectly consistent in commanding them to repent. For Him not to do so would be for Him to give up the claims of His law. We commonly hear the idea expressed that man is under no obligation to do anything for which he has not full and perfect ability in himself. The reasoning, however, is fallacious; for man labors under a self-acquired inability. He was created upright and voluntarily sank himself into sin. He is, therefore, as responsible as is the person who in order to escape military service deliberately mutilates a hand or an eye. If inability canceled obligation, then Satan with his inherent depravity would be under no obligation to do right, and his fiendish enmity toward God and men would be no sin. Sinners in general would then be lifted above the moral law.

In conclusion it may be further said that even in regard to the non-elect the preaching is not altogether vain; for they are thus made the objects of general restraining and directing influences which prevent them from sinning as much as they otherwise would.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXI- That it precludes a sincere offer of the Gospel to the non-elect

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXI

That It Precludes A Sincere Offer Of The Gospel To The Non-elect

1. The Same Objection Applies Against God’s Foreknowledge. 2. The Offer Is Sincerely Made.

1. THE SAME OBJECTION APPLIES AGAINST GOD’S FOREKNOWLEDGE

Although the Gospel is offered to many who will not, and who for subjective reasons cannot, accept, it is, nevertheless, sincerely offered to all. The objection so strenuously urged on some occasions by Arminians, to the effect that if the doctrine of Predestination is true the Gospel cannot be sincerely offered to the non-elect, should be sufficiently answered by the fact that it bears with equal force against the doctrine of God’s Foreknowledge. We might ask, How can the offer of salvation be sincerely made to those who God foreknows will despise and reject it, especially when their guilt and condemnation will only be increased by their refusal? Arminians admit that God knows beforehand who will accept and who will reject the message; yet they know themselves to be under a divine command to preach to all men, and they do not feel that they act insincerely in doing so.

The difficulty, however, in both cases is purely subjective, and is due to our limited knowledge and to our inability to comprehend the ways of God, which are past finding out. We do know that the Judge of all the earth will do right, and we trust Him even though our feeble reason cannot always follow His ways. We know definitely that abundant provision has been made for all who will come, and that every one who sincerely accepts will be saved. From Christ’s own lips we have a parable which illustrates the love of God for His children. The father saw the returning prodigal when he was still a great way off, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the welcome given to this prodigal God is willing to give to any prodigal.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XX- That it is unfavorable to good morality

January 15, 2020 5 comments

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XX

That It Is Unfavorable To Good Morality

3. THE PRACTICAL FRUITS OF CALVINISM IN HISTORY ARE ITS BEST VINDICATION

Calvinism answers the charge that it is unfavorable to good morality, not merely by opposing reason against reason, but by putting facts of world-wide reputation over against these fictitious claims. It simply asks, What rival fruits can other systems oppose if we point to the achievements of the Protestant leaders of the Reformation period, and to the high moral earnestness of the Puritans? Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their immediate helpers were all thorough-going “Calvinists,” and the greatest spiritual revival of all time was brought about under their influence. Those in England who held this system of faith were so very strict regarding purity of doctrine, purity of worship, and purity of daily life, that by their very enemies, who thus were their best witnesses, they were called “Puritans.” The Puritans in England, the Covenanters in Scotland, and the Huguenots in France, were men of the same religious faith and of like moral qualities. That the system of Calvin should have developed precisely the same kind of men in each of these different countries is a proof of its power in the formation of character.

Concerning the Puritans in this country McFetridge says: “Amongst all the people in the American colonies, they (the Puritans, Calvinists of New England) stood morally without peers. They were the men and the women of conscience, of sterling convictions. They were not, indeed, greatly given to sentimentalism. With mere spectacular observances in religion they had no sympathy. Life to them was an experience too noble and earnest and solemn to be frittered away in pious ejaculations and emotional rhapsodies. They believed with all their soul in a just God, a heaven and a hell. They felt, in the innermost core of their hearts, that life was short and its responsibilities great. Hence their religion was their life. All their thoughts and relations were imbued with it. Not only men, but beasts also, were made to feel its favorable influences. Cruelty to animals was a civil offense. In this respect they were two centuries in advance of the bulk of mankind. They were industrious, frugal and enterprising, and consequently affluence followed in their path and descended to their children and children’s children. Drunkenness, profanity and beggary were things little known to them. They needed neither lock nor burglarproof to secure their honestly-gotten possessions. The simple wooden bolt was enough to protect them and their wealth where honesty was the rule of life. As the result of such a life they were healthy and vigorous. They lived long and happily, reared large and devoted families, and descended to the grave ‘like as a shock of corn cometh in his season,’ in peace with God and their fellow-men, rejoicing in the hope of a blessed resurrection.” [5]

It is further to be remembered as a diadem upon the brow of Calvinistic morality, that in all the history of the Puritans there is said to have been not one case of divorce. What a crying need there is for some such influence today! Lawlessness in general was scarcely, if ever, more unknown than among the Puritans. If, then, Calvinism was actually unfavorable to morality, as charged, it would indeed be a strange coincidence that where there has been the most of Calvinism there has been the least of crime. “This is the problem,” says Froude, “Grapes do not grow on bramble bushes. Illustrious natures do not form themselves upon narrow and cruel theories. Spiritual life is full of apparent paradoxes . . . . The practical effect of a belief is the real test of its soundness. Where we find heroic life appearing as the uniform fruit of a particular opinion, it is childish to argue in the face of fact that the result ought to have been different.” [6]

“There is no system,” says Henry Ward Beecher, “which equals Calvinism in intensifying, to the last degree, ideas of moral excellence and purity of character. There never was a system since the world stood which puts upon man such motives to holiness, or which builds batteries which sweep the whole ground of sin with such horrible artillery. They tell us that Calvinism plies men with hammer and with chisel. It does; and the result is monumental marble. Other systems leave men soft and dirty; Calvinism makes them of white marble, to endure forever.” [7]

Instead of being a system which leads to immorality and despair, it has worked out exactly the opposite way in every-day life. No other system has so fired people with ideals of religious and civil freedom, nor led to such high ideals of morality and endeavor in all phases of human life. Wherever the Reformed Faith has gone it has made the country to blossom like the rose, even though it was a poor country like Holland, or Scotland, or New England. This has been admitted by Macaulay and many others, and is a very comforting thought.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XX- That it is unfavorable to good morality

January 8, 2020 1 comment

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XX

That It Is Unfavorable To Good Morality

2. LOVE AND GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US IS THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE AND ONLY PERMANENT BASIS FOR MORALITY

Those who make the objection that we are now considering assume that believers — those who through the almighty power of God have been brought from death to life, from sin to holiness; who have partially beheld the love and glory of God as it is revealed in Christ — are still incapable of being influenced by any motives except those which arise from a selfish and exclusive regard to their own safety and happiness. And, as Cunningham says, they do virtually make a confession, “first, that any outward decency which their conduct may at present exhibit, is to be traced solely to the fear of punishment; and, secondly, that if they were only secured against punishment, they would find much greater satisfaction in serving the Devil than in serving God; and that they would never think of showing any gratitude to Him who had conferred the safety and deliverance on which they place so much reliance.” [2]

The contrast between the Calvinistic and the Arminian basis for morality is clearly stated in the following section from McFetridge: “The two great springs by which men are moved are, on the one hand, conviction and idea, on the other, emotion and sentiment; as these control, so the moral character will be shaped. The man who is ruled by convictions and ideas is the man of stability; he cannot be changed until his conscience is changed; the man who is ruled by emotion and sentiment is the man of instability. Now, the appeal of Arminianism is chiefly to the sentiments. Regarding man as having the absolute free moral control of himself, and as able at any moment to determine his own eternal state, it naturally applies itself to the arousing of his emotions. Whatever can lawfully awaken the feelings it considers expedient. Accordingly, the senses, above all things, must be addressed and affected. Hence the Arminian is, religiously, a man of feeling, of sentiment, and consequently disposed to all those things which interest the eye and please the ear. His morality, therefore, as depending chiefly upon the emotions, is, in the nature of the case, liable to frequent fluctuation, rising or falling with the wave of sensation upon which it rides. Calvinism, on the other hand, is a system which appeals to idea rather than sentiment, to conscience rather than emotion. In its views all things are under a great and perfect system of divine laws, which operate in defiance of feeling, and which must be obeyed at the peril of the soul . . . . Its thought is not sentiment, but conviction . . . . It makes the voice of God, speaking in the soul, a guide in all conduct. It seeks rather to convince men than to fill them with a transient sensation. Thus a deep sense of duty is the greatest thing in the moral life of the Calvinist. His first and last question is, Is it right? Of that he must first be convinced. Hence with him conscience has the first place in all practical questions . . . . In the Calvinistic conception God has marked out the way in which man is to walk — a way which He will not change; and man is required to walk in it, joyously or sorrowfully, with as much or as little sentiment as he pleases. Hence the Calvinist is not, religiously, a man of demonstrations, but rather a man of thoughtfulness; so that his morality, whatever it may be otherwise, is characterized by stability and strength, which may sometimes lapse into stubbornness and harshness.” [3]

Our love to God would at best be only lukewarm if we believed that His love and favor toward us depended only on our good behavior. His love toward us is as an immense sun, which shone without beginning and which will shine without end, while ours toward Him is, at its best, as only a little flame. Hence the assurance that the objects of God’s love shall never be permitted to fall away. Love which is founded on self-interest is commonly recognized as not being moral in the highest sense; yet Calvinism is the only system of faith which presents a purely unselfish motive, namely the consciousness that it is alone the free grace and unmerited love of God, to the exclusion of all human merit, that saves men. When the Christian remembers that he was saved only through the suffering and death of Christ his substitute, love and gratitude overflow his heart; and, like Paul, he feels that the least he can offer Christ in return is his whole life in loving service. Seeing himself saved by grace alone, he learns to love God for His own sake and finds it the joy of his life to serve Him with the whole heart. Obedience becomes not only the obligatory but the preferable good.

The motive which actuates the saints on earth is the same in principle, though not so intense, as that which actuates the saints in glory, whose constant delight is to perform the noblest actions and service, namely, that of praising God, and punctually performing His will without interruptions or defeats. “As they have always a ravishing sense of His goodness to them, so they exercise their perfectly pure minds in ascriptions of praise and glory to him for delivering them from deserved ruin, and placing them in the blissful mansions where they find themselves possessed of ease, delight, complacency, and glory wholly unmerited.” [4]

Pure love and gratitude to God, and not selfish fear, is the very fuel of acceptable obedience, and these are the elements from which alone anything like high and pure morality will ever proceed. Jesus had no fear that a sense of eternal security would lead to licentiousness in His disciples, for He said to them, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” The elect, therefore, have the utmost reason to love and glorify God which any beings can have, and it is a sheer calumny to represent the doctrine of Predestination as tending to licentiousness and as unfavorable to good morality.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XX- That it is unfavorable to good morality

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XX

That It Is Unfavorable To Good Morality

1. The Means as Well as the Ends are Foreordained. 2. Love and Gratitude to God for What He Has Done for Us is the Strongest Possible and Only Permanent Basis for Morality. 3. The Practical Fruits of Calvinism in History are its Best Vindication.

1. THE MEANS AS WELL AS THE ENDS ARE FOREORDAINED

The objection is sometimes made that this system encourages men to be careless and indifferent about their moral conduct and their growth in grace, on the ground that their eternal welfare has already been secured. This objection is primarily directed against the doctrines of Election, and the Perseverance of the Saints.

This objection, however, like the one to the effect that this system discourages all motives to exertion, is completely answered by the great principle which we hold and teach, namely, that the means as well as the ends are foreordained. God’s decree that the earth should be fruitful did not exclude, but included, the sunlight, the showers, the tillage of the husbandman, etc. If God has foreordained a man to have a crop of corn, He has also foreordained him to plow and plant and cultivate and to do all other necessary things to secure the crop. Just as a purpose to build includes the hewing of stone, the squaring of timbers, and the preparation of all other materials which enter into the structure; and as a declaration of war implies arms, ammunition, ships, and all other necessary equipment; so the election of some to the eternal enjoyment of heaven includes their election to holiness here. It is not the individual as such, but the individual as holy and virtuous, that is predestinated to eternal life.

In the plainest of language Paul taught that the very purpose of election is, “That we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love,” Eph_1:4; that we are “foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son,” Rom_8:29; and that “God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” 2Th_2:13. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” Act_13:48. The predestinated, called, justified, glorified ones are the same, Rom_8:29, 30. Therefore the purpose of God according to election must stand, Rom_9:11.

The belief of Calvinists concerning this subject is well expressed in the Westminster Confession, where we read: “As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation.” (III: 6).

“God decreed that fifteen years should be added to Hezekiah’s life; this made him neither careless of his health, nor negligent of his food; he said not, ‘Though I run into the fire, or into the water, or drink poison, I shall nevertheless live so long’; but natural providence, in the due use of means co-wrought so as to bring him on to that period of time pre-ordained by him.”[1] Since all events are more or less intimately connected, and since God works by means, if He did not determine the means as well as the events, the certainty as to the events themselves would be destroyed. In the redemption of man He determined not only the work of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, but also the faith, repentance and perseverance of all His people.

When this same doctrine was preached by Paul on another occasion and this same objection was brought against it — namely, that he “made the law of none effect through faith,” or in other words, that since we are saved through faith we do not need to keep the moral law — his emphatic reply was, “God forbid; nay, we establish the law,” Rom_3:31. There is, then, an invariable connection established between eternal salvation as an end, and faith and holiness as a means leading to that end.

The ideal Christian, of course, would commit no sin at all. Though certainly saved, he is saved for good works, and is commanded to “give no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our ministration be not blamed,” 2Co_6:3. The Scriptures know of no perseverance which is not a perseverance in holiness, and they give no encouragement to any sense of security which is not connected with a present and ever increasing holiness. Virtue and piety, therefore, are the effect and not the cause of election, for which no cause is to be assigned except God’s sovereign good pleasure. It is true that some become much more advanced in holiness here and continue in that state over a much longer period of time than do others; yet it is vain for any who do not partake in some degree of holiness in this world to hope to enjoy happiness in the next. All those whom God has designed to render perfectly happy in eternity, He has designed to make in part happy in this world; and as holiness is essential to the happiness of an intelligent creature, so there is begun in them in this world that holiness without which no one shall see the Lord.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XIX- That it represents God as a respecter of persons, or as unjustly partial

December 25, 2019 Leave a comment

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XIX

That It Represents God as a Respecter of Persons, or as Unjustly Partial

4. GOD’S PARTIALITY IS PARTLY EXPLAINED BY THE FACT THAT HE IS SOVEREIGN AND THAT HIS GIFTS ARE OF GRACE

It cannot be said that God acts unjustly toward those who are not included in this plan of salvation. People who make this objection neglect to take into consideration the fact that God is dealing not merely with creatures but with sinful creatures who have forfeited every claim upon His mercy. Augustine well said: “Damnation is rendered to the wicked as a matter of debt, justice and desert, whereas the grace given to those who are delivered is free and unmerited, so that the condemned sinner cannot allege that he is unworthy of his punishment, nor the saint vaunt or boast as if he were worthy of his reward. Thus, in the whole course of this procedure, there is no respect of persons. They who are condemned and they who are set at liberty constituted originally one and the same lump, equally infected with sin and liable to vengeance. Hence the justified may learn from the condemnation of the rest that that would have been their own punishment had not God’s grace stepped in to their rescue.” And to the same effect Calvin says, “The Lord, therefore, may give grace to whom He will, because He is merciful, and yet not give it to all because He is a just Judge; may manifest His free grace by giving to some what they never deserve, while by not giving to all He declares the demerit of all.” “Partiality,” in the sense that objectors commonly use the word, is impossible in the sphere of grace. It can exist only in the sphere of justice, where the persons concerned have certain claims and rights. We may give to one beggar and not to another for we do not owe anything to either. The parable of the talents was spoken by our Lord to illustrate the doctrine of the Divine sovereignty in the bestowment of unmerited gifts; and the regeneration of the soul is one of the greatest of these gifts.

The central teaching in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard is that God is sovereign in the dispensation of His gifts. To the saved and the unsaved alike He can say, “Friend, I do thee no wrong… Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Or is thine eye evil, because I am good?” Mat_20:13-15. It was said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion”; and Paul adds, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy . . . . . So then He hath mercy on whom He will and whom He will He hardeneth,” Rom_9:15-18. He will extend mercy to some, and inflict justice on others, and will be glorified by all. Just as a man may give alms to some and not to others, so God may give His grace, which is heavenly alms, to whom He pleases. Grace, from its own nature, must be free; and the very inequality of its distribution demonstrates that it is truly gratuitous. If any one could justly demand it, it would cease to be grace and would become of debt. If God is robbed of His sovereignty in this respect, salvation then becomes a matter of debt to every person.

If ten men each owe a certain creditor one thousand dollars and he for reasons of his own forgives the debts of seven but collects from the other three, the latter have no grounds for complaint. If three criminals are sentenced to be hanged for having committed murder and then two of them are pardonedperhaps it is found that they have rendered distinguished service to their country in time of war—does that render the execution of the third unjust? Plainly, No; for in his case there is no intervening cause as to why he should not suffer for his crime. And if an earthly prince may .justly do this, shall not the sovereign Lord of all be allowed to act in the same manner toward His rebellious subjects? When all mankind might have been punished, how can God be charged with injustice if He punishes only a part of them? — and that no doubt a comparatively small part.

Warburton gives a very fitting illustration here. He supposes a case in which a lady goes to an orphans’ home and from the hundreds of children there, chooses one, adopts it as her own child and leaves the rest. “She might have chosen others; she had the means to keep others; but she chose one. Will you tell me that woman is unjust? Will you tell me that she is unfair, or unrighteous, because in the exercise of her undisputed right and privilege she chose out that one child to enjoy the comforts of her home, and become the heir of her possessions, and left all the others, possibly to perish in want, or sink into the wretched condition of gutter-children? . . . . Have you ever heard any lay the charge of injustice, or of unrighteousness against the one who has done such an action? Do men not rather hold such an action up to praise? Do they not speak in the highest terms of the love, the pity, and the compassion of such a person ? Now why do they do this? Why do they not condemn the taking of the one, and the leaving of the rest? Why do they not complain that it was unjust for this particular one to be chosen, and not another, or not all? . . . . The reason is this— because men know — as we also know— that all those children were in exactly the same plight and that not one of them had a single claim, or the least vestige of a claim, upon the person whose will and pleasure it was to adopt one as her own . . . . Do you, or can you, see anything different in this act of God’s from that of my neighbor’s? The children in that foundling home had no claim upon my neighbor. Neither had fallen man any claim upon God; and God’s choice, therefore, just as it was free and unmerited, so was it also righteous and just. And this free and unmerited fore-choice of God in view of man’s self-procured ruin, is all that is meant by the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination.”

Since the merits of Christ’s sacrifice were of infinite value, the plan which usually first suggests itself to our hearts is that God should have saved all. But He chose to make an eternal exhibition of His justice as well as His mercy. If every person had been saved, it would not have been seen what sin deserved; if no person had been saved, it would not have been seen what grace could bestow. Furthermore, the fact that salvation was provided, not for all, but only for some, makes it all the more appreciated by those to whom it is given. All in all, it was best for the universe at large that some should be permitted to have their own way and thus show what a dreadful thing is opposition to God.

But some one may ask, What about this unregenerate man, this one of the non-elect who is left in sin, subject to eternal punishment, unable even to see the kingdom of God? We reply, Go back to the doctrine of original sin,— in Adam, who was appointed the federal head and representative of all his descendants, the race had a most fair and favorable opportunity to gain salvation, but lost it. The justification for the election of some and the passing by of others is that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Doubtless there are the best of reasons for the choosing of some and the passing by of others, but these have not been made known to us. We do know, however, that none of the lost suffer any unmerited punishment. In this world they enjoy the good things of providence in common with the children of God, and very often in a much higher degree. Conscience and experience testify that we are members of an apostate race, and every man who comes short of eternal life knows that the responsibility rests primarily upon himself. Furthermore, if all men are in their present lost and ruined condition by the operation of just principles on the part of God (and who will say that they are not?), they may justly be left to deserved punishment. It is absurd to say that they are justly exposed to eternal misery, and yet that it would be unjust for them to suffer; for that is the same as saying that the execution of a just penalty is unjust. It may also be added that man in his fallen state has no desire for salvation, and that from this corrupt mass God “hath mercy on whom He will and whom He will He hardeneth.” This is the uniform teaching of Scripture. He who denies this denies Christianity and calls in question God’s government of the world.

As a matter of fact all of us are partial. We treat the members of our own family or our friends with great partiality, although at the time we may know that they are no more deserving, or perhaps even less deserving than are many others with whom we are associated. It does not follow that if we grant favors to some, we must grant the same or equal favors to all. Yet the Arminian absolutely prescribes it as a rule to the Most High, that He ought to extend His bounty to all equally as from a public treasury. “Should an earthly friend,” says Toplady, “make me a present of ten thousand pounds, would it not be unreasonable, ungrateful and presumptuous in me, to refuse the gift, and revile the giver, only because it might not be his pleasure to confer the same favor on my next door neighbor?”

Hence, then, to the objection that the doctrine of Predestination represents God as “partial,” we answer, It certainly does. But we insist that it does not represent Him as unjustly partial.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XIX- That it represents God as a respecter of persons, or as unjustly partial

December 18, 2019 6 comments

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XIX

That It Represents God as a Respecter of Persons, or as Unjustly Partial

3. GOD PLAINLY DOES NOT TREAT ALL PEOPLE ALIKE; HE GIVES TO SOME WHAT HE WITHHOLDS FROM OTHERS

It is a fact that in His providential government of the world God does not confer the same or equal favors upon all people. The inequality is too glaring to be denied. The Scriptures tell us, and the experiences of every day life show us, that there is the greatest variety in the distribution of these, —and justly so, for all of these are of grace, and not of debt. The Calvinist here falls back upon the experienced reality of facts. It is true, and no argument can disprove it, that men in this world find themselves unequally favored, both in inward disposition and outward circumstances. One child is born to health, honor, wealth, of eminently good and wise parents who train him up from infancy in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and who afford him every opportunity of being taught the truth as it is in the Scriptures. Another is born to disease, shame, poverty, of dissipated and depraved parents who reject and ridicule and despise Christianity, and who take care to prevent their child from coming under the influence of the Gospel. Some are born with susceptible hearts and consciences, which make lives of innocence and purity natural for them; others are born with violent passions, or even with distinct tendencies to evil, which seemingly are inherited and unconquerable. Some are happy, others are miserable. Some are born in Christian and civilized lands where they are carefully educated and watched over; others are born in complete heathen darkness. As a general rule the child that is surrounded with the proper Christian influences becomes a devout Christian and lives a life of great service, while the other whose character is formed under the influence of corrupt teaching and example lives in wickedness and dies impenitent. The one is saved and the other is lost. And will any one deny that the influences favorable to salvation which are brought to bear upon some individuals are far more favorable than those brought to bear upon others? Will it not be admitted by every candid individual that if the persons had changed places, they probably would have changed characters also? — that if the son of the godly parents had been the son of infidels, and had lived under the same corrupting influences, he would, in all probability, have died in his sins? In His mysterious providence God has placed persons under widely different influences, and the results are widely different. He of course foresaw these different results before the persons were born. These are facts which no one can deny or explain away. And if we are to believe that the world is governed by a personal and intelligent Being, we must also believe that these inequalities have not risen by chance or accident, but through purpose and design, and that the lot of every individual has been determined by the sovereign good pleasure of God. “Even Arminians,” says N. L. Rice, “are obliged to acknowledge that God does make great differences in the treatment of the human family, not only in the distribution of temporal blessings, but of spiritual gifts also, — a difference which compels them, if they would be consistent, to hold the doctrine of election . . . . If the sending of the Gospel to a people, with the divine influence accompanying it, does not amount to a personal election, most assuredly the withholding of it from a people amounts generally to reprobation.” 1

Calvinists merely assume that in the dispensation of His grace God acts precisely as He does in giving other favors. If it were unjust in principle for God to be partial in the distribution of spiritual goods, it would be no less unjust for Him to be partial in His distribution of temporal goods. But as a matter of fact we find that in the exercise of His absolute sovereignty He makes the greatest possible distinctions among men from birth, and that He does so irrespective of any personal merits both in the allotments of temporal goods and of the essential means to salvation. Hence the statement that the Holy Spirit “divideth to each one severally as He will,” 1Co_12:11; and nowhere in Scripture is it said that God is impartial in the communication of His grace. In regard to His dealings with nations we find that God has favored some much more highly than others,— namely, Israel in ancient times, and Europe and America in modern times, while Africa and the Orient have lain in darkness and under the curse of false religions,— and this is a fact which all must admit.

Although the Jews were a small and disobedient people, God conferred favors on them which He did not give to the other nations of the world. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth,” Amo 3:2. “He hath not dealt so with any nation; And as for His ordinances, they have not known them,” Psa 147:20. And again, “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what is the advantage of circumcision? Much every way: first of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God,” Rom 3:1, Rom 3:2. These favors did not come because of any merits in the Jews themselves, for they were repeatedly reproached for being “a stiff-necked and rebellious people.” In Mat 11:25 we read of a prayer in which Jesus said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes; yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight.” In those words He thanked the Father for doing that very thing which Arminians exclaim against as unjust and censure as partial.

If it be asked, Why does God not bestow the same or equal blessings upon all people? we can only answer, that has not been fully revealed. We see that in actual life He does not treat all alike. For wise reasons known to Himself, He has given to some blessings to which they had no claim— thus making them great debtors to His grace — and has withheld from others gifts which He was under no obligation to bestow.

There is, in fact, no single member of this fallen race who is not treated by his Maker better than he deserves. And since grace is favor shown to the undeserving, God has the sovereign right to bestow more grace upon one subject than upon another. “The bestowment of common grace upon the nonelect,” says W. G. T. Shedd, “shows that non-election does not exclude from the kingdom of heaven by Divine efficiency, because common grace is not only an invitation to believe and repent, but an actual help toward it; and a help that is nullified solely by the resistance of the non-elect, and not by anything in the nature of common grace, or by any preventive action of God. The fault or the failure of common grace to save the sinner, is chargeable to the sinner alone; and he has no right to plead a fault of his own as the reason why he is entitled to special grace.” 2

If it be objected that God must give every man an opportunity to be saved, we reply that the outward call does give every man who hears it an opportunity to be saved. The message is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” This is an opportunity to be saved; and nothing outside the man’s own nature prevents his believing. Shedd has expressed this idea very well in the following words: “A beggar who contemptuously rejects the five dollars offered by a benevolent man, cannot charge stinginess upon him because after this rejection of the five dollars he does not give him ten. Any sinner who complains of God’s passing him by’ in the bestowment of regenerating grace after his abuse of common grace, virtually says to the High and Holy one who inhabits eternity, ‘Thou hast tried once to convert me from sin; now try again, and try harder.’ ” 3

A strong argument against the Arminian objection that this doctrine makes God unjustly partial, is found in the fact that while God has extended His saving grace toward fallen men, He has made no provision for the redemption of the Devil and the fallen angels. If it was consistent with God’s infinite goodness and justice to pass by the whole body of fallen angels and to leave them to suffer the consequences of their sin, then certainly it is consistent with His goodness and justice to pass by some of the fallen race of men and to leave them in their sin. When the Arminian admits that Christ died not for the fallen angels or demons, but only for fallen men, he admits limited atonement and in principle makes the same kind of a distinction as does the Calvinist who says that Christ died for the elect only.

Men, with their limited and often mistaken knowledge, have no right to censure God’s distribution of His grace. It would be as unreasonable to charge Him with injustice for not having made all of His creatures angels, and for not having preserved them in holiness as He did the angels in heaven and as He had power to do, as to charge Him with injustice for not having redeemed all mankind. It is as hard for us to understand why He allows any to perish eternally, as for us to understand why He saves some and not others. He plainly does not prevent the perdition of those whom, beyond doubt, He has the power to save. And if those who admit God’s providence say that He has wise reasons for permitting so many of our race to perish, those who advocate His sovereignty can say that He has wise reasons for saving some and not others. It might as reasonably be argued that since God punishes some, He should punish all; but no one goes to that extreme.

It may be admitted that from our human view-point it would seem more plausible and more consistent with the character of God that sin and misery should never have been allowed to enter the universe; or if, when they had entered, provision had been made for their ultimate elimination from the system, so that all rational creatures should be perfectly holy and happy for eternity. There would be no end to such plans if every person were at liberty to construct a plan of divine operations in accordance with his oven views as to what would be wisest and best. We are, however, shut up to the facts as they are found in the Bible, in the providential workings about us, and in our own religious experiences; and we find that only the Calvinistic system is satisfied by these.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination