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Chapter 30- Reprobation

Reprobation

THE doctrine of Election is intimately associated with and involves that of Reprobation. The latter has met with even greater opposition, and misconstructions of what the orthodox teach on this subject have been even more numerous.

The Scriptural statements as to Reprobation are that God, in eternity, when he elected some, did likewise not elect others; that as resulting from this non-election, but not as efficiently caused by it, he passes by these in the bestowment of the special favours shown to the Elect, and, as in like manner yet further resulting, condemns men, because of sin to everlasting destruction, and while they are in the state of sin and condemnation, he effects or permits the hardening of their heart, so that his truth is not appreciated, but actually rejected.

According to this statement there are four points involved in the decrees as to Reprobation:

1. The decree not to elect.

2. The decree to pass by in bestowing divine grace.

3. To condemn for sins committed.

4. To harden against the truth all or some persons, already sinners, and to confirm them in sin.

In considering this doctrine we are met by the difficulty arising from the want of knowledge of God’s purpose in action. It may he questioned whether we can arrive at this at all; yet to understand this subject fully, we must know that purpose. If, therefore, we cannot learn it, we see with what propriety we must submit simply to accept what God says.

A careful examination of the four points indicated will show that the third and fourth of them have necessary reference to sinners, and that the other two have not. These are only thus connected, because God, in carrying out his purpose, has chosen to do it by the creation of man, and by permitting him to fall. This may be shown by supposing God to have some great object in view to be accomplished by beings selected from those to remain holy, as through a part of the angelic hosts. He selects some as the ones through whom he will accomplish his purpose; he rejects the others as not choosing so to use them. He gives to the former special grace to fit them for their work or to remove from them any imperfection for it. His plan not having required that they be permitted to fall, the act of rejection and refusal to add the special grace given to others constitutes in this case all of Reprobation. The purpose of God as to man, on the other hand, affected a fallen race, and hence the other two points, in accordance with his determination to permit man to fall, are associated with and made a part of the decree of Reprobation, with which otherwise they would have no necessary connection.

The fact that God has permitted man to fall is undoubted. It is beyond our power to show how it is consistent with his justice and mercy. That it is so should be acknowledged by all, because God has done it.

In like manner must we deal with any result that flows from any doctrine in connection with that purpose. If it was right for God to permit man to fall, in order to carry out his purpose, it is right to condemn him for his sin. But the connection of condemnation for sin thus permitted with rejection from the number of those through whom that purpose is effected, extends no farther than that, from the circumstances of the case, the rejected in one part of the decree become the condemned in another.

The relation borne by these two parts of the decree will be better seen by the following table showing what is done on the one side for the Elect, and on the other for the rejected.

1. Election from good pleasure.

1. Rejection from good pleasure.
Sin having been committed.

2. To recover by the gospel and special grace.

3. As thus recovered, to glorify.

2. Not to recover, but to leave sinners.

3. As left sinners, to condemn for sin, and to harden some of those thus left.

In thus arranging this table no reference has been had to the views of either Sublapsarians or Supralapsarians. The doctrine of Reprobation is not affected by the scheme of either. This may be shown by presenting the order of the decrees as taught by each.

The Supralapsarians teach that there was:

1. God’s decree to glorify himself in the raising up of the church in which his grace should be peculiarly manifested.

2. To create the men whom he had selected and rejected for its composition.

3. To permit to fall.

4. To send Christ to redeem.

The Sublapsarian view is:

1. A decree to create.

2. To permit to fall.

3. To elect some to everlasting life.

4. To send Christ for their redemption and salvation.

The only difference in the decree of Reprobation as held by either of these views is that the Sublapsarians suppose man to have been decreed as fallen, before decreed as elected, or rejected; yet they deny that the rejection was because of the sin of the non-elect, for if so, they say, the others would have been rejected, being equally in sin. The Supralapsarian view supposes that the election to a certain purpose and the rejection took place before the decree to permit to fall had been entertained. According to each theory, therefore, the last two points of the decree have only what has been called an accidental connection with it.

This preliminary statement will prepare the way for the Scriptural proof of the points indicated.

I. The decree to reject some.

1. This is involved in the doctrine of Election. The choice of some and not of the whole, involves the non-election and thus the rejection of others.

2. But it is plainly taught in Scripture:

(1.) In such passages as declare salvation not to be attained because God has not given the means. These will be presented under the next general head.

(2.) In such as declare salvation not to be attained because men are not of the Elect, as

John 6:65. “No man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of the Father.”

John 10:26. “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.”

1 Cor. 1:26. “For behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose, etc.”

(3.) In all such passages as declare the preordination, or appointment by God of these persons either to condemnation or destruction. Though not the direct result of this decree so as to be efficiently caused by it, these things yet prove the rejection of some who, under the circumstances thus accidentally arising, are thus preordained.

1 Peter 2:8. “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.”

Jude 4. “There are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old set forth unto this condemnation.”

1 Thess. 5:9. In this chapter, the Apostle tells of the evil that in the last day shall come upon certain ones, and then says: “For God appointed us not unto wrath but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(4.) In the illustrations from the twins, the potter, and the clay in the 9th chapter of Romans.

(5.) In the same chapter the words used are expressive directly of the truth involved.

Rom. 9:18. “So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.”

(6.) The Apostle was teaching this doctrine in the ninth chapter of Romans and in verses 20 and 21 anticipated and answered the objection of one inquiring, why God should punish those who are thus fulfilling his will, by saying: “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why didst thou make me thus? Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour.”

II. The second point of proof is that God passes by some in the bestowment of his special grace.

That God does bestow many of the means of grace on many not to be saved is admitted; but what needs to be shown is that there are special effective means which distinguish the Elect, and which are not bestowed on others.

The language of Scripture on this point is twofold. There are passages which simply speak of the withholding of privileges, and others which seem to go beyond this and assert a positive influence exerted to keep men from the truth. The meaning of this latter class of passages will be examined when we come to speak of the fourth point. At present they are presented as though they meant no more than the mere neglect to bestow these spiritual advantages.

Deut. 29:4. “The Lord hath not given you an heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.”

Job. 17:4. “For thou hast hid their heart from understanding, therefore shalt thou not exalt them.”

1 Sam. 2:25. After Eli had exhorted his sons to refrain from making the people of the Lord transgress, it is said, “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.”

Isaiah 6: 9. “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”

Rom. 11:7, 8. “That which Israel seeketh for that he obtained not, but the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened according as it is written, God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear unto this very day.”

Matt. 13:11-15. “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables, because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, by hearing ye shall hear, and shall in nowise understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall in nowise perceive. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn again, and I should heal them.” The parallel to the first part is Luke 8:10, and to the last Mark 4:12. Similar passages also are in John 12:39, 40 and Acts 28:25-27.

2 Cor. 3:15. “But unto this day, whensoever Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart,”

These texts will suffice when it is remembered that to the plain declarations here made, may be added the proof afforded by all those passages which, teaching that God bestows on the elect alone salvation, with such attendant blessings as without fail lead to it, show that these blessings are also withheld from the non-elect.

At present it is assumed that this is done simply as an act of withholding. What is meant by this will be shown hereafter.

The question has been raised as to the two points considered above, whether the decree which has respect to them is positive or negative. By a positive decree is meant one which involves an actual direct exercise of the will of God. A negative decree is one in which the effect purposed flows as the result of the actual exercise of the will on something else.

The answer to this question depends upon the nature of the union of the different parts of the decree of reprobation. By some theologians all four of the points involved in the decree are included in one and by Reprobation they mean the actual preordination to damnation of certain persons, just as effectively as the preordination of others to salvation by Election. Others conceiving this to be a false statement have separated the first and second point from the third and fourth, uniting them together, however, as one, and giving to it the name of Preterition. The great difficulty which these had to encounter, arose from the fact that while it is true that the mere neglect to bestow certain blessings on some, may take place without their being conceived of as in the mind, and may, therefore, be a mere negative act, the choice of some so necessarily involves the rejection of others as to require that rejection to accompany the act of choice. Rejection must, therefore, have accompanied Election. In the very fact that some were chosen, was involved the rejection of others. [But even here it is not to be overlooked that rejection was not from God’s favour, not from salvation, not from hope of mercy. Rejection has nothing to do with any of these. The loss of these results from sin]. But the intimate connection between chosen and not chosen does not exist in the bestowment of gifts and graces. These were conferred on those chosen, and not conferred on those not chosen. Hence no positive act of God occurs as to those not chosen. Consequently it is better to divide this part of the decree and regard Rejection as a positive act, and Preterition in bestowing grace as a negative one.

From the first and second, the third and fourth points result consequentially but not effectively. This has been before shown. They do not result from these, so as to be their consequences, but they are actually caused only by the sin of man and are causally related only to it. It is neither as an effect of Election or Rejection or of Preterition that man has fallen, or sins, or is condemned, or will be destroyed. The simple effect is that he is not rescued, and consequently is left where he would have been without these acts. They do not lead to destruction. They simply do not rescue from it.

III. The third point needs no proof at present. The condemnation for the sins man commits is too plainly taught in the word of God. From this condemnation the Elect are rescued by special grace, the Rejected are left liable to it and consequently suffer from it.

This decree of God is positive, involving especially an act of God’s will in reference to the sin that is to be punished.

IV. The fourth point of Reprobation is the hardening some or all of the Rejected against the truth, and the confirmation of them in their sin.

Some or all sinners are spoken of as hardened, because according to the definition given to this hardening process must it be limited or not. If the hardening of God means no more than the mere permission of those influences by which this is accomplished, then it is universal, because the evil influences of the heart and of Satan undoubtedly lead to a constant increase of indisposition for God’s service. But if that process is to be regarded as a special act of God, it must be confined to those persons whom God by special acts of goodness or justice hardens so that they, in an extraordinary sense, are set against the truth and are led to reject it.

The language used in Scripture upon this point is very decided. The only question is about the meaning to be put on it as to a single point. It is best to state the two positions recognized as true and then add the other about which the discussion arises.

1. God is represented as hardening the heart.

2. This is admitted by all to be done so far as permitting it to work out its own destruction or not interfering to prevent the evil influences which would have that tendency.

It is not necessary to present the Scripture proof of these points which is abundant, because it will plainly appear in connection with the third which is that

3. God does himself operate upon and affect the heart and faculties of the individual so that he is hardened against the acceptance of the truth of the Gospel. This point is supported by many passages of Scripture and should be, at least briefly, considered.

(1) It may here again be suggested that it, upon an examination of the Scriptures, this is seen to be God’s teaching, we are bound, in the simplicity of faith, not only to receive it, but also to continue with firm confidence to believe and maintain that it is perfectly consistent with the character of God. The fact that we cannot show it to be so, ought not to make us hesitate a moment after we are convinced that God has taught it.

(2) But if so taught, it may be made to appear perfectly consistent with God’s righteous action and should be recognized as such.

The contrary has been argued from the alleged fact that thus the sinner is prevented from accepting the gospel plan of salvation. But this is not true. His previous condition has already caused this. It is not any action of God withholding grace or conferring further disability that leads any man to reject the gospel. All are already in such a state of depravity that they will certainly refuse it. This is proved from the fact that those who reject the gospel are not only not confined to the hardened, but comprise all sinners, and that nothing can prevent this result but a positive act of God by which he rescues man from his evil nature as well as from its effects.

The only evil then that arises to the sinner is that, under these influences, he sins more freely or more flagrantly than he would otherwise have done, or that his sinful nature more rapidly developes itself. But if it be wrong in God to do anything by which this shall be accomplished, it will be wrong to cast man into hell; for the change of state from this life to that has this tendency.

This illustration suggests indeed what God under these circumstances is doing, which is nothing more than inflicting punishment on the individual because of his sin. He is a sinner in God’s sight. His sin deserves punishment, and God punishes him by making his increased power to do wrong the punishment of the wrong already done.

In this view of the doctrine it is nothing worse than one very commonly taught by Arminians as well as by Calvinists of all kinds,–that of the closing of a day of grace, when the time comes at which the line is passed beyond which God no longer shows favour. That doctrine which asserts an eternal shutting out of light as the penalty of resistance to truth is of precisely the same nature as this the most objectionable form in which this point of Reprobation can he presented.

(3) But, again, whence are the influences which thus tend to salvation? Do they arise from the rights of man, or from the claims which he as man may be said to have upon his Creator? Not at all. They are involved, not in Creation, but in Redemption. They are influences, therefore, which belong, in the purpose of God, to the elect only. This is true, whether we regard the atonement as particular, or as general with a particular application.

These influences, therefore, come to man simply as the chosen of God. God may withhold them from all others. He does withhold them from the heathen. He might withhold them from those to whom they are thus given. But if God may justly withhold them from any, he may, with equal justice, stay the hand that would be stretched out to take what he has intended shall not be given. So long as the things which he withholds or prevents man from taking are not things on which man has any claim, God cannot be charged with injustice in thus acting. Admitting this doctrine, therefore, in its worst form it may be defended.

(4) But fourthly, we are liable to hold this form of the doctrine simply from want of consideration as to the method of God’s action, as well as from overlooking the language of Scripture elsewhere. Let these be regarded, and it will appear that God does not teach us that he directly hardens the heart of any. We must remember

(a) That there is a sense in which God is said to do everything that is done. Whatever happens must either be done by him, or permitted by him; and must be done or permitted directly or indirectly, according as his action is immediate or through secondary means. Now it is the custom of the Scriptures to speak of God as doing whatever is done in any of these ways. If, therefore, we have no indications of the mode of his action, we cannot, from the mere declaration that the Lord did it, decide that he did it directly, or indirectly, efficiently, or permissively. Thus Joseph said to his brethren, “It was not you that sent me hither, but God” (Gen. 45:8), and yet we know that these men were willing instruments of God. The Scripture declarations as to reprobation, or hardening, are not stronger than these which are thus used relative to other matters where we know that God only acted indirectly and permissively.

(b) There are causes at work fully sufficient to accomplish all that God would thus purpose without requiring efficient and causal action. These are the sinful depravity of the heart and the wiles of Satan. It can hardly be supposed that, when the work to be done could thus be effected, God would not leave it to be thus done.

(c) In James 1:13, 14, the apostle uses language inconsistent with the idea that God efficiently leads to sin. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot he tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.”

(d) Whenever the heart is hardened as the result of any action of God, it is always as the result of merciful action, which should have had an opposite tendency. Thus was it with Pharaoh, and thus was it with the Jews in the time of Christ.

(5.) An examination of the passages which refer to the hardening of the heart will show that (a) some expressly declare this hardening to have been by means, or by the individuals themselves; (b) that others are explained by parallel or allied passages to have this meaning; and (c) that there is nothing inconsistent with this view.

1. Passages which affirm this hardening to be the work of the individuals themselves.

2 Kings 17:14. The people of Israel carried away by the Assyrians are said to have hardened their necks like their fathers. See also Neb. 9:16-29 and Jer. 7:26.

2. Passages which furnish explanations. To these belong the famous passages concerning Pharaoh. There could be no stronger expressions than those there used.

(1.) God foretells that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart. Ex. 7:3.

(2.) It is expressly said that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. Ex. 7:13.

(3.) God declares that for this very purpose did he raise up Pharaoh that he might show his glory. Ex. 10:1, 2.

(4.) And yet Pharaoh is expressly declared to have hardened his own heart. Ex. 8:15, 32. Notice in this case the way of hardening; whenever the curse was sent, Pharaoh yielded; whenever it was removed, his heart was hardened. And, that this was not an accidental connection, is seen by the fact that in Ex. 9:34, it is said of Pharaoh that, “when Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet wore, and hardened his heart.”

Another passage, which has often been commented on, is that in 1 Kings, 22nd chapter, where Ahab calls on his prophets and receives assurance of success (verse 6). He sends for a prophet of God (verses 7-9) who gives him the same answer (verse 15), probably ironically, as Ahab immediately turns and says to him, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord” (verse 16). The prophet then proceeds to tell of the scattered house of Israel, as sheep that have no shepherd, thus foretelling evil. The king says to Jehoshaphat, “did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (verse 18). Then the prophet proceeds to tell a vision wherein God is represented as wishing to destroy Ahab and asking of all his hosts, who will persuade Ahab that he may go and fall at Ramoth Gilead. And after various replies one Spirit came and said, that he would persuade him by being a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the prophet adds, “Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets; and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.” This 1 Kings 22:21-23, is the place that is frequently referred to as a case of God’s misleading Ahab. Independently of the fact that the prophet uses drapery for what he says, he tells the King distinctly God’s will, and, as his prophet who ought to be heard, declares the truth. This passage ought not to weigh for a moment in favor of the idea that God seeks effectively to harden, and thus to destroy.

Again, we have a class of passages, for they are many, such as the one before referred to as showing Reprobation, Matt. 13:11-15. This passage follows the Septuagint translation. The corresponding passages (Mark 4:11, 12, and Luke 8:10) follow the Hebrew of Isaiah 6:9, 10, and are still stronger than Matthew. But Matthew may be taken as explanatory of the parallel and other like passages. The doctrine meant was so plainly understood that the language is not always guarded. It may not have been by Christ in its utterance. But we have here the intended meaning manifested in a single phrase, “and their eyes they have closed lest haply they should perceive,” “and should turn again and I should heal them.”

The passage in Isaiah 63:17, is easily explained in like manner: “O Lord, why dost thou make us to err from thy ways, and hardenest our heart from thy fear?”

3. Passages not inconsistent with this interpretation.

On the contrary, in view of what has been said, this interpretation seems most natural. These are fair examples.

Deut. 2:30. “But Sihon, king of Heshbon, would not let us pass by him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as at this day.”

Acts 19:9. “But when some were hardened, and disobedient, etc., . . . he (Paul) departed from them.”

Rom. 9:18. “So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.” The example referred to here is that of Pharaoh which, as we have seen, is a case of self-hardening under mercies.

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887

Arminian Errors Pt 5

(iv) THE ATONEMENT

The Atonement is the satisfaction which the Lord Jesus Christ by His obedience unto death gave to all the claims of God’s law and justice in the room and stead of all given Him by the Father. It is on the ground and basis of Christ’s atonement—the work which He finished and the sacrifice which He offered—that sinners are reconciled to God. It is the sacrifice which God Himself in His infinite love, mercy, and wisdom provided whereby in a way consistent with the righteousness of His nature, sinners, lost, guilty and hell-deserving would be saved with an everlasting salvation. ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). The love of the Son in coming to suffer and die is equal to the love of the Father Who sent Him. Christ’s sacrifice is the one and only sacrifice for sin. It is of infinite value and merit, because the sacrifice of God in our nature. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). And to Christ alone as the propitiation through faith in His blood are we as sinners directed to look for salvation, ‘for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).

Arminians believe in a Universal Atonement, that Christ died for all and every man alike, for Judas as well as for Peter, and in support of their view they appeal to certain passages in Scripture, which on the surface appear to teach that Christ died for the whole world of mankind. It is evident from Scripture that the term ‘world’ has a variety of meanings, and that it must always be interpreted according to the context in which it is found. This also applies to the word ‘all.’ The texts used by the Arminians to support their theory of a Universal Atonement can all be explained in the light of the context as setting forth an atonement for all the elect and the elect only. They do not in the slightest way contradict the Scriptural and Calvinistic doctrine of a Definite or Limited Atonement—limited in its design, limitless in its efficacy. According to the Word of God, Christ by His death infallibly secured the salvation of the elect, those chosen in Him and given Him by the Father before the foundation of the world. Those for whom Christ suffered and died are called ‘His sheep’ (John 10:11,15); ‘His Church’ (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-27); ‘His people’ (Matthew 1:21); ‘His elect’ (Romans 8:32-35). If Christ died for all, then all would be saved, for it is impossible that they for whom Christ died and whose guilt He expiated, should be condemned and lost on account of that guilt. In His intercessory prayer Christ prays for all for whom He offered Himself as a sacrifice. ‘I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me: for they are Thine’ (John 17:9). And on these alone He bestows eternal life. ‘As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him’ (John 17:2).

The Universal Call of the Gospel and a Definite Atonement

If Christ’s death was only for the elect, how can pardon and salvation be offered to all?

“The preachers of the gospel” says Dr. John Owen, “in their particular congregations, being utterly unacquainted with the purpose and secret counsel of God, being also forbidden to pry or search into it, (Deut. 29:29) may justifiably call upon every man to believe, with assurance of salvation to every one in particular upon his so doing; knowing and being fully persuaded of this, that there is enough in the death of Christ to save every one that shall do so; leaving the purpose and counsel of God on whom He will bestow faith and for whom in particular Christ died, to Himself. When God calls upon men to believe, He does not in the first place call upon them to believe that Christ died for them: but that there is none other name under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved, but only of Jesus Christ, through whom salvation is preached. (Death of Death. Bk. 4, Ch. 1).

In Vol. 3, p. 295 of his Works, Dr. Owen also says, “Preachers of the gospel and others have sufficient warrant to press upon all men the duties of faith, repentance, and obedience, although they know in themselves they have not a sufficiency of ability for their due performance; for (1) It is the will and command of God that they should do so, and that is the rule of their duties. They are not to consider what men can do or will do, but what God requires. To make a judgment of men’s ability and to accommodate the commands of God unto them accordingly, is not consistent unto any of the sons of men… such are God’s commands, and such are the duties required in them. In and by them God doth use to communicate of His grace unto the souls of men: not with respect unto them as their duties, but as they are ways appointed and sanctified by Him unto such ends.”

John Calvin says, “As ministers of the Gospel are messengers between God and men, the first duty devolving upon them is to make free offer of the grace of God, and the second is to strive with all their might that it may not be offered in vain.”

The Sinner’s Warrant to Believe in Christ

“Let no sinner exclude himself from the benefit of the gospel, by saying either I know not if I be elect, or I know not if I be a believer and so I know not if Christ died for me and gave Himself for me in particular. This is to mistake the ground and object of faith: for as salvation in God’s purpose to the elect is not the ground of faith, and salvation in possession of the believer is not the ground of faith, but salvation in the Word of grace and in the gospel offer: this is the glad news that comes to the sinner’s ears, upon which he may build his faith and hope of salvation.

“The question then is not, are you an elect person or not? nor is it are you a believer or not? But the question is, are you a sinner that needs a Saviour? It is not Christ in the decree of election that you are to look to, while you know not that you are elected, that is to go too far back; nor is it Christ in the heart or in possession you are to look to, while you are not a believer, this is to go too far forward; but it is Christ in the Word. You know that you are a sinner, and Christ a Saviour held forth to you there, saying, “Look unto Me and be ye saved all ends of the earth, for I am God and beside Me there is none else.” (Ralph Erskine).

An Erroneous Presentation of the Gospel Call

“In giving the gospel call, take heed to the warrant wherewith you accompany it,” said the Prof. R. Watts, D.D., LL.D., an eminent Calvinistic theologian of his day in an address—’The Gospel Call’ which he gave to divinity students of the Assembly College, Belfast, in 1867. “In calling upon men to believe, beware that you give no other warrant than what God’s Word authorizes you to give…. The warrant of faith which consists in assuring all men that Christ died for them, is, in view of the awful fact that all men are not saved, utterly derogatory to the work of the Redeemer, as well as to the honour, the justice, and the truth of the everlasting Father. You will be led to conclude that the professedly unlimited atonement is really so limited as to be no atonement at all. The giving of such a warrant, in view of the unquestionable fact that millions of those for whom it is alleged the satisfaction was made, have perished, involves an impeachment of the love, and truth, and justice of the Father, or of the all-perfect righteousness of Christ. Whatever difficulties you may feel in giving the gospel call, you must not attempt to obviate them by the adoption of a theory of the atonement which strips it of all its glory and abstracts from it all that renders it efficaciously redemptive, or that really constitutes it a ground of the faith of God’s people and a guarantee for their full and final salvation. A desire for success has led many an ambassador to fall into the error. Commissioned to ‘preach the gospel’—to preach Christ and Him crucified— to proclaim the unsearchable riches which are treasured up in His person and work—the ambassador has reduced the gospel, the inexhaustible theme to one sentence, and shriveling up his message, has discharged it in the one utterance—’Christ has died for you!’ Out of this prime error has arisen all his embarrassment. Such a warrant of faith requires, as its background, either a special revelation in regard to the parties addressed or a universal atonement. Not being possessed of the former, the herald has endeavoured to find relief by adopting the latter.

“The preaching of the gospel does not consist in the utterance of one or two concise invitations to come to Christ. The object of preaching is to ‘produce both faith and repentance, and such invitations are fitted to produce neither. You are to expound and proclaim to all men the way of life, by exhibiting Christ in the infinite dignity of His person and grace of His official relations and work; you are to urge upon men the duty of accepting the salvation offered by God in Him, and of submitting to be saved in the way which, in the infinite mercy of God, has been provided. In doing this, you are to ply those you address with all the arguments furnished by the worth of the soul, the bliss of heaven, the unutterable woes of the lost, the justice and wrath of God, revealed in His law and in the history of its administration, and by His love and mercy exhibited in Christ and His work. This done, you can assure them that all who obey this call shall be saved. This done, your work as an ambassador is done. You have said all you have authority to say. In the execution of such a commission, the question will come to you again and again—Can these bones live? But in your felt incompetency to quicken the dead which strew the valley of vision into which the Head of the Church may carry you, call to mind the truth to which attention has been already directed; remember that you are a co-worker with God; that whilst you have charge of the external call, there is another—an internal call—given by the Omnipotent, lifegiving Spirit, whose it is to shine into the hearts of men, and give them to behold that glory of God in the face of Christ which it is yours to display before the minds of men in their natural estate.” (Free Presbyterian Magazine, Vol. 37:1).

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

 

God’s predestination is most certain and unalterable, so that no elect person can perish nor any reprobate be saved

April 25, 2014 1 comment

Chapter IV

OF REPROBATION OR PREDESTINATION AS IT RESPECTS THE UNGODLY.

FROM what has been said in the preceding chapter concerning the election of some, it would unavoidably follow, even supposing the Scriptures had been silent about it, that there must be a rejection of others, as every choice does, most evidently and necessarily, imply a refusal, for where there is no leaving out there can be no choice. But beside the testimony of reason, the Divine Word is full and express to our purpose; it frequently, and in terms too clear to be misunderstood, and too strong to be evaded by any who are not proof against the most cogent evidence, attests this tremendous truth, that some are “of old fore-ordained to condemnation.” I shall, in the discussion of this awful subject, follow the method hitherto observed, and throw what I have to say into several distinct positions supported by Scripture.

POSITION 9. -Notwithstanding God’s predestination is most certain and unalterable, so that no elect person can perish nor any reprobate be saved, yet it does not follow from thence that all precepts, reproofs and exhortations on the part of God, or prayers on the part of man, are useless, vain and insignificant.

(1) These are not useless with regard to the elect, for they are necessary means of bringing them to the knowledge of the truth at first, afterwards of stirring up their pure minds by way of remembrance, and of edifying and establishing them in faith, love and holiness. Hence that of St. Augustine:* “The commandment will tell thee, 0 man, what thou oughtest to have, reproof will show thee wherein thou art wanting, and praying will teach thee from whom thou must receive the supplies which thou wantest.”

* De Corrept. et Grat., chap. 3.

(2) Nor are these vain with regard to the reprobate, for precept, reproof and exhortation may, if duly attended to, be a means of making them careful to adjust their moral, external conduct according to the rules of decency, justice and regularity, and thereby prevent much inconvenience to themselves and injury to society. And as for prayer, it is the duty of all without exception. Every created being (whether elect or reprobate matters not as to this point) is, as such, dependent on the Creator for all things, and, if dependent, ought to have recourse to Him, both in a way of supplication and thanksgiving.

(3) But to come closer still. That absolute predestination does not set aside, nor render superfluous the use of preaching, exhortation, etc., we prove from the examples of Christ Himself and His apostles, who all taught and insisted upon the article of predestination, and yet took every opportunity of preaching to sinners and enforced their ministry with proper rebukes, invitations and exhortations as occasion required. Though they showed unanswerably that salvation is the free gift of God and lies entirely at His sovereign disposal, that men can of themselves do nothing spiritually good, and that it is God who of His own pleasure works in them both to Will and to do, yet they did not neglect to address their auditors as beings possessed of reason and conscience, nor omitted to remind them of their duties as such; but showed them their sin and danger by nature, and laid before them the appointed way and method of salvation as exhibited in the Gospel.

Our Saviour Himself expressly, and in terminis, assures us that no man can come to Him except the Father draw him, and yet He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour,” etc. St. Peter told the Jews that they had fulfilled “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” in putting the Messiah to death (Acts 2:), and yet sharply rebukes them for it. St. Paul declares, “It is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth,” and yet exhorts the Corinthians so to run as to obtain the prize. He assures us that “we know not what to pray for as we ought” (Rom 8:), and yet directs us to “pray without ceasing” (1Th 5:). He avers that the foundation or decree of the Lord standeth sure, and yet cautions him who “thinks he stands, to take heed lest he fall” (1Ti 2:). St. James, in like manner, says that “every good and perfect gift cometh down from above,” and yet exhorts those who want wisdom to ask it of God. So, then, all these being means whereby the elect are frequently enlightened into the knowledge of Christ, and by which they are, after they have believed through grace, built up in Him, and are means of their perseverance in grace to the end; these are so far from being vain and insignificant that they are highly useful and necessary, and answer many valuable and important ends, without in the least shaking the doctrine of predestination in particular or the analogy of faith in general. Thus St. Augustine:* “We must preach, we must reprove, we must pray, because they to whom grace is given will bear and act accordingly, though they to whom grace is not given will do neither.”

* De Bon. Persev., cap. 14.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

The condemnation of the reprobate is necessary and inevitable

Chapter IV

OF REPROBATION OR PREDESTINATION AS IT RESPECTS THE UNGODLY.

FROM what has been said in the preceding chapter concerning the election of some, it would unavoidably follow, even supposing the Scriptures had been silent about it, that there must be a rejection of others, as every choice does, most evidently and necessarily, imply a refusal, for where there is no leaving out there can be no choice. But beside the testimony of reason, the Divine Word is full and express to our purpose; it frequently, and in terms too clear to be misunderstood, and too strong to be evaded by any who are not proof against the most cogent evidence, attests this tremendous truth, that some are “of old fore-ordained to condemnation.” I shall, in the discussion of this awful subject, follow the method hitherto observed, and throw what I have to say into several distinct positions supported by Scripture.

POSITION 6.-The condemnation of the reprobate is necessary and inevitable. Which we prove thus. It is evident from Scripture that the reprobate shall be condemned. But nothing comes to pass (much less can the condemnation of a rational creature) but in consequence of the will and decree of God. Therefore the non-elect could not be condemned was it not the Divine pleasure and determination that they should, and if God wills and determines their condemnation, that condemnation is necessary and inevitable. By their sins they have made themselves guilty of death, and as it is not the will of God to pardon those sin and grant them repentance unto life, the punishment of such impenitent sinners is as unavoidable as it is just. It is our Lord’s own declaration that “a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit” (Mat 7:), or, in other words, that a depraved sinner cannot produce in himself those gracious habits, nor exert those gracious acts, without which no adult person can be saved. Consequently the reprobate must, as corrupt, fruitless trees (or fruitful in evil only), be “hewn down and cast into the fire” (Mat 3:). This, therefore, serves as another argument in proof of the inevitability of their future punishment, which argument, in brief, amounts to this: they who are not saved from sin must unavoidably perish, but the reprobate are not saved from sin (for they have neither will nor power to save themselves, and God, though He certainly can, yet He certainly will not save them), therefore their perdition is unavoidable. Nor does it follow, from hence, that God forces the reprobate into sin, and thereby into misery, against their wills, but that, in consequence of their natural depravity (which it is not the Divine pleasure to deliver them out of, neither is He bound to do it, nor are they themselves so much as desirous that He would), they are voluntarily biassed and inclined to evil; nay, which is worse still, they hug and value their spiritual chains, and even greedily pursue the paths of sin, which lead to the chambers of death. Thus God does not (as we are slanderously reported to affirm) compel the wicked to sin, as the rider spurs forward an unwilling horse; God only says in effect that tremendous word, “Let them alone” (Mat 15:14). He need but slacken the reins of providential restraint and withhold the influence of saving grace, and apostate man will too soon, and too surely, of his own accord, “fall by his iniquity” ; he will presently be, spiritually speaking, a felo de se, and, without any other efficiency, lay violent hands on his own soul. So that though the condemnation of the reprobate is unavoidable, yet the necessity of it is so far from making them mere machines or involuntary agents, that it does not in the least interfere with the rational freedom of their wills, nor serve to render them less inexcusable.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

The merits of Christ are the alone procuring cause of that salvation to which men are elected

January 10, 2014 1 comment

Chapter III

CONCERNING ELECTION UNTO LIFE, OR PREDESTINATION AS IT RESPECTS THE SAINTS IN PARTICULAR

HAVING considered predestination as it regards all men in general, and briefly shown that by it some are appointed to wrath and others to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ (1Th 5:9), I now come to consider, more distinctly, that branch of it which relates to the saints only, and is commonly styled election. Its definition I have given already in the close of the first chapter. What I have farther to advance, from the Scriptures, on this important subject, I shall reduce to several positions, and subjoin a short explanation and confirmation of each.

POSITION 2. -As many as are ordained to eternal life are ordained to enjoy that life in and through Christ, and on account of His merits alone (1Th 5:9). Here let it be carefully observed that not the merits of Christ, but the sovereign love of God only is the cause of election itself, but then the merits of Christ are the alone procuring cause of that salvation to which men are elected. This decree of God admits of no cause out of Himself, but the thing decreed, which is the glorification of His chosen ones, may and does admit, nay, necessarily requires, a meritorious cause, which is no other than the obedience and death of Christ.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

Gendered terms rightly defined by James White

January 7, 2014 4 comments

I would like to share an article from James White at Alpha Omega Ministries. This article is profound in that it rightly defines words such as: father, mother, husband, wife, and marriage; words that today are trying to be redefined. But as James White states, these words cannot be redefined because they are gendered terms and will always describe the object, in which they are being used towards, by their very definition. In other words, just as the term bachelor will always carry with it the meaning of an unmarried man, even so the term husband will always carry with it, the notion of a man who is married to a woman.

Here is the article:

 

 

Mr. Church: That is the Sound of the Barbarians at the Gates

Yesterday I was directed to a Tweet picture that spoke volumes. Here it is:

Pictures can say more than a thousand words, to be sure. And this picture speaks volumes. But I would like to respond to Mr. Church’s interpretation, which I would call the “interpretation of inevitability.”

First, the issue of the abuse of language, the constant ploy of those seeking to degrade the moral and ethical foundation of a culture. The term “homophobe” is one of the most absurd, vacuous, mind-numbing terms ever introduced into the English language. It has no meaningful function, since its actual meaning, and its usage, are rarely concurrent. I do not know any homophobes, personally, since that term would refer to someone who has an irrational fear of their own kind. But that is not how Mr. Church is using it. It is a convenient, if untruthful, term used to slander those who believe homosexuality, as an act and as a lifestyle, is immoral and destructive to human flourishing. Hence it is a convenient way of demonizing an entire position without even offering a meaningful moral or ethical argument. The regularity of its use is witness to the bankruptcy of the position espoused by Mr. Church.

Next, when I look at this picture, many issues crowd my mind. Some I will not enter into here (military readiness, the on-going degradation of the strength of the US and the results that will have in destabilizing the political structures around the world). The main issue though is this: if this is supposed to be a “marriage,” who is the husband, and who is the wife? I am not talking about dominant/submissive roles. I am talking about husbands and wives. See, words have meanings. Marriage has meaning. To marry, as a verb, has meaning, and hence, that meaning is filled out by the direct object of the verb. I, a man, married a woman. Hence, I am a husband, with all the meaning that term carries, to a specific woman, who is my wife, with all the meaning that term likewise carries. All the public education and eradication of human nature in the world cannot remove from those who are created in the image of God a basic, instinctive understanding that “husband” is a gendered term, “wife” is a gendered term, “father” is a gendered term, and “mother” is the most gendered term known to humanity. Hence, “marriage” has a meaning that this picture can never represent, since there is no husband, and there is no wife, in it. Without a husband, you have no marriage. Without a wife, you have no marriage. You can have relationships of all kinds, but what you do not have is a marriage. All the glazed eyes of judges or the wild eyes of zealots can not change this basic reality. This is why we instinctively show pity and compassion to the child who has lost a father or a mother: we recognize the need for both. This is why we likewise look down upon the abusive parent of either gender, and we do so properly. Shame is a proper and good thing when it is used to curb the evil of men and women. But all of these considerations are irrelevant to the picture above, for there is no father, there is no mother, no husband, no wife, no marriage. Just two men kissing, one in uniform. Their strong feelings for each other can never surmount the insurmountable: they cannot be married anymore than they can bear children, fly, leap over tall buildings, or live under water. They were made one way, and their rejection of their God-ordained roles does not redefine marriage.

So the sound I hear when I see this picture has nothing to do with abusing the English language through absurd non-terms like “homophobe.” It has nothing to do with advancement in the 21st century. It has everything to do with the sound the citizens of Rome heard in the early 5th century as those they called “barbarians” swept into the EternalCity. Rome had been crumbling from the inside for centuries—much more slowly, I note, than Western Society today, where such processes take place in the span of a few generations rather than centuries (mainly due to our advanced communications technology). Civilizations that fundamentally reject God’s creative purpose collapse, in time. How else could it be? One will either have a culture of life, or a culture of death, and homosexuality, no matter what else is said about it, does not foster life. It is fundamentally self-centered and narcissistic at its core. The profaning of marriage seen in the above graphic has one inevitable result: it cannot produce life. That which does not produce life tends toward death. That is the bent of this society, just as it became the bent of the later centuries of the Roman Empire. And thus we prove yet once again that those who forget the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.

 

Source [Alpha Omega Ministries]

The decrees of election and reprobation are immutable and irreversible

December 27, 2013 1 comment

Chapter II

 

WHEREIN THE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION IS EXPLAINED AS IT RELATES IN GENERAL TO ALL MEN.

Thus much being premised with relation to the Scripture terms commonly made use of in this controversy, we shall now proceed to take a nearer view of this high and mysterious article, and-

(Continued from point IV-And if the number of these is thus assuredly settled and exactly known, it follows that we are right in asserting-)

 

V.-That the decrees of election and reprobation are immutable and irreversible. Were not this the case-

(1) God’s decree would be precarious, frustrable and uncertain, and, by consequence, no decree at all.

(2) His foreknowledge would be wavering, indeterminate, and liable to disappointment, whereas it always has its accomplishment, and necessarily infers the certain futurity of the thing or things foreknown:”I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and, from ancient times, the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa 46:9,10).

(3) Neither would His Word be true, which declares that, with regard to the elect, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29); that “whom He predestinated, them He also glorified” (Rom 8:30); that whom He loveth, He loveth to the end (John 13:1), with numberless passages to the same purpose. Nor would His word be true with regard to the non-elect if it was possible for them to be saved, for it is there declared that they are fitted for destruction, etc. (Rom 9:22); foreordained unto condemnation (Jude 1:4), and delivered over to a reprobate mind in order to their damnation (Rom 1:28; 2Th 2:12).

(4) If, between the elect and reprobate, there was not a great gulf fixed, so that neither can be otherwise than they are, then the will of God (which is the alone cause why some are chosen and others are not) would be rendered inefficacious and of no effect.

(5) Nor could the justice of God stand if He was to condemn the elect, for whose sins He hath received ample satisfaction at the hand of Christ, or if He was to save the reprobate, who are not interested in Christ as the elect are.

(6) The power of God (whereby the elect are preserved from falling into a state of condemnation, and the wicked held down and shut up in a state of death) would be eluded, not to say utterly abolished.

(7) Nor would God be unchangeable if they, who were once the people of His love, could commence the objects of His hatred, or if the vessels of His wrath could he saved with the vessels of grace. Hence that of St. Augustine.* “Brethen,” says he, “let us not imagine that God puts down any man in His book and then erases him, for if Pilate could say, ‘What I have written, I have written,’ how can it be thought that the great God would write a person’s name in the book of life and then blot it out again?” And may we not, with equal reason, ask, on the other hand, “How can it be thought that any of the reprobate should be written in that book of life, which contains the names of the elect only, or that any should be inscribed there who were not written among the living from eternity?” I shall conclude this chapter with that observation of Luther.+ “This,” says he, “is the very thing that razes the doctrine of free-will from its foundations, to wit, that God’s eternal love of some men and hatred of others is immutable and cannot be reversed.” Both one and the other will have its full accomplishment.

* Tom. 8, in Psalms 68, col. 738.

+ De Serv. Arbitr. cap. 168.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady