Posts Tagged ‘Decree of God’

This doctrine, as to the secret counsel of God in the government of the world, gives no favor to the wicked who argue that they are merely fulfilling God’s decrees

December 30, 2015 Leave a comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015This doctrine, as to the secret counsel of God in the government of the world, gives no countenance either to the impiety of those who throw the blame of their wickedness upon God, the petulance of those who reject means, or the error of those who neglect the duties of religion.

3. Those who have learned this modesty will neither murmur against God for adversity in time past, nor charge him with the blame of their own wickedness, as Homer’s Agamemnon does. — “Ego d’ ou haitios eimi, alla Zeus kai moira.” “Blame not me, but Jupiter and fate.” On the other hand, they will note like the youth in Plautus, destroy themselves in despairs as if hurried away by the Fates. “Unstable is the condition of affairs; instead of doing as they list, men only fulfill their fate: I will hie me to a rock, and there end my fortune with my life.” Nor will they, after the example of another, use the name of God as a cloak for their crimes. For in another comedy Lyconides thus expresses himself: — “God was the impeller: I believe the gods wished it. Did they not wish it, it would not be done, I know.” They will rather inquire and learn from Scripture what is pleasing to God, and then, under the guidance of the Spirit, endeavor to attain it. Prepared to follow whithersoever God may call, they will show by their example that nothing is more useful than the knowledge of this doctrine, which perverse men undeservedly assail, because it is sometimes wickedly abused. The profane make such a bluster with their foolish puerilities, that they almost, according to the expression, confound heaven and earth. If the Lord has marked the moment of our death, it cannot be escaped, — it is vain to toil and use precaution. Therefore, when one ventures not to travel on a road which he hears is infested by robbers; when another calls in the physician, and annoys himself with drugs, for the sake of his health; a third abstains from coarser food, that he may not injure a sickly constitution; and a fourth fears to dwell in a ruinous house; when all, in short, devise, and, with great eagerness of mind, strike out paths by which they may attain the objects of their desire; either these are all vain remedies, laid hold of to correct the will of God, or his certain decree does not fix the limits of life and death, health and sickness, peace and war, and other matters which men, according as they desire and hate, study by their own industry to secure or avoid. Nay, these trifles even infer, that the prayers of the faithful must be perverse, not to say superfluous, since they entreat the Lord to make a provision for things which he has decreed from eternity. And then, imputing whatever happens to the providence of God, they connive at the man who is known to have expressly designed it. Has an assassin slain an honest citizen? He has, say they, executed the counsel of God. Has some one committed theft or adultery? The deed having been provided and ordained by the Lord, he is the minister of his providence. Has a son waited with indifference for the death of his parent, without trying any remedy? He could not oppose God, who had so predetermined from eternity. Thus all crimes receive the name of virtues, as being in accordance with divine ordination.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 17-Henry Beveridge Translation

How things are said to be fortuitous to us, though done by the determinate counsel of God

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015How things are said to be fortuitous to us, though done by the determinate counsel of God. Example. Error of separating contingency and even from the secret, but just, and most wise counsel of God. Two examples.

9. But since our sluggish minds rest far beneath the height of Divine Providence, we must have recourse to a distinction which may assist the in rising. I say then, that though all things are ordered by the counsel and certain arrangement of God, to us, however, they are fortuitous, — not because we imagine that Fortune rules the world and mankind, and turns all things upside down at random, (far be such a heartless thought from every Christian breast;) but as the order, method, end, and necessity of events, are, for the most part, hidden in the counsel of God, though it is certain that they are produced by the will of God, they have the appearance of being fortuitous, such being the form under which they present themselves to us, whether considered in their own nature, or estimated according to our knowledge and judgment. Let us suppose, for example, that a merchant, after entering a forest in company with trust-worthy individuals, imprudently strays from his companions and wanders bewildered till he falls into a den of robbers and is murdered. His death was not only foreseen by the eye of God, but had been fixed by his decree. For it is said, not that he foresaw how far the life of each individual should extend, but that he determined and fixed the bounds which could not be passed, (Job 14:5.) Still, in relation to our capacity of discernment, all these things appear fortuitous. How will the Christian feel? Though he will consider that every circumstance which occurred in that person’s death was indeed in its nature fortuitous, he will have no doubt that the Providence of God overruled it and guided fortune to his own end. The same thing holds in the case of future contingencies. All future events being uncertain to us, seem in suspense as if ready to take either direction. Still, however, the impression remains seated in our hearts, that nothing will happen which the Lord has not provided. In this sense the term event is repeatedly used in Ecclesiastes, because, at the first glance, men do not penetrate to the primary cause which lies concealed. And yet, what is taught in Scripture of the secret providence of God was never so completely effaced from the human heart, as that some sparks did not always shine in the darkness. Thus the soothsayers of the Philistine, though they waver in uncertainty, attribute the adverse event partly to God and partly to chance. If the ark, say they, “Goes up by the way of his own coast to Bethshemish, then he has done us this great evil; but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us, it was a chance that happened to us.” (1 Samuel 6:9.) Foolishly, indeed, when divination fails them they flee to fortune. Still we see them constrained, so as not to venture to regard their disaster as fortuitous. But the mode in which God, by the curb of his Providence, turns events in whatever direction he pleases, will appear from a remarkable example. At the very same moment when David was discovered in the wilderness of Maon, the Philistines make an inroad into the country, and Saul is forced to depart, (1 Samuel 23:26, 27.) If God, in order to provide for the safety of his servant, threw this obstacle in the way of Saul, we surely cannot say, that though the Philistine took up arms contrary to human expectation, they did it by chance. What seems to us contingence, faith will recognize as the secret impulse of God. The reason is not always equally apparent, but we ought undoubtedly to hold that all the changes which take place in the world are produced by the secret agency of the hand of God. At the same time, that which God has determined, though it must come to pass, is not, however, precisely, or in its own nature, necessary. We have a familiar example in the case of our Savior’s bones. As he assumed a body similar to ours, no sane man will deny that his bones were capable of being broken and yet it was impossible that they should be broken, (John 19:33, 36.) Hence, again, we see that there was good ground for the distinction which the Schoolmen made between necessity, secundum quid, and necessity absolute, also between the necessity of consequent and of consequence. God made the bones of his Son frangible, though he exempted them from actual fracture; and thus, in reference to the necessity of his counsel, made that impossible which might have naturally taken place.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 16-Henry Beveridge Translation

Introduction to Election

September 5, 2014 1 comment

Election! —What a blessed word! What a glorious doctrine! Who does not rejoice to know that he has been chosen to some great blessing? Election is unto salvation—the greatest of all blessings. And strange to say, this is a neglected truth even by many who profess to believe it, and others have a feeling of repulsion at the very mention of this Bible-revealed, God-honouring, and man humbling truth. Spurgeon said, “There seems to be an inveterate prejudice in the human mind against this doctrine, and although most other doctrines will be received by professing Christians, some with caution, others with pleasure, yet this one seems to be most frequently disregarded and discarded.” If such were true in Spurgeon’s day, how much more so in this our day. Concerning this doctrine there is an alarming departure from the faith of our Baptist fathers. Touching this article of our faith Baptists have come to a day when they have a Calvinistic creed and an Arminian clergy.

But there are some who love the doctrine of Election. To them election is the foundation dug deep for the other doctrines of human redemption to rest upon. They love it enough to preach it in the face of criticism and persecution. They will surrender their pulpits rather than be silenced on this precious tenet of the once delivered faith. But all who love the doctrine were once haters of it, therefore, they have nothing in which to take pride. Every man by nature is an Arminian. It takes the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, taught by the Holy Spirit, to cause a man to love the doctrine of election. How deeply important that believers should be learners. To do this we must acknowledge the superior wisdom of God whose thoughts are not as our thoughts. The Bible was given to correct our thinking. Repentance is a change of mind resulting in a change of thinking. We are not to come to the Bible as critics; the Bible is to criticize us. We cannot come to the Bible infallibly, but by grace we can come humbly. May grace be given to every writer and reader that we may have the right attitude of heart before God. The surest evidence of a saved state is to have the right attitude towards the Word of God. Dear reader, let the writer warn you against “poking fun” at any doctrine of the Bible.

The doctrines of grace have found expression in two systems of theology commonly known as Calvinism and Arminianism. These two systems were not named for their founders, but for the men who popularized them. The system of truth known as Calvinism was preached by Augustine at an earlier date, and before Augustine by Christ and the Apostles, being especially emphasized by the Apostle Paul. The system of error known as Arminianism was proclaimed by Pelagius in the fifth century. Between these two there is no middle position; every man is either one or the other in his religious thinking. Some try to mix the two but this is not straight thinking. To say that we are neither Calvinistic nor Arminian is to evade the issue. Paulinism is represented by either Calvinism or Arminianism. The true system is based upon the truth of man’s inherent and total depravity; the false system is based upon the Romish dogma of free-will.


Dr. C. D. Cole-The Bible Doctrine of Election-Part I-Bible Doctrine of Election


Objections to Election-Objection 5

August 1, 2014 2 comments

Five: It discourages efforts for the salvation of sinners.

Answer: Since it is a secret decree, it cannot hinder or discourage such efforts. On the other hand, it is a ground of encouragement since it guarantees that some sinners will repent and believe. It is a stimulus to effort; for, without election, it is certain that all would be lost.

Be not afraid, but speak…For I am with thee….for I have much people in this city (Acts 18:9, 10).

William Sasser-Objections to Election

Objections to Election-Objection 4

July 25, 2014 1 comment

Four: It inspires pride in those who think they are elect.

Answer: This is possible only in the case of those who pervert the doctrine. On the contrary, its proper influence is to humble men. Those who exalt themselves above others, upon the ground that they are special favorites of God, have reason to question their salvation. Such people know nothing of sovereign grace.

Christian hymnology witnesses the effect that believing election has on a humbled heart:

Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
and enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
and rather starve than come.
Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That sweetly forced me in;
Else I had still refused to taste,
And perished in my sin.
Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious word abroad,
And bring the wanderers home. Issac Watts

Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For, Lord, that could not be:
This heart would still refuse Thee;
But thou hast chosen me;
Hast, from the sin that stained me,
Washed me and set me free,
And to this end ordained me
That I should live for Thee.
Twas sovereign mercy called me,
And taught my opening mind;
The world had else enthralled me,
To heavenly glories blind. J. Conder

William Sasser-Objections to Election

Chapter 30- 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

Objections to Election-Objection 3

Three: It represents God as arbitrary.

Answer: It represents God, not as arbitrary, but as exercising the free choice of a wise and sovereign will, in ways and for reasons which are inscrutable to us.

To deny the possibility of such a choice is to deny God’s personality. To deny that God has reasons for his choice is to deny his wisdom.

The doctrine of election finds the reasons for God’s choice of some men to be, not in men or their wills, but in God and his grace.

Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting (1 Tim. 1:16).

William Sasser-Objections to Election

Chapter 29-Election


THE words Elect, Election, Foreordination, Chosen, Foreknow, and Foreknowledge occur so frequently in Scripture, that it is allowed by all that the Scriptures teach a doctrine of Election of some kind. The chief controversy is as to what that doctrine is.

Several theories have been presented as descriptive of the instructions of the Scriptures.

I. First there is the theory set forth by the celebrated John Locke in his Commentary and Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul. It has been called the theory of Nationalism. According to this, Election consists “in the choice of certain whole nations into the pale of the visible Church Catholic, which choice, however, relates purely to their privileged condition in this world extending not to their collective eternal state in another world.” The cause of this election is: “That same absolute good pleasure of God, which, through the exercise of his sovereign power, led him to choose the posterity of Jacob, rather than that of Esau, that, upon earth, they should become his peculiar people and be made the depositaries and preservers of the true religion.” [“Faber’s Primitive Election,” p. 22.]

The objections to this theory are evident, and may be briefly stated.

I. That the election spoken of in the New Testament is all election of persons within a nation, and not of the nation itself. A distinction is made between the Jewish nation, and the remnant of them according to the election of grace. Rom. 11:5. It is also said in verse 7: “That which Israel seeketh for that he obtained not; but the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened.”

Mr. Locke attempts to remove this difficulty by supposing that the Israel here spoken of is the whole nation before the loss of the ten tribes, and that the remnant is all of the rest that remained Jews at the time Paul wrote. But, that the present nation was the Israel referred to Paul himself shows by applying to it, in Romans 10:21, the title of Israel. “But as to Israel,” he saith, “All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gain-saying people.” The Israel to whom Isaiah, who is here referred to, went, was Judah; his prophecies were but seldom made to the Ten Tribes.

2. A distinction is also made between persons in the same nation; the elect being separated from others, as in Matt. 24:22-24, where fearful calamities are foretold, and it is said, that prophets shall arise, etc., and that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect.

The parallel passage is in Mark 13: 20-22.

3. Against this theory may also be quoted such passages as show that the called, and the elect are not identical, as:

Matt. 22:14. “Many are called, but few chosen.”

II. A modification of this theory has been made or rather another one has been suggested so similar that the idea has evidently been caught from that of Locke. It is given by George Stanley Faber in his work on “The Primitive Doctrine of Election.” It may be called the theory of Church Election, or of External Church privileges. Mr. Faber states it as follows: “The idea is that of an Election of individuals into the pale of the visible church, with God’s moral purpose that through faith and holiness they should attain everlasting life; but yet with a moral possibility of their abusing their privileges even to their own final destruction.”

1. It is argued in favor of this, that “we never find one particular set of Christians addressed as being especially elect to the exclusion of all other Christians, who, together with the unconverted world at large, are thence exhibited as reprobates. But we constantly find that all the members of the local church addressed are collectively saluted as being in God’s purpose and design elected through holiness to glory.”

In reply it may be remarked:

(1.) That this argument proceeds upon the erroneous supposition that there were persons called Christians in Apostolic times who did not actually profess to be converted persons, and therefore were not properly to be regarded as such.

Every argument in favor of a converted church membership is an argument against this supposition, and, therefore, against this theory.

(2.) Or it proceeds upon a second erroneous supposition, namely, that the Apostles undertook to pronounce infallibly upon the spiritual condition of those to whom they wrote. On the contrary, proceeding upon the rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them,” they, in the judgement of charity, spoke of those to whom they wrote as though they were actually Christians, because professedly such, and maintaining outwardly the life of such. Thus they are called “holy,” in like manner as they are called “elect,” and are said to be “holy and without blemish before him in love,” (Eph. 1:4;) and to have redemption, and the forgiveness of trespasses, v. 7; and to have obtained an inheritance, of which the sealing of the Spirit was an earnest.

2. In favor of this view, it is asserted that the Apostle teaches us in Rom. 9:6-26, that the terms election and elect are used in the same sense in which they are used in the Old Testament.

To this it may be replied:

(1.) That if true it favors the theory of Nationalism rather than this.

(2.) That the Apostle himself distinguishes between the extent of the election, which had before existed, and that which was now manifested. “They are not all Israel who are of Israel.” “Neither because they are Abraham’s seed are they all children,” (Rom. 9:7); thus indicating that the limitation had been formerly made according to the national extent, but that now a segregation is made from this. The two elections, therefore, differ in extent.

(3.) But the difference is also in kind. This is what affects this theory most closely. Even under the old election, not all the children, but simply the one of the promise is the one in whom the election exists. Under the new, the same thing is true, the election is not of all to whom the external privileges connected with it belong, but of those only who are partakers of the promise. In this respect they are similar, and so Paul indicates: “The children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.” Rom. 9:8. But formerly the promise was of Isaac, wherefore it was said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Rom. 9:7. And that promise was of the land of Canaan, which was granted actually to all of his descendants as a class. So also now, the children of the promise are the elect; but they are not all to whom the external privileges of hearing the gospel, or even of entering the church of Christ, are given, for unto these as a class this promise is not fulfilled; but, simply, to those who truly embrace the gospel, and by faith in Jesus are vitally united to him. It is to this class only that the election refers. There is, therefore, a difference in kind indicated by the Apostle.

3. It is said that the addresses to the churches contained in the letters of the Apostles, indicate the election of the whole churches, and that, consequently, election must be merely to external church privileges. Dr. Faber does not cite the passages at length, because he thinks that any attentive reader, by attending to them, will readily perceive their palpably universalizing tendency. But he adduces as proof the beginnings of Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians and 1 Peter.

(1.) Of these, singular to say, none speak of election in the addresses to the churches, except Ephesians, the two Thessalonians and 1 Peter. But the others all speak of the saints and of a calling to sanctification. The truth is, that, as they professed to be God’s children, the Apostle, in the judgement of charity, speaks of them as such, and this is shown by the language of all the salutations as well as of the epistles at large.

(2.) The language in Ephesians is used as inclusive, not only of those to whom he wrote, but of himself also. It evidently is intended to refer to him and them, as having like hopes, and being partakers of like promises. That, at least, it is not intended to refer to the mere privilege of church membership, is evident from the fact that the apostle speaks of these persons as “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” Ch. 1:13. They are spoken of as having been “quickened,” (Ch. 2:1), as having been “dead through your trespasses and sins,” (Ch. 2:1), and as having been the “children of wrath even as the rest,” Ch. 2:3. Such language scarcely comports with an address to those whom the Apostle had not reason to believe to be converted persons.

The epistles to the Thessalonians, to which Faber also refers, are even more distinctly against him. For, here, we have not simply to infer what were the feelings which led to the expressions used by the Apostle; but he himself tells us of the fact that he knew their election, and assigns the reasons of his belief. These are not because they enjoyed the outward privileges of the church; but because of their work of faith and labors of love, and patience of hope, and because the gospel came not to them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.

As to the first Epistle of Peter it may be said.

(a) That the elect spoken of are “sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” This at least creates the presumption that they had no especial opportunities of church privileges. This, however, is doubtful.

(b) They are, however, spoken of in chapter 1, verses 3, 4 and 5, as begotten . . . “unto a living hope, . . . unto an inheritance . . . reserved in heaven for you, who, by the power of God, are guarded through faith unto a salvation.” Again, they are spoken of, verses 7 and 8, as loving Christ, as believing in him and rejoicing with joy unspeakable.

4. Yet, again, three passages are adduced in which a whole church as such is styled elect, and it is argued thence that this is the Scriptural meaning of election. These passages are, 1 Pet. 5:13, “She that is in Babylon elect together with you saluteth you.” 2 John, 1st verse, “The elder unto the elect lady and her children,” and verse 13, “The children of thine elect sister salute thee.”

(1.) Of these passages it may be said that the application of any of them to a church is doubtful. This is evident from any English version of all but the first, and the literal rendering of that is, “The, from or in Babylon, that is elected with you, saluteth you.” It would be bad to form a theory upon such doubtful passages.

(2.) Admitting these, however, to have the meaning asserted, and that an elect church would be spoken of as such only with reference to the privileges thus conferred upon its members; it does not follow that this is the only sense which election can have. It must be shown not only that there is such an election, but that nothing else is spoken of under that name before this theory can be established as the only election taught. The truth is, that the general nature of the terms, elect, choose, etc., makes it practicable to have several kinds of election, and the nature of the election has to be decided by those declarations of its character and purpose which accompany it.

(3.) Under any view of Election, save that of Nationalism, it would be perfectly appropriate to apply the word elect to the body as such which is supposed to be composed only of elect members. Thus we often speak of Congress, or of a State Legislature as the assembled wisdom of the State or Country, because such is hypothetically its character; it being supposed to be composed of men who represent by their wisdom that of their constituents. So the church may be spoken of as elect, because composed of those supposed from the best sources of knowledge to be the elect of God.

5. The fifth argument is from the parables of the labourers in the vineyard, Matt. 20:1-16, and the marriage of the King’s son, Matt. 22:2-14.

“These,” says Faber, “contain the passages where the term Elect or Chosen first occurs and in these parables the Chosen or the Elect are all those who so far obey the call of the gospel as to enter the pale of the visible Christian Church.” And in order to show that they are not secure there from destruction, the case of the man without the wedding garment is mentioned.

It may be replied, as to the first of these parables, that Faber does not point out any indication of such loss of any persons in the churches, as is implied in this parable. The parable is merely instructive as to the fact of God’s sovereignty, and as to his bestowment of blessings on whom he will. The phrase is added, “many be called but few chosen,” which is the key to the parable, and yet in no wise bears upon the subject under discussion, save to show that there are two classes, the called and the elect, and that the first comprises many, the latter few; facts which oppose the theory of the author, who claims that the elect are not the few that are saved, but are the same as the many who are called to the external privileges of God’s truth.

The second parable is even more distinctly against him. In it there are three classes: the first, those who are called, and pay no attention to the invitation to the feast; the second, those who enter to partake of it, who may be regarded as the ones gathered here on earth into earthly churches; the third, the class marked by the separation from among them of the one who had not on a wedding garment, which represents the self-deceived in Christ’s earthly churches. Immediately after the order for his destruction is given by the king, it is added, “For many are called, but few chosen.” Does not the word chosen here evidently point out those who are the saved, as distinguished from those who are outwardly privileged, either as the outwardly called who refuse, or the called who enter the church and enjoy its privileges? If so, the author’s view of Election is false.

These are the only arguments, that can properly be so called that are advanced in favor of this theory, and the above statements fully show that the Scriptures nowhere teach the doctrine of Election as thus set forth. The theory has been examined more at length than its own merits deserve, partly, because it is not so generally known, but more especially, because it has the sanction of a man of known ability and scholarship though of admitted fanciful and unsound judgement.

III. Finding now that election is in no respect one to external privileges, we pass to the third theory which has been suggested; that of perseverance in foreseen faith, set forth by Arminians of all classes.

In connection with this idea of election is also taught a universal atonement, offered upon condition of faith to all persons, to each of whom is given sufficient grace to accept or reject it. Upon this acceptance or rejection, salvation depends.

This theory of election, therefore, asserts that:

(1.) The salvation of individuals is the result of their own choice and perseverance.

(2.) The election made by God is simply an election of a class.

(3.) So far as the election of individuals took place in eternity, it was only as God foresaw what would be the result of the election of a class.

(4.) That it is an election made upon condition that they would accept the offer of the gospel.

IV. As this theory is just the opposite in every respect of the Calvinistic theory of personal, unconditional, and eternal Election, it is better to put the two in direct contrast, and to proceed to the proof that the Scriptures teach the latter, and not the former.

The latter theory is that God (who and not man is the one who chooses or elects), of his own purpose (in accordance with his will, and not from any obligation to man, nor because of any will of man), has from Eternity (the period of God’s action, not in time in which man acts), determined to save (not has actually saved, but simply determined so to do), [and to save (not to confer gospel or church privileges upon),] a definite number of mankind (not the whole race, nor indefinitely merely some of them, nor indefinitely a certain proportionate part; but a definite number), as individuals (not the whole or a part of the race, nor of a nation, nor of a church, nor of a class, as of believers or the pious; but individuals), not for or because of any merit or work of theirs, nor of any value to him of them (not for their good works, nor their holiness, nor excellence, nor their faith, nor their spiritual sanctification, although the choice is to a salvation attained through faith and sanctification; nor their value to him, though their salvation tends greatly to the manifested glory of his grace); but of his own good pleasure (simply because he was pleased so to choose).

This theory, therefore, teaches that election is:

(1.) An act of God, and not the result of the choice of the elect.

(2.) That this choice is one of individuals, and not of classes.

(3.) That it was made without respect to the action of the persons elected.

(4.) By the good pleasure of God.

(5.) According to an eternal purpose.

(6.) That it is an election to salvation and not to outward privileges.

To the Scriptures alone must we look for the truth upon this subject.

Upon opening them we find that the words Election and Elect are used in various senses.

1. They signify a choice to office whether by man or God.

Luke 6:13. Christ’s choice of the twelve Apostles.

Acts 1:21-26. The selection of an Apostle in the place of Judas.

Acts 9:15. Saul is called a chosen vessel.

1 Pet. 2:6-8. Christ is spoken of as the corner-stone, elect, precious that is laid in Zion.

2. The choice of Israel to their peculiar national privilege of being the chosen or separated people of God; as in Acts 13:17. “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers.”

3. It is once used for a choice made of’ salvation by an individual.

Luke 10:42. “Mary hath chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her.”

4. In a large majority of cases it has reference to the choice to salvation, either in the purpose or act of choice by God.

It is to the doctrine taught in this last class of passages that our inquiries are to be turned.

(1.) Election is an act of God, and not the result of the choice of the Elect.

This is not now an inquiry into the reason of Election; but simply into the agent. Does God choose the elect, whether by his own purpose, or because he foresees that they will believe, or for any other reason? Is election an act of God?

The fact on this point would appear more clearly if we were to exchange the common word choice or chosen with the equivalent word elect.

The following passages are sufficient, though the examples are far more numerous.

John 13:18. “I know whom I have chosen.”

John 15:16. “Ye did not choose me, but I chose you” (not to their offices as apostle, but), “that ye should go and hear fruit.”

Rom. 8:33. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s chosen ones?”

Rom. 9:15. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy.”

Eph. 1:4. “Even as he chose us in him.”

Eph. 1:11. “Having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will.”

2 Thess. 2:13. “God chose you from the beginning unto salvation.”

2. This choice is one of individuals and not of classes.

This position needs to be explained. It is not denied that the Elect are to be true believers, and that true believers are the Elect. The character of the Elect does not, therefore, enter into this question. The issue is simply, does God choose all who shall believe, and are they, as such, his elect? or, does he choose his elect, and will they, as such, believe? Is belief the result of God’s election, or is God’s election the result of man’s faith?

Acts 13:48. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” This is a historical statement made subsequent to the event, not by man’s knowledge but by inspiration.

Eph. 1:4, 5. “Even as he chose us in him, . . . having foreordained us unto adoption as sons.”

2 Thess. 2:13. “But we are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Here the choice is made to salvation, and the means to salvation, sanctification and faith, are indicated; no prerequisite or means being stated as to Election. It is not as believers that they are elected; but as elected, that they are saved.

Rom. 8:29. “Whom he foreknew he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son.” The foreknowledge here is of persons, not of personal acts, not of those whose faith he foreknew, nor, as would be essential to their theory, is it of the class of believers as such. The Arminian theory would require the substitution of the words “as believers” or “you as believers” instead of those which are used.

It is not, therefore, to the class of believers, but to individuals that election refers. But, it may be asked, does it not refer to them in that character? Did not God choose those whose faith he for-saw?

(3.) The third point then to be proved is, that it was not because of any act or merit of theirs, but irrespective of anything but his own good pleasure, that this Election was made.

This is merely a negative form of the same fact stated by the next point affirmatively. It is better, therefore, to unite this with the succeeding one, which is,

(4.) That the election is made through the mere good pleasure of God.

Some of the passages simply affirm a choice by God’s Sovereign will; others, while asserting this, also deny merit in those elected; and still others represent the fact of sovereignty by asserting a choice of such persons as would not ordinarily be chosen. The following are some of the passages which prove these points.

(a.) Such as simply assert sovereign will. Such are Matt. 24:40-41 and Luke 17:33-36. These declare the sovereign choice of God by showing such choice exercised as to persons in the same situation, so that the one shall be taken and the other left; “two men on one bed;” “two women grinding at the mill;” “two men shall be in the field;” one of each shall be taken and the other left.

John 3:3-8. Regeneration is here spoken of as essential to entrance into the kingdom of God. This precedes any act on which election is said by any to depend. Yet the sovereignty of God in this is declared in verse 8. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knoweth not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

John 6:37, 39, 44, 64, 65. “All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me. . . . This is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which be hath given me I should lose nothing. . . . No man can come to me except the Father which sent me draw him. . . . Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who it was that should betray him. And he said, for this cause have I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of the Father.”

John 15:16. “Ye did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye should go and bear fruit.” The object to be attained cannot be the cause.

John 17:2. “As thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever thou hast given him to them he should give eternal life.” See also verses 6-12.

Acts 22:14. Ananias says to Paul, “The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know his will.”

Eph. 1:5. In the fourth verse having referred to God’s choice of us before the foundation of the world, he says in this fifth, “Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.” In verse 11 we are said to be predestinated to our inheritance “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will.”

James 1:18. “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.”

(b.) Such as deny merit in the persons elected as well as assert the sovereign choice of God.

Ezek. 36:32. In this passage, after describing the blessings connected with the new dispensation, and the gift of the Spirit and the new heart which he would give them–gifts which the Calvinistic theory regards as the result of election; but which the Arminian maintains to be its cause, God adds, “Not for your sakes do I this, saith the LORD GOD, be it known unto you; be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.”

John 1:11-18. “He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But, as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

In Rom. 9:11-16. Election is illustrated by the case of the twins; “the children being not yet born, neither having done anything, good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. . . . So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”

Rom. 11:5-6. “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. But if it is by grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.”

(c.) Such as so describe the persons chosen as to imply this.

Matt. 11:25, 26. “At that season Jesus answered and 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.”

Luke 4:25-27. Christ illustrates this sovereignty of God by mentioning that many widows had been in Israel, yet had only a heathen widow been blessed; and again many lepers, and yet only a heathen leper cured. “Of a truth I say unto you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah . . . and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Sarephath in the land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

Acts 26:12-23. Paul’s description of his personal condition at his conversion shows that God chose him not for his merits but from his own good pleasure.

1 Cor. 1:26-30. “For behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are, that no flesh should glory before God. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, etc.”

Gal. 1:15, 16. Paul says, “When it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me even from my mother’s womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach, etc.”

Ephesians 2:1-13. The description of the condition of those who were dead in trespasses and sins, and in that state were quickened, proves that the quickening and salvation was due to no merit of their own.

The texts thus exhibited under these three classes prove conclusively that not on account of their own merits, but because of the good pleasure of God, does he choose men. They have been presented at some length, because this is after all the point upon which all that is important in this controversy turns. For, although other matters are equally essential to the doctrine, the whole opposition arises from an unwillingness on the part of man to recognize the sovereignty of God, and to ascribe salvation entirely to grace. This proof, however, has been by no means exhausted, the attempt having been to select some only of the numerous passages, and mainly such as from their conciseness allow of presentation in full. Let the Scriptures be read with reference to this doctrine and every passage marked which indicates God’s dealing with men as an absolute sovereign, and also every declaration which ascribes Election or the fruits of it to his choice and not to the will or acts of men, and every illustration afforded that this is God’s usual method, and it will appear that scarcely any book of Scripture will fail to furnish testimony to the fact that in the acts of grace, no less than those of providence, God “doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.” Dan. 4:3-5.

(5.) Another important fact to be shown is the eternity of Election in opposition to the idea that it was in time. The proof on this point is two-fold. There are (a) those passages which show that the Election took place before existence in this world or before the world began, and (b) those which actually declare that it was eternal. Between the two classes of passages there is really, however, very little difference, as, from the nature of the case, what took place before time must have been in Eternity, and besides, the object of proof of an eternal Election is simply to show that it was not dependent on human action, but simply on the will of God.

(a) Those which show that the election took place before man’s existence, or before the world began.

Jer. 1:5. “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee.”

Matt. 25:34. “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Eph. 1:4. “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.

2 Thess. 2:13. “But we are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”

2 Tim. 1:9. “Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal.”

Compare also the language used as to the names written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Rev. 13:8. “And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him (that is the beast), every one whose name hath not been written in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain from the foundation of the world.”

Rev. 17:8. “And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, they whose name hath not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast how that he was, and is not, and shall come.”

Referring to the adherents of the Lamb as persons “with him,” it is said in verse 14, “They . . . that are with him called and chosen and faithful.”

Rev. 21:27. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

(b) The passages which distinctly declare that this, which may be thus inferred to have been an eternal Election, is really such.

1 Cor. 2:7. “Even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory.”

Eph. 3:11. “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

6. It remains to be proved that this Election is one to salvation, and not to mere external privileges.

Jeremiah 31:31-34:

Verse 31. Tells of a day when a new covenant shall be made.

Verse 32. Says that this shall not be like that made with their fathers (not one of external privileges).

Verse 33. But of this sort, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Verse 34. “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.”

Speaking again of the restoration of Israel, the same prophet adds a like passage in Chap. 32:37-40. A similar passage is to be found in Ezekiel 36:24-27.

John 10:16. “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock, one shepherd.”

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

Verse 27. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Rom. 8:28-30. “We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.” Paul now proceeds to tell who these are. “For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” This passage shows that foreknowledge, foreordination to holiness, calling, justification, and a state of glory are inseparably connected, and hence that the election, from which they proceed, is to salvation.

Eph. 1:4-9. This passage speaks of our being chosen before the foundation of the world, “that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him.”

2 Thess. 2:13. After referring to others who were to have the same outward privileges, but upon whom God would send strong delusion, the Apostle says in this verse, “For we are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation,” &c.

1 Peter 6:10. “The God of all grace who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ,” &c. Here the Apostle is speaking of that effectual calling, which is the result of Election, and tells us that it is a call unto eternal glory.


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

Objections to Election-Objection 2

Two: It represents God as partial.

“God appears in his dealings to be a respecter of persons.”

Answer: Since there is nothing in men that determines God’s choice of one over another, the objection is invalid.

It would equally apply to God’s selection of certain nations, as Israel, and certain individuals, as Cyrus, to be recipients of special temporal gifts.

If God is not to be regarded as partial in not providing a salvation for fallen angels, he cannot be regarded as partial in not exercising the regenerating influences of his Spirit on the whole race of fallen men. The following verses are clear:

For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them (Psalms 44:3).

For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it (1 Cor. 4:7)?

William Sasser-Objections to Election

Objections to Election-Objection 1

One: It Is Unjust to Men.

“It makes God to be unfair to those who are not included in the purpose of salvation.”

Answer: Election does not deal simply with men as neutral creatures, but with sinful, guilty and condemned creatures. That any sinner should be saved is a matter of pure grace. Those who are not included in God’s purpose of salvation suffer only the due reward of their deeds.

We may better praise God that he saves any, than charge him with injustice because he does not save all. God can say the following to all men, saved or unsaved:

Friend, I do thee no wrong.…Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own (Matt. 20:13, 15)? The question is not whether a father will treat his children alike (remember some people are the Devil’s children), but whether a sovereign must treat all condemned rebels alike. It is obviously not true that a Governor who pardons one convict from the penitentiary is obligated to pardon all. Such logic is nonsense.

In God’s government, there is still less reason for objection for mercy being shown to some; for God freely offers pardon to all.


William Sasser-Objections to Election