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Objection answered, that there must be two contrary wills in God, refuted and why the one simple will of God seems to us as if it were manifold

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015These objections originate in a spirit of pride and blasphemy. Objection, that there must be two contrary wills in God, refuted. Why the one simple will of God seems to us as if it were manifold.

3. As I have hitherto stated only what is plainly and unambiguously taught in Scripture, those who hesitate not to stigmatize what is thus taught by the sacred oracles, had better beware what kind of censure they employ. If, under a pretense of ignorance, they seek the praise of modesty, what greater arrogance can be imagined than to utter one word in opposition to the authority of God — to say, for instance, “I think otherwise,” — “I would not have this subject touched?” But if they openly blaspheme, what will they gain by assaulting heaven? Such petulance, indeed, is not new. In all ages there have been wicked and profane men, who rabidly assailed this branch of doctrine. But what the Spirit declared of old by the mouth of David, (Psalm 51:6,) they will feel by experience to be true — God will overcome when he is judged. David indirectly rebukes the infatuation of those whose license is so unbridled, that from their groveling spot of earth they not only plead against God, but arrogate to themselves the right of censuring him. At the same time, he briefly intimates that the blasphemies which they belch forth against heaven, instead of reaching God, only illustrate his justice, when the mists of their calumnies are dispersed. Even our faith, because founded on the sacred word of God, is superior to the whole world, and is able from its height to look down upon such mists.

Their first objection — that if nothing happens without the will of God, he must have two contrary wills, decreeing by a secret counsel what he has openly forbidden in his law — is easily disposed of. But before I reply to it, I would again remind my readers, that this cavil is directed not against me, but against the Holy Spirit, who certainly dictated this confession to that holy man Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away,” when, after being plundered by robbers, he acknowledges that their injustice and mischief was a just chastisement from God. And what says the Scripture elsewhere? The sons of Eli “hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them,” (1 Samuel 2:25.) Another prophet also exclaims, “Our God is in the heavens: he has done whatsoever he has pleased,” (Psalm 115:3.) I have already shown clearly enough that God is the author of all those things which, according to these objectors, happen only by his inactive permission. He testifies that he creates light and darkness, forms good and evil, (Isaiah 45:7;) that no evil happens which he has not done, (Amos 3:6.) Let them tell me whether God exercises his judgments willingly or unwillingly. As Moses teaches that he who is accidentally killed by the blow of an ax, is delivered by God into the hand of him who smites him, (Deuteronomy 19:5,) so the Gospel, by the mouth of Luke, declares, that Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired “to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done,” (Acts 4:28.) And, in truth, if Christ was not crucified by the will of God, where is our redemption? Still, however, the will of God is not at variance with itself. It undergoes no change. He makes no pretense of not willing what he wills, but while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same thing. Paul terms the calling of the Gentiles a hidden mystery, and shortly after adds, that therein was manifested the manifold wisdom of God, (Ephesians 3:10.) Since, on account of the dullness of our sense, the wisdom of God seems manifold, (or, as an old interpreter rendered it, multiform,) are we, therefore, to dream of some variation in God, as if he either changed his counsel, or disagreed with himself? Nay, when we cannot comprehend how God can will that to be done which he forbids us to do, let us call to mind our imbecility, and remember that the light in which he dwells is not without cause termed inaccessible, (1 Timothy 6:16,) because shrouded in darkness. Hence, all pious and modest men will readily acquiesce in the sentiment of Augustine: “Man sometimes with a good will wishes something which God does not will, as when a good son wishes his father to live, while God wills him to die. Again, it may happen that man with a bad will wishes what God wills righteously, as when a bad son wishes his father to die, and God also wills it. The former wishes what God wills not, the latter wishes what God also wills. And yet the filial affection of the former is more consonant to the good will of God, though willing differently, than the unnatural affection of the latter, though willing the same thing; so much does approbation or condemnation depend on what it is befitting in man, and what in God to will, and to what end the will of each has respect. For the things which God rightly wills, he accomplishes by the evil wills of bad men,” — (August. Enchirid. ad Laurent. cap. 101.) He had said a little before, (cap. 100,) that the apostate angels, by their revolt, and all the reprobate, as far as they themselves were concerned, did what God willed not; but, in regard to his omnipotence, it was impossible for them to do so: for, while they act against the will of God, his will is accomplished in them. Hence he exclaims, “Great is the work of God, exquisite in all he wills! so that, in a manner wondrous and ineffable, that is not done without his will which is done contrary to it, because it could not be done if he did not permit; nor does he permit it unwillingly, but willingly; nor would He who is good permit evil to be done, were he not omnipotent to bring good out of evil,” (Augustin. in Psalm 111:2.)

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 18-Henry Beveridge Translation

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Answering the objection that the scripture speaks of an annulment of the divine decrees

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Second objection, that Scripture speaks of an annulment of the divine decrees. Objection answered. Answer confirmed by an example.

14. Nor does the Sacred History, while it relates that the destruction which had been proclaimed to the Ninevites was remitted, and the life of Hezekiah, after an intimation of death, prolonged, imply that the decrees of God were annulled. Those who think so labor under delusion as to the meaning of threatening, which, though they affirm simply, nevertheless contain in them a tacit condition dependent on the result. Why did the Lord send Jonah to the Ninevites to predict the overthrow of their city? Why did he by Isaiah give Hezekiah intimation of his death? He might have destroyed both them and him without a message to announce the disaster. He had something else in view than to give them a warning of death, which might let them see it at a distance before it came. It was because he did not wish them destroyed but reformed, and thereby saved from destruction. When Jonah prophesies that in forty days Nineveh will be overthrown, he does it in order to prevent the overthrow. When Hezekiah is forbidden to hope for longer life, it is that he may obtain longer life. Who does not now see that, by threatening of this kind, God wished to arouse those to repentance whom he terrified, that they might escape the judgment which their sins deserved? If this is so, the very nature of the case obliges us to supply a tacit condition in a simple denunciation. This is even confirmed by analogous cases. The Lord rebuking King Abimelech for having carried off the wife of Abraham, uses these words: “Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.” But, after Abimelech’s excuse, he thus speaks: “Restore the man his wife, for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live; and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou and all that art thine,” (Genesis 20. 3, 7.) You see that, by the first announcement, he makes a deep impression on his mind, that he may render him eager to give satisfaction, and that by the second he clearly explains his will. Since the other passages may be similarly explained, you must not infer from them that the Lord derogated in any respect from his former counsel, because he recalled what he had promulgated. When, by denouncing punishment, he admonishes to repentance those whom he wishes to spare, he paves the way for his eternal decree, instead of varying it one whit either in will or in language. The only difference is, that he does not express, in so many syllables, what is easily understood. The words of Isaiah must remain true, “The Lord of hosts has purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27.)

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

Reply to Letter two and Three by C. D. Cole

November 14, 2014 1 comment

746 West Noel
Madisonville, Kentucky
December 17th, 1959

My Dear Marjorie:

Greetings and best wishes for a happy holiday season! When I mailed you the books, I intended to follow at once with a letter explaining that you would be under no obligation to pay for them, since you had not ordered them. But other things took precedence, and I was still planning to write when your letter arrived with enclosure. Perhaps I should return part of the money as it was more than enough to pay for what I sent. The supply of books and tracts I have written is almost exhausted, and this is one reason why I sent you what I did. The series of SIN and SALVATION have not been put in book form. I have two or three large scrap books containing articles published in various magazines. At my age (now in my 75th year), I do not expect to publish any more books. However, I have many dear friends among young ministers and some of them may want to publish some of my writings after I am gone.

With this brief introduction, I will now attend to your questions in the hope I may be of some help.

1. Peter’s exhortation to “make your calling and election sure,” is a warning against presumption. One must not take his salvation for granted without proper evidence of it. Of course he means to make it sure to ourselves, for we can make nothing sure to God. His words have to do with assurance and not to the fact of salvation. He starts with the grace of faith as God’s gift, and urges us to build upon that faith so that our lives may not be barren and unfruitful. No unfruitful believer can have assurance of salvation as a subjective experience. Apropos of your own experience while a backslider.

2. I believe “all” in #Ro 11:32 is used only in a relative and not absolute sense, else we have universal salvation. Moreover, #Ro 9:18 teaches that God is sovereign in bestowal of mercy. This does not mean that He refuses mercy to any who trust Christ for it, but that He does not cause all to look to Him for mercy— some are left to their own carnal will.

3. The Christian will be judged for his works and not for his sins. His sins have been judged in Christ and will not appear against him in the day of Judgment. Salvation is of grace; reward is for work. There will be degrees both in heaven and in hell, for both the saved and lost will be judged for their deeds—the lost will receive the degree of punishment commensurated with their evil deeds, and the saved will receive glory according to their works. I do not expect the reward of Paul, for my works have not equalled his.

Romans 2 is dealing with principles of judgment under law:

3a. It is to be according to truth (#Ro 2:2), that is according to facts;

3b. It is to be according to deeds (#Ro 2:6);

3c. It is to be without respect of persons (#Ro 2:11,12). The chapter is not showing how to be saved, but what one may expect from the law, whether he be Jew or Gentile.

Romans 14 warns believers against judging one another for various scruples in regard to eating and observing days on the ground that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Ro 14:10). We shall give account of ourselves to God and not to one another.

1 Corinthian 4 deals with the judgment of the Christian as a steward of God. We cannot judge or appraise the works of one another here and now, for there is much we cannot know, such as motives and hidden things, but when Christ comes He will know everything about us, and “then shall every man have praise of God” (#1Co 4:5). We are not qualified to judge so as to determine the place one shall have in glory—God will look after that.

4. We are to address the lost as sinners, and not as elect sinners. We do not know who the elect are until they manifest it in faith and good works. And we are to address them as in need of salvation, and urge them to trust the one and only Saviour-and to trust Him now. Shall we tell them to trust Him at once or wait until some other time?

It is true that “no one who is elected for salvation can possibly die without being saved”. But this does not mean that they will be saved apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the means of salvation are as truly elected as are the persons. #2Th 2:13,14 Paul knew more about the doctrine of election than any other man, and yet he persuaded people concerning Jesus (#Ac 28:23). He knew the elect would be saved, and yet he prayed and worked for the salvation of Israel. #Ro 9:1-3 10:1-4 11:14 1Co 9:19-22

We must not allow the doctrine of election to rob us of compassion for the lost, nor close our eyes to the urgency of salvation. #Heb 2:3 2Co 6:2

There will be things we cannot understand and doctrines we shall not be able to harmonize, but it is plainly His commanding will for us to witness to all people concerning Christ Jesus. Secret things belong to God, but the revealed things fix our duty #De 29:29

With Christian love,

C. D. Cole

 

Dr. C. D. Cole-The Bible Doctrine of Election-Part II-Questions and Answers on Election

Letter Two By Mrs. Marjorie Bond

October 31, 2014 1 comment

1505 Scotland Street
Calgary, Alberta
November 6, 1959

Dear Dr. Cole:

Do you think you can stand another letter from me? I shall try not to be so verbose this time!

Your wonderful and most helpful letter came two weeks ago tomorrow, so you can see it was in plenty of time for our meeting last night. I was going to acknowledge it immediately; then it occurred to me that if I waited till after the meeting, I could “kill two birds with one stone,” so to speak—thank you for the letter and report on the meeting as well.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate the time and trouble you have taken to help a complete stranger—and yet, perhaps, we are not such strangers after all, as we are related through the bonds of the gospel. But you went to a great deal of work, I am afraid, to answer my letter at such length and in such detail and I appreciate it more than I can say. But above all, I feel I owe you a debt of boundless gratitude for your article on Election which sparked off my interest in it and subsequent study of it. I feel as if a completely new world has opened up to me; I get almost excited over it all, Dr. Cole. I do hope it is not wrong to attach so much importance to it, but somehow, I feel as if it is the most significant and personal doctrine in the whole Bible. Nothing should eclipse the Atonement I know; but I feel that even my conversion, somehow, never made the impression on me that Election has. When you have been brought up in a Christian family, heard the Scriptures from childhood and been active in the Church, there isn’t the marked cleavage, somehow, when one becomes a Christian that there is if you have been turned from a life of vice. Is it because we don’t feel, in the innermost recesses of our being, that we need Christ as badly as the other type does?

I don’t know; but I have often felt that I didn’t have the joy in my Christian life that I should. It seemed stale and flat, so often; one did things for the Lord from a sense of duty. Sometimes I have even wondered if I were saved at all. Now all that is changed. The very fact that my salvation is all of grace—in the application of it as well as the provision of it—has transformed everything for me. And I have you to thank for it. Oh, how wonderful it must be to a minister to be so used of God.

When I first read your pamphlet, in addition to all my other objections to Election, I didn’t like the idea that (in a sense) I had nothing to do with becoming a Christian. I had always supposed that, with the Spirit’s help, I had had sense enough and intelligence enough to recognize something worthwhile and take it! It didn’t appeal to me at all to think that if I had been elected, I really had nothing to do with my salvation at all—even in the accepting of it. But now that is almost the best part of it! It is humbling and breath-taking and frightening and thrilling all at once. I just can’t get over it, Dr. Cole. To think that all these years (I am 41), I have missed this tremendous teaching and the thrill and joy of it.

It has made my salvation and conversion much more real and personal. I have always envied people who spoke with such joy of their conversion and felt that something had happened, I never could. I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t believe, if you know what I mean. And it has worried me; I’ve had a sneaking fear that maybe all I had was a head or credal belief because I was brought up in a Christian home and accepted that as I did other patterns of behaviour and thought. I have prayed off and on for months that if I were saved the Lord would make me realize it beyond all shadow of doubt and give me “the joy of His salvation”. Not just a barren orthodoxy.

Never did I dream of getting the “witness of the spirit” through the doctrine of Election. I wouldn’t want the Lord to think I’m not grateful for salvation. I am; but right now, I feel as if I’m more grateful for Election. Is that wrong?

Over and over I keep saying to myself, like someone rescued from a sinking vessel, when others are lost, “Why me? Why me?”. When I wake up in the morning, I used to feel tired and exhausted and wish I didn’t have to go to work (I am a war widow); now, almost as soon as I am conscious, I have the feeling that something new and exciting has happened—and then it flashes across my mind in a wave of remembrance—”you are elected” and I get so excited I am wide awake instantly and ready to be up and doing.

I cannot explain it—but somehow as long as you feel that you had the least little bit to do with your own conversion, it takes away some of the thrill and bloom of it. But when the full impact of the thought and realization hits you—that not only the provision of salvation is due to God’s grace but also His choice of you as recipient, one can only stand back and marvel—lost in wonder, love and praise.

Now, I must tell you about last night. There were nearly 30 women out. Nothing that we have studied in the 7 or 8 years that I have taught that class has so stirred them as this Doctrine! They came with Bibles and pens—and objections! I went all over it again very carefully, reminding them first that:

1. The depravity of man required it (election) elaborating on your point that we are just deceiving ourselves if we think any of us would ever want or seek God in our unregenerate state apart from the Holy Spirit and election. (#Ge 6:5 Ps 14:3 Isa 64:3 Ro 3:10 Eph 2:1 —I had them look up and read aloud these references).

2. The sovereignty of God justifies it—He has the same rights over us as the potter with the clay, etc., emphasising such qualities of God as His absolute Righteousness, Holiness, Omniscience, Self-Existence, etc. which entitles Him to act in a sovereign way.

3. The righteousness and Holiness of God safe-guards it; it cannot be unjust for it is absolutely impossible for God to do anything wrong, be unfair, unjust, unfaithful… “He cannot deny Himself”. Regardless of how it may appear to us we have this knowledge and comfort that the Judge of all the earth will do righteously.

Well, after I had made my points, the members asked questions. I felt really sorry for one woman in my class. She has come to our church from the United Church. I think she is saved—but periodically one detects in her thinking and from her remarks, a throwback to the United Church doctrine of salvation through works! Evidently she has been really wrought up over this subject—which I consider a good sign. I told her she couldn’t have been any more disturbed than I was at first. She cannot see that it is not unjust of God. I thought your illustration of being on the fence and God pushing them to one side or the other excellent, so I elaborated on that. I think, with most of them, they finally began to see a glimmer of light that if God hadn’t elected some, none would be saved.

We all seem to have the same reaction—that if the decision had been left to us, we had a better chance of getting saved than by having God settle it all in Eternity; because we don’t or won’t accept that teaching that of ourselves we are incapable of reaching out for God. I told them that in our natural state, we are dead in trespasses and sins and a corpse just cannot flicker even an eyelash! So they were just deceiving themselves if they thought for one minute that they would ever accept Christ, apart from God taking certain measures to make them.

Well, our discussion went on for about 1 1/2 hours! This woman also thought as did others that Scriptures elsewhere we contradicted by Election—such as #Joh 3:16 1Jo 2:2. I was glad to have your explanation of “all” and “world” rarely being used in the absolute sense.

Also, #Joh 6:37 —”Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out” —I told them to look up the first part of that verse and they would get a shock! I had! “All that the Father hath given unto me shall come unto me—etc.” Of course Christ wouldn’t cast out any who came because any who came would be those whom the Father had given! They were simply stunned! But seemed to react more as if it made sense and were opening up new worlds of thought.

Afterwards, while we were waiting for tea, this one particular woman came to me. I did feel so sorry for her; she was flushed and almost tearful and I said, “Edythe, is it any clearer?” She hesitated and said, “Yes, in some respects. But there are other things that I just feel I can’t reconcile with my ideas of God and the Bible”. I said, “Don’t try, Edythe, Dr. Cole told me not to attempt to reconcile all points of this teaching with other passages of Scripture because I would only confuse myself, and I believe he is right”. By the way, that was a wonderful help to me, personally, what you told me about just getting a confused mind. I just let go all the arguments, after reading your letter, and told the Lord that I guessed I had struggled long enough trying to crowd the ocean of His theology into the teacup of my mind and I wasn’t going to fuss anymore about the points I didn’t understand. He understood them and that was good enough for me. And it is since then that I have had such peace.

I tried to tell something of this to Edythe; she said, “Marjorie, I have nearly gone out of my mind this week”. And her voice broke. She said, “I can’t think of anything else and I go over and over it until I am nearly crazy”. I just ached with pity for her because I had been through the same thing until I got your letter back.

It flashed across my mind that perhaps your letter would help her too. So I asked her if she would like a copy of my questions to you and your reply. She was terribly grateful. I had them with me so was able to let her have them right away. Would you pray with me that she will get peace and learn, by the help of the Holy Spirit to love this doctrine as we do?

One other member, a new-comer to my class although she has been in our church several years, said to me with the sweetest smile afterwards, “I am like you; I know now I have been elected and it is simply thrilling. I wish you could have seen my husband, though. He wanted to come so badly tonight—he asked me if I thought you would mind if he slipped into a back seat”! It seems her husband took her pamphlet and read it; was so thrilled and worked up over it, he read it again and said that never in all his life had he heard anything like it—why don’t we hear about it? And do you know, Dr. Cole, person after person has said that to me; “Why don’t our ministers preach it??”

One girl, also from the southern states (Texas—but not the one I mentioned in my first letter; she wasn’t out last night) has been very keen on this, but admitted to me on different occasions that it simply upset a lot of her ideas and understandings! However, last night, as I closed she said, in front of all the others, almost with a blissful sigh, “Well, it certainly takes the fear out of dying, doesn’t it”? And you know, that is what I have felt so strongly. I just stared at her for a minute when she said it—it was the echo of my own heart. Sometimes I feel I can’t wait to get to heaven and learn more about Election and all the rest of the Bible.

A third woman, mother of a 6 year old boy, said to me, “Marjorie, I don’t know. It is wonderful. I feel that since this study and the thought I have given to Election that everything has cleared up in my mind. And so many passages of Scripture fit in and make sense now when they didn’t before”.

Yet another girl has talked to me different times and said that at first she felt (when I taught my first lesson in Sept.) that she was opposed to it. But the more she read your pamphlet and thought about it, the more she thought the doctrine really was taught in the Bible and therefore she should be willing to believe it and leave the parts she didn’t understand until she got to heaven! Last night, after we were finished, she whispered to me across the table, “Well, I’m happy too, tonight Marjorie. But I’m afraid some aren’t. But it’s more a case of won’t with them.

However, I am praying that the Holy Spirit will do His work in the hearts of those that are confused or resisting. I feel their very interest is encouraging and, as you so truly put it, none of us likes this doctrine; it takes the Holy Spirit to teach a person to love it.

Now, I promised you I wouldn’t write such a long letter and I have. I do hope you aren’t bored. But I am so full of it all and so indebted to you that I felt I had to overflow to you. Have you, by any chance, had any of your other teachings put up in pamphlet form? I was looking over some old Witnesses the other day and saw several of yours in serial form, on Sin, Salvation, etc. I should love to have them complete. I sent away for 40 copies of your ELECTION pamphlet and distributed them to my class in Sept., so they have had them to study and mull over ever since! I can never thank you enough for your article. Certainly God must have led you to have it printed.

It would be so wonderful to sit under that kind of preaching today. Why don’t ministers preach doctrinal sermons anymore—instead of this milky, predigested, topical preaching that so many give? No wonder Christians today aren’t strong and virile and know what they stand for—they have never got off the milk of the Word onto the strong meat. I heard one Baptist minister say that we are “snackbar” Christians today when we should be dining-room Christians. And I think he had something.

Now, I must go. Again, my heartfelt thanks for all you have done for me. I pray God’s richest blessings upon you and yours and your ministry for Him which will be fruitful, I am sure, beyond your deepest imaginings and hopes.

Yours in Him,

(Mrs.) Marjorie Bond

 

Dr. C. D. Cole-The Bible Doctrine of Election-Part II-Questions and Answers on Election

Reply to Letter One by C. D. Cole

October 24, 2014 1 comment

746 West Noel Madisonville, Kentucky October 20, 1959

Mrs. Marjorie Bond
1505 Scotland Street
Calgary, Alberta
Canada

My Dear Mrs. Bond:

Greetings in the Name of His whose Name is above every name!

Your good letter under date of the 5th, was duly received. And it could not have reached me at a busier time, which accounts for my delay in making reply. I am a clerk of Little Bethel Association, and your letter came the first day of our annual meeting. There was a lot of work in preparing for the meeting, and much more work in getting the material in the hands of the printer. At first, I thought I would write briefly, stating my situation, and promising to get to it as soon as possible. And then it occurred to me that I might save this time in the hope of getting to the matter before the time you mentioned ran out. I trust you will not take my delay as evidence of indifference on my part. Moreover, due to infirmities of age, I do not have the capacity for work I once enjoyed.

First of all, let me commend you for your honest attitude towards the doctrine of ELECTION and related subjects; and may I also congratulate you on your grasp of these doctrines. I rarely receive such a well-written letter on any subject. You put your problems in a clear perspective, which makes it easier to deal with them. And I can answer sympathetically because your problems are also my own problems. Much as I would like to solve them for you, I fear my efforts will be disappointing.

I believe you are unduly disturbed over your inability to harmonize all that is in the Bible. This Book is the revelation of the Infinite and the finite mind cannot understand to perfection all that God has revealed. To be able to do so would be an argument against the Bible as God-breathed, and reduce it to a mere human production. Moreover, the determination to harmonize apparent contradictions is sure to result in one of three things, found in actual life. One will either ignore Sovereignty on the one hand, or human responsibility on the other hand, or else be plagued with a disturbed mind as you confess to having. On the one side are the so-called Primitive Baptist (Hardshells), who cannot reconcile human inability with responsibility in the matter of repentance and faith. And so they emphasize the doctrines of sovereignty, the Divine decrees, and human inability, and ignore the Scriptures which command sinners to repent and believe the gospel, hence they have no gospel for the lost. On the other hand there are those who preach the doctrines of human responsibility and the command to repent and believe, and have nothing to say about human inability, the Divine decrees, and sovereignty. Here in my own church and association, as well as throughout the South generally, there is little heard of Election, Depravity, and Sovereignty in salvation. It is because the brethren feel they cannot preach both; that the two are beyond reconciliation—the one being true, the other must be false. Now, in your case there is both the determination to accept all Scripture and to harmonize them, resulting in a confused and disturbed mind. Let us, at the risk of being called inconsistent, take all the Scriptures whether we can harmonize them or not. Dr. J.B. Moody ( one of my fathers in the faith) used to say, that if one waited to accept the doctrines until he could harmonize them, he would never accept them; the way to harmonize them is to receive them without question, and they will harmonize on the inside of the soul. This may not be exactly true, but it will be of help. I am not saying that we should make no effort to harmonize seeming contradictory doctrines, but I do warn against a persistent determination to do so. With this introduction, I will now take up your questions in their order.

1. It is true that most (I would say all) people feel that election is unjust. This is not strange since the carnal mind is enmity against God. People may love a god of their own invention, but only born-again believers can love a Sovereign God who does what He will with His own (1Jo 4:7). God’s rights with the sinful human race are the rights of a potter over the clay. We can readily see that the criminal has no claims upon the human court, and it is just as true that the sinner has no claims upon an offended God. Moreover, to say that election is unjust is to put salvation on the basis of justice, thus robbing every sinner of any hope.

When we find people who seem to be interested in salvation, we are encouraged to think they are of the elect, for the elect are not saved without becoming interested in salvation. When we pray for their salvation, we are not asking the Holy Spirit to put them on the fence where they may fall off on either side. They are already on the wrong side—the attitude of ignorant rejection of Christ —and we pray that He may translate them from the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son (#Col 1:13). We pray for their conversion to faith in Christ, that they may not be left to the choice of a depraved nature. Why He does not convict and convert everybody we preach to and pray for is due to His sovereignty and not to His weakness. We do not pray to a weak God. However, we must distinguish between the desire to be saved from sin and the desire to be saved from Hell. Nobody wants to burn, but the desire to be saved from sin is a holy desire created by the Holy Spirit. When He creates such a desire His further work of conversion will follow, but we cannot assuredly determine the motive of the desire.

You ask to what extent are they (the non-elect) responsible for being lost? They are responsible for all the sins they commit and for their sinful nature also. What one does is a revelation of what he is. This is not apparent to our sense of justice. I cannot see how God can justly hold me responsible for the exercise of a sinful nature inherited—for a nature I had nothing to do with acquiring—for a nature I was born with. If I were to sit in judgment on God (perish the thought) I would say that it is not right to punish me for an inherited sinful nature. I accept my responsibility for sin even though I cannot understand the justice of it. Those who have not been “ear-marked” for salvation fall into two groups—those who have the gospel preached to them, and those who never hear of Christ as Saviour. Those who have the gospel preached to them are responsible for all their sins, including the sin of rejecting Christ, while those who never hear of Him are free from the sin of rejecting Him, although they are guilty of other sins for which they are held responsible. The heathen who have never heard the gospel will not have to answer for the sin of unbelief. Whether we can understand it or not, the sinner in all his depravity and helplessness is accountable to God.

The woman in your class who remarked that the doctrine of election makes everything so hopeless, adding that she thought anyone could be saved; that the decision was “theirs,” might be answered this way. Anyone can be saved who is willing to be saved God’s way through faith in Christ, but nobody, left to himself, wants to be saved this way. God’s way is foolishness to him #1Co 2:14 2Co 4:3-6 Ro 10:1-3

The decision is “theirs” but the decision to trust Christ is the result of a renewed mind—the result of grace in the soul. Paul speaks of the time when he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 26:9). In the telling of his conversion he ascribes it to the grace of God #1Co 15:10 Ga 1:14-16 There is no self-salvation, either in providing it or applying it. The work of the Spirit in us is as essential as the work of Christ for us. Paul says that the Jews were asking for a sign (they wanted him to perform a miracle) and that the Greeks were clamouring for wisdom (they wanted him to philosophize), but without catering to the wishes of either, he preached Christ crucified. Salvation through faith in a crucified Christ was to the natural Jew a scandal, and to the Greek it was foolishness. Those effectually called by the Holy Spirit were able to see the power and wisdom of God in such a plan of salvation #1Co 1:22-31 Why God does not effectually call more than He does is not due to inability but to sovereignty. As I say in my article on election, we must either limit God’s power or His mercy, or go over boots and baggage to universalism. If God is trying to save everybody and does not succeed, He is not almighty; if He is not trying to save everybody His mercy is not universal. #Ro 9:18 makes it clear that His mercy is limited and is sovereignly bestowed. Deserving mercy is a contradiction of terms. The flesh in us—remnants of depravity—rebels at this aspect of Divine sovereignty. The writer is aware of this, just as you seem to be.

2. There are passages like #Joh 3:16 1Jo 2:2 which seem to teach that Christ died for every individual. However, the word “world” rarely ever means every individual of the human race. The word “world” is sometimes used to distinguish between the saved and the lost (#1Jo 5:19); between the Jew and the Gentile (#Ro 11:11-15) and between the few and the many (#Joh 12:19). I believe #Joh 3:16 1Jo 2:2 teach that Christ died for Gentiles as well as Jews. He died for men as sinners and not as any class or kind of sinners. The Jews thought their Messiah, when He came, would deliver them and destroy the Gentiles. John says that He is the propitiation or Mercy-seat for all believers regardless of class or colour. In other words, Christ is no tribal Saviour. If we think of Christ’s death as substitutionary, then I agree with Spurgeon, that He died for the elect only. If he died as the substitute for every individual, then every individual would be saved, else His death was in vain. Now I believe there is a sense in which Christ’s death affects every person. By His death He bought the human race, not to save every individual, but in order to dispose of every individual. The right to judge this world is Christ’s reward for His suffering. All judgment has been committed unto the Son (#Joh 5:22). In the parable of the hid treasure, Christ is the man who bought the field (world) for the sake of the treasure (the elect) for the sake of those given Him by the Father (#Mt 13:44). See also #Joh 17:6-11 2Pe 2:1. Incidentally, the word for Lord in #2Pe 2:1 is Despot (Gk. despotes), and indicates more authority than Kurios (Lord).

In #2Pe 3:9, the apostle is explaining why the Lord has not returned to this earth, the reason being, that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This refers to His will of purpose. It is God’s purpose that all should come to repentance and be saved. In longsuffering He waits until all the “us-ward” have been brought to repentance. The “us-ward” are described as those who had obtained the like precious faith (#2Pe 1:2); who had ben given all things that pertain to life and godliness (#2Pe 1:3); and who had escaped the corruption that is in the world (#2Pe 1:4). In #2Pe 3:15, the apostle tells the same “us-ward,” that they are to account the longsuffering of the Lord as salvation. Christ’s longsuffering towards the elect keeps Him on His mediatorial throne until all have been saved. Had He come sooner than planned, many of the elect would not have been saved. I have been a Christian for 51 years, and if He had come before my conversion, I would have perished in my sins. It is not His will of purpose that any of those given to Him by the Father shall perish. The words “all” and “every” are hardly ever used in the absolute sense #Mt 3:5-7 1Co 4:5 The “all” of #2Pe 3:9 are all of the “us-ward” who shall be brought to repentance. This is not good grammar, but it is good theology and necessary to plainness. Christ will not come in judgment until all those given Him by the Father have come to repentance. When He comes He will usher in the new era of the “New heavens and a new earth,” wherein dwelleth righteousness.

3. The story told you by your dear father has been duplicated in many cases of people who seem to be under deep conviction, and yet oppose those who try to lead them to Christ. Such conviction is not of the Holy Spirit, who convicts of the sin of unbelief and leads to faith in Christ. Such cases do reveal the fact of the enmity of the carnal mind towards God, and not a mind wrought upon by the Holy Spirit. A case in point is that of Felix who trembled at the preaching of Paul and then dismissed him until a more convenient season (#Ac 24:25).

There is a natural conviction of sin which may be felt by everybody when confronted by his sin (#Joh 8:9), and there is evangelical conviction by the Holy Spirit, and leading to repentance and faith. God never abandons the good work He begins in the soul (#Php 1:6). The Holy Spirit, in my judgment, never tries to regenerate one of the non-elect. There is much Scripture for this. The New Testament speaks often of those given to the Son by the Father and their salvation is assured. These are called “sheep” and “elect” before they come to Christ. #Joh 6:37-44 10:14-16,25-28 2Ti 2:10 You ask whether or not the woman referred to was an “elect”? I do not know. I can only say that at the time she gave no evidence of being an elect. However, later she may have been convicted by the Holy Spirit of the sin of unbelief and brought to repentance. We can only judge whether a person is an elect or not by his attitude toward the gospel of Christ. If she were a sheep of Christ, she did come to His at some later date, for Christ says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”.

4. “Many are called, but few are chosen” (#Mt 20:16 22:14). Calling in the New Testament usually means the effectual call to salvation—saints are made by a Divine call, but it cannot mean that many hear the invitation to accept Christ who have not been chosen by God to salvation (#1Th 1:4-7 2Th 2:13). Calling and choosing are not the same. The choosing or electing took place in eternity past; calling takes place in time and brings about conversion to faith in Christ. There is a general call given to every sinner in gospel preaching, and there is the special call of the Holy Spirit, inducing acceptance of the general call. The general call in gospel preaching is to men as sinners; the special call by the Holy Spirit is to the elect and results in salvation. Romans 8:28 refers to this effectual call. #1Co 1:26 Ga 1:15,16

5. You complain of being “caught up in a sort of fatalistic attitude —that what is to be will be”. There is a vast difference between cold, impersonal something called “fate,” and the providential workings of a great and wise God. Things do not come to pass by cold fate, but by God, “Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (#Eph 1:11). Dr. Charles Hodge was once asked if he believed what is to be will be. He replies, “Why yes I do; would you have me believe that what is to be won’t be?” Prophecy is the Divine prediction of many things which are to be, and these predictions have been or will yet come to pass.

The second paragraph of your letter on this subject expresses a glorious truth. God is ruling this world, making even the wrath of man to praise Him; the remainder of wrath men might do, He restrains. #Ps 76:10 Pr 21:1

Referring to the 1st paragraph of your letter on page 27 it is true that the elect will be saved, and that my failure to witness will not thwart God’s purpose to save them. God uses me, but He is not dependent upon me. I dare not think that God is helpless without me; if I fail He can use someone else. I am not to witness because of any assured results, but in obedience to His will of command. I cannot know His will of purpose concerning those to whom I bear testimony, We are to witness to people as sinners and not as elect sinners. Election has nothing to do with our obligation to witness. Isaiah preached when he was told there would be no good results in the way of response from the people. #Isa 6:8-13

Your letter closes with questions concerning prayer. I have no hope of giving much help here, but will make some observations. Prayer is one of the means by which God brings to pass what He has decreed. Answered prayer is indited by the Holy Spirit. He knows the mind and will (purpose of God) and makes intercession for us according to the will of God (#Ro 8:26,27). How one may know that his prayer is indited by the Holy Spirit, I cannot tell. But the Holy Spirit leads us to pray for that which is within the circle of the Divine will, and if we ask anything according to His will He heareth us (#1Jo 5:14). We are taught to pray for His will to be done. This shows we are not to try to change His will by our praying. This would take control out of His hands and put us in charge.

Whether we can harmonize our praying with His decrees or not; It is our duty to pray because He commands it (#Lu 18:1). Prayer implies two things: our inability and His ability. Prayer is an act of dependence upon God who is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” #Eph 3:20.

I do not presume to be able to reconcile the doctrine of Divine decrees with such passages as #Jas 4:2,3 5:16. But I can see how prayer can prevail without changing God, when I think of it as one of the means by which His will of purpose is effected. In Mueller’s case, I can think that he was led by the Holy Spirit to spend the night on his knees as the means of getting milk for the children. We have the same difficulty in the case of Paul’s ship-wreck as recorded in Acts 27. When all hope of being saved was gone (#Ac 27:20), the angel of God told Paul there would be no loss of life. He then comforts the despairing sailors, soldiers, and prisoners, saying, Be of good cheer; for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me (#Ac 27:25). Then later when the sailors were about to abandon the ship, Paul said to the centurion and soldiers “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” (#Ac 27:31). God had declared there would be no loss of life, and Paul believed Him, and yet he believed their safety depended upon the sailors staying with the ship. We might charge Paul with inconsistency but there it is.

As to praying for the sick, we must always pray without knowing what the Divine will is in every particular case. It is appointed unto men once to die, and when the appointed time comes our praying will not cancel the Divine will. David recognized this in praying for his sick child. He fasted and prayed while the child was alive, but when the child died, he bowed to the manifest will of God and said, “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me that the child may live?” #2Sa 12:22. Paul’s prayer for the thorn to be removed is another case of asking for something outside the circle of God’s will of purpose. Paul prayed without knowing the will of God, and when it was made known to him, that sustaining grace would be given rather than the removal of the thorn, he bowed in sweet submission and said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (#2Co 12:9).

My mind often reverts to the terrible war between our North and our South—the so-called “Civil War”. There were men of God on both sides—men of piety and prayer—who pleaded with God for victory. I believe it is conceded that the most outstanding men of God belonged to the Southern Army—such men as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Johnston. And now all of us rejoice that it was God’s will for the Union to be saved.

It is becoming in all of us to seek our Father’s face and pray for His blessings, and then bow in reconciliation to His mysterious providence in our lives.

“God holds the key of all unknown, and I am Glad;
If other hands should hold the key, Or if He trusted it to me,
I might be sad

“What if tomorrow’s cares were here Without its rest!
I’d rather He unlocked the day; And as the hours swing open, say,
‘My will is best.’

“The very dimness of my sight Makes me secure;
For groping in my misty way, I feel His hand; I hear Him say
‘My help is sure.’

I cannot read his future plans; But this I know;
I have the smiling of His face, And all the refuge of His grace,
While here below.

“Enough! this covers all my wants, And so I rest!
For where I cannot He can see, And in His care I safe shall be,
Forever blest.”

We are all poor sinners in the need of an adequate Saviour. This Saviour is the Lord Jesus Christ Who says, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”. If Christ is the Saviour of sinners, this poor sinner can qualify for salvation. I praise Him for dying for me, and I praise the Holy Spirit for making me to realize my helplessness and for taking the things of Christ and showing them to me (#Joh 16:14,15).

May the Lord bless you in the coming discussion on Nov. 5th, and make you a blessing to others! I wish I might have been of more help in this reply to your questions. Let me exhort you not to worry over failure to be able to reconcile doctrines which seem to our finite minds to be contradictory.

With heartfelt thanks for this opportunity to discuss with you some of the deep things of God, I am

Yours in gospel bonds,

C.D. Cole

 

Dr. C. D. Cole-The Bible Doctrine of Election-Part II-Questions and Answers on Election

Introduction

Part two of this booklet on the Bible doctrine of Election consists of a correspondence between Mrs. Marjorie Bond (widow-now Mrs. Milton Moorhouse), and Dr. Cole. The letters are self-explanatory. I have written to Mrs. Moorhouse and she has graciously given me permission to use the letters to be put into this booklet. Since the thoughts of Mrs. Moorhouse run in the same channels as the rest of the people that question the doctrine of election I have decided to leave it as near as it was written in their correspondence. I have taken some of the remarks out that do not pertain to this doctrine and have tried to leave it so that it would be instructive and interesting.

Dr. Cole is now with the Lord. Before he departed this life he sent me this material to see if it could be printed. I believe that this booklet will be a great help to those that are honestly desiring to know the true teaching on this doctrine. God richly blessed Bro. Cole in that he was able to put his thoughts into easy to be understood language. It is our privilege to be able to print Dr. C.D. Cole’s writings.

To the persons that read this booklet, our prayer is that you might see the greatness of our Lord, and that you might see as James declared in #Ac 15:18 “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world”. Also as Paul says in #Eph 1:11 “Who worketh all things after the council of His own will.” Our heart is made glad and to rejoice in the fact that God chose me to salvation. If it were not for the doctrine of election, Baptists would have used worldly means to bring men to Christ. But Baptists, down through the ages, have been mission-minded, knowing all the while that all are responsible to come to Jesus when the gospel is preached and yet knowing that no one would be saved but God’s elect ( #Joh 6:37). Jesus said in #Joh 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me”. The doctrine of election will make us mission-minded because we know that our preaching is not in vain in the Lord but will prosper wherein it was sent. Paul said, “I endure all things for the elects sake” (#1Ti 2:10).

May the Lord bless this booklet and cause many that heretofore have not understood this glorious doctrine to see that our salvation from beginning to the end is of the Lord, and that all that know Him would praise Him for His abundant mercy shown toward His people.

Alfred M. Gormley
Dr. C. D. Cole-The Bible Doctrine of Election-Part II-Questions and Answers on Election