Posts Tagged ‘James P. Boyce’

Churches, Get a Calvinist Pastor!

March 28, 2017 2 comments

Tom Nettles

Southern Baptists inherited the most compelling aspects of all the Baptist Calvinists that preceded them. James P. Boyce summarized this well. He encouraged every preacher to get theological education in some way, even if it could not be at the Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina. If no other means were available, he advised, “work at it yourself.” The fathers of the convention did this, Boyce claimed; “They familiarized themselves with the Bible, and Gill and Andrew Fuller, and they made good and effective preachers. God is able to raise up others like them.”1 The irony of Boyce’s appeal to the grassroots for support of theological education was this: the seminary would not interrupt, but would perpetuate, the work of pastoral ministry, preaching and theology consistent with the Gill/Fuller tradition.

But this is the very difficulty that we face at this moment in Southern Baptist history. God indeed is raising up others like them, that is,….




Read the entire article here.

James P. Boyce

boinde1James P. Boyce was born January 11, 1827, in Charleston, S.C., of Mr. and Mrs. Ker Boyce, considered the wealthiest man in South Carolina. He was of Scot-Irish and Presbyterian descent on his father’s side, his mother’s family being the Johnston family which produced many lawyers, judges and statesmen in the Carolinas. Charleston was the most cultured American city of that day, and young Boyce entered the best homes and had the best education available at Charleston College, Brown University (R.I.) and Princeton Seminary (N.J.)

As a child, the good natured and rotund Boyce was always inclined toward books rather than athletics. He was raised hearing some of the greatest preachers in America: Basil Manly, Sr. (under whom Boyce’s mother was converted and became a Baptist in 1830), Richard Fuller (whose preaching influenced Boyce’s conversion while home from Brown) and James Henley Thornwell, that great Presbyterian preacher and theologian. While a young man, Boyce once attended a Presbyterian church because he was enamored with a young girl. However, Boyce recalls that Thornwell preached so powerfully that he was held spellbound for one hour, forgetting about the girl. Boyce and Thornwell evidently became friends later during Boyce’s first pastorate in Columbia, S.C. Boyce was greatly affected by Thornwell’s Discourses on Truth published in 1854.


(from Abstract of Systematic Theology, James P. Boyce)

How came it (the Bible) to be written?

God inspired holy men to write it.

Did they write It exactly as God wished?

Yes; as much as if he had written every word himself.

Oughtn’t it, therefore, to be believed and obeyed?

Yes; as much as though God had spoken directly to us.


James P. Boyce

First President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

President, 1872-79, 1888

From A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine



Source [Reformed Reader]

Chapter 42-The Final States of the Righteous and the Wicked

October 15, 2014 1 comment

The Final States of the Righteous and the Wicked

IN the last chapter, nothing was said specifically of the awards of the judgement day. Yet is the public bestowal of these the culminating point of interest in that occasion. Judgement, without the expression of its results, in rewards and punishment, would be empty and vain. Hence the Scriptures do not leave us ignorant of what sentences will be pronounced upon the righteous, and wicked, and of what will be the final state of each. Of necessity, these must, in some respects, resemble those of the intermediate state; of which the condition of the righteous and wicked after judgement will be an enlargement and a culmination. It is not strange, therefore, that the Scriptures teach more fully, and emphatically upon these subjects.



There is upon this point little dispute as to the meaning of the Scripture statements. As they are numerous, they will best be presented under several classes of description.

1. The sentence of the judgement day may be stated.

Our Lord declared that “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.” Matt. 25:34. This is called “eternal life” in v. 46. As this is, probably, a description of the nature of the blessings to be attained, rather than a declaration of the literal language that will then be used, other statements may here be added which are of the same nature. One that is given in the parable of the talents, in which his lord said to him of the five talents, “Well done, good and faithful servant:thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things:enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Matt. 25:21, (cf. Matt. 24:27). The righteous are spoken of as “wheat,” and it is said that the householder at the harvest time will say to the reapers, “gather the wheat into my barn,” Matt. 13:30. Our Lord, in his explanation of this parable, says of those thus represented by the wheat, “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” v. 43. Corresponding to this language, is the declaration of Peter, that, “when the chief shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Pet. 5:4. There may be added, also, the promises made in Revelation to “him that overcometh,” viz.: to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God,” (Chap. 2:7); “That he shall not be hurt of the second death,” (2:11); “That he shall be given of the hidden manna,” and “a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written,” (2:17), and given authority over the nations, (2:27,) to “rule them with a rod of iron,” (2:27); to “be arrayed in white garments,” (3:5), and “walk with me (Christ) in white,” (3:4), to be made “a pillar in the temple of my God, the new Jerusalem, and the new name of Christ, written upon him,” (3:12); to sit down with Christ in his throne, 3:21; “to inherit these things,” with the promise, “I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” 21:7. These declarations, however figurative, are descriptive of the condition of the saints in glory, and may, therefore, be appropriately added to the sentence of their Lord.

2. The future state of the righteous, is also stated, with reference to his past condition on earth, as “salvation,” (Mark 16:16; 1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Tim. 2:10); deliverance :from every evil work,” (2 Tim. 4:18); “redemption,” (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 4:30); “liberty,” (John 8:36; Rom. 8:21); “rest,” (Heb. 4:10; Rev. 14:13); deliverance from earthly sufferings, such as hunger, thirst, tears, etc., (Rev. 7:16, 17); “no night,” (Rev. 21:25; 22:5); “no uncleanness,” Rev. 21:27.

3. It is also described, in contrast with present possessions, as blessedness, (Matt. 25:34); perfect knowledge, (1 Cor. 13:12); holiness, (1 Thess. 3:13; Rev. 21:27); glory, (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:4); life, (Mark 8:35; 9:43, 45, 47; John 5:29; Rom. 8:13); crown of life, (James 1:12); eternal life, Matt. 19:29; 25:46; John 6:27, 47, 54; Rom 2:7.

4. Declarations are made which connect the believer with Christ, viz.: As of his being with Christ, (1 Thess. 4:17); in the presence of his glory, (Jude 24); holding his glory, (John 17:24); conformed to the body of Christ in his glory, (Phil. 3:21); Christ showing him the riches of his grace, (Eph. 2:7); Christ glorified in them, (2 Thess. 1:10); entering into the joy of their Lord, (Matt. 25:21, 23); reigning with Christ, 2 Tim 2:12, etc.

5. Statements are made about their activity in the heavenly life. The rest of heaven is not a state of inactivity. This is pointed out in the very passage which speaks of the rest as a particular blessedness: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours (toil, trouble, suffering, pain, weariness); for their works (deeds, works, especially those of necessity or duty,) [see Lexicon of Liddell-Scott,] follow with them.” Rev. 14:13. Here we are taught that, while they rest from onerous and painful toil, they continue to be actively employed. We may not know what all of these employments shall be. They will be such as will be suited to their intellectual and moral nature and position. The statements of the book of Revelation give us an insight into what some of them may be. The servants of God are there depicted as serving God, Rev. 7:15; 22:3; as giving praises in song, Rev. 14:2, 3; 15:3, 4; 19:5, 6; as engaged in prayers of adoration, Rev. 6:9-13; 7:11, 12; of thanksgiving, Rev. 11:17; and in acts of humiliation, Rev. 4:10.

6. The blessedness of the future state of the righteous, is also set forth in connection with the place of their abode.

This is usually called heaven. It is readily admitted that the word “heaven” is used otherwise than for the abode of God, and Christ, and angels, and the future dwelling-place of the saints. But in numerous places it has only this special signification. The following selection of passages will suffice. Matt. 5:12, 45; 6:20; Luke 6:23; 15:7; 22:43; John 3:13; 6:38; Rom. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:47; 2 Cor. 5:1; Eph. 1:10; 3:15; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7; Heb. 9:24; 1 Pet. 1:4; 3:22.

The plain teaching of these passages, and of others that might be mentioned, is that heaven is a place, and not merely a condition of happiness.

The same fact is justly argued from its being the abiding place of Christ. His human body must occupy a specified place in space. It has been replied to this argument that, “since deity and humanity are indissolubly united in Christ’s single person, it is difficult to consider Christ’s body as limited to place, without vacating his person of its divinity.” But this objection is made in forgetfulness of the fact that Christ, in his divine relation, is not limited by his human nature, much less by his human body. This was shown by him, while on earth, when, in conversation with Nicodemus, he spake of himself as being in heaven, (John 3:13), although his body was manifestly on earth. Was his ubiquity as God interfered with by his location then in space as man? It was in like manner that Christ saw Nathanael under the fig tree, when he was not bodily present. John 1:48.

The idea of ubiquity of the body of Christ has been abandoned, however, while still it is denied that his human soul is limited to space. Thus it is said that “since deity and humanity are dissolubly united in Christ’s single person, we cannot regard Christ’s human soul as limited to place without vacating his person of its divinity.”

But this is equally erroneous. Divine attributes are not conferred on Christ’s soul because of its union with a divine person. But ubiquity, or omnipresence is a divine attribute. It is much more difficult for us to understand how the unity of Christ’s person did not convey to the human soul all knowledge belonging to Christ as God. Yet we are distinctly told (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32), that there was such a limitation of knowledge as to the time of Christ’s second coming, as could only be true of Christ in his human nature, and not of him as God. The perfect humanity of Christ, which is his as truly as his perfect divinity, makes necessary such location in space as is suitable to a human soul. Whatever superiority may accrue to either the human body or soul of Christ can never place either of these beyond the excellence of created existence, or confer upon either the nature or attributes of God.

No similar objection, however, can be made to an argument to the same effect, drawn from the bodies of the saints. Heaven cannot be regarded as only a state in which they have communion with God, but must be accepted as the place of their abode in their glorified bodies, in which they dwell with each other, and rejoice in the state of happiness and glory which is also theirs.

We have no means of ascertaining the location of heaven. That this earth, in its renewed condition, may be the future heaven is favoured by Rom. 8:19-23; 2 Pet. 3:5-13, and Rev. 21:1-3. But these passages are entirely to indefinite and doubtful to give any certainty, or even very strong probability, on this point.

Heaven is spoken of in certain descriptive terms. It is called “a better country, that is a heavenly.” Heb. 11:16. It is the place which we shall have a “a building from God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” (2 Cor. 5:1, 2); and “a place” among the “many mansions” in the “Father’s house;” John 14:2. It is called “the kingdom,” Matt. 13:43; 25:34. It is possible that heaven is also meant by the “Jerusalem that is above,” (Gal. 4:26), and “the new Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven,” (Rev. 3:12), and “the holy city Jerusalem,” (Rev. 21:10); as well as by Paradise, Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7, (cf. Rev. 21:10-27).

7. The blessedness of this state of the righteous is made supreme by the fact that it will last forever. It will never end; it will never be diminished. If there be any change, it will be from its increase; because of better intellectual perception and knowledge of God, and of divine things; because of a constantly and increasingly endearing communion with God in Christ; because of an increased capacity to behold the glory of Christ; and because of a greater exaltation of the spiritual nature in the worship and service of the Lord. There is no reason why there may not be such increase in beings whose natures can never attain the infinity of excellence and the complete fulness which belong only to God.

This perpetuity of the happiness of the saints is stated in various ways.

(1.) It is called “eternal life,” and “everlasting life” in the King James version, which are translations of the same Greek words. They are translated “eternal life,” or “life eternal” in Matt. 25:26; Mark 10:30; John 3:15; 10:28; 12:25; 17:2; Acts 13:48; Rom. 2:7; 5:21; 6:23; 1 Tim. 6:12, 19; Tit. 1:2; 3:7; 1 John 1:2; 2:25; 5:11-13; Jude 21. They are translated “everlasting life,” or “life everlasting” im Matt. 19:29; Luke 18:30; John 3:16, 36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:27, 40, 47; Rom. 6:22; Gal. 6:8; 1 Tim. 1:16. The Greek should have been translated in all these places by the same word; and the better word would have been everlasting, because only a relative eternity, or what is called eternity a parte post, belongs to created things. God alone has true eternity. [See pages 68-70.]

(2.) It is declared to be “for ever,” John 6:51, 58; and “for ever and ever,” Rev. 22:5.

(3.) Similar expressions are also used, as “everlasting tabernacles,” Luke 16:9; “eternal weight of glory,” (2 Cor. 4:17); “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever,” (Eph. 3:21); “eternal comfort,” (2 Thess. 2:16); “Salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory,” (2 Tim. 2:10); “eternal salvation,” (Heb. 5:9); “eternal redemption,” (Heb. 9:12); eternal inheritance,” (Heb. 9:15); “eternal glory,” (1 Pet. 5:10); “eternal kingdom of our Lord, and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Pet. 1:11.

(4.) In John 4:14; 8:51, 52, and 10:28, it is declared of believers that “they shall never thirst;” “never taste of death;” “and never perish;” by which is taught the same everlasting condition expressed in the three preceding classes. Reference is made in these passages to the spiritual life of the soul.

The numerous declarations of everlasting life and happiness, thus classified above, make certain what might have been inferred from the scriptural statements of the natural immortality conferred upon spirit, which forbids its annihilation; and from security, against the spiritual; death of the soul, arising from the gracious work of Christ wrought out, for, and in the believer, through which he is forever delivered from the condemnation, and presence of sin, and clothed in the unfailing righteousness of God. The same blessing is unquestionably attained through the relation borne to Christ by the saints, as constituting the church of first born ones, which is his bride, Eph. 5:23-33, and also that body, of which he is the head, which is declared to be “the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Eph. 1:23. The vital connection between Christ and his people has no elements of dissolution, and, therefore, everlasting must be that cause of their existence announced by him when he said, “because I live, ye shall live also.” John 14:19.



The judgement day is no less signally to be marked by the punishment decreed against the wicked, than by the blessings conferred upon the righteous. These, also, are set forth in the Bible, and in fearful words of warning; and should be effective for driving men to Christ for salvation, while the day of probation continues.

1. We have here the sentence to be uttered against those who are still in sin. It occurs in the same chapter with that of the righteous. Christ tells us that “Then shall he (the King) say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels, . . . and these shall go away into eternal punishment.” Matt. 25:41, 46. A similar sentence occurs in Luke 13:27, “I tell you, I know not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”

The different elements, included in this sentence, are also taught of the wicked elsewhere in the Scriptures; some examples of which may be here added.

(1.) Punishment. “He that disbelieveth shall be condemned,” Mark 16:16; “the resurrection of judgement,” John 5:29; “rendering vengeance to them that know not God . . . who shall suffer punishment,” 2 Thess. 1:8, 9; “keep the unrighteous under the punishment unto the day of judgement,” 2 Pet. 2:9.

(2.) Pain: (a) as expressed by fire. (Matt. 13:42, 50; 18:8, 9; Mark 9:43-48; 2 Thess. 1:8; 2 Pet. 3:7); (b.) fire and brimstone, (Rev. 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8); (c.) flame, (Luke 16:24); (d.) “the unquenchable fire,” (Mark 9:44, 48; cf. Luke 3:17); (e.) “tribulation,” Matt. 24:21, 29; Rom. 2:8, 9.

(3.) Deprivation: severed from among the righteous. Matt 13:49; “outer darkness,” Matt. 25:30; “cast forth without,” Luke 13:28; “shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 6:9; “no rest,” Rev. 14:11; “blackness of darkness hath been reserved forever,” Jude 13.

(4.) The punishment and suffering are recognized by those punished and that recognition is shown by their “weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” Matt 8:12; 13:50; 25:30; Luke 13:28. The Rich Man is represented as acknowledging his torments. Luke 16:24.

2. The nature of this punishment.

(1.) It is unwarrantable to take for granted that it will not be in part physical. The wicked will go from the judgement seat with the bodies which belong to them in their resurrection state. We know not what will be the nature of these bodies, and, therefore, have no right to affirm that they may not be capable of physical pain. That the language of Scripture, as to fire and brimstone, is figurative, is true. But men are not authorized, on that account, to deny that some physical pain, and, that of a most excruciating and agonizing character, will form a part of the agony and woe of the hereafter of the sinner. So far from men drawing comfort from any conviction they may have that there will not be literal fire, they should only the more be filled with dread and apprehension of some fearful condition, which the Scriptures here attempt to describe by terms which express the severest anguish men can endure in the body; the statements made evidently falling far short of telling the nature of a punishment which our present condition forbids that we should understand. In the range of animal life here on earth, we know that the higher the organism the more keenly is it alive to suffering as well as enjoyment. This teaches us to expect that the bodily enjoyments of the saints will far surpass anything ever experienced on earth. If the resurrection bodies of the wicked are, in any degree, higher than those of this world, the only result will be to make them capable of anguish utterly inconceivable by men in their present state.

(2.) The spiritual agony, then to be endured, is equally beyond the possibility of present expression. We may say that it will necessarily consist in certain evils; but who can tell how great those evils will then be realized to be. Some of them may be suggested: as; consciousness of an unclean and unholy nature; when there is no way to cleanse or escape it: conviction of the nature and ill desert of sin; when sinful habits have such prevalence and control that sin must still be committed willingly, yet with horror of what is done;– indications of which are seen in men in this life, who, by debauchery, or drunkenness, are driven forward to evil even against their will–: remorse for past indulgences, for neglected opportunities, for rejections of Christ;– especially as then will be seen how nigh unto each one had come the kingdom and grace of God–: knowledge of banishment perpetually from the presence of Christ, and deprivation of the favour and love of God:– these, and evils like unto them, with the mutual reproaches of the damned, for the influences of each other by which such evil has come, will make a Hell compared with which all the torture men have ever known in this life will be looked back to as though it were heaven itself.

3. The place of this punishment.

There are three words used in Scripture which are translated “Hell” in the King James version, viz.: Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna. Hades is simply transferred in the Canterbury Revision. It is used for the general place of departed spirits, both righteous and wicked. In no place is punishment, or torment, associated with it, except in Luke 16:23, in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. This is to be explained, in accordance with the use of the word in all other passages, by the fact that, as Hades contains the wicked, as well as the righteous, and as the wicked there are in a state of sin and suffering, so the rich man in Hades was tormented, while Lazarus who was in the same general abode, was enjoying the blessed state expressed by his being in Abraham’s bosom.

The word Tartarus appears only as a participle [tau]a[rho][tau]a[rho][omega][sigma]a[varsigma] (tartarosas) of the verb [tau]a[rho]a[upsilon][rho][omicron][omega] (tartaroo), which means to cast down to Tartarus. The place in which it is found is 2 Pet. 2:4, which is translated “For God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement.” The Revisers point out in the margin that the word Hell is expressed in the Greek by Tartarus. This passage evidently has respect to the condition of these angels before the judgement day.

The places in which Gehenna occurs are Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5, and James 3:6. All of them refer to torture and punishment hereafter. This is distinctly associated with the punishment of the judgement day, in Matt. 18:9, by the preceding verse where “eternal fire” is used as the equivalent term to Gehenna; in Matt. 23:33, where Christ asks the Scribes and Pharisees, “How shall ye escape the judgement of Hell (Gehenna)”; in Mark 9:43, where the language is “to go into Hell (Gehenna), into the unquenchable fire,” and in Luke 12:5, in which Christ says, “Fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into Hell (Gehenna).”

It has not been inaptly remarked that Gehenna is used by Christ himself in all of the twelve passages in which it occurs in the New Testament, except James 3:6.

4. The duration of this punishment.

The New Testament Teaching upon this subject is that it will endure throughout all the infinite future. This is expressed in various ways.

(1.) By the term [epsilon][iota][varsigma] [tau][omicron][nu] a[iota][omicron][omega][nu]a (eis ton aiona), “forever.”

This occurs about thirty times in the New Testament. An earnest and learned opponent of the doctrine of Eternal punishment, (Oxenham in “What is Truth as to Everlasting Punishment?” p. 101), has been able to point out only one place in the New Testament where he thinks the meaning of “forever” cannot be applicable to this form of words. It is the language of Paul in 1 Cor. 8:13, translated “I will eat no flesh forevermore.” For any other use, Oxenham is obliged to refer to the Septuagint, where he claims that it is used of “duration, throughout the age of the Mosaic dispensation,” “of the world,” “of a family,” and “of the political condition of slavery.” But this application accords with that very derivation, made by the best lexicographers, that makes a[iota][omega][nu] (aion), equivalent to the Latin aevum, which word, however is the basis of the very idea of eternity which is the sole meaning of [epsilon][iota][varsigma] [tau][omicron][nu] a[iota][omega][nu]a (eis ton aiona), in the latter Hellenistic Greek of the New Testament.

This term is applied to the punishment of the wicked, in Jude 13.

2. Other similar expressions to the first are used where plural forms of a[iota][omega][nu] (aion) appear, as [epsilon][iota][varsigma] [tau][omicron][nu][varsigma] a[iota][omega][nu]a[varsigma] [tau][omega][nu] a[iota][omega][nu][omega][nu] (eis tous aionas ton aionon), “forever and ever,” in Rev. 19:3, and 20:10, and [epsilon][iota][varsigma] a[iota][omega][nu]a[varsigma] a[iota][omega][nu][omicron][nu], (eis aionas aionon). Rev. 14:11. The plural forms only intensify, and certainly do not diminish the duration.

3. The word a[iota][omega][nu][iota][omicron][varsigma], (aionios). This word occurs about seventy times in the New Testament, and invariably in the sense of eternal or everlasting duration. Just as the English word “eternal” refers to the true eternity which is in God alone, so is this word applied to God in Rom. 16:26; and to the Holy Spirit or to the divine nature of Christ, in Heb. 9:14. In like manner, as we inadequately divide eternity into eternity a parte post, and eternity a parte ante, meaning by each indefinite, unlimited and illimitable duration in the past or in the future, from the present, or some fixed period of time; as from the time of Christ’s appearance on earth; so this word is used for each of these two kinds of eternity. It has no other application in the New Testament than to one or other of these three forms of eternity. As applied to the endless life of the righteous or wicked, it signifies the future eternity, or eternity a parte post.

Those who oppose the doctrine of eternal punishment suppose that there are many ages, or periods of the existence of man, and they attempt to explain the language used accordingly. But while the phrases upon which this opinion is based, might as a matter of language mean this, there is no evidence from Scripture of the existence of any such several periods. The only distinction clearly made is between the dispensation prior to the time of Christ, and that since his day; the Scriptures evidently regarding that as the central point, unto which all things tended in the past, and from which all things proceed in the future.

It is not to be overlooked that these words, which express the eternity of the punishment of the wicked, are those by which the eternal life of the righteous is also made known. As that is unending in its happiness, so this is in its punishment and suffering. These words express as strongly as the Greek language can, the everlasting duration of the destiny assigned to each at the judgement day.

This is questioned by Oxenham, who says, p. 114, “There are several ways in which Almighty God could have expressed this endlessness of future punishment, if he desired to tell us that it would be endless; ways, about the meaning of which there could be no mistake; ways, in which, in Holy Scripture, he has expressed the endlessness of things which will be endless: e.g., of his own dominion God declared by the prophet Daniel that it was ‘and everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,’ Dan. 7:14. Of the endless life of the blessed, our Lord declared, Luke 20:36, neither can they die anymore. By the angel Gabriel, Luke 1:33, God announced that of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ there shall be no end. Where is any language used of the Kingdom of Darkness, or of future punishment, or of the wicked? Where is it said of the lost that they can live no more? Where of future punishment, that of it there shall be no end?”

To this it may be replied,

(a.) That, if no similar instances can be given relative to future punishment, and the wicked, yet so far as any of these expressions are used of the righteous, they are explanatory of the kind of eternity ascribed to their happiness; and, as this is described by the same words as that of the misery of the wicked in all other cases, these instances teach us the meaning of these common words, when applied to the wicked, by thus explaining them when applied to the righteous.

(b.) That the same ingenuity, and quibbling, which attempts to deprive the expressions used of their true meaning, would be applied in like manner to such terms as these.

If a similar passage to that from Daniel could be presented, we should immediately have pointed out to us that it was to the Son of Man that the kingdom was given, and that, of this very kingdom which “shall not pass away,” we are told that “then cometh the end when he shall deliver up the kingdom of God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule, and all authority and power.” 1 Cor. 15:24.

(c.) But there are like instances which may be adduced. In Luke 20:36, “neither can they die any more,” the impossibility of dying is expressed by [omicron][upsilon]d[epsilon] d[upsilon][nu]a[tau]a[iota] (oude dunantai.) Corresponding to this is the language used by our Lord to the Pharisees in John 9:21, “Ye shall seek me and shall die in your sin: whither I go ye cannot come,” [omicron][upsilon] d[upsilon][nu]a[sigma][theta][epsilon] [epsilon][lambda][theta][epsilon][iota][nu] (ou dunasthe elthein).

Parallel to the expression in Luke 1:33, “there shall be no end,” [omicron][upsilon][kappa] [epsilon][sigma][tau]a[iota] [tau][epsilon][lambda][omicron][varsigma] (ouk estai telos), is “the endless genealogies,” [gamma][epsilon][nu][epsilon]a[lambda][omicron][gamma][iota]a[iota][varsigma] a[pi][epsilon][rho]a[nu][tau][omicron][iota][varsigma] (genealogiais aperantois), in 1 Tim. 1:4; for, although different words are used to express endlessness in the Greek, they are of substantially equal force. Oxenham is himself authority for the strong meaning of a[pi][rho]a[nu][tau][omicron][iota][varsigma] (aperantois), for he refers to a[pi][epsilon][iota][rho][omicron][nu] (apeiron), aand [pi][epsilon][rho]a[zeta], from which a[pi][epsilon][rho]a[nu][tau][omicron][varsigma] (aperantos) is likewise formed, as meaning “without a limit,” and says of it and others “by these and by several other words and expressions of unmistakable meaning, Almighty God could have expressed the endlessness of future punishment if he had desired to do so,” p. 115. Yet, had he used this word, or others of the same form, how quickly should we have been referred to the endless genealogies as exegetical of them.

With respect to the two final questions of Mr. Oxenham, the passage in 1 Cor. 6:9, may be suggested as one that fully meets them. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God,” (see also verse 10). The same expression occurs in Gal. 5:21. The insincerity with which such questions are asked is seen in the fact that, when these and similar passages are presented, these opponents resort to the assumption that the unrighteous will not always be unrighteous, and that only so long as unrighteous shall they not inherit; but that they may do so after their unrighteousness has passed away. They will attempt to maintain the possibility of this in the face of such a passage as Rev. 22:11, “He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still.”

(4.) Here may properly be added three other expressions as to the unending nature of the punishment of the wicked.

(a.) ‘A[iota]d[iota][omicron][varsigma] (aidios), which appears in the “eternal Godhead” of Rom. 1:20, and in the everlasting chains of the angels which kept not their first estate in Jude 6. As the wicked are to be sentenced to the “eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), this passage has probable reference to the duration of the punishment of both devils and wicked men.

(b.) ‘A[sigma][beta][epsilon][sigma][tau][omicron][varsigma] (Asbestos), unquenchable fire. Oxenham claims that all that is involved in this word is that the fire “is unquenched,” and that the language does not forbid a time when it may be quenched. This word occurs in three undisputed places in Scripture, Matt. 3:12; Mark 9:43, and Luke 3:17, and in three others, Mark 9:44, 45, 46, which Westcott and Hort omit from their text, and which are also omitted in the Canterbury Revision. Mark 9:48 has a different form of the same word. Oxenham objects to the translation “unquenchable,” and insists upon the meaning, “is unquenched;” but the duration of the punishment and the propriety of the translation “unquenchable” is shown by the words, “where their worm dieth not,” used in connection with the expression in verse 48.

(c.) [Omicron][upsilon] [tau][epsilon][lambda][epsilon][upsilon][tau]a[iota] (Ou teleutai), “does not end,” “ceases not,” is declared of the worm in Mark 9:48. [Tau][epsilon][lambda][epsilon][upsilon][tau]a[iota] (Teleutai) corresponds exactly in meaning, as well as in root, with the [tau][epsilon][lambda][omicron][varsigma] (telos) in the [omicron][upsilon][kappa] [epsilon][sigma][tau]a[iota] [tau][epsilon][lambda][omicron][varsigma] (ouk estai telos), in Luke 1:33, which Oxenham regarded as so strongly expressive of endlessness as to challenge the finding of such a term applied to the future punishment of the wicked.

5. Objections and opposing theories.

The objections to this doctrine of eternal punishment, and the opposing theories, may be briefly stated and replied to.

First, the objections.

(1.) It is objected, that the punishment is disproportioned to the sin. But,

(a.) No one but God can know what is the real desert of sin, and if he has plainly taught us that it deserves eternal punishment, we may be sure that the infliction of such punishment must be right, and in accordance with what it merits. The question is simply, What does God say? and upon this point he has taught us plainly.

(b.) The objection is based upon the idea that all the sin that will be punished is that committed in this life. It is true that men will be only judged for the deeds done in the body. But these will not constitute all the sins in the life to come. The Scriptures teach that there will be sinful acts and habits after death. Rev. 22:11. Ever-continuing sin will deserve ever-continuing punishment. If sin is worthy of any punishment at all, and if, at every moment sin is committed, punishment may be forever, without assuming that any one or more sins will cause everlasting infliction.

(c.) Mark 3:29 tells of “an eternal sin.” [See Greek text of Westcott and Hort.]

(d.) The objection supposes that the punishment of the damned is something actively inflicted by God, and not the working out and result of the natures of men. It will doubtless consist, in great part, in their sinful and corrupt natures, which will still work out sin, and thus continue to separate from the favour and complacent love of God. The only probable exception will be “remorse,” arising from the memory of past sins and neglected opportunities; and these are not active inflictions of God, but the results of former sin.

(2.) It is said that God is too merciful to inflict everlasting punishment. But,

(a.) God, in declaring that he will inflict it, thus declares that he is not too merciful to do so.

(b.) God teaches us that, while he takes no delight in such punishment, it is demanded by justice, which is as unabounded an attribute of his nature as mercy.

(c.) God has given signal exhibitions in his providential government that he can and will punish severely. As a moral Governor, his punishment must be proportioned to the offense. His merciful disposition cannot interfere with his righteous action. Even in the salvation of those saved through Christ, it is necessary that he should be just in justifying the believer in Jesus.

(3.) It is claimed that provision has been made in Christ for the certain salvation of all men.

If this be so, there is no difficulty in God’s justice in the bestowment of salvation upon all. But that such is not the case is manifested,

(a.) By the fact that salvation is offered only on the condition of repentance and faith. None, therefore, can have part in that salvation except those who fulfil this condition.

(b.) Regeneration is declared to be essential to entrance into the kingdom of Christ. Those who are not thus born again can, therefore, have no part in his salvation.

(c.) Not only is holiness declared to be essential to admission to heaven, but it is foretold, expressly, that certain classes of unholy men shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; and at the head of the list given are “the fearful and unbelieving.” Rev. 21:8.

(d.) While the value of Christ’s work is indeed ample for all, we are taught that its benefits are not bestowed upon all. There are special sins mentioned which will exclude those who commit them from all hope of salvation. Matt. 12:31; Luke 12:10; Heb. 6:4-6, (cf. verse 9); 10:26, 27, (cf. verses 28-31). But the assertions made about the certain punishment of those who commit these particular sins are not stronger than the declarations of the certain damnation of all the finally impenitent and unbelieving.

(4.) Inasmuch as it is asserted in 1 Tim. 2:3, 4, that “God our Saviour . . . willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth,” it is even claimed that it is the purpose of God to save all.

That the word [theta][epsilon][lambda][epsilon][iota] (thelei), translated “willeth,” often involves purpose or determination on the part of God is readily admitted, as well as that, if it mean this here, all men will be saved according to that purpose. But such purpose cannot be concluded from this passage alone, unless it accords with what is elsewhere taught; much less when it is in direct opposition to the general tenor of the Bible, as well as to distinct statements to the contrary. The reason for this is that this word does not always mean “will,” in the sense of purpose, but is sometimes used in that of a mere “wish.” There are many cases in Scripture in which God is said to wish what not only he does not purpose to accomplish, but what actually fails to take place.

There are numerous examples in which this word has only this meaning of “wish”: thus as used in general of men only, Matt. 7:12; 12:38; 15:28; of Christ, Matt. 23:37; Mark 14:36; Luke 13:34; John 17:24; and of God, 1 Cor. 15:38; Heb. 10:5, 8. [theta][epsilon][lambda][eta]ua (thelema), the corresponding noun, is used as expressive simply of this “wish” of God in Mark 3:35; Rom. 2:18; Eph. 6:6; and in other places.

(5.) It is further objected that God must forgive those who are truly penitent, and that the wicked, in the full knowledge of God and sin afforded by the next world, must certainly repent.

(a.) This objection arises from a misconception of the nature of the repentance acceptable to God. It is not mere sorrow for sin, especially for its effects, of which probably hell will be full; it is reformation of character, turning away from sin and seeking holiness. Sorrow accompanies it, but does not constitute it. It is not awakened by the painful effects of sin, but by conviction of its evil nature. How can such sorrow arise in those who have learned to love sin? or such reformation in those who are confirmed in habits of sin? Remorse for the past, loathings of their then condition, even desires to overcome the power which enchains them, may abundantly exist, but, as often occurs in this life, where passion and appetite get the mastery of men, pleasure will be taken in sin, and evil appetites indulged, even when it is hated with all the bitterness of a despairing soul. 

On the other hand, what is the teaching of Scripture as to God’s readiness to accept the penitent after the day of opportunity has passed away? What does the case of Esau teach, Heb. 12:16, 17? What is meant to be taught by the language of Wisdom, Prov. 1:24-28? Did Christ accept, did God forgive the wretched, sorrowing, remorseful Judas? or was his penitence permitted to plunge him into the further sin of suicide? Even here on earth, where the day of probation ordinarily ends only in death, such rejection of such sorrow for sin is possible. Who shall dare to say that it is impossible in the hereafter? “For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Luke 23:31.

(b.) “Punishment appears to have very little, if any, tendency to work reformation in offenders. It often deters from crime, but it rarely brings one to genuine repentance.

(c.) “During the middle state, if at any time after this life, a return to God might be expected; yet the language of Scripture does not permit us to expect it then.” Hovey’s Manual of Sys. Theol., p. 362.

(d.) The experience of this life shows that, for any violation, even of physical law, the penalty attached to it must be endured, and that no sorrow for what has been done, nor determination to avoid such action in the future, will release from the evil which follows. Why should it be supposed that, after the judgement, law will be less inexorable than now, or that penitence and reformation will then, of themselves, avail any more than they do now? Even in this life, repentance and faith have no value nor power in themselves, but are only effective as conditions upon which salvation in Christ is offered. But the Bible carefully warns men that this offer, on these conditions, is only made in this life. To suppose it is possible in the hereafter requires not only the possibility of repentance and faith then but also that salvation through Christ will then be still attainable. This can only be upon the supposition that men will have a future probation, and the same or other means of grace than those here afforded.

(6.) In further objection, therefore, it is assumed that another probation will then be enjoyed. The strongest form in which this objection is urged, is that, inasmuch as despite the positive threatenings of God to our first parents that they should die, he had purposed to provide redemption for at least a part of mankind; therefore, despite the positive statements as to the future condemnation and punishment of the wicked, there may still be mercy in store, and final deliverance from the presence and taint of sin, as well as its punishment.

The replies afforded to this are obvious.

(a.) The case quoted affords a warning to those who teach contrary to what God teaches. Our first parents were even then, before their sin, assured that the threatened sentence would not be executed. But this came from Satan, who is declared by Christ to be “a liar and the father thereof.” John 8:44. Those who, upon any other authority than God, call in question any statement which he makes, should fell that they do it at the peril of their own souls and that of those whom they teach. Matt. 15:8, 9, 13, 14; 23:13, 15, 16; Luke 6:39. Those who deny a doctrine which they know is taught in God’s word, or attempt by any subterfuge or mere supposition to induce others to reject it, act precisely the part of Satan in the transaction of the fall.

(b.) The penalty which God threatened has actually been inflicted upon all mankind. Even the death of the body has only thus far been escaped by two of the race. But spiritual death, the death of the soul, manifestly the especial death of the curse, for this alone was inflicted upon the day of transgression, has, in the corrupted and sinful nature, become the so-called “natural” state of mankind. The objection evidently supposes that eternal death was also threatened against Adam. But this is not true. It becomes part of the penalty only because it is the consequence of moral corruption and depravity, which must continue to deserve punishment, and also to work out sin deserving of still further punishment, unless some means of deliverance from this corruption shall arise. Eternal death, therefore, was not a penalty threatened against Adam, but only a consequential penalty, resulting from what was threatened, and which, therefore, may be escaped through the deliverance in Christ.

But eternal death is threatened against the finally impenitent of the present probation. The case of Adam, therefore, teaches us that it will assuredly be inflicted upon them. As God did not withhold the flood of corruption and misery, which the corrupted nature has brought upon mankind,– the deliverance of any from which demanded the gift and the sufferings of his own Son,– we may be assured that, in like manner, he will inflexibly allow eternal punishment to come upon all against whom he has threatened it.

(c.) When all suspicion that God may intend something different from what he says in his threats to prevent sin, has been removed by perceiving that he has, to the letter, fulfilled his threat against Adam; we are prepared to give due weight to what he teaches about the possibility of future probation.

To the question of one asking, “Lord, are there few that be saved?” Christ replied, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in and shall not be able.” Luke 13:24. [See the context, which shows reference to entrance into the kingdom in the future world]. The exhortation of Isaiah 55:6, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found” implies a time when he may not be found. This exhortation has reference to the new and everlasting covenant of the sure mercies of David. [See verse 3]. How distinctly does the hortatory question of Heb. 2:1-3 apply here; when we see, not merely how steadfast has been the word spoken by angels, but how literally fulfilled has been that uttered by God. Well may all ask, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” The intimate connection between this passage and the exhortation against the hardening of the heart in the present moment in Hebrews 3:7-11, are worthy of especial note, as well as the warning of verse 12, and the continued exhortations and warnings, as far as and beyond chapter 4:7, which declares of the present period of probation, “He again defineth a certain day, saying in David, after so long a time To-day, as it hath been before said, To-day, if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” The declaration, “Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation,” 2 Cor. 6:2, with the context, in like manner teaches that the present is the only period of probation.

(d.) It may be questioned whether very many persons who die impenitent do not come under some one of the forms of sin which are specifically declared unpardonable, viz.: wilful sins, (Heb. 10:26); falling away, (Heb. 6:4-6); and the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, Matt. 12:32. Certainly they all come under the declaration of Christ of everlasting punishment.

(e.) Nor should such passages be forgotten here as Luke 16:26, which teaches that, even in Hades, there is an impassable gulf between the righteous and the wicked; as John 8:21, in which Christ told the Pharisees that they could not come to him in the future world; and Rev. 22:10, 11, which teaches the continued unrighteous and unholy condition and conduct of the finally impenitent. The language of Christ about Judas, (Matt. 26:24), is not quoted against all, because spoken of one man only, though none can tell how many others it may be true. But there are doubtless very many liable to the similar woe denounced by Christ; that “it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.” Matt. 6:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2.

Second, the opposing theories.

There are different forms in which the objections to the eternal punishment of the wicked take the shape of doctrinal theories.

(1.) The theory of annihilation. This does not deny that the punishment will be eternal; but only that there will be eternal conscious pain. It supposes, however, that the death of the sinner is absolute annihilation of being, and that in this sense only is it an eternal punishment. This theory admits that the soul may suffer hereafter, for a longer or shorter time, according to its deserts, but that there will be a time when existence will absolutely cease. The object of those who hold this theory, is not opposition to everlasting punishment, on the ground that God cannot justly punish so severely, or is too merciful to do so, but to escape the idea that sin and misery will always exist under the government of God.

This theory claims Scriptural support from the use of such words as speak of the condition of the wicked hereafter. One of these is a[pi][omega][lambda][epsilon][iota]a (apoleia), translated sometimes “perdition,” and sometimes “destruction,” in both the King James version and the Canterbury Revision. It appears, in reference to the future punishment of the wicked, among other places, in John 17:12; Rom. 9:22; Phil. 3:19; Heb. 10:39; 2 Pet. 3:7.

But this word is very far from having the idea of annihilation. It is simply an equivalent to our English words destruction, loss, ruin, misfortune. In Matt. 26:8; and Mark 14:4, it is used of the ointment poured upon Christ’s head, and translated “waste.” In all other passages it apparently refers to the future condition of the wicked. But these two show that it does not mean annihilation, as indeed it does not elsewhere, either in the Classic or Hellenistic Greek. The verb a[pi][omicron][lambda][lambda][upsilon]u[iota] (apollumi) signifies no more than to destroy utterly, and is chiefly used in Homer for death inflicted in battle. [See Liddell-Scott’s Lexicon].

Another word is [omicron][lambda][epsilon][theta][rho][omicron][varsigma] (olethros). This occurs in connection with the punishment of the wicked, in three or four places in the New Testament, viz.: in 1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:9; and 1 Tim. 6:9. In none of these does it mean more than destruction, by which word it is translated, not only in these places, but also in 1 Cor. 5:5. This last place is that in which Paul directs the Corinthians to “deliver” the incestuous man “unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Surely, no one imagines that the annihilation of the flesh is meant.

Neither does this word mean any greater destruction than is involved in death.

Another expression is “the second death;” “And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:14.

The lake of fire, the casting into which is here said to be the “second death,” is expressly set forth as the place in which “the beast and the false prophet” are, and in which “they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever,” verse 10. There is certainly no annihilation here, for annihilation is inconsistent with torment continued forever.

It may be stated in general, as to all the places which speak of the destruction and death of the soul, that reference is made to its spiritual loss of God’s favour and of holiness, and not to the extinction of its being. This extinction would be contrary to the natural immortality conferred on spirit. It is not even true, so far as we can know, that even matter will ever be annihilated. What is called its destruction is simply such change of form as makes it unfit for the uses for which it had been so formed. Thus we speak of the utter destruction of a house, of machinery, of an animal, not being the annihilation of the matter which composed it; but the destruction of the form in which that matter appeared, and which was essential for its use. In like manner, the death of the soul means its becoming unfit for the uses for which it was made; viz.: for happiness, for holiness, for the service of God, for the complacent love of God and for the reflection of his image. Such an utter deprivation of all the faculties for which the moral nature of man was made, may well be called its death, even its utter destruction.

(2.) Restorationism.

This is based upon three different grounds, each of which may be held separately, or any two, or all of them together. Two of these have been sufficiently considered in the replies already made to the objections against Scriptural doctrine.

One of these is that reformation of life will hereafter take place among some, at least, of the condemned, through natural ability and sufficient grace and the influences of the Spirit; and that thus these will be made holy, and therefore acceptable to God.

The other is that the benefits of the work of Christ, will, after this life, also be for the first time imparted to many men, and if this is done salvation must ensue.

It is to be noticed, however, that when the objections, previously answered, are put in the form of a theory, the idea that there can be no everlasting punishment, is modified so as to assert only that all but a few will be saved. This is done to escape the cases of Judas and others already mentioned. But in so doing, all the principles, upon which the possibility of such future salvation is based, have to be abandoned, and the theory becomes a mere supposition, without any support, presented in the face of positive declarations of the Word of God to the contrary.

The third ground upon which Restorationism is imagined, is that the Scriptures speak of such restoration. The chief passage supposed to teach this is Acts 3:20, 21, “that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things.” The passage itself fixes the period of the time of the restoration, which is at the second coming of the Lord. This precedes the judgement, and thus necessarily that of the restoration supposed by these parties.

Another passage is Eph.. 1:9, 10, which speaks of God “having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth.” The fulness of the times here is probably the present dispensation, and has nothing to do with some new period. See Gal. 4:4, “When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, etc.” cf. Heb. 1:2; 9:10; 1 Pet. 1:20. So, again, in Col. 1:19, 20, it is said to have been the good pleasure of the Father, “through him (Christ) to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him I say, whether things upon the earth or things in the heavens.” This place is also quoted to show that all will be finally saved.

This use made of these two passages, Eph. 1:9, 10, and Col. 1:19, 20, to build up a doctrine, without other support from the Word of God, and so contrary to so much that is therein taught, is a warning against the pernicious manner in which isolated passages of the Word of God are separated from their contexts, and used to establish preconceived theories. Both of them occur in epistles written exclusively to professed Christians. The subject of both of them is the Church of Christ. The all things in heaven, or earth, mentioned in each of these epistles, are those only which are connected with the church. So far as persons are referred to, they are those who constitute “every family in heaven and on earth,” Eph. 3:15, called also “the general assembly and church of the first born who are enrolled in heaven,” Heb 12:23. They have, therefore, not the remotest reference to any future restoration to holiness, and happiness, and God, of those condemned at the judgement.


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

Chapter 41-The Final Judgment

October 8, 2014 1 comment

The Final Judgment

THE partial processes of God’s judgements are not only constantly occurring, but are often distinctly manifested. Hence many expressions of Scripture, in which his judgements are spoken of, have no certain reference, and others, no reference at all, to the final judgement of all men. But, in numerous other places, such a judgement is made known. We are taught the appointment of a time when there will be a public, general judgement of all the righteous, and the wicked.



It is expressly declared that “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness.” Acts 17:31. The numerous designations of the day of the coming of Christ, and of his judgement of men, were pointed out in the preceding chapter. Among those peculiar to the judgement are “the day of judgement,” (2 Pet. 2:9); “the great day,” (Jude 6); “the great day of their wrath,” (Rev. 6:17); “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,” (Rom. 2:5); and “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” Rom 2:16.

The duration of the time thus appointed cannot be determined. The indefinite meaning of the word “day” forbids any statement of even its probable length. It has been argued that, from the vast numbers to be judged, and the many events connected with the life of every man, it will comprise a long period of time. But the rapidity with which, in some conditions, the mind will run over the course of a long life, in a moment of time, shows that a period of even exceeding brevity may suffice for a full revelation and judgement of all persons and events. The indefiniteness of the word should, however, caution us against the assumption that the day must be of only a few hours duration.



This has been denied by some who think that the judgement of each man occurs at death. These hold that to confine the judgement to that at death only, is not contrary to the real meaning of Scripture, which they suppose is not to be found in the literal language used, but in such an interpretation as will accord with the fact that the destiny of each man is fixed, and that consciously to himself, at death. They think that the indefiniteness of the word “day” permits a continuous process of judgement extending over the whole period connected with the deaths of men.

The chief basis of this theory is that the certainty attained at the death of each man, as to his position towards God, makes unnecessary any further judgement, because his case has thus been already judged. But we have very little knowledge of the amount of that certainty, especially in the case of the wicked. The righteous man, because of his presence with Christ, doubtless knows that his salvation is secure; but who can tell what alternate hopes and fears may constitute a part of the torture of the wicked in the intermediate state? But, even if he is also certain of his fate, there may be weighty reasons for a public manifestation of his position. Even “the angels, when they sinned,” whose condition in this respect is certainly equally ascertained, are said to be “reserved unto judgement,” as well as unjust men whom the Lord keeps “under punishment unto the day of judgement.” 2 Pet. 2:4, 9. It may be that the day of judgement is appointed, in order that the full sentence, as to the reward or punishment of each man, may be uttered, when he stands clothed in the resurrection body, in which these are to be suffered, or enjoyed during all the future. Other purposes will be subsequently suggested in connection with the vindication of God, and the manifestation of the causes and circumstances of his action, which, independently of any relation of the judgement to any individual man, make a public judgement day not unsuitable. The certainty of that publicity will appear from the person of the Judge. But, in addition to all other considerations, the Scriptures use language about the judgement day, and its events, which cannot be justly interpreted otherwise than as teaching it to be public in the sight of all, and general to all, not particular to each man. The declarations of its universally sudden appearance, of the angels and the glory which shall attend the descending Judge, of the convulsions of nature, of the burning up of the world, of such a gathering of all nations as permits a separation before all into two distinct classes, and the fact that some will rise up in special condemnation of others; these, and other statements, are utterly inconsistent with only a particular judgement of each at death. Especially is it impossible to reconcile the statement, that the resurrection of men will precede the final judgement, with any theory which makes this occur at death. All of this is independent of the further reply which may be urged, that no indefiniteness of the word “day” would permit the idea that a time, appointed within the life of mankind, should extend throughout the whole period of that life. It ought at least, to be a somewhat limited portion of the time which contains it.



God alone is competent to perform this office of Judge in the great day. He alone has the right to Judge. He alone has the necessary qualifications. Chief among these is that perfect rectitude of character by which only can justice be exercised with due regard to the law and those under it, according to strict principles of equity. Equally important, however, is that complete knowledge of the law which leaves unknown neither its requirements, nor its penalties, nor its rewards, nor its possible relaxations. He also has that omniscience by which all things are known to him, even the innermost secrets of men; not their actions only, but their inward thoughts and hidden motives, even their natures and the possibilities of those natures. This, which is essential to due judgement, can be found only in him who searcheth the reins and hearts, and can make due application of the law, in all its aspects, to the whole conduct and character of those to be judged; and his the infinite power to execute that law, as well in the bestowment of its rewards, as in the infliction of its punishments.

Hence the Scriptures speak of God as “the judge of all,” (Heb. 12:23); and of his judgement according to truth and righteousness, which cannot be escaped, Rom. 2:2, 3, 5. In the Apocalyptic vision, John “saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne” when the books were opened for judgement. Rev. 20:12, 13.

But this judgement is not by God, as God. Jesus told the Jews that “neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgement unto the Son.” John 5:22. The cause of this is that the Son is not only divine, but human, and that his relation to humanity endows him with peculiar qualifications for this office, which, like those for the salvation of man, could not be possessed by one only divine. Christ, therefore, taught his disciples that the judge would be the “Son of Man,” (Matt. 16:27, 28; 25:31-34), and declared to the Jews, that the Father “gave him [his Son] authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man.” John 5:27. Indeed, it would seem that the judgement is to be exercised peculiarly by Christ as man; for it is at least especially announced of him in his nature. Peter preached to Cornelius, concerning Jesus of Nazereth, “that this is he which is ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead.” Acts 10:42. Paul wrote of “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men according to my gospel by Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 2:16); and encouraged the Corinthians by declaring that “we must all be made manifest before the judgement seat of Christ,” (2 Cor. 5:10) and, on Mars’ Hill, announced that God had “appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained.” Acts 17:31.

We cannot hope to understand all the reasons for this appointment of Christ, as Son of Man, to the judgement of all. They are connected, in part, with the position of King and Lord, to which he has been assigned for the complete triumph of his kingdom, and the manifestation of God’s power and grace. They are also doubtless associated with the relation which, as man, he occupies to mankind, and especially to the church of “first-born ones.” But it is certain that, by the connection of the office of judge with Christ as man, is removed every obstacle in the way of a public, visible judgement. Since it is the Son of God who is the Son of Man, all that makes it necessary that God be the judge is found in him. But as man, the judge is no longer the invisible God, who can only be seen in the works of his Creation, and Providence; but God in Christ, the Godman, in his visible material form, who, therefore, can be manifested before the eyes of all, in a judgement which is, not simply general, as inclusive of all, but public, as openly manifested before all. It appears, therefore, that the person of the judge adds another reason to those heretofore mentioned why any judgement which occurs at death will be supplemented by, and consummated in, the final judgement of the last day.



Still further proof of the same fact will appear from some, at least, of the purposes of this public judgement.

1. In the purpose fulfilled by the revelation of it to men in this life. The conviction of such a judgement to come produces a decided influence for good upon the conduct of men in this life. Doubtless is it on this account that it is taught so plainly, and so frequently, and in so many ways, that none should fail to be impressed with the certainty of its occurrence. This would, indeed, in no small degree, be accomplished by the knowledge of a private and individual judgement at the hour of death. But it is manifest that this effect is greatly enhanced by the terrors and solemnities with which the Bible clothes the scenes of that day. That its publicity is in itself fearful is evident from the extent with which even those shrink from a revelation of their sins, who as believers in Jesus, confidently hope for a favourable sentence from God. The question so frequently asked whether the sins, as well as the good works, of God’s people will then be revealed, is the fruit of this apprehension.

It is probable, however, that the influence of the expectation of this judgement is unimportant, as compared with the purposes connected with it actual occurrence. These are to be found in the manifestations of God, and Christ, and of men in that great day.

2. The purposes that appear in connection with the day itself.

(1.) As to God.

(a.) It will furnish a worthy arena for the display of the attributes of God. A continuous purpose of God, in connection with his intelligent creatures, has been to make known to them the glory of his character. This is assigned as a reason even of his spiritual quickening of his people together with Christ. Eph. 2:4-7. Now, no mention can be made of any one of his attributes, which he has thus far revealed, which will not, at the judgement day, be signally displayed. This will be especially true of his vindicatory justice, the perfection of which has been, in some degree, dimmed, while, because of his forbearance and grace, he has delayed the due punishment of sin. Hence, this day is called “the great day of their wrath,” (Rev. 6:17), and “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God.” Rom. 2:5. Yet, how signally will then, also, appear the wisdom of his purpose, the truth and faithfulness of his promises, his power to accomplish his will, his universal benevolence, his sacrificing love, his unbounded mercy, his delivering power, his conquering grace, and, not to attempt to enumerate further, everything that can be imagined as constituting that holiness which, in one word, embraces all moral perfection.

(b.) The wisdom and equity of God, in his providential and gracious dealings with men, will then, also, be apparent. These often give rise to perplexity, even in those who most firmly believe in God as one who does all things justly, and well. In this life men are called to exercise faith in God in all these matters. That faith will be vindicated by the manifestations at that time both of his character and acts. The inequalities of this life, and the prosperity of the wicked, and the adversity of the righteous, will then be not only equalized, but all will clearly see the wisdom, justice, and goodness of God, in giving them a place here in his providential government. It is more than probable that, in the full exhibition of all his purposes in Creation and Grace, that insoluble problem of this life, — the presence of sin in a world created, and governed by an Almighty, and Holy God, — will become a manifestation of unspeakable glory in God. Then, too, will appear, even more plainly than now, the righteousness of his choice of some to salvation, and condemnation of others for sin; and, also, the full responsibility of men for every sin, even when their circumstances and previous action have rendered certain things which they will do. Then, too, will be seen such sufficiency, in each man, of the light possessed, if he had walked therein, and of his power for good, if he had exercised it, as makes him guilty in the sight of God, and worthy of the punishment which he will inflict.

(2.) As to Christ.

But it is not simply the revelation of God; but of God in Christ.

(a) In that wonderful combination by which the created spirit, and even created matter of human nature were, through the making flesh of the divine word, (John 1:14), enabled to do that work which neither man nor God could separately do. Where, but on the throne of judgement, could this personage be seen by any except those who are made partakers of his glory? How fit is his appearance to fill with anguish those who have rejected him, and with exultation and praise all those who have trusted him. He appears not only as Judge, but as King and Lord, whose dominion as Lord is now shown to be universal, and whose kingship, in the hearts of his people, he now rewards by welcoming them to entrance into his joy, and participation in his glory.

(b) The glory of Christ’s work will also then appear.

In its displays of the divine attributes; of truth, in the fulfillment in him of the threatened curse of sin for all those saved by him; of inexorable justice, which requires that honouring of the law, not only in obedience, but also in penalty, exacted even from the Son of God, from him that is the fellow of Jehovah; and of love and mercy, which demand to be exercised even at the cost of the most fearful sacrifice. Pre-eminently will the glory of that work be seen in the harmony displayed in the exercise of these attributes; of justice in a way of mercy and love; of each of these in a way of justice, and all of them in a way of holiness and truth. The judgement day will clearly exhibit these perfections, and their harmony, to all the intelligences of God.

The glory of that work will also be seen in the manifested conquest of Satan. For the accomplishment of the purpose of God, he has long been permitted to exercise power and malignity. It will, at the judgement day, appear that it was always done by the sufferance of God, who chose not to conquer, and punish him and his angels, except through the Son of Man. The fact that this victory over Satan has not been one of divine power, but has been wrought out by the Son of God in his human nature, renders his defeat more signal and humiliating to him. It is a complete avengement of the temptation of the first Adam.

The delivering power from sin shown in the work of Christ will also exhibit its glory in a peculiar manner.

We can imagine an angel willing to undertake the conquest of Satan at the command of God. But, here was the work which no angel would have attempted, nor even had any hope of accomplishing. There were many problems, in connection with it, which could not be solved. How is the penalty which has been incurred to be endured, or to be escaped? How is the righteousness demanded, to be fulfilled, now that man has become a sinner? How can sin be eradicated, and an unholy nature be restored to its purity and original righteousness? How is another to secure these things in men? And, if not secured in them, how can the sin of a sinner, both in action and condition, be hidden from God? How can God be just and yet justify the ungodly?

Christ has solved all these problems, and more than done all the work which was needed. The sinner, united by faith to Christ, has now an assured safety, an unfailing righteousness, a more than sufficient satisfaction, a covert utterly impenetrable by the wrath or justice of God; and he will stand before the judgement seat of Christ, in the presence of men and angels, to manifest his Saviour’s power in eradicating sin, by the good works wrought out by that Saviour’s disciple in mortal flesh, even under the higher law of Christian duty.

(3.) As to man.

With respect to man especially, the purposes of the judgement day make it fit that it should be general, and public.

(a.) Because then will be revealed the character and acts of men.

It is set forth as a day when “each one of us shall give account of himself to God,” (Rom. 14:12), which account shall comprise “every idle word that men shall speak.” Matt. 12:36. This is to be at that time “when God shall judge the secrets of men.” Rom. 2:16. The object of this trial is not to ascertain what men have done, but to make manifest to those who are judged, as well as to all others, the things which are already known to God. To this end, even the sins unknown to the offenders, and good deeds, forgotten by the righteous, will be brought to light. Matt 25:31-46. We are told that the Lord “will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall each man have his praise from God.” 1 Cor. 4:5.

(b.) Because then will judgement be made as to each individual.

For this cause is it that “we must all be made manifest before the judgement seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12. The very name of the day shows the object of its appointment, and the nature of the transactions in this direction, which will then occur. The descriptions of the judgement day, however figurative they may be supposed to be, mark this as an undoubted teaching of God’s word. The wicked are condemned, because both of character and conduct. How this may be, can easily be understood. But the righteous are accepted, and rewarded, upon the same grounds. The reason of this is not so apparent. It doubtless is based upon the meritorious work of Christ, through which, by faith, they have been justified by God even in this life. But the references to their own personal acts show, also, a personal justification in that great day. This is the justification by works, seen in them even while on earth. It is the manifestation of the life-giving principle imparted to them on earth in regeneration, and exhibited by them during the processes of sanctification. The good works are the fruits of that vital union with Christ, by which “the life also of Jesus” is “manifested in our body.” 2 Cor. 4:10; (cf. Gal. 2:20, and Rom. 8:1-4).

In the judgement, unto which men will thus be brought in the last day, there will be account taken of the light and knowledge which they have possessed. The heathen will be judged by a different law from that which will be applied to those who have had the light of revelation. Paul plainly teaches that the former have a law under which they live, (Rom. 2:14, 15), in want of conformity to, and violation of which they are “worthy of death,” (Rom. 1:32); and that they are judged only by the law which they have. Rom. 2:12. Christ taught the same truth, generally, as applied to all the various degrees of knowledge, when he spoke of the servants, to be beaten with few or many stripes, according to their knowledge of their Lord’s will. Luke 12:47, 48. He also taught it especially in comparing the degrees of guilt and condemnation of those who enjoy the knowledge of the gospel and those who lived before its proclamation. Matt. 12:41, 42; Luke 11:29-32; (cf. John 12:47, 48).

(c.) That the judgement is public and general is seen in what is said of the public bestowment of rewards and punishments.

The language here may perhaps be figurative, but must mean something, and can mean no less than the publicity of the awards Christ will give. No private judgement at death would account for the statements that all are to be gathered before Christ, and are to be separated by him into those on the right hand and those on the left, (Matt. 25:32, 33); nor for the declaration that, “in the end of this world, the Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity,” Matt 13:41; nor for that further teaching in v. 49, that “the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the righteous.”



It is evident, from what we have already seen, that the judgement scenes will occupy some place in the universe of God. Christ is to appear as the Son of Man, and, therefore, clothed in the body of his human nature, although that body will then have been glorified. The bodies of men, both righteous and the wicked, will have been previously raised, so that they shall be judged in the body for the deeds done in the body. The bodies, then, both of the Lord and of all men, will not only occupy space, but will so occupy it as to be mutually recognized as being in space.

The place may also be believed to be in some connection with our present earth. It is fit that this, which has been the scene of all the events which will culminate in the judgement day, shall also be the place of that final trial. It is natural to suppose that, as the first coming of the Lord was to this earth, to bear sin for the redemption of man, so his second coming in triumph, without sin unto salvation, will be to that part of the universe which has been thus signally distinguished as the theatre of God’s most gracious work. The statements of Scripture are indeed meagre, but they say nothing which may not be interpreted in perfect consistency with this opinion. Yet, after all, the conclusion that the trial will be in connection with this earth, is so much a matter of inference only, as not to forbid that it may be at some other point in the universe. All that we are definitely told is that “we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord,” (1 Thess. 4:17), and that “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” 2 Pet. 3:10. But, while this does not deny, it does not necessarily teach, the destruction of the whole universe. The catastrophe may be limited to this earth and its atmosphere, and yet all the phenomena mentioned may occur. We also know that combustion of matter is not its destruction, but only a change in its form. This accords with the prediction of a new heavens and a new earth, (2 Pet. 3:13), and with those expressions which refer to it as a “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21), and teach “that creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” Rom. 8:21. But, whether the earth alone is to be purified by fire, or, as seems not so probable, the whole universe; or whether the judgement scene is to be connected with earth, or with some other point in the present, or in the renewed universe, it seems certain that it must be in some place. The place which is most probable is in connection with the point of space now occupied by this earth, and either in the atmosphere above it, during or after the configuration, or on the earth itself before it shall be burned.


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

Part7-Objections Considered and Answered

October 3, 2014 1 comment

Many are the objections brought against this doctrine. Sometimes the objectors are loud and furious. Alas! that so many of these objectors are in Baptist ranks. To preach this old-fashioned doctrine of our faith as did Bunyan, Fuller, Gill, Spurgeon, Boyce, Broadus, Pendleton, Graves, Jarrell, Carroll, Jeter, Boyce Taylor and a host of other representative men of our denomination is to court the bitterest kind of opposition. John Wesley himself never said harsher words against this blessed tenet of our faith than do some so-called Baptists of today. Arminianism that offspring of popery, has had an abnormal growth in the last decade or two as the adopted child of a large group of Baptists.

1. IT IS OBJECTED THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION LIMITS GOD’S MERCY. Right here we criticize the critic, for he who makes this objection limits both God’s mercy and power. He admits that God’s mercy is limited to the believer, and to this we agree; but he denies that God can cause a man to believe without doing violence to the man’s will, and thus he limits God’s power. We believe that God is able to give a man a sound mind (#2Ti 1:7) and make him willing in the day of His power. (#Ps 110:2) At this point we must face two self-evident propositions. First, if God is trying to save every member of Adam’s fallen race, and does not succeed, then His power is limited and He is not the Lord God Almighty. Second, if He is not trying to save every member of the fallen race, then His mercy is limited. We must of necessity limit His mercy or His power, or go over boots and baggage to the Universalist’s position. But before we do that, let us go “to the law and to the testimony,” which says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion…Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy and whom He will He hardeneth” (#Ro 9:15-18). It needs to be said for the comfort and hope of great sinners, that God’s mercy is not limited by the natural condition of the sinner. All sinners are dead until God makes them alive. He is able to take away the heart of stone. No man is too great a sinner to be saved. We can pray for the salvation of the chief of sinners with the assurance that God can save them if He will. “The King’s heart is in the hands of the Lord as the river of water; He turneth it whithersoever He will” (#Pr 21:1). We rejoice to say with Jeremiah that there is nothing too hard for God. We can pray for the salvation of our loved ones with the feeling of the leper, when he said, “Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean” (#Mt 8:2). When Robert Morrison was about to go to China, he was asked by an incredulous American if he thought he could make any impression on those Chinese. His curt reply was, “No, but I think God can.” This should ever be our confidence and hope when we stand before sinners and preach to them “CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED”.

2. ANOTHER OBJECTION TO ELECTION IS THAT IT MAKES GOD UNJUST. This objection betrays a bad heart. It would obligate the CREATOR to the CREATURE. It makes salvation a divine obligation. It denies the right of the potter over the clay of the same lump to make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour. By the same parity of reasoning it makes the governor of a sovereign state unjust when he pardons one or more men, unless he empties the prison and turns all the prisoners loose. Our view of election is in harmony with what even the Arminians allow to be proper and just for a human governor. All can see that a governor, by pardoning some men, does not harm others, who are not pardoned. Those who are not pardoned are not in prison because the governor refused them a pardon but because they were guilty of a crime against the state. Isn’t God to be allowed as much sovereignty as the governor of a state? Salvation, like a pardon, is something that is not deserved. If it were deserved, then God would be unjust if He did not bestow it upon all men.

Salvation is not a matter of justice but of mercy. It wasn’t the attribute of justice that led God to provide salvation but the attribute of mercy. Justice is simply each man getting what he deserves. Those who go to hell will have nobody to blame but themselves, while those who go to heaven will have nobody to praise but God. #Ro 9:22,23

3. IT IS AGAIN OBJECTED THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION IS AGAINST THE DOCTRINE OF WHOSOEVER WILL. But the objector is wrong again. Our view explains and supports the doctrine of “WHOSOEVER WILL”. Without election the invitation to “WHOSOEVER WILL” would go unheeded. The Bible doctrine of “WHOSOEVER WILL” does not imply the freedom or ability of the human will to do good. The human will is free, but its freedom is within the limits of fallen human nature. It is free like water; water is free to run down hill. It is free like the vulture; the vulture is free to eat carrion, for that is its nature, but it would starve to death in a wheat field. It is not the buzzard’s nature to eat clean food; it feeds upon the carcasses of the dead. So sinners starve to death in the presence of the bread of life. Our Lord said to some sinners, who were in His very presence “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life” (#Joh 5:40). It is not natural for a sinner to trust in Christ. Salvation through trust in a crucified Christ is a stumbling block to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek; it is only the called, both Jews and Greeks, who trust it as the wisdom and power of God. #1Co 1:23,24

Here is a physical corpse. Is it free to get up and walk around? In one sense, yes. It is not bound by fetters. There is no external restraint. But, in another sense, that corpse is not free. It is hindered by its natural condition. It is its nature to decompose and go back to dust. It is not the nature of death to stir about. Here is a spiritual corpse—a man dead in trespasses and sins. Is the man free to repent and believe and do good works? Yes, in one sense. There are no external restraints. God does not prevent but offers inducements through His Holy Word. But the corpse is hindered by its own nature. There must be the miracle of the new birth, for except a man be born from above he cannot see or enter into the Kingdom of God. #Joh 3:3-3:5

It is painful to some of us to see our brethren forsake the faith of our Baptist forbears at this point and join the ranks of the Roman Catholics and other Arminians. If anyone doubts this charge let him read the article of faith adopted by the Catholics at the council of Trent (1563). I quote their statement on the freedom of the human will—”If anyone shall affirm that since the fall of Adam man’s free-will is lost, let him be accursed.” But alas, in this day, such a spirit is not confined to the Roman Catholics. Horatius Bonar makes the following quotation from John Calvin: “The Papist theologians have a distinction current among themselves that God does not elect men according to their works which are in them but that He chooses them that He foresees will be believers.”

Ah, the real trouble with the objector is not election; it is something else. His real objection is to total depravity or human inability to do good. I can do no better here than to quote from Percy W. Heward of London, England. He says, “It seems to me that the majority of objections to God’s sovereign grace, to God’s electing love, are actually objections to something else, namely objections to the fact that man is ruined. If you probe beneath the surface you will find that very few object to election. Why should they? Election harms no one. How can the picking of a man out of doom harm anyone else? The real objection at the present day is not to election, though that word is made the catchword of sad controversy—the real objection is to that fact which is revealed in Psalm 51, that we are shapen in iniquity, that we are born sinners by nature, dead in sins, until, as we read concerning Paul in Galatians 1, “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace to reveal His Son in me…” Ah, beloved friends, we deserve nothing but doom. Acknowledge this and election is the only hope. Acknowledge that we are poor lost sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, only evil continually; acknowledge that there is in man no natural spark to be fanned into a flame but that believers are born again of incorruptible seed which the Lord places; acknowledge that if anyone is in Christ that there is a new creation, for we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus; -and election must be at once recognized.”

Every real believer on his knees subscribes to our view of election. You cannot pray ascribing some credit to self. Sovereign grace will come out in prayer though it may be left off the platform. No saved man will get down on his knees before God and claim that he made himself to differ from others who are not saved, but with Paul he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” And in praying for the lost we supplicate God to convict and convert them. We do not depend upon the freedom of their wills but beg God to make them willing to come to Christ, knowing that when they come to Christ He will not cast them out. #Joh 6:37

A Methodist minister once went to hear a Presbyterian minister preach. After the sermon, the Methodist said to the Presbyterian, “That was a pretty good Arminian sermon you preached today.” “Yes,” replied the Presbyterian, “We Presbyterians are pretty good Arminians when we preach and you Methodists are pretty good Calvinists when you pray.” MORE TRUTH THAN POETRY HERE

4. IT IS ALSO OBJECTED THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION IS A NEW DOCTRINE AMONG MISSIONARY BAPTISTS. The fact is that it is so old-fashioned that it has about gone out of fashion . The ignorance betrayed in such a claim is indeed pitiable. In refutation we resort to two sources of information (a) Confessions of faith; (b) Statements of representative preachers and writers.


The Waldenses declare themselves as follows: “God saves from corruption and damnation those whom He has chosen from the foundation of the world, not from any disposition, faith or holiness that He foresaw in them, but His mere mercy in Christ Jesus His Son, passing by all the rest according to the irreprehensible reason of His own free-will and justice.” THE DATE OF THIS CONFESSION WAS 1120 !

The London Confession (1689) and the Philadelphia Confession (1742) read as follows: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined or foreordained to ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace; others being left to act in their sins to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice.”

The New Hampshire Confession (Article 9): “We believe that election is the eternal purpose of God according to which He graciously regenerates, sanctifies and saves sinners; that being perfectly consistent with the free-agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; that it is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, being infinitely free, wise holy and unchangeable; that it utterly excludes boasting and promotes humility, love, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of His free mercy; that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; that it may be ascertained by its effects in all who truly believe the Gospel; that it is the foundation of Christian assurance; and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves demands and deserves the utmost diligence.”


John A. Broadus, former president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: “From the divine side, we see that the Scriptures teach an eternal election of men to eternal life simply out of God’s good pleasure.”

A.H. Strong, former president of Rochester Theological Seminary: “Election is the eternal act of God, by which in His sovereign pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, He chooses certain of the number of sinful men to be recipients of the special grace of His Spirit and so to be made voluntary partakers of Christ’s salvation.”

B.H. Carroll, founder and first president of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary: “Every one that God chose in Christ is drawn by the Spirit to Christ. Every one predestined is called by the Spirit in time and justified in time, and will be glorified when the Lord comes.” Commentary on Romans, page 192.

J.P. Boyce, founder and first president of Southern Baptist Seminary: “God, of His own purpose, has from eternity determined to save a definite number of mankind as individuals, not for or because of any merit or works of theirs, nor of any value of them to Him; but of His own good pleasure.”

W.T. Conner, professor of theology, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas: “The doctrine of election means that God saves in pursuance of an eternal purpose. This includes all the gospel influences, work of the Spirit and so on, that leads a man to repent of his sins and accept Christ. So far as man’s freedom is concerned, the doctrine of election does not mean that God decrees to save a man irrespective of his will. It rather means that God purposes to lead a man in such a way that he will freely accept the gospel and be saved.”

Pastor J.W. Lee, of Batesville, Miss.: “I believe that God has foreordained before the foundation of the world that He would save certain individuals and that He ordained all the means to bring about their salvation on His terms. Men and women are not elected because they repent and believe, but they repent and believe because they are elected.”

To the above list of well known and honoured Baptists we could add quotations from Gill, Fuller, Spurgeon, Bunyan, Pendleton, Mullins, Dargan, Jeter, Eaton, Graves, and others too numerous to mention. It is sadly true that many of our pastors hold election as a private opinion and never preach it. We personally know a number of brethren who say that election is clearly taught in the Bible, but that we cannot afford to preach it, because it will cause trouble in churches. This is worse than compromise: it is surrender of the truth. It is a spirit that leads preachers to displease God in order to please men. The writer believes that silence upon this subject has wrought more harm than open opposition to it. Those who openly oppose election will, sooner or later, make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of all Bible loving Baptists.

5. IT IS FURTHER OBJECTED THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION MAKES MEN CARELESS IN THEIR LIVING. It is said that belief in the doctrine leads men to say, “If I am elect, I will be saved; if I am a non-elect I will be lost, therefore, it matters not what I believe or do.” The same objection has been persistently made against the doctrine of the preservation of the saints. This is bald rationalism. It is the setting of human reason against divine revelation. It takes no account of the operation of the grace of God in the human heart. If Baptists surrender election on such a ground, to be consistent, they will have to surrender the doctrine of preservation on the same ground. Election does not mean that the elect will be saved whether they believe on not, nor does it mean that the non-elect will be damned regardless of how much they may repent and believe. The elect will be saved through repentance and faith, and both are gifts from God as already shown; the non-elect do not repent and believe.

The objection we are now considering is simply not true to fact. Believers in election have been and still are among the most godly. Augustus Toplady challenged the world to produce a martyr from among the deniers of election. The Puritans, who were so named because of the great purity of their lives, with few exception (if any), were believers in personal, eternal, unconditional election, and of course, in the security of the believer. Modernism, that spawn of the pit, is rapidly adding to the number of its adherents, but they are coming from the ranks of Arminianism. Others have challenged the world to find a single Higher Critic, or a single Spiritualist, or a single Russellite, or a single Christian Scientist, who believes in the absolute sovereignty of God and the doctrine of election. Without an exception these awful heretics are Arminians to a man. This is a significant fact that is not to be winked at.

6. OBJECTORS CLAIM THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION DESTROYS THE SPIRIT OF MISSIONS. They boldly assert that if unconditional election should find universal acceptance among us that we would cease to be a missionary people. There is an abundance of historical evidence with which to refute this claim. Under God, the father of modern missions was William Carey, a staunch Calvinist. Andrew Fuller, first secretary of the society that sent Carey to India, held tenaciously to our view of election. It did not destroy the missionary spirit of these men. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Belief in election did not destroy the missionary spirit in Judson, Spurgeon, Boyce, Eaton, Graves, Carroll and a host of other Baptist leaders. The Murray church, which Dr. J.F. Love called the greatest missionary church on earth, heard election preached by Boyce Taylor for nearly forty years. The greatest missionary churches among us today are those that have been purged from the heresies of James Arminius.

Election is the very foundation of hope in missionary endeavour. If we had to depend upon the natural disposition or will of a dead sinner, who hates God, to respond to our gospel, we might well despair. But when we realize that it is the Spirit that quickeneth, we can go forth with the gospel of the grace of God in the hope that God will cause some, by nature turned away, to be turned unto Him and to believe to the saving of the soul. Election does not determine the extent of missions but the results of it. We are to preach to every creature because God has commanded, and because it pleases Him to save sinners by the foolishness of preaching. We believe more in election than the Anti-mission Baptists. We believe that God elected means of salvation as well as persons to salvation. He did not choose to save sinners apart from the gospel ministry. #Ro 1:16

Election gives a saneness to evangelism that is greatly needed today. It recognizes that sinners “believe through grace” (#Ac 18:27) and that while Paul may plant and Apollos may water, God gives the increase. Arminianism has had its day among Baptists and what has it done? It has given us man-power, but robbed us of God’s power. It has increased machinery but has decreased spirituality. It has filled our churches with Ishmaels instead of Isaacs by its ministry of “sob stuff” and with the methods of the “counting house”.

If this little tract need further Scriptural support, the following Scriptures will give it: #Ps 65:4 Ac 13:48 Joh 6:37,44,45 17:1,2 Mt 11:25,26 1Co 12:3 2Co 10:4


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

Chapter 40-Christ’s Second Coming, and Resurrection

October 1, 2014 1 comment

Christ’s Second Coming, and Resurrection

THE incarnation of the Son of God is not his last manifestation in the flesh to men on earth. The Scriptures speak of another appearing, in connection with which is taught the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgement. Each of these subjects demands special discussion. In some works on theology, the doctrine of the Resurrection is first treated because of its intimate connection with death and immortality; and because it terminates the intermediate state. But, inasmuch as the coming of Christ will precede the resurrection of the dead, it seems best that it be first considered.


1. The fact is distinctly revealed.

Whatever doubts any may have about the passages sometimes quoted as teaching it in the Old Testament, there can be none that it is clearly made known in the New.

(1) It was taught by our Lord. Matt. 16:28; 24:36-40; 26:64; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27.

(2) It is the teaching of the Apostles and other inspired writers. 1 Cor. 1:7; 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8; Heb. 9:28; James 5:7, 8; 2 Pet. 3:4; 1 John 2:28.

2. The manner of it is distinctly set forth.

(1) It will be a personal appearance. It is not questioned that Christ may be said to come in other ways than personally. The hour of death is admitted to be the way in which he comes at present to his saints, at what is to them the end of time. But the Scriptures teach such an especial personal final coming as can only be fulfilled in the bodily appearance of Christ to men. Mark 8:38; Acts 1:11; Heb. 9:26-28; 1 Thess. 4:16.

(2) His coming will be “apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation,” as contrasted with that time in which “he hath been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” and was “offered to bear the sins of many.” Heb. 9:26-28.

(3) It will be an appearance with power and glory; “for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God,” (1 Thess. 4:16); “in the glory of his Father,” (Matt. 16:27); and “in his glory, and all the angels with him,” (Matt. 25:31); fulfilling to believers their expectation of “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Tit. 2:13.

(4) It will be instantaneous and unexpected. It is indeed to be preceded by signs both spiritual and physical. But, as with those in the days of Noah and Lot, few will recognize these signs. Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:28. Even to these the coming will be instantaneous; as a flash of lightning, Matt. 24:27; as a thief in the night, 1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 16:15.

3. The time of Christ’s coming. This is represented as peculiarly unknown. Christ declared that even the Son knew not when it would be. It is hidden from all men. Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32. Our Lord rebuked the disciples, just before his ascension, for questioning him again upon this subject. Acts 1:7. The apostle Paul indeed wrote to the Philippians, “The Lord is at hand,” (Phil. 4:5), and Jesus Christ announced, “The time is at hand,” (Rev. 1:3), and to the church at Philadelphia sent the message: “I come quickly,” Rev. 3:11. This is again repeated unto his servants in Rev. 22:7, 12, 20. But that these expressions, if they refer, as they apparently do, to his second coming, were not intended to teach what man would call an early coming, is evident from the fact that this second coming has been delayed over eighteen hundred years. The apostle Peter gave those in his day who were troubled about this delay the true solution, writing them: “But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” 2 Pet. 3:8.

4. The aspects in which he will come.

(1) Christ always spake of his coming as that of the Son of Man. By this he himself taught the same truth with which afterward the angel at the ascension reassured the disciples who stood “gazing up into heaven,” namely, that he that shall come then shall be the “same Jesus” which was taken up. It will then be in human form that he will appear, and with the same sympathizing human as well as divine love towards his own which he so wonderfully displayed while on earth.

(2) But the apostle Peter, at Pentecost, said, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:36. Hence the apostles, almost exclusively, speak of Christ as Lord in connection with his second coming. This was their common name for Christ, and thus they recognized the glorious reward bestowed upon him for the salvation wrought for them, and the “all power” given unto him in heaven and earth.

(3) It is as Judge of the whole earth that he shall appear, both as Son of Man and as Lord; thus giving confidence to those who know him and have believed in him, and striking with terror those who have rejected his love.

(4) He also comes as King to take final possession of his kingdom, to share its blessings and glory with all his willing subjects, and to inflict punishment upon all who have refused to have him reign over them.

5. The signal events which that coming will introduce.

These are the resurrection of the bodies of the dead, and the change of those of the saints who are still alive; the judgement of all men; and the bestowment, according to the highest equity, of his due reward or punishment upon every one of mankind.



The first in point of time of the events which accompany the second coming is the resurrection of the bodies of the dead.

1. This fact is the teaching both of the Old and the New Testaments.

It is admitted that some places in which resurrection is mentioned may speak only of a reappearance upon the stage of being of those who have died, and do not necessarily assert the final resurrection of the body. Thus our Lord’s reply to the Saduccees, Luke 20:37, only involves the idea of continued life. So also his language in Luke 14:14; John 6:39; and that to Martha, and her reply, John 11:23, 24.

It may also be acknowledged that, sometimes, the life and death, in connection with which resurrection is taught, is only spiritual, and that of the soul only. This seems to be the case in John 5:24-26, although the resurrection of the body is not unnaturally spoken of in the verses immediately succeeding.

There are also places in which the resurrection of the body is spoken of, but not the general, or final resurrection. These may be quoted only as showing that such a resurrection is not impossible. Thus, the writer to the Hebrews refers to the faith of Abraham in the power of God “to raise” Isaac “up even from the dead.” Heb. 11:19. We are also told that, after the death of Christ, “the tombs were opened; many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many.” Matt. 27:52, 53. The resurrection of Christ himself is taught to be a fulfillment of prophecy, Acts 2:24-31; 13:34-37, and a proof, not only of the possibility of a resurrection from the dead, 1 Cor. 15:12-18, but even an assurance, and earnest of the resurrection of the bodies of his people. 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 35-45, 48-54.

But there are enough passages, of no doubtful import, both in the Old and New Testaments, which establish a general resurrection of the bodies of all men, as Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2-13; Hos. 13:14; and John 5:28, 29; Rom. 8:11-22, 23; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 42-45, 48-54; Phil. 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:13-17. the last two passages refer, indeed, to the change in the body only; the last one also to the change in those who shall not die, but remain at the coming of Christ; their appositeness is readily recognized.

2. The resurrection will not be confined to the righteous only; but will include the wicked also.

The New Testament treats sometimes exclusively of the resurrection of the righteous. This is not unnatural; for all hope connected with it is confined to them. So blessed is that hope, that it was fit that it should be frequently held out for their encouragement and comfort. Especially the connection between their resurrection and that of Christ, as the first fruits of them that sleep, tended to lead them into the joys produced by the consciousness of union with him, and their triumph with, and through him. This was not to be confined to their spiritual resurrection with him in newness of spiritual life; and this fact needed to be enforced, lest that of the body should be forgotten in their experience of that of the soul. The objections to it also arose in connection with Christian hope. It is not strange that some should have denied it, even among the people of God, as the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians was true of some of them. 1 Cor. 15:12. The doctrine was too wonderful to believe. Perhaps they had specific objections to it in that day, as there have been in other ages of Christianity, even down to our own times. We are not to be surprised, that others also should have declared that it was passed already, and should have thus overthrown the faith of some. 2 Tim. 2:18. It became necessary, therefore, that it should be especially emphasized to the Christian believers of that day. With the single exception of “those that remain,” who were to be “changed,” it is expressly announced as the joyful destiny of all believers. Thus, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Cor. 15:22. That this assertion related only to believers is evident, not only from the natural construction of the original Greek, but from the fact that his language is limited in the context to them “that are Christ’s at his coming.” 1 Cor. 15:23. In like manner, also, comforting the Thessalonians as to the Christian dead, he assigns as a reason why they should “sorrow not, even as the rest which have no hope,” (1 Thess. 4:13), that “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him;” asserting the change in those that shall remain on earth, and stating that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thess. 4:14-18.

But, that this teaching about the righteous, was not intended to exclude the resurrection of the wicked, is plain enough from other places. Thus, our Lord said “all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgement.” John 5:28, 29. What is also especially significant, in view of his teachings exclusively elsewhere as to the resurrection of the just, is that Paul, in his address before Felix, confessed that he had “hope toward God, . . . that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust.” Acts 24:15. In the vision of John of the day of judgement he saw that “the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them, . . . and if any one was not found written in the book of life, he cast them into the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:13-15. These passages show distinctly a resurrection of the wicked also from the grave, and, therefore, a resurrection of their bodies.

3. The nature of the resurrection body.

We are told nothing as to the nature of the resurrection bodies of the wicked. But enough is said as to those of the saints to show that their change will be most blessed.

The all embracing fact is distinctly declared that they shall be like unto that of their Lord. If we knew the precise nature of his body we should know the nature of those of all his saints. But it is enough to know that he will “fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.” Phil. 3:21. We are taught many things, however, about the resurrection body; the chief source of information being the fifteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians, where Paul states,

(a.) That it will be incorruptible,

(b.) That it will be immortal,

(c.) That it will be a glorified body,

(d.) That it will be raised in power,

(e.) That it will be identical with the present body. That which is raised is the “it” which is sown. It is “this corruptible” that “puts on incorruption,” this “mortal” that “puts on immortality.”

(f.) Yet is the identity one which exists not without a great change, v. 51.

(g.) Yet with no greater change than occurred in the body of Christ. It is his image which is to be borne instead of that of Adam, v. 49.

(h.) When Paul asserts that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” v. 50, he means only to deny that a corrupt and mortal body can thus inherit, and not to assert that such inheritance is not true of a glorified body of material substance, from which all corruption and mortal elements have been removed.

(i.) We consequently see what he means by the spiritual body in vv. 44-46, where he contrasts it with the “natural,” and declares the resurrection body to be “spiritual.” It is not spiritual in the sense that it is not material; for it is composed of matter. But, it is spiritual, as being fitted for the spiritual life hereafter, as it had previously been natural, as fitted for the animal life of this world. This is the pneumatic body as opposed to the physical. As the first body had been suited to the present life, and could not be used in the life to come without change; so the resurrection body is suited to the life to come, and not to the present stage of being. Hence it is that the change, with or without death, does not take place until the time of reunion in which the pneumatic life is to begin.

4. There shall be a general resurrection of the bodies of the righteous, and of the wicked at the coming of Christ to judgement.

(1.) The rewards of the righteous are especially associated with Christ’s coming in the great day. Matt. 16:27; Luke 12:37; 1 Cor. 1:7, 8; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:7, 10; 1 Pet. 5:4; 1 John 2:28; 4:17.

(2.) The suffering and punishment of the wicked are also intimately connected with the day of Christ’s coming to judgement. John 12:48; 2 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:7.

(3.) There are passages also in which both the reward of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked are set forth unitedly in connection with the second coming of Christ. Matt. 16:24-27; 24:36-51; Mark 13:24-27; Rom. 2:1-16; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Pet. 2:9; 2 Pet. 3:7-9.

(4.) The righteous and the wicked are judged together. Ecc. 3:17; Dan. 12:2; Matt. 16:27; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:1-16; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27.

(5.) The resurrection of the dead occurs at the same time with the judgement. Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:12, 13.

(6.) The resurrection and the change that occurs in it are also associated with the coming of Christ. 1 Cor. 15:52; Phil. 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:16.

(7.) The judgement and the coming of Christ, take place in immediate conjunction. Matt 16:27; 25:31-46; 2 Pet. 3:7-10.

(8.) The resurrection of both just, and unjust, shall occur at the same time. Dan. 12:2; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.

(9.) The unrighteous are kept unto the day of judgement. 2 Pet. 2:9.

(10.) At the time of Christ’s coming, the world is to be destroyed, and the promise fulfilled of “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2 Pet. 3:8-13. But, that day is also the day of “judgement and destruction of ungodly men;” for which “the heavens that now are and the earth by the same word have been stored up for fire,” v.7.

These statements show that the general teaching of the Word of God is that the Lord will come; that at his coming there shall be a general resurrection of the just and unjust, who shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body. Not only is it not taught that there are two resurrections of the body, the one of the righteous at the second coming of the Lord, and the other of the wicked at the general judgement after an interval of one thousand years; but the judgement and the coming of the Lord are recognized as contemporaneous. The day of both events is called by various names, some of which are repeated more than once: as “the day,” (1 Cor. 3:13); “that day,” (Matt 7:22); “the day of judgement,” (2 Pet. 2:9); “the day of God,” (2 Pet. 3:12); “the day of the Lord,” (1 Thess. 5:2); “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor. 1:8); “the day of Jesus Christ,” (Phil. 1:6); “the day of Christ,” (Phil. 2:16); “the day of the Lord Jesus,” (1 Cor. 5:5); “the last day,” (John 6:39); “the great day,” (Jude 6); “the great day of their wrath,” (Rev. 6:17); “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,” (Rom. 2:5); “that great and notable day of the Lord,” (Acts 2:20); “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men . . . by Jesus Christ,” (Rom 2:16); “the day that the Son of Man is revealed,” (Luke 17:30); “the coming of our Lord Jesus,” (1 Thess. 3:13); “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Tim. 6:14); “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:13); the “appearing of glory of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,” (Tit. 2:13), etc.

There is, however, one passage of Scripture which some claim teaches one resurrection of the bodies of the just, and another of those of the unjust; and places them at a wide interval apart, with numerous intervening parts. Those who maintain this view hold that the thousand years of the Millenium succeed the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the righteous. This passage constitutes the twentieth chapter of the book of Revelation. It is the record of that vision, in which John saw the angel bind Satan, in the bottomless pit, for a thousand years; during which the souls of the saints lived, and reigned with Christ. “This,” says John, “is the first resurrection.” v.5. On those having part in it, “the second death hath no power.” v.6. When the thousand years have expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and go out to deceive the nations. When the number of the forces which he gathers, which are like the sands of the sea, surround the camp of the saints, these forces will be devoured by fire from Heaven, and the devil cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Then appears the great white throne, and the judgement of the dead, both small and great, and the judgement of the dead out of the books. And then death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. “This,” says John, “is the second death.” v. 14.

It is readily admitted as to this passage that whatever is truly taught in it must be accepted as the word of God. But,

(1.) We must be careful how we receive any interpretation which does not accord with the rest of Scripture. Before doing so, we should examine thoroughly both the interpretation we wish to accept, and the views attained from other parts of the Word of God. We know that Scripture cannot contradict itself, when rightly interpreted. All its parts must, therefore, be carefully compared to see in what interpretation they agree.

(2.) If, after the best efforts to harmonize this with the other portions of God’s Word, it should seem to be irreconcilable with them, the apparent interpretation of this passage should yield to that of others; Not so much because it is one only, as compared with a great number; but because it is found in a book of highly figurative prophecy, in which the literal interpretation is not so justly to be pressed, as in others, which are not of this character, and in which the literal meaning is more apt to be the mind of the Spirit.

(3.) The language of this passage, however, is, at least, in some respects, opposed to the idea of two resurrections of the body; the first, that of the saints to reign with Christ for a thousand years, and the second, that of the wicked to judgement.

(a.) Because those who are represented as belonging to the first resurrection, are not spoken of as clothed in resurrection bodies; but, on the contrary, John declares simply that he saw “the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, etc.” v. 4.

(b.) It is not only not said that those who partake of the first resurrection are not among the dead, who are subsequently delivered up by death and Hades to be judged, v. 13, but it is implied that they are among these by the universal terms used when John says that he “saw the dead, the great and small, stand before God,” v. 12. But, if this be true, then there must be either two resurrections of the bodies of the saints, or one of the resurrections at least cannot be of the body.

(c.) Especially is it not taught that the resurrection to judgement is confined to the wicked, nor that the first resurrection is of the bodies of all the saints; because along with the books “which were opened,” “another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works,” v.12; “and if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire,” v.15. This language implies that, among those then raised and judged, there were some whose names were written in the book of life. Consequently, reference must here be made to the general resurrection and judgement, taught elsewhere as contemporaneous, and the first resurrection cannot be that of the body; or only some of the saints partake of the first resurrection; or there must be two resurrections of the bodies of the saints. The first of these is the only interpretation that accords with what is elsewhere taught.

(4.) The interpretation of this passage which makes it harmonious with all other Scripture is,

(a.) That the resurrection is a spiritual resurrection of the soul from the death of sin, of which Scriptures elsewhere speak so plainly as being a passage from death unto life. See John 5:24-26; Rom. 6:2-7; Eph. 2:1, 5; 5:14; Phil. 3:10, 11; Col. 2:12, 13; 1 John 3:14; 5:11, 12.

(b.) That the second death, which has no power over those which have part in the first resurrection, constitutes the punishment of those condemned at the judgement day, which consists in their being cast, both body and soul, into a lake of fire.

(c.) The thousand years of the binding of Satan is a period of time, of unknown, perhaps of indefinite length, possibly from the time of Christ’s conquest of Satan, in his death, resurrection, and ascension, or possibly from some other period, even perhaps of a later epoch in the history of Christianity, during which Satan is restrained from the exercise of the power he might otherwise put forth against man; the thousand years terminating at some time prior to the day of Christ’s second coming; at which time Satan shall be loosed to consummate his evil deeds by such assaults upon the saints as shall bring down the final vengeance of God at the appearing of Christ in glory.

(d.) The judgement and the resurrection, in Rev. 20:12, 13, are general, and are those of the last day which immediately follow the coming of Christ.


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

Chapter 39-Death and the Soul’s Immortality

September 24, 2014 2 comments

Death and the Soul’s Immortality

WE proceed next to the consideration of the death of man, and other topics which are intimately connected with it. In the present chapter will be discussed death; the immortality of the soul; and the condition of the latter between the hour of death, and that of reunion with the body.


The term death is most commonly applied to that separation of soul and body which is the most manifest form in which the penalty of sin is seen among men. That there is a death of the soul also, and that it is something far more terrible than the death of the body, has been shown in the chapter on the “Effects of Adam’s sin,” pp. 239-247. But, this death of the soul is spiritual in its nature, and does not forbid the continued existence of the soul; and its dread realities will be more plainly evinced in the unseen hereafter. Consequently the separation of body and soul makes a more profound impression among living men, and to it the term death is almost exclusively appropriated.

It is sometimes called “natural,” or “physical” death, to distinguish it from that which is “spiritual;” the death “of the body,” as opposed to that “of the soul;” and “temporal” death, in contrast with that which is everlasting.

This separation of body and soul is the almost universal destiny of men. The Scriptures, however, teach that Enoch did not die but “God took him,” Gen. 5:24, and that he “was translated that he should not see death,” Heb. 11:5; also that Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven,” 2 Kings 2:11. Some have supposed that, in like manner Moses escaped death, but it is expressly stated that he died, and was buried in the land of Moab. Deut. 34:5, 6. But Paul declared that at the second coming of the Lord, “we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thess. 4:17. Even more explicitly he said “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Cor. 15:51, 52. This is the fashioning anew of “the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory” foretold in Phil. 3:21.

But, while death comes thus almost universally to all, there is a marked difference between its connection with the righteous, and with the wicked.

The death of the wicked is easily accounted for. It constitutes a part of the penalty of sin, to which, the Scriptures teach, all men are liable (Rom. 5:12, 14; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22, 53-56), but from which, as such, the people of God are exempted because Christ has redeemed then from the curse of the law. The “death of the saint” instead of being accursed, is “precious in the sight of the Lord,” (Ps. 116:15), and this because he has redeemed them. Ps. 72:14. His death is a death “unto the Lord.” Rom. 14:8. Death is his. 1 Cor. 3:22. Its sting has been removed. 1 Cor. 15:56. But no one of these things is true of the wicked. He has neglected, or rejected the offer of salvation through Christ Jesus. There is no other method of escape from the penalty; and it rests upon him in all it fulness.

It is not so easy to account for the death of the righteous. As he is no longer liable to the penalty of sin, there is no legal ground upon which he must endure death, and, because of which, he cannot be released. This is confirmed by the fact that some righteous have not died, and others will only be changed. But, while death may not thus be legally necessary, it may subserve many purposes in the gracious providence of God, and is, ordinarily, the best way for the Christian to attain the “change” for which he is destined. This should be believed even if it could in no respect be explained.

It ought not to be forgotten that this is not the only dealing of God with his people, which evidently arises from some wise purpose which he has not fully revealed. They might have been taken out of the world as soon as they were justified. Yet, that this is graciously and wisely prevented, is evident from Christ’s declining to pray for it. John 17:15. They might have been preserved from affliction, and persecution, and similar inflictions from God or man. That these are blessed to them, is no proof that they would not have been more blessed without them, for they are taught to look forward to greater bliss in their exemption from them in heaven. Our Lord prayed that they might be kept from the Evil One, and they are doubtless protected from his power in answer to this prayer, but they are still left subject to his influences, and temptations, and are very far from escaping the presence and pollution of sin. In all of these things, we see some reasons for the action of God, though our knowledge is imperfect and incomplete. It ought not to be thought strange if, in like manner, we can only account partially for the death of true believers.

1. Some have thought that, for the attainment of perfect sanctification, it is necessary that the soul and body be separated, and the body reduced to its original elements. That this is not necessary is manifest from the examples of exemption from death already stated. But it may be admitted to be the ordinary method which God has ordained for such sanctification. For the desired perfection, there must be removal of the passions and appetites of the flesh by which man is tempted not only from himself, but through himself. The “change” at the last day accomplishes this in an extraordinary manner. The more ordinary method of God seems to be through death, in which, by its separation from the sinful body, the soul is freed from these temptations, and enabled to live perfectly the life of holiness for which it longs.

2. Another opinion which has been expressed, is, that death is natural to man, and that it, from its nature, becomes the means of his passing from a lower to a higher condition; in which through a more advanced organism the soul may live a more exalted life.

This opinion may be held either about the original, or the fallen condition of man. If about the original condition, it involves the position that the body of man was created mortal, and that its death, as a penalty, was not something superadded when man sinned; but is simply the natural condition of man’s life used by God as penalty, and so made known to man.

If held, however, only as to man’s present natural condition, it would not necessarily involve an original mortality.

As to this opinion, in either form, as well as to the former, it is necessary that it recognize death simply as the ordinary method of man’s passing into another life; for in respect to each of them the exemption of some shows that the end may be by other means accomplished. It derives some support from the analogy of the necessity of death in the seed for its change to a higher form presented in 1 Cor. 15:36-38.

3. Death is supposed by some to be necessary for a life of faith, rather than of sight, in the Christian. It is thought, that, on this account, it would be injurious to make so marked a distinction between the righteous, and the wicked, as would exist in the death of the latter and the change of the former in some other way. But the reason for this opinion is not apparent. It might be true, were the Christian personally changed in body as soon as he believes. But it would not be, if the change should occur only at the time when, otherwise, his death would take place. Doubtless the translation of Enoch was one fitted to produce a profound impression on his contemporaries. It certainly had had no evil influence on his own life. So, if the Christian should have no other certainty of exemption from death, than he now has of salvation, he could derive no motives from that exemption which would militate against his life of faith. It is much more probably because God does not choose to continue the miraculous testimony to the truth of Christianity throughout all time. But had he done this, the lives of Christians in the later ages would have been no less lives of faith than were those of Apostolic times.

4. It has been more generally stated that death is a means of chastisement. It has been shown that, while suffering is common to both, it is inflicted in punishment, by an angry God, in the way of penalty and in chastisement, but by a loving Father, only for correction and discipline; and thus, that the same event, death, may be a curse to the wicked, and a blessing to the righteous. It has been argued that this is the reason why even a Christian man must die. This is true so far as the death of a Christian is a cause of suffering and pain, either in death itself, or in his contemplation of it. It is undoubtedly often a cause of this kind. Even to the Christian it assumes not always an aspect altogether pleasant. He naturally shrinks from its loathsome embrace. It is an enemy, even if it is “the last enemy,” and one over which he is “more than conqueror.” But death is not always regarded with dread. The Christian’s thoughts sometimes leap forward to it with exultant joy. Especially is it true, that seldom, if ever, in the hour of death is the true Christian filled with apprehension and gloom. His own death becomes no chastisement in the event itself. God in that hour gives such sustaining grace that each of his servants is hopeful, peaceful, joyful, even sometimes triumphant.

5. Whether able or not definitely to state on what grounds the Christian is subjected to death, we know that it is a blessing to him. The inquiry into its cause and the various reasons suggested proceed apparently on the supposition that it is an evil which it would be desirable had he been spared. But the Scriptures speak of death as among the “all things” which belong to the Christian. 1 Cor. 3:22. This does not deny its possibly painful character, but asserts that, however painful, it is made his possession, and therefore is used for his benefit. This is in accordance with the universal law of blessing to him which the apostle announces in Rom. 8:28: “We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, to them that are called according to his purpose.” The principle of this law, however, admits either blessing or suffering. The suffering in connection with death was pointed out under the previous division. It will suffice briefly to indicate here some of the blessings also associated with it.

(1.) Death is a blessing to the Christian because, through its contemplation, his sanctification and purification in this life is carried forward. This contemplation of it includes all aspects in which it presents itself, whether painful or otherwise.

(2.) It is a blessing because in it he looks forward to the attainment of final freedom from sin and to perfect sanctification.

(3.) It is a blessing because he recognizes it as the portal to the possession of eternal life.

(4.) Death is a blessing because it gives him an opportunity of giving strong testimony in favor of Christ and his religion.

(5.) It is felt to be a blessing because it opens the doors to immediate conscious personal presence with his Saviour.

These points are obvious and need not be elaborated.



When the immortality of the soul is spoken of, its unending future life is usually meant. This is the immortality which is common to the righteous, and the wicked. The righteous, however, possess, also, that true immortality which the Scriptures teach to be that of the true life of the soul.

1. The unending life of the soul has been argued upon various grounds.

(1.) Reason alone has been supposed by many to furnish adequate arguments in proof of its truth.

(a.) The longing of the soul for immortal existence has been deemed to be an instinct implanted within, which gives assurance of its gratification. But, while, with a few, there may have been aspirations after a nobler and better life than that of earth, it may be questioned whether, in the vast multitude of men, there is more than a shrinking from the loss of such life as is possessed in the present stage of existence. The instinct seems, therefore, to be rather that dread of death which is not unknown to the mere animal, and which is given for the protection of the life that now is, and not as a basis of hope of that which may be hereafter.

(b.) The inequality, which is so manifest in the apportionment of good and evil to the characters and conduct of men on earth, has, almost universally, led to the belief of a future life, in which these will be duly adjusted. But, by these facts, is taught merely a future life, and not one necessarily of an unending duration; but only of sufficient length for such adjustment. It is the Word of God alone that teaches that the bliss or woe, which is the portion of man at death, will continue forever. It must be acknowledged, however, that, as universal as has been the belief in a state of future rewards and punishments, equally so has been the opinion that it shall never end.

(c.) This general belief in an unending life, has also been accounted for on the supposition that it is an intuitive perception of the mind. But it does not appear that such knowledge as reason can give of what the soul is, and of what endless existence means, awakens at once the conviction that the soul must exist forever. The most thoughtful men, who have been guided by nature only, have been afflicted with doubts, and alternate hopes, and fears, without attaining more than earnest, or, at most, confident expectations, much less such knowledge of a continuous future, as would result from the existence of an intuitive conception.

(d.) The capacity of indefinite progress in the mental and moral powers of men, has seemed, to many, to indicate a stage of being in which it may be developed. But no one will assert that there is here more than an indication, which is opposed by the evidence of the great waste in the productions of nature, and which, therefore, needs confirmation from some more decisive source to become other than a mere expectation.

(e.) Some metaphysicians have argued the indestructible nature of the soul from its pure simplicity. They have believed it to be uncompounded, and, therefore, incapable of dissolution, and consequent destruction. This is based upon the belief that it is purely spiritual, and that simplicity is a necessary attribute of spirit. But these facts are difficult to prove. They are by no means undisputed among those who rely on reason alone. It is from the Scriptures that we learn the different origin of body and soul, and that the latter came not from matter. Philosophy has not always regarded that soul as a unit. The terms “soul”, “mind”, and “spirit,” indicate a tendency to recognize, at least, some threefold aspects in the human spirit, in accordance with which, even while asserting the absolute unity of the soul, Mental Philosophy has recognized the threefold division of the will, the understanding, and the affections. It is well known that the most of the Grecian philosophers, following Plato, held to a distinction between [phi][upsilon][nu][kappa] (psuche, the animal life or soul), and [nu][omicron][upsilon][varsigma] (nous) and [pi][nu][epsilon][upsilon]ua (pneuma, the rational spirit). Even some Christian writers of our own day have maintained the same views. In this state of uncertainty, therefore, reason cannot speak convincingly of an ever continuing life of man, on the ground of the simplicity, and consequent indestructibility, of his spiritual nature.

It appears, therefore, that, from reason alone, all that can be attained, even as to a merely future state, is expectation; or at most belief upon uncertain grounds. It is true that, if it could be established, that the soul dies with the body, certain hopes, and fears would remain unaccounted for, and certain problems of divine government would be unexplained; but these could, at most, only produce conviction of some future state; and would prove nothing as to its unending or even indefinite duration.

(2.) The Scriptures, however, teach plainly the continued existence of all men after death.

(a.) It is everywhere assumed as a fact, neither to be doubted, nor proved; but that will be at once received without question.

(b.) The cases of Enoch and Elijah gave signal proof of another world than this into which even men might enter. But they furnished no evidence that any other than these two would go thither. They simply showed that the possible existence of men, otherwise than on this earth, has been actually realized in these servants of God. But, so far from thus furnishing conclusive proof of the future life of other men, the fact that these were not removed through death, but by extraordinary means, naturally suggested the possibility that exemption from death is necessary to that life, and that all those who go down to the grave perish together. It was only to those otherwise taught of the continued existence of the soul, that their removal gave confirmatory proof of such immortality. In like manner, we are taught the same truths by the presence of Moses, and Elijah, at the scene of the Transfiguration. The appearance at various times of angels to men furnishes additional proof of another world. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ confirm most conclusively the doctrine of a future life.

(c.) The Scriptures teach, in the account of the creation of man, that his soul did not originate from the dust; but was a direct spiritual creation of God. Gen. 2:7. They make further statements about the difference between soul, and body, confirmatory of the distinction made in their creation. Gen. 25:8; 35:29; Ecc. 12:7; Matt. 10:28; Acts 7:59.

(d.) They make express reference to the existence of the soul after death. 2 Sam. 12:23; Job 19:25-27. [Conant translates this passage. “But I, I know my Redeemer lives, and in aftertime will stand upon the earth; and after this my skin is destroyed, and without my flesh, I shall see God. Whom I, for myself, shall see, and my eyes behold, and not another, when my reins are consumed within me”]. Matt. 22:32; 25:46; Luke 16:19-31; John 11:25; 2 Cor. 5:1-4.

(e.) They make known that this future life is the lot of the wicked, as well as of the righteous; teaching that it is one of happiness to the latter, and of condemnation and misery to the former. Matt. 25:46; John 6:47; 12:25; 1 Cor. 15:17-20.

(f.) They declare the continuance of this, at least until the day of the Resurrection and Final Judgement. Job 21:30; Ecc. 3:17; Luke 14:14; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15; Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Thess. 4:13-17.

(g.) They represent the decisions of the judgement day as fixing the destinies of men, for an unending existence. The evidence of this teaching will be given in the discussion of “The Judgement Day.”

The Scriptures are thus seen to teach conclusively the doctrine of an unending future life of all men. This, as has been stated, is what is commonly referred to as the immortality of the soul.

Before passing from this part of the discussion, special attention is called to the following statements of what is included in this kind of immortality.

1. Unending existence essentially belongs to spiritual natures. When, therefore, the Scriptures have taught that the soul is a spirit, the way is prepared for the metaphysical argument based upon the simplicity of the soul, and its consequent indestructibility. It is common, therefore, to speak of the natural immortality of the soul. By this is meant, that, because of its nature, it has an unending life. It has no elements of dissolution in it. Life belongs to it, because it is spirit. Just as God has made extension, and divisibility, properties of matter, so, has he made unending life a natural property of the spirit.

2. But this essential property of spirit must ever be recognized as one conferred upon it. It is because God has so made spirit, that it has unending life. It is not a property that belongs to it from any necessity in God, or out of God. It is the result of his purpose, or will, and of his power. He has made spirit to be thus, Because he has so willed. Doubtless, had he otherwise chosen, the result would have been different. To believe otherwise is to put an unjustifiable limit upon his power, and upon his absolute freedom of will, as to all outward matters. It thus appears that they speak falsely, even blasphemously, who say that God could not destroy, or annihilate spirit, if he should choose. That which prevents annihilation, is that he has not so chosen, and will not so choose.

The impossibility is not in the lack of power, but in the unchangeableness of his will. This is no imperfection of inability, but the highest perfection of immutability

The immortality, which has been thus far discussed, is that which is common to both the righteous and the wicked. In the beginning of this part of this chapter, it was stated that the righteous possess also that immortality which is the true life of the soul. The death of the soul, and its life, are set forth in the Word of God as something distinct, not only from that of the body, but even from the unending natural life of the soul. The spiritual death of the soul has been described in the chapter on the Effects of Adam’s Sin, pp. 239-247, as something different from natural death, and as constituting the most fearful of the penalties inflicted because of sin. It was there shown that the Scriptures describe it in the various aspects of alienation from God, loss of God’s favour, and corruption of the moral nature. The true immortality of the Christian consists in the removal of all these evils, and the bestowment upon him of their corresponding blessings. That this is done, and that this is the condition into which he is thus brought will abundantly appear from the following passages of Scripture. Matt. 10 :39; 16:25 (cf. Mark 8:35); 18:9; (parallel passages, Mark 9:45; Luke 9:24; 17:33; John 12:25); 19:17; John 3:36; 5:24, 40; 6:33, 35, 50-58, 63; 20:31; Rom. 6:4; 8:6, 13; 2 Cor. 3:6; Eph. 4:18; 1 John 3:14; 5:12.

The contrast in immortality, between the righteous and the wicked, is very marked. “The wicked is thrust down in his evil doing: but the righteous hath hope in his death.” Prov. 14:32. “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish.” Prov. 11:7. But “blessed are the dead which die in the Lord;” . . . . “for their works follow with them.” Rev. 14:13.

The happiness of this immortality of the Christian is the greater because it is a state in which he is confirmed forever. The law of this condition, both of the righteous, and the wicked, is laid down in Rev. 22:11. “He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still:and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still:and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still:and he that is holy, let him be made holy still.” As the wicked shall not change his state, so shall not the righteous, his. The day of his trial and probation is over, and he stands secure of the bliss of heaven, confirmed by the unfailing promises of God. The scenes, through which he has passed on earth, fill him with no apprehensions that his weakness and insufficiency, will disable him from performing the perfect service of heaven. The recollection of Adam’s trial will suggest to him no possibility that he will be subjected to a test which will dissolve forever the bonds which unite him to God. Even the sin of the angels will not alarm him. For he is now assured of that “eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal.” Tit. 1:2. This is immortality indeed. This, and not mere continued life, is the life and immortality which he confers, “who abolished death, and brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel.” 2 Tim. 1:10.



The Scriptures teach that the soul and body that have been separated in death, will be reunited at the Judgement Day. Meantime, the body crumbles into dust, and appears to be totally destroyed. The spirit has returned unto God who gave it. Ecc. 12:7. Hence, at his martyrdom, we hear the first dying Christian “calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Acts 7:59.

It is not in accordance with the methods of God in his revelations to man to answer the many inquiries which curiosity might suggest as to this intermediate state of the soul. But much more is taught about it than would at first be imagined. Such facts as are given are valuable to confirm and strengthen faith, and to give consolation. Those may first be mentioned which are common to the righteous and the wicked, and these may be followed by separate statements of the things wherein they differ.

1. As to those respects in which the condition of the righteous and the wicked is the same.

(1.) The soul exists without a body. Unquestionably it has not the body which it had on earth. But some have thought that it has some kind of a body, some spiritual body, which merely corresponds to, and is only thus identified with that of this life. But Paul’s discussion of the resurrection shows, that the “spiritual” body is one that is to be raised out of the grave in which the natural body was buried, and that it is “at the last trump” that “the dead shall be raised,” 1 Cor. 15:44, 52-54.

Some have argued, that body of some kind is necessary to give location to these spirits. But a spirit may have location without occupying space as a body does. Here may be recalled the quotation made by Hodge from Turretine as to the different relations that bodies, created spirits, and God, sustain to space; given on pages 72-73 of this volume.

(2.) The condition is consequently one of an imperfect life. It is the life of the spirit only, and not that of the man. Human nature is composed of both body and spirit; and his body is as truly a part of a man as is his soul. The condition, therefore, in which disembodied spirits exist, is not that of perfect men, but only of human spirits. This, which is an inference which may be drawn from the two-fold nature of man, is supported by the manner in which the Scriptures refer to the persons in this intermediate state. They are not spoken of as “men,” but as “souls,” and “spirits.” Heb. 12:23; Rev. 6:9; 20:4.

Another proof of this want of perfection of this condition is seen in the fact that the saints attain full entrance into their joy, and the wicked full infliction of their woe, only after the resurrection. Matt. 13:40-43, 49, 50; 25:34, 41, 46; 1 Cor. 15:44-54.

(3.) Both righteous and wicked have conscious life. This might have been inferred from the nature of spirit, which must always be in a state of conscious existence. But it is a plain teaching of the Bible. Luke 16:22-31. The word “Hades;” here means the place of departed spirits, and, as the scene occurs after the death of Lazarus, and before the final judgement, so must it be assigned to the intermediate state. In this the rich man is represented as in conscious torment.

The conscious condition of the righteous is taught in 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21-24; and also in the passages connected with Paradise. Luke 23:42,43; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7; 22:2.

(4.) Neither the righteous nor the wicked are under probation in this intermediate state. Luke 16:22-31; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:11. Even if the language in 1 Pet. 3:19, 20 and 4:6 teaches, as some have taught, that our Lord went to the place of departed spirits, and preached to them; so that to those who had died up to the time of his death was given a probation in the gospel preached to them by him; that would be but a single instance of a favour shown to those who had died before his crucifixion; and, so far from proving a probation beyond the grave, would, from its exceptional character, imply the contrary.

2. The aspects of the intermediate state peculiar to the righteous.

(1.) It is a condition of happiness. Paul declared that “to die is gain,” and to depart this life far better than to remain in it. Phil. 1:21-24. He wrote to Timothy, looking forward exultingly to the hour of his death. 2 Tim. 4:6-8. He also referred to his longing for this future, as possessed by him in common with his brethren. 2 Cor. 5:1-8. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the happiness of the latter is described by his being in Abraham’s bosom. Luke 16:23.

(2.) It is a condition in which the believer is present with Christ. This is also taught in all the passages referred to in the previous paragraph, except the last; and constitutes in each of them the ground of the happiness which they declare.

(3.) The believer is also said to be in Paradise. Whatever this may mean, whether only a condition or a place, it is unquestionably true that it is intended to convey the idea of the enjoyment of very great happiness. The passages in which Paradise is mentioned are, Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7. That these teach that it is a place can only be denied on the ground that very highly figurative language is used. Only the first of these, however, refers to the presence of Christ with any one, and this contains only his promise to the thief on the cross, “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” But the location of Paradise, as made known by the Apostle Paul, 2 Cor. 12:1-4, taken in connection with this first passage, makes it more than probable that it is the place where the saints are with Christ. The Scriptures teach that “Christ was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:11; Acts 2:33, 34; Acts 7:55, 56; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22. We are also taught that he must there remain “until the times of restoration of all things.” Acts 3:21. Now, in the account Paul gives of his ecstatic vision in 2 Cor. 12:1-4, he tells us that he was “Caught up even to the third heaven,” and “caught up into Paradise,” which locates Paradise either in or above the third heaven, or makes the two identical. So also Rev. 2:7, taken in connection with Rev. 22:2 and 21:10-27, states that the tree of life, “which is in the Paradise of God,” is “in the midst of the street” of “that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God,” in which was no temple, “for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the temple thereof,” and is “on either side of the river,” which is described as “a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.” The place of the abode of the saints is with Christ, who is in the heavens with God. It is to that place that most probably the name Paradise is given in the Scriptures.

(4.) In that abode the saints are not probably inactive. Some have thought this because their condition is spoken of as one of “rest” and “sleep.” But evidently the former of these terms is used simply to declare the end of the toils and labours of this life, and the enjoyment of exemption from their present spiritual as well as temporal trials. This does not imply that there are not intellectual and spiritual duties and meditations suitable to that abode, such as may give due scope to that activity, which seems essential to personal conscious spirits. The “sleep” more probably refers to the appearance of the body in death, and is beautifully expressive of the calm repose with which the Christian sinks into final dissolution.

(5.) Neither is the intermediate state a place of cleansing from sin. That it is so is held by the Church of Rome. That church teaches that at death all unbaptized adults, and all who have fallen into and continued in mortal sin after Baptism, go immediately to hell. All who have been baptized, and remain in union with that Church, and have attained a life of Christian perfection, go immediately to heaven. Unbaptized infants occupy what is called “the Limbus infantum,” a place in the higher part of hell, which the flames do not reach, and suffer only a “paenam damni” (penalty of loss), and have no share in the “paenam sensus” (penalty of actual suffering), which afflicts adult sinners. But “the great mass of partially sanctified Christians, dying in fellowship with the church, yet still encumbered with imperfections, go to purgatory, where they suffer, more or less intensely, for a longer or shorter period, until their sins are both atoned for and purged out, when they are translated to heaven, during which intermediate period they may be efficiently assisted by the prayers and labours of their friends on earth.”

“They confess that this doctrine is not taught distinctly in Scripture, but maintain, 1st, that it follows necessarily from their general doctrine of the satisfaction for sins; 2d, that Christ and the Apostles taught it incidentally. . . . They refer to Matt. 12:32; 1 Cor. 3:15.” Hodge’s Outlines of Theology, pp. 556, 557.

But the first of these passages is manifestly but a strong way of declaring that the sin referred to shall never be pardoned, without authorizing the inference that there are other sins which will be pardoned in the world to come. The second passage, by the various things which are built upon the true foundation, which, if false or insufficient, shall be burned, refers not to personal character, but to teachings.

This doctrine of purgatory is based upon the very unscriptural theory of salvation through personal works and sufferings, which the Church of Rome holds, in connection with sacramental grace, to be supplementary to the meritorious work of Christ. While it has no support from Scripture, it is opposed to all that the Scriptures teach about the intermediate state of the righteous.

3. The aspects of the intermediate state peculiar to the wicked.

The Scripture teaching here is much more meagre. The four statements already mentioned, in which their condition and that of the righteous are similar, comprise almost all that is said. As peculiar to them, however, may be added.

(1.) That Christ, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, speaks of their condition as (a) one of torment Luke 16:23-25, 28, (b) from which there is no escape to the condition of bliss of the righteous, verse 26, and (c) as endured in a place of torment, vs. 23, 28.

(2.) Those who interpret 1 Pet. 3:19, 20 as referring to a personal preaching by Christ to the dead in Hades, necessarily hold that the wicked are “in prison.” But, otherwise, we have no other proof than seems to be conveyed in the “impassable gulf” mentioned in Luke 16:26.

(3.) It is a place in which they are reserved for punishment in the day of judgement. 2 Pet. 2:9.

(4.) The only place spoken of in connection with the wicked during the intermediate state is Hades, or the place of departed spirits, which is always translated Hell in the King James version, but is transferred in the Canterbury Revision. The passages in which Hades is used are Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14.


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

Chapter 38-Final Perseverance of the Saints

September 17, 2014 1 comment

Final Perseverance of the Saints

THE doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints teaches that those who are effectually called of God to the exercise of genuine faith will certainly persevere unto final salvation. This is not taught of a class of mankind in general, as something that will usually be true of the persons composing that class, but of each individual in it,–so that not one will finally apostatize or be lost; but each will assuredly persevere and be saved.

This fact is taught explicitly in the word of God, which sets it forth as due to the purpose and power of God and the grace which he bestows, and not to any excellence or power in the believer. Indeed, such is stated to be the weakness of man that, if left to himself, he would assuredly fall, against the danger of which he is constantly warned; a danger to which even the best instructed and most sanctified are liable, and which is evidenced by the sins which are committed, which are often of a most heinous character, sometimes extending to actual denial of the faith, and backsliding from God; showing that but for God’s mercy and grace, final apostacy would occur. But, from the danger thus due to himself, he is rescued by the power and grace of God, who, by his watchful preservation, keeps guard over his unworthy children, preventing their total estrangement from him, and bringing them finally unto the salvation he has designed for them. In so doing, however, he does not act independently of their co-operation, but leads them unto salvation through their own perseverance in faith and holiness.

1. The Scriptures teach the final salvation of all believers.

(1.) The Psalmist sang, “Though he fall, he shall not utterly be cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. . . The Lord loveth judgement, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved forever.” Ps. 37:24-28. The wise man said: “The path of the righteous is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Prov. 4:18. Isaiah, referring to the true Israel of God, said “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. . . Every one that is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory; I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Isa. 43:1, 2-7. “Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.” Isa. 45:17. “The heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.” Isa. 51:6. “Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Isa. 55:3. “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” Jer. 32:40.

Christ himself, referring to the “false Christs and false prophets,” who shall rise professedly in his name, teaches the impossibility of deceiving the elect of God by saying “So as to lead astray if possible even the elect.” Matt. 24:24. He likewise declared “He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgement, but hath passed out of death into life.” John 5:24. To the Samaritan woman he said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life.” John 4:14. He also affirmed even more expressly the final salvation of each of his people by declaring: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father which hath given them unto me, is greater that all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-29.

The apostle Paul presents the effectual calling of those whom God had foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, as connected absolutely with their being glorified by him. Rom. 8:30. In the same chapter, vv. 35-39, he declares their separation from the love of Christ impossible. Writing to the Corinthians, he assures them that Christ will “confirm” them “unto the end,” so that they shall be “unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” adding “God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Cor. 1:8, 9. To the Philippians he also declares himself “Confident of this very thing that he which hath begun a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6. In like manner he says to the Thessalonians ” The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you and guard you from the evil one.” 2 Thess. 3:3. Peter also writes to the “sojourners of the dispersion” as unto the persons who had been begotten unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded, through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Pet. 1:3-5.

(2.) This doctrine is inseparably associated with the other doctrines of grace which we have found taught in God’s word. So true is this, that they are universally accepted, or rejected together. The perseverance of the saints is a part of every Calvinistic confession. It is rejected by Romanists, Lutherans, and Arminians. All the evidence, therefore, of the truth of the doctrines already examined, may be presented in favour of this which is a necessary inference from them. In like manner, all the independent proof of this doctrine confirms the separate doctrines, and the system of doctrine, with which it is associated.

2. The Scriptures declare that the sure salvation of each believer is due to the purpose of God. This would be naturally inferred from some of the doctrines to which reference has just been made. But it is distinctly asserted. Those who believe are said to have been “ordained to eternal life.” Acts 13:48. Those finally glorified are said to have been foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, and, therefore, called. Rom. 8:29. Referring to the falling away of some, the apostle writes to Timothy declaring that nevertheless the “Firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19), thus establishing the identity of those that are thus known with those who shall remain steadfast. Our Lord himself declared this final salvation to be the will of God. “This is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” John 6:39.

3. The final salvation of the believer is ascribed to the power of God.

It is the power of Christ, and of God, which makes it impossible that the sheep shall be snatched from their hands. John 10:27-29. It is God that will perform the good work which he had begun. Phil. 1:6. “It is God which worketh in you,” says the apostle to the Philippians, “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Phil. 2:13. Peter addresses his readers as those “Who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Pet. 1:5. He likewise invokes that “Grace . . . and peace be multiplied” to those who “have obtained a like precious faith,” . . . “seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” 2 Pet. 1:1-3. The Apostle Paul declares that it is God that is to be thanked because of the growth of faith. 2 Thess. 1:3. In the same chapter he says, “We also pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire of goodness, and every work of faith, with power.” 2 Thess 1:11. It is in reliance, upon this power, that Paul triumphantly wrote to Timothy, “I know him whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 2 Tim. 1:12.

4. The final salvation is also ascribed to the grace of God. Not only is the power of God exercised; but it is graciously exercised. His aid is a gift of unmerited favour. The apostle to the Romans asserts that salvation must needs be of faith, that it might be of grace, “to the end that the promise may be sure to all seed.” Rom. 4:16. It is only “as many as are led by the Spirit of God” that “are the sons of God.” Rom. 8:14. “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.” Rom. 9:16. This gracious character, which is ascribed to the whole work of salvation, is not less true of it in the end, than in the beginning. Hence, when the apostle prays for his brethren at Thessalonica, “may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he immediately adds “faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.” 1 Thess. 5:23, 24. That faithfulness consists in the fulfillment of gracious promises, and not of matters of obligation and duty.

5. That the perseverance of believers depends necessarily upon the purpose and power and grace of God, will still further appear from the natural weakness of the Christian and his liability to fall. Even an innocent and pure human being must be fallible, because he is a mere creature, and may therefore choose evil instead of good. We have a sad illustration of this in the fall of our first parents. It may be doubted whether the confirmation of holy angels, or saints, is due to anything in themselves, or in their condition, or state. It is most probable that their only ground of confidence is in the purpose and promise of God. But the Christian is not free from sin. He does not in this life attain perfect sanctification. Hence the constant tendencies to sin, the liability to temptation from within, and from without, and the utter dependence upon the grace of God for his progress in the divine life. These have been pointed out in the discussion about his sanctification. The Scripture teaches the fact expressly in such passages as 1 John 1:8-10, and 2:1. It is also to be inferred from the frequent warnings against the power of temptation, and the necessity of resisting it from whatever source it may arise. We are taught not only the liability to sin from our own corrupted natures, and from the influences of the world around; but also that we have a spiritual enemy to contend with in Satan who zealously, and with much craft and subtilty, seeks the destruction of the children of God.

Nor does the Bible alone give warnings of what may possibly happen, but the religious experience also of the Christian which is one of constant struggles against the evil of sin. These struggles the word of God teaches not only to be consistent with a state of gracious acceptance with God, but to be an evidence of such a state; inasmuch as they show the believer is no longer “dead in trespasses and sins,” but is engaged in a conflict to destroy, and escape them. In this warfare the strange condition is presented of divine strength perfected in human weakness. While the Scriptures command watchfulness and prayer against temptations (Mark 14:38), and enforce the command by the fearful conflict of our Lord in Gethsemane, they also encourage believers by the assurance that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.” 1 Cor. 10:13. “Wherefore,” said the apostle, “I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak then am I strong.” 2 Cor. 12:10. In the preceding verse he gives the reason why he thus rejoices, viz.: He said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

6. The weakness thus taught of the Christian is not confined to those who have just begun their career of faith, or who are babes in Christ, but is found also in the best instructed, and most sanctified, to such an extent as to make necessary their continued watchfulness and prayer. It was to those whom the apostle wrote, “in every thing ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge . . . so that ye come behind in no gift,” 1 Cor. 1:4-7, that he found it necessary to say “let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall,” 1 Cor. 10:12. They also whose “faith” was “proclaimed throughout the whole world,” Rom. 1:8, needed the warning “Well; by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by the faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee.” Rom. 11:20, 21. They were our Lord’s chosen companions whom he taught to pray, “Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matt. 6:13. These also were the ones to whom primarily the warning of Christ was given with the accompanying scene at Gethsemane. Even Paul at the very moment in which he declared, “I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air,” added, “but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.” 1 Cor. 9:26, 27.

7. Nor are examples wanting, not merely of faults and errors committed by Christian men, but of grievous sins; and these in men of the highest religious privileges and attainments. Such was the desertion of Christ by all the apostles, when he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies (Mark 14:50), the thrice denial of his Lord by Peter (Mark 14:66-72), the sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) and the blameworthy conduct of Barnabas at Antioch. Gal. 2:11-13. All of these are instances of grievous falls in those who were true believers in Jesus. They can also be paralleled in the lives of God’s true servants in the Old Testament times, in the sin of Abraham, Gen. 20:5-13; of Moses, Num. 20:7-13; of Eli, 1 Sam. 2:22-36; of David, 2 Sam. 12:1-14; and of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 20:12-21.

The extent to which this weakness of man is seen to exhibit itself is evidence not only of what, but for the intervention of God, might occur in each case, but, also, that, so far as man is concerned, the final apostasy of each one is not only possible but probable, nay certain. We thus have additional proof that the final salvation is due to the purpose, power and grace of God.

8. This salvation, is, however, secured only through the co-operation of the believer. It is not one bestowed on him in his sins; but through deliverance from his sins. It is not merely preservation by God, but also perseverance of the believer, in faith and holiness, unto the end. It is the good work begun in the Christian which is performed until the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. 1:6. The confirmation to the end secures that they shall be “unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Cor. 1:8. The preordination is unto conformity to the image of his Son. Rom. 8:29. This is secured by various means:

(a.) Faith is one of these.

Christians “by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation.” 1 Pet. 1:5. “Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4. “As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 20:31.

(b.) It is also accomplished by consecration to God.

This is earnestly enjoined upon the people of God because of the great privileges bestowed upon them. Paul besought the Romans by the mercies of God to present their bodies a living sacrifice unto God. Rom. 12:1. He urged the Ephesians to be followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, not allowing certain sins which he mentioned to be once named among them as they were unbecoming to saints. Eph. 5:1-4. The writer to the Hebrews, also, surrounding himself and his brethren with a cloud of martyrs, exhorts “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.” Heb. 12:1.

(c.) Self-purification from sin is another of the means.

We find Paul urging upon his brethren at Rome “Neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God,” Rom. 6:13. So, also, in view of their adoption by God, he exhorts the Corinthians, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 2 Cor. 7:1. “They that are of Christ” are said to “have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof,” Gal. 5:24. The Apostle John declares that “every one that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he (Christ) is pure,” 1 John 3:3.

(d.) The warnings of God’s word are also means to the same end. They imply the importance of Christian exertion, and the value of effort as well as the possibility of danger. The Hebrews were warned that they should fear lest, a promise being left of rest, any of them should seem to come short of it. Heb. 4:1. They are especially warned to go on unto perfection, upon the statement that “As touching those who were once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasted the word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fall away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame,” Heb. 6:4-6. This was a description of such persons as they themselves were; of real Christians. They were, in themselves, in real danger of such a fall. They were only secure from it through the purpose and power and grace of God. This danger was therefore a fit cause for exhortation to them to push forward unto perfection. There were doubtless many around them who had appeared, or had professed to have the privileges here referred to, who, by their desertion of Christianity, were inflicting grievous evil upon the cause of Christ. These Christians were tempted to commit the same sin. Should they do this, they could not be renewed again unto repentance; and this warning was given as the means under God of restraining them from sin. It is thought by some that this passage shows the possibility of a fall from grace, and therefore is contrary to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It is admitted that, regarded in their own strength only, there was this possibility of fall in the persons addressed. But the doctrine we are considering does not regard the believer as preserved and as persevering only through himself. He is thus kept by God; not by his own power. One of the means by which this is done, is that he is warned of the danger in which he is of himself, that he may co-operate with God, so as not only to be preserved, but also to persevere in the divine life. Of like purpose, and to the same effect, are the other warnings found in the tenth chapter of this epistle in verses 26-29, 38, and those in 2 Pet. 2:20, 22, and elsewhere in the Scriptures.

The means mentioned are only some of the numerous ways in which the Christian is led to persevere in the divine life, actively co-operating with the grace of God. It is because God bestows, and man attains, as the apostle Peter so completely sets forth in his preceding remarks, that he exhorts his brethren, “give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure,” adding, “for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble: for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. 1:10, 11. It is because of the divine help afforded through the incarnation, and humiliation, and consequent exaltation of Christ Jesus, that the apostle could urge the Philippians, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Phil. 2:12, 13.

It will be seen, from the preceding statements, that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints does not deny that Christians are liable to sin, not that they do sin, nor that they do turn away from God, and backslide from their Christian profession, and even fall into grievous wrong, by which they displease God, and lose confidence and hope in him, and become barren and unfruitful in good works: nor does it deny that final apostasy would be possible to the Christian if he were left to the exercise of his own will, subject, as he would be, not only to the natural fallibility of a creature, but to the still continuing lusts of his flesh, and tempted not only by these, but by the attractions of the world, and the malice of Satan. But it asserts, that it is the purpose of God that none shall finally be lost who have been given to Christ by the Father, and have been by faith vitally united with him, and justified through him; and that, for the fulfillment of this purpose, the power of God is sufficient to keep them unto final salvation, and the love of Christ is so invincible, in his forbearance, mercy, and grace, that nothing can separate them from it. It also teaches, that they are not saved while indulging in sin, and walking after their own lusts; but that they are sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit, which enables them to persevere in the divine life in co-operation with his influences, that their life and salvation is not a mere gift without effort on their part, but a growth through perseverance unto the end in the use of the appointed means.

It is well to notice briefly some of the objections presented to this doctrine.

1. One of the most plausible of these is based upon the apostasy of the nation of Israel despite the many promises with which it was blessed.

But the analogy of God’s dealings with his ancient people, favours, rather than opposes, the doctrine of final perseverance. Their history presents to us just such cases of backsliding and recovery, as have been pointed out as true of Christian believers. The backsliding was through their sin, the recovery through the power and grace of God. The one followed the other, at greater, or less intervals, but always followed it. Is it said, however, that Israel is now entirely cast away? But such is not the teaching of the word of God. Paul expressly denies this, and teaches their restoration to God when the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. Rom. 11:26. It is to be remembered also that the calling of Israel was that of the nation, and not of the individual within it. That fact that many Israelites have been lost eternally and beyond rescue, does not affect the fulfillment of any gracious purpose of God towards the nation as such.

There are many, however, who interpret all the promises for the future as made simply of the gathering of the spiritual Israel. Even were this position incorrect there has been no failure in God’s covenant relation to the natural Israel, for the promises to it were all based upon the condition of their faithfulness to God. God, therefore, has not failed, even if he has cast them off forever.

It is especially to be noticed, also, that the new covenant made in Christ, is one which includes not only the promise of the blessings, but of the establishment in his people of the conditions upon which these blessings depend. The nature of the new covenant is set forth in the prophecy of Jeremiah, and, with its statements, many other Scripture passages concur. From its very nature, it is impossible that the blessings promised in it should not be given to all the people of God. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days: saith the Lord; 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: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jer. 31:31-34. See also Jer. 32:38-40.

2. It is again objected that the warnings against apostasy, and exhortations to perseverance, imply the impossibility and danger of fall on the part of those to whom they were addressed. Even if this were absolutely true, it would not be proof that any have fallen away, or shall fall away. These very warnings might become effective to guard against the danger, as the signs set up in hazardous places, are the means by which the danger is avoided. But, as has been already explained, this danger arises solely from the believer if left to himself; the certainty that he will not finally fall away depends upon God’s purpose to preserve him, and to enable him to persevere. These warnings and exhortations are, therefore, perfectly consistent with his safety, and are the signs of danger which God sets up to prevent the fall of his servants.

3. It is objected, however, that, while we have instances of some who are rescued from their grievous sins and backslidings, the Scripture also gives examples of others who are left to perish. But the doctrine of God’s word is that of the perseverance of believers; of the elect of God; of those called to be saints. An examination of the cases mentioned will show no reason for believing those who thus fell away to have been of this class. Indeed, in most cases the contrary is taught. The case of Judas is the most prominent. It would seem more nearly to correspond, than any other, with the privileges referred to in Heb. 6:4, 5, and yet Christ proclaimed his condition, as not that of a Christian, about a year before his betrayal. “Did I not choose you the twelve, and one of you is a devil? Now he spake of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” John 6:70, 71. We need no better proof that this man, in the betraying of our Lord, did not fall from a state of grace and salvation into the perdition to which he was doomed.

So also as to Simon Magus, Peter expressly declared, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right before God. . . I see that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” Acts 8:21, 23. The apostle John seems, in general terms, to state the truth as to all those who finally depart from the faith. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest how that they all are not of us.” John 2:19.


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

Chapter 37- Sanctification

September 10, 2014 2 comments


THE correctness of the statements, as to the forensic nature of justification, and its being an act of God which declares simply the relation of the justified to the law, will more plainly appear from what we shall learn of the nature of Sanctification, which is another of the privileges bestowed upon the people of God, as the result of their union with Christ.



While justify, as has been seen, means simply to declare just, or to treat as just; sanctify means to make holy. The usage of Scripture is as clear in this case as in that. The word “holy” in Scripture has, however, various meanings. It is sometimes applied to things, and not to persons only. (1.) It is used in the sense of that which is set apart or dedicated to an especial use. Thus, God threatens that instruments of vengeance will be “prepared” (sanctified) against “the king’s house of Judah,” Jer. 22:7. But the dedication is most frequently for some holy use. Thus, “holy” is applied to the Sabbath day (Ex. 31:14); and to the house of God (Lev. 16:33); and to the water (Num. 5:17); and to the vessels of the young men (1 Sam. 21:5). (2.) Things are also called holy from their connection with holy persons. Thus, the “place” on which Moses stood was proclaimed “holy” on account of its connection with Jehovah (Ex. 3:5); likewise the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pet. 1:18). (3.) As descriptive of an act free from sin, and performed with holy motives. Thus, the kiss of Christian salutation, called in 1Pet. 5:14 a kiss of charity, is in several other places called a “holy kiss.” 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26. (4.) “Holy,” as tending to produce holiness; as “most holy faith” (Jude 20). (5.) It is most generally used as descriptive of personal character, whether the holiness be perfect, as in God, or angels, or glorified saints; or partial, as seen in his people on earth. A few of the many instances of its application to this last class are 1 Sam. 2:9; Acts 9:13; Rom. 15:25, 26; Phil. 4:21; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2; Rev. 18:24.

The doctrine of sanctification has reference to the first and last of these usages of “holy;” to the last more especially, as including the character of holiness produced by the continuous working of the Holy Ghost through the word of truth; but also to the first, as involving that dedication of person and life to God, which constitutes that “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,” which is the believer’s “reasonable service.” Rom. 12:1. Christian holiness includes both character and life. “Sanctification” is the process by which these are accomplished. The “sanctified” are those who are thus made holy. To “sanctify” is to make them thus holy.



The sanctified are those only who are in Christ Jesus, who have been regenerated, and have been justified through faith.

1. No man can cleanse or purify his heart or life. He lacks especially the will to do so. If he should determine to attempt it, the temptations, which will assail him, will soon overcome that will.

2. The law cannot furnish controlling power to this result; not because of its own deficiencies, but because of its weakness through the flesh. Rom. 8:3.

3. The difficulty of the work to be done consists in its not being a mere reformation of a bad life and habits, which is measurably within the power of man, and is sometimes accomplished so far as the mere outward life among men demands; but in its including the destruction and removal of man’s sinful condition, and habits, and action, which he by nature ardently loves, and the substitution for them of their very opposites in every respect.

4. Regeneration, therefore, is necessary, as antecedent to the work of sanctification. A new nature must be attained which will love and seek after holiness, and struggle forward, dissatisfied until it shall be perfected. The Scriptures, therefore, represent sanctification as occurring only in those who have been regenerated, and to whom a new heart and a new spirit have been given.

5. But, not only regeneration, but justification also, must precede sanctification. Yet certainly not for the same reasons; for regeneration is, like sanctification, a change in nature, and character; and justification a change only in relation to the law. There is, therefore, no such natural connection of sanctification with justification as there is with regeneration. Nor is there anything meritorious in the position of a justified person. For the meritorious ground of all blessings can be found only in the person and work of Christ. But, as the merit of Christ becomes that of the believer only in justification, and, as the faith by which we are united with him is also the condition of justification, so must justification precede the blessings which flow from that union, and from justification itself. The same necessity for precedence arises because in justification are furnished the motives by which the Christian is led through the Spirit. The Psalmist of old sang “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared,” Ps. 130:4, and the Apostle John declares “Every one that hath this hope [of sonship and likeness to Christ] set on him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” 1 John 3:3. Paul, also, teaches that the condition of obedience with the newness of the spirit, is that we have been discharged from the law. Rom. 7:6. The believer must co-operate in the work of sanctification. His reception of the word of God, his reliance upon its promises, his struggles against sin, and his earnest longings for holiness are important elements in his sanctification. But the existence of these depends upon the belief that God has pardoned his sins, and will accept and bless him, which is the consequence of the personal trust in Christ which constitutes justifying faith.

This precedence of justification to sanctification is distinctly set forth by the Apostle in the order in which the parts of salvation are arranged in Rom. 8:29, 30 and Phil. 3:9-12.



What now, we may inquire, is the nature of the sanctification which is wrought out in the believer?

1. It is a personal sanctification. It is accomplished in each individual personally, and not in that of a common representative as is the righteousness which justifies.

2. It is a real sanctification, not merely one that is imputed, as is righteousness. Holiness is not merely “accounted to men,” so that they are treated as though holy, but they are made holy. Holiness becomes the characteristic of their natures. It is habitually exercised in their lives. It will eventually be possessed in perfection. It is real and in no sense only virtual.

3. It is of the whole nature. The renewed nature, given in regeneration, shows that sanctification includes the whole spiritual part of man. It is not to be confined to mere outward actions. God’s spiritual nature demands not only spiritual worship, but holy spiritual emotions and affections; and these belong to the heart. Hence the need of inward conformity to his will and commands is so especially set forth in the New Testament, as to mark its teachings as essentially spiritual. We are also plainly taught that between the outward fruit, and the inward condition, is such a connection that the latter is the actual producing power of the former, and is manifested by it. Matt. 12:33-35; Luke 6:43-45.

But sanctification is to be extended to the body likewise. Its appetites and passions are to be controlled, wicked actions are to cease, and unholy habits to be put away, the members of the body are to be mortified, all filthiness of the flesh to be cleansed, good works are to be exhibited to mankind, and such high moral duties to be performed as are imposed upon Christians as obligatory towards each other and the world.

The Scriptures exhort to sanctification of the whole nature, both body and soul. See 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:5-10; 1 Thess. 5:23. That of the body alone is urged. The apostle tells the Ephesians about his prayers for their spiritual sanctification. Eph. 1:17-19.

4. It is not a sanctification to be completed in this life.

It is not, like justification, a single act, but is a continuous process. The work goes on throughout the lifetime of the believer, nor is it completed before death.

(1.) This is manifest from the frequent exhortations to sanctification addressed to those who are already believers in Christ, and who are actually called saints. Many of the passages containing these have been given in the preceding section.

(2.) It is also shown by the warnings, about the danger of backsliding, addressed to Christian believers. Such was that to Peter by our Lord, the reality of the danger of which was shown by his subsequent grievous fall. Luke 22:31, 32. See examples of other such warnings in 1 Cor. 10:12; Col. 1:23; Heb. 3:12, 13; 12:15.

(3.) The fearful condition of actual apostasy is presented for the purpose of teaching the true people of God the extent to which knowledge of his grace may be possessed without the attainment of actual and final salvation. Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-29; 2 Pet. 2:20. The object of this instruction is to warn against committing sins, and indulging habits to which they are still prone.

(4.) Christians are not presented in the New Testament as completely pure and holy, but, on the contrary, the very best of them acknowledge the existence of sinful tendencies, and pronounce any idea of freedom from the presence of sin to be a delusion. The faults of good men, such as Peter, James and John, and Thomas, and Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:37-40) are especially mentioned, and John who declares that “whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not” (1 John 5:18) is the very apostle who, in a previous part of that very same epistle, teaches that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8. Paul constantly speaks of himself as still struggling against the power of sin, as not counting himself to have attained, as buffeting his body and bringing it into bondage lest he should be rejected, and thus he gives us, in his descriptions of his own experience, a pattern of what has been almost universally acknowledged as that of every other Christian.

5. But sanctification will not always be incomplete. In heaven perfect purity and holiness will be the portion of the believer.

(1.) The purpose of God, in the foreordination of those whom he foreknew, is that they shall “be conformed to the image of his Son.” Rom. 8:29. This conformity shall be attained in heaven, for “if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is.” 1 John 3:2. Such likeness involves personal sinless purity.

(2.) Paul’s triumphant language as to the resurrection shows that this will be true of the body no less than of the soul. 1 Cor. 15:50-57.

(3.) The Scriptures declare as to the New Jerusalem that “there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Rev. 21:27. Peter says that the inheritance reserved in heaven for the saints is incorruptible and undefiled. 1 Pet. 1:4.

6. The partial sanctification of this life is also progressive. It is not a certain degree of attainment, possessed by all alike, and remaining always in this life the same; it is a growth from the seed planted in regeneration, which is constantly bringing forth new leaves, and new fruit; it grows with increased intellectual knowledge of God’s truth, with a clearer perception of human sinfulness and corruption, with stronger faith and brighter hope, and more confident assurance of personal acceptance with God, with a more heartfelt conception of the sacrificing love of Christ, and with a more realizing belief in his constant presence and knowledge of what we do. It even increases from its own acquired strength and through the suffering and doing in which it is developed. In these and many other ways do Christians grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, and in conformity to his image, “cleansing themselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Cor. 7:1.

When, however, this sanctification is said to be progressive, it is not meant to deny the imperfections before referred to, nor to assert that there is a constant rise upward to God and toward his holy perfection. The Christian life on earth is a warfare with sin, and the believer is not always without failure. He often yields to temptation, sometimes falls even into most grievous sin. The personal experience, presented by Paul, in the seventh chapter of Romans, is so strong a statement of such struggles that some have been inclined to confine its application to a time prior to acceptance of the gospel. But there can be no question of the applicability to Christians of the declaration made to the Galatians, “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would.” Gal. 5:17.

But the progress of sanctification is nevertheless continuous. These temptations and struggles enter into that progress, and not only they, but even the sins and falls which mar the Christian life. The process of sanctification is like the ascent of a mountain. One is always going forward, though not always upward, yet the final end of the progressive movement of every kind is the attainment of the summit. Sometimes, because of difficulties, the road itself descends, only more easily to ascend again. Sometimes certain attractions by the way cause a deviation from the route most suitable for ascent. Often it is feared that there has been no higher attainment, often that it has been but a continual descent, until, perchance, some point of view is gained from which to look down upon the plain whence the journey was begun and behold the height which has already been overcome. Often, with wearied feet, and desponding heart, the traveller is ready to despair, because of his own feebleness, and the difficulties which surround. But he earnestly presses forward and the journey is completed, the ascent is made, the end is attained.



1. From what we have learned of the persons who are sanctified, and of the nature of the work performed, it is evident that the author of it must be more than man. The Scriptures teach that it is God.

The work is attributed to God without reference to any distinction of persons. 1 Thess. 4:3; 5:23. It is also ascribed to the Father, John 17:17; Heb. 13:21; and to Christ, Eph. 5:26; Tit. 2:14.

But it is the especial work of the Holy Spirit, who is the author of the process of Sanctification, as he is also the act of Regeneration. 1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2.

(1.) He enlightens the mind. John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2 :9-16; Eph. 1:18; 3:18, 19; 1 John 2:20, 27. On this account he is called “the Spirit of truth,” John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; and the “Spirit of wisdom.” Eph. 1:17.

(2.) He gives spiritual strength (Eph. 3:16), lusting against the flesh (Gal. 5:17), enabling the believer to mortify the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13), leading the sons of God (Rom. 8:14), and enabling them to purify their souls in obeying the truth. 1 Pet. 1:22.

(3.) Inasmuch as he dwells within them (Rom. 8:9), so that they are his temple (1 Cor. 3:16), with whom they are sealed as the earnest of their inheritance (Eph. 1:13, 14), so, also, does he bear witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, and, removing the spirit of bondage to fear, bestows on them the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba, Father. Rom. 8:15, 16.

(4.) The fruit of this indwelling Spirit is declared to be “in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” Eph. 5:9. It is specifically stated to be “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Gal. 5:22.

2. But, while there is such need of a divine author of sanctification, it is a work in which the believer is passively a recipient, but one in which he actively co-operates. This is exhibited in various ways in the word of God.

(1.) Christians are called upon to recognize this presence of the Spirit. 1 Cor. 3:16, 17. They are exhorted to “walk by the Spirit,” and assured that, in so doing, they “shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Gal. 5:16. They are taught that “they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” Rom. 8:5. They are told that, because of the indwelling Spirit, “we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh,” and thus, by implication that we are debtors to live after the Spirit. Rom. 8:12. They are charged to “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Eph. 4:30. In these, and in other ways, their co-operation with the Spirit in the work is implied quite plainly.

(2.) They are exhorted to engage in the work of self-purification. The apostle exhorts the Ephesians not to “walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, . . . to put away . . . the old man, which waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and be renewed in the spirit of their mind, . . . and to put on the new man, which after God, hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.” Eph. 4:17-24.

(3.) This self-purification is declared to be the work of every one that has the hope of likeness to Christ. 1 John 3:3.

(4.) Direct promises and commands, and exhortations to perfection and holiness, imply co-operative action in those who are in the process of attaining sanctification. Matt. 5:48; 2 Cor. 7:1.

(5.) All warnings against the power of temptation, the lust of the flesh, the subtlety of Satan, the influence of the world, the grievous character of sin; all exhortations to lead a virtuous and godly life, to set the affections on heavenly and divine things, to consecrate the soul and body to God; all motives to these ends drawn from the work of Christ, as an exhibition of divine love and mercy, as an example of purity of life, and of patient suffering, or as personally connected with the believer because of his union with the Lord,-in short, all that the Scriptures contain fitted to lead the Christian to a higher spiritual life, is evidence of his co-operation with the Holy Spirit in the work of sanctification.

The author of sanctification is indeed the Divine Spirit, but the Christian actively unites with that Spirit, “working out his own salvation with fear and trembling,” being exhorted and encouraged to do so, because “it is God which worketh in him, both to will, and to do, for his good pleasure.” Phil. 2:12, 13.



The manner in which the Spirit operates in sanctification is beyond our knowledge. In none of the acts of God can we tell how he exerts his power, not even in creation. “As thou knowest not,” says the preacher, “what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the work of God who doeth all.” Ecc. 11:5. In sanctification the Spirit moves as mysteriously as we are taught that he does in regeneration. John 3:8. In general, undoubtedly, it is in accordance with the laws of mind and of spiritual life. Yet we know no reason why there is not a place for supernatural action in sanctification, as well as in regeneration. We can only know the effects produced, and the means which are revealed in the word of God, and in Christian experience.

1. The primary means which the Spirit uses for our sanctification, as both of these sources of information teach, is the truth of God. “Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth” (John 17:17), was the prayer of the Lord, in which the whole work, both of consecration and cleansing, is set forth as thus to be accomplished. (See also John 17:19). “Growth in the grace” is inseparably connected with growth “in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. 3:18.

This is further taught in Scripture by

(1.) Such passages as connect spiritual life with truth; as John 6:63; 8:32.

(2.) Such as ascribe quickening power to the word of God; as Ps. 119:50, 93.

(3.) Such as teach the that truth is promotive of obedience; as Ps. 119:34, 43, 44.

(4.) Such as declare its usefulness in preventing sin; as Ps. 119:11.

(5.) Such as associate it with cleansing from sin; as Ps. 119:9; 1 Pet. 1:22.

(6.) Such as state that it produces hatred of sin; as Ps. 119:104.

(7.) Such as assert its power to lead to salvation; 2 Tim. 3:15-17.

(8.) Such as say that “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” have been given through the knowledge of God, and Christ; as 2 Pet. 1:2, 3.

(9.) Such as imply that growth in grace is due to greater knowledge; as Heb. 5:12-14.

(10.) Such as account for inability to accept higher doctrinal truth, by such weakness as should be characteristic only of those who are babes in Christ; as 1 Cor. 3:1-3.

(11.) Such as set forth the word of God as “the sword of the Spirit;” as Eph. 6:17.

(12.) Such as announce that all the ministerial gifts bestowed by Christ are “for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ; till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Eph. 4:11-16.

2. In connection with this primary means of divine truth others are presented. But they are not only secondary, but actually subordinate means to the word of God. They rather furnish occasions for the exercise of the means of sanctification contained in the truth of God than are proper means of themselves to that end. In themselves they have no efficacy, and only accomplish the end of sanctification by bringing the believer into connection with the truth of God.

(1.) Such are the providences of God, which tend in various ways to arouse and move his children, and avail unto sanctification so far only as they recall, and lead to the apprehension of divine instructions. They are frequent and effective means of such apprehension, and, through this, of the believer’s growth in holiness. Such especially are the afflictions, sent as chastisements by the Heavenly Father upon his children. Such, also, are the temptations and trials to which they are subjected. Such, likewise, are the infirmities of the flesh, and perplexities of the spirit which God permits to remain, or causes to arise in his own elect. In these, and in numerous other ways, as well as what is called good, as of what is called evil, does God surround his people with the acts of his providence. But these acts themselves avail not unto their sanctification but are only made effective through the truth of God apprehended amid such events, and received as spiritual food for the growth of the believer.

(2.) The good works of the Christian, furnish another secondary means for his sanctification. By these are not meant works that are good in a legal sense, for such goodness would require a perfection and freedom from taint which no work of fallen man can possess; but it is the privilege of the Christian to live unto the Lord, and the name of good works is given in Scripture to such outward actions as are the results of his life through the Spirit.

These good works are the result of sanctification; but, in their performance, they naturally become the means of further sanctification. John 14:23; Eph. 3:16-20. Yet, is this accomplished, not apart from, but in connection with, the truth of God. The new development will always be in the direction of the particular truths, contemplated in their performance. These will furnish the motives to further action, the strength for additional duty, the earnest purpose of deeper consecration, or whatever else the Spirit may graciously use for a more complete sanctification of the believer.

(3.) Prayer is still a further means to the same end; which, from its nature, can be effective only through the believer’s apprehension of divine truth.

Hence the worthlessness of mere lip service (Isa. 29:13; Ezek. 33:31; Matt. 15:8), or vain repetitions, Matt. 6:7. Not only are they offensive to God, but without value to the soul. Hence also the necessary spirituality of divine worship, because that only is true worship which is the service of the soul. John 4:23, 24. Prayer, which is a mere formal or mechanical utterance of words, can have no value; because the one that offers it, does so in ignorance, or forgetfulness of the truth of God appropriate to accompany it.

(4.) The Lord’s day is another secondary means of sanctification, which manifestly becomes such only in the Christian’s use of divine truth; either such as is suggested by God’s appointment of such a day, or such as is attained through the opportunity for such purpose which it affords.

(5.) The association of believers in church relations, is another means ordained by God for the increase of individual spiritual life and consequently of sanctification. This is attained not only through social prayer, and the preaching of the word, but also by Christian watchcare and discipline, and by the mutual sympathy and aid of believers in matters both temporal and spiritual. Whatever in these pertains to sanctification, must be connected with the recognition of divine truth in the moving influences which bestow, or the accepting thankfulness which receives.

(6.) The ministry given by Christ, is also a means for the sanctification of his people, in the preaching of his truth, in the spiritual guidance and rule of the flock, and in the sympathizing bestowment of the consolations of his grace. But, even these, though officially appointed, cannot either of themselves, or by virtue of their office, confer or increase spiritual grace. Their ministry is one only of the word of God, and it is only through his inspired truth “that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:17. What these works are, is shown by verse 16, viz.: “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.” Ministers are in no other sense vehicles of grace. They are not appointed as personal channels of access to God, or of the bestowment of blessings by him, except so far as he has made it their duty to make known his truth. In connection with that truth they are means of sanctification to his people, and only thus are to be regarded as occupying relations between their fellow-men and God.

(7.) The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are also means of sanctification. It is especially important to understand in what respects they are so. Upon this subject there are several opinions.

By the Papal Church these, with five others (confirmation, penance, matrimony, extreme unction and orders), are regarded as the Sacraments of the New Law. As to their efficacy as means of grace

1. This Church maintains that the Sacraments are, in and of themselves,–wherever conferred with the intention of the church, and where the recipient does not put obstacles in the way,–active causes to produce the grace which they signify, by virtue of the sacramental action itself, instituted by God for this end. The sufferings of Christ concur as the meritorious, but not as the efficient cause, which also depends neither upon the merit of the agent, nor upon that of the receiver.

They make distinctions, however, as to the necessity of these two Sacraments; regarding baptism as absolutely necessary to justification, in which they include sanctification; but the Lord’s Supper as only necessary because commanded and eminently useful.

The efficacy which is thus ascribed to the Sacraments is that of what is called an opus operatum, in which grace is conferred ex opere operato, viz: from the mere act done. It denies that faith alone in the divine promise suffices to obtain the grace. Will, faith, and repentance, in the adult, are necessarily required as dispositions on the part of the subject, but only to remove obstacles, for, as fire burns wood, not because the wood is dry, nor because the fire is applied to it, but because of the power in the fire to consume, so, they maintain that a sacrament, by its own inherent power, confers the grace when no obstacle prevents, such as would be dampness in wood to the power of fire to burn.

[See statements and extracts from the Canons of the Council of Trent, and from Bellarmine, contained in Hodge’s Outlines, pp. 597-600].

The objections to this explanation of the use of the Sacrament as means are,

(a.) That the ordinance is thus regarded as effective in itself, disconnected from any divine truth which may be symbolized in it, or taught in its objective presentation, or suggested through the Christian experience which accompanies its reception. The Scriptures nowhere teach such efficacy apart from the truth of God.

(b.) To no immediate connection of God with these, is ascribed their effective power. They are held to be mere appointments of God to be applied through man, and grace is taught to be as inherent in them as is, in any merely physical substance, any natural quality which God has bestowed upon it.

(c.) The faith which is declared requisite to remove obstacles is “mere assent” to receive, and not the appropriating faith of personal trust in Christ which alone is the saving faith of the Bible. Hodge’s Sys. Theol., vol. 3, p. 512.

(d.) This doctrine of the Sacraments places the salvation of every one entirely in the power of others. Whatever his own faith, unless some one else will baptize him, he cannot attain justification and sanctification.

(e.) Inasmuch as the sacraments are valid to convey grace only when performed with “the intention of doing what the Church does,” no one can know that the grace has been conferred, since he cannot know the mind of the administrator.

2. A second opinion, different in many respects as to the efficacy of the Sacraments, has been held by almost all Protestants.

(1.) In opposition to the doctrine of Rome, they teach that the Sacraments, which are but two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are not in themselves means of grace, and have no separate inherent power to convey it.

(2.) They say, however, that these are “real means of grace,” that “they are not, as Romanists teach, the exclusive channels; but they are not channels.” Hodge’s Sys. Theol., vol. 3, p. 499.

(3.) They also assert that they are “sacred signs and seals of the covenant of grace.” Westminster Confess., ch. 27, sec. 1.

(4.) They hold that the efficacy of the Sacraments depends “upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.” West. Conf., ch. 27, sec. III.

This position is preferable to that of the Romanists inasmuch as:

1. It recognized the necessary presence of the Spirit in connection with the grace bestowed, and thus denies that this proceeds exclusively from any natural inherent power.

2. The benefits are said to be conferred only upon those “who worthily receive the Sacraments.” By this possibly meant persons receiving them through the exercise of true faith in Christ. Such is generally the position assumed by the various theologians of these churches as to the adult recipients of the Sacraments. But it should have been more clearly stated in their creeds. The language used could mean this in adult receivers only. Yet it is almost certain that the intention was to include infants among those who “worthily receive.” He, however, who “worthily receives” through faith must be capable of personal faith. If the receiver is not himself a believer, he does not receive “through faith.” He may receive because of the faith of another, but it is through the personal exercise of faith, and not on account of its exercise by others, that the Scriptures teach that the Christian is blessed in connection with the ordinances.

The objections to this form of the doctrine are:

1. The continued use of the word sacrament. It has no Scripture authority. It has led many to attach a superstitious sacredness to these ordinances.

2. The use of the word “seal” is also objectionable. A seal is a visible stamp, or impression which is made upon a paper or some other substance for the purpose of certifying to the truth of some fact thus implied. It may either be attached personally by the one whom it represents, or by some person authorized by him; but its presence by his authority is his testimony to the genuineness or correctness of what is witnessed.

Now either of the ordinances makes a visible mark upon their recipients. They are thus without an important characteristic of the seal. Neither of them is affixed to a designated individual by divine authority. The authority to administer is only a general one. No man can put marks upon the elect of God which shall authoritatively certify that they are his. Neither Baptism, nor the Lord’s Supper, becomes such an authentication either to re recipient or to others. This is found in the conscious possession of truth faith, or in the manifestation of that faith by the good works of his life.

This common usage of the word “seal” in connection with the ordinances has no other Scriptural support than the reference to Abraham in Rom. 4:11. “He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision.” Cf. Gen. 17:11. But the rite then performed had the characteristics of a seal which have been denied of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It was a visible mark and not only so, but it was applied to the individual man Abraham by direct divine authority.

3. Objection may also be made to the word “sign” in the sense in which it is used. These two ordinances are indeed “signs;” but signs of what Christ did and suffered, and not of what is done to is people. Yet it is in the latter sense that the word “sign” is exclusively used by those holding this opinion.

4. The use of these two words has let to the mistake about the manner in which these two ordinances are means of grace, which constitutes the fatal error of this opinion. They are means of grace as they set forth truth, as they teach something, and only in this way do they convey grace. In the act of receiving, that grace may be conferred either from the consciousness of an act of obedience or through the apprehension and comprehension of the truth symbolized. It can come in no other way. The strongest expression in Scripture in favour of the grace-conveying power of an ordinance–that in 1 Pet. 3:21, in which the apostle speaks of “water: which also after a true likeness (in the antitype) doth now save you, even baptism,”–is at once explained by him to be not the ordinance, but the spiritual condition in which it is received, viz. “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation (inquiry, appeal) of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Serious has been the error which has resulted from these expressions and the doctrine taught in connection with them. It has led men actually to teach that the grace of God has been really conferred upon or pledged to a recipient by the agency of the administrator. In the Anglican Catechism the question is put to the child: “Who gave you this name?” to which it is taught to reply: “My God-father and God-mother, in my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” Here the ordinance performed upon an unconscious subject is taught to have produced regenerating power. This doctrine of baptismal regeneration has been commonly regarded as unscriptural and false by evangelical Christians. But is the effect declared of this baptismal act any more a matter of the mere human choice and will and action of some one who is not the recipient, than is the result ascribed by an eminent Presbyterian theologian to the baptism of the child of a believer? He says: “And so when a believer adopts the covenant of grace, he brings his children within that covenant in the sense that God promises to give them, in his own good time, all the benefits of redemption, provided they do not willingly renounce their baptismal engagements.” Hodge’s “Syst. Theology,” vol. 3, p. 555.

3. The true statement of the sanctifying power of these ordinances seems the rather to be,–

1. A denial of all inherent power in them as means of grace.

2. Recognition of them as conveying truth by symbolical instruction.

3. The fact that they are partaken of because of the command of Christ also makes the act of obedience to him a means of grace to the recipient.

4. Only as truth is, in some way or other, brought by them to the acceptance of the heart and mind, can they have sanctifying power.
It is thus seen that all the means of sanctification are connected with the truth, and are secondary to it. They only become such, as they convey truth, or as they suggest truth, or as they are employed in the recognition of some truth.


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

Chapter 36-Adoption

September 3, 2014 2 comments


ADOPTION is that privilege, bestowed upon those who are united with Christ, and justified by faith, by which they are admitted into the family of God, adopted as his children, and made joint heirs with his own Son.

In the strict sense of the word “Son,” this title can be given only to the Eternal Son of God, who is the only begotten of the Father (John 1:14), and is exclusively “the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance.” (Heb. 1:3).

But others are called participatively sons of God, as probably the angels (Job 1:6; 38:7), as Adam (Luke 3:38), and as Israel (Ex. 4:22; Hosea 11:1; cf. Rom. 9:4). The sonship of angels and of Adam, manifestly proceeds from their creation by God in his image, and likeness. That of Israel, however, is to be ascribed to the typical relation which that nation occupied to the true people of God. The application to Christ in Matt. 2:15, of the sonship declared of Israel in Ex. 4:22, and Hosea 11:1, together with the adoption to which Paul refers, Rom. 9:4, shows, that Israel’s sonship, like Israel’s election, was but a type, the fulfillment and reality of which were to be found only in the antitype. So far as Israel itself was concerned, the title could mean no more, than that that nation had been chosen by God to be outwardly his people, the depository of his holy oracles, and the means through which his salvation would come to man. John 4:22.

The sonship ascribed to the believer in Christ, will be best understood by considering its gracious origin, its peculiar nature, and the wondrous blessing which it confers.

I. Its Gracious Origin

1. It is not due to any natural relation, either originally possessed, or restored through justification.

2. Nor does it arise from any new image or likeness of God, which has come through regeneration.

3. It is the simple gift of God’s love to those who by faith are brought into union with his proper Son.

4. It is an act originating entirely in the good pleasure of God. Eph. 1:5.

5. It is due, meritoriously, only to the work of Christ. It could be founded thus upon nothing else.

6. It is conferred like justification upon all who by faith receive Christ. John 1:12.

7. It is bestowed at the beginning of the Christian career, when there could be no ground for supposing it due to the character or acts of the recipient.


II. Its Peculiar Nature.

If what has been said shows that the gift of sonship to the believer is a gracious act of God, that fact will appear more plain as we study the peculiar nature of that sonship.

1. It is an act by which God chooses to take those who are not his children, and to make them such by adopting them into his family. Because of this they “are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Eph. 2:19.

2. As they are united in this sonship with his own Son, who “is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation,” (Col. 1:15), “the beginning of the creation of God.” (Rev. 3:14), so does their sonship partake of the nature of his not in its divine relations, but in those by which he is also, even in that human nature, the Son of God. Luke 1:35.

3. It is an everlasting sonship; because its continuance depends not upon what they do, and are, but upon what he has done, and is.

4. It is one in which Christ Jesus “is made unto us wisdom from God and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Cor. 1:30. Thus are all their deficiencies removed and exchanged for the glory of his abundant fulness.

5. It is one in connection with which is fulfilled the prayer of Christ, “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us; . . . . “that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be perfected into one.” John 17:21-23.

6. To such a perfection of sonship do they consequently attain, that not of, nor through themselves, but solely through Christ Jesus, do they thus become “partakers of the divine nature,” (2 Pet. 1:4), attaining as near as creatures may, to the position and character of proper sonship to God.


III. Its Wondrous Blessings.

The blessings connected with this sonship are scarcely less wonderful than is its nature.

1. Intimate fellowship with Christ and God. “Wherefore,” says the apostle, “thou art no longer a bond servant, but a son.” Gal. 4:7. “No longer,” said Jesus, “do I call you servants; . . . but I have called you friends.” John 15:15.

2. The guidance of the Holy Spirit; “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Rom. 8:14.

3. The witnessing presence of the Holy Spirit: “the Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God.” Rom. 8:16.

4. The conscious recognition in our hearts of God’s relation to us as Father. “God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Gal. 4:6; also Rom. 8:15.

5. “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” Rom. 8:17.

6. Unknown glory in future likeness to Christ: “it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him.” 1 John 3:2.

7. The inheritance includes all things: “he that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” Rev. 21:7; cf. 1 Cor. 3:21-23.


IV. It Differs From Justification.

It has been contended that “adoption cannot be said to be a different act or grace from justification.” [Dabney’s Theology, p. 627.] “It appears to me,” says Dr. Dick, [Lect. 73, Theol., vol. 2, p. 224,] “to be virtually the same with justification, and to differ from it merely in the new view which it gives of the relations of believers to God, and in the peculiar form in which it exhibits the blessing to which they are entitled.” Turretine says also, “that adoption is included in justification as a part which, with the remission of sins, constitutes this whole blessing; nor can justification be distinguished from adoption, unless so far as it is taken strictly for the remission of sins; whilst in its own formal conception it includes also acceptance unto life which flows from the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.” Turretine’s Theol., B. 16, c. 6, sec. 7.

The position taken by these writers is a contrary extreme to that which some have held, viz.: that justification consists only of pardon. It is not to be doubted that justification is more than this, and includes restoration to the favor of God, and to eternal life. But these might have been bestowed without conferring upon the justified the peculiar blessings contained in Adoption. “Adoption,” says Buchanan [on Justification, p.262], “is distinct in some respects from justification. For although both denote a change in relation, it may be affirmed that, according to Scriptures, pardon, acceptance, and adoption, are distinct privileges, the one rising above the other in the order in which they have been stated; — that if it be conceivable that a sinner might have been pardoned, without being accepted to eternal life, it is equally conceivable that he might have been both pardoned and accepted, without being adopted as a son; — and that, while the first two first properly belong to his justification, as being both founded in the same relation,–that of a Ruler and Subject,–the third is radically distinct from them, as being founded on a nearer, more tender, and more endearing relation,–that between a Father and his Son.”

Dabney argues that there is no difference between the two because the “instrument is the same–faith–and because the meritorious ground of adoption is the same with that of justification, viz.: the righteousness of Christ.”

But these facts, which are admitted, are due to another, which is that the faith by which we are justified is one which secures to us union with Christ. It would not necessarily follow that this union confers upon us only a single blessing or a number of blessings which may be combined together under one name. We can only learn this by examination. If, therefore, it shall appear that there are distinctions between the accompanying blessings, to the extent that these exist must those blessings be regarded as different.

That there are distinctions appears to be plain from the following considerations:

1. The Scriptures speak separately of justification and adoption, and do not state that the latter is, in whole, or in part, the same as the former.

2. Justification is ascribed to the righteous character of God as it formal ground. In it he is only gracious in accepting and providing a substitute. Adoption is expressly referred to the love of God. 1 John 3:1. The fact that these cannot be interchanged, and justification referred to love, or adoption to justice, shows a decided distinction between them.

3. While there is a change of relation in each of them, in justification it is a change of relation to the law, and only through that to the lawgiver and judge; in adoption it is a change of relation to the family of God and thus to God as the Father.

4. While faith is that through which each is attained, in justification it is a condition precedent to a forensic act which we are assured that God will do because of righteousness as well as faithfulness (1 John 1:9); while in adoption it is merely receptive of Christ, securing that union through which the paternal love of God flows freely on no other ground than faithfulness to his promises.

5. The act of justification is never ascribed to the Son, and is seen to be plainly a prerogative of the Father as God; but it is said of the Son that “as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12. In some sense, therefore, which is not true of justification, adoption is connected as a gift with the Son as well as the Father.

The above considerations are sufficient to show that there is a real basis of distinction between Justification and Adoption, and that the latter is not included in the former. They are separate effects which flow from the union with Christ attained through faith; because of which we are made partakers of all the benefits of his meritorious work. Justification is one of these; and by it we obtain pardon, and favour with God, which is eternal life. Adoption is yet another which confers upon us the especial privilege of children and heirs of God. It is no more to be confounded with justification than is sanctification, which is also an effect of the same union with Christ, for, although its distinctions are not so many, nor so broad, yet to the extent that they exist, they are as real.

“This closer and more endearing relation to God, which is constituted by Adoption, is necessary, in addition to that which is included in our Justification, to complete the view of our Christian privileges, and to enhance our enjoyment of them, by raising us above the spirit of bondage which is unto fear; and cherishing the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. It is necessary, also, to explain how the sins of believers are not visited with penal inflictions, properly so called, but are nevertheless treated in the way of fatherly chastisement; and, still further, to show that the kingdom of heaven hereafter will not be bestowed as wages for work done, but as an ‘inheritance,’ freely bestowed, on those, and those only, who are ‘joint heirs with Christ.'” Buchanan on Justification, pp.263, 264.


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