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Free Founders Journal Out Now

51 page Pdf on God’s Decrees- Fall 2016/ Issue 106

Contents:

Introduction: Decrees | Tom Nettles

The Nature of God’s Eternal Decree An exposition of Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Chapter 7 “The Decree of God” From the 1689 London Baptist Confession | Tom Hicks

Predestined to Eternal Life Glory Hidden in the Mystery | Jared Longshore

Reprobation and the Second London Confession “the Second London Confession affirms reprobation, a doctrine which has been and continues to be the subject of much controversy” | Richard Blaylock

Like a Stone? The Perfect Confluence of God’s Providence And Human Freedom | Aaron Matherly

The High Mystery of Predestination An exposition of Paragraph 3 of Chapter 7 “The Decree of God” From the 1689 London Baptist Confession | Fred Malone

Book Review The Gospel Heritage of Georgia Baptists: 1772–1830 by Brandon F. Smith and Kurt M. Smith | Reviewed by Tom Nettles

 

Source [Founders]

Double Or Nothing: Martin Luther’s Doctrine of Predestination

December 22, 2014 1 comment

In fact, while many students of the Reformation today focus their attention to the obvious differences between Protestantism and Romanism, such as the Papacy, mass, indulgences, et cetera, Luther himself recognizes those issues to be entirely peripheral to the conflict. He wrote in 1525 to Erasmus of Rotterdam, with whom he had been debating the Sovereignty of God’s grace (in election and salvation) and the freedom of man’s will:

I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account—that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like—trifles, rather than issues in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot.3

With this admission by the Father of the Protestant Reformation, the present study becomes highly important in understanding the Reformation. The debate over single versus double predestination has certainly been an issue throughout church history, but was it an issue among the Reformers? Specifically, were Luther and Calvin at odds on this issue? 19th Century Scottish theologian William Cunningham asserts,

When Luther’s followers, in a subsequent generation, openly deviated from scriptural orthodoxy on these points, they set themselves to prove that Luther had never held Calvinistic principles. . . But we have no hesitation in saying, that it can be established beyond all reasonable question, that Luther held the doctrines which are commonly regarded as most peculiarly Calvinistic, though he was never led to explain and apply, to illustrate and defend some of them, so fully as Calvin did.4

Though Cunningham is confident enough to make this claim, his reader may be disappointed that he fails to make a comprehensive case for his assertion (though his claim is not entirely without defense). Another Reformed5 theologian, Loraine Boettner, in his work The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination claims that “Luther. . .went into the doctrine [of predestination] as heartily as did Calvin himself. He even asserted it with more warmth and proceeded to much harsher lengths in defending it than Calvin ever did.”6 Boettner’s work displays a far better defense of his claim than Cunningham’s, but both fail to fully analyze Luther’s position.

What Cunningham and Boettner both fail to support, the present work intends to prove. Where their assertions fall short, this work will provide ample evidence to support their claims. The Modern Lutheran church does not stand with Martin Luther on the issue of predestination, and thus suffers from an internal contradiction. It’s efforts to modify Luther’s views and to present a more moderate case for predestination ultimately end in conflict with Luther’s uncompromising doctrine of God’s Sovereignty. However, before critically analyzing the writings of Luther, an examination must be made of the various presuppositions possible in approaching Luther’s writings.

 

 
Read the entire article here (Pdf 112 Kb).

 

 

 

3 Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1992) p.319.
4 William Cunningham, The Reformers & the Theology of the Reformation, (London: Banner of Truth, 1967) p.109.
5 The term “Reformed,” unless otherwise indicated, denotes a scholar from the Calvinist tradition.
6 Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed,
1932) p.1.

Letter Three by Mrs. Marjorie Bond

1505 Scotland Street
Calgary, Alberta
December 7, 1959

Dear Dr. Cole:

Since writing my Christmas card to you, I have received your books, “The Heavenly Hope” and “Divine Doctrines”. Thank you very much indeed. I am thoroughly enjoying the magnificent study on the doctrine of God. How it magnifies and exalts Him and restores Him to His rightful position of King of kings and Lord of lords. I have felt for a long time that the Christian church needs a fresh vision of the holiness and majesty of God, and to realize that He is “the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity”. There is entirely too much spirit of camaraderie in our attitude toward God today.

I wish more of our present-day ministers preached doctrine. It seems to me that church members would be more firmly rooted and grounded in their faith if we had more doctrinal teaching and less “snackbar” preaching!

Apropos of our study on Election, I am still getting repercussions from it from some of my class members. Nothing that I have ever taught has stirred up such interest. I also gave a copy of your pamphlet to our minister; am awaiting his reaction!

We were visiting with some friends from another Baptist church a few weeks ago and something came up about my Bible Class and this teaching on election. Would you believe it— not one person in that room, apart from the members of my own immediate family who were present, had even heard about Election, let alone understood it? And yet they are all good Christian people—not just nominal church members.

We only got into a preliminary discussion of it when we were interrupted. But I could see that it was not at all favourably received! (As you say, we are all Arminians by nature!) One woman and her aged father who had moved away to Arizona about two years ago, are back in Calgary and were present that night. About a week ago, I ran into this woman at the post office in one of our local department stores. She is working there temporarily and as there were people waiting to be served she didn’t have too much time to talk to me. But as I was leaving the wicket, she said, “Oh, Marjorie; I want to have a talk with you some time on that matter that we were discussing at Thelma’s the other night.” For a minute or two, my mind was a complete blank—I couldn’t remember what she was referring to. She smiled and said, “You know, we started a discussion about it”. Suddenly light dawned and I said, eagerly, (this is my favourite subject now) “Oh yes, of course. I’ll be glad to any time you are free.” She nodded and said, “Well, it has set me thinking. I don’t understand it and don’t say that I agree but I want to learn more about it”. So there is another ripple from the stone you cast into the pool!

Dr. Cole, when you are so busy, I do hate to bother you with my questions but I feel that you are so learned in this subject that you are in a better position to help me than anyone else. May I trouble you with one or two further questions:

1. What is meant by making “your calling and election sure”? At first when I was reading #2Pe 1:5-10, in the light of my new knowledge on Election, it seemed to me that Peter spoke as if it were possible to lose one’s salvation. And yet, because I believe in the eternal security of the believer (even more so since I understood Election) I didn’t see how this could be. As I prayed about it, it seemed to me that perhaps what is meant is rather that a person who does what Peter admonishes is less likely to backslide rather than be lost? Do you think that is the meaning of it?

2. Is the “all” of #Ro 11:32 another example of “all” not being used in the absolute? I mean the part where it says “that He might have mercy upon all”. Some people argue that verse as being opposed to Election, saying that if God wanted to have mercy on all, He would not pick and choose people for salvation as the doctrine of election teaches.

3. Also, while we are still in Romans, is it true that even Christians will be judged for everything they have done since they were saved? Not in the sense of punishment for their sins, because Judgment on sin was passed at Calvary. But when the Bible says, “So then we must every one give an account of ourselves to God;” and again, #Ro 2:6 —”who will render to every man according to his deeds”; and #1Co 4:5.

I don’t know why it is, but the thought of having all my sins exposed to view, even though I am not going to be punished for them, robs heaven of considerable joy. I backslid very badly some years ago and although the Lord is dearer to me now than He ever was before, I sometimes feel that nothing can undo the sins of those years. God knows all about them and has forgiven me; why must they be published for all the world to see when I get to heaven?

I thought the passages in Psalms that “as far as the east is from the west so far have I removed thy transgression from thee,” meant that once we were saved God really blotted out our sins and we never had to hear about them again. But there seems to be several passages in the epistles which would lead one to think that, although we will not be punished for our sins in the sense of going to hell, we shall certainly have to account for them. If this is so, it seems to me that no Christian could die really at peace, knowing you had that ahead of you. (Why are we more afraid of man’s opinion than God’s?)

4. My last question has to do with pages 7-9 of your pamphlet “The Heavenly Hope”. I had always understood (prior to my study of Election), both from Scripture and various hymns and sermons that I had heard, that there is danger in delaying salvation; that a person could be cut off from this life before they had accepted Christ and be hurled into a Christless eternity.

But according to the doctrine of Election, no one who is elected for salvation can possibly die without being saved? Isn’t that true? (“All that the Father hath given to me, will come unto me…”) Therefore, anyone whom God has intended to save will be saved and cannot possibly be lost so there is no danger in delaying for them; and the non-elect will not be saved anyway. Isn’t that so?

It seems to me I just get things sorted out in my mind to where I understand them, when I read something that puts me off again!

As I say, I used to believe too that there was danger in delay. All the hymn-writers speak of it etc. But since studying Election, I concluded that I must have been wrong. There is no real urgency, in the sense of it being a life and death matter, because no one can die before he is saved, if God intends him to be saved. Therefore, why do ministers (even those like yourself who believe in Election) urge people to make haste and accept Christ before it is too late? It can never be too late for an elected person, can it? I should appreciate being straightened out on this point.

You will get so you dread to see a letter from me if I always write at such length. But there is so much I need to ask you about and modern ministers, like doctors, are so busy they haven’t time for people any more.

Thank you again for all your help and may God richly bless you in the year ahead.

Sincerely,

Marjorie Bond

 

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

Letter One By Mrs. Marjorie Bond

1505 Scotland Street Calgary, Alberta October 5, 1959

Dr. C.D. Cole
746 W. Noel
Rt. 2
Madisonville, Kentucky

My Dear Dr. Cole:

Although I am a total stranger to you, my parents have known Dr. Shields over the years and take “The Witness” regularly. As a result of an article of yours which I read therein several years ago, I feel that I must write you to seek further light on this matter of Election.

Your article opened up a completely new line of thought for me; like most people, I did not subscribe to it at all (at first) but was challenged by it, even though much disturbed. Since then, I have reverted to it time and again and finally this autumn got down to studying it in dead earnest! I read what I could of Spurgeon on the subject, Dr. Shields, and also borrowed a copy of Strong’s Theology which I found rather heavy going! All in all, I have become so obsessed with this doctrine that I can scarcely think of anything else. And yet there is so much that I do not understand. I know that the “heart is deceitful above all things” and perhaps mine is deceiving me when I say that I really think the questions that arise in my mind do not stem so much from a reluctance to admit total depravity as they do from my inability to reconcile the doctrine with other passages of Scripture.

I had always thought that election and predestination was something that the Presbyterians were a little “off” on (excuse the bad grammar!). It never occurred to me that there was so much Scriptural evidence for it, or that Baptists believe it! However, I did feel that if this doctrine was taught in the Scripture, as it seemed to be, than I should know more about it and should believe it, whether I liked it or not and whether I fully understood it or not.

My mind goes round and round like a squirrel in a cage, until I am really exhausted. About the time I think I understand it and accept it, Satan seems to raise fresh doubts to plague me. It leaves one almost breathless. As after a close brush with death, to think that one might not have been elected! Truly, as never before, I can see that our salvation is all of grace. I always thought, when we spoke of salvation as being wholly of God’s grace, that it meant that His plan or idea to save us was unmerited favour, since nothing in us merited His ever desiring to save us; and also, that it was a gift for which we could never possibly work or acquire sufficient righteousness to merit. But obviously grace embodies more even than this. When you realize that a person wouldn’t even want salvation unless he were elected, then you realize how tremendously indebted we are to grace—for it is grace through and through.

I have wondered sometimes if the objections which we feel towards Election are directed more towards the idea of God’s complete sovereignty than towards total depravity. It seems to go against human nature to think that God can do what He likes with us and we are powerless to do anything about it.

I almost hesitate to put into words some of the objections which have come to my mind lest I should be guilty of blasphemy or sacrilege; for I have always been taught that it is a very serious thing to criticize God. And yet, in the interests of clarifying my thinking, I feel that I must confess to you some of the points about election that are troubling me and which seem to contradict other Scriptures and other doctrines.

Also, I teach a Young Women’s Bible Class and we have been studying this subject (the blind leading the blind, I am afraid). We are to have an evening discussion of it on November 5th so I should like to clear up some points in my own mind before that time.

Perhaps the easiest way for you to answer would be for me to put my questions in point form:

1. Most people feel right away that Election is unjust. I realize, from your pamphlet, as well as from Scripture, that God doesn’t owe it to us to save anyone and further, that He has a right to bestow the gift of salvation on whom He will. But somehow the feeling persists that if a person doesn’t even get a chance to accept or reject salvation, he “goes to bat with two strikes against him” so to speak.

Before studying Election, I always thought that if anyone were even remotely interested in being saved, then, in response to prayer by interested relatives or friends, the Holy Spirit would operate on that person’s heart and bring him under conviction to the place where he would decide for or against Christ.

But, if the only people who are going to accept Christ are those who have been “ear-marked” for salvation ahead of time, then, one feels that the rest of the race haven’t had a chance, even of refusing. To what extent are they responsible for being lost?

One woman in my class, from the southern states as a matter of fact, said to me afterwards, “If this teaching is right, it makes everything seem so hopeless. I thought anyone could be saved; that the decision was theirs. But if God has decided ahead of time, they haven’t a chance, no matter how much we pray for them”.

I tried to point out that the whole race was lost anyway, regardless of Election. That Election of some did not mean that the others were any worse off than they would have been without Election. And yet—with a part of me—I know how she feels, because periodically, in spite of all my praying for light, I have the same feeling…that if you are not elected, you just don’t stand a chance. You feel as if the whole matter has been taken out of your hands and you aren’t given an equal chance with others.

I understand all the argument about the governor of a prison, too, and agree with it with my head! But my heart keeps saying that while it is true a man is not in prison because the governor hasn’t pardoned him, but rather because of his own wrongdoing, nevertheless, the lack of a pardon keeps him there!

Is there Scripture to support the interpretation that if we were not elected, we would never have the faintest interest in salvation? I know from #Ro 8:7,8 as well as other passages, that in our natural state we are at enmity with God. But I always thought that if the Holy Spirit operated on a human heart, say of someone who was showing interest in becoming a Christian, that that person then had a chance to decide whether or not to be saved. But evidently, the Holy Spirit doesn’t even work on the heart of anyone who has not been elected ahead of time. Is there Scripture for that?

2. If God chooses only certain people for salvation, or enables only certain people to avail themselves of salvation, then what do you do with verses like #Joh 3:16? I thought Christ died “for the sins of the whole world” (#1Joh 2:2) not just for the elect. Spurgeon seem to think that He died only for the elect.

And what about such verses as “He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” and again “but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent”. If man is powerless to repent unless he is elected, and God does not elect him, how is man responsible for not obeying God’s command to repent; and, furthermore, how can it be said that God is not willing for any to perish if He doesn’t enable all to be saved?

3. How do you explain the fact that sometimes a person is under great conviction but decides against salvation? Were they or were they not elected? My father, who passed away in July, was a great Christian layman and doctor and led many souls to Christ in his offices and through lay preaching. He told me a story which he either read or witnessed himself—I have forgotten which. But a young woman attended some revival meetings night after night and appeared to be deeply moved. In fact, it was apparent to the preacher that she was under deep conviction. The last night, when the call was given, she slipped from her place and left the building. A worker followed her and heard her say, looking up to the stars, “I do not want to be a Christian. Why can’t You leave me alone? I am enjoying life and my good times and I am not prepared to change my way of living. Holy Spirit, please leave me alone and don’t bother me again”. And, with a chilling laugh, she walked off into the night. She was killed in an accident a few hours later, if I remember rightly.

Now, what I want to know is this: was she elected, and if she were not, how did she get under conviction in the first place? Would the Holy Spirit waste time, so to speak, convicting someone of sin whom God had not even elected? If she were elected, why didn’t she come? I thought election meant that you had to come whether you realized it or not. Is it possible for certain people to be chosen for salvation but for them, in the exercise of their free wills, to reject it?

4. Also, please explain the verse “many are called, but few are chosen”. If that verse said “many are called but few accept” I could understand it. But I do not distinguish between “calling” and “choosing”. I would have thought they were the same.

5. Finally, in spite of all the arguments to the contrary, I find myself caught up in a sort of fatalistic attitude—that what is to be will be. Perhaps this stems more from my reading on the sovereignty of God than from Election.

But I find myself arguing thus, “If God has a plan for every individual and every nation, if He ordains the powers that be, and sets up kings and disposes of them, etc., if He is completely sovereign, then He is going to work out His will regardless of Satan’s efforts to thwart Him or man’s failure to his part”.

You say that because Election is a secret matter, we must witness anyway and leave the results to God. True. But on the other hand, I can’t see that it matters whether we know or whether we don’t since God knows who is elected and will save a person whether we do our bit or not. Just because I fail to witness, God is not going to be thwarted in His design to save certain people. The very fact that God has chosen them is sufficient to ensure that they will be saved whether we witness or not, for the simple reason that God is sovereign and has already elected them for salvation. I agree that I don’t know who is elected and who is not. But I don’t have to. They are going to be saved anyway if God wills it.

I read in Strong’s Theology that our prayers never change God’s mind, the idea being that as we grow in our Christian experience and live closer to God, we shall learn to pray for those things that are according to God’s purpose for us; therefore He can answer our prayer.

But again—if He has plans for individuals or nations, they will be brought to fruition without our prayers. If this is so, then, what we think have been answers to prayers are only the fulfilment of a divine plan that would have been accomplished quite as well without our prayer. But, because we cannot see the future, we think we have prevailed with God and so we say He has answered our prayer. But, since He planned a certain course for us, it would have come about that way in any event. Do you see what I am trying to say?

I always thought that, to a certain extent, we did prevail with God providing we were not asking for something outside of His will— by that I mean His pleasure or permissive will rather than a fixed, premeditated plan. I guess I thought, for instance, that if a loved one were sick and the Lord didn’t have any actual decision made that that was the time they were to die, He would spare their life in answer to prayer. But according to sovereignty, the reason He spared it was simply because He wasn’t ready for them to die yet, therefore my prayer had nothing to do with it. They would have recovered in any event. If that were His foreordained plan, or died if that were His plan.

If prayer doesn’t change God’s mind, then what use was there in Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah? God would have saved 50 or 40 or 10 in any event if they had been found. Or Moses interceding for Israel. God had a plan for Israel that He would carry out regardless of Moses’ prayer so that Moses and the rest of us just pray for something that is bound to happen whether or not we pray! To me that defeats the whole purpose of prayer. It almost makes one feel that we are deluded into thinking we are accomplishing something by prayer, whereas in reality it has all been decided upon ahead of time.

Now, for instance, in the case of Mueller’s Orphanage. God had a plan for that work which would be carried to fruition since He is sovereign. If prayer doesn’t carry any weight with God, so to speak insofar as influencing Him, then would that milk truck have broken down in front of the Orphanage (thereby supplying milk for all those children) whether Mueller had spent the night on his knees or not? According to theologians, it was not Mueller’s prayers that resulted in the seemingly miraculous supply of milk for the orphanage, but just part of a plan that would have come to pass anyway. Mueller might just as well have spent the night in bed as on his knees. I don’t understand it. To me, such reasoning contradicts #Jas 5:16 and others which teach importunate prayer. I wonder sometimes if the trouble is not with men’s interpretations of Scripture rather than with Scripture itself.

This is a terribly long letter and I do apologize for being so wordy. But this subject is too vast, I guess, to be covered by correspondence. How I wish I could sit down and talk with you.

I am keeping a copy of this letter so that I can refer to it when your answer comes. I do hope you will not think I am imposing on you; but your pamphlet has really stirred me up. I can see where election is indeed a wonderful doctrine if only it didn’t seem to contradict other Scriptures.

I hope and pray that you can give me more light and that you won’t be offended with such a long letter from a stranger.

With heartfelt thanks in anticipation of your reply, I am

Yours sincerely,

Signed: Marjorie Bond (Mrs. Marjorie Bond)

 

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

Chapter 30- Reprobation

Reprobation

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

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

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

1. The decree not to elect.

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

3. To condemn for sins committed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Election from good pleasure.

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

2. To recover by the gospel and special grace.

3. As thus recovered, to glorify.

2. Not to recover, but to leave sinners.

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

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

The Supralapsarians teach that there was:

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

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

3. To permit to fall.

4. To send Christ to redeem.

The Sublapsarian view is:

1. A decree to create.

2. To permit to fall.

3. To elect some to everlasting life.

4. To send Christ for their redemption and salvation.

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

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

I. The decree to reject some.

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

2. But it is plainly taught in Scripture:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. God is represented as hardening the heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Passages not inconsistent with this interpretation.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Without a sense of predestination we will not depend on God, as we should, under every spiritual and temporal affliction

June 27, 2014 1 comment

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY
PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

IX.-Lastly, without a due sense of predestination, we shall want the surest and the most powerful inducement to patience, resignation and dependence on God under every spiritual and temporal affliction.

How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer! (1) There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God. (2) He has given me in times past, and is giving me at present (if I had but eyes to see it), many and signal intimations of His love to me, both in a way of providence and grace. (3) This love of His is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it. (4) Whatever comes to pass in time is the result of His will from everlasting, consequently (5) my afflictions were a part of His original plan, and are all ordered in number, weight and measure, (6) The very hairs of my head are (every one) counted by Him, nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His determination. Hence (7) my distresses are not the result of chance, accident or a fortuitous combination of circumstances, but (8) the providential accomplishment of God’s purpose, and (9) designed to answer some wise and gracious ends, nor (10) shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees meet. (11) He who brought me to it has promised to support me under it and to carry me through it. (12) All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good, therefore (13) “The cup which my heavenly Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” Yes, I will, in the strength He imparts, even rejoice in tribulation; and using the means of possible redress, which He hath or may hereafter put into my hands, I will commit myself and the event to Him, whose purpose cannot be overthrown, whose plan cannot be disconcerted, and who, whether I am resigned or not, will still go on to work all things after the counsel of His own will.*

* The learned Lipsius thus writes to an unmarried friend, who appears to have referred himself to his judgment and direction:”Sive uxor ducitur, sive omittitur, etc. Whether you marry or live single, you will still have something or other to molest you, nor does the whole course of man’s present sublunary life afford him a single draught of joy without a mixture of wormwood in the cup. This is the universal and immutable law, which to resist were no less vain than sinful and rebellious. As the wrestlers of old had their respective antagonists assigned them, not by their own choice, but by necessary lot, in like manner each of the human race has his peculiar destiny allotted to him by Providence. To conquer this is to endure it. All our strength in this warfare is to undergo the inevitable pressure. It is victory to yield ourselves to fate.” – Lips. Epist. miscell. cent. 1, ep. 43, oper tom., 2, p. 54, Edit. Vesaliens, 1675. About two years after, this celebrated Christian Seneca wrote as follows to the same person (Theodore Leewius), who had married and just lost his wife in child-bed:”Jam fatum quid? AEterna, ab aeterno, in aternum, Dei lex: What is fate? God’s everlasting ordinance – an ordinance settled in eternity and for eternity, an ordinance which He can never repeal, disannul or set aside, either in whole or in part. Now, if this His decree be eternal, a retro, and immovable, quoad futurum, why does foolish man struggle and fight against that which must be? Especially, seeing fate is thus the offspring of God, why does impious man murmur and complain? You cannot justly find fault with anything determined or done by Him, as though it were evil or severe, for He is all goodness and benevolence. Were you to define His nature, you could not do it more suitably than in those terms. Is, therefore, your wife dead? Debuit:it is right she should be so. But was it right that she should die, and at that very time, and by that very kind of death? Most certainly. Lex ita lata: the decree so ordained it. The restless acumen of the human mind may sift and canvass the appointments of fate, but cannot alter them. Were we truly wise, we should be implicitly submissive, and endure with willingness what we must endure, whether we be willing or not. A due sense of our inability to reverse the disposals of Providence, and the consequent vanity of resisting them, would administer solid repose to our minds, and sheathe, if not remove, the anguish of affliction. And why should we even wish to resist? Fate’s supreme ordainer is not only the all-wise God, but an all-gracious Father. Embrace every event as good and prosperous, though it may, for the present, carry an aspect of the reverse. Think you not that He loves and careth for us more and better than we for ourselves? But as the tenderest parent below doth oftentimes cross the inclinations of his children, with a view to do them good, and obliges them both to do and to undergo many things against the bent of their wills, so does the great Parent of all.” – Ibid, epist. 61, p.82.

Above all, when the suffering Christian takes his election into the account, and knows that he was by an eternal and immutable act of God appointed to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ; that, of course, he hath a city prepared for him above, a building of God, a house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens; and that the heaviest sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in the saints, what adversity can possibly befall us which the assured hope of blessings like these will not infinitely overbalance?

“A comfort so divine,

May trials well endnre.”

However keenly afflictions might wound us on their first access, yet, under the impression of such animating views, we should quickly come to ourselves again, and the arrows of tribulation would, in great measure, become pointless. Christians want nothing but absolute resignation to render them perfectly happy in every possible circumstance, and absolute resignation can only flow from an absolute belief of, and an absolute acquiescence in, God’s absolute providence, founded on absolute predestination. The apostle himself draws these conclusions to our hand in Rom 8:, where, after having laid down, as most undoubted axioms, the eternity and immutability of God’s purposes, he thus winds up the whole: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

Such, therefore, among others, being the uses that arise from the faithful preaching and the cordial reception of predestination, may we not venture to affirm, with Luther, hac ignorata doctrina, neque fidem, neque ullum Dei cultum, consistere posse? that “our faith and all right worship of God, depend in no small degree upon our knowledge of that doctrine?”*

* De Serv. Arbitr., cap. 20.

The excellent Melancthon, in his first Common Places (which received the sanction of Luther’s express approbation), does, in the first chapter, which treats professedly of free-will and predestination, set out with clearing and establishing the doctrine of God’s decrees, and then proceeds to point out the necessity and manifold usefulness of asserting and believing it. He even goes so far as to affirm roundly that “a right fear of God and a true confidence in Him can be learned more assuredly from no other source than from the doctrine of predestination.” But Melancthon’s judgment of these matters will best appear from the whole passage, which the reader will find in the book and chapter just referred to.

Divina predestinatio,”

says he, “Libertatem homini adimit”; Divine predestination quite strips man of his boasted liberty, for all things come to pass according to God’s fore-appointment, even the internal thoughts of all creatures, no less than the external works. Therefore the apostle gives us to understand that God “performeth all things according to the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:), and our Lord Himself asks, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? yet one of them falleth not to the ground without your Father” (Mat 10:). Pray what can be more full to the point than such a declaration? So Solomon, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Pro 16:), and in chap. 20:, “Man’s goings are of the Lord:how then can a man understand his own way?” To which the prophet Jeremiah does also set his seal, saying (chapter 10:), “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” The historical part of Scripture teaches us the same great truth. So (Gen 15:) we read that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. In 1Sa 2: we are told that Eli’s sons hearkened not to his reproof, because the Lord would slay them. What could bear a stronger resemblance to chance and accident than Saul’s calling upon Samuel, only with a view to seek out his father’s asses? (1Sa 9:). Yet the visit was fore-ordained of God, and designed to answer a purpose little thought of by Saul (1Sa 9:15,16). See also a most remarkable chain of predestinated events in reference to Saul, and foretold by the prophet (1Sa 10:2,8).

In pursuance of the Divine pre-ordination, there went with Saul a band of men, whose hearts God had touched (1Sa 10:26). The harshness of king Rehoboam’s answer to the ten tribes, and the subsequent revolt of those tribes from his dominion, are by the sacred historian expressly ascribed to God’s decree: “Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that He might perform His saying, which the Lord spake by Abijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 12:15). What is the drift of the Apostle Paul (Rom 9:and 11:), quam ut omnia, quae fiunt, in destinationem divinam referat, but to resolve all things that come to pass into God’s destination? The judgment of the flesh, or of mere unregenerate reason, usually starts back from this truth with horror; but, on the contrary, the judgment of a spiritual man will embrace it with affection. Neque enim vel timorem Dei, vel fiduciam in Deum, certius aliunde disces, quam ubi imbueris animum hac de predestinatione sententia:you will not learn either the fear of God or affiance in Him from a surer source than from getting your mind deeply tinctured and seasoned with this doctrine of predestination.

Does not Solomon, in the Book of Proverbs, inculcate it throughout, and justly, for how else could he direct men to fear God and trust in Him? The same he does in the Book of Ecclesiastes, nor had anything so powerful a tendency to repress the pride of man’s encroaching reason, and to lower the swelling conceit of his supposed discretion, as the firm belief, quod a Deo fiunt omnia, that all things are from God. What invincible comfort did Christ impart to His disciples in assuring them that their very hairs were all numbered by the Creator? Is there, then (may an objector say), no such thing as contingency, no such thing as chance or fortune? No. Omnia necessario evenire scripturae docent; the doctrine of Scripture is, that all things come to pass necessarily. Be it so that to you some events seem to happen contingently, you nevertheless must not be run away with by the suggestions of your own narrow-sighted reason. Solomon himself, the wisest of men, was so deeply versed in the doctrine of inscrutable predestination as to leave this humbling maxim on record. “When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth, then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun, because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it. Yea, farther, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it” (Ecclesiastes 8:16,17).

Melancthon prosecutes the argument much further, but this may suffice for a specimen; and it is not unworthy of notice that Luther so highly approved of Melancthon’s performance, and especially of the first chapter (from whence the above extract is given), that he (Luther) thus writes of it in his epistle to Erasmus, prefixed to his book “De Serv. Arb., ” “That it was worthy of everlasting duration, and to be received into the ecclesiastical canon.” Let it likewise be observed that Melancthon never, to the very last, retracted a word of what he there delivers, which a person of his piety and integrity would most certainly have done had he afterwards (as some have artfully and falsely insinuated) found reason to change his judgment on these heads.

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

Predestination ought to be preached that by it we may be excited to the practice of universal godliness

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY
PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

VII.-Hence arises a seventh argument for the preaching of predestination, namely, that by it we may be excited to the practice of universal godliness. The knowledge of God’s love to you will make you an ardent lover of God, and the more love you have to God, the more will you excel in all the duties and offices of love. Add to this that the Scripture view of predestination includes the means as well as the end. Christian predestinarians are for keeping together what God hath joined. He who is for attaining the end without going to it through the means is a self-deluding enthusiast. He, on the other hand, who carefully and conscientiously uses the means of salvation as steps to the end is the true Calvinist.

Now, eternal life being that to which the elect are ultimately destined, faith (the effect of saving grace) and sanctification (the effect of faith) are blessings to which the elect are intermediately appointed. “According as He hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph 1:4). “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). “knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God . . . and ye became followers of us and of the Lord” (1Th 1:4,6). “God hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2Th 2:13). “Elect, according to the foreknowledge [or ancient love] of God the Father through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience ” (1 Peter 1:2). Nor is salvation (the appointed end of election) at all the less secure in itself (but the more so) for standing necessarily connected with the intervening means, seeing both these and that are inseparably joined, in order to the certain accomplishment of that through these. It only demonstrates that without regeneration of the heart and purity of life, the elect themselves are not led to heaven. But, then, it is incontestible from the whole current of Scripture that these intermediate blessings shall most infallibly be vouchsafed to every elect person, in virtue of God’s absolute covenant and through the effectual agency of His Almighty Spirit. Internal sanctification constitutes our meetness for the kingdom to which we were predestinated, and a course of external righteousness is one of the grand evidences by which we make our election sure to our own present comfort and apprehension of it.*

* 2 Peter 1:10, Give diligence to make your calling and election, bebaiav, undoubted; 1:e., to get some solid and incontestible evidence of your predestination to life. Bebaios is de quo fiducia concipitur; is de quo nobis aliquid certo persuademus. – Unde apud Thuc. 3. Bebaios eimi, touto poiasein certa fides habetur mihi, hoc facturum me esse. Bebaios, certo explorato. Bebaioumai, fidem facio; pro comperto habeo.” Scap. – So, elpis bebaia is an undoubting hope (2Co 1:7), and bebaioteros logos is a more assured and unquestionable word of prophecy (2 Peter 1:19).

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

Without preaching predestination we cannot enjoy a lively sight and experience of God’s special love and mercy towards us

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY
PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

V.-Without the doctrine of predestination we cannot enjoy a lively sight and experience of God’s special love and mercy towards us in Christ Jesus. Blessings, not peculiar, but conferred indiscriminately on every man, without distinction or exception, would neither be a proof of peculiar love in the donor nor calculated to excite peculiar wonder and gratitude in the receiver. For instance, rain from heaven, though an invaluable benefit, is not considered as an argument of God’s special favour to some individuals above others: and why? because it falls on all alike, as much on the rude wilderness and the barren rock as on the cultivated garden and the fruitful field. But the blessing of election, somewhat like the Sibylline books, rises in value, proportionably to the fewness of its objects. So that, when we recollect that in the view of God (to whom all things are at once present) the whole mass of mankind was considered as justly liable to condemnation on account of original and actual iniquity, His selecting some individuals from among the rest and graciously setting them apart in Christ for salvation both from sin and punishment, were such acts of sovereign goodness as exhibit the exceeding greatness and the entire freeness of His love in the most awful, amiable and humbling light.

In order, then, that the special grace of God may shine, predestination must be preached, even the eternal and immutable predestination of His people to faith and everlasting life. “From those who are left under the power of guilt,” says Augustine, “the person who is delivered from it may learn what he too must have suffered had not grace stepped in to his relief. And if it was that grace that interposed, it could not be the reward of man’s merit, but the free gift of God’s gratuitous goodness. Some, however, call it unjust for one to be delivered while another, though no more guilty than the former, is condemned; if it be just to punish one, it would be but justice to punish both. I grant that both might have been justly punished. Let us therefore give thanks unto God our Saviour for not inflicting that vengeance on us, which, from the condemnation of our fellow-sinners, we may conclude to have been our desert, no less than theirs. Had they as well as we been ransomed from their captivity, we could have framed but little conception of the penal wrath due, in strictness of justice, to sin; and, on the other hand, had none of the fallen race been ransomed and set at liberty, how could Divine grace have displayed the riches of its liberality?”* The same evangelical father delivers himself elsewhere to the same effect. “Hence,” says he, “appears the greatness of that grace by which so many are freed from condemnation, and they may form some idea of the misery, due to themselves, from the dreadfulness of the punishment that awaits the rest. Whence those who rejoice are taught to rejoice not in their own merits (quae paria esse vident damnatis, for they see that they have no more merit than the damned), but in the Lord.”+

* Epist. 105, ad Sixt. Presb.

+ De Predest. Sanctor, lib. 1, cap. 9.

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

Predestination is to be preached because the grace of God (which stands opposed to all human worthiness) cannot be maintained without it

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY
PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

II.-Predestination is to be preached because the grace of God (which stands opposed to all human worthiness) cannot be maintained without it. The excellent St. Augustine makes use of this very argument. “If,” says he, “these two privileges (namely, faith itself and final perseverance in faith) are the gifts of God, and if God foreknew on whom He would bestow these gifts (and who can doubt of so evident a truth?), it is necessary for predestination to be preached as the sure and invincible bulwark of that true grace of God, which is given to men without any consideration of merit.”* Thus argued St. Augustine against the Pelagians, who taught that grace is offered to all men alike; that God, for His part, equally wills the salvation of all, and that it is in the power of man’s free-will to accept or reject the grace and salvation so offered. Which string of errors do, as Augustine justly observes, centre in this grand point, gratiam secundum nostra merita dari:that God’s grace is not free, but the fruit of man’s desert.

* De Bono Persever. cap. 21.

Now the doctrine of predestination batters down this delusive Babel of free-will and merit. It teaches us that, if we do indeed will and desire to lay hold on Christ and salvation by Him, this will and desire are the effect of God’s secret purpose and effectual operation, for He it is who worketh in us both to will and to do of His own good pleasure, that he that glorieth should glory in the Lord. There neither is nor can be any medium between predestinating grace and salvation by human merit. We must believe and preach one or the other, for they can never stand together. No attempts to mingle and reconcile these two incompatible opposites can ever succeed, the apostle himself being judge. “If (says he) it (namely, election) be by grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace:but, if it be of works, then be it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work” (Rom 11:6). Exactly agreeable to which is that of St. Augustine:”Either predestination is to be preached as expressly as the Scriptures deliver it, namely, that with regard to those whom He hath chosen, ‘the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,’ or we must roundly declare, as the Pelagians do, that grace is given according to merit.”* Most certain it is that the doctrine of gratuitous justification through Christ can only be supported on that of our gratuitous predestination in Christ, since the latter is the cause and foundation of the former.

* De Bono Persever. cap. 16.

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

The Doctrine of Predestination Should be Openly Preached

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

I.-The Gospel is to be preached, and that not partially and by piece-meal, but the whole of it. The commission runs, “Go forth and preach the Gospel”; the Gospel itself, even all the Gospel, without exception or limitation. So far as the Gospel is maimed or any branch of the evangelical system is suppressed and passed over in silence, so far the Gospel is not preached. Besides, there is scarce any other distinguishing doctrine of the Gospel can be preached, in its purity and consistency, without this of predestination. Election is the golden thread that runs through the whole Christian system; it is the leaven that pervades the whole lump. Cicero says of the various parts of human learning:”Omnes artes, quae ad humanitatem pertinent, habent quoddam commune vinculum, et quasi cognatione quadam inter se continentur,” 1:e., The whole circle of arts have a kind of mutual bond and connection, and by a sort of reciprocal relationship are held together and interwoven with each other. Much the same may be said of this important doctrine:it is the bond which connects and keeps together the whole Christian system, which, without this, is like a system of sand, ever ready to fall to pieces. It is the cement which holds the fabric together; nay, it is the very soul that animates the whole frame. It is so blended and interwoven with the entire scheme of Gospel doctrine that when the former is excluded, the latter bleeds to death.

An ambassador is to deliver the whole message with which he is charged. He is to omit no part of it, but must declare the mind of the sovereign he represents, fully and without reserve. He is to say neither more nor less than the instructions of his court require, else he comes under displeasure, perhaps loses his head. Let the ministers of Christ weigh this well.

Nor is the Gospel to be preached only, but preached to every creature, 1:e., to reasonable beings promiscuously and at large, to all who frequent the Christian ministry, of every state and condition in life, whether high or low, young or old, learned or illiterate. All who attend on the ministrations of Christ’s ambassadors have a right to bear the Gospel fully, clearly and without mincing. Preach it, says Christ (Mark 16:15), publish it abroad, be its cryers and heralds, proclaim it aloud, tell it out, keep back no part of it, spare not, lift up your voices like trumpets. Now, a very considerable branch of this Gospel is the doctrine of God’s eternal, free, absolute and irreversible election of some persons in Christ to everlasting life. The saints were singled out, in God’s eternal purpose and choice, ut crederent, to be endued with faith, and thereby fitted for their destined salvation. By their interest in the gratuitous, unalienable love of the blessed Trinity they come to be, subjectively, saints and believers, so that their whole salvation, from the first plan of it in the Divine mind to the consummation of it in glory, is at once a matter of mere grace and of absolute certainty; while they who die without faith and holiness prove thereby that they were not included in this elect number, and were not written in the book of life.

The justice of God’s procedure herein is unquestionable. Out of a corrupt mass, wherein not one was better than another, He might (as was observed before) love and choose whom and as many as He pleased. It was likewise, without any shadow of injustice, at His option, whom and how many He would pass by. His not choosing them was the fruit of His sovereign will, but His condemning them, after death, and in the last day, is the fruit (not of their non-election, which was no fault of theirs, but) of their own positive transgressions. The elect, therefore, have the utmost reason to love and glorify God which any beings can possibly have, and the sense of what He has done for them is the strongest motive to obedience. On the other hand, the reprobates have nothing to complain of, since whatever God does is just and right, and so it will appear to be (however darkly matters may appear to us now) when we see Him as He is and know Him even as we are known.

And now why should not this doctrine be preached and insisted upon in public? – a doctrine which is of express revelation, a doctrine that makes wholly for the glory of God, which conduces, in a most peculiar manner, to the conversion, comfort and sanctification of the elect, and leaves even the ungodly themselves without excuse. But perhaps you may still be inclined to question whether predestination be indeed a Scripture doctrine. If so, let me by way of sample beg you to consider the following declarations – first, of Christ; secondly, of His apostles.

“If the mighty works that have been done in thee had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented,” etc. (Mat 11:), whence it is evident that the Tyrians and Sidonians, at least the majority of them, died in a state of impenitency, but that if God had given them the same means of grace afforded to Israel they would not have died impenitent, yet those means were not granted them. How can this be accounted for? Only on the single principle of peremptory predestination flowing from the sovereign will of God. No wonder, then, that our Lord concludes that chapter with these remarkable words, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Where Christ thanks the Father for doing that very thing which Arminians exclaim against as unjust and censure as partial.

“To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Mat 13:). To sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, except to them for whom it hath been prepared by My Father,” q.d., salvation is not a precarious thing; the seats in glory were disposed of long ago in My Father’s intention and destination; I can only assign them to such persons as they were prepared for in His decree” (Mat 20:23).

“Many are called, but few chosen” (Mat 22), 1:e., all who live under the sound of the Gospel will not be saved, but those only who are elected unto life.

“For the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Mat 24.), and ibid, “If it were possible, they should deceive the very elect,” where, it is plain, Christ teaches two things:(1) that there is a certain number of persons who are elected to grace and glory, and (2) that it is absolutely impossible for these to be deceived into total or final apostasy.

“Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mat 25.).

“Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to them that are without” (i.e., out of the pale of election) “all these things are done in parables; that seeing, they may see, and not perceive and hearing, they may hear, and not understand: lest at any time, they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (Mark 11:).

“Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:).

“It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:).

“One shall be taken and the other shall be left” (Luke 17:).

“All that the Father hath given Me shall come unto Me” (John 6:), as much as to say these shall but the rest cannot.

“He that is of God, heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:), not chosen of Him.

“Ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep” (John 10:).

“Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:).

I come now, second, to the Apostles.

“They believed not on Him, that the saying of Esais the prophet might be fulfilled which he spake; Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:37,40). Without certain prescience there could be no prophecy, and without predestination no certain prescience. Therefore, in order to the accomplishment of prophecy, prescience and predestination, we are expressly told that these persons could not believe; they were not able, it was out of their power. In short, there is hardly a page in St. John’s Gospel which does not, either expressly or implicitly, make mention of election and reprobation.

St. Peter says of Judas, “Men and brethren, the Scriptures must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake before concerning Judas” (Acts 1:). So, “That he might go to his own place” (ver. xxv.), to the place of punishment appointed for him. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:).

“Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:):predestinated should come to pass.

“And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:):designed, destined or appointed unto life.

Concerning the Apostle Paul, what shall I say? Everyone that has read his epistles knows that they teem with predestination from beginning to end.* I shall only give one or two passages, and begin with that famous chain: “whom He did foreknow” (or forelove, for to know often signifies in Scripture to love) “He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren,” that, as in all things else, so in the business of election Christ might have the pre-eminence, He being first chosen as a Saviour, and they in Him to be saved by Him: “moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom 8:).

* A friend of mine, who has a large property in Ireland, was conversing one day with a popish tenant of his upon religion. Among other points, they discussed the practice of having public prayers in an unknown tongue. My friend took down a New Testament from his book case and read part of 1Co 14: When he had finished, the poor zealous papist rose up from his chair and said with great vehemence, “I verily believe St. Paul was a heretic!” Can the person who carefully reads the epistle of that great apostle doubt of his having been a thorough-paced predestinarian?

Chapters 9:, 10: and 11: of the same epistle are professed dissertations on, and illustrations of the doctrine of God’s decrees, and contain, likewise, a solution of the principal objections brought against that doctrine.

“Who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace” (Gal 1:).

The first chapter of Ephesians treats of little else but election and predestination.

After observing that the reprobates perish wilfully, the apostle, by a striking transition, addresses himself to the elect Thessalonians, saying, “But we are bound to give thanks unto God always for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath, from the beginning, chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2Th 2:).

“Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose, and grace, which was given us in Christ before the world began” (2Ti 1:). St. Jude, on the other hand, describes the reprobate as “ungodly men, who were, of old, foreordained to this condemnation.”

Another apostle makes this peremptory declaration, “Who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed: but ye are a chosen generation [an elect race], a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, a people purchased to be His peculiar property and possession” (1 Peter 2:8,9); to all which may be added, “Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Rev 17:8).

“Who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed: but ye are a chosen generation [an elect race], a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, a people purchased to be His peculiar property and possession” (1 Peter 2:8,9); to all which may be added, “Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Rev 17:8).

All these texts are but as an handful to the harvest, and yet are both numerous and weighty enough to decide the point with any who pay the least deference to Scripture authority. And let it be observed that Christ and His apostles delivered these matters, not to some privileged persons only, but to all at large who had ears to hear and eyes to read. Therefore, it is incumbent on every faithful minister to tread in their steps by doing likewise, nor is that minister a faithful one, faithful to Christ, to truth and to souls, who keeps back any part of the counsel of God, and buries those doctrines in silence which he is commanded to preach upon the house-tops.

The great St. Augustine, in his valuable treatise, De Bono Persever., effectually obviates the objections of those who are burying the doctrine of predestination in silence. He shows that it ought to be publicly taught, describes the necessity and usefulness of preaching it, and points out the manner of doing it to edification. And since some persons have condemned St. Augustine, by bell, book and candle, for his stedfast attachment to and nervous, successful defences of the decrees of God, let us hear what Luther, that great light in the Church, thought respecting the argument before us.

Erasmus (in most other respects a very excellent man) affected to think that it was of dangerous consequence to propagate the doctrine of predestination either by preaching or writing. His words are these: “What can be more useless than to publish this paradox to the world, namely, that whatever we do is done, not by virtue of our own free-will, but in a way of necessity, etc.? What a wide gap does the publication of this tenet open among men for the commission of all ungodliness! What wicked person will reform his life? Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven? Who will fight against his own corrupt inclinations? Therefore, where is either the need or the utility of spreading these notions from whence so many evils seem to flow?”

To which Luther replies: “If, my Erasmus, you consider these paradoxes (as you term them) to be no more than the inventions of men, why are you so extravagantly heated on the occasion? In that case, your arguments affect not me, for there is no person now living in the world who is a more avowed enemy to the doctrines of men than myself. But if you believe the doctrines in debate between us to be (as indeed they are) the doctrines of God, you must have bid adieu to all sense of shame and decency thus to oppose them. I will not ask, ‘Whither is the modesty of Erasmus fled?’ but, which is much more important, ‘Where, alas! are your fear and reverence of the Deity when you roundly declare that this branch of truth which He has revealed from heaven, is, at best, useless and unnecessary to be known?’ What! shall the glorious Creator be taught by you, His creature, what is fit to be preached and what to be suppressed? Is the adorable God so very defective in wisdom and prudence as not to know till you instruct Him what would be useful and what pernicious? Or could not He, whose understanding is infinite, foresee, previous to His revelation of this doctrine, what would be the consequences of His revealing it until those consequences were pointed out by you? You cannot, you dare not say this. If, then, it was the Divine pleasure to make known these things in His Word, and to bid His messengers publish them abroad, and leave the consequences of their so doing to the wisdom and providence of Him in whose name they speak, and whose message they declare, who art thou, O Erasmus, that thou shouldest reply against God and say to the Almighty, ‘What doest Thou?’

“St. Paul, discoursing of God, declares peremptorily, ‘Whom He will He hardeneth,’ and again, ‘God willing to show His wrath,’ etc. And the apostle did not write this to have it stifled among a few persons and buried in a corner, but wrote it to the Christians at Rome, which was, in effect, bringing this doctrine upon the stage of the whole world, stamping an universal imprimatur upon it, and publishing it to believers at large throughout the earth. What can sound harsher in the uncircumcised ears of carnal men than those words of Christ, ‘Many are called, but few chosen’? And elsewhere, ‘I know whom I have chosen.’ Now, these and similar assertions of Christ and His apostles are the very positions which you, O Erasmus, brand as useless and hurtful. You object, ‘If these things are so, who Will endeavour to amend his life?’ I answer, ‘Without the Holy Ghost, no, no man can amend his life to purpose.’ Reformation is but varnished hypocrisy unless it proceed from grace. The elect and truly pious are amended by the Spirit of God, and those of mankind who are not amended by Him will perish.

“You ask, moreover, ‘Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven?’ I answer, ‘It is not in man’s own power to believe himself such upon just grounds until he is enabled from above.’ But the elect shall be so enabled; they shall believe themselves to be what indeed they are. As for the rest who are not endued with faith, they shall perish, raging and blaspheming as you do now. ‘But,’ say you, ‘these doctrines open a door to ungodliness.’ I answer, ‘Whatever door they may open to the impious and profane, yet they open a door of righteousness to the elect and holy, and show them the way to heaven and the path of access unto God.’ Yet you would have us abstain from the mention of these grand doctrines, and leave our people in the dark as to their election of God; the consequence of which would be that every man would bolster himself up with a delusive hope of share in that salvation which is supposed to lie open to all, and thus genuine humility and the practical fear of God would be kicked out of doors. This would be a pretty way indeed of stopping up the gap Erasmus complains of! Instead of closing up the door of licentiousness, as is falsely pretended, it would be, in fact, opening a gulf into the nethermost hell.

“Still you urge, ‘Where is either the necessity or utility of preaching predestination?’ God Himself teaches it or commands us to teach it, and that is answer enough: We are not to arraign the Deity and bring the motives of His will to the test of human scrutiny, but simply to revere both Him and it. He, who alone is all-wise and all-just, can in reality (however things appear to us) do wrong to no man, neither can He do anything unwisely or rashly. And this consideration will suffice to silence all the objections of truly religious persons. However, let us for argument’s sake go a step farther. I will venture to assign over and above two very important reasons why these doctrines should be publicly taught:-

“(1) For the humiliation of our pride and the manifestation of Divine grace. God hath assuredly promised His favour to the truly humble. By truly humble, I mean those who are endued with repentance, and despair of saving themselves; for a man can never be said to be really penitent and humble until he is made to know that his salvation is not suspended in any measure whatever on his own strength, machinations, endeavours, free-will or works, but entirely depends on the free pleasure, purpose, determination and efficiency of another, even of God alone. Whilst a man is persuaded that he has it in his power to contribute anything, be it ever so little, to his own salvation, he remains in carnal confidence; he is not a self-despairer, and therefore he is not duly humbled before God; so far from it, that he hopes some favourable juncture or opportunity will offer when he may be able to lend a helping hand to the business of his salvation. On the contrary, whoever is truly convinced that the whole work depends singly and absolutely on the will of God, who alone is the author and finisher of salvation, such a person despairs of all self-assistance, he renounces his own will and his own strength, he waits and prays for the operation of God, nor waits and prays in vain. For the elect’s sake, therefore, these doctrines are to be preached, that the chosen of God, being humbled by the knowledge of His truths, self-emptied and sunk, as it were, into nothing in His presence, may be saved in Christ with eternal glory. This, then, is one inducement to the publication of the doctrine, that the penitent may be made acquainted with the promise of grace, plead it in prayer to God, and receive it as their own.

“(2) The nature of the Christian faith requires it. Faith has to do with things not seen. And this is one of the highest degrees of faith, stedfastly to believe that God is infinitely merciful, though He saves, comparatively, but few and condemns so many, and that He is strictly just, though of His own will He makes such numbers of mankind necessarily liable to damnation. Now, these are some of the unseen things whereof faith is the evidence, whereas, was it in my power to comprehend them or clearly to make out how God is both inviolably just and infinitely merciful, notwithstanding the display of wrath arid seeming inequality in His dispensations respecting the reprobate, faith would have little or nothing to do. But now, since these matters cannot be adequately comprehended by us in the present state of imperfection, there is room for the exercise of faith. The truths therefore, respecting predestination in all its branches, should be taught and published, they, no less than the other mysteries of Christian doctrine, being proper objects of faith on the part of God’s people.”*

* Lutherus, De Serv. Arbitr. in respons. ad ult. part. praefat. Erasmi.

With Luther the excellent Bucer agrees, particularly on Eph 1:, where his words are: “There are some who affirm that election is not to be mentioned publicly to the people. But they judge wrongly. The blessings which God bestows on man are not to be suppressed, but insisted and enlarged upon, and, if so, surely the blessing of predestination unto life, which is the greatest blessing of all, should not be passed over.” And a little after he adds: “Take away the remembrance and consideration of our election, and then, good God! what weapons have we left us wherewith to resist the temptations of Satan? As often as he assaults our faith (which he is frequently doing) we must constantly and without delay have recourse to our election in Christ as to a city of refuge. Meditation upon the Father’s appointment of us to eternal life is the best antidote against the evil surmisings of doubtfulness and remaining unbelief. If we are entirely void of all hope and assurance, respecting our interest in this capital privilege, what solid and comfortable expectation can we entertain of future blessedness? How can we look upon God as our gracious Father and upon Christ as our unchangeable Redeemer? Without which I see not how we can ever truly love God; and if we have no true love towards Him, how can we yield acceptable obedience to Him? Therefore, those persons are not to be heard who would have the doctrine of election laid (as it were) asleep, and seldom or never make its appearance in the congregations of the faithful.”

To what these great men have so nervously advanced permit me to add, that the doctrine of predestination is not only useful, but absolutely necessary to be taught and known.

(1) For without it we cannot form just and becoming ideas of God. Thus, unless He certainly foreknows and foreknew from everlasting all things that should come to pass, His understanding would not be infinite, and a Deity of limited understanding is no Deity at all. Again, we cannot suppose Him to have foreknown anything which He had not previously decreed, without setting up a series of causes, extra Deum, and making the Deity dependent for a great part of the knowledge He has upon the will and works of His creatures, and upon a combination of circumstances exterior to Himself. Therefore, His determinate plan, counsel and purpose (i.e., His own predestination of causes and effects) is the only basis of His foreknowledge, which foreknowledge could neither be certain nor independent but as founded on His own antecedent decree.

(2) He alone is entitled to the name of true God who governs all things, and without whose will (either efficient or permissive) nothing is or can be done. And such is the God of the Scriptures, against whose will not a sparrow can die nor an hair fall from our heads (Mat 10:) Now what is predestination but the determining will of God? I defy the subtlest semi-pelagian in the world to form or convey a just and worthy notion of the Supreme Being without admitting Him to be the great cause of all causes else, Himself dependent on none, who willed from eternity how He would act in time, and settled a regular, determinate scheme of what He would do and permit to be done from the beginning to the consummation of the world. A contrary view of the Deity is as inconsistent with reason itself, and with the very religion of nature, as it is with the decisions of revelation.

(3) Nor can we rationally conceive of an independent, all-perfect first cause without allowing Him to be unchangeable in His purposes. His decrees and His essence coincide, consequently a change in those would infer an alteration in this. Nor can that being be the true God whose will is variable, fluctuating and indeterminate, for His will is Himself willing. A Deity without decrees and decrees without immutability are, of all inventions that ever entered the heart of man, the most absurd.

(4) Without predestination to plan, and without providence to put that plan in execution, what becomes of God’s omnipotence? It vanishes into air. It becomes mere nonentity. For what sort of omnipotence is that which may be baffled and defeated by the very creatures it has made? Very different is the idea of this attribute suggested by the Psalmist, “Whatsoever the Lord willed, that did He, in heaven and in earth, in the sea and in all deep places” (Psalms 113.), 1:e., He not only made them when He would, but orders them when made.

(5) He alone is the true God, according to Scripture representation, who saves by His mere mercy and voluntary grace those whom He hath chosen, and righteously condemns (for their sins) those whom He thought fit to pass by. But without predestination there could be no such thing either as sovereign mercy or voluntary grace. For, after all, what is predestination but His decree to save some of His mere goodness, and to condemn others in His just judgment? Now it is most evident that the Scripture doctrine of pre-determination is the clearest mirror wherein to see and contemplate these essential attributes of God. Here they all shine forth in their fullness of harmony and lustre. Deny predestination and you deny (though, perhaps, not intentionally, yet by necessary consequence) the adorable perfections of the Godhead in concealing that, you throw a veil over these; and in preaching that, you hold up these to the comfort, the establishment and the admiration of the believing world.

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