THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION STATED AND PROVED.
IN order to secure clearness and to prevent misapprehension in regard to the issues involved, statements of the doctrine of election by the prominent Calvinistic Confessions will be furnished, and also representations of that doctrine from Evangelical Arminian sources of high authority. The Calvinistic doctrine will then be analyzed into its constituent elements, their scriptural proofs exhibited, and the questions between Calvinists and Evangelical Arminians in regard to those points will be discussed.
The statement of the doctrine of election by the Westminster Confession is as follows: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men . . . are predestinated unto everlasting life.
"These men . . . thus predestinated . . . are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
"Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life. God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.
"As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, fore-ordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation."1
The Westminster Larger Catechism says: "God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of his mere love, for the praise of his glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, hath elected some angels to glory; and, in Christ, hath chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof.
"God doth not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivereth his elect out of it, and bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace."
"The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adatn, and in him with all the elect as his seed."2
The Westminster Shorter Catechism: "God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer."3
What follows is a part of the utterance of the Synod of Dort: "The cause, or fault, of this unbelief" [i. e. in Christ], "as of all other sins, is in no wise in God, but in man. But faith in Jesus Christ, and salvation through him, is the free gift of God.
"But whereas, in process of time, God bestoweth faith on some, and not on others, this proceeds from his eternal decree.
"Now, election is the unchangeable purpose of God, by which, before the foundation of the world, according to the most free pleasure of his will, and of his mere grace, out of all mankind - fallen, through their own fault, from their first integrity into sin and destruction - he hath chosen in Christ unto salvation a set number of certain men, neither better nor more worthy than others, but lying in the common misery with others; which Christ also from all eternity he appointed the Mediator, and head of all the elect, and foundation of salvation. And so he decreed to give them to him to be saved, and by his Word and Spirit effectually to call and draw them to a communion with him: that is, to give them a true faith in him, to justify, sanctify, and finally glorify them, being mightily kept in the communion of his Son, to the demonstration of his mercy, and the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.
"This said election was made, not upon foresight of faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, or of any other good quality or disposition, as a cause or condition before required in man to be chosen; but unto faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, etc. And therefore election is the fountain of all saving good, from whence faith, holiness, and the residue of saving gifts, lastly everlasting life itself, do flow, as the fruits and effects thereof.
"The true cause of this free election is the good pleasure of God; not consisting herein, that, from among all possible means, he chose some certain qualities, or actions, of men, as a condition of salvation; but herein, that out of the common multitude of sinners he culled out to himself, for his own peculiar" [possession] "some certain persons.
"And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, revoked or disannulled, nor the elect cast away, nor their number diminished."4
The Second Helvetic Confession says: "God hath from the beginning freely, and of his mere grace, without any respect of men, predestinated or elected the saints, whom he will save in Christ."5
The French Confession: "We believe that out of this universal corruption and damnation, wherein by nature all men are drowned, God did deliver and preserve some, whom, by his eternal and immutable counsel, of his own goodness and mercy, without any respect of their works, he did choose in Christ Jesus. . . . For some are not better than others, till such time as the Lord doth make a difference, according to that immutable counsel which he had decreed in Christ Jesus before the creation of the world: neither was any man able by his own strength to make an entrance for himself to that good, seeing that of our nature we cannot have so much as one right motion, affection, or thought, till God do freely prevent us, and fashion us to uprightness."6
The Belgic Confession: "We believe that God, after that the whole offspring of Adam was cast headlong into perdition and destruction, through the default of the first man, bath declared and shewed himself to be such an one, as he is indeed ; namely, both merciful and just: merciful, by delivering and saving those from condemnation and from death, whom, in his eternal counsel, of his own free goodness, he bath chosen in Jesus Christ our Lord, without any regard at all to their works."7
The Swiss Form of Agreement (Formula Consensus Helvetica): "Before the foundations of the world were laid, God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, formed an eternal purpose, in which, out of the mere good pleasure of his will, without any foresight of the merit of works or of faith, unto the praise of his glorious grace, he elected a certain and definite number of men, in the same mass of corruption and lying in a common blood, and so corrupt in sin, to be, in time, brought to salvation through Christ the only Sponsor and Mediator, and, through the merit of the same, by the most powerful influence of the Holy Spirit regenerating, to be effectually called, regenerated, and endued with faith and repentance. And in such wise indeed did God determine to illustrate his glory, that he decreed, first to create man in integrity, then to permit his fall, and finally to pity some from among the fallen, and so to elect the same."8
To these statements of the doctrine may be added those of British Episcopal Churches, for the reason that they are, upon this point, explicitly Calvinistic.
The Seventeenth Article of the Church of England is as follows: "Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through grace obey the calling: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works: and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity."
The third article of the Church of Ireland has these words : "By the same eternal counsel, God bath predestinated some unto life, and reprobated some unto death: of both which there is a certain number, known only to God, which can neither be increased nor diminished.9
"Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, he hath constantly decreed in his secret counsel to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ unto everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour.10
"The cause moving God to predestinate unto life is not the foreseeing of faith, or perseverance, or good works, or of any thing which is in the person predestinated, but only the good pleasure of God himself.11 For all things being ordained for the manifestation of his glory, and his glory being to appear both in the works of his mercy and of his justice, it seemed good to his heavenly wisdom to choose out a certain number, towards whom he would extend his undeserved mercy, leaving the rest to be spectacles of his justice.
"Such as are predestinated unto life be called according unto God's purpose (his Spirit working in due season), and through grace they obey the calling, they be justified freely, they be made sons of God by adoption, they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity."12
Having thus sufficiently given the doctrine of Calvinism in regard to Election, I proceed to furnish that of Evangelical Arminianism. In the absence of any Symbolic Articles in which the views of Evangelical Arminians touching the doctrine of Election are embodied,13 reference must be had to the statements of those who are accepted by them as representative theologians.
John Wesley thus speaks: "The Scriptnre tells us plainly what predestination is: it is God's fore-appointing obedient believers to salvation, not without, but 'according to his foreknowledge' of all their works 'from the foundation of the world.' . . . We may consider this a little further. God, from the foundation of the world, foreknew all men's believing or not believing. And according to this, his foreknowledge, he chose or elected all obedient believers, as such, to salvation."
"God calleth Abraham 'a father of many nations,' though not so at that time. He calleth Christ 'the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,' though not slain till he was a man in the flesh. Even so he calleth men 'elected from the foundation of the world,' though not elected till they were men in the flesh. Yet it is all so before God, who, knowing all things from eternity, 'calleth things that are not as though they were.'
"By all which it is clear, that as Christ was called 'the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,' and yet not slain till some thousand years after, till the day of his death, so also men are called 'elect from the foundation of the world,' and yet not elected, perhaps, till some thousand years after, till the day of their conversion to God . . .
"If the elect are chosen through sanctification of the Spirit, then they were not chosen before they were sanctified by the Spirit. But they were not sanctified before they had a being. It is plain, then, neither were they chosen from the foundation of the world. But God 'calleth things that are not as though they were.' . . .
"If the saints are chosen to salvation, through believing of the truth . . . they were not chosen before they believed; much less before they had a being, any more than Christ was slain before he had a being. So plain is it that they were not elected till they believed, although God 'calleth things that are not as though they were.' . . .
"It is plain the act of electing is in time, though known of God before; who according to his knowledge, often speaketh of the things 'which are not as though they were.' And thus is the great stumbling block about election taken away, that men may 'make their calling and election sure.'"14
In another place, Wesley says: "But do not the Scriptures speak of election? . . . You cannot therefore deny there is such a thing as election. And if there is, what do you mean by it?
"I will tell you in all plainness and simplicity. I believe it commonly means one of these two things; first, a divine appointment of some particular men, to do some particular work in the world. And this election I believe to be not only personal, but absolute and unconditional . . .
"I believe election means, secondly, a divine appointment of some men to eternal happiness. But I believe this election to be conditional, as well as the reprobation opposite thereto. I believe the eternal decree concerning both is expressed in these words, 'He that believeth shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be damned.' And this decree without doubt God will not change, and man cannot resist. According to this all true believers are in Scripture termed elect . . .
"God calleth true believers 'elect from the foundation of the world,' although they were not actually elect or believers till many ages after, in their several generations. Then only it was that they were actually elected, when they were made the 'sons of God by faith.' . . .
"This election I as firmly believe as I believe the Scripture to be of God. But unconditional election I cannot believe; not only because I cannot find it in Scripture, but also, (to waive all other considerations,) because it necessarily implies unconditional reprobation. Find out any election which does not imply reprobation, and I will gladly agree to it. But reprobation I can never agree to, while I believe the Scripture to be of God: as being utterly irreconcilable to the whole scope of the Old and New Testament."15
"What do you mean by the word Election? . . . I mean this. God did decree from the beginning to elect or choose (in Christ) all that should believe to salvation."16
"Irresistible Grace and Infallible Perseverance are the natural consequence of the former, the uncondittional decree . . . So that, in effect, the three questions come into one, Is Predestination absolute or conditional? The Arminians believe it is conditional."17
Richard Watson thus distributes the subject of election: "Of a divine election, or choosing and separation from others, we have these three kinds mentioned in the Scriptures. The first is the election of individuals to perform some particular and special service. . . . The second kind of election which we find in Scripture is the election of nations, or bodies of people, to eminent religious privileges, and in order to accomplish, by their superior illumination, the merciful purposes of God, ill benefiting other nations or bodies of people. . . . The third kind of election is personal election; or the election of individuals to be the children of God and the heirs of eternal life."18
In regard to the last-mentioned aspect of election - that which is in dispute - he says: "What true personal election is, we shall find explained in two clear passages of Scripture. It is explained negatively by our Lord, where he says to his disciples, 'I have chosen you out of the world'; it is explained positively by St. Peter, when he addresses his first epistle to the 'elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.' To be elected, therefore, is to be separated from 'the world,' and to be sanctified by the Spirit, and by the blood of Christ.
"It follows, then, that election is not only an act of God done in time; but also that it is subsequent to the administration of the means of salvation. The 'calling' goes before the 'election'; the publication of the doctrine of 'the Spirit,' and the atonement, called by Peter 'the sprinkling of the blood of Christ' before that 'sanctification,' through which they become 'the elect' of God. The doctrine of eternal election is thus brought down to its true meaning. Actual election cannot be eternal; for, from eternity, the elect were not actually chosen out of the world, and from eternity they could not be 'sanctified unto obedience.' The phrases 'eternal election,' and 'eternal decree of election,' so often in the lips of Calvinists, can, in common sense, therefore, mean only an eternal purpose to elect; or a purpose formed in eternity, to elect, or choose out of the world, and sanctify in time, by 'the Spirit and the blood of Jesus.' This is a doctrine which no one will contend with them; but when they graft upon it another, that God hath, from eternity, 'chosen in Christ unto salvation' a set number of men, 'certam quorundam hominum multitudinem' - not upon foresight of faith and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition (as a cause or condition before required in man to be chosen); but unto faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, etc., 'non ex praevisa fide, fideique obedientia, sanctitate, aut alia aliqua bona qualitate et dispositione,' etc., (Judgment of the Synod of Dort,) it presents itself under a different aspect, and requires an appeal to the word of God."19
Without further definition of his own view, Watson proceeds to argue against the Calvinistic doctrine.
Dr. Ralston adopts Watson's threefold distribution of election - of individuals to office, of communities to religious privileges, of individuals to eternal life. In regard to the last kind he says: "That election of this personal and individual kind is frequently alluded to in the Scriptures, is admitted by Armiuians as well as Calvinists; but the great matter of dispute relates to the sense in which the subject is to be understood. Calvinists say that this election is 'from all eternity;' this Arminians deny, except so far as the foreknowledge or purpose of God to elect may be termed election.20
So far for his view as to the temporal origin of election. As to its conditionality he thus speaks: "Before the election in question can exist, there must be a real difference in the objects or persons concerning whom the choice is made. Even an intelligent creature can make no rational choice where no supposed difference exists; and can we suppose that the infinite God will act in a manner that would be justly deemed blind and irrational in man? The thought is inadmissible. . . . If God selects, or chooses, some men to eternal life and rejects others, as all admit to be the fact, there must be a good and sufficient reason for this election."
Now, what is this reason? He answers: "We arrive at the conclusion, therefore, that however different the teachings of Calvinism, if one man is elected to everlasting life and another consigned to perdition, it is not the result of an arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable partiality, but accords with reason, equity, and justice, and is a glorious display of the harmonious perfections of God. It is because the one is good and the other bad; the one is righteous and the other uurighteous; the one is a believer and the other an unbeliever; or the one is obedient and the other rebellious. These are the distinctions which reason, justice, and Scripture recognize; and we may rest assured they are the only distinctions which God regards in electing his people to glory, and sentencing the wicked to perdition."21
Dr. Miner Raymond, Professor in Garrett Biblical Institute, Illinois, in his Systematic Theology, concurs in the three-fold distribution of election already indicated, but differs with the writers who have been cited in regard to the end to which individuals are savingly elected. They make it eternal life, and he a contingent salvation. According to them, election, being conditional upon the foresight of perseverance in faith and holiness to the end of life, terminates on an assured felicity in heaven; according to him election, being conditioned upon the foresight of only a contingent perseverance in faith and holiness, terminates on only a contingent salvation. Election is not to eternal life, but to the contingent heirship of eternal life. Let us hear him speak for himself:
"A third use of the terms 'elect,' 'elected,' 'called,' 'chosen,' and other terms of similar import, is found in the Scriptures. 'Many are called, but few are chosen.' 'Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.' Here, evidently, the choosing is after the calling - that is, it is an act done in time. The election is by and through the sanctification of the Spirit; that is, it is a selection, a choosing out of the world, a separation from the world, by regeneration, conversion, the new birth; in a word, when God justifies a sinner, regenerates his nature, adopts him as a child of God, makes him an heir of eternal life, he thereby, then and there, separates him from the sinners of the world - elects him to be his child and an heir of eternal life. The sinner, by this election, becomes a saint, an elect person, and is frequently so called in the Scriptures.
"This election is almost universally spoken of as conditioned upon repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and if, in any passages, the condition is not specifically mentioned, it is plainly implied. If, in any sense, this election is eternal, it is so only in the purpose of the Divine Being to elect; and as the election itself is conditioned upon faith, it follows that the eternal purpose to elect was based upon that foreseen faith. . . .
"Men may do despite unto the Spirit of grace by which they have been sanctified. Till probation terminates, final destiny is a contingency. Two opposite eternities are either of them possible, and the question is decided, never by any thing external to the man himself, but by his own free choice, aided by the grace of God."22
It is necessary to add that this writer makes regeneration a work, jointly wrought by divine and human agency, and holds that, in the order of thought, repentance precedes faith and faith precedes regeneration. The question being, What conditions salvation? his answer is - and it deserves special notice as indicative of the developments of the Evangelical Arminian theology - "That salvation is conditioned upon man's acceptance, and co-operation by faith, is implied in all the commands, precepts, exhortations, admonitions, entreaties, promises, and persuasions of the Word of God; and such passages as the following are equivalent to a direct affirmation that man determines the question of his salvation: 'He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned,'" etc.23
It may be asked, why Fletcher has not been previously summoned as a witness. The reason is, that the definition which he gives of election, as pertaining to individual salvation, seems to be somewhat peculiar to himself. He represents it as of two kinds, one an election to initial salvation, conveying a temporary redemption, - which is unconditional; the other an election to eternal salvation, - which is conditioned upon the perseverance of the believer to the end of the day of initial salvation. "We believe," says he, "that Jesus Christ died for the whole human race, with an intention first, to procure absolutely and unconditionally a temporary redemption, or an initial salvation for all men universally; and secondly, to procure a particular redemption, or an eternal salvation conditionally for all men, but absolutely for all that die in their infancy, and for all the adult who obey him, and are faithful unto death."24 The statement is eccentric and somewhat confused, but agrees substantially with those which have been furnished.
These statements of the Calvinistic and Evangelical Arminian doctrines of election having been furnished, the way is open for an analysis of the Calvinistic doctrine into its component elements, and the exhibition of the scriptural proofs on which they are founded.
It is resolvable into the following elements: first, its author or efficient cause; secondly, its object, in general; thirdly, its objects, in particular; fourthly, its end or final cause; fifthly, its origin; sixthly, the love which it involves; and seventhly, its ground or reason. This order of statement is adopted, not because it is deemed most logical, but because it is desirable to consider last the features of the subject in regard to which the Calvinist and the Evangelical Arminian mainly join issue.
Before these points are considered, it is proper to premise, that in this discussion there is no intimation of an order of time, as obtaining in the relation to each other of the divine decrees. What is intended is that one may be in order to another, in this sense - that one may be pre-supposed by another. The decree, for instance, to permit the Fall is in order to, or pre-supposed by, the decree to provide redemption for sinners. To deny such an order as this, because it appears to conflict with the simplicity and immutability of an Infinite Being, is to reject all difference and distinction between the acts of God, and to reduce all his perfections to the absolute unity of his essence; and that would be to subvert the doctrine of the Trinity itself. We are obliged to conceive an order of thought or nature as existing in the divine decrees. "What divines," says President Edwards, "intend by prior and posterior in the affair of God's decrees, is not that one is before another in the order of time, for all are from eternity; but that we must conceive the view or consideration of one decree to be before another, inasmuch as God decrees one thing out of respect to another decree that he has made; so that one decree must be conceived of as in some sort to be the ground of another, or that God decrees one because of another; or that he would not have decreed one, had he not decreed that other."25 Then follows an argument in which Edwards powerfully supports this view. "While," observes Dr. Thornwell on the same subject, "owing to the simplicity and eternity of the divine nature, there cannot be conceived in God a succession of time, nor consequently various and successive decrees, yet we may justly speak of his decrees as prior or posterior in point of nature."26 "The question," remarks the same writer in another place, "concerning the order of the divine decrees involves something more than a question of logical method. It is really a question of the highest moral significance. The order of a thing very frequently determines its righteousness and justice. Conviction and hanging are parts of the same process, but it is something more than a question of arrangement whether a man shall be hung before he is convicted."27
Corresponding with this order in the decrees we must conceive also an order in the exercises and modes of the divine perfections - one not of time, but of thought; that is, the exercise of one divine perfection is pre-supposed by that of another, and a mode of a perfection is pre-supposed by another mode of the same perfection. The conceptions of the divine intelligence, for example, must be considered as in order to the exercises of the divine justice and love and the acts of the divine will. The view which God took of man unfallen, man fallen, and man to be redeemed, was in order to those exercises of justice and love, and those determinations of will, which were related to man in those respective conditions. So also, for instance, the intrinsic perfection of divine love is one, but it may exist in different modes, one of which is pre-supposed by another. The benevolence of God towards the creatures of his power is pre-supposed by that peculiar love which has for its objects those who are redeemed by his dear Son and united to him by the grace of his Spirit.
It is not designed to say that one mode precedes another which in an order of time did not previously exist. The modes of the divine love are co-eternal, and their appropriate objects were eternally before the divine mind. When the objects are actually brought into existence, no new modification of the love of God occurs. There is only a new manifestation of his love which existed eternally. And, although the subject is confessedly difficult, I can see no just reason for supposing that a new manifestation of love would be equivalent to a new modification of that attribute. It may be a question, whether it be not necessary to suppose a new modification of the divine will, involved in the determination to effect a manifestation of love which had not previously been made. But were that so - which I am not prepared to admit as beyond doubt - the immutability of the divine love, even as to its modes, would not be disproved, unless it could be conclusively shown that the love of God is one and the same with the will of God considered as determinative. One is apt to think that impossible, notwithstanding the fact that some eminent theologians, under the influence of the old scholastic distribution of the mental powers into intelligence and will, have expressed themselves in favor of the identity of the divine love and the divine will even in its acts. The view which denies an order of nature in the divine decrees and the exercises of the divine perfections, on the ground of the simplicity and immutability of the infinite Being, cannot be adjusted to our convictions of the distinction between intelligence and will, between justice and mercy, between benevolence and complacency. The result would be the impersonal infinite substance of the Pantheist, manifesting itself in conformity with a law of blind necessity. And yet he is compelled by the patent facts of observation to grant that this impersonal substance expresses itself diversely in the countless differences of finite existence. But the argument is not with the Pantheist: it lies within the limits of Christian Theism. It is enough to point out the fact that those theologians who merge the divine love into the acts of the divine will have no hesitation in affirming a difference between the intelligence and the will of God. Nor would they deny that the conception of ends by the divine wisdom is pre-supposed by, and is in order to, the specific determinations of the divine will. It is no derogation from the glory of the ever-blessed God to say, that one decree is in order to another, or that the exercise of one perfection is in order to the exer cise of another. With these preliminary cautions I proceed to develop the proofs of election.
1. The Author or Efficient Cause of Election - God. This answers the question, Who elects?
Eph. i. 4: "According as he hath chosen us in him" - that is, according as God the Father has chosen us in Christ. This meaning of the words is determined by the immediately preceding verse: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." The doctrine is here taught that God the Father, as the representative of the Trinity, is the author of the electing decree. From his bosom the scheme of redemption sprang.
2 Thess. ii. 13: "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation."
1 Thess. v. 9: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."
These passages are sufficient to prove, beyond doubt, that God, and God alone, is the author or efficient cause of election. This the Evangelical Arminian professes to acknowledge, not only with regard to the election of communities to peculiar privileges, but also to that of individuals to salvation. But if it be true that, according to his system, the will of man is the ultimate, determining cause of his choice of salvation, it follows inevitably that man and not God is the efficient cause of election. That man determines the question of his salvation, we have seen, by a citation from his Systematic Theology, that Dr. Miner Raymond expressly asserts.28 But if this be regarded as an individual opinion which cannot be considered representative of the system, I shall endeavor, in the prosecution of the argument under another head, to prove that what he candidly avows is the logical result of the principles which he holds in common with his school. And should the proof be fairly exhibited, it will be evinced that the Evangelical Armiuiau theology stumbles upon the very threshold of the scriptural doctrine of election. It is one thing to say that God is the author of a scheme of redemption, involving the accomplishment of a universal atonement and the bestowal of universal grace, and quite another to say that he is the author of the election of sinners to salvation. The former the Arminian affirms; the latter he is logically bound to deny.
2. The Object, in general, of election - man considered as fallen and ruined. This answers the question, Upon what did election terminate?
Rom. v. 8: "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. "
Eph. i. 4: "According as he hath chosen us in him [that is, Christ], before the foundation of the world."
Ezek. xvi. 6: "And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live."
Rom. ix. 21: "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?"
Upon this point the issue is between the Supralapsarians and the Sublapsarians. Some of the former contend that in the decree of election man was viewed simply as creatable, others, that he was contemplated as created but not fallen. The Sublapsarians hold that in that decree man was regarded as fallen and corrupt. In favor of the Sublapsarian doctrine I urge-
(1.) The Scriptural argument.
In the passage cited from the fifth chapter of Romans the apostle is treating of the security of those who are justified through faith in Christ. His argument is drawn from the love of God towards them. The electing love of God, having been eternally pitched upon them viewed as sinners and therefore ill-deserving, was not grounded in or conditioned upon any good quality or act foreknown to pertain to them, but issued freely from his bosom, and, from the nature of the case, cannot change in consequence of the changeableness of its objects. Having loved them regarded simply as ungodly sinners, he cannot fail to love them contemplated as reconciled to him by the death of his Son. It is evident that the passage teaches that the object of election was man viewed as fallen and sinful.
When, in the passage taken from the first chapter of Ephesians, the apostle declares that believers were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, he must mean that they were elected to be redeemed by Christ, appointed as their Mediator and Federal Head; and, therefore, it is necessarily implied that when elected they were conceived as ruined by sin.
In the graphic passage quoted from the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel, God, under the figure of a polluted, deserted; helpless infant represents the object of his electing love as being in a state of sin and misery. The description cannot have reference to the execution of the electing purpose in effectual calling, for the palpable reason that that is immediately after set forth as terminating upon the same infant when it had arrived at marriageable age. It is curious that in the attempt to make this and other statements of Scripture refer to the temporal execution of the electing purpose, the great Supralapsarian Dr. Twisse and the Arminians are at one with each other. Extremes meet. The company is hardly creditable to the professed Calvinist.
In the celebrated passage from the ninth chapter of Romans, the "lump" must refer to the fallen and corrupt mass of mankind, for-
First, Divine mercy, from its very nature, cannot terminate upon any other than an ill-deserving and miserable object. Those who are chosen out of the mass are denominated "vessels of mercy." Mercy proposes to save its objects, and none can be considered susceptible of salvation but those who are sinful and ruined.
Secondly, The lump is that from which Jacob is said to have been taken; and it is evident that he belonged to the fallen and corrupt mass of mankind. That Esau and Jacob are declared to have done neither good nor evil cannot be proved to refer to their election simply as creatable men, or apart from their being contemplated as sinners. The meaning clearly is, if we judge from the analogy of the passage, that God's preference of one to the other was not conditioned upon his knowledge of a distinction between their characters. Regarding them both as belonging to a sinful race, and, consequently, both as condemned, he elected Jacob and passed by Esau. In electing one and rejecting the other, he had no regard to their "works," that is, their special conscious virtues or sins. They were both viewed as fallen and condemned in Adam. This is Calvin's view;29 and it proves him to have been a Sublapsarian.
Thirdly, Esau and other reprobate men are called "vessels of wrath." But wrath is the exercise of retributive justice towards the guilty. It pre-supposes the sinful character of the objects upon whom it is inflicted. Moreover, they are said to be "fitted for destruction." Now, either they were fitted to contract guilt in order to destruction, or they were fitted for destruction in consequence of guilt. If the former be supposed, they are not the objects of just punishment. The supposition is impossible. If the latter be true, they are regarded in God's decree as sinners worthy of punishment. This is the true view.
Another argument which may be adduced is, that the Scriptures "represent calling as the expression of election - the first articulate proof of it. But calling is from a state of sin and misery. Therefore election must refer to the same condition. We are said to be chosen out of the world."30
It deserves to be noticed, also, that Supralapsarians confound the wider and the narrower senses of Predestination, both of which are employed in Scripture. In the wider, it means the general purpose or determination of God in relation to all actual things. In the narrower, it signifies the designation of certain definite beings - men - to salvation or destruction. It is manifest that the particular decree of election or of reprobation is different from the general decree by which all things are brought into existence. The order, then, is: the decree to create or bring into existence. This grounds foreknowledge of existing beings. Now this foreknowledge which presupposes the decree to bring into existence, in turn, in the order of thought, precedes Election and Reprobation - the special decree of predestination. Then the foreknowledge of the actual salvation or destruction of men presupposes their election or reprobation. General decree of predestination - general foreknowledge; special decree of predestination - special foreknowledge: that, I conceive is the order indicated in Scripture. Supralapsarianism confounds the special with the general decree. The distinction is indispensable to a correct understanding of the Scriptures.
These special arguments are enhanced and confirmed by the general doctrine of the Scriptures that God is not the author of sin but its righteous punisher. For, the Supralapsarian fails to relieve his view of the consequence that it implies the divine efficiency in the production of sin, by the distinctions which he makes - namely, that while God is the producer of the sinful act as an entity and therefore a good thing, he does not produce the sinful quality which inheres in the act; and that God is not the efficient cause of sin, since sin itself is not a positive thing requiring an efficient, but merely the privation of a good quality and therefore supposing only a deficient, cause. However ancient may be these distinctions, and however venerable may be the names by which they are supported, they are liable to the charge of depreciating the criminal enormity of sin, and of threatening to reduce it to a mere imperfection incident to the make of the finite creature.31
(2.) The Metaphysical argument.
"The Supralapsarian theory," says Dr. Charles Hodge, "seems to involve a contradiction. Of a Non-Ens (a thing not existent), as Turrettin says, nothing can be determined. The purpose to save or condemn, of necessity must, in the order of thought, follow the purpose to create." "The theory," observes Dr. Thornwell, "which makes the decree respect man not as fallen, nor even as existing, but only as capable of both, makes the decree terminate upon an object which in relation to it is a nonentity. It makes the decree involve a palpable contradiction."
There is first the conception in the divine mind of all possible beings. The knowledge of the futurition, the actual existence, of any of these possible beings - I speak not now of the acts of beings - must depend upon the determination of God to reduce them from the category of the possible to that of the actual. Without such a decree, low could lie know them as certain to be? And if he could not know them as existent, how could he determine anything in regard to them as existent? Not known as to be, they would be beyond the reach of any predication save that of possibility. The Supralapsarian theory confounds the conception of the possible with that of the actual. If there be such a decree as it affirms, it would, from the nature of the case, terminate on the barely possible - possible beings would be its objects. God is represented as decreeing to save or damn beings who are conceived to be in posse, not in esse, and who cannot therefore be conceived as guilty and ruined. Whatever qualities could be conceived as attaching to them must have been conceived as possible qualities, for actual qualities cannot be conceived as inhering in merely possible beings. Now there is predication of actual qualities necessarily involved in the decree to save or to condemn. It is true that the decree to create terminates on the possible, but it does not involve the contradiction of supposing actual qualities to inhere in only possible entities. Its very design is to put the possible into a condition in which it can be capable of attribution, and therefore of moral destination. Let us suppose, with the Supralapsarian, that first of all God decreed to glorify his grace and his justice. There must be beings through whom that glorification shall be effected. Now what sort of beings does God predestinate to that end? Possible beings, replies he. Are then possible beings predestinated to an actual heaven and an actual hell? Again, he contends that men are predestinated to damnation for their sin. What sort of sin? The possible sin of possible men? Is it not evident that the conception of actual men and actual sin is pre-supppsed in a decree to adjudge them to actual salvation and actual damnation? But that implies the decree to create as pre-supposed by the decree to predestinate to salvation or destruction. Furthermore, there can be no distinction of sin and holiness in beings merely possible. That distinction is rendered possible only by the decree to create. When they are created, beings may remain holy or fall into sin. As this distinction conditions the possibility of a decree to predestinate to salvation or damnation, the decree to create must in the order of thought precede the decree to elect or to reprobate.
The maxim, "What is last in execution is first in intention," which the Supralapsarian urges in favor of his scheme, cannot be proved to hold of the plan by which God develops his purposes. That plan does not appear to involve a subordinated, but a coordinated series - that is, one in which the parts are related as conditions to each other, but not as means to ends. Creation, the Fall, Redemption are coordinate parts of God's great plan, each having its own peculiar significance, resulting from its own peculiar adaptation to manifest the divine glory through the illustration of certain divine perfections. But the Supralapsarian doctrine makes, at least logically if not confessedly makes, each element in the general scheme a means to the attainment of the succeeding feature, and the whole a concatenated series of means to the accomplishment of the ultimate end. Creation is in order to the Fall, the Fall in order to salvation or damnation, and they in order to the glory of grace and justice. Upon this theory it is not conceivable that the Fall should not have happened. It was necessary, in order that men might glorify grace in their salvation and justice in their damnation. The covenant of works with a probation possible to have been fulfilled, and glorious rewards possible to have been secured, becomes unintelligible. It is not conceivable how the theory can be adjusted to the genius of the Calvinistic theology.
(3.) The Moral argument.
There are laws of rectitude at the root of the moral faculty which are regulative of our moral judgments, just as there are laws of thought and belief at the root of the intellect which control its processes. Now the fundamental laws of justice and benevolence, implanted by the divine hand in our moral constitution, rise up in revolt against the doctrine that God first determines to glorify his justice in the damnation of men, and then determines to create them and "efficaciously to procure" their fall into sin in order to execute that purpose. The Supralapsarian logically makes God the efficient producer of sin. Dr. Twisse's distinction between God's decreeing to effect, and decreeing efficaciously to procure, the fall of man into sin, is a distinction without a difference. If God shut up man to sin, it was the same as his causing him to sin. But if anything is certain, it is that God is not the efficient cause of sin. If he were, as he cannot do wrong, sin would cease to be sin and become holiness, and the distinction between right and wrong would be completely wiped out.
(4.) The argument from Calvinistic consent.
None of the Calvinistic Symbols are Supralapsarian. Some of them imply, without expressly asserting, Sublapsarianism. Others are distinctly Sublapsarian. In the last-named class are the Cauons of the Synod of Dort and the Formula Consensus Helvetica.
3. The Objects, in particular, of election - some individual men. This answers the question, Who are elected ?
Matt. xxiv. 22: "But for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."
Matt. xxiv. 24: "Insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
Matt. xxiv. 31: "And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
Lk. xviii. 7: "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry. day and night unto him?"
Rom. viii. 33: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"
Rom. xvi. 13: "Salute Rufua chosen (elect) in the Lord."
Eph. i. 1, 4, 5, 7, 11: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. . . . According as he hath chosen (elected) us. . . . . Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ. . . . In whom we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of sins. . . . . In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
Col. iii. 12: "Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies."
1 Thess. i. 4: "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."
1 Thess. v. 9 : "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."
2 Thess. ii. 13: "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hatlt from the beginning chosen (elected) you to salvation."
2 Tim. ii. 10: "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake."
Tit. i. 1: "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect."
1 Pet. i. 1, 2: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."
These passages conclusively show, that there is not only an election of communities to peculiar privileges - which is cheerfully conceded - but that there is an election of individuals to everlasting salvation; and the conclusion from these testimonies cannot be resisted, that the latter is the highest and the most important sense which is attributed to election by the Word of God. This distinction is admitted by the Evangelical Arminian. But he holds that the election of individuals is conditioned upon the divine foresight of their faith and perseverance in holiness. Election, then, according to him, is not really the election of individuals to a certain salvation, but, if the solecism be allowable, the election of a condition upon which individuals may attain to salvation; but of this more anon. His argument in favor of a conditional election of individuals, derived from the text in Peter last cited, will be considered when his prooftexts come to be noticed.
It deserves to be considered, that the Arminian cannot object to the Calvinistic doctrine on the ground that it represents a definite number of individuals as elected to everlasting life; for the Arminian doctrine enforces precisely the same view. According to the latter doctrine, God foreknows who will believe and persevere in faith and holy obedience unto the end, that is, unto the attainment of final salvation. Those who will so persevere to the end are, of course, a definite number. Now it is they who are, by Arminians, said to be elected. The conclusion is unavoidable that a definite number of individuals are elected. The main difference between the two doctrines, that in regard to which the stress of the controversy between them takes place, is concerning the question of the conditionality or the unconditionality of election. Does God eternally elect individuals to believe, and to persevere in holiness unto the attainment of everlasting life? The Calvinist answers, Yes. The Arminian answers, No: he purposes to elect to everlasting life those who of their own free choice believe and persevere in holiness to the end. What the purpose to elect signifies, how it accomplishes any more than the individual's own perseverance to the end achieves, it is impossible to see; but such is the Arminian position. Conditional or unconditional? - These are the test-questions, the shibboleths of the contestants. The extract from Watson previously given evinces this to be the chief issue.
4. The End or Final Cause of Election proximately, the everlasting life of sinners; ultimately, the glory of God's grace. This answers the question, Unto what does God elect?
(1.) The proximate end of election is the everlasting life of sinners.
Matt. xxv. 34: "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
John vi. 37, 44: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh I will in no wise cast out. . . . No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
Acts xiii. 48: "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
Rom. viii. 28-3o, 33, 34, 38, 39: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For, whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. 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. . . . Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, and who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. . . . For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Eph. i. 9-11: "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
1 Thess. v. 9: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."
2 Thess. ii. 13, 14: "But we are bound to give thanks always to God 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: whereunto he called you by our Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(2.) The ultimate end of election is the glory of God's grace.
Rom. ix. 23: "And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory."
Eph. i. 5, 6, 11, 12: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. . . . In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ."
These scriptural statements in regard to the end or final cause of election are so explicit that comment is scarcely necessary, especially as there is here no issue worth noticing between the Calvinist and the Evangelical Arminian.
It is true that, as the extracts given from their writings show, Fletcher and Raymond held peculiar views upon this point, but they contravene the catholic doctrine of Arminianism. Fletcher's view, which distinguishes between an absolute election of individuals to an initial and contingent salvation, on the one hand, and a conditional election of all men and an unconditional of some to a final salvation, on the other, is liable to the following objections: first, that the distinction has no foundation in Scripture, as the passages which have been cited prove; secondly, that it is out of harmony with the general doctrine of his school of theology, as expounded by such writers as Wesley and Watson; and thirdly, that he asserted both a conditional and an unconditional election to final salvation.
The view which is common between Fletcher and Raymond - that election is of individuals unto faith and holy obedience, is confronted by the fatal difficulty that it concedes the Calvinistic position which has always been resisted by Arminian theologians, namely, that God's decree includes the election of individuals unto faith and holy obedience as means to the attainment of everlasting life as the end. The general doctrine of Arminian writers is, that these are conditions upon which election takes place, and that individuals may or may not perform the conditions. If they do, they are elected unto everlasting life; if they do not, they are not so elected. But the Calvinist makes the performance of these conditions part of the electing decree. So far, therefore, as Fletcher and Raymond represent individuals as elected unto faith and holiness, they give up the question to their opponents. Consequently, I cannot in fairness attribute to Evangelical Arminianism views which, although asserted by Arminians, are incapable of logical adjustment to it as a system. It is evident that Dr. Raymond has, in his Systematic Theology, taken a new departure which seems to be his own. How far he is a representative of current opinions is an interesting question, but one which I have not the means of deciding. While I endeavor to show, that logically the Arminian scheme maintains an election of conditions upon which individuals may attain to everlasting life, rather than the election of individuals to everlasting life, that is quite a different thing from endeavoring to show - what is not logically true of it - that it holds an election of individuals to the use of the elected conditions.
5. The Origin of election - from eternity. This answers the question, When did God elect?
Jer. xxxi. 3: "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee."
Matt. xxv. 34: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
John vi. 37, x. 29, xvii. 2, 9: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." "My Father which gave them me." "That he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou bast given me; for they are thine."
Eph. i. 4, 5, 11: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world. . . . . Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. . . . Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will."
Eph. ii. 4, 5: "For his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us."
2 Tim. i. 9: "His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
Isa. ix. 6, with Isa. viii. 18 and Heb. ii. 13, 14: "His name shall be called . . . . The Everlasting Father." "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me." "Behold, I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same."
These testimonies prove that election does not take place in time, but is from eternity.
By the extracts which have been already furnished from their writings it will be perceived, that Wesley, Watson, Ralston and Raymond contend that election takes place in time. It is not an eternal predestination. When men believe, they sometimes say, at others, when they are justified and sanctified, at others still, when they have persevered to the end, they are then elected; not before. But-
(1.) Their general doctrine is explicitly delivered, that election is conditioned upon the divine foresight of perseverance in faith and holy obedience to the end. A believer may, near the termination of his earthly course, totally and finally fall from grace and perish forever. In consistency with this doctrine, then, they must hold that election cannot take place in time; that it can only take place when time with all its contingencies has ceased with the believer and he has attained the end of his faith. It can only occur at or after the expiration of his last mortal breath, for up to that critical moment he may lose his religion and miss of heaven. There is here, therefore, a manifest contradiction. One position is, that election takes place in time; the other is, that it takes place after time has ceased: it occurs when the man believes, is justified and sanctified; it occurs when he has finished his course and has entered heaven! It would seem after all that they hold to election in eternity, but it is eternity a parte post, not eternity a parte ante!
(2.) If election occur in time, it must, at the time at which it occurs, fix the destiny of the believer subsequently to that time, that is, for eternity. Otherwise it is a changeable election, and that the Evangelical Arminian does not allow. If one is elected when he believes, etc., the election is then to eternal life or it means nothing. But if the believer may, as he does hold, fall from faith and holiness and finally perish, it follows that the election is unto eternal life and not unto eternal life at the same time. Here then is another instance of contradiction.
(3.) A distinction is drawn between a purpose to elect and actual election. The former is conceded to be eternal, the latter, it is contended, takes place in time. What is this, but the distinction between an eternal purpose and its temporal execution? God, for example, eternally purposed to create the world. Its actual creation occurred in time. The actual creation was the temporal execution of the eternal purpose to create. If, then, the distinction were admitted between an eternal purpose to elect and actual election, the latter would be but the temporal execution of the former. But, the execution in time of an eternal purpose must correspond with the purpose itself. As it was, so must be its temporal accomplishment. If the purpose was unconditional, so must be its execution; if conditional, the execution must correspond with it. One fails to see what is gained by this distinction, so urgently insisted upon by Evangelical Arminian theologians, even if their demand for an actual election were granted.
But the question inevitably arises, What is their actual election? Is it conversion? No, for conversion is one of its conditions; and a condition must be before that which is suspended upon it. Is it sanctification? No, for sanctification is also one of its conditions. Is it perseverance in holiness? No, for perseverance in holiness is equally one of its conditions. What, then, is it? If perseverance in faith and holiness to the end condition it, it follows that this actual election cannot precede the end. Actual election can only be the election of a man to be saved who is already saved, of one to get to heaven who has got there. If that consequence be refused, naught remains but to admit that the only election which is conceivable is God's eternal purpose of election. An election in time is rendered impossible by Arminian principles themselves.
(4.) Arminian writers make purpose and foreknowledge one and the same thing. God eternally purposes to elect in the sense of eternally foreknowing an actual election. But, in the first place, if, as has been shown, an actual election distinguished from a decree to elect be nothing, God's foreknowledge of an actual election would be his foreknowledge of nothing. In the second place, the very design of this identification of purpose and foreknowledge is to exclude divine determination from election, and reduce it to simple prescience. It must, therefore, follow that the everlasting salvation of a countless multitude of sinners is the result not of divine, but of human, determination. God, it is true, determines the existence of the means of salvation, but those who will be saved determine their employment. Heaven with its eternal felicity and glory is not decreed, it is only foreseen, by the Almighty Ruler of the universe. This cannot be admitted. The consequence refutes the doctrine.
6. The Love involved in election - a peculiar, free, inalienable, saving love of Complacency towards the elect. This answers the question, How does God regard the elect?
Ex. xxxiii. 19: "And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee: and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy."
Rom. ix. 13, 15, 16, 18: "As it is written, Jacob have I loved. . . . For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. . . Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy."
Mal. i. 2, 3: "Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob and I hated Esau."
Deut. vii. 7, 8: "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you."
Deut. x. 15: "Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed."
Isa. xliii. 4 : "Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life."
Isa. lxiii. 9: "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old."
Isa. lxiii. 16: "Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting."
Ps. lxxxix. 19, 20, 28, 30-35: "Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him. . . . My mercy will I keep for him forevermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. . . . If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David."
Ps. xciv. 18: "When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up."
Isa. liv. 8, 10: "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. . . . For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. "
Isa. xlix. 15: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."
Mic. vii. 20: "Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou bast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old."
Jer. xxxi. 3: "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee."
Zeph. iii. 17: "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."
John xvii. 23, 26: "I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou bast sent me, and hast loved them as thou bast loved me . . . . And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them."
Rom. v. 5, 8, 9: "Hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. . . . God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."
Rom. viii. 32, 33: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"
Rom. viii. 38, 39: "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Rom. ix. 13: "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."
Eph, ii. 4, 5: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. . . . That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
Tit. iii. 4-7: "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Heb. xiii. 5: "For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
1 Jno. iii. 1: "Behold, what manner of love the Father bath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God."
1 Jno. iv. 9, 10, 19: "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. . . . We love him because he first loved us."
2 Thess. ii. 16, 17: "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work."
To some of these proof-texts it is objected, that they have exclusive reference to Israel as a community elected to national privileges. Waiving now the considerations which will hereafter be adduced in answer to this objection, it is enough to say that the passages cannot possibly be limited to the outward nation of Israel apart from the true, spiritual Israel who are in Scripture emphatically characterized as the seed of Abraham and Jacob. Take the powerful passage quoted from the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah, as an example. The whole context in which it stands, and especially the great, evangelical promise which is connected with it, make it apparent that the electing love, which it proclaims, terminates not only on Israelitish and Jewish believers, but also on all God's true people, and is the fountain of spiritual and saving blessings: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband to them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
The testimonies alleged from Scripture clearly reveal the nature of God's electing love. It is expressly declared to be eternal. It is peculiar: it is directed to the people of God. It is free, that is, sovereign and unconditioned upon any good quality or act in its objects. They are contemplated as in themselves condemned and polluted sinners. It is intense and inalienable: more so than that of a mother for the babe that sprung from her body and suckles her bosom. It is saving: it is the source of every benefit of redemption and the cause of preservation to everlasting life.
The fact that the passage in Titus declares that the kindness and love of God appeared in time can create no difficulty. That which was manifested in time must have eternally existed, for it is impossible to conceive that God began to love in time - that a divine attribute had a temporal origin.
Following the instructions of the Scriptures, we are constrained to admit that there are two distinct aspects of the divine love or goodness. One of these, in the form of benevolence, terminates on men indiscriminately, the just and the unjust, the evil and the good; and, when it is directed to them as ill-deserving and miserable, it assumes the special form of mercy. The other, the love of complacency, is a peculiar affection, supposing the existence in its sinful objects of a saving relation to Christ as Mediator, Federal Head and Redeemer. Now let it be supposed that the infinite benevolence of God, in the form of mercy contemplating the lost and wretched condition of man, into which he was conceived as having plunged himself by his sin and folly, suggested his salvation: "Deliver him from going down to the pit." That suggestion was checked by the demands of infinite justice, which could not be denied without a sacrifice of the divine glory: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." For, although the attributes of God are all infinite, and cohere in his essence in perfect harmony with each other, the exercise of one may be limited by another. The exercise of mercy towards the fallen angels was checked by wisdom and by justice. It pleased God, in the case of human sinners, by a sovereign act of his will, to open a way for the outgoing and exercise of his mercy in the salvation of a part of them, and to leave the way open for the exercise of his justice in the punishment of the remaining part. The Father, as the representative of the Godhead, "according to the good pleasure of his will," elected some of mankind to be redeemed. This, while it was a sovereign act of his will, involved the exercise of infinite love and mercy; and as the objects upon which the choice terminated were regarded simply as sinners, condemned and unholy, the love and mercy were free, mere love and mercy. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us," and, of course, the unmerited love which so illustriously expressed itself on earth was eternal. Those thus designated became the Father's elect ones, his sheep, whose redemption he had sovereignly determined to effect. Appointing, in infinite wisdom and love, the eternal Son as their Mediator and Redeemer, the Father entered into covenant with him as Federal Head and Representative, and gave his elect sheep to him, that as their good Shepherd, he might, when incarnate, lay down his life for their redemption. "Thine they were," says the Saviour, "and thou gavest them me." The Son, on his part, freely accepted the momentous trust, and engaged to lay down his life for them, to lose none of them, to give every one of them everlasting life and raise him up at the last day. "I am the good Shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . . . My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all." "I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." Thus conceived as in Christ the elect became the objects of a complacential love, measured only by the regard of the Father for his well-beloved Son. "Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou bast been honorable, and I have loved thee." "I," says the Lord Jesus, "have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them."
This love of complacency towards the elect is not to be confounded with God's love of benevolence towards all men. It includes the love of benevolence, but is inconceivably more. It differs from it in important respects. In the first place, it supposes a peculiar relation of the elect to God's only-begotten Son, and is, according to scriptural representations, analogous to the love the Father bears to him. In the second place, the gift of Christ which it specially makes to the elect, and in which it expresses its measure, is infinitely more costly and precious than that of sunshine, rain and other mere providential blessings which benevolence indiscriminately confers upon the general mass of men. In the third place, the elect, although in themselves unlovely, are conceived as in Christ intrinsically possessed of the graces of the Holy Spirit, which render them appropriate objects of complacential regard. It is this love, this peculiar, intense, unutterable love, which the Scriptures declare to be manifested towards the elect in the actual execution of God's eternal purpose of salvation.
It is manifested in the gift of his Son for their redemption: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Who these "all" are is to be collected from the next sentence: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "Beloved, let us love one another. . . . In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life."
It is manifested in their attraction to Christ. "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him." "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee."
It is manifested in their regeneration. "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus." "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
It is manifested in their justification and covenant union to God in Christ. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." "After that the kindness and love of God toward man appeared. . . . that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." "And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto tlree when thou wast in thy blood, Live." Here was free, mere, eternal, electing love. "Now when I passed by thee and looked upon thee, behold thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine." Here was the manifestation of electing love.
It is manifested in their adoption. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew him not."
It is manifested in their sanctification. "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the appearance of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
And it is manifested in their comfort and preservation to eternal glory. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy oil thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer . . . For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." "But we are bound to give thanks always to God 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. . . . Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and stablish you in every good word and work."
In connection with this aspect of the subject of election, the Arminian doctrine is open to the charge of being entirely unscriptural.
First, it destroys the difference which, it has been incontestably shown by the explicit testimony of Scripture, exists between God's love of benevolence for mankind in general and his love of complacency for his elect people in particular. This is proved by the fact that it represents God as having furnished the very highest expression of his love to all men indiscriminately: he gave his Son to die for all. The point here urged is, not that the Arminian is unscriptural in holding this doctrine, though that is true, but that in maintaining it he reduces the intense, inexpressible, unchangeable affection which God from eternity entertained for his own people to a general regard for all sinners of the human race - his love for his sheep to a love for goats. If God gave his dear Son to die equally for all, he loved all with an equal love. The consequence is irresistible, but it is in the face of the plainest declarations of the divine Word.
The Arminian will, of course, reply, that there is no plainer declaration of that Word than that God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. To this the rejoinder is inevitable, that if his construction of that passage be correct, the Word of God would contradict itself. For it would be a contradiction, if the gift of Christ were affirmed at one and the same time to be and not to be the expression of a peculiar love of complacency. We are shut up to a choice between these contradictories, one of which must be true, the other false. The weight of testimony is overwhelmingly in favor of the first alternative, and by that a regard for evidence compels us to abide.
The same remarks will apply to other and less forcible passages, which are ordinarily pleaded in support of the love of God, and a consequent atonement, for every individual of the human race. They are all capable of being debated; but to dispute about the assertions of Scripture touching the eternal, peculiar and inalienable love of God for his chosen people, is not to inquire into their meaning but to deny their authority. More at present will not be said upon this particular aspect of the subject. A fuller discussion of it is reserved to a consideration of the objections to the Calvinistic doctrine which are derived from the moral attributes of God.
Secondly, the unscriptural character of the Arminian's denial of electing love is made apparent by his denial of the fruits which spring from it. The Scriptures represent it as a cause which produces very definite results. We have seen, by a direct reference to their testimony, that the drawing of the sinner to Christ, his regeneration and justification, adoption, sanctification and preservation to everlasting felicity, are attributed to it. These inestimable benefits the Arminian ascribes to the general love of God for mankind, but his system compels him to deny that they flow with certainty from it. They are contingent results. Why? Because that love does not of itself ensure their production: the will of the sinner is their real, efficient cause, and as that acts contingently, the results may or may not be effected. The love of God gives him the opportunity, furnishes him what is called sufficient grace, provides for him a ground of acceptance in the atoning merit of Christ; but he must improve the opportunity, he must use the grace, he must accept the offered atonement. He may not do any of these things; and consequently in innumerable instance; no saving results follow from the love of God to men. The mere statement of the doctrine is sufficient to evince its contrariety to scriptural truth. The fact is, that as the Arminian denies electing love, he is obliged to deny that it produces any fruit: no cause, no effect. The denial of the latter proves the unscriptural character of the denial of the former. If anything be clearly revealed in the Word of God it is that saving results are produced with certainty by the love of God for sinners: it is a saving love. If, therefore, in the case of some men those results are not produced, it follows irresistibly that the saving love of God does not terminate on all, and that, as it takes effect on some only, it is electing love.
Should the Arminian contend that he is not correctly represented, and that he admits a special love of God for his saints, the answer must be rendered, that whatever his view may be of that love, he does not regard it as saving. It is conceded that he holds the gift of Christ for the world to have been the fruit of love and mercy. But for what end did God send his Son into the world? He answers: to die for all men. His doctrine, however, is that the Son did not die to save all men. If he did, he failed to attain that end, for the Arminian allows that many are lost. For what, then, did Christ die? He replies: to make the salvation of all men possible. How possible? In this way, he says: if men believe in Christ and continue in faith to the end, they will be saved. The atonement secures for them that possibility. But on the supposition that some believe, become saints, and are especially dear to God, they may cease to be saints and perish forever. Whatever, then, may be, according to the Arminian view, the love of God towards his saints, it is a love which does not secure their salvation: it is not a saving love. It is not equal to the love which a mother cherishes for her child. She would save him if she could. This reputed divine love may be called a special love, but it is not the love for his saints which the Scriptures assign to God. The idea of it was not born of inspiration: God never claimed such love as his own.
Thirdly, the determination to save those who, God foresees, will believe and persevere in faith and holiness to the end - the Arminian election - is not the fruit of mere, free love: it is partly the suggestion of justice. As their salvation is suspended upon their faith and perseverance, it is due to them, upon their fulfilment of the condition, that they should receive the end. Justice recognizes this foreknown fulfilment of the condition precedent, and adjudges to them the salvation which God himself made to depend upon it. Mercy makes the condition possible, it is true; but justice demands the rewarding of its performance. This conclusion could only be avoided by making faith and perseverance in holy obedience the products of efficacious grace. But that would be the doctrine of Hypothetical Redemption, not of Arminianism. The advocate of the former scheme concurs with the Arminian in holding the universality of the atonement, but he differs from him in asserting the predestinated efficacy of grace. That the Arminian denies. In the last analysis, then, as Dr. Miller Raymond coolly but honestly puts it, "man determines the question of his salvation;" and if so, it is but right and just that God should acknowledge the fact. God appoints the condition: believe and persevere; but he cannot make the sinner believe and persevere. "Our human system," says Dr. Whedon,32 "is a system of free agents upon whose will and determination it depends whether they attain eternal bliss or eternal woe. . . . In the sinner's act of acceptance of God's saving grace we promptly deny any 'make-willing' on the part of God which excludes man's power of not-willing or refusing. God demands a free acceptance. He does not make a farce of our probation by first requiring our free-willing, and then imposing upon us a 'make-willing.' The free-willing and the 'make-willing' are incompatible." The sinner, then, must himself, by his own improvement of assisting grace, believe and persevere. Well, he does it. What then? Why, he has performed the condition, won the reward, and justice, assisted by grace, places the crown upon his head! It is perfectly plain that the Arminian doctrine does not refer the determination to save sinners to the mere love of God: it ascribes it in part to God's sense of justice. Whatever the Arminian's reason may say about this doctrine, it is certainly the poles apart from scriptural truth.
7. The Ground or Reason of election - positively, the mere good pleasure of God's sovereign will; negatively, nothing in the elect themselves. This answers the question, Why did God elect?
(1.) The ground or reason of election is, positively, the mere good pleasure of God's sovereign will.
Deut. vii. 7, 8: "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt."
Deut. iv. 37: "And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt."
Dan. iv. 35: "He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" - a confession wrung from even a heathen monarch.
Matt. xi. 25, 26: "At that time Jesus answered and said, 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."
Ex. xxxiii. 19: "And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee: and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will shew mercy to whom I will shew mercy."
Mal. i. 2, 3: "Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob and I hated Esau."
Rom. ix. 11-16: "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
1 Cor. i. 21: "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
Eph. i. 5, 9-11: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. . . . Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
Phil. ii. 13: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
The Scripture testimonies which have thus been collected clearly and powerfully prove, that the God, who, even according to Nebuchadnezzar's confession, doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, whose hand none can stay and to whom none can say, What doest thou? has decreed the salvation of some of the human race, according to his mere, sole, sovereign pleasure. The statements of this fact are express and unequivocal. Nothing but adherence to a system could lead one who reverences God's word to deny their force. The objects of the divine decree are declared to be predestinated unto the adoption of children and to an inheritance in Christ, according to the good pleasure of God's will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself, according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. In one short passage the assertion is made again and again, with impressive reiteration, as if to preclude all shadow of doubt, that the ground of election is alone the sovereign pleasure of the divine will. There can be no question as to the objects of the decree: they are those who are adopted as the children of God in Christ, those who obtain an inheritance in Christ. Nor can there be any question as to the existence of the decree: it is termed a predestinating purpose. Nor can there be any question as to the seat of this predestinating decree: it is affirmed to be the will of God. Nor, finally, can there be any question as to its absoluteness: it is precisely described as purposed in himself, according to his good pleasure. There is no place for supposing any reference to an extrinsic ground, reason, or condition. The purpose, as to its origination and ground, is intrinsic to God, purely sovereign and absolutely unconditioned by anything ab extra. The objects upon whom it terminated were extraneous to God; but the purpose itself was as free as it was subjective to him. Every individual human being to whom it was directed might have been justly consigned with the revolted angels to hell.
The passage in Philippians discharges, in relation to this question, a twofold office. In the first place, it shows, positively, that the whole application of redemption springs from the good pleasure of God's will; and, in the second place, negatively, as with a devouring edge it cuts away the supposition that anything in the creature can condition the purpose of God to save. It declares that the willing and the doing - the whole of the obedience of the Christian mail - is determined by the will of God working according to his good pleasure. In few but pregnant words, a conclusive testimony is rendered to the efficacious grace of God as the expression and realization of the eternal purpose of his will.
Our blessed Lord and Saviour spoke very definitely in regard to this subject. After mentioning the sovereign distinction which God in his providence had made between the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum on the one hand, and Tyre, Sidon and Sodom on the other, in giving the gospel to the former and withholding it from the latter, he answers objections which might be rendered to this divine procedure and all others like it by saying, "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." He solemnly expresses his acquiescence in the divine sovereignty which refuses a saving knowledge of redemption to some and grants it to others. To say that the proud debar themselves from it is futile, for God could, if he so willed, in a moment overcome their pride, as he did in the case of Saul of Tarsus, a typical representative of the very class who were cavilling at the Saviour's doctrine and rejecting his offer of the gospel. Nor can the Arminian consistently urge this construction of the language of our Lord, since he admits that Tyre, Sidon and Sodom would have accepted the gospel had it been tendered to them, supported by miraculous proofs. Why, then, did God deny it to them? What answer can be given by the Arminian himself to this question, but that so it seemed good in God's sight? He admits, I say, that the cities specified would have repented if the gospel had been preached to them, for this is one of the passages which he adduces to support his doctrine of a scientia media - a conditional foreknowledge of God.33 He foreknew that if the gospel were furnished to those cities they would repent. Why then did God not furnish them the gospel? It is hard to see how one who denies the sovereignty of election, and affirms the indiscriminate love of God for all mankind, can answer that question.
It is objected that the proofs derived from the passages in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Malachi and the ninth chapter of Romans are irrelevant, because they refer not to the election of individuals to salvation, but of a nation to peculiar privileges. This question has long been discussed by commentators and theologians, but it has a fresh interest for every generation. Arguments in answer to the above-mentioned objection are here briefly presented.
First, the objection concedes the principle of a sovereign and unconditional election. Why, argues God with Israel, did I swear unto your fathers and bring them into covenant relation to me? Because, he answers, I loved them. Why did he love them? The reply is, that it was not because of any qualities he saw in them which distinguished them favorably from other peoples, but because such was his sovereign pleasure. If, therefore, it be admitted that God chose Israel from among the nations with whom they had been equally immersed in idolatry, and without any reference to pre-disposing conditions in them elevated them to a special relation to himself and the enjoyment of peculiar blessings, the principle of an unconditional election is clearly conceded. The objection to a specific application of the principle, namely, to individuals in regard to salvation, proceeds upon the acknowledgment of the principle itself. It is confessed that a nation was unconditionally elected to peculiar privileges.
Secondly, the election of a nation to peculiar privileges of a religious nature, involving a knowledge of redemption, was the election of individuals to those religious privileges, for they were the components of the nation. The election of a nation, considered abstractly and apart from the individuals forming it, would be unintelligible. The individuals constituting the nation were, by the election of the nation, brought into contact with these peculiar religious privileges. Those who were not connected with the nation elected were divinely excluded from contact with them. It follows that the principle of a sovereign, unconditional election was exhibited in relation to individuals. The individuals of one nation were discriminated from the individuals of another.
Thirdly, the individuals of the nation elected were brought into relation to the conditions of salvation - the only conditions upon which salvation could be attained. Their election to national privileges of a religious and redemptive character conditioned their attainment of eternal salvation. Here then was a sovereign, unconditional election of individuals to conditions without which their salvation would have been unattainable. The objector admits that this election rendered their salvation more probable, than it would otherwise have been; but he denies that it necessarily conditioned salvation, that without it salvation would have been impossible. This question will be argued at length when the objections to unconditional election from the moral attributes of God come to be examined. At present a few considerations drawn immediately from Scripture are submitted. They are conclusive upon the point.
In the first place, the great argument of Paul in Romans proves that no individual of the human race can be justified and saved except through faith in the vicarious merits of Christ. This cannot be successfully gainsaid.
In the second place, Paul, in the tenth chapter of the same epistle, declares that no individual of the race can exercise faith in Christ, except he has heard of him. Faith in Christ conditions salvation, and the knowledge of Christ conditions faith in him. "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?"
In the third place, God's Word explicitly asserts that no man under heaven can be saved except through the name of Christ, that is, of course, through the knowledge of that saving name. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
In the fourth place, Paul, in the second chapter of Ephesians, closes the case by furnishing the concrete proof. The Ephesian Christians had been heathen, that is, they at one time did not know the gospel of Christ. Now the apostle tells them that at that time they were in a hopeless condition: their salvation would have been impossible had that state of ignorance continued. The argument is plain and overwhelming. "At that time ye were without Christ." Why? "Ye were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise." Because they were not connected with the nation of Israel they did not know the gospel; and because they did not know the gospel they could not know Christ. Hence, they had "no hope and were without God in the world." Without connection with the visible church, they had no knowledge of the gospel; therefore they were without Christ, without God and without hope.
These arguments from Scripture are sufficient to prove, that the unconditional election of a nation to peculiar privileges, of a religious and redemptive character, is the unconditional election of the individuals composing it to conditions, upon which alone eternal salvation is attainable. Now it is manifest, that other nations were not excluded from access to the means of salvation because they were morally worse than the Israelites, and that the Israelites were not elected to the enjoyment of those means because they were morally better than other peoples. It was then by virtue of God's sovereign, unconditional election, that the nations rejected were left in an idolatrous and heathenish state in which they were not salvable, and that the Israelites were introduced into a state in which they possessed the means of salvation. If the operation of the principle of sovereignty in election went thus far, why should it not be admitted that it went farther - that it also manifested itself in producing actual salvation? Some of the Israelites themselves were not actually saved; some of them were. The presumption afforded by the analogy of the case would lie in favor of the unconditional election to salvation of such as were actually saved. All were, by reason of a sinful nature, equally indisposed to make a profitable use of the means of grace, to employ the conditions of salvation. None were more worthy than others of the grace which would enable and determine them to look through a sacrificial ritual and typical ordinances to the only true sacrifice for sin, and believe in him to salvation. The presumption, I say, is in favor of the conclusion that a divine election made the difference between the two classes - the unsaved and the saved. The principle of sovereign election would, in its application, have proceeded but a step farther. A long step! it will be said. Yes, but the Almighty God can take long steps. He treads upon the mountains and the stormy seas, and he can triumphantly march over all difficulties raised by sin and hell to the eternal salvation of the soul.
This powerful presumption is confirmed by all those testimonies of Scripture already quoted which unquestionably prove, that the proximate end of the election of individuals is everlasting life, and by all those yet to be cited which as unquestionably prove, that the conditions of final salvation are not the conditions of election - that faith and perseverance in holy obedience are themselves the fruits of election: that, indeed, they are parts of salvation begun on earth and completed in heaven.
Fourthly, let it be admitted that Jacob and Esau were the respective heads of different nations, and it cannot be denied that they were also individuals. The language of Scripture in regard to them cannot, without violence, be confined to them as national heads. It refers to them chiefly as persons in relation to the divine purpose. Meyer, whose commentaries are held in high repute for critical ability and exegetical fairness, and who certainly was not influenced by a partisan zeal for Calvinism, says: "Paul, however, has in view, as the entire context, vv. 10, 11, 13 evinces, in 'the elder and the younger' (the greater and the lesser) Esau and Jacob themselves, not their nations."34 He meets the difficulty urged against this interpretation from the declaration, that "the elder shall serve the younger," which, it is contended, was only fulfilled in the national subjection of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, to the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob, in this way: "The fulfillment of the 'serving' is to be found in the theocratic subjection into which Esau was reduced through the loss of his birthright and of the paternal blessing, whereby the theocratic lordship passed to Jacob. But inasmuch as in Genesis the two brothers are set forth as representatives of the nations, and their persons and their destiny are not consequently excluded, - as, indeed, the relation indicated in the divine utterance took its beginning with the brothers themselves, by virtue of the preference of Jacob through the paternal blessing, - the apostle's apprehension of the passage, as he adapts it to his connection, has its ground and its warrant, especially in view of similar hermeueutic freedom in the use of Old Testament expressions."35 We would not tie ourselves to the opinions of commentators on the Bible, remembering the frailty which made possible the biting sarcasm of Werenfels:
"This is the Book where each his dogmas
And this the Book where each his dogmas finds;"
but this impartial witness is true. His appeal to the immediate context is conclusive enough, and the appeal, along with it, to the whole drift of the argument in Romans, and the whole analogy of Scripture is absolutely decisive.
Let us for the nonce part these twins, and look at Jacob by himself. It is very certain that the Holy Ghost speaking through Paul declares him to have been, in some sense, elected. The Arminian objects to an unconditional election to eternal life. Now he must admit that Jacob's election, whatever may have been its end, was unconditional. The apostle expressly teaches that it was not because God regarded him as a doer of good that he elected him. He could not have so taught, if it were true that his election was conditioned upon the divine foresight of his good works. He might have employed as illustrative of his argument the instances of Isaac and Ishmael, the children of Abraham, the father of believers; but those of Jacob and Esau were evidently more to his purpose; for there was in themselves no possible ground of difference between these two brothers. They were not only the children of the same father, but, as was not the case with Isaac and Ishmael, the children of the same mother; and they were twins. What could have made the difference between their persons and their destinies but the mere unconditioned purpose of God? But it is needless further to press a point which can only be resisted by denying the truth of the inspired Word. The Arminian concedes it.
But he admits, as has been shown by a reference to representative theologians, the election of some individuals to eternal life. He must also, upon his principles, admit that Jacob was elected to eternal salvation. He was in life the exemplar of urgent and successful prayer, a prince that had power with God and prevailed, and in Hebrews he is said to have died by faith. Having believed in Christ, and done good works, and persevered in them to the end, he was, of course, elected to eternal life. Now why not put the two things together: the unconditional election of Jacob, which is conceded to be stated by Paul in Romans, and his election to eternal life, which is also granted? Why not admit the teaching of Scripture to be, that Jacob was unconditionally elected to eternal life? The only possible answer is, Because Paul in Romans speaks only of Jacob's election to temporal blessings. The point then to be proved is that Paul speaks of Jacob's election not only to temporal blessings, but also to salvation.
The first proof is, that the whole tenor and strain of the apostle's argument in Romans has chief reference to the justification and salvation of individual sinners. Consequently, to divert his discourse concerning election, which is a constituent element of that argument, into another direction, is to wrench it from its track.
The second proof is, that in the immediate context Paul treats of the promise made by God to Abraham's children, and he shows that Jacob was constituted an heir of that promise by divine election. To say that this illustrious promise guaranteed, exclusively or even chiefly, temporal blessings, is to eviscerate the Scriptures of their meaning. Paul's argument concerning the promise in Galatians as well as in Romans would be contradicted. The promise conveyed spiritual and saving blessings. To take any other view is to strip the Old Testament of its evangelical element and reduce the New Testament exposition of it to absurdity. Jacob, therefore, was elected to share in the promise of salvation; that is, as a promised salvation is not an earned salvation he was elected to salvation.
The third proof is, that the apostle expressly distinguishes between the natural and the spiritual seed of Abraham. It is only the latter, argues he, who are the children of God. In immediate connection with this he introduces the cases of Jacob and Esau as illustrative of that distinction. Both were the carnal descendants of Abraham, but only Jacob, of the two, was one of his spiritual children, and therefore one of the children of God. How was he constituted such? Not by natural descent, but by God's election of him irrespectively of his works. Jacob's election was therefore to adoption into God's family, and, as God never loses any of his adopted children, to eternal life.
The fourth proof is, that God's saints are explicitly said in Scripture to be elected unto faith, holy obedience and perseverance in the same to the end. Jacob was an eminent saint of God. In calling himself the God of Jacob, Deity himself pays a tribute to the exemplary sanctity of his servant. Jacob therefore was elected to faith, holiness and perseverance in them to the end - that is, he was elected to salvation. If this be not the election which Paul treats of in the ninth of Romans, the principal election of Jacob is left out of account, and the less is signalized.
These proofs establish the fact that the election of Jacob was not merely to temporal blessings, and that consequently it was an unconditional election, grounded in the sovereign will of God, to eternal salvation. What is the difficulty that opposes the admission of these proofs? It is two-fold:
In the first place, the freedom and sovereignty of the human will would be impugned. God, it is argued, having endowed the will with these prerogatives cannot, consistently with himself, determine it by his agency. To admit unconditional election is to admit this divine determination of the will. It will hereafter, in the progress of the discussion, be shown that unless unconditional election along with this admitted inference be received, one must hold the only other alternative, namely, that the human will, and the human will of the natural man, determines the question of salvation; which is unscriptural, impossible and absurd. If Jacob was not determined to salvation by God's grace, he determined himself to it; and if anything is certain, it is, that Paul never taught such a view.
In the second place, it is contended that if the sovereign, unconditional election of Jacob to salvation be admitted, one must also concede the sovereign, unconditional reprobation of Esau; but that, it is contended, cannot possibly be allowed. Here a distinction, which has been already stated, must be observed - between Jacob and Esau as both possessed of original sin, and lying together under condemnation as members of a fallen and corrupt race, on the one hand, and Jacob and Esau as the conscious doers of actual good or evil, on the other. Regarded as in the former condition, they were equally damnable. God might justly have left both to the doom which was assigned to Esau. But without regard to the conscious, special good works of Jacob, as conditions, he was sovereignly pleased to confer on him peculiar religious privileges and his saving grace; and without regard to the conscious, special bad works of Esau, as conditions, he was sovereignly pleased to deny him peculiar religious privileges and his saving grace. It is certain that the peculiar religious privileges were denied to Esau, but the denial to him of saving grace is the stumbling-block.
Now let it be noticed that God did not infuse a wicked disposition into Esau, as he infused a gracious disposition into Jacob. Finding Esau wicked, he sovereignly left him in that condition, and judicially condemned him to suffer its punishment. Finding Jacob, like his brother, wicked, he sovereignly lifted him out of that condition by his unmerited grace, and in Christ his representative and substitute delivered him from condemnation and destined him to glory.
Let it be noticed further, that God's exclusion of Esau from connection with the Theocracy, containing the visible Church of Christ with its ordinances, which is admitted, was equivalent to God's exclusion of him from his favor which is life and his dooming him to reprobacy. If it be said, that Esau's exclusion from the fellowship of God's people was in consequence of his sins, the apostle answers that it was not in consequence of his sins. Before he had done any evil he was hated of God. It will still be said: that is true; but while the purpose of exclusion was before Esau's actual sins, it was not before God's foreknowledge of them, and that foreknowledge conditioned the purpose: this must have been Paul's meaning. But, it must be replied, this could not have been Paul's meaning. He could not have intended to distinguish between Esau's actual evildoing and God's foreknowledge of it. He could not have meant to imply, that in some cases God forms a purpose to punish an evil-doer after he has done the evil, but that in this case of Esau he purposed, before he actually did evil, to punish him, because he foresaw that he would do the evil. Such a conception never was suggested by inspiration as that God ever postpones the formation of a purpose to punish sin until the sin has been committed. All his purposes are eternal. The only supposition possible is, that Paul meant to say that it was not because God foreknew that Esau would do evil that he purposed to reject him. This being the only possible supposition, the conclusion is that Paul meant to affirm that God's purpose as to Esau's rejection was grounded alone in his own sovereign pleasure.
God's decree to reject Esau was not, then, without his foreknowledge of Esau's guilty state as a sinner, but was not conditioned upon his foreknowledge of Esau's conscious, actual sins. So God's decree to save Jacob was not without his foreknowledge of Jacob's guilty state as a sinner, but was not conditioned upon his foreknowledge of Jacob's conscious, actual good works. If this statetnent of the case is not in accord with Paul's, nothing would remain but to adopt the rigid Supralapsarian view. The Arminian position cannot be harmonized with that of the inspired apostle.
It has thus been shown that the account of Jacob and Esau in the ninth chapter of Romans so far from invalidating, actually confirms, the proofs of the sovereignty and unconditionality of God's electing purpose. The subject of reprobation will meet further consideration in the sequel. Let us resume the thread of the main argument which goes to show that the passages cited, to prove that the ground or reason of election is the mere good pleasure of God's will, from Exodus, Deuteronomy, Malachi and Romans, do not refer only to a national election to peculiar privileges, but chiefly to an individual election to eternal life.
Fifthly, Paul in Romans and Galatians explicitly distinguishes between those whom, on the one hand, he designates as Israel according to the flesh, outward Jews, the natural descendants of Abraham, and those whom, on the other, he characterizes as Israel according to the Spirit, inward Jews, the true, spiritual children of Abraham and heirs of the promise. Both these classes had been elected to the enjoyment of peculiar privileges, but it is remarkable that he terms the latter "a remnant according to the election of grace." Here then is a palpable distinction between a national election to privileges and an individual election to salvation. Without it the apostle's language is unintelligible.
Sixthly, the consideration which is perhaps the most conclusive is, that these passages cannot be wrested from their place in the analogy of Scripture. They must be construed in harmony with such clear and powerful testimonies as that which has been adduced from the Epistle to the Ephesians. To pursue any other course is to mutilate the integrity of God's Word. What is gained by it on the part of those who admit an election of individuals to everlasting life, it is difficult to imagine.
Lastly, the objections which have nearly always been offered to Paul's doctrine in Romans have not been urged against an election to national privileges, but to an unconditional election of individuals to salvation. Those who present them have hit the point: that is to say, they understand Paul to teach this objectionable doctrine, and they cannot agree with him. It is not probable that the opponents alike of the Pauline and the Calvinistic doctrine have been mistaken as to the identity of the two. It is more consistent, if not more pious, to hold that both are erroneous as teaching the same thing, than with the Arminians to make Paul an antagonist of the Calvinistic doctrine, which, as some candid infidel remarked, is as much like his own as if he had spit it out of his mouth.
(2.) Negatively, election is not conditioned by the divine foresight of any good qualities, dispositions or acts of those who are elected: it is all unconditional election.
First, All the passages which were adduced to prove that the ground or reason of election was the mere good pleasure of God's sovereign will may here be used to show that election is unconditioned by any foreseen good qualities, dispositions or acts of man.
Secondly, Faith is not a condition but a result of election.
John vi. 37: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" - that is, shall believe in me.
John vi. 65: "And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man call come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father."
Acts xiii. 48: "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
Eph. ii. 8: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."
Phil. i. 29: "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake."
Acts xiv. 27: "And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles."
Acts xvi. 14: "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul."
Acts v. 31: "A Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel." Repentance is here generic, including faith.
Lk. xvii. 5: "And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith."
Heb. xii. 2: "Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith."
Col. ii. 12: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God" - that is, the faith which God's operation produces.
1 Cor. xii. 9: "To another, faith by the same Spirit."
John iii. 3: "Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God."
Eph. ii. 4-6: "But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together."
1 Tim. i. 9: "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 Jesus before the world began."
Jas. i. 18: "Of his own will begat he us."
1 Cor. i. 26-31: "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that according as it is written, He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord."
These testimonies conclusively prove that faith is not a condition but a fruit of election. It does not condition it, for it is produced by it. The Lord Jesus explicitly declares that faith is the gift of God, and that if God did not give it, no man could believe. Further he declares that the elect shall believe in him. It is they who were given him by the Father. If all men were given him by the Father, then, according to his testimony, all men would believe in him. But all men do not believe. The conclusion is, that those believe in him who were elected to believe.
In the celebrated passage in the second chapter of Ephesians, the words "and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" have by some been understood to refer to salvation - and that salvation is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; by others, specifically to faith - and that faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. The following reasons furnished by Charles Hodge in support of the latter view appear to my mind convincing: " 1. It best suits the design of the passage. The object of the apostle is to show the gratuitous nature of salvation. This is most effectually done by saying, 'Ye are not only saved by faith in opposition to works, but your very faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.' 2. The other interpretation makes the passage tautological. To say: 'Ye are saved by faith; not of yourselves; your salvation is the gift of God; it is not of works,' is saying the same thing over and over without any progress. Whereas to say: 'Ye are saved through faith (and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God), not of works,' is not repilitious; the parenthetical clause instead of being redundant does good service and greatly increases the force of the passage. 3. According to this interpretation, the antithesis between faith and works, so common in Paul's writings, is preserved. 'Ye are saved by faith, not by works, lest any man should boast.' The middle clause of the verse is therefore parenthetical, and refers not to the main idea ye are saved, but to the subordinate one through faith, and is designed to show how entirely salvation is of grace, since even faith, by which we apprehend the offered mercy, is the gift of God. 4. The analogy of Scripture is in favor of this view of the passage, in so far that elsewhere faith is represented as the gift of God."36
To say that salvation is of grace, that is, that it is the free gift of God, and then directly afterwards to say, that salvation is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, certainly appears redundant. The difficulty disappears if we take the apostle's meaning to be that faith is the gift of God. But whatever view may be taken of that passage, other testimonies so expressly affirm faith to be the gift of God that Arminian writers admit the fact. John Wesley, who in his note on the above mentioned text says, "This refers to the whole preceding clause: that ye are saved through faith is the gift of God," speaks very explicitly in his sermon on the same text, entitled Salvation by Faith: "For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. Of yourselves cometh neither your faith nor your salvation. It as the gift of God; the free, undeserved gift, the faith through which ye are saved, as well as the salvation, which he of his own good pleasure, his mere favor, annexes thereto." Charles Wesley, in his exquisite hymn beginning, "Father, I stretch my hands to thee" makes the sinner thus plead:
"Author of faith, to thee I lift
My weary, longing eyes;
Oh, let me now receive that gift,
My soul without it dies."
Other writers make the same scriptural and devout acknowledgment. Here then the Arminian and the Calvinist certainly speak the same dialect. One would suppose that logic would constrain both to reason thus: If faith is the gift of God, he must bestow it because he purposed to bestow it. As it is a fact that he does not grant it to all, but only to some, his purpose was an electing purpose. This logic is irresistible, and Fletcher seemed to admit its force in holding an unconditional election to an "initial salvation." The same logic, however, enforces the holding of an unconditional election to final salvation. For, if one should lose his initial salvation, and should be restored and finally saved, his final salvation would be conditional upon that faith which is confessedly the gift of God. He could not be saved initially or finally without faith, and faith is God's free gift.
In admitting that faith is the gift of God, and that faith conditions salvation, the Arminian admits efficacious grace, and is logically bound to concede unconditional electing grace. But this he denies. He is therefore compelled to reconcile his doctrine that faith is the gift of God with one of his leading positions, namely, that the sinner's unconstrained will determines the question of his believing or not believing in Christ for salvation. Let us see how Dr. Whedon, in his comments upon Eph. ii. 8, attempts to effect the difficult reconciliation. "Faith," he says, "is indeed empowered in us by the grace underlying our probation; but that faith freely exercised by us, and seen by God, is the underlying condition of our election in time; and foreseen by God, is the underlying condition in our eternal election before the foundation of the world."37
This then is the explanation. Faith is distinguished as power and exercise of power. God gives the power to believe, but the sinner himself must actually believe. Faith is a potentiality which may or may not be exerted. There is, of course, some ground in common here betwixt the Arminian and the Calvinist. The latter no more holds than the former that God believes in Christ in order to be saved. It is the sinner himself who so believes. But he contends that in bestowing the principle of faith upon the sinner, God also determines him to believe. The principle never slumbers as a mere potentiality a simple capacity to believe. Here the difference between the parties emerges into view. The Calvinist contends that God gives the sinner to believe; the Arminian, that God only gives him the power to believe, and that the sinner is free to use or not to use that power. In the last analysis, it is his own will that must determine the question whether or not he will employ the power and actually believe, and so it is his own will, as Dr. Raymond, Dr. Whedon and Dr. James Strong frankly assert, which determines the question of personal salvation. In the case of every actual believer in Christ there must come a critical, a supreme moment when the power to believe is consciously exercised. The Arminian holds that at that moment it is not God who by his efficacious grace determines the sinner to exercise faith, but the sinner who by the free, elective power of his own will, undetermined by a supernatural influence, determines himself to believe. This is clear, for by the same free election of his will he may determine not to believe. This, together with the doctrine of Universal Atonement, is the key-position of the Arminian system - the Carthage which must be destroyed, or the system stands. In this discussion, therefore, the attack will be made persistently, repeatedly and from every quarter, upon that stronghold. Hence no apology is made for a return again and again to the consideration of this question. Just at this point the argument is urged from the nature of faith as a product of divine, supernatural influence. The disjunction between faith as a potentiality and as an actual energy is inadmissible.
In the first place, it cannot be adjusted to the plain teachings of the Scriptures which have been adduced. The Lord Jesus says that all whom the Father gave him shall come to him - that is, shall believe in him. It is not optional with those thus given by the Father to the Son to be redeemed whether they will or will not exercise the power to believe: the plan of salvation, the gift of the Father, the engagements of the Son, require the actual exercise of faith. How otherwise could the Son declare that not one of those given to him should be lost? There is not a feeble ewe or a tender lamb that will be missing, when upon the list of the Lamb's book of life he renders an account of the flock which was committed to him to be saved from sin and Satan, death and hell. Luke says that as many of the Gentiles at Antioch as were ordained to eternal life believed. In regard to this passage the doctors differ: each has his own remedy and the consultation comes to naught. Bengel and Wesley take the word "ordained" to refer to a present operation of grace through the preached gospel. The former says the ordination must be explained of "the present operation of grace through the gospel."38 The latter says: "St. Luke does not say fore-ordained. He is not speaking of what was done from eternity, but of what was then done, through the preaching of the gospel. He is describing that ordination, and that only, which was at the very time of hearing it. During this sermon those believed, says the apostle, to whom God then gave the power to believe. It is as if he had said, 'They believed, whose hearts the Lord opened;' as he expresses it in a clearly parallel place, speaking of the same kind of ordination."39 There are but two remarks which it is necessary to make concerning this interpretation: first, that as the inspired historian distinctly says the Gentiles mentioned did actually believe, the concession that this was effected by the operation of grace explodes this distinction between the power and the exercise of faith; secondly, that if it be admitted that God operated to determine these Gentiles to exercise faith - and that is admitted - he must have eternally purposed so to operate; and unconditional election follows. No wonder that the metaphysical mind of Dr. Whedon refuses to accept this extraordinary testimony of Bengel and Wesley to the Calvinistic doctrine.
The learned divine just mentioned gives an interpretation which is perfectly consistent with the distinction between the power to believe and actual believing. It is that these Gentiles, Luke meant to say, were pre-disposed to eternal life and so determined themselves to believe. The exposition is so remarkable that it will be given entire: "Ordained to eternal life - should be rendered, disposed to eternal life. It plainly refers to the eager predisposition just above mentioned in the heart of many of these Gentiles on learning that old prophecy proclaims a Messiah for them As many as were so inclined to the eternal life now offered committed themselves by faith to the blessed Jesus. Rarely has a text been so violently wrenched from its connections with the context, and strained beyond its meaning for a purpose, than has been this clause in support of the doctrine of predestination. There is not the least plausibility in the notion that Luke in this simple history is referring to any eternal purpose predestinating these men to eternal life. The word here rendered ordained usually signifies placed, positioned, disposed. It may refer to the material or to the mental position. It is a verb in the passive form, a form which possesses a reciprocal active meaning; that is, it frequently signifies an action performed by one's self upon one's self. Thus, in Rorn. ix. 22, 'The vessels of wrath fitted to destruction' are carefully affirmed, even by predestinariaus, to be fitted by themselves. Indeed, the very Greek word here rendered ordained is frequently used, compounded with a preposition, in the New Testament itself, in the passive form with a reciprocal meaning. Thus, Rom. xiii. 1, 'Be subject unto the higher powers' is literally, place yourselves under the higher powers. So, also, Rom. viii. 7; 1 Cor. xvi. 16; Jas. iv. 7, and many other texts. The meaning we give is required by the antithesis between the Jews in verse 46 and these Gentiles. The former were indisposed to eternal life, and so believed not; these were predisposed to eternal life, and so believed. The permanent faith of the soul was consequent upon the predisposition of the heart and the predetermination of the will."40 In regard to this exposition I remark:
First, the learned commentator does not say anything in respect to the source of this predisposition. If he meant that it was natural, the position is Pelagian. If, that it was the product of supernatural grace, that is, the gift of the power to believe, he would speak inconsistently with himself, for he says that "the permanent faith of the soul was consequent upon the predisposition." A permanent faith must, as a state, antecede acts of faith and would be the power to believe - predisposing to the exercise of faith.
Secondly, the predisposition of these heathen to receive the gospel and their facile determination to believe in Christ would have been an astonishing exception to the facts of universal observation. There certainly is no parallel to their case in the history of modern missions. These heathen of Antioch were extremely peculiar. The presumption derived from missionary experience is powerfully against Dr. Whedon's hypothesis of the marvellous readiness of these Gentiles to embrace the Gospel. To say that God's grace made the exception would be to occupy Calvinistic ground. To suppose a miraculous influence would amount to the same thing, since the miracle would have been one of grace.
Thirdly, the assertion of the possession by these pagans of a self-determining power of the will in a state of sin and in relation to spiritual things involving the salvation of the soul, if Dr. Whedon's construction of his theological system be correct, leaves no room to doubt that in this respect that system embraces as one of its distinctive characteristics an element common to Pelagiaus and Semi-Pelagians. "They all agree," says John Owen, "that it is absolutely in the power of the will of man to make use of it [grace] or not, that is, of the whole effect on them, or product in them, of this grace communicated in the way described; for notwithstanding anything wrought in us or upon us thereby, the will is still left various, flexible and undetermined."41 This fact ought to challenge the attention of God's true people in the Arminian communions. There is evidently a growing tendency to attach more importance than Wesley did to the doctrine that the will of the sinner determines the question of practical salvation. The doctrine is palpably opposed alike to the plain teaching of the Word of God, and the experience of those who know their own natural impotence and the power of converting grace. It would seem that such evangelical writers as Bengel and Wesley preferred to shun the whirlpool of Dr. Whedon's view, even if they ran the danger of striking upon the rock of the Calvinistic.
Another interpretation of this passage in Acts is that of Meyer.42 He says that these Gentiles at Antioch were not ordained - ordinati, but destined - destinati, to eternal life; and that the destination was conditioned upon the divine foresight that they would become believers - credituros. This interpretation is open to two objections. First, the distinction between an eternal ordination and an eternal destination might have been visible to the "optics sharp" of the astute German, but not to the eye of common sense. It is a trivial distinction. Secondly, if the Gentiles at Antioch were destined by God, in consequence of his foresight of their faith, to eternal life, every one of them was, of course, saved. The consequence refutes the interpretation to the Arminian, who would otherwise have been naturally led by the analogy of his system to adopt it. He would accept the destination to eternal life of all who are foreknown to persevere in faith to the end, but not of those who are only foreknown to accept by faith an initial salvation, and that is all the record warrants us in holding concerning the conscious acts of these Gentile believers at Antioch. Meyer is one-half Arminian, one quarter Calvinist, and the remaining quarter sui generis: Arminian, in that he holds the foresight of faith to condition the divine purpose to save; Calvinist, in that the divine purpose ensures the final salvation of those who believe in the first instance; and Meyerite, in that he holds that the divine purpose destines believers, but does not ordain them, to eternal life. But what matter? He is not a slave to a dogmatic system; he is a free exegete! He is at liberty to make one passage of Scripture contradict another! Must Scripture be shackled by dogmatic theology? Meanwhile ordinary believers will think the Bible, like its God, consistent with itself. It is Arminian throughout or Calvinistic throughout. The old question still remains, which?
These conflicting witnesses damage each other's testimony. The plain meaning of the inspired historian is, that God purposed that these Gentiles should actually believe in Christ and that through their faith they should be eternally saved.
Paul, in Philippians, declares that it is given to us to believe on Christ. The evasion is nothing worth, that he speaks of those who are already believers. For if the continued exercise of faith be a divine gift, so must its first exercise have been. He says, in Colossians, that we are risen with Christ through the faith which God operates in us. If we be actually risen with Christ, we must have actually believed in him. The resurrection and the means are both divinely wrought in us. The apostles prayed to Jesus to increase their faith - both the principle and its fruit. He alone who could increase both could give both. Some believe, says Paul, in 1 Corinthians, not because of any difference in predisposing gifts, not because they are noble and wise and mighty or because they were anything at all, but because God effectually calls them by his Spirit to believe. But why particularize? The doctrine explicitly delivered, concerning the regeneration by supernatural, new-creating, life-giving grace of the spiritually dead, makes it plain enough for the blind to see and the deaf to hear and the dumb to confess, that faith in Christ both in principle and in exercise is the free gift of God, according to the eternal purpose of his merciful will.
In the second place, the position that faith is the gift of God merely as a power and not as an exercise of power is out of harmony with the views of Wesley himself. He held that God in giving salvation - as a present fact - gives faith. It is an indispensable condition of the salvation gratuitously bestowed. But if we are actually saved by grace, it follows that by grace we actually believe.
In the third place, evangelical faith which, as a power, is confessed to be a divine gift implies the possession of spiritual life - that is, a holy life supernaturally imparted. With one who denies this there can be on the question before us no debate: he flatly denies the Scriptures. But every principle of life, whether natural or spiritual, enters into and vitalizes every part and faculty of the being in which it inheres. It must by virtue of a spontaneous necessity express itself in the will as well as in every other faculty. To say that one may have, and continue to enjoy, natural life and that he might by the election of his will refuse to perform the spontaneous functions appropriate to it - to breathe, to eat, for example, would be to speak unintelligibly. Certain special acts he may resolve or decline to do, but the main functions he cannot decline to perform. He must in some way express the power resident in the principle of life. That it is competent to the will to resolve not to express it at all is simply out of the question. In like manner he who possesses spiritual life must give expression to it in some functions appropriate to it. It is not within the ability of the will absolutely to suppress its manifestation. The supposition is impossible, that the will, as an element of the renewed and holy nature, could choose not to express the spontaneous tendencies of the spiritual life. That life flows into the will and impresses upon it the very law of its spontaneity. The will thus spiritually vitalized may elect between holy acts, but that it should elect not to perform any holy act whatsoever - that is inconceivable. A spiritually living will must express by its decisions, in some form, a spiritually living nature, a nature consisting of the will itself as well as the intellect and the feelings, - must, I say, not by the compulsion of an external force, but by the holy spontaneity resident in itself. The adult, who is born again of the Holy Ghost, as certainly turns, in obedience to the instincts of his new nature, to Jesus Christ for salvation, and actually and consciously believes in him, as the new-born infant turns, in conformity with its natural instincts, to the fountain of nourishment in its mother's breast. No more could he by an act of will refuse to do this and continue to live spiritually, than could a man decline to eat and maintain his corporeal life. In fine, if the supernatural gift of the power to believe in Christ has been conferred on one, and he consequently possesses a spiritually living principle, he will by a "happy necessity" of spontaneous action choose actually to believe in Christ. He cannot, as a renewed man, choose not to believe. His will has an elective affinity for Christ which must express itself by the act of faith in him. The element of sin still remaining in him may protest and resist, but cannot prevent the action of the renewed will.
It is true that there is a habit or state of faith in the Christian man which is distinguishable from the special acts or exercises of faith, but that state involves acquiescence in the plan of salvation and trust in Christ; and it can never be forgotten that such a man could not, by a deliberate decision of his will, refuse to believe in his Saviour.
The question of the self-determining action of the will in regard to the actual exercise of faith in Christ will meet us again in the course of the discussion. At present it is sufficient to have established the position that faith is a result of election, and therefore cannot be a condition of it.
Thirdly, A holy disposition and good works are not conditions, but results, of election.
Isa. xxvi. 23: "Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou hast wrought all our works in us."
Acts v. 31: "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel."
Rom. viii. 29: "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son."
Rom. ix. 11: "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth."
Eph. i. 3, 4: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 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. ii. 10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
Phil. ii, 12, 13: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
2 Thess. ii. 13: "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."
2 Tim. i. 9: "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 Jesus before the world began."
1 Pet. i. 2: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."
The consideration of those passages in this collection in which foreknowledge is connected with election is reserved until the direct proof-texts cited in favor of conditional election shall be examined. The other passages are so definite in asserting that holy obedience is the fruit and not the condition of election that they must be twisted to make them teach anything else. Wesley and Whedon, in order to escape the force of the testimony in the fifth chapter of Acts distinguish between the giving of repentance and the giving of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a direct gift, but as man must himself repent it is the power to repent which is given. Whedon remarks: "Repentance, being a human act, can hardly be said strictly and simply to be given, and therefore it would seem that it is the privilege or power of repentance which is here meant." Not only the Holy Spirit, but even Meyer is against him here. He says: "Nor merely the impulse and occasion given . . . Against this view may be urged the appended 'and forgiveness of sins,' which is not compatible with that more free understanding of 'to give."' That is to say, the gift of repentance and that of forgiveness stand on the same foot. One is given in the same way as the other.
It must not be overlooked that there is a wide and a narrow sense of the term repentance. In theological usage it has now come to be synonymous with penitence - grief for and hatred of sin, and a sincere turning from it to God. But in the New Testament it is usually employed in a broad, generic sense equivalent to conversion, including the new birth, faith in Christ and penitence. This is the sense in which Peter in his pentecostal sermon used it, when, in response to the inquiry, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" he said, "Repent and be baptized." Only in this way can his answer to these inquirers concerning the way of salvation be harmonized with the more specific direction of the Lord Jesus under similar circumstances: "This is the work of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent;" and of Paul and Silas to the convicted jailer at Philippi: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." They put faith forward, as the first duty of the sinner. Peter could not have meant to put forward penitence as the first duty; he must have intended to say: Be converted - be born again, believe in Christ and turn from your sins, with sorrow for them, unto God. From this Scriptural point of view, repentance must be regarded as given of God - as a change operated in the sinner by supernaturally communicated grace. And as what God does in time, he must have eternally purposed to do, conversion as embracing faith and penitence cannot be conceived as both an effect and condition of election.
The testimony in Eph. i. 4 is indisputable. Arminians are compelled to evade it. For example, Wesley says upon the text: "'As he hath chosen us' - both Jews and Gentiles, whom he foreknew as believing in Christ." That is, he chose us because he foreknew that we would be holy. But Paul says just the opposite: he chose us that we should be holy. So clear is the affirmation that holiness is the effect of election, that even Meyer and Ellicott both acknowledge that the Greek infinitive rendered "that we should be" is one of intention - in order that we should be holy. Eph. ii. 10 is equally incontestable, as showing how the divine election accomplishes holiness. God, having elected us in order that we should be holy, creates us, as his workmanship, anew in Christ Jesus, to the end that we should do good works. Ellicott insists upon the telic force of the last clause. The two passages taken together make it as plain as day to the humble inquirer into the mind of the Spirit, that holy obedience is the fruit and not the condition of election.
Fourthly, Perseverance to the end in faith and holy obedience is not a condition but a result of election.
Ps. cxxxviii. 8: "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me; thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever: forsake not the works of thine own hands."
Ps. lxxxix. 19, 20, 28, 30-35: "Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. . I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him . . . My mercy will I keep for him forevermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. . . . If his children forsake my law and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David."
Ps. xciv. 18: "When I said, My foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up."
Isa. xlix. 15 and liv. 8, 10: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. . . . For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."
Mic. vii. 20: "Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old."
Matt. xxv. 34: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
Lk. xii. 32: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure [purpose] to give you the kingdom."
John vi. 37-40, 44-47: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life."
John x. 11-16, 26-30: "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. For he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any (man) pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man [none] is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one."
John xvii. 11: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me."
Acts ii. 47: "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved [saved ones]."
Rom. v. 8-10: "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we stall be saved by his life."
Rom. viii. 38, 39: "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
1 Cor. i. 4, 8: "I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ . . . Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Eph. ii. 4, 5: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. . . . That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
Phil. i. 3, 6: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you . . . being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
1 Thess. v. 23, 24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
2 Tim. iv. 18: "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom."
Heb. xiii. 5: "For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
1 Pet. i. 3-5: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundaut mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
Jude 1, 24, 25: "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them which are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called." "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen."
Time would fail to enter into a particular analysis of these passages. Taken collectively, they furnish a great mass of proof that God will preserve his people to everlasting life in heaven; and that his preservation of them is due to his eternal purpose It would be enough to establish the point before us if they did no more - and they certainly do that - than to prove that believers are chosen or elected unto salvation. In the Scriptures salvation is sometimes made to include regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification: these are the parts embraced in it as a whole. Sometimes it simply means glorification - the possession of heavenly felicity and glory as the consummate result and crown of the whole scheme. Take it either way, and election to salvation is election to perseverance. The operative grace of God as the fruit of election determines to the means and the end alike or rather to all the parts and to the whole. If, for example, it determined to faith as a means to a losable justification, it would not determine to salvation. But he that believeth shall be saved. What sort of salvation is that which may be lost? How is he saved from hell who finally sinks into it? He who is justified is glorified. The beginning is due to predestination, and by it is linked to the end. Every part of salvation and the whole of it are referred to God's electing purpose.
The passages which have been quoted abundantly prove that faith, good works, and perseverance in the same to the end are not conditions, but results, of election. In eternally predestinating the glorification of his people, God also predestinated the means to the accomplishment of that end: means which he himself purposed to employ and to determine them by his grace to use.
And to these testimonies is now added an explicit assertion of the fact that election is unconditional. In Rom. ix. 27 and xi. 5, 6, Paul says: "Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved." "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." The mass of Israel are not saved. Who then are saved? A remnant. How are they saved? According to the election of grace: therefore not according to an election conditioned by the foreknowledge of their works. It would be vain to say that faith is not a work. Good works are works, and they are said to be a foreknown condition of election. Nor will it do to say that these foreseen good works are not legal and meritorious but evangelical and gracious, for they are denied to be determined by grace and consequently affirmed to be determined by the will of man. They are therefore human works; and Paul sweeps away all works of every kind from the reason of election. That reason is grace, grace alone, the electing grace of God's sovereign will. Grace and works are contradictories. One or the other must originate election. We must choose between them. Paul affirms grace; God forbid that we should affirm works! The impossibility of adjusting this powerful passage to the Arminian scheme is evinced in Dr. Whedon's exposition of the apostle's dilemma: "Grace and works, the apostle now affirms, are a contradiction. Our faith is as free as our works, and our works as free as our will, that will possessing the full power in the given case to choose or refuse. If it be of compensative works, then it is no more gratuity or grace, otherwise work or compensation is no more compensation or work. Each excludes the other."43
The proof-texts which Arminians adduce in favor of the doctrine of conditional election, and against unconditional, are of two kinds: direct, and indirect. The indirect are: first, those which are cited in favor of universal atonement; secondly, those which are adduced in support of the defectibility of the saints; and thirdly, those which are alleged to assert the possession and exercise of free will by men in regard to salvation.
The following are the chief, if not the only, direct proof-texts which claim particular examination:
Rom. viii. 29, 30: "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. 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."
1 Pet. i. 2: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."
2 Thess. ii. 13: "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God 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."
The argument from these passages is: first, that foreknowledge, that is, prescience, is represented as, in the order of thought, preceding predestination or election: election is according to foreknowledge; secondly, that election is said to be conditioned upon faith, holy obedience and perseverance in the same.
Let us in the first place hear what lexicographers, and commentators who are not Calvinistic, have to say upon these texts. The words, in the passages from Romans and First Peter, which are of critical importance, are "did foreknow" - proe,gnw, and " foreknowledge" - pro,gnwsin, both from the same root.
Schleusner says: "(4.) ut simplex ginw,skw, amo aliquem, alicui bene volo. Rom. viii. 29, ou[j proe,gnw quos Deus ab aeterno amavit, seu, ad quos pertinent benigna illa voluntas divina (pro,qesij) cui homines adductionem ad religionem et felicitatem christianam debent." He censures Koppius for a different interpretation, and supports his own by a reference to divers passages of Scripture, emphasizing that in the same epistle, where Paul says, God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew - proe,gnw, and where the word cannot be taken in the sense of simple prescience.
In regard to the noun he says: "(2) per metonymiam causae pro effectu: consilium decretum." In this sense he says that the word pro,gnwsij is twice used in the New Testament: Acts, ii. 23 and 1 Pet., i. 2 . In the latter passage "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" means according to the most wise and benignant counsel (consilio) of God whereby they were made Christians (Christianis factis)."
Cremer makes the terms "foreknow" and "foreknowledge" equivalent to God's self-determination to unite himself in fellowship with human beings. This self-determination corresponds with election, the difference, however, obtaining between them that the self-determination which is abstracted from particular objects is expressed in election which designates those objects. He says: "'To foreknow' therefore corresponds with 'to elect before the foundation of the world,' which in Eph. i. 4, precedes 'to predestinate,' just like 'foreknew' in Rom. viii. 29. 'Foreknowledge,' however, essentially includes a self-determination to this fellowship on God's part (Rom. viii. 29, 'with whom God had before entered into fellowship'); whereas 'election' merely expresses a determination directed to the objects of the fellowship; cf. 1 Pet. i. 2: 'elect according to the foreknowledge of God."' Cremer's view is peculiar, but it rejects the interpretation which makes foreknowledge in these passages equivalent to mere pre-cognition.
Upon 1 Pet. i. 2, he remarks: "'Elect according to the foreknowledge of God' denotes the foreordained fellowship between God and the objects of his saving counsels; God's self-determination to enter into the fellowship with the objects of his sovereign counsels, preceding the realization thereof."
In this very chapter in 1 Peter the word has the force of fore-ordination, verse 20: "Who [Christ] verily was foreordained - proegnwsme,noj before the foundation of the world;" upon which Glassius in his Philologiae Sacrae says: "hoc est, aeterno Dei decreto ordinatus in victimam pro peccatis hominum offerendam."
I will refrain from citing the opinions of commentators in regard to Rom. viii. 29, for the reason that both Calvinists and Arminians differ among themselves as to the precise meaning of the foreknowledge mentioned in that verse and its connection with the predestination of which the apostle there speaks. The views of some, who are not professed Calvinists, upon 1 Pet. i. 2 will be furnished.
Dr. Fronmüller, the expositor of the Epistles of Peter in Lange's commentary thus interprets the verse: "'According to the foreknowledge of God' should be connected with 'elect': it denotes not mere prescience and pre-cognition, the object of which is indeed not mentioned, but both real distinction and fore-decreeing." Dr. Mombert, the translator, adds this from Grotius: "Foreknowledge here does not signify prescience but antecedent decree (antecedens decretum), as in Acts ii. 23; the same sense as in Eph. i. 4."
Dr. Huther, the continuator of Meyer's commentaries, remarks upon this verse: "pro,gnwsij is translated generally by the commentators as: predestination." [He refers in a note to Lyranus: praedestinatio; Erasmus: praefinitio; Gerhard: pro,qesij juxta quam facta est electio; De Wette: boulh, aut prowrismo,j.] "This is no doubt inexact, still it must be observed that in the N. T. pro,gnwsij stands always in such a connection as to show that it expresses an idea akin to that of predestination, but without the idea of knowing or of taking cognizance being lost. It is the perceiving of God by means of which the object is determined, as that which he perceives it to be. Cf. Meyer on Rom. viii. 29: 'It is God's being aware in his plan, in virtue of which, before the subjects are destined by him to salvation, he knows who are to be so destined by him.' It is incorrect, therefore, to understand the word as denoting simply foreknowledge. [In a note he says: "The word has not this signification in the New Testament."] This leads to a Pelagianizing interpretation, and is met by Augustin's phrase: eligendos facit Deus, non invenit."
Roseumüller upon the text says: "pro,gnwsij, decretum consilium, ut Actor. ii. 23. Ad christianam igitur religionem perductos esse ait, ex decreto et consilio Dei Patris." He refers to Carpzov as taking the word to be equivalent to pro,qesij.
Olshausen's opinion can be clearly collected from what he says upon Rom. viii. 29: "Here, however, there seems to be no difference between proe,gnw and prow,rise, while, t00, in Acts, ii. 23; 1 Pet. i. 2; Rom. xi. 2, pro,gnwsij is used directly for the divine will."
These authorities are not referred to as decisive, but for the purpose of showing that the proofs of an election conditioned upon foreknowledge, which are derived from Rom. viii. 29 and 1 Pet. i. 2, are entirely too doubtful to oppose to the mass of direct scriptural testimony which has been adduced in favor of unconditional election.
But the appeal to authorities aside, it is perfectly evident from the very structure of these texts that election is not conditioned upon the divine foreknowledge of faith, holy obedience and perseverance in the same. In Rom. viii. 29, those who are foreknown are distinctly represented as predestined to be conformed to Christ. The predestinating decree effects that conformity; consequently it cannot be conditioned upon the conformity as foreknown. Further, it is explicitly said that it is God who, in accordance with his predestinating purpose, calls, who justifies, who glorifies. Does the sinner call, justify and glorify himself? Are not these divine acts? Is it not God who in executing his eternal purpose thus saves the sinner?
In i Pet. i. 2, the persons addressed are expressly said to be elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. All holy obedience, involving faith and the conscious reception of the benefits which flow from the application of Jesus' blood, is ascribed to God's electing purpose as its proximate end. It is that unto which the persons designated are elected. Nor will it answer to say that election is declared to be through sanctification of the Spirit. Will it be contended that the sinner sanctifies himself in order to obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Christ? That would be to assert that he sanctified himself in order to his sanctification. And if it be still replied that he must believe in order to receive the sanctification of the Spirit, it is rejoined that, in the first place, it is the sanctifying office of the Spirit to give faith as Arrninians concede; and, in the second place, faith is included in the obedience unto which the persons addressed are said to be elect and which the sanctifying power of the Spirit produces. Otherwise the statement would be: they believe in order to be sanctified in order to believe. No just criticism can extract that meaning from the inspired words of the apostle.
On the passage in Peter, Richard Watson makes this extraordinary comment:44 "Here obedience is not the end of election, but of the sanctification of the Spirit; and both are joined with 'the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus' (which, in all cases, is apprehended by faith,) as the media through which our election is effected - 'elect through sanctification of the spirit,' &c. These cannot, therefore, be the ends of our personal election; for if we are elected 'through' that sanctification of the Spirit which produces obedience, we are not elected, being unsanctified and disobedient, in order to be sanctified by the Spirit that we may obey: it is the work of the Spirit which produces obedient faith, and through both we are 'elected' into the Church of God." First, this is, in one respect, as good Calvinism as could be desired. He admits that it is the Spirit who produces faith and obedience. This is an admission of efficacious grace. For if it be the Spirit who produces obedient faith, it certainly is not the determining will of the sinner which produces it. The sinner believes, but the grace of the Spirit originates his faith. But as the Spirit is God, and whatever God does in time he eternally purposed to do, his production of faith in the sinner was eternally purposed; or what is the same thing the sinner was eternally elected to believe. Secondly, Watson argues that since one is elected through sanctification of the Spirit involving faith and obedience, faith and obedience are means and not ends of election. Exactly so; except that sanctification, involving faith and obedience, is not the means through which election exists, but through which it operates. The Calvinist does not make sanctification producing faith and obedience an end of election. The end is proximately the final salvation of the sinner, and ultimately the glory of God's grace. Sanctification is the elected means to that end. He misses the mark, therefore, when he makes Calvinism regard obedience as the end of election; but his language otherwise is perfectly Calvinistic, for it asserts that the means through which election takes effect are produced in the sinner by the grace of the Spirit, and of course were eternally ordained.
Whatever then be the nature of the foreknowledge mentioned in these texts, it cannot be that of faith and holiness as conditions of election. That, at least, is clear.
2 Thess. ii. 13, is adduced to prove that election is conditioned upon faith and holy obedience. In regard to this it may be urged: first, this passage puts "sanctification" before "belief of the truth." The words sanctification of the Spirit are often used to signify the whole agency of the Spirit in producing experimental religion, beginning in regeneration, including the operation of faith, penitence and the disposition to bring forth good works, and ending in glorification. If the Spirit exerts this renewing and saving influence upon the sinner, it is in consequence of God's eternal purpose that he should. Whatever God does in time he eternally purposed to do, and, as the Spirit is God, whatever the Spirit does in time was eternally purposed. The supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit and the faith engendered by it constitute, according to the statement of Paul in this passage, the ordained means through which the electing purpose of God effects the salvation of the sinner. If, as is most probable, the salvation to which the apostle in this text says God chooses is final felicity and glory, that end is not appointed without the appointment, also of the means to its attainment; and those means are chiefly the operations of the Spirit, renewing and sanctifying the sinner. To say that the sinner is himself the originator of his spiritual life and its functions, and that he by his repentance and faith conditions the work of the Spirit in his soul, is to take a position which is both unscriptural and irrational.
What does the Arminian gain by insisting on the words, "through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth?' If he mean that the material cause of election is here asserted, he holds that sanctification and faith are the cause on account of which, on the ground of which, God elects to salvation. But he refuses formally to take that view. If he mean that sanctification and faith are the instrumental cause of election, he contradicts the decisive testimony of Scripture that they are not the instrumental cause but the effects of election. If he mean that sanctification and faith are the instrumental cause of salvation, he affirms exactly what the Calvinist maintains.
Here, however, there is need of an important distinction - between the condition of election, and the conditions of salvation. Neither the work of Christ nor the work of the Spirit is in any sense a cause of election, while they are in important senses causes of salvation. Christ was not the efficient or meritorious or instrumental cause of election. He was not the foundation of election - fundamentum electionis; but he is the foundation of redemption fundamentum redemptionis. He purchased redemption by his complete obedience to the precept and the penalty of the divine law, by which he satisfied justice and brought in everlasting righteousness; and by his priestly intercession he acquires the saving grace of the Holy Ghost which as a king he imparts. His work was thus an instrumental and meritorious cause of redemption. Nevertheless he was elected to the discharge of this momentous work by the sovereign will of the Father. So, neither was the work of the blessed Spirit a cause of election, either efficient or instrumental. In effecting the renewal and sanctification of the sinner he is the proximate efficient cause by which the electing purpose - the will of God by which the elect are sanctified - is executed, and in performing this office his grace is a divinely appointed instrumental cause of salvation. The difference between the cause of election and the cause of salvation is thus made apparent.
The graces and duties of the renewed soul are in no sense efficient or meritorious causes. In what sense they are instrumental causes, it is important to determine. Faith in Christ as a justifying Saviour is the instrumental cause of union with him. That is, it is a condition without which actual, in contradistinction to federal, union with him would not take place. In this sense, faith is the sole condition of salvation. It alone consciously unites the sinner to Christ, and Christ is salvation. But in regard to final salvation - heavenly felicity and glory - all the graces of the Spirit and all the works of the Christian man are instrumental causes or conditions without which that consummate end would not, by the adult, be reached.
Now the point of this exposition of the means of salvation is the a fortiori argument necessarily deducible from it, that if neither the work of Christ nor the work of the Holy Spirit is an instrumental cause or condition of election, much less can the faith and holy obedience of the sinner be such a cause or condition. The conditions of salvation are indispensable, but they are in no sense conditions of election.
Secondly, the judgment of impartial commentators is opposed to the Arminian interpretation of this verse. Auberlen and Riggenbach, in Lange's series, say: "The evn, etc. cannot belong to ei;lato, since the objective purpose of free grace is not conditioned by the subjective process in us." Ellicott observes: "The preposition evn may be instrumental (Chrysostom, Lüneman, al.) but is perhaps more naturally taken in its usual sense as denoting the spiritual state in which the ei;lato eivj swthri,an was realized." Webster and Wilkinson remark: "evn a`g. following ei,l. indicates that their present state, character and qualification for future blessedness, are the effect of God's choice, involved in it, as part of his original purpose of grace toward them. So in 1 Pet. i. 1, 2. Even Rosenmüller says in regard to the originating cause of belief of the truth: "Deus ad salutem vos perduxit dum emendavit vos per doctrinam Christi perfectiorem, et effecit ut fidem haberetis religioni."
Having considered the direct scriptural proofs adduced in support of the doctrine of conditional election, I might pass on to the examination of the indirect and inferential evidence furnished by the Arminian positions in regard to the universality of the atonement, the defectibility of the saints, and the free-will of man in the spiritual sphere. But for several reasons I propose not to launch upon that wide sea. In the first place, the indirect proofs of unconditional election, which may be drawn from related doctrines of the Calvinistic system, it is not my intention to present, and this justifies the exclusion of similar proofs on the Arminian side. In the second place, anything like an adequate consideration of that class of proofs would swell this discussion beyond the limits which it is designed to bear. In the third place, the topics coming within the scope of that kind of proof have been for centuries handled in systems of theology and controversial treatises, and their treatment here would be, in great measure, but a re-statement of familiar arguments. They are not peculiar to the Evangelical Arminian theology, the prominent features of which, as a modification of the Remonstrant, it is the chief purpose of this disquisition to examine.
The elements into which the doctrine of election may be analyzed having been established by a direct appeal to God's Word, the way is clear to gather them up into a comprehensive and definitive statement:
Election is God's eternal purpose or decree, - incited by his mere mercy towards man considered as fallen by his own fault into sin and misery, grounded alone in the sovereign pleasure of his own will, unconditioned by any qualities, dispositions or acts of the creature, and involving a peculiar love of complacency towards its objects, - to bring certain individual men to everlasting salvation and all the means necessary thereto, in order to the glory of his grace.
I will conclude this part of the discussion by summing, up the arguments opposed to the Arminian dortrine, particularly emphasizing those relating to the conditional nature of election, as the chief point at issue between the parties to the controversy.
1. It is unscriptural in that it fails to make God the sole author of election. For while it represents God as providing the means by which the sinner may be saved, it makes the sinner by his free will determine himself to the saving use of those means. It is, therefore, really the sinner who elects God, and not God who elects the sinner. His election of God as a Saviour conditions God's election of him as saved.
2. It professes to teach the election of individuals to salvation, but in reality denies it. For it affirms the election only of a condition upon which individuals may be saved, if they will to comply with it. That condition is faith in Christ and perseverance in holincss to the end. But individuals are not elected to employ this condition: they may or may not employ it. To say that if they do they are elected to salvation, is to affirm a hypothethical and contingent election, which is no election at all. It is a contradiction in terms.
3. It is incorrect and inconsistent with itself in teaching that election is in time.
(1.) The Scriptures positively teach that election is from eternity.
(2.) Election in time could only be the temporal execution of an eternal purpose. A so-called actual election must correspond with that purpose and express it.
(3.) God's purpose and his prescience are unwarrantably confounded. God's purpose is held to be merely his prescience of an actual election to be executed in time, as conditioned upon his prescience of man's complying with the terms of salvation. But purpose involves will; prescience does not. To identify them is to pervert the accepted meaning of the terms. This is the more remarkable, because the Arminian contends that foreknowledge exerts no causal influence upon events.
(4.) God's actual election in time as the only election expressing his will is postponed until the sinner perseveres in holiness to the end of life. But it is contrary alike to Scripture and to reason to maintain that God waits upon the acts of men in order to decide upon his own acts. Whatever he does in time, he must have eternally willed to do. Either then God eternally willed to elect individuals, or no election is possible. To this the Arminian cannot answer, that God did eternally will an actual election conditioned upon his foresight of the sinner's perseverance in holiness to the end; for in doing so, he would deny his position that an eternal purpose of election was nothing more than prescience, not involving will.
(5.) The doctrine is inconsistent with itself. It affirms election to be in time. But it also virtually affirms that it cannot be in time. For it teaches that men are only actually elected when they have persevered in holiness to the end of life. It is then, only when time has ceased that election takes effect. It is therefore affirmed that election is in time and is not in time!
(6.) The objects of this election are dead men. It terminates upon men only when the contingencies of life are passed. But the Bible calls some living men elect, and Arminians concede the fact.
(7.) The affirmation that election is in time is equivalent to the affirmation that in time the destiny of the elected person is fixed for eternity. Otherwise his election means nothing. But it is also affirmed that his election is conditioned upon his perseverance in holy obedience to the end of time with him. Consequently, his destiny cannot he fixed in time. The destiny of the elect is fixed in time: it is not fixed in time!
4. It is out of accord with Scripture in regard to the ultimate end of election. It admits that the proximate end is salvation; but it is logically bound to deny that the ultimate end is solely the praise of God's grace. For, the praise is due to grace for the provision of the means of salvation, and it is due to the elect themselves for the free determination of their own wills to employ those means. God does not determine the sinner to use the means; the sinner deterrmines himself. He may be grateful for the provision of the means, but gratitude for electing grace would have no ground. His faith, good works and peseverance bring him to heaven, but they are not grounded in or due to election: it is conditioned upon them. He could not sincerely praise the grace of God for bringing him to heaven: he could only praise it for affording him the means of getting there.
5. It denies the electing and saving love of God, which the scriptures abundantly assert.
(1.) It confounds the love of benevolence and the love of complacency.
(2.) It fails to distinguish between the mercy of God towards a fallen race considered as out of Christ and the peculiar, intense and inalienable love of God towards those whom he regards as in Christ.
(3.) It makes goats the objects of the same love with the sheep given by the Father to the Son to be by his death redeemed and saved.
(4.) It makes the love of God secure the salvation of none of his children. It only secures for them a possible and contingent salvation. It is therefore less than the love of earthly parents to their children, for they would save their children if they could. To say that God cannot save all his children would be heresy deepening into blasphemy.
(5.) It makes the love of God for his people changeable. For he cannot cherish the same love for them when they cease to be his people by falling away from him.
(6.) It contradicts the assertions of God's Word - that his faithful love to his Son will lead him never to suffer any to perish who are bound up in the same covenant with that Son, even when they forsake his ways and break his statutes, that nothing shall separate them from his love, that he will never leave them nor forsake them, that though a mother may forget her sucking child, he will never forget them, but save them with everlasting mercies.
6. It makes election superfluous and useless. For it denies that election is in order to faith and holiness and affirms that it is conditioned upon perseverance in them to the end - that is, the end of life and the attainment of heaven. It follows necessarily that when the sinner is foreknown to get to heaven he is elected to get there. Where is the use of such election? One is obliged to apply to it Occam's razor - the law of parsimony, that causes are not needlessly to to be multiplied for a given effect. If, through the assistance of grace and the free determinations of his own will, a man has persevered in holy obedience to the end and has attained to heavenly happiness, why should a cause be invoked to ensure the result which without it has been secured? It is inconceivable that God would elect men to be saved in consequence of his foreknowing that they are saved; or that he would have elected to save men who, he foreknew, would by the assistance of grace save themselves. God does nothing in vain; but this doctrine represents him as doing a vain thing.
7. It misrepresents the elements of the plan of salvation.
(1.) It confounds the fruits of grace with the means of grace. Faith, good works, and perseverance in the same, are fruits of grace - its products, not its means or conditions. The means of grace are the Word, the Sacraments, and Worship.
(2.) It unwarrantably limits salvation to heavenly felicity, when it treats of God's destination of men; confounds glorification - a part of salvation - with salvation as a whole. Regeneration, justification, adoption, and sanctification the Scriptures declare to be as essential as glorification. Election, according to Arminianism, is to glorification; according to Scripture, it is to salvation. And yet it urges the necessity of experiencing a present salvation. How is this inconsistency to be explained upon Arminian principles? By distinguishing between an initial and losable salvation on the one hand, and a final salvation on the other. Hence some Arminian theologians maintain a two-fold election: one, unconditional, to an initial and contingent salvation, another to a final. But,
First, the Scriptures incontestably represent salvation as a great, undivided whole, beginning in regeneration and justification and completed in glorification. It is utterly unscriptural to split it into two parts, one contingent, the other certain; one initial, the other final.
Secondly, the Scriptures clearly represent the election of individuals to salvation as one, undivided purpose. It is entirely unscriptural to effect this schism in God's electing purpose and to make one part of it terminate on an initial and amissible salvation, and another on a final and certain. The choice must be made between two alternatives: either no electing purpose, or one which is not separable into parts conditioned by the fluctuating agency of man.
Thirdly, a salvation which may be lost is no salvation. There is no foundation in Scripture for the doctrine of a merely initial and uncertain salvation. They represent him who is saved as eternally saved. There are two great pillars on which the certain salvation of the believer rests, pillars which cannot be thrown down by sin or Satan, earth or hell. They are the unchangeable purpose of God and the indestructible life which the justified soul possesses in Christ. Whom God purposes to save, he saves forever; who live in Christ forever live. Otherwise God purposes to save without saving, and justifies without justifying. According to the view under consideration, a man may be elected to be temporarily saved who is lost at last - saved in time, but lost in eternity. And as one who is temporarily saved may backslide again and again - that is, lose his faith entirely - he may be elected to several temporary salvations, and finally perish. And further, since such a man may die in faith, he must have been elected to several temporary salvations and an eternal salvation to boot. Surely it is not God's election which is meant, but his own. There is little wonder that Evangelical Arminian divines differ among themselves, some referring election in part to an initial salvation, and others confining it to a final. The real difficulty is, that both parties to this family feud reject God's election, which like himself is stable, and substitute for it man's election of himself, which, like man, is characterized by change.
(3.) It unjustifiably confounds eternal life with heavenly life. The Scriptures say that he who hath the Son hath eternal life. Life, like salvation, is a great whole, beginning in the new birth and justification, developed in sanctification, and consummated in glory. Election, according to Arminianism, is to life in heaven; according to Scripture, it is to life in Christ. To live in Christ is to live forever. There is a second birth, but the Bible speaks nowhere of a third birth. He who is born again is born once for all into God's family, a child of the Father, a brother of the Son, and an heir of glory - a joint-heir with Christ, not to a contingent and perishable inheritance, but to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for those who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.
(4.) It denies, what the Scriptures unequivocally assert - the bondage to sin and Satan of the will of the unregenerate sinner. For, as will hereafter be shown, it affirms the power of the natural will, as such, to use imparted grace which is alleged to be sufficient but not regenerating.
(5.) It denies what the Scriptures plainly teach - the life-giving act of the Holy Spirit in regeneration as initiating the sinner's experience of salvation. For it makes repentance precede and condition regeneration, unscripturally regards regeneration as a "work," in which the sinner actively cooperates with the Spirit, and so is palpably and confessedly Synergistic.45
(6.) It makes assurance of salvation a solecism. To distinguish between the assurance of salvation and the certification by the witness of the Spirit of salvation is vain. They mean the same thing. To speak of the certification of being saved at present as the same with the certification of being saved is, I say, a solecism; for it amounts only to a certification of a reprieve and furnishes no guarantee against a final doom. This is not the doctrine of the Scriptures. They represent the assurance of final salvation as attainable. "Oh that my words were now written!" exclaimed Job, the type and exemplar of a suffering faith, "oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever!" The passionate fervor and profound solemnity of the exordium redeem the "words" from every rationalistic interpretation which would disembowel them of their grand redemptive significance. What are the words so magnificently introduced? "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." "He shall redeem Israel," chanted the precentor of the Church in her songs of praise, "from all his iniquities." "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever: forsake not the works of thine own hands." "For we know," cried Paul, the battle-scarred veteran of the Cross, "that if our earthy house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." "Wherefore" - what? let us live as we list, because we are sure of a home in heaven? - "wherefore, we labor that whether present or absent we may be accepted of him." "Now," argues the same glorious apostle, "is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light." From his Roman prison he utters this language of triumphant confidence: "I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day" - the sacred deposit of my dying body, and my undying soul with its eternal weight of interests. Believers may know their election: "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." And knowing their election, they may know their final salvation, for it is that on which their election terminates. But the Arminian doctrine teaches that Christ's sheep may know him, and he may know them and call them by name, and assure them that none shall pluck them out of his hand, and yet, at the last, he may say to them, "I never knew you; depart from me."
8. The last point that will be urged is, that it is entirely unscriptural in maintaining that election is conditioned upon any qualities, dispositions or acts of man.
(1.) We have seen from the numerous passages collected that the Scriptures expressly teach that election is unto faith, good works and perseverance in faith and good works to the end - that they are the fruits of election. The conclusion is irresistible, that they do not condition it. It is true that Watson says: "We have no such doctrine in Scripture as the election of individuals unto faith."46 It has been abundantly shown by direct citations, that we have such a doctrine in Scripture. The authorities are opposed, but God's is the weightier. Watson's misstatement of the Calvinistic doctrine that it makes the obedience of faith an end of election, and not merely a means through which it effects final salvation, has already been corrected; and his failure to use 1 Pet. i. 2 against Calvinism - that is, against itself - has been exhibited.
(2.) The Arminian doctrine involves the capital mistake of making the acts of repentance and faith in the natural sphere condition election. Men are said by Arminian writers to be partly in a state of grace when they receive assisting and co-operating, or, as it is otherwise called, prevenient grace, antecedently to regeneration, and consequently to be able, in that state, to perform gracious acts.47 But, without higgling about words, the real question is, whether in that condition the man is born again. No, they reply; his repentance and faith precede and condition regeneration. So say explicitly Pope, Ralston and Raymond, and such was the doctrine of Wesley. Now, if a man is not born again of the Spirit, he is simply born after the flesh. Whatever gracious gifts may be supposed to be conferred upon him, he is still in the natural condition in which he was born of his mother. He is still in his sins. So I understand Wesley to teach.48 Before, then, he is born again he repents and believes. It follows necessarily that by faith he accepts salvation in his natural condition, and since faith is held to be the initial condition of election, his acts in the natural sphere condition election. To say that the Arminian theology maintains that before a sinner is born again of the Holy Spirit he may do that which renders it proper for God to elect him to eternal life may seem to some to be a libel. Let us see.
"He," observes Mr. Wesley in his Sermon on Salvation by Faith, "that is by faith born of God sinneth not," etc. In his second Sermon on Faith, from Heb. xi. 1, he speaks definitely upon the point: "The faith of a servant implies a divine evidence of the invisible and eternal world: yea, and an evidence of the spiritual world, so far as it can exist without living experience. Whoever has attained this, the faith of a servant, 'feareth God and escheweth evil;' or, as it is expressed by St. Peter, 'feareth God and worketh righteousness.' In consequence of which, he is in a degree (as the apostle observes) 'accepted with him' . . . Nevertheless he should be exhorted not to stop there; not to rest till he attains the adoption of sons; till he obeys him out of love, which is the privilege of all the children of God. Exhort him to press on by all possible means, till he passes 'from faith to faith;' from the faith of a servant to the faith of a son, from the spirit of bondage unto fear to the spirit of childlike love. He will then have 'Christ revealed in his heart' enabling him to testify, 'The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me:' the proper voice of a child of God. He will then be 'born of God.'"
Mr. Watson says: "Justification, regeneration and adoption are not distinct and different titles, but constitute one and the same title, through the gift of God in Christ, to the heavenly inheritance. They are attained, too, by the same faith. We are 'justified by faith' and we are the 'children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.' 'But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God (which appellation includes reconciliation and adoption) even to them that believe on his name, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,' or in other words were regenerated."49 "The regenerate state is only entered upon at our justification." Mr. Watson confounds adoption with regeneration. Faith conditions adoption as it does justification; but it does not, cannot, is not in Scripture said to, condition regeneration. It is out of the question that one could condition his own birth. In the passage in the first chapter of John the power to become sons of God evxousia not du,namij; authority or right to become sons, which was conferred on those who having been born of God by the powerful operation of the Holy Ghost received Christ by faith. The order is: first, regeneration; secondly, faith; thirdly, adoption. Regeneration is in order to faith, and faith in order to justification and adoption. To require faith in order to regeneration is to require a living function from the dead in order to life.
Dr. Pope is very explicit. He says: "Repentance precedes the faith which brings salvation."50 "Faith as the instrument of appropriating salvation is a divinely-wrought belief in the record concerning Christ and trust in his person as a personal Saviour: these two being one. It must be distinguished, on the one hand, from the general exercise of belief following evidence which is one of the primary elements of human nature, and from the grace of faith which is one of the fruits of the regenerating Spirit."51 Here the faith which appropriates salvation and is a trust in Christ as a personal Saviour is distinguished from faith as produced by regeneration. He says further: "The special grace of enlightenment and conversion, repentance and faith, it [Arminianism] holds to be prevenient only, as resting short of regeneration; but as flowing into the regenerate life."52
Dr. Ralston is equally explicit. He observes that Calvinists indicate "the following order: 1. Regeneration. 2. Faith. 3. Repentance [penitence]. 4. Conversion. Arminians think the Scriptures present a different order on this subject. They contend that so far from repentance and faith being preceded by regeneration and flowing from it, they precede, and are conditions of regeneration."53 The Calvinistic order should not have contained conversion as a distinct element. It is generically the new birth, faith, and repentance in the narrow sense of penitence and turning from sin to God. The Arminian order is no doubt accurately given.
Dr. Raymond is still more explicit. Speaking of the sinner who "improves the common grace given to all mankind," he says: "If he gives the Spirit free course, his heart becomes so far changed from its natural love of sin as to sorrow on account of sin, and in a degree to hate it; he is truly penitent; has initial godly sorrow for sin; his will is emancipated from its natural bondage to unbelief, and is so far invigorated by divine grace as to be able to volitionate a determined purpose of amendment and of future obedience; nay, more, he actually does volitionate saving faith. But all this is not what theologians call regeneration. It is antecedent to regeneration, and constitutes the state of mind on which regeneration is conditioned. Faith, the evidence of justification, and regeneration are contemporaneous, not separable in consciousness, but in the order of thought faith is first, justification second, and regeneration third."54
The proofs have thus been furnished that the Arminian theology involves the position that men, in the natural sphere, before they are regenerated, condition their election to salvation. For, as one who, in the first instance, believes in Christ may persevere in believing to the end, it is evident that the conditioning of election may begin in the natural sphere autecedently to the new birth.
(3.) The Arminian doctrine involves the following unscriptural positions in regard to the application of redemption: God's purpose was not savingly to apply redemption, but to permit men to avail themselves of redemption provided; the sinner's will and not God's is the determining factor in the great concern of personal salvation; the principle upon which salvation is applied is not that of grace, but of human willing; man is, in this respect, made sovereign and God dependent; the glory of salvation, as a whole, is divided between God and man; and, finally, the logical result must be a semi-Pelagian subversion of the Gospel scheme.
First, Arminian theologians do not, so far as I know, take the ground that there was no divine purpose in regard to the application of redemption. But if there was some purpose, it must have been either efficient or permissive. Arminians deny that it was efficient, that is, that it was a purpose efficaciously to apply salvation to individuals. Consequently, they maintain that it was permissive. But if so, God simply determined to permit men to avail themselves of the salvation which he would graciously provide; which amounts to this: that he determined to permit men to save themselves upon condition of their believing in Christ and persevering in faith and holiness to the end.
Now, I admit with all Calvinists the existence of some permissive decrees, but deny that this purpose touching the application of redemption falls under that denomination. The Arminian commits the tremendous blunder of treating the case of Adam in innocence, and that of the sinner, as one and the same in relation to the divine decrees and to the ability of the moral agent. It is true that God decreed to permit Adam to sin, and it is true that Adam had the power to stand or to fall; but it is not true, either that God simply decreed to permit his sinful descendants to be saved, or that they have the power to choose holiness. Were the decree simply permissive, no sinner would or could be saved. The dead man needs something more than permission to live; he needs life.
The Sublapsarian Calvinist - and he is the typical Calvinist - admits that the decree to permit the fall, and the foreknowledge of the fall are pre-supposed by the decrees of election and reprobation. But it is altogether a different thing to say, with the Arminian, that the decree to permit men to recover themselves from the Fall, and the foreknowledge that they would recover themselves from it, conditioned or were pre-supposed by the decree to elect them to be saved. On the contrary, the Scriptures teach that as men cannot recover themselves from the consequences of the Fall, God of his mere mercy elected some of the guilty and helpless mass to be recovered and saved, and in pursuance of that purpose imparts to its objects the grace which alone recovers and saves them. Otherwise they must all have perished together.
Secondly, in rebuttal of this allegation Arminian theologians contend that their doctrine is that sinners are saved, if saved at all, by grace. The grace by which it is professed that men are saved in the first instance, that is, are empowered to accept the offer of salvation, is, as to the order of time, called prevenient grace - grace which operates antecedently to regeneration, at least to "full regeneration." "The manifestation of divine influence," remarks Dr. Pope, "which precedes the full regenerate life receives no special name in scripture; but it is so described as to warrant the designation usually given to it of Prevenient Grace."55 As to its nature and functions it is variously denominated assisting, co-operating, sufficient, grace. It has been already shown that, notwithstanding the communication of this grace, the decision which determines the question of practical salvation is held to be made by the sinner's will, unconstrained by grace; that this is the view expressly maintained by such writers as Raymond, Whedon and Strong. But inasmuch as it may be alleged that these divines do not represent the views of the early teachers of the Evangelical Arminian theology and those of the body of Evangelical Arminians, I will proceed to show that these able writers have grasped the logic of their system, and have given expression to its legitimate conclusion.
It will not do to say, that because co-operating grace is given to all men, those who are saved do not recover and save themselves, but are recovered and saved by grace. For, either this co-operating grace is the controlling and determining element in producing recovery and salvation, or it is not. If it be the controlling and determining element, the Arminian position is relinquished and the Calvinistic conceded; since, in that case, men are saved by all invincible influence operating in accordance with an electing decree. If this grace be not the controlling and determining element, the will of man is that element. And then it follows that men recover and save themselves by the energy of their own wills. But that is alike unscriptural, and contrary to the profession of Arminians themselves that men are saved by grace.
If it be said, that, although it be true that the final factor which determines the question of recovery and salvation is the will of man, yet without the assisting grace of God it could not determine the question, and therefore men are saved by grace, it is answered: that upon this supposition it is admitted that the will of man may decline the assistance of grace, or may accept it - may co-operate with it or may not. That proves that the final determination of the case is regarded as being in the power of the will, and it comes to this, that in the last resort the man saves himself. It is his will which gives to the assisting and co-operating grace any influence in producing recovery and salvation.
If it be said, that neither grace nor the will of man is the controlling and determining element, but they are coordinate and coequal factors, it would follow: First, that as from the nature of the case they are antagonistic to each other, a perfect equipoise would result, and no action would be possible. Between grace and the will the man would be like the ass of Buridan between two equally attractive measures of oats. The two forces are antagonistic, for grace tends to the production of holiness, and the will of the natural man to the production of sin. The consequence pointed out must follow. Secondly, if action could be attained, it would of necessity be equally shared by grace and the human will; and then the man could be said to be saved by neither. He could not be saved by grace; he could not be saved by himself. Grace and the human will, as they would have an equal share in the action which saves, would have an equal share in the glory of salvation. And so the saved sinner would sing: To God and to myself be the glory of my salvation! The absurdity of the consequence refutes the supposition.
If, further, it be said, that the natural will is, "without the power to co-operate with the divine influence, but the co-operation with grace is of grace,"56 and in this way it becomes apparent that the sinner is saved by grace; it is replied: First, in order to cooperation the influences co-operating with each other must be distinct, the one from the other, and this would necessitate the view that grace of one sort or in one aspect co-operates with grace of another sort or in another aspect. But grace is one, and to divide it thus into two distinct parts or aspects is wholly unwarrantable. The division is an arbitrary one adopted to justify a theory. Secondly, the supposition represents grace inside of the will co-operating with grace outside of it. But if it be admitted that in the first instance grace may be an inducement to action presented to the will, yet when the will to any extent appropriates the inducement, by that appropriation the inducement passes into the will itself and is assimilated into its spontaneity. It ceases to be external to the will and becomes internal to it. The motive agency of grace then operates within the will itself, and co-operation of grace with grace would be the co-operation of an inducement absorbed into the will with the same inducement, considered as still extraneous to it and unabsorbed. Thirdly, grace cooperating with grace, were such a combination of influences possible, would, to use a homely comparison, be a team which would surely be able to draw the will to action. But no, the will is the driver and holds the reins which control the powerful combination. Even the co-operation of grace with grace can not determine the course of the will. Notwithstanding their united influence, that sovereign faculty determines its own course. Fourtltly, it is still the will which determines itself to the co-operation, and makes the co-operation decisive. This is really what is intended. It is the will which is the determining factor in the co-operation, as is apparent from the position that the will may entirely decline to co-operate with grace. The conclusion is that, in the last analysis, it is not grace but the will which is the saving element.
To all this it may be rejoined, that there is no assertion of the anomaly of grace co-operatiug with grace, but only of the fact that the will is incited by grace itself to co-operate with grace. The co-operation is not of grace with grace, but of the will with grace. But this does not relieve the difficulty; for, in the first place, it would be admitted that it is the natural will, as such, which co-operates with grace; and as that will is the deciding factor, it is it which determines the question of salvation; and no evangelical thinker could deliberately and professedly take that ground. In the second place, grace inciting the will to co-operate with grace would be grace mediately through the will co-operating with grace. The Arminian must make his election between two alternatives both of which are damaging: either that the will, as natural, decides to co-operate with grace and so determines the question of salvation, which involves heresy; or that grace co-operates with grace, which involves absurdity.
If, finally, it be said, that although the grace is not determining, it is sufficient, grace: that is, sufficient to enable the sinner's will to determine the question of his recovery and salvation; it is answered:
First, sufficient grace would necessarily be regenerating grace. For, grace which would be sufficient to enable the spiritually dead sinner - and Evangelical Arminians acknowledge him to be by nature spiritually dead - to perfortn a function of spiritual life, believing in Christ, for example, must be grace which gives life. But grace which gives life is regenerating. Now,
Secondly, regenerating grace is necessarily irresistible and determining grace. Regenerating grace produces the new birth, and no one can resist his own birth. "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." Regenerating grace produces a resurrection to spiritual life, and no one can resist his own resurrection. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above." Regenerating grace new-creates the soul, and no one can resist his own creation. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
But Arminians contend that grace may be resisted, and some Calvinists go too far in conceding the same, while they hold that it cannot be so resisted as to be overcome. They prefer, therefore, to use the terms invincible or insuperable grace. Both parties are mistaken. Regenerating grace, from the nature of the case, cannot be, in any degree, resisted. The distinction is lost sight of between the common operations of the Spirit, which are illuminating, and his regenerating grace. The former are resistible, the latter is not. The Spirit may be resisted when he instructs the sinner in his duty and moves him to its discharge. Nothing is more common. But to talk of resisting the creative power of the Spirit is to speak without meaning. As well talk of a feather resisting a hurricane, or a straw a cataract, or a hillock of sand a stormy sea. The sinner may be unwilling beforehand that regenerating grace should be exercised upon him; but it is idle to speak of his resisting it when it is exercised. What can resist the creative power of God? Is it not almighty? Can finite power resist infinite, acting infinitely? Now, regenerating grace is creative power. It is, therefore, irresistible. There is no sense or degree in which it can be resisted.
It has thus been shown, that sufficient grace must be irresistible and determining grace. To call any other kind of grace sufficient for the needs of a sinner would imply a contradiction. It would be, as Pascal in his criticism of the theology of the Jesuits tersely puts it, "a sufficient grace which sufficeth not." Again the Arminian position is given up, and the Calvinistic established. For, irresistible and determining grace could only be received in consequence of God's decree to impart it. And since only some men receive that grace - for only some are regenerated - the decree to confer it is proved to be an electing decree; that is, a decree by which some were elected to be regenerated. Any other doctrine involves the consequence that men determine themselves to their own new creation, and therefore save themselves. But how one can prepare himself for, not to speak of determining, his own creation, it passes intelligence to apprehend.
It is plain, in view of what has been said, that the real question at issue between Calvinists and Arminians, in relation to Election, is this: Did God decree that he would save some men, and consequently that he would give them grace to determine their wills? Or, did God decree to permit men with the assistance of grace to save themselves, and consequently that he would leave it to their own wills finally to determine the question of their compliance with the divinely fore-ordained condition of salvation? That question inevitably resolves itself into this simple one: Is God the determining agent in actually saving man? Or, is man the determining agent in saving himself? The determining agent, I say; for Arminians hold that God provided atonement through Christ, and gives to men the assisting and co-operating grace of the Holy Spirit; and that, without the atonement of Christ and the grace of the Spirit, no man could be saved. But it is the specific difference of the Arminian doctrine, so far as this question of the application of salvation is concerned, that, in the last analysis, the will of man must be conceived as the determining factor. I have, therefore, fairly stated the question at issue, as to this matter, between Calvinists and Arminians.
But, that being the state of the question, who that adores the Infinite God, and knows the guilt, depravity and dependence of the sinner, can hesitate to decide that, whatever may be the speculative difficulties attending it, the Calvinistic doctrine is that which consists with the teachings of Scripture and the facts of human experience?
If God be the determining agent in the application of salvation, it follows from the fact that only some are actually saved that God elected them to be saved. The doctrine of the election of individuals to salvation is proved.
And if God be the determining agent in the application of salvation, it follows, from the necessary consequence that the will of man is not the determining agent, that election is not conditioned upon the acts of the human will, and therefore not conditioned upon faith and good works and perseverance in them to the end. The doctrine of Unconditional Election is established.
The conclusion of the whole matter is, that the salvation of men from sin and misery is to be ascribed not to their own wills co-operating with assisting grace, but to the sovereign, electing purpose of God operating upon their wills by efficacious grace. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
The Arminian doctrine necessitates a conclusion opposite to this - namely, that salvation as practically applied is to be, in the last analysis, ascribed to the will of the sinner, since it is that which determines him to comply with the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit. The following consequences logically result:
In the first place, the principle upon which, in the application of redemption, the sinner is saved, is not grace, but the energy of the human will. The principle upon which salvation is provided is acknowledged to be grace, although we shall hereafter see that Arminianism even qualifies its announcement of that principle; but the ultimate and determining principle upon which salvation is applied is, and is by some frankly confessed to be, human willing.
In the second place, in the matter of the application of salvation man is made sovereign and God dependent. God, it is contended, is sovereign in providing salvation, but in applying it his will is conditioned by the acts of man's will. It is not he who decides the question of practical salvation, but man. Hence the decision of his will is dependent upon the decision of man's sovereign and self-determining will. It is no answer to say, that man is dependent on God for the grace without which he could not appropriate salvation. That may be so, but while he is dependent on God for the supply of assisting grace, he is not dependent on him for the use of it. In that respect he is confessedly independent of God. He originates action by the self-determining, and therefore self-dependent power of his own will.
In the third place, the glory of salvation, as a whole, is divided between God and man. As God alone provides salvation, all the glory is due to him for the provision. But as man is a co-efficient with God in applying salvation, to the extent of his efficiency he is entitled to the glory of the application. As he might accept or reject the atonement, and might use or decline to use assisting grace, his acceptance of the one and his use of the other are his own undetermined acts, and the credit of them is his own. He has made a praiseworthy employment of his powers and opportunities, and the praise cannot justly be denied him. And as it is his natural will, undetermined by divine influence, which decides to use grace and appropriate salvation, it is his natural will which shares the glory with God! To this it may be replied, that repentance is a confession of sin and misery and faith of weakness and want, and it would be absurd to ascribe glory to a criminal pleading for pardon and a beggar suing for help. That would be true did the grace of God determine the sinner to repentance and faith. But, if by the undetermined energy of his will, he overcomes the difficulties opposed by the flesh, the world and the devil, and makes the sacrifice of himself to Christ and his service, the praise of his conversion is due to him. Conversion is a glorious thing. The glory for conversion is due somewhere. Either it is due to grace or to the sinner's will. If it is not effected by grace it is not due to it. If, as is contended, it is effected by the will, to the will the glory is due. The prayers of a pious Arminian deny this; his theology affirms it.
In the fourth place, the tendency is inevitable to a semi-Pelagian subversion of the gospel scheme. It is not intended to bandy opprobrious epithets, but the interests of truth require that the logical tendencies of a system should be pointed out. From an early period in the history of the Christian Church two doctrines, in regard to the experience of salvation, have been in conflict with each other, and have struggled for the mastery with varying fortunes. The one is that grace effects salvation; the other, that free-will effects it. Around these two doctrines grew up two contending systems, which from their leading representatives were denominated Augustinianism and Pelaggianism. Intermediate between these two, adopting some and rejecting some of the elements of each, arose another system, which from the fact that it first took root at Marseilles was called Massilianism, and from the name of its chief exponent has been denominated Cassianism. In the course of time it received the name of Semi-Pelagianism - a name which sufficiently intimated the belief that it was a modification of Pelagianism, rather than of Augustinianism, and was justified by the circumstance that it originated as a protest against the latter system. Its characteristic doctrine was the co-efficiency of grace and free-will in producing individual salvation. Arminianism, in its recoil from Calvinism, which is essentially the same as Augustinianism, was a modification of Semi-Pelagianism as it had been of Pelagianism. It concurred with Semi-Pelagianism in affirming the doctrines of conditional election, universal atonement and the defectibility of the saints. The regulative principles of the two systems were therefore precisely the same. They were imbued with the same genius and spirit. Of what value, then, were their differences? Semi-Pelagianism maintained the existence of a degree of free-will, in spiritual matters, in the nature of man after the Fall. Arminianism holds that man has, antecedently to regeneration, a degree of free-will; that, however, is not an element of nature, but a gift of grace in consequence of the atonement of Christ. Semi-Pelagianism taught that by virtue of his natural free-will man may begin his conversion, and that then the aids of grace are furnished to enable him to complete it. Arminianism teaches that grace operating upon the free-will which it confers stimulates it to begin conversion and then assists it to complete it. There would appear then to be a difference between the systems in regard to the beginning of conversion, one holding that the natural will, and the other, that the natural will aided by grace begins it.
But what exactly, according to Evangelical Arminianism, is the significance of this prevenient grace which operates upon the will to induce it to seek conversion? The answer to this question will be furnished from two writers, one in the earliest period of the system and the other in the most recent. "Allowing," says John Wesley, "that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature: there is no man, unless he has quenched the Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man living is entirely destitute of what is vulgarly called 'natural conscience.' But this is not natural: it is more properly termed 'preventing grace.' Every man has a greater or less measure of this, which waiteth not for the call of man. Every one has, sooner or later, good desires, although the generality of men stifle them before they can strike deep root, or produce any considerable fruit. Every one has some measure of that light, some faint glimmering ray which, sooner or later, more or less, enlightens every man that cometh into the world. And every one, unless he be one of the small number, whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron, feels more or less uneasy when he acts contrary to the light of his own conscience. So that no man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace which he hath."57 "One," observes Miner Raymond, "who improves the common grace given to all mankind, and the special privileges providentially his, is enlightened as to the eyes of his understanding, or as to the discriminating power of conscience, so as to see his duties and obligations, to apprehend his sins and his sinfulness, and to become fully persuaded of his need of a divine Saviour and his entire dependence upon the grace and mercy of God."58
What material difference is there between the two positions? If, says the Semi-Pelagian, one, complying with the light of nature and the warnings of conscience, begin the work of conversion, grace will assist him. If, says the Evangelical Arminian, one improve prevenient grace, that is, the light of natural conscience, further grace will be granted to assist him. What is the thing to be improved? The light of natural conscience, answers the Semi-Pelaggian; the light of natural conscience which is prevenient grace, replies the Arminian. Is the difference more than nominal? What is that which does the improving? The natural will, says the Semi-Pelagian; the natural will, the Arminian must also say. For, it must be either the natural will or the will renewed by the Holy Spirit. It cannot be the latter, for confessedly, the man is not yet renewed. It must, therefore, be the former. But, urges the Arminian, the will is assisted by grace. Yes, but as the will may decline the assistance, it is the master of the situation. For, if it decline, as grace cannot decline the assistance of grace, it is the natural will which declines it; and so, if it accept the assistance, it must be the same will which accepts. But, contends the Arminian further, the will is enabled by grace. Here a demurrer must be put in. He is not entitled to use the word enabled. For, as he admits that the sinner in his natural condition is spiritually dead, enabling grace would be life-giving or regenerating and determining grace; and without now going into the question how far that sort of grace is enabling or not, it is enough to say that it is excluded by the supposition that the sinner is not yet regenerated. It is evident that the two systems come very near together in regard to the condition of the awakened sinner previously to his regeneration.
But the crucial test is the doctrine of regeneration. The Semi-Pelagian system is definitely Synergistic; it affirms the co-operation and co-efficiency of grace and the human will in the change of conversion including regeneration. It denies that regeneration is an instantaneous act of God alone, and maintains that conversion culminating in regeneration is the joint work of man and God. The later Lutheran system is also Synergistic, but to what extent? Luther himself was no Synergist. He went further than Augustin and further than Calvin in asserting the sole efficiency of God, as any one will be convinced by glancing at his Bondage of the Will. But the Lutheran doctrine soon went away from the views of the great Reformer, and, absorbing gradually those of Melanchthon in his last utterances, became afterwards under the influence of such men as Gerhard definitely Synergistic. Its Synergism, however, is not strictly cooperation; it is, on man's part, non-resistance and passive consent. If one does not resist the Word and the Spirit, God regenerates him. His non-resistance, it is true, conditions regeneration, but the will is not an active co-efficient. This allusion is made to the Lutheran doctrine in order to get by comparison a clear conception of the Arminian. On the one hand, the Arminian doctrine is distinguished from the Semi-Pelagian in a two-fold way: by denying what the Semi-Pelagian affirms, namely, that man apart from grace begins conversion, and by holding that regeneration, although conditioned by repentance, faith and justification, is accomplished by God himself. It agrees with the Semi-Pelagian in making the human will an active co-efficient in conversion before regeneration, and the determining factor in presenting the conditions upon which regeneration is effected. It is distinguished from the Lutheran doctrine by denying that mere non-resistance is the condition of regeneration, and maintaining that the positive co-operation of the will with grace in repentance and faith is that condition. It agrees with the Lutheran in holding that a state of the sinner's will, determined by himself, is a condition precedent to the regenerating act. The Evangelical Arminian doctrine, therefore, occupies a position between the Lutheran and the Semi-Pelagian, with a stronger affinity with the latter and a greater tendency towards it. This is shown by the development of the Evangelical Arminian Theology. The Remoustrants declined towards Semi-Pelagianism as they receded from Arminius, and so the Evangelical Arminians are more and more tending towards it as the interval widens between them and Wesley.
It may be remarked, in passing, that this recession of the Evangelical Arminian theology from its first position is apparent in connection with other phases of doctrine than that immediately under consideration. Wesley and Watson held that the race suffer penally in consequence of Adam's sin. Raymond denounces "the abhorrent doctrine of inherited obligation to punishment."59 By Wesley and Watson the doctrine of total depravity was more strongly and unqualifiedly asserted than it is now. Wesley allowed the imputation of Christ's righteousness. The denial of it was begun by Watson, and it is now emphatically rejected. But it is in regard to the supreme question in hand of the entire dependence of the poor, guilty, miserable, undone sinner upon the grace of God for conversion that this downward tendency becomes as conspicuous as it is lamentable to every lover of gospel truth. The venerable John Wesley failed not to affirm this dependence in strong and unmistakable terms. Where will you find an assertion by him of the supremacy of the sinner's will in the great concern of personal salvation? But now we hear it boldly and roundly declared by learned theologians "that man determines the question of his salvation." These ominous words peal on the ear like the notes of a fire-bell at the dead of night. They mean a sure descent to a lower level of doctrine than that of the early Evangelical Arminians. Those men were prevented by their deep experience of grace from using this language. But alas! they sowed the seed which have sprung up and are now bearing the fruits of Semi-Pelagianism. Well, it may be asked, what is there so bad in that? What if the logical tendencies of the system are in the direction of Semi-Pelagianism? To that question this must be replied: James Arminius did not, as Limborch afterwards did, advocate that theology; John Wesley would have gone to the stake before he would have confessed his approval of it; it is one for which Jesuits have contended, and against which pious Romanists have struggled; it is, in some respects, less orthodox than that of Trent; such men as Prosper, Hilary and Fulgentius treated it as essentially Pelagian, and the Magdeburg Centuriators afterwards did the same; in short, it denies the supremacy of the grace of God and reduces it into subordination to the human will, and is therefore a subversion of the gospel scheme. I have sung and prayed and preached with Evangelical Arminians, and have been with them in precious seasons of reviving grace; some of them are among my most cherished friends, and some I have seen cross the Jordan of death whose shoes I would have carried; but could I get the ear of my Evangelical Arminian brethren, I would ask their attention to those illboding and alarming words issuing from high places: "Man determines the question of his salvation." Do they express the logical result of their theological principles? If they do, is it not time to subject those principles to a fresh examination?
NOTE. - The reader is referred for a very able, though necessarily succinct, discussion of the points in this controversy by the illustrious Southern divine, Dr. R. L. Dabney, in his Theology: Lectures XLVIII., XLIX., on the Arminian Theory of Redemption. Serus in caelum redeat.