Section TwoóBasic Doctrines of the
Chapter 18: Predestination
Syllabus for Lectures 21 & 22:
1. Wherein are the terms Predestination and Election distinguished from Godís Decree? What the usage and meaning of the original words, Prognwsi", eklogh and cognates?
Turrettin, Loc. 4. Qu. 7. Dick, Lecture 35. Conf. of F., ch. 3.
2. Prove that there is a definite election of individual men to salvation, whose number can neither be increased nor diminished.
Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 12, 16. Conf. of F., ch. 3. Calv. Inst., bk. 3., chs. 21, 22. Witsius, bk. iii ch. 4. Dick, Lect 35. Hillís Div., bk. 4. ch. 7
Burnet on 39 Articles, Art. 17. Knapp, 32. Watsonís Theol. Inst., ch. 26, 1, 2.
3. Has the decree of predestination the qualities predicated of the whole decree?
Dick, Lecture 35.
4. Does predestination embrace angels as well as men, and with the same kind of decree?
Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 8.
5. State the differences between the Sublapsarian and Supralapsarian schemes. Which is correct?
Dick, Lecture 35. Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 9, 14 and 18, 1-5. Burnet, as above.
6. State the doctrine as taught by the Hypothetic Universalists, Amyraut and Camero.
Turrettin Loc. 4., Qu. 17 and 18, 13-20. Watsonís Theol. Inst., ch. 28, 1, 2. Richard Baxterís "Universal Redemption."
7. State and refute the Arminian scheme of predestination.
Turrettin, Loc 4., Qu. 10, 11, and 17ĖHill, Div., bk. 4. ch. 7, 2 and 3. Dick, Lecture 35. Watsonís ubi supra .
8. What is Godís decree of predestination as to those finally lost? What its ground? How proved? And how does God harden such?
Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 14, 15. Hill, as above. Dick, Lecture 36. Wesleyís Sermons.
9. Is predestination consistent with Godís justice? With His holiness? With His benevolence and sincerity in the offer of mercy to all? Calvinís Inst., bk. 3., ch. 23. Hill, as above. Dick, Lecture 36. John. Howe, Letter to Ro. Boyle. Turrettin, Fontes Sol ., Loc. 4., Qu. 17.
10. What should be the mode of preaching and practical effect of the doctrine of predestination on the Christian life.
Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 6. Dick, Lecture 36. Conf. of Faith, ch. 3.
Godís decree is His purpose as to all things, His predestination may be defined to be His purpose concerning the everlasting destiny of His rational creatures. His election is His purpose of saving eternally some men and angels. Election and reprobation are both included in predestination. The word proorismo" the proper original for predestination, does not occur in this connection in the New Testament; but the kindred verb and participle are found in the following passages, describing Godís foreordination of the religious state or acts of persons; Acts 4:28 Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:5; Luke 22:22. That this predetermination of menís privileges and destinies by God includes the reprobation of the wicked, as well as the election of the saints, will be established more fully in the next lecture.
The words prognwsi" proginwskw , as applied to this subject mean more than a simple, inactive cognition of the future state of men by God, a positive or active selection. This is proved by the Hebraistic usage of this class of words: as in 1 Thessalonians 5:12; John 10:14; Psalm 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:9, and by the following passages, where the latter meaning is indisputable: Romans 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20. This will appear extremely reasonable, when we remember that according to the order of Godís acts, His foreknowledge is the effect of His foreordination.
Eklogh, eklegware used for various kinds of selection to office, etc., and once by metonymy, for the body of Elect, Romans 11:7. When applied to Godís call to religious privilege or to salvation, it is sometimes inclusive of effectual calling; as John 15:16, 19. Some would make this all of election: but that it means a prior and different selection is plain in Matt. 20:16; 2 Thess. 2:13. The words proqesi" , Rom. 8:28; 9:11; Eph. 1:11, and tassw , Acts 13:48, very clearly express a foreordination of God as to manís religious state.
"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His own glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death."
"These angels and men, thus predestined and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished."
Predestination of Men Proved. From Decree.
To discuss this thesis, first, as to men. I would argue first, as to men. I would argue first: From the general doctrine of the decree. The decree is universal, If God has anything to with the sinnerís redemption, it must be embraced in that decree. But salvation is everywhere attributed to God, as His work. He calls. He justifies. He regenerates. He keeps us by faith unto salvation. He sanctifies. All the arguments drawn from Godís attributes of wisdom, infinite knowledge, omnipotence, and immutability, in support of His eternal decree, show that His agency in saving the sinners who are saved, is a purposed one and that this purpose is eternal (Ps. 33:11; Num. 23:19; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; Heb. 6:17).
From Original Sin.
2. The same thing follows from what Scripture and observation teach us of the heart of all men. We are by nature ungodly, hostile to God, and His law, blind in mind, and certainly determined to worldliness in preference to godliness, by a native disposition. Hence, no man comes to Christ, except the Father who hath sent Him draw him. Unless some power above man made the difference between the believer and unbeliever, it would never vitally appear. But if God makes it, He does it of purpose, and that purpose must be eternal. Hence, no intelligent mind which admits original sin, denies election. The two doctrines stand or fall together.
From Scripture Testimonies.
3. A number of passages of Scripture assert Godís election of individuals, in language too clear to be evaded: Matthew 24:24; John 15:16; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29, 30, 9:11, 16, 22, 24, 11:5, 7; Ephesians 1:4, 11; Philippians 4:3; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:19. The most of these you will find commented on in your text books, in such a manner as effectually to clear them of the evasions of adversaries. 4th. The saints have their names "written in the book of life," or in "the Lambís book," or "in Heaven." See Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 13:8. The book of life mentioned in Scripture is of three kinds: 1st, of natural life, Exodus 32:32; when Moses, interceding for Israel prays God, that he may be removed from this life, rather than see the destruction of his brethren: 2nd, of federal, visible, church life: as in Ezekiel 13:9; lying prophets "shall not be written in the writing of the house of Israel": 3rd, of eternal life, as in the places first cited. This is the catalogue of the elect.
Predestination More Than Selection of A Character To Be Favored.
This class of passages is peculiarly convincing: and especially against that phase of error, which makes Godís election nothing else than a determination that whosoever believes and repents shall be saved, or in other words, a selection of a certain quality or trait, as the one which procures for its possessors the favor of God. This feeble notion may be farther refuted by remarking that all the language employed about predestination is personal, and the pronouns and other adjuncts indicate persons and not classes. It is "whom (masculine) He foreknow, them He also did predestine." It is "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed," (masc.) Acts 13:48. The verb proorizw means a definite decision. Christ tells His disciples that their names are written in heaven; not merely the general conditions of their salvation. Luke 10:20; In Phil. 4:3, Clement and his comradesí names are written in the book of life. The condition is one; but in the book are multitudes of names written. Again: a mere determination to bestow favor on the possessors of certain qualities, would be inert and passive as to the propagation of those qualities; whereas Godís election propagates the very qualities (see Rom. 9:11. 18, 22, 23; Eph. 1:4, 5; 2 Thess. 2:13). "He hath chosen us to salvation through, etc." And once more: were this determination to bestow favor on faith and penitence the whole of election, no one would ever possess those qualities; for, as we have seen, all menís hearts are fully set in them to do evil, and would certainly continue impenitent did not God, out of His gracious purpose, efficaciously persuade some to come to Him. These qualities which are thus supposed to be elected, are themselves the consequences of election.
Predestination Proved By Providence.
5. An extremely convincing proof of predestination is a practical observation of Godís providence at work. Providence sovereignly determines the allotments and limits of each and every individualís privileges, of oneís existence, life and windows of opportunity. . It determines whether one shall be born and live in a Pagan, or a Christian country, how long he shall enjoy means of grace, and of what efficacy, and when and where he shall die. Now in deciding these things sovereignly, the salvation or loss of the manís soul is practically decided, for without time, means, and opportunity, he will not be saved, This is peculiarly strong as to two classes, Pagans and infants. Arminians admit a sovereign election of nations in the aggregate to religious privileges, or rejection therefrom. But it is indisputable that in fixing their outward condition, the religious fate is virtually fixed forever. What chance has that man practically, for reaching Heaven, whom God caused to be born, to live, to die, in Tahiti in the sixteenth century? Did not the casting of his lot there virtually fix his lot for eternity? In short, the sovereign election of aggregate nations to privileges necessarily implies, with such a mind as Codís, the intelligent and intentional decision of the fate of individuals, practically fixed thereby. Is not Godís mind infinite? Are not His perceptions perfect? Does He, like a feeble mortal, "shoot at the covey, without perceiving the individual birds?" As to infants, Arminians believe that all such, which die in infancy, are redeemed. When, therefore, Godís providence determines that a given human being shall die an infant, He infallibly determines its redemption, and in this case, at least, the decision cannot have been by foresight of faith, repentance, or good works; because the little soul has none, until after its redemption. This point is especially conclusive against the Arminians because they are so positive that all who die in infancy are saved.
Evasions of Romans 9. Considered.
The declarations of the Holy Spirit in Romans 9 and 11 are so decisive in our favor, that they should realistically end the debate for all who revere the Divine authority, but for an evasion. The escape usually sought by Arminians (as by Watson, Inst.) is: That the Apostle in these places, teaches, not a personal election to salvation, but a national or aggregate election to privileges. My first and main objection to this is, that it is utterly irreconcilable with the scope of St. Paul in the passage. What is that scope? Obviously to defend his great proposition of "Justification by free grace through faith," common to Jew and Gentile, from a cavil which, from pharisaic view, was unanswerable, specifically: "That if Paulís doctrine were true, then the covenant of election with Abraham was falsified." How does the Apostle answer? Obviously (and irresistibly) that this covenant was never meant to embrace all his lineage as an aggregate, Rom. 9:6. "Not as though the word (covenant) of God had taken none effect." "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel," etc. This decisive fact he then proves, by reminding the Jews that, at the very first descent, one of Abrahamís sons was excluded. and the other chosen; and at the next descent, where not only the father, but the mother was the same, and the children were even twins of one birth, (to make the most absolute possible identity of lineage) one was again sovereignly excluded. So, all down the line, some Hebrews of regular lineage were excluded, and some chosen. Thus, the Apostleís scope requires the disintegrating of the supposed aggregates; the very line of his argument compels us to deal with individuals, instead of masses. But according to Watson, the Apostle, in speaking of the rejection of Esau, and the selection of Jacob, and of the remaining selections of Rom. 9. and 11., only employs the names of the two Patriarchs, to impersonate the two nations of Israel and Edom. He quotes in confirmation, Malachi 1:2; 3; Genesis 25:23. But as Calvin well remarks, the primogeniture typified the blessing of true redemption; so that Jacobís election to the former represented that to the latter. Let the personal histories of the two men decide thIsa. Did not the mean, supplanting Jacob become the humble, penitent saint; while the generous, dashing Esau degenerated into the reckless, Pagan, Nomad chief? The selection of the two posterities the one for Church privileges, and the other for Pagan defection, was the consequence of the personal election and rejection of the two progenitors. The Arminian gloss violates every law of Hebrew thought and religious usage. According to these, the posterity follow the status of their progenitor. According to the Arminians, the progenitors would follow the status of their posterity. Farther, the whole discussion of these chapters is personal, it is individuals with whom God deals here. The election cannot be of masses to privilege, because the elect are explicitly excepted out of the masses to which they belonged ecclesiastically. See chapter 9:6, 7, 15, 23, 24; chapter 9, 2, 4, 5, 7. "The election hath obtained it and the rest were blinded." The discussion ranges, also, over others than Hebrews and Edomites, to Pharaoh, an individual unbeliever, etc. Last, the blessings given in this election are personal (see Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:5; 2 Thess. 2:13).
Predestination Eternal, Efficacious, Unchangeable, Etc.
Godís decree we found possessed of the properties of unity, universality, eternity, efficiency and immutability, sovereignty, absoluteness and wisdom. Inasmuch as predestination is but a part, to our apprehension, of this decree, it partakes of all those properties, as a part of the whole. And the general evidence would be the same presented on the general subject of the decree. The part of course is not universal as was the whole. But we shall find just what the general argument would have led us to expect: that the decree of predestination is:
(a) Eternal Ephesians 1:4, "He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world." 2 Thessalonians 2:13, "From the beginning." 2 Timothy 1:9, "Before the world began." (See last Lecture)
(b) Immutably efficacious. There is no reason why this part of the decree should not be as much so as all the rest: for Godís foreknowledge and control of the acts of all His creatures have been already established. He has no more difficulty in securing the certain occurrence of all those acts of volition, from man and devils, which are necessary to the certain redemption of the elect, than in any other department of His almighty providence. Why then, should this part of the decree be exempted from those emphatic assertions of its universal and absolute efficacy (Num. 23:19; Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:10)? But farther, unless Godís purpose of saving each elect sinner were immutable and efficacious, Christ would have no certain warrant that He would ever see of the travail of His soul at all. For the same causes that seduce one might seduce another. Again: no sinner is saved without special and Almighty grace; for his depravity is total, and his heart wholly averse from God; so that if God has not provided, in His eternal plan, resources of gracious power, adequate to subdue unto Himself, and to sustain in grace, every sinner He attempts to save, I see no probability that any will be saved at all. For, the proneness to apostasy is such in all, that if God did not take efficacious care of them, the best would backslide and fail of Heaven. The efficacy of the decree of election is also proved by the fact, that God has pre-arranged all the means for its effectuation. See. Romans 8:29, 30. And in fine, a multitude of Scripture confirms this precious truth (Matt. 24:25; John 10:28-30, 17:6, 12; Heb. 6:17; 2 Tim. 2:19).
Objections To Efficient Predestination.
Objections against this gracious truth are almost countless, as though, instead of being one of the most precious in Scripture, it were oppressive and cruel. It is said that the infallibility of the elect, and their security in Christ, Matt. 24:24; John 10:28, only guarantee them against such assaults as their free will may refuse to assent to; and imply nothing as to the purpose of God to permit or prevent the object of His favor from going astray of his own accord. Not to tarry on more minute answers, the simple reply to this is: that then, there would be no guarantees at all; and these gracious Scriptures are mere mockeries of our hope; for it is notorious that the only way the spiritual safety of a believer can be injured is by the assent of his own free will; because it is only then that there is responsibility or guilt.
Objected That the Saints Are Warned Against Falling.
It is objected that this election cannot be immutably efficacious, because we read in Scripture of saints who are warned against forfeiting it; of others who felt a wholesome fear of doing so; and of Godís threats that He would on occasion of certain sins blot their names from His book of life, etc. (Rom. 14:15; 1 Cor. 9:27; Ps. 69:28; Rev. 22:19; 2 Pet. 1:10). As to the last passage, to make sure bebaian poieisqai, our election, is most manifestly spoken only with reference to the believerís own apprehension of it, and comfort from it; not as to the reality of Godís secret purpose. This is fully borne out by the means indicatedódiligence in holy living. Such fruits being the consequence, and not the cause of Godís grace to us, it would simply be preposterous to propose to ensure or strengthen His secret purpose of grace, by their productions. All they can do is to strengthen our own apprehension that such a purpose exists. When the persecuted Psalmist prays, Psalm 69:28, that God would "blot his enemies out of the book of the living," it by no means seems clear that anything more is imprecated than their removal from this life. But grant the other meaning, as we do, in Revelation 22:19, the obvious explanation is that God speaks of them according to their seeming and profession. The language is adapted ad hominem . It is not intended to decide whether God has a secret immutable purpose of love or not, as to them, whether they were ever elected and effectually called indeed, and may yet be lost; but it only states the practical truth, that wickedness would forfeit that position in Godís grace, which they professed to have. Several of the other passages are in part explained by the fact that the Christians addressed had not yet attained a comfortable assurance that they were elected. Hence they might most consistently feel all these wholesome fears, lest the partial and uncertain hope they entertained might turn out spurious. But the most general and thorough answer which covers all these cases is this: Granting that God has a secret purpose infallibly to save a given soul, that purpose embraces means as fully as ends; and those means are such as suit a rational free agent, including all reasonable appeals to hope and fear, prospect of danger, and such like reasonable motives. Now, that an elect man may fall totally, is naturally possible, considering him in his own powers; hence, when God plies this soul with fears of falling it is by no means any proof that God intends to permit him to fall, in His secret purpose. Those fears may be the very means designed by God to keep him from it.
Selection Not A Caprice.
Godís predestination is wise. It is not grounded on the foreseen excellence of the elect, but it is doubtless grounded on good reasons, worthy of the divine wisdom. See Romans 11Ėend, words spoken by Paul with especial reference to this part of the decree. The sovereignty and unconditional nature of Godís predestination will be postponed till we come to discuss the Arminian view.
Angels Are Predestined.
There is undoubtedly a predestination of angels. They are a part of Godís creation and government and if what we have asserted of the universality of His purpose is true, it must fix. their destiny and foresee all their acts, just as menís. His sovereignty, wisdom, infinite foreknowledge, and power necessitate the supposition. The Scriptures confirm it, telling us of elect angels (1 Tim. 5:21); of "holy angels," (Matt. 25:31), et passim , as contrasted with wicked angels; that "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto 2 Peter 2:4. Of the "everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41). Of the "angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, whom God hath reserved under darkness, in everlasting chains unto the judgment of the great day," (Jude 6) and of Michael and his angels, and the Dragon and his angels" (Rev. 12:7). Collating these passages, I think we clearly learn, that there are two kinds of spirits of that order; holy and sinful angels, servants of Christ and servants of Satan; that they were all created in an estate of holiness and happiness, and abode in the region called Heaven; (Godís holiness and goodness are sufficient proof that He would never have created them otherwise), that the evil angels voluntarily forfeited their estate by sinning, and were then excluded forever from Heaven and holiness; that those who maintained their estate were elected thereto by God, and that their estate of holiness and blessedness is now forever assured. Now the most natural inference from these Bible facts is, that a covenant of works was the dispensation under which Godís predestination of angels was effectuated. The fact that those who sinned, fell thereby into a state of irreparable condemnation is most naturally explained by such a covenant. The fact that the elect angels received the adoption of life by maintaining their holiness for a time, seems almost to necessitate that supposition. That the probation under that covenant was temporary, is implied in the fact that some are already separated and known as elect, while others are condemned. The former must be finally justified and confirmed; the latter finally reprobated.
Predestinations of Angels Differs From Manís.
1st. Now it is manifest, that these gracious and righteous dealings of God with His angels in time, were all foreordained by Him from eternity. Those who fell, He must have permissively ordained to fall, and those who are confirmed, He must have selected from eternity to be confirmed. But in two respects, this election of angels differs from that of men. Godís predestination apprehended men, as all lying alike in a mass of total depravity and condemnation, and the difference He has made was in pure mercy, unprompted by any thing of good foreseen in the saints. But Godís predestination apprehended angels as standing alike in innocency at first, and as left to the determination of a will which, as yet, had full ability to keep the law perfectly. In the election of men, while the decree is unconditional, its execution is dependent on the elect manís believing and repenting. So, in the case of angels, while the decree was unconditional, the effectuation of it seems to have been conditioned on the elect angelís keeping the law perfectly for a given time. Now here is the difference of the two cases; in the elect man the ability of will to perform that condition of his salvation is inwrought in him by Godís power, executing His efficacious decree, (see the Chapter of Decrees.) by His sovereign and almighty regeneration of the dead soul. In the case of the elect angel, the condition of his salvation was fulfilled in his own natural strength; and was ordained by God no otherwise than by His permissive decree. So also, the effectuating of the reprobation of the nonĖelect angels was dependent on their voluntary disobedience, and this too was only determined by Godís permissive decree. It has been asked if all the angels were alike innocent and peccable, with full ability of will to keep the law perfectly, and yet with freedom of will to sin; how came it that the experiment did not result alike for all, that all did not fall or stand, that like causes did not produce like effects? Must there not have been a cause for the different results? And must not this cause be sought outside the angelsí wills, in Godís agency? The answer may be, that the outward relations of no two beings to circumstances and beings other than themselves can ever be identical. In those different circumstances, were presented occasional causes for volitions, sufficient to account for different volitions from wills that were at first in similar moral states. And it was by His providential ordering of those outward relations and circumstances, that God was able permissively to determine the results. Yet the acts of the two classes of angels, good and bad, were wholly their own.
The second difference between their election and manís, is that the angels were not chosen in a mediator. They needed none, because they were not chosen out of a state of guilt, and had not arrayed Godís moral attributes against them. Some have supposed that their confirming grace was and is mediated to them by Jesus Christ, quoting Colossians 2:10; 1 Peter 1:12; Hebrews 1:6; Philippians 2:10; 1 Peter 3:22; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:14, 15, 20.
These passages doubtless teach that the Son was, in the beginning, the immediate agent of creation for these, as for all other beings; and that the God-man now includes angels in His mediatorial kingdom, in the same sense in which He includes the rest of the universe, besides the saints. But that He is not a mediator for angels is clear, from the fact that, while He is never called such, He is so emphatically called "the Mediator between God and man" (1 Tim. 2:5). Second. He has assumed no community of nature with angels. Last. It is expressly denied in Hebrews 2:16, 17. (Greek.)
5. All who call themselves Calvinists admit that Godís decree is, in His mind, a contemporaneous unit. Yet the attempt to assign an order to its relative parts, has led to three different schemes of predestination: that of the Supralapsarian, of the Sublapsarian, and of the Hypothetic Universalist.
The first suppose that in a rational mind, that which is ultimate as end, is first in design; and that, in the process of planning, the mind passes from the end to the means, traveling as it were backwards. Hence, God first designed His own glory by the salvation of a definite number of men conceived as yet only as in posse , and the reprobation of another definite number; that then He purposed their creation, then the permission of their fall, and then the other parts of the plan of redemption for the elect. I do not mean to represent that they impute to God an actual succession of time as to the rise of the parts of the decree in His eternal mind, but that these divines represent God as planning manís creation and fall, as a means for carrying out His predestination, instead of planning his election as a means for repairing his fall.
The Sublapsarian assigns the opposite order; that God determined to create man in His own image, to place him under a covenant of works, to permit his fall, and with reference to the fallen and guilty state thus produced, to elect in sovereign mercy some to be saved, passing by the rest in righteous judgment upon their sins, and that He further decreed to send Jesus Christ to redeem the elect. This milder scheme the Supralapsarians assert to be attended with the vice of the Arminian, in making the decree conditional; in that Godís decree of predestination is made dependent on manís use of his free will under the covenant of works. They also assert that their scheme is the symmetrical one, in that it assigns the rational order which exists between ultimate end and intermediate means.
In my opinion this is a question which never ought to have been raised. Both schemes are illogical and contradictory to the true state of facts. But the Sublapsarian is far more Scriptural in its tendencies, and its general spirit far more honorable to God. The Supralapsarian, under a pretense of greater symmetry, is in reality the more illogical of the two, and misrepresents the divine character and the facts of Scripture in a repulsive manner. The view from which it starts, that the ultimate end must be first in design, and then the intermediate means, is of force only with reference to a finite mind. Godís decree has no succession; and to Him no successive order of parts; because it is a contemporaneous unit, comprehended altogether, by one infinite intuition. In this thing, the statements of both parties are untrue to Godís thought. The true statement of the matter is, that in this co-etaneous, unit plan, one part of the plan is devised by God with reference to a state of facts which He intended to result from another part of the plan; but all parts equally present, and all equally primary to His mind. As to the decree to create man, to permit his fall, to elect some to life; neither part preceded any other part with God. But His purpose to elect had reference to a state of facts which was to result from His purpose to create, and permit the fall. It does not seem to me that the Sublapsarian scheme makes the decree conditional. True, one result decreed is dependent on another result decreed; but this is totally another thing. No scheme can avoid this, not even the Supralapsarian, unless it does away with all agency except Godís, and makes Him the direct author of sin.
Objections To the Supralapsarian.
But we object more particularly to the Supralapsarian scheme.
(a) That it is erroneous in representing God as having before His mind, as the objects of predestination, men conceived in posse only; and in making creation a means of their salvation or damnation. Whereas, an object must be conceived as existing, in order to have its destiny given to it. And creation can with no propriety be called a means for effectuating a decree of predestination as to creatures. It is rather a prerequisite of such decree.
(b.) It contradicts Scripture, which teaches us that God chose His elect "out of the world," John 15:19, and out of the "same lump" with the vessels of dishonor (Rom. 9:21). They were then regarded as being, along with the nonĖelect, in the common state of sin and misery.
(c.) Our election is in Christ our Redeemer (Eph. 1:4; 3:11), which clearly shows that we are conceived as being fallen, and in need of a Redeemer, in this act. And, moreover, our election is an election to the exercise of saving graces to be wrought in us by Christ (1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13). (d.) Election is declared to be an act of mercy (Rom. 9:15 16, 11:5, 6), and preterition is an act of justice (Rom. 9:22). Now as mercy and goodness imply an apprehension of guilt and misery in their object, so justice implies ill-desert. This shows that man is predestined as fallen; and is not permitted to fall because predestined. I will conclude this part, by repeating the language of Turrettin, Loc. 4, Qu. 18, 5.
1. "By this hypothesis, the first act of Godís will towards some of His creatures is conceived to be an act of hatred, in so far as He willed to demonstrate His righteousness in their damnation, and indeed before they were considered as in sin, and consequently before they were deserving of hatred; nay, while they were conceived as still innocent, and so rather the objects of love. This does not seem compatible with Godís ineffable goodness.
2. "It is likewise harsh that, according to this scheme, God is supposed to have imparted to them far the greatest effects of love, out of a principle of hatred, in that He determines to create them in a state of integrity to this end, that He may illustrate His righteousness in their damnation. This seems to express Him neither as supremely good nor as supremely wise and just.
3. "It is erroneously supposed that God exercised an act of mercy and justice towards His creatures in His foreordination of their salvation and destruction, in that they are conceived as neither wretched, nor even existing as yet. But since those virtues (mercy and justice) are relative, they pre-suppose their object, do not make it.
4. "It is also asserted without warrant, that creation and the fall are means of election and reprobation, since they are antecedent to them: else sin would be on account of damnation, whereas damnation is on account of sin; and God would be said to have created men that He might destroy them."
SOME French Presbyterian Divines of Saumur about 1630-50, devised still another scheme of relations between the parts of the decree, representing God as first (in order, not in time) purposing to create man; second, to place him under a covenant of works, and to permit his fall; third, to send Christ to provide and offer satisfaction for all, out of His general compassion for all the fallen; but fourth, foreseeing that all would surely reject it because of their total depravity, to select out of the rebellious mass, some, in His sovereign mercy, to whom He would give effectual calling. They supposed that this theory would remove the difficulties concerning the extent of the sacrifice of Christ, and also reconcile the passages of Scripture which declare Godís universal compassion for sinners, with His reprobation of the non-elect.
This scheme is free from many of the objections which lie against the Arminian; it holds fast to the truth of original sin, and it avoids the absurdity of conditioning Godís decree of election on a foresight of the saintsí faith and repentance. But in two respects it is untenable. If the idea of a real succession in time between the parts of the divine decree be relinquished, as it must be; then this scheme is perfectly illusory, in representing God as decreeing to send Christ to provide a redemption to be offered to all, on condition of faith, and this out of His general compassion. For if He foresees the certain rejection of all at the time, and at the same time purposes sovereignly to withhold the grace which would work faith in the soul, from some, this scheme of election really makes Christ to be related, in Godís purpose, to the nonĖelect, no more closely nor beneficially than the stricter Calvinistic scheme. But second and chiefly, it represents Christ as not purchasing for His people the grace of effectual calling, by which they are persuaded and enabled to embrace redemption. But Godís purpose to confer this is represented as disconnected with Christ and His purchase, and subsequent, in order, to His work, and the foresight of its rejection by sinners. Whereas Scripture represents that this gift, along with all other graces of redemption, is given us in Christ, having been purchased for His people by Him (Eph. 1:3; Phil. 1:29: Heb. 12:2).
I have postponed to the last, the fourth scheme for arranging the order of the parts of the decree, which is the Arminian. Unwilling to rob God openly of His infinite perfection, as is done by the Socinians, they admit that He has some means of foreseeing the contingent acts of free-agents, although He neither can nor does, consistently with their free-agency, exercise any direct foreordination over those acts. Such contingent acts, they say, would be unknowable to a finite mind, but this does not prove that God may not have some mode of certainly foreknowing them, which implies no foreordination, and which is inscrutable to us. This foresight combines with His eternal purpose in the following order. 1st. God decreed to create man holy and happy) and to place him under a covenant of works. 2nd. God foreseeing manís fall into a state of total depravity and condemnation, decreed to send Jesus Christ to provide redemption for all. (This redemption included the purchase of common, sufficient grace for all sinners.) And God also, in this connection, determined the general principle that faith should be the condition of an actual interest in this redemption. 3rd. Next He foresaw that some would so improve their common grace as to come to Christ, turn from sin and persevere in holiness to the end of life. These He eternally purposed to save. Others, He foresaw, would neglect their privileges, so as to reject, or after embracing, to forsake Christ; and these He eternally purposed to leave in their guilt and ruin. Thus His purpose as to individuals, while eternal, is conditioned wholly on the conduct foreseen in them.
Objections. 1st. That the Decree Cannot Be Conditional.
This plausible scheme seems to be, at the first glance, attended with several advantages for reconciling Godís goodness and sincerity with the sinnerís damnation. But the advantages are only seeming For 1. The scheme is overthrown by all the reasons which showed generally that Godís decrees cannot be conditional; and especially by these. (a) That every one of the creature acts is also foreordained, on which a part of the decree is supposed to be conditioned. (b.) That all the future events into which these contingent acts enter, directly or indirectly, as causes, must be also contingent; which would cast a quality of uncertainty and possible failure over Godís whole plan of redemption and moral government, and much of His other providence. (c.) And that God would no longer be absolute sovereign; for, instead of the creatures depending on Him alone, He would depend on the creature.
2nd. That Paul Does Does Not Reply Thus To Cavils.
One can scarcely believe that Paul would have answered the objections usually raised against Godís sovereign decree, as He does in Rom. 9., had He inculcated this Arminian view of it. In verses 14 and 19, he anticipates those objections; 1st that God would be unjust; 2d that He would destroy manís free agency, and He deigns no other answer than to reaffirm the absolute sovereignty of God in the matter, and to repudiate the objections as sinful cavils. How different this from the answer of the Arminian to these cavils. He always politely evades them by saying that all Godís dealings with men are suspended on the improvement they choose to make of His common mercy offered to them. This contrast leads us to believe that St. Paul was not an Arminian.
3rd. Faith, Etc., Consequences of Electing Grace.
The believerís faith, penitence, and perseverance in holiness could never be so foreseen by God, as to be the condition moving Him to determine to bestow salvation on him, because no child of Adam ever has any true faith, etc., except as fruits of Godís grace bestowed in election. This is evinced in manifold ways throughout Scripture. (a.) Man is too depraved ever to exercise these graces, except as moved thereto by God (Rom. 8:7; 2 Cor. 3:5; Rom. 7:18; Gen. 6:5). (b.) The elect are declared to be chosen to the enjoyment of these graces, not on account of the exercise of them (Rom. 8:29; 2 Thess. 2:13 14; Eph. 1:4; 2:10). (c.) The very faith, penitence and perseverance in holiness which Arminians represent as conditions moving God to elect man, the Scripture represents as gifts of Godís grace inwrought by Him in the elect, as consequences of His election (Eph. 2:8; Acts 5:31; 2 Tim. 2:25; Phil. 1:6; 2 Pet. 1:3). (d.) All the elect believe on Christ (John 10:16, 27 to 29; John 6:37, 39; 17:2, 9, 24), and none others do (John 10:26: Acts 13:48; 2:47). Couple these two facts together, and they furnish a strong evidence that faith is the consequence (therefore not the cause) of election.
4th. Express Texts.
The Scriptures in the most express and emphatic terms declare that it was no goodness in the elect which caused God to choose them; that His electing love found them lying in the same mass of corruption and wrath with the reprobate, every way deserving the same fate, and chose them out of it for reasons commending themselves to His own good pleasure, and in sovereign benevolence. This was seen in Jacob and Esau (Rom. 9:11-13), as to Israel (Ezek. 16:3-6). As to all sinners (Rom. 9:15, 16, 18, 21, 8:28). (Here the Arminians claim that Godís foreknowledge precedes and prompts His foreordination. But we have shown that this foreknowledge implies selection.) 1 Timothy 1:9; Matthew 11:26; John 15:16-19.
5th. From the Arminian doctrine of conditional election, must flow this distinction, admitted by many Wesleyans. Those who God foresaw would believe and repent, He thereupon elected to adoption. But all Arminians believe that an adopted believer may "fall from grace." Hence, the smaller number, who God foresaw would persevere in gospel grace, unto death, He thereupon elected to eternal life. And the persons elected to eternal life on foresight of their perseverance, are not identical with those elected to adoption on foresight of their faith. But now, if the former are, in the omniscience of God, elected to eternal life on foresight of their perseverance, then they must be certain to persevere. We have here, therefore, the doctrine of the perseverance of this class of the elect. The inference is unavoidable. On this result we remark first: It is generally conceded by both Calvinists and Arminians, that the doctrine of perseverance is consistent only with that of unconditional election, and refutes the opposite. Second: In every instance of the perseverance of those elected unto eternal life (on certain foresight of their perseverance) we have a case of volitions free and responsible, and yet certainly occurring. But this, the Arminians hold, infringes manís freedom. Third: No effect is without a cause. Hence, there must be some efficient cause for this certain perseverance. Where shall it be sought? In a contingent will? or in efficacious grace? These are the only known sources. It cannot be found in a contingent source; for this is a contradiction. It must then be sought in efficacious grace. But this, if dispensed by omniscience, can be no other than a proof and result of electing grace.
The word reprobate (adokimo") is not, so far as I know, applied in the Scriptures to the subject of predestination. Its etymology and usage would suggest the meaning of something rejected upon undergoing a test or trial, and hence, something condemned or rejected. Thus Rom. 1:28, adokimon noun , a mind given over to condemnation and desertion, in consequence of great sin (2 Tim. 3:8). Sectaries, adokomoi peri thn pistin , finally condemned and given over to apostasy concerning the Christian system. 1 Corinthians 9:27, "Lest after I have preached to others, I myself should be adokimo" ," rejected at the final test, i. e., Judgment Day. Hence the more general sense of "worthless," Titus 1:16; Hebrews 6:8.
The Word Ill-Chosen.
The application of this word to the negative part of the decree of predestination has doubtless prejudiced our cause. It is calculated to misrepresent and mislead, because it suggests too much the idea of a comparative judicial result. For then, the query arises, if the non-elect and elect have been tested as to their deserts, in the divine mind, how comes it that the elect are acquitted when they are as guilty, and the non-elect condemned when they are no worse? Is not this partiality? But the fact is, that in election, God acted as a sovereign, as well as a judge; and that the elect are not taken because they are less guilty upon trial, but because God had other secret, though sufficient reasons. If the negative part of the decree of predestination then must be spoken of as a decree of reprobation, it must be understood in a modified sense.
Does It Include Preterition and Predamnation.
The theologians, while admitting the strict unity of Godís decree, divide reprobation into two elements, as apprehended by us, preterition and preĖdamnation. These Calvinists, were they consistent, would apply a similar analysis to the decree of election, and divide it into a selection and a prejustification. Thus we should have the doctrine of an eternal justification, which they properly reject as erroneous. Hence, the distinction should be consistently dropped in explaining Godís negative predestination.
I would rather say, that it consists simply of a sovereign, yet righteous purpose to leave out the nonĖelect, which preterition was foreseen and intended to result in their final righteous condemnation. The decree of reprobation is then, in its essence, a simple preterition. It is indeed intelligent and intentional in God. He leaves them out of His efficacious plan and purpose of mercy, not out of a general inattention or overlooking of them, but knowingly and sovereignly. Yet objectively this act is only negative, because God does nothing to those thus passed by, to make their case any worse, or to give any additional momentum to their downward course. He leaves them as they are. Yea, incidentally, He does them many kindnesses, extends to multitudes of them the calls of His word, and even the remonstrances of His Spirit, preventing them from becoming as wicked as they would otherwise have been. But the practical or efficacious part of His decree is, simply that He will not "make them willing in the day of His power."
When we thus explain it, there is abundant evidence of a decree of preterition. It is inevitably implied in the decree of election, coupled with the fact that all are neither elected nor saved. If salvation is of God; if God is a Being of infinite intelligence, and if He has eternally purposed to save some; then He has ipso facto equally purposed from eternity to leave the others in their ruin. And to this agree the Scriptures (Rom. 9:13, 17, 18, 21 and 22; Matt. 11:25; Rom. 11:7; 2 Tim. 2:20; Jude 4; 1 Pet. 2:8).
This is a part of Godís word which has ever been assailed with the fiercest cavils. It has been represented as picturing a God, who created a number of unfortunate immortals, and endued them with capacities for sinning and suffering, only in order that He might damn them forever; and to this wretched fate they are inexorably shut up, by the iron decree, no matter what penitent efforts or what cries for mercy and escape they may put forth; while the equally or more guilty objects of the divine caprice and favoritism are admitted to a Heaven which they cannot forfeit, no matter how vilely they behave. There is no wonder that a Wesley should denounce the doctrine thus misrepresented, as worthy only of Satan. There is, indeed, enough in the truth of this subject, to fill every thoughtful mind with solemn awe and holy fear of that God, who holds the issues of our redemption in His sovereign hand. But how differently does His dealing appear, when we remember that He created all His creatures at first in holiness and happiness; that He gave them an adequate opportunity to stand; that He has done nothing to make the case of the non-elect worse than their own choice makes it, but on the contrary, sincerely and mercifully warns them by conscience and His word against that wicked choice; that it is all a monstrous dream to fancy one of these nonĖelect seeking Heaven by true penitence, and excluded by the inexorable decree, because they all surely yet voluntarily prefer their impenitence, so that God is but leaving them to their preferred ways; and that the only way He ensures the elect from the destruction due their sins, is by ensuring their repentance, faith, and diligent strivings to the end in a holy life.
Is Preterition Grounded On the Sin of Those Passd By.
Yet it must be confessed that some of the odiousness of the doctrine is in part due to the unwise views of it presented by the Orthodox. sometimes, going beyond all that Godís majesty, sovereignty and word require, out of a love of hypothesis. Thus, it is disputed what is the ground of this righteous preterition of the non-elect. The honest reader of his Bible would suppose that it was, of course, their guilt and wickedness foreseen by God, and, for wise reasons, permissively decreed by Him. This, we saw, all but the supralapsarian admitted in substance. Godís election is everywhere represented in Scripture, as an act of mercy, and His preterition as an act of righteous anger against sin. The elect are vessels of mercy, the non-elect, of wrath. (God does not show anger at anything but sin) as in Romans 9:22. Everywhere it is sin which excludes from His favor, and sin alone.
But it is urged, with an affected over-refinement, the sin of the non-elect cannot be the ground of Godís preterition, because all Adamís seed being viewed as equally depraved, had this been the ground, all would have been passed by. I reply, yes; if this had been the only consideration, pro or con , present in Godís mind. The ill-desert of all was in itself a sufficient ground for God to pass by all. But when His sovereign wisdom suggested some reason, unconnected with the relative desert or ill-desert of sinners, which was a good and sufficient ground for Godís choosing a part; this only left the same original ground, ill-desert, operating on His mind as to the remainder. It is perfectly true that Godís sovereignty concerns itself with the preterition as well as the election; for the separate reason which grounded the latter is sovereign. But with what propriety can it be said that this secret sovereign reason is the ground of his preterition, when the very point of the case was that it was a reason which did not apply to the non-elect, but only to the elect? As to the elect, it overruled the ground for their preterition, which would otherwise have been found, in their common ill-desert. As to the non-elect, it did not apply, and thus left the original ground, their ill-deserts, in full force. If all sinning men had been subjects of a decree of preteĖnobody would have questioned, but that Godís ground for passing them by was simply their ill-desert. Now, then, if a secret, sovereign motive, counterpoising that presented by the ill-desert, led to the election of some; how does this alter the ground for Godís preterition of the rest? Three traitors are justly condemned to death for capital crimes confessed. The king ascertains that two of them are sons of a noble citizen, who had died for the commonwealth; and the supreme judge is moved by this consideration to spare the lives of these men. For what is the third criminal hung? No one has any doubt in answering: "For his treason." The original cause of death remains in operation against him, because no contravening fact existed in his case.
But it is said again: that if we make the sin of the nonĖelect the ground of their rejection, then by parity of reasoning, we must make the foreseen piety of the elect the ground of their election; and thus return to the error of conditional decrees. This perversely overlooks the fact, that, while the elect have no piety of their own originating to be foreseen, the others have an impiety of their own. Reviewing the arguments against conditional election, the student will see that this is the key to all: It cannot be, because no men will have any piety to foresee, save as it is the result of Godís grace bestowed from election. But is it so with menís sin? Just the opposite. Sin is the very condition in which God foresees all men as standing, for all except supralapsarians admit that God in predestination regards man as fallen. Manís foreseen sin may be the ground of Godís preterition, because it is not the effect of that preterition, but of another part of His eternal purpose, viz: that to permit the fall. And, as again and again taught, while the decree is absolute, the results decreed are conditioned; and we cannot but conceive God as predicating one part of His eternal purpose on a state of facts which was destined to proceed out of another part thereof.
Again: it is said, Scriptures teach, that the sin of the nonĖelect was not the ground of their preterition. "In John 10:26, continued unbelief is the consequence, and therefore not the ground of the Pharisees preterition" (Matt. 11:25; Rom. 9:11 18). "Godís will," they say, "and not the non-sin, is the ground of His purpose to harden." And "Esau was rejected as much without regard to his evil, as Jacob was elected without regard to his good deeds." To the first of these points I reply, that the withholding of Godís grace is but the negative occasion of a sinnerís unbelief, just as the absence of the physician from a sick man is the occasion, and not the cause, of His death. Men say that "he died because he failed to receive medical help," when speaking popularly. But they know that the disease, and not the physician, killed him. So, our Savior teaches, in John 10:26; that the stubborn unbelief of the Pharisees was occasioned by Godís refraining from the bestowal of renewing grace. But He does not deny that that this unbelief was caused by their own depravity, as left uninfluenced by the Spirit. Turrettin (Loc. 4: Qu. 15.) although inconsistently asserting on this point the supralapsarian extreme, says, (Sec. 3,) that we must distinguish between the nonĖelect manís original unbelief, and his acquired: and that it is the latter only, which he denies to be a ground of preterition, because it is a result thereof. He admits that the original unbelief may be a ground of preterition. This virtually concedes the point. To the second argument, we reply, that Godís decree of preterition is, like all others, guided by His eudokia . But is this sovereign good pleasure motiveless? Is it irrational caprice? Surely not. It is the purpose of a sovereign; but of one who is as rational, just, holy and good, as He is absolute. Such a being would not pass by, in righteous displeasure, His creature in whom He saw no desert of displeasure. The third point is made from the oft-cited case of the twins, Esau and Jacob. Let the supralapsarian strain the passage to mean that Esauís preterition was no more grounded in his ill-desert, than Jacobís election in his merit, because "the children had not done good nor evil;" and he will only reach a result obnoxious to his own view as to mine. He will make the Apostle teach that these children had no original sin, and that they stood before the divine prescience in that impossible state of moral neutrality, of which Pelagians prate. We are shut up to interpret the passage, just as Turrettin does elsewhere, that it is only a relative guilt and innocence between Esau and Jacob, which the Apostle asserts. In fact, both "were by nature children of wrath, even as others."
Godís Hardening What?
When it is said that God hardens the nonĖelect, it is not, and cannot be intended, that He exerts positive influence upon them to make them worse. The proof of this was given under the question, whether God can be the author of sin. See especially James. 1:13 God is only the negative cause of hardeningóthe positive depravation comes only from the sinnerís own voluntary feelings and acts. And the mode in which God gives place to, or permits this selfĖinflicted work, is by righteously withholding His restraining word and Spirit; and second, by surrounding the sinner through His permissive providence) with such occasions and opportunities as the guilty manís perverse heart will voluntarily abuse to increase his guilt and obduracy. This dealing, though wrong in men, is righteous in God. Even when Godís decree and providence concerning sins are thus explained, our opponents cavil at the facts. They say that the rule of holiness enjoined on us is, not only to do no sin, but to prevent all the sin in others we righteously can. They say that the same rule obliges God. They say we represent Him as like a man who, witnessing the perpetration of a crime, and having both the right and power to prevent it, stands idly by: and they refer us to such Scriptures as Proverbs 24:11, 12. And when we remind them, that God permissively ordains those sins, not for the sake of their evil, but for the sake of the excellent and holy ends He will bring out, they retort, that we represent Him as "doing evil that good may come." These objections derive all their plausibility from forgetting that we are creatures and bondsmen of God, while He is supreme judge. The judicial retribution of sin is not our function: He claims it as His own (Rom. 12:19). It is a recognized principle of His rule to make permitted sins the punishment of sins. Hence, we deny that it follows, the same rules oblige Him, which bind us. It does not follow, that the sovereign proprietor can righteously deal towards His possessions, only in the modes in which fellow servants can properly treat each other. Hence such dealing, making guilty souls the executors, in part, of their own righteous punishment, as would be an intrusion for us, is righteous and holy for Him.
Is Predestination Unjustly Partial?
To notice briefly the standing objections: The doctrine of predestination as we have defined it, is not inconsistent with the justice and impartiality of God. His agency in the fall of angels and men was only permissiveóthe act and choice were theirs. They having broken Godís laws and depraved themselves, it would have been just in God to leave them all under condemnation. How then can it be more than just when He punishes only a part? The charge of partiality has been absurdly Drought here, as though there could be partiality where there are no rights at all, in any creature, on the mercy of God; and Acts 10:34; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17; 2 Samuel 14:14; Romans 2:11 have been quoted against us. As Calvin very acutely remarks on the first of these, oneís persona , proswpon , in the sense of these passages, means, not the moral character, as judicially well or ill-deserving, but his accidental position in society, as Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, plebeian or nobleman. And in this sense it is literally true of election, that in it God respects no manís persona , but takes him irrespective of all these factitious advantages and disadvantages. To this foolish charge, Matthew 20:15, is a sufficient answer. Godís sovereignty ought undoubtedly to come in as a reply. Within the bounds of His other perfections of righteousness, truth and benevolence, God is entitled to make what disposal of His own He is pleased, and men are His propertyóRomans 9:20 21. Paul does not imply here that God is capable of doing injustice to an innocent creature, in order to illustrate His sovereignty; but that in such a case as this of predestination, where the condemnation of all would have been no more than they deserved, He can exercise His sovereignty, in sparing and punishing just such as He pleases, without a particle of injustice.
Is It Unholy?
2. It is objected, that Godís holiness would forbid such a predestination. How, it is said, can it be compatible with the fact that God hates sin, for Him to construct an arrangement, He having full power to effectuate a different one, by which He voluntarily and intentionally leaves multitudes of His creatures in increasing and everlasting wickedness? And the same objection is raised against it from His benevolence. The answer is, that this is but the same difficulty presented by the origin of evil; and it presses on the Calvinist with no more force than on the Arminian, or even on the Socinian. Allow to God a universal, perfect foreknowledge, as the Arminian does, and the very same difficulty is presented, how an almighty God should have knowingly adopted a system for the universe, which would embody such results. For even if the grossest Pelagian view be adopted, that God is literally unable certainly to prevent the wicked acts of manís free will, and yet leave him a free agent, it would doubtless have been in His power to let alone creating those who, He foresaw, would make a miserable immortality for themselves, in spite of His grace. The Arminian is obliged to say: "There are doubtless inscrutable reasons, unknown to us, but seen by God to be sufficient, why He should permit it?" The same appeal to our ignorance is just as available for the Calvinist. And if the lowest Socinian ground is taken, which denies to God a universal foreknowledge of the volitions of free agents, still we must suppose one of two things. He must either have less wisdom than many of His creatures, or else, He made these men and angels, knowing in the general, that large immortal misery would result. So that there is no evasion of this difficulty, except by so robbing God of His perfections as practically to dethrone Him. It is not Calvinism which creates it; but the simple existence of sin and misery, destined never to be wholly in the government of an almighty and omniscient God. He who thinks he can master it by his theory, only displays his folly.
How Reconciled With Gospel Offers To All?
3. It is objected that Godís goodness and sincerity in the offer of the Gospel to all is inconsistent with predestination. It is urged: God says He "hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth;" that He would have all men to be saved; and that Christ declared His wish to save reprobate Jerusalem. Now, how can these things, and His universal offer: "Whosoever will, let him come," consist with the fixed determination that the non-elect shall never be saved? I reply, that this difficulty (which cannot be wholly solved) is not generated by predestination, but lies equally against any other theory which leaves God His divine attributes. Let one take this set of facts. Here is a company of sinners; God could convert all by the same powers by which He converts one. He offers His salvation to all, and assures them of His general benevolence. He knows perfectly that some will neglect the offer; and yet, so knowing, He intentionally refrains from exerting those powers, to overrule their reluctance, which He is able to exert if He chose. This is but a statement of stubborn facts; it cannot be evaded without impugning the omniscience, or omnipotence of God, or both. Yet, see if the whole difficulty is not involved in it. Every evangelical Christian, therefore, is just as much interested in seeking the solution of this difficulty as the Calvinist. And it is to be sought in the following brief suggestions. Godís concern in the transgression and impenitence of those whom He suffers to neglect His warnings and invitations, is only permissive. He merely leaves men to their own sinful choice. His invitations are always impliedly, or explicitly conditional; suspended on the sinnerís turning. He has never said that He desires the salvation of a sinner as impenitent; He only says, if the sinner will turn, he is welcome to salvation. And this is always literally true; were it in the line of possibilities that one nonĖelect should turn, he would find it true in his case. All, therefore, that we have to reconcile is these three facts; that God should see a reason why it is not proper, in certain cases, to put forth His almighty grace to overcome a sinnerís reluctance; and yet that He should be able to do it if He chose; and yet should be benevolent and pitiful towards all His creatures. Now God says in His Word that He does compassionate lost sinners. He says that He could save if He pleased. His word and providence both show us that some are permitted to be lost. In a wise and good man, we can easily understand how a power to pardon, a sincere compassion for a guilty criminal, and yet a fixed purpose to punish, could coexist; the power and compassion being overruled by His wisdom. Why may not something analogous take place in God, according to His immutable nature? Is it said: such an explanation implies a struggle in the breast between competing considerations, inconsistent with Godís calm blessedness? I reply, Godís revelations of His wrath, love, pity, repentance, etc., are all anthropopathic, and the difficulty is no greater here, than in all these cases. Or is it said, that there can be nothing except a lack of will, or a lack of power to make the sinner both holy and happy? I answer: it is exceeding presumption to suppose that, because we do not see such a cause, none can be known to God!
How To Be Taught, and Its Results.
"The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care." In preaching it, that proportion should be observed, which obtains in the Bible; and no polemical zeal against the impugners of the doctrine ought to tempt the minister to obtrude it more often. To press it prominently on anxious inquirers, or on those already confused by cavils of heretics or Satanic suggestions, or to urge it upon one inclined to skepticism, or one devoid of sufficient Christian knowledge, experience and humility, is unsuitable and imprudent. And when taught, it should be in the mode which usually prevails in Scripture, viz: a posteriori , as inferred from its result, effectual calling.
But when thus taught, the doctrine of predestination is full of edification. It gives ground for humility, because it leaves man no ground for claiming any of the credit of either originating or carrying on his salvation. It lays a foundation for confident hope; because it shows that "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." It should open the fountains of love and gratitude, because it shows the undeserved and eternal love of God for the undeserving. See here an eloquent passage in Witsius, b. 3, chap. 4, 30. We should learn to teach and to view the doctrine, not from an exclusive, but from an inclusive point of view. It is sin which shuts out from the favor of God, and which ruins. It is Godís decree which calls back, and repairs and saves all who are saved. Whatever of sin, of guilt, of misery, of despair the universe exhibits, arises wholly out of manís and Satanís transgression. Whatever of redemption, of hope, of comfort, of holiness and of bliss alleviates this sad panorama, all this proceeds from the decree of God. The decree is the fountain of universal benevolence; voluntary sin is the fountain of woe. Shall the fountain of mercy be maligned because, although it emits all the happiness in the universe, it has a limit to its streams?