ELECTION AND REPROBATION
By T.W. BRENTS (1874)
Edited and Abridged by Jeff Paton
We now come to examine the subject of unconditional election and reprobation; and that we may see the doctrine in its purity, we beg permission, to quote again from the creed:
"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others for-ordained to everlasting death. These angels and men thus predestinated and for-ordained are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it can not be either increased or diminished. Those of mankind that are predestined 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."
Confession of Faith, chap. 3 secs. 3,4,5.
It is quite easy to see that the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation is true if the doctrine of unchangeable for-ordination obtains as to every thing that comes to pass, unless we find relief in the more ample floods of Universalism. If God has unchangeably for-ordained whatsoever comes to pass, then of course He has for-ordained just who shall be saved, and who, if any, shall be lost; and if He has unchangeably fixed the destiny of every man before time began without any conditions whatever, then Calvinism or Universalism must be true. But we think we have seen that God did not so ordain everything, (see article on Predestination ) and hence this doctrine can not support either of the others. If either stands at all, it must be proved by other testimony. For the present, then, we propose to inquire whether or not God has unconditionally and unchangeably fixed the destiny of a definite number of two classes--- the elect and the reprobate.
And first, we remark that the words elect, elected, election, reprobate, and reprobates, are Biblical terms; hence there must be a Bible doctrine concerning them. Elect means to choose; hence the elect of God are God's chosen. God has elected persons, families, nations, and bodies or organizations in different ages of the world, for the benefit of his creatures, but the final salvation and happiness of the elected were by no means secured by their election. On the contrary, God's elect have to "work out their own salvation with fear and trembling." Phil. 2:12. Hence in very many instances they had sinned and fallen far from the favor of God, and often forfeited the positions to which they were elected. But to comprehend the whole subject we must inquire who were elected and for what purposes; then we may be able to see what effect, if any, their election had upon their final destiny.
" Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles; he shall not cry nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth." Isa. 42:1-3. That the servant of God here called his elect was Jesus the Christ may be seen by reference to Matt. 12:17-21., where this prophecy is quoted by Jesus as fulfilled in himself. Surely, it will be admitted that Jesus was not elected to secure His own salvation, but to be the Savior of men. "Wherefore also it is contained in Scripture, Behold I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded." 1 Pet. 2:6. Here Jesus is represented as the elect corner-stone of the church, on whom others believe to their salvation. But we are more concerned in examining the election of men, as individuals, collective bodies, and nations.
Aaron and his sons were not only elected, but consecrated and anointed priests of God, and officiated in that most sacred office for themselves and the people. In the eighth chapter of Leviticus may be found an account of the grand and sublime ceremony with which they were inducted into that holy office. Thus the male portion of a family were elected and inducted into the priesthood; and what became of them? The Lord said: "Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto Mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son, and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there." Num. 20:24-28. "Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord and devoured them., and they died before the Lord." Lev. 10:1, 2. Now, if the doctrine of eternal unconditional election and reprobation be true, to which class did Nadab and Abihu belong? Did God elect them from the non-elect, or eternally reprobate, and anoint them priests to officiate in the tabernacle, having previously determined upon their destruction, and unchangeably for-ordained the wickedness for which He intended to kill them? Or were they of the eternally elect, and their interest in heaven made sure before "the foundation of the world," and God killed them for wickedness which He had unchangeably for-ordained they should do, that He might take then home to glory? Is it not more rational to conclude that God elected them, anointed and consecrated them priests, intending to be with and bless them as long as they were faithful to Him, and punish then when they forsook Him; and that their unhappy end was the result of their own voluntary rebellion against the law of the Lord?
God elected Saul to be the first king of Israel. He told Samuel how he might know him; and having presented him to the people, "Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted and said, God save the king." 1 Sam. 10:24. He has not only elected him, but he gave him the spirit of prophecy, and when "a company of the priests met him, The Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them." 1 Sam. 10:10. Nor was this all, but he sacredly anointed him to reign over his people. "Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?" 1 Sam. 10:1. The Lord was with him and prospered him in battle, as long as he was faithful to Him, but when he disobeyed Him, Samuel said, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is an iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king." 1 Sam. 15:22, 23. " Will the reader observe the fact that he was rejected, not because God had eternally reprobated him, or unchangeably for-ordained his rejection, but because he rejected the word of the Lord. From these examples we learn that when God elected any one to any position however important, it did not unconditionally secure for him an entrance into the climes of endless bliss, or even a continuance in the office to which he was elected; but on the contrary the general principle is quite apparent that He blessed and prospered him as long as he continued faithful to His will, and failed not to punish and reject him when he rebelled against Him.
Brent gives lengthy examples of the election of nations, especially of Israel. He points out that the Church is directed to the example of Israel's failings and the warnings that these have for the Church.
Now, we would note the fact that the Jewish age was a typical age: the church in the wilderness was, in a sense, a type of the church of God; Moses, the Jewish lawgiver, was in a sense, a type of Christ our lawgiver.; Aaron, the Jewish high priest, was a type of Christ our High Priest; the Jewish priests were types of Christians in the gospel age who are priests now. --- Hence says Peter, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Pet. 2:5. And again, verse 9, he says, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." Then if these elect types, from the least to the greatest, both as individuals and as one body, had to be faithful to God or forfeit their election, may we not in the same way forfeit our election? After telling us that "with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness," Paul says: " These things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor. 10:5-12. We know not how the apostle could have given more conclusive proof that the number of the elect composing the church of God at Corinth, was liable to be diminished by apostasy than is here given. He tells them of the overthrow of many of the Jews, and mentions, specifically, the sins for which thousands of them fell, and tells them that these things happened to them as examples, and are written for our admonition; "wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." But why this admonition, if the numbers of the elect and reprobate are so certain and definite that they can neither be increased nor diminished? Were this true, Paul's most solemn warning to his brethren was a mere "rawhead and bloody bones," to alarm them when there was no danger, for none of them could fall! And the creed is consistent with itself, if not with the Bible at this point; for it says:
"They whom God accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from a state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end and be saved.
This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof."
Chap. xvii, secs. 1, 2.
The doctrine here set out is a necessary outgrowth of the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation. If God has unchangeably fixed the destiny of every man before time began, then it follows that such destiny can not be changed by any act of the creature-- nay, not even by the Creator; for that which is unchangeable can not be changed even by God himself. Therefore none of the eternally elect can fall if that doctrine obtains; and whenever it is clearly shown that a Christian may apostatize, and be lost, the whole theory of unconditional election and reprobation is exploded. We will therefore be somewhat careful to see how this is. And if there was not another sentence in the Bible touching the subject, Paul's most solemn warning to the Corinthians would be quite sufficient to settle the question forever. He tells them of the fall of the Jews as examples to his brethren, and that their deplorable end was recorded as a solemn admonition to others, lest they, feeling secure, might fall. What could be more conclusive? In the last verse of the preceding chapter, the apostle says, " I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." 1 Cor. 9:27. If Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, had to keep such constant watch-care over himself, lest, after all his labor, he could be lost, is it not possible that others may fall? It is not necessary to show that Paul was one of the elect, for this will surely be admitted: yet he was in danger of falling; and had he fallen, would not the number of the elect have been diminished thereby, and the number of the reprobate correspondingly increased?
Jesus said: "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into fire, and they are burned." John 15:5, 6. Why charge them to abide in him, if they could not do otherwise than abide in him? and why liken them to withered and dry branches which men gather and cast into the fire to be burned, if by reason of the immutability of the decree of election they could not do otherwise than persevere to the end and be eternally saved?
Paul tells Timothy of "Hymeneus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is passed already; and overthrow the faith of some." 2 Tim. 2:18. Here were persons who had faith, and that faith was overthrown by false teaching. Surely, these persons were of the elect, for the creed tells us that:
"The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts."
Chap. xiv. sec. I.
Without stopping for the present to inquire how the elect, whose souls never could have been lost, can believe to the saving of their souls, we remark that faith is the work of the Spirit in the heart of the elect, according to the creed; hence Hymeneus and Philetus diminished the number of the elect just as many as there were persons whose faith they overthrew.
But we will hear what Paul has to say to the Hebrews, chap. 6:4-6. "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew then again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." Here it is most clearly taught that even those who had been blessed with those extraordinary spiritual manifestations peculiar to the age of the apostles, might fall away; else why the language, " If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and have counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Heb. 10:26-29. Here was a sorer punishment than death awaiting, under certain conditions, persons who had been sanctified by the blood of the covenant. Surely, these sanctified persons were of the elect, even according to the creed, for it says:
Sanctification is a work of God's grace, whereby they, whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are, in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit, applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God."
Larger Catechism, answer to Question 75.
Then Paul intended to teach that God's elect, after sanctification by the blood of the new covenant, might sin willfully and be worthy of sorer punishment than those who died without mercy under the law of Moses. But we will hear from Peter on the subject. He says: "If after they had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them; but it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in in mire." 2 Pet. 2: 20-22. Here we find that persons who escaped the pollutions of the world may again be entangled in and overcome by them; and we are clearly told that if they are so overcome, then the latter end with them is worse than the beginning. Better for them not to have obeyed the gospel at all than to turn back into wickedness. As the sow that was washed may go back to wallowing in the mire, so may he who was cleansed from sin become worse than before.
Paul testified to such of his Galatian brethren as were circumcised, that "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." Gal. 5:4. Here, it seems to us, all controversy on the possibility of "falling from grace" should cease. We see no place for further argument on the subject; indeed, we know not how to make an argument on a passage like this. We have learned how to reason from premises to conclusions, but here there is no room for reason. When Paul most solemnly testifies that such as had turned back to the law and had been circumcised had "fallen from grace," it must simply be accepted as true, or the truth of the statement denied. Surely, these were once in grace--in favor with God--in Christ--for it would be the merest twaddle to talk about persons falling from positions which they never occupied. This being true, it follows that every person who thus falls diminishes the number of the elect and increases the number of the reprobate; hence the whole theory of unconditional election and reprobation is untrue.
But it is not only true that Christians, God's elect, may fall as individuals, but it is also true that congregations composing the "church of God" at certain places may fall. In proof of this position we would refer the reader to the several messages to the Asiatic churches. To the church at Ephesus, God said, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee; because thou hast left thy first love. remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Rev. 2:4, 5. Certainly, this had reference to the removal of the church as a body.
To the church of the Laodiceans he said: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Rev. 3:15-17. Here is a church which God said he would spew out of his mouth, and after many epithets of reproach upon it he gives it such counsel as would enable it to reinstate itself in his favor by reformation and obedience. God said, " If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do what is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have i any pleasure at all that the wicked shall die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways and live? But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All the righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them he shall die. Yet ye say, the way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel : is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth and turneth away from all his transgressions that he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die." Ezek. 18: 21-28. This general principle characterizes all God's dealings with man in every age of the world.
We come now to consider the doctrine of eternal unconditional election and reprobation in its bearing on the subject of the atonement. If God, before the foundation of the world, unconditionally ordained just who and how many should be saved, and who and how many would be lost, then of course the atonement made by Christ could not reach those who were fore-ordained to dishonor and wrath, and therefore they could not have any interest in his death. Indeed it is difficult, according to the theory, to see the benefits of Christ's death at all; for the atonement could not make the salvation of the elect anymore secure, nor could it possibly change the condition or chances of the reprobate. Here again the creed is consistent with itself, as far as the reprobate is concerned, for it does not assume that the benefits of the atonement can in any way reach them; not because ant fault in them, but because Christ did not die for them. It says:
Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only."
Chap. 3, sec. 6.
Then, when it is shown that Christ died for all men, the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation will have been again exploded. Paul says, "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Heb. 2:9. What can this mean? It can mean nothing less than that Christ died for every man. Surely, it would require elastic rules of interpretation to supply the word elect here, so as to make it read that " Jesus tasted death for every elect man." Before making this addition to the word of the Lord, let the reader consider well the following quotation: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book." Rev. 22:18.
" For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life; for God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:16, 17. Here we find that the love of God extended to the world, and the object of sending His Son into the world was the salvation of the world. But here again we are asked to supply the word elect, so as to restrict the love of God to the elect. But the same apostle, in another place, supplies a word better calculated to give his use of the word world as connected with the atonement. He says, "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2. Could language be more ample or comprehensive? and would anyone ever have thought of restricting its meaning to the whole "elect" world, had not the salvation of a theory required it? We know that the word world is sometimes used in a limited sense--that is, when it is intended to apply to a part, and not all the human race; but it applies in such cases to the wicked, as distinguished from the elect. A single example will abundantly show this. Jesus said to his disciples: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." John 15:18, 19. In the quotation the word world occurs several times in a limited sense, but every time it refers to the wicked as distinguished from the elect. But the context itself utterly forbids any such restricted use of the term in John 3:16, 17. Let us examine it a little. The passage not only teaches that God loved the world, but also that the object of sending His Son into the world was that the world might not perish, but have everlasting life. Then if the love of God, and the world to whom He sent His Son, be confirmed to the elect world, it follows that whosoever of this elect world believes on Him may not perish; but others of the elect world may not believe on Him, and therefore perish. This view is quite prominent in the verse immediately following: "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:18. That is, he, of this elect world that God loved, and to whom He sent His Son, that believeth not, is condemned already. This doctrine the advocates of the theory will not allow. And it will do no better to confine the word world to the Jews, reading it thus: God so loved the Jewish world that he sent his only begotten Son, " etc.: for that would exclude all others but Jews from the benefits of the atonement, even the makers of the creed themselves. Nor will it do to apply the word world here to the Roman Empire, for this would exclude all other nations, and thus come in direct conflict with the commission sending apostles to disciple all nations, and into all the world to preach to every creature. Then it must mean just what it says: "He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world." "Because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." 2 Cor. 5:14, 15. Here the apostle clearly teaches that Christ died for all affected by the sin of Adam; hence the language: "If one died for all, then were all dead. " Then as "death passed upon all men" (Rom.5:12), even so Christ died for all men. "Therefore, as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Rom. 5:18. Without turning aside to offer exegesis of this verse, it is sufficient for our present purpose to call attention to the very obvious fact that, as Adam's sin affects all men, even so the benefits of Christ's death are offered to all men. To the same effect spake Jesus when He said: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die." John 12:32, 33. Surely, he did not expect all men to be drawn unto Him by His death unless all were interested in His death. What attraction could this death have for a reprobate, when he knew He died not for him, or any but the elect?
Again: Paul says, "there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1 Tim. 2:5, 6. Here, as usual, Paul is in contact with the theory which says substantially that Christ gave Himself a ransom for the elect only. "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all." Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for those for whom he died; therefore he died to the uttermost that come to God by him. Surely, we can not be mistaken in this.
When the angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds who watched their flocks in the plains of Judea, he, said, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people." Luke 2:10. It occurs to us that the angel would have spoken more like the creed had he said, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to the elect." Surely, the announcement of Savior born could not have been glad tidings of great joy to those who were eternally reprobate, and therefore could not hope for an interest in His mission and death, or the atonement made by Him. Nor is it very easy to see how the news of His birth could have been glad tidings of great joy even to the elect, for He could not make their salvation any more secure than when it was made by the immutable decree of election. Peter did not so understand the subject, for he said, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure." Then it was not already sure. But why strive to make it sure? "For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." 2 Pet. 1:10. Then if they did not do these things they would fall, and make void their election; at least they would be liable to do so. Hence, as the announcement of His birth was glad tidings of great joy to all people, it is certain that Christ died for all people; and therefore all people may be saved through the atonement made by Him. It is certain that not all will be saved; but it will not be because the provisions of the atonement did not embrace them, but because they would not accept salvation as offered to them.
It is conceded by all parties that Christ died for the elect or saved; hence we propose next to show that He also died for such as have been or may be lost. Paul says: "But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died." Rom. 14:15. "And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died." 1 Cor. 8:11. These passages teach as clearly as language can teach anything that there were members of the church of God, both at Rome and at Corinth, for whom Christ died, who were liable to perish--be destroyed; hence Christ died as well for those who perish--be destroyed-- as much as He did for those who are saved. These passages show, too, that the disciples at Rome and Corinth were liable to fall away--perish--be destroyed; hence the admonition to those in charge of the weaker members to guard against such result. How can it be, then, that the destiny of every one was immutably fixed by the decree of election? But we will hear another Apostle on the same subject. Peter says: "But there were false prophets among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." 2 Pet. 2:1. Here were false teachers that denied the Lord that bought them, and thereby brought upon themselves swift destruction. How did the lord buy them? Paul admonished certain persons "to feed the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood." Acts 20:28. Then it was with the blood of Christ that He bought or purchased these false teacher who denied Him, and destroyed themselves. Before leaving this passage, we may note another fact which appears in it. These false teachers brought destruction upon themselves; and this they could not have done if they were eternally and unchangeably ordained dishonor and wrath by God's decree. The decree destroyed them, and no acts of theirs--if such a decree was made concerning them.
We next propose to show that salvation is attainable by all men, because the gospel of salvation is to be preached to all men. Jesus charged the apostles to "teach all nations, baptizing them." Matt. 27:19. And again: " Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15. Why preach the gospel to every creature when the larger portion were not embraced in its provisions? It occurs to us that something like the following would have been more appropriate: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to the elect., that they may know the ample provisions made for them before the foundation of the world; but to the reprobate say nothing, for as they can not by ant possibility avert the awful doom that surely awaits them, it is better to let them remain ignorant of their fate as long as possible." If this be true, we can see no use of all the labor and expense of printing Bibles, building meeting-houses, and preaching the gospel to either saint or sinner. If we are of the definite number elected and for-ordained to eternal life, there is no chance for us to be lost; and if not, we can not be saved. We have often heard this doctrine preached from the pulpit, when the sermon closed with an exhortation to sinners to come to the anxious seat to seek salvation or pray for pardon of sin. What a mockery! Why tell a man that God has unalterably fixed his destiny before time began, and then exhort him "flee from the wrath to come" and "lay hold on eternal life"--as though he could either change or confirm God's eternal and immutable decree! Surely, his efforts could do no good, nor could his negligence do any harm, for:
"Those of mankind that are predestined unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel of his good pleasure of his will, has chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace of 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. "
Conf., chap. iii, sec. 5.
Thus we see that faith, good works, nor any other thing, can avail, for the whole matter was unalterably fixed before time began. Salvation, upon certain conditions, was the great object of preaching the gospel to every creature; and among these conditions faith occupies a conspicuous place: "Faith commeth by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Rom. 10:17. Hence the necessity of preaching the gospel-- teaching the word of God to every creature, that he might have the privilege of believing and obeying it; therefore the promise: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Rom. 10:9. And, "He that believeth not on him is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:18. The fact that Jesus required the gospel to be preached among all the nations, to every creature, promising salvation to those who would beleive and obey it., is evidence high as heaven that all may have salvation who will accept it on the conditions specified. Surely, God would not mock His creatures by preaching the gospel, and offering salvation to them on certain conditions, when He had eternally and unchangeably ordained that they should not be saved, and put it out of the reach of their power to comply with the terms offered. Nor is this all: He follows the promise of conditional salvation with the awful threat that " He that believeth not is condemned already." We can not see why anyone should be required to believe and trust in a Savior who did nothing for them, and believe and obey a gospel which made absolutely no provision to embrace them. Men are required to believe upon and trust in Jesus, in order to have salvation: " Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." And why believe this? "That believing ye might have life through his mane." John 20:30, 31. Jesus said, " He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." John 3:36. Thus we see that man is denied eternal life, and subjected to the abiding wrath of God, not because of any eternal decree against him personally, but because of his unbelief; hence "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already." And why is he condemned already? Is it because of God's eternal decree against him? No; but "because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:18.
Thus the justice of God is vindicated in the punishment of man. If he is not saved, it will not be because God eternally and unchangeably ordained his destruction; nor will it be because God willed not his salvation. Hear Him most solemnly deny such an imputation: "If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die." All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him. In his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked shall die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways and live." Ezek. 18:21-23. "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye." Ver. 32. And again: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death if the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.' Ezek. 33:11. This is either true or it is untrue. If God, from all eternity, fixed the destiny of all men, and ordained a definite number to life and a definite number to dishonor and wrath, and that according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth" (Conf., chap. iii, sec. 7), then we see not how God has not pleasure in and wills not that which is according to the secret counsel and good pleasure of His own will. It requires greater skill than we possess to harmonize the Bible and the creed here. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance." 2 Pet. 3:9. How can this be true, if God fixed the destiny of each one in accordance with the unsearchable counsel of his will before time began? He who can, may explain.
Paul says: " I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Tim. 2:1-4. Here we learn that all men are the objects of prayer. And why? Because God wills the salvation of all men. Then if all are not saved, it will be because "ye will not come to me that ye might have life." John 5:40. Their own obdurate will is the great barrier to the salvation of men. When Jesus beheld the wickedness of the people of Jerusalem, and the consequent destruction that awaited them, he said: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Matt. 23:37. Mark well the reason: "Ye would not!" Yes, the Son of God would gladly have saved them from the danger which threatened them, even as He would now save all who would come to God by Him; yet they would not -neither will ye. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Rev. 22:17. Not whosoever was elected from all eternity, but whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Then whosoever perishes is lost because he will not partake of that which is freely offered to him. His unending wail may be, "God is just, though I am lost."
Jesus said, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost." Luke 19:10. Was there ever a time when the elect were lost? If so, when? The creed tells us that they were predestined unto life before the foundation of the world was laid; hence, if they were ever lost, it must have been before that: therefore they could not have been the objects of Christ's mission, for these were lost when He came to earth as a man. Again He says: "They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31, 32. Were the eternally elect the sinners which Jesus came to call to repentance? Surely, they were not sick enough to invoke the aid of Jesus, the great Physician, for they were eternally and immutably ordained to eternal life; hence that were not sick--in any case, they could not have been sick to the point of spiritual death.
The Scriptures abound with testimony showing that men are not elect before conversion. A few passages of this class are all for which we have room in this work. In speaking to the Ephesians brethren, Paul tells us that they were "by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Eph. 2:3. If they had been elected to salvation before time began, we see not how, at any time, they could have been children of wrath, even as others not of the elect. Again: "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." Rom. 8:9. All persons know that, prior to conversion, the Spirit of Christ was not in them, and hence, at the time, they are none of His; yet, according to the theory, they were always His. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Rom. 8:14. Then of course the converse is true, that as many as are not led by the Spirit of God are not the sons of God. All unconverted persons are led by the spirit of the wicked one., and not by the Spirit of God; therefore no unconverted man is a son of God. It will be conceded that the elect are sons of God; hence when not the sons of God, none are elect. "Know ye no your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates." 2 Cor. 13:5. Prior to conversion, Christ is in no one. Paul says, "I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." Gal. 4:19. As Christ has to be formed in men, it follows that He was not always in them; and when He is not in them, they are reprobates: therefore none are elect until converted. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2 Cor. 5:17. If all the elect were "in Christ" before the foundation of the world, then conversion makes no man a new creature in Him; for if any person were "in Christ" at all, then they were always in Him. Paul says, "Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me." Rom. 16:7. If Paul and his kinsmen were in Christ from before the foundation of the world, then he made a most egregious blunder here. When has it, and how is it that they were in Christ before him? Once more: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Gal. 5:24. Then those that have not crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts are not Christ's. There was a time in the history of every man when he had not crucified the flesh with the affection and lusts, and therefore a time when he was not Christ's. All the elect are Christ's; therefore there was a time in the life of every man when he was not one of the elect: hence none are personally and unconditionally elected to eternal life from before the foundation of the world.
Speaking of his brethren in the Lord, Peter said: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." 1 Pet. 2:9, 10. Here, again, we know not how to make an argument. This passage is so manifestly opposed to the whole theory of eternal and unconditional election and reprobation that there is no room to reason about it. These were a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; hence they were God's elect beyond controversy: yet in time past they were not a people, but then were the people of God. Do you say these were Gentiles? Suppose they were: what relief does this bring to the theory? It only shows the more clearly that once they were not God's people; yet when the apostle wrote, they were God's people--yes, verily, they were His peculiar people. Were they elected in Christ before the foundation of the world? Then we would gladly like to know at what time in the past it was at which they were not the people of God. Once they had not obtained mercy. When was this? Elected to eternal life before the foundation of the world, out of God's mere free grace and love, and yet had not obtained mercy!!!
But if the doctrine already quoted from the Confession is true--that before the foundation of the world was laid, according an eternal and immutable purpose, without any foresight of faith or good works, or anything else in man, God unconditionally elected some men and angels to eternal life, and at the same time for-ordained the residue to dishonor and eternal wrath--then we know not how to avoid the conclusion that He is a respecter of persons. Against this imputation upon the character of our Heavenly Father, at least two inspired pens have given testimony. Paul said, "There is no respect of persons with God." Rom. 2:11. Again: "He that doeth wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons." Col. 3:25. Once more: "And ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him." Eph. 6:9. It is probable that Peter once had similar thoughts upon this subject to those of Calvinists now. Certain it is that he thought the privileges and blessings of the gospel were confined to the Jews, and it required nothing less than a miracle to convince him of his error; but when convinced, he at once replied: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons." Acts 10:34. From that time he gladly taught the gospel to those previously regarded unworthy of its privileges. Finally, let us examine the subject of a general judgment through Calvinistic glasses.
" the times of ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained." Acts 17:30, 31. But why appoint a day of judgment in which judge the world, if the numbers of the elect and reprobate were made certain and definite beyond increase or diminution before time began? Surely, the line of separation was drawn deep and wide between them by the immutable decree which assigned each one his position long in advance of his being. But God will judge the world in righteousness; therefore his judgment will be in accordance with the principles of justice: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." 2 Cor. 5:10. John says: 'And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." Rev. 20:12, 13. Why judge a man according to his works, when everything he did was specifically ordained and put out of his control before time began? Why not judge him, if at all, according to the eternal decree which immutably fixed his destiny? From such a standpoint as Calvinism, the whole theory of future judgment seems to us a most sublimely ridiculous farce.
That the decree of election, and not the things done in the body, is the rule of law by which Calvinism proposes to judge the world, is further shown by the fact that reprobate infants that die in infancy are consigned to eternal misery for no other reason than they were not of the elect. (Editors note: Most modern Calvinists are ashamed of the logical conclusions of their fatalistic theology and now usually make infants automatically part of the elect. This they do however, without any Biblical warrant, and against the historical Calvinistic statements on the subject. They cannot possibly know who is elect, to include children, or even themselves, since according to the theory, those who are elected are chosen "without any foresight of faith or good works or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature," which excludes any consideration that they are children, and makes the destiny of each individual a mystery known only to God before all eternity.) On page 64, chap. x, sec. 3, the creed says: "Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when and where and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word." Yes, elect infants are saved by Christ; but what of the non-elect? "Others not elected, though they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and therefore can not be saved." The words "elect infants" clearly implies that there are non-elect infants. The above quotation that elect infants dying in infancy are saved; and of course, the non-elect infants dying in infancy, or in living to adult age, cannot be saved, as Christ never died for them, or any but the elect. Though you may consign your infant to the tomb while so young that it never could have had a wicked thought or done a wicked act, yet you have no assurance of its ever being raised in the image of Christ, for the reason you cannot tell whether it is, or is not, one of the elect. No, you cannot tell whether its little tongue will be employed in praising God, or in fruitless cries and bitter wailings in the eternal pit of despair, for no fault of its own, or anyone else, but simply because God unchangeably decreed it that horrible fate. Calvinism has no escape from this difficulty. The numbers of the elect and reprobate having been made certain and definite before time began, it follows that he who is reprobate--at all, was so at birth; Hence those who die in that condition are hopelessly lost. There is no remedy that can reach such cases. Therefore, Calvinists who are not prepared for such results should abandon a theory which necessarily produces them.
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