The GOSPEL TRUTH
as it is
Randolph S. Foster
Election and Reprobation
WE SHALL NOW PROCEED to consider the doctrine of decrees with relation to election and reprobation particularly. And, as in the former case, we shall appeal to the Confession of Faith and to accredited Calvinistic authors. Our object is to know precisely what our Presbyterian brethren do believe. We appeal, therefore, to their own statements and explanations. From the Confession of Faith, chapter 3, I read:Section 3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated and foreordained--are particularly and unchangeably designed--and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
Section 5. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature as conditions or causes moving him thereto, and all to the praise of his glorious grace.
Section 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ--are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season--are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, but the elect only.
Section 7. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his will whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sins, to the praise of his glorious justice.
Of effectual calling:Section 1. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and these only, he is pleased in his appointed and accepted time effectually to call by his Word and Spirit out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ, enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to God, taking their hearts of stone and giving them a heart of flesh, renewing their wills, by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ, yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.
Section 2. This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.
Section 3. 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 other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
Section 4. Others not elected, although 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 cannot be saved. Much less can men not professing the Christian religion be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do possess; and to assert and maintain that they may is very pernicious and to be detested.
Of the perseverance of the saints:Section 1. They whom God hath accepted in his beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end and be eternally saved.
Section 2. 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 unchanging love of God the Father upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace, from all which ariseth the certainty and infallibility thereof.
I have quoted thus largely from the Confession of Faith that my readers may have the benefit of a full view of the whole scheme of unconditional salvation as taught by Calvinists--all that enters into and renders effectual the decree of election and reprobation. I shall now proceed to quote, as corroborative and explanatory of these articles of faith, from various authors who are supposed to understand the system and who have proved their friendship for it by giving their lives to its support. But a quotation or two from the Larger Catechism:
What is effectual calling?Effectual calling is the work of God's almighty power and grace whereby, out of his free and especial love to his elect and from nothing in them moving him thereunto, he doth in his accepted time invite and draw them to Jesus Christ by his Word and Spirit, savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they, although in themselves dead in sin, are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein. Are the elect only effectual called?
All the elect and they only are effectually called, although others may be and often are outwardly called by the ministry of the Word and have some common operations of the Spirit, who for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.
There is no doubt but the preparation of them both--elect and reprobate--doth depend upon the secret counsel of God; otherwise, Paul had said the reprobates give or cast themselves into destruction; but now he giveth to wit that before they are born they are addicted to their lot.
I quote further from the exposition:The decree of God with respect to the everlasting state of men and angels is known by the name of predestination; and this consists of two branches, generally distinguished by the name of election and reprobation.
Our Confession teaches that God made choice of and predestinated a certain and definite number of individuals to everlasting life--that he predestinated them to life before the foundation of the world was laid--that, in so doing, he acted according to his sovereign will and was not influenced. by the foresight of their faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them; and that this purpose is immutable, it being impossible that any of the elect should perish.
Christ died exclusively for the elect and purchased redemption for them alone; in other words, Christ made atonement only for the elect, and in no sense did he die for the rest of the race. Our Confession first asserts positively that the elect are redeemed by Christ, and then negatively that none other are redeemed by Christ but the elect only. If this does not affirm the doctrine of particular redemption or of a limited atonement, we know not what language could express that doctrine more explicitly. Some who allow of personal and eternal election deny any such thing as reprobation. But the one unavoidably follows from the other; for the choice of some must unavoidably imply the rejection of others. Election and rejection are correlative terms; and men impose upon themselves and imagine they conceive what it is impossible to conceive when they admit election and deny reprobation.
From the Larger Catechism:What hath God especially decreed concerning angels and men? God, by an eternal and immutable decree out of his mere love, for the praise of his glorious grace to be manifested in due time, hath elected some angels to glory and in Christ hath chosen some men to eternal life and the means thereof and, also, according to his sovereign power and the unsearchable counsel of his own will, hath passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonor and wrath to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of his justice.
Many, indeed, as if they wished to avert odium from God, admit election in such a way as to deny that anyone is reprobated. But this is puerile and absurd, because election itself could not exist without being opposed to reprobation. Whom God passes by, therefore, he reprobates; and from no other cause than his determination to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his children.
Though it is sufficiently clear that God, in his secret counsel, freely chooses whom he will and rejects others, his gratuitous election is but half displayed till we come to particular individuals to whom God not only offers salvation, but assigns it in such a manner that the certainty is liable to no suspicion or doubt.
Predestination we call the eternal decree of God by which he has determined in himself what he would have to become to every individual of mankind; for they are not all created with a similar destiny, but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or death.
The term predestination includes the decree of election and reprobation. Some, indeed, confine it to election, but there seems to be no sufficient reason for not extending it to the one as well as the other, as in both the final condition of man is preappointed or predestinated. When a choice is made, we must conceive that of a number of persons, some are taken, others are left. Election is a relative term and necessarily involves the idea of rejection.
There seems to be no reason, therefore, for denying that what is called reprobation was a positive decree, as well as election.
But, although the fall is presupposed to their reprobation, it will appear that the former was not the reason of the latter, if we recollect that those who were chosen to salvation were exactly in the same situation. If there was sin in the reprobate, there was sin, also, in the elect; and we must, therefore, resolve their opposite allotment into the will of God, who gives and withholds his favor according to his pleasure.
A decree respecting the condition of the human race includes the history of every individual: the time of his appearing upon earth; the manner of his existence while he is an inhabitant of earth, as it is diversified by the actions which he performs; and the manner of his existence after he leaves the earth, that is, his future happiness or misery. Whence it followeth that this knowledge--foreknowledge of the elect dependeth upon the good pleasure of God, because God foreknew nothing, out of himself, touching those he would adopt, but only marked out whom he would elect.
Now he doth refer the whole cause unto the election of God, and the same free and such as doth not depend upon men; that, in the salvation of the godly, nothing might be sought for above the goodness of God, and in the destruction of the reprobate nothing above his just severity.
Moreover, although the corruption of nature, which is dispersed over all mankind before it come into action, is available enough unto condemnation--whereby followeth that Esau was worthily rejected, because naturally he was the son of wrath--yet, lest any doubt should remain, as though through respect of any fault or sin his condition was the worse, it was necessary that as well sins as virtues should be excluded! Surely, true it is that the next cause of reprobation is for that we are all accursed in Adam. Yet to the end we might rest in the pure and simple will of God, Paul did lead us aside from the consideration thereof for so long until he had established this doctrine, namely, that God hath a sufficient, just cause of election and reprobation in his own will or pleasure.
And, therefore, that doctrine is false and contrary to the Word of God, namely, that God doth choose or reject as he foreseeth every man worthy or unworthy of his grace.
God hath elected some and rejected other some, and the cause is nowhere else to be sought for than in his purpose.
To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same.
Either Christ applies and communicates redemption to all and then Universalism is true, or he did not purchase redemption for all and so the reprobates never were redeemed.
Upon this point the expositor says:This section relates to the extent of Christ's death with respect to its objects; and, in opposition to the Arminian tenet that Christ died for all, it affirms that the purchase and application of redemption are exactly of the same extent. In the fifth section we were taught that Christ purchased redemption only for 'those whom the Father hath given unto him;' and here it is asserted that 'to all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same.' What language, then, could affirm more explicitly than that here employed that the atonement of Christ is specific and limited; that it is neither universal nor indefinite, but restricted to the elect?
This view of the atonement is sustained with elaborate argumentation by Mr. Shaw, showing how well and thoroughly he had considered the doctrine. As a specimen of his logic in this case, and I regret to say I find such specimens abounding throughout the system and in the writings of those eminent men who have so strangely enlisted in its advocacy:Universal terms are sometimes used in Scripture in reference to the death of Christ; but reason and common sense demand that general phrases be explained and defined by those that are special!
God chose, of the whole body of mankind whom he viewed in his eternal decree as involved in guilt and misery, certain persons who are called the elect, whose names are known to him and whose number, being unchangeably fixed by his decree, can neither be increased nor diminished; so that the whole extent of the remedy offered in the Gospel is conceived to have been determined beforehand by the divine decree. As all the children of Adam were involved in the same guilt and misery, the persons thus chosen had nothing in themselves to render them more worthy of being elected than any others; and therefore the decree of election is called, in the Calvinistic system, absolute, by which word is meant that it arises entirely from the good pleasure of God, because all the circumstances which distinguish the elect from others are the fruits of their election.
For the persons thus chosen, God from the beginning appointed the means of their being delivered from corruption and guilt, and by these means, effectually applied in due season, he conducts them at length unto everlasting life. From the election of certain persons, it necessarily follows that all the rest of the race of Adam are left in guilt and misery,. The exercise of divine sovereignty in regard to those who are not elected is called reprobation; and the condition of all having been originally the same, reprobation is called absolute in the same sense with election.
I say with Augustine that the Lord created those who he certainly foreknew would fall into destruction, and that this was actually so because he willed it.
Observe, all things being at God's disposal and the decision of salvation and death belonging to him, he orders all things by his counsel and decree in such a manner that some men are born devoted from the womb to certain death, that his name may be glorified in their destruction.
It is an awful decree, I must confess; but no one can deny that God foreknew the future, final fate of man before he created him, and that he did foreknow it because it was appointed by him or decreed. Nor should it be thought absurd to affirm that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man and the ruin of his posterity in him, but also arranged all by the determination of his own will. For as it belongs to his wisdom to foreknow things future, so it belongs to his power to rule and govern all things by his hand.
But I mean that the actions of men are foreseen by God, not as events independent of his will, but as originating in his determination and as fulfilling his purpose.
Foolish mortals enter into many contentions with God, as though they could arraign him to plead their accusations. In the first place, they inquire by what right the Lord is angry with his creatures, who have not provoked him by any previous offense; for that to devote to destruction whom he pleases is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge; that men have reason, therefore, to expostulate with God, if they are predestinated to eternal death without any demerit of their own merely by his sovereign will. If such thoughts ever enter the minds of pious men, they will be sufficiently enabled to break their violence by this one consideration--how exceedingly presumptuous it is only to inquire into the causes of the divine will, which is in fact and is justly entitled to be the cause of everything that exists. For if it has any cause, then there must be something antecedent on which it depends which it is impious to suppose. For the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what he wills must be considered just for this very reason--because he wills it. When it is inquired, therefore, why the Lord did so, the answer must be because he would.
He directs his voice to them, but it is that they may become more deaf; he kindles a light, but it is that they may be made more blind; he publishes his doctrine, but it is that they may become more besotted; he applies a remedy, but it is that they may not be healed. Nor can it be disputed that to such persons as God determines not to enlighten, he delivers his doctrine in enigmatical obscurity that its only effect may be to increase their stupidity.
That the reprobates obey not the Word of God when made known to them is justly imputed to the wickedness and depravity of their hearts; provided it be, at the same time, stated that they are abandoned to this depravity, because they have been raised up by a just but inscrutable judgment of God to display his glory in their condemnation. So when it is related of the sons of Eli that they listened not to his salutary admonitions 'because the Lord would slay them,' it is not denied that their obstinacy proceeded from their own wickedness but it is plainly implied that though the Lord was able to soften their hearts yet they were left in their obstinacy because his immutable decree had predestined them to destruction.
The term election most commonly signifies that eternal, sovereign, unconditional, particular, and immutable act of God whereby he selected some from all mankind and of every nation under heaven to be redeemed and everlastingly saved by Christ. It sometimes and more rarely signifies that gracious and almighty act of the divine Spirit whereby God actually and visibly separates his elect from the world by effectual calling.
Reprobation denotes either God's eternal preterition of some men when he chose others to glory, and his predestination of them to fill up the measure of their iniquities and then to receive the just punishment of crimes, even 'destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.' This is the primary, most obvious, and most frequent sense in which the word is used.
(Predestination) may be considered as that eternal, most wise, and immutable decree of God whereby he did from before all time determine and ordain to create, dispose of, and direct to some particular end every person and thing to which he has given or is yet to give being, and to make the whole creation subservient to and declarative of his own glory. Of this decree, actual providence is the execution.
Consider predestination as relating to the elect only, and it is that eternal, unconditional, particular, and irreversible act of the divine will whereby in matchless love and adorable sovereignty God determined within himself to deliver a certain number of Adam's degenerate offspring out of that sinful and miserable estate into which, by his primitive transgression, they were to fall and in which sad condition they were equally involved with those who were not chosen; but being pitched upon and singled out by God the Father to be vessels of grace and salvation, they were in time actually redeemed by Christ--are effectually called by his Spirit, justified, adopted, sanctified, and preserved safe to his heavenly kingdom.
We assert that all men universally are not elected to salvation; so neither are all men universally condemned to condemnation. The Deity from all eternity and, consequently, at the very time he gives life and being to a reprobate certainly foreknew and knows in consequence of his own decree that such a one would fall short of salvation. Now, if God foreknew this, he must have predetermined it, because his own will is the foundation of his decrees, and his decrees are the foundation of his prescience. He, therefore. foreknows futurities, because by his predestination he hath rendered these futurities certain and inevitable.
All things whatever arise from and depend upon the divine appointment, whereby it was preordained who should receive the Word of Life and who should disbelieve it, who should be delivered from their sins and who should be hardened in them.
We assert that the number of the elect and also of the reprobate is so fixed and determinate that neither can be augmented or diminished.
As the future faith and good works of the elect were not the cause of their being chosen, so neither were the future sins of the reprobate the cause of their being passed by; but the choice of the former and the decretive omission of the latter were owing merely and entirely to the sovereign and determining pleasure of God.
Notwithstanding, God did from all eternity irreversibly choose out and fix upon some to be partakers of salvation by Christ and rejected the rest, acting in both according to the good pleasure of his own sovereign will. Yet he did not herein act an unjust, tyrannical, or cruel part, nor yet show himself a respecter of persons.
Now he [Paul] beginneth to ascend higher, namely, to show the reason of this diversity which he teacheth doth not consist in anything else than the election of God. He doth plainly refer the whole cause to the election of God, and the same free and such as doth not depend upon men; that, in the salvation of the godly, nothing might be sought for above the goodness of God, and in the destruction, nothing above his just severity. The Lord in this, his free election, is at liberty and free from that necessity that he should indifferently impart the grace unto all; but, rather, whom he will, he passeth over and whom he will, he chooseth.
Although the corruption of nature, which is dispersed over all mankind before it come into action, is available enough unto condemnation--whereby followeth that Esau was worthily rejected because naturally he was the son of wrath--yet, lest any doubt should remain as though, through respect of any fault or sin, his condition was the worse, it was necessary as well sins as virtues should be excluded. Surely, true it is that the next cause of reprobation is for that we are all accursed in Adam. Yet to the end we might learn to rest in the bare, simple will of God, Paul did lead us aside from the consideration thereof for so long until he had established this doctrine, namely, that God hath a sufficient, just cause of election and reprobation in his own will or pleasure.
God hath elected some and rejected other some, and the cause is nowhere else to be sought for than in his purpose. For if the difference were grounded on the respect of works, in vain had Paul moved the question of the righteousness of God whereof there could be no suspicion, if he handled everyone according to his desert .... Before men are born, everyone hath his lot appointed by the secret counsel of God.
There are vessels prepared for destruction, that is, bequeathed and destinated to destruction; there are also vessels of wrath, that is, made and formed to this end, that they might be testimonies of the vengeance and wrath
There is no doubt but the preparation of them both [elect and reprobate] doth depend on the secret counsel of God. Otherwise, Paul had said the reprobates give or cast themselves into destruction; but now he giveth to wit that before they are born they are already addicted to their lot.
God from all eternity decreed to leave some of Adam's fallen race in their sins and to exclude them from the participation of Christ and his benefits.
Some men were from all eternity not only negatively excepted from a participation of Christ and salvation, but positively ordained to continue in their natural blindness and hardness of heart.
Such is the doctrine of predestination with respect to election and reprobation of men as held by the Presbyterian Church. It would be easy greatly to increase quotations from their authorities upon this point; but the foregoing are sufficient. And from these, together with the former quotations, we deduce the following as the sum of their faith:
1. God decreed from eternity, the fall of Adam and the ruin or fall of his posterity in him.
2. That, regarding man as fallen, he elected some men, whose names and number were designated, unto everlasting life.
3. That those thus predestinated were so predestinated, unchangeably and unconditionally, without any reference whatever to their works or character.
4. That for these, and these only, he provided a Savior and all the means necessary to procure their salvation without any conditions on their part.
5. That the persons thus unchangeably designed cannot possibly perish, do what they may, but will be irresistibly drawn to Christ and to justification, adoption, and sanctification.
6. With respect to the rest, whose names and number are also definitely fixed, that he passed them by in their sins and predestinated them unto destruction.
7. That they were thus passed and predestinated from eternity, and so were ordained to destruction before they were born, of the good pleasure of God and to the glory of his sovereign justice.
8. That for these he never did provide a Savior, and that consequently they could not be saved, do what they might.
9. That those reprobated in no respect differed from those elected, and the one class were elected and the other class reprobated of the mere sovereign pleasure of God without any respect to any difference in them whatever.
To sum it all up in a few words, we understand the above to teach that a certain, definite number of the human race are elected, unconditionally and unalterably, without reference to anything in them or to be performed by them, and of the mere good pleasure of God, unto everlasting life so that they cannot perish; that the rest are so predestinated to eternal damnation that they cannot be saved, no Savior ever having been provided for them.
To the doctrine thus stated I object, generally, all that has been already urged against the doctrine of decrees, and, particularly, much more which I shall now immediately proceed to state.
1. I object to the system that it makes God the author of man's fall from holiness into sin. This is a point I desire all my readers to give particular attention to, as it has important bearings on subsequent reasonings. The argument upon which this deduction is founded is very brief and exceedingly plain. It is this: "God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.
But man's fall came to pass; therefore, God from all eternity did ordain man's fall.
"The decree of God is the necessity of things." But man's fall is necessitating cause of man's fall. But I need hardly be at the pains of arguing out a conclusion so palpable that a child could not fail to perceive it, and, withal, a conclusion admitted by the great projector of the system I antagonize.
Mr. Calvin says,I confess, indeed, that all the descendants of Adam fell by the divine will into that miserable condition in which they are now involved; and this is what I asserted from the beginning, that we must always return at last to the sovereign determination of God's will, the cause of which is hidden in himself.
Having thus delivered himself, and anticipating objections to his candid statement from his opponents, he thus enters his defense and explanations: "For we will answer them thus in the language of Paul: 'O man, who art thou, that thou repliest against God?'" Certainly a most lucid and satisfactory mode of escaping difficulties!
Let it not be pretended that the fall, though ordained, was ordained as foreseen--decreed because it was perceived as an event that would take place--for this would oppose the system to itself, which teaches that things are not decreed because foreknown, but foreknown because decreed. Also, it would oppose the system where it teaches that the decree is itself the cause of all things, the cause without which they could not be.
Shall I be told that, though Adam fell, it was freely by voluntarily eating the inhibited fruit--in the language of the Confession itself, that,Our first parents being seduced by the subtle and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.
All this seems plausible enough; but the slightest scrutiny detects a meaning here not discoverable upon the surface. It would seem to represent that man's fall was his own free and unnecessitated act. But that this is not the meaning will appear in a variety of ways. If you ask, "Could he have done otherwise than as he did?" they must answer you, "God had decreed it thus. He could no more avoid taking the forbidden fruit than he could resist the decree of the Almighty. Fall he must, for Omnipotence urged him on to the catastrophe." If you ask them what, then, they mean by man's falling freely, they will answer in the language of the Confession again:Man in his state of innocency had freedom and power to will and to do that which is good and well-pleasing to God, but yet mutably, so that he might fall from it.
This again is plausible enough and would seem to teach that our first parents had power to stand or fall; but a more narrow and careful examination shows that this is not their meaning. For they admit that they could not help but fall, or else they believe that they had power to overcome the decree of God--they may select their own alternative. All they mean when they speak of freedom before or since the fall is simply the power man has to do as he pleases--to follow his choice.
But now, observe, they insist that when man chooses one thing, he has no power to choose its opposite; for his particular choice was fixed by decree. Adam, when he chose to take of the forbidden fruit, could not have chosen to decline taking it any more than he could overcome a decree of God which fixed his choice as it was. "He was free," I am told, "because he did as he pleased." I answer, "He had no power to please otherwise--therein is his want of freedom. His choice, according to the system, was forced upon him by placing him in circumstances where another choice was impossible." "He fell himself," I am told, "by his own act, dictated by his own choice." I answer, "The act was decreed from eternity; and the choice which dictated the act was also decreed from eternity. And the man was created and placed in the circumstances that the choice and act and consequent fall should necessarily take place. Thus, neither the act, nor the choice, nor the fall, were free, but all necessitated by unavoidable fate or decree. God's decree was the sole, original cause of man's fall." I may have occasion to say more upon this point to show other revolting aspects of it; but for the present, I pass it to the presentation of other consequences and involvements of the system.
2. I object to the system, in the second place, that it teaches that when man was thus involved in the sin and miseries of the fall, by God's own agency he elected a part of the race--whose names and number were definitely fixed--unto everlasting life without any respect whatever either to their character or deeds, and reprobated or predestinated the residue--whose names and number were also definitely fixed from eternity--unto eternal damnation, and this also without reference to their character or deeds. The one part were decreed to be saved, not of anything in them; the other part were preappointed to damnation, not as being wicked. But in both cases eternal destiny was fixed, without respect to anything in the creature. Do not, I pray you, Dr. Rice, turn away from this appalling proposition. Do not say in your haste it is slanderous. Hear my reasons for attributing it to your system.
The argument upon which I base this statement is as follows:Although God knows whatever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such supposed conditions.
This clause, as I understand it, teaches that God's decree that any event shall come to pass was entirely without respect to foreknowledge that such would be the case, and, also, without respect to conditions as a cause moving to the decree. If I am correct in this, and I think I am, then when God decreed the salvation of the elect, it was entirely without foresight of faith or good works in them--this you admit, and your Confession expressly asserts. And so, when he willed the damnation of the rest, it was also without foresight or consideration of sin as a cause thereto--this you deny, and no doubt you will esteem it a misrepresentation of your system. But, if I am mistaken here, all I ask is that you will point out the mistake in my reasonings. A disclaimer will do no good, unless you can show that it does not result from your system.
First, you tell me that God from eternity unconditionally decreed whatsoever comes to pass; but the damnation of the reprobate comes to pass. Therefore, the damnation of the reprobate was unconditionally decreed. But if it was unconditionally decreed, then it could not have been decreed because of sin, for that would make sin the condition; and so your doctrine would be found at fault when it asserts that the decrees are unconditional.
But it is a necessary conclusion that the decree of reprobation is without respect to sin for another reason. To suppose it to be upon the foresight of sin is to abandon your system which teaches that the decrees of God do not proceed from foreknowledge, but foreknowledge proceeds from decree. For if the reprobates are decreed to reprobation because of foreseen sin, then is foreknowledge the ground of decree. But, not to take up the time of our readers in reasonings here, it may be shown by numerous references to Calvin himself that this was his doctrine--that neither the salvation of the elect, nor damnation of the reprobate, were ascribable to anything in the creature, but equally and both to the mere will and pleasure of God, the one part elected to life and the other to death simply because God willed it. He says, and I give one quotation as a specimen:For this he goeth about to bring to pass among us, that concerning the diversity that is between the elect and reprobate, our minds might be content with this: namely, that it hath so pleased God to illuminate some unto salvation and blind other some unto death, and not seek any cause above his will for all external things which make to the execration of the reprobate are the instruments of his wrath; and Satan himself, which inwardly worketh effectually, is so far forth his minister that he worketh not but at his commandment.
Therefore, that frivolous evasion or refuge which the schoolmen have of foreknowledge doth fall down. For Paul doth not say that the ruin of the wicked is foreseen of the Lord, but is ordained by his counsel and will. As Solomon also teacheth, that the destruction of the wicked was not foreknown, but that the wicked ones themselves were purposely created that they might perish.
God hath elected some and rejected other some, and the cause is nowhere else to be sought for than in his purpose; for if the difference were grounded upon the respect of works, in vain had Paul moved the question of the unrighteousness of God, whereof there could be no suspicion, if he handled everyone accord to his desert.
It is manifest that Calvin finds the cause of reprobation, as well as election, in the will of God alone, irrespective of works. The decree of election involves the decree of reprobation. This is clearly and repeatedly admitted by your own authors and by your Confession itself.By the decree of God for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained are particularly and unchangeably designated; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
I need not reinsert the quotations full upon this point given heretofore--it is admitted, and, if not, it is unavoidably involved. There can be no election of a part without an implied and actual rejection of the other part not elected. To present the case in the most favorable aspect for Calvinism, it stands thus: the human race appear before God as a race of miserable sinners, all under sentence of condemnation. God so beholding them, selects a portion--say. less than one-half---without any reference to character or anything else in them, for they are all precisely alike. These he determines to save, or elects them unconditionally unto life--sets them apart for himself. The others he passes by and makes no provision for them whatever, but leaves them, by his sovereign disposal, to eternal damnation. Now this election of a part is, to all intents and purposes, a rejection of the other part. I state it in a manner certainly the least objectionable to a Calvinist. And now I object to it, even in this favorable aspect, as involving the divine Being in the grossest injustice and criminal partiality.
My reasons for this charge shall be given in a moment. In the meantime, I hear you say, "Had not God a right to extend mercy to a part without bringing him under obligation to extend it to all? He might in justice have passed all by: he did those no harm, therefore, whom he passed by because they deserved it; and that he saved any was a mere act of grace." I am familiar with your eloquent declamation on this point; but it falls powerless upon my mind for this reason. How came these miserable creatures in their condition of sin and wretchedness? You must answer me, "They were put there by the decree of God. First, he put them all in the consequences of the fall that he might have an occasion to display his grace in saving some and to glorify his justice in damning others! He made them sinners that he might have a pretense to torment them forever, to the glory of his sovereign justice." If you can reconcile this to justice, I should be happy to have the benefit of your assistance here.
Upon this point, Dr. Fisk says,The doctrine of unconditional election of a part necessarily implies the unconditional reprobation of the rest. I know some who hold to the former seem to deny the latter; for they represent God as reprobating sinners in view of their sins. When all were sinners, they say, God passed by some and elected others. Hence, they say, the decree of damnation against the reprobate is just, because it is against sinners. But this explanation is virtually giving up the system, inasmuch as it gives up all the principal arguments by which it is supported. In the first place, it makes predestination dependent on foreknowledge; for God first foresees that they will be sinners, and then predestinates them to punishment. Here is one case, then, in which the argument for Calvinian predestination is destroyed by its own supporters. But, again, if God must fix by his decree all parts of his plan in order to prevent disappointment, then he must fix the destiny of the reprobates and the means that lead to it. But if he did not do this, then the Calvinistic argument in favor of predestination, drawn from the divine plan, falls to the ground. Once more: this explanation of the decree of reprobation destroys the Scripture argument which the Calvinists urge in favor of unconditional reprobation to eternal death. But if there is any explanation by which these are shown not to prove unconditional reprobation to eternal death, the same principle of interpretation will and must show that they do not prove Calvinistic election.
But I have not done with this objection yet. Whoever maintains that "God foreordained whatsoever comes to pass," must also hold to unconditional reprobation. Does it come to pass that some are lost? Then this was ordained. Was sin necessary as a pretense to damn them? Then this was ordained. From these and other views of the subject, Calvin was led to say that "election could not stand without reprobation;" and that it was "quite silly and childish" to attempt to separate them. All, therefore, who hold to the unconditional election of a part of mankind to eternal life must, to be consistent with themselves, take into their creed the "horrible decree of reprobation." They must believe that in the ages of eternity, God determined to create men and angels for the express purpose to damn them eternally!--that he determined to introduce sin and harden them in it that they might be fit subjects of his wrath!--that for doing as they are impelled to do by the irresistible decree of Jehovah, they must lie down forever under the scalding vials of his vengeance in the pit of hell!
To state this doctrine in its true character is enough to chill one's blood; and we are drawn by all that is rational within us to turn away from such a God with horror as from the presence of an almighty Tyrant. And yet, I charge upon Dr. Rice and all consistent Calvinists this appalling dogma.
3. I object to the decree of election and reprobation, still further, that it at the same time renders God a partial being and destroys entirely the foundation for the doctrine of grace. If it be true there is no grace in the salvation of the elect, there is great cruelty in the damnation of the reprobate, and God is a most partial being; and in all these respects the system is opposed to the Scriptures.To the reprobates there is certainly no grace or mercy extended. Their very existence, connected as it necessarily is with eternal damnation, is an infinite curse. The temporal blessings which they enjoy, the insincere offers which are held out to them, and the Gospel privileges with which they are mocked, if they can be termed grace at all, must be called damning grace; for all this is only fattening them for the slaughter and fitting them to suffer to a more aggravated extent the unavoidable pains and torments that await them. Hence, Calvin's sentiment 'that God calls the reprobate that they may be more deaf, kindles a light that they may be more blind, brings his doctrine to them that they may be more ignorant, and applies the remedy to them that they may not be healed,' is an honest avowal of the legitimate principles of the system. Surely no one will pretend that according to this system there is any grace in the reprobate.
And perhaps a moment's attention will show that there is little or none for the elect. It is said that God, out of his mere sovereignty, without anything in the creature to move him thereto, elects sinners to everlasting life. But if there is nothing in the creature to move him thereto, how can it be called mercy or compassion? He did not determine to elect them because they were miserable, but simply because he pleased to elect them. If misery had been the exciting cause, then, as all were equally miserable, he would have elected them all. Is such a decree of election founded in love to the suffering object, or is it not the result of the most absolute and omnipotent selfishness conceivable? It is the exhibition of a character that sports most sovereignly and arbitrarily with his almighty power to create, to damn, and to save.
Shall it be insisted that the salvation of miserable, perishing sinners is an act of grace? Then we continue in the language of Fisk to ask,Who made them miserable, perishing sinners? Was not this the effect of God's decree? And is there much mercy displayed in placing men under a constitution which necessarily and unavoidably involves them in sin and suffering, that God may afterward have the sovereign honor of saving them? Surely the tenderest mercies of this system are cruel; its brightest parts are dark; its boasted mercy hardly comes up to sheer justice even to the elect, since they only receive back what God had deprived them of and for the want of which they had suffered perhaps for years. And as to the reprobates, the Gospel is unavoidably a source of death unto death. To them Christ came that they might have death and have it more abundantly, to the praise of his glorious justice.
In the language of Mr. Wesley,How is God good or loving to a reprobate or one that is not elect? You cannot say he is an object of the love or greatness of God with regard to his eternal state whom he created, says Mr. Calvin, plainly and fairly, "to live a reproach and die everlastingly." Surely no one can dream that the greatness of God is at all concerned with this man's eternal state, however God is good to him in this world. What! when by the reason of God's unchangeable decree it had been good for this man never to have been born? When his very birth was a curse, not a blessing!
"Well, but he now enjoys many of the gifts of God both gift of nature and of providence. He has food and raiment, and comforts of various kinds; and are not all these great blessings?" No, not to him. At the price which he is to pay for them, everyone of these is also a curse. Everyone of these comforts is, by an eternal decree, to cost him a thousand pangs in hell. For every moment pleasure which he now enjoys, he is to suffer the torments of more than a thousand years; for the smoke of that pit which is preparing for him ascendeth up forever and ever. God knew this would be the fruit of whatever he should enjoy before the vapor of life fled away. He designed it should. It was his very purpose in giving him those enjoyments so that by all these, he is in truth and reality only fattening the ox for the slaughter.
"Nay, but God gives him grace, too." Yes, but what kind of grace? Saving grace, you own, he has not; and the common grace he has was not given with any design to save his soul, nor with any design to do him any good at all, but only to restrain him from hurting the elect. So far from doing him good, that this grace also necessarily increases his damnation.
"And God knows this," you say, "and designed it should: it was one great end for which he gave it!" Then I desire to know how is God good or loving to this man, either with regard to time or eternity.
Let us suppose a particular instance: here stands a man who is reprobated from all eternity or, if you would express it more smoothly, who is not elected, whom God eternally decreed to pass by. Thou hast nothing, therefore, to expect from God after death, but to be cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone--God having consigned thy unborn soul to hell by a decree which cannot pass away. And from the time thou wast born under the irrevocable curse of God, thou canst have no peace; for there is no peace to the wicked such as thou art doomed to continue, even from thy mother's womb. Accordingly, God giveth thee of this world's goods on purpose to enhance thy damnation. He giveth thee more substance or friends in order hereafter to heap the more coals of fire on thy head. He filleth thee with good; he maketh thee fat and well-looking to make thee a more specious sacrifice to his vengeance. Good-nature, generosity, a good understanding, various knowledge, it may be, or eloquence are the flowers wherewith he adorneth thee, thou poor victim, before thou art brought to the slaughter.
Thou hast grace, too! But what grace? Not saving grace. That is not for thee, but for the elect only. Thine may be termed damning grace, since it is not only such in the event, but in the intention. Thou receivedst it of God for that very end, that thou mightest receive the greater damnation. It was given not to convert thee, but only to convince; not to make thee without sin, but without excuse! not to destroy, but to arm the worm that never dieth and blow up the fire that shall never be quenched. Now, I beseech you, how is God good or loving to this man? Is not this such love as makes your blood run cold?
4. I object to the doctrine further that it not only teaches the unconditional reprobation of a part of mankind, who in the language of Mr. Calvin were created for destruction, but it also teaches in harmony with the foregoing that Christ never died for the lost--never in any sense made salvation possible. This is not only an inference deducted from the decree of election and reprobation--though it is unavoidably inferable from that decree, because it is manifest, if a man is eternally and unconditionally decreed to be damned, he never had a possibility of salvation. But our proposition is not a mere inference--it is an express statement of Calvinists themselves. Two authorities will answer upon this point.
The Confession of Faith shall be my first reference--it is very explicit. Its language is: "Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, but the elect only."
Mr. Shaw, the expositor of the Confession, in his work revised and published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication and received as a true exposition of their doctrines, says,In this section we are taught that Christ died exclusively for the elect and purchased redemption for them alone; in other words, that Christ made atonement only for the elect, and that in no sense did he die for the rest of the race. Our Confession first asserts positively that the elect are redeemed by Christ; and then negatively that none other are redeemed by Christ but the elect only. If this does not affirm the doctrine of particular redemption or of a limited atonement, we know not what language could express that doctrine more explicitly.
These authorities are sufficient for my purpose at present, though a large number equally explicit might be adduced, showing that it is the common opinion of Calvinists and certainly the only opinion at all consistent with their system.
Well, now, in view of this doctrine, I allege the following objections:
(1.) It renders the conclusion unavoidable that the sinner is absolutely damned, not only without the possibility of salvation, but without any fault of his whatever.
For, first, it was certain he was involved in guilt without his consent by the sin of Adam, thousands of years before he was born. It will not be pretended that he was to blame for this, unless it can be shown that a man is blameworthy for an act which occurred thousands of years before he had an existence.
Well, as he was involved in guilt without his consent, so no plan was ever devised by which it was possible for him to escape from his guilt. He is, therefore, shut up to be damned in hell torments forever on account of guilt which he had no part in procuring to himself and from which it was never possible for him to escape. Sir, is not this dreadful?
(2.) I object to this doctrine further, because it finds the cause of the sinner's reprobation and damnation in his corruption of nature alone.
The doctrine is that mankind were viewed as fallen in Adam, and all of them under condemnation and deserving of death; whereupon, God, out of his mere good pleasure, elected a certain definite number to life, and passed by the other definite part and left them under sentence of death on account of their sin. Of what sin! Why, their sinful estate in Adam. This then was the cause of their reprobation and damnation--Adam's sin and not their own!
It will be no relief to this to insist that the reprobates are also punished for their actual transgressions; for there stands the fact, first, that the sufficient cause of their reprobation was their sinful state; and if this was the sufficient cause, they might, they would have been damned if they had never committed one single actual sin! They were damned before ever they committed a sinful act themselves! Nay, I go a step further and say that the actual sins of the reprobates form no juster ground of their damnation than their natural corruption, even if we should admit that their actual sins were taken into account in their reprobation; for they were brought into existence with a corrupt nature from which it never was possible for them to free themselves, which they had no consent in bringing upon themselves; and with it their actual sins were absolutely unavoidable, and so could no more constitute a just ground of damnation than would their inherited depravity.
(3.) And here again let me ask, why shall Calvinists demur when we charge them with holding to infant damnation? The fact is, they hold to no other kind of damnation! Every reprobate was reprobated for that which he possessed as soon as he came into the world! He was damned in the purpose of God for his natural depravity before he was born, and his after actual transgressions were only the fruits of his reprobation! I can see no difference between consigning an infant to hell as soon as born and actually sentencing it as soon as born for its then state, and permitting it to live a hundred years to commit actual sins that a pretense may be actually created for rendering its damnation doubly deep--only that the latter seems worse than the former!
(4.) I object to the doctrine that God really preferred the damnation of a part to the salvation of all--he chose it as more agreeable to himself, not to meet the ends of justice or promote good government, but purely for his own gratification, that a part should be lost to the glory of his justice, than that all should have an opportunity to be saved!
This is apparent in the fact that Calvinists admit that there was merit enough in the death of Christ to secure the salvation of all; but God, by a sovereign act, limited it to a part. He could have saved all as well as a part, but he preferred not to do it! It will not do to reply, he must damn some to vindicate his justice, for it is contended that the death of Christ was ample, entirely sufficient to satisfy the claims of justice for the whole race: but God, by a sovereign prerogative, chose to limit it to a part. He must, therefore, have preferred the damnation of a part, the reprobates, or he would at least have made their salvation possible. Can Dr. Rice assign any reason for the damnation of the reprobate, but the mere good pleasure of God? He could have saved them, but he chose not to do so,
And why did he choose not to do so? Is it answered, "On account of their sins." But why on account of their sins? Could he not have saved all, as well as a part, when there was a sufficient ransom, and the application of it depended upon his mere sovereign will? That the application was not made, therefore, can be ascribed to nothing else but the good pleasure of God, or he damns a large part of mankind simply because he had rather damn them than save them. Is not this blasphemous?
5. To the Calvinian doctrine of eternal reprobation I further object as being inconsistent with the Scriptures:
(1.) To all those passages which teach that "Christ died for all men," for "the whole world," &c. This class of Scripture texts is quite numerous and very unequivocal.
"Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "This is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world." "For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." "That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." "And he is the Propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." "...Who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe." "...Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."
We give the above as a selection of texts asserting that the death of Christ was for all men, for every man, for the whole world. The list might be greatly extended; but, for the present, these are sufficient.
(2.) The same fact is clearly taught in all those passages where a parallel is run between the death of Christ and the fall of our first parents.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if, through the offense of one, many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 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.
(3.) The idea that Christ died for the elect only is contrary to those Scriptures. which teach that some for whom Christ died may perish. "And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died." "False teachers ... who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace." "Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died."
(4.) A further argument is deducible from those passages which make the offers of the Gospel to all men, and require all men to repent and believe, condemning them to death for rejecting the offer and refusing to comply. "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." "But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name." "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
(5.) In all those passages in which men's failure to obtain salvation is placed to the account of their own will, this doctrine of limited atonement. of election and reprobation, is disallowed. "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." "And ye will not come to me that ye might have life." "...Bring upon themselves swift destruction." "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
It is useless to multiply quotations, since the New Testament so constantly exhorts men to come to Christ, reproves them for neglect, and threatens them with the penal consequences of their own folly, thus uniformly placing the obstacle of their salvation just where Christ places it in his parable of the supper--in the perverseness of those who, having been bidden to the feast, would not come.
Thus the idea that Christ did not die for all men is contrary to all those Scriptures in which the atonement is represented as universal--in which it is contrasted with the fall--in which it is represented as possible for those for whom Christ died to perish--in which all men are required to believe, and condemned for not believing--in which failure to obtain salvation is charged to the will and folly of the lost--in which invitations are made to sinners, warnings given to saints, as though the former might be saved, the latter lost--in which conditions are expressed, the volition of the creature is addressed, and final destiny is suspended upon their actions with a great variety of classes of Scriptures needless to mention.
6. If Christ only died for a part of mankind, and if only a definite number may come to him and be saved, I ask Dr. Rice in the name of all reason and consistency with what propriety can he invite persons not of the elect to come to Christ, to turn that they may have life, to seek the favor of God? &c. Why does he make such invitations? He knows they cannot comply, that it is absolutely impossible, that they have no more power to do so than they have to make a world. Is it not mocking, then, to ask them? Are not all such invitations sheer trifling with interests the most awful and tremendous? Invite a sinner to come to Christ when he cannot--when he dare not! In the name of consistency, how is this to be reconciled with human candor, to say nothing of divine sincerity?
7. But again: if Christ only died for the elect, why are reprobates commanded to believe? What are they required to believe ? Are they required to believe in Christ for salvation! If so, they are either able to believe, or they are not. If not able, they are required to perform an absolute impossibility. If they are able, then they may believe; and as salvation is by faith, a reprobate may be saved; and if saved, he will be saved by believing a lie--that Christ was his Savior, when in fact he was not. He will also be saved without a Savior. But if he believes and is not saved, he will falsify the Scriptures and the Confession which teach that whosoever believeth shall be saved.
8. But again: why is the unbelief of the reprobate made the ground of his condemnation--of his final destruction? He is damned for not believing on Christ, that is, for not believing a lie. Had he believed on Christ, if the thing were possible, he would have believed a lie; but for not believing a lie, he is damned forever. Sir, is not his state dreadful! Yet these and many more such consequences are the unavoidable results of your system.
9. The sinner's damnation is ascribed to his rejection of Christ, to his resistance of proffered mercy, to his willful distance from God. But, according to this system, he does not reject Christ, for Christ never was offered to him; he could not accept him. He did not refuse mercy, for mercy never was held out to his acceptance. His own will did not keep him in sin, for there never was a way of escape.
10. The Scriptures ascribe the sinner's ruin to his own choice, to his own will; but, according to this system, his will has nothing whatever to do with it. For either it was possible for him to will to come to Christ and be saved, or it was not. If it were possible for him to will to come to Christ and be saved, a reprobate might be saved by Christ, who never died for him. If he could not will to come to Christ and is damned for not willing it, then he is damned for not performing an impossibility. His destruction is not assignable to the perversity of his own will, but to the fact that no possible chance of salvation was ever given to him.
11. Why do Calvinists demur and complain of us when we say, the reprobate must be damned, do what he may or can? Do they not know this is true? He cannot be saved! It is eternally out of the question and impossible, for a cause with which he had no consenting or personal connection any more than Gabriel had.
12. Why do Calvinists complain when we say, the elect must be saved, do what they may or can? Do they not know that this is so? One of the elect cannot be lost--no sin in his power will ever peril his salvation. He cannot, though he exert himself to that end, endanger his soul in the slightest degree. And this Dr. Rice will be compelled to admit. I say not now that he will not endanger his salvation, but I say he cannot. He is now saved and never can be lost. The poor reprobate cannot be saved, do what he may. Tell me not that he might if he would; it is sinning to pretend anything of the kind. If he willed ever so much, he has no Savior! He is damned without any fault of his, and when escape was impossible.
13. Why remonstrate with the reprobate upon the folly of his course and about destroying himself? Does not God know that the poor wretch cannot help it? He help it! He was damned thousands of years before he was born! He never had any hand in it originally! And if he has had since, it was only in this way: He was given an existence which he was compelled to employ in sin that a pretense might be furnished infinite cruelty for doubly damning him! Why will you die? What language to put in the mouth of God concerning the reprobates!
14. Why expostulate with the elect upon the necessity of watchfulness, the use of means, the danger of coming short of life, and such like? There is no danger to the elect; he can do nothing more nor less than was decreed. And if he could do ever so much, his works have nothing to do in regard to his salvation. Is it pretended that warnings are designed to stimulate to duty? Then, I answer, a deception is attempted to be played off upon the elect to promote the fruits of the Spirit!
15. I object to the whole system that it destroys the moral government of God and renders his sovereignty a blind, capricious, and tyrannical sovereignty. The idea of moral government is that of dealing with men according to their deeds; but this system excludes such idea entirely. Men are elected unto life without respect to their deeds, and they are also appointed unto damnation without respect to their deeds. Let it not be said that their deeds are taken into the account in their election and reprobation; for it is previously said that these--election and reprobation--are unconditional and without foresight, and so can have no respect whatever to character or conduct. And so, according to Calvinism, there is no such thing as dealing with men according to character or conduct--no moral government.
But, even if the system admitted conduct and character as questions in the divine government, it would not help the case in the slightest degree; because these, according to the system, are necessitated without any agency of the creature whatever. The character and conduct are forced upon him, and then he is held to account for them! All this may be denied, and no doubt will be; but denials are useless, so long as the system is liable to such logical imputation. According to Calvinism, there is no moral government. When some are admitted to heaven and others are consigned to hell, the sole cause of their different destinies is the decree of God by which the former were elected and the latter reprobated; and their respective vice or virtue was the fruit of their previously determined fate, not its cause. They are rewarded not according to their works, but according to the decree of God.
16. The Calvinian doctrine of election and reprobation, in the place of making the atonement a benefit to the reprobates, makes it an infinite curse, not in its avoidable abuse, but in itself necessarily. So that here is a sovereign scheme of God, intended to be a benefit to some chosen persons, by being in its very nature an infinite curse to others. This must appear in one moment. Let it be remembered that the atonement, with respect to reprobates, does not make their salvation possible--they cannot be saved by it. Let it be further remembered that, while it does not make it possible for them to be saved, it makes their damnation a hundredfold worse than if it had never been made. It does them no real good--it brings them infinite mischief, and this entirely without respect to anything in them that was voluntary. And this their infinitely increased misery is upon a false pretense. They are called to return unto God, to repent, to believe in Christ, to a holy life--no one of which calls could they possibly obey. And yet, for not obeying, every time they refuse, their damnation is increased.
Is not this awful--frightful! Could Satanic cruelty display greater malevolence than is here supposed? Every mercy, every call, every seeming good is so arranged as necessarily to sink the poor, miserable victim deeper into the quenchless flames of eternal damnation. Thou glorious God of the universe whose very nature is love, what a representation of thy character! holding out to thy hapless, miserable creatures an empty semblance of good which it is impossible in the nature of things for them to attain, and then increasing their already dreadful miseries for failing to comply, and still repeating the impracticable, heartless offer every day, every hour that by their unavoidable rejection they may go on sinking deeper and deeper yet into torments, beyond the power of mind to conceive and of eternal continuance! Dreadful! dreadful! dreadful! Thou great Spirit of the heavens. art thou such a monster as this!
In the language of Mr. Wesley,This is the blasphemy for which--however I love the persons who assert it. I abhor the doctrine of predestination: a doctrine upon the supposition of which, if one could possibly suppose it for a moment, one might say to his adversary, the devil, "Thou fool, why dost thou roar about any longer! The lying in wait for souls is as needless and useless as our preaching. Hearest thou not that God hath taken thy work out of thy hands! And that he doth it more effectually? Thou, with all thy principalities and powers, canst only so assault that we may resist thee. But he can irresistibly destroy both soul and body in hell! Thou canst only entice. But his unchangeable decree to leave thousands of souls in death compels them to continue in sin till they drop into everlasting burnings. Thou temptest; he forceth us to be damned, for we cannot resist his will.
"Thou fool, why goest thou about any longer, seeking whom thou mayest devour? Hearest thou not that God is the devouring lion, the destroyer of souls, the murderer of men? Moloch caused only children to pass through the fire; and the fire was soon quenched, or, the corruptible thing being consumed, its torments were at an end. But God, thou art told, by his eternal decree fixed before they had done good or evil, causes whom he destroys to pass through the fires of hell--the fire which shall never be quenched. And the body which is cast thereinto, being now incorruptible and immortal, will be ever consuming and never consumed, but the smoke of their torment, because it is God's good pleasure, ascendeth up forever and ever."
O how would the enemy of God and man rejoice to hear these things were so! How would he cry aloud and spare not! How would he lift up his voice and say, "'To your tents, O Israel!' Flee from the presence of this God, or ye shall utterly perish!" But whither will ye flee? Into heaven? He is there. Down to hell? He is there also. Ye cannot flee from an omnipresent, almighty tyrant. And whether ye flee or stay, I call heaven, his throne, and the earth, his footstool, to witness against you--ye shall perish; ye shall die eternally. Sing, O hell, and rejoice, ye that are under the earth, for God, even the mighty God, hath spoken and devoted to death thousands of souls from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Here, O death, is thy sting! They shall not, cannot escape; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Here, O grave, is thy victory! Nations yet unborn, or ere they had done good or evil, are damned never to see the light of life, but thou shalt gnaw upon them forever and ever. Let all those morning stars sing together who fell with Lucifer, son of the morning. Let all the sons of hell shout for joy! For the decree is past, and who shall disannul it!
Do you shudder at this? Is your whole soul filled with just horror at the blasphemous intimation? Who, let me ask, is guilty of the enormous blasphemy? Who is it that thus charges God foolishly, nay, wickedly? Reflect, ye that hold to unconditional election and reprobation! How can you escape? In the sight of heaven and earth, are you not guilty? Have you not aspersed the glorious God, and made wicked men and devils to triumph in your blasphemies? In the spirit of kindness and love we beseech you to consider these things, and may God help you!
17. The doctrine of election and reprobation, if true, renders the condition of mankind far worse than that of devils in hell. For these were sometime in a capacity to have stood--they might have kept their happy estate, but would not; whereas many millions of men, according to this doctrine, are tormented forever without ever having had the opportunity to be happy! It renders the fate of human beings worse than the beasts of the field of whom the master requires no more than they are able to perform; and if they die, death is to them the end of all sorrow. Whereas, man is in pain without end for not doing that which he never was able to do. It puts him in a far worse state than Pharaoh put the Israelites. For though he withheld straw from them, yet they could obtain it by much labor. But this doctrine makes God to withhold from the reprobates all means of salvation so that they cannot attain it by all their pains. Yea, it places mankind in that condition which the poets feign of Tantalus, who, oppressed with thirst, stands in water up to the chin, yet can by no means reach it with his tongue; and, being tormented with hunger, hath fruit hanging at his very lips, yet so as he can never lay hold of it with his teeth; and these things are so near him not to nourish him but torment him.
So does this doctrine make God deal with mankind. It makes the outward creation, the work of Providence, the smiting of conscience, sufficient convince the reprobates of sin, but never intended to help them to salvation. It makes the preaching of the Gospel and the offer of salvation by Christ sufficient to condemn them, serving to beget a seeming faith and vain hopes; yet, by reason of God's irresistible decree, all these are wholly ineffectual to bring them the least step toward salvation and do only contribute to make their condemnation the greater and their torments the more violent and intolerable. Truly, if these things be so, may the man with his one talent in the day of final settlement say to the Judge, "I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strayed."
Such is Calvinism; such are some of the difficulties of this boasted system which Dr. Rice, after proclaiming his readiness--nay, even anxiety--to defend for years past, has not even attempted to remove, and though pledged, I venture to predict to my readers, he never will attempt to remove by a direct refutation. Dr. Rice knows very well it cannot be done: he will not hazard a trial of his powers here. With all his fondness for debate, with his professed conviction that controversy serves the cause of truth, he will never squarely meet these points.
But why is this? Why will these issues be avoided? Does anyone believe that if they could be triumphantly met, it would not be done? Do Presbyterians believe this? Does not Dr. Rice understand his own heart sufficiently well to know that his present backwardness proceeds from consciousness that he could not make a successful defense? Let him not deceive himself upon this point. Let him not suppose he can deceive the public, who are acquainted with the facts in the case. Let him not imagine that either silence or evasion will answer under existing circumstances. If the objections alleged can be answered, let him, as a lover of truth and as a teacher of the erring, come to the work. If we are in error and he can show it with so much ease, he may thereby advance his cherished system and do good service in the cause of his Redeemer. Will he allow the opportunity to pass? Will he amuse his readers with evasions, invectives? Or will he come to the work as a candid, magnanimous, Christian disputant? All this is for Dr. Rice to determine.
We have expressed a part of the objections we find against decrees in general, and the decree of election and reprobation in particular, as held by Calvinists. We have studied brevity, presented our arguments in the smallest possible limits even at the hazard, in some instances, of lessening their force; and we have avoided using a great number of additional arguments because of their seeming severity. The objections we have thus brought against Calvinism, we believe to be legitimate and unavoidable to the system. For the refreshing of our readers, we subjoin a brief recapitulation.
1. We object to the Calvinistic system that it renders the conclusion unavoidable that God is the responsible author of sin--author in the sense of originator and cause.
2. It is inconsistent with and destructive of the free agency of man.
3. It destroys human accountability.
4. It removes moral quality from human actions and volitions, renders man incapable of vice or virtue.
5. In the day of judgment it must place the conscience and judgment of the universe on the side of the condemned and against God.
6. It puts a justifying plea in the mouth of the sinner for all his crimes while upon earth, and renders all punishments, human and divine, essentially unjust and tyrannical.
7. It asperses the character of God in a most dreadful manner, inevitably involving:
(1.) His holiness, showing him to be the very center and author of all impurity.
(2.) His benevolence, showing him to be a minister of cruelty.
(3.) His justice, showing him to be the direst tyrant.
(4.) His truthfulness and sincerity, proving him to be an amalgam of duplicity and falsehood.
8. It makes God self-contradictory and the author of all the absurdities and contradictions, yea, of all things of whatever description in the universe.
9. It is calculated to do away all sense of obligation and to produce recklessness, crime, and despair.
10. It is wholly without foundation, either in reason or Scripture.
11. It makes God the author of man's fall.
12. It teaches that some are elected to life and others unto death wholly without respect to their character or conduct, thus leaving sin and virtue entirely out of the question in regard to human destiny.
13. It renders God a partial being, and at the same time entirely destroys the doctrine of grace.
14. It teaches not only unconditional reprobation, but also that for the reprobates, Christ did not die in any sense.
15. It is inconsistent with the Scriptures:
(1.) Which teach a universal atonement.
(2.) Which teach that some for whom Christ died may finally perish.
(3.) Which offer salvation to all men.
(4.) In which failure to obtain salvation is ascribed to the perversity of the human will.
(5.) In which warnings and expostulations are used toward sinners, and also toward saints.
16. It is inconsistent with all calls and invitations to sinners by the ministry of the Word.
17. It is inconsistent with commands and exhortations to sinners to believe.
18. It is inconsistent with making the unbelief of the sinner the cause of his condemnation.
19. It is inconsistent with ascribing the sinner's damnation to his rejection of Christ.
20. It is inconsistent in making the sinner's own choice the cause of his ruin.
21. It makes it impossible for reprobates to be saved, do what they may or can.
22. It makes it impossible for the elect to be lost, do what they may or can.
23. It renders all remonstrance, exhortation, or entreaty either to the elect or reprobates absurd.
24. It makes the atonement in itself, in its very nature and necessarily, an infinite curse to millions of human beings.
Such are a part of the objections we bring against this system--all of them unavoidably bearing against it and any one of them sufficient, as we believe, to render it unworthy of all credit and respect. And the most casual reader must perceive that each one of these objections must necessarily bring in its train many others equally revolting. How, I ask, in the name of reason, Scripture, humanity, and religion can a system, so embarrassed, find advocates among rational beings?
The only attempt at reply is contained in a denial, that they are true repre sentation of Calvinism in the premises. The argumentation is thus admitted to be sound. No effort has been made to correct the misrepresentations, no au thority has been rejected, no specific points named, but simply a blank denial that Calvinists do not believe what is charged against them. No argument sus taining the charges has been refuted, no quotation set aside. What a beautiful defense this! How creditable to men who have vaunted their readiness for controversy! Who have ceased not to disturb sister churches who were content with peace and anxious to maintain it! What an intellectual, manly, Christian palladium this, when consequences unavoidable are proved, to meet them with the rational and lucid reply, "We do not believe these things!" But if this is the best defense your system is capable of, we must not complain. You have done the best you could; and as it is not in our creed to hold men accountable for more than they have ability to perform, we must appreciate your effort.
You will excuse us, however, for going on to show how unsound your defense is and for pointing out your mistake in charging us with misrepresentation. You believe that we are guilty, that the system is not so bad as we made appear; but we shall show you that the mistake is your own, that it is precisely what we declared.
I have charged upon the system that it makes God the author of sin, and destroys the free agency and accountability of man. Dr. Rice replied--for he commenced replying to my letters and, for reasons doubtless sufficient in his esteem, abruptly ceased--that the objections had been often refuted, and that no Presbyterian author taught the doctrine which I charged upon them. This last statement of the Doctor's I have shown to be an entire mistake by quoting many authors who unequivocally teach the very things he denies and for which he says they would be deposed. I suggest to the Doctor that he had better depose them yet, whether living or dead--Calvin, Hill, Dwight, Chalmers, Witsius, Shaw, the Westminister Assembly, Buck, &c. And now, having proved that these distinguished men did and do teach precisely what I charged, I leave it with my readers to judge who has misrepresented Calvinists, Dr. Rice or myself.
But I shall now proceed to show that the former part of his assertion is also without foundation, in which he says these objections have often been answered. This, I assert, is a mistake--they have never been answered. If Dr. Rice, as he affirms, will refer to a single answer upon which he will rely and it proves conclusive, we will confess ourselves wrong in the charges we have made. But lest the Doctor will find it convenient to be silent just now, I will help my readers to some of the answers about which these vauntings are made, some of the lucid and luminous refutations given. And to prevent the idea that we have selected weak apologies from feeble men, we shall select from the champions, the confessed fathers of the defense.
Take Witsius: how does he answer to these charges? Hear him:And though it be difficult, nay, impossible, for us to reconcile these truths with each other [namely, how God causes the vicious actions of men, but not the sin itself], yet we ought not to deny what is manifest on account of that which is hard to be understated. We will religiously profess both truths because they are truths and worthy of God. Nor can the one overturn the other; though in this, our state of blindness and ignorance of God, we cannot see the amicable harmony between them.
Now, I appeal to my readers--is not this overwhelming refutation, unanswerable argument! How dare any Arminian ever again name the exploded objection!
But if this does not suffice, hear Calvin himself and see how, at a stroke of his pen, he demolishes all his opposers. After asserting that Adam fell in consequence of the divine predestination and supposing the objection introduced that this makes God the author of sin, he thus replies:But it follows not, therefore, that God is liable to this reproach. For we will answer them thus in the language of Paul, "O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, 'Why hast thou made me thus?'"
Surely this is sufficient to satisfy any Arminian! Can you, my readers, conceive of logic more irresistible! Is it strange that Dr. Rice should say this old objection has been answered a thousand times! Is not either one of the foregoing replies a thousand-fold answer itself!
But hear Mr. Dick, a modern. He says in answer to the objection that Calvinism makes God the author of sin,I confess that the statement may be objected to as not complete, that there are still difficulties that press upon us, that perplexing questions may be proposed, and that the answers which have been returned to them by great divines are not satisfactory in every instance, as those imagine who do not think for themselves and take that much upon trust. The subject is above our comprehension.
There are two propositions of the truth of which we are fully assured--that God has foreordained all things which come to pass, and that he is not the author of sin. There can be no doubt about either of them in the mind of the man who believes the Scriptures. He may not be able to reconcile them, but this ought not to weaken his conviction of their truth.
Was ever argumentation more transparent! Ye Arminians, how can you withstand such reasoning! How dare you open your lips again! Where shall you find an apology for such temerity!
Since writing the foregoing, I find Dr. Rice has favored us with his mode of escaping from the charges I have brought against his system. Hear him: "Are these representations true?" he asks and replies,This question might be answered by a fair statement of the doctrine, and a comparison of its principles with the Word of God. There is, also, another way of answering the question satisfactorily, namely, by inquiring what have been the fruits of this and kindred doctrines called Calvinistic?
Then follows a long article to show that the fruits of Calvinism have been good; and, therefore, the inference is drawn, it is not liable to the charges we have preferred against it. Now, I ask my readers, is not this a novel mode of escaping logical consequences? "The fruits of the system are good; therefore, the logical consequences deduced from its premises are not legitimate!" Verily, this is logic!
But soberly, Doctor, do you not know that there is not a particle of soundness in this argument? That if your premises were admitted--which cannot be done without great abatement--the conclusion does not follow? That in direct terms, it is a sheer evasion, substituted to lay your own apprehensions and turn away from the real matter in dispute? Why do you not with candor and confidence take up the real issues and show us how they may be escaped? If it can be done--and you say it can; you tell your readers it has been for a thousandth time--why do you waste your strength in such complete evasions which must unavoidably produce the impression that your representations are founded in error?
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