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"It can not be said that the slightest departure from the statements of Calvin is an abandonment of Calvinism. And yet there are some principles so distinctive, that if they be given up the system is abandoned."--Alvan Tobey.


Among the friends of Calvinism two views extensively prevail. The first regards the system as considerably modified since the sixteenth century; hence, any harsh statement made by an opponent is characterized as a misrepresentation. Possibly such things were once taught, but are not now, and therefore, they should not be designated as Calvinism.

Again, it is constantly affirmed by others equally friendly, that Calvinism has not changed; that its distinctive doctrines are taught now, as formerly, at the seminary and in the pulpit.

Here, it would seem is conflicting testimony; yet, possibly both parties are right. It is quite suggestive that the first position is more generally held by laymen, who, somewhat conscious of the repulsive features of Calvinism, desire to commend its doctrines.

The other view extensively prevails among ministers and theologians; hence, the divergence may be explained on the supposition that while the theology is held in its substantial integrity at the seminaries, and by all, or nearly all ministers at their ordination, yet as it is heard by the people, as it is preached by the majority of pastors, its most objectionable features have been greatly modified so as to mean almost nothing, or so explained as to teach Arminianism.

The present discussion in the Presbyterian church concerning the revision of the Westminster Confession has already clearly revealed the existence of these conflicting opinions.

The following exposition of Calvinism by its ablest defenders is worthy the reader's careful attention.





"Our fathers had much discussion over the doctrine of decrees; and, indeed, it is a wonder that we do not have more, for whoever looks into the mighty themes of a theodicy must regard election, decrees, foreordination, freewill, fate, these matters concerning which the angels debated in Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' as really supreme topics of philosophy as well as of religious science."--Joseph Cook.

"Much of Calvin's theology is common to him with all evangelical divines, and in the parts which are more peculiar to him and his school he follows closely in the steps of Augustine."

In an article on "The Position of Calvinism," Rev. Robert Aikman, D.D., uses the following language: "It will be in order just here to state what is the Augustinian theology, or Calvinism, which is the same thing."

Says Dr. Charles Hodge, "Such is the great scheme of doctrine known in history as the Pauline, Augustinian, or Calvinistic, taught as we believe, in the Scriptures."

On the other hand, both Lutherans and Calvinists, following the example of Augustine, rejected the notion of the freedom of the will, and denied every co-operation on the part of man. Nevertheless it is a striking fact that the Lutherans avoided the strict consequences of the Augustinian system and asserted that the decrees of God are conditional, while the Calvinists not only admitted the necessity of those consequences, but having once determined the idea of predestination, went so far as to maintain that the fall of man itself was predestinated by God."

Professor George P. Fisher, D.D., says: "The particulars in which Calvin varied from Augustine are these, Augustine made the fall of Adam, the first sin, the object of a permissive decree. Calvin was not satisfied with a bare passive permission on the part of God, and makes statements which tend to the supralapsarian idea. This view was developed by Beza and a section of the Calvinists. But infralapsarian or Augustinian Calvinism has had the suffrages of a majority. It is found in the Westminster Confession, and even the creed of the Synod of Dort does not go beyond it. Augustine held to the praeterition, instead of the reprobation of the wicked; or rather to their reprobation, not to sin, but to the punishment of sin ..... High Calvinists held to a positive decree of reprobation, analogous to that of election; yet denied that God is the author of sin. Calvin differed from Augustine in holding to the perseverance of all believers; that is, that none but the elect ever exercise saving faith. Augustine attributed to the sacraments a greater effect on the non-elect. Thus he held that all baptized infants are saved. This sacramental tenet is often declared to be a feature of the Anglican system, as opposed to that of Calvin."





"The great Genevan Reformer with consistent intrepidity, was in truth, so far as doctrine is concerned, the highest of the high. Fearlessly pushing his principles to their full legitimate extent, he at once maintained, without any restriction or disguise, both the dogma of reprobation and the theory of supralapsarianism."--G. S. Faber, D. D.


This is the crucial question concerning the doctrine of Divine decrees. The following pages will clearly disclose the fact that Calvinism has but one answer to the question.

"Augustine accounts for the fact that some men are renewed, and some are not, because of the unconditional decree (decretum absolutum) ..... Its ground and reason is God's wise good pleasure, and not a foreseen faith upon the part of the individual man."

The following is a concise and clear presentation of the doctrine as formulated by Gottschalk: "The peculiarity in the doctrine of Gottschalk consisted in this, that he applied the notion of predestination not merely, as was commonly done, to the pious and to salvation, but also to the reprobate and to everlasting punishment. He affirmed a praedestinatio duplex, by virtue of which God decreed eternal life to the elect, and the elect to eternal life, and so also everlasting punishment to the reprobate, and the reprobate to everlasting punishment. This doctrine seems to him important, because it enabled him to hold fast the unchangeableness of the divine decrees, and their entire independence of that which takes place in time. In reference to the works of God, foreknowledge and foreordination are one; his knowledge being one with his will, and this will creative." .... "Thomas Aquinas, in opposition to those who supposed a grace conditioned on the right use of freewill, and a predestination conditioned on the divine foreknowledge with regard to this right use, maintained that all this is already comprised among the effects of predestination and presupposed by it."

Beza "adopted the supralapsarian statement of the doctrine of predestination which renders the doctrine more austere and repelling than the infralapsarian representation." "The Second Helvetic Confession says, 'God, from eternity, predestinated or elected freely, and of his own mere grace, with no respect of men's character, the saints whom he would save in Christ.'" "No one can deny but God foreknew Adam's fall, and foreknew it because he had ordained it so by his own decree." "The decision of the Synod of Dort, condemnatory of the Arminian doctrines, was unanimous ..... In accordance with the acknowledged symbols of that church (the Reformed) the Synod decided ..... (2) 'That God out of the human race, fallen by their fault into sin and destruction, according to the most free good pleasure of his own will, and of mere grace, chose a certain number of men, neither better nor worthier than others salvation in Christ.'"...... Although God knows whatsoever 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 conditions ..... Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them. or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace."

"Others there are who have taught that God's electing of these and rejecting the other, dependeth wholly on the will of men themselves, and not on the decree or will of God: and that there is none rejected of God till by their own contempt, themselves do first reject God, and by their willful obstinacy refuse his grace which is offered unto them. How evidently do these men impugn the Scriptures of God! For if election and rejection depend on the actions of men after they are born, how can it be true which the apostle teacheth, that we are elected before the foundation of the world?"

"That he foreknew the futurity of it (the fall) is undeniable, for he laid in for a remedy against the evil effects of it, respecting his elect, having chosen them in Christ before the foundation of the world, (Eph. 1:4,) which foreknowledge could have no ground, but in his purpose, the thing being in itself contingent."

Toplady says: "Those who are ordained unto eternal life were not so ordained on account of any worthiness foreseen in them, or of any good works to be wrought by them, not yet for their future faith, but purely and solely, of free sovereign grace, and according to the mere good pleasure of God."

"God decreeth to give us His grace and be the chief cause of all our holiness; and doth not elect us to salvation on fore-sight that we will do his will, or be sanctified by ourselves without him. It is strange that any should think that God would undertake so great a work as man's redemption, and not effectually secure the success by his own will and wisdom: but leave all to the lubricous will of man."

"The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination supposes that holiness of heart and life are as much the object of divine appointment as future happiness, and that this connection can never be broken."

Speaking of the elect, Charnock says, "Nor could it be any foresight of works to be done in time by them, or of faith that might determine God to choose them."

"When we say that God acts in an absolute and sovereign manner, the meaning is, that he acts upon the best and strongest reasons and for the noblest and most excellent ends: but which are, many or most of them beyond our reach and comprehension, and particularly, that there is not the least foundation for supposing that the reasons of preference are taken from comparative human merit."

"St. Paul exhibits this subject in a happier manner: 'Whom he foreknew,' says the apostle, 'he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son.' By this declaration, we are not to understand that the predestination spoken of followed the foreknowledge, any more than that the foreknowledge followed the predestination. The Apostle says: 'Whom he foreknew,' not after he had foreknown them."

"Those who would account for the foreknowledge of God without his decrees, have always found the subject dark and incomprehensible. But there is nothing dark, unintelligible or incomprehensible in the foreknowledge of God as founded on his decrees. If God formed all his purposes from eternity, he must necessarily have known all things from the beginning of the world. For if the foreknowledge of God be not founded upon his decrees, it has no foundation: it is an effect without a cause."

Says Dr. Samuel Hopkins: "Foreknowledge is not only to be distinguished from the decree, but must be considered, as, in the order of nature, consequent upon the determination and purpose of God; and dependeth upon it. For the futurition or futurity of all things depends upon the decrees of God. By these, every created existence and every event, with all their circumstances, are fixed and made certain; and in consequence of their being thus decreed, they are the objects of foreknowledge."

Says Dr. E. D. Griffin, "Faith (the condition of salvation) and holiness generally, instead of being independent acts of the creature under the persuasions of the Spirit, are the gift of God ..... The choice of the elect was made, not in view of the foreseen operations of the determining power, but by the sovereign will of God decreeing to make them holy; and they are made holy in consequence of that decree."

The following is from Dr. John Dick: "I remark once more that the decrees of God are absolute and unconditional...Here we have many opponents. Lutherans, Arminians, Jesuits; all, in a word, who have not adopted those views of the subject which are usually called Calvinistic ..... When he decreed to save those who should believe, he decreed to give them faith ..... That any decree is conditional in the sense of our opponents, that it depends upon the will of man, of which he is sovereign, so that he may will or not will as he pleases--we deny." Says Dr. John Howe, "Lastly, it is very evident, that as to communications of grace and favor, God doth dispense very differently: and therefore must be understood to intend so to do, and to have always intended it." "Thus we think, that the decree and the foreknowledge of God are inseparably connected together: and that, according to human conceptions, the decree, in point of order, must precede foreknowledge. The reverse of all this is the doctrine of the Arminians. They say that the foreknowledge of God is the ground of his decree."

"But although God was not moved in the election of his people by the foresight of their faith or good works, but chose them out of his mere love; I remark (3) In his sovereign and gracious purpose of election all the means that are necessary to their salvation are included or were provided for." "But why was this salvation confined to a certain favored number called the elect? This doctrine of the sovereignty of divine grace, has from the beginning been offensive to human reason. The selection of men and not of angels, as the object of redemption, can be borne with; but that, out of the same mass some should be taken, confessedly no better than others by nature; and that many should be reprobated or left, no worse than those elected, has ever been a stumbling block to multitudes."

"'Tis true, many who are too proud to be indebted for their eternal salvation to the free favor of God, insist that the election by which he distinguishes sinners from sinners, is grounded upon good disposition; upon faith and holiness foreseen in the objects of that election. But if men be allowed to interpolate divine revelation and to add to the oracles of Jehovah the figments of their own invention, we may lay aside our Bibles."

"With respect to the doctrine of election, I would state it in Scripture terms, and obviate the Antinomian interpretation, by remarking that man, as man, is said to be chosen to obedience, to be conformed to the image of his Son, etc., and not on a foresight of his faith or obedience; as also that the distinction between true believers and others is often expressly ascribed to God." "Election is the choice of certain persons by God, from all eternity, to grace and glory. The reason why men are elected is not because Christ has shed his blood for them, redeemed and saved them; but Christ has done all this for them, because they are elected. It is wholly owing to the will and pleasure of God, and not to the faith, holiness, obedience and good works of men; nor to a foresight of all or any of these. It is absolute and unconditional, irrespective of anything in man as the cause and condition of it." "The decrees of God are to be distinguished from his prescience or foreknowledge. Foreknowledge and decrees are intimately connected, but not identical .....Foreknowledge is conditioned on, or founded in decrees."

"This relation of God's knowledge and foreknowledge to his purpose is important to a just conception of his sovereignty. God could not foreknow an event which was dependent on his positive or permissive will until he had purposed to accomplish or permit it."

Speaking of the views of Dr. N. W. Taylor and President Finney, Rev. Jas. Wood, D. D. says, "They involve the denial of divine decrees; for if God does not possess such absolute control over his creatures that he can govern them according to his pleasure, how could he have decreed anything unconditionally concerning them, since it might happen, that in the exercise of their free agency, they would act contrary to the divine purpose? On the same principle, they virtually reject the Calvinistic doctrine of election and make election depend upon the foreknowledge of God, and the will of the creature."

"You will observe that the Confession only says that he did not decree anything because he foresaw it; that is, his foreknowledge is not the ground or cause of his decrees. Still they are inseparably connected. His decrees are not dependent upon his foreknowledge, nor identical with it; but his foreknowledge is rather dependent upon his decrees, though perfectly distinct from them."

Speaking of the simple intelligence and determinate knowledge of the Deity, Robt. J. Breckenridge, D. D., LL.D., remarks, "By the latter, which involves the divine will, God knows from eternity all things that would actually exist in the system of the universe. This is called foreknowledge. God, as we have shown, knows all possible things whether considered separately or in systems; hence he knows all things that are possible under all possible systems. And all things that will be actual, he knows as being determined by his will."

Again, if election were according to faith and works foreseen, there would be no difficulty in answering the question, why God chooses one and not another? It would be because God foresaw that the former would believe and that the latter would remain in unbelief: yet we nowhere read of this in Paul, nor in the other sacred writers; on the contrary it is expressly declared that it is not of him that willeth."

"New-school Presbyterians do not affirm that faith foreseen is the condition with God for his decree of election, much less any good works." "With regard to unconditional election, it must be wholly without foreseen merit in the creature. This is the perfection of grace, that God seeks his creatures and they do not seek him. Nullum elegit dignum: nullum tanem punit indignum. This we can not modify; this stands essential to the doctrine. We pass into another system if we cross the line which separates the two problems."

"On the most obvious principles of reason, therefore, the divine foreknowledge of events must have been founded on the divine will in framing the universal structure of things and impressing upon them respectively the laws of their action."

"It is not true that he first knows who will repent, and then determines to give them repentance. He knows men will not repent, unless by his Spirit, he gives them repentance."

Says Dr. Venema: "The act of the decree is absolute; not uncertain or doubtful. It is not suspended on any condition on the part of man."

Commenting on Rom. ix. 11, Dr. Albert Barnes says: "It was not because they had formed a character and manifested qualities which made this distinction proper. It was laid back of any such character and therefore had its foundation in the purpose or plan of God."

"The idea that God elected some because he foresaw that they would repent is not sustained when we consider that God could not foresee anything which was not certain; and that nothing but God's decree makes it certain."

"Holy practice is not the ground and reason of election, as is supposed by the Arminians, who imagine that God elects men to everlasting life upon a foresight of their good works: but it is the aim and end of election. God does not elect men because he foresees that they will he holy, but that he may make them, and that they may be holy."

"Our opponents would have it, that all whom he foreknew would he penitent, or virtuous, or obedient, them He did predestinate to eternal life thus subordinating the decrees of God to the doings of men. But unfortunately for their view, the predestination here is a predestination in the first instance to the character of saints, ere they should be translated to the glory of the inheritance of saints, so as very dearly to subordinate the doings and the moral state of men to the preordination of God."

Controverting the views of Professor John Forbes, D. D., LL. D., of Edinburgh, Dr. Lyman H. Atwater in "The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review," remarks: "He frequently argues as if it were Supralapsarianism not to hold that the decree of election or reprobation is conditioned on a foresight of consent to, or stubborn rejection of, salvation in Christ. This latter doctrine, however, is not Supralapsarianism, but simple Arminianism."

"From the mass of fallen men God elected a number innumerable to eternal life, and left the rest of mankind to the just recompense of their sins. That the ground of this election is not the foresight of anything in the one class to distinguish them favorably from the members of the other class, but the good pleasure of God."

The following is from "Outlines of Theology," by Dr. A. A. Hodge: "The truth is that God, eternally and unchangeably, by one comprehensive act of will, willed all that happened to Adam from beginning to end in the precise order and succession in which each event occurred. God's will is suspended upon no condition, but he eternally wills the event as suspended upon its condition, and its condition as determining the event ..... Calvinists admit that the all comprehensive decree of God determines all events according to their inherent nature, the actions of free agents as free, and the operations of necessary causes, necessary. It also comprehends the whole system of causes and effects of every kind; of the motives and conditions of free actions as well as the necessary causes of necessary events. God decreed salvation upon the condition of faith, yet in the very same act he decreed the faith of those persons whose salvation he has determined." Again, "They are sovereign in the sense that while they determine absolutely whatever occurs without God, their whole reason and motive is within the divine nature, and they are neither suggested nor occasioned by nor conditioned upon anything whatsoever without him."





"Men persist in regarding sin, and especially their own sin, as a trivial matter, and excuse it, and palliate it, and construct philosophical systems representing it as on the whole for the best. But apart from human philosophy and speculation, and that perverted theological teaching which makes 'sin the necessary means of the greatest good'; apart also, from the schemes of infidel men, to accommodate matters to their own wicked conduct, and so to arrange the administration of the Almighty, that they can live prayerless and godless lives here, and yet come out safe in the end apart from such things. there is no countenance given either from reason, or revelation, or the workings of God's providence in the world, or from any source whatever, to the idea, that God has any other views or feelings about sin than those of unmitigated loathing, and an infinite preference that no one of his moral creatures should ever have committed it."-- "Law and Penalty Endless."


"Augustine teaches that God ordains sin, but does not produce it."

The following is from Calvin: "The will of God is the supreme and first cause of things. He does not remain an idle spectator, determining to permit anything; there is an intervention of an actual volition, if I may be allowed the expression, which otherwise could never be considered a cause."

Speaking of Adam's relation to God, John Howe says: "He did not purpose to confirm him at first in that good state wherein he made him, so as to make it impossible for him to fall: for we find he did fall, and is in a lapsed state: therefore it was purposed that his fall should not be prevented, that it should not be hindered."

"The permission of the fall doth not reflect on the divine purity ..... God is an omnipotent good, and his ???? peculiar glory to bring good out of evil, that by the opposition and lustre of contraries his goodness might be the more conspicuous. Now the evil of sin God permitted as a fit occasion for the more glorious discovery of his attributes, in sending his Son into the world to repair his image which was defaced, and to raise man from an earthly to celestial happiness."

"He can so permit sin as that it should infallibly be, and yet not so affect it as that it shall be any stain to his holiness in the least. As the sun is not defiled by shining upon the most dirty, stinking places, though they stink the more for its shining upon them; so God is then most holy when he is giving of men up to sin. He can so order it that Absalom shall commit the most horrid abomination, without being a blamable cause of it. He can harden Pharaoh's heart and yet very justly punish him for that hardness of his."

"So God by his absolute power, might have prevented the sin of the fallen angels, and so have preserved them in their first habitation ..... Sin, in itself is a disorder, and therefore God doth not permit sin for itself; for in its own nature it hath nothing of amiableness, but he wills it for some righteous end, which belongs to the manifestation of his glory, which is his aim in all the acts of his will ..... God willed sin, that is, he willed to permit it, that he might communicate himself to the creature in the most excellent manner."

"Having, in his infinite but incomprehensible wisdom and righteousness, permitted the fall and apostasy of man, he looked upon the whole human species as deserving of destruction and meet for it." "God was either willing that Adam should fall, or unwilling, or indifferent about it. If God was unwilling that Adam should transgress how came it to pass that he did? Is man stronger, and is Satan wiser than he that made them? Surely no. Again: could not God, had it so pleased him, have hindered the tempter's access to paradise? or have created man as he did the elect angels, with a will invariably determined to good only, and incapable of being biased to evil? Or at least have made the grace and strength, with which he indued Adam, actually effectual to the resisting of all solicitations to sin? None but Atheists would answer these questions in the negative. Surely, if God had not willed the fall, he could, and no doubt would have prevented it: but he did not prevent it: ergo, he willed it. And if he willed it, he certainly decreed it: for the decree of God is nothing else but the seal and ratification of his will." "Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty 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." Speaking of President Edwards' theology, President Noah Porter says, "The existence of moral evil, in consistency with the divine perfections, is explained by the principles announced in the Treatise on the Will, viz.: that the Divine Being is not the author of sin, but only disposes things in such a manner that sin will certainly ensue. If this certainty is not inconsistent with human liberty, then it is not inconsistent with this liberty that God should be the cause of this certainty, and in that sense be the author of sin." "All things, both beings and events, exist in exact accordance with the purposes, pleasure, or what is commonly called, The Decrees of God." . . . . God "does according to his will, independently and irresistibly ..... That God could not prevent the existence of sin can not be maintained."

"I believe that God could have prevented sin, and would, had he not seen it a means of blessing the universe by filling it with his glory."

"There can nothing take place under the care and government of an infinitely powerful, wise and good Being that is not on the whole wisest and best; that is, for the general good; therefore, though there be things which are in themselves evil, even in their own nature and tendency, such are sin and misery; yet, considered in their connection with the whole, and as they are necessary in the best system to accomplish the greatest good, the most important and best ends; they are in this view desirable good, and not evil. And in this view there is no absolute evil in the universe! There are evils in themselves considered, but considered as connected with the whole, they are not evil but good."

"The first Cause of all things must have decreed all things. If God has not decreed, he has not caused all things. And if he has not caused all things what reason is there to believe that he has caused anything?... His power is absolutely unlimited and irresistible."

Speaking of moral evils, President Samuel Starthope Smith says, "To say that they have been merely permitted, without any interference, or concern of Almighty God in the actions of men, is only attempting, by the illusion of a word, to throw the difficulty out of sight, not to solve it."

Dr. Ashbel Green declares, "Evil he permits to take place, and efficaciously overrules it for good for the promotion of his glory." In "Tracts on the Doctrines, Order and Polity of the Presbyterian Church" we have the following testimony: "The conclusion is, therefore, to our minds irresistible, that if God be infinitely wise, benevolent and powerful, and perfectly foreknew what beings and events would, on the whole, be best, he must have chosen and ordained that they should exist, or be permitted to occur; and that consequently everything that does actually come to pass in time, has been eternally and unchangeably foreordained; and is either the effect of the divine efficiency, or the result of his predetermined permission."

In volume fifth of the same work we are told, "Our doctrine, then, is simply this. By positive and permissive decrees, God, in wisdom and in love, manages the affairs of the universe, directs and controls all things and all events, all creatures and all their actions. It must be so, for suppose an event to take place without the divine permission, for example, then it must be either because God is not aware of it, or can not prevent it. If not aware of it, he can not be omniscient; if he can not prevent it, then he is not omnipotent; and then, of course, in the last cause 'there must be a power behind the throne greater than the throne itself' which thought would be frightful." Dr. Bellamy taught: "The doctrine of the wisdom of God, in the permission of sin, supposes sin in itself, and in all its natural tendencies to be infinitely evil, infinitely contrary to the honor of God and the good of the system. For herein consists the wisdom of God in the affair, not in bringing good out of good, but in bringing infinite good out of infinite evil; and never suffering one sin to happen in all his dominions but which, notwithstanding its infinitely evil nature and tendency, in finite wisdom can and will overrule for greater good on the whole." "The decrees of God relate to all future things without exception: Whatever is done in time was foreordained before the beginning of time. His purpose was concerned with everything, whether great or small, whether good or evil; although in reference to the latter it may be necessary to distinguish between appointment and permission." "All things that happen, happen by the will of God, whether that will be permissive, directing or executive." "Now, though sin is hateful to God, it constantly takes place in his government; and it is atheism to say he could not prevent it, for he is not God if he can not govern the world. We must, therefore, conclude, he permits it for reasons unknown to us." "It will not do for us to say absolutely that God could not have bestowed upon Adam strength adequate to his trial; all we can say is that this could not be done upon the principles of the precise trial then made." Says Pictet, "Since nothing can happen contrary to the knowledge and will of God, we say that he permits evil, though he in no way approves of it." Dr. A. Alexander says, "The reason, then, why sin was permitted to exist was, that God might have an opportunity of manifesting his own glory to all intelligent creatures more conspicuously, which is the great end of all his works and dispensations." "The decrees of God are not merely his purpose to permit events to take place as they do. Some hold that, with regard to the existence of sin we can only affirm that the divine decrees extend to it in the sense that God determines to permit it, that is, not to prevent it. But this language does not seem to express the whole truth. God might, indeed, be said to decree the existence of whatever he could have prevented, but determined not to prevent. But the decrees of God are not mere negatives. They are purposes to do something and to do that which renders certain the existence of all events, sin included." "God permitted the introduction of sin, not because he was unable to prevent it consistently with the moral freedom of his creatures, but for wise and benevolent reasons, which he has not revealed."

"The Old School have charged the New with believing that God could have prevented the existence of sin in the world, but not without destroying the freedom of the human will; and that sin is incidental to any moral system. To this the latter reply, that God permitted the entrance of sin, but not because he was unable to prevent it; but for wise and benevolent reasons which he hath not revealed."

Speaking of the hardening effects of the divine dealings with the Egyptians and Canaanites, President Jeremiah Day remarks, "Will it be said, that God merely permitted their hearts to be hardened; or permitted them to harden their own hearts? If this be conceded, it must be still understood, that he had power to prevent this result. What sort of permission is a mere inability to prevent that which is permitted?" "Our doctrine, then, concerning the first sin committed by man, and in which the human race was involved, is simply, that God for wise reasons decreed or purposed, first, to permit, and secondly, to overrule it for his glory." "Whatever occurs, he, for wise reasons permits to occur. He can prevent whatever he sees fit to prevent. If, therefore, sin occurs, it was God's design that it should occur. If misery follows in the train of sin, such was God's purpose."

Says Dr. Leonard Woods, "Evil does exist .... It exists in a world formed by him who possesses infinite wisdom and power, and who, if he had chosen, could have formed and governed the world so as to exclude it." "The admission of sin into the creation of an infinitely wise, powerful and holy God is a great mystery of which no explanation can be given .....The whole difficulty lies in the awful fact that sin exists. If God foresaw it and yet created the agent, and placed him in the very circumstances under which he did foresee the sin would be committed, then he did predetermine it. If he did not foresee it, or foreseeing it, could not prevent it, then he is not infinite in knowledge and in power, but is surprised and prevented by his creatures."






"But how, it may be asked, when God is an omnipotent sovereign, can sin so come in and not implicate him in either his participation or neglect? We answer, according to our theory of Rectitude, by this general hypothesis, and yet, when clearly apprehended, we hardly deem it can be held merely as hypothesis, but as exact truth; that sin, in some form and extent, will be a certain result of God's dealings with his creatures according to what is due to himself. In other words, if God always deals with finite spirits according to principles of 'honor and right,' there will be sin ..... With a goodness infinitely higher than any craving of a benevolent susceptibility or prompting of nature for happiness, and of a wholly distinct kind, even in the broad sense of goodness that would have all that was worthy for Infinite Excellency to receive--he planned and executed the work of the sinner's redemption, and only fails of attaining universal salvation in it, from the perverse rejection of sinners, in whose behalf his own honor will not allow his power and grace to work any longer nor any further."--L. P. Hickok, D.D., LL.D.

"Thus, the Augustinian system with rigorous self-consistence formed itself as follows: All men before regeneration, and since Adam's fall, which corrupted human nature, both physically and morally, are in essentially one and the same state of alienation from God, of spiritual enmity towards him, and of condemnation by him. This state is one of self-will without the power to the contrary, and hence fallen man, as such, can do nothing but evil. He can be delivered from this state only by the grace of God, who imparts the principle of holiness and progressive sanctification through the medium of faith in Christ. This grace (as gratia irresistibilis) with internal and almighty power overcomes the utmost intensity of man's self-will and aversion, and the recipient of it is eternally saved." "The wills of men are so governed by the will of God that they are carried on straight to the mark which he has foreordained."

The Synod of Dort held that regenerating as distinct from common grace is able to subdue all opposition of the sinful will, and therefore can not be resisted in the sense of being defeated or overcome."

"To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same: Making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his word and Spirit." "Luther compared man to a saw, which is a passive instrument in the hands of the carpenter." '

"Wherefore, if God would not at all have the death and destruction of those vessels of wrath which are of old ordained to condemnation, as St. Luke speaketh, then certainly, though all the armies, both in heaven and earth should band together, yet could they not all effect the death of the meanest or weakest of them; for who is able to resist his will, who is Almighty? And who saith of himself, 'My counsel shall stand and I will do whatsoever I will.' Unless then we deny the first article of our faith, which is the Omnipotency of God, we must needs confess, that the death and damnation of those vessels of wrath cometh to pass by the will of the Almighty: for if he willed it not, he could, nay, he would have hindered it ten thousand ways."

In a work entitled "A Defence of Some of the Important Doctrines of the Gospel," the following testimony is given: "If election is an absolute purpose of God to save any independent of any conditions to be performed by them which may render this purpose effectual to their salvation, then it must be unchangeable; and if it is an unchangeable purpose of God to save, then all those whom he thus purposed to save, must necessarily and infallibly be saved. Nothing can hinder, prevent or disannul their salvation." "We shall now inquire whether the grace of God, in the renewing of a sinner, may be frustrated, or set aside, by the opposition of the creature. And here we are to remember it is God's work, and therefore must be perfect, since he can and will do all his pleasure. To say that he can not, though he would, change the sinner's heart, by an immediate act of his own power, is to challenge his omnipotence. So that the question is not whether God can do this or no: but whether it is worthy of him, and how far it is really the case? .... If the soul is passive in the implanting the principle of grace, as we have endeavored to prove, then there can be no resistance in regeneration."

Charnock, in speaking of the relation of God to sin, says, "If he did in no sort will it, it would not be committed by his creature: sin entered the world, either God willing the permission of it, or not willing the permission of it. The latter can not be said: for then the creature is more powerful than God, and can do that which God will not permit. God can, if he be pleased, banish all sin in a moment out of the world." "God never designed to save every individual; since, if he had, every individual would and must be saved, for his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure." "Now, God's eternal election is the first ground of the bestowment of saving grace. And some have such saving grace, and others do not have it because some are from eternity chosen of God, and others are not chosen."

Dr. Ashbel Green, in explaining the doctrine of reprobation says, "Or will you say that he gave equal grace to both; but the one improved it and the other did not? For the sake of the argument, let this for a moment be admitted. But then I ask could he not have given grace that certainly would have been effectual to him who remains without religion? You will not so limit God and his grace, as to say he could not. But he actually did not. He left the person in question without effectual grace. And here is all the doctrine of reprobation which we hold." Dr. Nathanael Emmons says of God, "He decreed the existence, the character, the conduct and the state of all moral beings both in time and eternity. He decreed that some should be the monuments of his goodness, some the monuments of his justice; and some the monuments of his mercy. And he decreed all the means by which his rational creatures should be brought to their final and eternal condition ..... It is his secret will that all the elect shall repent and believe; and that all the non-elect shall live and die in impenitence and unbelief." In the same spirit Dr. E. D. Griffin taught, .... "God has the absolute control of mind in all its common operations, else how could he govern the world? Whether he does this by the mere force of motives adapted to the existing temper, or sometimes by a lower sort of efficiency, not, however, productive of sin, I will not determine. But the fact is incontrovertible ..... Even in the motions of sin (though only permissively I suppose), his government is effectual." The following is from Dr. John Dick: "The term predestination, includes the decrease(decrees) 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 to the other; as in both the final condition of man is pre-appointed or predestinated ..... They (the non-elect) were appointed to wrath for their sins; but it was not for their sins as we have shown, but in the exercise of sovereignty, that they were rejected."

Commenting on the passage "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee," Dr. Samuel Hopkins says, .... "God does superintend and direct with regard to every instance of sin. He orders how much sin there shall be, and effectually restrains and prevents all that which he would not have take place. Men are, with respect to this, absolutely under his direction and control." "When any are lost, we do not hesitate to say that they perish by their own deserts, although God could have mercifully saved them had it pleased him." "He carries on all beings to their end, and so rules them as that now misseth it. There is a peculiar subordinate end, and there is an universal, general and last end: the creature may miss the former but not the latter."

"So that if we admit that the works of God are known to him from the beginning of the world, it can never be true that in his eternal counsels, Christ died to save those, who after all that he hath done shall be miserable forever. 'He is a rock--his work is perfect.' His design never could be frustrated." "God has purposed by a positive act of his will, not only to condemn unbelievers, but also to withhold from some sufficient grace, on which withholding, as we shall see. when we come to treat of the doctrine of reprobation, depends the final ruin of the impenitent. Common grace, of which even those who perish partake, consists in the offer of Christ, made in the Gospel, an offer which is intended by God to be made to all, and in which no one at least is excluded. But besides this common grace, there is particular and efficacious grace which is bestowed only on some, and which is so intimately connected with salvation that it begets faith in those to whom it is given, i.e., the elect. This grace, as we shall afterwards show, is irresistible." In the celebrated Auburn Declaration of 1837, which was a peace-offering from the New to the Old School Presbyterians, we are told: "While repentance for sin and faith in Christ are indispensable to salvation, all who are saved are indebted from first to last to the grace and spirit of God. And the reason that God does not save all is not that he wants the power to do it, but that in his wisdom he does not see fit to exert that power further than he actually does .... While all such as reject the gospel of Christ do it not by coercion but freely, and all who embrace it, do it not by coercion but freely, the reason why some differ from others is that God has made them to differ."

The following from the "Princeton Essays," condemns Arminianism and gives the true Calvinistic doctrine. "These views of human agency are such, that God is virtually represented as unable to control the moral exercises of his creatures; that notwithstanding all that he can do they may yet act counter to his wishes, and sin on in despite of all the influence which he can exert over them consistently with their free agency. If this be not to emancipate the whole intelligent universe from the control of God and destroy all the foundations of our hopes in his promises we know not what it is. When sinners are thus represented as depending on themselves, God having done all he can, exhausted all his power in vain for their conversion--how they can be made to feel that they are in his hands, depending on his sovereign grace, we can not conceive."

"Effectual calling is a work of God's infinite grace, executed by his Almighty power .... The moving and original cause of our personal salvation, and so of our effectual calling of God is not at all in any degree anything in us; but is the free and especial love of God for his elect according to his eternal purpose and grace in Jesus Christ .... In this work of divine renovation. man is wholly passive. .... I have said repeatedly that the absolute dominion of God over man, and the absolute dependence of man on God are the fundamental truths that control all the relations between God and man." "If God could as easily have saved all as a part, why did he not manifest his goodness in doing so? To which it may be answered, that we do not know the reasons of the divine conduct in this matter. He, as an absolute Sovereign, has a right to do as seemeth good with his own." Speaking of man's ignorance of, and his inability to grasp divine things, Professor B. B. Edwards says, "If he undertakes to examine the mode of operation in any of the works of God, he will be baffled at every step. His curiosity prompts him to do this, but his powers are incompetent. He has a strong desire to know the manner in which God works in the world of mind--how he controls free agents, while yet they are conscious of perfect freedom--why God elects some, in his mere sovereign pleasure unto everlasting life, why he did not long since communicate the blessings of salvation to the whole family of man.

"In regeneration men are wholly passive; as they also are in the first moment of conversion, but by it become active. Regeneration is an irresistible act of God's grace; no more resistance can be made to it, than there could be by the first matter in its creation, or by a dead man in his resurrection."

"The operations of the Spirit in regeneration are efficacious or invincible. By this I mean what the old divines meant by irresistible grace ..... He who subdued the heart of the persecuting Saul, and who cast seven devils out of Mary Magdalene, can, if he please, make any sinner a trophy of his grace."

"The whole matter, therefore, resolves itself into the two questions: 1. Can God exercise over men a particular providence so as to bring to pass his wise purposes, without destroying or impairing their free agency? 2. Can God exert upon the minds of men, providentially and by his Spirit, a Divine influence that will certainly lead them to Christ, and induce them to persevere in his service, without interfering with their liberty? These questions have already been answered. We have seen that the providence of God extends to all things and events. and that he can so govern even wicked men as to fulfill his purposes without interfering with their freedom of choice."

Leaving a sinner to his own evil way is, according to Dr. Albert Barnes ...."an act of sovereignty on the part of God ....and in not putting forth that influence by which he could be saved from death." Speaking of the passage "For there is no respect of persons with God," he says, "It does not imply that he may not bestow his favors where he pleases, where all are undeserving; or that he may not make a difference in the characters of men by his providence and by the agency of his Spirit." Combating the Arminian doctrine that God saves all whom he can, Dr. Nehemiah Adams affirms "This can not be. We can not fully revere one whom we pity. We prefer to place every man, angel and devil, with every holy and sinful act, and the eternal happiness or misery of every one of us in the hands of an infinitely wise and powerful God and pray that he would order everything with a view to the highest interest of his universal Kingdom." For the following, we are indebted to Dr. Charles Hodge. It gives no uncertain sound. "If some men only are saved, while others perish, such must have entered into the all-comprehending purpose of God." Again, speaking of common grace and the non-elect, he says, "That while the Holy Spirit, in his common operations, is present with every man, so long as he lives, restraining evil and exciting good, his certainly efficacious and saving power is exercised only in behalf of the elect."

Dr. A. A. Hodge says "It rests only with God himself to save all, many, few or none." He informs us that "Reprobation is the aspect which God's eternal decree presents in its relation to that portion of the human race which shall be finally condemned for their sins. It is first, negative, inasmuch as it consists in passing over these, and refusing to elect them to life; and second, positive, inasmuch as they are condemned to eternal misery. In respect to its negative element, reprobation is simply sovereign, since those passed over were no worse than those elected, and the simple reason both for the choosing and for the passing over, was the sovereign good pleasure of God."

The reader is now in a position where he can readily and intelligently judge of the true nature of Calvinism. All minor points in the system have been avoided because (1) They are logically involved in the preceding principles. Hence such doctrines as Original Sin, and Imputation, or the Federal Head-ship of Adam, are but means to an end; intermediate steps by which the unconditional sovereignty of God is made to appear less repulsive and more reasonable. Once grant that God can decree or has eternally decreed a man's destiny irrespective of divine foresight of what that person's character shall freely be, you have logically conceded all: the other doctrines simply explain how the result is reached. (2) Like other theological systems, Calvinism in its minor doctrines is variously interpreted. Prof. Henry B. Smith has said, "Calvinism, in its historical growth, has assumed a variety of forms. It has been prolific in systems." Hence Old and New School Calvinism, while agreeing on God's sovereignty, differently explain such doctrines as Original Sin, imputation and Ability. Thus Dr. Albert Barnes was tried for heresy because he did not accept among other doctrines the Old School view of Imputation.


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