Defending Calvinism is simply a matter of defending the gospel. Therefore, we do not defend it apologetically, or defensively, or even as if its fortunes were doubtful, dependent on our defense. As the truth of God, Calvinism stands and will stand—victoriously and gloriously. God Himself maintains it and God Himself sends it forth on an irresistible course of conquest throughout the world. Calvinism is the gospel for every age. It is the truth for which and by which the Reformation of the Church of Jesus Christ took place in the 16th century. The gospel has not changed since that time; Jesus Christ in His truth is the same today as yesterday. But the truth of the gospel is largely lost and buried in the Protestant Churches in our day. This includes many who pride themselves on being “evangelical.” The gospel is perverted by a message that is essentially the same as that message against which the Reformation fought and which on its part bitterly opposed the Reformation. In those days, the Roman Catholic Church preached a salvation that had to be earned by man’s own works; it taught that men were righteous before God, in part, by their own works, a teaching that Rome holds still. In our day, the overwhelmingly prevalent teaching in Protestant Churches is that salvation depends on man’s will, man’s free will. No matter how the Protestant Churches are otherwise divided, they are almost all united in proclaiming that a man’s salvation depends upon the decision for Christ that he must make and that he can make of his own free will. Of this teaching, they are not ashamed. Indeed, it is supposed to be the very essence of the gospel. No sermon is complete without this message. This “gospel” of much of Protestantism and the “gospel” of Rome are one and the same. Essentially, there is no difference between them. This is the reason why many so-called Protestant Churches and ministers find it possible already to co-operate closely with the Roman Catholic Church, especially, in the work of “evangelism,” and this is the reason why a great reunion with Rome on the part of many large Protestant Churches is in the offing. Rome says that salvation depends on man’s works; modem Protestant Churches say that salvation depends on man’s will. What both are saying is this: Salvation depends upon man; man must save himself. Paul lumps both of these variations of the same basic doctrine together in Romans 9:16 and condemns them: “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Here, the apostle plainly denies that salvation has its source in, or depends on, man’s will, for he says, “it is not of him that willeth. ” He also denies that salvation has its source or basis in man’s works, for he says, “nor of him that runneth,” and “running” means “working.” It makes no difference whether one teaches the one or the other, for both of them make man the ultimate source of salvation, both of them make salvation depend ultimately upon man himself, and both of them ascribe the glory of salvation to man. Having condemned these teachings, Paul declares that the source of our salvation is God alone and the basis of our salvation is the mercy of God alone: “but of God who sheweth mercy.” God in mercy elected us to be saved, us who were by nature totally depraved and totally devoid of any worth on account of which we should have been chosen. God in mercy sent His Son to redeem us by His death. God in mercy regenerated us, who were dead, by His Spirit and called us by His Word. God in mercy sanctifies us, preserves us, and glorifies us. By teaching this, Calvinism, with Paul, ascribes all of glory of salvation to God alone. Since Calvinism is the gospel of grace and since its foes are the enemies of the gospel of grace, our defense of Calvinism is a bold, unashamed defense. We say of Calvinism what Benjamin B. War-field once said of it: “the future of Christianity—as its past has done—lies in its (Calvinism’s) hands.”
In our defense of Calvinism today, we must reject and refute the false accusations laid against it and the caricatures that are made of it. Men say of Calvinism that it is destructive of good works and of the law of God, that it produces careless Christians. Men say that, it is destructive of zeal for preaching and missions, especially, because of its doctrine of election. Men say that it is terrifying to poor consciences, that it is cold and hard, and that Calvinists are all head and no heart. These are old, old charges. You will find them, almost word-for-word, in the book of Romans, brought against Paul and against the gospel of sovereign grace that he preached (cf.Romans 3:8; Romans 3:31; Romans 6:1ff.; Romans 9:19ff.). Would that men might not so readily accept the caricature of us wickedly presented by our foes, but that they would let us ourselves explain the truth of Calvinism by reading our confessions. Read the Heidelberg Catechism, and see for yourself whether Calvinism (or as we prefer to say, the Reformed faith!) is hard and cold and cruel, or whether it is warm and comforting. Read the Belgic Confession, and see whether Calvinism goes lightly over the law of God and over the good works of the Christian man, or whether it trembles before the law of the God Who has saved in grace and. stresses sanctification and the necessity of good works. Read the Canons of Dordt, the Reformed confession that is unsurpassed in its statement of eternal sovereign predestination and its defense of salvation by grace alone, and see whether Calvinism cuts the nerve of a lively preaching of the gospel, including the serious call of the gospel to all who come under the preaching. See also the tenderness of the Reformed faith in the Canons and its deep pastoral concern for afflicted consciences. At the same time, we Reformed people and churches must refute the caricatures of Calvinism by our deeds and by our life. We do well to take heed to ourselves in every area. We must take heed that we are zealous for good works, not only as individuals, but also as churches. We must take heed that we preach the gospel to every creature and give an answer to every man that asks us a reason for the hope that is in us. We must take heed that we manifest ourselves as joyful, hopeful, confident saints. And this we will do, by God’s grace, if we live out of the truth of Calvinism, if that truth is preached and believed and obeyed.
We have a powerful motive for defending Calvinism. For one thing, as the gospel, it is the only hope for men; the only power of God unto salvation; the means of the gathering and preserving of the Church. But even beyond this, our motive for defending Calvinism is our desire that God be glorified. Calvinism glorifies God. The glory of God is the heartbeat of Calvinism and the heart of hearts of a Calvinist. Calvin’s enemies have always seen this, and so they have sneered at him as “that God-intoxicated man.” But the glory of God is the ultimate purpose of the gospel and of salvation. So we read in Ephesians 1:3-6: “(God) hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings . . . He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world . . . (He hath) predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ . . . to the praise of the glory of His grace . . .” So we read in Ephesians 3:21: “Unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages.” So we read in all the Bible: Salvation is of the Lord. Therefore, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. This is the life-principle of the Calvinist: To God alone be glory. This governs not only his confession, but also his entire life. Therefore, the Calvinist cannotbe a careless man. He is an utterly humbled man. He is a man totally dependent upon God. Just for this reason, he is a man of courage, a man ready to speak and to do the right, that is, glorify His Savior-God. It is the one, great need of the Church today, and of God’s people in these wild, fearful, Godless times, that we hear, believe, and confess the gospel of God’s sovereign grace in Jesus Christ.
It is the one, great calling of the Church today, as it has been the calling of the Church always, that she confess, with adoration, with wonder, with thanksgiving, with awe:
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of. God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!
“For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counselor?
“Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
“For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)