In our former article we stated that we, during our labors at Manhattan, had continually been harassed by foul and wicked charges against the truth of God’s Sovereignty, as it is revealed to us in the Word of God, and maintained by us as Protestant Reformed Churches. In this wicked practice the Rev. A. H. Bratt is ably assisted by a certain Henry Westra, the leader of the young people. The former should be acquainted with Calvin’s teachings concerning God’s sovereign decree of election and reprobation, and the overruling counsel of God’s will, but the latter, I believe does it in his ignorance, though also here ignorance is inexcusable. These men claim to be Calvinists, and yet they attack us when we teach the very doctrines which Calvin taught and defended over against his enemies. They, and many others of our day remind us of the words of our Savior, “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” Thus also many scribes and leaders of our day. O, if they had lived in the days of Calvin, they would not be numbered among his enemies, but they would have embraced the doctrines which he so ably defended; and yet we find those same men bringing the same wicked accusations against us, as the enemies of Calvin brought against him. Therefore we will answer them with the very words of Calvin.

Even as the enemies of the truth in Calvin’s days, so also these enemies of the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty, rebel at the truth of sovereign election and reprobation, and say that we present God as a demon when on the basis of the Word of God we teach, that God in His sovereign and righteous good pleasure has created the wicked unto destruction. The enemies of Calvin were offended at the same truth, and brought against him the wicked accusation that he taught that “God of His mere pure will created the greatest part of the world to perdition.” Though this statement may appear to be the teaching of Calvin, yet Calvin never taught that God of His pure mere will created men to destruction, but that He did it according to His righteous judgments. Calvin replies as follows: Calvin’s Calvinism, pp. 266 ff.

“That on which you seize as your First Article is, “that God, by His pure and mere will, created the greatest part of the world to perdition.” Now, all this —“the greatest part of the world unto perdition,” and “by His own pure and mere will”—is a perfect fiction, and a production from the workshop of your own brain. For although God did certainly decree from the beginning everything which should befall the race of man, yet such a manner of speech as the saying that the end or object of God’s work of creation was destruction or perdition, is nowhere to be found in my writings. Just like an unclean hog, therefore, you root up with your foul snout all doctrine that is of sweet odour, hoping to find in it something filthy and offensive.”

“In the next place, although my doctrine is that the will of God is the first and supreme cause of all things, yet I everywhere teach that wheresoever in His counsel and works the cause does not plainly appear, yet that there is a cause which lies hidden in Himself, and that according to it He has decreed nothing but that which is wise and holy and just. Therefore, with reference to the sentiments of the schoolmen concerning the absolute or tyrannical will of God, I not only repudiate, but abhor them all, because they separate the justice of God from His ruling power Now see, then, thou unclean dog, how much thou hast gained, and how far thou hast advanced thy cause by this thy impudent barking. For myself, while I subject the whole human race to the will of God, I at the same time ever affirm that God never decrees anything but with the most righteous reason, which reason (though it may at the present time be unknown to us) will assuredly be revealed to us at the last day in all its infinite righteousness and divine perfection.”

“You thrust in my face, and impudently upbraid me with, the “pure and mere will of God,” which idea I, in a hundred or more passages of my books, utterly repudiate. Meantime, I freely acknowledge my doctrine to be this: That Adam fell, not only by the permission of God, (I underscore, B.K.) but by His very secret counsel and decree; and that Adam drew all his posterity with himself, by his fall, into eternal destruction. Both these positions it seems, give you great offence, as being (according to your account) “contrary to nature, and to Scripture.” You attempt to prove it to be contrary to nature, because every animal naturally loves its own offspring; whence you argue that, therefore, God, who gave such a natural affection to brute beasts, ought not, certainly, less to love all men, seeing that they are His offspring. (This argument is also made by the present day defenders of the theory of Common Grace. B.K.) Your argument and thought are infinitely too course and low, and infinitely beneath the mightiness of the matter, when you demand of God, the eternal Author of nature, just what He rightfully demands of the ox and the ass, which He has created. As if God Himself ought to be bound by the same laws as those which He has appointed for the creature which He has made!”

Further on pp. 270-271, Calvin continues: “But you are ready to reply, next, “that to create is a work of love, not of hatred; and that God therefore created in love, not in hatred.” But you perceive not, that though all men are hateful to God in fallen Adam, yet that in their original creation the love of God shines in all its brightness”. . . .

“Meantime, you hesitate not to vomit forth your profane and abhorrent opinion that God is worse than any wolf, who thus wills to create men to misery. Some men, be it remembered, are born blind, some deaf, some dumb, some of monstrous deformity. Now, if we are to go by your opinion as the judge in these sacred and deep matters, God is also cruel, because He afflicts His offspring with such evils as these, and that, too, before they have seen the light of day. But the day, be thou assured, will come when thou wilt heartily wish that thou hadst been blind, rather than thou hadst ever been so wonderfully sharp-sighted in thus penetrating into these secrets of the eternal God!”

“You accuse God of injustice; nay, you declare Him to be nothing above a monster, (do you remember making that very statement, Mr. Westra? B.K.) if He dares to decree anything Concerning men otherwise than we ourselves should determine concerning our own children. If so, how shall we account for God’s creating some dull of comprehension, others of greater incapacity, others quite idiots? Do you really think that the work of God’s creation, with reference to such imperfect mortals, was really according to the fables of some Jews about the Fauns and Satyrs? For they say that God was prevented from completing the form of these latter monsters by the intervention of the Sabbath, and therefore that they fell, half made, from His hands. No! It rather becomes us to receive a deep and humbling lesson from such sad spectacles as these defective human beings, and not to commence a quarrel with the Maker of heaven and earth, from the conceptions of our own brain, concerning His works, or what, in our opinion, they ought to have been. When any idiot happens to meet me, I am admonished to reflect upon what God might have made me, had He been so pleased! As many dull of comprehension and idiots as there are in the world, so many spectacles does God set before me in which to behold His power; not less a subject of awe than a subject of wonder. But as for you, you brawl against God Himself with all impiety and profanity, as “being less merciful than a wolf,” because (according to your opinion) He has so little considered the good and happiness of His offspring!”

Calvin proceeds on pp. 272-273 “With reference to the doctrine of permission, we will speak of that hereafter in its place. But for the present, if you should be disposed to reply that the foreknowledge of God is not the cause (I underscore, B.K.) of evils, I would only ask you this one question: If God foresaw the destruction both of man and of the devil before He created them, and did not, at the same time, decree their destruction, why did He not apply betimes, an adequate remedy, which should prevent their Fall and their liability thereto? The devil from the very beginning of the world, alienated himself from the hope of salvation. And man, as soon as he was created, destroyed both himself and his posterity with a deadly destruction. If, therefore, the preservation of both was in the hand of God, how was it that (if He had not. decreed their destruction) He permitted their ruin? Nay, why did He not furnish each with at least some small degree of ability to stand? To what circuitous reasonings soever, therefore, you have recourse I shall be able to hold you fast to this principle, that although man was created weak and liable to fall, yet that this weakness contained in it a great blessing, because man’s Fall immediately afterwards taught him that nothing outside of God is either safe, or secure or enduring. Hence, therefore, it is made evident that all which you prate about men having been created unto salvation, is an argument mutilated and halt, and laid down without adequate consideration.”

Calvin continues further pp. 275-276, “Here you throw in the common objection “that God has no pleasure in the death of a sinner,” as declared by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 33:11). (Notice here that the same objection which the Synod of 1924 brought against the truth of God’s Sovereign grace, namely that God is merciful to whom He wills and that He hardens whom He wills, was already a common objection in the days of Calvin: ex ungue leonem, B. K.) Calvin goes on to answer this common objection: “But listen, I pray you, to that which, in the prophet, immediately follows, “Because God inviteth all men to repentance” (Ezek. 18:30-32). To all such, therefore, as return into the way of life pardon is freely offered. But the next principle thing to be considered herein is, whether or not that conversion or “returning” which God requires (verse 30) is in the power of man’s freewill, or, whether it be a peculiar and sovereign gift of God! Inasmuch, therefore, as all men are invited and exhorted by God to repentance, the prophet, on that ground, justly declareth that “God hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner.” But why it is that God doth not turn or convert all men to Himself, equally and alike, is a question the reply to which lies hidden in Himself. And as to your usual way of citing that passage of the apostle Paul, “That God would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4), how vain a prop that is to put under your error to support it, I think I have shown with sufficient plainness already, and that repeatedly.”

On pp. 276-277 Calvin continues: “There is, perhaps a stronger colour in some of the words of Peter, which might have better suited your purposes, where he says that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And if there be anything in the first member of the passage that seems difficult of comprehension at first sight, it is made perfectly plain by the explanation which follows. For in as far as God “willeth that all should come to repentance,” in so far He willeth that no one should perish; but, in order that they may thus be received of God, they must “come.” But the Scripture everywhere affirms, that in order that they may “come,” they must be prevented of God; that is, God must first come to them to draw them; for until they are drawn of God, they will remain where they are, given up to the obstinacy of the flesh. Now if there were one single particle of right judgment in you, you would, in a moment, acknowledge that there is a wide and wonderful difference between these two things—that the hearts of men are made of God “fleshly” out of “stony” hearts, and that it is thus that they are made to be displeased and dissatisfied with themselves, and are brought as suppliants, to beg of God mercy and pardon; and that after they are thus changed, they are received into all grace.”

“Now God declares that both these things are of His pure goodness and mercy; that He gives us hearts that we may repent, and then pardons us graciously upon our repentance and supplication. For if God were not ready to receive us when we do truly implore His mercy, He would not say, “Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you” (Zech. 1:8). But if repentance were in the power of the free-will of man, Paul would not say, “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:26). Nay if God Himself, who exhorts all me to repentance by His voice—if God Himself, I repeat, who thus exhorts, did not draw His elect by the secret operation of His Spirit, Jeremiah would not thus describe those who do return; “Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned; for Thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented” (Jer. 31:19). This solution of the matter (I repeat), if there were any shame or modesty in so impudent a dog as thyself, ought to have been known to thee as existing in my writings in a hundred different places. (This should also have been known to Rev. Bratt and Mr. W., the latter claiming to agree with every word the Reformer has ever written, which of course is folly, B.K.). And although thou mayest take it upon thyself to reject such a solution, it nevertheless stands supported and confirmed both by the apostle Paul and by the prophet Ezekiel.”

“But how, and in what sense it is, that God willeth all men to be saved is a matter not here to be inquisitively discussed. One thing is certain, that these two things—salvation and knowledge of the truth—are always inseparably joined together. Now, then, answer me, (and I would like to see Zwier, Berkhof, H. J. Kuiper c.s. give an answer to this question of Calvin). If God had willed that His truth should be known unto all men, how is it that, from the first preaching of the gospel until now, so many nations exist unto whom His pure truth has never been sent by Him at all, and unto whom, therefore, it has never come? And, again, if such had been the will of God concerning all men, how is it that He never opened the eyes of all men? For the internal illumination of the Spirit, with which God has condescended to bless so few, is indispensibly necessary unto faith. And there is also another knot for thee to untie. Since no one but he who is drawn by the secret influence of the Spirit can approach unto God, how is it that God does not draw all men indiscriminately to Himself, if He really “willeth all men to be saved” (in the common meaning of the expression)?” pp. 277.