During our labors at Manhattan we have continually been harassed by foul and wicked arguments against the truth of God’s sovereignty, as it is revealed to us in God’s Word, and maintained by us as Protestant Reformed churches. Although the Rev. Bratt lacks the moral courage to face us in open and public debate on the issues of “Common Grace,” to which we have repeatedly challenged him, he cannot refrain from making derogatory charges against our churches. In this dishonorable practice he is ably assisted by the so-called leader of the young people, Mr. Henry Westra, who claims to be an ardent supporter of Calvin and Calvinism, so much so, that he claims to agree with every word the Reformer had ever written, and thought it evil of me, that during a conversation I had said, “that even though I agree in the main with the doctrines of Calvin, I could not agree with every word he had written.” This already reveals the foolishness and the ignorance of the man, for in the first place I am sure that he has not even read a small part of all the Reformer’s works, and in the second place it is folly to ascribe to any human document that which alone is worthy to be ascribed to the Word of God. “And yet,” to speak in the language of Calvin, “this ape of Euclid puffs himself off in the titles of all his chapters as a first-rate reasoner,” by boasting to the young people that I would not even be able to debate with a “hill-billy” like him. And whereas most of their hearers refuse to attend our lectures or read our literature, they believe the foul calumnies of these men which they utter against our doctrine and against our churches. Blind leaders of the blind.
The base calumnies and foul charges which these men hurl at our churches and our doctrines are chiefly these three; that we present God as a demon and a monster when we upon the basis of Scripture teach, that God has created the greater part of mankind unto destruction; secondly, that we make God the author of sin, when upon the basis of Scripture we ascribe all things, also the sin of man to the all overruling will of God; and thirdly, that our doctrine makes men careless and profane.
The striking thing of these foul blasphemies which are hurled against us by these haters of sound doctrine is, that the enemies of God’s Word have always advanced these same base calumnies against the servants and truth of God, from the days of the apostles until now. It is more remarkable still that these so-called defenders of Calvin and Calvinism accuse us of the same blasphemies, as the enemies of Calvin accused him. We are thankful for this for two reasons, first, it strengthens us in our conviction that we are called upon to fight for the same truth which the great Reformer was also called upon to defend, and secondly that we can answer our opponents with the very words of Calvin and thereby clearly reveal that they are not defenders of Calvinism, as they falsely claim to be, but its enemies. In this article we will confine ourselves to the first false accusation, namely that we present God as a demon or monster when on the basis of God’s Word we teach that God, according to His righteous judgment and infinite wisdom, created not only vessels of mercy, but also vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. Even as in the days of Calvin so also in our day the enemies of God’s sovereignty rebel against the truth of God’s Word, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea even the wicked for the day of evil,” Prov. 16:4. That Calvin was attacked upon this point of doctrine is evident from the accusation that was brought against him. They described Calvin’s God as follows:
“Calvin’s God is slow to mercy and swift to anger; Who has created the greatest part of the world to perdition, and has predestinated them not only to damnation, but also to the cause of their damnation; and has, therefore, decreed from all eternity, and wills and causes their sins, which sins are consequently of necessity; so that neither thefts nor adulteries, nor murders are committed, but by His will and instigation. For He suggests in men depraved and evil affections, not only permissively, but effectively, and hardens men’s hearts. Wherefore, while men are living wickedly, they are rather doing the work of God than their own work, and cannot do otherwise. This God makes Satan a liar; so that Satan is not the cause of his own lies, but Calvin’s God is,” Calvin’s Calvinism, pp. 335, 336.
In this description, by his enemies, of Calvin’s God we find a distortion and mutilation of the Calvinistic doctrines of predestination and God’s sovereignty over all things, also over the sinful deeds of men. After having set forth their conception of Calvin’s God, these enemies of the Reformed faith give their description of the true God as follows: “But that God which nature, reason, and the Holy Scriptures teach, is plainly the contrary to this God of Calvin, for He is inclined to mercy and slow to anger. And He created the first man, from whom all men arose, in His own image, that He might place him in Paradise and bestow upon him eternal life. This God wills that all men should be saved, and that no one man should perish. And for this very end He sent His Son into the world, that His righteousness might abound where- ever the sin of man had abounded. The light of this righteousness “lightens every man that cometh into the world”, and this Son of God, the Saviour of the world, calls aloud to all, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This God suggests good affections and honourable, and delivers men from the necessity of sinning (into which they precipitate themselves by their disobedience); and He heals all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. Nay, so merciful is He, that He never denies His mercy and help unto anyone that prays to Him for them. In fact, this true God comes for the very end that He might destroy the works of that God of Calvin, and thrust him out of doors,” Idem., pp. 336, 337.
There is a striking similarity between this description of God by the enemies of Calvin and Calvinism, and the conception of God which is held by the present day defenders of the theory of Common Grace. They also believe in a God that wills that all men shall be saved, and in a well-meaning offer of salvation unto all men, and all their efforts are bent to maliciously root out of the earth the precious doctrine of God’s sovereign predestination, and to thrust the God of Calvin out of doors.
Calvin’s reply to these foul blasphemers of the truth is in part as follows: “God, however, does not need my feeble defense. He is now, and in the last day will be, a mighty Avenger of His own righteousness, even though all the foul tongues of the whole world should combine their efforts to becloud that righteousness with obscurity and confusion. Wherefore, go you on with your band of like spirits, to hurl your blasphemies up to the very heavens. They shall all assuredly fall back on your own heads. As to your base revilings, I can bear them with patience and without trouble, provided they touch not the ever-blessed God, Whose servant I am. I challenge you to stand (where you must one day stand) before His tribunal, that He may show Himself the righteous Avenger of His own doctrine, which doctrine you thus furiously assail in my feeble person,” Idem., pp. 341.
Even as the Rev. Zwier in “De Wachter” gave ten mutilated and distorted statements concerning our doctrine, so also the enemies of Calvin published fourteen slanderous statements which they claimed to have gathered out of his writings. These statements are even worse than the ten statements which Zwier gathered from his false witnesses, which he sought for and found. These fourteen statements are as follows; they are all taken from Calvin’s Calvinism.
“God of His pure and mere will created the greatest part of the world to perdition,” pp. 264.
“God not only predestinated even Adam to damnation, but to the causes of that damnation also, whose fall He not only foresaw, but He also willed by His secret and eternal decree and ordained that He should fall, which fall, that it might, in its time, take place, God placed before him the apple, which should cause that fall,” pp. 279.
“The sins which are committed, are committed not only by the permission but even by the will of God. For it is frivolous to make any difference between the permission of God and the will of God, as far as sin is concerned. They who attempt to make this difference merely attempt to gain God over by flattery,” pp. 284.
“All the crimes that are committed by any man whatsoever are, by the operation of God, good and just,” pp. 297.
“No adultery, theft, or murder, is committed without the intervention of the will of God,” (Institutes, 14:44) pp. 300.
“The Scripture openly testifies that evil doings are designed, not only by the will, but by the authority, of God,” pp. 301.
“Whatsoever men do when and while they sin, they do according to the will of God, seeing that the will of God often conflicts with His precepts,” pp. 305.
“The hardening of Pharaoh, and so his obstinacy of mind and rebellion, was the work of God, even on the testimony of Moses Himself, who ascribes all the rebellion of Pharaoh to God,” pp. 316.
“The will of God is the supreme cause of all the hardness of heart in man,” pp. 316.
“Satan is a liar, at the command of God,” pp. 321.
“God gives the will to those who do evil. He also suggests depraved and dishonest affections, not only permissively, but effectually, and that too, for His own glory,” pp. 322.
“The wicked, by their acts of wickedness, do rather God’s work than their own,” pp. 328.
“We sin of necessity (with respect to God), whether we sin of our own purpose or accidentally,” pp. 330.
“What wickedness soever men commit of their own will, those wickednesses proceed also from the will of God,” pp. 330.
Even as the Rev. Zwier obtained his statements from those who were formerly adherents to the truth of God’s sovereign grace (outwardly at least, as I do not believe that they ever loved that truth) so also these blasphemous statements against Calvin’s doctrine were made by one of his former disciples. He writes to Calvin, pp. 338, “The truth is, that I myself once favored your doctrine, and even defended it, though I really did not clearly understand it. For I thought so much of the weight of your authority, that I considered the mere entertaining one thought contrary to it was quite a crime. But now having heard the arguments of your opponents, I have nothing to say in reply to their conclusions and proofs.”
If the Rev. Zwier would mold these fourteen articles against Calvin into a sort of sermonette, even as he did with the ten statements against us in “De Wachter,” I am sure he could make quite a caricature of Calvin’s God. But I was not writing against the Rev. Zwier, but against some of the foul accusations and arguments brought against us here in Manhattan. I promised to do this in the very words of Calvin. How Calvin answered some of these wicked charges I will leave for the next time.