Those who teach a sincere desire of God to save all always appeal to I Timothy 2:4: “Who (God) will have all men to be saved . . .” Turretin will have no thing of such an interpretation of this text. ” . . . the particle, all, is here taken not distributively, for the individuals of classes, but collectively, for classes of individuals, that is, as Beza renders it, for all sorts from every nation, condition, age and sex, in this sense, God’ wills, not that all men individually, but some from every class, or order of men, should be saved, and as Augustine explains it . . .” Against those who explain the text to mean that God sincerely desires every human to be saved, Turretin argues, “if God wills this, how happens it that it is not done, since his will properly so called is always efficacious, and accomplishes what he wills, and which nothing can resist? Again, God wills them all to come to the knowledge of the truth either absolutely, and so all would come to it, which is false, or under a condition: But what can that be? If they hear it? But he does not have it preached to many; If they believe? But to believe is to have arrived already at the knowledge of the truth.”
The truth of the matter, writes Turretin, is this: “God wills all those to be saved, for whom Christ gave himself as a ransom, so that this is immediately added by the Apostle, v. 6, viz.; as their Mediator, by substituting himself in their place, and suffering in their stead the punishment due to them. Now this cannot be said of all and every man in particular, without by that very thing all and every man being actually saved, which no one would say” (pp. 122, 123).
As for II Peter 3:9, “The Lord . . . is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” the will of God here spoken of “should not be extended further than to the elect and believers, for whose sake God puts off the consummation of ages, until their number shall be completed.” This is evident from “the pronoun, us, which precedes, with sufficient clearness designating the elect and believers, as elsewhere more than once, and to explain which he adds, not willing that any, that is, of us, should perish” (p. 125).
Our Reformed theologian of this very flourishing period of Reformed theology then takes up the crucial issue of God’s commanding all men, including the reprobate, to repent and believe. It is obvious that God does, in the gospel, command the reprobate to believe on Christ. Those who departed from Reformed orthodoxy in Turretin’s day argued that this command indicated a gracious attitude on God’s part towards the reprobate, a real desire of God that they be saved. Exactly this is the position of the defenders of the offer in our day. On the universal command to believe, they base a sincere desire of God to save all men. They call this desire “God’s revealed will,” in distinction from “God’s hidden will” (of predestination). These two, diametrically opposed wills of God are then supposed to exist side by side in Reformed theology in paradoxical tension: God wills to save everybody and God wills to save only some.
To this position, Hoeksema referred, when he spoke of the “double-track theology” of Reformed churches that championed the well-meant offer and when he spoke of the “Janus head”* of such churches. The advocates of the offer, on their part, denounce the rejection of the offer, i.e., the rejection of a sincere desire of God to save all, made in the name of predestination, as a too-rigorous exercise of logic.
Turretin holds that Scripture does indeed teach a distinction in the will of God. The proper, Biblical distinction is that between God’s decretive will and God’s perceptive will (the will of God’s decree and the will of God’s precept, or command). The former is God’s eternal decree, determining a man’s destiny, e.g., that He will harden Pharaoh unto damnation; the latter is God’s command to a man, setting forth his duty, e.g., that Pharaoh must let God’s people go. From God’s command, one may not infer God’s intention (sincere desire), for the command, “Let My people go!,” only indicates Pharaoh’s duty and that freeing God’s people, not keeping them in slavery, is pleasing to God. “Nor immediately does he (God) intend what is commanded, since many things are commanded, which are by no means intended. Thus God commanded Pharaoh to let the people go, and yet he cannot be said to have actually intended, either absolutely, or conditionally, their dismission, since he intended on the contrary the hardening of Pharaoh and the retention of the people” (p. 126).
To explain God’s universal demands of repentance and faith as indicative of a mercy of God for all and of a will of God to save all is to be guilty of ascribing to God two wills that “butt against each other and destroy themselves” and is to be guilty of adopting the Arminian denial of sovereign grace. “So from the command to believe and repent, you would notwithstanding falsely infer that God by that very thing intended the faith and repentance and so the salvation of all those, to whom such an external command is promulgated” (p. 126). “The precept, therefore, signifies that God really wills to enjoin that upon us, but not forthwith that he really wills or intends, that what is commanded should take place” (p. 127).
It is evident from Turretin’s theology that those in the Reformed camp today who defend the offer’s teaching of a sincere, merciful desire in God to save everyone in terms of two, contradictory wills in God have not a leg to stand on, as far as historic Reformed theology is concerned. Reformed theology knows only of a distinction between the will of God’s decree (election) and the will of God’s command (“Repent and believe!”). Reformed theology has expressly denied that the latter implies God’s mercy or will to save everyone to whom the command comes. It has condemned those who taught that the command to believe necessarily indicates a gracious purpose of saving in God. Reformed theology has always held that there is but one gracious will in God which intends salvation for men: election. Therefore, there is not, for Reformed theology, any contradiction in the two-fold will of God. God’s command to Pharaoh, “Let My people go!,” does not contradict God’s decree, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will not let My people go.” For the command does not indicate God’s purpose, but Pharaoh’s calling.
Indeed, although it is true here too that God’s ways are higher than our ways and past finding out, there is harmony in God’s two-fold will. First, the command realizes and maintains that essential characteristic of God’s decree that consists of the decree’s being fulfilled only in the way of the full maintenance of the complete responsibility of man. Secondly, the command serves the effecting of the decree: By the Word of Jehovah, “Let My people go,” the heart of Pharaoh is hardened by God, so that God can make His power known in that proud monarch.
So far Turretin has been touching on the truth of God’s call to men in the gospel from the viewpoint of God’s decree. He deals with the doctrine of the call directly in the section on “Vocation and Faith” (pp. 382ff.). He defines vocation (the calling) as “an act of the grace of God in Christ, by which he calls men dead in sin and lost in Adam, by the preaching of the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, to union with Christ and to the salvation to be obtained in him” (p. 382). It is apparent that Turretin views the call of the gospel as God’s gracious, efficacious drawing of the elect. He states this explicitly: “all the elect, and they alone are called” (p. 383). Yet, Turretin recognizes that Scripture teaches a calling by God in the preaching of the gospel of all who corn, under the preaching. Therefore, he distinguishes “a twofold vocation . . . viz., an external and internal. The former takes place only by the ministry of the word and sacrament . . . The latter, however, with the additional internal and omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit” (p. 383). With the external calling, God calls also the reprobate; “knocks only at the ears of the body”; and “acts imperatively only, exacting from man duty, but giving no strength to perform it” (p. 383).
Then, Turretin addresses himself to the truth of the “Vocation of Reprobates.” In keeping with his method of doing theology, he begins with a question, in which he both sets forth the issue and indicates the direction in which he will go: “Are the Reprobate, who are made partakers of external vocation, called with the design and intention on God’s part, that they should become partakers of salvation? And, this being denied, does it follow that God does not deal seriously with them, but hypocritically and falsely; or that he can be accused of any injustice? We deny” (p. 384).
Immediately, he draws the lines of battle: “This question lies between us and the Lutherans, the Arminians, and the Patrons of Universal Grace; who, to support the universality of vocation, at least as to the preaching of the Gospel in the visible Church, hold that as many as are called by the Word are called by God with the intention of their salvation; because otherwise God would trifle with men and deal not seriously but hypocritically, offering them grace, which, nevertheless, he is unwilling to bestow (p. 384).
He then clarifies the position of Reformed orthodoxy: “Now although we do not deny that the reprobate, who live in external communion with the Church, are called by God through the Gospel; still we do deny that they are called with the intention that they should be made actual partakers of salvation, which God knew would never be the case, because in his decree he had ordained otherwise concerning them. Nor ought we on this account to think that God can be charged with hypocrisy or dissimulation, but that he always acts most seriously and sincerely” (pp. 384, 385).
Thus does the Reformed faith cry down a plague on the houses both of hyper-Calvinism and the well-meant offer. Against hyper-Calvinism, it maintains that God calls the reprobate through the preaching of the gospel and that He does so “most seriously and sincerely.” Against the offer, the Reformed faith denies that this call is made to the reprobate in mercy and with any design or intention of their salvation, and it denies thisin view of predestination: “because in .his decree he had ordained otherwise concerning them.” Repudiation of the offer as the innovation of “Patrons of Universal Grace” is not hyper-Calvinism; it is historic Reformed orthodoxy.
* Janus was the Roman god with two faces. Reformed churches that hold the offer, charged Hoeksema, have two faces, an Arminian face of universal grace and a Calvinistic face of particular grace.