In the first installment of this series it was shown that all spiritual blessings go to the elect, and only to the elect, and that all blessings flow from the one fountain of election. Now hear Calvin on this point. “We shall never be clearly convinced as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the fountain of God’s free mercy, till we are acquainted with His eternal election, which illustrates the grace of God by this comparison, that He adopts not all promiscuously to the hope of salvation, but gives to some what He refuses to others. Ignorance of this principle evidently detracts from the divine glory and diminishes real humility . . . If we need to be recalled to the origin of election to prove that we obtain salvation from no other source than the mere goodness of God, they who desire to extinguish this principle do all they can to obscure what ought to be magnificently and loudly celebrated. . . .” (Inst., III, XXI, 1).
Despite the fact that blessing comes to us in no other way than through the stream of election, it is, to many, the most distasteful doctrine. Even when it is clearly and scripturally presented, still they will not have it. Such frequent biblical terms as “predestination,” “elect,” “chosen, ” “foreordained,” occurring in Scripture ought to lead them to conclude that the infallible Word of God teaches that all things come to pass by the sovereign good pleasure of God. The natural man will not have it because it extols God, puts Him where He belongs, on the throne of all, and abases proud man, puts him where he belongs, in the dust. Men of the world, enemies of the church, bitterly hate the doctrine of eternal punishment. But what is a grieving reality is that professing Christians within the church, more than enemies without, loathe, despise, vilify, misrepresent and revile God’s sovereign election. How they detest the truth that the salvation of the righteous is not of the will of man, but of the will of God (John 1:13: Rom. 9:16)! How they rage when it is taught that the sinner is so dead in sins that the elect themselves must be made alive and made willing in the day of God’s power (Ps. 110:3)! They will corrupt our young people with humanism before they will allow them a drop of the essence of election. They will ruin an entire church before they will tolerate the preaching of this truth in its pulpit. They will wreck a whole denomination before they will leave the truth of predestination in peace.
Where election is the most vehemently denied, the free will of fallen man is the most loudly proclaimed. The Roman Catholic Church denounces predestination in these words: “No one ought to presume that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate. For except by special revelation, it can not be known whom God bath. chosen unto Himself.” (Condensed from decrees of the Council of Trent, XII). Nor has Rome ever retracted its curses upon Protestants, one of which bearing on this issue is: “If any one says that after Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished . . . let him be anathema” (ibid., Justification, V). The agents of the pope are responsible for the martyrdom of such great Calvinists bf England as Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Philpot and Bradford. The latter, persecuted by the papists in and out of prison, incarcerated with Arminians (then called “free will men”), debated Calvinism with them, and therefore knew firsthand that “more hurt will come by them I than ever came by the papists. In free-will they are plain papists, yea, Pelagians.”
The doctrine of election is a distinguishing truth. The preaching of the sovereignty of God in foreordaining the eternal destiny of angels, men and the whole realm of nature, has the effect of winnowing and separating the chaff from the wheat. The effect of such preaching will then either be “He that is of God heareth God’s words” or “ye hear them not because ye are not of God'” (John 8:47). Many in Fundamentalist circles believe not this truth, some out of ignorance, never having been exposed to nor instructed in the doctrine. Others disbelieve it, oppose it, not in ignorance, but by choice and determined purpose. The former, more than the latter, are more apt to receive a truth once they see that it is plainly taught in Scripture, even though it is not what they have been used to, nor in keeping with what they have always regarded the “commonly accepted.” They will believe it, even if not another soul in the, world will believe it. The unregenerate, natural mind will never receive the truth of predestination. In that connection, the following fairly applies to the natural man. “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us. He that is not of God heareth us not. Hereby know we the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (I John 4:5, 6).
The modern evangelist, with his inclusivist approach, his compromising message, and sensational delivery calculated to flatter the majority of his auditors, may gain followers for the liberal Protestant churches, or for the liberal Roman Catholic churches. For his and their Pelagianism are practically identical. But let a true minister of the gospel, an advocate of election preaching, faithfully expound this doctrine, and he will discover that this is the preaching which separates the sheep from the goats. It had this effect when Jesus proclaimed this truth. For when He preached that “no man can come unto Me, except the Father . . . draw him” (John 6:44), “many . . . when they had heard this, said, ‘This is an hard saying! ‘ . . . From that time they went back and walked no more with him” (John 6:60, 66). When He had preached that “many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet . . . none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian,” His hearers were filled with wrath at such preaching, and attempted to murder Him by forcing Him over a precipice. The point we make here is that although not all who profess to be “Calvinists” or “Reformed” in theology can be said to manifest the life of regeneration, yet it is also true they who continue to oppose or refuse the truth of predestination are not entitled to the name of Christian.
This is also one of the most neglected doctrines, not because it has obscure, or no prominent, place in Scripture; the opposite is the fact. But there are “evangelical?’ and “Bible believers,” as they like to be known, who give this truth a wide berth, regard it with suspicion, and suppose it to be utterly inconsistent with, or deadening to, “missionary zeal.” This may be due to their inadequate training. The majority of seminaries do not teach it, the “Bible schools” never did, and few have ever appreciated its fundamental import. Others, of the liberal camp, and their brain-washed following, detest the teaching which advances the glory of God the most and most abases the pride of man. Many more, however, drop this truth, not in the interest of the right, certainly, but the popular. Intellectually, they may assent to it, or shrug it off with, “Why, that’s just a rehashing of the Canons of Dordt!” Believe this truth, use it, expound it, propagate it, they do not. They always have one ear to the ground and one finger in the air. They know current opinion, better than they know Scripture, and, accordingly, prefer to give the people what they think they want. Still, neither ignorance, prejudice, nor enmity shall ever prevail against this or any other truth, nor diminish its influence or effect.
1. Its Origin
Broadly speaking, the truth before us is the doctrine of predestination, a more comprehensive term than election, for the former is in two parts, its positive branch being election itself, and its negative branch being reprobation. There is no election without reprobation, notwithstanding certain Primitive Baptists and Plymouth Brethren to the contrary. They may say, “An election of some to life does not imply an election of some to death.” (The Bible Doctrine of Election, T.P. Simmons, Bapt. Bible & Bk. Hse., Ashland, Ky., p. 54). For one thing, this is a little misleading. For election is unto salvation, never to death. But election implies reprobation, as a choice implies a refusal. In the eternal counsel of God, the Lord ordains some to eternal life (AC. 13:48), and others He ordains to eternal condemnation (Jude 4). Further proof of this we have in Psalm 78, “He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, andchose not the tribe of Ephraim: but chose the tribe of Judah” (vv. 66, 67).
According to this doctrine, well expressed in the Westminster Confession, “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.” (Chap. III, 3). Then the following proof-texts the Westminster quotes in full:I Tim. 5:21; Matt. 25:41; Rom. 9:22f; Eph. 1:5f; Prov. 16:4. This decree of God originated in His own sovereign will. There is no principle or power outside of God to rule Him. There is no law or cause to which He is subject, save His own will. There is no determining or moving power outside the will of God. In keeping with this truth, the elect have been “predestinated according to the (eternal) purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11).
This decree of God will be found to reveal especially two of the divine attributes. The decree itself, as seen above, is two-fold: it is unto life and unto death. It also has a two-fold effect: that of salvation and that of condemnation. So the decree of God manifests His grace to some, and His justice to others. God decrees the salvation of the elect to the praise of the glory of His grace. God ordains the condemnation of the reprobate for the glory of His justice. The latter is God’s severity, which must never perversely, be considered cruelty. God is gracious; but that is not all He is. He is also just. God is characterized not by goodness alone, nor by severity alone, but by both. His attributes are inseparable. Abstract them and God is made to look monstrous. See all the facets of His being and it will be impossible to see in Him anything of injustice.
(To be continued, D.V.)