For forty years in the providence and grace of our GodThe Standard Bearer has borne the standard of truth for which our churches stand and have stood these many years.
Amid countless thousands who speak of the sovereignty of God and maintain it in limited spheres, we have been given grace to maintain it also in the sphere of God’s grace and to hold forth the Word of truth that God is sovereign in His grace and mercy because He is sovereign in His love.
God’s grace, we have often said, is God’s love as it goes out to the undeserving sinner in his guilt and gives him that which he does not deserve. We once heard the definition of grace that it is “God giving everything for nothing to those who deserve nothing.” And we have revised it to read, “God’s grace is God giving everything for nothing to the good-for-nothings.'” It is not simply a matter of giving that which one does not deserve. The man may work hard for you, and he deserves no more than the wages which you have promised him. You may then give this faithful worker a bonus at Christmas time. That is grace, to give him over and above what he earned. But with God it is a matter of giving to those who are good-for-nothings! As He Himself declared in the Person of His Son when He dwelt among us, after we have served—and that by His grace—we are still unprofitable servants. Still more, when first we receive the gift of salvation and God begins to instill in us the new life, we are utterly unworthy of it, good for nothing, rebels who hate Him. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were yet enemies, God began to give us what we do not deserve. That is His grace. But that is also His love.
And His mercy is that same love as it goes out to this same undeserving sinner as he is in misery because of his guilt, and is God’s kind compassion and desire to deliver that child out of that misery as soon as possible for Christ’s sake. Grace deals with guilty people. Mercy deals with these same people from the point of view of their misery. And back of that grace and mercy is God’s love. God IS love, and therefore He is the God of all grace and the God of all mercy.
In His fear we have not dared to sell His love, grace, and mercy short. For forty years God has been gracious to us to give us the courage and the desire to maintain the sovereignty of that love, grace, and mercy amid much opposition and with well-nigh the whole church-world against us. Outside of the Primitive Baptists, who in their Grace and Truth magazine maintain the Five Points of Calvinism, I know of no denomination,—individuals and individual congregations, yes,—but no denomination that will stand shoulder to shoulder with us to maintain that God loves only the elect, is gracious only to those who from eternity He gave to Christ, and is merciful only to those whose names He has written in the Lamb’s book from all eternity.
All others sell God’s love short!
And this is true amid all the seeming emphasis upon that love. The love of God is the theme of each and every song and speech in the same circles that actually deny that love. That we have continued to maintain it as an unchangeable and sovereign virtue of the living God these forty years is not because by nature we want it. We have no love to God in ourselves. Of each and all of those who sell that love short we must say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” That is exactly why it is for us such a comfort to hold on to the truth that God’s love is Unchangeable. We know our own frailties and sinful desires. We know that we do not stand in our own strength. We realize every day that we deserve to be dropped and to fall from grace. Our acts of hatred,—and every sin is such an act of hatred against God,—reveal to us that we deserve to be hated of God. Therefore, that we, amid all this overwhelming presentation of a love that insults the unchangeable and sovereign God, still have not been swept along with the tide is not of us but of God Who showeth mercy.
This rubric, since its introduction October 1, 1945, is dedicated to the fear of the Lord. It has striven to serve that fear, to declare it and to seek to stimulate it. We have striven to show how in practical life we contradict this glorious God and deny Him His glory when we are bold enough to go our own way. We have sought to condemn such boldness and to incite unto awe and reverence before the mighty God of our salvation. The theme of the writings in this rubric has to a great extent been those words we often sing:
Stand in awe, and sin not,
Bid your heart be still;
Through the silent watches
Think upon His will.
Indeed, let us learn that fear of the Lord so that we do stand in awe of Him, rather than to dare to ascribe to Him the frailties and weaknesses which are the human lot. Let us learn to be silent before Him and listen to what .He has to say of Himself. Let us learn to think upon His will and bow before it. In His fear means that we live in the consciousness of the truth that we are less than the dust of the balances before this majestic and infinite God, and that we conduct our lives in harmony with that consciousness.
Let us therefore continue to maintain that God’s love is infinite, sovereign, and unchangeable. It appeals to the flesh of man to sell that love short and make it a fickle emotion on God’s part, dependent upon the whims and fancies of man. Man has not rid himself of that lie of Satan that he can be like God. His flesh being under the power of the lie, he still intends to seek to attain to such a position and lives out of that foolish ambition whenever he sins. In each sin he tells God that he may decide for himself what is good and what is evil. And all Arminianism is nothing less than the lie of Satan applied to the process of salvation.
Test it once!
Who becomes God when salvation is offered upon the condition that man believe and express his desire for it? Who has the last word? Who determines whether or not the man will be saved? It is a mighty bold stand to take that man and man’s will determines what God will do. The old cry is always there that, unless we take the position that God offers salvation, invites, coaxes and pleads, but will not force us to accept salvation, we deny the responsibility of man. Granted that to present the relation between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is difficult, why is it that well-nigh the whole church-world then takes a stand that denies the sovereignty of God’? One need not choose between these two. For there is a perfect harmony between them; and both are taught clearly in Holy Writ. But to take the position that God loves everybody, is gracious because of the cross to all men, invites, coaxes, and pleads with conditional promises, and then, if you and I do not accept, rejects us, turns from love to hate, from grace to wrath, from mercy to infliction of hell’s punishment, denies the sovereignty of God. The simple fact , which the fear of the LORD will clearly see is that, if we have to choose between denying either the responsibility of man, or the sovereignty of God, we would have to choose to defend God’s sovereignty. Actually we would have no choice, when confronted by these two as though they were contradictory. We would have to be loyal to God and stand in awe before Him rather than to go to court to defend man’s “rights.” Even if, from our point of view, God would be doing injustice to man, we would still have to defend His right to do so. The whole idea rests on the false assumption that God is responsible to man. And that is a denial of His sovereignty. It makes absolutely no difference whatsoever, regardless of what God may do with His creature, He has the right to do so; and no man has any right to deny this of Him. One basic truth we have so much difficulty getting into our minds, and which by nature we do not want at all, is that He is GOD.
When we speak of being fair and unfair, of righteousness and unrighteousness, we always point to a law which must be kept and under which one resides. Is God under some law and obligation to those creatures that He brought forth and that depend upon Him for every breath of life? Who placed Him under that law? And since He is God, suppose that He wants to change the laws of His own sovereign being, who is going to sit in judgment and tell Him that THAT is not fair?
Some of the older pilgrims amongst us will remember,—perhaps from childhood days,—the old Presbyterian Psalter which contained a series of 52 hymns in the back, arranged to be used with the Lord’s Days of the Heidelberg Catechism and divided also into the three chapters of knowledge of misery, of salvation, and of gratitude. Hymn 21 strikes such a powerful note of that sovereignty of God and breathes that spirit of reverence and awe which is His fear.
Behold! the potter moulds the clay,
His vessel forms himself to please:
Such is our God, and such are we,
The subjects of His just decree.
Doth not the workman’s power extend
O’er all the mass; which part to choose,
And mould it for a nobler end,
And which to leave for viler use?
May not the sovereign Lord on high,
Dispense his favors as he will;
Choose some to life, while others die;
And yet be just and glorious still?
What, if he mean to show his grace,
And his electing love employ
To mark out some of mortal race,
And form them fit for heavenly joy?
Shall man reply against the Lord,
And call his Maker’s ways unjust;
The thunder of Whose dreadful word
Can crash a thousand worlds to dust?
But, Oh! my soul, if truth so bright
Should dazzle and confound thy sight;
Yet still his written word obey,
And wait the great decisive day.
But we said: Test it once.
How strong is the love of a parent who lets the child make the decision as to whether he will or will not take the only cure for his otherwise fatal disease? What would you say of the parent who reaches out his hand part of the way to his child in the water but will not grasp the sinking child, and instead pleads and coaxes him to take hold? The child has his tantrum. He is angry at his parents and does not want to live with them anymore. He is willing to commit suicide because he hates his parents (justly or unjustly, makes no difference). He has locked himself in the room and turned on the gas. If the parents love that child, will they plead and coax and then stop short of forcing their will upon that child and break down the door and snatch him to safety? The love of man will stop at nothing to save that which it loves. And are we going to sell God’s love short and say that if we do not let Him, God cannot save us? Will His love let us go away unsaved? Is that not an insult to God’s sovereignty and love? Is it not a changeable love in an unchangeable God?
May we, by God’s grace, begin this forty-first year holding forth the banner of God’s sovereignty in the sphere of salvation. And, if I may be given a little extra space in this anniversary issue, let me present the truth as Elder J.C. Sikes penned it down in 1926:
If Jehovah is infinite in all His ways,
Giving life to man and numbering his days;
Who dares to impeach Him, if in His wise plan
He gave shape and direction to the ways of man?
If He in His wisdom did all things create,
Should He turn the helm: and leave all things to fate?
Did He not have the right in His sinless decree
To mark out the way for both you and for me?
If He did decree just what we should do,
I cannot arraign Him, say brother, can you?
Before whom will you try Him as judge of your court?
Who will act as your clerk and make your report?
If all things are in the decree of His will
And all things are working the same to fulfill,
Who but a vile sinner too wicked to bow,
Would call Him in question, or say, What doest Thou?
If he decree the death of His Son,
The sinless, the righteous, the most Holy One,
And this did not make Him the author of sin,
To make Him the author, where will you begin?
Will you begin with Judas whose act was told
And as was determined, His master he sold?
Did not the dear Saviour say woe to that man
I go as determined in God’s holy plan? (Luke 22:22)
If Pharaoh you think would no doubt
Prove that God’s purpose was not carried out,
Did not God command him by Moses you know?
Saying, Thus saith Jehovah, let my people go.
Yet I will harden, yes, harden his heart,
That he shall refuse and not let them depart,
Till I bring my just plagues on all your foes,
And thus get me honor on him and his host.
Yet sinners most wicked will oft Him arraign,
Against His just counsel, they often complain
And say, If he decreed all things to the end,
Then he is unjust and the author of sin.
The heathen may rage and imagine things,
The lowest, the highest, yea even their kings,
And shout till the world hear the sound of their din,
The author, the author, the author of sin!
His saints will still praise Him and shout as they go,
Jehovah most holy all things doth foreknow;
His counsel did settle just how they should be,
So shout on you heathen, you don’t disturb me.
We learn from an angel that time shall soon end
And saints shall be welcomed by Jesus, their Friend;
This all is established by holy decree,
For thus it is written, and thus it shall be.
If all things are certain, then how came they so?
If things were not certain, how could God foreknow?
Were all things to which foreknowledge relate
Made certain by the old heathen goddess of fate?
We surely all know at a tho’t or a glance,
That things are not left to haphazard and chance.
Will some one please tell me that I may once see,
How things can be certain, yet uncertain be?
Now while you are thinking, I’ll come to a halt.
If you don’t see the point, it isn’t my fault;
But, brother, please tell me how this thing can be?
All things were made certain without a decree.
Indeed, Stand in awe and sin not. May all the issues of the Standard Bearer that follow be written in His fear.