Article 10. The good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election; which doth not consist herein, that out of all possible qualities and actions of men God has chosen some as a condition of salvation; but that he was pleased out of the common mass of sinners to adopt some certain persons as a peculiar people to himself, as it is written, “For the children being not yet born neither having done any good or evil,” etc., it was said (namely to Rebecca): “the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Rom. 9:11, 12, 13. “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48.
The above translation is substantially correct. The only difference between it and the original Latin is that the latter is made just a little more emphatic by the use of the term vero, “in truth,” in the opening clause.
What we have noted in regard to the preceding articles is also true of Article 10, namely, that there is no new thought presented here, but simply an apologetic development of the definition of election given in Article 7.
The present article emphasizes, first of all, the truth that “the good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election.”
It is not necessary again to go into the meaning of the term “good pleasure of God.” The expression occurred in Article 7, and we simply refer the reader to what we wrote concerning God’s good pleasure in that connection. We emphasized there that God’s good pleasure is the end of any questions we may and can ask as to the why and wherefore of the divine decrees. The answer is briefly: God pleased to do it. Here we may briefly emphasize in addition that this divine good pleasure we may neither criticize nor attempt to defend. The former is the height of presumption, to be sure. But the latter is equally so. For God is GOD! If we would criticize Him, the Scriptures strike us down with the question: “Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?” And if we attempt to defend Him (For only an attempt is possible; actually to defend Him to whom belongs all might and dominion, who is sovereign, and who needs no defense, is impossible), we are simply reminded that God is the self-sufficient one, who has no need of any creature. He can and surely will maintain His own good pleasure.
Now the article stresses that this divine good pleasure is the sole cause of God’s gracious election. It is just exactly here that the difference between the Reformed and the Arminian views of election appears. All Arminians pretend to believe in divine election. They must do so for the simple reason that the Scriptures literally speak of it. However, the Arminian conception claimed, as we have noted before, that this election rested in something in man, in his faith, in his works, in his perseverance, or whatever other conditions they invented. In other words, they destroyed the Scriptural notion of election, though they employed the Scriptural term election, by maintaining after all that the cause of elections lay in man. Over against this the fathers teach here emphatically that the cause of election is not in man, but alone in God. His good pleasure, sovereign and free because it is the divine good pleasure, is the cause and source of the whole elective decree. In this connection let us note particularly the employment of the term sole. It is very easy to fall into other terminology. We may ask, for example, “what is the deepest cause?” Or we may employ the termultimate in connection with the question as to the cause of election. One may upon occasion notice in Reformed circles that such terminology becomes a shield behind which is hidden some incipient Arminianism, so that when you inquire as to the cause of election it becomes necessary to quiz and quiz a person as to a whole chain of causes, until finally he admits, “Well, yes, ultimately the cause is God’s good pleasure.” According to this article, however, there is no chain of causes; there is not even a plurality of causes. The fathers recognize but one cause of election, the sole cause, a unique cause: the good pleasure of God. It is well that we abide by this language.
The second element of this article is concerned with the contents of God’s good pleasure. The term good pleasure of God is, of course, also a Scriptural term, and therefore it too was a term which the Arminians could not avoid. And so they were forced to preserve the term and to change the content of the term, in order to maintain their heresy. Otherwise they could not deceive the simple. Hence, they maintained that the good pleasure of God consisted in this, that out of all possible qualities and actions of men God has chosen some as a condition of salvation. A very clever device this is, indeed. How pious and Biblical it sounds when an Arminian maintains, that election is according to the good pleasure of God! Who could ever find fault with such a doctrine? But how corrupt and idolatrous and man-exalting, this doctrine becomes when it is discovered that God did not choose men at all. He posited some conditions. He decreed that faith (which is undeserving in its very nature), and the obedience of faith (though an incomplete obedience), would be the conditions of salvation. He might have insisted on other conditions, such as the works of the law and complete obedience; but that was not His good pleasure. And now with this whole scheme of conditions set up from eternity by God, it was up to man to fit into the scheme. If he met the condition, well: he would be saved. If he failed to meet the condition, too bad: he would go lost. Thus it is that the Arminian exalted the good pleasure of sinful man to the position of sovereignty, and made the divine good pleasure dependent thereon.
Notice, by the way, that here once more the idea of a conditional salvation is attributed to the Arminians by the fathers. Let no one maintain the sophistry that the fathers were anxious about a conditional election in the Arminian, controversy, but not about a conditional salvation. This, as we pointed out previously, would be the height of inconsistency. For seeing that the good pleasure of God is the sole cause of election unto salvation, and seeing that election is the fountain of every saving good, and seeing that the fathers deny that the contents of God’s good pleasure is a conditional salvation, it becomes impossible to maintain the tenet of a conditional salvation while conditional election is denied.
Over against this the Canons emphasize the simple truth that God’s good pleasure consisted herein, that He was pleased to adopt a certain definite number of persons as a peculiar possession unto Himself. In this expression the organic whole of the church as the object of election is left out of view, it is true. This does not mean, however, that the fathers taught that God chose an arbitrary number of men. Here the point is that election is definite and personal. According to His eternal good pleasure God knows His elect by name. This is so simple and entirely understandable that it needs no further explanation. Let the Arminian not boast, then, that his gospel is simple in comparison with an allegedly deep and involved Reformed system. It is the Reformed view that is so simple a child can understand it, while the Arminian view is a tangled maze of deceitful intricacies.
Once more we may note in passing that the language of this article is infralapsarian: God was pleased to adopt some certain persons out of the common mass of sinners. Supralapsarians would substitute the termmen for the term sinners, and then insist further that these men were even in the decree creabile, still to be created.
Finally, the fathers once more quote the Scriptures in support of their view.
The first passage quoted may perhaps be called the classic passage on sovereign predestination. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that election is personal: it concerns Jacob and Esau. It is sometimes claimed that the election of which the apostle speaks here is not personal, but national. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. For, in the first place, even if it be granted that the apostle has in mind the nations of Edom and Israel, this would not change matters essentially. Is it not true that a nation is made up of a number of individuals? If the nation of the Edomites, then, is reprobate, is it not true that the persons of the individual Edomites are also the object of God’s sovereign displeasure? And is not this sovereign displeasure and pleasure also valid as far as the persons of Esau and Jacob are concerned, from whom the two nations sprang? But, in the second place, this view of a national predestination is contrary to the entire context. For the apostle is not writing 6f nations at all, but of persons, of the individual children of Abraham, and of the truth that not all the natural seed of Abraham were included in the promise. And the example of Jacob and Esau is adduced in proof of personal election.
Secondly, in these verses is evident proof that there is no reason or cause for election and reprobation in the persons who are the object of God’s predestination. For the word of God states explicitly that the children were not yet born, neither had done any good or evil. Hence, the purpose of election stands not of works. This fact is emphasized too by the peculiar example which the apostle cites here. For, first of all, Jacob and Esau were not only children of the same mother, but they were twins: there was no natural difference between them as far as their origin was concerned. And in the second place, this is the more striking when we consider that from a natural point of view Esau certainly should have the pre-eminence over Jacob, since the former was firstborn.
In the third place, this passage from Romans 9 plainly gives us to understand that the sole cause of this election (and reprobation) was the good pleasure of God. For God said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” according to the quotation from Malachi 1. And this quotation is cited in support of the truth that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.
If nevertheless some would deny the thrust of this passage by softening or changing the force of the term “hated,” then we need but refer to the first chapter of Malachi, from which the apostle quotes. For there the meaning becomes very plain: “I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say. Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob. And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation forever.”
And the second passage, from Acts 13:48, is equally clear proof. Paul and Barnabas had preached the word at Antioch, first to the Jews, as was their custom. And on the following Sabbath they had preached to almost the whole city. The Jews were filled with envy when they saw the multitudes, at which occasion Paul and Barnabas announced that they would turn to the Gentiles. Then we read that the Gentiles were glad at the preaching of salvation, “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” This passage, therefore, exactly contradicts the Arminian view that election is out of faith. Faith is out of election; they that were ordained unto eternal life believed, and none others.
And thus it is always. God alone bestows the gift of faith. And He bestows it according to His good pleasure upon as many as He has ordained unto eternal life.