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OF ELECTION AND REPROBATION.
Dr.WHITBY, in the fourth chapter of his discourse concerning election, proposes arguments against the doctrine of an absolute election to salvation, and consequently to the means which shall inevitably, and unfrustrably produce it, and to confute the doctrine of absolute reprobation; they are as follow: Argument 1. ďHe who would have all men, to whom the Gospel is vouchsafed, sincerely to believe in Christ, to come to repentance, and yield sincere obedience to his will revealed to them; hath not prepared this saving grace only for some few Christians, leaving the rest under a necessity of perishing for the want of it; for to all such persons he hath promised, that they shall not perish. Now, that God seriously wills, that all to whom the gospel is vouchsafed, should repent, believe, and yield sincere obedience to his laws, is evident from the Scriptures: frequently and expressly declaring the doing of these things to be the doing of the will of God, and the neglecting of them to be the neglecting and even rejecting the will of God; from Godís calling them to faith, repentance, and obedience, from his sending, his apostles and messengers to invite them to them, and from his compassionate declarations, and enquiries concerning them.Ē To which I answer; 1. That this argument, supposing it never so strong in favor of the persons included in it, namely all, to whom the gospel is vouchsafed, is too much limited and restrained, to militate against the doctrines of absolute election and reprobation; seeing there have been, and are, multitudes of men and women, to whom the gospel has not been, and is not vouchsafed God formerly shewed his word to Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel; he hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them; ( <19E719> Psalm 147:19,20.) for many hundreds of years God suffered all other nations to walk in their own ways. ( Acts 14:16.)
The gospel has been taken away from the Jews, and carried among the Gentiles; yet in no age has it been vouchsafed to all nations at once, much less to all the individuals of mankind in all nations: no, nor to all the individuals in a nation where it has been, or is preached; the greatest part have generally been without it. Now admitting that it is the will of God, that all men to whom the Gospel is vouchsafed should believe, repent, and obey, nay, supposing that they should all of them actually believe, repent, and obey, which is more than is in the argument; this would not be sufficient to set aside the doctrines of absolute election and reprobation; since these persons, enjoying the gospel, the means of grace, and obtaining grace itself, should rather appear to be owing to an eternal secret will and purpose in God, or to an absolute decree of election, preparing this grace, and providing these means for them, in order to bring them to salvation; whilst others have neither means nor grace, being denied them by an act of preterition or reprobation. If any thing is done to purpose, it should be proved, that God has vouchsafed the gospel to all men; that he has given to all men sufficient means of grace, and has put them all into a capacity of obtaining the blessings of grace and glory. 2. This argument proceeds upon Godís will of command, which does not thwart his will of purpose. These two wills, though they differ, are not contradictory; the purpose of God is from eternity: his command is in time; the one is within himself, the other put forth from himself; the one is always fulfilled, the other seldom; the one cannot be resisted, the other may; the will of command only signifies, what is the pleasure of God should be the duty of man, or what he should do, but not what he shall do. Now admitting that it is Godís will of command, that not only all to whom the Gospel is vouchsafed, but even all mankind, should repent, believe, and obey; it does not follow, that it is the determining will of God to give grace to all men to repent, believe, and obey; nor does it contradict such a will in God, determining to give grace to some, to enable them to repent, believe, and obey, and to deny it to others. Could it be proved, that either God has willed to give this grace to all men, or that there is no such will in God to give it to some, and deny it to others, the controversy would be shut up, and we should have no more to say. 3. What is said for the illustration and confirmation of this argument, is founded upon passages of scripture which are not to the purpose; some of them belong only to the Jews, and not all mankind, nor even to all to whom the Gospel is vouchsafed, and are either exhortations to a national repentance, and outward reformation of manners, as Ezekiel 18:30, Acts in. 19; or are compassionate enquiries, and vehement desires concerning their civil and temporal welfare, as Deuteronomy 5:29, Psalm 81:13, Isaiah 5:4, Ezekiel 18:31, and Ezekiel 24:13, Luke 13:34, some of them contain exhortations to persons already converted and called by grace; as 2 Corinthians 5:90, Philippians 2:19, 2 Peter 1:10, as has been made evident in the first part of this work; where also the text so much insisted on, 1 Timothy 2:4, is proved to intend only some, and not all the individuals of human nature. Others of them are expressions, declarations and invitations of grace, delivered out in indefinite terms, for the encouragement and relief of sensible sinners, to believe in Christ for life and salvation; as John 3:16, Proverbs 9:6, Revelation 22:17, and those which are most for the purpose, as John 3:23, Acts 17:30, only declare Godís will of command, or what he has made manís duty, but not his intentions, purposes, counsels and decrees concerning what man shall do, or he will bestow upon him; and so in no wise contradict the doctrines of absolute election and reprobation. Argument II. ďThis decree is absolutely false in the foundation of it, that being laid in the sin of Adam, imputed by Godís arbitrary will to his posterity.Ē To which I reply, not to take notice that this argument has not the form, and scarce the appearance of one; it is not very easy to determine what decree the author means, whether the decree of election, or of reprobation. If the decree of election is intended, the imputation of Adamís sin to his posterity is not the foundation of that, either according to the Supra or Sublapsarian scheme. The Sublapsarians, indeed, suppose the objects of election to be men considered as fallen; but the Supralapsarians suppose them considered as unfallen, not yet made, in the pure mass of creatureship; yet both, with the scriptures, make the foundation of this decree to be the sovereign will and pleasure of God. If the decree of reprobation is designed, this, according to the Sublapsarians, finds and leaves men sinners, and, as such, appoints them to damnation; and according to the Supralapsarians, it finds and leaves men unfallen, but appoints no man to damnation but for sin; yet both agree, that sin, either actual or imputed, is the foundation or cause of the decree, which can only be the will of God; but of damnation, the thing decreed. It might, with much more propriety, be said that the imputation of Adamís sin is founded on that decree, than that the decree is founded on that imputation. Hence it follows, that whereas neither the decree of election, nor the decree of reprobation, are founded upon the imputation of Adamís sin, to his posterity; they neither stand nor fall by it. Moreover, though the sin of Adam is imputed to his posterity, yet not merely by the arbitrary will of God. It is true, it is the will of God that it should be imputed to them, but then it is imputed to them, not in a way of mere pleasure, but in a way of justice; for if all sinned in him it is but just that judgment should come upon all men to condemnation: if it was the sin of our nature, and all human nature was corrupted and defiled with it, it is but a righteous thing that the guilt of it should be charged upon all. The several things which are proposed for the strengthening of this argument, and objected to the doctrine of the imputation of Adamís sin to his posterity, have been replied to in. the second part of this performance, to which I refer the reader. Argument III. ďThis decree is false both in the parts and the end of it. The parts of it are these; that God hath, from all eternity, elected a certain number of persons to salvation; and in order to the accomplishing of it, has decreed to afford them that grace which shall infallibly, and unfrustrably bring them to it; and that he hath left the rest under an absolute decree of reprobation or preterition, infallibly to fail of eternal life; of ,which there can be no other cause but Godís own free-will; for predestination being an immanent act, cannot be dependent on any foreseen acts of manís will. The end is the manifestation of his grace and mercy in the salvation of the one, and of his justice and,, sovereignty in the damnation of the other. Now, 1. It is said, ďthe falsehood of these decrees, touching the absolute election, of some persons to salvation, is sufficiently argued in the fifth discourse, from Godís command to all Christians, to make their calling and election sure; from his exhortations and cautions directed to them; and from the threats denounced against them.Ē But how these things militate against an absolute election of some persons to salvation, is not easy to discern; since the command, as it is called, to make election sure, supposes an election of. some, or it could not be made sure; and the making of it sure, respects not the thing itself, but the evidence of it to others, by an agreeable conversation. Besides, it is given, not to all men, but to Christians; and admitting it respects all Christians, for though all that bear that name, are not really and truly so, yet inasmuch as they are, and whilst they are under a profession, in a judgment of charity, they are to be esteemed the elect of God, and may be exhorted in this manner. But then all Christians are not all men, and all men are not Christians, in the largest and most extensive sense; wherefore this hinders not, but that there may be an absolute election of some certain persons to eternal salvation. And as for the exhortation to continuance in the faith, cautions about falling away, and threats against such that draw back, unless it can be proved from hence, that any good Christians, who have been really and truly so, any true believers, have totally and finally fallen away, the doctrine of absolute, particular election, cannot be disproved by them. In the first part of this performance, I have given the sense of the passages referred to, answered the objections taken from them, and have shown that they are so far from militating against the saintsí final perseverance, that they are designed and used by the Spirit of God, as the means of it; and therefore cannot contradict the choice of some persons to eternal life. 2. It is further observed, that ďas these decrees respect those that are supposed to lie under an absolute decree of reprobation, the falsehood of them hath been fully proved in the second discourse; from Godís serious and earnest invitations of them to repentance; from his vehement desires of their reformation and obedience: from his declarations, that he had done for them what was sufficient to produce it; from his promises to excite them to it; from his threats to deter them from their evil ways, and from the manifold declarations afforded in Scripture, that he doth not look upon wicked men as under an utter disability of being reformed by his judgments or mercies, or of hearkening to his calls and invitations, to return and live.Ē
I reply; that these calls, desires, declarations, promises and threats, do not respect all men, only the people of Israel; and not their spiritual and eternal, only their civil welfare, as a body politic; and could they be thought to all mankind, even to such who are not eventually saved, it would not disprove the decree of reprobation; since they only regard external repentance, outward reformation and obedience, which we readily own, wicked men may be capable of, by the judgments or mercies of God; and which are not only agreeable to God, but are for their good, even for the good of reprobates, quo mitius puniantur, that their punishment may be the milder. 3. It is urged, that ďsuch a decree as this, being a secret of Godís counsel, no man can know that God has made it, but from the express and clear revelation of the holy Scriptures; and so no person can have any reason to assert it on any other account. Now the Scripture hath said nothing of the decree of election, and that it is absolute, and without respect to manís faith, repentance, or perseverance; nor has it one syllable to prove, that the object of this election is a certain number of singular persons, or that God hath absolutely ordained one single person to faith, repentance, and perseverance to the end.Ē I answer; that the decree of election is a secret of Godís counsel, and that no man can know that God has made it, but from the revelation of the holy Scripture, and so can have no reason to assert it on any other account, is readily granted; and we desire to bring it to no other test or standard, being well assured, that the Scripture has said a great deal concerning it; and we are willing that it should be tried by it, whether election is conditional or absolute, respective or irrespective to manís faith, repentance, and perseverance; and whether it has for its object, churches and nations, or a certain number of singular persons. I have shown in the second part of this work, that the Scriptures often speak of this decree, and:hat as absolute and unconditional; and, as of a certain number of persons, whom the Lord knows to be his, who are the little flock and sheep of Christ, the Father has given to him; not as Judas was, to be his apostle, but to be saved by him with an everlasting salvation.
When we say that this decree is irrespective of faith, or holiness, or perseverance in grace, we do not mean that God, in this decree, had no respect to these things; for we know, that whom he hath chosen, they are chosen by him through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13.) and that God saves none, and has determined to save none of riper years but such who believe, and persevere to the end: so that this decree perfectly agrees with the express declarations of Scripture in Mark 16:16, and others of the like kind. But we say, and mean, that God, in this decree, did not consider these things as to be performed by the will of man, and as motives inducing him to make such a decree, but as what he determined to bestow upon them, as means of salvation. And as for Godís ordaining single persons to faith, repentance, and perseverance to the end, we say, with the Scriptures, that men are ordained to eternal life; ( Acts 13:48.) which cannot be understood of churches or nations, but of single persons; and that he has determined to give them grace to repent, believe, and persevere to the end, that they may enjoy that eternal life, which he has ordained them to. 4. But it is objected, that ďto say that election, or predestination, being an immanent, eternal act of Godís understanding, or rather of his will, can have no dependence on, or respect to, any act of manís will, by way of motive, or condition, is to say things contrary to Scripture, and to common sense: for, did not God decree from all eternity, to pardon the penitent, justify him that believes in Jesus, save the obedient, glorify them that suffer for Christ, judge all men according to their works, offer to man a new covenant of grace, promising pardon and salvation to him, upon condition of his faith, repentance, and sincere obedience; and that he that believeth in his Son should have everlasting life: and must not those immanent eternal acts, have respect to the temporal acts of men?Ē I answer; that since election or predestination, is an immanent act of God it must be within himself, and therefore nothing without him can be the cause or condition of it, or motive to it: and seeing it is an eternal one, not any thing done in time, can have any influence upon it; and inasmuch as it is an act of his will rather than of his understanding, it cannot depend upon, or be moved by any act of manís will, without making the will of God dependent on the will off the creature, and the first mover of it. It is true, indeed, that God did, from all eternity, decree to pardon the penitent, justify the believer, save the obedient, glorify such who suffer for Christ, judge men according to their works; and did, from all eternity, really make a covenant of grace with Christ, on the behalf of the elect; but did not decree to offer to man a new covenant of grace, nor make one promising pardon and salvation to them, upon condition of their faith, repentance, and sincere obedience, but upon condition of the perfect obedience and sufferings of Christ; said has also declared in the gospel, that he that believes in his Son, shall have eternal life: but then, as repentance is not the cause of pardon, nor faith of justification, nor obedience of salvation, nor sufferings for, and with Christ, of glorification; so when God, from all eternity, did decree to pardon, justify, save, and glorify, these persons, he had no respect to these things by way of motive or condition; he did not decree to pardon, justify, save, and glorify, upon a foresight of these things, as arising from the will of man: but having resolved to pardon, justify, save, and glorify these men, he determines to give them of his own will and pleasure, the grace by which they should become penitent believers, obedient and cheerful sufferers for, and with Christ. So that faith, repentance, obedience, and the like, cannot be considered as conditions of, or motives to the decrees of God, since they spring from the grace which God, in these decrees of his, has determined to bestow upon the persons he bears such a good will unto. If sin, as is suggested, is the inducement to God, from all eternity, to decree to east some men out of his favor, it must have been an inducement to cast all men out of his favor, since all have sinned, and are equally unworthy of it; and if those actions, wrought by the assistance of his grace in some, are inducements to him, to decree to reward them with eternal life, how comes it to pass, that such actions are not wrought by the assistance of his grace, in all men? It remains, that nothing can be the cause of these immanent and eternal decrees of God, but his own will and pleasure. 5. Whereas we say that Godís ultimate end in these decrees is his own glory, the manifestation of the glory of his grace and mercy, together with his justice by the one, and the manifestation of the glory of his vindictive wrath and justice by the other; our author takes some pains to show that ďthe end for which he decrees any thing concerning us is not, and cannot be, any advantage or good he expects to reap from it; he being from all eternity past as completely happy as he can be to eternity to come; and therefore what other end, he asks, can he be supposed to aim at in these things, but our good?Ē I reply, that it will be freely, owned that God is completely happy, nor can any thing in time or to eternity be added to his happiness and glory; yet his great design in all his ways said works is the manifestation of his glory to his creatures; for of him, and through him, and to him, are all things, to whom be glory for ever. Amen ( Romans 11:36.)
Which may be concluded, without entertaining such vain imaginations and conceits, as if his view was to ďgain esteem or a good word from such wild creatures as we are; or as if he was concerned, whether we approve or disapprove of his proceedings; or as if he can be tickled with applause, and aim at reputation from us in his glorious design.Ē Moreover, though the good of the elect, even their eternal salvation, is a subordinate end in the decree of election, yet what good can be designed for the reprobates in the decree of reprobation, even according to our authorís own scheme of it, is not easy to discern; for he says, ďHe, that is God, from his justice, hath decreed from all eternity to cast some men out of his favor; the inducement to it is that sin, which hath rendered them unworthy of it, and rendered it inconsistent with his holiness and justice to admit them to it.Ē But it is certain from the Scriptures, which only can give us an account of these decrees, that Godís design in the one is the declaration of his wrath and justice; and in the other, of his grace and mercy; for not to take notice of Proverbs 16:4, the sense of which passage, and the argument upon it, have been vindicated in the second part of this work, the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have raised thee up, that I might show my porter in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
And a little after, What if God, willing to show his wrath, and make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, afore prepared unto glory? ( Romans 9:17,22,23.)
Add to this that well known place of scripture, Having predestinated us to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of his, will, to the praise of the glory of his grace. ( Ephesians 1:5,6.)
This writer suggests, that ďif it is for the glory of his grace to decree to save some, it must be more for the glory of it to decree to save more; and most of all, to decree to save all, and to prepare saving grace for all, and not restrain it to a few.Ē To which I reply, that had God decreed to save all men, and had prepared saving grace for all men, then all men would be saved; what should hinder? But I do not find that the opposite scheme provides for this any more than ours, and therefore no more magnifies the glory of Godís grace and mercy than ours does if so much; since it provides not for certain but an uncertain precarious salvation. Besides, if God had decreed to save all men, and had prepared saving grace for all men, here would indeed have been a display of the glory of his grace and mercy; but where would have been the declaration of his wrath and justice?
Especially, the glory of Godís sovereignty more appears by these distinct decrees, than if no such distinction had been made; for hence it is evident, that he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. ( Romans 9:18.) 6. The other black part of this decree is said to be ďstill more horrible in its immediate consequences; for it makes God to create innumerable souls, after the fall of Adam, to be inevitably damned without the least compassion for them, or will to afford them means sufficient to exempt them from that dreadful doom; and in prosecution of this end, having created them pure and; innocent, it makes him to put them into bodies, that so they may be made or deemed the offspring of Adam; and, by being so, may be made the fit objects of eternal wrath.Ē I answer; that innumerable souls are made since the fall of Adam, and are put into, or united to, human bodies, are things generally agreed upon; but how these souls are united to human bodies, and how they become polluted with sin, and so fit objects of Godís wrath, and, indeed, whether they are, by immediate creation, or ex traduce, or both, cannot be so easily determined: however, that God created souls to be inevitably damned, and put them into bodies, that they might be fit objects of his eternal wrath, are things we abhor and detest; and are no consequences of, nor can they be fairly deduced from the decree of reprobation; which, whether it considers creatures fallen or unfallen, leaves them as he finds them, and puts nothing in them; nor is creation the means of damnation, nor damnation the end of creation: God made no man to damn him; but he made him for himself, for his own glory.
To conclude; this author himself owns a decree of God from all eternity, to cast some men out of his favor, induced to it by sin; and another decree, to reward some of them with eternal life, or the enjoyment of himself, induced to it by those actions wrought in them by the assistance of his grace; and, according to this scheme, salvation and damnation are as inevitable, as they are according to ours; since Godís foreknowledge of sin and damnation, of grace and salvation, is as infallible as his decree to damn or save; and the absurdities, which are supposed to follow upon our scheme, must follow upon this: for God foreknew that these men would sin and continue in it; whereby he would be induced, nay, on the account of which, he decreed to cast them out of his favor; and yet he creates them, permits them to sin, when he could have hindered it, and to many of them he does not give the outward means of grace, and to none of them the assistance of his grace, by which those actions are performed, which induce him to reward others with eternal life, when it is equally in his power to assist them as others; and in a word, denies them that grace which would cure them of their impenitence and unbelief, as it does in others to whom it is given; but suffers them to continue in sin, when he could have restrained them from it, and delivered them out of it; the consequence of which is, their everlasting ruin and destruction.