Theology ProperPredestination by A. A. Hodge
1. What are the different senses in which the word predestination is used by theologians?
1st. As equivalent to the generic word decree, as including all God’s eternal purposes.
2d. As embracing only those purposes of God which specially respect his moral creatures.
3d. As designating only the counsel of God concerning fallen men, including the sovereign election of some and the most righteous reprobation of the rest.
4th. It is sometimes restricted in the range of its usage so far as to be applied only to the eternal election of God’s people to everlasting life.
The sense marked as 3d, above, is the most proper usage.—See Acts 4:27, 28.
2. In what senses are the words προγινώσκω (to know beforehand), and πρόγνωσις (foreknowledge), used in the New Testament?
Προγινώσχω is compounded of πρό, before, and γινώσκω, of which the primary sense is to know, and the secondary sense to approve, e.g., 2 Tim. 2:19; John 10:14, 15; Rom. 7:15. This word occurs five times in the New Testament. Twice, e.g., Acts 26:5 and 2 Pet. 3:17, it signifies previous knowledge, apprehension, simply. In the remaining three instances, Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:20, it is used in the secondary sense of approve beforehand. This is made evident from the context, for it is used to designate the ground of God’s predestination of individuals to salvation, which elsewhere is expressly said to be “not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,” and “to the good pleasure of his will,” 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 9:11; Eph. 1:5.
Πρόγνωσις occurs but twice in the New Testament, e.g., Acts 2:23 and 1 Pet. 1:2, in both of which instances it evidently signifies approbation, or choice from beforehand. It is explained by the equivalent phrase “determinate counsel.”
3. What is the New Testament usage of the words ἐκλέγω (to elect) and ἐκλογή (election)?
Ἐκλέγω occurs twenty-one times in the New Testament. It is used to signify, 1st, Christ’s choice of men to be apostles. Luke 6:13; John 6:70. 2d. God’s choice of the Jewish nation as a peculiar people.—Acts 13:17. 3d. The choice of men by God, or by the church, for some special service.—Acts 15:7, 22. 4th. The choice made by Mary of the better part. Luke 10:42. 5th. In the great majority of instances God’s eternal election of individual men to everlasting life.—John 15:16; 1 Cor. 1:27, 28; Eph. 1:4; James 2:5.
Ἐκλογή occurs seven times in the New Testament. Once it signifies an election to the apostolic office.—Acts 9:15. Once it signifies those chosen to eternal life.—Rom. 11:7. In every other case it signifies the purpose or the act of God in choosing his own people to salvation.—Rom. 9:11; 11:5, 28; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Pet. 1:10.
4. What other words are used by the Holy Ghost in the New Testament to set forth the truth on this subject?
Προορίξειν occurs six times in the New Testament.—Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29, 30; 1 Cor. 2:7, and Eph. 1:5, 11. In every case it signifies the absolute predestination of God.
Προτίθημι occurs three times in the New Testament. In Rom. 1:13 it signifies a purpose of Paul, and in Rom. 3:25 and Eph. 1:9, a purpose of God.
Προετοιμάξειν occurs twice, Rom. 9:23 and Eph. 2:10, prepare or appoint beforehand.
5. To whom is election referred in the Scriptures?
The eternal decree, as a whole, and in all its parts, is doubtless the concurrent act of all the three persons of the Trinity, in their perfect oneness of counsel and will.
But in the economy of salvation, as revealed to us, the act of sovereign election is specially attributed to the Father, as his personal part, even as redemption is attributed to the Son, and sanctification to the Spirit.—John 17:6, 9; 6:64, 65; 1 Thess. 5:9.
6. State that theory of Predestination designated by its advocates the “Theory of National Election.”
This is the theory that the only election spoken of in the Bible concerning the salvation of men consists of the divine predestination of communities and nations to the knowledge of the true religion and the external privileges of the gospel. This form of election, which undoubtedly represents a great gospel fact, is eminently illustrated in the case of the Jews. This is the view advocated by Archbishop Sumner in his work on “Apostolic Preaching,” quoted by Dr. Cunningham.
7. State the theory styled by its advocates the “Theory of Ecclesiastical Individualism.”
The view advocated by Mr. Stanley Faber in his “Primitive Doctrine of Election”, and by Archbishop Whately in his “Essays on some of the Difficulties in the Writings of the Apostle Paul,” and others, is styled the doctrine of “Ecclesiastical Individualism,” and it involves the affirmation that God predetermines the relation of individual men to the outward church and the means of grace. Thus by birth and subsequent providences he casts the lot of some men in the most favorable, and of others in the least favorable circumstances.
8. What is the Arminian doctrine of election?
The Arminians admit the foreknowledge of God, but they deny his absolute foreordination as it relates to the salvation of individuals. Their distinguishing doctrine is that God did not eternally make choice of certain persons and ordain their salvation, but that he made choice of certain characters, as holiness and faith and perseverance; or of certain classes of men who possess those characters, e.g., believers who persevere unto the end.
Since they admit that God foreknows from eternity with absolute certainty precisely what individuals will repent and believe and persevere therein to the end, it follows that their doctrine admits of the statement that God eternally predestinated certain persons, who he foresaw would repent and believe and persevere to life and salvation, on the ground of that faith and perseverance thus foreseen.
9. Point out the several principles in which the above-mentioned views agree and wherein they differ
The theories of “National Election” and of “Ecclesiastical Individualism,” both teach universally admitted facts, namely that God does predestinate individuals and communities and nations to the external privileges of the gospel and the use of the means of grace. This neither any Arminian nor any Calvinist will deny. But these theories are both vicious and both identical with the Arminian theory, in that they deny that God unconditionally predestinates either the free actions or the ultimate salvation of individuals. They admit that he gives certain men a better chance than others, but hold that each man’s ultimate fate is not determined by God’s decree, but left dependent upon the free wills of the men themselves. Nevertheless, while these theories are all consistently Arminian in fundamental principle, yet they differ in the manner in which they attempt to bring the Scriptures concerned into harmony with that system. These theories differ among themselves as to the objects, the ends, and the grounds of this election. As to the objects of the election spoken of in Scripture, the Arminian, the Calvinistic, and “Ecclesiastical Individualism” theories agree in making them individuals. The theory of “National Election,” makes them nations or communities. As to the end of this election the Calvinistic and Arminian theories make it the eternal salvation of the individuals elected. The theories of “National Election” and of “Ecclesiastical Individualism” make it admission to the privilege of the means of grace. As to the ground of this election spoken of in the Scripture, advocates of the Calvinistic, the “National Election” and the “Ecclesiastical Individualism “theories agree in making it the sovereign good pleasure of God, while the Arminians hold it is conditioned upon the faith, repentance, and perseverance certainly foreseen in each individual case.
It is obvious that the Calvinistic Doctrine of Decrees includes the absolute election of both individuals and of communities and nations to the use of the means of grace and the external advantages of the Church. It is also obvious that the admission of the principle of absolute election, as far as this, must be made by all Arminians as well as Calvinists, and hence this admission alone does not discriminate between the two great contesting systems. The only question which touches the true matter in debate is, What is the ground of the eternal predestination of individuals to salvation? Is it the foreseen faith and repentance of the individuals themselves, or the sovereign good pleasure of God? Every Christian must take one side or the other of this question. If he takes the side which makes foreseen faith the ground, he is an Arminian no matter what else he holds. If he takes the side which makes the good pleasure of God the ground, he is a Calvinist.
This division among themselves, and this alternate agreement with and difference from the Calvinistic positions on this subject, is a very suggestive illustration of the extreme difficulty the advocates of Arminian principles have in accommodating the words of Scripture to their doctrine.
In a polemic point of view the Calvinists have the capital advantage of being able to divide their opponents, and to refute them in detail.
10. State the three points involved in the Calvinistic doctrine on this subject
Calvinists hold, as shown in the preceding chapter, that God’s Decrees are absolute and relate to all classes of events whatsoever. They therefore maintain that while nations, communities, and individuals are predestined absolutely to all of every kind of good and bad that befalls them, nevertheless the Scriptures teach specifically an election (1) of individuals, (2) to grace and salvation, (3) founded not upon the foreseen faith of the persons elected, but upon the sovereign good pleasure of God alone.
11. State the Presumption of the truth of the above arising from the fact that impartial infidel and rationalistic interpreters admit that the letter of the Scriptures can be interpreted only in a Calvinistic sense
Besides the presumption in favor of Calvinism arising from the fact above stated, that anti-Calvinistic interpreters of the Scripture are reduced to all kinds of various hypotheses in order to avoid the obvious force of the Scriptural testimony upon the subject, we now cite the additional presumption, arising from the fact that rationalists and infidels generally, who agree with Arminians in their intense opposition to Calvinistic Principles, yet not being restrained by faith in the inspiration of the Bible, are frank enough to confess that the Book can be fairly interpreted only in a Calvinistic sense. This is thus the impartial testimony of an enemy. Wegscheider in his “Institutiones Theologiæ Christianæ Dogmaticæ”, Pt. III., Ch: iii., § 145,* the highest authority as to the results of German Rationalists in Dogmatic theology, says that the passages in question do teach Calvinistic doctrine, but that Paul was misled by the crude and erroneous notions prevalent in that age, and especially by the narrow spirit of Jewish particularism. See also Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” Chapter xxxiii., Note 31.—“Perhaps a reasoner still more independent may smile in his turn, when he peruses an Arminian Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.”
12. Prove from Scripture that the subjects of election are individuals and that the end of election is eternal life
1st. They are always spoken of as individuals, and the election of which they are the subjects is always set forth as having grace or glory as its end.—Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13. 2d. The elect are in Scripture explicitly distinguished from the mass of the visible Church, and hence their election could not have been merely to the external privileges of that Church.—Rom. 11:7. 3d. The names of the elect are said “to be written in heaven” and to be in “the book of life.”—Heb. 12:23; Phil. 4:3. 4th. The blessings which it is explicitly declared are secured by this election are gracious and saving, they are the elements and results of salvation, inseparable from it, and pertain not to nations but to individuals as their subjects, e.g., “adoption of sons,” “to be conformed to the image of his Son,” etc.—Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:5; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Thess. 5:9; Rom. 9:15, 16.
13. Show that this election is not founded on works whether foreseen or not
This follows—1st. From the general doctrine of Decrees which has been established in the last chapter. If God’s decrees relate to and determine all events of every class, it follows that no undecreed events remain to condition his decree or any element thereof, and also that he has decreed faith and repentance as well as the salvation which is conditioned upon them.
2d. It is expressly declared in Scripture that this election is not conditioned upon works of any kind.—Rom. 11:4–7; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 9:11.
14. Show that in Scripture it is habitually declared to be founded on “the good pleasure of God,” and “the counsel of his own will.”
Eph. 1:5–11; 2 Tim. 1:9; John 15:16, 19; Matt. 11:25, 26; Rom. 9:10–18.
15. State the argument derived from the fact that “faith,” “repentance,” and “evangelical obedience” are said to be the fruits of the Election
It is self-evident that the same actions can not be both the grounds upon which election rests, and the fruits in which that election is designed to result. Since the Bible teaches that “faith,” “repentance,” and “evangelical obedience” are the latter, they can not be the former. The Scriptures do so teach in Eph. 1:4. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love.”—2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 2:10.
16. The same from the fact that faith and repentance are said to be the gifts of God
If faith and repentance are the “gifts of God,” then a man’s possessing them results from God’s act. If it results from God’s act it must result from his eternal purpose. If they be the results of his purpose, they can not be the conditions upon which that purpose is suspended. They are affirmed to be the “gifts of God” in Eph. 2:8; Acts 5:31; 1 Cor. 4:7.
17. State the argument derived from what the Scriptures teach as to the nature and extent of innate depravity and inability
The teaching of Scripture on these heads will be found stated and established in Chapters XIX. and XX. Now if men are born into the world with an antecedent prevailing tendency in their nature to sin, and they are ever, until regenerated by the Spirit of God, totally and inalienably averse to and incapable of all good, it follows that unregenerate human nature is incapable either of tending to or of perfecting faith and repentance as the conditions required. It election is conditioned upon faith and repentance, then the man must produce his own faith and repentance, or help to produce them. But if human nature can neither produce nor help to produce them, it follows either that no man can be elected, or that faith and repentance can not be the condition of election.
18. State the same from what the Scriptures teach of the nature and necessity of regeneration
In Chapter XXIX. it will be proved that the Scriptures teach (1) that regeneration is an act of God; (2) that with respect to that act the soul is passive; (3) that it is absolutely necessary in the case of every living man. Hence it follows that if it be in no sense man’s work, but in every sense God’s act alone, it can not be the condition upon which God’s purpose is suspended, but an event determined by that purpose.
19. Show that the Scriptures teach that all the elect believe, and that only the elect believe
All the elect believe.—John 10:16, 27–29; John 6:37–39; John 17:2, 9, 24. And only the elect believe.—John 10:26. And those who believe do so because they are elect.—Acts 13:48, and 2:47.
20. What argument is to be drawn from the fact that all evangelical Christians of every theological school express the sentiments proper to the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election in all their prayers and hymns?
That form of doctrine must be false which can not be consistently embodied in personal religious experience and in devotion. That form of doctrine must be true which all Christians of all theoretical opinions always find themselves obliged to express when they come to commune with God. Now all the psalms and hymns and prayers, written and spontaneous, of all evangelical Christians, embody the principles and breathe the spirit of Calvinism. They all pray God to make men repent and believe, to come to and to receive the Saviour. If God gives all men common and sufficient grace, and if the reason why one man repents, is that he makes good use of that grace, and the reason another does not believe, is that he does not use that grace, if the only cause of difference is in the men, it follows that we ought to pray men to convert themselves, i.e., to make themselves to differ. But all agree in asking God to save us, and in giving him all the thanks when it is done.
21. Show that Paul must have held our position on this subject from the nature of the objections made against his doctrine, and from the answers he gave them
Paul’s doctrine is identical with the Calvinistic view. 1st. Because he expressly teaches it. 2d. Because the objections he notices as brought against his doctrine are the same as those brought against ours. The design of the whole passage is to prove God’s sovereign right to cast off the Jews as a peculiar people, and to call all men indiscriminately by the gospel.
This, he argues, 1st, that God’s ancient promises embraced not the natural descendants of Abraham as such, but the spiritual seed. 2d. That “God is perfectly sovereign in the distribution of his favors.”
But against this doctrine of divine sovereignty two objections are introduced and answered by Paul.
1st. It is unjust for God thus of his mere good pleasure to show mercy to one and to reject another, v. 14. This precise objection is made against our doctrine at the present time also. “It represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as more false, more cruel, and more unjust.”—“Methodist Doctrinal Tracts,” pp. 170, 171. This Paul answers by two arguments. (1.) God claims the right, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.”—Rom. 9:15, 16. (2.) God in his providence exercises the right, as in the case of Pharaoh, vs. 17, 18.
2d. The second objection is that this doctrine is inconsistent with the liberty and accountability of men. This would be an absurd objection to bring against Paul’s doctrine if he were an Arminian, but it is brought every day by Arminians against our doctrine.
Paul answers this objection by condescending to no appeal to human reason, but simply (1) by asserting God’s sovereignty as Creator, and man’s dependence as creature, and (2) by asserting the just exposure of all men alike to wrath as sinners, vs. 20–24.—See Analysis of chap. 9:6–24, in Hodge’s “Com on Romans.”
22. Discriminate accurately the two elements involved in the doctrine of Reprobation
Reprobation is the aspect which God’s eternal decree presents in its relation to that portion of the human race which shall be finally condemned for their sins.
It is, 1st, negative, inasmuch as it consists in passing over these, and refusing to elect them to life; and, 2d, positive, inasmuch as they are condemned to eternal misery.
In respect to its negative element, reprobation is simply sovereign, since those passed over were no worse than those elected, and the simple reason both for the choosing and for the passing over was the sovereign good pleasure of God.
In respect to its positive element, reprobation is not sovereign, but simply judicial, because God inflicts misery in any case only as the righteous punishment of sin. “The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sins.—“Con. Faith,” Chap. iii., Sec. 7.
23. Show that these positions are necessarily involved in the general doctrine of Decrees and in the special doctrine of the election of some men to eternal life
As above stated, this doctrine of reprobation is self-evidently an inseparable element of the doctrines of decrees and of election. If God unconditionally elects whom he pleases, he must unconditionally leave whom he pleases to themselves. He must foreordain the non-believing, as well as the believing, although the events themselves are brought to pass by very different causes.
24. Prove that it is taught in Scripture
Rom. 9:18, 21; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4; Rev. 13:8. “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes, even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.”—Matt. 11:25. “Ye believe not, because ye are not my sheep.”—John 10:26.
25. Show that the same objection was made against Paul’s doctrine that is made against ours
“Why doth he yet find fault?” If he has not given gracious ability to obey, how can he command?—See also “Methodist Doctrinal Tracts,” p. 171.
The apostle answers by showing, 1st (verses 20, 21), that God is under no obligation to extend his grace to all or to any; and, 2d, that the “vessels of wrath” were condemned for their own sins, to manifest God’s just wrath, while the “vessels of mercy” were chosen not for any good in them, but to manifest his glorious grace (verses 22, 23).
26. Show the identity of Paul’s doctrine with ours from the illustrations he uses in the ninth chapter of Romans
“Hath not the potter power (ἐξουσία) over the clay of the same lump to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor, v. 21. Here the whole point of the illustration lies in the fact that there is no difference in the clay—it is clay of the same lump—the sole difference is made by the will of the potter. In the case of Esau and Jacob, the very point is that one is just as good as the other—that there is no difference in the children—but that the whole difference is made by the “purpose of God according to election”—“for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,” v. 11.
27. In what sense is God said to harden men?
See Rom. 9:18, and John 12:40.
This is doubtless a judicial act wherein God withdraws from sinful men, whom he has not elected to life, for the just punishment of their sins, all gracious influences, and leaves them to the unrestrained tendencies of their own hearts, and to the uncounteracted influences of the world and the devil.
28. State the objection brought against the Calvinistic doctrine of election on the ground that it is inconsistent with Justice
It is maintained that if God by a sovereign unconditional decree determines to pass by some men, and to withhold from them the grace necessary to enable them to repent and believe in Christ, it is unjust in God to hold them accountable, and to punish them for their want of faith.
29. State the fundamental view which necessarily underlies all Arminianism as to the relation which the remedial work of Christ sustains to the justice of God, and as to the relation which the human race by nature sustains to the divine government
When the Arminian system is sifted to its fundamental principles, it is found to rest upon the postulate that the gift of Christ is a necessary compensation to the human race for the evils brought upon it for the sin of Adam. It is admitted that the sin of Adam was the cause of his whole race becoming sinners, and that every one of his descendants comes into the world with a nature so far depraved as to be morally incapable of loving God and disposed to evil. But they maintain that men are by nature in the first instance not responsible for their moral condition, since it comes upon them each at his birth, antecedent to all personal action. They hold, therefore, that man can not be punished for original sin, nor could any man ever be held responsible for any act of disobedience springing as an inevitable consequence out of that original depravity, if God had not through Christ provided a remedy, giving to each man gracious ability to do all that is required of him as the condition of his salvation. This redemption and gracious ability to believe and obey God owes to all men, and they are necessary to render any man responsible and punishable for his sins, since thus alone is he, as far as this class of exercises go, endowed with the power of contrary choice.
Dr. D. D. Whedon, in the “Bibliotheca Sacra,” April, 1862, p. 257.—“It is not then until there is redemptively conferred upon man what we call a gracious ability for the right, that man can be strictly responsible for the wrong.” He says, p. 254, that after Adam sinned the only alternatives open to God in consistency with justice were either, 1st, to send Adam and Eve to perdition before they had children, or, 2d, to allow him to propagate his kind under the antecedent disabilities of sin, and provide a redemptive system for all.
He distinguishes between guilt or moral responsibility for character and moral corruption of nature. Under the conditions of pure nature, he teaches that only Adam and Eve were responsible, as well as corrupt, because they, having been created morally free, voluntarily made themselves vile by their own act. On the other hand their descendants are all morally polluted and spiritually dead, because they inherit corrupt natures from Adam; but they are not guilty, neither responsible for their birth sin nor for any of its consequences, because it was determined inevitably by an act not their own. In the actual state of things consequent to the gift of Christ every man is responsible because every man has sufficient grace.
Hence it follows—1st. That the provision of redemption was not a work of infinite free grace, but a mere act of justice in compensation for evils brought upon our nature by Adam. 2d. That this is owed equally to each and every man without exception. “I reject,” says John Wesley, “Methodist Doc. Tracts,” pp. 25, 26, “the assertion that God might justly have passed by me and all men, as a bold, precarious assertion, utterly unsupported by Holy Scripture.” 3d. It follows also that the gracious help of the Holy Ghost is just as necessary to render men responsible sinners as to bring them to salvation. 4th. It follows that grace sends men to hell, as well as takes them to heaven, and that it has done far more of the former than of the latter work.
30. Show that their position here is absolutely inconsistent with what the Scriptures and the entire Christian Church teach of the nature and necessity of the Satisfaction made to divine justice by Christ
It will be shown under Chap. XXV., that the Scriptures teach, the entire Church being witness, that in order to the salvation of man, a full satisfaction to the inalienable principle of justice essential to the Divine nature was absolutely necessary. So that if God’s justice is not satisfied, grace can not be shown to any man. This would be absurd if men were not antecedently responsible for the sins for which it is necessary that they should make satisfaction. What is the sense of a “Redemptively conferred gracious ability” respecting parties who have forfeited nothing because they are responsible for nothing? In their case is not both “redemption” and “grace” an impertinence?
31. Prove from Scripture that salvation is of grace
Grace is free, undeserved favor showed to the undeserving. If redemption is a debt owed to all men, or if it be a compensation prerequisite to their accountability, then it can not be a gratuity, and the gift of Christ can not be an eminent expression of God’s free favor and love. It can only be an expression of his rectitude.
But the Scriptures declare that the gift of Christ is an unparalleled expression of free love, and that salvation is of grace. Lam. 3:22; John 3:16; Rom. 3:24; 11:5, 6; 1 Cor. 4:7; 15:10; Eph. 1:5, 6; 2:4–10, etc. And every true Christian recognizes the essential graciousness of salvation as an inseparable element of his experience. Hence the doxologies of heaven.—1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; Rev. 5:8–14.
But if salvation is of grace, then it is obviously consistent with God’s justice for him to save all, many, few, or none, just as he pleases.
32. Show that the objection that unconditional election is inconsistent with the justice of God is absurd and antichristian
Justice necessarily holds all sinners alike destitute of all claims upon God’s favor. It is unjust to justify the unjust. It would be inconsistent with righteousness for a sinful man to claim, or for God to grant, salvation to any one as his due. Otherwise the condemning sentence of conscience is denied, and the cross of Christ made of none effect. On the very grounds of justice itself, therefore, salvation must be of grace, and it must rest upon the sovereign option of God himself whether he provides salvation for few, many, or for none. The salvation of none is consistent with justice, or the sacrifice of Christ was a payment of debt not a grace. And the salvation of one undeserving sinner obviously can lay no foundation upon which the salvation of another can be demanded as a right.
33. State and refute the objection that our doctrine is inconsistent with the rectitude of God as an impartial ruler.
Arminians often argue that reason teaches us to expect the great omnipotent Creator and Sovereign of all men to be impartial in his treatment of individuals—to extend the same essential advantages and conditions of salvation to all alike. They argue also that this fair presumption of reason is reaffirmed in the Scriptures, which declare that God is “no respecter of persons.”—Acts 10:34, and 1 Pet. 1:17. In the first-named passage this applies simply to the application of the gospel to Gentiles as well as Jews. In the second passage it is affirmed that in the judgment of human works God is absolutely impartial. The question as to election, however, is as to grace not as to judgment pronounced on works, and the Scriptures nowhere say that God is impartial in the communication of his grace.
On the other hand, the presumptions of reason and the texts of Scripture must be interpreted in a sense consistent with the palpable facts of human history and of God’s daily providential dispensations. If it is unjust in principle for God to be partial in his distributions of spiritual good, it can be no less unjust for him to be partial in his distribution of temporal good. As a matter of fact, however, we find that God in the exercise of his absolute sovereignty makes the greatest possible distinctions among men from birth, and independently of their own merits in the allotments both of temporal good and of the essential means of salvation. One child is born to health, honor, wealth, to the possession of a susceptible heart and conscience, and to all the best means of grace as his secure inheritance. Many others are born to disease, shame, poverty, an obtuse conscience and hardened heart, and absolute heathenish darkness and ignorance of Christ. If God may not be partial to individuals, why may he be partial to nations, and how can his dealings with heathen nations and the children of the abandoned classes in the nominally Christian cities be accounted for?
Archbishop Whately gives this excellent word of warning to his Arminian friends: “I would suggest a caution relative to a class of objections frequently urged against Calvinists drawn from the moral attributes of God. We should be very cautious how we employ such weapons as may recoil upon ourselves. It is a frightful but undeniable truth that multitudes, even in Christian countries, are born and brought up in such circumstances as afford them no probable, even no possible, chance of obtaining a knowledge of religious truths, or a habit of moral conduct, but are even trained from infancy in superstitious error and gross depravity. Why this should be permitted neither Calvinist nor Arminian can explain; nay, why the Almighty does not cause to die in the cradle every infant whose future wickedness and misery, if suffered to grow up, he foresees, is what no system of religion, natural or revealed, will enable us satisfactorily to account for.”—“Essays on some of the Difficulties of St. Paul.” Essay 3d, on Election.
34. Refute the objection drawn from such passages as 1 Tim. 2:4.
“Who will (θέλει) all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
The word θέλειν has two senses—(a) to be inclined to, to desire; (b) to purpose, to will. In such connections as the above it is evident that it can not mean that God purposes the salvation of all, because (a) all are not saved, and none of God’s purposes fail, and (b) because it is affirmed that he wills all to “come to the knowledge of the truth” in the same sense that he wills all to be saved—yet he has left the vast majority of men to be born and to live and to die, irrespective of their own agency, in heathenish darkness.
Such passages simply assert the essential benevolence of God. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He does take great pleasure in the salvation of men. Yet as a matter of fact, in perfect consistency with his benevolence, for reasons sufficient, though not revealed to us, he has provided no redemption for lost angels, and no efficacious grace for the non-elect among mankind. These passages simply assert that, if it were not for these reasons, it would be agreeable to his benevolent nature that all men should be saved.
35. Show that our doctrine does not discourage the use of means
It is objected that if God from eternity has determined that one man is to be converted and saved and another is to be left to perish in his sins, there is no room left for the use of means. As John Wesley, in “Methodist Doc. Tracts,” falsely represents the doctrine of Toplady, “There are suppose twenty men, ten are ordained to be saved do what they may, and ten are ordained to be damned do what they can.” This is an absurd as well as wicked caricature of the doctrine.
1st. The decree of election does not secure salvation without faith and holiness, but salvation through faith and holiness, the means being just as much decreed as the end. The Calvinist believes, as well as the Arminian, that every man who does evil will be damned, elect or non-elect.
2d. The doctrine of election does not presume that God constrains men inconsistently with their freedom. The non-elect are simply let alone, to do as their own evil hearts prompt. The elect are made willing in the day of God’s power. God works in them to will as well as to do of his good pleasure. To be made willing takes away no man’s liberty.
3d. The decree of election only makes the repentance and faith of the elect certain. But the antecedent certainty of a free act is not inconsistent with its freedom, otherwise the certain foreknowledge of a free act would be impossible. The decree of election does not cause the faith, and it does not interfere with the agent in acting, and certainly it does not supersede the absolute necessity of it.
36. How far is assurance of our election possible, and on what grounds does such assurance rest?
An unwavering and certain assurance of the fact of our election is possible in this life, for whom God predestinates them he also calls, and whom he calls he justifies, and we know that whom he justifies, he also sanctifies. Thus the fruits of the Spirit prove sanctification, and sanctification proves effectual calling, and effectual calling election.—See 2 Pet. 1:5–10; 1 John 2:3.
Besides this evidence of our own gracious states and acts, we have the Spirit of adoption, who witnesseth with our spirits and seals us.—Rom. 8:16, 17; Eph. 4:30.
In confirmation of this we have the example of the apostles (2 Tim. 1:12) and of many Christians.
37. How does this doctrine consist with the general benevolence of God?
The only difficulty at this point is to reconcile the general benevolence of God with the fact that he, being infinitely wise and powerful, should have admitted a system involving the sin, final impenitence, and consequent damnation of any. But this difficulty presses equally upon both systems.
The facts prove that God’s general benevolence is not inconsistent with his allowing some to be damned for their sins. This is all that reprobation means. Gratuitous election, or the positive choice of some does not rest upon God’s general benevolence, but upon his special love to his own.—John 17:6, 23; Rom. 9:11–13; 1 Thess. 5:9.
38. How does this doctrine consist with the general gospel offer?
In the general offers of the gospel God exhibits a salvation sufficient for and exactly adapted to all, and sincerely offered to every one without exception, and he unfolds all the motives of duty, hope, fear, etc., which ought to induce every one to accept it, solemnly promising that whosoever comes in no wise shall be cast out. Nothing but a sinful unwillingness can prevent any one who hears the gospel from receiving and enjoying it.
The gospel is for all, election is a special grace in addition to that offer. The non-elect may come if they will. The elect will come. The decree of election puts no barrier before men preventing them from accepting the gospel offer. Any man, elect or non-elect, will be saved if he accepts. The non-elect are left to act as they are freely determined by their own hearts.
There is just as great an apparent difficulty in reconciling God’s certain foreknowledge of the final impenitence of the great majority of those to whom he offers and upon whom he presses, by every argument, his love with the fact of that offer; especially when we reflect that he foresees that his offers will certainly increase their guilt and misery.
39. How can the doctrine of reprobation be reconciled with the holiness of God?
Reprobation leaves men in sin, and thus leads to the increase of sin throughout eternity. How then can God, in consistency with his holiness, form a purpose the designed effect of which is to leave men in sin, and thus lead inevitably to the increase of sin.
But it is acknowledged by Arminians as well as Calvinists, that God did create the human race in spite of his certain foreknowledge that sin would be largely occasioned thereby, and he did create individual men in spite of his certain foreknowledge that these very men would continue eternally to sin. The real difficulty lies in the insoluble problem of the permission of evil. Why is the existence of evil tolerated in the universe of an infinitely wise, righteous, merciful, and powerful God? The Arminians are as little able to answer that question as the Calvinist.
40. What is the practical bearing of this doctrine on Christian experience and conduct?
It must be remembered, 1st. That this truth is not inconsistent with, but is part of, the same gracious system with the equally certain principles of the moral liberty and responsibility of man, and the free offers of the gospel to all. 2d. That the sole rule of our duty is the commands, threatenings, and promises of God clearly expressed in the gospel, and not this decree of election, which he never reveals except in its consequents of effectual calling, faith, and holy living.
When thus held, the doctrine of predestination—
1st. Exalts the majesty and absolute sovereignty of God, while it illustrates the riches of his free grace and his just displeasure with sin.
2d. It enforces upon us the essential truth that salvation is entirely of grace. That no one can either complain, if passed over, or boast himself, if saved.
3d. It brings the inquirer to absolute self-despair, and the cordial embrace of the free offer of Christ.
4th. In the case of the believer, who has the witness in himself, this doctrine at once deepens his humility, and elevates his confidence to the full assurance of hope.
41. State the true nature of the question discussed by theologians concerning the order of the divine decrees.
As we believe that the Decree of God is one single, eternal intention, there can not be an order of succession in his purposes either (a) in time, as if one purpose actually preceded the other, or (b) in distinct deliberation or option on the part of God. The whole is one choice. Yet in willing the entire system God, of course, comprehended all the parts of the system willed in their several successions and relations. In like manner as a man by one act of mind recognizes a complicated machine with which he is familiar, and in the same act discriminates accurately the several parts, and comprehends their unity and relation in the system, and the design of the whole.—Dr. Charles Hodge’s “Lectures.” The question, therefore, as to the Order of the Decrees is not a question as to the order of acts in God decreeing, but it is a question as to the true relation sustained by the several parts of the system which he decrees to one another. That is, What relation between Creation, Predestination, and Redemption did the one eternal purpose of God establish? What do the Scriptures teach as to the purpose of God in giving his Son, and as to the object and ground of election? The ground and object of election has been fully considered above. The design of God in the gift of Christ will be fully considered under Division IV. of Chapter XXV.
42. What is the Arminian theory as to the order of the decrees relating to the human race?
1st. The decree to create man. 2d. Man, as a moral agent, being fallible, and his will being essentially contingent, and his sin therefore being impreventible, God, foreseeing that man would certainly fall into the condemnation and pollution of sin, decreed to provide a free salvation through Christ for all men, and to provide sufficient means for the effectual application of that salvation to the case of all. 3d. He decreed absolutely that all believers in Christ should be saved, and all unbelievers reprobated for their sins. 4th. Foreseeing that certain individuals would repent and believe, and that certain other individuals would continue impenitent to the last, God from eternity elected to eternal life those whose faith he foresaw, on the condition of their faith, and reprobated those whom he foresaw would continue impenitent on the condition of that impenitence.
43. What is the view of this subject entertained by the French Protestant theologians, Camero, Amyraut, and others?
These theological professors at Saumur, during the second quarter of the seventeenth century, taught that God—1st. Decreed to create man. 2d. To permit man to fall. 3d. To provide, in the mediation of Christ, salvation for all men. 4th. But, foreseeing that if men were left to themselves none would repent and believe, therefore he sovereignly elected some to whom he decreed to give the necessary graces of repentance and faith.
44. What is the infra-lapsarian view of predestination?
The infra-lapsarian (infra lapsum) theory of predestination, or the decree of predestination, viewed as subsequent in purpose to the decree permitting man to fall, represents man as created and fallen as the object of election. The order of the decrees then stand thus: 1st. The decree to create man. 2d. To permit man to fall. 3d. The decree to elect certain men, out of the mass of the fallen and justly condemned race, to eternal life, and to pass others by, leaving them to the just consequences of their sins 4th. The decree to provide salvation for the elect
Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology: Rewritten and Enlarged (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 214–231.