|« Prev||8. The Augustinian Scheme.||Next »|
§ 8. The Augustinian Scheme.
It is to be remembered that the question is not which view of the plan of God is the freest from difficulties, the most agreeable to our natural feelings, and therefore the most plausible to the human mind. It may be admitted that it would appear to us more consistent with the character of God that provision should be made for the salvation of all men, and that sufficient knowledge and grace should be granted to every human being to secure his salvation. So it would be more consistent with the natural understanding and feelings, if like provision had been made for the fallen angels; or if God had prevented the entrance of sin and misery into the universe; or if, when they had entered, He had provided for their ultimate elimination from the system, so that all rational creatures should be perfectly holy and happy for eternity. There would be no end to such plans if each one were at liberty to construct a scheme of divine operation according to his own views of what would be wisest and best. We are shut up to facts: the facts of providence, of the Bible, and of religious experience. These facts must determine our theory. We cannot say that the goodness of God forbids the permission of sin and misery, if sin and misery actually exist. We cannot say that justice requires that all rational creatures should be treated alike, have the same advantages, and the same opportunity to secure knowledge, holiness, and happiness, if, under the government of a God of infinite justice, the greatest disparity actually exists. Among all Christians certain principles are admitted, according to which the facts of history and of the Scriptures must be interpreted.
1. It is admitted that God reigns; that his providence extends to all events great and small, so that nothing does or can occur contrary to his will, or which He does not either effect by his own power, or permit to be done by other agents. This is a truth of natural religion as well as of revelation. It is (practically) universally recognized. The prayers and thanksgivings which men by a law of their nature address to God, assume that He controls all events. War, pestilence and famine, are deprecated as manifestations of his displeasure. To Him all men turn for deliverance 332from these evils. Peace, health, and plenty, are universally recognized as his gifts. This truth lies at the foundation of all religion, and cannot be questioned by any Theist, much less by any Christian.
2. No less clear and universally admitted is the principle that God can control the free acts of rational creatures without destroying either their liberty or their responsibility. Men universally pray for deliverance from the wrath of their enemies, that their enmity may be turned aside, or that the state of their minds may be changed. All Christians pray that God would change the hearts of men, give them repentance and faith, and so control their acts that his glory and the good of others may be promoted. This again is one of those simple, profound, and far-reaching truths, which men take for granted, and on which they act and cannot avoid acting, whatever may be the doubts of philosophers, or the speculative difficulties with which such truths are attended.
3. All Christians admit that God has a plan or purpose in the government of the world. There is an end to be accomplished. It is inconceivable that an infinitely wise Being should create, sustain, and control the universe, without contemplating any end to be attained by this wonderful manifestation of his power and resources. The Bible, therefore, teaches us that God works all things after the counsel of his own will. And this truth is incorporated in all the systems of faith adopted among Christians, and is assumed in all religious worship and experience.
4. It is a necessary corollary from the foregoing principles that the facts of history are the interpretation of the eternal purposes of God. Whatever actually occurs entered into his purpose. We can, therefore, learn the design or intention of God from the evolution or development of his plan in the history of the world, and of every individual man. Whatever occurs, He for wise reasons permits to occur. He can prevent whatever He sees fit to prevent. If, therefore, sin occurs, it was God’s design that it should occur. If misery follows in the train of sin, such was God’s purpose. If some men only are saved, while others perish, such must have entered into the all comprehending purpose of God. It is not possible for any finite mind to comprehend the designs of God, or to see the reasons of his dispensations. But we cannot, on that account, deny that He governs all things, or that He rules according to the counsel of his own will.
The Augustinian system of doctrine is nothing more than the application of these general and almost universally recognized principles to the special case of the salvation of man.333
Statement of the Doctrine.
The Augustinian scheme includes the following points: (1.) That the glory of God, or the manifestation of his perfections, is the highest and ultimate end of all things. (2.) For that end God purposed the creation of the universe, and the whole plan of providence and redemption. (3.) That He placed man in a state of probation, making Adam, their first parent, their head and representative. (4.) That the fall of Adam brought all his posterity into a state of condemnation, sin, and misery, from which they are utterly unable to deliver themselves. (5.) From the mass of fallen men God elected a number innumerable to eternal life, and left the rest of mankind to the just recompense of their sins. (6.) That the ground of this election is not the foresight of anything in the one class to distinguish them favourably from the members of the other class, but the good pleasure of God. (7.) That for the salvation of those thus chosen to eternal life, God gave his own Son, to become man, and to obey and suffer for his people, thus making a full satisfaction for sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness, rendering the ultimate salvation of the elect absolutely certain. (8.) That while the Holy Spirit, in his common operations, is present with every man, so long as he lives, restraining evil and exciting good, his certainly efficacious and saving power is exercised only in behalf of the elect. (9.) That all those whom God has thus chosen to life, and for whom Christ specially save Himself in the covenant of redemption, shall certainly (unless they die in infancy), be brought to the knowledge of the truth, to the exercise of faith, and to perseverance in holy living unto the end.
Such is the great scheme of doctrine known in history as the Pauline, Augustinian, or Calvinistic, taught, as we believe, in the Scriptures, developed by Augustine, formally sanctioned by the Latin Church, adhered to by the witnesses of the truth during the Middle Ages, repudiated by the Church of Rome in the Council of Trent, revived in that Church by the Jansenists, adopted by all the Reformers, incorporated in the creeds of the Protestant Churches of Switzerland, of the Palatinate, of France, Holland, England, and Scotland, and unfolded in the Standards framed by the Westminster Assembly, the common representative of Presbyterians in Europe and America.
It is a historical fact that this scheme of doctrine has been the moving power in the Church; that largely to it are to be referred 334the intellectual vigour and spiritual life of the heroes and confessors who have been raised up in the course of ages; that it has been the fruitful source of good works, of civil and religious liberty, and of human progress. Its truth may be evinced from many different sources.
Proof of the Doctrine.
In the first place, it is a simple, harmonious, self-consistent scheme. It supposes no conflicting purposes in the divine mind; no willing first one thing, and then another; no purposing ends which are never accomplished; and no assertion of principles in conflict with others which cannot be denied. All the parts of this vast plan admit of being reduced to one comprehensive purpose as it was hid for ages in the divine mind. The purpose to create, to permit the fall, to elect some to everlasting life, while others are left, to send his Son to redeem his people, and to give the Spirit to apply that redemption, are purposes which harmonize one with all the others, and form one consistent plan. The parts of this scheme are not only harmonious, but they are also connected in such a way that the one involves the others, so that if one be proved it involves the truth of all the rest. If Christ was given for the redemption of his people, then their redemption is rendered certain, and then the operations of the Spirit must, in their case, be certainly efficacious; and if such be the design of the work of Christ, and the nature of the Spirit’s influence, then those who are the objects of the one, and the subjects of the other, must persevere in holiness unto the end. Or if we begin with any other of the principles aforesaid, the same result follows. If it be proved or conceded that the fall brought mankind into an estate of helpless sin and misery, then it follows that salvation must be of grace; that it is of God and not of us, that we are in Christ; that vocation is effectual; that election is of the good pleasure of God; that the sacrifice of Christ renders certain the salvation of his people; and that they cannot fatally fall away from God. So of all the rest. Admit that the death of Christ renders certain the salvation of his people, and all the rest follows. Admit that election is not of works, and the whole plan must be admitted as true. Admit that nothing happens contrary to God’s purposes, then again the whole Augustinian scheme must be admitted. There can scarcely be a clearer proof that we understand a complicated machine than that we can put together its several parts, so that each exactly fits its place; no one admitting of 335being transferred or substituted for another; and the whole being complete and unimpeded in its action. Such is the order of God’s working, that if you give a naturalist a single bone, he can construct the whole skeleton of which it is a part; and such is the order of his plan of redemption, that if one of the great truths which it includes be admitted, all the rest must be accepted. This is the first great argument in support of the Pauline or Augustinian scheme of doctrine.
Argument from the Facts of Providence.
In the second place, this scheme alone is consistent with the facts of God’s providence. Obvious as the truth is, it needs to be constantly repeated, that it is useless to contend against facts. If a thing is, it is vain to ignore it, or to deny its significance. We must conform our theories to facts, and not make the facts conform to our theories. That view of divine truth, therefore, is correct which accords with the facts of God’s providence; and that view of doctrine must be false which conflicts with those facts. Another principle no less plain, and no less apt to be forgotten, is the one assumed above as admitted by all Christians, namely, that God has a plan and that the events of his providence correspond with that plan. In other words, that whatever happens, God intended should happen; that to Him nothing can be unexpected, and nothing contrary to his purposes. If this be so, then we can learn with certainty what God’s plan is, what He intended to do or to permit, from what actually comes to pass. If one portion of the inhabitants of a given country die in infancy, and another portion live to mature age; such was, for wise reasons, the purpose of God. If some are prosperous, and others miserable, such also is in accordance with his holy will. If one season is abundant, another the reverse, it is so in virtue of his appointment. This is a dictate even of natural religion. As much as this even the heathen believe.
It can hardly be doubted that if these simple principles be granted, the truth of the Augustinian scheme must be admitted. It is a fact that God created man; it is a fact that the fall of Adam involved our whole race in sin and misery; it is a fact that of this fallen family, some are saved and others perish; it is a fact that the salvation of those who actually attain eternal life, is secured by the mediation of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit. These are providential facts admitted by all Christians. All that Augustinianism teaches is, that these facts were not unexpected 336by the divine mind, but that God foreknew they would occur, and intended that they should come to pass. This is all. What actually does happen, God intended should happen. Although his purposes or intentions cannot fail, He uses no influence to secure their accomplishment, which is incompatible with the perfect liberty and entire responsibility of rational creatures. As God is infinite in power and wisdom, He can control all events, and therefore the course of events must be in accordance with his will, because He can mould or direct that course at pleasure. It is, therefore, evident, first, that events must be the interpretation of his purposes, i.e., of what He intends shall happen; and secondly, that no objection can bear against the purpose or decrees of God, which does not bear equally against his providence. If it be right that God should permit an event to happen, it must be right that He should purpose to permit it, i.e., that He should decree its occurrence. We may suppose the Deistic or Rationalistic view of God’s relation to the world to be true: that God created men, and left them without any providential guidance, or any supernatural influence, to the unrestrained exercise of their own faculties, and to the operation of the laws of nature and of society. If this were so, a certain course of events in regular succession, and in every variety of combination, would as a matter of fact, actually occur. In this case there could be no pretence that God was responsible for the issue. He had created man, endowed him with all the faculties, and surrounded him by all the circumstances necessary for his highest welfare. If he chose to abuse his faculties, and neglect his opportunities, it would be his own fault. He could bring no just complaint against his maker. We may further suppose that God, overlooking and foreseeing how men left to themselves would act, and what would be the issue of a universe conducted on this plan, should determine, for wise reasons, that it should become actual that just such a world and just such a series of events should really occur. Would this be wrong? Or, would it make any difference, if God’s purpose as to the futurition of such a world, instead of following the foresight of it, should precede it? In either case God would purpose precisely the same world, and the same course of events. Augustinianism supposes that God for his own glory, and therefore for the highest and most beneficent of all ends, did purpose such a world and such a series of events as would have occurred on the Deistical hypothesis, with two important exceptions. First, He interposes to restrain and guide the wickedness of men so as to prevent its producing unmitigated evil, 337and to cause it to minister to the production of good. And secondly, He intervenes by his providence, and by the work of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, to save innumerable souls from the deluge of destruction. The Augustinian system, therefore, is nothing but the assumption that God intended in eternity what He actually does in time. That system, therefore, is in accordance with all the facts of divine providence, and thus is founded on an immovable basis.
Sovereignty of God in the Dispensations of his Providence.
There is, however, another view which must be taken of this subject. Augustinianism is founded on the assumption of the sovereignty of God. It supposes that it belongs to Him, in virtue of his own perfection, in virtue of his relation to the universe as its creator and preserver, and of his relation to the world of sinners as their ruler and judge, to deal with them according to his own good pleasure; that He can rightfully pardon some and condemn others; can rightfully give his saving grace to one and not to another; and, therefore, that it is of Him, and not of man, that one and not another is made a partaker of eternal life. On the other hand, all anti-Augustinian systems assume that God is bound to provide salvation for all; to give sufficient grace to all; and to leave the question of salvation and perdition to be determined by each man for himself. We are not condemned criminals of whom the sovereign may rightfully pardon some and not others; but rational creatures, having all an equal and valid claim on our Maker to receive all that is necessary for our salvation. The question is not which of these theories is the more agreeable, but which is true. And to decide that question one method is to ascertain which accords best with providential facts. Does God in his providential dealings with men act on the principles of sovereignty, distributing his favours according to the good pleasure of his will; or on the principle of impartial justice, dealing with all men alike? This question admits of but one answer. We may make as little as we please of mere external circumstances, and magnify as much as we can the compensations of providence which tend to equalize the condition of men. We may press to the extreme the principle that much shall be required of those who receive much, and less of those who receive less. Notwithstanding these qualifications and limitations, the fact is patent that the greatest inequalities do exist among men; that God deals far more favourably with some than with others; that He distributes his providential blessings, which include not only temporal 338good but also religious advantages and opportunities, as an absolute sovereign according to his own good pleasure, and not as an impartial judge. The time for judgment is not yet.
This sovereignty of God in the dispensation of his providence is evinced in his dealings both with nations and with individuals. It cannot be believed that the lot of the Laplanders is as favourable as that of the inhabitants of the temperate zone; that the Hottentots are in as desirable a position as Europeans; that the people of Tartary are as well off as those of the United States. The inequality is too glaring to be denied; nor can it be doubted that the rule which God adopts in determining the lot of nations is his own good pleasure, and not the relative claims of the people affected by his providence. The same fact is no less obvious as concerns individuals. Some are happy, others are miserable. Some have uninterrupted health; others are the victims of disease and suffering. Some have all their faculties, others are born blind or deaf. Some are rich, others sunk in the misery and degradation of abject poverty. Some are born in the midst of civilized society and in the bosom of virtuous families, others are from the beginning of their being surrounded by vice and wretchedness. These are facts which cannot be denied. Nor can it be denied that the lot of each individual is determined by the sovereign pleasure of God.
The same principle is carried out with regard to the communication of religious knowledge and advantages. God chose the Jews from among all time families of the earth to be the recipients of his oracles and of the divinely instituted ordinances of religion. The rest of the world was left for centuries in utter darkness. We may say that it will be more tolerable in the judgment for the heathen than for the unfaithful Jews; and that God did not leave even the Gentiles without a witness. All this may be admitted, and yet what the Apostle says stands true: The advantages of the Jews were great every way. It would be infatuation and ingratitude for the inhabitants of Christendom not to recognize their position as unspeakably more desirable than that of Pagans. No American Christian can persuade himself that it would have been as well had he been born in Africa; nor can he give any answer to the question, Why was I born here and not there? other than, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.”
It is therefore vain to adopt a theory which does not accord with these facts. It is vain for us to deny that God is a sovereign in the distribution of his favours if in his providence it is undeniable that He acts as a sovereign. Augustinianism accords with these 339facts of providence, and therefore must be true. It only assumes that God acts in the dispensation of his grace precisely as He acts in the distribution of his other favours; and all anti-Augustinian systems which are founded on the principle that this sovereignty of God is inconsistent with his justice and his parental relation to the children of men are in obvious conflict with the facts of his providence.
Argument from the Facts of Scripture.
The third source of proof on this subject is found in the facts of the Bible, or in the truths therein plainly revealed. Augustinianism is the only system consistent with those facts or truths.
1. This appears first from the clear revelation which the Scriptures make of God as infinitely exalted above all his creatures, and as the final end as well as the source of all things. It is because He is infinitely great and good that his glory is the end of all things; and his good pleasure the highest reason for whatever comes to pass. What is man that he should contend with God; or presume that his interests rather than God’s glory should be made the final end? The Scriptures not only assert the absolute sovereignty of God, but they teach that it is founded, first, on his infinite superiority to all creatures; secondly, upon his relation to the world and all it contains, as creator and preserver, and therefore absolute proprietor; and, thirdly, so far as we men are concerned, upon our entire forfeiture of all claim on his mercy by our apostasy. The argument is that Augustinianism is the only system which accords with the character of God and with his relation to his creatures as revealed in the Bible.
2. It is a fact that men are a fallen race; that by their alienation from God they are involved in a state of guilt and pollution, from which they cannot deliver themselves. They have by their guilt forfeited all claim on God’s justice; they might in justice be left to perish; and by their depravity they have rendered themselves unable to turn unto God, or to do anything spiritually good. These are facts already proved. The sense of guilt is universal and indestructible. All sinners know the righteous judgment of God, that they are worthy of death. The inability of sinners is not only clearly and repeatedly asserted in the Scriptures, but is proved by all experience, by the common consciousness of men, and, of course, by the consciousness of every individual man, and especially of every man who has ever been or who is truly convinced of sin. But if men are thus unable to change their own hearts, to prepare 340themselves for that change, or to coöperate in its productions then all those systems which assume the ability of the sinner and rest the distinction between one man and another as to their being saved or lost, upon the use made of that ability, must be false. They are contrary to facts. They are inconsistent with what every man, in the depth of his own heart, knows to be true. The point intended to be illustrated when the Scriptures compare sinners to men dead, and even to dry bones, is their entire helplessness. In this respect they are all alike. Should Christ pass through a graveyard, and bid one here and another there to come forth, the reason why one was restored to life, and another left in his grave could be sought only in his good pleasure. From the nature of the case it could not be found in the dead themselves. Therefore if the Scriptures, observation, and consciousness teach that men are unable to restore themselves to spiritual life, their being quickened must be referred to the good pleasure of God.
From the Work of the Spirit.
3. This is confirmed by another obvious fact or truth of Scripture. The regeneration of the human heart; the conversion of a sinner to God is the work, not of the subject of that change, but of the Spirit of God. This is plain, first, because the Bible always attributes it to the Holy Ghost. We are said to be born, not of the will of man, but of God; to be born of the Spirit; to be the subjects of the renewing of the Holy Ghost; to be quickened, or raised from the dead by the Spirit of the Lord; the dry bones live only when the Spirit blows upon them. Such is the representation which pervades the Scriptures from beginning to end. Secondly, the Church, therefore, in her collective capacity, and every living member of that Church recognizes this truth in their prayers for the renewing power of the Holy Ghost. In the most ancient and universally recognized creeds of the Church the Spirit is designated as τὸ ζωοποιόν, the life-giving; the author of all spiritual life. The sovereignty involved in this regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit is necessarily implied in the nature of the power exerted. It is declared to be the mighty power of God; the exceeding greatness of his power; the power which wrought in Christ when it raised Him from the dead. It is represented as analogous to the power by which the blind were made to see, the deaf to hear, and lepers were cleansed. It is very true the Spirit illuminates, teaches, convinces, persuades, and, in a word, governs the soul according to its nature as a rational creature But all this relates to what is 341done in the case of the children of God after their regeneration. Imparting spiritual life is one thing; sustaining, controlling, and cherishing that life is another. If the Bible teaches that regeneration, or spiritual resurrection, is the work of the almighty power of God, analogous to that which was exercised by Christ when He said, “I will, be thou clean;” then it of necessity follows that regeneration is an act of sovereignty. It depends on God the giver of life and not on those spiritually dead, who are to live, and who are to remain in their sins. The intimate conviction of the people of God in all ages has been and is that regeneration, or the infusion of spiritual life, is an act of God’s power exercised according to his good pleasure, and therefore it is the gift for which the Church specially prays. But this fact involves the truth of Augustinianism, which simply teaches that the reason why one man is regenerated and another not, and consequently one saved and another not, is the good pleasure of God. He has mercy upon whom He will have mercy. It is true that He commands all men to seek his grace, and promises that those who seek shall find. But why does one seek and another not? Why is one impressed with the importance of salvation while others remain indifferent? If it be true that not only regeneration, but all right thoughts and just [u poses come from God, it is of Him, and not of us, that we seek and find his favour.
Election is to Holiness.
4. Another plainly revealed fact is, that we are chosen to holiness; that we are created unto good works; in other words, that all good in us is the fruit, and, therefore, cannot by possibility be the ground of election. In Eph. i. 3-6, the Apostle says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 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: having predestinated us unto 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, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” In this passage the Augustinian doctrine of election is stated as clearly and as comprehensively as it has ever been presented in human language. The Apostle teaches, (1.) That the end or design of the whole scheme of redemption is the praise of the glory of the grace of God, i.e., to exhibit to the admiration of intelligent creatures the glorious attribute of divine 342grace, or the love of an infinitely holy and just God towards guilty and polluted sinners. (2.) To this end, of his mere good pleasure, He predestinated those who were the objects of this love to the high dignity of being the children of God. (3.) That, to prepare them for this exalted state, He chose them, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blame in love. (4.) That in consequence of his choice, or in execution of this purpose, He confers upon them all spiritual blessings, regeneration, faith, repentance, and the indwelling of the Spirit. It is utterly incompatible within this fact that the foresight of faith and repentance should be the ground of election. Men, according to the Apostle, repent and believe, because they are elected; God has chosen them to be holy, and therefore their holiness or their goodness in any form or measure cannot be the reason why He chose them. In like manner the Apostle Peter says, believers are elect “unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. i. 2.) Such is the clear doctrine of the Bible, men are chosen to be holy. The fact that God has predestinated them to salvation is the reason why they are brought to repentance and a holy life. “God,” says Paul to the Thessalonians (2 Thess. ii. 13), “hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through (not on account of) sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” (1 Thess. i. 2-4.) He recognizes their election as the source of their faith and love.
From the Gratuitous Nature of Salvation.
5. Another decisive fact is that salvation is of grace. The two ideas of grace and works; of gift and debt; of undeserved favour and what is merited; of what is to be referred to the good pleasure of the giver, and what to the character or state of the receiver, are antithetical. The one excludes the other. “If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Rom. xi. 6. Nothing concerning the plan of salvation is more plainly revealed, or more strenuously insisted upon than its gratuitousness, from beginning to end. “Ye are saved by grace, is engraved upon almost every page of the Bible, and in the hearts of all believers. (1.) It was a matter of grace that a plan of salvation 343was devised for fallen man and not for fallen angels. (2.) It was a matter of grace that that plan was revealed to some portions A our race and not to others. (3.) The acceptance, or justification of every individual heir of salvation is a matter of grace. (4.) The work of sanctification is a work of grace, i.e., a work carried on by the unmerited, supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. (5.) It is a matter of grace that of those who hear the gospel some accept the offered mercy, while others reject it. All these points are so clearly taught in the Bible that they are practically acknowledged by all Christians. Although denied to satisfy the understanding, they are conceded by the heart, as is evident from the prayers and praises of the Church in all ages and in all its divisions. That the vocation or regeneration of the believer is of grace, i.e., that the fact of his vocation is to be referred to God, and not to anything in himself is specially insisted upon by the Apostle Paul in almost all his epistles. For example, in 1 Cor. i. 17-31. It had been objected to him that he did not preach “with the wisdom of words.” He vindicated himself by showing, first, that the wisdom of men had not availed to secure the saving knowledge of God; and secondly, that when the gospel of salvation was revealed, it was not the wise who accepted it. In proof of this latter point, he appealed to their own experience. He referred to the fact that of their number God had not chosen the wise, the great, or the noble; but the foolish, the weak, and the despised. God had done this. It was He who decided who should be brought to accept the Gospel, and who should be left to themselves. He had a purpose in this, and that purpose was that those who glory should glory in the Lord, i.e., that no man should be able to refer his salvation (the fact that he was saved while another was not saved) to himself. For, adds the Apostle, it is of Him that we are in Christ Jesus. Our union with Christ, the fact that we are believers, is to be referred to Him, and not to ourselves.
The Apostle’s Argument in Romans ix.
This also is the purpose of the Apostle in the whole of the ninth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. He had asserted agreeably to the predictions of time ancient prophets, that the Jews as a nation were to be cast off, and the blessings of the true religion were to be extended to the Gentiles. To establish this point, he first shows that God was not bound by his promise to Abraham to save all the natural descendants of that patriarch. On the contrary, that it was a prerogative which God, as sovereign, claimed and exercised 344to have mercy on whom He would, and to reject whom He would. He chose Isaac and not Ishmael, Jacob and not Esau, and, in that case, to show that the choice was perfectly sovereign, it was announced before the birth of the children, before they had done good or evil. Pharaoh He had hardened. He left him to himself to be a monument of justice. This right, which God both claims and exercises, to choose whom He will to be the recipients of his mercy, involves, the Apostle teaches us, no injustice. It is a right of sovereignty which belongs to God as Creator and as moral Governor. No one had a right to complain if, for the manifestation of his mercy, he saved some of the guilty family of men; and to show his justice, allowed others to bear the just recompense of their sins. On these principles God, as Paul tells us, dealt with the Jews. The nation as a nation was cast off, but a remnant was saved. And this remnant was an “election of grace,” i.e., men chosen gratuitously. Paul himself was an illustration of this election, and a proof of its entirely gratuitous nature. He was a persecutor and a blasphemer, and while in the very exercise of his malignant opposition, was suddenly and miraculously converted. Here, if in no other case, the election was of grace. There was nothing in Paul to distinguish him favourably from other unbelieving Pharisees. It could not be the foresight of his faith and repentance which was the ground of his election, because he was brought to faith and repentance by the sovereign and irresistible intervention of God. What, however, was true of Paul is true of every other believer. Every man who is brought to Christ is so brought that it is revealed to his own consciousness, and openly confessed by the mouth, that his conversion is of God and not of himself; that he is a monument of the election of grace; that he, at least, was not chosen because of his deserts.
Argument from Experience.
The whole history of the Church, and the daily observation of Christians, prove the sovereignty of God in the dispensation of saving blessings, for which Augustinians contend. It is true, indeed, first, that God is a covenant keeping God, and that his promise is to his people and to their seed after them to the third and fourth generations. It is, therefore, true that his grace is dispensed, although not exclusively, yet conspicuously, in the line of their descendants. Secondly, it is also true that God has promised his blessing to attend faithful instruction. He commands parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of 345the Lord; and promises that if thus trained in the way in which they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it. But it is not true that regeneration is the product of culture. Men cannot be educated into Christians, as they may be trained in knowledge or morals. Conversion is not the result of the development of a germ of spiritual life communicated in baptism or derived by descent from pious parents. Everything is in the hands of God. As Christ when on earth healed one and another by a word, so now by his Spirit, He quickens whom He will. This fact is proved by all history. Some periods of the Church have been remarkable for these displays of his powers, while others have passed with only here and there a manifestation of his saving grace. In the Apostolic age thousands were converted; many were daily added to the Church of such as were to be saved. Then in the Augustinian age there was a wide diffusion of the saving influences of the Spirit. Still more conspicuously was this the case at the Reformation. After a long decline in Great Britain came the wonderful revival of true religion under Wesley and Whitefield. Contemporaneously the great awakening occurred throughout this country. And thus from time to time, and in all parts of the Church, we see these evidences of the special and sovereign interventions of God. The sovereignty of these dispensations is just as manifest as that displayed in the seven years of plenty and the seven years of dearth in the time of Moses. Every pastor, almost every parent, can bear witness to the same truth. They pray and labour long apparently without success; and then, often when they look not for it, comes the outpouring of the Spirit. Changes are effected in the state and character of men, which no man can produce in another; and which no man can effect in himself; changes which must be referred to the immediate agency of the Spirit of God. These are facts. They cannot be reasonably denied. They cannot be explained away. They demonstrate that God acts as a sovereign in the distribution of his grace. With this fact no other scheme than the Augustinian can be reconciled. If salvation is of grace, as the Scriptures so clearly teach, then it is not of works whether actual or foreseen.
Express Declarations of Scripture.
6. The Scriptures clearly assert that God has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and compassion on him on whom He will have compassion. They teach negatively, that election to salvation is not of works; that it does not depend on the character or efforts of its objects; and affirmatively, that it does depend on 346God. It is referred to his good pleasure. It is declared to be of Him; to be of grace. Passages in which these negative and affirmative statements are made, have already been quoted. In Rom. ix. it is said that election is “not of works, but of Him that calleth.” “So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” As in the time of Elias and the general apostasy, God said, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed the knee unto Baal. (1 Kings, xix. 18.) “So then,” says the Apostle, “there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” (Rom. xi. 5, 6.) So in Rom. viii. 30, it is said, “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called,” i.e., He regenerated and sanctified. Regeneration follows predestination to life, and is the gift of God. Paul said of himself, “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.” (Gal. i. 15, 16.) To the Ephesians he says that those obtain the inheritance, who were “predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Eph. i. 12.) In 2 Tim. i. 9, he says, we are saved “according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” The Apostle James, i. 18, says, “Of his own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” The Apostle Peter speaks of those who “stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (1 Pet. ii. 8.) And Jude speaks of certain men who had “crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation.” (Jude 4.) This foreordination to condemnation is indeed a judicial act, as is taught in Rom. ix. 22. God condemns no man, and foreordains no man to condemnation, except on account of his sin. But the preterition of such men, leaving them, rather than others equally guilty, to suffer the penalty of their sins, is distinctly declared to be a sovereign act.
The Words of Jesus.
Of all the teachers sent by God to reveal his will, no one more frequently asserts the divine sovereignty than our blessed Lord himself. He speaks of those whom the Father had “given Him.” (John xvii. 2.) To these He gives eternal life. (John xvii. 2, 24.) For these He prays; for them He sanctified Himself (John xvii. 19.) Of them He says, it is the Father’s will that He should lose none, but raise them up at the last day. (John vi. 39.) 347They are, therefore, perfectly safe. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (John x. 27-29.) As the sheep of Christ are chosen out of the world, and given to Him, God is the chooser. They do not choose Him, but He chooses them. No one can be added to their number, and that number shall certainly be completed. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John vi. 37.) “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John vi. 44.) “Every man therefore that hath heard, and learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” (Verse 45.) “No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” (Verse 65.) With God it rests who shall be brought to the saving knowledge of the truth. “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (Matt. xiii. 11.) “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.” (Matt. xi. 25.) In Acts xiii. 48, it is said, “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” The Scriptures, therefore, say that repentance, faith, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost are gifts of God. Christ was exalted at the right hand of God to give repentance and remission of sins. But if faith and repentance are the gifts of God they must be the fruits of election They cannot possibly be its ground.
If the office of the theologian, as is so generally admitted, be to take the facts of Scripture as the man of science does those of nature, and found upon them his doctrines, instead of deducing his doctrines from the principles or primary truths of his philosophy, it seems impossible to resist the conclusion that the doctrine of Augustine is the doctrine of the Bible. According to that doctrine God is an absolute sovereign. He does what seems good in his sight. He sends the truth to one nation and not to another. He gives that truth saving power in one mind and not in another. It is of him, and not of us, that any man is in Christ Jesus, and is an heir of eternal life.
This, as has been shown, is asserted in express terms, with great frequency and clearness in the Scriptures. It is sustained by all the facts of providence and of revelation. It attributes to God 348nothing but what is proved, by his actual government of the world, to be his rightful prerogative. It only teaches that God purposes what, with our own eyes, we see He actually does, and ever has done, in the dispensations of his providence. The consistent opponent of this doctrine must, therefore, reject the truths even of natural religion. As Augustinianism agrees with the facts of providence it of course agrees with the facts of Scripture. The Bible declares that the salvation of sinful men is a matter of grace; and that the great design of the whole scheme of redemption is to display the glory of that divine attribute, — to exhibit to the admiration, and for the edification of the intelligent universe, God’s unmerited love and boundless beneficence to guilty and polluted creatures. Accordingly, men are represented as being sunk into a state of sin and misery; from this state they cannot deliver themselves; for their redemption God sent his own eternal Son to assume their nature, obey, and suffer in their place; and his Holy Spirit to apply the redemption purchased by the Son. To introduce the element of merit into any part of this scheme vitiates its nature and frustrates its design. Unless our salvation from beginning to end be of grace it is not an exhibition of grace. The Bible, however, teaches that it was a matter of grace that salvation was provided; that it was revealed to one nation and not to another; and that it was applied to one person and not to another. It teaches that all goodness in man is due to the influence of the Holy Spirit, and that all spiritual blessings are the fruits of election; that we are chosen to holiness, and created unto good works, because predestinated to be the children of God. With these facts of Scripture the experience of Christians agrees. It is the intimate conviction of every believer, founded upon the testimony of his own consciousness, as well as upon the Scriptures, that his salvation is of God; that it is of Him, and not of himself, that he has been brought to the exercise of faith and repentance. So long as he looks within the believer is satisfied of the truth of these doctrines. It is only when he looks outward, and attempts to reconcile these truths with the dictates of his own understanding that he becomes confused and sceptical. But as our faith is not founded on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God, as the foolishness of God is wiser than men, the part of wisdom, as well as the path of duty and safety, is to receive as true what God has revealed, whether we can comprehend his ways unto perfection or not.349
|« Prev||8. The Augustinian Scheme.||Next »|