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§ 1. Scriptural Usage of the Word.
The Scriptures clearly teach that the several persons of the adorable Trinity sustain an economical relation to the work of man’s redemption. To the Father is referred the plan itself, the selection of its objects, and the mission of the Son to carry the gracious purpose into effect. To the Son, the accomplishment of all that is requisite to render the salvation of sinful men consistent with the perfections and law of God, and to secure the final redemption of those given to Him by the Father. The special work of the Spirit is the application of the redemption purchased by Christ. Such is the condition of men since the fall, that if left to themselves they would continue in their rebellion and refuse the offers of reconciliation with God. Christ then had died in vain. To secure the accomplishment of the promise that He should “see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied,” the Holy Spirit so operates on the chosen people of God, that they are brought to repentance and faith, and thus made heirs of eternal life, through Jesus Christ their Lord.
This work of the Spirit is in the Scriptures called Vocation. It is one of the many excellences of the Reformed Theology that it retains, as far as possible, Scriptural terms for Scriptural doctrines. It is proper that this should be done. Words and thoughts are so intimately related that to change the former, is to modify, more or less seriously, the latter. And as the words of Scripture are the words of the Spirit, it is becoming and important that they should be retained.
The act of the Spirit by which men are brought into saving union with Christ, is expressed by the word κλῆσις, vocation. As in Hebrews iii. 1, “Partakers of the heavenly calling.” Ephesians i. 18, “Hope of his calling.” Ephesians iv. 1, “Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” Ephesians iv. 4, “In one hope of your calling.” 2 Timothy i. 9, “Hath . . . . called us with an holy calling.” 2 Peter i. 10, “Make your calling and election 640sure,” etc., etc. The verb used to express this act of the Spirit is καλεῖν, to call. Romans viii. 30, “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and, whom he called, them he also justified.” Also Romans ix. 11 and 24. 1 Corinthians i. 9: “By whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son.” Verse 26: “Ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” Galatians i. 6: “Him that called you.” Verse 15, “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace.” 1 Thessalonians ii. 12, “Who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians v. 24, “Faithful is he that calleth you.” 2 Thessalonians ii. 14, “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter ii. 9, “Who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1 Peter v. 10, “Who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” 2 Peter i. 3, “Through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”
Those who are the subjects of this saving influence of the Spirit, are designated “the called.” Romans i. 6, “The called of Jesus Christ.” Romans viii. 28, “To them who are the called according to his purpose.” To one class of the hearers of the gospel, the Apostle says (1 Cor. i. 24), Christ is a stumbling-block, and to another foolishness, “but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Jude addresses his epistle to the “preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” “The called,” and “the elect,” οἱ κλητοί and οἱ ἐκλεκτοί, are convertible terms. Revelation xvii. 14, “The Lamb . . . . is the Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen (κλητοί, καὶ ἐκλεκτοὶ), and faithful.” So in 1 Corinthians i. 26, 27, Paul says, “Not many wise . . . . are called: but God hath chosen the foolish . . . . to confound the wise.” In Hebrews ix. 15, it is said that Christ “is the mediator of the New Testament, that . . . . they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”
Such then is the established usage of Scripture. It is by a divine call, that sinners are made partakers of the benefits of redemption. And the influence of the Spirit by which they are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, is a vocation, or effectual calling. The ground of this usage is to be found in the Scriptural idea of God and of his relation to the world. He speaks and it is done. He said, Let there be light, and light was. He calls the things that are not, and they 641are. All effects of his power are produced by a word. As in the external world He created all things by the word of his power; so all effects in the moral or spiritual world are accomplished by a volition or a command. To call, therefore, in Scriptural language, is to effect, to cause to be, or to occur. There are two things involved in this form of expression. The one is, that God is the author or cause of the effect, which occurs in consequence of his call or command. The other is, that the efficiency to which the effect is due is not in second causes. God in such cases may work with means or without them, but in either event it is not through them. In creation and miracles, for example, there is neither intervention nor concomitancy of causes. God spoke (or willed). and the universe was. Our Lord said, Lazarus come forth, and Lazarus lived. He said to the leper, I will, be thou clean. When He put clay on the eyes of the blind man and bade him wash in the pool of Siloam, the restoration of sight was in no degree due to the properties of the clay or of the water. It was as truly the effect of the immediate divine efficiency, as raising the dead by a word. When, therefore, the Scriptures ascribe that subjective change in the sinner by which he becomes a new creature, to the call of God, it teaches that the effect is due not to natural or moral causes, or to the man’s own agency, but simply to the power of God. Hence, as just said, to call is frequently in the Bible, to effect, to cause to be. A people or an individual becomes by the call of God that which the people or person is called to be. When God called the Hebrews to be his people, they became his people. When a man was called to be a prophet, he became a prophet. When Paul was called to be an apostle, he became an apostle. And those called to be saints become saints.
§ 2. The External Call.
The Scriptures, however, distinguish between this effectual call and the external call addressed in the Word of God to all to whom that word is made known. In this sense “many are called but few are chosen.” God said by his prophet (Isa. lxv. 12), “When I called, ye did not answer.” And our Lord said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matt. ix. 13.)
This external call includes, (1.) A declaration of the plan of salvation. (2.) The promise of God to save all who accede to the terms of that plan. (3.) Command, exhortation, and invitation to all to accept of the offered mercy. (4.) An exhibition of the reasons which should constrain men to repent and believe, and thus 642escape from the wrath to come. All this is included in the gospel. For the gospel is a revelation of God’s plan of saving sinners. It contains the promise, Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out. In the gospel God commands all men everywhere to repent and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. In the gospel men are not only commanded but exhorted to return unto God in the way of his appointment. Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die, is the language which it addresses to all to whom its message comes. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. Look unto me all ye ends of the earth and be ye saved. The gospel moreover addresses the reason, the conscience, the feelings, the hopes and the fears of men; and presents every consideration which should determine rational and immortal beings to comply with its gracious invitations.
This call is universal in the sense that it is addressed to all men indiscriminately to whom the gospel is sent. It is confined to no age, nation, or class of men. It is made to the Jew and Gentile, to Barbarians and Scythians, bond and free; to the learned and to the ignorant; to the righteous and to the wicked; to the elect and to the non-elect. This follows from its nature. Being a proclamation of the terms on which God is willing to save sinners, and an exhibition of the duty of fallen men in relation to that plan, it of necessity binds all those who are in the condition which the plan contemplates. It is in this respect analogous to the moral aw. That law is a revelation of the duties binding all men in virtue of their relation to God as their Creator and moral Governor. It promises the divine favour to the obedient, and threatens wrath to the disobedient. It therefore of necessity applies to all who sustain the relation of rational and moral creatures to God. So also the gospel being a revelation of the relation of fallen men to God as reconciling the world unto Himself, comes to all belonging to the class of fallen men.
The Scriptures, therefore, in the most explicit terms teach that the external call of the gospel is addressed to all men. The command of Christ to his Church was to preach the gospel to every creature. Not to irrational creatures, and not to fallen angels these two classes are excluded by the nature and design of the gospel. Further than this there is no limitation, so far as the present state of existence is concerned. We are commanded to make the 643offer of salvation through Jesus to every human being on the face of the earth. We have no right to exclude any man; and no man has any right to exclude himself. God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Hun might not perish but have everlasting life. The prediction and promise in Joel ii. 32, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered,” is repeatedly renewed in the New Testament, as in Acts ii. 21; Romans x. 13. David says (Psalm lxxxvi. 5), “Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” The prophet Isaiah lv. 1, gives the same general invitation: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.” Our Lord’s call is equally unrestricted, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. xi. 28.) And the sacred canon closes with the same gracious words, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst, come: and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. xxii. 17.) The Apostles, therefore, when they went forth in the execution of the commission which they had received, preached the gospel to every class of men, and assured every man whom they addressed, that if he would repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ he should be saved. If, therefore, any one holds any view of the decrees of God, or of the satisfaction of Christ, or of any other Scriptural doctrine, which hampers him in making this general offer of the gospel, he may be sure that his views or his logical processes are wrong. The Apostles were not thus hampered, and we act under the commission given to them.
It is not Inconsistent with the Doctrine of Predestination.
This general call of the gospel is not inconsistent with the doctrine of predestination. For predestination concerns only the purpose of God to render effectual in particular cases, a call addressed to all. A general amnesty on certain conditions may be offered by a sovereign to rebellious subjects, although he knows that through pride or malice many will refuse to accept it; and even although, for wise reasons, he should determine not to constrain their assent, supposing that such influence over their minds were within his power. It is evident from the nature of the call that it has nothing to do with the secret purpose of God to grant 644his effectual grace to some and not to others. All the call contains is true. The plan of salvation is designed for men. It is adapted to the condition of all. It makes abundant provision for the salvation of all. The promise of acceptance on the condition of faith is made to all. And the motives and reasons which should constrain obedience are brought to bear on every mind to which the call is sent. According to the Augustinian scheme, the non-elect have all the advantages and opportunities of securing their salvation, that, according to any other scheme, are granted to mankind indiscriminately. Augustinianism teaches that a plan of salvation adapted to all men and adequate for the salvation of all, is freely offered to the acceptance of all, although in the secret purpose of God, he intended that it should have precisely the effect which in experience it is found to have. He designed in its adoption to save his own people, but consistently offers its benefits to all who are willing to receive them. More than this no anti-Augustinian can demand.
It is Consistent with the Sincerity of God.
It is further said to be inconsistent with the sincerity of God, to offer salvation to those whom He has predetermined to leave to the just recompense of their sins. It is enough to say in answer to this objection, so strenuously urged by Lutherans and Arminians, that it bears with equal force against the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge, which they admit to be an essential attribute of his nature. How can He offer salvation to those whom He foreknows will despise and reject it; and when He also knows that their guilt and condemnation will thereby be greatly aggravated. There is no real difficulty in either case except what is purely subjective. It is in us, in our limited and partial apprehensions; and in our inability to comprehend the ways of God, which are past finding out. We cannot understand how God governs the world and accomplishes his infinitely wise designs. We must be satisfied with facts. Whatever actually is, it must be right for God to permit to be. And it is no less evident that whatever He permits to be, it must be right for Him to intend to permit. And this is all that the Augustinian scheme, in obedience to the Word of God, is constrained to assert. It is enough that the offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, is to be made to every creature; that whosoever accepts that offer shall be saved; and that for the salvation of all, abundant provision has been made. What God’s purposes may be in instituting and promulgating this scheme of mercy, has nothing to do with our duty as ministers in making the proclamation, 645or with our obligation and privilege as sinners in accepting his proffered grace. If it is not inconsistent with the sincerity of God to command all men to love Him, it is not inconsistent with his sincerity to command them to repent and believe the gospel.
The Lutheran Doctrine.
The Lutherans from their anxiety to get rid of the sovereignty of God in the dispensation of his grace, are led to hold that the gospel offer is universal, not only in the sense above stated, in that the command is given to the Church, to make it known to all men, but that it has in some way been actually communicated to all. They admit the difficulty of reconciling this assumption with the present state of the world. They attempt to meet this difficulty by saying, that at three different epochs the knowledge of the plan of salvation was actually known to all men. First, when the promise of redemption through the seed of the woman, was made to our first parents. Secondly, in the days of Noah; and thirdly, during the age of the Apostles, by whom, it is assumed, the gospel was carried to the ends of the world, even to the inhabitants of this western continent. That this knowledge has since been lost, is to be referred not to the purpose of God, but to the wilful ingratitude and wickedness of the ancestors of the present inhabitants of the heathen world. They refer also to the fact that the Church is as a city set upon a hill; that it does more or less attract the attention of the whole earth. All men have heard of Christians and of Christianity; and it is their own fault if they do not seek further knowledge on the subject. It is very plain, however, that these considerations do not touch the difficulty. The heathen are without Christ and without God in the world. This is Paul’s account of their condition. It is in vain, therefore, for us to attempt to show that they have the knowledge which the Apostle asserts they do not possess, and which, as all history shows, does not exist among them. The Lutheran divines feel the unsatisfactory nature of their own solution of this great problem. Gerhard, after referring to all possible sources of divine knowledge accessible to the heathen, says,487487Loci Theologici, loc. VIII.; vii. 136, vol. iv. p. 191. “Sed demus, in his et similibus exemplis specialibus non posse nos exacte causas divinorum consiliorum exquirere vel proponere; non tamen ad absolutum aliquod reprobationis decretum erit confugiendum sed adhæreamus firmiter pronunciatis istis universalibus. 1 Tim. ii. 4; Ezek. xxxiii. 11.” “The Symbolical Books,” says Schmid,488488Dogmatik, 3rd edit. Frankfort on the Maine and Erlangen, 1853, p. 350. “adhere to the simple proposition 646‘quod non tantum prædicatio pœnitentiæ, verum etiam promissio evangelii sit universalis, hoc est ad omnes homines pertineat,’”489489Formula Concordiæ, XI. 28; Hase, Libri Symbolici, p. 804. and that this vocatio is per verbum; without attempting to reconcile these statements with the facts of experience.
The Call to Salvation is only through the Gospel.
The call in question is made only through the Word of God, as heard or read. That is, the revelation of the plan of salvation is not made by the works or by the providence of God; nor by the moral constitution of our nature, nor by the intuitions or deductions of reason; nor by direct revelation to all men everywhere and at all times; but only in the written Word of God. It is not denied that God may, and in past ages certainly did, convey this saving knowledge by direct revelation without the intervention of any external means of instruction. Such was the fact in the case of the Apostle Paul. And such cases, for all we know, may even now occur. But these are miracles. This is not the ordinary method. For such supernatural revelations of truth after its being made known in the Scriptures and committed to the Church with the command to teach all nations, we have no promise in the Scriptures and no evidence from experience.
It has ever been, and still is, the doctrine of the Church universal in almost all its parts, that it is only in and through the Scriptures that the knowledge necessary to salvation is revealed to men. The Rationalists, as did the Pelagians, hold that what they call “the light of nature,” reveals enough of divine truth to secure the return of the soul to God, if it be properly improved. And many Arminians, as well as Mystics, hold that the supernatural teaching of the Spirit is granted in sufficient measure to every man to secure his salvation, if he yields himself up to its guidance. It would be very agreeable to our natural feelings to believe this, as it would be to believe that all men will be saved. But such is not the doctrine of the Bible; and it requires but little humility to believe that God is better as well as wiser than man; that his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts; and that whatever He ordains is best.
That the Scriptures do teach that saving knowledge is contained only in the Bible, and consequently that those ignorant of its contents, are ignorant of the way of salvation, is plain, —
1. Because the Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testament, constantly represent the heathen as in a state of fatal ignorance. 647They are declared by the ancient prophets to be afar off from God; to be the worshippers of idols, to be sunk in sin. The people of Israel were separated from other nations for the express purpose of preserving the knowledge of the true religion. To them were committed the oracles of God. In the New Testament the same representation is given of their condition. It is said, They know not God. The Apostle proves at length in the first chapter ef his Epistle to the Romans, that they are universally and justly in a state of condemnation. He exhorts the Ephesians to call to mind their condition before they received the gospel. They were “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God, in the world.” (Eph. ii. 12.) Such is the uniform teaching of the Word of God. It is utterly inconsistent with these representations, to assume that the heathen had such knowledge of God either by tradition, or by inward revelation, as was sufficient to lead them to holiness and God.
2. This doctrine follows also from the nature of the gospel. It claims to be the only method of salvation. It takes for granted that men are in a state of sin and condemnation, from which they are unable to deliver themselves. It teaches that for the salvation of men the Eternal Son of God assumed our nature, obeyed and suffered in our stead, and having died for our sins, rose again for our justification; that, so far as adults are concerned, the intelligent and voluntary acceptance of Christ as our God and Saviour is the one indispensable condition of salvation; that there is no other name under heaven whereby men can be saved. It provides, therefore, for a Church and a Ministry whose great duty it is to make known to men this great salvation. All this takes for granted that without this knowledge, men must perish in their sins.
3. This is further evident from the nature of the message which the ministers of the gospel are commissioned to deliver. They are commanded to go into all the world, and say to every creature, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt he saved.” “He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Where is the propriety of such a message if men can be saved without the knowledge of Christ, and consequently without faith in Him.
4. This necessity of a knowledge of the gospel is expressly asserted in the Scriptures. Our Lord not only declares that no man can come unto the Father, but by Him; that no man knoweth 648the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall revel Him; but He says expressly, “He that believeth not, shall be damned.” (Mark xvi. 16; John iii. 18.) But faith without knowledge is impossible. The Apostle John says, “He that hath the Son, hath life; he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” (1 John v. 12.) The knowledge of Christ is not only the condition of life, but it is life; and without that knowledge, the life in question cannot exist. Him to know is life eternal. Paul, therefore, said, “I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil. iii. 8.) Christ is not only the giver, but the object of life. Those exercises which are the manifestations of spiritual life terminate on Him; without the knowledge of Him, therefore, there can be no such exercises; as without the knowledge of God there can be no religion. It is consequently, as the Apostle teaches, through the knowledge of Christ, that God “hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2 Peter i. 3.) To be without Christ is to be without hope, and without God. (Eph. ii. 12.) The Apostle Paul, while asserting the general vocation of men, saying, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved;” immediately adds, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. x. 14.) Invocation implies faith; faith implies knowledge; knowledge implies objective teaching. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Verse 17.) There is no faith, therefore, where the gospel is not heard; and where there is no faith, there is no salvation.
This is indeed an awful doctrine. But are not the words of our Lord also awful, “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”? (Matt. vii. 13, 14.) Is not the fact awful which stares every man in the face, that the great majority even of those who hear the gospel reject its offers of mercy? Facts are as mysterious as doctrines. If we must submit to the one, we may as well submit to the other. Our Lord has taught us, in view of facts or doctrines which try our faith, to remember the infinite wisdom and rectitude of God, and say, “Even so Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The proper effect of the doctrine that the knowledge of the gospel is essential to the salvation of adults, instead of exciting opposition to God’s word or 649providence, is to prompt us to greatly increased exertion to send the gospel to those who are perishing for lack of knowledge.
Why is the Gospel addressed to all Men?
As all men are not saved, the question arises, Why should the call he addressed to all? or, What is the design of God in making the call of the gospel universal and indiscriminate? The answer to this question will be determined by the views taken of other related points of Christian doctrine. If we adopt the Pelagian hypothesis that God limits Himself by the creation of free agents. that such agents must from their nature be exempt from absolute control; then the relation to God in this matter is analogous to that of one finite spirit to another. He can instruct, argue, and endeavour to persuade. More than this free agency does not admit. Men as rational, voluntary beings, must be left to determine for themselves, whether they will return to God in the way of his appointment, or continue in their rebellion. The call of the gospel to them is intended to bring them to repentance. This is an end which God sincerely desires to accomplish, and which He does all He can to effect. He cannot do more than the preaching of the gospel accomplishes, without doing violence to the freedom of voluntary agents.
The Lutherans admit total depravity, and the entire inability of men since the fall to do anything spiritually good; but they hold that the Word of God has an inherent, supernatural, and divine power, which would infallibly secure the spiritual resurrection of the spiritually dead, were it not wilfully neglected, or wickedly resisted. The call of the gospel is, therefore, addressed to all men with the same intention on the part of God. He not only desires, as an event in itself well pleasing in his sight, that all may repent and believe, but that is the end which He purposes to accomplish. Its accomplishment is hindered, in all cases of failure, by the voluntary resistance of men. While, therefore, they attribute the conversion of men to the efficacious grace of God, and not to the coöperation or will of the subjects of that grace, they deny that grace is “irresistible.” The fact that one man is converted under the call of the gospel and not another, that one accepts and another rejects the offered mercy, is not to be referred to anything in the purpose of God, or to the nature of the influence of which the hearers of the gospel are the subjects, but solely to the fact that one does, and the other does not resist that influence. The Lutheran doctrine is thus clearly stated by Quenstedt: “Vocatio 650est actus gratiæ applicatricis Spiritus Sancti, quo is benignissimam Dei erga universum genus humanum lapsum voluntatem per externam Verbi prædicationem, in se semper sufficientem ac efficacem, manifestat, et bona per Redemtoris meritum parta, omnibus in universum hominibus offert, ea seria intentione, ut omnes per Christum salvi fiant et æterna vita donentur.” And again: “Forma vocationis consistit in seria atque ex Dei intentione semper sufficiente, semperque efficaci voluntatis divinæ manifestatione ac beneficiorum per Christum acquisitorum oblatione. . . . . Nulla enim vocatio Dei sive ex se et intrinseca sua qualitate, sive ex Dei intentione est inefficax, ut nec possit nec debeat effectum salutarem producere, sed omnis efficax est licet, quo minus effectum suum consequatur, ab hominibus obicem ponentibus, impediatur, atque ita inefficax fit vitio malæ obstinatæque hominum voluntatis.”490490Systema Theologicum, III. v. 1. 15 and 10, edit. Leipzig, 1715, p. 669; pp. 666, 667.
The objections to this view are obvious.
1. It proceeds on the assumption that events in time do not correspond to the purpose of God. This is not only inconsistent with the divine perfection, but contrary to the express declarations of Scripture, which teaches that God works all things according to the counsel of his own will. He foreordains whatever comes to pass.
2. It supposes either that God has no purpose as to the futurition of events, or that his “serious intentions” may fill of being accomplished. This is obviously incompatible with the nature of an infinite Being.
3. It not only assumes that the purpose of God may fail, but also that it may be effectually resisted; that events may occur which it is his purpose or intention should not occur. How then can it be said that God governs the world; or, that He does his pleasure in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth?
4. It assumes without proof, and contrary to Scripture and experience, that the Word of God as read or spoken by men, has an inherent, supernatural, life-giving power, adequate to raise the spiritually dead. Whereas the Scriptures constantly teach that the efficacy of the truth is due to the attending influence of the Holy Spirit, ab extra incidens; that the Word is effectual only when attended by this demonstration of the Spirit, and that without it, it is foolishness to the Greek and an offence to the Jew; that Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but that God only can give the increase.651
5. It assumes that the only power which God exercises in the conversion of sinners is that inherent in the Word, whereas the Scriptures abound with prayers for the gift of the Spirit to attend the Word and render it effectual; and such prayers are constantly offered, and ever have been offered, by the people of God. They would, however, be not only unnecessary but improper, if God had revealed his purpose not to grant any such influence, but to leave men to the unattended power of the Word itself. Any doctrine contrary to what the Bible prescribes as a duty, and what all Christians do by the instinct of their renewed nature, must be false.
6. This doctrine, moreover, takes for granted that the ultimate reason why some hearers of the gospel believe and others do not, is to be found in themselves; that the one class is better, more impressible, or less obstinate than the other. The Scriptures, however, refer this fact to the sovereignty of God. Our Lord says, “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.) The Apostle says, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” “I will have mercy,” saith God, “on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Rom. ix. 15, 16.) “Of him [God] are ye in Christ Jesus, not of yourselves, lest any should boast.” (1 Cor. i. 30.)
7. The doctrine in question has no support from Scripture. The passages constantly referred to in its favour are, 1 Timothy ii. 3, 4. “God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth;” and Ezekiel xxxiii. 11, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” God forbid that any man should teach anything inconsistent with these precious declarations of the Word of God. They clearly teach that God is a benevolent Being; that He delights not in the sufferings of his creatures; that in all cases of suffering there is an imperative reason for its infliction, consistent with the highest wisdom and benevolence. God pities even the wicked whom He condemns, as a father pities the disobedient child whom he chastises. And as the father can truthfully and with a full heart say that he delights not in the sufferings of his child, so our Father in heaven can say, that He delights not in the death of the wicked. The difficulty as to the passage in 1 Timothy ii. 4, arises simply from the ambiguity of the word θέλειν there used. Commonly the word means to will, in 652the sense of to intend, to purpose. Such cannot be its meaning here, because it cannot be said that God intends or purposes that all men should be saved; or, that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. This is inconsistent with Scripture and experience. The word, however, often means to delight in, and even to love. In the Septuagint it is used as the equivalent of הָפֵץ, as in Psalms xxii. 9, cxii. 1, cxlvii. 10. In Matthew, xxvii. 43, εἰ θέλει αὐτὸν, is correctly rendered in our version, “If he will have him.” (Heb. x. 5, 8; Luke xx. 46; Mark xii. 38; Col. ii. 18.) The Apostle. therefore, says only what the prophet had said. God delights in the happiness of his creatures. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But this is perfectly consistent with his purpose not to “spare the guilty.”
8. Finally, the Lutheran doctrine relieves no difficulty. The Reformed doctrine assumes that some men perish for their sins; and that those who are thus left to perish are passed by not because they are worse than others, but in the sovereignty of God. The Lutheran doctrine concedes both those facts. Some men do perish; and they perish, at least in the case of the heathen, without having the means of salvation offered to them. There is the same exercise of sovereignty in the one case as in the other. The Lutheran must stand with his hand upon his mouth, side by side with the Reformed, and join him in saying, “Even so Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”
The simple representation of Scripture on this subject, confirmed by the facts of consciousness and experience is, that all men are sinners; they are all guilty before God; they have all forfeited every claim upon his justice. His relation to them is that of a father to his disobedient children; or, of a sovereign to wickedly rebellious subjects. It is not necessary that all should receive the punishment which they have justly incurred. In the sight of an infinitely good and merciful God, it is necessary that some of the rebellious race of man should suffer the penalty of the law which all have broken. It is God’s prerogative to determine who shall be vessels of mercy, and who shall be left to the just recompense of their sins. Such are the declarations of Scripture; and such are the facts of the case. We can alter neither. Our blessedness is to trust in the Lord, and to rejoice that the destiny of his creatures is not in their own hands, nor in the hands either of fate or of chance; but in those of Him who is infinite in wisdom, love and power.
But if the Lutheran doctrine that the call of the gospel is universal, 653or indiscriminate, because it is the intention of God that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, is contrary to Scripture, the question remains, Why are those called whom it is not the intention of God to save? Why are all called, if God has a fixed purpose of rendering that call effectual to some and not to others?
1. The most obvious answer to that question is found in the nature of the call itself. The call of the gospel is simply the command of God to men to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, with the promise that those who believe shall be saved. It is the revelation of a duty binding upon all men. There is as much reason that men should be commanded to believe in Christ, as that they should be commanded to love God. The one duty is as universally obligatory as the other. The command to believe no more implies the intention on the part of God to give faith, than the command to love implies the intention to give love. And as the latter command does not assume that men have of themselves power to love God perfectly, so neither does the command to believe assume the power of exercising saving faith, which the Scriptures declare to be the gift of God.
2. The general call of the gospel is the means ordained by God to gather in his chosen people. They are mingled with other men, unknown except by God. The duty obligatory on all is made known to all; a privilege suited to all is offered indiscriminately. That some only are made willing to perform the duty, or to accept the privilege, in no way conflicts with the propriety of the universal proclamation.
3. This general call of the gospel with the promise that whoever believes shall be saved, serves to show the unreasonable wickedness and perverseness of those who deliberately reject it. The justice of their condemnation is thus rendered the more obvious to themselves and to all other rational creatures. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John iii. 19, 18.) The most unreasonable sin which men commit is refusing to accept of the Son of God as their Saviour. This refusal is as deliberate, and as voluntary, according to the Reformed doctrine, as it is according to the Lutheran or even the Pelagian theory.654
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