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THIS THEORY OF ELECTION INVOLVES THE DENIAL OF THE NECESSITY OF THE INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN ORDER TO CONVERSION—QUOTATIONS FROM MR. HENTON AND DR. WARDLAW.
JOHN vi. 44.—”No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.”
JOHN ix. 41.—”If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”
JOHN iii. 18.—”le that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.”
THE verse which has first been read informs us that, without the Holy Spirit, no man can believe; the verse next quoted informs us, that if men could not believe, they would have no sin when they do not exercise faith in Jesus; and the last passage announces the sinfulness of not believing, and ascribes the condemnation of all those who remain condemned to the fact, that they have not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
Now what is the plain and obvious inference from these indisputable facts? If men cannot believe without the Spirit; and if they would not sin against 183 God by not believing, if they really could not believe, shall we conclude, that all those from whom the Spirit is withheld are without sin when they do not believe? Such a conclusion as this would evidently be mistaken, because our Saviour plainly tells us, that so flagrant is the sin of unbelief, that it is announced as if it alone constituted the sole and the exclusive ground of condemnation. What, then, are we to make of these plain statements? Are we to attempt to explain them away altogether, or are we to arrive at the conclusion, that the Bible contradicts itself? Nay, verily. Let us rather admit, that no man is commanded to believe without the Spirit, and the entire mystery is solved. No man is required to believe without the Spirit, therefore no man is commanded to do what the Bible expressly declares no, man can do. If men could not believe, there would be no sin in their unbelief; but now we say they can believe, therefore their sin remaineth when they do not believe, and for their unbelief they are justly condemned.
III. THE THIRD OBJECTION WHICH WE STATE AGAINST THIS DOCTRINE OF ELECTION IS, THAT IT DOES AWAY WITH THE NECESSITY OF THE INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TO ENABLE MEN TO BELIEVE.
The grave and heavy charge which I now adduce against this theory of election, I do not mean to substantiate by mere circumstantial evidence or inferential proof. Not that there would exist the slightest difficulty in doing this, so as to make out an unanswerable 184 argument against it, but because, in the first instance at least, it is better at once to remove every shade of doubt or suspicion from your minds, as to the result of the important argument, which, under this head of discourse, we mean to pursue. We shall read to you the published declarations of our brethren themselves. We therefore solicit your attention to the following extracts.
The first is from the second edition of a very able treatise, entitled, “The Work of the Holy Spirit in Conversion, by John Howard Hinton of London.” In the ninth page of the advertisement prefixed to that very talented work, the author most candidly and honourably apprises his readers of the great point which he means to establish.
“I have argued [says Mr. Hinton] that our being able to do anything is the same as our having sufficient means of doing it; that we have sufficient means of doing our whole duty without the Holy Spirit; and that, therefore, we are able to do our whole duty without him.” P. 9.
Such is this author’s own statement of the main doctrine which his work was written and published to support. I shall append to this quotation a ingle specimen of the argument embodied in the book. The author is trying to prove his position from the Bible, and here is one of his proofs.
“5. In this place, also, we may introduce the passage in which the apostle asserts the intrinsic and independent sufficiency of the divine word: ‘From a child 185 thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ 2 Tim. iii. 15. We scarcely need stay to prove tthit the apostle here assigns to the Scriptures a sufficiency to make men wise unto salvation, apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit. No reference to the Spirit is contained in the passage or its connexion, nor is there any ground for introducing it. We observe more particularly, that the sufficiency of the Scriptures to impart saving wisdom is not to be viewed in the abstract, but in connexion with the persons to whom they are given: they are able to make US wise unto salvation. Now this, it is manifest, implies something respecting our condition as well as the excellency of the Scripture itself. It is not able to make an idiot or an infant or a dead man wise unto salvation—it can have this effect upon none but such as are capable of understanding, appreciating, and obeying it—whence it evidently follows that we, whom it is able to make wise unto salvation, are able to understand it, to appreciate and to obey.” P. 134.
These are the words of the writer who is looked up to by many as one champion of modern orthodoxy. The brethren whose sentiments are thus expressed and thus defended, are surely themselves denying the necessity of the Spirit’s work in order to make men wise unto salvation. We are plainly and expressly informed, that any man, if he be not an idiot or an infant or a dead man, is perfectly able to become wise unto salvation, apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit. And 186 yet these are the theologians who take the lead in charging upon us the denial of the work of the Spirit! We are informed, in the extract which we have just quoted to you, that the apostle says nothing at all about the Holy Spirit in the passage of Scripture on which the doctrine is founded; but we press the simple question, “Does the apostle say in that passage what our brethren say, when they tell us that the Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation apart from the influence of the Spirit of God”? We confidently submit, that the apostle propounds no such doctrine. He does not make mention of the Spirit—that is quite true. But if the apostle does not mention the Holy Spirit, he does not mean thereby to deny and to dishonour him by affirming, or even implying, that men may do very well without him in the matter of their salvation.
Let this erroneous principle of interpretation be carried out, and the very reverse of the assertion may be easily proved. Our brethren say, that men may be saved without the Holy Spirit. Upon their principle of interpretation it would be easy to prove that men may be saved without the Word. Our Saviour said, for example, when he spoke to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Now if any man has a right to take up the statement of Paul, wherein he asserts, that “the Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation,” and to argue therefrom that there is no need of the Spirit in order to enable men to be saved, may not another man take up the words of 187 our Lord to Nicodemus, and argue therefrom, that there is no need of the Scriptures in order to lead men to salvation? There is no mention made of the Holy Spirit by Paul. That is true enough. But it is equally true that there is no mention made of the Scriptures by our Lord. And if it may be argued in the one case, that because the Scriptures only are expressly mentioned—therefore men may be saved without the Spirit—may it not be argued in the other case, that there is no need for the Bible at all, for men may be converted by water an[ the Spirit, which alone are expressly mentioned by our Lord?
The next quotation which I make is from the work of Dr. Wardlaw, from which, in former Lectures, I have freely quoted. The book from which I have already quoted, was written avowedly on the work of the Spirit; the book from which I am now to quote, was written avowedly for the purpose of proving the universal extent of the work of the Son; but in some parts of this book Dr. Wardlaw states his sentiments, and those of others who have adopted his theory of election, and these are precisely the sentiments of the author from whom I have last quoted.
There exists in men universally [says Dr. W.] a ground of responsibility—all that is requisite, as before explained, to render them justly accountable. The accountableness for the treatment they give to the offers of the gospel arises from the nature of those offers themselves, as well as of human capabilities, irrespectively of all secret purposes in the mind of God, 188 and of all communications of grace to the mind of man. All to whom the gospel message comes, and who have ‘ears to hear,’ have the means of salvation in their power; and it depends on their own will whether salvation is, or is not to be theirs.”—Discourses, p. 180.
The last sentence of this quotation announces a most delightful truth. One would imagine, at first sight, that there is implied in it, in the first place, the admission that there is no secret purpose unconditionally decreeing any man to inevitable destruction; and, in the second place, that the gracious influence of the Spirit, without which no man can come to Jesus, and whereby the Father draws us, is not withheld from any. But to our unspeakable astdnishment, we are here arrested by the information that such is by no means true. We refer you to the context, where we are reminded of the secret purpose and the special influence! We are told that the reason why it depends upon the will of men whether or not salvation may be theirs, arises from man’s perfect capability to believe, in direct opposition to God’s eternal purpose and the Holy Spirit’s indispensable grace! To this doctrine we cannot subscribe. For what is this but to set up man’s power—to exhibit what is styled man’s “capabilities”—as something stronger than the decree of God! What is this but to assert that man wants only the will to prove himself more than a match for the overthrow of the counsels and decrees of the Almighty! What is this but to inform us that the 189 sinner has no need whatever of any influence of the Spirit, but is perfectly competent to save himself even to the overthrow of the throne of the eternal God!
I have now done what, in this discourse, I purposed to do. I have laid before you the proof, that I prefer no false or groundless charge against brethren, when I discard their theory of election, because it leads to a denial of the necessity of the Spirit’s influence in order to enable sinners to believe.
And now, my fellow-sinners, permit me again, in parting from you, to remind you, affectionately and solemnly, of the oath of your God. “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: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will ye die?” In parting from you again, I point you to that oath, and I ask you, Is God sincere and honest even when he swears? I point you to more than to his oath—behold the sacrifice of his Son I Sinner, behold the Lamb of God bearing away the sins of the world! Sinner, thy sins were all laid upon that innocent and spotless sacrifice! They are all away—away from between thee and thy God—away from between thee and the blessed influence of the Spirit, who, even now, is wooing every prodigal here back again to God! “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Thus the Holy Spirit strives! But he will not strive for ever. Death, judgment, eternity—these are at the door, and if the Spirit part from you at death, he parts with you for ever.190
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