|Topic: Theology||Type: Article||Author: A. Allison Lewis|
NOTE: Scripture, even within quotes, are King James Version with modifications, such as: Arabic numerals, current punctuation, "hath" = "has," etc. and occasionally to agree more exactly with the Greek. Bible passages and book titles are in italics.
"There is a great deal of vagueness concerning a definition of Hypercalvinism. Spurgeon claimed that Hypercalvinism is not an extension of Calvinism but another entity altogether" [William Moorehead. Personal letter, May 19, 1989].
The request contained in the letter quoted from above is the immediate occasion for this paper on Calvinism. Hyper means above or something in addition to. Hypercalvinism should then refer to something in addition to or more than the essentials of the doctrine known as Calvinism. Any survey of the use of the terms Hypercalvinism AND Calvinism will quickly show that each one uses them in relation to what he himself perceives to be Calvinism. This leaves us in the sorry state where every man is a law unto himself. There is no excuse for this misuse of terms. Calvinism is not something so new that it is still in its formative and therefore ill defined stage. In fact Calvinism is but a refinement and popularization of doctrines well defined and taught over a millennium before the time of John Calvin. Augustine set forth the teachings very distinctly in his controversy with the heretic Pelagius.
Who has the right to define Calvinism? Shall we leave it to the New School Presbyterians who no longer believed what they promised to preach and defend? Shall we leave it to those who attack and redefine the doctrine as though The Westminster Confession of Faith was nonexistent; or that theologians such as the Hodges, Warfield, Shedd and Machen never wrote a line in explanation and defense of the doctrine under discussion or that the preaching of preachers such as Bunyan, Spurgeon and J. C. Ryle were unknown? That would be like leaving the statement of what Christianity is in the hands of the antichristian Modernists such as Fosdick and Matthews, or the Neo-orthodox (new Modernism) of Bultmann and Barth!
The Bible is the Word of God--Maker of the Heavens and the Earth and all they contain. The Bible is: "The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, mans salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men" [Philip Schaff. The Creeds of Christendom. Vol 3, The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I, Section VI, p. 603]. The unity of the Bible is under attack both openly, deceptively and sometimes ignorantly. When we read a book, ANY BOOK, we do so with the assumption that the author is self-consistent in his entire book and we read all that he writes with this in mind. We therefore understand the obscure parts considering the obviously plain parts. Likewise, when we read the Bible--those of us who believe that God IS the author, [2TI 3:16, 17; 2PE 1:21]--we ought to read it with the unity and self-consistency of the Bible in mind. The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it correctly and plainly when it says: "The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly" [Schaff. op. cit. Section IX, p. 605]. The unity of the Bible is very plain to those who are in any real sense sympathetic to it. It is also just as obvious that there is progress in His revelation as given in the Bible. The fullness of revelation found in Pauls epistles is far from the seed of teaching in Genesis 3:15, for example. The progress we note in Gods revelation in the Bible may be illustrated in the progress we see in nature. The great oak tree, for instance, begins as a simple little seed and gradually grows through many stages, none of which are defective--a perfect little seed, seedling, etc.--yet some of these show little resemblance to the majestic, mature oak tree. Likewise, the progress in revelation in the Bible is not defective or contradictory. The ungodly may and do at every opportunity attempt to show the Bible to be defective and contradictory. It is amazing how many preachers who claim to believe the Bible try to set the New Testament off against the Old Testament as though they were oblivious of the explicit claims of the New Testament itself that it is nothing but the fulfillment of the Old [LUK 16:31; JOH 5:39, 45-47; ACT 2:16, 25-32; 3:18, 22-24; 4:24-28; 6 and 7 (Stephen and his sermon which culminated in his own death because his audience was doing the same as their fathers--they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One); HEB 1:1, 2; and 1PE 1:9-12]. Likewise, men, even good men, when they cannot understand everything in the Bible will say that the teaching is paradoxicala "polite" way of saying that the Bible contradicts itself. What they ought to do is admit their ignorance and wait for further light. What fools we be when we cannot admit that there are some things hard to be understood [2PE 3:16].
CALVINISMa definition and explanation
The essential parts of this system are the well-known five points of Calvinism, namely, total depravity in distinction from partial; unconditional election in distinction from conditional; irresistible regenerating grace in distinction from resistible; limited redemption (not atonement) in distinction from universal; the certain perseverance of the regenerate in distinction from their possible apostasy. No one of these points can be rejected without impairing the integrity of Calvinism . . . [William G. T. Shedd. Calvinism: Pure and Mixed. p. 147].
Total depravity is summed up in the Scripture in the simple words of the apostle Paul, And you who were DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS [EPH 2:1]. DEAD, without life, having not the Spirit [JUD 19]--what an awesome statement. Something of the consequence of being DEAD is explained in verse 3 which says, and were by nature THE CHILDREN OF WRATH, even as the rest (wV kai oi loipoi) [EPH 2:3]. Total depravity does not mean that all men, or any man is as wicked as he might be. What it does mean is that ALL, as a result of Adams sin, [ROM 5:12] are by their very nature DEAD and as a result under the just condemnation and wrath of God. God could have sent Adam and EVERY LAST ONE of his descendants to Hell and in doing so He would be perfectly just, holy and perfect in every aspect of His being. This is exactly what happened to the angels which fell. They were not provided with a means of redemption. Man left to himself is utterly hopeless--DEAD. Death is separation. In the death of a loved one we see the SEPARATION of the spirit, soul or life from the body. In the death under discussion it is the SEPARATION of man from fellowship with God. James used this obvious truth to illustrate another truth when he wrote: For as the body WITHOUT the spirit is dead [JAM 2:26]. Once this doctrine of TOTAL DEPRAVITY is accepted the other four points, as taught by the Calvinist, will not be found difficult.
Even though the Arminians and Semi-Pelagians speak of "total depravity" they in effect cripple the doctrine with their qualifications. The followers of Arminius stated in The Five Arminian Articles. AD 1610, "That man inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers " [Schaff. op. cit. pp. 546, 547]. Richard Watson says, " the true Arminian, as fully as the Calvinist, admits the doctrine of the total depravity of human nature in consequence of the fall of our first parents" [Richard Watson. Theological Institutes. p. 48]. The New Hampshire Confession of Faith (Baptist) article III about "The Fall of Man" says, "We believe that man was created in holiness, under the law of his Maker; but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice; BEING BY NATURE UTTERLY VOID OF THAT HOLINESS REQUIRED BY THE LAW [emphasis added - aal] of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse" [Schaff. op. cit. p. 743 (see also Article VI in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, Articles of Faith)]. Those who add that man HAS POWER to return to God really overturn the idea of TOTAL DEPRAVITY. Watson for instance states: "the declaration of mans total corruption, WITH THE PRESUMPTION OF HIS POWER to return to God, to repent, to break off his sins, which all the commands and invitations to him from the Gospel IMPLY" [emphasis added - aal] [Watson. op. cit. p.86]. We have no right based on Scripture to presume or imply any such thing--the Scripture does not contradict itself. Watson in another place teaches that, "if the fault of mens destruction lies in themselves--as we have proved--then the number of the elect is capable of increase and diminution" [Ibid. p. lxi]. This last statement defeats not only the doctrine of election BUT ALSO that of foreknowledge as well. To say as does Curtis Hutson that total depravity "simply means that there is nothing good in man to earn or deserve salvation" [Curtis Hutson. Sword of the Lord; "Why I Disagree With All 5 Points of Calvinism," July 21, 1989; p. 1] falls far short of Bible teaching.
At this point I ask for the readers patience. When we finish all five points you should be able to see what the Bible teaches and realize that it is not contradictory. God is sovereign, yes, He is God.
Thanks be to God, Paul in Ephesians 2 did not stop with verse 3 with all men in their hopeless predicament. We read, BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were DEAD in sins, has MADE US ALIVE [KJV--quickened] together in Christ, (by grace you are saved) [EPH 2:4, 5]. This is the outworking of Gods election or choice. It is UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION just as plainly as when we read: According as He has CHOSEN us in Him before the foundation of the world [Ibid. 1:4] or being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who works ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL [Ibid. 1:11]. No amount of mental toil by men can change the meaning of what God said to Moses, and Paul quotes: For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God Who shows mercy [ROM 9:15, 16]. Luke wrote: as many as were ordained to eternal life believed [ACT 13:48. For the predestination of unbelievers see: ROM 9:18-23; 1PE 2:8; JOH 3:16-21].
The preceding statements of the Scripture ought to be plain enough yet few believe what the above verses state in such obvious terms. As pointed out above, the followers of Arminius teach that ultimately every man has the ability to determine his own salvation.
According to John Calvin:
The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny; but it is greatly caviled at, especially by those who make prescience its cause [John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. p. 491].
Let every reader bear in mind that the elect can only be known by their faith and life [1JO 2:3-6; 5:2, 3]. Ryle correctly warns:
For ever let us hold fast this principle in considering the subject before us. To talk of any one being Elect when he is living in sin, is nothing better than blasphemous folly. The Bible knows of no Election except through sanctification,--no eternal choosing except that we should be holy,--no predestination except to be conformed to the image of Gods Son. When these things are lacking, it is mere waste of time to talk of Election [1PE 1:2; EPH 1:4; ROM 8:29; J. C. Ryle. Old Paths. p. 470].
Calvinism does not deny that man has free-will. What it does teach along with mans free-will is that man is by nature totally depraved. As a result of this depravity he naturally wills to do evil continually--And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the Earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually [GEN 6:5]. Note the phrase following the flood also: for the imagination of mans heart is evil from his youth [Ibid. 8:21]. The Hebrew word for youth is not talking about a teenager. The word run is used of young men, youth, childhood, infancy and even of the unborn child [Judges 13:8]. The thought is the same as that found in Psalm 51:5--a sinner even at the time of conception. First, there is not even one who by nature is righteous--As it is written, There is NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE [ROM 3:10]. Second, there is not even one who by nature seeks righteousness--There is none who understands, there is NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD [Ibid. 3:11]. Peter uses an old proverb to illustrate that mans will is determined by his nature--But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire [2PE 2:22].
Spurgeon wrote in the following paragraph about the will:
The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. For instance, I read in one Book of the Bible, The Spirit and the bride say, Come . And let him who hears say, Come. And let him who is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely [REV 22:17]. Yet I am taught, in another part of the same inspired Word, that it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God Who shows mercy [ROM 9:16]. I see, in one place, God in providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions, in a great measure, to his own free-will. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act that there was no control of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to atheism; and if, on the other hand, I should declare that God so over-rules all things that man is not free enough to be responsible, I should be driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory, but they are not. The fault is in our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other [Charles H. Spurgeon. Autobiography Vol. 1: The Early Years. pp. 173, 174].
About the ability or free-will of man A. A. Hodge wrote:
13. What is the distinction between liberty and ability?
Liberty consists in the power of the agent to will as he pleases, in the fact that the volition is determined only by the character of the agent willing. Ability consists in the power of the agent to change his own subjective state, to make himself prefer what he does not prefer, and to act in a given case in opposition to the coexistent desires and preferences of the agents own heart.
Thus man is as truly free since the fall as before it, because he wills as his evil heart pleases. But he has lost all ability to obey the law of God, because his evil heart is not subject to that law, neither can he change it.
14. But may not an unregenerate man truly desire to obey the law of God; and, if so, why does not that desire control his will?
An unregenerate man often does heartily desire to avoid the penalty of Gods law, and consequently, through fear of the consequences of his sin, may be said to desire to eradicate the prevalent principle of sin from his heart. He may even, as a matter of taste and judgment, desire to obey the law of God in certain particulars wherein that law does not directly oppose his dominant dispositions. But no unregenerate man can love holiness for its own sake, and earnestly desire to fulfill the whole law of God in the spirit as well as the letter; for if he did so, the law in his case would be fulfilled [A. A. Hodge. Outlines. pp. 265, 266].
Foreknowledge is determined by Gods decrees. You cannot have foreknowledge if actions are truly absolutely dependent on the chance decision of an undetermined will. Berkhof has a good paragraph on this subject when he states:
The decree is no more inconsistent with free agency than foreknowledge is, and yet the objectors, who are generally of the Semi-Pelagian or Arminian type, profess to believe in divine foreknowledge. By His foreknowledge God knows from all eternity the certain accomplishment of all events. It is based on His foreordination, by which He determined their future certainty. The Arminian will of course, say that he does not believe in a foreknowledge based on a decree which renders things certain, but in a foreknowledge of facts and events which are contingent on the free will of man, and therefore indeterminate. Now such a foreknowledge of free actions of man may be possible, if man even in his freedom acts in harmony with divinely established laws, which again bring in the element of certainty; but it would seem to be impossible to foreknow events which are entirely dependent on the chance decision of an unprincipled will, which can at any time, irrespective of the state of the soul, of existing conditions, and of the motives that present themselves to the mind, turn in different directions. Such events can only be foreknown as bare possibilities [Louis Berkhof. Systematic Theology. p. 107. See also J. Gresham Machen. The Christian View of Man. pp. 61, 62].
We do not know who the elect are. We are to preach the gospel and plead for sinners to come to Christ, praying that the Holy Spirit will take the Word, apply it to the hearts of the dead and so work in them that they will believe and be saved. Only those who the Holy Spirit makes alive will believe. It is true that whoever will may come. However, the lost sinner does not will to come to God--he loves his sin. Only when the lost sinner is made alive, regenerated, given a new nature will he have the ability to will to come to God. The preaching that brings life to some brings death to others [1PE 2:6-8].
By this Calvinists mean that only the elect receive the benefit of the redemption purchased by the substitutionary, sacrificial death of Christ. They DO NOT mean that there is any insufficiency in the work of Christ for the WHOLE WORLD. Calvinists believe just as sincerely as any Arminian that He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world [1JO 2:2]. Jesus is God. He is eternal and immutable. His propitiation (sacrifice) is infinite. If His blood is sufficient to wash away the sins of one poor sinner it is sufficient to wash away the sins of every sinner. Shedd wrote:
The following declaration is found in Confession XV. I, Larger Catechism, 159. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached in season and out of season by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ. This certainly teaches that faith and repentance are the duty of all men, not of some only. No one contends that the Confession teaches that God has given a limited command to repent. God commands all men everywhere to repent. But how could He give such a universal command to all sinners if He is not willing to pardon all sinners? if His benevolent love is confined to some sinners in particular? How could our Lord command His ministers to preach the doctrine of faith and repentance to every creature, if He does not desire that every one of them would believe and repent? And how can He desire this if He does not feel infinite love for the souls of all? When the Confession teaches the duty of universal faith and repentance, it teaches by necessary inference the doctrine of Gods universal compassion and readiness to forgive. And it also teaches in the same inferential way, that the sacrifice of Christ for sin is ample for the forgiveness of every man [emphasis addedaal; Shedd. op. cit. p. 24].
Spurgeon wrote about this question:
I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological system needed such a limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy. In Christs finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore. There must be sufficient efficacy in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, to have saved not only all in this world, but all in ten thousand worlds, had they transgressed their Makers law. Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question. Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent to conceive of limited value; bound and measure are terms inapplicable to the Divine sacrifice. The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work [Spurgeon. op. cit. p. 171].
Again he says:
Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, "It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself," they say, "to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty." I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then countless there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christs intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burns with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption [emphasis added--aal]. To think that my Savior died for men who were or are in Hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice. That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the Just and Wise and Good! [Ibid. p. 524].
Calvin wrote: "For the present let it suffice to observe, that though the word of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith is rare" [Calvin. op. cit. p.501]. Again he says about the "indiscriminate" offer of salvation to all:
. . . for however universal the promises of salvation may be, there is no discrepancy between them and the predestination of the reprobate, provided we attend to their effect. We know that the promises are effectual only when we receive them in faith, but, on the contrary, when faith is made void, the promise is of no effect. If this is the nature of the promises, let us now see whether there be any inconsistency between the two things--viz. that God, by an eternal decree, fixed the number of those whom He is pleased to embrace in love, and on whom He is pleased to display His wrath, and that He offers salvation indiscriminately to all. I hold that they are perfectly consistent, for all that is meant by the promise is, just that His mercy is offered to all who desire and implore it, and this none do, save those whom He has enlightened. Moreover, He enlightens those whom He has predestinated to salvation. Thus the truth of the promises remains firm and unshaken, so that it cannot be said there is any disagreement between the eternal election of God and the testimony of His grace which He offers to believers [Ibid. p. 524].
John Bunyan may be wordy but he sure can make things clear. On the general offer of the Gospel and its reception only by the elect he says:
Is it possible that this tender, thus offered to the reprobate, should by him be thus received and embraced, and he live thereby?
To which I answer in the negative. Nor yet for the elect themselves, I mean as considered dead in trespasses and sin, which is the state of all men, elect as well as reprobate. So, then, though there be a sufficiency of life and righteousness laid up in Christ for all men, and this tendered by the gospel to them without exception, yet sin coming in between the soul and the tender of this grace, it has in truth disabled all men, and so, notwithstanding this tender, they continue to be dead. For the gospel, I say, coming in word only, saves no man, because of mans impediment; wherefore those who indeed are saved by this gospel, the Word comes not to those in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit is mixed with faith, even with the faith of the operation of God, by Whose exceeding great and mighty power they are raised from this death of sin, and enabled to embrace the gospel. Doubtless, all men being dead in trespasses and sins, and so captivated under the power of the Devil, the curse of the law, and shut up in unbelief, it must be the power of God, yes, the exceeding greatness of that power, that raises the soul from this condition, to receive the holy gospel [John Bunyan. The Complete Works of John Bunyan. p. 282].
He writes in another place:
That God is willing to save even those who perish for ever, is apparent, both from the consideration of the goodness of His nature, [PSA 145:9], of mans being His creature, and indeed in a miserable state [JOB 14:15; 3:16]. But I say, as I have also said already, there is a great difference between His being willing to save them, thorough their complying with these His reasonable terms, and His being resolved to save them, whether they, as men, will close therewith, or no; so only He saves the elect themselves, even according to the riches of His grace [EPH 1:7; Ibid. p.286].
The atonement is sufficient for every sinner but it is made effective only to the elect.
IRRESISTIBLE REGENERATING GRACE
The New Hampshire Baptist Confession, 1833 in Article VI Of Grace in Regeneration says:
We believe that, in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel; and that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, and faith, and newness of life [Schaff. op. cit. p. 744].
The General Association of Regular Baptist Churches Article X states that:
We believe that in order to be saved, sinners must be born again; that the new birth is a new creation in Christ Jesus; that it is instantaneous and not a process; that in the new birth the one dead in trespasses and sins is made a partaker of the divine nature and receives eternal life, the free gift of God; that the new creation is brought about by our sovereign God in a manner above our comprehension, solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel; that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, faith and newness of life [General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. Literature Item 1. p. 6].
The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647, Chapter VIII and Section VIII says:
To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey [emphasis addedaal]; and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation [Schaff. op. cit. p. 622].
The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England in Article XVII states:
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) He has constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He has chosen in Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor [emphasis added aal]. Wherefore, those who are endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to Gods purpose by His Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they are justified freely: they are made sons of God by adoption: they are made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by Gods mercy, they attain to everlasting happiness [Ibid. p. 497].
In an appendix to The Thirty-nine Articles number 9 reads:
No man can come unto Christ unless it shall be given unto him, and unless the Father shall draw him; and all men are not drawn by the Father, that they may come to the Son [Ibid. p. 524].
Gods offer of eternal life is resistible. Even the gift of eternal life is resistible though not finally. The gift of eternal life or the new birth is finally irresistible. Jesus said: No man can come to Me, except the Father Who has sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. And again, All whom the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and he who comes to Me I will in no wise cast out [JOH 6:44,37].
The following is Spurgeons account of how God works:
I have thought, if God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His grace, what a great sinner I should have been! I should have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil, nor should I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me. I feel that I should have been a very king of sinners, if God had let me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share His glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty grace has saved me from going down into the pit. Looking back on my past life, I can see that the dawning of it all was of God; of God effectively. I took no torch with which to light the sun, but the sun enlightened me. I did not commence my spiritual life--no, I rather kicked, and struggled against the things of the Spirit: when He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him: there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good. Wooings were lost upon me--warnings were cast to the wind--thunders were despised; and as for the whispers of His love, they were rejected as being less than nothing and vanity. But, sure I am, I can say now, speaking on behalf of myself, "He only is my salvation." It was He who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him. I can in very deed, say with Doddridge and Toplady--
Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes oerflow;
and coming to this moment, I can add --
Tis grace has kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.
Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the doctrines of grace in a single instant. Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this [Spurgeon. op. cit. pp.163, 164].
We should note here also the example of the Apostle Paul, resist he certainly did but as everyone is fully aware God by His Spirit and sovereign grace finally overpowered his stubborn will and saved him. Salvation is by Gods grace alone. Why did God elect or choose certain ones out of the whole mass of sinners? It is a mystery known only to God. Saints read the precious verses talking about the elect or chosen ones and what He has done for them and rejoice in His undeserved mercy. Why did He choose Israel? God answers, because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their seed after them and again, Behold, the Heaven and the Heaven of Heavens is the Lords your God, the Earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in your fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people. To impress upon them that it was only of His own mercy He bluntly tells them, Understand therefore, that the Lord your God gives you not this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiff-necked people [DEU 4:37; 10:14, 15; 9:6].
About Gods grace in election and His justice A. A. Hodge says:
Gratuitous election as the ultimate ground of salvation is not only clearly consistent with justice, but it is the only conceivable principle which is so. Justice necessarily holds all sinners alike as destitute of all claims upon Gods favor, and will admit of salvation being offered at all only on the ground of sovereign favor. The essence of salvation by the gospel is that it is of grace, not of debt [LAM 3:22; ROM 4:4, 5; 11:6; EPH 1:6, 7; 2:8-10--emphasis addedaal]. If this be so it is evident that while no one can be saved upon any other ground than that of a gratuitous election, it rests only with God Himself to save all, many, few, or none. Justice cannot demand that because some are saved all must be. Those not elected are simply left to be dealt with according to justice for their own sins [emphasis addedaal]. There is a lurking feeling among many that somehow God owes to all men at least a full opportunity of being saved through Christ. If so there was no grace in Christs dying. "I reject," says Wesley [Methodist Doctrinal Tracts, pp. 25, 26], "the assertion that God might justly have passed by me and all men, as a bold, precarious assertion, utterly unsupported by holy Scripture." Then, we say, of course the gospel was of debt, not of grace [emphasis added--aal; Hodge. op. cit. pp. 181, 182].
Hodge continues answering objections in the following paragraphs:
18. How does this doctrine consist with the general benevolence of God?
The only difficulty at this point is to reconcile the general benevolence of God with the fact that He, being infinitely wise and powerful, should have admitted a system involving the sin, final impenitence, and consequent damnation of any. But this difficulty presses equally upon both systems.
The facts prove that Gods general benevolence is not inconsistent with His allowing some to be damned for their sins. This is all that reprobation means. Gratuitous election, or the positive choice of some does not rest upon Gods general benevolence, but upon His special love to His own [JOH 17:6, 23; ROM 9:11-13; 1TH 5:9].
19. How does this doctrine consist with the general gospel offer?
In the general offers of the gospel God exhibits a salvation sufficient for and exactly adapted to all, and sincerely offered to everyone without exception, and He unfolds all the motives of duty, hope, fear, etc., which ought to induce every one to accept it, solemnly promising that whoever comes in no wise shall be cast out. Nothing but a sinful unwillingness can prevent any one who hears the gospel from receiving and enjoying it.
The gospel is for all, election is a special grace in addition to that offer. The non-elect may come if they will. The elect will come.
There is just as great an apparent difficulty in reconciling Gods certain foreknowledge of the final impenitence of the great majority of those to whom He offers and upon whom He presses, by every argument, His love with the fact of that offer; especially when we reflect that He foresees that His offers will certainly increase their guilt and misery [Ibid].
PERSEVERANCE OF THE REGENERATE
Many who reject or cripple every other point in the Calvinistic system still teach "eternal security." The Arminians began with a doubt and turned it into a positive teaching that a once regenerate or born again man can by his own neglect and will become finally lost. A. A. Hodge quotes the historian Mosheim about the disciples of Arminius thus:
5th. That they who are united to Christ by faith are thereby furnished with abundant strength and succor sufficient to enable them to triumph over the seductions of Satan, and the allurements of sin; nevertheless they may, by the neglect of these succors, fall from grace, and, dying in such a state, may finally perish. This point was stated at first doubtfully, but afterwards positively as a settled doctrine [Ibid. p. 522].
Calvinism teaches that those who have been truly regenerated or born again by the grace of God have eternal life and will be eternally saved. The regenerated soul does not keep himself. The saints are in the words of the Scripture kept by the power of God [1PE 1:5]. The Apostle John wrote: We know that whoever is born of God does not practice sin; but He Who is begotten of God keeps him, and that wicked one does not touch him [1JO 5:18 -- see Greek].
The Westminster Confession states the case thus:
I. They whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
II. This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own free-will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
III. Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and for a time continue therein: whereby they incur Gods displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit; come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves [Schaff. op. cit. pp. 636, 637].
THE PROBLEM OF SIN
Sin is a fact that only a few philosophers and the worst of evolutionary thinkers even dream of denying. How can sin be accounted for? Dualism cannot be the answer for it leaves us without God--the supreme being: eternal, holy all powerful, all knowing and unchangeable. Why or how could a holy God permit evil? Man must admit that he has no answer. In discussing the subject Machen writes:
Yes, surely the wicked actions of men have a place in Gods eternal purpose. The Bible makes that abundantly clear. Wicked men may not think they are serving Gods purposes: but they are serving His purposes all the same, even by the most wicked of their acts.
At that point, however, serious questions might seem to arise. If wicked actions of wicked men have a place in Gods plan, if they are foreordained of God, then is man responsible for them, and is not God the author of sin?
To each of these questions the Bible returns a very unequivocal answer. Yes, man is responsible for his wicked actions; and No, God is not the author of sin.
That man is responsible for his wicked actions is made so plain from the beginning of the Bible to the end that it is quite useless to cite individual proof texts. But it is equally clear in the Bible that God is not the author of sin. That is clear from the very nature of sin, as rebellion against Gods holy law. It is also expressly taught. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, says the Epistle of James: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed [Machen. op. cit. p. 43 (JAM 1:13, 14)].
In another place he continues:
Shall He not be able even to use the evil actions of men for His own holy purposes? The Bible tells us plainly that He does so use those evil actions. Even they do not lie beyond His governance as the great First Cause. Yet the Bible tells us with equal plainness that He is not the author of sin but that sin is ever hateful in His eyes. Why He allowed sin to enter is the mystery of mysteries, but that He did so we are plainly told, and that He did so for some high and holy end [Ibid. p. 101].
SPURGEON AND CALVINISM
Spurgeon was ignorantly charged with holding the doctrines "of the Hyper-Calvinist school" [Spurgeon. op. cit. p. 347]. He speaks himself of "the dear Hyper-Calvinist friends"--those Calvinists who opposed preaching the gospel to everyone [Ibid. p. 360]. He says in other places:
I recollect great complaint being made against my sermon on the words, Compel them to come in [LUK 14:23], in which I was enabled to speak with much tenderness and compassion for souls. The violent, rigid school of Hyper-Calvinists said that the discourse was Arminian and unsound, but it was a small matter to me to be condemned by the judgment of men, for my Master set His seal very clearly upon that message. I think I never preached another sermon by which so many souls were won to God, as our church-meetings long continued to testify; and all over the world, wherever the printed discourse has been scattered, sinners have been saved through its instrumentality; and, therefore, if it be vile to exhort sinners to come to Christ, I purpose to be viler still. I am as firm a believer in the doctrines of grace as any man living, and a true Calvinist after the order of John Calvin himself; and probably I have read more of his works than anyone of my accusers ever did; but if it be thought an evil thing to bid sinners lay hold on eternal life [1TI 6:12], I will be yet more evil in this respect, and herein imitate not only Calvin, but also my Lord and His apostles, who, though they taught that salvation is of grace, and grace alone, feared not to speak to men as rational beings and responsible agents, and to bid them strive to enter in at the strait gate [LUK 13:24], and labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures unto everlasting life [JOH 6:27; Ibid. pp. 530, 531].
Calvinism, then, is the spiritual meat which enables a man to labor on in the ways of Christian service; and, though ridiculed as a hump by those who are only lookers-on, those who traverse the weary paths of a wilderness experience know too well its value to be willing to part with it [Spurgeon. Lectures to My Students: Third Series. p. 5].
I suppose you are all aware that among the old systems of astronomy was one which placed the Earth in the center, and made the Sun, and the Moon, and the stars revolve around it. Its three fundamental principles were the immobility of the Earth, its central position, and the daily revolution of all the heavenly bodies around it in circular orbits.
Now, in a similar fashion, there is a way of making a system of theology of which man is the center, by which it is implied that Christ and His atoning sacrifice are only made for mans sake, and that the Holy Spirit is merely a great Worker on mans behalf, and that even the great and glorious Father is to be viewed simply as existing for the sake of making man happy. Well, that may be the system of theology adopted by some; but, brethren, we must not fall into that error, for, just as the earth is not the center of the universe, so man is not the grandest of all beings. God has been pleased highly to exalt man; but we must remember how the psalmist speaks of him: When I consider Your Heavens, the work of Your fingers, the Moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man, that You are mindful of him; and the son of man, that You visit him? [PSA 8:3, 4]. In another place, David says, Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him! Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passes away [PSA 144:3]. Man cannot be the center of the theological universe, he is altogether too insignificant a being to occupy such a position, and the scheme of redemption must exist for some other end than that of merely making man happy, or even of making him holy. The Salvation of man must surely be first of all for the glory of God; and you have discovered the right form of Christian doctrine when you have found the system that has God in the center, ruling and controlling according to the good pleasure of His will. Do not dwarf man so as to make it appear that God has no care for him; for if you do that, you slander God. Give to man the position that God has assigned to him; by doing so, you will have a system of theology in which all the truths of revelation and experience will move in glorious order and harmony around the great central orb, the Divine Sovereign Ruler of the universe, God over all, blessed for ever [Ibid. p. 149].
Jesus loved His people before the foundation of the world--even from eternity! and when He called me by His grace, He said to me, I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn you [JER 31:3].
. . . .
I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that in my flesh there dwells no good thing. If God enters into covenant with unfallen man, man is so insignificant a creature that it must be an act of gracious condescension on the Lords part; but if God enters into covenant with sinful man, he is then so offensive a creature that it must be, on Gods part, an act of pure, free, rich, sovereign grace. When the Lord entered into covenant with me, I am sure that it was all of grace, nothing else but grace. When I remember what a den of unclean beasts and birds my heart was, and how strong was my unrenewed will, how obstinate and rebellious against the sovereignty of the Divine rule, I always feel inclined to take the very lowest room in my Fathers house, and when I enter Heaven, it will be to go among the less than the least of all saints, and with the chief of sinners.
The late lamented Mr. Denham has put, at the foot of his portrait, a most admirable text, Salvation is of the Lord. That is just an epitome of Calvinism; it is the sum and substance of it. If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, "He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord." I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. He only is my rock and my salvation [PSA 62:2]. Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, God is my rock and my salvation. What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ--the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone [any test for determining genuineness or value], will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ worked out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor [Spurgeon. Autobiography. op. cit. pp. 167, 168].
We only use the term Calvinism for shortness. That doctrine which is called Calvinism did not spring from Calvin; we believe that it sprang from the great founder of all truth. Perhaps Calvin himself derived it mainly from; the writings of Augustine. Augustine obtained his views, without doubt, through the Spirit of God, from the diligent study of the writings of Paul, and Paul received them of the Holy Spirit, from Jesus Christ the great founder of the Christian dispensation. We use the term then, not because we impute any extraordinary importance to Calvins having taught these doctrines. We would be just as willing to call them by any other name, if we could find one which would be better understood, and which on the whole would be as consistent with fact [Ibid. p. 162].
Spurgeon was fully aware that his doctrine was not popular in his day. Late in life he said:
In theology . . . I stand where I did when I began preaching, and I stand almost alone [emphasis addedaal]. If I ever did such a thing, I could preach my earliest sermons now without change so far as the essential doctrines are concerned. I stand almost exactly where Calvin stood in his maturer years; not where he stood in his Institutes, which he wrote when quite a young man, but in his later works; that position is taken by few. . . . I am aware that my preaching repels many; that I cannot help. If, for instance, a man does not believe in the inspiration of the Bible, he may come, and hear me once; and if he comes no more, that is his responsibility, and not mine. My doctrine has no attraction for that man; but I cannot change my doctrine to suit him [emphasis added - aal; Spurgeon. op. cit. Vol. II. p. 393].
CALVINISM AND EVANGELISM
One of the most frequent objections brought against Calvinism is that Calvinists are opposed to evangelism--or preaching and pleading with all sinners everywhere to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.
There are indeed some (hypercalvinists) who teach and attempt to practice only preaching the gospel to those they consider "sensible" sinners (i.e.) those they believe that God has brought to the place of conviction of their sins or prepared for the gospel.
Such an idea is totally foreign to the true Calvinist. Until our own century the greatest revivals of true religion were carried out (humanly speaking) mainly by the Calvinists. The leaders of the Reformation, including Luther were of this persuasion. Other prominent and strict Calvinists were: John Bunyan (Baptist), Jonathan Edwards (Congregationalist), George Whitefield (Methodist), William Carey (Baptist), Charles Spurgeon (Baptist) and of course the Puritans. Note also the Scotchman, Robert Haldane, who was born in 1764 [Robert Haldane. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. pp. iii, v, vi. "Thousands of conversions, perhaps tens, resulted from his life!" p. iii].
A good example of the work of Calvinists in the United States is seen in the ministry of Shubael Stearns and his associates. As a result of the Great Awakening [Jonathan Edwards played a prominent part in the Great Awakening and as a result he was dismissed from his pastorate of twenty-three years] in New England in the middle of the eighteenth century a large number of churches were established. They were established because those involved in the revival were convinced that church membership and privileges, such as the Lords Supper, belonged only to those showing evidence of regeneration. Lumpkin tells the story very briefly in the following words:
The Separate [Calvinist] Baptist movement went south from New England in 1754 especially in the persons of Shubael Stearns and Daniel Marshall. These pioneers ministered for a while in northern Virginia in the midst of some Baptists who were connected with the Philadelphia Association, before moving on to settle at Sandy Creek, Guilford (now Randolph) County, NC. The church which the Separates established at Sandy Creek had phenomenal growth and became the center of an evangelistic movement which spread throughout the South. In seventeen years the mother church planted forty-two Separate Baptist churches and sent out one hundred and twenty-five ministers [emphasis added aal]. The Sandy Creek Association, organized by Stearns in 1758, was ever characterized by its missionary zeal.
The early Separate Baptists were prejudiced against confessions of faith and this opposition to confessions hindered their uniting with the Regular [Calvinist] Baptists in North Carolina, Virginia, and elsewhere. At their 1816 meeting at Brush Creek Church, Randolph County, NC, however, they consented to ten principles of faith. . . . The following Articles, adopted on October 28, 1816, reflect the outlook of the most influential Baptist association in the South during the eighteenth century.
. . .
IV. We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in His sight only by the imputation of Christs righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost [William L. Lumpkin. Baptist Confessions of Faith. pp. 357, 358].
With only ten very brief statements to work with they still had room to very decidedly state their strict Calvinism.
By no means are Calvinists opposed to evangelism. They take the Great Commission very seriously indeed. It is true that the Calvinist is opposed to what is commonly referred to in our day as "easy-believism." They believe that regeneration or the new birth produces a change of life in the one truly regenerated. I shall never forget an incident which took place in the late 1950s in a little South Carolina town by the name of Honea Path. On Saturdays that year I went there to conduct child evangelism classes. One Saturday on my way to our meeting place with the black boys and girls I stopped to talk to a lady who was standing on her porch. During the conversation I asked if she were a Christian. She admitted that she was not. I then briefly presented the way of salvation and asked her if she would like to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ right then to save her. She quickly and I thought rather lightly answered that she would. Because of the manner of her answer I felt that she really did not have any understanding of the matter and so again showed her from the Bible the way of salvation. This time I emphasized the fact that sin has to be taken care of and that it is our sin that deserves the eternal wrath and condemnation of God. God has manifested His love for sinners in sending His only begotten Son to die in the sinners place. The sinner must repent of his sin and trust in the work of Christ to save them. I again asked if she were ready right then to trust Christ as her Savior. This time she hesitated and eventually very haltingly replied, "Not now." It would appear that when she considered her ways, that though she did not want to go to Hell, neither did she desire to turn from her sins. Twentieth century preaching has stopped declaring the judgment and wrath of a holy God. Some who claim to be Evangelical Christians are even questioning whether Hell exists. The Bible says, whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the Lake of Fire [REV 20:15]. Unless a person realizes he is lost he will not seek a Savior. Jesus said, For the Son of man is come to save those who were lost [MAT 18:11]. Again He said, Those who are whole need not a physician, but those who are sick [Ibid. 9:12].
1 CORINTHIANS 15:21, 22
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive [1CO 15:21, 22. - See Charles Hodge on these verses in his commentary, pp. 180, 181 - "It is the all who are in Adam that die; and the all who are in Christ who are made alive." "Unless, therefore, the Bible teaches that all men are in Christ, and that all through Him partake of eternal life, the passage must be restricted to His own people]. Many use this passage to teach doctrines quite foreign to the meaning of these verses and others of like intent in the Bible. For example John R. Rice, after quoting verse 22, says: "I believe that that means that whatever we lost in Adam is given back free in Christ. So no one goes to Hell because of the taint of inherited sin" [John R. Rice. The Sword of the Lord. "Questions Answered." May 8, 1981].This is false doctrine. On this theory there is no real connection of Adams sin with that of his descendants.
What verse 21 means is that those in union with Adam die and that those in union with Christ are made alive. Verse 22 has no reference to those outside of Christ being made alive. It is only those in union with Christ by the new birth that are in view in the verse. Maybe what we are pointing out will be more obvious to most people by looking at Romans 5:18: Therefore as by the sin of one judgment came upon all men [all in Adam] to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men [all in Christ] unto justification of life. No one would dare teach what Rice did on 1 Corinthians 15:22 here in Romans because it would be blatant universalism. Only those in Christ receive the justification of life. The verses in 1 Corinthians 15 and those in Romans 5 are parallel [ROM 5:12-21].
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