God has irrevocably elected unto salvation before the foundation of the world all those who are saved in time.
There is agreement between our opponents and ourselves on this thesis; this is what they teach, and what we teach. And it is easy to establish this thesis from the Scriptures and from the Confession of our Church.
The Lord declares, Matth. 20.16, and [[22.14 >> Mt 22.14]]: “For many are called, but few are chosen”. Here a choice is explicitly predicated, and this choice does not include all men, not even all men who are called, i.e. who hear God’s Word. It cannot include those who do not even hear God’s Word. Eph. 1.4, we read: “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” In 2 Thess. 2.12, Paul declares: “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” In contrast to these words he says concerning believing Christians: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” In fact, these two passages contain the whole doctrine of predestination in all clearness, so that among those who abide by the Word in simplicity there can be no dispute regarding it. All those who do not believe the truth (when it is preached to them, for by nature no man believes the truth, that is the gospel) are damned, and are therefore not elected. And in accordance with this statement the apostle says of the elect, they are chosen in belief of the truth. God indeed desires to save all men, yet never without belief of the truth; without faith it is impossible to please God. Accordingly, He has elected no man without faith, but only in faith. The whole difference in eternal election turns on belief and unbelief, and thus the doctrine of election agrees perfectly with the universal preaching of the gospel: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. And when the question is raised, how God could take the faith or unbelief of individual men into consideration when men were not yet in existence, David furnishes the answer in Ps. 139.16: “Thine eyes did [[@Page:578]]see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” If God saw us all when as yet we were not, He certainly also saw which of us would believe in Christ His Son through His grace, and which would continue in unbelief in spite of that grace. God chose men who live now, and rejected others who live now. For His divine omniscience all things are neither past nor future, but forever present. Hence Peter declares that those who believe were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God ([[1, 2 >> 1 Pet 1.2]]), so that God had all men as they are now before His eyes; and as He has chosen no one without faith, so He rejected no one who does not wilfully remain in unbelief. Some are damned because they do not believe the truth, the others are chosen in belief of the truth.
But this is precisely what Missouri does not want. Missouri claims that God did not consider faith in His eternal election, and yet He divided men; that He saw all men, as we are born, in the same blindness and misery, and that then He chose a certain number and resolved to give them faith and keep them therein. Hence they pervert the clear declaration of Paul, saying: God has chosen some unto faith, instead of in faith. God then from the very start passed by the majority of mankind. This is the real point at issue in the present controversy. But Missouri drags in instead of this a dispute concerning conversion.
But this is anticipating. The chief point in the first thesis is this, that already before the foundation of the world God has chosen those who are actually saved; and this is clearly established by the passage: God hath chosen you from the beginning unto salvation. Those, however, who do not believe the truth are damned, and therefore are not chosen unto salvation. Rom. 8.29, reads: “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The word in this passage is not “chosen”, but “predestinated” that they should be conformed to the image of His Son, i.e. suffer here with Christ and be lifted up to glory beyond. Yet God did not predestinate all men unto glory, but only those “whom He did foreknow”, that is a certain number, a select number. The word “predestinate” shows that the election is immutable; for it does not designate the gracious will of God which desires to bring all men unto faith and salvation, but a fixed decree concerning those who believe; and since the word is “fore-known”, and in the original also[[@Page:579]] “predestinate” (fore-ordain), the eternity of this foreknowledge and predestination is expressed.
Our Confession contains the same unmistakable utterances concerning God’s eternal election. In the [[Formula of Concord, Art. XI, § 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:5]], we read: “But the eternal election of God, or pre- destination, i.e. God’s appointment to salvation, pertains not at the same time to the godly and the wicked, but only to the children of God, who were elected and appointed to eternal life before the foundation of the world was laid, as Paul says (Eph. 1. 4-5): ‘He hath chosen us in Him, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.’“ In [[§ 23 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:23]] we read: “And that in His counsel, purpose, and ordination He prepared salvation not only in general, but in grace considered and chose to salvation each and every person of the elect, who shall be saved through Christ, and ordained that in the way just mentioned He would by His grace, gifts, and efficacy bring them thereto, and aid, promote, strengthen, and preserve them.”
These and other passages of the Scriptures and of the Confession establish our thesis beyond a doubt. And as there is no dispute between us and our opponents on this score we might at once proceed to the second thesis. But we find it necessary to state here that they have again and again accused us as though we denied God’s eternal election, and thus flagrantly rejected the above testimonies of the Scriptures and the Confession. The false accusation, that we teach, man is able to do something on his part for his conversion, together with the other equally false, that we deny predestination altogether, has been the chief means of deceiving their readers in regard to our doctrine. This chapter in the controversy is lamentable indeed; it is by no means a pleasant task for us to expose such proceedings, nor complimentary to ourselves that people with whom we have hitherto been intimately connected care so little for truth and honesty. But since they make use of such calumniations and open falsehoods to undermine our testimony for the truth, thus drawing the attention of the church away from their false teaching, we find ourselves compelled by the truth which is at stake to make mention of these disagreeable things.
Even before the Conference in Chicago (October, 1880) they accused us of believing in no eternal election at all. What we designated as election they claimed to be nothing but God’s foreknowledge — this was one of their assertions; another was, that [[@Page:580]]we took the universal counsel of grace to be election; or that we taught two elections, one universal, and one particular; and finally, that in reality we taught only one election of all men. Here are four tunes to one song. Let us look at the last one. It is evident that, if we would teach an election of all men, we would indeed deny election proper; for where all are taken there can be no election. To demonstrate this is, accordingly, very easy work for our opponents. The only question is, where have we made the statement that all men are elected? We have never said this, nor have we ever believed it. Yet we have asserted, and do still assert, and will demonstrate thoroughly in the following pages that our F. C. uses the word election in a wider sense than the later teachers of our Church.
Our opponents have fastened themselves upon this expression, “in the wider sense”, claiming that we thereby mean an election of all men, and thus in reality no election properly so-called at all. The case is this: Our F. C. enumerates eight eternal decrees of God, and only in the last of these and in a further concluding sentence is any mention made of the selection of persons. And yet the Confession states before and after that all this must be taken together when we speak or think of election. It is evident, too, that election cannot be properly understood or conceived unless we think and speak of it in connection with the universal redemption, the call through the Gospel, conversion, justification, etc. All men are sinners; how could a holy God predestinate them unto salvation? Answer: He had already determined to redeem them through Christ. Even a child can understand that redemption belongs to election. But why did not God predestinate all men unto salvation, why did He choose only a few? Did not Christ redeem them all? To be sure, He redeemed them all. But according to God’s order the individual can become a partaker of this redemption only through faith. Our Confession declares: God in His eternal divine counsel determined that He would save no one except those who acknowledge His Son, Christ, and truly believe on Him. Just as little now as God gives salvation in time to an unbeliever, so little has He elected unbelievers in eternity unto salvation. But no man can believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him by his own reason or strength; God must give us faith, otherwise we would remain forever in unbelief and condemnation. Hence, it is evident, that the decree of redemption is not sufficient to constitute election, [[@Page:581]]it requires in addition all the provisions of God relative to our conversion, justification, and preservation in faith. And this indeed is the contents of all the decrees, from the second to the seventh, enumerated in the Confession. All these decrees therefore belong to election, i.e. all this God Himself had to ordain, if He desired to receive sinners unto eternal life. The word “election” indeed, taken literally, signifies a separation or division; but we are here considering the election of sinners unto salvation; and these must be sinners redeemed and justified through faith.
There is, however, another side to the necessity of these decrees for the proper understanding of the doctrine of election, namely in answering the question already touched upon, why God did not predestinate all men unto salvation? Without faith, as has been stated, God would save no one. On the other hand, He excludes no one from salvation who dies in faith. Faith is of the greatest importance; and the inquiry, why God did not predestinate all men unto salvation, leads of necessity to the further question, why all men do not believe, and why all do not persevere in faith who believe for a time? God alone can give and preserve faith. Is it His fault then that all do not believe?
The answer is found in the decrees treating of the bestowal and preservation of faith, namely the second, the third, and the seventh. Their language is clearly such as shows that God has excluded no one from the gracious operations of His Holy Spirit, and that on the other hand He also compels no one with irresistible power to believe or to persevere. The fact, that all do not believe, is not due to a lack of divine grace; and this thought necessarily belongs to the correct conception of election. It is true that God chose only a “few”; but we must not forget that the cause of this is not a twofold and dissimilar will on God’s part. Our Confession also, as we shall see, brings this out in a number of places, and with great emphasis. But these eight decrees already teach as much, and therefore belong necessarily to the idea of election.
This is what we mean when we say that the F. C. employs the word election in a “wider sense”; we do not mean that the Confession teaches an election of all men; “in the wider sense”, not so as to include more men, but so as to include more divine decrees than the mere separation of persons. For although the decree of redemption and vocation pertain to all men, the eighth [[@Page:582]]decree does not pertain to all. Redemption and vocation alone do not constitute election or predestination unto salvation. The latter embraces all that precedes it. An elect person is a sinner redeemed, called by the Gospel, justified in faith. For this reason the eighth decree, which treats properly of the final predestination to salvation, declares, “that those whom He has elected, called, and justified He would eternally save.” But if we turn it about, redemption and vocation do not include the selection of persons for salvation; there are many redeemed and called who are not chosen. We can therefore speak of redemption and of the call without speaking of election; on the other hand, we cannot speak of election without speaking of redemption and of the call, or without at least mentally presupposing them.
Our fathers frequently compare this entire series of eternal decrees to a golden chain. The anchorage of this chain is God’s eternal grace; the first link of the chain is the gracious decree of redemption; the second link the calling through the Gospel unto the blessings of redemption; the third the efficacious power of the Holy Ghost in conversion through the Gospel; the fourth the justification of the converted; the fifth the renewing of the justified, so that faith and a good conscience may abide in them; the sixth the support in all affliction and persecution, that we may not despair of the goodness of God; the seventh the preservation proper in faith; the eighth finally the glorification of those in eternal life who have been preserved in faith. This is truly the contents of the eight decrees presented by the Confession. All can see that one link always joins the other, so that we cannot speak of a single one without at least referring to its connection with the one preceding. We cannot speak of the call without mentioning redemption, or at least presupposing it as well known. The last link in the golden chain, as we have seen, is the predestination of certain persons unto salvation. And accordingly, we cannot speak correctly of this link without describing all the rest fully, or at least presupposing them all. If the last link is removed from the chain, it indeed remains an iron or a golden ring, but it is no longer a link in the chain. In the same way, if we attempt to speak of election or predestination unto salvation, without in some way showing up its connection with the other provisions of God, the word “election” would indeed retain its literal signification, but its biblical meaning would be [[@Page:583]]lost; for the Bible knows nothing of an election unto salvation except on the basis of Christ’s merit and in belief of the truth.
It is for this reason that our Confession declares that, when we wish to speak correctly and profitably concerning election, we must comprise with it and never omit or exclude the entire doctrine concerning the purpose, counsel, will, and ordination of God pertaining to our redemption, call, righteousness, and salvation ([[§§ 24 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:24]] and [[14 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:14]]). For election contains this, and all this belongs thereto ([[§ 9 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:9]]).
The purpose of our Confession in this, namely the consideration of election in its connection with the universal counsel of grace and in the light of this counsel, can be secured in a twofold way. One is, that all the separate decrees of the counsel of grace be set forth part by part, with the decree of the glorification of the elect at the end; the other is, that we treat of the last decree by itself, but not without carefully showing its connection with the foregoing decree. A single link in a chain may be examined separately, as long as its connection with the one immediately preceding is kept in view. If this is omitted, it is no longer looked upon as a link of the chain, but only as a golden ring; the real idea and intention of the artist is altogether overlooked. As far as the one link possesses peculiarities of its own, which we desire to examine especially, it is possible to view it separately only bearing in mind its junction with the foregoing. And this is the difference between the F. C. and the later teachers of our Church, between the use of the word in the wider and in the narrower sense.
The F. C. presents the entire chain; the dogmaticians only the last link in its connection with the foregoing, they say that God has chosen and predestinated all those unto salvation who believe perseveringly in Christ. They say nothing about the origin and preservation of faith in their definition of election; all this they presuppose. Nevertheless, persevering faith remains the link between the universal counsel of grace and the election of persons. It is easy to see, that thus nothing has been changed in the decree itself or in its relation to the rest, and that our dogmaticians have no doctrine of election different from that of the Confession; yet they use the word “election” in a narrower sense, to describe only election proper, while the F. C. includes the other provisions which precede this election. [[@Page:584]]
This difference in the mode of setting forth one and the same thing is what we mean when we speak of a wider and of a narrower sense of the word “election.” We by no means intend to say that in the “wider sense” all men, including those who die in unbelief, are elected.
Our opponents, however, found an excellent opportunity in this for calumniating us; for it is evident that unlearned people, who do not know that these two modes of doctrine have been customary in our Church, can easily be persuaded that election “in the wider sense” must necessarily mean “an election of all men.” Those of St. Louis could well know that such was not our meaning, for we were not the ones to discover this distinction, a large number of our theologians having always employed it, and among them also Baier in his Compend of Dogmatics, according to which Dr. Walther has been instructing his students for 25 years. Dr. Walther assuredly knows that book, and one should suppose that the other St. Louis professors, as also all pastors who studied there, likewise know it. This book states at considerable length that the word “election” in the F. C. is used in a wider sense than that commonly employed by the dogmaticians, but it nowhere intimates that according to the F. C. all men are elected “in the wider sense.” Our opponents, therefore, had no right whatever to impute such a nonsensical notion to us.
Moreover, in the very beginning of the controversy we made a clear statement (“Altes und Neues,” February, 1880) and printed both definitions from the text-book of Dr. Walther so that no one could mistake our meaning. Notwithstanding this, our opponents at once caught up the expression, election “in the wider sense”, and proclaimed to all the world that we meant an election of all men.
But if there was no shadow of excuse for this shameful misrepresentation in the beginning, its constant employment later on is even more criminal. At the Conference in Chicago (October, 1880) we were at once met with the accusation that we were teaching an election of all men. We declared most emphatically that we did not believe such an election, and that we had never taught it. (See the Minutes, p. 14, 15, and many others.) Dr. Walther finally admitted: “One may indeed speak of predestination in the wider and in the narrower sense, and under certain circumstances we must speak of it so” (Minutes, p. 18). These [[@Page:585]]are his own words! We can therefore, and under certain circumstances we must, speak of predestination in the wider sense. Can Dr. Walther mean to say that under certain circumstances we must teach that all men are elected? Surely not; the phrase, “election in the wider sense” therefore cannot have this meaning. But when we now “under certain circumstances” use this expression, and declare time and again that we do not mean an election of all men, Dr. Walther none the less declares that this is our meaning and the sense of the expression, and 700 pastors chime in without hesitation.
After Dr. Walther confessed that this expression can be, and under certain circumstances even must be, employed, there was only one question requiring answer, namely: Does the F. C. use the word election in the wider sense? This question we answer affirmatively, and our opponents negatively. We substantiated our answer from the clear declarations of the Confession in [[§ 13-24 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:13-24]]; our opponents would not acknowledge that this passage contains the description proper of election, but attempted to compel us to take [[§ 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:5]] as the proper description; but [[§ 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:5]] does not say at all what election or predestination unto salvation is, what is comprised in it and what it contains, it merely states to whom it pertains. But we will speak more fully about this later on. We now demonstrated to them that they themselves had already acknowledged in [[§ 13-24 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:13-24]] a “complete definition of God’s eternal election.” This passage contains the eight decrees. In the Report of ‘79, pp. 51, 52, 53, and 88, they had declared that these 8 decrees are not predestination, but simply contain something that must also be preached; the thing itself, predestination, is not found there, but in [[§ 23 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:23]]. (Now they tell us it is found in [[§ 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:5]]; like blind men they grope about in the F. C. foolishly.) We then directed our opponents to the declarations of the F. C. both before and after the eight decrees, stating explicitly that all this must be taken together and included and nothing thereof omitted. Thereupon they admitted in “Lehre und Wehre,” May 1880, that the entire passage does contain a complete definition. “A definition,” however, states what election is and what belongs to election. Whereas formerly they denied that the eight decrees were “the thing itself,” they then admitted that the eight decrees were the thing itself or belonged thereto. They themselves, therefore, had spoken of election at first in the narrower sense, and afterwards in the wider sense. They still [[@Page:586]]sought to hold fast their false doctrine. But this one point, that the eight decrees belong to election, they had admitted to us already previous to the Chicago Conference, and this and nothing but this is what we and all our former teachers in the Church mean by the expression “election in the wider sense.”
When we continued to point to this admission at the Chicago Conference, Dr. Walther replied: “When attention is drawn to the fact, that not only on the side of our opponents differently sounding definitions have been given, but also in our publications (writings of Missouri), as for instance that the eight propositions belong to election, it is certainly remarkable that people otherwise acute should not (so to say) with half an eye see what is so simple even for a child to comprehend. When it is said, they do not belong to election, a strict definition of election is meant. When it is said, they do belong to election, an extended description of election is had in view.” Minutes, p. 26.
This is the way in which Dr. Walther covers his retreat. This is the way he extracts himself out of a difficult position in the midst of a fog, instead of honestly surrendering when beaten with his own publications! “Strict definition” is what he terms it, and this is precisely what we mean with the expression “in the narower sense”; and “extended description,” or as “Lehre und Wehre” had it “complete definition” is nothing but election in the wider sense. And the difference is precisely as stated by Dr. Walther, in the one case the 8 decrees are included, in the other case they are not.
Dr. Walther, therefore, could not escape, he had to admit the validity of our distinction; in fact he was compelled to use it himself to explain the different expressions of his own adherents.
But now he gave the matter a turn, as though we had attacked this distinction on his part, whereas he had constantly reviled us for adhering to it; he is surprised that we cannot comprehend what is so childishly easy, and what he himself always could and desired to comprehend. Instead of honestly confessing: Yes, dear brethren, in this point you have been right! he pretends to have always been right himself while we failed to comprehend it! The prisoner is to be put into the cell; at the door he turns suddenly about and pushes his friend of the police in, locks the door, and marches off with the key! That is Dr. Walther — we so-called opponents have made his acquaintance!
But this is not the worst of his procedure in the matter. [[@Page:587]]After declaring, when proof was submitted to him from his own publications, that what he had controverted all along was easy even for a child to comprehend, one would suppose that afterwards he would be silent about it. But what did Dr. Walther do? Four or five months after the Conference he wrote his first tract about the predestination controversy, and in this he brings up again the same old accusations, that we teach an election in the wider sense, and that means that all men are elected! He never says a word to show that “under certain circumstances” one may use this expression, and even must use it; never a word that he and his adherents had at times included the 8 decrees in discussing the F. C., and at times had excluded them, and that thus they themselves had actually spoken of election in the wider and again in the narrower sense, and that they had been cornered by this at Chicago. And now that he knew most emphatically (if indeed he had not known all along) that we did not mean an election of all men in using this expression, he still lays this foolish notion at our door. In fact, this shameful perversion, this open sin against the eighth commandment, is the very kernel of the whole tract, is at least one blade of the shears with which he attempts to crush us. It is only necessary to look at the tract to see this; on page 7 he says: “On this their (our) assertion, that the F. C. speaks of predestination in the wider sense, rests their entire doctrinal structure. With this their assertion, if true or if not true, stands and falls everything they affirm or deny in distinction from ourselves.”
Let Dr. Walther’s words be noted; he declares that if the F. C. speaks of predestination in the wider sense — that is, according to his own explanation, if the 8 decrees “belong to election” — then everything stands that we have affirmed and denied over against St. Louis! This, for one thing, is an excellent testimony in our favor, although of no avail against St. Louis itself; for these our opponents will never surrender, but continue to invent new subterfuges. But of this we will say nothing further here.
But now, in order to convince his “beloved readers” that our assertion is not true, he points them to the fact, that the F. C. declares clearly and explicitly, election pertains not at the same time to the godly and the wicked, therefore does not embrace all men. Election in the wider sense would be, he declared, an election of all men. Accordingly, every Lutheran [[@Page:588]]Christian can see that the F. C. does not speak of election in the wider sense, and that we therefore have fallen away from the Confession. It may appear incredible that Dr. Walther should say this after what had taken place in Chicago; but here are his own words.
Tract, p. 8: “If any one desires to force upon you the doctrine of a so-called predestination in the wider sense, pertaining not only to the elect children of God who are ordained unto salvation, but to the godly and the wicked at the same time” etc.
Page 10: “But how intelligent people can say: The F. C. indeed declares explicitly in the beginning that election does not extend to the pious and to the wicked, but pertains only to the elect children of God, yet it speaks of predestination in the wider sense, which pertains to all men” etc.
Page 10 and 11: “They (we opponents) employ all the logical skill and acumen possible to demonstrate that the first main proposition does not say, or does not mean, what it says, that it speaks indeed of election which does not pertain to all men, but that it means none the less an election which does pertain to all men, for it speaks of an election in the wider sense!”
It is in this manner that Dr. Walther works upon his “beloved Lutheran Christians” by means of open falsehoods, which have been shown to him repeatedly to be such! In this manner he perverts and reviles an expression which he himself found necessary in Chicago, to which he was compelled to resort in order to explain “definitions differing in sound” among his own followers! He knows that we do not hold what he accuses us of; he knows that our dogmaticians had no such notion, and surely he should know whether he himself had the notion when he himself used the expression. But what of it? He simply desires to crush by this means our contradiction of his false doctrine, so that he may brand us as having fallen from the Confession. The argument suits his object exactly, every “beloved Lutheran Christian” can comprehend it. The Confession declares: Election does not pertain at the same time to the godly and to the wicked; these miserable opponents, however, say: The Confession uses the word election in the wider sense. And that this means an election of all men Dr. Walther can of course readily tell people who have not read our utterances and do not otherwise know the expression. [[@Page:589]]
This, however, characterizes the tactics of our opponents throughout. Their writings against us overflow with misrepresentations, perversions, and sophistical conclusions. P. Stöckhard alone forms an exception, having atttacked us indeed as sharply as the rest, but always endeavoring to understand our true meaning. Many of the misrepresentations resorted to are not as gross as the one mentioned above, but more skillfully introduced, and yet not a whit more honest. Their entire demonstration seeking to prove us synergists is all of the same sort.
We introduce a few more of the grosser misrepresentations.
Our opponents had appealed repeatedly in substantiation of their error to Dr. Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, and we had shown them just as repeatedly that they did not understand Luther’s words correctly, and that their appeal to these words was therefore useless. The thing was so plain that Dr. Walther found it necessary to publish a kind of retraction or explanation. But in this he represents matters as though we ourselves had assailed Luther’s words and had blamed him, namely Dr. Walther, for having quoted these words of Luther. In “Lehre und Wehre,” 1881, 49, we read: “We consider it a disgrace for our Lutheran Church that so many, who pretend to be members of this Church, now speak of Luther’s words as though Luther, whom they too praise as a Reformer, has been a horrible heretic, so that the mere use of his words already creates the suspicion of heresy.”
Is not this another skillful trick? We had demonstrated that Luther’s words are perfectly correct. We had blamed Dr. Walther for misinterpreting the words — finding fault not with Dr. Luther, but with Dr. Walther; Dr. W., however, so turns things as to make it appear that we had branded Luther as a “horrible heretic” and had found fault with him. Dr. W., for even having used Luther’s words.
Evidently, if he could raise the suspicion in the minds of his readers that we agreed neither with the F. C. nor with Luther, he would gain much for his own cause. But we do not envy the success he may reap by such means; we only lament that he can so far forget himself and work so much harm in the Church, and that the host of pastors in the Missouri Synod is either so idiotic or so conscienceless as to submit quietly to such tricks.
We indeed teach that election or predestination pertains only [[@Page:590]]to the children of God, but we also teach that this election took place on the basis of the universal counsel of grace, and that it can be studied and presented only in intimate connection with this universal counsel. The universal counsel of grace belongs to election as surely as the foundation walls of a building belong to that building. It is true indeed that several of the provisions or decrees of the universal counsel of grace pertain to all men; but it does not thereby follow that the last of these decrees also pertains to all. Redemption is not yet election, nor is the call taken by itself. The whole series of decrees can well be summed up in the designation “election”, because the last one of them treats properly of the election and predestination of persons and at the same time includes the entire result of all the foregoing gracious works and decrees of God. But if this last decree were left out, the rest could never be called “election.” Therefore, the first 7 decrees may apply to a man, but if he does not actually remain in faith till the end, he is not chosen, and election does not pertain to him. And this is a very essential part of the doctrine of election, namely that these seven decrees pertained to him, and that thus he could readily have persevered in faith, if he had not, as our Confession declares, himself wilfully turned away.
This serves to explain the two propositions in the Confession, which Dr. Walther seeks to use against us like the horns of a dilemma. The first is the sentence, that election is a cause which procures, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto. In the 8 decrees we do really find all that belongs to our salvation; and everything there is fully sufficient, so that all can well be saved, and therefore that all could also be elected. Just this is what makes the Confession so excellent and full of consolation. The second sentence is this, that election extends only to the children of God and not to the wicked; for those of them who do not “hear and ponder” the Word at all are not “converted to true repentance,” as the 3d decree declares, and therefore they do not accept Christ in true repentance through right faith, hence they are not justified, nor received unto grace, unto adoption and inheritance of eternal life. Those, however, who indeed through the grace of God believe for a time, yet become indolent and secure, neglect the Word of God, do not pray diligently, do not abide in God’s goodness, and do not use faithfully the gifts received, are not [[@Page:591]]preserved in faith according to the 7th decree, but fall away and thus lose again “the adoption and inheritance of eternal life” which they received in justification. They, therefore, are not predestinated to be eternally saved and glorified in eternal life. In short, all the previous decrees may have pertained to them, but this last does not from which alone the whole can be termed “election.” For this reason election does not pertain to any of the wicked.
In conclusion we would state again and emphatically that “election in the wider sense” and “election in the narrower sense” are not two different elections; there is only one election, namely the one designated in the 8 decrees. But the word “election” is used differently; at one time to designate only the separation of persons, and indicating the connection with the universal counsel of grace by the expression, “in view of faith”, or by words of like import; and again, to comprise the entire counsel of grace, the whole of it being designated by the word election. The persons of whom it is predicated that God elected them to eternal life are precisely the same in both instances, namely the children of God. But the provisions of God, without which there could be no children of God at all among sinners, are fully stated in the one instance, while in the other only the connecting link of faith is indicated. Will not our St. Louis friends finally take a better view of the matter?
Another and a more well known example of a word used in a wider and in a stricter sense is found in the word “Gospel.” This too has occasioned a similar controversy in the Church. The 5th Art. of the F. C. points out “that the term ‘Gospel’ is not always employed and understood in one and the same sense, but in two ways, in the Holy Scriptures, as also by ancient and modern church-teachers.” At one time it is used to designate only the glad tidings of Christ, and this is its special and strictest sense. Then again it is used to designate the entire Word of God, inclusive also of the law; this is its wider sense. When it is used in this wider sense, we can well say that the Gospel rebukes sin; but when it is used in the stricter sense, it would be altogether wrong to say that it reveals and rebukes sin. Now, several theologians had found such expressions in Luther, and declared that Luther taught, the Gospel as strictly defined reveals sin. That was false doctrine. And our opponents proceed in precisely the same way as far as the word election is concerned. Our [[@Page:592]]Confession declares that election is a cause which procures, works, etc., our salvation and all pertaining thereto. That is perfectly correct, when we remember that here the word election is used in the wider sense, namely so as to include the preaching of the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit, etc. But our opponents deny that this is the case, and still they persist in saying that election is a cause of our salvation, etc. Just as those of old denied that the word “Gospel” can be used to include the law, and still asserted that the Gospel reveals sin — thus ascribing to the Gospel proper the work of the law — so now our opponents deny that the word “election’ can be used to include the universal counsel of grace, and still claim that election procures, works, etc., everything, also for example faith — thus ascribing to the selection of persons the work proper to the universal counsel of grace, namely the calling, justification, and preservation in faith. Yet it is easy to see that this produces dangerous false doctrine, the very doctrine of Calvinism, that God from the start has passed by the majority of men — as we shall see more fully further on.
All can see how important it is that our opponents be controverted in this error. We have already heard from Dr. Walther’s own tract that, if our assertion in regard to the wider sense of the word election in the F. C. is true, all that we have alarmed and denied in distinction from our opponents must stand, i.e. our entire contention in the controversy is correct. Most assuredly, our assertion is true; they have not overthrown it and never will. When they object in the Report of ‘79: “Is vocation election? Is justification election? Is glorification election? Never; on the contrary, those who are elected receive all this” — the very same can be argued against the use of the word Gospel in the wider sense (when it is meant to include the law): Is the first commandment gospel? Is the second commandment gospel? etc. But such objections will never change the fact, that the word “Gospel” has been used in a wider and in a narrower sense, and yet there are not two Gospels but only one. [[@Page:593]]