Election is revealed in the Scriptures, and is therefore no more a “‘mystery” than any other article of faith.
The discussion was as follows: —
The entire Gospel is originally a mystery. No man knows aught of it in himeslf. It is different in regard to the law. This was written in man’s heart at creation, and this writing has not been wholly obliterated by the fall. It is found in the heathen, who have not the written law and yet retain some knowledge of right and wrong. Rom. 2.14-15.
To be sure, this knowledge is exceedingly imperfect. Man does not know original sin, nor does he perceive that unbelief and all sinful desires are sin. Paul tells us: I had not known lust, except the law had said. Thou shalt not covet. But now when the law condemns “lust,” this strikes the natural heart. Even reason can to some extent understand that, if it is sin, for instance, to commit murder, it must also be sin to have the lust of murder. In brief, the law and its demands and curses find a certain echo in the natural conscience; to be sure, an echo which only serves to intensify the enmity against God.
The Gospel, however, was not written in man’s heart at creation. Man indeed could not help but know that he owed obedience to his Creator. This is self-evident. But it is not self-evident that after he had fallen away from God, he would receive mercy from God. God owed man no mercy, it was His perfect right to condemn us altogether; it is a perfectly free determination of His will to rescue us. Man, therefore, could of himself know nothing of this, not even before the fall; we have learned this only by divine revelation. It is for this reason that Paul calls the Gospel a mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations. Col. 1.26.
It follows from this that the Gospel finds no echo in the natural heart. It will, therefore, in spite of all preaching in a certain sense remain a mystery for all those who are not enlightened by the Holy Spirit. They may learn all the articles of faith from the Scriptures, but that these things are divine wisdom and [[@Page:594]]truth they will not comprehend. For the Jews the Gospel is an offense, and for the Greeks it is foolishness. In this sense the Gospel continues to be a mystery still, “hid”, 2 Cor. 4.3, from the prudent and the wise, Matt. 11.25.
But the mystery is now revealed in the Word and is known by believers. Matt. 11.25; 1 Cor. 2.10-16; etc.
This is sufficient to show in what respect articles of faith may be called mysteries. A mystery not revealed in the Word can be no article of faith. How shall they believe what they have not heard?
Reason, to be sure, raises questions about all the articles, which are not answered in the Scriptures; but these questions do not concern faith. What we are to believe is clearly revealed, so that we can read it in the Bible and understand the connection of the different articles. One article of faith always casts light upon another. The article of justification by grace for the sake of Christ’s merit through faith is the sun of the Scriptures, illuminating all the rest, so that none can be correctly understood without it. Baptism, for instance, “works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises declare.” No man understands this correctly without knowing that Christ has obtained forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation for us, which is now offered, given, and sealed to us in Baptism.
In the sense described the article of God’s eternal election is also a mystery, yea to a certain extent the sum of all mysteries, embracing all the rest, as we shall see. But this article is also a revealed mystery, otherwise it could be no article of faith. Our Confession therefore declares: “This — eternal election — is not to be investigated in the secret counsel of God, but sought in the Word of God, where it is also revealed.” [[Epit. XI, 6 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:6]]. Again: We are to think and speak concerning election as “the counsel, purpose, and ordination of God in Christ Jesus, who is the true Book of Life, has been revealed to us through the Word.” [[Sol. Decl. XI, 13 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:13]]. Similar passages occur frequently in the Confession. St. Paul declares: “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Acts 20. 27. Evidently, this includes the counsel of predestination. The same thing is comfirmed by all those passages which tell us that the articles of faith are revealed; and that the doctrine of election is an article of faith both of the contending parties admit; but the Scriptures say [[@Page:595]]nowhere that that election is a mystery in a special sense. Rom. 11.33, we will consider below.
Our opponents, however, shroud the entire article in “mysteries”. The fact, that there is an eternal election of God, they too find revealed in the Scriptures.
But all that pertains to this election: why God elected only a few; why those only whom He did elect, and not the rest; according to what rule He elected the one and rejected the other — all this, they tell us, is not revealed. Whereas the entire Scriptures testify that God “looks to faith” in justification and salvation as it takes place in time, Jer. 5.3, so that our Confession says directly: “This faith constitutes the difference between those who are saved and those who are damned, between the worthy and the unworthy,” [[Apol. Art. 3 >> BookOfConcord:AP:3:226]]. Our opponents aver: In election God did not look to faith. They say: “The rule according to which God in eternity elected and separated is unknown to us.” “Lehre und Wehre,” 1881, 367. They do not know “why God did not elect the rest,” p. 368. In Chicago they were confronted with the statement: Our Confession declares: God in His eternal counsel determined that He would save no one except those who believe in Christ. Dr. Walther replied: “I do not accept this, if you make it the rule of election,” Min., 47.
They, then, do not know according to what rule or order God proceeded in election; nevertheless they claim to know that in any case He did not proceed according to the revealed rule: He that believes shall be saved. Election, therefore, would be a mystery in every respect, a riddle, concerning which the only thing known would be that there is such a mystery; just as the heathen know indeed that there is a God, but do not know who and what He is. Missouri accordingly calls election simply a great mystery: “God’s eternal election is the wonderful mystery hovering over certain persons”, “L. u. W.”, 1880, 147. Our Confession also speaks of a secret, unsearchable providence of God; but it keeps repeating and re-repeating that election must not be sought in this secret providence, but in the revealed Word. Our opponents, however, take this secret providence to be election itself, and call it a mystery in distinction from the revealed counsel of God. While they too consider all articles of faith mysteries in the sense described above, that is revealed mysteries, they consider election, in distinction from all the rest a mystery in a special sense. [[@Page:596]]
The essence of this mystery, however, according to all that Missouri says about it, would be found not merely in the fact, that, as they say, we know less about this article, but in the fact, that all we do know of it does not agree with the revealed Word, but contradicts it grossly. According to the revealed Word God earnestly desires to declare all men free from sin and condemnation for Christ’s sake, yet only when they believe in Christ. This faith, accordingly, He desires to work in all. Those, however, who resist the Holy Spirit wilfully remain in unbelief, and hence remain under sin and condemnation. According to Missourian doctrine the very opposite has taken place in eternal election. God is said from the very start to have taken only a few into consideration. These few, however. He elected infallibly unto salvation without regard to faith. When a person stops and considers the enormity of such doctrine, he must be astounded at the possibility of introducing such an abomination into the very midst of the Lutheran Church. God, they tell us, in His omniscience saw the entire human race as it now actually exists: all alike depraved in sin, but all also redeemed by Christ. Now, in this condition He is said to have instituted the separation, decreeing for one part of them: These shall and must be saved, to these I will give grace unto faith and perseverance. By this their salvation would then be assured in any case, not through the present order of grace, not through the revealed Word, not through faith, but simply through this mysterious and absolute decree of God. The revealed Word and faith, according to Missourian doctrine, are only the means by which God in time executes His decree. The actual selection of the persons who are saved has in no way depended on faith.
But how about the merit of Christ? The Scriptures declare that all spiritual blessings flow from Christ’s wounds and are purchased by Him. Does this apply also to eternal election, which Missouri calls the foremost and highest good? Did Christ purchase this blessing also on the cross? Not according to Missourian doctrine. Our opponents indeed retain the proposition, that God elected for Christ’s sake, and that Christ’s merit is one cause of predestination. It is hard to understand how they mean this; for it is certain that they do not mean what the words as they stand say. When we say that Christ’s merit is the cause of justification, our meaning is that Christ obtained for us the grace by virtue of which we are justified. Can Missourians wish to say [[@Page:597]]that Christ obtained for us the grace by virtue of which we are elected? Impossible; for Christ’s merit is universal; the grace He obtained He obtained for all men. Since eternal election, according to the doctrine of our opponents, is an act in which God did not look for faith, which nowise depended on the faith of individual men, therefore this grace obtained by Christ should have properly belonged to all men, and all should have been predestinated unto eternal life and unto faith. Hence it is easy to see that our opponents cannot mean to say that Christ obtained the grace of election or the election of grace. And if they should say this, it would follow that Christ did not obtain the same grace for all.
Predestination, therefore, would not be an act of God having its foundation in Christ’s merit, like justification and salvation in time, nor dependent, like these, on faith. To be sure, this agrees ill with the revealed Word. But more than this. The elect have been chosen according to Missourian doctrine without regard to faith, yet with the provision that, as a result of election, they shall come to faith. Since now election is unalterable, these must of necessity come to believe, and must of necessity persevere in faith. But the Scriptures teach that indeed God alone converts men, gives faith, and preserves it; yet they teach just as emphatically that by wilful resistance men may frustrate this gracious work, and even after their conversion fall away again. God indeed works everything, but not with irresistible power. Since, however, according to Missourian doctrine, God, from the very start and by an absolute decree, predestinated a certain number so that they shall and must in any case come to believe, an irresistible grace of conversion must be maintained for these; for the elect there is no longer the possibility of wilfully resisting the Holy Spirit; if ever they fall from faith through wilful sin, they must again be converted. And so they tell us Christ spoke to Peter: “Thou art one of the elect; if thou lose faith now, thou shalt not lose it till the end, thou shalt and must obtain it again. And Christ says the same thing to all the elect.” Report, 1879, 43.
This again does not harmonize with the doctrine of conversion as stated in the revealed Word.
Thus when we consider merely one side, namely what is said of the elect, everything is full of contradiction to the revealed Word. God would have declared them saved without regard to faith; He would have predestinated infallibly unto eternal life a [[@Page:598]]number of men whom He still viewed as sinners, not as believers, hence not as being justified, but as still the children of Adam; faith would not be considered the receptive hand, but merely one of the blessings which was simultaneously given to these few. This blessing of election would not be obtained by Christ; on the contrary, God would have bestowed it of His own free and absolute will upon whomsoever He wished; and those thus favored would be converted by an irresistible grace. All this is Missourian doctrine, it is not the scriptural doctrine.
Things, however, are far worse when we come to consider the fate of the non-elect. According to Missourian doctrine God did not consider faith in election as He does in justification. The difference which faith and unbelief produce between men would thus have been left out of consideration, and yet God would have excluded the majority of men from the very start from that act of grace from which faith, justification, and preservation, even salvation itself is said to flow, from that act of grace without which everything else is of no avail. Dr. Walther indeed for some time still maintained that God passed these by in election because He foresaw their constant unbelief. But since he denies that God considered faith in the case of the elect, he contradicts himself, or imputes to the God of truth a duplicity which would render any man despicable. When, for instance, we inquire: Why did not God elect Judas? Dr. W. makes the Scriptures answer: Because God foresaw the obdurate unbelief of Judas. And this is perfectly correct and true. But when we proceed to inquire: Did then God foresee, when He elected Peter, that he would not die in unbelief, but in faith? Dr. W. replies: By no means; for then God would have seen something good in man, and to say that would be gross Pelagianism! In the election of Peter, therefore, faith, according to Dr. W., was not a necessary requirement; but in the case of Judas faith was such a requirement, God not electing him because He failed to find this requirement. God foresaw no faith in Peter and yet elected him; God foresaw no faith in Judas and for this reason did not elect him! It is Pelagian and heretical, our learned friends tell us, to consider faith a foreseen requirement for the election of a person. And yet God is said to have followed this Pelagian and heretical rule in non-election. What base hypocrisy is here ascribed to God! If the unwashed guest at the king’s wedding feast, having on no wedding garment, had seen a number of other guests, likewise without wedding [[@Page:599]]garments, but not cast out like himself; if concerning himself the command was given: Cast him into outer darkness, for he has no wedding garment on! while concerning the rest the command had been: Let them remain, for I will give them wedding garments! — would that guest have been able to believe that his filthy dress was the real cause of his rejection? And yet this is precisely what Dr. W. asks us to believe concerning non-election.
Whoever has not been wholly blinded by the fallacies of St. Louis, and rendered unfit to prove doctrine, will see at once that in this case (1) foreseen faith is not the true cause of non-election, but only a pretext, and (2) that in both instances the absolute will of God is the one decisive factor. For God saw the same unbelief in Peter and in Judas, according to Missourian teaching; He could have passed Peter by with the same right as He did Judas. But — He wanted to elect Peter! God saw in Judas an unbelief precisely like that of Peter; He could, therefore, have elected him with the same right as He did Peter. But! This is precisely the absolute election of Calvinism, only hidden behind a different phraseology
The younger fellow champions of Dr. W., however, understand that the foresight of unbelief avails nothing unless the foresight of faith is admitted for the other side. They, therefore, simply say that it is a mystery why God did not predestinate all men unto salvation and unto faith. They know only this, that God saw no difference among men, that the entire difference lies in God.
But what is their opinion about the non-elect? Does God desire to save them all? Is it not true that God loved the whole world and sent His Son “that the world might be saved through Him”, John 3.16? This is indeed the outcome of Missourian doctrine — i.e. Missourian doctrine of election. They themselves declare that the election of only a few unto salvation can not be harmonized with the universal will of grace. A mighty gulf, a deep abyss, an apparent (?) contradiction is fixed between the two propositions: It is God’s will that all men may be saved; and: Few are chosen. The chief mystery is here, how these two doctrines agree. But the contradiction between the Missourian doctrine of election and the universal counsel of grace is not only apparent, but real. For Missouri teaches that God made a distinction among men from the very start. Some He chose unto the call and unto faith, and others He did not choose thus; some [[@Page:600]]He chose according to the Lutheran (?) rule of election (i.e., according to His absolute will), the rest He passed by according to the Pelagian (?) rule of election (i.e. according to a conditional will). Without faith God will save no man; this faith, however, is said to flow from election; unto this faith we must be elected, otherwise we will remain without it. Yet only a few are thus elected; it is evident, therefore, that at best only a few can and shall be saved. This is Missourian doctrine, i.e. Missourian doctrine of election. And this is likewise the genuine Calvinistic doctrine of election.
But Missourians do not wish to be Calvinists, because they find a further doctrine and a doctrine contradicting the former in the Scriptures, a doctrine according to which God wants all men to be saved, according to which He redeemed them all, calls all and that seriously (?), desires to give faith to all, so that the fault will be theirs if they remain in unbelief and fall into condemnation. This is the revealed Gospel. In this doctrine they admit that God looked to faith, and that faith constitutes the whole difference; here faith is indeed the necessary condition and requirement on which depends forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. What is synergism and Pelagianism in the doctrine of election, is here the purest possible Lutheranism! According to this doctrine all men can indeed be saved, and the greater number is not saved because of their obdurate unbelief.
Everybody can see that these two doctrines, the Missourian doctrine of election, and the biblical doctrine of universal grace, which Missouri has not yet thrown overboard, are in direct contradiction to each other. And Missouri itself admits that they contradict each other according to all appearances — not merely as far as our reason is concerned, but one doctrine of Scripture (?) contradicts the other. Missouri teaches two totally different counsels of God in regard to salvation, of which one, and the one which is alone efficacious, extends only to a small minority of men. Missouri denies that the selection of persons constitutes a part of the one and only counsel of God in Christ, and teaches two counsels standing side by side, and differing from each other at every point in that the one is conditioned throughout by the use of the means of grace and by faith, while the other is conditioned by nothing whatever and simply from the very start “guarantees” everything, “executes itself,” cannot be hindered, etc. [[@Page:601]]
Thus, for instance, Dr. W. declares, Chicago Minutes, p. 50: “How can that be called election that God foresaw that certain people would believe till the end, and that, foreseeing this, He decreed: These shall be saved? If election is to be no more than God’s abiding by His counsel, that all who believe till the end shall be saved, there is no election at all.”
Page 51: “I am saved for the sake of Christ apprehended by faith. But where is it written that we are elected on this account?” Let it be noted that Dr. W. rejects the sentence: We are elected for the sake of Christ apprehended by faith. What a tremendous difference is thus made between eternal election unto salvation and salvation as it takes place in time!
Page 47; Dr. W. declares: “I believe that there is no analogy here to justification.”
Analogy i.e. similarity or likeness. There is no similarity between predestination and justification! We, indeed, have already seen and said long ago that Missouri with its doctrine of election has left the revealed counsel of God entirely; here we only wish to show how openly they themselves declare this. “L. u. W.”, 1881, 341, writes: “Stop that proton pseudos, that justification presents an analogy to election.” Proton pseudos signifies fundamental error. Missouri declares it to be a fundamental error to suppose that there is a similarity between justification and election. Yet justification is nothing but the forgiveness of sins, and where there is forgiveness there is also life and salvation. Whomever God justifies He receives by this very act unto life and salvation; and election is also a reception and predestination unto life and salvation. Still there is to be no analogy between the two! We are not allowed to draw conclusion from the one for the other.
This Missourian counsel of election differs in its very essence from the revealed counsel; it has a different foundation, pertains from the start only to a few, is carried out according to an entirely different rule, has altogether different results, and furnishes also an altogether different consolation. For we read in the Chicago Minutes, p. 56: “According to our Confession this saving pre- destination provides that we remain in faith till the end, and this above all things else is the consolation it contains. It is not that we are saved through faith, for then it would be the identical consolation which we have in God’s Word, in the gospel, in Christ’s merit, in short in all the means of salvation and grace. [[@Page:602]]We inquire after the special consolation which is found in this doctrine alone.” And page 41: Predestination is “a cause beside other causes, as for instance Christ, God’s grace, Word, Baptism, Supper,’ which also co-operate as causes that the elect may be preserved till the end.”
Dear Friends! Yours is another gospel! In so many words you declare that there is a different consolation in predestination than there is in the gospel, in Christ’s merit, etc., that predestination is a cause of our salvation aside from Christ, God’s grace, etc. That is a different gospel! But though we, or an angel from heaven (or Dr. Walther, or Prof. Pieper) preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed! Gal. 1.8. In what, briefly stated, does this other gospel consist? Answer: In this that all who believe or think they believe are deceived by the lie, that God has determined something especial concerning them; that repentance and faith are not antecedent conditions of their election, but fruits thereof; that the grace of election will provide that nothing shall separate them from grace, not even the denial of Christ or perjury. Evidently, through such sins they would lose faith, but they shall and must obtain it again, and nothing shall harm them as far as salvation is concerned. This is indeed “another gospel.” On the basis of such a gospel our opponents can indeed risk such proceedings as we have seen in the infamous accusations, refuted so often, yet constantly repeated on their part, namely that by “election in the wider sense” we mean an election of all men. Paul writes in Rom. 8: If ye live according to the flesh, ye shall die. But this again is only the revealed counsel of God — . The great Missourian mystery is this, that God could form two entirely different counsels concerning one and the same thing. And we are “to believe both.” If only we could not see the connection between the two, we would indeed, if we found both in the Scriptures, believe both by the grace of God. But, to begin with, we do not find in the Scriptures an election unto salvation without faith and unto faith. And, in the second place, this Missourian notion contradicts the Scriptures so directly that it is impossible to believe both. Persevering faith is said to flow from election. Yet all are not elected. Consequently all cannot believe perseveringly, cannot be saved. God would have established a certain grace said to be absolutely necessary for attaining salvation, from the very start, only for a few, excluding [[@Page:603]]all the rest without any known reason. The universal counsel of grace, which Missouri still teaches, and by which it imgaines to differ from the Calvinists, is in reality nothing but what Calvinists call the voluntas signi, the seeming will of God, by which He seems merciful toward all, and in a certain sense is merciful, and yet bestows that mercy which really saves from the very start only upon the elect. Ask an honest Missourian whether a person is able to believe perseveringly by virtue of the universal counsel alone and without election. According to the Missourian doctrine that would be utterly impossible. The universal counsel, according to Missouri, is nothing more than God’s offer and promise of grace to all, that if they would believe He would save them — if they would believe without the grace of election from which alone persevering faith flows! This is nothing different from the law: If we could do the law, we would indeed be saved. Missouri mocks Christianity now. Its notions are Calvinistic through and through, yet it shields itself behind the Lutheran and biblical doctrine of the universality of God’s counsel of grace, by which, however, no man was ever saved or ever can be.
In the earlier part of the controversy they have expressed this openly: “The troubled heart thinks: If God knows that I will be cast into hell, I surely will be cast there, no matter what I may do. The number of the elect can not be enlarged or decreased. What God foreknows must take place. If I do not belong to the elect, I may hear God’s Word ever so diligently, be absolved, go to the Lord’s Supper, it is all in vain. What does Luther reply? This is certainly so and must be admitted. He invents no other gospel for himself; he lets the sinner stick fast in this truth.” West. Report, 1879, 33.
These terrible thoughts of a “troubled heart,” i.e. of a true Christian in great distress of soul, are confirmed by St. Louis — not by Luther, as they pretend, but by themselves. Then, however, they refer to the universal gracious will of God as a “general medicine.” But it does not appear what they wish to remedy by it in their declaration, “this is certainly so.”
This shameful sentence, however, really contains in brief and terse form the whole Missourian doctrine of election. There is no possibility of helping the greater part of mankind; God has denied to them the very first and chief grace from which all else flows, and now all the promises of the gospel are powerless and fruitless; though a man should hear the gospel ever so [[@Page:604]]diligently and use absolution and the Sacrament, it is all in vain! Calvinists say straight out that God is not in earnest in these universal promises. Missourians say that God is in earnest, but that we may not think that they are too much in earnest, they say that God could indeed remove the resistance of the non-elect just as easily as He does that of the elect, yet why He does not remove it is a mystery. But it remains a fact, that what Missourians call “the universal counsel of grace” has the very same effect as what Calvinists call the seeming will of God. The power which really saves is placed on the part of both into the counsel of election which is said to pertain only to a few. “L. u. W.” declares in clear words: “The Word of God and the Confession desire that a Christian derive every spiritual blessing devolving upon him in time from the eternal election of God.” 1881, 42. It is plain that this leaves nothing whatever for the “universal counsel of salvation”; and this agrees perfectly with the above utterance: If I do not belong to the elect … it is all in vain!
The history of this sentence is remarkable. We have often confronted them with this sentence as one that is thoroughly wicked and overthrows the whole gospel. But what of it? Recall it in honesty? That is hard for them to do, and can hardly be done inasmuch as the sentence contains the real kernel of their doctrine. Its only fault is that it expressed the pretended truth too clearly. In Chicago they replied: “We do not say this; the Report has it: The troubled heart thinks so.” It can be seen that they would like to have been rid of the sentence, and attempted to hide themselves behind the introductory words: The troubled heart thinks thus. Even the chairman, otherwise a man of common sense, allowed himself to be decoyed and answered: “That is one of the quotations in a certain paper (‘Altes und Neues’) which people read and then ascribe to us.”
But that was a paltry evasion; for they themselves had adopted the sentence in the words: “This is certainly so.” When we attempted to show them this, that same chairman inquired: “Shall we take this matter up now?” and the Conference replied: “No” (see Minutes, 86 and 87)! Let it be noted that by employing false pretense they made this sentence out to be the thought of a troubled heart, that is a fiery dart of the evil one, and accused us of slander for ascribing the sentence to them, and then refused to give us an opportunity of refuting the false imputation. That was the first disgraceful act. [[@Page:605]]
Now a second one. Prof. Stellhorn had confronted them again (in his tract) with this sentence. To this “L. u. W.”, 1881, 307 and 8, replied: “It does not seem to disturb him (Stellhorn) to quote the words of a troubled man … as though they were our (Missourian) doctrine.” “And this he does even now, after having himself received the necessary correction in Chicago.”
The shameful procedure in Chicago they dare to describe as a “necessary correction,” and brand Prof. Stellhorn as an incortigible perverter of the truth for ascribing this sentence again to them in spite of that “necessary correction.”
And now the third act which serves to crown all the rest. In his “Illumination (?) of Stellhorn’s Tract” Dr. Walther very naturally again touches upon the unfortunate sentence, and now he proceeds to defend it as perfectly correct! What his friends in his presence had described as an affliction coming from Satan now all at once turns out to be the purest truth! Whereas they had accused us of falsification in that we ascribed this sentence to them, he now himself adopts the sentence, thus in more than one way abandoning his adherents, — abandoning them most painfully in a matter which he had himself upheld by his silence. It would appear then that they had ascribed a sacred truth to the devil, and that they had wrongfully accused us of falsifying; the “necessary correction” thus appears as having been an unneccessary vilification. Yet in all these proceedings there is no necessity for retracting anything; that would be too much justice towards an opponent.
But it is interesting to see how Dr. W. manages the sentence now reinstated. Naturally, it is difficult work; for the sentence shows up strikinly the double-faced Missourian doctrine by introducing itself in the beginning as a troublesome thought, a troublesome thought coming from the devil himself, and finally comes out as good Lutheran doctrine: “The troubled heart thinks . . . This is certainly so.” Here is where the “mystery” lies; according to the revealed gospel the sentence is a lie coming from the devil; for it makes election appear as a naked mustering of men, carried out with an iron necessity, so that he who is elected must be saved, and he who is not cannot be saved — and “Christ, God’s grace, Word, Baptism, Supper,” which are only “co-operating causes” are all “of no avail.” According to the revealed gospel, we repeat it, this is a lie of the devil, and must therefore be looked upon as a “troublesome thought” when [[@Page:606]]it enters the mind of a Christian — as Missouri preaches it; for the “revealed gospel” declares: God loved the world and gave His Son for it; but after giving us His Son, shall He not also give us all things freely, even also the grace of election, if this be a special grace? The Son, therefore, calls all sinners unto Him, and He is in earnest in calling thus, desiring really that all men may come to Him and receive help from Him; but that all do not come is the fault of their own obdurate resistance. Yet according to the Missourian proposition a man may be ever so diligent in hearing the Word of God, in seeking absolution and the Lord’s Supper — that indeed is all that man is able to do, and Christ has promised through this to help us — it is all in vain! Evidently this does not agree — with the revealed counsel; but as far as the counsel of election goes? Of course, that is a different thing! According to this counsel the sentence is perfectly true; this, you know, is the contradiction which the Scriptures do not solve. And thus the two harmonize beautifully: troublesome thought emanating from the devil = Lutheran truth!
The difficulty encountered by Dr. Walther is this, that the “seeming”‘ contradiction is expressed so strongly. Let us see how he proceeds! He handles the sentence in pp. 47-51 of the “Illumination.”
He begins by emphasizing that God’s foreknowledge cannot err. Dr. W. knows that we do not deny this, and therefore has no cause to make the vicious thrust: “Only a fool will assert this (that God can err) who does not believe in God’s omniscience and infallibility.”
But when he puts in the sentence: “Must not that take place of which God foreknows that it will take place?” we do not at once answer yes; for the doctrine of omniscience proves only that what God foreknows will certainly take place, and not that it must take place. God foresaw also the fall. Did man then have to fall? Chemnitz, who is Dr. W.’s man, writes: “The infallibility of foreknowledge does not annul the contingency,” i.e. although God foreknew with infallible certainty that many would stubbornly resist the Holy Spirit, wherefore also He did not elect them, yet it does not follow thereby that they had to resist Him and that they could not have been saved. All men can be saved, and those who are not saved prevent it themselves, and [[@Page:607]]this is what God foreknows with infallible certainty. But this is of minor importance.
Dr. W. now continues: “Very well; if now God foreknows which are NOT the elect because they die in unbelief, will then and can such people be saved because they hear God’s Word diligently, although without faith, have themselves absolved, although without faith, come to the Lord’s table, although without faith? Only an unchristian man, and no Christian, least of all a Lutheran Christian would make such an affirmation. Even Prof. Stellhorn will not dare to make it. For to say that a man of whom God foresaw that he would not believe in Christ to the end, whom God therefore did not receive among the number of the elect, to say that such a man will yet be saved, if only he hear the Word of God diligently, seek absolution and the Lord’s Supper, although in unbelief (for only such are here under consideration), that assuredly would be the devil’s gospel,” etc. WHY, THAT IS OUR DOCTRINE, as all who know the controversy will see at a glance! “A man of whom God foresaw that he would not believe in Christ to the end, whom God therefore did not receive among the number of the elect.” Evidently, this declares that God did consider faith in election, that faith (in God’s foreknowledge) was a necessary requirement for the election of a man, as well as for justification, wherefore also God did not elect all those “of whom God foresaw” that they would not believe to the end. That is pure Lutheran doctrine, and all we want is for our opponents to acknowledge it. But how does this agree with the Missourian doctrine, that God has chosen some from among the unbelieving without regard to faith, and chosen them unto faith? If God in election saw all as unbelieving, how can foreseen unbelief have been the real cause for not electing the greater number? They all must have been just such people of whom He foresaw that (without election) they would not believe: “of whom He foresaw that he would not believe in Christ to the end” — that was the very man who needed an election unto faith, and now we are told that foreseen unbelief was the obstacle to an election unto faith! The Lord tells us that He has come to call sinners to repentance. How would it agree with this declaration, if some one were to say that the Lord does not call certain people unto repentance because they are sinners? So here: our opponents say in the first place that God elected unto [[@Page:608]]persevering faith, that is unbelievers; then they say that God did not elect the greater number because He foresaw their unbelief; and again they say for a change that they do not know why God “did not elect the rest”!
The interpretation which Dr. W. gives the evil sentence under consideration does therefore not agree with the doctrine of our opponents on election, nor does it agree with the sentence itself. Dr. W. is compelled to pervert his own former words grossly to remove their gross Calvinistic sense. The sentence states: If I do not belong to the elect, everything is of no avail. ELECTION, THEREFORE, is the thing that is lacking; tor, that the man does not believe to the end would be of necessity the result of his having been passed by in election, since persevering faith can flow only from election — according to the Calvinistic Missourian doctrine. The interpretation, however, speaks of God’s having foreseen that I would not believe to the end, and of His not having taken me into the number of the elect for this reason, etc. This would turn things about and make the passing by in election the necessary result of foreseen unbelief. The sentence speaks of hearing the Word ever so diligently; the interpretation states that only such are here considered as hear the Word in unbelief. Since when is the attendance of hypocrites at church described as a diligent hearing of the Word? The sentence introduces itself as a troublesome thought; the interpretation, however (namely, if I do not believe, then everything is in vain), is in no sense a troublesome thought, but the simple scriptural truth which must be preached. A Christian may indeed be troubled by the thought: Perhaps God will not keep me in faith. But the evident reply, to this is: “It is not so.”
It is, therefore, a forced interpretation which Dr. W. bestows upon his former utterance. What the sentence really states is this, that the Holy Ghost works efficaciously through the Word and Sacrament only in the elect, in such a way that they can believe and be saved. That is the general doctrine of Missouri, and that is what this sentence declares. For this very reason our opponents sought to get rid of the sentence in Chicago and afterwards in “L. u. W.”, and assuredly Dr. W. would not undertake to defend it, if the fatal words had not been appended: “That is certainly so.”
But for us another thing is of importance, namely that he [[@Page:609]]himself could find no middle path between the gross Calvinistic doctrine clearly expressed in the sentence and the doctrine of our dogmaticians. He indeed claims elsewhere that there is such a path; but whenever he attempts to outline it, he finds himself either — and this for the most part, for, since he excludes regard to faith, there remains as the rule for election nothing but the absolute will of God — on the Calvinistic road, or, when he does not follow that line, in the wake of our Lutheran dogmaticians, as we have seen in his attempted interpretation. In fact, he concludes his entire explanation with an appeal to all orthodox dogmaticians for the immutability of election, whereas they all prove this infallibility, just as we do, by the fact that God’s foresight cannot fail, while Missouri otherwise, like the Calvinists, founds this immutability on the mere decree of the “free” divine will: “These shall and must be saved, and as surely as God is God they will be saved, and besides these none else.” Rpt. ‘77, 24.
If there were nothing but this sentence, we might be satisfied with Dr. W.’s interpretation. But what troubles us is the entire doctrine which has produced this sentence and many others like it. Missouri wants to substitute for the revealed gracious will of God in Christ an absolute will of God as the rule in election; on this our everlasting salvation is to depend. Missouri pretends to let the universal will of grace stand alongside of this absolute will. But when we come to look closely, we find that everything depends on this absolute election, and no man can be saved by the universal will of grace alone. If I do not belong to the elect … everything is of no avail. In the case of the majority of men, therefore, everything from the very start is of no avail. This is a desperate doctrine, and the great mystery is represented to be this, how such a desperate doctrine can be harmonized with the exceedingly consolatory voice of Christ: Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. It is not the will of God that any should be lost. This, however, is no mystery, but an open contradiction.
Therefore we say: Away with non-revealed mysteries in this or in any other doctrine! If there are real mysteries, i.e. real truths which it has not pleased God to reveal to us, then they are well taken care of in God’s hands, but they do not belong to Christian doctrine. If, however, there are “mysteries” which directly contradict the revealed Word, then they are lies of the [[@Page:610]]devil. It may look very innocent for “L. u. W.” to say: “God’s eternal election is the wonderful mystery hovering over certain persons.” But what is back of the words comes out clearly enough in another statement: “It has pleased God, as it were, to clothe and enfold the mystery of our election in the preaching of the Gospel and to proclaim and reveal it through this preaching.” By this statement Missouri by no means wishes to say that something is revealed to us in the Gospel concerning election itself; on the contrary, the statement means to declare: The fact, that we, we are elected, has been revealed to us in the Gospel; our opponents desire thereby to assert their infallible certainty concerning their own personal election. Otherwise the “mystery is, as it were clothed and enfolded in the preaching of the Gospel.” Of course, the absolute will of God does not meet us so nakedly and terribly — it is “enfolded” in the universal promises. The precious Gospel is the casing and the shell for the kernel which from the start is meant only for a few. So also the Chicago Minutes declare, p. 85: “God desires, IF you are to be saved, to bring you unto salvation only by the way of salvation.” But how can you discover WHETHER “you are to be saved”? Answer: Hear the Gospel; IF “you are to be saved”, it will then become clear to you; IF not, well, then “everything is in vain.” But this is to go on an adventure into the Gospel. The Gospel tells me for the very first thing THAT I am to be saved, but, to be sure, “only on the way of the order of salvation.” And in this the entire will of God is revealed to me. “This is the will of Him that sent me, that whosoever seeth the Son and believeth on Him shall have everlasting life.” This is the will of God, and this is eternal and immutable. In accord with this will God saves believers in time, in accord with this will He has also elected believers in eternity. Besides this will there is only one other, and this likewise a conditional will of God, revealed in the Scriptures: Keep the commandment, and you will live. This condition, however, no man can fulfill. In its very heart, however, this too is nothing but the former will of God: God wants to see a perfect righteousness in those whom He receives unto salvation. This righteousness we sinners cannot furnish, but we find it in Christ through faith. But a will of God, according to which He is said to have received some unto salvation without their either having kept the commandments themselves, [[@Page:611]]or having become partakers of Christ’s righteousness through faith — such a will contradicts the law as well as the Gospel. Our opponents may continue to say that God resolved at the same time to give the elect faith and righteousness. That is only one of their subterfuges. It does not relieve the matter. For although God in the perfection of His being does not thus resolve one thing after another, yet we, according to the Scriptures, can know His will only part by part, and must be careful to note how “one thing follows from and after the other” (Chemnitz). Sin can be followed only by the judgment of condemnation. As long and inasmuch as God sees a sinner as a sinner, i.e. outside of Christ, He cannot and will not pronounce that sinner saved, no matter whether in His omniscience He has foreseen him as a sinner, or (to speak humanly) sees him now — as far as God is concerned this distinction does not exist; He is the same unchangeable God, and sees the same man or the same humanity. But if God could predestinate unto salvation “and unto faith” sinners as such, i.e. unbelieving sinners, who were not justified through Christ, and yet did not predestinate the greater number of them unto salvation, although He saw them precisely in the same condition as the rest, then He would have dealt in both directions according to His “free” absolute will, which is revealed to us neither in the law nor in the Gospel. Our opponents invent an altogether new will of God — and this they call “mystery” and seek to “enfold” it in the Gospel. And this is what we contend against. We will not submit to have the Gospel poisoned.
We draw attention also to this difference: Missouri declares eternal election to be the wonderful mystery which “hovers over certain persons”; our Confession, however, declared that it pertains only to “the godly, beloved children of God.” But such things make no difference to Missouri.
To be sure, reason raises many questions in this article which the Scriptures do not answer. When we consider the fortunes of individuals or of entire nations, it does not always appear that God’s intention is to bring as many people as possible unto saving faith. But does it therefore follow that He has not this intention? Must we not rather judge of outward appearances according to His Word, instead of vice versa limiting and fitting His clear revealed Word according to outward appearances? There are nations who have not had the Gospel for centuries, and [[@Page:612]]generations have been born and have died without hearing the name of Jesus. And reason begins to inquire, how it can be true that God desires all men to be saved, when He does not even give all men the means for salvation.
Although we can only reply, that it is nevertheless true, because the Scriptures say so, that God sees an obstacle to His counsel of grace, even though we cannot see it, this is answer enough. The Scriptures say more than this, that God would save all men, they speak also of the order in which alone God would save men, and of His judgments upon those who obstinately despise His order! Paul even speaks of special judgments upon heathen nations who despised their natural knowledge of God. The consideration of such nations, therefore, furnishes us no reason for doubting even a single letter of the precious and indispensable truth so dear to every Christian heart, that God earnestly desires the salvation of all men alike. It is true that we cannot comprehend the individual judgments of God; yet in general we know the rule in accordance with which God deals with the human race. Moreover, the “gulf” is not between the universal will of grace and predestination which is likewise revealed, but between outward appearances and the revealed Word. We see only the superficial surface of the appearances, and cannot therefore judge them correctly. When, for instance “L. u. W.” formerly declared: “Experience also corroborates the fact, that God does not remove resistance against His Word in the case of many millions from whom He could remove it just as easily,” this is more than “L. u. W.” can prove. “Experience” is not God’s Word; and whether resistance can be removed just as easily in the case of the one as in the case of the other is something which He alone can by “experience” know whose work it is to remove resistance — the Holy Spirit. Preachers, who are merely His tools in the work, have not this experience, rather the contrary.
But our opponents boldly make statements of this kind, that God deals unequally with men, that He could help all, that all resist in the same way, or would resist in the same way, if God did not anticipate this resistance in the case of some, etc. All this is then brought into connection with election, and then they are surprised at the mysteries!
Well, although we cannot and would not answer the host of [[@Page:613]]questions they raise, we nevertheless, thank God, know the answer to the chief question; the rule according to which God saves and has resolved from eternity to save one man and not the other — this rule we know. It is this: He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned.
He who goes back of this rule and asserts a separation or division of persons according, to a mere will of God, certainly turns election into a “mystery” — a mystery which controverts the entire revealed Word.
Our opponents keep referring to Rom. 11.33, etc., in proof of their assertion that predestination is a mystery in an especial way: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? or who hath first given to Him and it should be recompensed unto him again?” Yet the sense of this passage is so clear from the context as also from the words themselves and from other passages of the Scriptures that all doubt is removed. That the “mind of the Lord”, or the will of God, according to which He elected some to salvation and did not elect others — that this will is not revealed even in the Scriptures is not proved by this passage, on the contrary, that the mind of God cannot be known without the Scriptures, or in what lies beyond them.
The entire passage from chapter nine to eleven treats of the rejection of the Jewish people and of the reception of the Gentiles. These are the “judgments” and the “ways” of God, as Luther shows in his sermon on Rom. 11.33. And these judgments and ways are “unsearchable” and “past finding out” in the same measure as “the wisdom and knowledge” of God are deep, i.e. unfathomable. The Jews had rejected the gospel from the beginning, and at the time Paul wrote the letter to the Romans the Christian Church was already separated from the synagogue of the Jews as widely as our Lutheran Church is separed from popery, and even wider. This made it clear even to the Jews that either the Christian Church was false, or that they themselves were no longer the true Church. The latter was, very naturally, claimed by Christians. But this is what the Jews could not understand, they could not “harmonize” it with the promises given to their nation of old. Aside from the fact, that the cross of Christ was an offense to the Jews in any case, they were furthermore confirmed [[@Page:614]]in their rejection of the gospel by the explicit declarations of the prophets regarding a redemption, renewal, and glorification of Israel by the Messiah, as Paul himself stated in Rom. 11.26; and now if the gospel were true and the Christians were right, Israel would be rejected — the prophecies would thus be unfulfilled. Their deductions from the Scriptures, therefore, would not explain this “experience” — they were sure that this could not be. Where now were they wrong in their deductions? In this that, being filled with work-righteousness and therefore not enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they failed to comprehend the wisdom and knowledge of God, i.e. the counsel of God unto salvation, namely that God acknowledges as His people, as the children of Abraham only those who have the faith of Abraham. They imagined that the mere descent from Abraham and the obedience under the law made them heirs of the promise, and therefore they ‘could not comprehend the “judgments” and “ways” of God, that they should be rejected and the Gentiles accepted. Against this fleshly imagination John the Baptist, Christ Himself, and all the apostles found it necessary to contend from the beginning. “Think not”, says John, “to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham”, i.e. God can fulfill His promises even though He be unable to bring you unto them. Paul says the same thing right at the beginning of the entire discussion, [[9, 6 >> Rom 9.6]]: “Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect; for they are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children, but, In Isaak shall thy seed be called. That is. They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” “Children of the promise”, i.e. who are reborn through the promise, who believe in Christ. In the same way Paul writes in Gal. 3.6-7: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.”
This, then, is the truth of God, incomprehensible for reason; hence reason also cannot understand His judgments and ways, since He accepts and rejects only according to this wisdom and knowledge of His.
Concerning this the apostle continues: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord”, i.e. who hath looked directly into His [[@Page:615]]heart? “Or who hath been His counsellor” — so that the “mind” of God would have been derived from our wisdom —? “Or who hath first given to Him and it should be recompensed unto him again” — so that God would owe us something, and we might from that conclude what He has resolved concerning us? In all these instances we would not need a revelation of the divine will, such as we now have, and from which we know that those who are of faith are the children of Abraham.
That the passage referred to does not treat of a secret will of election in contradistinction to the revealed will of grace is furthermore irrefutably shown by 1 Cor. 2.6-16, where the same subject is treated in the same words, only more extensively. [[Verse 7 >> 1 Cor 2.7]]: “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” [[Verse 8 >> 1 Cor 2.8]]: “Which none of the princes of this world knew.” [[Verse 10 >> 1 Cor 2.10]]: “But God revealed them (the things He had prepared) unto us by His Spirit.” [[Verse 11 >> 1 Cor 2.11]]: “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (who has revealed them to us). [[Verse 13 >> 1 Cor 2.13]]: “Which things also we speak”; [[verse 14 >> 1 Cor 2.14]]: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God”; [[verse 16 >> 1 Cor 2.16]]: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” We all see that the same wisdom, mind, etc., is here spoken of as in Rom. 11. But it is the mind revealed in the Word, and not a hidden mystery of election.
All three chapters furthermore show that God proceeded according to this very rule in the rejection of the Jewish people: He who believes shall be saved, he who believes not shall be damned.
Immediately preceding the words referred to in Rom., we read, [[verse 29 >> Rom 11.29]]: “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance”, i.e. God will not become guilty of falsehood as far as Israel is concerned, as they imagine that He must become, if He should reject Israel. — (“Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect”, [[9, 6 >> Rom 9.6]].) — “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.” With God there is no respect of persons; as long as ye Gentile Christians did not believe ye did not receive mercy. Now things are turned about; now the Jews do not believe, therefore they now are rejected. Everything therefore depends on faith. “For God hath concluded them all in [[@Page:616]]unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.” And this now is the “hidden wisdom” of God, that unbelief binds us before God, i.e. renders us worthy of condemnation, and the mercy of God alone, and no work of our own, saves us. And it was this that so offended the Jews; this they could not comprehend; and in regard to this the apostle bursts out in the words: “O the depth” etc.
What is thus taught by the immediate connection we find in all the three chapters. At the end of [[the ninth chapter >> Rom 9]], in which occur all those hard sayings (e. g. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth — Hath not the Father power, etc.), Paul himself raises the question: “What shall we say then? (what is the real meaning of all the foregoing?) That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” The question, therefore, is not, why God did not elect the Jews “unto faith”, but why He did not justify and save them. And this question Paul answers: Because they did not believe. “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God”, [[10, 3 >> Rom 10.3]], i.e. believe not. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”, [[10, 4 >> Rom 10.4]]. “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed”, [[10, 11 >> Rom 10.11]]. “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek” (among the Jews, who were then rejected, and the Greeks, who were accepted in their stead). In how far is there no difference? In so far as both were in altogether the same condition, God however taking only the Greeks, and rejecting the Jews, as Missouri would have it? Never! “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” God, therefore, makes no difference; He deals with all according to one identical revealed rule. If then the Jews of that day would not believe ([[11, 31 >> Rom 11.31]]), they were bound to perish; but if they remain not in unbelief, they will be accepted again ([[11, 23 >> Rom 11.23]]). So much depended on faith, which St. Louis makes out to be the work of man! [[@Page:617]]
But even then all the Jews were not rejected. “God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew” ([[11, 2 >> Rom 11.2]]). What does “foreknow” mean? Our opponents say: to acknowledge, elect, etc. But this is wrong; the Scriptures have several words really signifying to elect, and use them when they mean to say “to elect.” Even our opponents will not claim that the original signification of “foreknow” (ginoskein) is “elect”; it is rather “to know”, and hence here “to foreknow.” A strange meaning would result if in the above passage “foreknow” signifies “elect”, or if the word “elected” were actually to stand in place of “foreknow.” God hath not cast away His people which He elected, would be saying the same as: God does not damn those whom He saves; it would be saying nothing at all, nor would it fit into the context. Paul’s aim, as has been stated, is to refute the objection of the Jews, that, if the gospel were true, the Old Testament promises relating to the Jews would remain unfulfilled. And this he refutes, as we have already seen, by saying that “Israel” are not all the descendants of Israel, but those who are “of faith, these are the seed of Abraham.” Gal. 3.6. “He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly… but … which is one inwardly”, Rom. 2.28; 8.29. In brief: those who truly believe are “God’s people.” And this “His people”, which He foreknew, i.e. had in mind from the beginning in all the promises (which, of course. He had also elected) — the promise is “given to them that believe”. Gal. 3.22 — this “people” God hath not now cast away, Paul tells us; God indeed keeps His promise. As an example Paul mentions himself; he too had been a Jew, and yet he enjoyed the grace of God. But no matter what is said regarding “foreknow” — this is clear: “His people” = “believers.” Whether the words are taken as we take them: God hath not cast away His believers (also among the Jews) which He foreknew (as such); or whether the words are taken as our opponents take them: Whom He predestinated — there is no difference as far as our present object is concerned; the people God foreknew and also elected are none but believers.
This is corroborated by the example of Elias, whom Paul mentions. The prophet believed that he alone of all the prophets, and indeed of all the godly people of Israel, remained. Paul gives the divine answer briefly in the words: “I have reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.” These words do not say that God in His secret counsel elected these few unto faith, and therefore [[@Page:618]]by His absolute power protected them from idolatry; on the contrary, they declare, that these seven thousand were preserved from idolatry through the Word and grace of God, and therefore God also preserved them from punishment. The story is found in 1 Kings 19.14-18. In [[verse 14 >> 1 Kings 19.14]] we have the complaint of Elias against the murderers of the prophets. In [[v. 15-17 >> 1 Kings 19.15-17]] the divine threat, that these murderers shall perish. And then [[v. 18 >> 1 Kings 19.18]] declares: “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal.” The point of comparison is this: Elias believed already in his day that all Israel had fallen away; but God knew better. He knew even the exact number and the individual persons, so that He could preserve them from the universal carnage, that these few godly souls should not be slain, as Elias imagined had already been done. “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace,” [[11, 5 >> Rom 11.5]]. It seems as though the entire nation of the Jews (those who were at that time unconverted) is hardened and cast away. But God knows better; He still has “His people” among them, whom He foreknew and hence also has not cast away; but according to the election of grace — not of works, [[v. 6 >> Rom 11.6]]. This is the destruction of the rest of the Jews — not indeed gross idolatry of Baal, as in the days of Elias, but their inveterate work-righteousness. Here again no secret rule of election is given, there is nothing but the old rule of the gospel: He who believes — he who does not believe.
[[Verse 7 >> Rom 11.7]]: “What then?” What is the brief sum of it all? “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for.” What does Israel seek? Faith? No; righteousness. But why does not Israel obtain it? “Because they sought it not by faith,” [[9. 32 >> Rom 9.32]]. “But the election hath obtained it,” i.e. “His people,” His elect, “which are of faith,” Gal. 3.7, who “call upon the name of the Lord,” Rom. 10.13.
In the entire discussion there is no trace of a secret election unto faith, hence not a word concerning an unrevealed mystery; there is nothing but the revealed counsel of God in Christ, which, however, was still hidden from the eyes of the work-righteous Jews through their own fault.
When our opponents demand of us that we interpret the dark passages in chapter 9 by themselves and not from the clear passages following, they demand something fundamentally [[@Page:619]]unbiblical and un-Lutheran. Hath any man prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith, Rom. 12. The rule for interpretation, which our opponents demand for the protection of their false doctrine of predestination, would be just the thing for chiliasts in their interpretation of Rev. 20. But aside from this, none of the passages in Rom. 9 say in reality what Missouri attempts to make them say. Thus, for instance: “Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth,” in no way indicates that a so-called “free” will of election is here meant, as opposed to the universal will of grace. God’s will certainly is altogether “free”; He does even “as He wills”; He has “power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor.” But let our opponents furnish proof that in election God did not deal according to His revealed will. Our Confession, in the very article concerning election, interprets a number of such passages according to the analogy of faith.
Missouri, in reality, is repeating the role of Israel of old — of course, only in regard to this question. It finds it impossible to “harmonize” God’s dealing in regard to the Jews (and in regard to all the non-elect) with the revealed promises. This was exactly what the Jews could not do; the only difference is that Missouri declares, “We believe both” (which, however, is only delusion; for, as we have seen in the case of the notorious proposition above, they understand the universal promises more or less according to the “mystery).” The Jews pretended to abide by the promises given to their fathers (which likewise was a delusion; for they misinterpreted the promises). Missouri will not admit that for time as well as for eternity faith in Christ “makes the difference between those who are saved and those who are damned, between the worthy and the unworthy,” as our Confession declares. The Jews refused to admit the same thing — it was this that Paul showed them in [[Rom. 9 to 11 >> Rom 9-11]]. Missouri believes that God’s “free” election made the difference already in eternity, and makes it also in time; for election is said “to execute itself.” The Jews believed that their descent from Abraham — and this by reason of “free” election, God simply having selected Abraham and his descendants in preference to other nations — constituted the difference. Missouri, of course, admits that in time faith makes a difference; but neither did Israel deny that they had been chosen unto the true [[@Page:620]]knowledge of God and unto obedience, and that thereby they differed from other people. But in the case of both Missouri and Israel that which poduces the difference is the “free” elective and completely decisive will of God. That “faith makes the difference” can be said according to the doctrine of Missouri only in the same manner as we say in justification that works make the difference, namely, that in them the difference manifests itself, which as such lies deeper and works itself out. In a word, Missouri has a different position for faith in the counsel of God than the Word of God and our Confession.
“When of two baptized children one is elected, and the Other is not, the difference works itself out during the entire life, so that the one shall not lack, even though it fall from faith by denying Christ and by perjury, yet it shall and must regain its faith,” Report, 1877, 43; Report 1879, 101. And the other child? Well, that of course remains under the universal will of grace! Whoever denies that is a Calvinist, even Missouri declares. But what of this universal will of grace? Oh, God wants to save also this other child, if only it believe in Christ, even Missouri declares. Whence shall it obtain faith? Answer: From the Word and Sacrament (here Missouri does not say: From election!), and since it is baptized it already has faith, and need only persevere, then it will be saved. Can now this child really be saved? (We do not ask, whether it will be saved, for we are speaking of a child which is not elected; our question is, whether the child can be saved, whether Missouri still really believes that God prepared salvation for all, that all really can obtain it.) Is the preservative power for faith found in the gospel as such and as it is preached to all? Answer of Missouri: The grace of perseverance must flow from election; yet election does not include all. If, therefore, I “do not belong to the elect, I may hear God’s Word ever so diligently, seek absolution and the Lord’s Supper, it is all of no avail — this is certainly so.” This is the only answer Missouri can give, in accord with its doctrine of election; the answer which in an unguarded hour, when already it had been privately admonished, yet imagined it could still suppress the opposition, it did give; the answer which, after being given, it denied in Chicago and in “L. u. W.”; the answer which it finally again acknowledged and sought to patch up with an orthodox interpretation! And Rom. 11.13, is to serve as a cover for the whole disgraceful proceeding. [[@Page:621]]
No, the Missourian “mystery” is not such an innocent thing as some who accept it still think, and as its defenders especially endeavor to persuade us. P. Stöckhardt in “L. u. W.”, 1881, 368, says plainly, that when he stated in Chicago that he did not know why God had not elected the rest, he “meant nothing but the discretio personarum,” i.e. the separation of persons. “Nothing but” this — just as though this did not include everything! This “discretio personarum,” this difference between Jews and Greeks, which Paul rejects, Rom. 10.12, works itself out in time according to Missourian doctrine; this difference goes with us unto Baptism, unto absolution, unto the Lord’s Supper; this difference is “as it were clothed and enfolded in the preaching of the gospel.” To be sure, he who does not look close will see only the clothing, the outward folds, and will think that we are contending about trifles. But, thank God, we know the masked Calvinistic changeling, and want nothing whatever to do with it; and therefore we declare: —
Election is revealed to us in the Scriptures and is no more a mystery than any other article of faith.
Election in itself is a mystery, and to a certain extent, as stated, the mystery of mysteries, in so far as it includes all the articles of faith and at the same time the “discretio personarum.” In so far, however, as all articles, and at the same time the rule according to which God separated sinners from sinners, are revealed, in so far election also is revealed, and essentially no more a mystery than the gospel in general. We deny any mystery said to be separated from the universal gospel by a deep gulf or “abyss,” for the Scriptures contain nothing of the kind. The precious gospel, which makes no difference between “Jews and Greeks,” inviting all unto Christ with the same earnestness and power, has been given us through the unmerited goodness of God and — we will not forget ungratefully — through Missouri’s former faithful work. And we have found such a wealth of consolation and refreshing sweetness in this gospel that we have no hankering whatever for “another” still sweeter consolation in a mere decree of God, separted from the gospel and not to be harmonized with that gospel. Outside of the gospel and “aside” from it is hell; Dr. Luther often warns against it. Our opponents indeed say that the apparent contradiction will be solved in heaven. Well, we are ready to wait as far as other things are concerned, but where the very foundation of our [[@Page:622]]salvation is at stake it is too long for us to wait for heaven; we have need now, even now while we are in the midst of sin and temptation, of the full consolation of the gospel. Besides, it would be tempting God to wait for the solution of a question which the Son of God came into the world to solve by His Word and work. “No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” Therefore St. Paul writes, Rom. 10. 6-8: “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise. Say not in thine heart. Who shall ascend into heaven” (to search out the will of God), “that is to bring Christ down from above” (who has already come down, and by His Word and work revealed the whole counsel of God to us, sealing it also with signs and miracles, so that, to find mysteries in this will now, would be simply to count the incarnation of God’s Son as nothing); “or who shall descend into the deep?” (that is down to the dead, as though the dead knew more concerning this will of God than we now know) “that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead” (to deny that He is risen from the dead and that thereby He brought to light what awaits those who die with Him, namely life and immortality). “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” In this Word, therefore, everything is open, light, and clear, and there is nothing for us to expect in the line of further information, as far as our election and salvation is concerned, immediately from God or after death. Paul directs us, not into some mystery, but into the revealed Word; and then at once he continues and declares that God makes no difference between Jews and Greeks, i.e. between men and men, but only between believers and unbelievers.
The source of this faith, according to Paul, is not, as Missouri would have it, the discretio personarum, the selection of some certain persons, but the Word which is “nigh thee”: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Will not Missouri return to the simplicity of Paul, and thus end this lamentable controversy? We cannot accept unrevealed mysteries. To expect the power for persevering in faith from such a mystery, the mysterious part of which consists in the very fact of its hovering only over a few, is truly something altogether unheard of in the Lutheran Church.
If this mystery does not happen to hover also over me, then [[@Page:623]]I cannot (according to Missourian doctrine) remain in faith, then “everything is of no avail.” And if I am not certain that it hovers over me, then all my life long I must be in doubt as to whether I can at all be saved. This is what follows from the doctrine of Missouri concerning election, and therefore Missouri also claims “that a Christian should be and can be certain of his eternal election — unconditionally certain, infallibly certain, just as I can now know from the Scriptures whether I am at present in the grace of God or not.” Report, ‘79, 56. “There (in the Scriptures) I behold God on His seat and the Trinity taking counsel, and I hear my name: This man also shall enter heaven!” (Genuine Calvinistic words!) “This is more certain than if my name were recorded,” p. 54. We must give Missouri credit, what it does it does thoroughly. And furthermore: the less proof Missouri has, the bolder and more reckless is the repetition of its bare assertions, the more presumptuous its condemnation of all who dare gainsay; for the sake of this one point Missouri has repeatedly given us to understand that its opponents believe no everlasting life at all! Eternal life is believed in reality only by a Lutheran, i.e. a Missourian!
Our reply shall be that we calmly investigate the matter according to the Word of God.
How do Missourians arrive at the certainty that they, even they, are covered by the mystery? From the Word of God, they tell us. Very well! From the Word of God I can know with certainty that I have been redeemed, because that Word testifies that all are redeemed. From the Word of God I can furthermore know that I am even now in the grace of God; for that Word declares: Ye are all the children of God through faith. And the Holy Ghost seals this knowledge in the hearts of believers, testifying to our spirits that we are the children of God. I am to examine myself, whether I have faith or not, for this is’ a matter of experience: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” 2 Cor. 13. 5. In this examination the written Word furnishes the decisive criteria; for it describes true faith in every respect, showing its foundation, which is Christ’s merit, its effects, which are, on the one hand, peace with God in the conscience, and the glad hope of eternal life, on the other hand, heartfelt gratitude toward God, love toward our fellow-men, patience in tribulation, warfare against the flesh, etc. Whether all this is found in myself, even though it be in great weakness, whether [[@Page:624]]I am therefore in true faith and in this faith have the testimony of the Holy Spirit regarding my adoption, this I can and must “know.” And the Scriptures also tell me that God desires to keep me in faith; God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. No creature is able to separate us from the love of God. No man will take my sheep out of my hand; etc.
These promises are given to all believers, and for this reason every single believer can be certain that they apply also to him. And yet the Scriptures teach very decidedly that all believers are not actually preserved in faith; and Missouri itself declares: “Others, on the other hand, are children of God for perhaps forty or fifty years, and then they allow the devil to blind them, fall away, and are cast into hell.” These promises must, therefore, include a condition. If God had promised preservation in faith to believers unconditionally, and if then many were not preserved, God would not be keeping His Word. The condition is also clearly stated in most passages, in others it is only briefly indicated, and hence in the rest it must certainly be supplied. Thus the Lord declares: Neither shall any man pluck my sheep out of my hand; but He adds: My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me. Concerning these words John Brenz writes: “Our Shepherd Christ taught, that we should not sin, and He Himself also never sinned. Hence we are to follow in His steps, that we may never sin. If, however, we have sinned, we must at once repent and return to the Shepherd, so that He may not cease acknowledging us as His sheep; for as far as Christ Himself is concerned He keeps, defends, and protects His sheep with such perseverance, constancy, and faithfulness, that, as St. Paul writes, neither death nor life can move Him to reject and to forsake them.” On John 10.27-28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand, does not say that they themselves cannot fall away by wilful sins. In Rom. 8 Paul declares that no man can separate us from the love of God; yet in the same chapter, [[v. 13 >> Rom 8.13]], he writes: For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” Luther writes on v. 35: “If we hang to this in true faith, we shall stand just as high, and neither tribulation nor distress nor the devil, neither fire nor water nor any other creature shall overcome us, the victory shall be ours. Only unbelief or the sin of [[@Page:625]]man himself may separate him from the communion, grace of God, life, and salvation.”
Furthermore, when Paul writes, 1 Cor. 10.13: God is faithful, he has already stated in [[v. 12 >> 1 Cor 10.12]]: Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall; and he does not say: God makes an end of temptation, so that ye must bear it, but so that ye may be able to bear it. Peter writes in his [[second Epistle, 3, 17 >> 2 Pet 3.17]]: Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. This “steadfastness” is the unimpeachable faithfulness of God and protection of God; no man can pluck us out of this fortress, yet we can fall from it. A Christian, therefore, cannot go beyond this, that he is certain of God’s grace at every moment, that thus he is prepared to die at any time, but that in regard to the future he knows only that God will surely keep him, if he does not prevent God from doing so by his own wilful sin. And this is precisely the position of our Confession, as is shown by the seventh decree: “That the good work which God has begun in them He would strengthen, increase, and support to the end, if they observe God’s Word, pray diligently, abide in God’s goodness, and faithfully use the gifts received.” Here we have, evidently, an appended condition. God indeed knows in whom the condition will be fulfilled; but do we? Does every Christian know this in advance concerning himself? No! Our certainty concerning future perseverance is and remains conditional. Yet this certainty continues to grow; the more a Christian masters the evil lust in his heart through the grace of God, the greater his fear and detestation of sin, and the stronger his longing for the perfection of eternal life, the more certain will he be of final victory. Therefore our Confession declares, [[§ 73 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:73]]: “And since the Holy Ghost dwells in the elect, who become believing, as in His temple, and is not inactive in them, but impels the children of God to obedience to God’s commands; believers, in like manner, should not be inactive, and much less resist the impulse of God’s Spirit, but should exercise themselves in all Christian virtue, in ah godliness, modesty, temperance, patience, brotherly love, and give all diligence to make their calling and election sure, in order that the more they experience the power and strength of the Spirit within them, they may doubt the less concerning it.”
This making sure is certainly the task of our whole life, and [[@Page:626]]our success is that we “doubt the less concerning it,” in other words an increasing certainty. Our opponents reply at this point: If we had a conditional certainty, we would have no certainty at all. Very well! We have already seen that the question before us is twofold: 1) Whether we can be certain that God desires to keep us. To this we reply: Yes, unconditionally certain! 2) Whether we can be certain that we will not prevent God from keeping us by wilful sins. To this we reply: No; what has happened to others may also happen to us, to our opponents also. But if both questions are taken together: Whether we can be certain that we will remain contant; then we reply: Not unconditionally certain. And we appeal to [[§ 70 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:70]] of our Confession: “Therefore no one who would be saved should trouble or harass himself with thoughts concerning the secret counsel of God, as to whether he also is elected and ordained to eternal life; for with these miserable Satan is accustomed to attack and annoy godly hearts. But they should hear Christ, who is the Book of Life and of God’s eternal election of all God’s children to eternal life; who testifies to all men without distinction that it is God’s will, that all men who labor and are heavy laden with sin should come to Him, in order that He may give them rest and save them.”
It is remakable how our opponents seek to evade this sentence. The Report of ‘79 treats properly concerning the certainty spoken of. And here they have quoted the above passage from the Confession (p. 60 sqq.). The ensuing discussion then begins by saying: “Some deny outright that a Christian can become sure of his election.” They proceed by declaring that they have already demonstrated this certainty, feeling, however, that their demonstration is still pretty weak; for while pretending to discuss how a Christian can become sure of his election, they evidently labor for some 30 or 40 pages in attempting to prove that a Christian can be thus certain. But the words above, taken from the Confession, they have indeed in their thesis, but in the discussion they remain altogether untouched. And this very naturally, for the words are clear: “No one who would be saved should trouble or harass himself with thoughts concerning the secret counsel of God, as to whether he also is elected and ordained to eternal life.” The last clause states what is meant by the secret counsel of God, concerning which we are not to trouble [[@Page:627]]or harass ourselves, since it is not revealed in the Scriptures. Instead of thus troubling himself, he “who would be saved” is directed to Christ who calls all men without distinction unto Himself; accordingly he is to repent, believe His promise (which repentance and faith the Holy Ghost desires to work, since we cannot do this of our own powers), implore God for His grace to remain steadfast, which He promised us in holy Baptism (assuredly then to all the baptized?); furthermore, he who would be saved is to be diligent in good works, not to resist the Holy Ghost, etc. And the result will be, that he will doubt the less concerning his final salvation, as we have already heard. This is the line of thought in this entire section of the Confession. In brief: Concern yourselves rather about the universal Gospel, about repentance and faith, prayer and good works. Then, as Dr. Luther well says, “predestination will come of itself.” In another place Luther writes: “On these (the means of grace) we are to stand firm, make our boast of them, and say: I am baptized, I believe in Jesus Christ, I have received the Sacrament, etc. What do I care whether I am foreknown or not.” Walch 22, 1281. (In fact, this is how Luther constantly expresses himself. All the testimonies, quoted by our opponents from Luther in reference to the certainty of salvation, refer in the first instance to present salvation through faith, concerning which Paul writes, Rom. 8: “We are saved, by hope.” This, to be sure, is essentially the same salvation which we shall have in the future; and when a Christian says that he is certain of his salvation, he always means this one identical salvation. But when the explicit question is raised, whether we can lose this salvation or not, then we must hold fast the difference between the certainty regarding the present possession and that regarding the future preservation. And as often as Luther takes up this question, he makes the difference. “All salvation is surely there, but it is uncertain and a subject for care whether he will be constant and retain it.” Walch 12, 284. In fact, Luther declares most decidedly that we cannot and should not be certain of our election (in the proper sense of that word; he gives as a reason, that neither repentance nor faith would then be possible! Is it possible that our St. Louis friends found no such passages in Luther’s writings? They have always quoted passages in which Luther speaks simply concerning the certainty of election; [[@Page:628]]as for instance in the Catechism: Where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation. At times they have even omitted a few lines, which went to show that Luther was speaking of present salvation and not of perseverance!) But the sense of the paragraph from the Confession is sufficiently clear. According to the views of our opponents this paragraph would have to read: “Therefore, the Christian, who would like to be certain, whether he too is elected and ordained unto eternal life, must look into the Scriptures; there he sees God on his seat and the Trinity taking counsel, and hears his own name: This man too shall enter heaven.” This is how the passage would have to read; but this is not the way it does read!
How do the Missourians arrive at this certainty? Let us put one of them on the witness stand and ply him thoroughly with questions! We can take his answers, either word for word, or at least their exact contents from the writings of Missouri. Whence do you know with unconditional and infallible certainty that you are elected?
From the Scriptures; there indeed I do not find the names, but the elect are precisely described. “If one sees that he is there described, he knows with full certainty that he is elected.” Rpt. ‘79, 54.
But there is one point in the description, which reads: perseverance till the end. This point is very essential — do you find this in yourself already?
No; but “I believe firmly and certainly that God will keep me in faith and in sanctification.” Page 73.
I believe the same thing; nevertheless many believers do not persevere.
That is true; but there is a certain number concerning which “He has determined, these shall and must be saved”; these therefore must persevere. 1877, 24.
Let us take it for granted that you mean this correctly — which is not the case; for you mean an absolute election. But taken for granted that your meaning is correct — how do you know that you are one of these?
This I must “believe.” 1879, 66. He who believes in Christ, loves Christ, uses the means of grace diligently, has in all this clear proof that God has elected him. Page 81. [[@Page:629]]
Are then all believers to believe that they are elected, even those also who believe only for a time?
Yes; for “Paul, who speaks through the Spirit of God, calls the whole congregation of Christians in Ephesus elect, and requires of all of them that they shall believe that they are elected.” 66.
Are then all believers elected — are there no temporary believers?
O, there are many; some are faithful for 40 or 50 years and yet they are cast into hell. 1877, 60.
But can temporary believers believe that they belong to the elect, i.e. that they are no temporary believers?
This “we cannot say” — we do not know. 80.
Let us pass the question as to whether they can believe this. But there is another difficulty in the matter. You say, they shall believe this; are they to believe a falsehood?
Yes; he demands of them all that they beheve it, “although he knew well that they were not all true Christians, to say nothing of his having been certain that all of them belonged to the elect. 66.
That is indeed terrible! “Paul who speaks through the Spirit of God” “demands of them all that they believe they are elected, although he knew well” that it was not true! Friend, consider your words!
He wants this to be understood synecdochically, i.e. he calls them all elect, because there were some elect among them, as we call a wheat field a wheat field on account of the wheat on it, although there are weeds among the wheat. Paul speaks according to charity, he hopes the best of all. 66 and 70.
Your answer does not remove the difficulty; for, in the first place, it is something altogether different to say: That is a wheat field, although there are some weeds in it; and to demand that the weeds be considered wheat. In the second place, it is strange that you make such an answer now; when Prof. Stellhorn in Chicago said that we men must look upon temporary believers, while they continue to believe, as though they belong to the elect (Minutes, 21), you attacked us for days as though the assertion created the greatest confusion. (Minutes, 42 sqq.) How do you agree with yourselves?
(This question finds no answer in the “publications.”) [[@Page:630]]
Furthermore: “you say the apostle speaks synecdochically when he requires all to believe that they are elected. Do you perhaps speak synecdochically, when you require all to believe that they are redeemed? Your entire doctrine concerning election points in that direction.
No, no; that is no synecdoche.
A little while ago you said that we did not know whether the non-elect are to believe that they are elected. You therefore consider it impossible?
Nor do I. On the contrary! Since unregenerate man is constantly inclined to error and especially ready to deceive himself as to his own condition, I do not see why he should not consider himself as belonging to the elect, especially when he goes to church and hears the preacher declaring that he must believe himself to be elected. Hypocrites generally imagine themselves to be the best of Christians. The Jews certainly considered themselves the elect. If such now believe that they are elected, they are mistaken, are they not?
To be sure!
And we can understand this mistake so much more easily in the case of temporary believers, as long as they really are “faithful children of God” — perhaps for 40 or 50 years; and besides, if it is preached to them that they must consider themselves elected, it is certainly easy to understand that they will do so.
Of course it is.
Is not in many cases spiritual pride, i.e. boasting of many experiences, of long continued faithfulness, etc., the very cause why such old Christians fall away?
It may well be.
Would it not be far better then to point these people, before they fall, that is from the very beginning to Dr. Luther’s words: “Dear brother, permit not yourself to imagine too certainly and securely that you stand; for when you think to stand most firmly, you are perhaps nearest to falling, and it may be that you will fall so as never to be able again to rise.” Walch 12, 1068. Would not this be far more necessary than to be pounding the certainty of election into their brains?
We dare not, on account of abuse, be silent concerning pure doctrine nor alter it. Page 34 and in many other places. [[@Page:631]]
It is certainly no abuse of preaching, when hearers believe what you preach to them; and it is certainly not pure doctrine when you demand that those who are not elected are to believe that they are elected.
But one thing more. You admit it to be possible that some of the non-elect believe themselves to be elected, and yet are mistaken. You also believe firmly that your are elected. Now how do you know that you are not one of these who are mistaken?
We close the examination. Whoever examines the questions and answers quietly — without fear of the “Praeses” (President), nota bene! — will see that this last question had to come, and also that the witness could not possibly answer it, and finally that this brings us back to the very question with which we began, namely: Whence do you know with unconditional and infallible certainty that you are elected. He does not know and cannot know it certainly and is not meant to know it certainly, because God has not revealed it. They boast that this certainty of election removes all anxieties concerning their possibly being seduced or their falling away. If that boast were well-founded, their certainty would have to have a surer foundation. They attempt to hold fast to a nail which they must first drive in, they set out to cross a stream in a boat which they must first bring from the opposite bank. In addition they are compelled to swallow so many absurdities, that we must marvel, yea pity them. It is right enough to say that Paul addresses whole congregations as being all among the elect, and that Paul without doubt in charity considered them all as being among the elect. But to say that every single person in the congregation thus addressed is to look upon this address of the apostle as a divine revelation concerning his personal election, is mere fanaticism. Paul exhorts every one to examine himself, whether he is really a Christian. And those who are Christians he warns that they may not become secure and thus fall away. It must therefore be possible for them to fall. But he never exhorts any one to examine himself as to whether he is elected. All this talk about the certainty of election has no shadow of foundation in the Scriptures; it is something altogether unheard of in the Lutheran Church, something unheard of even in the Missouri Synod till just of late. In the Reformed Church it has had its home from away back. It belongs necessarily to the doctrine of absolute election. From election all the treasures of salvation are said to flow. This, therefore, must of necessity be [[@Page:632]]the great question for myself: Am I elected? — if not, all else is in vain. And yet, however great the certainty of Missouri, they cannot deny that even the elect, after standing for years in faith, may yet fall deeply. Their certainty must therefore include also this, that I know I can again fall into the most abominable sins, nevertheless I must be again converted, as they say explicitly in regard to Peter “and all the elect.” An elect person is therefore to know that the most abominable sins cannot hurt him as far as his salvation is concerned. Evidently, this is preaching wickedness, and it is easy to see that careless people will be the first to take such preaching to heart. But in addition, our opponents say that it would be a terrible thought for the Christian, if he had to think: Possibly I may still be lost. On the other hand, however, they are ready to admit this thought: Possibly I may again grieve the Holy Spirit by wilful sins, deny Christ, offend my neighbor, and give the world occasion to blaspheme the name of God; this thought is not so terrible to them. They see not how subtly the devil has deceived them to exalt their love of self above the the fear of God. We, of course, must despair of making such points clear to them, since they cannot or will not understand far simpler things. Nevertheless, we will let our father Luther say a brief word on the subject. He takes up the question: —
“What shall I do, when the devil attacks me with predestination and gives me no rest, saying: I hope in vain and for naught, if I am not predestinated? … Answer: To begin with, hold fast to the fact, that such thoughts are not of God. Therefore we must drive the thought out with all diligence, as one altogether displeasing to God. And that such thoughts are not of God, you are to know by this sign, all that is of God admonishes and moves us to keep God’s command and to fulfill His will; for God does and thinks and wants only this, that His will may be done. But this presumptuous anxiety on your part, whether you are predestinated or not, He has so little commanded and required of you that He has even forbidden such anxiety. Ps. 55.23, where the prophet speaks thus: Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. And Matt. 6.31,33, where Christ declares: Take no thought. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, etc.”
“The devil also attacks you with such useless and harmful anxiety for no other reason, than that you may forget the command of your God, where He has bidden you to hope and to trust [[@Page:633]]and that he may draw you craftily toward your own desire and unto love of your own self, so that you may begin to seek what is your own. For this is the last and highest of his weapons where-with to plague us, to care for our own love, so that we may be found guilty against Gods command. But what would it help you, if you should be troubled and surrounded by such thoughts till the end of the world? Nothing whatever would be the outcome whereby you might become certain concerning your standing before God, and He also would not care for you.”
“Therefore it is necessary, that you set yourself against the work and exertion of unwise people, and that you deliver into the eyes of the devil, who breathes such thoughts into your mind, thunderous blows from the Scriptures, and that you hold them under his nose. First of all this passage, Ps. 1.2: Blessed is the man that hath delight in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth meditate day and night. Of the law of the Lord, he speaks, not of his own predestination. And this passage of the wise man [[Sirach, 6.37 >> Sirach 6.37]]: Consider constantly God’s commandments, and remember always His Word; He will make thy heart perfect, and will give thee wisdom, which thou desirest. Likewise Moses speaks, Ex. 13. 9, to the people: And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth. And in Matt. 7.21, Christ declares: Not every one that saith unto me. Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. And many more such passages.”
“God also wants and requires nothing of us but that we keep to His will with constant care. If we do this, predestination will fulfill itself, without our care and seeking. This seducer, however, the devil, desires that first of all you care earnestly for yourself, and finally for God’s commands, that thus you prefer yourself to your God, and that you love Him not above all things, yea, that you have no God at all. … Therefore you should say: God has not commanded this, but has bidden me to hope; this alone will I obey; the other, even if I would, I cannot do For the evil one exerts himself to load you down with this anxiety, that you seek to become certain concerning your predestination, or to see a sign from heaven.” Walch 4, 576.
While Missouri vaunts aloud that the elect are unconditionally certain of their salvation, even though they should fall again [[@Page:634]]into abominable sins — they even shall and must obtain faith again — Dr. Luther writes as follows:
“In Rev. 2.14, the Holy Ghost rebukes the church at Pergamos for having false teachers and lewdness in its midst, and declares in clear words: Which thing I hate. If now God be angry with any one, that person is not holy, acceptable, etc. And without doubt there were both elect and non-elect among these.”
“From these and many other testimonies (1 John 3.7-8; Gal. 5.19; Rom. 8.13; Ezek. 33.13; Rev. 2.14) we have always and with one accord taught in all churches: If a saint knowingly and willingly does contrary to God’s command, he is no more saintly, but has cast away true faith and the Holy Ghost. But if he again be converted, God keeps His merciful oath, wherein He declares: As I live, I will not that the sinner die, but that he be converted and remain living. Therefore, God accepts this converted person again for Christ’s sake, enkindles true faith in his heart by the gospel and the Holy Ghost; and we are not commanded to search back of this, whether we are elected, for it is enough that we know, that he who perseveres finally in repentance and faith, is certainly elected and saved, as Christ declares: Blessed are they that persevere to the end. This instruction is clear, and is not fruitless for those who have fallen, but teaches them to think highly of God’s wrath and to fear, as also it is certainly true that God is truly angry at all sin, whether the elect or the non-elect fall.” (According to the doctrine of Missouri the elect lose only faith; but grace, the grace of election, this sum of all grace, whence everything flows, which provides that even the loss of faith work no harm, since it must be rekindled, this grace remains for the elect sinner. And very naturally, this grace was bestowed originally without any regard to faith, hence it cannot possibly be lost. “Whether the elect or the non-elect fall”, says Dr. Luther, meaning: It is all the same. But according to Missouri there is all the difference in the world — as great a difference as there is between heaven and hell. Salvation is awarded to the elect without regard to faith; it belongs to him without faith; he is far better off, even when fallen, than the non-elect when they are not yet fallen. But let us hear Luther further!) “Human reason invents an unequal will of God, as though God were a tyrant, having some companions whose doings He permits Himself to be pleased with, whether they be good or not good” (Report, 1879, 38: “Like as a partial father, preferring one child to the other, God deals with [[@Page:635]]us; only He does not even inquire whether we have obeyed or not, but does as He wills” — “whether it be good or bad”!), “while He hates the rest, whatever they may do. We are not to think thus of the will of God. This saying is eternally true, Ps. 5.6: Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness or sin. For, although He accepts the saints who still have sin in themselves, He does not accept them without a great ransom; Christ had to become an offering, for the sake of which God accepts and spares us, as long as we remain in faith, and if we are in faith.” So far Dr. Luther. Walch 10, 1996 sqq.
According to him, therefore, we are not bidden to go back and inquire, whether we are elected, for it is enough that we know, that whosoever finally perseveres in repentance and faith is certainly elected. For since God’s will is not unequal, I know that the same merciful will extends to me as it did to Peter, Paul, and all the elect, and does still; I know that I am to be saved just as well as they, and that I can be; and this is enough for me.
But Missouri invents an unequal will, one to apply to the majority of men: If they believe, God will save them; but alas! He has not resolved to give them faith; this will saves no man. The other: These shall and must be saved; hence God also gives them constant faith. Now since everything depends on this latter unconditional will, it cannot be enough for Missouri to know that whosoever finally perseveres in repentance and faith is certainly elected, but they must go back of this and inquire, whether they are elected, i.e. whether they are included in the mystery. As long as they do not know this they are bound to doubt whether they will at all be saved. For this reason they press the subject of certainty so exceedingly. They destroy the universal gospel for sinners. And therefore they must seek something else for the elect, and we have seen in what miserable shape that leaves them.
Let us now sum up briefly and try to put the windy thing on legs: —
1) The point at issue is the certainty regarding an unrevealed decree of God concerning only individual persons.
2) The Scriptures do not name these persons, nor do they describe them so that they can be distinguished from temporary believers.
3) The Holy Spirit gives no testimony in this regard; the testimony of the Spirit goes no farther than the written Word.
4) To complete the misfortune Missourians add: “Faith [[@Page:636]]does not give me this certainty” (Chicago Minutes, p. 39)! What then is this certainty? The most disgraceful fanaticism.
Missouri thus darkens the universal will of grace, placing the chief consolation, and at bottom all consolation, into a mysterious will of election; concerning this will, however, it can furnish no certainty for the individual hearer. Therefore we reject their mystery. We know very well that God has reserved many things for His wisdom. But election itself He has revealed to us. Why He did not elect all men, why He elected just these whom He did elect, we know from the Scriptures — [[Rom. 9 to 11 >> Rom 9-11]] is the very passage which shows this with the clearness of sunlight; this is precisely the question which is answered in the discussion concerning the rejection of the Jews.
In conclusion we append another testimony from Dr. Luther, rejecting both; in the first place, that Rom. 11.33, speaks of a mysterious discretio personarum; and secondly, that a Christian is to be and can be unconditionally certain of his election.
“These words of Paul we do not apply to the question concerning divine predestination as regards each person individually, who is to be saved and who is not. For as regards this God would have us inquire and search out nothing whatever. Wherefore also He gives no special revelation in this respect, but directs all men to the Word of the gospel, that they shall hear it, and shall know that, if they believe it, they shall be saved. As all the saints also have comforted themselves with certainty regarding their election and eternal life not by a particular revelation regarding their predestination, but through the faith of Christ. Hence Paul also does not want (in speaking of predestination in three chapters preceding our text) any one to ask or search out, whether he is elected or not, but holds up the gospel and faith to all. As he taught heretofore that we are saved through the faith of Christ, and he writes in Rom. 10.8, 12,13: The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart, etc., and interprets himself, saying that this word is to be proclaimed to all men, that they all may believe; as he says: The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him; for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
“But he is speaking of God’s wonderful government in the church, that those who have the name and fame of being the people of God and the Church (as the people of Israel) are rejected because of their unbelief, while the others, who hitherto [[@Page:637]]were not God’s people and were under unbelief, now that they accept the gospel and believe in Christ, are the true Church before God and are saved; so that it is solely the fault of unbelief that the former are rejected. For the grace of God and mercy in Christ are offered unto eternal life, without any merit, to those who hitherto lay in unbelief and sin, that whosoever will may accept it and believe; as he declares: God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all. Rom. 11. 32.”
“Now follows this text, in which, filled with great wonder in view of God’s government and work in His church, he begins and exclaims: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”
“These are the high thoughts and counsel of God, far transcending all human, yea, all creatures’ sense and understanding, that God pours out His goodness so abundantly, and in pure grace and mercy elects the poor, the miserable, the unworthy, those who are concluded under sin, i.e. who truly acknowledge themselves worthy and guilty before God of eternal wrath and condemnation; that they are to know, both what He is. His inner divine essence, and what He has in His heart, namely that He will give through His Son, to those who believe, eternal life and salvation; but the others, who are haughty and boast securely of their great gifts, that they are called of God to be His people in preference to all, having special promises” — (Hold on, Luther! You are surely driving at the Missourians who say: Us, us, the elect. He has called “in preference to all, according to the purpose of election”; to us He has therefore given “special promises,” namely that we must persevere, that we must be again converted after grave lapses into sin, that we therefore absolutely cannot be lost. These would certainly be “special promises” — if God had given them to all men, all would be saved. But to us, to us, to us He gave them. They of course do not mean themselves alone, but put them into the mouth of all the elect; but so much the worse for you, Luther! For your words show that you reject the language of all “the elect children of God”; for consider what your words say: “But the others, who are haughty and boast securely of their great gifts, that they are called of God to be His people in preference to all, having special promises, the prophets and the fathers.” But this is the outcome of your [[@Page:638]]“denying the mystery,” having no better knowledge than this, that God “holds up the gospel and faith to every one,” imagining that everything is revealed, attempting to harmonize everything with reason, denying also “that any one should inquire or search out whether he is predestinated or not,” imagining that it is enough for us to know that whoever perseveres in repentance and faith is certainly elected and saved. Moreover, you speak in a gross Pelagian way, that God’s grace and mercy in Christ is offered to all unto eternal life that whosoever will may accept it and believe; yea, in other places you speak out grossly concerning man’s “conduct,” and you say here that God has elected the poor, i.e., according to your own explanation, those “who consider themselves worthy and guilty of condemnation,” that is those who repent, and you keep on saying because we believe, for the sake of faith, on account of faith God is gracious. And if you would say all this only in reference to the revealed counsel, it might be allowed to pass; but unfortunately you say this also in reference to eternal election! Or do you intend to deny it, Luther? Look, here are your own words — found in your epistolary sermon for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany — “They, however, (the work-righteous) are holy in their own eyes; hence they always remain godless and sinners before God. So also we are loved of God because we hate, judge, and condemn ourselves and let our own love go; but they are dear and precious to themselves, therefore they are hated and unacceptable before God. Again, we are elected before God, because we reject and despise ourselves as filth. For such He elects and has elected from eternity. But because they elect themselves,” — are you driving at Missouri again, Luther? — “they must be rejected of God, as He has rejected even such from eternity.” Luther, Luther! Missourians have had enough patience with you. We would like to keep on covering up your “naevi,” your failings, with the mantle of charity! But these miserable opponents of Missouri appear to have kept you back till the last as their best champion; they say that they find a great deal of this kind in your writings. If this is true, and if they bring all this forward, then, for the sake of the mystery, Missouri must turn also against you. They must remain true to their call; God intends to reform His church through them; and as you yourself in your own Reformation did not heed the cry of the papists: “Fathers, fathers!” you will hardly dare complain, when [[@Page:639]]Missouri, of course only in the extreme hour of need, numbers you among the “fathers.” You can be thankful for this to us. Nevertheless we will proceed to hear you out on Rom. 11.33.)
“The others, however, who are haughty and boast securely of their great gifts, that God has called them to be His people in preference to all, having special promises, prophets, and fathers, etc.; who imagine that God can and will acknowledge no other people on earth than themselves as His people and church — these He rejects and condemns because of their unbelief, wherein haughtiness and a fond conceit of their own wisdom and sanctity keeps them.”
“That is certainly a rich, unspeakable, divine wisdom and knowledge, which those alone have who believe in Christ, that they can look into the great depth and behold what is the mind and meaning of the divine heart” (here Luther again refers to the revealed “mind” of God, while St. Louis clearly refers it to an unrevealed mind); “although in their weakness they cannot reach it perfectly, nor comprehend it further than they are able to comprehend in faith of the revealed Word, as in a mirror and picture (as St. Paul says, 1 Cor. 13.2), while to blind unbelieving reason everything remains foreign and hidden, and nothing whatever enters into their minds and thoughts; in fact, this reason does not want to hear or know even when these things are revealed unto it.”
“St. Paul saw and experienced, how especially the proud Jewish people opposed obdurately and with stiffneckedness this preaching of the gospel, so that he himself marveled and said: What shall I say? I see indeed that this is nothing but the deep, unfathomable wisdom of God, and His judgments past finding out and His unsearchable ways. As also He says in another place: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew. 1 Cor. 2. 7-8.” So far Dr. Luther. W. 12, 839.
This interpretation of Rom. 11.33, on the part of Luther conflicts in no way with what our Confession says in reference to the passage, namely that we cannot know God’s judgments without and aside from the revelations of God’s Word. The simple sense of the passage is undoubtedly the one Luther has found therein. From this follows neccessarily what our Confession has taken from the passage, namely that our knowledge [[@Page:640]]does not go beyond God’s revelation. Whatever lies beyond we Christians cannot know. And the Confession proceeds at once to enumerate what these unrevealed things are; namely 1) “who of those who are called will believe or will not believe; also who of the converted will persevere and who will not; who after a fall will return, and who will fall into obduracy. So, too, the number, how many there are of these on both sides, is beyond all doubt known to God.” 2) The time and the hour of the call and conversion, which God has fixed for each. 3) The judgments of God concerning individual persons and nations.
But that God should have hidden the very chief thing from us, namely why He has elected only a few to salvation, that the cause of this lies in a secret will of God, that at least He did not act according to the revealed rule in this matter: He that believes shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned — putting the whole Word of God into doubt — that this properly constitutes the mystery of election, and that Paul speaks of this in Rom. 11; concerning all this our Confession says not a single word. On the contrary it sets up as the rule of election: That God “in His eternal divine counsel determined to save no one except those who acknowledge His Son Christ and truly believe on Him.”
Dr. Walther (Chicago Min., p. 47) simply says on this: “I do not acknowledge it, when they take this as the rule of election.” But what, then, does the Confession mean with this sentence? Where does this decree belong? Before election? Then evidently it would be the rule. This is what Missouri will not have. After election then? Then the whole would mean: God, to begin with, chose a certain number, to whom He determined to give grace, that they should acknowledge His Son Christ and truly believe on Him, and no one but these will He now save. Then the rest would not only not be elected, but would also be excluded from salvation by a definite decree. And we have always understood the doctrine of Missouri in this way. But they claim that this is not their meaning; in the election of the elect, they say, nothing has been determined concerning the rest; these would still remain under the “universal counsel of grace.” This is very evidently a useless evasion. In the election of the elect it was at least determined concerning the rest that they are not elected, that the fountain whence everything must “flow” does not flow for them. Our opponents deal [[@Page:641]]altogether with fallacious deductions. If a man determines to rescue twenty out of a hundred wrecked passengers, we can of course say, the rescue of these twenty is not the cause of the destruction of the rest; but every reasonable man will see that the selection of those who are to be saved settles the fate of the rest. Thus our opponents say that the election of God is not the cause of the destruction of the rest. Of course not! But their eternal fate is thereby sealed. For without election no persevering faith, is the teaching of Missouri; without persevering faith no salvation, is the teaching of Scripture. As soon, therefore, as God chose the persons whom He intended to save, that soon the adverse judgment was passed regarding the rest. It is indeed perfectly correct, if it be admitted, that God looked for faith in election; for then only those are not elected, but rejected, who in spite of all God’s grace do not believe. But our opponents place election prior to the regard of faith; they teach an election unto faith, and then, to cover up this Calvinism, they pretend that this election decides nothing concerning the rest. But our Confession blocks this evasion, it puts in place of it a definite eternal decree of God: That He determined to save no one except those who believe on Christ (but according to Missouri these would be the ones already numbered and set aside by the election unto faith). The meaning would therefore be: These I have elected unto faith; they now shall and must believe, and besides these I will save no one. In how far then would the rest still be under the universal counsel of grace?
But the clear words of the Confession establish beyond a doubt that this decree of God gives the rule according to which God separated the persons. This is made more certain still by the preceding paragraph, which gives the cause why only so few are chosen — our Confession solves the mystery: —
“That, however, many are called, few are chosen, does not mean that God is unwilling that all should be saved, but the reason is that they either do not all hear God’s Word, but wilfully despise it, close their ears and harden their hearts, and in this manner foreclose the ordinary way to the Holy Ghost, so that He cannot effect His work in them, or, when it is heard, they consider it of no account, and do not heed it. For this not God or His election, but their wickedness, is responsible.” These are the words of our Confession! Where is the mystery in them? [[@Page:642]]The Holy Ghost cannot effect His work in them, i.e. cannot give them faith or keep them in faith, because they foreclose the ordinary way to Him, harden their hearts by wilfully despising the Word; and this is the reason, why God did not elect them; for “He determined to save no one except those who truly believe on Christ.”
This word especially, that God can not effect His work in them, is treated with special hostility by our opponents. Whereas Dr. W. himself, in earlier and better days, often used similar strong language (compare his Postille, p. 53, column 2: “One cause,” etc.; p. 91, c. 2: “God Himself cannot help him,” etc.; p. 92, c. 2: “On the contrary, that for this very reason God could not elect many”; p. 93, c. 2: “because He foresaw that they would not believe and be converted”; p. 325, c. 2: “What now can, what shall, what must God do with such people?”); whereas, therefore, he had hitherto spoken precisely like our Confession, he now reviles us most bitterly, when we use the same words. Thus he writes in the “Illumination,” p. 40: “The fact, that God does not give the gift of faith to all men, is due, according to Prof. Stellhorn’s reason, simply to this, that God could not give it to all.” Page 39: “On pages 12 and 13 Prof. Stellhorn takes the great and majestic God to task in a way that simply raises the hair of a god-fearing reader. Like an arch-rationalist he determines precisely what God could have done, and what He could not have done.” And we must not forget that Prof. Stellhorn nowhere states absolutely that God could not convert and save all, but that He could not do this within the order which God had Himself established, etc.; as though I were to say, God has established the order not to save any one except he believe in Christ, and not to convert any one except he do not despise His Word wilfully. For this reason God now cannot (if He would abide by His order) convert those who despise nor save those who remain unbelievers. Prof. Stellhorn fixed no bounds for God’s ability, remaining himself within the bounds fixed and revealed by God. Whether God could not, if He would depart from His order, convert and save all — he did not say, and the Confession does not say, but speaks only of the regular way which they foreclose to the Holy Ghost. But Dr. W. himself had absolutely denied in his Postille that God could convert those who resist wilfully; for on p. 91 he writes: “God does not want to force any one unto repentance; a forced conversion [[@Page:643]]is no conversion”; and what he means by this is shown on p. 325: “Shall He tie the hands and feet of those who resist, drag them to the heavenly table of His grace, and force them with violence to see and to taste His goodness? Shall God Himself rend to pieces the law of His holiness, which He has given to all rational creatures, and cast it under the feet of man to be forever trampled upon and disgraced? Shall God cease to be righteous, and thus cease to be God, that man may remain in sin and yet be able to be saved? Yea, shall God make Himself an object of the everlasting scorn and mockery of men, that men may eternally make sport of His weakness?”
This evidently means to say that God absolutely cannot convert those who obdurately resist; they would remain unconverted even in heaven and make sport of Him. And God Himself would have to destroy the law of His holiness, would have to cease being God, if He would take these into heaven. But that is absolutely impossible, hence it is also absolutely impossible for Him to elect them.
But this is saying in the strongest possible way that God found no such resistance in the elect, and thus all Calvinism is completely shut out. Having such strong declarations, we felt compelled to explain the utterances on pp. 93 and 94 in an orthodox way, namely that repentance and faith flow from election. They could be understood as meaning that God foresaw which He would be able to convert, and these then He elected unto conversion and salvation; not because He saw something good in them, but because He greatly desired to save all of His grace for Christ’s sake; wherefore He elected all thereunto whom He could save, without “rending to pieces the law of His holiness.”
Page 94 shows that this is what is really meant: “You, now, who remain in your sins and will not turn yourselves heartily to Christ, dare not imagine that you can excuse yourselves by saying that God would not grant you the grace of conversion and salvation. No; God greatly desires to save you, if only you would permit yourselves to be saved. Christ declares: Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. This word applies also to you. Only recognize your misery and go to Christ, and He will in no wise cast you out, and then you can confess with joy and gladness: God has chosen me also from eternity unto [[@Page:644]]salvation. But if you will not do this — then do not accuse God, but call down woe upon yourselves, for then Christ declares concerning you: How often would I have gathered you together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. For those whom God has chosen, He has chosen not merely unto salvation, but also unto repentance and sanctification, as St. Paul sets before us the indestructible golden chain of salvation: Whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son; moreover, whom He did predestinate them He also called; and whom He called them He also justified; and whom He justified them He also glorified. Whoever, therefore, will not permit himself to be conformed to the image of God’s Son need not be surprised to find that the other links in the chain of salvation and the election of grace do not pertain to him.
Briefly then: “When you will permit yourselves to be saved” — then you can … confess: “God has chosen me also from eternity unto salvation.” “But if you will not do this,” then call down woe upon yourselves. “FOR” — now the reason is furnished — “those whom God has chosen, He has chosen not merely unto salvation, but also unto repentance and sanctification.” Whomever, therefore, He could not elect unto repentance and sanctification, He could also not elect unto salvation. “Whoever, therefore, will not permit himself to be conformed to the image of God’s Son need not be surprised” — there is no “wonderful mystery” about it — “to find that the other links in the chain of salvation and the election of grace do not pertain to him”!
Preceding this he says: “The cause, why they believe constantly is that they are elected,” and quotes in proof [[§ 8 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:8]] of the F. C. We see from this that then already he did not properly understand the words: Election is a cause which procures, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto. But it is clear that he put an altogether orthodox construction on the sentence he misunderstood. For an “election unto faith”, understood as he here explains it, contains nothing Calvinistic. The root of the present error lies indeed in the misunderstanding of this sentence of the Confession, and our opponents point triumphantly to these utterances of Dr. Walther to prove that at that time already he publicly taught as he does now. But they say nothing of his explanations, which remove completely any [[@Page:645]]Calvinistic construction. And Dr. W. himself reviles Prof. Stellhorn, as we have seen, for writing: God cannot, etc., while he himself, Dr. W., had gone much, much farther in this regard. He declared it to be absolutely impossible for God to convert and save those who obstinately resist, whereas Prof. Stellhorn spoke only of conversion and salvation in the “ordinary way”, precisely as does our Confession. If now St. is an “arch-rationalist” on this account, what then was Dr. W.? And if St. is now an “arch-rationalist”, and if Dr. W. has been the same or worse how then about the Confession, which also declares: The Holy Ghost cannot effect His work in them? How does Dr. W. agree with the Formula of Concord now? For this is the climax of the entire present controversy: Did God, in eternal election, find in those whom he did not elect such a hindrance that He could not elect them, and do we know what this hindrance is; or is it an unrevealed mystery, why God did not ordain all unto salvation, and why just those, not the rest? Could God, as Missouri has explicitly asserted, remove the resistance of the non-elect “just as easily” as that of the others, so that it is a mystery why He does not do so? Missouri says that God could, our Confession that He could not; Missouri claims that in this there lies an unsearchable mystery, our Confession explains the matter and furnishes a “cause”; Missouri thus makes election itself altogether a mystery, our Confession tells us to seek election in the Word where also it is revealed. Missouri declares that we cannot explain election, that we cannot harmonize it with the universal counsel of grace, that between the two there lies a deep gulf which we cannot span; our Confession declares that election is “explained” by the parable in Matt. 22 (concerning the king’s marriage feast) and in other places. How then does Missouri agree with the Confession? Answer: Just as it agrees with Dr. Luther, with Chemnitz (see Minutes, 81!), with Gerhard, etc., and with Dr. W.’s own Postille! Missouri now agrees with the Confession just as it does with Dietrich’s School Catechism, concerning which they said at Ft. Wayne: “As far now, in particular, as Dietrich’s small Catechism is concerned, which our synod has adopted as its own, it must be said that the passage treating of election unto eternal life is one that can be understood entirely aright. The synod is not bound to interpret Dietrich’s small Catechism, which it has made its own, according to incorrect [[@Page:646]]utterances which the original author made in other writings; on the contrary, it understands the Catechism according to the utterances of the author which are perfectly in accord with the Confession, and according to the Confession of the Church, which interpretation the words of the Catechism admit.” Report 1881, 83.
They thus dare no longer assert that the Catechism contains their doctrine; they only say that the Catechism can be understood entirely aright, that the words admit the correct, i.e. Missourian interpretation, which means that they can so twist the words; and their authority for so doing is the fact, that the synod has adopted the Catechism “as its text-book”, they are therefore not bound, i.e. in duty, to interpret it according to incorrect utterances made by the original author, i.e. old Dietrich himself, in other writings.
It is absolutely not true — any person can convince himself about it — that the words of the Catechism “admit the interpretation” of Missouri, i.e. that an election unto the call and unto faith can be found in them. To admit this interpretation the words must be miserably perverted. And if they claim authority for this because they have adopted the Catechism as their “textbook”, we proceed to inquire: Why do they take a Catechism as a text-book which does not clearly and definitely contain their doctrine? And then: If they claim authority to give the Catechism an interpretation different from the original signification of the words, would they not have had authority simply to alter the section concerning election, to supplement, or to explain it, especially since they have actually added other questions, as the preface clearly declares?
The simple case is this: Missouri has latterly changed its doctrine of election and does not like to admit it. We will see later how they themselves interpreted Dietrich. Missouri happens to be in a difficulty, hence it lies a little — to be sure, a little strongly. It stands in contradiction to Rom. 8.11, to the F.C., to Dr. Luther, to Chemnitz, to all our dogmaticians, to its own Catechism, and to its own former self, and lacks the courage to abandon all and take its position beside the Calvinists alone. Hence it contents itself to “interpret” all contradictory propositions, i.e. to give them another meaning. Only in us Missouri condemns the sentences which on the part of the Confession and of our old teachers it finds merely liable to misunderstanding, so [[@Page:647]]that they can still be interpreted correctly. It condemns these sentences in us, because we are still alive, and will not be silent and submit to its perversions. For this reason they send the Presidents to harass us, declare us “unworthy of the office”, as people who have broken their ordination vows, seek to expel us, and, when this fails, erect opposition altars in our congregations! The old Crypto-Calvinists once proceeded in exactly the same way and were successful for a long time, till at last the bubble of deception burst. [[@Page:648]]