Election is revealed in the gospel and not in the law.
The foregoing discussion has shown us in general that election is revealed in the Scriptures, and is therefore no mystery, as Missouri would have it. The Scriptures, however, contain a twofold revelation, the law and the gospel. The present thesis tells us where we must seek election; it is revealed in the gospel and not in the law.
The law reveals our sin and the wrath of God because of sin. It shows us no escape from this wrath and gives no hope whatever. Hence there can be no thought of election unto eternal life in the law.
Since election is revealed in the Scriptures, it must be revealed in the gospel; for there is no third revelation in regard to the salvation or condemnation of men. In John 1.17, we are told: “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” In Gal. 3.2, Paul asks: “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” A third means, whereby they might think to have received the Spirit, is therefore inconceivable. Accordingly, there are not three revelations, the law, the gospel, and the doctrine of predestination; on the contrary, election is revealed in the gospel. If, therefore, the gospel is preached entirely and fully, it will necessarily include election, even though the word “election” is not named. For everything depends not on a single word, but on the matter itself. The law and the gospel can be preached, and both of them perfectly correctly, without naming either of the two words. Accordingly our Confession declares: “Christ … has published to us the will of the Father, and thus also our eternal election to eternal life, viz. when He says: Repent ye, and believe the gospel; the kingdom of God is at hand. He also says: This is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life. And again: God so loved the world, etc.” [[Art. XI., § 67 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:67]].
Election is named in none of these passages; and yet our Confession declares that election is revealed in them; they [[@Page:649]]contain the thing itself and not the name. The preaching of the Gospel, therefore, is at the same time the preachmg of predestination. This is really self-evident, if only we hold fast that election is revealed in the Gospel, as the F. C. constantly reiterates.
But our opponents twist all these declarations of the Confession about (we will examine them presently) by saying that “revealed in the Gospel” is only to state that the elect come to know from the Gospel that they are elected. They tell us that the Gospel does not reveal election itself, the rule or the order according to which God elected one man and did not elect another; that this is an unsearchable mystery; but that we must learn from the Gospel whether I or whether you are elected. But we have already seen that this is the very thing they cannot learn with unconditional certainty from the Gospel; for, since they themselves admit that some “faithful Christians” may deny their faith even after 40 or 50 years and be lost, and since the Gospel gives them no “special promises” which would not be given to other “faithful Christians,” therefore they cannot derive from the Gospel the certainty, that it will never be possible for them to deny the faith and be lost. The words, “election is revealed in the Gospel,” cannot possibly say this. And they do not say it. But our opponents are compelled by their doctrine to evade the clear sense of the words and to take refuge constantly in artificial interpretations. For, as we have already seen, they claim that there are two altogether dissimilar counsels; one, that before the foundation of the world God elected a number of men to salvation, the other, that which He revealed in the Gospel. They tell us that these two counsels apparently contradict each other. But we have already seen that, as they state them, there is a real contradiction. According to the revealed counsel God desires the salvation of all men with the same earnestness and there is no respect of persons, i.e. none is preferred, and none is neglected: outside of Christ God sees them all as the children of wrath, unto Christ He would lead them all, yet none with irresistible power, in Christ all are to be accepted. But according to the Missourian counsel of election God would have made provision only for a few, would have granted the grace of election — which in reality comprehends all grace — from the very start only to a few, without seeing any cause for such action on His part in men, either on the one side or on the other. This is an unsolvable mystery. But [[@Page:650]]furthermore, according” to the counsel revealed in the Gospel God offers forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to all men, only however on the condition of their believing in Christ, which faith He is ready to kindle in the heart by this offer of His. But according to the Missourian counsel of election God would have bestowed forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation and faith in the bargain upon some certain persons without a condition. The one counsel of God would therefore be universal, yet conditional, the other particular and unconditional. The latter, therefore, cannot possibly be contained in the former, or, which is the same thing, election could not possibly be revealed in the Gospel, for then the Gospel would have to contradict itself. But our opponents hold with the same tenacity to the assertion that election is a mystery; they warn us, never to confound the two — universal counsel of grace and predestination — but to keep them carefully separated, as we separate Law and Gospel. “L. u. W.” writes: “Only in so far as the elect hear the Gospel, believe in Christ, etc., does the preaching of the Gospel enter the idea of predestination.” In every other respect then the Gospel has nothing to do with the idea of “election”! The two touch, as it were, only at one point. We ask every sensible Christian whether this can be what our Confession declares: “Election is revealed in the Gospel”? They say: “It pleased God to clothe and enfold, as it were, the mystery of our election in the preaching of the Gospel.” Note it: “As it were” — not even in reality — “to clothe and enfold.” And this is to mean: “Election is REVEALED to us in the Gospel”!! So shamefully they find themselves compelled to twist and turn the lucid, clear words of the Confession in order to hold fast their false notion, that God did not act according to the revealed rule in election: He that believes shall be saved.
Just as they say, the preaching of the Gospel enters the idea of predestination “only in so far” as the elect hear the Gospel, so we could say, with the same right, the preaching of the law enters the idea of election; for the elect also hear the law. Do they not? And then election would be revealed also in the law — in the same manner as in the Gospel!
But let us examine what our Confession means by saying: “Election is revealed in the Gospel.”
The F. C. is divided into two parts. The first states each [[@Page:651]]separate article briefly and tersely; this is the Epitome. The second proves and explains each article fully; this is the Solid Declaration. Each of these two parts has its special merits. The Epitome makes it easy to see at once the chief points at issue in each article. The Solid Declaration then proceeds to discuss these points from all sides and to put them into the proper light.
We begin by taking up the Epitome of the eleventh article. First of all the “pure and true doctrine concerning this article” is stated in [[14 theses >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:2-15]], and then the “false doctrine concerning this article” in [[4 theses >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:16-20]].
The [[first four theses read as follows >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:2-5]]:
1) “First of all, the distinction between foreknowledge and predestination ought to be accurately observed.”
2) “For the foreknowledge of God is nothing else than that God knows all things before they happen, as it is written: There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets and maketh known to the King Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Dan. 2.28.”
3) “This foreknowledge is occupied alike with the godly and the wicked; but it is not the cause of evil or of sin, so that men do what is wrong (which originally arises from the devil, and the wicked, perverse will of man); nor the cause of their ruin, for which they themselves are responsible; but only regulates it, and fixes to it a limit how long it should last, and that everything, notwithstanding that in itself it is evil, should serve His elect for their salvation.”
4) “The predestination or eternal election of God, however, is occupied only with the godly, beloved children of God, and this is a cause of their salvation, which He also provides as well as disposes what belongs thereto. Upon this our salvation is founded so firmly that the gates of hell cannot overcome it.”
This portion of the article we must examine a little more closely. We have here the difference between God’s foreknowledge and God’s predestination or eternal election. The difference is twofold: —
1. The foreknowledge of God is occupied alike with the godly and the wicked, hence with all men. [[Thesis 3 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:4]]. — Predestination or election, however, is occupied only with the godly.
2. The foreknowledge of God is “nothing elese than that [[@Page:652]]God knows all things”, even what is evil, and it is no cause of the evil. — Predestination, however, is a cause of salvation.
This difference “ought to be accurately observed”, we are told. And why so? So as to ward off the impious notion, that God is guilty of the sin and ruin of the wicked, which is explicitly denied in thesis 3. It cannot and dare not be denied that God foreknows the evil; He Himself has foretold much evil in the Scriptures, e. g. Judas’ betrayal, the wickedness of antichrist, the great falling away in the last times, etc. But this foreknowledge is no cause of sin, it is “nothing else” than that God sees and knows it in advance. God knew well and even foretold that Judas would betray. But this did not compel Judas to betray; on the contrary, because he betrayed of his own wickedness and through the devil’s impulse, therefore God foreknew the betrayal. God’s foreknowledge, therefore, was no predestination, no ordaining thereto. The earlier Calvinists denied this distinction; they asserted that God foreknew all things simply because He Himself had foreordained them, even sin. They taught that predestination is occupied with all men, viz. some were ordained unto unbelief and unto damnation, others unto faith and unto salvation; they taught an election of wrath and an election of grace.
This double idea of election and predestination our Confession wants to abolish; and this is the intention above all of [[thesis 4 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:5]]: “The predestination or eternal election of God, however, is occupied only with the godly, beloved children of God”, “who were elected and appointed to eternal life before the foundation of the world”, as the Solid Decl. adds, in order to show beyond peradventure that this is a predestination unto life and not unto death.
Concerning this predestination [[thesis 4 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:5]] goes on to say: “And this is a cause of their salvation, which He also provides as well as disposes what belongs thereto, etc.” These words, as far as the F. C. and its interpretation is concerned, constitute the chief point of controversy between us and our opponents, and, beginning with these words, we differ with them on every following sentence to the end of the article. They lose the real purpose of these first four propositions of the Confession. Whereas nothing but the “difference” is to be stated here, in order to ward off the false notion of a double predestination unto salvation and unto condemnation, and in order thus to pave the way for the treatment proper of the doctrine of predestination, they tear these four theses [[@Page:658]]from their context and claim: “Predestination is occupied only with the children of God” — this already is all the Confession means to say regarding election itself; nor do the Scriptures reveal more than this, that God merely has elected a few. Why so; according to what rule and order; why not also the rest? — this is all a mystery. And then they interpret the words: “Predestination is occupied only with the godly, beloved children of God”, or as the Sol. Decl. has it: “Predestination pertains not at the same time to the godly and the wicked, but only to the children of God” — they interpret these words as though God had viewed all men as godless, and had then chosen some of them in order to make of them pious, beloved children of God. Hence they frequently use “persons” or “men” instead of “children of God.” The following words: “Predestination is a cause of their salvation”, they take to prove that God has prepared something special for these elect persons, in a word, that He elected them unto the call and unto faith.
Everything that follows in the Confession, Missouri thinks, is merely to show how a Christian becomes certain of his election.
But we need only to read the article in its connection in order to see at once that [[thesis 4 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:5]] treats still of the difference discussed, and says concerning election itself only what is necessary to elucidate this difference. The proper elucidation of the doctrine of election itself begins with [[thesis 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:6]], which reads: —
5) “This is not to be investigated in the secret counsel of God, but to be sought in the Word of God, where it is also revealed.”
“It”, election, “is revealed in the Word.” Can this mean to say that from the Word of God we can become certain of our election? If the F. C. really desired to say that, it would use words entirely different.
6) “But the Word of God leads us to Christ, who is the Book of Life, in whom all are written and elected that are to be saved, as it is written: He hath chosen us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world.”
In the Word, therefore, yet not in the law, but in the gospel (the Word leads us to Christ) we are to seek election; for Christ is the Book of Life. In Him we are chosen. The [[Sol. Decl., §65 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:65]], is similar: “Therefore this eternal election of God is to be considered in Christ, and not beyond or without Christ.” To “consider” election, evidently, is not to search out whether I am elected, but [[@Page:654]]to meditate upon election itself, what it is, and what about it. This, however, is not learned by speculations concerning the secret counsel of God, but by the gospel of Christ. And what do we hear about election in this gospel?
7) “Thus Christ calls to Himself all sinners, and promises them rest, and He is anxious that all men should come to Him and permit Him to help them. To them He offers Himself in His Word, and wishes them to hear it, and not to stop their ears or despise the Word. He promises besides the power and efficiency of the Holy Ghost, and divine assistance for perseverance and eternal salvation.”
This is what we learn of Christ concerning eternal election, namely that He calls all sinners unto Himself and promises them rest. And since the Calvinists taught, Christ calls all sinners indeed, but He really means only the elect, the Confession at once adds: “And He is anxious that all men should come to Him and permit Him to help them; to them He offers Himself in the Word.” But these words are as necessary now against Missouri as they are against the old Calvinists. Missouri in part at least avoids the old, notorious expressions, yet it holds the same doctrine. They do not say that Christ is not anxious and in earnest in calling all men. But they do say: He calls only the elect “according to the purpose”; whether the difference is great, or whether there is any difference at all, is easy enough to see. Likewise they teach as do the Calvinists, that no man obtains persevering faith who is not called according to that particular purpose.
This is one thing Christ tells us concerning election, namely that from the start and according to the intention of God nobody is excluded from salvation and therefore also not from predestination. The doctrine of universal grace, of the redemption of all men, of the earnest and efficacious call of all men, in brief, the doctrine of the universal counsel of grace is the foremost and most important thing in considering predestination. For thus alone does it become clear that God’s grace is really universal, and that it is not God’s fault that so many men are lost. As has been said, all this belongs necessarily to the idea of election; and our opponents themselves brand their doctrine as false and godless by their very claim, that in the doctrine of predestination there must be silence as regards universal grace, that they cannot harmonize the two.
But [[thesis 7 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:8]] continues: “He wishes them to hear it, and not [[@Page:655]]to stop their ears or despise the Word.” Something of this sort, therefore, is possible, and alas, it actually takes place, and that often; and [[thesis 11 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:12]] lays special stress on this as being the cause why so few of the called are chosen. [[Thesis 7 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:8]] goes on to say: “He promises besides the power and efficiency of the Holy Ghost, and divine assistance for perseverance and eternal salvation.”
These are golden words, and like an iron wall they oppose all the tricks and arts of interpretation which Missouri brings against them.
Christ “promises” — and what He promises He will most surely give. What does He promise? The power and efficiency of the Holy Ghost (for conversion through the Word, which all men are to hear), divine assistance for perseverance and eternal salvation. So then, He promises everything that the elect really obtain. To whom does He promise all this? Only to the elect? By no means! “Resides”, i.e. for the hearing of the Word, no matter who hears it. The Missourian Calvinistic fable, that God has determined to send the Holy Ghost especially to the elect, so that they must be converted, must persevere in faith, has no shadow of foundation in the Confession. The Confession never speaks of an election unto the call, unto faith; on the contrary, it testifies here and everywhere that Christ calls all sinners unto Himself, and that all men are to come to Him.
Admission to the treasures of salvation is, therefore, open to all men; but men are bound to the right use of the Word. Whoever wilfully despises it will not be saved by God, and is not elected of God. Thus election is revealed in the gospel, and just so much and no more is stated in the Confession.
[[Thesis 9 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:10]] especially shows clearly that we have given the true sense of the F. C. [[Thesis 8 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:9]] gives the contrary position, and [[thesis 9 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:10]] then proceeds to repeat the foregoing briefly. Let us take this up at once: —
9) “But the true judgment concerning predestination must be learned alone from the Holy Gospel concerning Christ, in which it is clearly testified that God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all, and that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and believe in Christ.”
“It must be learned alone from the Holy Gospel” — what must? The true judgment concerning predestination, according to what rule and order God separated men. This interpretation [[@Page:656]]our opponents cannot admit, as long as they do not intend to give up their entire doctrine of predestination; for if we can learn from the gospel the rule according to which God elected and rejected, if this rule is revealed in the Gospel, then Missouri errs in asserting that God elected according to a hidden rule, according to a so-called “free” will, then it errs in asserting that we do not know “why God did not elect the rest”, then it errs in denying that God considered faith in election, then it errs in asserting an election unto the call and unto faith and thereby evidently a twofold call through the gospel, hence evidently also a twofold Baptism — one according to the purpose of election, the other without such a purpose. In all these specifically Missourian-Calvinistic inventions Missouri errs, if the rule of election is revealed in the gospel. Hence Missouri declares obstinately, as already stated, that all these sentences in the Confession: “Election is revealed in the gospel”; “It must be learned from the Holy Gospel”, etc., mean only to say that in the gospel a Christian is to seek the certainty of his election — in the gospel, not immediately in the secret counsel of God. All who have really comprehended accurately the point on which the whole controversy turns, will readily admit that we are right and our opponents wrong, if the rule of election is revealed in the gospel; and that we agree with the Confession, while our opponents have fallen from it, if the expressions referred to in the Confession state not the personal certainty of individual Christians concerning their own election, but the simple rule of election. It will therefore certainly be worth the trouble to study carefully these expressions of the Confession.
Now there is a large number of such phrases in the Confession, and when we carefully collate them, there can remain no doubt whatever as to their true meaning, even though one or the other of them, taken by itself, might be twisted in a double sense.
[[Thesis 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:6]] reads: “This — election — is not to be investigated in the secret counsel of God.” In the same way: It is “to be sought in the Word of God.” “This”, “Election” — can that signify, “The certainty of my election”? Furthermore: “Where it is also revealed.” Can our opponents themselves declare that it is revealed in the Word that they are elected? They can only say that the marks of the elect are given in the Word, and from these marks they can draw certain conclusions. But the Word evidently does not reveal in whom these marks are found. If it were revealed in the Word that for instance they, our opponents, [[@Page:657]]are elected, then, besides their being certain themselves of their election, other people also would have to be able to find in the Word that they, our opponents, or whoever else is elected, are elected. “Election is revealed in the gospel” — cannot possibly express what they would have it express. Our opponents themselves do not use such language when they speak of their certainty but employ altogether different words; and when they come to these sentences in the Confession they are compelled to use the boldest kind of interpretations to arrive at the meaning they desire. This, election is revealed in the gospel, is to say: I become certain from the Word that I am elected! Even if the latter proposition were true, other words than those of the Confession would have to be used in saying so. These words mean something else.
In thesis 8 we meet the expression, “Therefore we should judge concerning this our election.” “Our election” could indeed be understood as though the elect were undoubtedly certain of the fact of their election. But, if we take for granted that such is the case, the sense of the whole expression, “judge concerning this our election”, would not yet be, “search whether we are elected”, but would still remain, “judge concerning our election itself how matters stand in regard to it.” In the following, accordingly, we find a false idea of election, and not a false answer to the question, as to whether I am elected, given as the result of “judging concerning our election” from reason or from the law.
And now the sentence follows: “But the true judgment concerning predestination must be learned alone from the Holy Gospel concerning Christ.” We ask, what must be learned from the Holy Gospel? This, that I am elected? No; as we have seen, this cannot be what the Confession wishes to say by these expressions. But we are told at once what we must learn from the Holy Gospel: “In which it is clearly testified that God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all, and that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and believe in the Lord Christ.”
Can any one learn from this that he personally is elected in preference to others? Can it be this then that we are bidden to learn from the Holy Gospel concerning Christ? Impossible! For we have two universal propositions here: 1) He is not willing that any should perish; 2) It is His will that all should come to repentance and believe. From this we can well learn, 1) that [[@Page:658]]in election also God surely omitted no one whom He could elect; 2) that He surely elected no one without making sure (humanly speaking) that the person would believe. The limits within which God elected men unto salvation are thus stated. The Latin text of the Confession is even more explicit; verbally translated, we read: “The true judgment concerning predestination must be learned from the Gospel of Christ.”
These words our opponents cannot subject to their interpretation; for “the true judgment concerning predestination” is surely not identical with their wonderful certainty concerning their own personal election? On the contrary, the right idea, the correct conception of election itself must be drawn from the gospel; the lines within which, and the rule according to which God elected, is there given. Consequently, “the true judgment concerning predestination must be learned from the gospel of Christ.” For this gospel clearly testifies that God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all; and that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Rom. 11.32; [[Ez. 18.23 >> Ezek 18.23]]; [[33.11 >> Ezek 33.11]]; 2 Pet. 3.9; 1 John 2. 2.”
What therefore is the first and most important thing that we must learn from the gospel, in order to get the true judgment or the correct idea concerning election? Answer: That God is not willing that any should perish, which is the universal will of grace. Why is this so necessary for the correct definition of election, even though all men are not elected? We can speak of the universal will of grace in its own proper place; what has it to do here? Very much! Certainly, all are not elected; but I am to know and must know that this is not due to any lack in God — and this also in election. From this side no limitation was imposed.
The second thing, necessary for the correct definition of election, which must be learned from the gospel is this: It is God’s will, that all should come to repentance and believe in Christ. Without this God will save no one. This then is where we might expect a limitation of election. And here is where we find it indeed. For we indeed read: It is His will that all should come to repentance and believe on Christ, wherefore He calls to Himself all sinners and is anxious that all men should come to Him and permit Him to help them, and hence wishes them to hear the Word, and promises besides the power and efficiency [[@Page:659]]of the Holy Ghost, and divine assistance for perseverance and eternal salvation (thesis 7); accordingly, the grace of conversion also and of preservation in the faith necessary for salvation is in no way limited — there is no election unto the call and unto faith, ye friends — on the contrary: How often would I have gathered you, i.e. desired to bring you unto faith, but ye would not. Matt. 23. Here is the limitation! And since we are to get the true judgment concerning election from these statements, that judgment can only be: God did indeed desire to predestinate all men unto salvation, yet no man without faith; but all do not believe although He calls them earnestly and efficaciously; consequently, He did not predestinate all, but elected only a few, yet only believers, those who believe till the end. It is on this account that we read in [[thesis 4 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:5]]: “The predestination or eternal election of God is occupied only with the godly, beloved children of God.” Belief and unbelief — not a mysterious will of God — made the distinction also in election. He who believes shall be saved, this is the rule revealed in the gospel. And from the gospel the true judgment concerning election must be learned; so then this is the rule of election. This is what our Confession means, and what we mean when we join our Confession in declaring: Election is revealed in the gospel.
They who will not judge concerning election from the gospel can judge concerning it only from reason or from the law, as [[thesis 8 declares >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:9]]; and both of these “lead either into a dissipated, dissolute epicurean life, or into despair, and would excite in the heart of men pernicious thoughts (and such thoughts cannot be effectually guarded against as long as they follow their own reason), so that they think to themselves: If God has elected me to salvation, I cannot be condemned, although I do whatever I will. And again: If I am not elected to eternal life, it matters not what good I do, for my efforts are nevertheless all in vain.”
These thoughts our Confession rejects as pernicious products of reason. But what is there false about them according to Missourian doctrine? Does not Missouri use almost identical language? “If God has elected me to salvation, I cannot be condemned, although I do whatever I will.” Very naturally our opponents do not say that the elect can do whatever they will. Rut the question is whether those who have really imbibed their doctrine must not necessarily arrive at such thoughts. They [[@Page:660]]undoubtedly must, and even the words of Missouri say almost as much. In the Report of ‘79, p. 38, they say “that God gives to the elect a richer grace than to the non-elect.” And this richer grace they then describe as “grace unto perseverance.” They go on to say that “fathers also deal in the same way,” preferring one child to another, of course the one that obeys best. And they conclude their entire line of thought by saying: “In the same way God deals with us, only He does not even ask whether we have obeyed or not, but does as He pleases.” Note well, this does not refer to conversion or justification, as to whether God asked there in regard to our having obeyed or not; this speaks of the grace of perseverance, of the preservation in faith of those who are already justified and children of God. Even these God treats arbitrarily, showing to some paternal faithfulness, i.e. actually saving them, as He has promised to all in Baptism, but declining to preserve others, and this without asking whether they, as children, have obeyed or not. Whomever He preserves “shall and must” be saved, whether he has obeyed or not. Is not this the identical thought of reason: “If God has elected me, I cannot be condemned, although I do whatever I will”? Where is the difference?
“These shall and must be saved,” is what the Report of ‘77 says. These “cannot be condemned,” is what reason declares. That is identical. “Whether we have obeyed or not,” is the phrase in the Report of ‘79. “Although I do whatever I will,” is the expression of reason. That again is identical. We have already repeatedly referred to what Christ is said to have declared to Peter “and to all the elect,” namely that, even though they deny Christ with curses and perjury, they shall and must obtain faith again, for they shall and must be saved. Therefore, the most abominable sins cannot harm the elect as far as their salvation is concerned. Is this exactly identical with the thoughts of reason, only expressed more repulsively and harshly: “If I am elected, I cannot be condemned, although I do whatever I will”?
But, of course, we must not imagine that Missouri would preach such flagrant wickedness. O no; they warn against sins; they hold up God’s wrath and judgment to wilful sinners, they exercise discipline, and hold fast the distinction between wilful sins and sins of weakness as decisive in the question, whether a person can still be a believing child of God (who would [[@Page:661]]therefore not dare be excommunicated) or not. Missouri abominates what follows from its doctrine of election, just as much as we do. But when it states its doctrine of predestination, all consideration is gone. The wagon has sunken too deeply into the Calvinistic rut, they cannot haul it out; and before they know it, they themselves utter sentences of which afterwards they must be ashamed, and then they pretend they did not mean what they have said and revile us for holding such things up to them, and yet they continue to utter similar offensive sentences; because they will not learn the true judgments concerning election from the gospel, they “cannot effectually guard against such thoughts,” as our Confession declares.
We have the same thing in regard to the opposite proposition: “If I am not elected to eternal life, it matters not what good I do; for my efforts are nevertheless all in vain.” Missouri has said the very same thing, only in words far harsher and more offensive. “If I do not belong to the elect, I may hear God’s Word ever so diligently, receive absolution, and go to the Lord’s Supper, it is all of no avail; this is certainly so.” If I am not elected, everything is of no avail, is the conclusion of reason. If I am not elected, everything is of no avail, is the conclusion of Missouri. Our Confession declares this to be false, and can so declare it, since it views election on the broad basis of universal grace, and forms its judgment concerning election from the gospel of Christ; for this shows us that no man is excluded from salvation, or from election, who does not exclude himself. It is true, he who is not elected will not be saved. But he will not be saved and he is not elected for this reason, and for this alone, that he does not “hear God’s Word diligently,” or that he does not abide by that Word. The lips of eternal truth themselves have uttered the word: Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it. But Missouri must add according to its doctrine: But if he is not elected the hearing will be of no avail, and the keeping must flow from election. Thus the doctrine of election without the foresight of faith turns everything topsy turvy and places a heavy question mark behind every divine promise, i.e. “Are you elected?” And yet Missouri cannot prove to a single person that he is elected, and simply lets him “stick fast in this truth (?),” as it declares very pertinently regarding its godless statements.
[[Thesis 10 of the Epitome >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:11]] reads as follows: [[@Page:662]]
10) “To him, therefore, who is really concerned about the revealed will of God, and proceeds according to the order which St. Paul has observed in the Epistle to the Romans, who first directs men to repentance, knowledge of sins, to faith in Christ, to divine obedience, before he speaks of the mystery of the eternal election of God, this doctrine is useful and consolatory.”
Here the revealed will of God and the mystery of eternal election are distinguished from each other; first comes the former, then the latter. This passage furnishes more of a pretext to our opponents for their “mystery” than anything else they are able to adduce from the Confession. And yet the words are easily understood from what has been said above, they also explain themselves sufficiently; for they again state that beyond and without the Word of the gospel we cannot speak in a salutary and consolatory way concerning election. In itself election, like every other work of divine grace, is an unsearchable mystery. It took place before the foundation of the world. It would be impossible for us to assert that we know anything whatever about it, if it had not been revealed to us. But if the mere fact had been revealed, that God from the beginning chose only a few, this would be unutterably terrible; it would not “hover like a wonderful mystery over certain persons,” but like an awful mystery over all. We would then be unable “effectually to guard against the thoughts” already referred to in the Confession, thoughts which constantly reappear in the Missourian doctrine; namely: If I am elected, sin cannot harm me; if I am not elected, no means of grace can help me, “it will all be in vain” — “everything is of no avail.” But the mystery here spoken of in the Confession is revealed — not in a revelation differing from the gospel, but in the gospel itself. And if I have carefully learned the statements which the gospel clearly declares, that God is not willing that any should perish, and on the other hand that He will save no one without faith, then I have learned the true judgment concerning election, even though I had never heard the word “election” itself. And when now I hear in addition that God predestinated, i.e. foreordained all this already before the foundation of the world, and that He even elected the persons themselves in whom all this shall be fulfilled unto salvation, such doctrine will be “salutary and consolatory” for me — and this not again election as distinguished from the gospel, but “this doctrine,” or as [[§ 14 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:14]] of the [[@Page:663]]Sol. Decl. has it: “The entire doctrine … pertaining to our redemption, call, righteousness, and salvation.” “Useful and consolatory” not because I have thus learned to know a different source from the universal love of God and the wounds of Christ from which my salvation, and just mine, is said to flow, as Missouri and the Calvinists dream; but “salutary and consolatory” because I now, as it were, look more deeply into the true source of salvation, when I see that even before the foundation of the world God has made provision for my salvation and for all the means of salvation, that, as the Sol. Decl. declares, [[§ 45 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:45]], He “was so solicitous concerning the conversion, righteousness, and salvation of every Christian, and so faithfully provided therefor, that before the foundation of the world was laid He deliberated concerning it, and in His purpose ordained how He would bring me thereto and preserve me therein.”
This is a passage Missouri likes especially to adduce for its election unto faith. But it does not say that God made such provision for the conversion only of the elect, but for the conversion, etc., “of every Christian.” And God has established the means of grace, as we saw in [[thesis 7 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:8]], not for the Christians alone, but for all men alike. Here, however, the word is “of every Christian” because the passage speaks of the consolation. Those who are not Christians cannot console themselves with eternal election. But those who are Christians can all console themselves with the fact, that from eternity God “so faithfully provided therefor,” i.e. for their conversion. “Also, that He wished to secure my salvation so well and certainly that since, through the weakness and wickedness of our flesh, it could easily be lost from our hands, or through craft and might of the devil and the world be torn or removed therefrom, in His eternal purpose, which cannot fail or be overthrown” (although we ourselves can turn away, [[§ 32 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:32]], whereby, however, the purpose would not be overthrown, since it is not His purpose to save wilful despisers of His grace), “He ordained it, and placed it for preservation in the almighty hand of our Savior Jesus Christ, from which no one can pluck us (John 10.28). Hence Paul also says (Rom. 8. 28, 39): Because we have been called according to the purpose of God, who will separate us from the love of God in Christ?”
God Himself has provided everything, there is nothing left for us to do, in the fullest sense of the word “all things are ready.” [[@Page:664]]Christ, the Son of God and our Savior, sits at the right hand of God, and has all His and our foes beneath His feet. All power in heaven and on earth is given to Him, and besides He intercedes for us with His powerful prayers. This is fulness of consolation. And in this way this doctrine is useful and consolatory. But the consolation sought in election by Missouri, namely that they cannot possibly be lost, even though they should again fall into grossest sin — this consolation no sober Christian desires to have. He is sure of the grace of God in Christ, and in tliis he rejoices; he knows too that God will omit nothing, and this he knows for the very reason, that all the promises of God regarding preservation in faith apply to every Christian, even to those who through their own guilt fall away, and therefore election in no way troubles his heart except in the hour of temptation; he has a straight path before him, although one that is also strait, and he knows with unconditional certainty that this path leads to heaven. Although he does not see the end of that path at present, he knows that by daily contrition and repentance he draws nigh to that blessed end step by step, and is already saved, yet saved by hope, Rom. 8.24. Missouri is not in this blessed position. It has two ways to heaven, the universal counsel of grace, by which a person may indeed obtain faith and be preserved for 40 or 50 years; but this way does not reach the blessed goal entirely, it lacks the grace of perseverance — and the second which is the particular counsel of election; this alone leads completely to the goal. Evidently, Missouri is compelled from the very start to search out on which of these two ways it is traveling; constantly attempts to see the end of its way from the beginning, i.e. to become certain of its election; clambers up steep bights, gazes out into the gray mists, and declares: This is the wonderful mystery that hovers over us, yea over us especially! and looks down with pity upon the pilgrims “wearily plodding along” deep down in the valley and perhaps imagining that this valley road is the only safe one to heaven! Well, dear friends, we hope to see you clamber down again and join us in the valley; perhaps the hour of death will teach you to come down. Meanwhile, be careful not to lose sight altogether of the universal way of salvation, lest you fail to find it again in the hour of need.
We have already discussed [[thesis 11 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:12]] of the Epitome. For the sake of continuity we repeat it again: — [[@Page:665]]
11) “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 at 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.”
The importance of this thesis will be apparent to all who have noted the fundamental thought the Confession desires to convey. According to [[thesis 9 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:10]], if we would learn the “true judgment concerning election,” we must above all begin by learning from the Gospel of Christ that God is not willing that any should perish. This is not, as our opponents claim, something which must also be believed, although impossible of being harmonized with the doctrine of election — no; this is in such perfect “harmony” with election that it constitutes the very sun and center of the whole doctrine of election. For me everything depends on knowing whether, when God selected the persons for salvation, He proceeded according to His universal love, which He offers me in the Gospel, or whether He narrowed this love in making the selection. The question is by no means useless or presumptuous, why God did not ordain all men unto salvation; on the contrary, it refers to the very foundation of our faith. Our opponents tell us not to bother about the fate of the non-elect, but to be satisfied with our own salvation. That is exceedingly cool language; and they pretend great humility and resignation in not attempting to scrutinize the secret counsel of God. But, but the great question is: Does this, why God elected only a few, belong to His secret counsel? And secondly, the question arises — which our opponents have not as yet answered satisfactorily: How am I to know that God really intends to save me, when, in the very thing which is all-decisive. He did not proceed according to what He has revealed concerning Himself? I have received no revelation which temporary believers have not likewise received. I am therefore in the same boat with them, and cannot say: I will not bother about them when their boat sinks. If the fault of their non-election lies in them, if this is a fault we can avoid through the grace of God, then indeed I have all reason to be afraid of my flesh and blood, which is no better than that of other [[@Page:666]]people. But then I need not doubt concerning God’s gracious will. The boat itself does not sink; they who perish are lost by jumping overboard of their own accord. But if it is a mystery of the divine will, why in the all-decisive moment many were omitted, even such as are faithful Christians for 40 or 50 years, then — where am I to find a solid hold?
Well, our Confession knows nothing of any such mystery. It takes as the foundation of the doctrine of election God’s universal will of grace, as we have seen above, and now proceeds to answer the question in [[thesis 11 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:12]], why only a few are elected. The idea is “not that God is unwilling that all should be saved”; the cause for the election of only a few is that many wilfully despise the divine Word, harden their hearts, etc. This is precisely what we “opponents” say. Whereas our Confession answers the extremely important question, Missouri declares, it does not know why God did not elect the rest, thus grossly contradicting the Confession. Then they go about to twist and turn the words of the Confession, as though these words do not give the reason, why only a few are elected, but simply mean to show why God saves only a few in time. He does not save the greater number, they say, because they do not believe; they do not attain constant faith because they despise the Word and resist the Holy Ghost. Yet, they claim, God could have prevented this action, if He had elected them. But the reason, why He did not elect them, they claim not to know! It is easy for any one to see that they shamefully pervert the words: “That, however, many are called, few are chosen, does not mean that God is unwilling that all should be saved, but the reason is, etc.” It is certainly beyond comprehension how any sensible person can refer these latter words to the foregoing, “unwilling that all should be saved.” The point at issue is evidently the correct interpretation of the passage: Many are called, few are chosen. The Confession begins by warding off a false interpretation: This does not mean that God is unwilling that all should be saved. Thereupon the correct explanation is introduced by “but”: “but the reason is.” The passage which is to be explained Missouri passes by, and refers the explanation given, to the second clause, which clause is not meant to be explained at all in the Confession, but to be totally and completely rejected! This exegetical feat was [[@Page:667]]performed by P. Stoeckhardt in Chicago, and the other savants accepted it in silence!
But, to be sure, they know what is at stake. This thesis subverts their entire doctrine of election. Where the “reason” can be given, the mystery disappears; and if the reason for the non-election of many is their despising the Word, then God considered the conduct of men toward the means of grace in election, in fact, He considered persevering faith, for this is the “work of the Holy Ghost”, which He cannot effect in those who wilfully despise the Word. Furthermore, if the Holy Ghost cannot effect His work in certain people then there is no so-called free election unto faith, as Missouri dreams. Even if we would explain the phrase, “election unto faith”, correctly and would then suffer it to pass, the explanation would have to declare that God elected all those unto faith — of whom He foresaw that they would not foreclose the ordinary way to the Holy Ghost. In a word, [[thesis 11 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:12]] of our Confession also upsets the Missourian doctrine of election. Not a particle is left standing. Missouri’s fundamental principles are false; its doctrine of predestination stands outside of the revealed Gospel, therefore every letter of it must necessarily be false; and even the correct expressions which Missouri still retains receive a false construction in their new connection, viz. “God has elected in grace,” which Missouri still uses. Missouri does not mean the grace which Christ has obtained for all sinners, but a particular, special grace of election. God has elected in Christ; this is not to signify that God considered who would be in Christ through faith, as the phrase is used for instance in Rom. 8.1: “There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Of what benefit are the orthodox phrases when retained, as long as their orthodox signification is explained away?
[[Thesis 12 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:13]] of the Epitome reads as follows: —
12) “Moreover, a Christian should apply himself to the article concerning the eternal election of God, so far as it has been revealed in God’s Word, which presents Christ to us as the Book of Life, which, by the preaching of the holy Gospel, He opens and spreads out to us, as it is written: Whom He did predestinate, them He also called. In Him, therefore, we should seek the eternal election of the Father, who, in His eternal divine counsel, determined that He would save no one except those who acknowledge His Son, Christ, and truly believe on Him. [[@Page:668]]Other thoughts are to be entirely banished, as they proceed not from God, but from the suggestion of Satan, whereby he attempts to weaken or to entirely remove from us the glorious consolation which we have in this salutary doctrine, viz, that we know that out of pure grace, without any merit of our own, we have been elected in Christ to eternal life, and that no one can pluck us out of His hand; as He has promised this gracious election not only with mere words, but has also certified it with an oath, and sealed it with the holy Sacraments, which we can call to mind in our most severe temptations, and from them comfort ourselves, and thereby quench the fiery darts of the devil.”
This is properly the end of the discussion itself; [[theses 13 and 14 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:14-15]] contain only admonitions and applications.
A Christian should apply himself to this article … other thoughts are to be entirely banished, as they proceed not from God. Then the chief thoughts are again repeated: So far as election is revealed in God’s Word; for the Word presents Christ to us as the Book of Life; which, by the preaching of the Gospel He opens and spreads out to us, i.e. from the Gospel we learn what God has determined in Christ. From this it follows that we should seek election in Christ, i.e. believe in Christ. That this is meant the Sol. Decl. shows in [[§ 66 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:66]], where the same expression occurs: “Therefore the entire Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, direct all men to Christ as the Book of Life, in which they” — all men — “should seek the eternal election of the Father.” This can only mean that all are to believe in Christ. Wherefore [[thesis 12 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:13]] at once proceeds: “Who, in His eternal divine counsel determined that He would save no one except those who acknowledge His Son Christ and truly believe on Him.”
In brief, then: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, “all men” — whoever does not believe cannot be saved. This is the way in which the counsel of God in Christ is opened up and spread out to us in the preaching of the holy Gospel. All other thoughts are to be entirely banished; that is all we know of election—it is, as has been said, the rule according to which God elected, the universal will of grace to save all men, yet only through faith in Christ. This agrees with [[thesis 9 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:10]]: “The true judgment concerning predestination must be learned alone from the holy Gospel concerning Christ, in which it is clearly testified [[@Page:669]]that God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all, and that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and believe in Christ.” This agrees also with the way in which our Confession takes up any passage from the Gospel, even though not a word be said of eternity, or of certain persons, or of election, and declares that in all such passages election is revealed; viz. [[§ 65 of the Sol. Decl. >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:65]]: “But this election is revealed from heaven through the preached Word when the Father says: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. And Christ says: Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And concerning the Holy Ghost Christ says: He shall glorify me; for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” In these passages election is revealed to us! Yes, says Missouri, they reveal to us, the elect, that we are elected. Impossible! for the Confession at once continues: “Therefore” — this is what these passages show — “therefore the entire Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, direct all men to Christ … for it has been decided by the Father from eternity that whom He would save He would save through Christ.” Nothing is said here about “certain persons”, the words state a universal rule; not a wonderful mystery regarding certain persons “is revealed from heaven”, but “the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints. Col. 1.26; which is Christ in you,” [[v. 27 >> Col 1.27]].
Furthermore, [[§ 67 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:67]]: “But Christ” (to whom all men are directed) “as the only-begotten Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father, has published to us the will of the Father, and thus also our eternal election to eternal life, viz. when He says: Repent ye and believe the Gospel; the kingdom of God is at hand. He also says: This is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life. And again: God so loved the world, etc.” The Father’s will Christ has revealed to us (in the Gospel) and thus also our eternal election. But what is the Father’s will? “Repent ye and believe” — “That every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life” — “God so loved the world, etc.” How do these passages reveal to us — to “all men” — our eternal election? The rule, according to which God elected, is revealed to us. He who cannot see that must be [[@Page:670]]struck with special blindness. He who does not want to see it is beyond help. Should not St. Louis go to work in earnest to bring itself into “harmony” with the Confession? The Confession certainly will not come to them, they must return to the Confession, for they have left it. They have run themselves fast by their false interpretation of [[§ 8 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:8]]: “Election is a cause which procures, etc., our salvation and all that pertains thereto.” “Election” must mean, they claim, discretio personarum, the mysterious separation of persons; it “procures our salvation and all that pertains thereto” must mean: God has elected these unto the call and unto faith. They will not understand that the very things the Confession does not mean by “election” is the separation of persons, but first of all and above all the universal will of grace, the grace of God in Christ without which predestination is altogether inconceivable; they will not understand this, although the Confession repeats it in almost every paragraph. They cannot “harmonize” what the Confession says, when it speaks of the election of a “few”, and brings in what pertains to all, and yet they themselves cannot deny that they are elected “in Christ.” They indeed understand this expression differently from the way in which the Church has understood it hitherto, but we pass this as of no moment for the present question. “In Christ” certainly signifies. In Him who is the Redeemer of all men. Surely they will not divide Christ Himself? However artfully they may twist the little word “in”, surely they not attempt to alter anything in “Christ.” Very well then, as long as they do not deny that Christ is the Redeemer of all men, and nevertheless are compelled to take Him into the doctrine of election, they themselves have something in the doctrine of election which pertains to all men. As long as they cannot claim a special redemption of the elect — what necessitates their claim of a special call?
But they claim to have irrefragable(?) proof for this assertion; for does not [[§ 5 of the Sol. Decl. >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:5]] ([[thesis 4 of the Epit. >> BookOfConcord:Formula:EP:11:5]]) read as follows: “The eternal election of God or predestination pertains not at the same time to the godly and the wicked”? Reference is here had to the predestination of those who are actually saved. And a little further on we are told that this same predestination is a cause which procures our salvation and whatever pertains thereto. The call through the Gospel, faith, and perseverance pertains to salvation. All this, therefore, Missouri [[@Page:671]]tells us, is procured and wrought by predestination “which pertains not at the same time to all men.” Consequently, God must have elected and predestinated — these to whom election pertains unto all this — just these, not the rest; otherwise predestination or election would apply to all. This is how our opponents demonstrate and prove their election unto faith.
Now all this has a very fine appearance, and they have succeeded in confounding the entire synod by these two paragraphs, that is by their false interpretation of them. That Dr. Walther, although originally misunderstanding [[§ 8 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:8]], still interpreted it in an orthodox way, we have already seen when we spoke of his Postille.
What now can we find to object in the above demonstration? How can we escape its conclusions? How much do we admit, and how much do we reject? We will answer clearly and distincly; but to preface our answer we will state a few general objections against the argumentation, which perhaps may induce our opponents to examine our answer more carefully than they have done hitherto. 1) Such a predestination of some certain persons unto the call and unto faith is nowhere revealed to us in the Gospel of Christ. Yet the Confession states that election is revealed in the Gospel. If this were an election unto the call and unto faith it would have to be revealed as such in the Gospel, and that too in the passages quoted by the Confession: This is my beloved Son — Come unto me — Repent ye — This is the will of — God so loved the world; etc. In these passages election is revealed! 2) Election or predestination is a cause which procures and works our salvation and whatever pertains thereto, it accordingly procures and works in the first place our salvation itself and then all that pertains therto; or we can say briefly, it procures all that was and that is necessary to save sinners. Redemption was necessary above all things for salvation, not merely conversion and preservation. Our Confession proceeds to name in order all the different things “that pertain thereto”, and begins by naming redemption. Accordingly, our opponents are compelled to assert an election of individual persons unto redemption as well as unto the call. Do they want this? They do not. Therefore, even though we should be unable to disprove and refute their deduction above, we would still be able to say: You fall into the same ditch you have dug for us. Faith is not the [[@Page:672]]only thing that “pertains” to salvation, but above all redemption. If then you prove from the words of the Confession an election of some unto faith, you thereby prove in the same way an election of some unto redemption. If you do not want the latter, cease troubling us with the former. The one agrees with the Gospel in which election is revealed as little as the other. Both paragraphs must, therefore, certainly mean something else. And now our answer: —
1) Our Confession uses two words, “election” and “predestination”, as synonymous, and defines both as “God’s appointment unto salvation”, [[§ 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:5]].
2) By this appointment unto salvation it does not understand the mere discretio personarum, least of all in the Missourian fashion. The “dis. pers.”, i.e. the separation of persons, belongs to God’s “appointment”, but much else also belongs to it, and this separation is not by far the foremost part of the “appointment.” [[§ 13 and 14 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:13-14]] states that, if we would speak concerning the election or appointment of the children of God unto eternal life, we are to speak of it 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, viz. that the entire doctrine concerning the purpose, counsel, will, and ordination of God pertaining to our redemption, call, righteousness, and salvation should be taken together … that God in His purpose and counsel decreed.” Note the word “decreed” and also the word “ordination”, they are one and the same with “appointment”, in German “verordnet”, “Verordnung.” The contents of the appointment or predestination, which the Confession takes as synonymous with “election,” is now given. What then did God appoint, what all is to be embraced by election or predestination? Eight eternal decrees: 1) of redemption; 2) of the call; 3) of the mission of the Holy Ghost for conversion; etc.; 8) of glorification in eternal life. This is the entire counsel of salvation, the contents of the whole gospel, as every one sees at a glance. All this “God has appointed in His purpose and counsel”, all of it forms the contents of “God’s appointment unto eternal life”, which is also designated as election or predestination. See [[§ 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:5]].
3) Now it is clear how [[§ 8 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:8]] must be understood: Election is a cause which procures and works our salvation and all that pertains thereto. God has “appointed” before the foundation of the world redemption, the call, conversion, justification, sanctification, [[@Page:673]]preservation in faith, and finally entrance into eternal life; and what He appoints He — not we — carries out in time. The meaning of [[§ 9 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:9]] is therefore beyond all doubt; election vel praedestinatio, that is “God’s appointment unto salvation” includes more than the discretio personarum of Missouri.
4) Now we inquire how this harmonizes with [[§ 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:5]], which states that election or God’s appointment to salvation does not at the same time pertain to the godly and the wicked. If the eight decrees describe the universal counsel of grace, in other words, if God’s eternal election vel praedestinatio embraces the universal counsel of grace — which our opponents deny — which we, however, have proven — how then can we say that election vel praedestinatio does not pertain to all men? Would not this be denying that the universal counsel of grace pertains to all men, that all are redeemed, called, etc.? This is what our opponents claim, and they imagine that they have bound us fast. And yet the case is very simple. This “election vel praedestinatio” embraces eight decrees. The eighth reads: “That those whom He has elected, called, and justified. He would eternally save and glorify in life eternal.” This, as the following paragraph shows clearly, speaks of definite persons who are elected and appointed unto eternal life. And this discretio personarum — which is not at all mysterious, but is instituted according to the order prescribed in the foregoing decrees — this appointment of persons unto eternal life belongs also to election vel praedestinatio; in fact this appointment of individual definite persons has furnished the name of the whole series of decrees, namely election or predestination. Therefore, even though a person should be redeemed, called, and converted, election or predestination will not for that reason alone pertain to him, unless he perseveres and thus is brought under the 8th decree. The universal counsel of grace alone is not “election vel praedestinatio”, although it constitutes the order and the rule according to which God elected and predesdestinated; and in so far the Confession can say: Election is revealed to us in the gospel, for instance in the passage: God so loved the world … that whosoever believeth should not perish, but have everlasting life. Here we have the universal will of grace with its condition, namely those who believe in Christ shall be saved. Here we have the rule and the order according to which God saves some in time and does not save others; and at the same time, since God’s will is immutable, we have here the [[@Page:674]]rule and order according to which He elected some in eternity unto salvation and did not elect others — otherwise the Confession could not say: Eternal election is revealed to us in this passage and in the gospel in general. He who believes not, or who believes not till the end (for this too is the sense of the passage), is included indeed in the universal counsel of grace and in the rule contained therein, but is not elected or appointed of God unto eternal life. In a word, “election vel praedestinatio” embraces the universal counsel of grace together with the appointment of those persons who are actually saved. An election or appointment of persons unto salvation without the universal counsel of grace is altogether inconceivable. Yet the latter standing by itself is not yet “election vel praedestinatio.”
Thus election pertains, according to [[§ 5 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:5]], not to all at the same time, and is nevertheless the cause, which according to [[§ 8 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:8]] procures our salvation, and is prepared for all.
If our opponents cannot or — will not acknowledge this as the correct solution, they may seek the solution themselves. They shall never disprove that “election vel praedestinatio” is the cause also of redemption, according to [[§ 8 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:8]] and [[§§ 13-24 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:13-24]]. But how this can be made to harmonize with the statement that election vel praedestinatio is occupied only with the elect — this question they may answer for themselves; and it is precisely the question they direct to us. Their writings show that they have constantly felt the difficulty, and the same thing appeared at the Conference in Ft. Wayne. They do not know how to find a place for universal redemption in election vel praedestinatio. At one time they say it is the foundation of predestination, which is certainly correct, when the word election, as is done by our dogmaticians, is taken in its narrowest signification as only the selection of persons. But in this case our opponents cannot say that they are speaking after the manner of the F. C.; in this case they cannot at all say that election is a cause, and our salvation that which is caused, which also lies in the words “redemption is the foundation.” To speak of three causes of salvation: God’s grace, redemption, and predestination, is altogether contrary to the Scriptures and the Confession. Moreover, the Confession does not name redemption as the foundation of election or of the appointment unto salvation, but as the first thing which has been “appointed” (or ordained) in this appointment; as we have been repeating and re-repeating to our opponents now for over two years; and the [[@Page:675]]only thing they are able to reply is to rehash their empty assertions. Only one attempt was made at a solution, by P. Stoeckhardt in “L. u. W.”, May, 1880, and to this we referred above when we stated that at one time our opponents made redemption the foundation. He writes: “Redemption, which pertains to the whole human race, is at the same time the means for carrying out the counsel of election.” That certainly is very, very dubious language. Then perhaps the counsel of election, i.e. the intention to save only a few, was the original thought of God? The thought need not surprise us in our opponents, for they are constantly being pushed by their doctrine to speak of redemption as though it has been intended from the very start only for a few. And indeed it cannot matter much after all they have already said; for, if God from the very start limited the grace of conversion and preservation only to a few, for all the rest “everything will be of no avail” anyhow, not only the Word, Absolution, the Lord’s Supper, but also redemption. Our opponents cannot deceive us by their attempt at holding fast: “Redemption pertains to the whole human race”; for what can redemption benefit those who are not included in the “counsel of election” which they say is to be carried out by redemption as a “means”? At any rate “means for carrying out the counsel of election” is never identical with “foundation of the counsel of election.” This is the way our opponents contradict themselves, and that in the very chief questions of the whole doctrine. The reason for this is that their doctrine of election is false in general. They fail to agree with the dogmaticians by separating from predestination the foresight of faith, in the signification generally given to this term. They likewise fail to agree with the F. C. by separating the universal counsel of grace from predestination. Thus they have left to constitute what they call “election” the mere naked discretio personarum, the mere “review”, as it is called in [[§ 9 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:9]] of F. C., according to the absolute will of God. In general we must say, they grope about altogether in the dark, since they will not agree that election is revealed in the gospel; and now they rejoice in a “wonderful mystery hovering over certain persons.” He who likes may join them! We find our election revealed everywhere in the gospel, for instance in the passage: God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. And should the question be asked of us, as it was asked of the writer the other day by a Missourian pastor: [[@Page:676]]“What does the gospel benefit me, if God does not give me faith?” (the question precisely as here given and repeated a second time with emphasis!) we simply declare such language to be blasphemy; for to every man to whom God gives the gospel He thereby also, as much as lieth in Him, gives faith. But this is what the doctrine of Missouri concerning election unto faith really implies; there is always the question whether, when a man hears the gospel God will really give him faith and preserve him in that faith. The question asked by the Mo. pastor is evidently only another form for the old assertion, if I do not belong to the elect, I may hear God’s Word (the gospel) ever so diligently …it is all of no avail.
For an unprejudiced reader there can be no doubt whatever as to the meaning of our Confession when it declares, election is revealed in the gospel, or Christ has proclaimed to us the will of the Father and thus also our eternal election, when He declares: Repent ye and believe the gospel. If this is to mean, as Mo. must interpret it: Ye that hear this are actually appointed unto eternal life! then all who do hear it would thus be appointed, all the called. But Mo. itself does not want this, nor would it agree with the words of Christ: Many are called, few are chosen. Hence the words can only mean: It is God’s will that all men should repent and be saved. And they who do repent and believe in Christ, but only they, are actually elected and appointed unto salvation. This was the rule employed in eternal election, which is the purpose and will of God according to which He saves in time and elected unto salvation in eternity. The purpose of election, the rule of election is revealed to us in such passages. If this is not revealed in them, then they contain no revelation at all concerning election; Missouri does not know what to do with all these declarations of the Confession, except to pretend that the Confession would have the elect become certain of their election through such passages! “The Father’s will and thus also our election” is to mean “the personal certainty of the elect”! Such is the renowned faithful adherence of modern Mo. to the Confession; and all who do not chime in are miserable fellows who have broken their ordination vows! Very well, gentlemen, the day of settlement is coming fast; we are in a position to await undisturbed what it shall bring forth!
We now need merely to quote the passage from the Sol. [[@Page:677]]Decl., which summarizes precisely what election “comprises” and what “belongs thereto.” It is found in [[§§ 13-24 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:13-24]].
“Therefore, if we wish to think or speak correctly and profitably concerning eternal election, or the predestination and foreordination of the children of God to eternal life, we should accustom ourselves not to speculate concerning the mere, secret, concealed, inscrutible foreknowledge of God, but how 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, viz. that the entire doctrine concerning the purpose, counsel, will and ordination of God pertaining to our redemption, call, righteousness, and salvation, should be taken together; as Paul has treated and explained this article (Rom. 8, Eph. 1), as also Christ in the parable (Matt. 22), namely that God in His purpose and counsel decreed: —
“1. That the human race should be truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ, who, by His faultless obedience, sufifering and death, has merited for us righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life.”
“2. That such merit and benefits of Christ should be offered, presented, and distributed to us through His Word and sacraments.”
“3. That He would be elftcacious and active in us by His Holy Ghost, through the Word, when it is preached, heard and pondered, to convert hearts to true repentance and preserve them in the true faith.”
“4. That all those who, in true repentance, receive Christ by a true faith He would justify and receive into grace, adoption, and inheritance of eternal life,”
“5. That those also who are thus justified He would sanctify in love, as St. Paul says (Eph. 1.4).”
“6. That, in their great weakness. He also would defend them against the devil, the world, and the flesh, and would rule and lead them in His ways, and when they stumble would raise them again, and under the cross and in temptation would comfort and preserve them.”
“7. That the good work which He 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.” [[@Page:678]]
“8. That those whom He has elected, called, and justified, He would eternally save and glorify in life eternal.”
“And that in His counsel, purpose, and ordination He prepared salvation not only in general, but in grace considered and chose to salvation each and every person of the elect, who shall be saved through Christ, and ordained that in the way just mentioned He would by His grace, gifts, and efficacy bring them thereto, and aid, promote, strengthen, and preserve them.”
“All this, according to the Scriptures, is comprised in the doctrine concerning the eternal election of God to adoption and eternal salvation, and should be comprised with it, and not omitted, when we speak of God’s purpose, predestination, election, and ordination to salvation. And when, according to the Scriptures, thoughts concerning this article are thus formed, we can, by God’s grace, simply adapt ourselves to it.”
The preceding 8 eternal decrees evidently state the entire contents of the gospel. They show as well how God prepared salvation for all sinners, so that all can actually be converted, justified, and saved, as also how God has determined to save and glorify in eternal life only those who by true repentance and faith receive Christ, and persevere in such faith till the end. They also show how first of all we come to this faith and then how we are preserved therein, namely through the work of the Holy Spirit alone without any co-operation of man, yet not without the use of the means of grace; for in the third decree, which treats of conversion, we read: “When the Word is preached, heard and pondered”; and in the seventh, treating of preservation: “If they observe God’s Word,” etc. Accordingly our salvation from beginning to end lies in God’s hand, and there can be no thought of merit or co-operation on our part. None of these decrees, however, shows that the grace of God unto conversion and preservation is irresistible, nor that God has unconditionally elected a certain number of men in preference to the rest unto conversion, and has ordained that these must necessarily be converted, as Missouri would have it. There is a passage in the Confession which, when torn from its connection, appears to favor this view, and our opponents have utilized it abundantly. It reads as follows ([[§ 40 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:40]]): “But as God has ordained in His counsel that the Holy Ghost should call, enlighten, and convert the elect through the Word,” … He will, etc. But the connection shows abundantly how this is [[@Page:679]]meant, when we read in what precedes: “Therefore the opinion should in no way be entertained … that these should be the elect, even though they despise the Word of God, reject, calumniate, and persecute it, or when they hear it harden their hearts, resist the Holy Ghost, etc. — But as God has ordained in His counsel that the Holy Ghost should call, enlighten, and convert the elect through the Word, and that all those who, through true faith, receive Christ He will justify and save; He has also determined in His counsel that He will harden, reprobate, and condemn those who are called through the Word, if they reject the Word and resist the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious and to work in them through the Word.”
The elaboration of the thought in the sentence, “and that all those who, through true faith, receive Christ He will justify and save,” already shows that this passage does not speak of an unconditional decree regarding a few persons elected from the start, but of the universal rule and ordination of God according to which the wilful despisers of His grace cannot be the elect. [[Paragraph 40 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:40]] has the same meaning as [[§ 66 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:66]]: “For it has been decided by the Father from eternity that whom He would save He would save through faith in Christ”; and as the paragraph in the Epitome: “Who, in His eternal divine counsel, determined that He would save no one except those who acknowledge His Son Christ and truly believe on Him.” But that God elected unto all this from the start only a certain number, Missouri will never prove from the Confession, nor from the gospel, in which election is revealed.
The entire eight decrees show that at no point God excluded any man who does not exclude himself. God determined in the first place to redeem the entire human race. Here, then, no man is excluded. Secondly He determined to “offer, present, and distribute” this benefit through the means of grace. Missouri indeed claims that “to us” refers only to the elect, so that the decree would read: “That such merit and benefit of Christ should be offered, presented, and distributed to the elect through His Word and Sacrament.” In the same way all the following decrees are perverted; they are all to refer only to the elect. “That He would be efficacious and active in us by His Holy Ghost through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered,” etc., is to mean: That He would be efficacious in the elect. Again: “That all those who, in true repentance, [[@Page:680]]receive Christ by true faith He would justify and receive into grace,” etc., is to mean: That He would justify the elect. In such a bold and gross way Missouri perverts the Confession, and in this way it proved its election unto the call and unto faith!
The very words themselves will not admit of such a construction; as the benefits of Christ have been obtained for the human race, so according to God’s purpose they are to be offered, presented, and distributed to all men in common, as also Christ immediately after His resurrection commanded: Preach the gospel to every creature.
But since no man by his own reason or strength could believe the gospel, God has made the necessary provision; He has determined to convert the hearts of men by His Holy Ghost through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered. The gift of the Holy Ghost also is thus promised not merely to certain persons elected thereto, but to the Word; as also we have seen in the Epitome: “He promises besides” — in addition to the hearing of the Word, no matter who hears and considers it — “the power and efficiency of the Holy Ghost, and divine assistance for perseverance and eternal salvation.” He who does not hear the Word, or when he hears it resists wilfully the operation of the Holy Ghost, remains, to be sure, without repentance and faith, and thereby excludes himself from all the following decrees of God. There are unfortunately many who do this, and so the fourth decree already makes a distinction among men: “That all those who” — not all men, but only all those who — “in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith He would justify and receive into grace, adoption, and inheritance of eternal life.” If this were to mean only the elect, as Missouri pretends, it would be nonsense, for the words are “all those who receive Christ by a true faith He would justify.” Missouri’s interpretation would result in the nonsensical declaration, that possibly all the elect would not believe, and that God simply determined to justify those of the elect who did believe, and not the rest of the elect! The words, “all those who,” show that God has determined from among a larger number to justify only a certain portion. If, as Missouri maintains firmly, these decrees speak only of the elect, there would have to be this difference among the elect, that some believe and are justified, while others do not believe and are not justified. But no! From, among those who are called God justifies those who believe in [[@Page:681]]Christ, and He justifies them all, even those who afterwards fall away, temporary believers, whom Missouri also would have excluded from this decree. Nevertheless the words are clear and stand like a wall; and they agree also with the Scriptures, thank God! He that believes in Christ is justified.
It is important to note that the clear words of our Confession declare that all believers are received in the same way unto adoption and the inheritance of eternal life; and yet this does not say that temporary believers are elected, in the strictest sense of the word, unto salvation. Those only are elected who persevere to the end, and for this reason the eighth decree uses different terms: “Eternally save and glorify in eternal life.” As long, however, as a person believes in Christ that long he is a child and heir of God, and therefore need not anxiously inquire whether the grace of election hover over him. There is no greater grace than this that we be children of God and heirs of salvation; all believers have this grace, yet they can lose it through fault of their own; and this does not prevent election; for even the elect fall temporarily and lose the grace they had, as the instance of David and of the Galatians proves: “Thou art the man” (of death) — “Ye are fallen from grace.” Finally, the fourth decree is very important, especially in the present controversy, because it shows that according to God’s eternal purpose the reception of a person “unto the adoption and inheritance of eternal life” depends on his own reception of Christ in true repentance and true faith. If only our opponents would examine this decree more closely, they might perhaps return to the truth; it annihilates their doctrine of election on all sides.
According to the fifth decree God also determined to sanctify in love all who believe and are justified, i.e. to renew them, that they may be able to war against evil lusts and escape return to the slavery of Satan. According to the sixth decree, to protect them against their enemies, to govern them graciously, to strengthen them in weakness, to comfort them in all affliction, so that they may not in despondency and impatience deny Christ. The last two blessings, however, do not as yet constitute preservation in faith itself; the seventh decree speaks of that. God would preserve in them, i.e. in all believers — Missouri declares again, in the elect — the good work, that is faith, love, patience, if they observe God’s Word, etc. But they cannot do this of [[@Page:682]]their own strength, Missouri tells us. Nor is it necessary that they should; for we are speaking of people who already have the Spirit and grace of God, know and love God’s Word, although they also have the flesh which constantly seeks to draw them away from the Word. Everything then depends on their abiding by the Word, on their watching and praying diligently, and thus using faithfully the gifts they have received. By this they will not preserve themselves, but only remain in the order in which God alone will keep them. Believers can do this, and when they do it, there is no doubt but what God will faithfully keep His promises and preserve them in faith. This decree has the same difficulty for our opponents as the fourth. Claiming that here again only the elect, and not all believers, are spoken of, they cannot make the words fit properly: “If they observe God’s Word,” etc.; for these words show that possibly God will not preserve some. If the decree speaks only of the elect, we would have the question, whether all the elect will be preserved, just as the Missourian notion produced the question, whether all the elect will be really brought to faith. It is absolutely impossible to harmonize the Missourian conception with the clear words of the Confession; our opponents have done much patching on these decrees, but all in vain. What is written is written!
The eighth decree for the first time mentions the selection of persons itself: “That those whom He has elected, called, and justified. He would eternally save and glorify in life eternal.” But even here “whom He has elected” does not stand alone; for then some one might think: O, if I only knew whether I am elected; for if I am not elected, all the other decrees will be “of no avail” for me; everything depends on this last, etc. All such thoughts our Confession cuts off by adding the two words “called and justified,” thus briefly summarizing and repeating the foregoing decrees. In this manner our Confession interweaves eternal election and the revealed counsel of grace in every possible way. The foregoing decrees have instructed us in regard to the “called and justified”; we have learned that from eternity God ordained everything for this purpose, so firmly and securely that even the gates of hell cannot subvert a single one of these decrees, and that God has not excluded a single person from all His gracious ordination. We can therefore be perfectly at rest, and joyfully praise and [[@Page:683]]magnify God. Now the Confession places beside “called and justified” the altogether synonymous word, “whom He has elected.” Just as God has excluded no man in calling and justifying who does not exclude himself, he has likewise omitted no man for any but the very same reason in eternal election. And thus again we can be perfectly at rest. This is how election is revealed in the gospel, “explained” and “proclaimed.” And therefore, when we hear the precious gospel concerning God’s grace towards all sinners, we need seek no further whether we are really elected. There is no mystery hovering above our heads to cast a shadow upon the gospel. Christ has revealed to us the Father’s will and thereby also our eternal election, when He declares: Repent ye and believe — God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, etc. “Therefore” — our Confession continues in the passage referred to — “no one who would be saved should trouble or harass himself with thoughts concerning the secret counsel of God, as to whether he 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 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.” [[§ 70 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:70]]. This language Missouri unfortunately does not understand and cannot understand it for the simple reason that it does not find election revealed in the gospel, but imagines that God selected the persons according to a secret hidden will and counsel. The very thing declared again and again by our Confession to be indispensable for the correct understanding of the doctrine of election, namely that election must be “sought” and “considered” and the true “judgment” concerning it formed from the gospel and from the gospel alone — this is the very thing our opponents reject; they hold fast to their notion, election is a mystery. And thus they are bound to arrive at a different goal; for they ascribe to their “mystery” all that the Confession ascribes to the gospel. This mystery of theirs is made the cause which procures, works, and promotes our salvation and all that belongs thereto; this mystery is declared to be the source whence everything flows; this mystery is considered the very sweetest consolation. And thus this mystery, which only embraces a few persons, is in reality exalted [[@Page:684]]to constitute a new counsel of salvation beyond Christ, beyond the grace of God, beyond the gospel, etc. Oh, it is a terrible judgment upon this proud Synod thus to err grossly without finding any decided testimony against its error from among the nearly one thousand pastors, professors, presidents, etc., within its bounds, from among all these famous guardians of the “reine Lehre.” What puerile means may not these St. Louis savants use in defending their case, without arousing the least suspicion among their faithful devotees! They dare publicly to assert that these 8 decrees include only the elect, although the very first one, as all the world can see, embraces all men, and the wording of all the rest is such as to render it absolutely impossible to refer them to the elect alone. They dare assert that wherever the Confession speaks of revealing election it means personal certainty. They dare begin by fabricating a mystery, of which the Scriptures know nothing, and dare then to use this “mystery” in order to shield this very mystery against every attack; for as soon as their doctrine of election is refuted by the clear word of the gospel, they reply: It is a mystery. By means of this mystery they manage to get rid of the entire revealed Word; no passage of Scripture will avail to convince them, for all the passages printed in the Bible belong to the revealed counsel of God; and the St. Louis invention consists in the claim, that all the passages of the revealed counsel are not to fit at all into the mystery. And so they can teach concerning this mystery whatever they please; they can upset the entire gospel and say simply: It is a mystery. And the entire Synod is ready to submit! [[@Page:685]]