The gospel directs us to Christ — God has elected in Christ.
(This part of the German original passed through the hands of P. Ernst before being printed in German.)
In the Gospel, as we have seen, election is revealed. But according to the Gospel all salvation is founded only upon Christ and His most holy merit. And therefore election also must have taken place in Christ, i.e. for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ.
“Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them”; this is the judgment of a holy and righteous God upon all the transgressors of the law. The judgment of everlasting death is thus pronounced upon the whole human race. “For there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3.23, And God cannot proceed without anything further to cancel or take back this judgment. God’s holiness, which must ever hate all wickedness, stands in the way; His righteousness likewise, which must ever reward every man according to his works; and also His truth, which must execute the punishment after it is imposed. Therefore, before the love of God could cancel the judgment of the law regarding the sinner and bestow upon him freedom from guilt and punishment, righteousness and salvation, the guilt and punishment of sin had to be removed in a way that would perfectly satisfy the divine righteousness, and a perfect fulfillment of the requirements of the law had to be rendered.
But who was to render this sufficient satisfaction? Man himself? Where was man in his unholiness and in his total depravity to find strength for rendering a perfect fulfillment of the law? What could man pay to atone for his guilt after he had fallen into eternal death? A mediator, a substitute, a bondsman had to be found for him in order to render the necessary perfect atonement for him. But who was to be this mediator? No angel was able to undertake the task. For the word of the Scriptures applies also to the angels: “None of them can by any [[@Page:686]]means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever” (Ps. 49. 7-8). God Himself had to undertake the task. And — eternal thanks be to Him! — He did undertake it. “God was in Christ, reconciling- the world unto Himself.” God Himself became man in Christ, put Himself under the law in voluntary love, and became obedient unto death, yea unto the death of the cross. By this vicarious work and buffering of the incarnate Son of God the guilt and punishment of all sinners was completely canceled and a flawless fulfillment of the law obtained for all; thus the eternal righteousness of God was satisfied, the punitive judgment of the law was carried out and thereby removed, and the possibility opened for the sinner of escaping the judgment through grace. For now God can declare sinners free and admit them to salvation without interfering with His righteousness and holiness.
When God now actually declares a certain sinner free of guilt and punishment and gives him salvation, He is moved to this act not by any merit, any performance, any worthiness of man, but without any merit on man’s part, entirely gratis — by His grace for the sake of the reconciliation which Jesus Christ has wrought. Because God imputed to His dear Son the sins of the sinner, as though His Son had Himself committed them. He now imputes to the sinner the holy suffering of Jesus Christ, as though the sinner had himself endured it, and on the strength of this imputation He pronounces him free from all punishment. Because God put His dear Son under the law, as though His Son was bound in duty Himself to fulfill it. He now imputes to the sinner Christ’s fulfillment of the law, as though the sinner had himself rendered it, and on the strength of this imputation declares him to be just and an heir of eternal life. Not in us, therefore, but outside of ourselves, in Christ alone, namely in His most holy merit lies the cause of the justification and salvation of the sinner.
And there also lies the reason and cause of election, for election is nothing but the eternal decree of God to justify sinners in time and to save them eternally. Therefore, just as God, because of His eternal righteousness and holiness, can in time actually declare sinners free from the curse of the law and saved only for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ; so also our holy and righteous God could determine in eternity to declare sinners [[@Page:687]]free from the curse of the law and to save them forever — or to elect — only for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ. To be sure, reconciliation was not then effected; but just as the fall was already present before the omniscient eye of God, redemption also was present, when He appointed certain persons unto the infallible attainment of salvation. It is for this reason Christ is called the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13.8), i.e. slain according to God’s eternal ordination and promise. Furthermore, just as God justifies and saves in time only for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ and not for the sake of anything in man, so also He elected unto salvation in eternity only for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ and not for the sake of any good quality in man. And therefore the apostle declares, Eph. 1. 3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. According as He hath chosen us in Him.” By the word “according” the apostle binds together the eternal election and the temporal blessings. Now we are blessed of God in time only for the sake of Christ; therefore we are also elected of God in eternity only for the sake of Christ. In Christ, therefore, the Savior ordained from eternity, lies the sole and exclusive meritorious cause of eternal election. — So teach the Scriptures, so our Church believes, teaches, and confesses, and so we believe, teach and confess with our Church.
We place no merit whatever in man by our doctrine of predestination, as Missouri dishonestly declares. Missouri could know better from our writings; for we have repeated and most emphatically testified that we do not ascribe the least merit or worthiness to man for the sake of which he could be said to have been elected. As in justification so also in election we base everything entirely upon God’s mercy and Christ’s merit. We declare that there are only two moving causes of election, not three, as Missouri is pleased to impute to us. We confess with our F. C: “Through this doctrine and explanation of the eternal and saving choice of the elect children of God His own glory is entirely and fully given to God, that in Christ He saves us out of pure mercy, without any merits or good works of ours, according to the purpose of His will, as it is written, Eph. 1: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise [[@Page:688]]of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. Therefore it is false and wrong when it is taught that not only the mercy of God and the most holy merit of Christ, but also that there is in us a cause of God’s election, on account of which God has chosen us to eternal life.” [[§§ 87-88 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:11:87-88]]. As the Confession in this passage, so we also, and that as emphatically as our opponents are able to do, reject the doctrine, that beyond the mercy of God and the merit of Christ Jesus there is in us also a cause for the sake of which God elected us unto eternal life. We indeed declare — and our authority will be set forth in the following thesis — that Christ’s merit is here considered not merely as it has been obtained for us, but also as it is appropriated by us; that accordingly faith does not flow from election, but precedes election in the thought of God. But we by no means constitute faith a third impelling cause of election. On the contrary, we heartily confess with the third article: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Christ or come to Him.” We ascribe no free will to man, by means of which he might be able to accommodate and prepare himself for grace. We do not hold that when the Word comes to man it awakes powers slumbering in him, by means of which he then would be able to decide in favor of grace and give the word of assent. We do not picture the process to our minds as though God comes half way and we the other half, or at least a few steps. On the contrary, we know from the Scriptures, the Confession, and our own experience, as well as does Missouri, that God must come the entire way to us, and that, if God should decline to do so, we would never be united with Him. We believe and confess that God must convert man; man cannot of his own powers aid in the least, he can only submit passively, he can only permit God to bring him to faith; in fact, even this that man submits passively to the operation of God’s grace, God Himself must work by His Spirit through the Word that calls. The Holy Spirit must overcome the natural resistance of man and liberate his will, which by nature is enslaved under sin. Yet this operation of the Holy Spirit is not irresistible, so that, whenever He begins to operate in a heart. His operation necessarily must attain the end, that man becomes a believer and remains a believer; on the contrary, on man’s part there always remains the possibility of his wilfully resisting the operation of the Holy Spirit. He who opposes [[@Page:689]]God’s grace with such wilful resistance either never comes to faith, or loses faith, and that by his own fault. But whenever a man comes to faith, it is never, not even for the very least part, his own work or merit, but altogether and exclusively the operation, the creative operation of the grace of God in the Word.
Nor is faith, in so far as it is a work of God in the heart of man, in so far as it is actually, taken by itself, something good, considered in election, as little as in justification. There as well as here, and here as well as there, faith finds a place solely and alone as the divinely appointed means of apprehension, as the God-given hand for receiving the merit of Jesus Christ. Just as in justification it is not faith as such, faith as a divinely produced condition of the heart, which moves God to declare unto us the forgiveness of sins, but altogether and only the merit of Jesus Christ, which forms the contents of faith; so also in election it is not faith as such, faith as a divinely wrought condition and quality of the heart, but altogether and only the merit of Jesus Christ, which moved God to appoint men unto salvation. — Where then remains any human merit upon which we could be said to make election depend? Not the least particle is left. We take faith exclusively as the work of divine grace, not as a human achievement, as the divinely appointed means for receiving the merit of Christ, not as a cause which in itself impels God. Christ’s most holy merit is for us the only foundation and cause of election.
Nevertheless, Dr. Walther finds it possible to accuse us in lengthy articles of holding a “synergistic and Pelagian” doctrine of election. He has the effrontery to assert that we teach “a co-operation of man toward justification and salvation.” This thought, he writes, permeates our entire doctrine of predestination. On this thought all our teaching and contention is based. This thought always forms our starting point, and this thought is ever our final goal. Synergism is the element we move in. We are synergists by birth and blood, and this synergism of ours has only broken out like a secret ulcer in the doctrine of predestination (“L. u. W.”, 27, p. 414). We attack the truth of the Gospel, “justification by faith alone,” make faith the work of man for the sake of which he is justified, etc. (pp. 415 and 416). Indeed, not merely synergists does he declare us to be, but “Pelagians of the grossest kind” (“Illumination,” p. 59) “who continue to dally with reason like Jews and Turks” (p. 29). [[@Page:690]]
What is Dr. W.’s authority for raising such strong accusations against us? He introduces as proofs for his assertions a selection of synergistic and Pelagian propositions, which he pretends to have found in our writings, and which he imagines prove without question that we move in synergism as the fish does in water. The first flower of this kind which he introduces, very fragrant according to his notion, and clearly betraying the synergistic tree whence it was plucked, is one of the theses furnished at the request of St. Louis by Prof. Schmidt; it reads: “It is of the highest importance for the scriptural elucidation of the doctrine of predestination to note carefully the distinction between the universal and the particular will of God’s grace, since the latter, as the immediate reason and norm of election in the strictest sense of the word, does indeed presuppose the varying conduct of man toward universal grace.” — Another blossom, which according to Dr. W.’s notion can grow only on synergistic ground, he finds in Prof Stellhorn’s tract, p. 20: “By this we see how according to the F. C. a selection among men came to be made; God indeed would lead all men without exception into heaven on the universal way of salvation, but He would do this only when they permit Him by His grace and power to lead them on this way and do not prevent this by wilful resistance. But since the majority of men unfortunately do prevent Him from thus leading them, God could not appoint all infallibly unto salvation, but was compelled to make a selection. He thus elected all those, yet only those, who hear and consider His Word (point 3 of the F. C.), by true repentance through true faith receive Christ (point 4), hold to God’s Word, pray diligently, remain in the goodness of God, and faithfully use the gifts received (point 7). All these, yet only these, are the elect, whom He also resolved to save infallibly in eternal life and to glorify (point 8).”
These and similar utterances are to prove irrefutably according to Dr. W. that we injure the “by grace alone”, that we are synergists, and even Arch-Pelagians. Now it is indeed true, we have indeed taught and do still teach that in the counsel of election the consideration of the varying conduct of men towards the proffered divine grace dare not be wholly excluded. We teach: God indeed desires to lead all men to heaven on the universal way of salvation, yet only when they permit Him to lead them by His grace and power, and when they do not [[@Page:691]]prevent this leading by wilful resistance. We teach that a distinction must be made between the natural resistance, which does not prevent the work of the Holy Ghost, and the wilful resistance, which forecloses the way for the Holy Ghost, so that He cannot effect His work in man. We indeed so teach, it is true. But it is not true that these statements are irrefragable proofs for the accusation, that we assail the ‘alone by faith”, or that we cherish synergism. If these statements were really what Dr. W. declares them to be — irrefragable proofs of synergism — they would at all times and everywhere necessarily contain a synergistic meaning, and could not be employed in any other sense, at least on the part of those who know what they are saying. All, who had ever employed such language, or employ it now, would then necessarily be synergists and Pelagians. Even the adage, so often repeated by Missouri in the present controversy: “If two say the same thing, it is not the same”, would not alter this fact, For the claim is that these statements are undeniable proofs; therefore even this old adage will not dare enter a denial. — But how, if we could show that such statements are made not only by the dogmaticians, but even by Luther, in the Confession, and in the Scriptures themselves? Certainly, there would be only a twofold possibility: either the statements referred to are in reality undeniable proofs; and then not only we, but Luther, the Confession, and the Scriptures stand condemned: or Luther, the Confession, and the Scriptures are free of synergistic leaven in spite of these statements; and then the undeniable proofs of our synergism vanish, and the accusations raised against us are wholly false and without foundation — a grave sin against God.
There is no doubt whatever that Luther, the Confession, and the Scriptures themselves employ these “synergistic and Pelagian” statements and expressions, for which Dr. W. accuses us, and let it be well noted, employ them in precisely the same sense as we do. As we do, so Luther also speaks of a varying conduct toward the gospel. The passage we refer to is found in his House-Postille in the sermon on the gospel for the Sunday Septugesima. There Luther preaches as follows: —
“Some seek other thoughts and interpret the words thus: Many are called, that is, God offers His grace to many; but few are chosen, that is. He bestows such grace upon few; for only few are saved. This Is indeed a wicked interpretation; for how [[@Page:692]]can it be otherwise, if one really thinks and believes this of God, than that he should hate God for this reason, the fault lying in His will that we are not all saved?”
“Therefore the sense of this passage is altogether different: Many are called etc., for the preaching of the gospel proceeds in common and in public to whomever will hear and receive; and God has ordered this preaching so exceedingly in common and in public that every one may hear it, believe and accept, and be saved. But how does it turn out? As the gospel shows: Few are chosen, that is, few conduct themselves toward the gospel so that God has pleasure in them. For some hear it and do not esteem it; some hear it and do not hold fast to it, nor are willing to sacrifice anything for it, or to suffer; some hear it, yet pay more attention to money and property and worldly pleasure. But this does not please God, and He does not like such people.”
“This is what Christ calls: not chosen, that is, not to conduct themselves so that God has pleasure in them. But those are chosen people and well-pleasing to God, who hear the gospel diligently, believe in Christ, prove their faith by good fruits, and suffer on account of it what they are given to suffer” (Erlangen ed.,. I., p. 206).
Here Luther evidently declares: Whether God has such pleasure in one who is called as to receive him into the number of His elect children, depends indeed on his so conducting himself that God can have pleasure in him. But now God can have no pleasure in the sinner apart from Christ, but only in Christ, the Son in whom He is well-pleased. But a person can be in Christ only through faith. For “without faith it is impossible to please God.” To be sure, faith is not man’s own work, but the gift of God. But God will give faith only to those, and does in reality give it only to those, who do not make this giving impossible by wilful resistance. In those who do this, who so conduct themselves toward the gospel, God cannot have His work, in them therefore He cannot have pleasure. — Luther thus uses the same expression as we do, uses it in the same sense as we do. Luther, therefore, must also be called a gross Pelagian, an imitator of Jews and Turks! — Well, with him as our companion we can afford to bear these heretical appellatives!
As Luther, so also the Confession speaks of the different conduct of men towards the means of grace. Thus, for instance, we read in the second article of the F. C.: “For this reason we will [[@Page:693]]now relate still further from God’s Word how man is converted to God, how and through what means (namely, through the oral Word and the holy Sacraments) the Holy Ghost is efficacious in us, and is willing to work and bestow, in our hearts, true repentance, faith, and new spiritual powers and ability for good, and how we should act ourselves towards these means, and use them.” ([[Jacobs’ Translation, p. 561, § 48 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:2:48]]). The Confession sets out to show how man is converted to God; and here it states explicitly that regard must indeed be had to the manner in which man acts or conducts himself towards the appointed means of salvation. God, we are told further, indeed desires most earnestly the salvation of all men; hence He offers them all His grace in the Word efficaciously, and by means of the Word He would call men unto salvation, draw them to Himself, convert them, regenerate, and sanctify them. ([[§ 50 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:2:50]]). Now although man in his spiritual death cannot of his own strength receive, understand, or believe the Word, yet, even though unconverted to God, he can hear and read it outwardly. For in these outward things man has retained his free will to some extent after the fall, so that he can go to church, hear the preaching, or refuse to do so. ([[§ 53 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:2:53]]). And by means of this Word God works and breaks our hearts and draws man to believe the Word and give assent to it. For we are to be certain that, when God’s Word is preached in truth and purity, and when men hear it with seriousness and diligence and consider it, God will surely be present and will give through the Word what man by his own powers can neither take nor give. ([[§§ 54, 55 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:2:54-55]]) When now a man refuses to hear preaching or to read the Word, and despises the Word, he has no injustice done him when the Holy Ghost does not enlighten him, but leaves him to perish in the darkness of his unbelief. ([[§ 58 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:2:58]]) And such a person cannot console himself with God’s eternal election, nor obtain His mercy. For God does not force man to become godly. And those who always resist the Holy Ghost and persistently oppose the known truth, as Stephen says of the hardened Jews (Acts 7), will not be converted ([[§ 60 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:2:60]]) and cannot be converted. ([[§ 83 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:2:83]]) Our Confession, therefore, speaks explicitly of the varying conduct of man towards the means of grace, and in such a way as to show that it would have this “conduct” taken into consideration when the question is asked, who will and who will not he converted. — Do you think the Confession has likewise a “synergistic and Pelagian doctrine of predestination”? There is [[@Page:694]]no question, when Mo. brands us as synergistic heretics on account of the term “conduct”, it condemns the Confession itself. For we use the term in the very same sense.
As far as the expression “permit one’s self to be converted” is concerned which is also adduced to prove that we move in synergism as in our proper element, the Scriptures themselves contain it. When on the first day of Pentecost the preaching of Peter pierced the hearts of many, so that they inquired of the apostles: “Men and brethern, what shall we do?” Peter answered them, Acts 2.40: “Save yourselves (according to the German text, Permit yourselves to be saved) from this untoward generation.” And the apostle Paul writes, 2 Cor. 5.19-20: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye (i.e. permit yourselves to be, let yourselves be) reconciled to God.” The apostles, therefore, have no scruples about saying: “permit yourself to be helped”, “permit yourself to be reconciled.”‘ And it certainly is plain that we cannot here apply the principle, “Ought to do does not argue ability to do.” For the apostle does not preach law, but gospel. His words contain no demand of the law, but a gospel petition, a gospel invitation. And what the gospel demands it gives. It does not demand what it does not in the very demand give. Man indeed by nature resists the “word of reconciliation”, and hence cannot of his own powers and abilities permit himself to be reconciled. But the Word itself overcomes his resistance. At the moment in which the tidings of reconciliation strike his ear he can permit himself to be reconciled, he can become a personal partaker of the reconciliation obtained for him and offered to him, if only he cast not this proffered reconcliation away by wilful resistance. And that he may not do this and thus lose his salvation, the apostle begs: “Be ye (let or permit yourself to be) reconciled to God.” — Thus when the Scriptures speak of permitting oneself to be reconciled, of permitting oneself to be helped and saved, they mean precisely what we mean when we say “permit oneself to be converted.” How now? Are the Scriptures become “synergistic and Pelagian”? — O this zeal without reason, this blind fanaticism of Mo.!
But especially if Dr. W. would not employ devious weight and measure, which, as is well known, the gentleman abhors, he [[@Page:695]]would have to accuse all the fathers of our Church after the time of the F. C., no less than he does us, of “synergistic and Pelagian predestination.” For the doctrine we teach is identical with that taught by all the fathers of our Church after the time of the F. C. Even the astounding art of Dr. W. has not been able to this day to show the contrary, and will not be able to show it in all eternity. If there is any difference at all between the old theologians and ourselves, it is only this that they were far freer in the expressions they used, far less anxious about any possible misinterpretation of their words than we are. If then we are really synergists and Pelagians, our old fathers are such even more than we are. This will at once appear to very unprejudiced person, when we quote a few of the utterances of the fathers.
The old theologian Baier (died 1695 as professor in Halle), whose system of Christian doctrine is used as the basis for dogmatical instruction in St. Louis, is the first whom we here introduce. After reminding us, in the section on conversion, that we must distinguish between natural and wilful resistance, he goes on as follows: “This natural resistance is gradually decreased in conversion itself through the grace which dwells in the Word (per gratiam verbo Dei conjunctum) and is finally overcome, and therefore taken by itself does not prevent conversion. But the other, the wilful resistance, which is superadded to the natural, as it is not in the same way common to all the regenerate, so also men can by the powers of free will refrain from it.” (Baier, Compendium, p. 439.)
On the same subject we have an expression from the renowned theologian John Huelsemann (in 1629 professor at Wittenberg; died 1661 as professor at Leipzig) in his work: De Auxiliis Gratia: “Every unregenerate man by nature despises the preaching of the cross, because it does not agree with his reason. For ‘the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them’, 1 Cor. 2.14; Rom. 8.7. On account of this natural resistance God withdraws the preaching of the gospel from no nation or individual, for it is the intention of God that the Gospel shall remove this natural resistance, and make of those who are unwilling such as are willing. Hence natural resistance is the very thing with which the grace of God is concerned, that it may be transformed and brought under the obedience of faith, 2 Cor. 5. 20; 10. 5; Luke 1.18; Tit. 3.3; etc. But obstinate contempt [[@Page:696]]or wilful resistance is what is described as contemptuously refusing the spiritual powers which God truly and actually imparts through every ordinary preaching of His Word, namely in so far as God extends this gift to man and thereby gives everything which on the part of God is necessary to remove the natural resistance, whether man now accepts the gift or not.”
“This contempt and this (wilful) resistance is superadded to the natural and does not come into existence until the Word has become known This wilful resistance, however, deserves that the Word of God be taken away, whether man is already actually converted or not; and this because the manifestation of this contempt could have been overcome by the grace which the preached Word at all times and everywhere bestows upon every intelligent and attentive hearer. For this first grace of God prepares its own way in man so that he can permit its operation, and requires no other grace to precede it… It is the nature of the Word always to work something, and first of all the ability in man so that he will be in a condition to be able to refrain from resisting the activity of the Holy Ghost, who seeks to induce him to assent.” (Page 14 etc.).
Furthermore, p. 274: “No man does anything, or co-operates in any way, towards receiving the first grace. But that he does not resist the grace which properly and according to its nature works conversion, is due to the impartation of the first grace, which is imparted to all, so that they can refrain from resistance. God has resolved to convert those actually who do not wilfully resist the operation of divine grace; and they can refrain from this resistance by virtue of the grace which is imparted to all hearers of the Word.”
Quenstedt speaks in the same way; he was one of the acutest of the orthodox theologians of our Church (died 1688 as professor at Wittenberg). He speaks of conversion as follows: “This grace (prevenient grace) can be prevented, and, even though at first admitted, again rejected although no man can escape the first knocking of grace, he nevertheless, after having experienced the first motions caused by prevenient grace, can wilfully reject this grace, Matt. 23. 37; Luke 7.20. This rejection is not caused by every resistance; not by the original or inborn, the very purpose of prevenient grace being to overcome this; nor by every inward resistance stirring actually in the heart; nor by every resistance actually manifesting itself outwardly, which the Holy Ghost meets [[@Page:697]]in the person who is to be converted — but it is caused by the actual pertinacious resistance opposed especially to the means of grace.” (Theol. Didac. Polem. III., edition 1696, p. 495.)
In the following thesis he states that that prevenient grace hinders and bridles the inborn, as well as the real simple and conquerable resistance of unregenerate man; and then he continues: “We say emphatically, the actual simple and conquerable resistance. For we do not here mean that resistance, which on account of wilful wickedness is insuperable and obdurate, and which takes place when man obstinately denies and rejects what has been clearly shown from the Scriptures; which insuperable and wicked resistance God punishes by the denial of richer grace.”
In answer to the objection: “If grace is resistible then the most important work necessary for our salvation, namely repentance and faith, will be placed in man’s free will as the immediate cause” — Quenstedt replies: “Faith and repentance is not thereby placed in the power of free will, but resistance and non-resistance; and the distinction is as great as that between illuminating a room and presenting no obstacles to the illumination to be furnished.” (III., p. 514.)
In the article of predestination Quenstedt writes: “We must distinguish between any relation whatever of faith to election, whatever it may be — as also the effect can be placed in relation to its causes, and the accident to its subject — and between an essential relation. Not the former, but the latter is here spoken of. For faith, or rather the foreseen non-rejection of the faith which prevenient grace offers, is the essential condition of the subject for election.” (III, p. 30.)
As an explanation of the passage. Acts 13.48: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” Quenstedt writes: “The Calvinists wrongly seek to prove by these words that foreseen constant faith does not belong to the counsel of election, since it is only the effect or result of election. For the word tassein is never used in the Scriptures of eternal election; and the word taxis does not signify an absolute decree, but a divine order which must be followed in time; wherefore also the tetagmenoi are not those predestinated (Verordnete), but those ordered (Geordnete), who keep themselves in and under the divine order. Those who keep the divinely prescribed order, enter into it, follow it, as Franz interprets. They are described in this passage as the opposite of [[verse 46 >> Acts 13.46]]. These are the tetagmenoi (in the [[@Page:698]]order), those are the atactoi (out of the order, disorderly). But these latter were not people simply rejected in eternity, but rejected as (in time) disturbing the taxis, the divinely instituted order, as treading it under foot, as rejecting God’s Word, etc. Here, therefore, we treat of the taxis, which refers to the order in time offered by the preaching of the gospel, and does not refer to eternal election. The meaning of the words, therefore, is: Only those come to believe who submitted themselves to the divine order, permitted themselves to be drawn, rejected not the Word of grace, but received it with joy… Ægidius Hunnius gives the excellent paraphrase: “There came to believe and receive the gift of faith as many as followed the order which God had appointed in His counsel for the attaining of eternal life.” (Ed. 1696, III., p. 42.)
We do not introduce these testimonies, which might be multiplied indefinitely, in order to establish our doctrine of predestination on the authority of the “fathers.” We know that proof for our doctrine must be brought solely from the Word of God. We only desire to show in these testimonies that the old fathers did indeed and even in greater measure than we ourselves emphasize a varying conduct towards the means of grace, a permitting oneself to be converted through the power and operation of the Holy Ghost, a distinction between natural and wilful resistance. Our opinion is not that certain phrases and expressions are established as unassailable simply for the reason that the “fathers” employed them. But this is what we claim, if our doctrine of predestination is necessarily one that injures and upsets the “by grace alone” because it contains these expressions, then the very same thing applies also to the doctrine of predestination taught by the fathers. For they have repeatedly used the same terms, and in the same sense as we use them; they emphasized them over against the Calvinists at least as much as we emphasize them over against the Calvinism of Missouri; and they have not rejected all human merit, all co-operation of man for his conversion, more strongly than we now reject it. If then our doctrine of predestination must be branded as synergistic and Pelagian in the opinion of some, these people ought to have at least so much sense of justice and honesty as to give the same appellation to the same thing in others, also in our Lutheran dogmaticians. They should have the courage to say frankly and freely what they have said indirectly and by [[@Page:699]]implication in condemning our doctrine, namely that our Lutheran fathers have for 300 years injured the “by faith alone” by their doctrine of predestination. Something of this kind “L. u. W.” has finally undertaken. P. Stöckhardt writes in the last issue: “They (the dogmaticians) desire to some extent at least to explain and render plausible to reason this wonderful mystery of the discretio personarum (the selection of persons). And in this they have erred and have deviated from the Scriptures and the Symbol.” (April 1882, p. 158.) Frankly and freely Pastor Stöckhardt here accuses theologians of the time subsequent to the F. C. of deviating from the Scriptures and the Confession in regard to the doctrine of predestination. It is certainly a terrible slander, which is thus thrown upon Lutheran theologians, yea upon the entire Lutheran Church after the F. C., in the assertion that this Church, immediately after setting up its Confession, deviated from it, and that the prominent theologians of this Church were in reality already rationalist. Poor Lutheran Church! You have all this time falsely called yourself the “orthodox church”! This glory was nothing but an empty dream, till now at last the light of a new reformation has dawned in St. Louis. — But however lamentable the fact, that men who claim to be Lutheran theologians heap such shame upon their own Church, it is nevertheless at least an open and honest declaration which has thus been made, and therefore a hundred times preferable to the deceptive arts hitherto practiced for so long a time by “L. u. W.” Now all may know indeed what is the position of St. Louis in regard to the dogmaticians. But how do our opponents proceed now? They attempt to tell the world that our doctrine of predestination and that of the dogmaticians are two totally different things. In the heat of combat our old dogmaticians, they say, did indeed here and there utter an ambiguous and inconvenient expression; but that was all. Essentially their doctrine is in perfect accord with that of Missouri. And Missouri does not think of assailing or of even rejecting the doctrine of the dogmaticians. Only an expression here and there Missouri does not like to appropriate. Their war is not against the doctrine of these faithful witnesses, but altogether against our doctrine. The dogmaticians have nothing in common with our doctrine. We may continue to say that we ascribe to man not the least merit of his own, not the least power for conversion — all that is mere wind. We are nothing [[@Page:700]]but synergists and Pelagians; have always been such in reality; never taught correctly concerning justification; make faith in the good old papistic way a work of man, for the sake of which he is justified. And this secret ulcer has now finally broken out in the doctrine of predestination. We are now revealed as people who have attacked the very heart of the Lutheran Church. This appears undeniably from the expressions we employ in explaining the doctrine of election. The dogmaticians indeed used the same expressions; but their use of them does not mark a synergistic and Pelagian doctrine of predestination, for they only employed these expressions in opposition to the Calvinists, while we employ them in opposition to Missouri. If we were not synergists, we would not assail the orthodox (?) Missouri Synod.
Is this not indeed devious weight and measure? — But there remains only one either — or. Either these expressions are in reality undeniable proofs of synergism. And then all who use them are synergists and Pelagians, the dogmaticians no less than we. And if Dr. W. really wants to be zealous for the “truth of the gospel,” he must fight against the predestination doctrine of the dogmaticians and reject it as fiercely as he fights against and rejects ours. — Or these expressions in themselves prove nothing in regard to “synergistic and Pelagian doctrine of predestination.” Then they prove nothing in regard to ourselves. Then Dr. W. must proceed to bring other, really undeniable proofs, before he will be able to accuse justly. And as long as he has not furnished these proofs, we declare his accusation to be a grave wrong, a gross calumniation, a calumniation equal to the explicit slander of our old dogmaticians as synergists.
When one of the “opponents” of Missouri would not promise unconditionally at the Chicago Conference, not to assail publicly in the future the doctrine of Missouri, which according to that “opponent’s” conviction was false, Dr. W. uttered the threat, that, if new attacks should provoke him to fight, his opponents would be astonished at the language he would be compelled to use in publicly characterizing his enemies. And he has kept his word. He has not hesitated to brand his opponents as synergists and Arch-Pelagians on account of expressions and terms which the Scriptures themselves, the Confession, Luther, and the dogmaticians employ. Certainly this is astonishing. And especially when we recall that he himself has taught and to this day has [[@Page:701]]not retracted, the very same doctrine which he now attacks as heretical To prove this we will quote only a single passage from the synodical Report of the Northern District for the year 1873. This Report contains a discussion of the doctrine of conversion on the basis of theses furnished by Dr. W. The doctrine is not discussed merely in passing, but the purpose of the whole discussion was a thorough treatment of this doctrine especially. According to the introduction those points in particular are to be treated in which we meet various errors. If anywhere, this is where Missouri has expressed itself on the doctrine of conversion. We are, therefore, certainly justified in considering everything we find here as the doctrine of Dr. W., as also of the Missouri Synod itself. And what expressions do we find? After the above passage from Quenstedt regarding different kinds of resistance is quoted, we read on page 49: “Divine grace can be divided according to its manifestations into three degrees: 1) prevenient grace, that is the operation of the Holy Spirit which must precede when God converts a person in the ordinary way; 2) efficient grace, by which God produces faith; and 3) co-operative grace, which co-operates with the strength already dwelling in regenerate man. As man is by nature he can do nothing but resist the operations of the Holy Spirit; wilful resistance he can. not indeed absolutely, but to some extent, refrain from by his own power. But we must remember that our fathers understood by wilful resistance wicked, obstinate resistance. This obstinate resistance man can refrain from by his own power when grace comes to him, but not the resistance in his will and purpose (willige, vorsätzliche) which is found in every soul even in true Christians.” According to Quenstedt a threefold distinction is here made in regard to resistance: the inborn; the simple, actual; and the wilful, obstinate. The inborn and the actual are found in all men, at least in all adults, even still in true Christians. This the Holy Spirit alone can overcome; it, however, does not prevent the work of the Holy Spirit. His work is prevented only by the wilful resistance. But this wilful resistance man can, although not absolutely, yet to some extent, refrain from by his own strength. Here evidently the omission of wilful resistance is placed in the category of civil righteousness (justitia civilis) concerning which the Augsburg Confession declares that man “hath some liberty to work” this. He indeed has this strength only to some extent; hence [[@Page:702]]grace must certainly be added; but when grace has been added then man can refrain from wilful resistance, and that of his own strength. This is what Missouri teaches in so many words. And let us again recall, this is not in passing, not merely once in some sermon, but in a synodical Report which sets out to elucidate thoroughly the doctrine of conversion particularly in those points which are liable to error. — Should it seem possible then for Dr. W. to accuse us as synergists and Pelagians on account of a doctrine which he himself has confessed, and that in the strongest of terms, a doctrine which, since Missouri claims not to have deviated from its former teachings, is even now yet that of the Missouri Synod! — Who does not recall the word of the apostle: “Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things,” Rom. 2.1. When Missouri condemns our doctrine as synergism, it pronounces judgment upon itself.
But the claim is that we declare faith to be the cause which impels or moves God in election. This is Dr. W.’s claim — things are very easily claimed — and he appeals to an essay in “Altes und Neues,” II., p. 7. But his claim is false. Never did “A. u. N.” form the proposition: “Faith is the cause which impels God in election.” “Who says this lies” — this noble expression would be the answer of Dr. W. in such a case. The passage in “A. u. N.” referred to is as follows: “Dr. W. certainly knows the fathers as scarcely another man does. Why then does he try to make us believe that our orthodox fathers absolutely rejected the expression, ‘faith is the cause moving God in election’?” — These words, according to Dr. W., contain a question so silly that only one who knows nothing at all about the history of dogma could have asked it, but at the same time reveals as clearly as possible our synergistic Pelagianism. Now these are indeed two bold, yet altogether untrue statements. The question asked is far from being foolish, for it is a fact, that a large number of orthodox theologians, instead of rejecting this expression, themselves actually used it: Musæus, Baier, Scherzer, Bechmann, and others. And even those who did not care to use the expression themselves did not absolutely reject it. In its Pelagian construction, when faith is taken as man’s own free deed, all the dogmaticians, as the article in “A. u. N.” explicitly notes, rejected it; but not in every construction, not absolutely. These are facts which only a person altogether [[@Page:703]]ignorant of the history of dogma will undertake to deny. — But what shall we say, when Dr. W. who knows the facts as well as any one can know them speaks as though the very contrary were true? And besides, it is not at all absolutely false to call faith the cause moving God in election. It would certainly be false — and “A. u. N.” is careful to say so — to consider faith as man’s own work, or even as a divinely wrought quality and condition of man, and then to ascribe to this faith causative or motive power. But in so far as faith embraces Jesus Christ and possesses Christ it can indeed, for the sake of Christ, i.e. of His merit which it embraces, be termed the cause moving God, as in justification, so also in election. To be sure, it is not faith itself, but the merit of Jesus Christ embraced by faith, which moves God. But since faith is, as it were, the vessel containing this treasure, I have a perfect right to call faith, because of the treasure it contains, the impelling cause. This is frequently done by the Scriptures themselves. Thus, for instance, Paul writes, Rom. 4.5: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Rom. 5.1: “Therefore, being justified by faith.” According to the original text the words read “out of faith.” Faith is thus called the source whence justification flows. And in Gal. 2.16, Paul writes: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law.” According to the original text the words read: “be justified out of faith and not out of works”! So then justification flows from faith. — If the apostle Paul did not happen to be Paul, Missouri would proceed to manufacture this expression into a proof of his synergistic and Pelagian doctrine of predestination. — How often, moreover, do we find Luther saying: for the sake of faith, on account of faith — thereby following Paul in calling faith a cause moving God; to be sure, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the merit of Christ which it apprehends. Rightly therefore the old theologian Bechmann writes: “Faith may be considered in respect to its object, namely the merit of Christ which it apprehends; when so considered it has the power to move God; and thus faith is a cause of election, in so far as, foreseen of God in eternity, it moved God through the power of Christ’s merit to elect some.” (Theol. Polem. p. 704.) [[@Page:704]]
Therefore, even if we had declared faith to be the cause moving God in election, this would be no proof of synergism; this would not by any means put us into the footsteps of Pelagians, Jews, and Turks, but only in the footsteps of the dogmaticians, of Luther, and of Paul, who have no scruples whatever about describing faith as a cause moving God. But we have not even done this much, we have never used this expression in stating or establishing our doctrine of election. And Missouri know this well. Notwithstanding, they attempt by all means to twist this phrase into a proof of our synergistic and Pelagian teaching. — It is not difficult to find the reason for this deceptive and dishonest procedure. We have raised the accusation, grave indeed, yet only too true, against them of attempting to introduce an altogether unbiblical and un-Lutheran, essentially Calvinistic doctrine of election. We have demonstrated the truth of our accusation in an altogether incontestable way. Consequently, they are in a difficulty. They will not retract. They are bounds to be in the right. Hence, with customary dexterity they seek to snatch the sword from their opponent’s hand and to wield it against the opponent himself; the Calvinistic cloven hoof is tucked away as carefully as possible, and the matter is made to appear as though the Missourian doctrine of election consisted simply in ascribing man’s conversion, justification, preservation, and final salvation altogether to the free grace of God. Thus the claim is supported, that when we opponents fight against the Missourian doctrine of election, we are fighting in reality against the “by grace alone”, and showing ourselves to be miserable synergists. In this way Missouri hopes to annihilate the hated “opponents” and to rescue its orthodox fame. And to give some color at least to their purpose, they drag all possible and impossible things together, substitute what they need where it is wanting, omit what does not suit them — and then cry out: “Consequently there is no doubt whatever but what our opponents cherish a synergistic and Pelagian doctrine of predestination.” — It is the very same dishonest game played of old by the Calvinists against our fathers. They too set up the claim that in their doctrine of election everything was ascribed to the free grace of God. But when our fathers rejected their unconditional election, they again and again raised the cry that our fathers were injuring the “by grace alone.” Our fathers might show ever so clearly that [[@Page:705]]the point at issue between them and the Calvinists was not whether everything was free grace or not, but whether God had appointed according to the free, unconditional purpose of His secret will a few among men in preference to the rest unto faith and unto salvation; they might disclaim and guard themselves ever so decidedly against all synergism and Pelagianism — it was all of no avail; the Calvinists simply continued to hurl the accusation against our fathers: You are robbing God’s free grace of its honor! Missouri to-day proceeds in precisely the same way. We may show ever so incontestably that the point at issue between us is not whether a man receives his entire salvation from grace alone or not, but whether God according to the mere pleasure of His will appointed some unto faith and unto salvation, while He did not so appoint others; we may continue with our fathers to call the mercy of God and the merit of Jesus Christ the only causes moving God in election; we may deny ever so emphatically all co-operation of man in the work of conversion, and thus also all merit of man, and ascribe it to grace alone — it is all of no avail. Since we reject the Missourian election according to “mere good pleasure” as a Calvinistic error, we must be synergists and Pelagians who attack the article of justification by grace alone. — But if they will, let them repeat their accusation as often and as long as they please — it strikes us as little as did the accusation of the Calvinists our fathers. In unison with our fathers we will hold fast immovably: “Not of works, but by grace alone, for the sake of Christ.” But in unison with our fathers we will also hold fast: By faith alone, that it may be by grace. [[@Page:706]]