Such as do not reject the gracious purposes of God, but listen to, and accept of, them with a true faith, and remain in them unto the end: — such has God ordained unto eternal life, elected from among the human race, and determined to come unto salvation; — but such as do not believe or who fall from the faith, God has not elected, — but has determined to remain in their sinful state, by which they will be eternally lost.
302. We have, in this Chapter, to consider the subject of God’s judgment’s will. This takes effect in the event of some persons accepting of the proffered grace, and of others rejecting it. This will is of a twofold nature. We have therefore to consider:
I. God’s merciful will
II. God’s severe will.
303. We desire moreover to consider the obedience or the disobedience of man, which are determining the will of God, — not as it now appears to us, but as it has been known to Omniscience from all eternity. He has, by means of this latter property, from all eternity known all those who were finally to perish in their unbelief, — or those who would have faith in His Son, and remain stedfast in their belief, even unto the end. For to Him all future events are as if they were present before Him. He therefore permits the first to remain in their unbelief, and consequently in that state of condemnation, which He has pronounced upon all those, who do not repent and believe. — Whilst on the other hand he choses and ordains the latter to eternal life — This act has been designated, by the church, as the election of grace.
304. But for the better understanding of this subject, we have to direct our attention to the following six points:
1. the explanation of the term election of grace;
2. its nature;
3. at what time has this election of grace taken place;
4. what are Gods purposes concerning those whom He has chosen by the election of grace;
5. what it is that has determined God in this His determination;
6. which men He has elected.
305. 1. Concerning the term: election of grace it must be remembered, that scripture itself is making use of it. St. Paul himself calls it the election of grace, Rom. 11, 5. And the Lord Jesus himself designates it as an election: “Many be called” says he, Matt. 20, 16; but few chosen — Ephes. 1, 4. we read: “He (God) hath chosen us…. before the foundation of the world;” as also Rom. 8, 33: “Who shall say any thing to the charge of God’s elect?”- This act is called an election, from the circumstance that not all men, but some, out of their number, have been chosen, to be partakers of the grace of God, and those few have therefore been elected by God, from amidst the whole race of mankind, to be his children and heirs.
306. 2. The nature of this election may be defined as follows. It is the divine counsel according to which God, from all eternity, out of mere grace and compassion, has ordained, by his Son Jesus Christ unto eternal life those men, who in his omniscience he knew would hold fast the faith in the Lord Jesus even unto the end.
307. 3. At what time this election has taken place? We answer: that it has come to pass before all eternity, as we are expressly told in scripture, Ephes. 1, 4: “He (God) hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world; as also 2 Timoth. 1, 9: “Who (God) hath saved us and called us with an holy calling… according to his own purpose and grade, which was given us in Christ before the world began” — If therefore the election of grace has been from the beginning, before the world has been created, it follows that its existence does not fall in the space of time, but of eternity.
308. 4. As to the question concerning God’s purposes with regard to this act, it is to be stated, that God has been pleased to ordain the elect to the full and eternal enjoyment of his grace; — to the adoption of children, Ephes. 1,5; to be the image of His son, Rom. 8, 29: ‘’for Whom he did foreknow, he did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son — to be justified and gloried “for, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified,” Rom. 8, 30; — finally to salvation, 2 These. 2; 13.
309. 5. What it is which has determined God in this election? — Where there is an election, there must be one preferred to the other, which is just the case in the question before us. But we have to consider how it happens, that it has pleased God to ordain to eternal life not all mankind, but a few from among them. Either God has, merely according to His pleasure and counsel, elected some unto eternal life, and from the same causes ordained others unto eternal destruction; or He has seen in the one individual something, by which He was determined to elect the same, and which He missed in another individual, for absence of which the latter could not be ordained unto eternal life.
310. As there are, on this head, different opinions, among different classes of men, we have to inquire
A. What it was which God has not been considering in this work, and
B. What it was, that He has considered, in the elect, and why it is that He has preferred those whom He did elect, to others whom He did not.
311. A. Concerning the first inquiry it must be remembered, that God has not out of mere wilful determination, or because it merely pleased him so to do, elected some unto eternal life, and ordained the “greatest’ number of men to eternal destruction; for
a. This contradicts the great goodness and lovingkindness of our God; for He does not wish the death of the unrighteous, nor that any one should be lost, but that all should be saved. Knowing this we arrive sit the following conclusion: that Being to whom God inclines so graciously, that He does not wish his death and his destruction, but rather that he should be saved — such an individual God cannot, for no other reason than his mere will or pleasure, deprive of eternal salvation; — from which follows, that God in the act of this election, did not follow merely his own bent and inclination.
312. b. God has chosen us in Christ: Ephes. 1,3.4: “Who (God) hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as He hath chosen us,” etc. etc., which entitles us to the conclusion: that if God Has chosen one through Christ and in Christ, He cannot have done so out of His mere pleasure; for the expression “in Christ” shows, that this grace has been bestowed upon us, merely for the sake and the merits of Christ, as we are told, 2 Timot. 1, 9: “Who (God) hath saved us, and called us according to his own purpose which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” The expression “in Christ Jesus” refers to the faith, for by this faith we are in Christ and he in us, Ephes. 3, 17. Now God has chosen us in Christ and through him: from which follows that He has done so, from another motive than His mere pleasure.
313. c. We are elected according to the foreknowledge of God, Rom. 8, 29: “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate;” — 1 Petr. 1, 1. 2: “to the… elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” From which we conclude, that he whom God has chosen, after first having, as it were, examined him, the same is not chosen by God because of His divine pleasure, but because of his being found fit and proper for this purpose.
314. We have farther to observe, that God in determining His purpose had no regard to human virtue, piety and good works. Thus He has not, for instance, chosen some into eternal life because of their having abounded in the exercise of any of these works, or rejected others, for reason of their having been found wanting in some of these virtues or good works. For if it were so, then:
a. Would this counsel of God amount to an election consequent to man’s deserving, and could therefore by no means be looked upon as an election of grace.
315. b. But the whole work of our Salvation is resting entirely upon the grace of God, and not upon our piety or merits; for “by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast.” Ephes. 2, 8. 9: “the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared; not by works of righteousness, which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us.” If, accordingly, the work of our salvation can be proved to rest upon grace and not ‘ upon our own merits, it must follow that the election of grace is, likewise, the effect of grace and not of our own merits.
316. c. Of this election and ordination of the children of God we are also taught, that it is not the result of their good works, but of the grace of God: “Who hath saved us not according to our own works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” 2 Timot. 1, 9; — “(God) having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will to the praise and glory of his grace, whereby he hath made us accepted in the beloved,” Ephes. 1, 5. 6. And the Apostle Paul, after having, in the eleventh chapter of his Epistle to the Romans,” commented upon this doctrine, concludes the same with the words: v. 35: “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” And in the fifth and sixth verses of the same chapter, he draws up a comparison between grace and works in the following manner: “At this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace; and if by grace, is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace, otherwise work is no more work.”
317. B. We have, secondly, (cf. # 310.) to inquire, What it was that God has been considering in determining His election of grace, thus preferring one individual before another; electing to eternal life but a certain number — but not the whole of mankind. With respect to this subject it is to be remembered:
a. That God, “in the work of election, has been considering none but the Lord Jesus Christ, as can be proved by the Bible passages, Ephes. 1, 4. 5; 2 Timot, 1, 9. — All men are, through Christ, reconciled unto God, 2 Cor. 5, 19. — “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” John. 1, 17 God has made us acceptable in the beloved (that is, in His Son),” Ephes. 1, 6: neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (except the name of the Lord Jesus)” Acts. 4, 12,
318. b. God has, in this act, considered the Lord Jesus Christ, not only in as far as he has suffered on behalf of all mankind, and bore their sins: for in this case there would be no difference between those of the different destinations, nor the possibility of an election, since Christ would have born the sins of all. It is therefore to be kept in mind, that:
319. c. God has, in this act, been considering the Lord Jesus Christ, in as far as the latter has been accepted by men. For he whom God has shown special grace, and in whom he has manifested His great love, the same has undoubtedly received and accepted the Lord Jesus, by whom he has been reconciled and brought to grace, not only by his merits, but in deed and in truth. Now the election of grace is a divine work, in the performance of which God manifests His great love towards the elect, thereby testifying that they have been indeed reconciled unto Him. From which follows, that the, elect of God have received and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ.
320. d. If is also to be observed, that the Lord Jesus can be accepted by men in no other way, than by faith. The nature of this we shall have occasion to explain subsequently; for the present it may suffice to observe, that faith is the firm conviction, on the part of man, that God is mercifully inclined unto him, and that He has forgiven him his sins, and purposes to make him heir of eternal life, because His own beloved Son had born the sins of mankind on his own body, paid a ransom for them, and cleansed them with his blood, — that man, being reconciled unto his God, might henceforward approach Him without fear and trembling. Whosoever owns such a, confidence, lays hold, along with it, of the merciful promises of God, as well as of the merits of Christ. This is the faith by which the Lord Jesus is received into our hearts, and dwells in it, Ephes. 3, 17. and it is on this account that the Apostle Paul observes, Heb. 11, 6: that “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” — Want of faith makes a man a cast away, as Paul and Barnabas were preaching to the hardened and stiffnecked Jews of Antioch, saying: “It was necessary that, the word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the gentiles.” Acts. 13, 46.
321. e. God has, therefore, in the act of election, considered no other circumstance, but that of the Lord Jesus having been received along with his merits, and righteousness, into the hearts of some men. And these men having been entirely reconciled to Him, God has elected them unto eternal life. — Whilst on the other hand He considered that, with some men no faith would be found, who must accordingly be said to have rejected the Lord Jesus in unbelief, — that they would not partake of his righteousness and bis merits, and therefore still remain in their sins and under the burden of the divine wrath, — for all these reasons they have been found without Christ, and have therefore not been elected to eternal life.
322. This it is that constitutes the difference between those, whom God has elected, and those whom He has rejected, viz: that some have been found in Christ, which has not been the case with the rest; just as the same qualities serve to constitute the distinction between those, who have been saved, and those who have been damned. “He that believeth on him (the Son) is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, — he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” John. 8, 18, 36.
323. f. Thus God, in that He has elected the believing of mankind, and rejected the unbelieving from among them has been considering especially man’s faith. — This is not to be understood as if this faith could, by itself, give unto any man such a worth and value, by the considering of which God might be induced to the work of mercy, and thereupon to elect this individual: no, faith is only to be considered as a means, by the exercise of which the Lord Jesus Christ it united with man, and in consequence of which union, Christ’s innocence, righteousness and merits (which we have shown to be the only qualities, which are considered in the act of election) are applied and appropriated unto man. Which means nothing else, than that we are justified before, and saved by God, not for the sake of man’s faith and his good qualities alone, but for the sake of that faith, which has laid hold of the merits and the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and by which man desires to be justified and saved.
324. g. God has, in this act, been considering the Lord Jesus Christ, not only as he may be dwelling in man for a moment, but as he is dwelling in him, until the hour of his death. Like as salvation is promised but to those, who remain in their faith steadfast even unto the end, so has God, but those, concerning whom he foreknew, that they should remain in this faith unto the end, ordained unto eternal life, as we are taught by Christ himself “he that endured to the end shall be saved,” Matth. 10, 22. — Those, on the other hand, who fall again from this saving faith, are said to obtain a severer condemnation, inasmuch as the faith which they had been possessing, is of no avail to them, and their latter end shall therefore be worse with them than their beginning; for it would indeed have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness, than, after having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them, 2 Pet. 2, 20. 21.
325. Finally it is to kept in mind, (as has been shown formerly), that the election of grace has taken place before the creation of the world, even from all eternity, — in a period, in which neither man, nor.’ faith nor even the merits of Christ had as yet any existence. It is therefore the act of the election of grace, and all that which has been adduced in favour of it, in the preceeding argument, to be referred to God’s eternal foreknowledge, by means of which He has foreknown from all eternity, the existence of men, their faith, the merits of Christ etc. For to Him all future things are not future but present. We are, therefore, entitled to the acceptance of the principle, that God was able to elect certain men, although thy were not yet created, to pronounce with reference to their belief or unbelief, and to determine concerning their future state, — as also to consider in this act, the Lord Jesus Christ although he had then not yet existed as a real man, nor entered upon the exercise of the functions of his office.
326. 6. It now remains for us to inquire into the second point, — namely which men God has accordingly elected? But this question has been sufficiently entered upon in the course of the preceeding inquiry; and we have found as its result, that only those have been elected, who remain in their faith steadfast unto the end. Which again proves that not all mankind, but only a small part of the same have been ordained unto eternal life, since there are but few who prove faithful and remain steadfast in their faith unto the end. A few other points remain yet to be mentioned, which are:
a. that God has not ordained and elected all men to eternal life: this can be proved:
i. by the expression “elect” which is made use of for this purpose; for where there is an election, there the whole cannot be intended. If, therefore, none but the faithful have been ordained to eternal life, it follows that all men cannot have been ordained to this end.
ii. By the express declaration of our Lord Jesus Christ, Matth. 20, 16: “Many be called, but few chosen.”
iii. by the fact that that the elect have come to this calling but through Christ. For none have been elected, but those who are in Christ; moreover those only which are in Christ are the believing people of God, which proves that but the faithful and no other men have been elected.
327. b. That the number of the elect is but, small, if compared with the great bulk of the ungodly; — yet if considered by itself they form a considerable body. But few are chosen if compared with great number of the ungodly; as we read, Matth. 20, 16. — But yet there are a great number which belong to the elect, as we read Revel. 14, 1: “And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand having his father’s name written in their foreheads.” —
Thus much is to be said concerning the merciful purposes and decrees of God,
328. God’s severe decree of judgment is contained in His determination, according to which all those, who do not believe, become subject to his wrath, and are doomed to eternal destruction. But, with all this, we are not to imagine the existence of some particular or secret counsel of God, with respect to the eternal destruction of the ungodly, and the condemnation of unbelievers. The fact is, that all mankind have, by sin, become subject to the wrath of God and to eternal destruction, but that God has graciously provided a remedy against these impending evils. But it so happens that some do accept of this proffered grace, whilst others, in that they chose to remain in unbelief, wilfully reject it, and in reality never come to the enjoyment of the benefits, which this remedy is intended to convey. It is for this purpose, that the faithful are separated from the number of those, who thus are falling a victim to eternal destruction, — and that they afterwards come to the enjoyment of it. Whilst the unbelieving, on the other hand, are in the state in which they have fallen by their sins, and by which they are lost for ever, — because they did not chose to accept of the proffered help. And the Son of God has made no alteration with regard to this decree; “He that believeth not,” says he “is condemned already,” and “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: the wrath of God abideth on him,” John. 3, 18. 36; namely that wrath which is revealed over all sinners. Which proves that the Lord Jesus did in no wise intend any alteration of God’s eternal decrees, as referred to in the course of this Chapter.