Theological Institutes

Part Second - Doctrines of the Holy Scriptures

By Richard Watson

Chapter 27


HAVING now shown that those passages of Holy Writ, in which the terms ELECTION, CALLING, PREDESTINATION, and FOREKNOWLEDGE occur, do not warrant those inferences, by which Calvinists attempt to restrain the signification of those declarations with respect to the extent of the benefit of Christ's death which are expressed in terms so universal in the New Testament, we may conclude our investigation of the sense of Scripture on this point by adverting to some of those insulted texts which are most frequently adduced to support the same conclusion.

John vi, 37, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."

It is inferred from this, and some similar passages in the Gospels, that by a transaction between the Father and tine Son, a certain number of persons, called "the elect," were given to Christ, and in process time drawn to him by the Father; and that as none can be saved but those thus "given" to him, and "drawn" by the Father, the doctrine of "distinguishing grace" is established; and the rest of mankind, not having been given by the Father to the Son, can have no saving participation in the benefits of a redemption, which did not extend to them. This fiction has often been defended with much ingenuity; but it remains a fiction still unsupported by any good interpretation of the texts which have been assumed as its foundation.

1.  The first objection to the view usually taken by Calvinists of this text, is, that in the case of the perverse Jews, with whom the discourse of Christ was held, it places the reason of their not "coming" to Christ, in their not having been "given" to him by tine Father; whereas our Lord, on the contrary, places it in themselves, and shows that he considered their case to be in their own hands by his inviting them to come to him, and reproving them because they would not come. "Ye have not his word (the word of the Father) abiding in you; for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not," John v, 38. "And ye will not come to me that ye may have life," verse 40. "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another," verse 44. "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me," verse 46. Now these statements cannot stand together; for if the true reason why the per. verse Jews did not believe in our Lord was, that they had not been given to him of the Father, then it lay not in themselves; but if the reason was that "his word did not abide in them;" that they "would not come to him ;" that they sought worldly "honour;" finally, that they believed not Moses's writings; then it is altogether contradictory to these decla­rations, to place it in an act of God; to which it is not attributed in any part of the discourse.

2. To be "given" by time Father to Christ, is a phrase abundantly explained in the context which this class of interpreters generally over­look.

It had a special application to those pious Jews, who "waited for redemption at Jerusalem:" those who read and believed the writings of Moses, (a general term it would seem for the Old Testament Scriptures,) and who were thus prepared, by more spiritual views than the rest, though they were not unmixed with obscurity, to receive Christ as the Messiah. Of this description were Peter, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, Lazarus and his sisters, and many others. Philip says to Nathanael, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write;" and Nathanael was manifestly a pious Jew; for our Lord said of him, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." The light which such honest inquirers into the meaning of the Scriptures obtained as to the import of their testimony concerning the Messiah, and the cha­racter and claims of Jesus, is expressly attributed to the teaching and revelation of "the Father." So, after Peter's confession, our Lord exclaimed, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee; but my Father which is in heaven." This teaching, and its influence upon the mind is, in John vi, 44, called time "drawing" of the Father, "No man can come to me, except the Father draw him;" for, that "to draw," and "to teach," mean the same thing, is evident, since our Lord immediately adds, "It is written in the pro­phets, and they shall be all taught of God;" and then subjoins this exe getical observation :-" Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh to me." Those who truly "believed" Moses's words, then, were under the Father's illuminating influence, "heard and learned of the Father;" were "drawn" of the Father; and so, by the Father, were "given to Christ," as his disciples, to be more fully taught the mysteries of his religion, and to be made the saving partakers of its benefits :-for "this is the Father's will which sent me, that of all which he hath given me (thus to perfect in knowledge, and to exalt in holiness,) I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again at the last day." Thus we have exhibited that beautiful process in the work of God in the hearts of sincere Jews, which took place in their transit from one dispensation to another, from Moses to Christ. Taught of the Father; led into the sincere belief, and general spiritual understanding of the Scriptures as to the Messiah; when Christ appeared, they were "drawn" and "given" to him, as the now visible and accre­dited Head, Teacher, Lord, and Saviour of the Church. All in this view is natural, explicit, and supported by the context; all in the Calvinistic interpretation appears forced, obscure, and inapplicable to the whole tenor of the discourse. For to what end of edification of any kind, were the Jews told that none but a certain number, elected from eternity, and given to him before the world was by the Father, should Come to him; and that they to whom he was then speaking were not of that number? But the coherence of the discourse is manifest, when, in these sermons of our Lord, they were told that their not coming to Christ was the proof of their unbelief in Moses's writings; that they were not "taught of GOD;" that they had neither "heard nor learned of the Father," whom they yet professed to worship, and seek; and that, as the hinderance to their coming to Christ was in tine state of their hearts, it was remediable by a diligent and honest search of the Scriptures; and by listening to the teachings of God. To this very class of Jews our Lord, in this same discourse, says, "Search the Scriptures;" but to what end were they to do this, if, in the Calvinistic sense, they were not given to him of the Father? The text in question, then, thus opened by a reference to the whole discourse, is of obvious meaning. "All that the Father giveth me after this preparing teaching, shall or will come to me; (for it is simply the future tense of the indicative mood which is used; and no notion of irresistible influence is conveyed;) and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." The latter clause is added to show the perfect harmony of design between Christ and the Father, a point often adverted to in this discourse; for "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." Whom, therefore, the Father so gives, I receive: I enter upon my assigned office, and shall be faithful to it. In reference also to the work of God in the hearts of men in general, as well as to the honest and inquiring Jews of our Lord's day, these passages have a clear and inte­resting application. The work of the Father is carried on by his convincing and teaching Spirit; but that Spirit "testifies" of Christ, "leads" to Christ, and "gives" to Christ, that we may receive the full benefit of his sacrifice and salvation, and be placed in the Church of which he is the Head. But in this there is no exclusion. That which hinders others from coming to Christ, is that which hinders them from being "drawn" of the Father; from "hearing and learning" of the Father, in his holy word, and by his Spirit; which hinderance is tine moral state of the heart, not any exclusive decree; not the want of teaching, or drawing; but, as it is compendiously expressed in Scripture, a "RESISTING of the Holy Ghost."

Matt. xx, 15, 16, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is thine eye evil because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called but few chosen."

This passage has been often urged in proof of the doctrine of unconditional election; and the argument raised upon it is, that God has a right to dispense grace and glory to whom he will, on a principle of pure sovereignty; and to leave others to perish in their sins. That the passage has no relation to this doctrine, needs no other proof than the it is the conclusion of the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The householder gives to them that "wrought but one hour" an equal reward to that bestowed upon those who had laboured through the twelve. The latter received the full price of the day's labour agreed upon; and the former were made subjects of a special and sovereign dispensation of grace. The exercise of the Divine sovereignty, in bestowing degrees of grace, or reward, is the subject of the parable, and no one disputes it; but, according to the Calvinistic interpretation, no grace at all, no reward, is bestowed upon the non-elect, who are, moreover, punished for rejecting a grace never offered. The absurdity of such a use of the parable is obvious. It relates to no such subject; for its moral mani­festly relates to the reception of great offenders, and especially of the Gentiles, into the favour of Christ, and the abundant rewards of heaven.

2 Timothy ii, 19, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

The apostle, in this chapter, is speaking of those ancient heretics who affirmed "that the resurrection is passed already, and overthrew the faith of some." What then? The truth itself is not overthrown; the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, or inscription, "The Lord knoweth," or approveth, or, if it please better, distinguishes and acknowledges, "them that are his ;" and, "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity ;" which is as much as to say that none are truly "the Lord's" who do not depart from iniquity; and that those whose faith is "overthrown" by the influence of corrupt principles and manners, are no longer accounted "his:" all which is per­fectly congruous with the opinions of those who hold the unrestricted extent of the death of Christ. Toward the Calvinistic doctrine, this text certainly bears no friendly aspect; for surely it was of little consequence to any, to have their "faith overthrown," if that faith never was, nor could be, connected with salvation.

John x, 26, "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you."

The argument here is, that the cause of the unbelief of the persons addressed was, that they were not of the number given to Christ by the Father, from eternity, to the exclusion of all others.[1] Let it, how­ever, be observed, that in direct opposition to this, men are called the sheep of Christ by our Lord himself, not with reference to any supposed transaction between the Father and the Son in eternity, which is never even hinted at, but because of their qualities and acts. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; and they follow me." "A stranger will they not follow." Why then did not the Jews believe? Because they had not the qualities of Christ's sheep: they were neither discriminating as to the voice of the shepherd, nor obedient to it. The usual Calvinistic interpretation brings in our Lord, in this instance, as teaching the Jews that the reason why they did not believe on him, was, that they could not believe! for, as Mr. Scott says in the note below, "not being of that chosen renmant, they were left to the pride and enmity of their carnal hearts." This was not likely to be very edifying to them. But the words of our Lord are manifestly words of reproof, grounded not upon acts of God, but upon acts of their own; and they are parallel to the passages-" If GOD were your Father, ye would love me," chap.viii, 42. "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice," xviii, 37.

"How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another," v, 44. John xiii, 18, "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me."

"He perfectly knew," says Mr. Scott on the passage, "what persons he had chosen, as well as which of them were chosen unto salvation." This is surely making our Lord utter a very unmeaning truism; for as he chose the apostles, so he must have "known" that he chose them. Dr. Whitby's interpretation is, therefore, to be taken in preference. "I know the temper and disposition of those whom I have chosen, and what I may expect from every one of them; for which cause I said, 'Ye are not all clean;' but God in his wisdom hath permitted this, that as Ahithophel betrayed David, though he was his familiar friend, so Judas, my familiar at my table, might betray the Son of God; and so the words recorded, Psalm xli, 9, might be fulfilled in him also of whom King David was the type." (Notes in loc.) Certainly Judas was "chosen," as well as the rest. "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil r nor have we any reason to conclude that Christ uses the term chosen differently in the two passages. When, therefore, our Lord says, "I know whom I have chosen," the term know must be taken in the sense of discriminating character.

John xv, 16, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit." Mr. Scott, whom, as being a modern Calvinistic commentator, we rather choose again to quote, interprets-" chosen them unto salvation." In its proper sense, we make no objection to this phrase: it is a Scriptural one; but it must be taken in its own connection. Here, however, either the term "chosen" is to be understood with reference to the apostolic office, which is very agreeable to the context; or if it relate to the salvation of the disciples, it can have no respect to the doctrine of eternal election. For if the election spoken of were not an act done in time, it would have been unnecessary for our Lord, to say, "Ye have not chosen me ;" because it is obvious they could not choose him before they came into being. Another passage also, in the same discourse, farther proves, that the elec­tion mentioned was an act done in time. "I have chosen you out of the world," verse 19. But if they were "chosen out of the world," they were chosen subsequently to their being "in the world;" and, therefore, the election spoken of is not eternal. The last observation will also deprive these interpreters of another favourite passage, "Those that thou gayest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition." The "giving" here mentioned, was no more an act of God in eternity they pretend, than the "choosing" to which we have already referred for in the same discourse the apostles are called "the men thou gavest me out of the world," and were therefore given to Christ in time. The exception as to Judas, also, proves that this "giving" expresses actual discipleship. Judas had been "given" as well as the rest, or he could not have been mentioned as an exception; that is, he had been once "found," or he could not have been "lost." 2 Tim. i, 9, "Who bath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."

Mr. Scott here contends for the doctrine of the personal election of the persons spoken of; "from the beginning, or before eternal ages," which is the most literal translation; and argues that this cannot be denied, without supposing "that all who live and die impenitent, may be said to be saved, and called with a holy calling; because a Saviour was promised from the beginning of the world." "Indeed," he adds, "the purpose- of God is mentioned as the reason why they, rather than others, were saved and called." We shall see the passage in a very different light, if we attend to the following considerations.

"The purpose and grace," or gracious purpose, "which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," is represented as having been "hid in past ages;" for the apostle immediately adds, "but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ." It cannot be the personal election of believers, therefore, of which the apostle here speaks; because it was saying nothing to declare that the Divine purpose to elect them was not manifest in former ages; but was reserved to the appearing of Christ. Whatever degree of manifestation God's purpose of personal election as to individuals receives, even the Calvinists acknowledge that it is made obvious only by the personal moral changes which take place in them through their "effectual call­ing," faith, and regeneration. Till the individual, therefore, comes into being, God's purpose to elect him cannot be manifested; amid those who were so elected, but did not live till Christ appeared, could not have their election manifested before he appeared. Again, if personal election be intended in the text, and calling and conversion are the proofs of personal election, then it is not true that the election of individuals to eternal life, was kept hid until the appearing of Christ; for every true conversion, in any former age, was as much a manifestation of personal election, that is of the peculiar favour and "distinguishing grace" of God, as it is under the Gospel. A parallel passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians, chap. iii, 4-6, will, however, explain that before us.  Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel:" and in verse 11 this is called, in exact conformity to the phrase used in the Epis­tle to Timothy, "the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." The "purpose," or "gracious purpose," mentioned in both places, as formerly hidden, but "now manifested," was therefore the purpose to form one universal Church of believing Jews and Gentiles; and in the text before us, the apostle, speaking in the name of all his fellow Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, says that they were saved and called according to that previous purpose and plan-" who hath saved us and called us," &c. The reason why the Apostle Paul so often refers to "this eternal purpose" of God, is to justify and confirm his own ministry as a teacher of the Gentiles, and an assertor of their equal, spiritual rights with time Jews; and that this subject was present to his mind when he wrote this passage, and not an eternal, personal election, is manifest from verse 11, which is a part of the same paragraph, "where unto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles."

But, says Mr. Scott, "all who live and die impenitent, may then be said to be 'saved, and called with a holy calling,' because a Saviour was promised from the beginning of the world." But we do not say that any are saved only because a Saviour was promised from the beginning of the world; but that the apostle Simply affirms that the salvation of believers, whether Gentiles or Jews, and the means of that salvation, were the consequences of God's previous purpose, before the world began. All who are actually saved, may say, "We are saved," accord­ing to this purpose; but if their actual salvation shut out the salvation of all others, then no more have been saved than those included by the apostle in the pronoun "us," which would prove too much. But Mr. Scott tells us that "'the purpose of God' is mentioned as the reason why they, rather than others, were thus saved and called." It is mentioned with no such view. The purpose of God is introduced by the apostle as his authority for making to "the Gentiles" the offer of salvation; and as a motive to induce Timothy to prosecute the same glorious work, after his decease. This is obviously the scope of the whole chapter.

Acts xiii, 48, "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Mr. Scott is somewhat less confident than some others as to the support which the Calvinistic system is thought to derive from the word rendered ordained. He, however, attempts to leave the impression upon the minds of his readers, that it means, "appointed to eternal life."

We may, however, observe,-

1.   That the persons here spoken of were the Gentiles to whom the apostles preached the Gospel, upon the Jews of the same place "putting it from them," and "judging" or proving "themselves unworthy of eternal life." But if the only reason why the Gentiles believed was, that they were "ordained," in the sense of personal predestination, "to eternal life;" then the reason why the Jews believed not was the want of such a predestinating act of God, and not as it is affirmed, an act of their own-the PUTTING IT AWAY from them.

2.  This interpretation supposes that all the elect Gentiles at Antioch believed at that time; and that no more, at least of full age, remained to believe. This is rather difficult to admit; and therefore Mr. Scott says, "though it is probable that all who were thus affected at first, did not at that time believe unto salvation; yet many did." But this is not according to the text, which says expressly, "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed:" so that such commentators must take this incon­venient circumstance along with their interpretation, that all the elect at Antioch were, at that moment, brought into Christ's Church.

3.   Even some Calvinists, not thinking that it is the practice of the apostles and evangelists to lift up the veil of the decrees so high as this interpretation supposes, choose to render the words-" as many as were determined," or "ordered" for eternal life.

4.   But we may finally observe, that, in no place in the New Testament, in which the same word occurs, is it ever employed to convey the meaning of destiny, or predestination m a consideration which is fatal to the argument which has been drawn from it. The following are the only instances of its occurrence: Matt. xxviii, 16, "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them." Here the word means commanded, or at most agreed upon beforehand, and certainly conveys no idea of destiny. Luke vii, 8, "For I also am a man set under authority." Here the word means "placed, or disposed." Acts xv, 2, "They determined that Paul and Barnabas should go up to Jerusalem." Here it signifies mutual agreement and, decision. Acts xxii, 10, "Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do." Here it means committed to, or appointed in the way of injunction; but no idea of destiny is conveyed. Acts xxviii, 23, "And when they had appointed him a day," when they had fixed upon a day by mutual agreement; for St. Paul was not under the command or control of the visitors who came to him to hear his doctrine. Rom. xiii, 1, "The powers that be arc ordained of God:" clearly signifying constituted and ordered. 1 Cor. xvi, 15, "They have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints:" here it can mean nothing else than applied, devoted themselves to. Thus the word never takes the sense of predestination; but, on the contrary, when St. Luke wishes to convey that notion, he combines it with a preposition, and uses a compound verb-" and hath determined the times before appointed." This was pre-ordination, and he therefore so terms it; but in the text in question he speaks not of pre-ordination, but of ordination simply. The word employed signifies, "to place, order, appoint, dispose, determine" and is very variously applied. The prevalent idea is that of settling, ordering, and resolving; and the meaning of the text is, that as many were fixed and resolved upon eternal life, as many as were careful about, and determined on salvation, believed. For that the historian is speaking of the candid and serious part of the hearers of the apostles, in opposition to the blaspheming Jews; that is, of those Gentiles "who, when they heard this were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord," is evident from the context. The persons who then believed, appear to have been under a previous preparation for receiving the Gospel; and were probably religious proselytes associating with the Jews.

Luke x, 20, "But rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven." The inference from this text is, that there is a register of all the elect in the "Book of Life," and that their number, according to the doctrine of the synod of Dort, is fixed and determinate. Our Calvinistic friends forget, however, that names may be "blotted out of the Book of Life:" and so the theory falls.-" And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life."

Prov. xvi, 4, "The Lord bath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." If there be any relevance in this passage to the Calvinistic theory, it must be taken in the supralapsarian sense, that the final cause of the creation of the wicked is their eternal punishment. It follows from this, that sin is not the cause of punishment; but that this flows from the mere will of God; which is a suffi­cient refutation. The persons spoken of are "wicked." Either they were made wicked by themselves, or by God. If not by God, then to make the wicked for the day of evil, can only mean that he renders them who have made themselves wicked, and remain incorrigibly so, the instruments of glorifying his justice, "in the day of evil," that is, in the day of punishment. The Hebrew phrase, rendered literally, is, "the Lord doth work all things for himself;" which applies as well to acts of government as to acts of creation. Thus, then, we are taught by the passage, not that God created the wicked to punish them, but so governs, controls, and subjects all things to himself; and so orders them fbr the accomplishment of his purpose, that the wicked shall not escape his just displeasure; since upon such men the day of evil will ultimately come. It is therefore added in the next verse, "Though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished."[2]

John xii, 37-40, "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him; that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, lie hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them."

Mr. Scott's interpretation is, in its first aspect, more moderate than that of many divines of the same school. It is-" they had long shut their own eyes, and hardened their own hearts; and so God would give up many of them to such judicial blindness, as rendered their conver­sion and salvation impossible. The prophecy was not the motive or cause of their wickedness; but it was the declaration of God's purpose, which could not be defeated: therefore while this prophecy stood in Scripture against them, and others of like character, who hated the truth from the love of sin, the event became certain; in which sense it is said, that they could not believe."

That, in some special and aggravated cases, and especially in that which consisted in ascribing the miracles of Christ to Satan, and thus blaspheming the Holy Ghost; (cases, however, which probably affected but a few individuals, and those principally the chief Pharisees and rabbis of our Lord's time;) there was such a judicial dereliction as Mr. Scott speaks of, is allowed; but that it extended to the body of the Jews, who at that time did not believe in the mission and miracles of Christ, may be denied. The contrary must appear from the earnest manner in which their salvation was sought by Christ and his apostles, subsequently to this declaration; and also from the fact of great num­bers of this same people being afterward brought to acknowledge and embrace Christ and his religion. This is our objection to the former part of this interpretation. Not every one who is lost finally, is given up previously to judicial blindness. To be thus abandoned before death is a special procedure, which our Lord himself confines to the special case of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. To the latter part of the comment, the objection is still stronger. Mr. Scott acknowledges the wicked amid wilful blindness of these Jews to he the cause of the judicial dereliction supposed. From this it would naturally follow, that this wilful blinding and hardening of their hearts, was the true reason why they "could not believe," as provoking God to take away his Holy Spirit from them. But Mr. Scott cannot stop here. He will have another cause for their incapacity to believe: not, indeed, the prophecy quoted from Isaiah by the evangelist; but "God's purpose," of which that prediction, he says, was the "declaration." It follows, then, that they could not believe," because it was "GOD'S purpose which could not be defeated." Agreeably to this Mr. Scott understands the prediction as asserting, that the agent in blinding the eyes of the people reproved, that is, the obstinate Jews, was God himself.

Let us now, therefore, more particularly examine this passage, and we shall find,

1. That it affirms, not that their eyes should be blinded, or their ears closed, by a Divine agency, as assumed by Mr. Scott and other Calvinists. This notion is not found in Isaiah vi, from which the quotation is made. There the agent is represented to be the prophet himself. "Make the heart of this people fat, arid make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes," &c. Now as the pro­phet could exert no secret direct influence over the minds of the disobe­dient Jews, he must have fulfilled this commission, if it be taken literally, by preaching to them a fallacious and obdurating doctrine, like that of the false prophets; but if, as we know, he preached no such doctrine, then are the words to be understood according to the genius of the Hebrew language, which often represents him as an agent, who is the occasion, however innocent and undesigned, of any thing being done by another. Thus the prophet, in consequence of the unbelief of the Jews of his day in those promises of Messiah he was appointed to deliver, and which led him to complain, "Who hath believed our report!" be­came an occasion to the Jews of" making their own hearts fat, and their ears heavy, and of shutting their eyes" against his testimony. The true agents were, however, the Jews themselves; and by all who knew the genius of the Hebrew language they would be understood as so charged by the prophet. Thus time Septuagint, the Arabic, and the Syriac versions all agree in rendering the text, so that the people them­selves, to whom the prophet wrote, are made the agents of doing that which, in the style of the Hebrews, is ascribed to the prophet himself. So also, it is manifest, that St. Paul, who quotes the same scripture, Acts xxviii, 25-27, understood the prophet; "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes RAVE THEY closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." Nor in the passage as it is given by St. John, is the blinding of the eyes of the Jews attributed to God. It stands, it is true, in our version, "He hath blinded their eyes," &c. But the Greek verbs have no nominative case expressed, and it is left to be supplied by the reader. Nor does the context mention the agent; and farther, if we supply the pronoun he; we cannot refer it to God, since the pas­sage closes with a change of person, "and I should heal them." The agent blinding and hardening, and the agent attempting to "heal," can, not, therefore, be the same, because they are opposed to each other, not only grammatically, but in design and operation. That agent, then, may be "the god of this world," to whom the work of blinding them that believe not, is expressly attributed by the Apostle Paul; or St. John, familiar with the Hebrew style, might refer it to the prophet, who, consequentially, and through the wilful perverseness of the Jews, was the occasion of their making their own "hearts gross, and closing their ears;" or, finally, the personal verb may be used impersonally, and the active form for the passive, of which critics furnish parallel instances.[3] But in all these views the true responsible agent and criminal doer is "This People,"-this perverse and. obstinate people themselves; a point to which every part of their Scriptures gives abundant testimony.

2. It may be denied that the prophecy of Isaiah here quoted is, as Mr. Scott represents it, "a declaration of God's purpose, which could not be defeated." A simple prophecy is not a declaration of purpose at all; but the declaration of a future event. If a purpose of GOD, to be hereafter accomplished, be declared, this declaration becomes more than a simple prophecy: it connects the act with an agent; and in the ease before us, that agent is assumed to be GOD. But we have shown, that the agent in blinding the eyes, and closing the ears of these perverse Jews, is nowhere said to be GOD; and therefore the prophecy is not a declaration of HIS purpose. Again, if it were a declaration of God's purpose, it would not follow that it could not be defeated: for prophetic threatenings are not absolute; but imply conditions. This is so far from being a mere assumption, that it is established by the authority of Almighty GOD himself, who declares, Jer. xviii, 7, 8, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them." Here we have a prophetic commination uttered; "at what instant I speak"-" that nation against whom I have pronounced." We have also time purpose in the mind of God-" the evil that I thought;" and yet this prediction might fail, and this purpose be defeated. So in the case of repentant Nineveh, the predicted destruction failed, and the wrathful purpose was defeated, without any impeachment of the Divine attributes: On the contrary, they were illustrated by this manifestation of the mingled justice and grace of his administration. Mr. Scott, like many others, argues as though the prediction of an event gave certainty to it.

But the certainty or uncertainty of events is not created by prophecy. Prophecy results from prescience; and prescience has respect to what will be, but not necessarily to what must be. Of this, however, there in its proper place.

3. If this prophecy could be made to bear all that the Calvinists impose upon it, it would not serve their purpose. It would, even then, afford no proof of general election and reprobation, since it has an exclu­sive application to the unbelieving part of the Jewish people only; and is never adduced, either by St. John or by St. Paul, as the ground of any general doctrine whatever.

Jude 4, "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men," &c.

The word which is here rendered ordained, is literally forewritten; and the word rendered condemnation, signifies legal punishment, or judgment. The passage means, therefore, either that the class of men spoken of had been foretold in the Scriptures, or that their punishment had been there formerly typified, in those examples of ancient times, of which several are cited in the following verses; as Cain, Balaam, Korah, and the cities of the plain. Mr. Scott, therefore, very well interprets the text, when he says, "the Lord had foreseen them, for they were of old, registered to this condemnation: many predictions had, from the beginning, been delivered to this effect." But when he adds, "Nay, these predictions had been extracts, as it were, from the registers of Heaven, even the secret and eternal decrees of God, in which he had determined to leave them to their pride and lusts, till they merited and received this condemnation," we may well ask for the proof. All this is manifestly gratuitous; brought to the text, and not deduced from it; and is, therefore, very unworthy of a commentator. The "extracts" from the' register of God's decrees, as they are found in the Scriptures, contain no such sentiment as that these abusers of the grace of God only did that which they could not but do, in consequence of having been "left to their pride and lusts," and excluded before they were born from the mercies of Christ. If this sentiment then is not in the "extracts," it is not in the original register; or else something is there which God, in his own revealed word, has not extracted, and respecting which the com­mentator must either have had some independent revelation, or have been guilty of speaking very rashly. On the contrary, in the parallel passage in 2 Peter ii, 1-3, where the same class of persons is certainly spoken of, so far are they from being represented as excluded from the benefits of Christ's redemption, that they are charged with a specific crime, which necessarily implies their participation in it, with the crime of " denying the Lord that BOUGHT them."

1 Cor. iv, 7, "For who maketh thee to differ from another?"

The context shows that the apostle was here endeavouring to repress that ostentation which had arisen among many persons in the Church of Corinth, on account of their spiritual gifts and endowments. This he does by referring those gifts to God, as the sole giver,-" for who maketh thee to differ ?" or who confers superiority upon thee? as the sense obviously is; "and what hast thou that thou didst not receive ?" Mr. Scott acknowledges that "the apostle is here speaking more imme­diately of natural abilities, and spiritual gifts; and not of special and efficacious grace." If so, then the passage has nothing to do with this controversy. The argument he however affirms, concludes equally in one case, as in the other; and in his sermon on 'election he thus applies it: "Let the blessings of the Gospel be fairly proposed, with solemn warnings and pressing invitations, to two men of exactly the same cha­racter and disposition: if they are left to themselves in entirely similar circumstances, the effect must be precisely the same. But, behold, while one proudly scorns and resents the gracious offer, the other trembles, Weeps, prays, repents, believes! Who maketh this man to differ from the other? or what hath he that he hath not received? The Scriptural answer to this question, when properly understood, decides the whole controversy."[4]

As this is a favourite argument, and a popular dilemma in the hands of the Calvinists, and so much is supposed to depend upon its solution, we may somewhat particularly examine it.

Instead of supposing the case of two men "of exactly the same cha­racter and disposition," why not suppose the same man in two moral states? for one man who "proudly scorns the Gospel" does not more differ from another who penitently receives it, than the same man who has once scoffingly rejected, and afterward meekly submitted to it, differs from himself; as for instance, Saul the Pharisee from Paul the apostle. Now, to account for the case of two men, one receiving the Gospel, and the other rejecting it, the theory of election is brought in; but in the case of the one man in two different states, this theory cannot be resorted to. The man was elect from eternity; he is no outcast from the mercy of his God, and the redemption of his Saviour, and yet, in one period of his life, he proudly scorns the offered mercy of Christ, at another he accepts it. It is clear, then, that the doctrine of election, simply considered in itself, will not solve the latter case; and by conse­quence it will not solve the former: for the mere fact, that one man rejects the Gospel while another receives it, is no more a proof of the non-election of the non-recipient, than the fact of a man now rejecting it, who shall afterward receive it, is a proof of his non-election. The Solution, then, must be sought for in some communication of the grace of God, in some inward operation upon the heart, which is supposed to be a consequence of election; but this leads to another and distinct question. This question is not, however, the vincibility or invincibility of the grace of God, at least not in the first instance. It is, in truth, whether there is any operation of the grace of God in man at all tend sag to salvation, in cases where we see the Gospel rejected. Is the man who rejects perseveringly, and he who rejects but for a time, perhaps a long period of his life, left without any good motions or assisting influ­ence from the grace of GOD, or not? This question seems to admit of but one of three answers. Either he has no gracious assistance at all, to dispose him to receive the Gospel; or he has a sufficient influence pf grace so to dispose him; or that gracious influence is dispensed in an insufficient measure. If the first answer be given, then not only are the non-elect left without any visitations of grace throughout life; but the elect also are left without them, until the moment of their effectual calling. If the second be offered as the answer, then both in the case of the non-elect man who finally rejects Christ, and that of the elect man, who rejects him for a great part of his lit e the saving grace of God must be allowed so to work as to be capable of counteraction, and effectual resistance. If this be denied, then the third answer must be adopted, and the grace of God must be allowed so to influence as to be designedly insufficient for the ends for which it is given; that is, it is given for no saving end at all, either as to the non-elect, or as to the elect all the time they remain in a state of actual alienation from Christ. For if an insufficient degree of grace is bestowed, when a sufficient degree might have been imparted, then there must have been a reason for restrain­ing the degree of grace to an insufficient measure; which reason could only be, that it might be insufficient, and therefore not saving. Now, two of the three of these positions are manifestly contrary to the word of GOD. To say that no gracious influence of the Holy Spirit operates upon the unconverted, is to take away their guilt; since they cannot be guilty of rejecting the Gospel if they have no power to embrace it, either from themselves, or by impartation, while yet the Scripture represents this as the highest guilt of men. All the exhortations, and reproofs, and invitations of Scripture, are, also, by this doctrine, turned into mockery and delusion; and, finally, there can be no such thing in this case, as "resisting the Holy Ghost;" as "grieving and quenching the Spirit;" as "doing despite to the Spirit of grace," either in the case of the non-elect, who are never converted, or of the elect, before conversion: so that the latter have never been guilty of stubborn­ness, and obstinacy, and rebellion, and resistance of grace; though there are, by them, afterward, always acknowledged among their sins. Nor did they ever feel any good motion, or drawing from the Spirit of God, before what they term their effectual calling; though, it is presumed, that few, if any of them, will deny this in fact.

If the doctrine, that no grace is imparted before conversion, is then contradicted both by Scripture and experience, how will the case stand, as to the intentional restriction of that grace to a degree which is insufficient to dispose the subject to the acceptance of the Gospel? If this new be held, it must be maintained equally as to the elect before their conversion, and as to the non-elect. In that case, then, we have equal difficulty in accounting for the guilt of man, as when it is supposed that no grace at all is imparted; and for the reproofs, calls, and invita­tions, and threatenings of the word of God. For where lies the differ­ence between the absolute non-impartation of grace, and grace so imparted as to be designedly insufficient for salvation? Plainly there is none, except that we can see no end at all for giving insufficient grace; a circumstance which would only serve to render still more perplexing the principles and practice of the Divine administration It has no end of mercy, and none of justice; nor, as far as can be perceived, of wis­dom. Not of mercy, for it effects nothing merciful, and designs not to effect it; not of justice, for it places no man under equitable responsi­bility; not of wisdom, for it has no assignable end. The Scripture treats all men to whom the Gospel is preached as endowed with power, not indeed from themselves, but from the grace of God, to "turn at his reproof;" to come at his "call;" to embrace his "grace;" but they have no capacity for any of these acts, if either of these opinions be true: and thus the word of GOD is contradicted. So also is experience, in both cases; for there could be no sense of guilt for having rejected Christ, and grieved the Holy Spirit, either in the non-elect never con­verted, or in the elect before conversion, if either they had no visitations of grace at all; or if these were designedly granted in an insufficient degree.

It follows, then, that the doctrine of the impartation of grace to the unconverted, in a sufficient degree to enable them to embrace the Gos­pel, must be admitted; and with this doctrine comes in that of a power in man to use, or to spurn this heavenly gift and gracious assistance: in other words, a power of willing to come to Christ, even when men do not come; a power of considering their ways, and turning to the Lord, when they do not consider them, and turn to him; a power of praying, when they do not pray; and a power of believing, when they do not believe: powers all of grace; all the results of the work of the Spirit in the heart; but powers to be exerted by man, since it is man, and not God, who wills, and turns, and prays, and believes, while the influence under which this is done is from the grace of GOD alone. This is the doctrine which is' clearly contained in the words of St. Paul, 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure;" where, not only the operation of God, but the co-operation of man, are distinctly marked; and are both held up as necessary to the production of the grand result-" salvation."

It will appear, then, from these observations, that the question, "Who maketh thee to differ 7" as urged by Mr. Scott and others from the time of Calvin, is a very inapposite one to their purpose, for,

First, it is a question which the apostle asks with no reference to a difference in religious state, but only with respect to gifts and endowments. Secondly, the Holy Ghost gives no authority for such an application of his words, as is thus made, in any other part of Scripture. Thirdly, it cannot be employed for the purpose for which it is dragged forth so often from its context and meaning; for, in the use thus made of it, it is falsely assumed, that the two men instanced, the one who rejects, and the other who embraces the Gospel, are not each endowed with sufficient grace to enable them to receive God's gracious offer. Now this, we may again say, must either be denied or affirmed. If it be affirmed, then the difference between the two men consists, not where they place it, in the destitution or deficiency on the one hand, or in the plenitude on the other, of the grace of GOD; but in the use of grace: and when they say, "it is God which maketh them to differ," they say in fact, that it is God that not only gives sufficient grace to each; but uses that grace for them. For if it be allowed that sufficient grace for repentance and faith is given to each, then the true difference between them is, that one repents, and the other does not repent; the one believes, and the other does not believe: if, therefore, this difference is to be attributed to God directly, then the act of repenting, and the act of believing, are both the acts of GOD. if they hesitate to avow this, for it is an absurdity, then either they must give up the question as totally useless to them, or else take the other side of the alternative, that to all who reject the Gospel, sufficient grace to receive it is not given., How then will that serve them? They may say, it is true, when they take the man who embraces the Gospel, "Who maketh him to differ but God, who gives this sufficient grace to him 7" but then we have an, equal right to take the man who rejects the Gospel, amid ask, "Who maketh him to differ" from the man that embraces it? To this they cannot reply that he maketh himself to differ; for that which they here lay down is, that he has either no grace at all imparted to him to enable him to act as the other; or, what amounts to the same thing, no sufficient degree of it to produce a true faith; that he never had that grace; that he is, and always must remain, as destitute of it as when he was born. He does not, therefore, make himself to differ from the man who embraces the Gospel; for he has no power to imitate his example, and to make himself equal with him; and the only answer to our question is, "that it is God who maketh him to differ from the other," by with. holding that grace by which alone he could be prevented from rejecting the Gospel; and this, so far from "settling the whole controversy," is the very point in debate.

This dilemma, then, will prove, when examined, but inconvenient to themselves; for if sufficiency of grace be allowed to the unconverted, then the Calvinists make tine acts of grace, as well as the gift of grace itself to be the work of God in the elect: if sufficiency of grace is denied, then the unbelief and condemnation of the wicked are not from them­selves, but from God.[5] The fact is, that this supposed puzzle has been always used ad capiandum; and is unworthy so grave a contro­versy; and as to the pretence, that the admission of a power in man to use or to abuse the grace of God involves some merit or ground of glo­rying in man himself, this is equally fallacious. The power "to will and to do," is the sole result of the working of God in man. All is of grace: "By the grace of God," must every one say, "I am what I am." Here is no dispute; every good thought, desire, and tendency f the heart, and all its power to turn these to practical account by prayer, by faith, by the use of the means of grace, through which new power "to will and to do," new power to use grace, as well as new grace, is communicated, is of GOD. Every good act, therefore, is the use of a communicated power which is given of grace, as the stretch­ing out of the withered hand of the healed man was the use of the power communicated to his imbecility, and still working with the act, though not the act itself; and to attempt to Jay a ground of boasting and self sufficiency in the assisted acceptance of the grace of God by us; and the empowered submission of our hearts to it, is as manifestly absurd as it would be to say, that the man, whose arm was withered, had great reason to congratulate himself on his share in the glory of the miracle, because he himself stretched out the invigorated member at the command of Christ; and because it was not, in fact, lifted up by the hand of him who, in that act of faith and obedience, had healed him.

The question of the invincibility of Divine grace, is a point to be in another place considered.

Acts xviii, 9, 10, "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace, for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee; for have much people in this city."

Mr Scott, to whom the doctrine of election is always present, says, "In this Christ evidently spake of those who were his by election, the gift of the Father, and his own purchase; though, at that time, in an unconverted state." (Notes in loc.) It would have been more "evident" had this been said by the writer of the Acts as well as by Mr. Scott, or any thing approaching to it. The "evidence," we fear, was all in Mr. Scott's predisposition of mind; for it nowhere else appears. The ex­pression is, at least, capable of two very satisfactory interpretations, in­dependent of the theory of Calvinistic election. It may mean, that there many well disposed and serious inquirers among the "Greeks" in Corinth; for when Paul turned from the Jews, he "entered into the house of Justus, one that worshipped GOD." This man was a Greek proselyte; and, from various parts of the Acts of the Apostles it is plain, that this class of people were not only numerous, but generally received the Gospel with joy, and were among the first who joined the primitive Churches. They manifested their readiness to receive the Gospel in Corinth itself when the Jews "opposed and blasphemed;" and it is not improbable, that to such proselytes, who were in many places "a peo­ple prepared of the Lord," reference is made, when our Saviour, speaking to Paul in this vision, says, "I have much people in this city." Suppose, however, he speaks prospectively and prophetically, making his foreknowledge of an event the means of encouraging the labours of his devoted apostle, the doctrine of election follows neither from the fact of the foreknowledge of God, nor from prophetic declarations grounded upon it. Even Calvin founds not election upon GOD's foreknowledge; but upon his decree.

A few other passages might be added, which are sometimes adduced as proofs of the Calvinistic theory of "election" and "distinguishing grace;" but they are all either explained by that view of Scriptural elec­tion which has been at large adduced, or are of very obvious interpreta­tion. I believe that I have omitted none, on which any great stress is laid in the controversy; and the reader will judge how far those which have been examined serve to support those inferences which tend to limit the universal import of those declarations which prove, in the lite­ral sense of the terms, that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, "by the grace of God, tasted death for every man."


[1] "The true reason why they did not believe was, the want of that simple, teachable, and inoffensive temper, which characterized his sheep, FOR not being of that CHOSEN remnant, they were left to the pride and enmity of their carnal hearts." (SCOTT's Com.)

[2] Holden translates the verse, "Jehovah hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked he daily sustains;" and observes, "should the received translation be deemed correct, 'the day of evil' would be considered by a Jew of the age of Solomon, to mean, the day of trouble and affliction."

[3] See Whitby's Paraphrase and Annot. and his Discourse on the Five Points, chap. i.

[4] Calvin puts time matter in much the same way. Inst. lib. iii, c. 24.

[5] This Calvin scruples not to say, "The supreme Lord, therefore, by depriving of the communication of his light, and leaving in darkness those whom he has reprobated, makes way for the accomplishment of his own predestination." (Inst. lib. iii, c.