Taken from: A Display of Arminianism, Chapter 6
Written John Owen
…wherewith the Arminians and their abettors have troubled the church of Christ, comes next unto our consideration. The eternal predestination of Almighty God, that fountain of all spiritual blessings, of all the effects of God’s love derived unto us through Christ, the demolishing of this rock of our salvation hath been the chief endeavor of all the patrons of human self-sufficiency; so to vindicate unto themselves a power and independent ability of doing good, of making themselves to differ from others, of attaining everlasting happiness, without going one step from without themselves. And this is their first attempt, to attain their second proposed end, of building a tower from the top whereof they may mount into heaven, whose foundation is nothing but the sand of their own free-will and endeavors. Quite on a sudden (what they have done in effect) to have taken away this divine predestination, name and thing, had been an attempt as noted as notorious, and not likely to attain the least success amongst men professing to believe the gospel of Christ; wherefore, suffering the name to remain, they have abolished the thing itself, and substituted another so unlike it in the room thereof, that any one may see they have gotten a blear-eyed Leah instead of Rachel, and hug a cloud instead of a Deity. The true doctrine itself hath been so excellently delivered by divers learned divines, so freed from all objections, that I shall only briefly and plainly lay it down, and that with special reference to the seventeenth article of our church, where it is clearly avowed; showing withal, — which is my chief intention, — how it is thwarted, opposed, and overthrown by the Arminians. Predestination, in the usual sense [in which] it is taken, is a part of God’s providence concerning his creatures, distinguished from it by a double restriction:
First, In respect of their objects; for whereas the decree of providence comprehendeth his intentions towards all the works of his hands, predestination respecteth only rational creatures.
Secondly, In regard of their ends; for whereas his providence directeth all creatures in general to those several ends to which at length they are brought, whether they are proportioned unto their nature or exceeding the sphere of their natural activity, predestination is exercised only in directing rational creatures to supernatural ends: so that, in general, it is the counsel, decree, or purpose of Almighty God concerning the last and supernatural end of his rational creatures, to be accomplished for the praise of his glory. But this also must receive a double restriction before we come precisely to what we in this place aim at: and these again in regard of the objects or the ends thereof.
The object of predestination is all rational creatures, Now, these are either angels or men. Of angels I shall not treat. Secondly, The end by it provided for them is either eternal happiness or eternal misery. I speak only of the former, — the act of God’s predestination transmitting men to everlasting happiness: and in this restrained sense it differs not at all from election, and we may use them as synonyma, terms of the same importance; though, by some affirming that God predestinateth them to faith whom he hath chosen, they seem to be distinguished as the decrees of the end, and the means conducing thereunto, whereof the first is election, intending the end, and then takes place predestination, providing the means. But this exact distinction appeareth not directly in the Scripture.
This election the word of God proposeth unto us as the gracious, immutable decree of Almighty God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, out of his own good pleasure, he chose certain men, determining to free them from sin and misery, to bestow upon them grace and faith, to give them unto Christ, to bring them to everlasting blessedness, for the praise of his glorious grace; or, as it is expressed in our church articles, “Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ unto everlasting salvation, as vessels made unto honor; wherefore, they who are endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose,” etc.
Now, to avoid prolixity, I will annex only such annotations as may clear the sense and confirm the truth of the article by the Scriptures, and show briefly how it is overthrown by the Arminians in every particular thereof:
First, The article, consonantly to the Scripture, affirmeth that it is an eternal decree, made before the foundations of the world were laid; so that by it we must needs be chosen before we were born, before we have done either good or evil. The words of the article are clear, and so also is the Scripture: “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,” Ephesians 1:4; “The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, it was said,” etc., Romans 9:11,12; “We are called with an 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,” 2 Timothy 1:9.
Now, from hence it would undoubtedly follow that no good thing in us can be the cause of our election, for every cause must in order precede its effect; but all things whereof we by any means are partakers, inasmuch as they are ours, are temporary, and so cannot be the cause of that which is eternal. Things with that qualification must have reference to the sole will and good pleasure of God; which reference would break the neck of the Arminian election. Wherefore, to prevent such a fatal ruin, they deny the principle, — to wit, that election is eternal. 1 So the Remonstrants, in their Apology: 2 “Complete election regardeth none but him that is dying; for this peremptory election decreeth the whole accomplishment and consummation of salvation, and therefore requireth in the object the finished course of faith and obedience,” saith Grevinchovius; which is to make God’s election nothing but an act of his justice, approving our obedience, and such an act as is incident to any weak man, who knows not what will happen in the next hour that is yet for to come. And is this post-destination that which is proposed to us in the Scripture as the unsearchable fountain of all God’s love towards us in Christ? “Yea,” 3 say they, “we acknowledge no other predestination to be revealed in the gospel besides that whereby God decreeth to save them who should persevere in faith;” that is, God’s determination concerning their salvation is pendulous, until he find by experience that they will persevere in obedience. But I wonder why, seeing election is confessedly one of the greatest expressions of God’s infinite goodness, love, and mercy towards us, if it follow our obedience, we have it not, like all other blessings and mercies, promised unto us. Is it not because such propositions as these, “Believe, Peter, and continue in the faith unto the end, and I will choose thee before the foundation of the world,” are fitter for the writings of the Arminians than the word of God? Neither will we be their rivals in such an election, as from whence no fruit, 4 no effect, no consolation can be derived to any mortal man, whilst he lives in this world.
Secondly, The article affirmeth that it is constant, — that is, one immutable decree; agreeably also to the Scriptures, teaching but one purpose, but one foreknowledge, one good pleasure, one decree of God, concerning the infallible ordination of his elect unto glory; although of this decree there may be said to be two acts, — one concerning the means, the other concerning the end, but both knit up in the “immutability of God’s counsel,” Hebrews 6:17. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his,” 2 Timothy 2:19; “His gifts and calling are without recalling,” not to be repented of, Romans 11:29. Now, what say our Arminians to this?
Why, a whole multitude of notions and terms have they invented to obscure the doctrine. “Election,” say they, 5 “is either legal or evangelical, general or particular, complete or incomplete, revocable or irrevocable, peremptory or not peremptory,” with I know not how many more distinctions of one single eternal act of Almighty God, whereof there is neither “vola nec vestigium,” sign or token, in the whole Bible, or any approved author. And to these quavering divisions they accommodate their doctrine, or rather they purposely invented them to make their errors unintelligible.
Yet something agreeably thus they dictate: 6 “There is a complete election, belonging to none but those that are dying; and there is another, incomplete, common to all that believe: as the good things of salvation are incomplete which are continued whilst faith is continued, and revoked when that is denied, so election is incomplete in this life, and revocable.” Again: “There are,” they say in their Confession,7 “three orders of believers and repenters in the Scripture, whereof some are beginners, others having continued for a time, and some perseverants. The first two orders are chosen vere, truly, but not absolute prorsus, absolutely, but only for a time, — so long as they will remain as they are; the third are chosen finally and peremptorily: for this act of God is either continued or interrupted, according as we fulfill the condition.” But whence learned the Arminians this doctrine? Not one word of it from the word of truth; no mention there of any such desultory election, no speech of faith, but such as is consequent to one eternal irrevocable decree of predestination: They “believed” who were “ordained to eternal life,” Acts 13:48. No distinction of men half and wholly elected, where it is affirmed that it is impossible the elect should be seduced, Matthew 24:24, — that none should snatch Christ’s sheep out of his Father’s hand, John 10:28,29. What would they have more? God’s purpose of election is sealed up, 2 Timothy 2:19, and therefore cannot be revoked; it must stand firm, Romans 9:11, in spite of all opposition. Neither will reason allow us to think any immanent act of God to be incomplete or revocable, because of the mere alliance it hath with his very nature. But reason, Scripture, God himself, all must give place to any absurdities, if they stand in the Arminian way, bringing in their idol with shouts, and preparing his throne, by claiming the cause of their predestination to be in themselves.
Thirdly, The article is clear that the object of this predestination is some particular men chosen out of mankind; that is, it is such an act of God as concerneth some men in particular, taking them, as it were, aside from the midst of their brethren, and designing them for some special end and purpose. The Scripture also aboundeth in asserting this verity, calling them that are so chosen a “few,” Matthew 20:16, which must needs denote some certain persons; and the “remnant according to election,” Romans 11:5; those whom “the Lord knoweth to be his,” 2 Timothy 2:19; men “ordained to eternal life,” Acts 13:48; “us,” Romans 8:39; those that are “written in the Lamb’s book of life,” Revelation 21:27; — all which, and divers others, clearly prove that the number of the elect is certain, not only materially, as they say,8 that there are so many, but formally also, that these particular persons, and no other, are they, which cannot be altered. Nay, the very nature of the thing itself doth so demonstratively evince it, that I wonder it can possibly be conceived under any other notion. To apprehend an election of men not circumscribed with the circumstance of particular persons is such a conceited, Platonical abstraction, as it seems strange that any one dares profess to understand that there should be a predestination, and none predestinated; an election, and none elected; a choice amongst many, yet none left or taken; a decree to save men, and yet thereby salvation destinated to no one man, either “re aut spe,” in deed or in expectation.
In a word, that there should be a purpose of God to bring men unto glory, standing inviolable, though never any one attained the purposed end, is such a riddle as no AEdipus can unfold. Now, such an election, such a predestination, have the Arminians substituted in the place of God’s everlasting decree. “We deny,”9 say they, “that God’s election extendeth itself to any singular persons as singular persons;” that is, that any particular persons, as Peter, Paul, John, are by it elected. No; how, then? Why,10 “God hath appointed, without difference, to dispense the means of faith; and as he seeth these persons to believe or not to believe by the use of those means, so at length he determineth of them,” as saith Corvinus. Well, then, God chooseth no particular man to salvation, but whom he seeth believing by his own power, with the help only of such means as are afforded unto others who never believe; and as he maketh himself thus differ from them by a good use of his own abilities, so also he may be reduced again unto the same predicament, and then his election, which respecteth not him in his person, but only his qualification, quite vanisheth. But is this God’s decree of election? “Yes,” say they; and make a doleful complaint that any other doctrine should be taught in the church.11 “It is obtruded,” say the true-born sons of Arminius, “on the church as a most holy doctrine, that God, by an absolute, immutable decree, from all eternity, out of his own good pleasure, hath chosen certain persons, and those but few in comparison, without any respect had to their faith and obedience, and predestinated them to everlasting life.” But what so great exception is this doctrine liable unto, what wickedness doth it include, that it should not be accounted most holy? Nay, is not only the matter but the very terms of it contained in the Scripture? Doth it not say the elect are few, and they chosen before the foundation of the world, without any respect to their obedience or any thing that they had done, out of God’s mere gracious good pleasure, that his free purpose according to election might stand, even because so it pleased him; and this that they might be holy, believe, and be sanctified, that they might come unto Christ, and by him be preserved unto everlasting life? Yea, this is that which galls them:12 “No such will can be ascribed unto God, whereby he so willeth any one to be saved as that thence their salvation should be sure and infallible,” saith the father of those children.
Well, then, let St Austin’s definition be quite rejected,13 “That predestination is a preparation of such benefits whereby some are most certainly freed and delivered from sin and brought to glory;” and that also of St Paul, “That (by reason of this) nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ.” What is this election in your judgment?14 “Nothing but a decree whereby God hath appointed to save them that believe in Christ,” saith Corvinus, be they who they will; or a general purpose of God, whereby he hath ordained faith in Christ to be the means of salvation. Yea, but this belongs to Judas as well as to Peter. This decree carrieth as equal an aspect to those that are damned as to those that are saved. Salvation, under the condition of faith in Christ, was also proposed to them; but was Judas and all his company elected? How came they, then, to be seduced and perish? That any of God’s elect go to hell is as yet a strange assertion in Christianity. Notwithstanding this decree, none may believe, or all that do may fall away, and so none at all be saved; which is a strange kind of predestination: or all may believe, continue in faith, and be saved; which were a more strange kind of election.
We, poor souls, thought hitherto that we might have believed, according unto Scripture, that some by this purpose were in a peculiar manner made the Father’s (“Thine they were”), and by him given unto Christ, that he might bring them unto glory; and that these men were so certain and unchangeable a number, that not only God “knoweth them” as being “his,” but also that Christ “calleth them by name,” John 10:3, and looketh that none taketh them out of his hand. We never imagined before that Christ hath been the mediator of an uncertain covenant, because there are no certain persons covenanted withal but such as may or may not fulfill the condition. We always thought that some had been separated before by God’s purpose from the rest of the perishing world, that Christ might lay down his life for his “friends,” for his “sheep,” for them that were “given him” of his Father. But now it should seem he was ordained to be a king when it was altogether uncertain whether he should ever have any subjects, to be a head without a body, or to such a church whose collection and continuance depend wholly and solely on the will of men.
These are doctrines that I believe searchers of the Scripture had scarce ever been acquainted withal, had they not lighted on such expositors as teach,15 “That the only cause why God loveth” (or chooseth) “any person is, because the honesty, faith, and piety wherewith, according to God’s command and his own duty, he is endued, are acceptable to God;” which, though we grant it true of God’s consequent or approving love, yet surely there is a divine love wherewith he looks upon us otherwise, when he gives us unto Christ, else either our giving unto Christ is not out of love, or we are pious, just, and faithful before we come unto him, — that is, we have no need of him at all. Against either way, though we may blot these testimonies out of our hearts, yet they will stand still recorded in holy Scripture, — namely, that God so loved us when we were his “enemies,” Romans 5:10, “sinners,” verse 8, of no “strength,” verse 6; that “he gave his only-begotten Son” to die, “that we should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3:16. But of this enough.
Fourthly, Another thing that the article asserteth according to the Scripture is, that there is no other cause of our election but God’s own counsel. It recounteth no motives in us, nothing impelling the will of God to choose some out of mankind, rejecting others, but his own decree, — that is, his absolute will and good pleasure; so that as there is no cause, in any thing without himself, why he would create the world or elect any at all, — for he doth all these things for himself, for the praise of his own glory, — so there is no cause in singular elected persons why God should choose them rather than others. He looked upon all mankind in the same condition, vested with the same qualifications, or rather without any at all; for it is the children not yet born, before they do either good or evil, that are chosen or rejected, his free grace embracing the one and passing over the other. Yet here we must observe, that although God freely, without any desert of theirs, chooseth some men to be partakers both of the end and the means, yet he bestoweth faith, or the means, on none but for the merit of Christ; neither do any attain the end or salvation but by their own faith, through that righteousness of his. The free grace of God notwithstanding, choosing Jacob when Esau is rejected, the only antecedent cause of any difference between the elect and reprobates, remaineth firm and unshaken; and surely, unless men were resolved to trust wholly to their own bottoms, to take nothing gratis at the hands of God, they would not endeavor to rob him of his glory, of having mercy on whom he will have mercy, of loving us without our desert before the world began. If we must claim an interest in obtaining the temporal acts of his favor by our own endeavors, yet, oh, let us grant him the glory of being good unto us, only for his own sake, when we were in his hand as the clay in the hand of the potter. What made this piece of clay fit for comely service, and not a vessel wherein there is no pleasure, but the power and will of the Framer? It is enough, yea, too much, for them to repine and say, “Why hast thou made us thus?” who are vessels fitted for wrath. Let not them who are prepared for honor exalt themselves against him, and sacrifice to their own nets, as the sole providers of their glory. But so it is: human vileness will still be declaring itself, by claiming a worth no way due unto it; of a furtherance of which claim if the Arminians be not guilty, let the following declaration of their opinions in this particular determine: —
“We confess,” say they,16 “roundly, that faith, in the consideration of God choosing us unto salvation, doth precede, and not follow as a fruit of election.” So that whereas Christians have hitherto believed that God bestoweth faith on them that are chosen, it seems now it is no such matter, but that those whom God findeth to believe, upon the stock of their own abilities, he afterward chooseth. Neither is faith, in their judgment, only required as a necessary condition in him that is to be chosen, but as a cause moving the will of God to elect him that hath it,17 as the will of the judge is moved to bestow a reward on him who according to the law hath deserved it,” as Grevinchovius speaks: which words of his, indeed, Corvinus strives to temper, but all in vain, though he wrest them contrary to the intention of the author; for with him agree all his fellows.18 “The one only absolute cause of election is, not the will of God, but the respect of our obedience,” saith Episcopius. At first they required nothing but faith, and that as a condition, not as a cause;19 then perseverance in faith, which at length they began to call obedience, comprehending all our duty to the precepts of Christ: for the cause, say they, of this love to any person, is the righteousness, faith, and piety wherewith he is endued; which being all the good works of a Christian, they, in effect, affirm a man to be chosen for them, — that our good works are the cause of election; which whether it were ever so grossly taught, either by Pelagians or Papists, I something doubt.
And here observe, that this doth not thwart my former assertion, where I showed that they deny the election of any particular persons, which here they seem to grant upon a foresight of their faith and good works; for there is not any one person, as such a person, notwithstanding all this, that in their judgment is in this life elected, but only as he is considered with those qualifications of which he may at any time divest himself, and so become again to be no more elected than Judas.
The sum of their doctrine in this particular is laid down by one of ours in a tract entitled “God’s Love to Mankind,” etc.; a book full of palpable ignorance, gross sophistry, and abominable blasphemy, whose author seems to have proposed nothing unto himself but to rake all the dunghills of a few of the most invective Arminians, and to collect the most filthy scum and pollution of their railings to cast upon the truth of God; and, under I know not what self-coined pretences, belch out odious blasphemies against his holy name.
The sum, saith he, of all these speeches (he cited to his purpose) is,20 “That there is no decree of saving men but what is built on God’s foreknowledge of the good actions of men.” No decree? No, not that whereby God determineth to give some unto Christ, to ingraft them in him by faith, and bring them by him unto glory; which giveth light to that place of Arminius, where he affirmeth,21 “That God loveth none precisely to eternal life but considered as just, either with legal or evangelical righteousness.”
Now, to love one to eternal life is to destinate one to obtain eternal life by Christ, and so it is coincident with the former assertion, that our election, or choosing unto grace and glory, is upon the foresight of our good works; which contains a doctrine so contradictory to the words and meaning of the apostle, Romans 9:11, condemned in so many councils, suppressed by so many edicts and decrees of emperors and governors, opposed as a pestilent heresy, ever since it was first hatched, by so many orthodox fathers and learned schoolmen, so directly contrary to the doctrine of this church, so injurious to the grace and supreme power of Almighty God, that I much wonder any one, in this light of the gospel and flourishing time of learning, should be so boldly ignorant or impudent as to broach it amongst Christians. To prove this to be a heresy exploded by all orthodox and catholic antiquity were to light a candle in the sun; for it cannot but be known to all and every one who ever heard or read any thing of the state of Christ’s church after the rising of the Pelagian tumults.22
To accumulate testimonies of the ancients is quite beside my purpose. I will only add the confession of Bellarmine,23 a man otherwise not overwell affected to truth. “Predestination,” saith he, “from the foresight of works, cannot be maintained unless we should suppose something in the righteous man, which should make him differ from the wicked, that he doth not receive from God; which truly all the fathers with unanimous consent do reject.” But we have a more sure testimony, to which we will take heed, even the holy Scripture, pleading strongly for God’s free and undeserved grace.
First, our Savior Christ, Matthew 11:26, declaring how God revealeth the gospel unto some, which is hidden from others (a special fruit of election), resteth in his will and good pleasure as the only cause thereof: “Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” So, comforting his “little flock,” Luke 12:32, he bids them fear not, “for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom;” — “His good pleasure is the only cause why his kingdom is prepared for you rather than others.” But is there no other reason of this discrimination? No; he doth it all “that his purpose according to election might stand” firm, Romans 9:11; for we are “predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” Ephesians 1:11.
But did not this counsel of God direct him to choose us rather than others because we had something to commend us more than they? No; “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; but because the LORD loved you,” Deuteronomy 7:7,8. “He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy;” yea, “the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger: as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” Romans 9:11-13.
In brief, wherever there is any mention of election or predestination, it is still accompanied with the purpose, love, or will of God; his foreknowledge, whereby he knoweth them that are his; his free power and supreme dominion over all things. Of our faith, obedience, or any thing importing so much, not one syllable, no mention, unless it be as the fruit and effect thereof. It is the sole act of his free grace and good pleasure, that “he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy,” Romans 9:23. For this only end hath he “saved us, and called us with an 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,” 2 Timothy 1:9. Even our calling is free and undeserved, because flowing from that most free grace of election, whereof we are partakers before we are [i.e., exist]. It were needless to heap up more testimonies in a thing so clear and evident. When God and man stand in competition who shall be accounted the cause of an eternal good, we may be sure the Scripture will pass the verdict on the part of the Most High. And the sentence, in this case, may be derived from thence by these following reasons: —
First, If final perseverance in faith and obedience be the cause of, or a condition required unto, election, then none can be said in this life to be elected; for no man is a final perseverer until he be dead, until he hath finished his course and consummated the faith. But certain it is that it is spoken of some in the Scripture that they are even in this life elected: “Few are chosen,” Matthew 20:16; “For the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened,” chapter 24:22; “And shall, if it were possible, deceive the very elect,” verse 24, — where it is evident that election is required to make one persevere in the faith, but nowhere is perseverance in the faith required to election; yea, and Peter gives us all a command that we should give all diligence to get an assurance of our “election,” even in this life, 2 Peter 1:10: and, therefore, surely it cannot be a decree presupposing consummated faith and obedience.
Secondly, Consider two things of our estate, before the first temporal act of God’s free grace (for grace is no grace if it be not free), which is the first effect of our predestination, comprehendeth us: — First, “Were we better than others.” No, in no wise: both Jews and Gentiles were all under sin,” Romans 3:9. “There is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” verse 23; — being all “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1; being “by nature the children of wrath, even as others,” verse 3; “far off,” until we are “made nigh by the blood of Christ,” verse 13. We were “enemies” against God, Romans 5:10; Titus 3:3. And look what desert there is in us with these qualifications, when our vocation, the first effect of our predestination, as St Paul showeth, Romans 8:30, and as I shall prove hereafter, separateth us from the world of unbelievers. So much there is in respect of predestination itself; so that if we have any way deserved it, it is by being sinners, enemies, children of wrath, and dead in trespasses. These are our deserts; this is the glory, whereof we ought to be ashamed. But, secondly, When they are in the same state of actual alienation from God, yet then, in respect of his purpose to save them by Christ, some are said to be his: “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me,” John 17:6; — they were his before they came unto Christ by faith; the sheep of Christ before they are called, for he “calleth his sheep by name,” chapter 10:3; before they come into the flock or congregation, for “other sheep,” saith he, “I have, which are not of this fold, them also must I bring,” chapter 10:16; — to be beloved of God before they love him: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us,” 1 John 4:10. Now, all this must be with reference to God’s purpose of bringing them unto Christ, and by him unto glory; which we see goeth before all their faith and obedience.
Thirdly, Election is an eternal act of God’s will: “He hath chosen us before the foundation of the world,” Ephesians 1:4; consummated antecedently to all duty of ours, Romans 9:11. Now, every cause must, in order of nature, precede its effect; nothing hath an activity in causing before it hath a being. Operation in every kind is a second act, flowing from the essence of a thing which is the first. But all our graces and works, our faith, obedience, piety, and charity, are all temporal, of yesterday, the same standing with ourselves, and no longer; and therefore cannot be the cause of, no, nor so much as a condition necessarily required for, the accomplishment of an eternal act of God, irrevocably established before we are.
Fourthly, If predestination be for faith foreseen, these three things, with divers such absurdities, will necessarily follow: —
First, That election is not of “him that calleth,” as the apostle speaks, Romans 9:11, — that is, of the good pleasure of God, who calleth us with a holy calling, — but of him that is called; for, depending on faith, it must be his whose faith is, that doth believe.
Secondly, God cannot have mercy on whom he win have mercy, for the very purpose of it is thus tied to the qualities of faith and obedience, so that he must have mercy only on believers antecedently to his decree. Which,
Thirdly, hinders him from being an absolute free agent, and doing of what he will with his own, — of having such a power over us as the potter hath over his clay; for he finds us of different matter, one clay, another gold, when he comes to appoint us to different uses and ends.
Fifthly, God sees no faith, no obedience, perseverance, nothing but sin and wickedness, in any man, but what himself intendeth graciously and freely to bestow upon him; for “faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God;” it is “the work of God, that we believe,” John 6:29; he “blesseth us with all spiritual blessings in Christ,” Ephesians 1:3. Now, all these gifts and graces God bestoweth only upon those whom he hath antecedently ordained to everlasting life: for “the election obtained it, and the rest were blinded,” Romans 11:7; “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”’ Acts 2:47. Therefore, surely, God chooseth us not because he foreseeth those things in us, seeing he bestoweth those graces because he hath chosen us. “Wherefore,”24 saith Austin, “doth Christ say, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ but because they did not choose him that he should choose them; but he chose them that they might choose him.” We choose Christ by faith; God chooseth us by his decree of election. The question is, Whether we choose him because he hath chosen us, or he chooseth us because we have chosen him, and so indeed choose ourselves? We affirm the former, and that because our choice of him is a gift he himself bestoweth only on them whom he hath chosen.
Sixthly, and principally, The effects of election, infallibly following it, cannot be the causes of election, certainly preceding it. This is evident, for nothing can be the cause and the effect of the same thing, before and after itself. But all our faith, our obedience, repentance, good works, are the effects of election, flowing from it as their proper fountain, erected on it as the foundation of this spiritual building; and for this the article of our church is evident and clear. “Those,” saith it, “that are endued with this excellent benefit of God are called according to God’s purpose, are justified freely, are made the sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of Christ; they walk religiously in good works,” etc.
Where, first, they are said to be partakers of this benefit of election, and then by virtue thereof to be entitled to the fruition of all those graces.
Secondly, it saith, “Those who are endued with this benefit enjoy those blessings;” intimating that election is the rule whereby God proceedeth in bestowing those graces, restraining the objects of the temporal acts of God’s special favor to them only whom his eternal decree doth embrace. Both these, indeed, are denied by the Arminians; which maketh a farther discovery of their heterodoxies in this particular.25 “You say,” saith Arminius to Perkins, “that election is the rule of giving or not giving of faith; and, therefore, election is not of the faithful, but faith of the elect: but by your leave this I must deny.” But yet, whatever it is the sophistical heretic here denies, either antecedent or conclusion, he falls foul on the word of God. “They ‘believed,”’ saith the Holy Ghost, “who were ‘ordained to eternal life,’” Acts 13:48; and, “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” chapter 2:47. From both which places it is evident that God bestoweth faith only on them whom he hath pre-ordained to eternal life; but most clearly, Romans 8:29,30, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” St Austin interpreted this place by adding in every link of the chain, “Only those.” However, the words directly import a precedency of predestination before the bestowing of other graces, and also a restraint of those graces to them only that are so predestinated. Now, the inference from this is not only for the form logical, but for the matter also; it containeth the very words of Scripture, “Faith is of God’s elect,” Titus 1:1.
For the other part of the proposition, that faith and obedience are the fruits of our election, they cannot be more peremptory in its denial than the Scripture is plentiful in its confirmation: “He hath chosen us in Christ, that we should be holy,” Ephesians 1:4; not because we were holy, but that we should be so. Holiness, whereof faith is the root and obedience the body, is that whereunto, and not for which, we are elected. The end and the meritorious cause of any one act cannot be the same; they have divers respects, and require repugnant conditions. Again; we are “predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ,” verse 5. Adoption is that whereby we are assumed into the family of God, when before we are “foreigners, aliens, strangers, afar off;” which we see is a fruit of our predestination, though it be the very entrance into that estate wherein we begin first to please God in the least measure. Of the same nature are all those places of holy writ which speak of God’s giving some unto Christ, of Christ’s sheep hearing his voice, and others not hearing, because they are not of his sheep; all which, and divers other invincible reasons, I willingly omit, with sundry other false assertions and heretical positions of the Arminians about this fundamental article of our religion
1. “Electio non est ab aeterno.” — Rem. Apol.
2. “Electio alia completa est, quae neminem spectat nisi immorientem. Electio peremptoria totum salutis complementum et consummationem decernit, ideoque in objecto requirit totam consummatam fidei obedientiam.” — Grevinch, ad Ames. p. 136, passim. dis.
3. “Non agnoscimus aliam praedestinationem in evangelio patefactam, quam qua Deus decrevit credentes et qui in eadem fide perseverarent, salvos facere.” — Rem. Coll. Hag., p. 34.
4. “Electionis fructum aut sensum in hac vita nullum agnosco.” — Grevinch.
5. Episcop. Thes., p. 35; Epist. ad Walach., p. 38; Grevinch. ad Ames., p. 133.
6. “Electio alia completa est, quae neminem spectat nisi morientem, alia incompleta, quae omnibus fidelibus communis est; ut salutis bona sunt incompleta quae continu-antur, fide contlnuata, et abnegate, revocantur, sic electio est incompleta in hac vita, non peremptoria, revocabilis.” — Grevinch, ad Ames.
7. “Tres sunt ordines credentium et resipiscentium in Scripturis, novitli, credentes aliquandiu, perseverantes. Duo priores ordines credentium eliguntur vere quidem, at non prorsus absolute, nec nisi ad tempus, puta quamdiu et quatenus tales sunt,” etc. —Rem. Confess., cap. 18, sect. 6,7.
9. “Nos negamus Dei electionem ad salutem extendere sese ad slngulares personas, qua singulares personas.” — Rem. Coll. Hag., fol. 76.
10. “Deus statuit indiscrimlnatim media ad fidem administrare, et prout has, vel illas personas, istis mediis credituras vel non credituras videt, ita tandem de illis statuit.” — Corv. ad Tilen., 76.
11. “Ecclesiae tanquam sacrosancta doctrina obtruditur, Deum absolutissimo et immutabili decreto ab omni retro aeternitate, pro puro suo beneplacito, singulares quosdam homines, eosque, quoad caeteros, paucissimos, citra ullius obedientiae aut fidei in Chris-tum intuitum praedestinasse ad vitam.” — Praefat. Lib. Armin. ad Perk.
12. “Nulla Deo tribui potest voluntas, qua ita velit hominem ullum salvari, ut salus inde illis constet certo et infallibiliter.”–Armin. Antip., p. 583.
13. “Praedestinatio est praeparatio beneficiorum quibus certissime liberantur quicunque liberantur.” — Aug, de Bono Per. Sen., cap. 14.
14. “Decretum electionis nihil aliud est quam decretum quo Deus constituit credentes in Christo justificare et salvare.” — Corv, ad Tilen., p. 13.
15. “Ratio dilectionis personae est, quod probitas, tides, vel pietas, qua ex officio suo et prrescripto Dei ista persona praedita est, Deo grata sit.” — Rem. Apol., p. 18.
16. “Rotunde fatemur, fidem in consideratione Dei in eligendo ad salutem antecedere, et non tauquam fracture electionis sequi.” —Rem. Hag. Coll., p. 85.
17. Grevinch. ad Amea, p. 24; Corv. ad Molin., p. 260.
18. “Electionis et reprobationis causa unica vera et absoluta non est Dei voluntas, seal respectus obedientise et inobedientise.” — Epis. Disput. 8.
19. “Cum peccatum pono causam merltoriam reprobationls, ne existlmato e contra me ponere justitiam causam meritoriam electionis.” — Attain. Antip.; Rein. Apol., p. 73.
20. God’s Love, p. 6.
21. “Deum nullam creaturam preecise ad vitam ,eternam amare, nisi consideratam ut justam sire justitia legali sire evangelica” — Armin. Artic. Perpend., fol. 21.
22. Vid. Prosp. ad Excep. Gen. ad Dub., 8,9. Vid. Car. de Ingratis., c. 2,3.
23. “Non potest defendi praedestinatlo ex operibus praevisis, nisi aliquid boni ponatur in homine justo, quo discernatur ab impio, quod non sit illi a Deo, quod sane patres omnes summa consensione rejiciunt.” — Bellar, de Grat., et Lib. Arbit., cap. 14.
24. “Non ob aliud dicit, ‘Non vos me eligistis, seal ego vos elegi,’ nisi quia non elegerunt eumut eligeret eos; sed ut eligerent eum elegit eos.” — Aug, de Bono Perse, cap. 16.
25. “Dicis electionem divinarn esse regulam fidei dandae vel non dandae; ergo, electio non est fidelium, sed tides electorum: seal liceat mihi tua bona venia hoc negare.” — Armin. Antip., p. 221.