Here is Dr. Michael L. Brown’s debate with Pastor Bruce Bennett on the subject of Who Makes the Final Choice in Salvation – God or Man?
The following is from Donald C. Stamps, Life in the Spirit Study Bible, pp. 1748-9:
“Our salvation comes as gift of God’s grace and is appropriated by the response of faith. To understand the process of salvation, we must understand these two words.
Saving Faith. Faith in Jesus Christ is God’s requirement for receiving His free gift of salvation. Faith is what we believe about Christ and our heart’s response of trust that causes us to follow Him as Lord and Savior (cf. Mat 4:19; 16:24; Luke 9:23-25; John 10:4, 27; 12:26; Rev 14:4)
(1) The NT conception of faith includes four main elements:
(a) Faith means firmly believing and trusting in the crucified and risen Christ as our personal Lord and Savior (see Rom 1:17, note). It involves believing with all our hearts (Rom 6:17; Eph 6:6; Heb 10:22), yielding up our wills and committing our total selves to Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the NT.
(b) Faith involves repentance, i.e., in true sorrow turning from sin (Acts 17:30; 2 Cor 7:10) and turning to God through Christ. Saving faith is always a repentant faith (Acts 2:37-38; see Mat 3:2, note on repentance).
(c) Faith includes obedience to Jesus Christ and His Word as a way of life inspired by our faith, by our gratitude to God and by the regenerating work of the Spirit (John 3:3-6; 14:15, 21-24; Heb 5:8-9). It is an ‘obedience to the faith’ (Rom 1:5). Therefore, faith and obedience belong inseparably together (cf. Rom 16:26). Saving faith without the commitment to sanctification is impossible.
(d) Faith includes a heartfelt personal devotion and attachment to Jesus Christ that expresses itself in trust, love, gratitude and loyalty. Faith in an ultimate sense cannot properly be distinguished from love. It is a personal activity of trust and loving self-giving directed toward Christ (cf. Mat 23:37; John 21:15-17; Acts 8:37; Rom 6:17; Gal 2:20; Eph 6:6; 1 Pet 1:8).
(2) Faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour is both the act of a single moment and a continuing attitude that must grow and be strengthened (see John 1:12, note). Because we have faith in a specific person who died for us (Rom 4:25; 8:32; 1 Thes 5:9-10), our faith should become greater (Rom 4:20; 2 Thes 1:3; 1 Pet 1:3-9). Trust and obedience develop into loyalty and devotion (Rom 14:8; 2 Cor 5:15); loyalty and devotion develop into an intense feeling of personal attachment to and love for the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 1:21; 3:8-10; see John 15:4, note; Gal 2:20, note). This faith in Christ brings us into a new relationship with God and exempts us from His wrath (Rom 1:18; 8:1); through that new relationship we become dead to sin (Rom 6:1-18) and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:5; 4:6).
Grace. In the OT, God revealed Himself as a God of grace who showed love to His people, not because they deserved it, but because of His own desire to be faithful to the covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Ex 6:9, note; see articles on The Passover, p. 112, and The Day of Atonement, p. 190). Justice is getting what we deserve; mercy is being spared what we deserve; grace is being given what we do not deserve. The NT emphasizes the theme of God’s grace in the giving of His Son on behalf of undeserving sinners. God’s grace is multiplied to believers by the Holy Spirit, imparting forgiveness, acceptance and power to do God’s will (John 3:16; 1 Cor 15:10; Phil 2:13; 1 Tim 1:15-16). The whole movement of the Christian life from beginning to end is dependent on God’s grace.
(1) God gives a measure of grace as a gift (1 Cor 1:4) to unbelievers so that they may be able to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9; Tit 2:11, 3:4).
(2) God gives grace to believers to be ‘made free from sin’ (Rom 6:20, 22), ‘to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil 2:13; see Tit 2:11-12; see Mat 7:21, note on obedience as a gift of God’s grace), to pray (Zech 12:10), to grow in Christ (2 Pet 3:18) and to witness for Christ (Acts 4:33; 11:23).
(3) God’s grace must be diligently desired and sought (Heb 4:16). Some of the ways (i.e., means of grace) by which God’s grace is received are: humbling ourselves before God (Jas 4:6, 10); studying and obeying Scripture (John 15:1-11; 20:31; 2 Tim 3:15); hearing the proclamation of the gospel (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:17-18); praying (Heb 4:16; Jude 20); fasting (Mat 4:2; 6:16); worshiping Christ (Col 3:16); being continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18); and participating in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; see Eph 2:9, note on how grace works).
(4) God’s grace can be resisted (Heb 12:15), received in vain (2 Cor 6:1), put out (1 Thes 5:19), set aside (Gal 2:21) and abandoned by the believer (Gal 5:4).
Stamps, Donald C. (2003: Zondervan), Life in the Spirit Study Bible
Preached at Bristol, in the year 1740
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things” Rom. 8:32
TO THE READER Nothing but the strongest conviction, not only that what is here advanced is “the truth as it is in Jesus,” but also that I am indispensably obliged to declare this truth to all the world, could have induced me openly to oppose the sentiments of those whom I esteem for their work’s sake: At whose feet may I be found in the day of the Lord Jesus!
Should any believe it his duty to reply hereto, I have only one request to make, — Let whatsoever you do, be done inherently, in love, and in the spirit of meekness. Let your very disputing show that you have “put on, as the elect of God, bowel of mercies, gentleness, longsuffering; “that even according to this time it may be said, “See how these Christians love one another!” ADVERTISEMENT Whereas a pamphlet entitled, “Free Grace Indeed,” has been published against this Sermon; this is to inform the publisher, that I cannot answer his tract till he appears to be more in earnest. For I dare not speak of “the deep things of God” in the spirit of a prize-fighter or a stage-player.
1. How freely does God love the world! While we were yet sinners, “Christ died for the ungodly.” While we were “dead in our sin,” God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” And how freely with him does he “give us all things!” Verily, FREE GRACE is all in all!
2. The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is FREE IN ALL, and FREE FOR ALL.
3. First. It is free in all to whom it is given. It does not depend on any power or merit in man; no, not in any degree, neither in whole, nor in part. It does not in anywise depend either on the good works or righteousness of the receiver; not on anything he has done, or anything he is. It does not depend on his endeavors. It does not depend on his good tempers, or good desires, or good purposes and intentions; for all these flow from the free grace of God; they are the streams only, not the fountain. They are the fruits of free grace, and not the root. They are not the cause, but the effects of it. Whatsoever good is in man, or is done by man, God is the author and doer of it. Thus is his grace free in all; that is, no way depending on any power or merit in man, but on God alone, who freely gave us his own Son, and “with him freely giveth us all things.
4. But it is free for ALL, as well as IN ALL. To this some have answered, “No: It is free only for those whom God hath ordained to life; and they are but a little flock. The greater part of God hath ordained to death; and it is not free for them. Them God hateth; and, therefore, before they were born, decreed they should die eternally. And this he absolutely decreed; because so was his good pleasure; because it was his sovereign will. Accordingly, they are born for this, — to be destroyed body and soul in hell. And they grow up under the irrevocable curse of God, without any possibility of redemption; for what grace God gives. he gives only for this, to increase, not prevent, their damnation.”
5. This that decree of predestination. But methinks I hear one say, “This is not the predestination which I hold: I hold only the election of grace. What I believe is not more than this, — that God,, before the foundation of the world, did elect a certain number of men to be justified, sanctified, and glorified. Now, all these will be saved, and none else; for the rest of mankind God leaves to themselves: So they follow the imaginations of their own hearts, which are only evil continually, and, waxing worse and worse, are at length justly punished with everlasting destruction.”
6. Is this all the predestination which you hold Consider; perhaps this is not all. Do not you believe God ordained them to this very thing” If so, you believe the whole degree; you hold predestination in the full sense which has been above described. But it may be you think you do not. Do not you then believe, God hardens the hearts of them that perish: Do not you believe, he (literally) hardened Pharaoh’s heart; and that for this end he raised him up, or created him Why, this amounts to just the same thing. If you believe Pharaoh, or any one man upon earth, was created for this end, — to be damned, — you hold all that has been said of predestination. And there is no need you should add, that God seconds his degree, which is supposed unchangeable and irresistible, by hardening the hearts of those vessels of wrath whom that decree had before fitted for destruction.
7. well, but it may be you do not believe even this; you do not hold any decree of reprobation; you do not think God decrees any man to be damned, not hardens, irresistibly fits him, for damnation; you only say, “God eternally decreed, that all being dead in sin, he would say to some of the dry bones, Live, and to others he would not; that, consequently, these should be made alive, and those abide in death, — these should glorify God by their salvation, and those by their destruction.”
8. Is not this what you mean by the election of grace If it be, I would ask one or two question: Are any who are not thus elected saved or were any, from the foundation of the world Is it possible any man should be saved unless he be thus elected If you say, “No,” you are but where you was; you are not got one hair’s breadth farther; you still believe, that, in consequence of an unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, the greater part of mankind abide in death, without any possibility of redemption; inasmuch as none can save them but God, and he will not save them. You believe he hath absolutely decreed not to save them; and what is this but decreeing to damn them It is, in effect, neither more not less; it comes to the same thing; for if you are dead, and altogether unable to make yourself alive, then, if God has absolutely decreed he will make only others alive, and not you, he hath absolutely decreed your everlasting death; you are absolutely consigned to damnation. So then, though you use softer words than some, you mean the self-same thing; and God’s decree concerning the election of grace, according to your account of it, amounts to neither more not less than what others call God’s decree of reprobation.
9. Call it therefore by whatever name you please, election, preterition, predestination, or reprobation, it comes in the end to the same thing. The sense of all is plainly this, — by virtue of an eternal, unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, on part of mankind are infallibly saved, and the rest infallibly damned; it being impossible that any of the former should be damned. or that any of the latter should be saved.
10. But if this be so, then is all preaching vain. It is needless to them that are elected; for they, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved. Therefore, the end of preaching — to save should — is void with regard to them; and it is useless to them that are not elected, for they cannot possibly be saved: They, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be damned. The end of preaching is therefore void with regard to them likewise; so that in either case our preaching is vain, as you hearing is also vain.
11. This then, is a plain proof that the doctrine of predestination is not a doctrine of God, because it makes void the ordinance of God; and God is not divided against himself. A Second is, that it directly tends to destroy that holiness which is the end of all the ordinances of God. I do not say, none who hold it are holy; (for God is of tender mercy to those who are unavoidably entangled in errors of any kind;) but that the doctrine itself, — that every man is either elected or not elected from eternity, and that the one must inevitably be saved, and the other inevitably damned, — has a manifest tendency to destroy holiness in general; for it wholly takes away those first motives to follow after it, so frequently proposed in Scripture, the hope of future reward and fear of punishment, the hope of heaven and fear of hell. That these shall go away into everlasting punishment, and those into life eternal, is not motive to him to struggle for life who believes his lot is cast already; it is not reasonable for him so to do, if he thinks he is unalterably adjudged either to life or death. You will say, “But he knows not whether it is life or death.” What then — this helps not the matter; for if a sick man knows that he must unavoidably die, or unavoidably recover, though he knows not which, it is unreasonable for him to take any physic at all. He might justly say, (and so I have heard some speak, both in bodily sickness and in spiritual,) “If I am ordained to life, I shall live; if to death, I shall live; so I need not trouble myself about it.” So directly does this doctrine tend to shut the very gate of holiness in general, — to hinder unholy men from ever approaching thereto, or striving to enter in thereat.
12. as directly does this doctrine tend to destroy several particular branches of holiness. Such are meekness and love, — love, I mean, of our enemies, — of the evil and unthankful. I say not, that none who hold it have meekness and love; (for as is the power of God, so is his mercy;) but that it naturally tends to inspire, or increase, a sharpness or eagerness of temper, which is quite contrary to the meekness of Christ; as then especially appears, when they are opposed on this head. And it as naturally inspires contempt or coldness towards those whom we suppose outcast form God. “O but,” you say. “I suppose no particular man a reprobate.” You mean you would not if you could help it: But you cannot help sometimes applying your general doctrine to particular persons: The enemy of souls will apply it for you. You know how often he has done so. But you rejected the thought with abhorrence. True; as soon as you could; but how did it sour and sharpen your spirit in the mean time! you well know it was not the spirit of love which you then felt towards that poor sinner, whom you supposed or suspected, whether you would or no, to have been hated of God from eternity.
13. Thirdly. This doctrine tends to destroy the comfort of religion, the happiness of Christianity. This is evident as to all those who believe themselves to be reprobated, or who only suspect or fear it. All the great and precious promises are lost to them; they afford them no ray of comfort: For they are not the elect of God; therefore they have neither lot nor portion in them. This is an effectual bar to their finding any comfort or happiness, even in that religion whose ways are designed to be “ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace.”
14. And as to you who believe yourselves the elect of God, what is your happiness I hope, not a notion, a speculative belief, a bare opinion of any kind; but a feeling possession of God in your heart, wrought in you by the Holy Ghost, or, the witness of God’s Spirit with your spirit that you are a child of God. This, otherwise termed “the full assurance of faith,: is the true ground of a Christian’s happiness. And it does indeed imply a full assurance that all your past sins are forgiven, and that you are now a child of God. But it does not necessarily imply a full assurance of our future perseverance. I do not say this is never joined to it, but that it is not necessarily implied therein; for many have the one who have not the other.
15. Now, this witness of the Spirit experience shows to be much obstructed by this doctrine; and not only in those who, Believing themselves reprobated, by this belief thrust it far from them, but even in them that have tasted of that good gift, who yet have soon lost it again, and fallen back into doubts, and fears, and darkness, — horrible darkness, that might be felt! And I appeal to any of you who hold this doctrine, to say, between God and your own hearts, whether you have not often a return of doubts and fears concerning your election or perseverance! If you ask, “Who has not” I answer, Very few of those that hold this doctrine; but many, very many, of those that hold it not, in all parts of the earth; — many of these have enjoyed the uninterrupted witness of his Spirit, the continual light of his countenance, from the moment wherein they first believed, for many months or years, to this day.
16. That assurance of faith which these enjoy excludes all doubt and fear, It excludes all kinds of doubt and fear concerning their future perseverance; though it is not properly, as was said before, an assurance of what is future, but only of what now is. And this needs not for its support a speculative belief, that whoever is once ordained to life must live; for it is wrought from hour to hour, by the mighty power of God, “by the Holy Ghost which is given unto them.” And therefore that doctrine is not of God, because it tends to obstruct, if not destroy, this great work of the Holy Ghost, whence flows the chief comfort of religion, the happiness of Christianity.
17. Again: How uncomfortable a thought is this, that thousands and millions of men, without any preceding offense or fault of theirs, were unchangeably doomed to everlasting burnings! How peculiarly uncomfortable must it be to those who have put on Christ! to those who, being filled with bowels of mercy, tenderness, and compassion, could even “wish themselves accursed for their brethren’s sake!”
18. Fourthly. This uncomfortable doctrine directly tends to destroy our zeal for good works. And this it does, First, as it naturally tends (according to what was observed before) to destroy our love to the greater part of mankind, namely, the evil and unthankful. For whatever lessens our love, must go far lessen our desire to do them good. This it does, Secondly, as it cuts off one of the strongest motives to all acts of bodily mercy, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and the like, — viz., the hope of saving their souls from death. For what avails it to relieve their temporal wants, who are just dropping into eternal fire “Well; but run and snatch them as brands out of the fire.: Nay, this you suppose impossible. They were appointed thereunto, you say, from eternity, before they had done either good or evil. you believe it is the will of God they should die. And “who hath resisted his will” But you say you do not know whether these are elected or not. What then If you know they are the one or the other, — that they are either elected or not elected, — all your labour is void and vain. In either case, your advice, reproof, or exhortation is as needless and useless as our preaching. It is needless to them that are elected; for they will infallibly be saved without it. It is useless to them that are not elected; for with or without it they will infallibly be damned; therefore you cannot consistently with your principles take any pains about their salvation. Consequently, those principles directly tend to destroy you zeal for good works; for all good works; but particularly for the greatest of all, the saving of souls from death.
19. But, Fifthly, this doctrine not only tends to destroy Christian holiness, happiness, and good works, but hath also a direct and manifest tendency to overthrow the whole Christian Revelation. The point which the wisest of the modern unbelievers most industriously labour to prove, is, that the Christian Revelation is not necessary. They well know, could they once show this, the conclusion would be too plain to be denied, “If it be not necessary, it is not true,” Now, this fundamental point you give up. For supposing that eternal, unchangeable decree, one part of mankind must be saved, though the Christian Revelation were not in being, and the other part of mankind must be damned, notwithstanding that Revelation. And what would an infidel desire more You allow him all he asks. In making the gospel thus unnecessary to all sorts of men, you give up the whole Christian cause. “O tell it not in Gath! lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice; “lest the sons of unbelief triumph!
20. And as this doctrine manifestly and directly tends to overthrow the whole Christian Revelation, so it does the same thing, by plain consequence, in making that Revelation contradict itself. For it is grounded on such an interpretation of some texts (more or fewer it matters not) as flatly contradicts all the other texts, and indeed the whole scope and tenor of Scripture. For instance: The assertors of this doctrine interpret that text of Scripture, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” as implying that God in a literal sense hated Esau, and all the reprobated, from eternity. Now, what can possibly be a more flat contradiction than this, not only to the whole scope and tenor of Scripture, but also to all those particular texts which expressly declare, “God is love” Again: They infer from that text, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,” (Romans 4:15) that God is love only to some men, viz.,the elect, and that he hath mercy for those only; flatly contrary to which is the whole tenor of Scripture, as is that express declaration in particular, “The Lord is loving unto every man; and his mercy is over all his works.” (Psalm 114:9.) Again: They infer from that and the like texts, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,: that he showeth mercy only to those to whom he had respect from all eternity. Nay, but who replieth against God now You now contradict the whole oracles of God, which declare throughout, “God is no respecter of persons:’ (Acts 10:34) “There is no respect of persons with him.” (Rom. 2:11.) Again: from that text, “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,” unto Rebecca, “The elder shall serve the younger;”you infer, that our being predestinated, or elect, no way depends on the foreknowledge of God. Flatly contrary to this are all the scriptures; and those in particular, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God; ” (1 Peter 1:2;) “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” (Rom. 8:29.)
21. And “the same Lord over all is rich” in mercy “to all that call upon him:” (Romans 10:12:) But you say, “No; he is such only to those for whom Christ died. And those are not all, but only a few, whom God hath chosen out of the world; for he died not for all, but only for those who were ‘chosen in him before the foundation of the world.’” (Eph. 1:4.) Flatly contrary to your interpretation of these scriptures, also, is the whole tenor of the New Testament; as are in particular those texts: — “Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died,” (Rom. 14:15,) — a clear proof that Christ died, not only for those that are saved, but also for them that perish: He is “the Saviour of the world;” (John 4:42;) He is “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world;” (John 1:29;) “He is the propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world;” (1 John 2:2;) “He,” the living God, “is the Savior of all men;” (1 Timothy 4:10;) “He gave himself a ransom for all;” (1 Tim. 2:6;) “He tasted death for every man.” (Heb. 2:9.)
22. If you ask, “Why then are not all men saved” the whole law and the testimony answer, First, Not because of any decree of God; not because it is his pleasure they should die; for, As I live, saith the Lord God,” I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” (Ezek. 18:3, 32.) Whatever be the cause of their perishing, it cannot be his will, if the oracles of God are true; for they declare, “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;” (2 Pet. 3:9;) “He willeth that all men should be saved.” And they, Secondly, declare what is the cause why all men are not saved, namely, that they will not be saved: So our Lord expressly, “Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.” (John 5:40.) “The power of the Lord is present to heal” them, but they will not be healed. “They reject the counsel,” the merciful counsel, “of God against themselves,” as did their stiff-necked forefathers. And therefore are they without excuse; because God would save them, but they will not be saved: This is the condemnation, “How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37.)
23. Thus manifestly does this doctrine tend to overthrow the whole Christian Revelation, by making it contradict itself; by giving such an interpretation of some texts, as flatly contradicts all the other texts, and indeed the whole scope and tenor of Scripture; — an abundant proof that it is not of God. But neither is this all: For, Seventhly, it is a doctrine full of blasphemy; of such blasphemy as I should dread to mention, but that the honour of our gracious God, and the cause of his truth, will not suffer me to be silent. In the cause of God, then, and from a sincere concern for the glory of his great name, I will mention a few of the horrible blasphemies contained in this horrible doctrine. But first, I must warn every one of you that hears, as ye will answer it at the great day, not to charge me (as some have done) with blaspheming, because I mention the blasphemy of others. And the more you are grieve with them that do thus blaspheme, see that ye “confirm your love towards them: the more, and that your heart’s desire, and continual prayer to God, be, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!”
24. This premised, let it be observed, that this doctrine represents our blessed Lord, “Jesus Christ the righteous,” “the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth,” as an hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. For it cannot be denied, that he everywhere speaks as if he was willing that all men should be saved. Therefore, to say he was not willing that all men should be saved, is to represent him as a mere hypocrite and dissembler. It cannot be denied that the gracious words which came out of his mouth are full of invitations to all sinners. To say, then, he did not intend to save all sinners, is to represent him as a gross deceiver of the people. You cannot deny that he says, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden.” If, then, you say he calls those that cannot come; those whom he knows to be unable to come; those whom he can make able to come, but will not; how is it possible to describe greater insincerity You represent him as mocking his helpless creatures, by offering what he never intends to give. You describe him as saying on thing, and meaning another; as pretending the love which his had not. Him, in “whose mouth was no guile,” you make full of deceit, void of common sincerity; — then especially, when, drawing nigh the city, He wept over it, and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, — and ye would not;” hqelhsa — kai ouk hqelhsate. Now, if you say, they would, but he would not, you represent him (which who could hear) as weeping crocodiles’ tears; weeping over the prey which himself had doomed to destruction!
25. Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle! But there is yet more behind; for just as it honours the Son, so doth this doctrine honour the Father. It destroys all his attributes at once: It overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, “He willeth all men to be saved:” More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God, when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit “seeketh rest and findeth none;” so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the high God (he that hath ears to hear let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil!
26. This is the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree+ of predestination! And here I fix my foot. On this I join issue with every assertor of it. You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust. But you say you will prove it by scripture. Hold! What will you prove by Scripture that God is worse than the devil I cannot be. Whatever that Scripture proves, it never an prove this; whatever its true meaning be. This cannot be its true meaning. Do you ask, “What is its true meaning then” If I say, ” I know not,” you have gained nothing; for there are many scriptures the true sense whereof neither you nor I shall know till death is swallowed up in victory. But this I know, better it were to say it had no sense, than to say it had such a sense as this. It cannot mean, whatever it mean besides, that the God of truth is a liar. Let it mean what it will it cannot mean that the Judge of all the world is unjust. No scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works; that is, whatever it prove beside, no scripture can prove predestination.
27. This is the blasphemy for which (however I love the persons who assert it) I abhor the doctrine of predestination, a doctrine, upon the supposition of which, if one could possibly suppose it for a moment, (call it election, reprobation, or what you please, for all comes to the same thing,) one might say to our adversary, the devil, “Thou fool, why dost thou roar about any longer Thy lying in wait for souls is as needless and useless as our preaching. Hearest thou not, that God hath taken thy work out of thy hands; and that he doeth it much more effectually Thou, with all thy principalities and powers, canst only so assault that we may resist thee; but He can irresistibly destroy both body and soul in hell! Thou canst only entice; but his unchangeable decrees, to leave thousands of souls in death, compels them to continue in sin, till they drop into everlasting burnings. Thou temptest; He forceth us to be damned; for we cannot resist his will. Thou fool, why goest thou about any longer, seeking whom thou mayest devour Hearest thou not that God is the devouring lion, the destroyer of souls, the murderer of men” Moloch caused only children to pass though the fire: and that fire was soon quenched; or, the corruptible body being consumed, its torment was at an end; but God, thou are told, by his eternal decree, fixed before they had done good or evil, causes, not only children of a span long, but the parents also, to pass through the fire of hell, the ‘fire which never shall be quenched; and the body which is cast thereinto, being now incorruptible and immortal, will be ever consuming and never consumed, but ‘the smoke of their torment,’ because it is God’s good pleasure, ‘ascendeth up for ever and ever.’”
28. O how would the enemy of God and man rejoice to hear these things were so! How would he cry aloud and spare not! How would he lift up his voice and say, “To your tents, O Israel! Flee from the face of this God, or ye shall utterly perish! But whither will ye flee Into heaven He is there, Down to hell He is there also. Ye cannot flee from an omnipresent, almighty tyrant. And whether ye flee or stay, I call heaven, his throne, and earth, his footstool, to witness against you, ye shall perish, ye shall die eternally. Sing, O hell, and rejoice, ye that are under the earth! For God, even the mighty God, hath spoken, and devoted to death thousands of souls, form the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof! Here, O death, is they sting! They shall not, cannot escape; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Here, O grave is thy victory Nations yet unborn, or ever they have done good or evil are doomed never to see the light of life, but thou shalt gnaw upon them for ever and ever! Let all those morning stars sing together, who fell with Lucifer, son of the morning! Let all the sons of hell shout for joy! For the decree is past, and who shall disannul it”
29. Yea, the decree is past; and so it was before the foundation of the world. But what decree Even this: “I will set before the sons of men ‘life and death, blessing cursing.’ And the soul that chooseth life shall live, as the soul that chooseth death shall die.” This decree whereby “whom God did foreknow, he did predestinate,” was indeed from everlasting; this, whereby all who suffer Christ to make them alive are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God,” now standeth fast, even as the moon, and as the faithful witnesses in heaven; and when heaven and earth shall pass away, yet this shall not pass away; for it is as unchangeable and eternal as is the being of God that gave it. This decree yields the strongest encouragement to abound in all good works and in all holiness; and it is a well-spring of joy, of happiness also, to our great and endless comfort. This is worthy of God; it is every way consistent with all the perfections of his nature. It gives us the noblest view both of his justice, mercy, and truth. To this agrees the whole scope of the Christian Revelation, as well as all the parts thereof. To this Moses and all the Prophets bear witness, and our blessed Lord and all his Apostles Thus Moses, in the name of his Lord: “I call heaven and earth to record against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that thou and thy seed may live.” Thus Ezekiel: choose life, that thou and thy seed may live;”Thus Ezekiel: (To cite one Prophet for all:) “The soul that sinneth, it shall die: The son shall not bear” eternally, “the iniquity of the father. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (18:20.) Thus our blessed Lord: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” (John 7:37.) Thus his great Apostle, St. Paul: (Acts 17:30:) “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent; — “all men everywhere;” every man in every place, without any exception either of place or person. Thus St. James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5.) Thus St. Peter: (2 Pet. 3:9:) “The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” And thus St. John: ” If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father; and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1, 2.)
30. O hear ye this, ye that forget God! Ye cannot charge your death upon him! “`Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die’ saith the Lord God.” (Ezek. 18:23ff.) “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions where by ye have transgressed, — for why will ye die, O house of Israel For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God. Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. — Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:11.)
Edited by Ken Harris with corrections by Ryan Danker and George Lyons of Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa, Idaho) for the Wesley Center for Applied Theology.
Copyright 1999 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology. Text may be freely used for personal or scholarly purposes or mirrored on other web sites, provided this notice is left intact. Any use of this material for commercial purposes of any kind is strictly forbidden without the express permission of the Wesley Center at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, ID 83686. Contact webmaster for permission.
Is the human decision to accept God’s grace a ‘work’ that we contribute towards our salvation? Roger Olson writes,
“Isn’t the bare human decision to accept and not resist God’s grace and mercy unto salvation a meritorious work? Arminians respond with a resounding no. In sum, and by way of preview, classical Arminianism argues that anyone who shows the first inkling or inclination of a good will toward God is already being influenced by grace. Grace is the first cause of genuine free will as liberation from bondage to sin, and grace is the source of anything good. In its prevenient (going before) form, it is the ‘quickening ray’ Charles Wesley wrote about in his famous Arminian hymn ‘And Can It Be?’ It awakens the prisoner lying helpless in the dungeon of nature’s night and breaks off his chains so that he can rise up and follow Christ. There is no hint in traditional Arminian theology of salvation by works righteousness; all good is attributed solely to God’s grace… All that is required for full salvation is a relaxation of the resistant will under the influence of God’s grace so that the person lets go of sin and self-righteousness and allows Christ’s death to become the only foundation for spiritual life. Was Arminius’s soteriology then synergistic? Yes, but not in the way that is often understood. Calvinists tend to regard synergism as equal cooperation between God and a human in salvation; thus the human is contributing something crucial and efficacious to salvation. But this is not Arminius’s synergism. Rather, his is an evangelical synergism that reserves all the power, ability and efficacy in salvation to grace, but allows humans the God-granted ability to resist or not resist it. The only ‘contribution’ humans make is non-resistance to grace. This is the same as accepting a gift. Arminius could not fathom why a gift that must be freely received is no longer a gift, as Calvinists contend. To explain the ‘concurrence and agreement of divine grace with free will’ he offered an analogy:
To explain the matter I will employ a simile, which yet, I confess is very dissimilar; but its dissimilitude is greatly in favour of my sentiments. A rich man bestows, on a poor and famishing beggar, alms by which he may be able to maintain himself and his family. Does it cease to be a pure gift, because the beggar extends his hand to receive it? Can it be said with propriety, that ‘the alms depended partly on the liberality of the Donor, and partly on the liberty of the Receiver,’ though the latter would not have possessed the alms unless he had received it by stretching out his hand? Can it be correctly said, because the beggar is always prepared to receive, that ‘he can have the alms, or not have it, just as he pleases?’ If these assertions cannot be truly made about a beggar who receives alms, how much less can they be made about the gift of faith, for the receiving of which far more acts of Divine Grace are required!
At this point, of course, some Calvinist critics still maintain that Arminius makes the free acceptance of the gift of salvation, including faith, the decisive factor in salvation; so the human act of acceptance, and not God’s grace, becomes the ground of righteousness. No Arminian, including Arminius, will agree with the formula that the person’s mere acceptance of redemption from Christ is ‘the decisive factor’ in salvation. For Arminius, as for all classical Arminians, the decisive factor is the grace of God – from beginning to end. Using Arminius’s analogy of the rich man and the beggar, would it be normal speech to say that the beggar’s acceptance of the rich man’s money was the decisive factor in his family’s survival? Who would say that? All attention in such a case would focus on the benefactor and not on the poor receiver of benefaction. We might extend the analogy a bit and suggest that the rich man bestowed the gift in the form of a check, which needs only to be endorsed and deposited in the poor man’s bank account. What if someone claimed that the act of endorsing the check and depositing it was the decisive factor in the poor man’s family’s survival? Surely even the Calvinist must see that no reasonable person would say that. So it is with Arminian evangelical synergism; the bare act of deciding to rely totally on God’s grace for salvation and to accept the gift of eternal life is not the decisive factor in salvation. That status belongs to God’s grace alone.” 1
J.P. Holding writes,
“And a point I have yet to see explained as well is how making a decision qualifies as a “work.” The Jews were forbidden to work on the Sabbath; did this prohibit them from thinking or making a decision? Is there any evidence that the Greek word behind “works” (ergon) ever refers to a thought or a decision? It seems to me that this is a flawed premise upon which the Calvinistic case rests.” 2
So is the human decision to accept God’s grace a meritorious work that we contribute toward our salvation? So far, all the evidence is to the contrary, but if making the decision to accept a gift is a work, the burden of proof is on the Calvinists to show how it is.
1 Roger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, p. 161-66; According to Olson, the Arminius quote is from ‘The Apology or Defence of James Arminius, D.D.,’ Works [Of Arminius], 2:52
2 Holding, J. P. ‘On Unconditional Election’ (Link)