Dr. H. A. Cameron
Godís sovereignty and manís responsibility
It is very evident that in the matter of salvation, man is entirely eliminated. Ungodly, without strength, dead in trespasses and in sin, if help comes, it must be from an outside source. Hence the virtue in the name "Jesus" - Jehovah the Saviour. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." The purpose of God is to manifest His love and to dispense His mercy, and what evokes this love and mercy? Not manís will, not manís works, but Godís own sovereign grace. He must be the initiator and executor of His own purposes of love. "God so loved," "In this was manifested the love of God," "God commendeth His love towards us," "We have known and believed the love...God is love." Thus it is written, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."
Jacob and Esau. Romans 9:10-13. Here is a concrete case. "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated." A Christian went to Mr. Spurgeon once and said, "I have a difficulty." "What is it?" inquired Mr. Spurgeon. "I cannot understand," said he, "why God should say ĎEsau have I hatedí." "That is no difficulty to me," replied the preacher, "I can well understand why God should hate Esau. What I cannot understand is, how God could love Jacob." Let us remember that the Scripture in Romans 9 is a quotation from Malachi 1, and Malachi wrote that statement 1400 years after Esau had lived and died. It was not before Esau was born and had not yet done either good or evil, but centuries after his evil life, that God said, "Esau have I hated." There was abundant reason why God should thus express His hatred, for He had honored Esau by making him the firstborn, the possessor of the birthright. And did not Esau, in spite of all, prove himself a profane person, despising the birthright and selling it for a morsel of food? It is true that in the purpose of God, according to election, God foreordained that the blessing to Israel and to all the nations of the earth should come through Isaac and Jacob, and not through Ishmael or Esau. That was His own sovereign act, and who shall dare say that without giving account of any of His matters, He did not wisely exercise His divine right in choosing one in preference to the other to be the channel of blessing? And that He should love Jacob of all men is surely an outstanding proof of His exceeding grace, not only to the worm Jacob, but to any of Adamís race who question whether such may be the thought of His heart toward them.
Pharaoh (Romans 9:17). If certain commentators are correct the Pharaoh of the Exodus was a man of lowly birth who by a revolution in the government became the monarch of the world empire of that day. Thus we see Godís power in raising him up (verse 17), and if Godís power is seen in promoting him, it is as clearly evident in demoting him as recorded in Exodus 1 to 12. In the case of Jacob, God showed mercy; in the case of Pharaoh, He manifested His power. "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth" (Rom. 9:18). But it might be asked, does not this hardening prove the obnoxious doctrine of reprobation? We can answer this best by inquiring, "How did God harden Pharaoh?" In every case it was by showing him kindness, forbearance and long-suffering. When Pharaoh said, "Who is Jehovah? I know not the Lord, neither will I let His people go," he was throwing down the gauntlet to the Almighty.
Four times over in the controversy it is said that "Pharaoh hardened his heart." When was his heart soft? When Godís hand lay heavy upon him in judgment. And when did he harden his heart? When that hand was lifted in grace. And a noteworthy point to observe is that the word "hardened" when it refers to Godís action, means "strengthened." God strengthened Pharaohís heart. But the word "hardened" when it refers to Pharaohís own act is "made hard." "Pharaoh made his heart hard." "When Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart and hearkened not." During the time of adversity, men seek the Lord, and then forsake Him in the day of prosperity. So it was with Pharaoh. The goodness of God should have led him to repentance, but instead of that, he turned the grace of God into a means for further defiance. Not reprobation from God, but retribution for his obduracy was the occasion of Pharaohís downfall.
Cain. Abelís murderer is an outstanding example of Godís sovereign offer of grace. The sin offering provided and pressed upon Cain for his acceptance and the mark set upon him to protect him from violence such as he had meted out to his brother, were proofs of Godís mercy. However, both were peremptorily rejected by Cainís own free deed, for he deliberately "went out from the presence of the Lord."
Balaam. Messages from God, revelations of Israelís glory, a vision of the coming of Christ, and a warning of his own doom at that coming - "beholding but not nigh," all these did not deter Balaam from his greedy pursuit of the wages of unrighteousness. In spite of Godís forbearance, he taught the king of Moab how to seduce Israel, and he perished with a sword in his hand fighting against Godís people.
Judas. More remarkable still is the history of the traitor. Chosen to be an apostle, listening to the words and witnessing the works of Christ for over three years, he was appointed to be the purse-bearer for the twelve. Honored at the last Passover by having the sop presented to him (a mark of favor from the Master of the feast) yet, steeling his heart against kindnesses multiplied, he "fell by his own transgression. The Lord foreknew who should betray Him but the responsibility for the betrayal was Judasí own.
Cain, Esau, Pharaoh, Balaam and Judas, were all singled out by God to high honor. God proffered them bona fide offers of pure grace, but each took his own way and perished with no other but himself to blame for the catastrophe. They are specimens of Godís dealings with the sons of men at large and refute the doctrine of reprobation.
Vessels of wrath fitted to destruction (Rom. 9:22). It might be said that this expression teaches a foreordination to perdition. Not so. While it is true that God "prepared the vessels of mercy unto glory," the vessels of wrath fitted themselves to de≠struction as may be clearly known by scrutinizing their individual careers.
Before of old ordained to condemnation (Jude 4). Is not this a clear foreordination to eternal judgment? Emphatically, no. We are at a disadvantage here in that we are limited to a translation and a faulty one in this case. The word in the original is "pregrapho" and could well be translated foretold. That there should be such apostates was predicted, "marked out" or "delineated beforehand" is the idea and not predestination or reprobation.
"As many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). The word translated "ordained" here is "tasso" in the original and occurs only twice in the New Testament. The other instance is Acts 15:2 and there the word is translated "determined." The original thought is response to a military command. The bugle sounds and the soldiers marshal themselves, each under his own standard. As many therefore among these Gentiles as responded to the trumpet call to salvation and were determined to enroll under the banner of eternal life, believed. The converse is seen in Acts 13:4 where Paul says to the Jews who contradicted and blas≠phemed, "seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unwor≠thy of eternal life, lo we turn to the Gentiles." God here is not the judge; they themselves are the judges sitting upon their own case, and they themselves pass sentence upon their case. The Scriptures are free from all charge of teaching that God has predestined any man to eternal perdition.
Now as to election to life. This comforting truth is for the encouragement of true believers, and was never intended as a deterrent to anxious souls. So unwisely has this pearl been cast before swine that the predicted "turning and rending" has been unfortunately all too common. As a result many have been heard to say, when Godís offer has been pressed upon them: "If I am elected to salvation I shall be saved, whether I seek it or not; and if I am elected to be damned I shall be damned, no matter what I do. Therefore I will do nothing."
Mr. Spurgeon, himself a strong Calvinist, very convincingly points out the fallacy of this attitude. He says to such cavillers, "You would not dream of pursuing that course in other matters pertaining to your welfare. If you were sick and had a remedy presented to you, you would not say ĎIf I am to get well, I shall get well, whether I take the medicine or not, and if I am not to get well, I shall not get well even if I take the medicine.í Nor do you say when hungry and food is offered to you, ĎIf I am to live, I shall live even if I do not eat, and if I am to die I shall die, even if I do eat.í No indeed, you take the food or the medicine without any hesitancy." And to the anxious soul who fearfully inquires, "but how can I know whether I am elect or not?" He answers, "Take this promise of the Lord Jesus Christ, ĎCome unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,í wrap it around you and present it to God, and you will soon find out whether you are one of the elect or not."
Two preachers were discussing difficulties in theology: one was a white and the other a black brother. Said the white preacher: "Brother Johnson, donít you have any trouble about election?" "No sah," replied the other, "I has no trouble about election. You see this is how I looks at it. God, He votes to save my soul: and the Devil, he votes to damn my soul; and it depends on how I vote as to how the election goes." This easy solution of course will not satisfy the hardshelled predestinationist, but is there not scriptural warrant to justify the brotherís simple position? "God willeth not the death of any. God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." On the other hand "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy," and the final decision is made by the sinner. "Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life." "How often would I...but ye would not." - To be continued