GOD'S DISTINGUISHING GRACE

 

By ABRAHAM BOOTH

(1734-1808)

 

Author of a number of books. The following excerpts are from his famous REIGN OF GRACE (pages 55-83).

 

The doctrine of election, or, which is the same thing, the doctrine of distinguishing grace, is now very much exploded. It is generally deemed unworthy of serious notice, by the learned and philosophic gentlemen of the present age. Though it cannot be denied to have made a considerable figure in those systems of divinity that were adopted by men of eminence for piety and learning in former ages; and particularly by our first reformers from Popery; yet now it is ranked by many, among the rash opinions of a credulous antiquity. It is cashiered, as a doctrine abhorrent from reason, and as at eternal war with the moral perfections of God. It is consigned over to oblivion, as worthy of no more regard than the bold inquiries and wild conclusions, the laborious trifling and learned lumber, of the ancient, doting, Popish schoolmen. It is also traduced as a declared enemy to practical piety, and as highly injurious to the comfort and hope of mankind. This being the case, we need not wonder that it is now become quite unfashionable.

 

But what is the reason of this tragical outcry against it? If I be not greatly deceived, it is as follows. This doctrine lays the axe at the root of all our boasted moral excellence. This doctrine, in its native consequences, demolishes every subterfuge of human pride; as it leaves not the shadow of a difference between one man and another, why the Deity should regard and save this person rather than that; but teaches all who know and all who embrace it, to rest in that memorable maxim; Even so. Father, FOR SO IT SEEMED GOOD IN THY SIGHT; resolving the whole into divine grace and divine sovereignty. Without paying the least compliment to the learning, sagacity or character of any who dare to arraign the divine conduct it repels their insolence in the following blunt manner; Nay but 0 Man! who art thou that replies! against God?

 

It further teaches that as unmerited kindness and sovereign favour began the work of salvation, so the same grace must carry it on and complete the vast design: while the Most High, ever jealous of his honour, is determined to have all the glory. Other reasons might be mentioned; but these may suffice to show, that the spirit of independence which is natural to man, and reigns in the unregenerate, must be fired with resentment by such an attack upon it. Hence the few notaries of this unpopular doctrine must expect reproach and ridicule, if not something more severe, to attend the profession of a tenet so unpolite.

 

"Fruits" Not the Cause of Election

 

Faith in Christ and holy obedience are represented by the unerring Spirit as the fruits and effects of election: they cannot, therefore, be considered as the cause without absurdity in reason, and a contradiction to divine revelation. For it is written; As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed He hath chosen us that we might be holy. They believed because they were ordained to eternal life; not ordained to eternal life, because it was foreseen they would believe. They were chosen, not because they were or ever would be holy; but that they might be so.

 

Those and those only, partake of faith, who are called by divine grace: but such only are called to faith and holiness, who were predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ. For whom he did predestinate, them he also called.

 

Again: The chosen of God are the sheep of Christ. None but those who are so denominated believe on Him, according to his own declaration: Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep. By which we are taught, that believing in Him does not make us sheep, or give us a right to the character; but is an evidence that we were so considered in the sight of God, and given into the hands of the great Shepherd to be saved by him.

 

Once more: God hath called us with an holy calling, not according to, not in consideration of our works, whether part or future; but according to His own purpose and grace, which he purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. If, then, we are not called according to our works or worthiness but according to the everlasting purpose, and free distinguishing grace of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; much less is it to be supposed, that we were chosen according to them, or in any foresight of them.

 

To illustrate the truth and confirm the argument, it may be further observed, that faith and holiness, in the method of grace, occupy a middle station. They are neither the foundation, nor the topstone, in the spiritual building. Though inseparably connected with election, they are neither its cause nor its consummation. That is- sovereign grace; this infinite glory. Faith and holiness are, as one observes, what stalks and branches are to a root; by which the vegetable juices ascend, to produce and ripen the principal fruit. By grace ye are saved THROUGH faith- chosen to salvation THROUGH sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.

 

Consequently, they are no more the cause of election, than the means necessary to attain any valuable end are the cause of appointing that end; than which nothing can be supposed more absurd. Besides, if men were foreseen as possessed of faith and holiness, prior to their election, and independent of it, it is hard to conceive what occasion there was for their being elected. There could be no necessity for it to secure their final happiness. For the Judge of all the earth must do it: and eternal misery was never designed to be the portion of any who believe and are holy; for peace and salvation are inseparably joined to such a state, and to such characters. To have ordained those to happiness and glory that were foreseen to be thus qualified, would, therefore, have been altogether unnecessary.

 

 

NOTES ON ELECTION

 

By H. BOYCE TAYLOR SR.

(1870-1932)

 

Edited NEWS AMD TRUTHS; Author of WHY BE A BAPTIST?; NOTES ON ROMANS; NOTES ON GENESIS; HURTFUL HERESIES, and other writings. Pastor, First Baptist Church, Murray, Kentucky.

 

1. Election is God's Act.

 

John 15:16 "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you."

 

Mark 13:20 "For the elect's sake, whom He hath chosen."

 

James 2:5 "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith."

 

Luke 18:17 "Shall not God avenge His own elect."

 

I Thess. 1:4 "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."

 

2. Election is God's Sovereign Act.

 

Romans 9:15-20 "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. . . Nay but, 0 man, who art thou that repliest against God?"

 

3. Election is an Act of Sovereign Grace.

 

Romans 11:5-7 "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded ... a remnant according to the election of grace."

 

4. Election was before the foundation of the world.

 

Ephesians 1:4 "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.

 

5. Election was from the beginning.

 

II Thess. 2:13 "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."

 

Get these facts: The beginning was before anything was created. Gen. 1:1 and John 1:1. That was when the election took place. God elected men before He created them. The election was unto salvation. Salvation takes place through the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. The truth believed by which men are saved is revealed in the gospel. II Thess. 2:14 shows that no man was ever saved, who did not hear and believe the gospel.

 

6. Election was before birth.

 

Romans 9:11-12 "For 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."

 

7. Election, is personal.

 

Rom. 9:13 "As it is written Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

 

Acts 9:15 "He (Saul) is a chosen vessel unto Me."

 

John 13:18 "I know whom I have chosen."

 

John 15:16 "Ye have not chosen Me but I have chosen you."

 

Romans 8:33 "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"

 

Ephesians 1:11 "Having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." (R.V.)

 

 

TESTIMONIES OF BAPTISTS OF THE PAST

 

(As quoted in A SYSTEMATIC STUDY OF BIBLE DOCTRINE by T. P. Simmons.)

 

J. W. Porter, eminent preacher, editor, author, and scholar:

 

"1. Election took place in eternity. 2. It was an individual election. 3. It was based wholly on the good pleasure of God, and not on the foreseen merit of the elect" (From a letter to the author).

 

John Clark, founder of the first Baptist church in America:

 

"Election is the decree of God, of His free love, grace, and mercy, choosing some men to faith, holiness, and eternal life, for the praise of His glorious mercy."

 

R. A. Venable (1849-19(33), president, Mississippi College, Clarke College:

 

"I cannot agree with them (Methodists) as to the doctrine of election and predestination. They hold that God's election unto salvation was based upon His foreknowledge; that God foreknew that some would believe and as many as He knew would believe He elected to salvation. The sovereign will of God had nothing to do in deciding His electing grace. This I believe to be contrary both to reason and revelation." (Why Baptist and Not Methodist, in Baptist Why and Why Not, p. 123, published by Baptist Sunday School Board, Nashville, Tenn.).

 

Robert Watts, Belfast, Ire., in articles written at the request of T. T. Eaton and published in the Western Recorder during Baton's editorship, and later published in book form by the Baptist Book Concern:

 

"On behalf of Calvinism it can be claimed that it is the doctrinal system deduced from the Scriptures."

 

And further, in speaking of the Arminian notion that election is based on foreseen faith:

 

"Is it not manifest that it takes the government of His moral agent out of the hands of God? and does it not represent Him as occupying the position of a mere spectator, whose line of action is determined by the creatures of His hand" (Sovereignty of God, pp. 63, 128).

 

J. B. Moody, author of more than forty books, when ninety-five years old, said:

 

"Election to salvation is sovereign, eternal, unconditional, with predestinated means and agencies to secure the betrothal of a bride to become the Lamb's wife, vicariously redeemed" (The Plan and Way of Salvation, p: 5).

 

D. F. Estes, in "New Testament Theology," p. 180:

 

"Upon what this divine choice depends we have no basis for assertion, but we note that the divine choice is never made to depend on a previous choice of God by men, but is made to anticipate their action."

 

D. B. Ford, in comment on Rom. 8:29:

 

"That . . . election . . . does not depend on God's foreknowledge of our faith or goodness is also evident from the declaration of the apostle, that we are chosen in Christ 'before the foundation of the world that we should be holy.' See Eph. 1:4." (An American [Baptist] Commentary on the New Testament).

 

Alvah Hovey, general editor of the above commentary, as quoted by Strong:

 

"The Scriptures forbid us to find the reasons for election in the moral action of man before the new birth, and refer us merely to the sovereign will and mercy of God, that is, they teach the doctrine of personal election" (Systematic Theology, p. 427).

 

E. C. Dargan in "The Doctrines of Our Faith," page 128:

 

"Are there conditions to God's choice? Does He choose because he foresees that men will repent, or on the condition of faith? No; in choosing men to save God is sovereign, free, untrammeled, gracious; acting on His own initiative."

 

A. H. Strong, in "Systematic Theology," page 427:

 

"Election is that eternal act of God, by which in His sovereign pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, He chooses certain of the number of sinful men to be recipients of the special grace of His Spirit, and so to be made voluntary partakers of Christ's salvation."

 

 

BAPTIST CONFESSIONS ON THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE

 

THE WALDENS1AN CONFESSION (1120 A. D.)

 

"God saves from corruption and damnation those whom He has chosen from the foundation of the world, not from any disposition, faith, or holiness that He foresaw in them, but His mere mercy in Christ Jesus His Son, passing by all the rest according to the irreprehensible reason of His own free-will and justice."

 

THE LONDON CONFESSION (1689 A. D.) AND THE PHILADELPHIA CONFESSION (1742 A. D.)

 

"Although God knoweth whatsoever may, or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass on certain conditions. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to Eternal Life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice." (Chapter II).

 

PARTICULAR BAPTISTS OF ENGLAND (1697 A. D.)

 

Article III:

 

"We believe that, before the world began, God did elect a certain number of men unto everlasting salvation, whom He did predestinate to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, of His own free grace, and according to the good pleasure of His will: and that, in pursuance of this gracious design, on the behalf of those persons, wherein a Saviour was appointed, and all spiritual blessings provided for them; and also that their persons, with all their grace and glory, were put into the hands of Christ, and made His care and charge."

 

Article VI:

 

"We believe that that eternal redemption which Christ has obtained, by the shedding of His blood, is special and particular, that is to say, that it was only intentionally designed for the elect of God, and sheep of Christ, who only share the special and peculiar blessings of it."

 

Article VIII:

 

"We believe that the work of regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and faith, is not an act of man's free will and power, but of the mighty, efficacious, and irresistible grace of God."

 

Article IX:

 

"We believe that all those who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, shall certainly and finally persevere, so that not one of them shall ever perish, but shall have everlasting life."

 

THE NEW HAMPSHIRE CONFESSION (1833 A. D.)

 

Article IX:

 

"We believe that election is the eternal purpose of God according to which He graciously regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners; that being perfectly consistent with the freeagency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; that it is a most glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, being infinitely free, wise, holy, and unchangeable; that it utterly excludes boasting and promotes humility, love, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of His free mercy; that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; that it may be ascertained by its effects in all who truly believe the Gospel; that it is the foundation of Christian assurance; and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves demands the utmost diligence."