Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ness On Predestination 7

The Sixth and last Property of the Divine Decree: It is EXTENSIVE

The Divine decree of God's electing and predestinating love, although discriminating and particular, is, nevertheless, very extensive. "I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb . . . and cried with a loud voice, saying Salvation" (Rev 7:9). There is a general decree that relates to all created beings, both animate and inanimate, celestial and terrestrial; and extends itself to every individual in the whole creation of God. For as it gave a being to all things, so it preserves them in that being while they continue in the world; and the work of Providence, which extends itself from angels to worms, succeeds the work of creation. Now although this special Divine decree of predestination extends not (as the general decree) to every individual, it is nevertheless very extensive, even to all ranks, sexes, ages, nations and generations.

1. To all ranks. To all sorts and ranks of men, to princes and peasants, to high and low, to rich and poor, to bond and free. It extends itself to kings, for among them hath God His chosen vessels - - His Davids, His Solomons, His Hezekiahs, His Mannassehs. Though the Scriptures say (1Co 1:26) "Not many mighty, not many noble, are called," yet it doth not say, not any; for God hath had some great ones to own His ways in all ages. It extends to servants also (Tit 2:9,11), for God bestows His love on those in rags as well as those in robes. The poor have the gospel preached unto them (Matthew 11:5), and God is no respecter of persons.

2. To all sexes. To both sexes is the decree extended, to male and female. God hath His elect ladies. "The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth;" and "The children of thy elect sister, greet thee" (2Jo 1:13), and both male and female are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28) "I entreat thee also, true yoke- fellow, help those women, which laboured with me in the gospel . . . whose names are in the book of life" (Phi 4:3).

3. To all ages. To young and old, to children, and to those of riper years; yea, very infants lay in the womb of the eternal decree, before ever they came out of their mother's womb. "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations:" (Jer 1:5). John Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost, even from the womb (Luk 1:15); and it is probable David believed that his child belonged to the election of grace, and that its soul was bound up in the bundle of life; for he comforted himself thus; "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2Sa 12:23). David's going to the grave to it could yield him but little comfort.

4. To all nations. Grace is not immured within the walls of one nation only, but is extended to Jew and Gentile, to circumcision and uncircumcision, to Barbarian and Scythian, bond and free (Col 3:11), to some of every nation under Heaven (Act 2:5). The partition wall, which was betwixt Jew and Gentile, is thrown down. Our Lord saith, "and other sheep I have which are not of this (the Jewish) fold: them also I must bring" (John 10:16). This predestinating love effectually calls its chosen ones from all quarters. "I have loved thee; therefore, I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up: and to the south, Keep not back; bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth; Even everyone that is called by My name" (Isa 43:4-7).

5. To all generations. Predestinating love is like a river that runs under ground, and breaks out in certain places above the earth. To this river, this ocean of everlasting love, Moses had his eye, when of Joseph he said, "Blessed of the Lord be his land . . . for the deep that coucheth beneath" (Deu 33:13). So fresh veins of election breaketh forth, sometimes in one generation, and sometimes in another. It is not bound up as to time -- neither before the law, nor under the law, nor after the law; but, in every generation God hath His Church visible on the earth, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. As God is no respecter of persons, so neither is He of places, nations, or generations; but hath had, and He will have, His hidden ones to the world's end. O believer! there is ground for much rejoicing, and strong consolation, in a view of the extensiveness of God's everlasting love.

1. If predestinating love extends itself to all degrees, then, they which are poor of wealth may be rich in faith, and a master's servant may be the Lord's freeman.

2. If to both sexes, then the weaker vessel may be a chosen vessel, and an heir of the grace of life.

3. If to all ages, then believing parents may have hope of their dying children; they may belong to the election of grace; they may be bound up in the swaddling bands of the covenant of grace; so they are not as without hope for them.

4. If to all nations, then the ends of the earth may look towards Christ (as He is lifted up on the pole of the everlasting Gospel) and be saved (Isa 45:22).

5. If to all generations, then predestinating love is an inexhaustible fountain! crying always, Is there yet any of the house of the Lord among mankind that I may shew the kindness of God unto (2Sa 9:3)?

Of Conditional Predestination

Having stated the doctrine of Divine predestination, as revealed in the Scriptures, and having, from the same source, proved that it is possessed of various distinguishing properties, such as eternal, unchangeable, absolute, free, discriminating, and extensive; I come now, secondly, to consider the Arminians' view of it, viz.: "That it is conditional, upon the foresight of faith, works, perseverance," etc. To this I answer, that predestination cannot be conditional, upon a foresight of man's faith, works, or perseverance, etc., because of the twelve following reasons:

1. That which the Scriptures declare to be the cause and ground of our election, that, and that only, must be the cause and ground of it. The good pleasure of God is the only cause and ground of our election, not any foresight of our faith, etc. That the Scriptures declare this, appears plain from Eph 1:5; "According to the good pleasure of His will," and from Eph 1:9 "Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure;" and, "predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Also, from Matthew 11:25,26: "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." But why so? It is "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight." Again the Scriptures fully declare the same truth in Romans 9:11-15, and Romans 11:5; and in 2Ti 1:9, our salvation and calling is stated to be, "not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." The time would fail me in enumerating more passages of Scripture, for the whole Bible as with one voice crieth aloud, election is of sovereign grace and not of works; flowing only from the absolute will and good pleasure of God.

2. That which makes election an action of debt ought not to be received; and the conditional decree doth this. An action of grace, and an action of debt, are contradictory terms. If election be an act of grace (and the whole work of salvation hath been proved to be wholly and solely from free grace), then 'tis abominable and to be rejected to make it an act of debt. If the decree be conditional (upon foreseen faith and perseverance), then is it an act of debt and not of grace, an act of justice and not of mercy. For a decree of giving glory to believers persevering, as their reward, can be nothing else but remunerative justice.

3. That which makes God go out of Himself, in His immanent and eternal actings, ought not to be received; and the conditional decree doth so. It makes God look upon this or that in the creature upon which the will of God is determined; thus man is the author of his own salvation, and God is not the author of it. The doctrine of the conditional decree sets God upon His watch-tower of foreknowledge to espy what men will do; whether they will believe or not, obey or not, persevere or not, and according to His observation of their actings, so He determines His will concerning them; thus the perfection both of the Divine knowledge and Divine will is with one breath denied.

4. No temporal thing can be the efficient cause of our eternal election; but faith, obedience, etc., are temporal things, the former being wrought in us, and the latter performed by us, in their appointed time. What is this but to prefer time before eternity, and to set up a post-destination instead of a predestination?

5. That which is the fruit and effect of the Divine decree cannot be the cause of it; and faith, perseverance, etc., are but the fruits and effects of electing love. Such as are given to Christ in the decree of election, do come to, or believe in Christ; others do not come, do not believe; and the cause assigned is, because they are not of His sheep, because they are not given to Him. "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me" (John 6:37). Coming to Christ is believing on Him. "Ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep" (John 10:26). "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Act 13:48). We may not (according to the Arminian notion) read it, "as many as believed were ordained unto life;" for this would be setting the cart before the horse, as if the means were ordained before the end. We are predestinated that we should be holy, not because we are holy (Eph 1:4). We are foreordained to walk in good works, not because we do so (Eph 2:10). We are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, not because we are so (Romans 8:29). It is the election that obtains faith, and not faith that obtains election (Romans 11:7). And the Apostle, in 2Ti 1:9, excludes all works (both foreseen and existing), showing that God's gracious purpose is the original of all. Yea, Paul himself was chosen that he might know the will of God, not that he was foreseen to do so (Act 22:14); and he tells the Thessalonians, that "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2Th 2:13). We may not make that an antecedent to election which is but the consequent of it. "I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit" (John 15:16).

6. That which sets up an inferior cause because a superior ought not be admitted, and the conditional decree doth so. God is the cause of causes, and the first cause of all things. There can be no being but from Him, there can be nothing before Him. "Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things" (Romans 11:36). "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Act 17:28). O Lord, "Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev 4:11). God is the chief efficient cause, and the ultimate end of all beings; but if any being be antecedent to the determinations of God's will, this would take away the dignity of the supreme cause, and make an act of man superior to that of God.

7. That which takes away the certainty and unchangeableness of the Divine decree ought not to be received, and the conditional decree doth so. If anything in man move God to choose man, then the purpose of God cannot remain firm, but must depend on some contingent act in man, be it faith, works or perseverance. If it depends on our persevering in faith, it cannot be firm and certain, according to the Arminian doctrine of falling away. For the Arminian hypothesis states the decree of God after this changeable dress, viz., "I will save all if they will obey Me; but I see they will sin. I must permit them, but I will condemn them all; yet this decree of condemnation shall not be peremptory. I will send Christ to redeem all, to save all again, if they will believe; but I see they will not. I will decree to save such as "I foresee" will believe, and persevere in believing." Oh what a changeable picture of an unchangeable God!

8. That which makes us to choose God, before God chooses us, ought not to be received; and the conditional decree upon faith foreseen doth so. If God does not choose us until faith is foreseen in us, then it necessarily follows that we choose God before He chooses us, and we love Him before He loves us, contrary to these scriptures, "Ye have not chose Me, but I have chosen you" (John 15:16). "We love Him, because He first loved us" (1Jo 4:19). But the Arminians go further still, for they say, "We must be foreseen, not only to believe, but also to persevere in believing;" that is, not only to choose God for our God, but also to continue in that choice to the last moment of our existence before we can be fit objects of God's choice or election!

9. That which taketh away the mysteriousness of the Divine decree ought to be rejected, and this doctrine of foreseen faith doth so. It is a dangerous presumption for men to take upon themselves, with unwashed hands, to unriddle the deep mysteries of God with their carnal reason; where the great apostle stands at the gaze, crying, "O the depth, how unsearchable!" and "Who knoweth the mind of the Lord!" Had Paul been of the Arminian persuasion he would have answered, "Those are elected that are foreseen to believe and persevere!" This answer would not have been hard to understand even by the unlearned (that is, the carnal) men of the world, who "wrest the Scriptures unto their own destruction" (2Pe 3:16). But Paul was ignorant, and these men are wiser than the Holy Ghost; for he tells us that our election proceedeth from the will of the Elector, and not from anything in the elected. The sovereign will of God is the supreme rule of all righteousness; He will have "mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth" (Romans 9:18). Had foreseen faith and perseverance been the causes and conditions of election, there had been no mystery in it.

10. That election which is shadowed out to us in God's love to Jacob (both person and nation) is the election according to truth; but that election was not upon foreseen faith or works. First, Jacob the person. He was under electing love; all foresight of faith and works being excluded. "Jacob have I loved" (Romans 9:12,13). To love Jacob is to will unto him the greatest good, even everlasting salvation, and all things which accompany the same. And this was before there was any difference between him and Esau, for they were both alike in the womb, both conceived in sin. "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" (Romans 9:11,12). Second, Jacob, the nation. Our Election is typified by God's election of Israel, which plainly appears not to be an election upon foresight of worthiness in Israel; "Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart . . . Understand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people" (Deu 9:5,6). All works and worthiness are excluded, and the reason assigned is, "Because the Lord loved you" (Deu 7:8).

11. That which sets up the rotten Dagon of man's free-will, before or above the ark of God's special predestinating grace, ought to be rejected; and the conditional decree doth so. The conditional decree is grounded upon a foresight of our wills receiving or rejecting of proposed grace; and so man's will is made the first mover and advanced above God's will. And the act of predestination is put in the will and power of the predestinated, and not in that of the Divine Predestination. Hereby the power of ordering man's salvation is wrested (as it were) out of God's hands, and put into the hands of our free-will. Then salvation is the work of the saved, and not of the saver; and to will and to do is not of God's good pleasure (Phi 2:13). Thus men wickedly think that God is such an one as themselves (Psalms 50:21), wavering and fluctuating in His counsels and hanging in pendulous suspenses; yea, taking up new consultations, as dependent on the will of men, and the contingent acts flowing therefrom.

12. That which infers a succession of acts in God ought not to be admitted, and election upon foresight doth so. God is one act, and in Him there can be no succession, for then He would not be "I AM." Foresight of faith necessarily presupposes a foregoing decree concerning the being of that faith foreseen. For, first, God must decree faith to be; second, He foresees that faith; third, then decrees to save upon that foresight. So that this foresight necessarily comes between two decrees. Much more might be added, such as--foreseen faith can have no place in dying infants, yet of such is the kingdom of Heaven, and their names are written in the book of life (see Rev 20:12). But to sum up the whole in one sentence: A conditional decree makes a conditional God, since the decree is God Himself decreeing. Therefore it must be rejected. "May not the Sovereign Lord on high Dispense His favours as He will; Choose some to life, while others die, And yet be just and gracious still? Shall man reply against the Lord, And call his Maker's ways unjust? The thunder of whose dreadful word Can crush a thousand worlds to dust. But, O my soul, if truths so bright Should dazzle and confound thy sight, Yet still His written will obey, And wait the great decisive day!"

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