Another objection urged against the doctrine of predestination is that it would involve the notion of the fatalists and destroy the free-agency of man and consequently his accountability. These notions must arise from ignorance of the true character of God who, as an efficient intelligence, governs the world in wisdom and righteousness, causing everything to result in the greatest good. But in answer to the objection, suffice it to say that the universal experience of man and the sure word of prophecy both unite in establishing the fact that man in all his sinful transactions acts freely, and is accountable there for. I will notice a few instances in which the consciousness of guilt was manifested in persons, relative to transactions manifestly predestinated of God. We have an instance in the case of Joseph’s brethren. Although Joseph declared that it was God who sent him into Egypt, yet when their father was dead his brethren sent unto him saying, “We pray thee forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy Father.” Gen. 50:17. We have another instance in Judas who committed the very crime which had long been predicted, and which the Master pointed him out as the one destined to perform, yet when he had committed the base act, he in contrition said, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood.” Matt. 27:4. An instance of acknowledged free-agency we have in the case of the Assyrian, who was the rod of God’s anger against the Jews. God says of him, “I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the King of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, by the strength of my hand I have done it and by my wisdom, &c.” Isa. 10:12,13. Thus it is that men and devils, instead of frustrating or retarding the righteous government of God by the acting out of their enmity, are, in their very acts of sinning against Him, made by His wise government to bring about His holy and eternal purposes. This view of the holiness and majesty of God, manifested in His overruling the sins of men to the promotion of His purpose of grace whilst it fills His enemies with wrath, constrains the believer to exalt Him and to worship at His footstool under a feeling sense that He is holy.
I now pass to the consideration of an objection made by the popular Baptists, more particularly against this doctrine as held by the Old School Baptists. Even those who profess to believe the doctrine of predestination make it, when professed by an Old School Baptist, to be a very Pandora’s box from whence springs Antinomianism and everything which they are accustomed to consider as evil in us. It is, according to their representation, our belief in the Absolute Predestination of all things that keeps us from engaging in the Benevolent enterprizes of the day and prevents us from preaching repentance and faith as conditions of salvation, and from making any efforts to convert sinners, and in a word that it makes us very idle and wicked professors. This is the most unhallowed of all the objections made against this doctrine. It is the very course pursued by the Jews against our Master, that by raising a prejudice in the public mind against Him and His doctrine that they might more easily accomplish His death. As they thus succeeded against Him to do with wicked hands, what the counsel of God had before determined to be done, so will they succeed against the two witnesses.
But let us, Dear Brethren, rejoice with His early disciples in being accounted worthy to suffer persecution for our Lord’s name sake. This course pursued by the popular Baptists in reproaching this doctrine, and us for holding it, whilst they admit it even to be a Bible doctrine, is the most decisive testimony as to what manner of spirit they are of, that could be had. It is, I sometimes think, undeniably an instance of our being reviled and having evil said of us falsely for His sake. The christian knows ordinarily, owing to a sense of the corruptions of his heart, the instances are not many when he can clearly draw the conclusion that it is for Christ’s sake he is reviled. Hence, how thankful ought we to be for the privilege granted us of having such an unequivocal testimony that the blessing recorded in Matt. 5:11 & 12 belongs to us.
It is not in one solitary instance, or two that we are reproached for holding this doctrine. There appears for a few months past to have been a general concert on the subject. Preachers whilst professing to preach the doctrine of predestination, have in the very same discourses, represented it to be Antinomianism and to have the most deadening influence when held by certain Baptists, meaning the Old School brethren. Others have given the same views of the subject in their publications in the religious papers: witness the Letter of a certain celebrated preacher in Virginia published in the Religious Herald, of Dec. 20th, 1833. But it is perhaps proper to answer the objection, however unprincipled it is. The objection seems to imply that the whole sum of our faith is the doctrine of predestination; that all our religious course is determined by our belief of this one point of revelation.
It is true that believing in the predestination of God, we have no idea of procuring or of being instrumental in producing the salvation of one individual not chosen of God unto salvation; nor that one of the travail of Christ’s soul will die without experiencing the renewing of the Holy Ghost and thus being prepared for the society of Heaven, whether that individual die in infancy or in old age, whether he was born in New York, in Rome, in Mecca or in Peking. But we as firmly believe that God has chosen His people to salvation thro’ sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth; that: It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, and that whilst the preaching of the Cross is unto them that perish, foolishness; unto us who are saved it is the power of God. –
Let those who think and speak of tracts and Sunday Schools as the more efficient means of converting the world ponder this text and think seriously on the distinction drawn between those who perish and those who are saved. The one class esteem the preaching of the Cross, or Christ crucified, as far surpassing any scheme of men as the power of God surpasses the weakness of man. But they do not consider the difference between the preaching of the Cross, and Sunday School teaching or reading of tracts to consist so much in any natural superiority of the one over the others, but simply in the fact that the one is the appointment of God delivered to us through the volume of eternal truth and that the others are not. Attendance therefore on the one calls for and authorizes the exercise of faith in God, that He will bless His own appointments, whereas there can be no authorized faith in relation to the others because God has made no revelation concerning them. And according to the Apostle’s views of the subject, the reason why God has instituted the simple preaching of the Cross, unadorned with wisdom of words, is that by such preaching God might make foolish the wisdom of the world, and that the faith of His people should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. See 1st Cor. 1:18-29 & 2:4,5. The above may suffice to show that it is not our belief in the doctrine of predestination alone that prevents us from uniting in the Benevolent enterprizes of the day, as they are styled, but the fact that God has appointed the one institution and but the one has its due weight with us, and ought to have with all who have confidence in the wisdom of God. But again our belief in the predestination of all things gives us confidence to believe that not an instrument shall be wanting, or a circumstance fail, that God ever designed to employ, or ever would own for bringing an individual of the Election of God into the liberty of the Gospel, or for establishing him in the hope and consolations thereof. It also leads us to believe that Christ’s people will be willing in the day of His power, according as they are called to believe in Him, to confide in Him, to profess His name, to enter the ministry, and that with just such gifts as He has bestowed on them, and to go and occupy these gifts wherever He in His providence directs; and that their willingness to these things will be from a manifestation of the day of His power to their souls, and not from any offered worldly accommodations.
Hence we have no confidence in the Divine call of any person to the ministry who enters it or goes forward in it only as some salary or mission fund is proffered for his accommodation. Neither when they go forth from these considerations can we believe that God will make their labors a blessing. Consequently we stand opposed to Missionary and Theological school systems. The preacher made willing in the day of Christ’s power to enter the ministry does not need these proffered accommodations to stimulate him to action. Neither does he need for this end the notion of becoming popular by a display of School polish or by multiplying converts. He has to preach to answer his own conscience. Being an earbored servant, he will desire to be found faithful. And feeling that he is a servant, he will feel it to be his province to follow the directions of his Lord, to keep strictly to his written orders; to preach the word, to be instant in season and out of season, and to leave it to his Master’s will to accomplish his own purpose by the word preached. Thus the predestination of God has secured that belief in the Absolute Predestination of all things will not make His servants idle, but on the contrary, it becomes an incentive to active obedience. The same is the case, as might be shown from the word, with all His other children in their several relations.
It is true that the servant of the Lord may sometimes be left to seek his own accommodation, rather than do his Master’s Will, but when this is the case, the Lord will assuredly send leanness into his soul, or otherwise so chastise him as to bring him back to a cheerful discharge of duty.
As to antinomianism, those who know the meaning of the word, when they use it certainly do know that it is a base calumny upon us. They know that what offends them in our preaching relative to the law is our contending so strongly for the spirituality and unchangeable nature of the law, and that nothing but that full and perfect righteousness, found in the obedience of Christ as the representative of His people, could release from condemnation. If instead of preaching the Apostles’ doctrine which establishes the Law, we preached the abrogation of the eternal law and that man is, as they say, on pleading terms with God, and by which many seem to mean that man is on grounds for proposing terms of acceptance, with God, we should then in the estimation of the popular be very lawful and holy men.
In reference to the charge that our belief in the doctrine of predestination occasions our not preaching that men should repent and believe, I would remark in the first place that according to our understanding of the Scriptures, repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ are essential parts of that salvation to which the elect of God are predestinated. These things therefore we preach. But the repentance to which God has predestinated His people is a heart repentance, a godly sorrow for sin; a turning with heart-loathing from self and all self-doings, as being defiled with sin. We do not, therefore, and dare not, preach a mere Ahab or Ninevite repentance, as that which characterizes persons as entitled to the consolations of the Gospel. There is the same corresponding difference between the one repentance and the other, that there is between the deliverance granted to Ahab & Nineveh, and that salvation which cometh by Christ. It is true that if we could satisfy our consciences by preaching the word repent instead of preaching that repentance which is the result of the regenerating operations of the Holy Ghost, we should much better please the unregenerate and popular professors as we should then preach a repentance of which they have some conception.
Again, Christ, by nailing the handwriting of ordinances to His cross, so took the Sinai covenant, as such, out of the way that it never after should, by all the contrivances of men, be introduced into the plan of God as any part of the system of salvation. Hence Christ, after His resurrection, made known to His Disciples that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47). The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. If therefore there is any meaning in the expression, In His name, it must mean something very different from preaching repentance and remission of sins in a legal form. So we understand it as fixed by the predestination of God, and therefore we do not preach repentance as a condition upon which salvation is suspended. But while we preach the manifested obligation of all, both Jews and Gentiles, as the creatures of God to return unto Him by repentance, or as the Apostle has it, But now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, and whilst we preach the absolute necessity of heart repentance as a predestined part of the salvation of God, we preach that Jesus Christ is exalted as a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance to Israel; and that no repentance short of that which He giveth in making His word as a fire and a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces, either manifests the person as entitled to, capacitates him for receiving the consolations of the Gospel. Hence that no other is of any avail.
Thus far our belief in the predestination of God effects our preaching repentance.
So faith, we preach, not as a condition of salvation, but as the gift of God. And the faith we preach is as distinct from any natural belief of the human mind as the internal revelation or testimony of the Spirit of God is distinct from the testimony of men: the one is external and natural, the other is internal and spiritual; the one is comprehended and received by the natural powers of the human mind, the other can be understood and relied on only by spiritual life imparted. In a word, we believe that the predestination of God has fixed eternally the point that none but that system of salvation which God has decreed, that truth which God has revealed, and that order which He has established, shall stand. We would, therefore, be wholly conformed in understanding, in feeling and walk to that system, be grounded in that truth, and bounded and defined by that order which God has revealed. Being thus established in the truth of God and sustained by His word, if persecution come, let it come, we shall feel the assurance that the two Beasts with their Image, and all their drilled and mustered forces, can go no farther in their rage than our God has determined to permit them, that they cannot afflict us, only as He has designed the affliction in mercy unto us, that they cannot take our lives one moment before our Father has accomplished His wise purposes with us in this vale of tears.
Such an established belief in the predestination of God serves to preserve us, amidst the various trials of life, and amidst the rage of persecution from that fretful, sullen, and heart-sunken spirit manifested by Saul when he said, “Hear now, ye Benjamites, will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, &c., – that all of you have conspired against me; and there is none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, &c.” I Sam. 22:7,8. But on the contrary, it will enable us to manifest that patient, resigned spirit which David manifested when he said to Saul, “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee, but mine hand shall not be upon thee,” (I Sam. 24:12), and when he said of Shimei, “So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David, who shall then say wherefore hast thou done so;” – ”Let him alone and let him curse for the Lord hath bidden him, it may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for His cursing this day.” 2 Sam. 16:10-12. In the case of Saul we see manifested the genuine temper of that spirit which will not have the Lord to reign over him, and which therefore rejects the purpose of God; in the other that humility and meekness which is incident to a belief and acquiescence in the Sovereignty of God.
But David did not believe that God’s having bidden Shimei to curse, or in other words, His having predestinated this act, exonerated him from guilt. Hence David’s directions to Solomon, I Kings 2:8,9.
I will here leave the subject, praying that whilst others reproach us for believing in the Absolute Sovereignty of God, the Lord would bless us with more unshaken confidence in His universal predestination and with a more entire submission to His Sovereign Will in all things, and that whilst others indirectly charge God with revealing a doctrine that leadeth to licentiousness, God may manifest in us that the belief of His truth and the power of His grace can so overcome the corruptions of our nature as to enable us to lead quiet, peaceable and godly lives.
Fairfax Court House, Va. Feb. 24, 1834
Signs of the Times
Volume 2, No. 8.
March 19, 1834