impossible to prove, that a scheme which provides for the possible salvation
of all men more conspicuously displays the divine goodness than one which
secures the certain salvation of some men. The words, atonement offered
for all men, universal atonement, Christ died to save all men, Christ died
for every soul of man, -- these words are very attractive. They seem to
breathe a kindness which is worthy of God. But let us not be imposed upon
by the beauty or pomp of mere phrases. What is the exact meaning of the
language? It is obscure, and, to be understood, must be filled out. The
meaning is, that atonement was offered for all men, that Christ died for
all men, merely to make the salvation of all men possible: therefore the
meaning is not what the language appears to imply -- namely, that atonement
was offered for all men to secure their salvation; that Christ died to
save all men. That is explicitly denied. It is the heresy of Universalism.
Let it be noticed -- attention is challenged to it -- that, upon the Arminain
scheme, the whole result of the atonement, of the death of Christ, of the
mission of the Holy Ghost, is the salvability of all men -- the possible
salvation of all. Dispel the glamor from these charming words, and that
is absolutely all that they mean.
us go on. What precisely is meant by the possible salvation of all men?
It cannot mean the probable salvation of all men. If it did, the word probable
would have been used; but facts would have contradicted the theory. Not
even the Arminian would assert the probable salvation of all men, in consequence
of the atonement. It is then only a possible salvation that is intended.
Now what makes the salvation of all possible? It is granted, that all obstacles
in the way of any sinner's return to God are, on God's side, removed. The
Calvinist admits that, equally with the Arminian. Where then lies the difference?
What does the Arminian mean by a salvation possible to all? He means a
salvation that may be secured, if the human will consent to receive it.
To give this consent it is persuaded by grace. But it is not constrained
by grace to give it. It holds the decision of the question in its power.
It may accept the offered salvation; it may not. The whole thing is contingent
upon the action of the sinner's will. This is what makes the salvation
of all men merely possible; and it inevitably follows that the destruction
of all men is also possible.
with divine help, presently prove that a possible salvation, contingent
upon the action of a sinner's will, is really an impossible salvation.
But conceding now, for argument's sake, that there is such a thing as a
merely possible salvation of all men, it is repeated, that it cannot be
shown to exhibit the beneficence of God one whit more clearly than does
the certain salvation of some men. Upon the Calvinistic scheme, the absolute
certainty of the salvation of countless multitudes of the race is provided
for; on the Arminian, the certainty of the salvation of not one human being
is provided for. But let it be admitted that although not provided for,
yet in some way, the final result will in fact prove to be the certain
salvation of countless multitudes. How can the Arminian show that these
multitudes will exceed in number those which are saved upon the Calvinistic
scheme? He can not. The human faculties have no data upon which they can
institute such an equation. But until that is shown, it is impossible to
see how his scheme more signally displays the saving goodness of God than
the Calvinist's. One thing is clear: according to the Calvinistic doctrine,
those who are saved will praise God's goodness for having saved them; and,
according to the Arminian, they will praise his goodness for having made
it possible for them to be saved. Which would be the directer tribute to
the divine benevolence, it may be left to common sense to judge.
however, if he should candidly admit that his scheme labors under the difficulties
which have been mentioned, will still reply, that it has, in regard to
goodness, this advantage over the Calvinistic: that it makes possible the
salvation of those whose salvation the Calvinistic scheme makes impossible.
He charges, that while the Calvinistic scheme makes salvation of some certain,
it makes the destruction of some equally certain. The one scheme opens
the door of hope to all; the other closes it against some. This, it is
contended, cannot be shown to consist with the goodness of God. It is not
intended to deny that this is a difficulty which the Calvinistic scheme
has to carry. Its adherents are sufficiently aware of the awful mystery
which hangs round this subject, and of the limitations upon their faculties,
to deter them from arrogantly claiming to understand the whole case. The
difficulty is this: If God can, on the ground of the all-sufficient merit
of Christ, save those who actually perish, why does not his goodness lead
him to save them? Why, if he know that, without his efficacious grace,
they will certainly perish, does he withhold from them that grace, and
so seal the certainty of their destruction? These solemn questions the
Calvinist professes his ability to answer only in the words of out blessed
Lord: "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
the Arminian, professing to decide how the Deity should proceed in relation
to sinners, use this conceded difficulty for the purpose of showing that
the Calvinist imputes malignity to God, it is fair, it is requisite, to
prove that he has no right to press this objection -- that it is incumbent
on him to look to his own defenses. What if it should turn out that he
is oppressed by a still greater difficulty?
first place, the Evangelical Arminian admits that God perfectly foreknew
all that will ever come to pass. Consequently, he admits that God foreknew
what, and how many, human beings will finally perish. He must also admit
that God foreknows that he will judge them at the last day, and that what
God foreknows he will do on that day, he must have eternally purposed to
do. The final condemnation, therefore, of a definite number of men is absolutely
certain. The question is not now whether God makes it certain. Let us not
leave the track. What it is asserted the Arminian must admit is, that it
is certain. Now this is very different from saying that God eternally knew
that all men would perish, unless he should intervene to save them. For
he foreknew his purpose to make such an intervention in behalf of some
of the race, and so foreknew the absolute certainty of their final salvation.
The case before us is, not that God knew that those who will actually perish
would perish unless he intervened to save them. It is, that he foreknew
that they will finally perish. But if this must be admitted -- that God
foreknew with certainty that some human beings will be, at the last day,
adjudged by him to destruction, then their destruction is certain. Now
we crave to know how a provision of redemption which made their salvation
possible can exercise any effect upon their destiny. Their destruction
is to God's knowledge certain. How can the possibility of their salvation
change that certainty? It cannot. Where, then, is the goodness to them
of the redeeming provision? It is impossible to see.
how can salvation be possible to those who are certain to be lost? How
can their salvation be possible, if their destruction be certain? There
is but one conceivable answer: it is, that although God foreknew that they
would be lost, he also foreknew that they might be saved. That is to say,
there was an extrinsic impossibility of their salvation created by God's
certain foreknowledge, but an intrinsic possibility of their salvation
growing out of their ability to avail themselves of the provision of redemption.
It may be pleaded that their case is like that of Adam in innocence. God
knew that he would fall, but he also knew that he might stand. This brings
us to the next point, and that will take us down to one of the fundamental
difficulties of the Arminian scheme.
second place, a possible salvation would be to a sinner an impossible salvation.
Mere salvability would be to him inevitable destruction. It will be admitted,
without argument, that a possible salvation is not, in itself, an actual
salvation. That which may be is not that which is. Before a possible can
become an actual salvation something needs to be done -- a condition must
be performed upon which is suspended its passage from possibility to actuality.
The question is, What is the thing which needs to be done -- what is this
condition which needs to be fulfilled before salvation can become a fact
to the sinner? The Arminian answer is: Repentance and faith on the sinner's
part. He must consent to turn from his iniquities and accept Christ as
his Savior. The further question presses, By what agency does the sinner
perform this condition -- by what power does he repent, believe, and so
accept salvation? The answer to this question, whatever it may be, must
indicate the agency, the power, which determines the sinner's repenting,
believing and so accepting salvation. It is not enough to point out an
agency, a power, which is, however potent, merely an auxiliary to the determining
cause. It is the determining cause itself that must be given as the answer
to the question. It must be a factor which renders, by virtue of its own
energy, the final decision -- an efficient cause which, by its own inherent
causality, makes a possible salvation an actual and experimental fact.
What is this causal agent which is the sovereign arbiter of human destiny?
The Arminian answer to this last question of the series is, The sinner's
will. It is the sinner's will which, in the last resort, determines the
question whether a possible, shall become an actual, salvation. This has
already been sufficiently shown in the foregoing remarks. But what need
is there of argument to prove what any one, even slightly acquainted with
Arminian theology knows that it maintains? Indeed, it is one of the distinctive
and vital features of that theology, contra-distinguishing it to the Calvinistic.
The Calvinist holds that the efficacious and irresistible grace of God
applies salvation to the sinner; the Arminain, that the grace of God although
communicated to every man is inefficacious and resistible, and that the
sinner's will uses it as merely an assisting influence in determining the
final result of accepting a possible salvation and so making it actual.
Grace does not determine the will; the will "improves" the grace and determines
itself. Grace is the handmaid, the sinner's will the mistress. Let us suppose
that in regard to the question whether salvation shall be accepted, there
is a perfect equipoise between the motions of grace and the contrary inclinations
of the sinner's will. A very slight added influence will destroy the equilibrium.
Shall it be from grace or from the sinner's will? If from the former, grace
determines the question, and the Calvinistic doctrine is admitted. But
that the Arminian denies. It must then be from the sinner's will; and however
slight and inconsiderable this added influence of the will may be, it determines
the issue. It is like the feather that alights upon one of two evenly balanced
scales and turns the beam.
this will of the sinner which discharges the momentous office of determining
the question of salvation is his natural will. It cannot be a gracious
will, that is, a will renewed by grace; for if it were, the sinner would
be already in a saved condition. But the very question is, Will he consent
to be saved? Now if it be not the will of a man already in a saved condition,
it is the will of a man yet in an unsaved condition. It is the will of
an unbelieving and unconverted man, that is, a natural man, and consequently
must be a natural will. It is this natural will, then, which finally determines
the question whether a possible salvation shall become an actual. It is
its high office to settle the matter of practical salvation. In this solemn
business, as in all others, it has an irrefragable autonomy. Not even in
the critical transition from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God's
dear Son, can it be refused the exercise of its sacred and inalienable
prerogative of contrary choice. At the supreme moment of the final determination
of soul "for Christ to live and die," the determination might be otherwise.
The will may be illuminated, moved, assisted by grace, but not controlled
and determined by it. To the last it has the power of resisting grace and
of successfully resisting it. To it -- I use the language reluctantly --
the blessed Spirit of God is represented as sustaining the attitude of
the persuasive orator of grace. He argues, he pleads, he expostulates,
he warns, he beseeches the sinner's will in the melting accents of Calvary
and alarms it with the thunders of judgment -- but that is all. He cannot
without trespassing upon its sovereignty renew and re-create and determine
his will. This is no misrepresentation, no exaggeration, of the Arminian's
position. It is what he contends for. It is what he must contend for. It
is one of the hinges on which his system turns. Take it away, and the system
swings loosely and gravitates to an inevitable fall.
is so palpably opposed to Scripture and the facts of experience, that Evangelical
Arminians endeavor to modify it, so as to relieve it of the charge of being
downright Pelagianism. That the attempt is hopeless, has already been shown.
It is utterly vain to say, that grace gives ability to the sinner sufficient
for the formation of that final volition which decides the question of
personal salvation. Look at it. Do they mean, by this ability, regenerating
grace? If they do, as regenerating grace unquestionably determines the
sinner's will, they give up their position and adopt the Calvinistic. No;
they affirm that they do not, because the Calvinistic position is liable
to two insuperable objections: first, that it limits efficacious grace
to the elect, denying it to others; secondly, that efficacious and determining
grace would contradict the laws by which the human will is governed. It
comes back to this, then: that notwithstanding this imparted ability, the
natural will is the factor which determines the actual relation of the
soul to salvation. The admission of a gracious ability, therefore, does
not relieve the difficulty. It is not an efficacious and determining influence;
it is simply suasion. The natural will may yield to it or resist it. It
is a vincible influence.
being the real state of the case, according to the Arminian scheme, it
is perfectly manifest that no sinner could be saved. There is no need of
argument. It is simply out of the question, that the sinner in the exercise
of his natural will can repent, believe in Christ, and so make a possible
salvation actual. Let it be clearly seen, that, in the final settlement
of the question of personal religion, the Arminian doctrine is, that the
will does not decide as determined by the grace of God, but by its own
inherent self-determining power, and the inference, if any credit is attached
to the statements of Scripture, is forced upon us, that it makes the salvation
of the sinner impossible. A salvation, the appropriation of which is dependent
upon the sinners natural will, is no salvation; and the Arminian position
is that the appropriation of salvation is dependent upon the natural will
of the sinner. The stupendous paradox is thus shown to be true -- that
a merely possible salvation is an impossible salvation.
reply to this argument the Arminian should say, that he does not hold that
the merely natural will which is corrupt is the final determining agent,
but that the will makes the final decision by reason of some virtue characterizing
it, the rejoinder is obvious: first, this virtue must either be inherent
in the natural will of the sinner, or be communicated by grace. If it be
inherent in the natural will, it is admitted that it is the natural will
itself, through a power resident in it, which determines to improve communicated
grace and appropriate salvation; and that would confirm the charge that
the Arminian makes the final decision to accept salvation depend upon the
natural will, which would be to render salvation impossible. If this virtue
in the will which determines it to make the final decision be communicated
by grace, it is a part of the gracious ability imparted to the sinner;
and then we would have part of this communicated gracious ability improving
another part -- that is, gracious ability improving gracious ability. Now
this would be absurd on any other supposition than that grace is the determining
agent, and that supposition the Arminian rejects. To state the case briefly:
either this virtue in the will which is the controlling element is grace
or it is not. If it be grace, then grace is the determining element, and
the Calvinistic doctrine is admitted. If it be not grace, then the will
by its natural power is the determining element, and that is impossible,
-- it is impossible for the natural will, which is itself sinful and needs
to be renewed, to determine the question of practical salvation.
put the matter in a different light. There must be some virtue in the natural
man to lead him to improve grace -- to use gracious ability. Now whence
is this virtue? It must be either from God, or from himself. If it be from
God, then the cause which determines the question of accepting salvation
is from God, and the Calvinistic doctrine is admitted. If it be from himself,
then it is the natural will which uses the gracious ability, and determines
the appropriation of salvation; and that is impossible.
the Arminian must admit either that the will makes the final decision in
consequence of some virtue in it, or that it makes it without all virtue.
If in consequence of some virtue, then as that virtue is distinguished
from the grace it used, it is merely natural, and the natural will is affirmed
to be virtuous enough to decide the all-important question of salvation;
which is contrary to the doctrine, maintained by Evangelical Arminians,
that the natural man is depraved, and destitute of saving virtue. If the
will makes the final decision without all virtue, then the natural will,
as sinful, improves grace to the salvation of the soul, which is absurd
and impossible. The Arminian is shut up to admit that it is the natural
will of the sinner which improves grace and determines the question of
personal salvation; and it is submitted, that such a position makes salvation
is another mode of showing that, according to the distinctive principles
of the Arminian system, salvation is impossible. The Scriptures unquestionably
teach that salvation is by grace: "By grace ye are saved." Not only so,
but with equal clearness they teach that none can be saved except by grace;
that no sinner can save himself: "Not by works of righteousness which we
have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration
and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through
Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we should be
made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." There is no need to
argue this point, since it is admitted by Evangelical Arminians as well
as by Calvinists. Their common doctrine is that no sinner can save himself.
If his salvation depended upon his saving himself it would be impossible.
But the distinctive doctrines of Arminianism -- the doctrines which distinguish
it from Calvinism -- necessitate the inference that the sinner saves himself.
This inference is illegitimate, the Arminian contends, because he holds
that had not Christ died to make salvation possible and were not the Holy
Spirit imparted to induce the sinner to embrace it, no man could be saved.
This, however, is no proof of the illegitimacy of the inference from his
doctrine that the sinner is after all his own savior. The proof of the
legitimacy of the inference is established in this way: According to Arminianism,
sufficient grace is imparted to all men. Every man has, consequently, sufficient
ability to repent, believe and embrace salvation. This sufficient grace
or ability, therefore, is common to all men. But that it does not determine
all men to be saved is proved by the fact that some are not saved. This
the Arminian holds. Now, what makes the difference between the saved and
the unsaved? Why is one man saved and another not saved? The answer to
these questions is of critical importance and must be rendered. What answer
does the Arminian return? This: The reason is, that one man determines
to improve the common grace and another does not. He cannot hold that grace
makes the difference, for grace is the common possession of both. The specific
difference of their cases is the respective determinations of their own
wills, undetermined by grace. He therefore who determines to use the common
gift cannot be saved by it, but by his determination to use it. If it be
not that which saves him, but the grace itself, then all who have the grace
would be saved by it equally with him. No, it is not grace which saves
him, but his use of grace. And as he might have determined not to use it,
it is manifest that he is saved by the exercise of his own will; in other
words that he saves himself. The saving factor is his will; he is his own
savior. This is made still plainer by asking the question, Why is another
not saved, but ruined? He had the same sufficient grace with him who is
saved. His own determination not to use it, it will by said, is the cause
of his ruin -- he therefore ruins himself. In the same way precisely the
determination of the saved man to use it is the cause of his salvation
-- he, therefore, saves himself. Granted, that he could not be saved without
grace; still, grace only makes his salvation possible. He must make it
a fact; and beyond controversy, he who makes his salvation a fact accomplishes
his salvation. He saves himself.
conclusively shows it to be a necessary consequence from the distinctive
doctrines of Arminianism, that sinners are not saved by grace but by themselves
in the use of grace; and as that position contradicts the plainest teachings
of Scripture, the system which necessitates it makes salvation impossible.
this it will be replied, that the ability conferred by grace pervades the
will itself, and enables, although it does not determine, it to make the
final and saving decision. But this by no means mends the matter. Let it
be admitted that the will is enabled by grace to decide; if it is not determined
by it to the decision, then it follows that there is something in the will
different from the gracious ability, which uses that ability in determining
the result. What is that different element? It cannot be a gracious power.
To admit that would be to contradict the supposition and to give up the
question; for in that case it would be grace which determines the decision.
What can that be which differs from the gracious ability conferred and
uses it, but the natural power of the sinner's will? But his will, apart
from grace, is sinful and therefore disabled. So the Arminian admits. How,
then, can a disabled thing use enabling grace? How can it determine to
use that grace? Over and beyond the enabling power there is postulated
a determining power. The enabling power is grace; over and beyond it is
the determining power of the sinful will. The thing is inconceivable. Sin
cannot use grace; inability cannot use ability; the dead cannot determine
to use life. To say then that grace is infused into the will itself to
enable it to form the final volition, which makes a possible salvation
actual, does not remove the difficulty. If it does not determine the will,
the will determines itself. The very essence of that self-determination
is to use or not to use the enabling grace, and therefore must be something
different from that grace. The determination is not from grace, but from
nature. Again the impossibility of salvation is reached. A doctrine which
assigns to grace a merely enabling influence, and denies it a determining
power, makes the salvation of a sinner impossible. To say to a sinner,
Use the natural strength of your will in determining to avail yourself
of grace, would be to say to him, You cannot be saved. For if he answered
from the depths of his consciousness, he would groan out the response,
Alas, I have no such strength!
is, that a thorough examination of the profile of the Arminian discloses
the fact that, in the last analysis, it is not essentially different from
that of the Socinian and Pelagian. It is cheerfully conceded that the Arminian
soteriology is different from the Socinian and Pelagian. For the former
professedly holds that the atonement of Christ was vicarious and that it
rendered a perfect satisfaction to the retributive justice of God. But,
according to it, the atonement did not secure salvation as a certain result
to any human beings; and when it comes to the question how the sinner practically
avails himself of the salvation made only possible to all, the Arminian
answers it by saying, that the sinner in the exercise of his own self-determining
power, which from its nature is contingent in its exercise, makes salvation
his own. The connection between his soul and redemption is effected by
his own decision, in the formation of which he is conscious that he might
act otherwise -- that he might make a contrary choice. There is no real
difference between this position and that of the Socinian and Pelagian.
The Arminian professes to attach more importance than they to the influence
of supernatural grace, but, in the last resort, like them he makes the
natural power of the sinner's will the determining cause of personal salvation.
Every consideration, therefore, which serves to show the impossibility
of salvation upon the anthropological scheme of Socinianism and Pelagianism
leads to the conclusion that the same consequence is enforced by that of
Arminianism. In both schemes it is nature, and not grace, which actually
further, the distinctive doctrines of Arminianism not only make salvation
impossible by denying that it is by grace, but also by denying that it
is by works. Not that it is intended to say that Arminians in so many words
affirm this. On the contrary, they endeavor to show that their system is
not liable to this charge. We have, however, to deal with their system
and the logical consequences which it involves. The question is, Do the
peculiar tenets of the Arminian scheme necessitate the inference that salvation
is by works? I shall attempt to prove that they do.
be admitted that a system, one of the distinctive doctrines of which is
that sinners are in a state of legal probation, affirms salvation by works.
The essence of a legal probation is that the subject of moral government
is required to render personal obedience to law in order to his being justified.
It is conceded on all hands that Adam's probation was of such a character.
He was required to produce a legal obedience. Had it been produced it would
have been his own obedience. It makes no difference that he was empowered
to render it by sufficient grace. A righteousness does not receive its
denomination from the source in which it originates, but from its nature
and the end which it contemplates. Had Adam stood, he would have been enabled
by grace to produce obedience, but it would have been his own obedience,
and it would have secured justification on its own account.
will not be denied that Arminian divines assert that men are now in a state
of probation. It would be unnecessary to adduce proof of this. They contend
that, in consequence of the atonement offered by Christ for the race, all
men become probationers. A chance is given them to secure salvation. The
only question is, whether the probation which Arminians affirm for sinners
be a legal probation. That it is, may be proved by their own statements.
If they take the ground that the obedience to divine requirements may be
rendered through the ability conferred by grace, and therefore the probation
is not legal, the answer is obvious: the obedience exacted of Adam he was
enabled by grace to render; but notwithstanding that fact, his probation
was legal. That men now have grace enabling them to render obedience cannot
disprove the legal character of their probation.
has ramified into details, but it has not wandered from the thing to be
proved, to wit, that a possible salvation is an impossible salvation. All
the consequences which have been portrayed as damaging to the Arminian
theory of a merely possible salvation flow logically from the fundamental
position that sufficient ability is given to every man to make such a merely
possible salvation actual to himself. One more consideration will be presented,
and it goes to the root of the matter. It is, that this ability which is
affirmed to be sufficient to enable every man to make a possible salvation
actual is, according to the Arminian scheme, itself a sheer impossibility.
This may be regarded as an extraordinary assertion, but it is susceptible
of proof as speedy as it is clear. The Evangelical Arminian not only admits
the fact, but contends for it, that every man in his natural, fallen condition
is spiritually dead -- is dead in trespasses and sins. The problem for
him to solve is, How can this spiritually dead man make his possible salvation
an actual salvation? It must not be done by the impartation to him of efficacious
and determining grace, for to admit that would be to give up the doctrine
of a possible salvation and accept that of a decreed and certain salvation.
Nor must it be done by regenerating grace, for two difficulties oppose
that supposition: first, this regeneration grace would necessarily be efficacious
and determining grace; and secondly, it could not with truth be maintained
that every man is regenerated. A degree of grace, therefore, which is short
of regeneration grace, must be conferred upon every man. What is that?
Sufficient grace -- that is to say, a degree of grace imparting ability
sufficient to enable every man to make a possible salvation actually his
own. Now, the argument is short: a degree of grace which does not regenerate,
would be a degree of grace which would not bestow life upon, the spiritually
dead sinner. If it did infuse spiritual life it would of course be regenerating
grace; but it is denied to be regenerating grace. No other grace would
be sufficient for the dead sinner but regenerating or life-giving grace.
How could grace enable the dead sinner to perform living functions -- to
repent, to believe in Christ, to embrace salvation -- without first giving
him life? In a word, sufficient grace which is not regenerating grace is
a palpable impossibility. An ability sufficient to enable the dead sinner
to discharge living functions but not sufficient to make him live, is an
impossibility. The Arminian is therefore shut up to a choice between two
alternatives: either, he must confess sufficient grace to be regenerating
grace, and then he abandons his doctrine; or he must maintain that grace
is sufficient for a dead sinner which does not make him live, and then
he asserts an impossibility.
this the Arminian reply, that the functions which sufficient grace enables
the sinner to perform are not functions of spiritual life, it follows:
first, that he contradicts his own position that grace imparts a degree
of spiritual life to every man; and, secondly, that he maintains that a
spiritually dead man discharges functions which cause him to live, which
is infinitely absurd.
he reply, that sufficient grace is life-giving and therefore regenerating
grace, but that it is not efficacious, and does not determine the fact
of the sinner's salvation, the rejoinder is obvious: No spiritually dead
sinner can possibly be restored to life except by union with Jesus Christ,
the source of spiritual life. To deny that position is to deny Christianity.
But if that must by admitted, as union with Christ determines the present
salvation of the sinner, sufficient grace which gives life determines the
question of present salvation. Sufficient grace gives life by uniting the
sinner to Christ, and union with Christ is salvation. Sufficient grace
which is conceded to be regeneration, is therefore necessarily efficacious
and determining, grace.
now prepared to estimate the force of the analogy which, under a preceding
head, it was supposed that the Arminian may plead between the case of the
sinner and that of Adam. Our first father had sufficient grace, but it
was not efficacious grace. It did not determine his standing. It rendered
it possible for him to stand, but it did not destroy the possibility of
his falling. He had sufficient ability to perform holy acts; nevertheless,
it was possible for him to sin. In like manner, it may be said, the sinner,
in his natural condition, has sufficient grace, but not efficacious grace.
It renders it possible for him to accept salvation, but it does not destroy
the possibility of his rejecting it. He has sufficient ability to repent
and believe; yet, notwithstanding this, he may continue impenitent and
the fact that Adam had sufficient grace to enable him to stand in holiness,
and that it was possible for him either to stand or fall; but I deny that
there is any real analogy between his case and that of the unregenerate
sinner. It breaks down at a point of the most vital consequence. That point
is the presence or absence of spiritual life. Adam, in innocence, was possessed
of spiritual life -- he was, spiritually considered, wholly alive. There
was not imparted to him -- to use an Arminian phrase -- "a degree of spiritual
life." Life reigned in all his faculties. There was no element of spiritual
death in his being which was to be resisted and which in turn opposed the
motions of spiritual life. Now let it even be supposed, with the Arminian,
that a degree of spiritual life is given to the spiritually dead sinner,
and it would necessarily follow that there is a degree of spiritual death
which still remains in him. What conceivable analogy could exist between
a being wholly alive spiritually and one partly dead spiritually? What
common relation to grace could be predicated of them? How is it possible
to conceive that grace which would be sufficient for a wholly living man
would also be sufficient for a partly dead man? Take then the Arminian
conception of the case of the sinner in his natural condition, and it is
obvious that there is no real analogy between it and that of Adam in innocence.
has already been shown that the impartation by grace of a degree of spiritual
life to the sinner which does not involve his regeneration is impossible.
Whatever grace and ability the Arminian may claim for the sinner, if it
fall short of regenerating grace, if it does not quicken him in Christ
Jesus, no life is communicated by it. The sinner is still dead in trespasses
and sins. The communicated grace may instruct him, but it does not raise
him from the dead -- it is didactic, but not life-giving. It is the suasion
of oratory, not the energy of life. It operates upon the natural faculties
and becomes a motive to the natural will. But it is precisely the natural
will, pervaded by spiritual death, which must decide whether or not it
will appropriate the spiritual inducements and make them its own. In a
word, a dead man must determine whether he will yield to the persuasion
to live or not.
theory defies comprehension. To hold that sinners are not spiritually dead
is to accept the Pelagian and Socinian heresy that the natural man is able
to do saving works. This the Evangelical Arminian denies. He admits that
the sinner is spiritually dead, and that in his own strength he can do
no saving work. What then does grace accomplish for the sinner, for every
sinner? The hypothesis put forth in answer to this question is a plait
of riddles which no ingenuity can disentangle. First, the sinner is spiritually
dead. Then "a degree of spiritual life" is imparted to him enabling him
to discharge spiritually living functions. Well then -- one would of course
infer -- the sinner is now spiritually alive: he is regenerated, he is
born again. No, says the Arminian, only "a portion of spiritual death is
removed from him:" he is not yet regenerated. What then can sufficient
grace be but the degree of spiritual life which is communicated to the
sinner? But this grace -- this degree of spiritual life he is to improve.
He may do so or he may refuse to do so. If he improve it, it follows that
as spiritually dead he improves spiritual life, and what contradiction
can be greater than that? If that is denied, it must be supposed, that
as spiritually alive he improves this grace -- this spiritual life, and
then it would follow that as he may resist it, he would, as spiritually
alive resist spiritual life, which is absurd. What other supposition can
be conceived, unless it be this: that he acts at the same time as equally
dead and alive -- that death and life co-operate in producing saving results,
or in declining to produce them? But that is so absurd that no intelligent
mind would tolerate it. Will it be said, that if he improve spiritual life
he does it as spiritually alive, and if he resist it, he does it as spiritually
dead? That would suppose that, in the case of successful resistance, spiritual
death is too strong for spiritual life and overcomes it. How then could
the vanquished life be said to be sufficient, or the insufficient grace
to be sufficient grace? The spiritual life imparted is unable to overcome
the spiritual death still existing, and yet it confers sufficient ability
upon the sinner. The Arminian hypothesis is susceptible of no other fair
construction than this: that the sinner, as spiritually dead, improves
the degree of life given him by grace; that, as impenitent and unbelieving,
he, by the exercise of his natural will, used the imparted ability to repent
and believe. Such ability is just no ability at all; for there is no power
that could use it. It is like giving a crutch to a man lying on his back
with the dead palsy, or like putting a bottle of aqua vita in the coffin
with a corpse.
put the case in another form: The Arminian holds that the sinner is spiritually
dead and consequently unable to do anything to save himself. But a degree
of spiritual life is imparted to him to enable him to embrace salvation
offered to him. It follows that now the sinner is neither wholly dead nor
wholly alive: he is partly dead and partly alive. Now, either, first, his
dead part used his living part; or, secondly, his living part used his
dead part; or, thirdly, his living part used itself and his dead part used
itself; or, fourthly, his living part uses both the living and dead part;
or, fifthly, the living and dead part co-operate. The first supposition
is inconceivable; for death cannot use life. The second supposition violates
the Arminian doctrine that it is life which is to be used, not life which
uses death; and further, how is it possible for life to use death in performing
saving functions? The third supposition involves the concurrent but contradictory
acting of life and death, neither being dominant, so that the sinner ever
remains partly alive and partly dead. No salvation is reached. The fourth
supposition involves the causal and determining influence of the life imparted
by grace, and, therefore, the abandonment of the Arminian and the adoption
of the Calvinistic doctrine; for the whole man would be ruled by the life-giving
grace. The fifth supposition is impossible; for it is impossible that life
and death can co-operate to secure salvation.
Arminian account of the unconverted sinner's condition be viewed in every
conceivable way, and it is evident that there is no analogy between it
and that of Adam in innocence. The sufficient grace or ability of the two
cases is entirely different. In one case, there was total spiritual life,
in the other there is partial spiritual life and partial spiritual death.
They cannot be reduced to unity, nor can even similarity by predicated
of them. Justification was possible to Adam, for, as a being totally alive,
he had sufficient ability to secure it; but salvation, according to the
Arminian supposition, is impossible to the sinner, for as a being partly
dead, he has no sufficient ability to embrace it. It has already been conclusively
shown that grace, to confer ability upon the spiritually dead, cannot be
anything less than regenerating grace; and the bestowal of that upon the
sinner, previously to his repentance and faith, the Arminian denies. An
appeal to Adam's ability, in order to support the hypothesis of the sufficient
ability of the unregenerate sinner, cannot avail to redeem that hypothesis
from the charge of making a merely possible salvation impossible.
now return for a moment to the argument employed under the preceding head.
It was argued that God's foreknowledge, as conceded by the Arminian, that
a definite number of human beings will be condemned at the last day, involves
the absolute certainty of their condemnation, and that what God will do
on that day he must have eternally purposed to do. How, it was asked, can
the Arminain show that this certainty of the destruction of some men is
consistent with the possibility of their salvation? It was supposed that
in his attempt to show this, he might contend that although the divine
foreknowledge created an extrinsic impossibility of their salvation --
that is, an impossibility apprehended in the divine mind, yet there is
an intrinsic possibility of their salvation -- that is, a possibility growing
out of their own relations to the scheme of redemption, and their ability
to avail themselves of them. In short, he might contend that although God
foreknows that some men will be lost, he also foreknows that these same
men might be saved; and to fortify that view, he might appeal to the analogy
of the case of Adam, the certainty whose fall God foreknew, but the possibility
of whose standing, so far as his intrinsic ability was concerned, he also
foreknew. It has now been proved that there is no analogy between Adam's
sufficient ability and that which the Arminian vainly arrogates for the
unregenerate sinner; and that on the contrary, on the Arminian's own principles,
the unregenerate sinner is endowed with no sufficient ability to appropriate
a merely possible salvation. Upon those principles, therefore, at the same
time that God foreknows the certainty of some men's destruction, he also
foreknows the intrinsic impossibility of their salvation. The Arminian,
consequently, has the case of the finally lost to harmonize with divine
goodness, as well as the Calvinist, and is logically restrained from attacking
the Calvinistic doctrine because of its alleged inconsistency with that
attribute. The charge recoils, indeed, with redoubled force upon himself,
for while the Calvinistic doctrine provides for the certain salvation of
some men, his doctrine makes the salvation of any man impossible. A scheme
which professes to make the salvation of every man possible, but really
makes the salvation of any man impossible, is not one which can glory on
being peculiarly consistent with the goodness of God.
impeaches the doctrine of unconditional election for representing God as
worse than the devil, more false, more cruel, more unjust. No attempt has
been made at hostile countercharges; but it has been proved by cold-blooded
argument that the distinctive principles of Arminianism, in making the
application of redemption to depend upon the self-determining power of
a dead man's will, make the actual salvation of any sinner a sheer impossibility.
How such a scheme magnifies the goodness of God can only be conceived by
those who are able to comprehend how a dead man can use the means of life.
The love of the Father in giving his Son, the love of the Son in obeying,
suffering, dying for the salvation of sinners, the mission of the eternal
Spirit to apply a salvation purchased by blood, -- all this infinite wealth
of means depends for efficacy upon the decision of a sinner's will, a decision
which, without regenerating and determining grace, must, in accordance
with the law of sin and death, be inevitably rendered against its employment.
will no doubt have been regarded as extraordinary, but it is now repeated
as a conclusion established by argument, that a merely possible salvation
such as the Arminian scheme enounces is to a sinner an impossible salvation.
When the argument has been convicted of inconclusiveness, it may be time
to resort to the weapons of the vanquished -- strong and weighty words.
against the Calvinistic doctrines of election and reprobation that they
are inconsistent with the goodness of God has now been examined, and it
has been shown, first, that it is inapplicable, and secondly, that the
Arminain is not the man to render it.
John L. Girardeau, Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism