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Grace, the Human Race
and Impious Calumnies against the Divine Name
Conscious or not, Far from Desired, or Desired
* On Spurgeon, the following both to concur and to go beyond, is of interest.
It is taken from Predestination and Freewill, and extended.
Spurgeon next ponders the text: "Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated." The context states that before the birth and irrespective of the works of either, their divine destiny was dispensed. Thrusting aside two hermeneutic infertilities is a preliminary. He rejects the effort to equate "hated" with "loved less". If "hate" is a somewhat strong translation, it is nearer the original than is the amendment: and use what word you will, Esau was not directed? blessed or treated with divine affection. Nor is the pinch of predestination escaped by equating "Esau" with a tribe. First, the context is concentrated on individual considerations; furthermore, is not a nation composed of individuals? Even if it were not so, this selective type of principle is not the less operative because vaster in scope. Let us face it, he says, there was a decisive divine difference in approach portrayed as predestination.
That word! Its mention is like the tang of doom to the Arminian who reacts with flashing eye. But is this response consistent for him? Surely such a man would assert that his own salvation depended on an effusion of divine grace. that it was grace which brought him in; that he will glory in that; that he could not reach it and but for this grace, he would have remained blind.
Wait! says Spurgeon. If it was the superabundance of divine grace which drew you, how is it that that unconverted man is not also so drawn? Are you sure that you do not intend that you were simply sharper than he? Never! comes the swift responses he has not as yet received so gracious an effusion as I was blessed to obtain. Spurgeon is implacable: If he never does, is he not therefore separated from you by a decisive difference in divine approach and by nothing else? And is this not precisely what I called predestination? Thus we agree but you are less happy to consider these consequences of your own emphasis.
As here indicated, Spurgeon wishes to clarify thinking, to establish principles but he has no intention of carrying them to the further point where there is a gratuitous addition to Scripture, or a collision with it. In this respect, he asserts, much harm is done by considering positive and negative predestination as determined by the one principle. The procedure is mistaken. The two types of apportionment of destiny should be seen to be governed by two appropriate principles.
With the (positive) election of grace, it is this:
The sinner in debt to God with his life, can expect short of grace
to pay with the condign consignment of that life beyond the presence of God.
A rifling (not selfdependent but yet selfdirective) renegade,
his is just exclusion.
But God will have mercy; delights in it; shows it;
the man is swamped in grace, restored by forgiveness,
penalty is lifted and life is restored.
The principle is one of grace: pure, unmerited, unsearchable, unattainable, but bestowed.
We have no problem: divine discretion engenders delightsome bounty in this positive case.
A new principle applies in the case of negative election: it is justice, a pure justice not to be confused with the vindictiveness, spite or bitter ebullitions of parting personalities, retaliatory after injury rather than pursuant of equity. The will of the reprobate wanted what it got, with respect to God: that is, none of Him. Is not preference as well as justice catered for? for he has got what he wanted. Who shall complain?
These are two principles: grace and justice each appropriate to its subject, and neither to be applied to the subject matter of the other. Where now is controversy ?
But the truthloving Spurgeon does not ignore a possible appearance of inconsistency. We may divide; but have we conquered? Would it not appear that the electing God has declined to pour out a necessary and efficacious grace upon some men like Esau; and does not this abstention raise the anomalous thought that He specifically created some souls with the purpose of damning them!
Is not this, counters Spurgeon, to libel the Lord? It is contrary to the principles which God reveals of His character: and it is mere inference. Can we infer in these supernal regions which directly move upon the divine personality? he asks. Do we not recall the dangers of shallow doctors of limited mind but unlimited "understanding" whose shallowness brings, through a misleading sophistication, not triumph but defeat! No. Just as God's word, in promise form, staggered even faith to believe it, when Abraham heard it seem to surpass normal providence in promising him a child at his great age, so here God's word in the form of doctrine seems to surpass logic in its propositions.
With our premises of the greatness of His excellence above us, we may consistently postulate that in some such way this apparent deficiency43* (not after all an express statement) may be filled up, and the difficulty overcome with a like power in the regions of understanding. But for the present, let us adhere to what we know and pursue it.
(End of citation.)
Spurgeon rightly regards it as blasphemy to attribute the withholding of saving grace from a man as an initiative for which God in sovereign simplicity of action and desire, is responsible. In the sermon on Jacob and Esau, he declares this (colour added).
Why does God hate any man ? I defy anyone to give any answer but this, because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer, divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, sovereignly - it is the same thing - created that man, with no other intention, than that of damning him ? Made him, and yet, for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever ? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you, that is all I can say: you deserve pity, that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever. You are quite right when you say the reason why God loved man, is because God does do so; there is no reason in the man. But do not give the same answer as to why God hates a man. If God deal with any man severely, it is because that man deserves all he gets. In hell there will not be a solitary soul that will say to God, O Lord, thou hast created me worse than I deserve! But every lost spirit will be made to feel that he has got his deserts, that his destruction lies at his own door and not at the door of God, that God had nothing to do with his condemnation, except as the Judge concerns the criminal, but the himself brought damnation upon his own head, as the result of his own evil works. Justice is that which damns a man; it is mercy, it is free grace that saves; sovereignty holds the scale of love; it is justice holds the other scale. Who can put that into the hand of sovereignty ? That were to libel God and to dishonour him ... My soul revolts at the idea of a doctrine that lays the blood of man's soul at God's door. I cannot conceive how any human mind, at least any Christian mind, can hold any such blasphemy as that.. . Salvation is of God ... if you perish, at your own hands must your blood be required.
The concept of simple sovereign damnation Spurgeon rejects in terms aptly summed as being a hideous caricature, as 'blasphemy', in terms of mean-minded and so forth. Man when reprobate is entirely responsible for his own damnation in a way which is therefore not a mirror-image of the fact that God is entirely responsible for his salvation.
Spurgeon, as shown in Predestination and Freewill, while going well in making this distinction and emphasis, well indeed, does not go far enough. It is shown there as in other of the reference chapters given above, that in fact the LOVE of God is towards all, even to the point of wishing them to be saved, but not to the point of requiring it by force. Love has restraint, and no meaning when it is merely contrived. He knows what He is doing in predestinative mode as well as in historical appeal, whether through Christ Himself or the prophets. While the human will is decisively not operative in this as shown in the above work, and clear from scripture, it is decidedly relevant (cf. SMR Appendix B).
It is thus responsible, even though because of its pathology it was dysfunctional to the point at issue; for God is able to know the heart of a man beyond sin, beyond all things, in reality, and to comprehend where love is apt and where it would be a perverted intrusion masquerading as love, when love it is not.
These things are expounded at length within the references given. They are continually seen in the scriptures where the appalled grief of God and the intensively yearning love are conjoined with consequential and condign punishment, alone apt where love is reviled, remedy is disregarded as in the infinite and pre-temporal knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:4, II Chronicles 36, Ezekiel 33:11, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, John 3:16, Luke 19:42ff., Isaiah 48:18ff., and see Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Supplement 6).