Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology–Chapter 30

Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology–Chapter 30CHAPTER XXX.


THE doctrine of Election is intimately associated with and involvesthat of Reprobation. The latter has met with even greater opposition, andmisconstructions of what the orthodox teach on this subject have been even morenumerous.

The Scriptural statements as to Reprobation are that God, in eternity, when heelected some, did likewise not elect others; that as resulting from thisnon-election, but not as efficiently caused by it, he passes by these in thebestowment of the special favours shown to the Elect, and, as in like manneryet further resulting, condemns men, because of sin to everlasting destruction,and while they are in the state of sin and condemnation, he effects or permitsthe hardening of their heart, so that his truth is not appreciated, butactually rejected.

According to this statement there are four points involved in the decrees as toReprobation:

1. The decree not to elect.

2. The decree to pass by in bestowing divine grace.

3. To condemn for sins committed.

4. To harden against the truth all or some persons, already sinners, and toconfirm them in sin.

In considering this doctrine we are met by the difficulty arising from the wantof knowledge of God’s purpose in action. It may he questioned whether we canarrive at this at all; yet to understand this subject fully, we must know thatpurpose. If, therefore, we cannot learn it, we see with what propriety we mustsubmit simply to accept what God says.

A careful examination of the four points indicated will show that thethird and fourth of them have necessary reference to sinners, and that theother two have not. These are only thus connected, because God, in carryingout his purpose, has chosen to do it by the creation of man, and by permittinghim to fall. This may be shown by supposing God to have some great object inview to be accomplished by beings selected from those to remain holy, asthrough a part of the angelic hosts. He selects some as the ones through whomhe will accomplish his purpose; he rejects the others as not choosing so to usethem. He gives to the former special grace to fit them for their work or toremove from them any imperfection for it. His plan not having required thatthey be permitted to fall, the act of rejection and refusal to add the specialgrace given to others constitutes in this case all of Reprobation. The purposeof God as to man, on the other hand, affected a fallen race, and hence theother two points, in accordance with his determination to permit man to fall,are associated with and made a part of the decree of Reprobation, with whichotherwise they would have no necessary connection.

The fact that God has permitted man to fall is undoubted. It is beyond ourpower to show how it is consistent with his justice and mercy. That it is soshould be acknowledged by all, because God has done it.

In like manner must we deal with any result that flows from any doctrine inconnection with that purpose. If it was right for God to permit man to fall,in order to carry out his purpose, it is right to condemn him for his sin. Butthe connection of condemnation for sin thus permitted with rejection from thenumber of those through whom that purpose is effected, extends no farther thanthat, from the circumstances of the case, the rejected in one part of thedecree become the condemned in another.

The relation borne by these two parts of the decree will be better seen by thefollowing table showing what is done on the one side for the Elect, and on theother for the rejected.

1. Election from good pleasure.1. Rejection from good pleasure. Sin having been committed. 2. To recover by the gospel and special grace.
3. As thus recovered, to glorify. 2. Not to recover, but to leave sinners.
3. As left sinners, to condemn for sin,
and to harden some of those thus left.

In thus arranging this table no reference has been had to the views of eitherSublapsarians or Supralapsarians. The doctrine of Reprobation is not affectedby the scheme of either. This may be shown by presenting the order of thedecrees as taught by each.

The Supralapsarians teach that there was:

1. God’s decree to glorify himself in the raising up of the church in which hisgrace should be peculiarly manifested.

2. To create the men whom he had selected and rejected for its composition.

3. To permit to fall.

4. To send Christ to redeem.

The Sublapsarian view is:

1. A decree to create.

2. To permit to fall.

3. To elect some to everlasting life.

4. To send Christ for their redemption and salvation.

The only difference in the decree of Reprobation as held by either of theseviews is that the Sublapsarians suppose man to have been decreed as fallen,before decreed as elected, or rejected; yet they deny that the rejection wasbecause of the sin of the non-elect, for if so, they say, the others would havebeen rejected, being equally in sin. The Supralapsarian view supposes that theelection to a certain purpose and the rejection took place before the decree topermit to fall had been entertained. According to each theory, therefore, thelast two points of the decree have only what has been called an accidentalconnection with it.

This preliminary statement will prepare the way for the Scriptural proof of thepoints indicated.

I. The decree to reject some.

1. This is involved in the doctrine of Election. The choice of some and not ofthe whole, involves the non-election and thus the rejection of others.

2. But it is plainly taught in Scripture:

(1.) In such passages as declare salvation not to be attained because God hasnot given the means. These will be presented under the next general head.

(2.) In such as declare salvation not to be attained because men are not of theElect, as

John 6:65. “No man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of theFather.”

John 10:26. “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.”

1 Cor. 1:26. “For behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise afterthe flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose, etc.”

(3.) In all such passages as declare the preordination, or appointment by Godof these persons either to condemnation or destruction. Though not the directresult of this decree so as to be efficiently caused by it, these things yetprove the rejection of some who, under the circumstances thus accidentallyarising, are thus preordained.

1 Peter 2:8. “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble atthe word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.”

Jude 4. “There are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old setforth unto this condemnation.”

1 Thess. 5:9. In this chapter, the Apostle tells of the evil that in the lastday shall come upon certain ones, and then says: “For God appointed us not untowrath but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(4.) In the illustrations from the twins, the potter, and the clay in the 9thchapter of Romans.

(5.) In the same chapter the words used are expressive directly of the truthinvolved.

Rom. 9:18. “So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will hehardeneth.”

(6.) The Apostle was teaching this doctrine in the ninth chapter of Romans andin verses 20 and 21 anticipated and answered the objection of one inquiring,why God should punish those who are thus fulfilling his will, by saying: “Nay,but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed sayto him that formed it, why didst thou make me thus? Or hath not the potter aright over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honour,and another unto dishonour.”

II. The second point of proof is that God passes by some in the bestowment ofhis special grace.

That God does bestow many of the means of grace on many not to be saved isadmitted; but what needs to be shown is that there are special effective meanswhich distinguish the Elect, and which are not bestowed on others.

The language of Scripture on this point is twofold. There are passages whichsimply speak of the withholding of privileges, and others which seem to gobeyond this and assert a positive influence exerted to keep men from the truth.The meaning of this latter class of passages will be examined when we come tospeak of the fourth point. At present they are presented as though they meantno more than the mere neglect to bestow these spiritual advantages.

Deut. 29:4. “The Lord hath not given you an heart to know, and eyes to see, andears to hear, unto this day.”

Job. 17:4. “For thou hast hid their heart from understanding, therefore shaltthou not exalt them.”

1 Sam. 2:25. After Eli had exhorted his sons to refrain from making the peopleof the Lord transgress, it is said, “Notwithstanding they hearkened not untothe voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.”

Isaiah 6: 9. “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; andsee ye indeed, but perceive not.”

Rom. 11:7, 8. “That which Israel seeketh for that he obtained not, but theelection obtained it, and the rest were hardened according as it is written,God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears thatthey should not hear unto this very day.”

Matt. 13:11-15. “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom ofheaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall begiven, and he shall have abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall betaken away even that which he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables,because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do theyunderstand. And unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, byhearing ye shall hear, and shall in nowise understand; and seeing ye shall see,and shall in nowise perceive. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, andtheir ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest haplythey should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understandwith their heart, and should turn again, and I should heal them.” The parallelto the first part is Luke 8:10, and to the last Mark 4:12. Similar passagesalso are in John 12:39, 40 and Acts 28:25-27.

2 Cor. 3:15. “But unto this day, whensoever Moses is read, a veil lieth upontheir heart,”

These texts will suffice when it is remembered that to the plain declarationshere made, may be added the proof afforded by all those passages which,teaching that God bestows on the elect alone salvation, with such attendantblessings as without fail lead to it, show that these blessings are alsowithheld from the non-elect.

At present it is assumed that this is done simply as an act of withholding.What is meant by this will be shown hereafter.

The question has been raised as to the two points considered above, whether thedecree which has respect to them is positive or negative. By a positive decreeis meant one which involves an actual direct exercise of the will of God. Anegative decree is one in which the effect purposed flows as the result of theactual exercise of the will on something else.

The answer to this question depends upon the nature of the union of thedifferent parts of the decree of reprobation. By some theologians all four ofthe points involved in the decree are included in one and by Reprobation theymean the actual preordination to damnation of certain persons, just aseffectively as the preordination of others to salvation by Election. Othersconceiving this to be a false statement have separated the first and secondpoint from the third and fourth, uniting them together, however, as one, andgiving to it the name of Preterition. The great difficulty which these had toencounter, arose from the fact that while it is true that the mere neglect tobestow certain blessings on some, may take place without their being conceivedof as in the mind, and may, therefore, be a mere negative act, the choice ofsome so necessarily involves the rejection of others as to require thatrejection to accompany the act of choice. Rejection must, therefore, haveaccompanied Election. In the very fact that some were chosen, was involved therejection of others. [But even here it is not to be overlooked that rejectionwas not from God’s favour, not from salvation, not from hope of mercy.Rejection has nothing to do with any of these. The loss of these results fromsin]. But the intimate connection between chosen and not chosen does not existin the bestowment of gifts and graces. These were conferred on those chosen,and not conferred on those not chosen. Hence no positive act of God occurs asto those not chosen. Consequently it is better to divide this part of thedecree and regard Rejection as a positive act, and Preterition in bestowinggrace as a negative one.

From the first and second, the third and fourth points result consequentiallybut not effectively. This has been before shown. They do not result fromthese, so as to be their consequences, but they are actually caused only by thesin of man and are causally related only to it. It is neither as an effect ofElection or Rejection or of Preterition that man has fallen, or sins, or iscondemned, or will be destroyed. The simple effect is that he is not rescued,and consequently is left where he would have been without these acts. They donot lead to destruction. They simply do not rescue from it.

III. The third point needs no proof at present. The condemnation for the sinsman commits is too plainly taught in the word of God. From this condemnationthe Elect are rescued by special grace, the Rejected are left liable to it andconsequently suffer from it.

This decree of God is positive, involving especially an act of God’s will inreference to the sin that is to be punished.

IV. The fourth point of Reprobation is the hardening some or all of theRejected against the truth, and the confirmation of them in their sin.

Some or all sinners are spoken of as hardened, because according to thedefinition given to this hardening process must it be limited or not. If thehardening of God means no more than the mere permission of those influences bywhich this is accomplished, then it is universal, because the evil influencesof the heart and of Satan undoubtedly lead to a constant increase ofindisposition for God’s service. But if that process is to be regarded as aspecial act of God, it must be confined to those persons whom God by specialacts of goodness or justice hardens so that they, in an extraordinary sense,are set against the truth and are led to reject it.

The language used in Scripture upon this point is very decided. The onlyquestion is about the meaning to be put on it as to a single point. It is bestto state the two positions recognized as true and then add the other aboutwhich the discussion arises.

1. God is represented as hardening the heart.

2. This is admitted by all to be done so far as permitting it to work out itsown destruction or not interfering to prevent the evil influences which wouldhave that tendency.

It is not necessary to present the Scripture proof of these points which isabundant, because it will plainly appear in connection with the third which isthat

3. God does himself operate upon and affect the heart and faculties of theindividual so that he is hardened against the acceptance of the truth of theGospel. This point is supported by many passages of Scripture and should be,at least briefly, considered.

(1) It may here again be suggested that it, upon an examination of theScriptures, this is seen to be God’s teaching, we are bound, in the simplicityof faith, not only to receive it, but also to continue with firm confidence tobelieve and maintain that it is perfectly consistent with the character of God.The fact that we cannot show it to be so, ought not to make us hesitate amoment after we are convinced that God has taught it.

(2) But if so taught, it may be made to appear perfectly consistent with God’srighteous action and should be recognized as such.

The contrary has been argued from the alleged fact that thus the sinner isprevented from accepting the gospel plan of salvation. But this is not true.His previous condition has already caused this. It is not any action of Godwithholding grace or conferring further disability that leads any man to rejectthe gospel. All are already in such a state of depravity that they willcertainly refuse it. This is proved from the fact that those who reject thegospel are not only not confined to the hardened, but comprise all sinners, andthat nothing can prevent this result but a positive act of God by which herescues man from his evil nature as well as from its effects.

The only evil then that arises to the sinner is that, under these influences,he sins more freely or more flagrantly than he would otherwise have done, orthat his sinful nature more rapidly developes itself. But if it be wrong inGod to do anything by which this shall be accomplished, it will be wrong tocast man into hell; for the change of state from this life to that has thistendency.

This illustration suggests indeed what God under these circumstances is doing,which is nothing more than inflicting punishment on the individual because ofhis sin. He is a sinner in God’s sight. His sin deserves punishment, and Godpunishes him by making his increased power to do wrong the punishment of thewrong already done.

In this view of the doctrine it is nothing worse than one very commonly taughtby Arminians as well as by Calvinists of all kinds,–that of the closing of aday of grace, when the time comes at which the line is passed beyond which Godno longer shows favour. That doctrine which asserts an eternal shutting out oflight as the penalty of resistance to truth is of precisely the same nature asthis the most objectionable form in which this point of Reprobation can hepresented.

(3) But, again, whence are the influences which thus tend to salvation? Dothey arise from the rights of man, or from the claims which he as man may besaid to have upon his Creator? Not at all. They are involved, not inCreation, but in Redemption. They are influences, therefore, which belong, inthe purpose of God, to the elect only. This is true, whether we regard theatonement as particular, or as general with a particular application.

These influences, therefore, come to man simply as the chosen of God. God maywithhold them from all others. He does withhold them from the heathen. Hemight withhold them from those to whom they are thus given. But if God mayjustly withhold them from any, he may, with equal justice, stay the hand thatwould be stretched out to take what he has intended shall not be given. Solong as the things which he withholds or prevents man from taking are notthings on which man has any claim, God cannot be charged with injustice in thusacting. Admitting this doctrine, therefore, in its worst form it may bedefended.

(4) But fourthly, we are liable to hold this form of the doctrine simply fromwant of consideration as to the method of God’s action, as well as fromoverlooking the language of Scripture elsewhere. Let these be regarded, and itwill appear that God does not teach us that he directly hardens the heart ofany. We must remember

(a) That there is a sense in which God is said to do everything that is done.Whatever happens must either be done by him, or permitted by him; and must bedone or permitted directly or indirectly, according as his action is immediateor through secondary means. Now it is the custom of the Scriptures to speak ofGod as doing whatever is done in any of these ways. If, therefore, we have noindications of the mode of his action, we cannot, from the mere declarationthat the Lord did it, decide that he did it directly, or indirectly,efficiently, or permissively. Thus Joseph said to his brethren, “It was notyou that sent me hither, but God” (Gen. 45:8), and yet we know that these menwere willing instruments of God. The Scripture declarations as to reprobation,or hardening, are not stronger than these which are thus used relative to othermatters where we know that God only acted indirectly and permissively.

(b) There are causes at work fully sufficient to accomplish all that God wouldthus purpose without requiring efficient and causal action. These are thesinful depravity of the heart and the wiles of Satan. It can hardly besupposed that, when the work to be done could thus be effected, God would notleave it to be thus done.

(c) In James 1:13, 14, the apostle uses language inconsistent with the ideathat God efficiently leads to sin. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I amtempted of God: for God cannot he tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth noman: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust andenticed.”

(d) Whenever the heart is hardened as the result of any action of God, it isalways as the result of merciful action, which should have had an oppositetendency. Thus was it with Pharaoh, and thus was it with the Jews in the timeof Christ.

(5.) An examination of the passages which refer to the hardening of the heartwill show that (a) some expressly declare this hardening to have been by means,or by the individuals themselves; (b) that others are explained by parallel orallied passages to have this meaning; and (c) that there is nothinginconsistent with this view.

1. Passages which affirm this hardening to be the work of the individualsthemselves.

2 Kings 17:14. The people of Israel carried away by the Assyrians are said tohave hardened their necks like their fathers. See also Neb. 9:16-29 and Jer.7:26.

2. Passages which furnish explanations. To these belong the famous passagesconcerning Pharaoh. There could be no stronger expressions than those thereused.

(1.) God foretells that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart. Ex. 7:3.

(2.) It is expressly said that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. Ex. 7:13.

(3.) God declares that for this very purpose did he raise up Pharaoh that hemight show his glory. Ex. 10:1, 2.

(4.) And yet Pharaoh is expressly declared to have hardened his own heart. Ex.8:15, 32. Notice in this case the way of hardening; whenever the curse wassent, Pharaoh yielded; whenever it was removed, his heart was hardened. And,that this was not an accidental connection, is seen by the fact that in Ex.9:34, it is said of Pharaoh that, “when Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail andthe thunders were ceased, he sinned yet wore, and hardened his heart.”

Another passage, which has often been commented on, is that in 1 Kings, 22ndchapter, where Ahab calls on his prophets and receives assurance of success(verse 6). He sends for a prophet of God (verses 7-9) who gives him the sameanswer (verse 15), probably ironically, as Ahab immediately turns and says tohim, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing butthe truth in the name of the Lord” (verse 16). The prophet then proceeds totell of the scattered house of Israel, as sheep that have no shepherd, thusforetelling evil. The king says to Jehoshaphat, “did I not tell thee that hewould not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (verse 18). Then the prophetproceeds to tell a vision wherein God is represented as wishing to destroy Ahaband asking of all his hosts, who will persuade Ahab that he may go and fall atRamoth Gilead. And after various replies one Spirit came and said, that hewould persuade him by being a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.And the prophet adds, “Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spiritin the mouth of all these thy prophets; and the Lord hath spoken evilconcerning thee.” This 1 Kings 22:21-23, is the place that is frequentlyreferred to as a case of God’s misleading Ahab. Independently of the fact thatthe prophet uses drapery for what he says, he tells the King distinctly God’swill, and, as his prophet who ought to be heard, declares the truth. Thispassage ought not to weigh for a moment in favor of the idea that God seekseffectively to harden, and thus to destroy.

Again, we have a class of passages, for they are many, such as the one beforereferred to as showing Reprobation, Matt. 13:11-15. This passage follows theSeptuagint translation. The corresponding passages (Mark 4:11, 12, and Luke8:10) follow the Hebrew of Isaiah 6:9, 10, and are still stronger than Matthew.But Matthew may be taken as explanatory of the parallel and other likepassages. The doctrine meant was so plainly understood that the language isnot always guarded. It may not have been by Christ in its utterance. But wehave here the intended meaning manifested in a single phrase, “and their eyesthey have closed lest haply they should perceive,” “and should turn again and Ishould heal them.”

The passage in Isaiah 63:17, is easily explained in like manner: “O Lord, whydost thou make us to err from thy ways, and hardenest our heart from thyfear?”

3. Passages not inconsistent with this interpretation.

On the contrary, in view of what has been said, this interpretation seems mostnatural. These are fair examples.

Deut. 2:30. “But Sihon, king of Heshbon, would not let us pass by him: for theLord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he mightdeliver him into thy hand, as at this day.”

Acts 19:9. “But when some were hardened, and disobedient, etc., . . . he(Paul) departed from them.”

Rom. 9:18. “So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will hehardeneth.” The example referred to here is that of Pharaoh which, as we haveseen, is a case of self-hardening under mercies.

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