This is the 3rd installment of the Adventure of the Elected Man.
You can read the first installment here.
After Mrs. Hudson replenished our tea pot and exchanged pleasantries with the Rev. Spurgeon we continued our discussion.
“Now, let us consider two doctrines – the doctrine of divine sovereignty and the doctrine of man’s guilt in rejecting God.”, Spurgeon offered. “This will certainly be a paradox even you will be compelled to admit Mr. Holmes.”
“Can you briefly explain these doctrines?”, Holmes asked as he returned to his thinking position, drawing himself up into the chair, pipe held tightly between his lips, and legs drawn up, wrapped by his arms and held close to his chest.
“Divine sovereignty, as it relates to salvation can be stated succinctly as follows. If any man be saved, he is saved by Divine grace, and by Divine grace alone. His salvation is the effect of a Divine cause within for there never was a man saved yet who merited it. Yet all the men who are lost, after having heard the Word that bids them to come, are lost because of their willful sin. They bear full responsibility for being lost because they would not come.” Spurgeon explained.
“This promises to be most interesting.” Holmes remarked. “But that may be a bit to brief of an explanation. I find that it is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. Would you care to provide some more information on Divine sovereignty, as it relates to salvation.”
“This doctrine, when narrowed to salvation, may be rightly called election.” Spurgeon clarified. “We must understand first and foremost that all mankind, through the fall and their sinning, lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever. When Adam sinned, it would have been easy enough to strike the world out of existence. But no! Instead of making a new people who could not sin, God takes a depraved and fallen people and out of his good pleasure from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life through a most costly means; by the death of his own Son by the work of his own Spirit; that these may be delivered out of the state of sin and be the jewels in his crown to reflect His glory forever.”
“A most splendid and marvelous truth”, Holmes agreed.
Spurgeon stood and continued, “that those who will have eternal life are elected is a great truth in the Bible. Just let me run through a few passages where the people of God are called elect. In the 13th chapter of Mark, Jesus Christ explained to His apostles the signs of the end of the age. There He told them that ‘the days were shortened for the sake of the elect, that false prophets would try to deceive the elect, and that He would send out His angels to gather the elect’. Paul tells the Colossians ‘as the elect of God put on bowels of mercy’ and Peter says we are ‘elect according to the foreknowledge of God’ – ”
Holmes slowly reopened his eyes and looking at his guest suggested “That the people of God are called elect will get no argument from me. But tell me, how are the elect chosen?”
“God has chosen to himself a people whom no man can number, out of the children of Adam – a wonder of wonders.”
“Why?, Why has God chosen some and not others.”
“Why?, Holmes you question the Maker? We must bow before the sovereignty of God for He does as He wills, for if there were any reason to move God in his creatures, He would certainly have chosen devils rather than men. Why? Only because He did so. There is no other reason.”
“None at all?”
“There was doubtless some wise reason for the Lord’s acts, for He doeth all things after the council of His will, but there certainly could not be any reason in the excellence or virture of the creature whom He chose. Why? Again I say, in the case of the individual, why is the man chosen who is chosen? The only answer I can give is the same as our Savior – ‘for it seemed good in the Father’s sight’.” Spurgeon continued, “Dwell on that a moment Mr. Holmes. There is no original goodness in those whom God selects.”
Holmes released his legs and arched his back so that he was sitting in a slouched reclining position. Then holding his pipe in one hand and motioning for Spurgeon to take his seat with the other asked – “what was there in Abraham that God chose to give him eternal life?”
Sitting back down and getting re-situated into a comfortable position our guest replied, “There was nothing more in Abraham than in anyone of us. That is to say that it was not based on any goodness in Abraham.”
“But was it not on the basis of faith that God credited Him with righteousness?”
“Justification is by faith and at the same time we must distinctly and determinately insist upon it that regeneration is necessary to every soul that shall enter heaven.”
“Regeneration or being reborn is certainly required for anyone to enter into the kingdom”, Holmes agreed. “And this faith – ”
“This faith”, interrupted Spurgeon, “that saves rests upon a person—upon Jesus. ‘Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’ So says 1 John in the fifth chapter. It is not belief about a doctrine, nor an opinion, nor a formula, but belief concerning a person. It is all about relying upon a crucified Saviour.”
“But, ” Spurgeon insisted, “this faith, wherever it exists, is in every case, without exception, the gift of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Never yet did a man believe in Jesus with the faith here intended, except the Holy Spirit led him to do so. He has wrought all our works in us, and our faith too.”
“If I may, are you claiming that regeneration precedes faith?”
“Absolutely! Faith is in every believer ‘the gift of God’. Faith is too celestial a grace to spring up in human nature till it is renewed. It is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith in the living Christ is a saved man.”
“And this regeneration, would that be the Divine cause you spoke of earlier? It is this cause that has as its effects a renewed nature and faith in Christ?”
“Most assuredly so!”
“Yet you also hold that God bids ‘Whosoever will, let him come?'”
“Again I say most assuredly so!”
“Then if I am following you,” Holmes attempted to summarize, “faith is at the same time the duty of man and the gift of God?”
“Yes. These are clear facts that the Bible teaches. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity.”
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. But I would like to examine these doctrines as you hold them further.”
[to be continued]
[Spurgeon’s remarks are quoted and based on “A Puritan Catechism“, the sermons “Election“, “Election and Holiness“, “Sovereign Grace and Man’s Responsibility” and “Faith and Regeneration“]