John Girardeau on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Girardeau (1825-1898) was an important Southern Presbyterian professor and theologian at Columbia Theological Seminary in South Carolina.  He followed in the footsteps of his beloved teacher and mentor, James H. Thornwell.  Girardeau was also affectionately known for pastoring a congregation of black slaves, and was instrumental in allowing blacks to become elders in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

 

 

Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism

Part 1, Section 3 – Objections [to Election and Reprobation] from the Moral Attributes of God Answered;  4. Objection from Divine Veracity [Truthfulness].  p. 359-393

It follows from this view that, as the atonement of Christ was, in itself, sufficient, had God so pleased, to ground the salvation of all men, it is sufficient to ground the universal offer of salvation.  Men are invited to stand on a platform which is broad enough to hold them all, to rest upon a foundation which is strong enough to support them all, to partake of provisions which are abundant enough to supply them all.  When, therefore, God invites all men to seek salvation in Christ, He is not insincere in offering them a platform too narrow to hold them, a foundation too weak to sustain them, provisions too meagre to supply them.  Were they all to accept the invitation, they would all be saved.  So much for the intrinsic sufficiency of the remedy for human sin and misery. So far the Calvinist is not chargeable with representing God as insincere in the matter of the gospel offer

It will be urged, however, that notwithstanding his admission of the absence of limitation, as to the intrinsic sufficiency of the atonement, the difficulty remains in view of his doctrine that there is limitation, as to its extrinsic design and application. It was not rendered for all, it is not intended to be effectually applied to all; it cannot, therefore, be sincerely offered to all as a remedy for the evils under which they suffer. 

In order that the precise nature of the gospel offer should be apprehended, let us collect some of the prominent passages of Scripture in which it is expressed. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”  (Mark 15:15,16)  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matt 11:28)  “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”  (John 7:37-38)  “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Rom. 10:13  “Let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”  (Rev. 22:17)

In these scriptural statements of the gospel offer, no man is invited to believe that Christ died for him in particular.  Every man is invited to believe in Christ in order to his being saved.  The plain meaning of the offer is, Believe in Christ and you shall be saved: you are a sinner; Christ died to save sinners; if you believe in him as a Saviour, you shall be saved.  If the Calvinist representing the Scriptures as teaching that Christ died to save the elect, should also represent God as inviting every man to believe that Christ died for him in particular, he would be justly chargeable with imputing insincerity to the divine Being.  [Footnote #49: This argument against the Calvinist is styled the Remonstrants’ Achilles; but it does about as much harm to the Calvinist as the Greek hero while sulking in his tent to the Trojan]  But he is not guilty of this inconsistency.  He regards the offer as consisting of a condition and a promise suspended upon its discharge.  The condition is faith; the promise is salvation.  The terms simply are: if you believe in Christ as a Savior you shall be saved; and you are invited so to believe.  Perform the condition, and the promised salvation is yours.  The preachers of the gospel have no commission to proclaim to every man that Christ died to save him, and that he ought to believe that fact.  That would be to exhort men to believe that they are saved, before they exercise faith in Christ.  For surely to believe the proposition, Christ died for thee, and to believe in Christ as a personal Savior, are very different things. The Calvinist, therefore, does not blasphemously ascribe a want of veracity to God by representing him as teaching, in the doctrinal statements of his Word, that Christ did not die for every man, and as declaring in the gospel offer that Christ did die for every man.  He holds that, in the gospel offer, God simply announces the condition upon which men may be saved and indiscriminately invites all to fulfill it

This being the state of the case, I remark that the gospel offer gives to every man who hears it a divine warrant to believe in Christ and be saved.  So far as God’s assurance is concerned, He has a right to believe and be saved, if he will.  The terms are, Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.  Where is the insincerity of such all offer?  It could only be evinced by showing that God is the author of the sinner’s will not to believe and be saved.  But it has been already sufficiently manifested that no Calvinist holds that God is the cause of the sinner’s unbelief.  The sinner himself is the cause of it.  If it be said, still God knows when He gives the warrant to all to believe and be saved, that there are some who are not able to avail themselves of it; when He furnishes the right, that there are some who cannot employ it; the answer is, that it may please Him, for wise and holy purposes, by extending the offer of salvation to such men, to test their unbelief, and so to expose their perverse wickedness and vindicate his justice in their condemnation.  Who are we, that we should venture to set bounds to the procedures of infinite wisdom, justice and holiness?  Why may we not conceive that God is as righteous in conveying to men the free offer of salvation in order to evince to themselves and to the universe their wickedness in disbelieving the gospel, as in imposing upon men his commands in order to illustrate their wickedness in disobeying his law?  Certainly, if sinners spontaneously reject the warrant and the right which God gives them to believe and be saved, they are left without excuse and will be speechless in the great day of accounts.  And He would take bold ground who would hold that God has no right to place sinners in such circumstances, and in such relations to himself, as to manifest the inexcusableness of their wickedness. 

In the Epistle to the Romans, the inspired apostle clearly teaches that the light of nature, while insufficient to ground the knowledge of salvation, is sufficient to render men without excuse for their wicked apostasy from God.  

“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him. from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”  (Rom. 1:19,20)

To say that Paul meant that the Gentiles might have been justified by obeying this light of natural religion is to reduce his whole argument to contempt.  Their relation to the instructions of nature did not make their justification possible, but proved their condemnation to be just.  It might be asked, where is God’s sincerity in furnishing light to those who, he knows, cannot avail themselves of it in consequence of sin?  To such a questioner it might be thundered, Who art thou that repliest against God? 

The same line of remark applies to the relation of the moral law to those who have not the gospel.  When God, by the requirements and admonitions of conscience, illuminated and re-enforced by the common operations of his Spirit, convinces them of the duty and the necessity resting upon them to obey it, He cannot intend by these means to assure them of the hope of salvation on the ground of a legal righteousness.  He knows that by the deeds of the law they cannot be justified.  To what end, then, are these instrumentalities employed, if not to leave the wicked transgressors of the law without excuse, and to vindicate the divine justice in their condemnation?  

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law (that is, the law as written in the Scriptures) do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing, one another.”

And of those who, having not the written law, violate this natural law embodied in the conscience, it is expressly declared that they shall perish.  “As many as have sinned without law shall perish without law.”  Is God insincere in addressing the instructions, expostulations and warnings of the law to those who cannot obey it in their natural strength, and to whom he has communicated no knowledge of that redemptive scheme through the provisions of which alone they can escape condemnation, and present to Him acceptable obedience? 

Is God insincere in pressing the demands of his law upon any man, unevangelized or evangelized, although He knows that the result will be the excitement of contradictoriness and opposition instead of obedience to those requirements, and although He knows that that result cannot be avoided except in consequence of the impartation of his saving grace? 

These considerations go to show that God, in innumerable instances, pours the light of nature and of the moral law upon ungodly men for the purpose of convicting them of sin and of rendering them inexcusable.  And, if He is pleased to adopt this course towards the despisers of his law, why should one be censured for attributing insincerity to him in pursuing a similar course towards the despisers of his grace?  In neither case is He bound to restore that ability to obey Him which men have forfeited by their own sin; and if it be one of the ends of that moral government which He is now conducting to furnish a thoroughgoing and exhaustive exposition of the desperate evil of sin, one, basing his judgment upon merely rational grounds, might without rashness conclude that such an end would be most effectually compassed by permitting the wicked to exhibit malignant enmity to his gospel as well as to his law.  That could only be done by bringing them into contact with the gospel offer.  If they reject that offer, made to every man who is willing to receive it, the native opposition of their hearts to God is most clearly brought to the surface and exposed.  To the contemners of the rich and unmerited blessings freely and graciously offered in the gospel, God may righteously utter the awful words: “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish.”  It is very certain that God could, if He pleased, constrain every man who hears the gospel offer to accept it.  The fact that He does not, whatever other inferences it may warrant, legitimates this: that it is his purpose to uncover and bring into light the malignant and inexcusable character of sin.  Unbelief in Christ is the climax of wickedness.  In the great day, every mouth will be stopped; but especially will they be struck dumb who have despised alike the grace of the gospel, and the justice of the law. 

If, therefore, God gives to every man who hears the gospel a warrant and right to embrace the salvation it offers, He is sincere in extending the offer to all, notwithstanding the fact that He does not confer upon all the grace which effectuates its reception.  Those who reject it will not be able to excuse themselves by the plea of God’s insincerity

It deserves also to be noticed, as some divines have shown, that faith is required, on grounds of justice, as the first duty of the sinner in order that he make reparation for the injury done to the divine veracity in the first instance of man’s transgression.  God distinctly testified to man in innocence, “In the day thou eatest thereof” (that is, of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) “thou shalt surely die.”  That divine testimony the Devil as distinctly denied.  Man believed the Devil and disbelieved God.  The divine word was discredited by unbelief.  On the supposition, therefore, that man is to be restored to the favor of God, it is righteous, it is meet and proper, that a naked faith in the simple testimony of God should be exacted from him as the first step to his recovery.  The requirement of faith from the sinner is, consequently, not merely a measure of mercy to him, but of justice to God.  The atonement of Christ, proposed to the sinner’s acceptance as the means of his reconciliation to God; is the free product of grace, and it is exuberant grace that, in the first instance, nothing but faith in the provision of redemption should be demanded of the sinner; but there is a reason for the exaction of faith in the divine testimony to this plan of recovery, which is deeply seated in justice and law.  The salvation of the guilty springs from the free and unmerited mercy of God, but it is effected in such a way, even in regard to its experimental application, as to consist with the divine perfections of justice and truth, and to honor, vindicate and establish the principles of God’s moral government.  The Fall began in unbelief, and the sinner’s restoration fitly begins with faith.  The insult offered to the divine word must be obliterated by a simple and unquestioning reliance upon it.  From God’s side, the requirement of faith on the part of the sinner in order to his salvation is a demand of justice, and in that aspect of it may as fairly be laid upon the spiritually disabled sinner as any precept to obey the moral law.  In this view of the case, it is clear, that it no more involves a departure from sincerity for God to require faith in Christ from the sinner because he cannot, in his own strength, exercise it, than for God to demand obedience to his law from the sinner, because he cannot, in his own strength, perform it.  God sincerely requires obedience to his law from the sinner, although He knows that without his efficacious grace that obedience cannot be rendered, and although He has not purposed to impart that grace to determine him to its performance.  In the same manner, God sincerely requires from the sinner faith in the gospel, although He knows that without his efficacious grace he cannot exercise it, and although He has not purposed to bestow that grace to determine him to its exercise. 

Men argue as if the exhortation to the sinner to believe in Christ were simply an invitation to him to partake of blessings freely tendered by mercy.  That it certainly is, but only that it certainly is not.  It is forgotten that it imposes an obligation to the discharge of an imperative duty. The whole race lies under the fearful guilt of having believed the Devil and given God the lie.  Those who live under the gospel are bound to wipe out this foul dishonor done to the divine veracity.  The Calvinist could only be convicted of representing God as insincere in requiring this reparation to his injured honor, by its being shown to be his doctrine that God himself influenced men to prefer the testimony of Satan to his own; and that the Calvinist denies. 

Let it be borne in mind, also, that while, as we have seen, God, in extending the offer of the gospel to all men, furnishes an ample warrant to all to believe in Christ and to be saved, He is not bound by any of his perfections to give to all the disposition to avail themselves of the warrant.  They have no claim upon Him.  They brought themselves into their condition of sin and inability, and, consequently, they can have no ground for complaining against God for not removing their indisposition to comply with his command and invitation to believe in Christ.

But while it is true that God is not bound to give to all who hear the gospel a disposition to accept its invitations, it is also true that He debars no man from availing himself of them and receiving salvation through Christ.  So far as He is concerned, all legal obstacles have been removed which barred the access of sinners to his pardoning mercy.  The road has been opened to his favor, by means of the finished work of an atoning Saviour.  All who will to come may come.  No one who comes is thrust back.  The only barriers between sinners and salvation are those which are raised by themselves.  God erects none.  His decree, executed by his efficacious grace, constrains some to come; but his decree prevents none from coming. He decrees to condemn men for not coming, not to debar them from coming.  He is therefore sincere in opening the door of mercy to all who please to enter it.

It must further be observed that God exercises no positive influence upon the minds of any sinners to deter them from coming to Christ for salvation.  He creates no indisposition in them to come.  If He did, there would be some color of truth in the charge that He deals insincerely with them in making the offer of salvation.  It is common to represent the Calvinist as holding that God chains the sinner to a stake, and then invites him to come to provisions which are placed beyond his reach.  The Calvinist teaches no such doctrine.  He contends that the sinner chains himself, and that he prefers his chains to the provisions of redemption which are tendered him.  He forges his own chain and then hugs it.  The true doctrine is that the bread and the water of life are offered to all.  None, by nature, hunger for the bread; none thirst for the water.  To some God pleases to impart the hunger and the thirst which impel them to come and partake.  Others He leaves under the influence of a distaste for these provisions of salvation – a distaste not implanted by Him, but engendered by their own voluntary sin.  He infuses into none a disrelish for the bread and water of life.  If they desired to partake of them they might; for God invites them, and therefore authorizes them, to come and enjoy them.  Is God insincere in this procedure because they exclude themselves from these blessings?  It is shifting the ground of the objection to say, that God knows, when He extends the invitation, that they are, without his grace, unable to accept it.  That difficulty has already been met.  What is now insisted upon is, that God does not infuse the inability.  It is self-engendered.  In the parable of the Great Supper our Lord illustrates the invitation which God extends to all who hear the gospel to come and partake of its saving provisions.  All who were invited to the Supper refused to come. The Master of the feast constrained some to come.  Did this discrimination prove him insincere in inviting the others?  Certainly not. Their own unwillingness was the cause of their refusal.  He could only have been insincere on the supposition that He so influenced them as to render them unwilling.  In like manner, the refusal of sinners to accept the gospel offer is caused by their own unwillingness; nor can God be charged with insincerity, except upon the supposition that their unwillingness is produced by his agency.  That supposition forms no part of the Calvinistic doctrine.  Any statement to the contrary is a misrepresentation. 

But it will be urged: Where, after all, is the sincerity of invitations addressed to the dead; of lighting up a charnel-house [a vault or building where human skeletal remains are stored] as a banqueting hall, spreading in it a feast of viands [food], and exhorting the mouldering corpses to rise and partake of the sumptuous repast [meal]?  Unless life be infused into them it is a grim and solemn mockery to exhort them to attempt the functions of the living.  Besides the answer which has already been furnished to this objection, the following considerations are submitted:

First, sinners are not in such a sense dead as to be wholly beyond the reach of the gospel offer.  The effect of the fall was the total destruction of spiritual life.  That was totally eliminated from every faculty of the soul.  Holiness was not an essential element, but a separable quality, of man’s original constitution.  It is a sufficient proof of that position that all evangelical theologians admit the possibility of its restoration after having been lost.  The faculties which were essential to the very make and constitution of man survived the disaster of the fall; otherwise his being would have been extinguished.  Although, therefore, the principle of spiritual life no longer exists until restored by supernatural grace, the intellect, the feelings, the will, considered as to its spontaneity at least, and the conscience as a moral faculty, still continue their functions in the natural sphere.  In contact with these powers God brings the instructions, invitations and threatenings of the gospel.  The gospel does not speak to stocks and stones; it addresses beings who are intelligent, emotional, voluntary and moral.  They are capable of apprehending its statement that they are spiritually dead, and its gracious offer to them of the boon of everlasting life.  They can understand the proposition that God has through Christ provided redemption for sinners, and that they are freely invited to accept it.  They are susceptible of some feeling of desire to obtain it, and of some sense of obligation to seek it. 

Secondly, with the operation of these natural faculties in the moral sphere the Holy Spirit concurs, in the discharge of what has been called his law-work.  He illuminates the understanding, stimulates the affections, presses upon the conscience the sanctions of the moral law, and directs the attention of the sinner to the provisions of redeeming mercy which are proposed to his acceptance in the gospel.

Thirdly, is there anything which the unconverted sinner can will to do?  This is an important question.  It is very certain that he can do nothing in the spiritual sphere, for the reason that he is spiritually dead.  He cannot convert himself, for how can a dead man restore himself to life?  He cannot repent, he cannot believe in Christ, for repentance and faith suppose the possession of spiritual life.  This spiritual inability is itself sin, and as has been already shown cannot be held to absolve the sinner from the obligation to obey God’s requirements either purely legal or evangelical, unless the preposterous ground is assumed that sin can excuse sin.  The spiritual inability of the sinner is no reason why God may not consistently either with justice or goodness or veracity command and invite him to repent and believe.  The gravity of the distinction between original and penal inability can scarcely be overestimated, although it is one which is but too seldom emphasized.  It was maintained both by Augustine and Calvin.  The latter says: “For since he [Augustine] had said ‘that no ground of blameworthiness could be discovered when nature or necessity governs’ he cautions us that this does not hold except in regard to a nature sound and in its integrity; that men are not subject to necessity but as the first man contracted it for them by his voluntary fault. ‘To us,’ says he, ‘nature is made a punishment, and what was the just punishment of the first man is nature to us.  Since, therefore, necessity is the punishment of sin, the sins which thence arise are justly censured, and the blame of them is deservedly imputed to men, because the origin is voluntary.'” [Footnote: De. Servit. et Liberat. Hum. Arbitrii, Opp. ed. Amstel., vol. viii, p. 151.]

Dr. [James] Thornwell [1812-1862] enforces the distinction in these impressive words:

“We must distinguish between inability as original and inability as penal. Moral power is nothing more nor less than holy habitudes and dispositions; it is the perception of the beauty, and the response of the heart to the excellence and glory, of God, and the consequent subjection of the will to the law of holy love: Spiritual perception, spiritual delight, spiritual choice, these and these alone constitute ability to good.  Now, if we could conceive that God had made a creature destitute of these habits, if we could conceive that he came from the hands of the Creator in the same moral condition in which our race is now born, it is impossible to vindicate the obligation of such a creature to holiness upon any principle of justice.  It is idle to say that his inability is but the intensity of his sin, and the more helpless the more wicked.  His inability is the result of his constitution; it belongs to his very nature as a creature, and he is no more responsible for such defects than a lame man is responsible for his hobbling gait, or a blind man for his incompetency to distinguish colors.  He is what God made him; he answers to the idea of his being, and is no more blameworthy for the deformed condition of his soul than a camel for the deformity of its back.  The principle is intuitively evident that no creature can be required to transcend its powers.  Ability conditions responsibility.  An original inability, natural in the sense that it enters into the notion of the creature as such, completely obliterates all moral distinctions with reference to the acts and habits embraced within its sphere. . . . 

“But there is another, a penal inability.  It is that which man has super-induced by his own voluntary transgression.  He was naturally able – that is, created with all the habitudes and dispositions which were involved in the loving choice of the good.  Rectitude was infused into his nature; it entered into the idea of his being; he was fully competent for every exaction of the law.  He chooses sin, and by that very act of choice impregnates his nature with contrary habits and dispositions.  His moral agency continues unimpaired through all his subsequent existence.  He becomes a slave to sin, but his impotence, hopeless and ruinous as it is, results from his own free choice.  In the loss of habits he loses all real power for good; he becomes competent for nothing but sin; but he is held responsible for the nature which God gave him, and the law which constitutes its eternal norm according to the divine idea and the spontaneous dictates of his own reason can never cease to be the standard of his being and life.  All his descendants were in him [Adam] when he sinned and fell.  His act was legally theirs, and that depravity which he infused into his own nature in the place of original righteousuess has become their inheritance.  They stand, therefore, from the first moment of their being in the same relation to the law which he occupied at his fall.  Their impotence is properly their own.  Here is not the place to show how this can be.  I am only showing that there is a marked distinction between the inability which begins with the nature of a being and the inability which it brings upon itself by sin; that in the one case responsibility is measured by the extent of the actual power possessed, in the other, by the extent of the power originally imparted.  No subject by becoming a traitor can forfeit the obligation to allegiance; no man can escape from the law by voluntary opposition to law.  The more helpless a creature becomes in this aspect of the case, the more wicked; the more he recedes from the divine idea, from the true norm of his being, the more guilty and the more miserable. To creatures in a state of apostasy actual ability is not, therefore, the measure of obligation.  They cannot excuse themselves under the plea of impotency when that very impotence is the thing charged upon them.” [Footnote: Collected Writings, vol. 1, p. 395-398.]

This subject has been again adverted to for the purpose, in the first place, of showing that as the spiritual inability of the sinner cannot absolve him from the obligation to pay obedience to any requirement God may please to make, there is no insincerity involved in the extension of the gospel offer occasioned by the divine knowledge of the sinner’s incompetency to embrace it; and, in the second place, of guarding against any misconception of the views about to be presented in regard to that measure of ability which the unregenerate sinner possesses in the merely natural sphere

The question recurring, Can the unconverted sinner will to do anything in regard to the offer of salvation conveyed in the gospel, I answer

He can will, or not will, to place his understanding in such relation to the evidence which God proposes for his consideration, to the facts and teachings, the invitations, remonstrances and warnings of the gospel, as is suited to impress it with the duty, the policy, the importance of paying attention to the great concern of personal salvation

He can will, or not will, to attend upon the ordinances of God’s house, and listen to the preaching of the divine Word, and thus place himself in the way along which Jesus as a Saviour is passing. 

He can will, or not will, to read the Scriptures, and so subject his mind to the influences which they are suited to exert

What hinders the unregenerate man from doing these things?  What hinders him from hearing the preacher of the gospel any more than listening to any public speaker?  What hinders him from repairing to the sanctuary any more than going to any other building?  What hinders him from reading the Bible any more than perusing any other book?  To do these things he is not dependent upon supernatural grace.  He may do them in the exercise of his natural will. Now, on the supposition that he avails himself, as he is competent to do, of these means which God furnishes him in the natural sphere, it is perfectly possible for him to be impressed with the statements of the gospel concerning his lost and ruined condition as a sinner, and the redemption effected by Christ, and the expediency and necessity of complying with the calls of mercy. It is also conceivable that he should be convinced of his utter inability to accept the offer of the gospel and rely upon Christ for salvation. [Footnote: Owen, Works, vol. iii. p. 229, ff. Goold’s Ed.]

In this condition of mind, he can will, or not will, to cry to God for help.  What would hinder him from determining, in view of his inability to meet the exigency, to pray that God would enable him to come to Christ and accept the offered salvation?  Men sincerely appeal for help only when they cannot help themselves.  The very conviction of impotence would be the strongest motive to prayer.  Now, the throne of grace is accessible to all.  God debars no sincere suppliant from approaching it. He invites the distressed to call upon him and promises that He will answer their cry.

These things, then, the unconverted sinner can do in the natural sphere: he can hear the preaching of the gospel, he can read the Scriptures, he can call on God for delivering grace.  In that charnel-house [house or chamber that stores skeletons] in which the objector paints the gospel feast as spread – yea, in the sepulchre in which his spiritual corpse is lying, he can, in the exercise of his natural powers, apprehend the invitation to partake of the blessings of redemption and cry to God for ability to embrace it.  His prayers would have no merit: they would, on the contrary, be the expression of impotence, of self-despair and of utter dependence on God. 

If, therefore, the unregenerate sinner may do these things, what ground is there for imputing insincerity to God in extending to him the gospel offer and urging him to accept it?  If he will not do what he is able to do, with what face can he find fault with God for not doing for him what he is not able to do?  What excuse will he render in the day of final accounts for his willful neglect of the means which were placed in his power?  Should the Judge ask him, in that day: Didst thou attend the sanctuary and hearken to the preaching of the gospel?  Didst thou seriously read the Scriptures?  Didst thou call on God to save thee?  Didst thou not know that thou couldst have done these things?  he will be speechless; for his inner consciousness will attest the justice of the awful interrogatories, and close his lips to self-justification. [Footnote: A similar line of argument, very ably presented by the Rev. S. G. Winchester, may be found in Vol. i. of the Tracts issued by the Presbyterian Board of Publication, Philadelphia.]

There is but one other consideration which I will submit with reference to the special aspect of the subject before us.  Men assert for themselves the power of free-will.  They claim the ability to decide the question of accepting the offer of salvation by the determination of their own wills.  This they arrogate for themselves in the face of the clear and unmistakable testimony of God’s Word to the contrary.  The Scriptures inform them that they are dead in trespasses and sins, and that they can see the kingdom of God only by virtue of a new and supernatural birth, involving the infusion of spiritual life, the renewal of their wills, and ability to embrace Christ as he is offered in the gospel.  This they presumptuously deny, and boldly take the ground that God himself cannot determine the human will by his efficacious grace, without invading the rights and prerogatives which belong to its essential constitution. They must themselves decide the question of embracing the offer of salvation by the undetermined election of their own wills.  Assisted by grace they may be, but controlled by grace they cannot and must not be.  The sovereignty of man’s free will must be preserved. 

When, accordingly, God makes to them a tender of salvation and calls upon them to accept it, without imparting to them the efficacious, determining, constraining grace which they deliberately declare their unwillingness to receive, what does He but meet them on their own ground?  Did He not offer them salvation He would, according to their own view, deal with them unjustly.  Did He bestow upon them constraining grace, He would, according to their own view, contradict the constitution He imparted to them.  Very well; God treats them precisely as they demand He should.  He offers salvation to their acceptance; He does not confer upon them constraining grace.  It is just what they would have.  Where, then, is the reasonableness of the complaint that God is insincere, if the case be regarded from their own point of view? 

It is no answer to this statement of the matter that the Calvinist says, God knows that the claim of the unconverted sinner to the possession of free-will in spiritual things is false.  God not only knows that fact, but faithfully ascertains the sinner of it, urges it upon his attention and exhorts him to relinquish all dependence upon himself and throw himself upon unmerited and sovereign mercy.  This faithful and kindly dealing with his soul the sinner flouts.  Is not God right in permitting him to walk in the light of the sparks which he has kindled and to eat the fruit of his own doings?  Is not God right in saying to him, in effect, You claim the power to decide the question of salvation for yourself: have your own way: I offer you salvation, I will not invincibly determine your will: test the question in the way you elect, and let the issue prove whether you or your God be right.  It would be bold and arrogant to assign reasons for God’s procedures, save in those cases in which He is pleased to reveal them; but if it be a part of his plan to furnish a complete exposition of the principles of sin and grace operating in connection with each other, it would seem to be necessary to test the claim of an unregenerate sinner to the possession of free will and ability in relation to spiritual things and those which concern the salvation of the soul.  This is effectually done by freely offering salvation to the sinner, and opposing no obstacle to his receiving it; and also by taking him at his own word, dealing with him on his own terms, and leaving him to the decision of his own will undetermined by an irresistible influence of grace.  This is exactly what the sinner claims to be fair, and what the Arminian theology formally demands for him.  The conditions exacted on the human side are fairly supplied on the divine side.  The issue is joined, and the question awaits settlement whether the will of a fallen being possesses elective ability in the spiritual sphere.  And little is risked, when the opinion is adventured, that the final result, illuminated by the light of the great, judicial day, will be that the claim of a fallen and unregenerate being to possess free will in spiritual things will be exploded in the eyes of the on-looking universe.  The actual trial, which will have been had, will forever settle the case. 

 

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John Girardeau

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel