We are not Calvinist nor are we Armenian; we are Baptist.
By E. Y. Mullins, 1912
In consequence of their sinful nature and habitual choice of evil, men, if left to themselves, would inevitably refuse salvation. A Gospel, or good news of salvation, announced to a race of sinful men and left without the active energy of God's grace to make it effectual, would surely come to naught. There are two choices necessary in a man's salvation: God's choice of the man and man's choice of God. Apart from infants and others incapable of responding to the Gospel call, salvation never comes otherwise than through God's choice of man and man's choice of God. But God's choice of man is prior to man's choice of God, since God is infinite in wisdom and knowledge, and since he will not make the success of his Kingdom dependent on the contingent choices of men. God does not fling out the possibility of salvation among men, say, like a golden apple, and leave it for men to use or not use as they will. He keeps his own hands on the reins of his government. Yet in doing so he must needs observe his own law of freedom as written in man's moral constitution. This is the problem and task which calls for infinite wisdom, love and power: To save man and yet leave man free to choose salvation. Free-will in man is as fundamental a truth as any other in the Gospel and must never be canceled in our doctrinal statements. Man would not be man without it and God never robs us of our true moral manhood in saving us.
In dealing with a race of beings who, if left to themselves, would inevitably choose, evil, and yet whose freedom must be respected, how else could God act in saving them than as he has acted, in not only sending his Son as Mediator and Redeemer, but also in devising means and instrumentalities for persuading men to believe and accept the Gospel. If he should pick them up bodily, as it were, and force salvation upon them against their wills, he would do an immoral thing. Indeed, such a method is inconceivable with free beings. Yet if God holds aloof from men and merely awaits their choice of him, none would choose him. The Gospel, the Holy Spirit, the church, the preacher, the message or sermon, and all other means of persuading and inclining men to believe are, therefore, necessary in order that God may save, first, because he has chosen man, and second, through man's choice of God. The decree of salvation must be looked at as a whole to understand it. Some have looked at God's choice alone and ignored the means and the necessary choice on man's part. Others have ignored God's choice and have made all depend on the means and man's choice. But you cannot split up the decree of God into little bits and understand it by looking at the pieces. You must view it as a whole.
Election is sometimes said to indicate arbitrariness and partiality in God. But this is an error. God wills that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), as Paul assured us. Certainly Jesus died for the whole world (John 3:16). Election is not an arbitrary choice on God's part. Infinite love is behind his every act. He adopts the only method by which the salvation of any would be possible, and no doubt he yearns for and desires that as rapidly as possible all men should bear and know the truth and obey it. This is why he chooses men not merely to salvation but to service. Every saved man or woman or child is intended by God as a messenger and worker to make known his grace and power to others.
Election leaves no room for boasting or pride or sense of merit on our part, but it does, when truly understood, fill us with humility and a sense of the manifold wisdom of God in dealing with his free creatures. And it should inspire us with a holy sympathy with God in his effort to save men who are disobedient and rebellious and carnal in their choices. With God we may, then, patiently co-operate in persuading men to believe the Gospel, in the full assurance that God's grace will prove equal to the great task of leading even the rebellious to forsake their sins and freely choose him; and that the energetic action of God's holy will in a world held even in the grip of hereditary sin will be efficacious in redeeming men and establishing among them his eternal Kingdom. We should be hopeless in our labors if the outcome of our efforts were contingent upon the unaided response of sinful men. All uncertainty vanishes, however, in the full persuasion, warranted by the Scriptures that God guides, controls and efficaciously wills the glorious outcome.
Acts 13:48; Exodus 33:18,19; Matthew 20:15; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2nd Timothy 1:8, 9; 1st Peter 1:1,2; 2nd Thessalonians 2:13, 14; 1st Corinthians 4:7; 1:27; 1st Thessalonians 2:12,13; 2nd Timothy 2:10; John 4:37-40; 1st Thessalonians 1:4-10; 2nd Peter 1:10,11; Hebrews 6:11; Acts 4:27, 28; Numbers 23:19; 1st Timothy 6:21; John 10:25-29; Romans 9:19-33.
Modernism in the Church
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