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Universal Call and Effectual Call by William Cunningham

T.U.L.I.P. - The Doctrines of Grace

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We have had occasion, in discussing the subject of the atonement, to explain the distinction which has been generally made by divines between the impetration and the application of the blessings of redemption, and to advert especially to the use, or rather the abuse, of it by the Arminians, in maintaining that impetration and application are not only distinct in themselves, but separable, and often, in fact, separated, —that is, that Christ impetrated the spiritual blessings of reconciliation and forgiveness for many to whom they are never applied, who never actually receive or partake of them, —a position, as we have seen, which can be made to assume something like plausibility only by maintaining that reconciliation and forgiveness are not reconciliation and forgiveness, but merely something preparatory to, or tending towards, them. Calvinists admit that the impetration and the application of spiritual blessings are distinct things, —impetration being the immediate effect of Christ’s work, and being completed when Christ’s sacrifice of Himself in men’s room was presented and accepted; and application, or the actual bestowal of these blessings upon men individually, being the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit, when by Him men individually are united to Christ through faith, so as actually to receive the blessings which He purchased for them, and are created again in Christ Jesus by His almighty power. Arminians hold that spiritual blessings— at least reconciliation and pardon— were impetrated or purchased for all men, but that they are applied only to some; while Calvinists hold that they were purchased only for some, but that they are applied to all for whom they were purchased. This disjunction or separation of impetration and application, —an essential feature of the Arminian scheme, —compels them, as I formerly illustrated, first, to explain away the true scriptural import of the blessings which they admit to have been purchased, —to reduce reconciliation to reconciliability, pardon to a possibility of pardon, salvation to salvability; and, secondly, to deny altogether that other blessings, equally indispensable to the salvation of men individually, —such as faith and regeneration, —are to be regarded as the fruits of Christ’s purchase. These are corruptions of Christian doctrine not peculiar to the Arminians. They must be held in substance by all who believe in an unlimited atonement, if they will follow out their principles consistently. This has been already explained, and we have to do now only with the application of the blessings of redemption; and with this, too, not as procured and secured by the work of Christ, but only as actually effected in men individually by the work of the Holy Spirit, the necessity of whose agency in this matter is admitted by all but Socinians.

This whole subject, taken in its widest sense, may be regarded as resolving into this question, —What provision has God made for imparting to men individually the blessings which Christ purchased for them, and which are indispensable to their deliverance and salvation? and what are the principles which regulate or determine the actual results of this provision in the pardon, conversion, and salvation of some men, and in the continued guilt and impenitence, and the everlasting misery, of others? It will be recollected, that, having reserved the subject of predestination for future consideration, we have not, in examining this question, anything to do, in the first instance, with the decree, purpose, or design of the divine mind in regard to individuals, but only with the provision made by God for executing His decrees or accomplishing His purposes, as it is presented to our contemplation, and with the results which flow from it. It is with the providence, not the decrees, of God, that we have at present to do; and in this statement the word providence is not to be understood in the more limited sense in which it is sometimes employed, as contradistinguished from grace, but as including it. God executes all His decrees or purposes, with respect to the human race, in His works of creation and providence, —that is, in creating and thereafter regulating all things; and though it is common to employ the word providence as descriptive only of that department of the divine procedure, in regulating and governing the world, which has respect to material, external, and temporal things, and to apply the word grace to that department of the divine actings which bear immediately upon the conversion, sanctification, and salvation of sinners, and is ascribed in Scripture to the special agency of the Holy Spirit; and though it is right that these two departments of the divine procedure should be distinguished from each other, yet this mode of distinguishing them is neither sanctioned by Scripture usage, nor very accurate in itself. All that God does in regard to the world and the human race, after creating them, is comprehended in His providence, or in the supreme dominion which He is ever exercising over all His creatures and over all their actions; and this providence, therefore, comprehends all that He does in the dispensation of the Spirit, —in communicating that grace, or those gracious supernatural influences, on which the actions and the destinies of men so essentially depend.

The general provision which God has made for imparting to men individually the blessings which Christ purchased by the shedding of His precious blood, may be said to consist in these three things: first, the making known to men what Christ has done and suffered for their salvation; secondly, the offering to men the blessings which Christ purchased, and the inviting men to accept of them: and, thirdly, the communication of the Holy Spirit to dispose or enable them to accept the offer, —to comply with the invitation, —that is, to repent and believe, and to effect, or contribute to effect, in them the renovation or sanctification of their natures. Calvinists and Arminians agree in admitting that these things, when stated in this somewhat vague and indefinite form, which has been adopted intentionally for the present, constitute the provision which God has made for imparting to men individually the benefits of redemption; but they differ materially in their views upon some important points connected with the necessity and the nature of the different branches of this provision, and the principles that regulate their application and results. The Arminians, believing in universal grace, in the sense of God’s love to all men, —that is, omnibus et singulis, or His design and purpose to save all men conditionally, —and in universal redemption, or Christ’s dying for all men, —consistently follow out these views by asserting a universal proclamation to men of God’s purpose of mercy, —a universal vocation, or offer and invitation, to men to receive pardon and salvation, —accompanied by a universal sufficient grace, —gracious assistance actually and universally bestowed, sufficient to enable all men, if they choose, to attain to the full possession of spiritual blessings, and ultimately to salvation. Calvinists, while they admit that pardon and salvation are offered indiscriminately to all to whom the gospel is preached, and that all who can be reached should be invited and urged to come to Christ and embrace Him, deny that this flows from, or indicates, any design or purpose on God’s part to save all men; and without pretending to understand or unfold all the objects or ends of this arrangement, or to assert that it has no other object or end whatever, regard it as mainly designed to effect the result of calling out and saving God’s chosen people; and they deny that grace, or gracious divine assistance, sufficient to produce faith and regeneration, is given to all men. They distinguish between the outward vocation or calling and the internal or effectual, and regard the real regulating principle that determines the acceptance or non-acceptance of the call or invitation of the gospel by men individually, to be the communication or the non-communication of the efficacious agency of the Holy Spirit; Arminians, of course, resolving this— for there is no other alternative— into men’s own free-will, their own improvement or non-improvement of the sufficient grace given to them all.

In investigating these subjects, the first thing to be attended to manifestly is the proclaiming or making known to men God’s purpose of mercy or way of salvation; and here, at the very outset, Arminians are involved in difficulties which touch the foundations of their whole scheme of theology, and from which they have never been able to extricate themselves. They can scarcely deny that it is at least the ordinary general rule of God’s procedure, in imparting to men the blessings of redemption, that their possession of them is made dependent upon their becoming acquainted with what Christ did for sinners, and making a right use and application of this knowledge. If this be so, then it would seem that we might naturally expect that— if the Arminian doctrines of universal grace and universal redemption are well founded— God would have made provision for securing that a knowledge of His love and purpose of mercy, and of the atonement of Christ, —the great means for carrying it into practical effect, —should be communicated to all men, or at least brought within their reach. And Calvinists have always regarded it as a strong argument against the Arminian doctrines of universal grace and universal redemption, and in favour of their own views of the sovereign purposes of God, that, in point of fact, so large a portion of the human race have been always left in entire ignorance of God’s mercy, and of the way of salvation revealed in the gospel; nay, in such circumstances as, to all appearance, throw insuperable obstacles in the way of their attaining to that knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, which is eternal life.

It is a fact, that a large portion of every successive generation that has peopled the earth’s surface, have been left in this condition, —a fact which we should contemplate with profound reverence and holy awe, but which we should neither turn from, nor attempt to explain away, and which, like everything else in creation and providence, ought to be applied for increasing our knowledge of God, of His character and ways. The diversities in the condition of different nations, with respect to religious privileges or the means of grace, as well as the determination of the condition and opportunities in this respect of each individual, as regulated ordinarily in a great measure by the time and place of his birth, are to be ascribed to the sovereign good pleasure of God. He has determined all this according to the counsel of His own will. We can give no other full or complete explanation of these things. Partial explanations may sometimes be given in regard to particular countries; but these do not reach the root of the matter in any case, and are palpably inadequate as applied to the condition of the world at large. We can assign no reason, for instance, why it is that Great Britain, which; at the time of our Saviour’s appearance upon earth, was in a state of thorough ignorance and barbarism, should now possess so largely herself, and be disseminating so widely to others, the most important spiritual privileges; or why we, individually, have been born in this highly favoured land, instead of coming into existence amid the deserts of Africa, which does not resolve itself, either immediately or ultimately, into the good pleasure of God. Arminians have laboured to reconcile all this, as a matter of fact, with their defective and erroneous views of the divine sovereignty, and with their unscriptural doctrines of universal grace and universal redemption; but they have not usually been satisfied themselves with their own attempts at explanation, and have commonly at last admitted, that there were mysteries in this matter which could not be explained, and which must just be resolved into the sovereignty of God and the unsearchableness of His counsels.

We have, however, to do with this topic, at present, only as it is connected with the alleged universal proclamation of God’s purpose of mercy to sinners, or of a way of salvation. Arminians are bound to maintain, in order to expound with something like consistency the great leading principles of their scheme of theology, that God has made such a revelation to all men, as that, by the right use of it, or if they do not fail in the due improvement of what they have, they may, and will, attain to salvation. This has led many of them not only to maintain that men may be, and that many have been, saved by Christ, or upon the ground of His atonement, who never had any knowledge of what He had done for men, but also to devise a sort of preaching of the gospel, or proclamation of the way of salvation, without a revelation, and by means merely of the works of nature and providence, —views which are plainly inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture. While they are compelled to admit an exercise of the divine sovereignty— that is, of God’s acting in a way, the reasons of which we do not know, and cannot trace or explain— in the different degrees of knowledge and of privilege which He communicates to different nations, they usually maintain, that it is indispensable, in order to the vindication of the divine character, that all men— however inferior in degree the privileges of some may be to those of others— should have, at least, such means of knowing God, as that, by the right use and improvement of them, they can attain to salvation. We, of course, do not deny that there are mysteries in this subject which we cannot explain, and which we can only contemplate with profound reverence and awe; or that men’s everlasting condition will be, in some measure, regulated by the privileges and opportunities they have enjoyed; or that all who perish shall perish justly and righteously, having incurred real guilt by the ignorance of God which they actually manifested; but we cannot, because of the difficulties attaching to this mysterious subject, renounce the plain scriptural principle, that it is “eternal life to know God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent;” or dispute the plain matter of fact, that, as the certain result of arrangements which God has made, many of our fellow-men are placed in circumstances in which they cannot attain to that knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ on which eternal life depends.

Some Arminians have been so much impressed with these considerations, as to indicate a willingness to make a sort of compromise upon this subject, by agreeing to exclude from happiness those to whom Christ has not been made known, provided they are not consigned to misery; that is, they have been disposed to cherish the notion of an intermediate eternal state, in addition to the two which the Bible reveals to us, as the ultimate and everlasting abodes of all the individuals of the human race, —heaven being provided for those who have believed the gospel, —hell for those who have rejected it when it was proclaimed to them, —and an intermediate state, without suffering, for those who never heard it. This idea is thus expressed by Limborch. After declaring it to be very probable that men who make a good use of the light they have will be graciously saved through Christ, though they have never heard of Him. This awful subject should certainly preclude the indulgence of those feelings which mere controversial discussion is apt to produce, —anything like an approach to an eager contending for victory; but it is right, from a regard to the interests of truth, to observe, that the only evidence he produces for these notions, —and which he seems to think must prove one or other of them, —is the general scriptural principle, that men shall be dealt with according to the opportunities they have enjoyed. This principle is manifestly insufficient to support such notions; so that the whole matter resolves into this, —that Arminians will rather invent theories about subjects of which they can know nothing, than believe what God has plainly told us concerning Himself, when this does not coincide with the previous conceptions they may have formed of His character and His ways.

They are usually glad, however, to escape from this branch of the subject, about the universal proclamation of God’s grace, and of a way of salvation to all men, —feeling, apparently, that the plain facts of the case, viewed in connection with the plainly revealed, though awful and mysterious, doctrines of Scripture, cannot easily be reconciled with their system; and they hasten on to try their notions of universal vocation, and sufficient grace, in the case of all to whom the gospel is made known. In making this transition, they usually allege that they have no desire to inquire curiously into the condition and destiny of those to whom the gospel is not made known, —that we have to do chiefly with the case of those who have an opportunity of knowing God’s revelation, and with the principles which regulate their fate, —and that it is quite sufficient to overthrow the Calvinistic system of theology, if it can be proved that sufficient grace is communicated to all of them. We have no satisfaction, any more than they, in dwelling upon the mysterious subject of the destiny of the innumerable multitudes of our fellow-men who have died without having had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the only name given under heaven or among men whereby we can be saved;— we indulge in no speculations upon their fate, beyond what Scripture sanctions;— we leave them in the hands of the Judge of all the earth, who, we are assured, will do right. But there is nothing in all this to warrant or excuse us in refusing to believe what Scripture teaches, or to contemplate in the light of Scripture what the condition of the world sets before us; and it is the more necessary and important that we should realize and apply— so far as we have clear and certain materials— the doctrines and the facts bearing upon this subject, awful and incomprehensible as it undoubtedly is, when we find that these doctrines and facts afford proofs of the erroneousness of some of the views of the divine character and government, and of the way of salvation, which the Arminians have been accustomed to propound. As to their allegation, that it is sufficient to refute Calvinism, if they can establish their principle as applicable to all who hear the gospel, it is enough, at present, to remind them, that they have not only to attack Calvinism, but to defend their own system; and that the survey of the condition of the world at large, taken in connection with doctrines plainly taught in Scripture, —and this is the first subject which naturally presents itself for examination in this department of the controversy, —not only answers many of their common objections against Calvinism, but suggests objections to the Arminian scheme of theology, which its advocates are unable satisfactorily to dispose of.

Let us briefly advert to the application they make of their principles to all who live within the sound of the gospel. The view they give of the state and condition of those persons is this, —that they are all equally called and invited to the reception and enjoyment of the blessings which Christ purchased for all men, —that, as God desires and purposes the salvation of all of them, He gives to them all such grace or gracious assistance as is sufficient o o o to enable them all to repent and believe, if they choose, and as will certainly effect their conversion and salvation, unless they refuse to use and improve it aright. Calvinists admit that all to whom the gospel is preached, are called or invited to come to Christ and to embrace Him; but they deny that this flows from, or indicates on God’s part, a design or purpose to save them all; and they deny that grace or gracious assistance, sufficient to enable them to repent and believe, is communicated to them all. They distinguish between the outward call addressed to all by the word, and the inward or effectual call addressed to some by the Spirit, whereby they are really enabled to accept of the offer, —to comply with the invitation, —and thus to believe in Christ and to turn to God. The great facts presented by the preaching of the gospel, viewed in connection with its results, are these, —that some believe it and submit to its influence, and are, in consequence, renewed in the spirit of their minds, and enabled thereafter to walk in the way of God’s commandments; while others, with the same outward opportunities, with the same truths addressed to them, and the same arguments and motives urged upon them, continue to reject the truth, and remain wholly unaffected by it, in the great features of their character, and in the leading motives by which they are animated. And the question in dispute virtually resolves into this, —What is the true cause or explanation of this difference in the result in the case of different individuals? They all enjoy the same outward privileges; they all possess substantially the same natural capacities; they are all warranted and bound to believe the truth proclaimed to them; they are all invited to come to Christ, and to receive salvation through Him. The call or invitation is seriously or honestly addressed to them all. Calvinists likewise believe, that all who reject the gospel, and refuse to submit to it and to turn to God, are themselves fully responsible for doing so, —are guilty of sin, and justly expose themselves to punishment on this account; or, as the Synod of Dort says, “Hujus culpa non est in Evangelio, —nec in Christo per Evangelium oblato, —nec in Deo per Evangelium vocante, et dona etiam varia iis conferente, —sed in ipsis vocatis.” There is no dispute upon these points, though Arminians attempt to show that Calvinists cannot hold these doctrines consistently with some of their other principles.

Were this all that is revealed to us as to the cause of the difference of the results, the Arminian doctrine might be true, that all had received sufficient grace to enable them to accept of the call, and that the only principle that could be brought to bear upon the explanation of the difference of the results, was, that some used and improved aright the grace they had received, and others did not. This is true, but it is not the whole truth upon the subject. The Scriptures not only inform us that all who refuse to repent and believe, are responsible for this, and incur guilt by it; they likewise tell us of the way and manner in which faith and conversion are produced in those who believe and turn to God; and what they tell us upon this point, makes it manifest that the result, in their case, is not to be ascribed to anything that is merely common to them with others, either in their natural capacities or in the grace of God, —that is, in gracious assistance communicated by Him, —but to a special distinguishing work or influence of His Spirit bestowed upon them, and not bestowed on the rest. This is what Calvinists commonly call special, distinguishing, efficacious grace, as opposed to the Arminian universal sufficient grace; they regard it as a peculiar operation of God’s Spirit bestowed upon some, and not upon others, —the true and real cause of faith and regeneration wherever they exist, and certainly and effectually securing the production of faith and regeneration wherever it is bestowed.

Now, the questions to be discussed upon this point are these: First, Do the Scriptures set before us such a special, distinguishing operation of the Spirit, bestowed upon some and not bestowed upon others? and, secondly, Do they represent this special grace or distinguishing gracious operation of the Spirit, as the true cause or source of faith and regeneration wherever they exist, —the real reason or explanation of the different results exhibited, —in that some men repent and believe, while others, with the same outward call or vocation, and with the same external privileges, continue in impenitence and unbelief? I do not mean to enter into an examination of the scriptural evidence, but will only make one or two observations upon the points involved in the discussion, as it has been usually conducted.

It is important to fix in our minds a clear conception of the alternatives in the explanation of this matter, according as the Calvinistic or the Arminian doctrine upon the subject is adopted. The thing to be accounted for is, —the positive production of faith and regeneration in some men; while others continue, under the same outward call and privileges, in their natural state of impenitence and unbelief. Now, this is just virtually the question, Who maketh those who have passed from death to life, and are now advancing towards heaven, to differ from those who are still walking in the broad way? Is it God? or is it themselves? The Calvinists hold that it is God who makes this difference; the Arminians— however they may try to conceal this, by general statements about the grace of God and the assistance of the Spirit— virtually and practically ascribe the difference to believers themselves. God has given sufficient grace— everything necessary for effecting the result— to others as well as to them. There is no difference in the call addressed to them, or in the grace vouchsafed to them. This is equal and alike. There is a difference in the result; and, from the sufficiency and consequent substantial equality of the universal grace vouchsafed, this difference, in the result, must necessarily be ascribed, as to its real adequate cause, to something in themselves, —not to God’s grace, not to what He graciously bestowed upon them, but to what they themselves were able to do, and have done, in improving aright what God communicated to them. If sufficient grace is communicated to all who are outwardly called, then no more than what is sufficient is communicated to those who actually repent and believe, —for, to assert this, is virtually to deny or retract the position, that what was communicated to those who continue impenitent and unbelieving, was sufficient or adequate, and thus to contradict their fundamental doctrine upon this whole subject. And when the true state of the question, and the real alternatives involved, are thus brought out, there is no difficulty in seeing and proving that the Arminian doctrine is inconsistent with the plain teaching of Scripture, —as to the great principles which regulate or determine men’s spiritual character and eternal destiny, —the true source and origin of all that is spiritually good in them, —the real nature of faith and regeneration, as implying changes which men are utterly unable to produce, or even to cooperate, in the first instance, in originating; and as being not only the work of God in men, —the gift of God to men, —but also, and more particularly, as being, in every instance, the result of a special operation of the Holy Ghost, —an operation represented as altogether peculiar and distinguishing, —bestowed upon some and not upon others, according to the counsel of God’s own will, and certainly or infallibly effecting, wherever it is bestowed, all those things that accompany salvation.

Taken from Historical Theology

Covenant Theology Poster

The Puritans made many posters, even in their day, to aid church members in understanding Scriptural truth. I created this new poster to cover the Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace.

Check Out these Books on Covenant Theology

Presumptive Regeneration, or, the Baptismal Regeneration of Elect Infants by Cornelius Burges (1589-1665)
A Discourse on Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism by Cuthbert Sydenham (1622-1654)
Infant Baptism of Christ’s Appointment by Samuel Petto (1624-1711)
Covenant Holiness and Infant Baptism by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
The Manifold Wisdom of God Seen in Covenant Theology by George Walker (1581-1651)
The Covenant of God by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
A Chain of Theological Principles by John Arrowsmith (1602-1659)
The Covenant of Life Opened by Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)
The Covenant of Grace Opened by Thomas Hooker (1586-1647)
The Covenant of Redemption by Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace by Edmund Calamy (1600-1666)
The Doctrine and Practice of Infant Baptism by John Brinsley (1600-1665)
God’s Covenant and Our Duty By Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
God’s Glory in Man’s Happiness by Francis Taylor (1589-1656)
Infant Baptism God’s Ordinance by Michael Harrison (1640-1729)
Jesus Christ God’s Shepherd by William Strong (d. 1654)

A Simple Overview of Covenant Theology

When dealing with Covenant Theology “simple” is a good thing. After the Bible, this work is the FIRST that you should read, or one that you should introduce to a friend if they are struggling with covenant concepts.

Covenant Theology Made Easy

When dealing with Covenant Theology, making doctrine easy to under is important. This work is a great follow up to the “Simple Overview of Covenant theology” book.

A Masterful Work on Baptism

There is no better succinct, concise, precise and exegetically irrefutable work on infant baptism than Harrison’s work. It is not just about baptism – it’s about infant inclusion in the covenant of grace. It’s about church membership.

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