Such is the state of professing Christendom today that multitudes will not even know what we mean when we speak or write of those doctrines which, collectively, have become known as the doctrines of grace. A different system of doctrine is in vogue today: a system which exalts the will of man the creature, and rejects the sovereign will of God the Creator. It is an immensely popular doctrinal system, certainly; but it is, emphatically, not a scriptural system.
Sometimes, the doctrines which shall be set forth here have been collectively known as “Calvinistic” doctrines. This is to be regretted, for two reasons: firstly, these blessed doctrines were not invented by John Calvin, and yet this is often the impression given to many; and secondly, “Calvinism” can refer to a number of other doctrines taught by John Calvin, with which this author, and many other Christians, cannot agree. In a word, these glorious truths can be comprehended thus: ELECTION. That is to say, the choice of God in the matter of the eternal salvation of men. This is a word that adequately describes what is going to be set forth here. There is no need to attach Calvin’s name to it. The doctrines of grace are the doctrines of the prophets of the Old Testament, and the apostles of the New; and those holy men of old received them, by inspiration, from the Lord himself. The doctrines of grace, then, are divine doctrines. And thus they are true doctrines. Men, who in their own opinions make themselves wiser than God, may speak against them as much as they please, but these truths are to be found on almost every page of holy writ.
The doctrines which shall be treated of here, are the following: the total depravity of man; unconditional election; limited atonement, or particular redemption; irresistible grace, or effectual calling; and the final perseverance of the saints. Some have claimed a belief in some, but not all, of these; but if just one is removed, none can stand. It will be shown that each one of these doctrines is thoroughly scriptural, and therefore absolutely true.
The Total Depravity of Man
“Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions”(Eccl.7:29). When God created the universe, the world, and man, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good”(Gen.1:31). Adam was created “upright” — without sin. But this perfect man chose to sin — and plunged the entire human race into misery. God did not force Adam to sin: Adam wilfully, deliberately chose to sin, by eating the fruit that God had forbidden (Gen.2:16,17; 3:6). Adam, being a perfect man, was capable of obeying the law God had laid down; and he was also capable of disobeying it. He chose to disobey.
God had said to Adam, “In the day that thou eatest thereof (of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) thou shalt surely die”(Gen.2:17). And so he did. In the very moment that he ate of it, he died spiritually. His body was not to die for many hundreds of years (Gen.5:5), but he died spiritually immediately. Adam became a sinner: separated from God, dead in trespasses and sins.
But that is not all. Adam’s fall affected all his posterity. For the truth which the Scriptures make abundantly plain is that Adam was not only the father of the human race; he was also the federal representative of it. Consider, for a moment, these Scriptures: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”(Rom.5:12); “by man came death”(1 Cor.15:21); “in Adam all die”(1 Cor.15:22). Adam and Eve, having become sinful creatures, conceived children (Gen.4:1, etc.); and those children were conceived with sinful natures; and so on, down through the centuries: all men, all women, are conceived with sinful natures, and are born “dead in trespasses and sins”, and are “by nature the children of wrath”(Eph.2:1,3,5). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity,” wrote David, “and in sin did my mother conceive me”(Psa.51:5). “ALL have sinned”(Rom.3:23), without exception; and to this truth, the Scriptures give abundant witness (e.g. Gen.6:5; 8:21; Rom.3:10-12; Isa.64:6; Jer.17:9; etc., etc.).
All mankind sinned “in Adam.” Being the father and representative of the entire human race, when he sinned, all sinned. We were “in his loins”, so to speak. Just as Levi “payed tithes in Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met” Abraham (Heb.7:9,10), so all mankind was “in the loins” of Adam. And thus, ever since the birth of Cain, the first man, every man and woman enters this world a rebel against God, spiritually dead, alienated from God, and under the dominion of sin.