28 March, 2016



Rev. Herman Hoeksema


"The general and well-meant offer of salvation is a sign of God's favor toward sinners." ~Berkhof.
"He sincerely offers salvation to all that hear the gospel." ~Kuiper.
"A man must be utterly beside himself to assert that this promise is made to all men generally and indiscriminately." ~Calvin.
"A common practice with such is to address their auditory thus: 'I offer you Christ.' I do not believe that any man who can use such language is a converted man." ~Wm. Parks in "Five Points on Calvinism," published by the Sovereign Grace Union.

We must now ask the question, what was Calvin's view with respect to this general offer of salvation, well-meant on the part of God, to all that hear, on which Berkhof and Kuiper lay so much stress that they refuse to live in the same Church fellowship with those who deny it?

Was it Calvin's conviction also, that, when the external call of the gospel comes to elect and reprobate promiscuously, it is a sign of God's grace to them all?

Does he, too, believe, like Berkhof and Kuiper that in the external preaching of the gospel we must see a sign of God's earnest desire to save all that hear, a well-meant offer of salvation on the part of God to everybody?

To answer these questions we must, of course, quote Calvin.

And first we will let the Genevan Reformer speak for us on the text from Ezekiel, that is adduced by the Synod of 1924 in proof of the First Point, of which Berkhof is so fond and on which Kuiper without any doubt agrees with him.

In that passage, they say, there is a proof of God's general grace, of the fact that God has no pleasure in the death of any wicked but is desirous to save them all.

And this is what Calvin writes on the same passage:

"All this Pighius loudly denies, adducing that passage of the apostle (I Tim. 2:4): 'Who will have all men to be saved'; and referring to Ezek. 18 :33, he argues thus, 'That God willeth not the death of a sinner' may be taken upon his own oath, where he says by that prophet: 'As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked that dieth, but rather that he should return from his ways and live.' Now we reply, that as the language of the prophet here is an exhortation to repentance, it is not at all marvelous in him to declare that God willeth all men to be saved. For the mutual relation between threats and promises shows that such forms of speaking are conditional. In this same manner God declared to the Ninevites, and to the kings of Gerar and Egypt, that He would do that which in reality He did not intend to do, for their repentance averted the punishment which He had threatened to inflict upon them. Whence it is evident that the punishment was announced on condition of their remaining obstinate and impenitent. And yet, the denunciation of the punishment was positive, as if it had been an irrevocable, decree. But after God had terrified them with the apprehension of His wrath, and had fully humbled them as not being utterly desperate, He encouraged them with the hope of pardon, that they might feel that there was yet left open a space for remedy. Just so it is with the conditional promises of God which invite all men to salvation. They do not positively prove that which God has decreed in His counsel, but declare only that which God is ready to do to 'all those who are brought to faith and repentance.'

"But men untaught of God, not understanding these things, allege that we hereby attribute to God a two fold or double will. Whereas God is so far from being variable, that no shadow of such variableness appertains to Him, even in the most remote degree. Hence, Pighius, ignorant of the Divine nature of these deep things, thus argues: 'What else is this but making God a mocker of men, if God is represented as really not willing that which He professes to will, and as not having pleasure in that in which in reality He has pleasure?' But if these two members of the sentence be read in conjunction, as they ever ought to be — 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked'; and: 'But that the wicked turn from his way and live' — read these two propositions in connection with each other and the calumny is washed off at once. God requires of us this conversion or 'turning away from our iniquity', and in whomsoever He finds it He disappoints not such a one of the promised reward of eternal life. Wherefore, God is as much said to have pleasure in, and to will, this eternal life, as to have pleasure in the repentance; and He has pleasure in the repentance, because He invites all men to it by His Word. Now all this is in perfect harmony with His secret and eternal counsel, by which He decreed to convert none but His own elect. None but God's elect, therefore, ever turn from their wickedness. And yet, the adorable God is not, on these accounts, to be considered variable or capable of change, because as a Lawgiver He enlightens all men with the external doctrine of conditional life. In this primary sense He calls or invites all men to eternal life. But in the latter case, He brings to eternal life those whom He willed according to His eternal purpose, regenerating by His Spirit, as an eternal Father, His own children only" (Calvin's Calvinism, pp. 99, 100).

This language is plain to all that will understand.

In unmistakable language the Reformer denies, that there is, in the passage from Ezekiel a general offer of salvation to elect and reprobate promiscuously, a manifest desire to save them all, a revelation of a certain general or common grace.

He affirms here, what we have always taught, as we have written often in the past, that, in as far as the message is general and comes to all, it is conditional.

The offer is eternal life.

The condition, limiting this offer is: turn from your wicked ways.

This condition makes the contents of the general message particular. Just as we have emphasized in the past, a contention our opponents have tried to laugh to scorn, there is a general proclamation of a conditional and particular gospel. He promises to all that believe peace and eternal life.

Thus is the plain exposition of Calvin on this passage. He teaches all that hear a conditional doctrine: if ye turn ye shall live.

And because it is conditional, it is also particular and God in reality promises eternal life only to the elect. For it is quite certain, according to Calvin, that men do not turn from their wicked ways on their own accord, nor by any instinct of nature (idem, p. 100). It is equally certain that none turn from their wickedness but the elect. And, therefore, the contents of this externally general message is particular and applies only to the elect of God.

God does not say here, that He will save all that hear. He does not express that He is gracious to all that receive the message outwardly. He will be gracious only to those that turn from their wicked ways. And these are necessarily the elect.

This exposition of Calvin stands in direct opposition to that of Berkhof. And to the preaching of Kuiper.

And it is the condemnation of the First Point, in as far as it appeals to the passage from Ezekiel in proof of the assertion, that there is a certain general grace of God in the general preaching of the Gospel.

Notice, too, that Calvin must have nothing of Kuiper's mystery, that God wills and that He does not will the same thing with respect to the same persons at the same time. Kuiper alleges, that this is a deep mystery, and that we must simply believe it, though we cannot understand. But Calvin replies, that only men untaught of God, not understanding these things, can speak of such a twofold will in God.

And take note, in this same connection, that there is no truth in the statement of Berkhof, that Calvin does not attempt to enter into the deep things of God. He is not satisfied with contradictions. He harmonizes entirely this text from Ezekiel, that deals with the external call to repentance and faith, with the counsel of God, till it is clear, that there is no conflict here at all. God does not at all profess to will that which in reality He does not will. The harmony lies in the clear truth, that here we have the general proclamation of a particular truth.

And is not also a striking phenomenon that the arch-Pelagian Pighius, the opponent of Calvin quotes this same text for the same purpose as do Kuiper and Berkhof, in defense of the First Point of 1924?

Pighius quotes it to prove that we may take God upon His own oath, that He does not will the death of a sinner, entirely in general. And Berkhof writes:

"These passages teach us as clearly as words are able, that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (notice that He does not say: the elect wicked, but of: the wicked entirely in general); and the tender calling to which we listen in them, witnesses of His great love for sinners and of His desire to save the ungodly."

The reader will understand that also the words in parentheses are of Berkhof.

His meaning is, therefore, perfectly clear. We may take God upon His oath that He has a great love for sinners in general, that He desires to save them all. Thus teaches Berkhof.

Thus teaches Kuiper.

Thus is the contents of the First Point.

We conclude, then, that in their exposition of this text, Kuiper, Berkhof and the Synod of 1924 are in the company of Pighius, the Pelagian, the opponent of Calvin.

We preferred to remain in Calvin's company.

And this is the reason, why they cast us out of the Church.

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