20 January 2008

Because He First Loved Me

How Human Depravity Necessitates the Doctrine of Election

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. Te following excerpt is from "A Defense of Calvinism," Spureon's best-known article on te subject. The complete work is a chapter in Spurgeons autobiography.

ohn Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it, too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of election, "Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards."

I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine.

I recollect an Arminian brother telling me that he had read the Scriptures through a score or more times, and could never find the doctrine of election in them. He added that he was sure he would have done so if it had been there, for he read the Word on his knees.

I said to him, "I think you read the Bible in a very uncomfortable posture, and if you had read it in your easy chair, you would have been more likely to understand it. Pray, by all means, and the more, the better, but it is a piece of superstition to think there is anything in the posture in which a man puts himself for reading: and as to reading through the Bible twenty times without having found anything about the doctrine of election, the wonder is that you found anything at all: you must have galloped through it at such a rate that you were not likely to have any intelligible idea of the meaning of the Scriptures."

If it would be marvelous to see one river leap up from the earth full-grown, what would it be to gaze upon a vast spring from which all the rivers of the earth should at once come bubbling up, a million of them born at a birth? What a vision would it be! Who can conceive it?

And yet the love of God is that fountain, from which all the rivers of mercy, which have ever gladdened our race—all the rivers of grace in time, and of glory hereafter—take their rise. My soul, stand thou at that sacred fountain-head, and adore and magnify, for ever and ever, God, even our Father, who hath loved us! In the very beginning, when this great universe lay in the mind of God, like unborn forests in the acorn cup; long ere the echoes awoke the solitudes; before the mountains were brought forth; and long ere the light flashed through the sky, God loved His chosen creatures. Before there was any created being—when the ether was not fanned by an angel's wing, when space itself had not an existence, when there was nothing save God alone—even then, in that loneliness of Deity, and in that deep quiet and profundity, His bowels moved with love for His chosen. Their names were written on His heart, and then were they dear to His soul.

Jesus loved His people before the foundation of the world—even from eternity! and when He called me by His grace, He said to me, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."

Then, in the fulness of time, He purchased me with His blood; He let His heart run out in one deep gaping wound for me long ere I loved Him.

Yea, when He first came to me, did I not spurn Him? When He knocked at the door, and asked for entrance, did I not drive Him away, and do despite to His grace? Ah, I can remember that I full often did so until, at last, by the power of His effectual grace, He said, "I must, I will come in;" and then He turned my heart, and made me love Him. But even till now I should have resisted Him, had it not been for His grace.

Well, then since He purchased me when I was dead in sins, does it not follow, as a consequence necessary and logical, that He must have loved me first? Did my Saviour die for me because I believed on Him? No; I was not then in existence; I had then no being. Could the Saviour, therefore, have died because I had faith, when I myself was not yet born? Could that have been possible? Could that have been the origin of the Saviour's love towards me? Oh! no; my Saviour died for me long before I believed.

"But," says someone, "He foresaw that you would have faith; and, therefore, He loved you."

What did He foresee about my faith? Did He foresee that I should get that faith myself, and that I should believe on Him of myself? No; Christ could not foresee that, because no Christian man will ever say that faith came of itself without the gift and without the working of the Holy Spirit. I have met with a great many believers, and talked with them about this matter; but I never knew one who could put his hand on his heart, and say, "I believed in Jesus without the assistance of the Holy Spirit."

I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing.

If God enters into covenant with unfallen man, man is so insignificant a creature that it must be an act of gracious condescension on the Lord's part; but if God enters into covenant with sinful man, he is then so offensive a creature that it must be, on God's part, an act of pure, free, rich, sovereign grace.

When the Lord entered into covenant with me, I am sure that it was all of grace, nothing else but grace. When I remember what a den of unclean beasts and birds my heart was, and how strong was my unrenewed will, how obstinate and rebellious against the sovereignty of the Divine rule, I always feel inclined to take the very lowest room in my Father's house, and when I enter Heaven, it will be to go among the less than the least of all saints, and with the chief of sinners.

C. H. Spurgeon


Chris Roberts said...

I never knew one who could put his hand on his heart, and say, "I believed in Jesus without the assistance of the Holy Spirit."

I'm among the non-Calvinists that would answer yes, certainly, I believed with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Had the Holy Spirit not worked in my life I never would have been saved.

But here are two questions that reveals the difference between Calvinist and non-Calvinist on this issue: (1) Does the Holy Spirit offer assistance to everyone, or only to a few? And (2) Can a person resist the assistance offered by the Holy Spirit?

I believe the answer to the first is Everyone, and to the second is Yes. This does not diminish God's sovereignty: this is the way the sovereign God has set up the universe. He could change the arrangement if he wished, he could order the universe as the Calvinists claim and he would be perfectly just in doing so. Or he could, for his own sovereign purpose, give humans a degree of freedom on this matter, offer the Holy Spirit's work to all, but allow mankind the freedom to choose. To claim he cannot do this is to deny the sovereignty of God.

Phil Johnson said...


Paul asked, " For who makes you differ from another?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). Who made you cooperate with the Holy Spirit when your unsaved neighbor resisted the very same prevenient grace you received?

Your answer seems to point back to yourself. You take credit for responding rightly to the very same grace the unbeliever resisted.

I don't think that was the answer Paul was looking for.

Chris Roberts said...


Accepting a gift gives me no credit. The credit for the gift still goes to the one who gives it. Credit is always to the giver, not to the one who chooses to receive the gift. We understand this when it comes to human gift giving; Calvinists seem to have trouble with the same concept when it comes to God's gift.

Phil Johnson said...

You're still answering Paul's question the wrong way.

Who or what made your "choice" different from those who persist in sin and never repent? If equal grace is given to all, are those who "reject the gift" more sinful than you? Or just more stupid? Either way you have set up a paradigm that gives you something to boast about, and Paul emphatically rules that out.

So what made you decide to "accept the gift" others sinfully reject? Something in you, or something outside you?

It seems to me there are only three possible answers to that question: 1) You made the difference yourself; 2) it was sheer luck; or 3) Even the choice you made was by God's grace.

Dawn said...

Phil, all due respect, and not to answer for Chris, but I don't see this as Paul speaking necessarily to salvation; rather, it appears he is speaking to the spiritual gifts given and received once one has been saved (e.g., ordination to a certain position, etc.)

You asked, "Who or what made your "choice" different from those who persist in sin and never repent?"

According to God's word, the heart of a person. (Romans 10:9-10; Mark 4:2-20)

You asked, "If equal grace is given to all, are those who "reject the gift" more sinful than you? Or just more stupid?"

It is possible that they are more proud. (Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:5) However, only God knows for sure why a person rejects God's gift of salvation.

You said, "Either way you have set up a paradigm that gives you something to boast about, and Paul emphatically rules that out."

Acceptance of the gospel by faith in no way allows for boasting as noted by Paul. Faith is not a work. (Romans 3:27; Ephesians 2:8-9) I've never known of anyone who has boasted in their salvation because of their having made the right choice. We pity those who continue to reject God's word for we know their end.

Those who believe God has "chosen" them for reasons only known to Himself could just as easily boast in their chosen-ness even though they had nothing to do with being chosen. They could boast that God sees them as more special but the reason is a big secret.

You said, "It seems to me there are only three possible answers to that question: 1) You made the difference yourself; 2) it was sheer luck; or 3) Even the choice you made was by God's grace."

The answer: a combination of numbers one and three. The choice we make is only possible through God's grace. He drew us by His grace and our faith (Luke 7:50; Romans 4:5,11,19-24; 5:2; 9:30-32; 10:17--to name a few) through grace is what saves us as seen in Ephesians 2:8-9.

pfg bloghostess said...

These eyes do not see it as a combination of 1 and 3 lest salvation become the glory of man plus the glory of God; salvation rather is of the Lord and alone to the praise of the glory of His triumphant grace. God enables first by changing a heart of stone to flesh...this is spiritual regeneration not spiritual information unto making a decision to take it or leave it(as if one can be in Adam with a heart of stone then in Christ with a heart of flesh then return to being in Adam). What is a dead individual going to do with any information? Nothing, because those dead spiritually, like Lazarus did physically, will continue in decadence...unless God. Those granted life as the Lord wills(John 1:12,13; 3) spiritually see and respond ~ with repentance and belief...and the evidence of yielding human faith unto faith that is fruit of the Spirit. Can one even imagine that those with the assistance of the Holy Spirit are simply informed spiritually and able to choose to reject the gift of faith that "saves"(not hopes to save)? If that is able to be imagined, then those determined to have been saved because they chose to accept an offer given those unable to act in their blindness and deafness...being dead must also believe they are kept righteous by human effort.

"[Synergists]...say that the Augustinian tradition subordinates the love of God to the will of God ... But this is not what distinguishes the Augustinian tradition[monergism] from the Arminian tradition. The distinction is between intensive and extensive love, between an intensive love that saves its loved ones and an extensive love that loves everyone in general and saves no one in particular. Or if you really wish to cast this in terms of willpower, it's the distinction between divine willpower and human willpower. Or, to put the two together, does God will the salvation of everyone with a weak-willed, ineffectual love, or does God love His loved ones with a resolute will that gets the job done?

The God of Calvin is the Good Shepherd, who names and numbers His sheep, who saves the lost sheep and fends off the wolf. The God of Wesley is the hireling, who knows not the flock by name and number, who lets the sheep go astray and be eaten by the wolf. Which is more loving, I ask?"

Steve Hays

"What the Arminian[synergist] wants to do is to arouse man's activity: what we[monergists] want to do is to kill it once for all - to show him that he is lost and ruined, and that his activities are not now at all equal to the work of conversion; that he must look upward. They seek to make the man stand up: we seek to bring him down, and make him feel that there he lies in the hand of God, and that his business is to submit himself to God, and cry aloud, "Lord, save, or we perish." We hold that man is never so near grace as when he begins to feel he can do nothing at all. When he says, "I can pray, I can believe, I can do this, and I can do the other," marks of self-sufficiency and arrogance are on his brow."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Hope this adds to the discussion ~ Joyce

Dawn said...

Joyce, thanks for the complete mischaracterization, complete with ad hominem, of the non-Calvinist position.

troypulk said...

Dawn and Chris,

I think your missing the point,

In my eye and others your setting up a contradiction by saying you can "choose" salvation while still an unregenerate on their way to hell.

Because scripture clearly says that we are by nature children of wrath, spiritually dead, cannot know the things of the spirit, are not subject to the law of GOD, our carnal minds are at enmity with GOD, slaves to sin, we cannot change our nature, separated from GOD, cannot please GOD, do not understand, and do not seek after God etc …

This means that our choices are in line with these definitions of our will. So if left to our selves we would by our nature reject GOD and never come to HIM.

So then salvation is wholly of GOD, if GOD does not open our eyes we will never see. By GOD opening ours eye’s this means that HE gives us the faith and ability to respond to the gospel because our sin nature prevents us from responding to the call.

So it appears that your saying is that these things are not true and that of your own self with out GOD you can respond to the gospel. Even thou scriptures says that the reason you believe and have faith is because of GOD. Eph 2:8-9, Philippians 1:29


Diane said...

"Or he could, for his own sovereign purpose, give humans a degree of freedom on this matter, offer the Holy Spirit's work to all, but allow mankind the freedom to choose."

I'm way out of my league here, but what would have happened if NOBODY chose Christ? Wouldn't His death have been in vain?

troypulk said...


"what would have happened if NOBODY chose Christ? Wouldn't His death have been in vain?"

Your implying that it's the sinner’s choice that determines their salvation. That’s not what scripture teaches. Like what I said earlier, the unregenerate by nature will always reject the gospel until GOD enables them to respond. If nobody chose CHIRST then the whole human race would go to hell, but CHRIST died for a purpose, to redeem HIS cheep, John 10:14-16 etc, and to have a special people just for HIM SELF, Titus 2:13-14 etc.

That is why HE created in the first place, to have a special people just for HIM SELF and to display HIS attributes.

Daryl said...


You missed the quotes on Diane's post. She is correct.


You are correct. That is just one more reason why the Arminian view makes no sense. The possiblity of no believers is a very real thing in that system.
The reason the "great multitude from every tribe, tongue and nation" is guaranteed to be in heaven is precisely because God didn't ask anyone if they wanted to be regenerated but rather, "Call him Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins."

You understand the problem with Chris Roberts' post correctly.

Diane said...


You missed the quotes on Diane's post. She is correct."

Daryl, thank you, you're right, that's what I was trying to point out. We have a Savior who came to save a particular group of people (the elect), and actually accomplished what He set out to do. The Arminian view just makes it a possibility, and had nobody chosen Him, He would have failed. No, their position makes no sense at all.

troypulk said...

I'm sorry I missed the point of what you were saying, I agree

Diane said...

Troy,it's okay :).