Saturday, July 4, 2009

Spurgeon on Election

Chosen for Life is an outstanding book! The more I read the more it was impressed upon me how thoroughly, fairly and concisely Storms had covered the topic of unconditional divine election. He also considered and, where appropriate, discussed related issues and doctrines. It is a must read.

Storms provides an well-known quote of Spurgeon when considering the 'fairness' of election to those who would rail and grumble about it. I had read this before and had heard Storms share it in a sermon as well. But it is worth posting to allow first-time readers to enjoy it as well as those seeing it again to reconsider the 'Prince of Preachers' words:

But there are some who say, "It is hard for God to choose some and leave others." Now, I will ask you one question. Is there any of you here this morning who wishes to be holy, who wishes to be regenerate, to leave off sin and walk in holiness? "Yes, there is," says some one, "I do." Then God has elected you. But another says, "No; I don't want to be holy; I don't want to give up my lusts and my vices." Why should you grumble, then, that God has not elected you to it? For if you were elected you would not like it, according to your own confession. If God this morning had chosen you to holiness, you say you would not care for it. Do you not acknowledge that you prefer drunkenness to sobriety, dishonesty to honesty? You love this world's pleasures better than religion; then why should you grumble that God has not chosen you to religion? If you love religion, he has chosen you to it. If you desire it, he has chosen you to it. If you do not, what right have you to say that God ought to have given you what you do not wish for?

Supposing I had in my hand something which you do not value, and I said I shall give it to such-and-such a person, you would have no right to grumble that I did not give to you. You could not be so foolish as to grumble that the other has got what you do not care about. According to your own confession, many of you do not want religion, do not want a new heart and a right spirit, do not want the forgiveness of sins, do not want sanctification; you do not want to be elected to these things: then why should you grumble? You count these things but as husks, and why should you complain of God who has given them to those whom he has chosen? If you believe them to be good and desire them, they are there for thee. God gives liberally to all those who desire; and first of all, he makes them desire, otherwise they never would. If you love these things, he has elected you to them, and you may have them; but if you do not, who are you that you should find fault with God, when it is your own desperate will that keeps you from loving these things—your own simple self that makes you hate them?

Suppose a man in the street should say, "What a shame it is I cannot have a seat in the chapel to hear what this man has to say." And suppose he says, "I hate the preacher; I can't bear his doctrine; but still it's a shame I have not a seat." Would you expect a man to say so? No: you would at once say, "That man does not care for it. Why should he trouble himself about other people having what they value and he despises?" You do not like holiness, you do not like righteousness; if God has elected me to these things, has he hurt you by it? "Ah! but," say some, "I thought it meant that God elected some to heaven and some to hell." That is a very different matter from the gospel doctrine. He has elected men to holiness and to righteousness and through that to heaven. You must not say that he has elected them simply to heaven, and others only to hell. He has elected you to holiness, if you love holiness. If any of you love to be saved by Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ elected you to be saved. If any of you desire to have salvation, you are elected to have it, if you desire it sincerely and earnestly. But, if you don't desire it, why on earth should you be so preposterously foolish as to grumble because God gives that which you do not like to other people?
(Chosen for Life, 187-8)


  1. "If you believe them to be good and desire them, they are there for thee. God gives liberally to all those who desire; and first of all, he makes them desire, otherwise they never would."
    This is one of the tough parts. If I can only desire to be elected to holiness because God makes me desire and my desire is the crux of Spurgeon's argument that muzzles my complaints against God electing others. Then once again God may seem culpable if not for my non-election at least for my lack of desire to be elected in the first place. I think it still boils down to Frame's argument that God does control all things, including election, but is not responsible for all things. (loosely paraphrased)

  2. "Then once again God may seem culpable if not for my non-election at least for my lack of desire to be elected in the first place"

    That statement seems to come from someone who is neutral in their desires. But there are no neutral parties. Those who don't desire righteousness are not neutral in their affections wishing they could desire godly things; they are God haters. They don't desire godly things because they desire wickedness. They can't even desire to desire godly things.

    Does that make sense? I'm not finding the right word to describe what I'm thinking.

    I think Spurgeon was pointing at the irrationality of someone who proactively hates righteousness suggesting they desire otherwise or desire to desire otherwise. If they did desire otherwise they would be of the elect. But they are not neutral wishing they could desire God and thus be chosen; they are anti-God in their desires.

    I don't know if that is any clearer. I'll try and think of a better way to articulate what I want to say.

  3. I don't disagree with the elimination of the neutral state. Poor choice of words in my first comment. According to Spurgeon, the reason someone is not a God hater is because "God makes them" desire otherwise. Spurgeon then argues that it is irrational for a God-hater to complain that election is unfair because it is not something they even desire in the first place. But the reason they do not desire righteousness is because God did not "make" them desire it. However, as a rationalization to the "righteousness desiring God-hater" to keep quiet it is a weak explanation. A better argument to me is this - "no such creature exists". There is no such entity as a "righteousness desiring God-hater" that needs to have their conditon dealt with. To desire righteousness is to desire God and to be elect.
    Does this make sense?

  4. "Does this make sense?"

    Yep. That is what I believe Spurgeon's point is. It is an irrational position to hold. I think his argument is intended to point at that more than anything.

    I guess a "weak explanation" is more than enough for an entity that doesn't exist; no explanation is required. And that is why I do not think the explanation is directed to a "righteous desiring God-hater" but rather to everyone else who might think that is a real category.