Read PART II: REPROBATION of The Doctrines of Predestination‚ Reprobation‚ and Election , free online book, by Robert Wallace, on


THE subjects of reprobation and election are so closely connected that they might be considered in one chapter. Indeed, so close is the connection, that certain verses supposed to prove one of them, are also adduced to prove the other, as “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” It is, however, stoutly maintained that election is scriptural, whilst reprobation is repudiated. It is important to have clear ideas on the subject.

What, then, are we to understand by the doctrine of reprobation? The question is not whether those dying in impenitency shall be subjected to suffering; for this is held by the opponents of Calvinism as well as by Calvinists themselves. The question is this, Is it true that God in a past eternity foreordained millions of men to endless misery, that to this end they were born, and to this end they must go? John Calvin held that it was so. He says, “All are not created on equal terms, but some are foreordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and accordingly as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” He says, again, “If we cannot assign any reason for God’s bestowing mercy on His people, but just that it so pleases Him, neither can we have any reason for His reprobating others; but His will. When God is said to visit in mercy, or to harden whom He will, men are reminded that they are not to seek for any cause beyond His will.” He says, again, “The human mind, when it hears this doctrine, cannot restrain its petulance, but boils and rages, as if aroused by the sound of a trumpet. Many, professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge, admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated. This they do ignorantly and childishly, since there could be no election without its opposite reprobation. Those, therefore, whom God passes by He reprobates, and that for no other cause but because He is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which He predestines to His children”. (Inst., b. iii.). Zanchius held “It was therefore the first thing which God determined concerning them from eternity namely, the ordination of certain men to everlasting destruction” (Thesis de Reprob.). Elnathan Parr maintained, “If a man be reprobated he shall certainly be damned, do what he can” (Grounds of Divinity). Maccovius says that “God has indeed decreed to damn some men eternally, and on this account He has ordained them to sin but each sins on his own account, and freely.” To like purpose we might quote Maloratus, Amandus Pollanus, John Norton, John Brown of Wamphray, Piscator, &c. (Vide Old Gospel, &c., Young, Edin.) Calvin and his followers did not mince the matter, as these extracts clearly show.

The Lambeth Articles expressed the same ideas as above. Article First says, “God hath from eternity predestinated certain persons to life, and hath reprobated certain persons to death.” Article Third runs thus, “The predestinate are a predeterminate and certain number, which can neither be lessened nor increased.” Article Ninth has these words, “It is not in the will or power of every man to be saved.” The Lambeth Articles were drawn up as expressing the sense of the Church of England, or, rather, a section of it. They were merely declaratory, and recommended to the students of Cambridge, where a controversy had arisen regarding grace. They received the sanction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and a few others.

The Synod of Dort, as intimated, was held in 1618, and had divines in it from Switzerland, Hesse, the Palatinate, Bremen, England, and Scotland. Its first article runs thus: “That God by an absolute decree had elected to salvation a very small number of men, without any regard to their faith or obedience whatsoever; and secluded from saving grace all the rest of mankind, and appointed them by the same decree to eternal damnation, without any regard to their infidelity or impenitency”. The Synods of Dort and Arles declared that if they knew the reprobates, they would not, by Austin’s advice, pray for them any more than they would for the devils (Old Gospel, &c.) In this they were entirely consistent, whatever else they might be.

The Westminster Assembly met in London in 1643. They drew up the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms. In its third chapter the Confession declares: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it can neither be increased nor diminished.” The Confession of Faith is the declared standard of doctrine of Presbyterians in general in this country. It is proper to note this fact, because it has been denied that whilst election is held reprobation is denied. They are both in the Confession.

From what we have thus brought forward it appears evident that, according to Calvin, reputed Calvinistic divines, the Lambeth Articles, the Synod of Dort, and the Westminster Assembly, there is a portion of the human family born under the decree of reprobation born we do not like the expression, but it is the case born to be damned. It is a harsh expression, but the blame does not rest with us, but with those who hold the doctrine.


THE word “reprobation,” according to the Imperial Dictionary, means “to disallow,” “not enduring proof or trial,” “disallowed,” “rejected.” Gesenius says the Hebrew word (maas) primarily means to reject, and is used (a.) of God rejecting a people or an individual Jer. v; vi; xi; 1 Samuel x; (b.) of men as rejecting God and His precepts 1 Samuel x. The Greek word (adokimos) denotes, according to Robinson, “not approved,” “rejected.” In N. T. Metaph., “worthy of condemnation” “reprobate” “useless” “worthless.” It occurs seven times in the English translation; once in the Old Testament, and six times in the New. In none of the instances, however, does it convey the idea of unconditionalism.

First passage. In Jer. v, it is written: “Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.” But why were they rejected reprobated? The answer is contained in the context. It is there said, “They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters. The bellows are burnt, the lead is consumed of the fire, the founder melteth in vain; for the wicked are not plucked away.” Everything had been done to save them, and when all remedial agencies had failed, they were declared to be rejected reprobated.

The second passage is in Rom. : “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” Here, again, we have reprobation; but then they were given over to this state on the ground that they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. The reprobation was therefore conditional, and not Calvinistic.

The third passage is in 2 Cor. xii: “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates.” Grotius explains adokimoi “reprobates,” thus: “Christians in name only and not in deed.” Dr. Hamond as “steeped and hardened.” Vorstius, “wicked, and unfit for the faith.” Dickson, “as unworthy of the name of Christian.” Calvin, “unless you by your crimes have cast off Christ” (Whitby, ad loc.) Doddridge paraphrases the passage thus: “Are ye not sensible that Jesus Christ is dwelling in you by the sanctifying and transforming influences of His spirit, unless ye are mere nominal Christians, and such as, whatever your gifts be, will finally be disapproved and rejected as reprobate silver that will not stand the touch?” The reprobation again implied a condition, and was non-Calvinistic.

The fourth passage is as follows: “But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates” (2 Cor. xii. Barnes’s paraphrase of the text is this: “Whatever may be the result of the examination of yourselves, I trust (Gr., I hope) you will not find us false, and to be rejected; that is, I trust you will find in me evidence that I am commissioned by the Lord Jesus to be His apostle.” There is nothing in the verse to favour unconditional reprobation.

The fifth passage runs thus: “Now I pray God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates” (2 Cor. xii. The meaning is plain enough. Paul desired that his readers should live pure and honourable lives, although he and these associated with him should be rejected as bad silver is rejected reputed silver that cannot stand the tests. The verse gives no countenance to Calvinistic reprobation.

The sixth passage is this: “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Tim. ii. But here again we have the moral state of those men brought before us they “resisted the truth,” and were men of corrupt minds. They could not stand the test of examination, and were rejected or disallowed as members of the Christian community. There is no unconditionalism here:

The seventh text is as follows: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus . The passage, according to all the ancient commentators who write upon it, refers to the Jews (Whitby). Its meaning is finely hit off by Doddridge, who; paraphrasing the words, says, “And with respect to every good work disapproved and condemned when brought to the standard of God’s word, though they are the first to judge and condemn others.” They had been tried in the balance and found wanting. They were so utterly bad that in view of good works they were of no account. The reprobation was conditional.

The Greek word (adokimos) is used in Heb. v, but is translated “rejected.” It has reference to ground. But why was the ground rejected, or reprobated? Unconditionally? Nay, but because it yielded, instead of good fruit, “briers and thorns.” The human mind is like a field, and God is the husbandman. He uses various methods to produce the fruits of righteousness, and when these fail, judgment is pronounced against the mind. And is not this just?

As far, therefore, as the word is concerned, there is not the most distant support given to the doctrine of an eternal decree foredooming millions of men to hopeless misery. It is something gained when we find this to be the case.

On what, then, does the doctrine rest, if not upon the use of the word? It is supposed to rest upon the sovereignty of God, and certain passages of Scripture, although the word “reprobate” is not found in them.

The term sovereign is from the French “sovereign,” and that again from the Latin “supernus.” It means supreme in power, supreme to all others. That God occupies this position will not be questioned by any one who believes in Him. The matter, therefore, is not one of sovereignty, or whether God is ‘the only’ absolute Sovereign in the universe. This is admitted. The question is this what has God, in the exercise of His sovereignty, chosen to do? To adduce proofs in its support is beside the point, since we hold it as firmly as our opponents in this controversy. Nebuchadnezzar uttered a great truth when he said that God “doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.” But what is His will? Is man governed by the law of necessity as storms are, and as waters are? These creatures do as God desires; is it so as regards man? The condemnation that each passes on himself is the best answer. Man may transgress, but God by virtue of His absolute sovereignty has appointed the penalty, and no one can reverse His decree.


PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE. There are certain passages of the Bible supposed to teach the doctrine of Calvinistic reprobation, and it may be well to examine their meaning.

REPROBATION AND THE EVIL DAY. In Proverbs xv, it is written: “The Lord hath made all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of evil.” This passage is supposed to teach the doctrine of Calvin, that some men have been reprobated from eternity, and come into existence with the doom of death eternal on their brow. The first part of the verse presents no difficulty. It brings before us the idea that God Himself is the great object of creation. It is proper that this should be so. He is the greatest and the best of beings, and to have created for a lesser object than Himself would not have been conformable to the dictate of the reason. It is the second part of the verse which is supposed to teach the doctrine of eternal and unconditional reprobation. Calvin’s idea of the passage is that the wicked were created for “certain death that His name (God’s) may be glorified in their destruction.” Let us suppose this to be the meaning what then? The word “glory” in Hebrew means “beauty,” “honour,” “adornment.” All around us lies the beautiful the earth with her carpet of flowers and the overarching skies the sun, the moon, and the stars, are all beautiful.

“Oh, if so much beauty doth reveal
Itself in every vein of life and motion,
How beautiful must be the source itself,
The ever bright one.” TEGNER.

But there is a moral beauty in God. It lies in the supreme moral excellence of His character; in His holiness, in His love, in His truthfulness, in His patience, in His gentleness, in His mercy. These attributes existing in God in the highest perfection, constitute the glory of the Most High. “Beauty and kindness go together” saith the poet; but is there any kindness in creating men for the purpose of making them miserable for ever? For ourselves we see no beauty, no glory in this but the reverse. We regard it as a libel upon the character of the ever blessed God.

The meaning of the passage is simple enough. God hath appointed good for the righteous and evil for the wicked. Though hand join in hand the wicked shall not go unpunished. One version of the passage is, “Jehovah hath made all things to answer each other, even the day of calamities for the wicked” (Davidson’s Commentary). In Collins’ Critical Commentary it is explained thus: “For Himself or for its answer or purpose . . . . Sin and suffering answer to each other, are indissolubly united” (ad loc). Thus interpreted, there is nothing in the passage to create difficulty.

John xi, 41, reads thus: “But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias when he saw His glory, and spake of Him.” Calvin held that John, “citing this prophecy (of Isaiah), declares that the Jews could not believe because this curse of God was upon them.” The first portion of the quotation is from Isaiah lii, “who hath believed our report?” &c. The question would imply that comparatively few had at first responded to the Gospel invitation. The larger portion of the passage is from Isaiah vi. It is as follows: “Go ye, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert, and be healed” (vers. 9, 10). The passage is quoted by Matthew (xii, 15). Dr. Randolph, as quoted by Horne, says on this passage, “This quotation is taken almost verbatim from the Septuagint. In the Hebrew the sense is obscured by false pointing. If instead of reading it in the imperative mood, we read it in the indicative mood, the sense will be, ’Ye shall hear, but not understand; and ye shall see, but not perceive. This people hath made their heart fat, and hath made their ears heavy, and shut their eyes,’ &c., which agrees in sense with the evangelist and with the Septuagint, as well as with the Syriac and Arabic versions, but not with the Latin Vulgate. We have the same quotation, word for word, in Acts xxvii. Mark and Luke refer to the same prophecy, but quote it only in part.” The Hebrew vowel points which make the passage in Isaiah to be read in the imperative mood were only introduced some 700 years after the birth of Christ (Gesenius).

Read in this light the passage gives no support to the doctrine sought to be fastened on it. The oracle was originally applied to the Jews living in the time of Isaiah. They were then exceedingly depraved; and the evangelist found that the words were applicable to the Jews living in the time of Christ. Horne, writing on accommodation, observes, It was a familiar idiom of the Jews when quoting the writings of the Old Testament to say that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by such and such a prophet, not intending it to be understood that such a particular passage in one of the sacred books was ever designed to be a real prediction of what they were then relating, but signifying only that the words of the Old Testament might be properly adopted to express their meaning and illustrate their ideas. “The apostles,” he adds, “who were Jews by birth, and spoke in the Jewish idiom, frequently thus cite the Old Testament, intending no more by this mode of speaking than that the words of such an ancient writer might with equal propriety be adopted to characterise any similar occurrence which happened in their times. The formula, ’That it might be fulfilled,’ does not therefore differ in signification from the phrase, ‘then was fulfilled,’ applied in the following citation in Matt. i, 18, from Jer. xxx, 17, to the massacre of the infants in Bethlehem. They are a beautiful quotation, and not a prediction, of what then happened, and are therefore applied to the massacre of the infants, according not to their original and historical meaning, but according to Jewish phraseology (Vide Kitto, Art. Accom.) The principle of accommodation clears away all difficulty. It is also in harmony with the context, as applied in John. Christ exhorted those around Him to believe in the light, that they might be the children of the light. But how could He exhort them to believe in the light, if He knew that the Divine Father had rendered their doing so an impossibility? Would you ask a man to walk who had no legs? to look, if he had no eyes? Underlying the exhortation to walk in the light lay the idea that they were able to perform it. It has been said that although we have lost the power to obey, God has not lost the power to command. Dr. Thomas Reid meets this notion thus: “Suppose a man employed in the navy of his country, and, longing for the ease of a public hospital as an invalid, to cut off his fingers so as to disable him from doing the duty of a sailor; he is guilty of a great crime, but after he has been punished according to the demerit of his crime, will his captain insist that he shall do the duty of a sailor? Will he command him to go aloft when it is impossible for him to do it, and punish him as guilty of disobedience? Surely if there be any such thing as justice and injustice, this would be unjust and wanton cruelty”.

Yet whilst there is no decree dooming men to hardness of heart or moral blindness, this state may be reached. Many are progressing towards it, many are now in it. They have turned a deaf ear to the cry of mercy, and are like the ground that has been often rained upon, but brought out only briers and thorns. The difficulty of the return of such does not lie with God, but in the habit of evil contracted and persisted in by the wrong-doers. God desires the salvation of all men, and has made the way open for all by the propitiation of Christ.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS. The apostle of the Gentiles is supposed to have clearly established, in this epistle, the doctrine that some are born to be saved, and others born to be lost. The ninth chapter especially has been the great storehouse of arguments for such as hold this view. The strong-minded and the weak-kneed have all resorted thither. They entrench themselves behind such passages as, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated;” “Hath not the potter power over the clay?” and think, by repeating them, that they have settled the controversy.

JACOB AND ESAU. We shall consider the proof texts in this chapter under the form of inquiry, and answer. Inquirer: “But does not the passage ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’ (verse 13), prove that the man Jacob was elected to eternal live, and the man Esau reprobated or doomed to eternal death?” Answer Far from it, as we shall soon see. The passage is a quotation from Malachi , 3. If you look at the context of the quotation you will see that the prophet is speaking of the people “Jacob” and the people “Esau,” or the Edomites. It is of the utmost moment to see this, as it has a most important bearing upon the controversy. The fourth and fifth verses read thus: “Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel.” The plural pronouns used, “we,” “us,” “ye,” “they,” and the term “people,” prove that the prophet was speaking, not of the man “Jacob,” nor of the man “Esau,” but of the respective peoples which had descended from them. Look now at the word “loved.” It has been taken to mean God’s electing love. But if this were so, then it will follow that all the Jewish people would be saved. And if so, why was it that Paul was so distressed about them, as he says, in the first part of the chapter, that he was? He had great “heaviness and continual sorrow” regarding the spiritual state of his countrymen; but if they were unconditionally elected to eternal life, then Paul was certainly carrying a useless burden. The “love” spoken of was representative of God’s kindness in bestowing upon the people Jacob the privilege of being the Messianic people. The word “hated” will thus signify, as the opposite of “loved,” that the people Esau might be said (from a certain standpoint) to be “hated;” that is, “less loved” in comparison with the favour bestowed upon the people Jacob. This meaning is in harmony with Hebrew idiom. The words “loved” and “hated” are used in a relative sense. Christ says, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke xi. This passage throws an important light on the subject. No one will contend that Christ meant that we should hate our parents. He simply brings before us this truth, that we were to love Him above all relatives; but the use of the term “hate” by Him takes it out of the category of the absolute, and places it in the relative. And this must be its meaning as used by Paul. If not, if it means that the race of Esau has been reprobated, then there is no Gospel for them, and Christ’s command to preach the Gospel to every creature must be limited. To send a missionary to the Arabs would be absurd if this doctrine is true. Thank God it is not so.

The Jews took up the position that they must be saved; that they did not need the Gospel; that being Abraham’s seed they could not possibly be damned. Paul felt deeply grieved with respect to the position they occupied, and sought to dislodge them from it. “As to the fine logic of his argument, bear in mind that he has been proving in the preceding context that the lineal descent of the Jews from the patriarch Abraham did not, as they fancied it did, make them curse-proof for eternity. He proves this in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth verses . . . by showing that the Ishmaelites could boast of a descent as lineal and patriarchal as theirs, and yet it did not suffice to instal them in the medium Messianic privilege of being Abraham’s favoured children for time. By showing this, he leaves us to draw the natural inference that the lineal descent which could not instal Ishmaelites in the medium Messianic privilege of being Abraham’s highly-favoured children for time, could never be sufficient to instal the infatuated Christ-rejecting Jews in the peerless privilege of being Abraham’s glory-inheriting and curse -proof spiritual seed, his highly-favoured children for eternity. . . . He then proceeds to prove again his already proved position, and thus to clench his argument. This he does in the third section of the chapter, which begins with the tenth verse and ends with the thirteenth. . . . His proof consists of the fact that the Edomites were as purely descended from Abraham through Isaac, as were the Israelites; and yet, as is manifest at once from the declaration made to Rebecca, ’the greater people shall be inferior to the lesser,’ and from the stronger statement made to the Israelites themselves by God in Malachi, ’the people Jacob have I loved, but the people Esau have I hated,’ this pure-lineal patriarchal descent of the Rebecca-born Edomites was not sufficient to elevate them to the enjoyment of the medium privilege of Abraham’s Messianic children. This being the case, it was scarcely short of perfect madness for the Israelites to suppose that their pure descent from Abraham would suffice to constitute them his glory-inheriting and curse-proof spiritual children, his highly-favoured seed for eternity. Such is the fine and matchless logic of the apostle’s argumentation” (Morison, Romans IX.).

The interpretation thus given makes the apostle to be consistent with himself, and in harmony with the “analogy of faith.” The Calvinistic interpretation makes the apostle inconsistent with himself, and the command to preach the Gospel to every creature a nullity.

MERCY ON WHOM HE WILL. Inquirer, “But did not God claim the right to extend mercy to whom He pleased, and to withhold it from whom He pleased?”

Answer, It is even so. Paul says, “For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom. i. The quotation is from Exodus xxxii. The Israelites had committed the sin of making the golden calf, and were threatened with destruction; but God was entreated not to destroy them utterly, and Moses was assured that God would extend mercy as He should see fit. The quotation has a bearing upon the position of the Jews and Paul’s argument. They were filled with self-sufficiency and pride, and in great danger. In the reply to Moses, God claimed the right of extending mercy as He pleased, and would not allow Moses to interfere with His prerogative. The Jews were reminded by the quotation that God had a right to say on what terms He would have mercy upon sinners. He does not state the principle after the quotation, but does so in verses 30-33 of this chapter. He extends mercy to those who believe in Jesus:

PHARAOH. Inquirer, “But what do you make of Pharaoh? Was he not a typical illustration of the unconditionally reprobated?”

Answer, It is thought so. The apostle refers to the wicked king in the seventeenth verse. His case was analogous to that occupied by the Jews. He had been raised up from a sick bed, treated most graciously, but became hardened under the influence of mercy, and was at last destroyed. The Jews had also been very generously dealt with, but instead of yielding were becoming indurated, and unless they repented, would, as Pharaoh was, be destroyed. It is said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and also that He hardened his own heart. Both statements are true, but looked at from different standpoints. God softens or hardens human hearts as they keep the mind in truth or falsehood.

THE POTTER AND THE CLAY. Inquirer, “But what of the potter and the clay, verse twenty-one?”

Answer, The question discussed in the ninth of the Romans is a question of Divine sovereignty, or God’s right to appoint the destinies of men after their moral probation is over. The potter claimed the right to say what he should do in respect of the vessels which he had made. Should one become marred in his hands, he makes it into a vessel of dishonour or inferiority. If not, if it turned out as he wished it, then it occupied the position of a vessel of honour. The illustration came with crushing power against the Jews. The attitude of hostility which they then occupied was that of being marred in the hands of God, and He claimed the right of appointing them their destiny. If they refused the Saviour whom Paul preached, if they continued morally unregenerated, then the mere fact of being Abraham’s seed would not save them. As regards their fate hereafter, they would be as clay in the hands of the potter.

We have thus seen that those passages so much relied on have really no bearing upon reprobation or predestination. They refer to another and distinct question namely, that of SOVEREIGNTY. Had God a RIGHT to select the Jacobites as the Messianic people instead of the Edomites? The Jews would not dispute this. But had He a right to extend mercy as He saw fit? Had He a right to destroy Pharaoh when he refused to yield? Had He a right to deal with the destinies of men as He judged right? If He had, then the Jews had not a foot to stand upon in their absurd contention, that because they had descended from Abraham they must needs be saved. According to Paul’s theology, God, in the exercise of sovereignty, had appointed faith as the condition of salvation, and if they refused to comply with the condition, then, as the Israelites were destroyed in the wilderness for lack of faith, as Pharaoh was destroyed in the sea when he refused obedience, and as the potter assigned an inferior position to the marred vessel, so would the Divine Ruler visit the Jews with evil if they refused to accept of Christ.

There is nothing in this ninth chapter to frighten any one. The Jew expected to be saved by works (see vers. 30-33), and on the ground of his descent from Abraham. The apostle sweeps both of these away, and presents Christ as the only ground for them. And the ground that was for them is for all.

THE STONE OF STUMBLING. In 1 Peter i it is written: “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” This text is supposed to teach that the parties spoken of were appointed to be disobedient. At the first glance it would seem to teach this. But the principle of interpretation to which we have referred namely, that when the mere grammatical construction of a passage is clearly absurd, it is clear it cannot be the true one, and we must look for another meaning. Now, if the “whereunto” refers to the “disobedient,” how could they be charged with disobedience if they were just doing what they were appointed to do? If Christ was put before those unbelievers for the purpose of making them disobey, then would not this be to put a stumbling-block in their way? Surely such conduct is infinitely the opposite of a good God.

Another translation of the passage, including verse 7, is this: “Unto you, therefore, who believe He is precious; but unto those who disbelieve, the stone which the builders disallowed has become the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. They, disbelieving the word, stumble that is, fall or perish, whereunto also they were appointed.” That is, unbelievers are appointed to perish if they continue unbelievers. Horne says, “Hence it is evident that 1 Peter i is not that God ordained them to disobedience (for in that case their obedience would have been impossible, and their disobedience no sin), but that God, the righteous Judge of all the earth, had appointed or decreed that destruction and eternal perdition should be the punishment of such disbelieving persons who willingly reject all the evidences that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. The mode of pointing above adopted is that proposed by Drs. John Taylor, Doddridge, and Macknight, and recognised by Greisbach in his Critical Edition of the New Testament, and is manifestly required by the context”. The passage as thus explained has no difficulty. Blessings come to those believing, evil to those disbelieving.

FOREORDAINED TO CONDEMNATION. In Jude, verse 4, it is written thus: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were of old foreordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” The passage contains the reason why the apostle had urged the Christians to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. The term “ordained” in the passage means “to write before,” or “aforetime,” “to post up publicly in writing.” Certain men of bad character had got into the church, but the condemnation of such had been intimated before. Macknight says, “Jude means that these wicked teachers had their punishment before written that is, foretold in what is written concerning the wicked Sodomites and rebellious Israelites, whose crimes were the same with theirs.” To write regarding certain characters, and intimating their punishment, is a widely different thing from unconditional reprobation.

The passages thus examined are the principal ones brought forward to prove that some men are foreordained to everlasting ruin. We do not think they prove this, and we reject the doctrine.


In the first place, we object to it because it impeaches the Divine Fatherhood. God sustains to the human family the relation of a Father. He is the Creator of the sun and stars, but not their father. Fatherhood carries in it two ideas, creation and similarity of nature. He is the Creator of the sun and stars, but they do not possess a nature like His. But in man there is a Divine likeness, an epitome of God. There is the power of thought, will, and feeling. In this broad view every man is a son of God. He has been created by Him, and, so far, is like Him. It is very true that man has rebelled and ignores the relationship. But denial of relationship does not abolish it. A son may deny his own father, and claim another to be so; and men have denied God, and acted as the children of the devil. But although they have rebelled, He earnestly remembers them. They are prodigals, but they are His prodigals. He made them, and He feels for them. A good father feels for all his children. Could we call a father a good father who foreordains that one-half of his offspring should be burned? But this is the doctrine of Calvinistic reprobation! It cannot stand in the light of the parable of the prodigal son. As that father in that parable felt to his prodigal child, so God feels to every one of His prodigals.

We reject this doctrine of unconditional reprobation,

In the second place, because it impeaches the Divine sincerity. Sincerity is descriptive of the harmony that exists between the feelings of the heart and the utterances of the lips.

The first of virtues, let no mortal leave
Thy onward path, although the earth should gape,
And from the gulph of hell destruction cry
To take dissimulation’s winding way.”

An insincere man, who professes one thing whilst he feels another, is universally despised. Now, when I take up the Bible, what do I find? I find it full of invitations to all men to come and be saved. “Look unto me, all ye ends of the earth, and be saved.” “Ho, every one that thirsteth; come ye to the waters.” “Turn ye, turn ye, why will you die?” Now, these invitations are addressed to all alike. Their value turns on this does God mean what He says? Not so if Calvinistic reprobation be true. But if He does mean what He says that He really wishes all saved then these utterances reveal the great heart of God as it gathers round every human being; and the Calvinistic dogma of unconditional reprobation is a huge lie, that should be thrown back to the place whence it came.


THERE is a doctrine of reprobation taught in the Bible. The word, as we have seen, is several times used in the sacred writings. It means, according to classic Greek, “not standing the test,” “spurious, base, properly (1.) of coin, (2.) of persons,” “ignoble, mean” (Liddell and Scott). In the Bible it signifies the same thing, “disapproved,” “rejected,” “undiscerning,” “void of judgment.” Cruden says, “This word among metallists is used to signify any metal that will not undergo the trial, that betrays itself to be adulterate or reprobate, and of a coarse alloy. . . . A reprobate mind, that is, a mind hardened in wickedness, and so stupid as not to discern between good and evil.” We are quite familiar with the idea in everyday life. Ships, horses, land, governments, individuals, are being constantly subjected to trial, and, being found wanting, are rejected, reprobated. And what thus takes place in the lower plane of things, takes place in the sphere of morals. Men are now on trial for eternity. If they act as God wishes them, they shall walk with him in white, and sit down at the marriage -supper of the Lamb; but if not, then they will be rejected. The great principle is neither more nor less than this namely, that men shall reap as they sowed. The principle is just. If men sow nettle -seed or the seed of briers and thorns, is it not fair that they should reap the fruit? The great principle, then, of the Bible is this: “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured by the sword” (Isaiah , 20).

It is a blessed thing, then, to know that on your head there is no decree of unconditional reprobation. You may be saved. Your heavenly Father wishes you saved, for He is “not willing that you should perish” (2 Peter ii; and He wishes “all men saved” (1 Timothy i, and therefore you. He has done all He can for you. Will you be saved? It rests with you to build only on Christ, and conform your life after the pattern He has left.