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CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY

MR. BANCROFT has called Calvin “the guide of republics "; 1 and it is a common remark among historical writers that for the present liberties of the world we are largely in debt to that great theologian and his disciples. It was a time when the cause of liberty stood in sore need of a champion. The first dawn of the Reformation had brought bright promises of freedom to Europe, but very soon the sky was clouded. The Protestants soon fell to wasting their strength in mutual jealousies and all sorts of wild extravagances. Luther died. Rome, recovering from her first panic, sets herself to regain the lost ground. Loyola sees visions and organizes his order of Jesuits, that most terrific organ of spiritual despotism. In Italy and Spain all troublesome inquiry has been trampled out by the Inquisition. In France the bell of St. Bartholomew has tolled. In Germany the imperial armies are steadily recapturing the land. History of the United States, vol. i, p. 181.

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Meanwhile, across the Channel, as Froude says, “it would have fared ill with England had there been no hotter blood there than filtered in the sluggish veins of the officials of the Establishment. There needed an enthusiasm fiercer far to encounter the revival of Catholic fanaticism.” 1 For many years no one could guess which way the popular preference would finally incline; and till that was decided only the life of a queen, constantly threatened by assassination, intervened between the Kingdom and a restoration of the old Church.

In all Europe only two little specks of territory appear where men so detest the old falsehoods and so believe the new truths, that you may kill them off man by man, but you can never pound their new convictions out of them. And to-day it is because those two little countries would not know when they were beaten that Europe and America are free, and men can read the Word of God, and offer their own prayers, and think their own thoughts, and choose their own rulers, and make their own laws. We owe it, under God, to those two little countries, Holland and Scotland, invincible through the stubborn strength and vitality of their Calvinistic faith. That is what my historical teachers have told me.

In our day these doctrines of the old Reformed

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Churches have rather gone out of fashion; and I would not deny that there may have been reason for some change of doctrinal statement, or at least of doctrinal emphasis. For the conditions of the war have changed greatly since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. No one threatens us today with ecclesiastical oppression, and therefore we have no need to lock ourselves up in the old sixteenth century fort. What we do need in this twentieth century is a battle-cry that shall call all Christians out from their idle defences, to go and win the world for Christ. That need was not in mind when the old Reformation formulas were constructed, and finds no adequate expression in them.

Yet it is hard to believe that convictions which once showed such wholesome vitality could ever altogether lose their usefulness, or that the time could ever come when we might afford to throw them out upon the rubbish-heap. On the other hand, a time might come when the liberties of men should be threatened from some new quarter, and then it might appear that the only availing defence for human freedom would be this same old faith in a sovereign choice of God; for just that is the essence of Calvinism—it is a faith in God's sovereign choice of men. If the individual of to-day has little to fear from the absolutism of king or priest, he might sometimes have much to fear from the

absolutism of the people. Triumphant democracy might develop its own powers of civil and religious oppression, and so once more the world may have to turn for deliverance to some small company, or companies, of men who have that kind of faith in God and fear of God which deliver from all fear of mortal man.

It is with such thoughts in mind that I offer this little book, a new-fashioned treatment of the oldfashioned doctrine of God's election of men. The provoking occasion of the book will be explained in the opening sentences of the next chapter. The remaining chapters of the book are designed to illustrate from different sides the scriptural doctrine of God's plan for men and choice of men. The aim has not been to treat the theme dogmatically, or in a line with any confessional statement; indeed, it is hardly to be supposed that my effort would receive the unqualified approval of those who profess to speak for the traditional positions. I myself do not profess to speak for traditional positions, or any other, but simply to open the Word of God and let that speak for itself.

For the sake of convenience and clearness, I have divided my material into two parts, the first of which will give from Scripture various examples of God's choice of men, and various examples of the human response to this divine election. The

later part of the book will consider the purpose of the election, raising the inquiry what God chooses men for.

It is with regard to this later inquiry that the older statements of the doctrine now seem to many of us most seriously defective. The Reformation creeds might have left one to suppose that God sometimes elects His favorites to a sinecure; while, according to Scripture, God, showing no such partiality, elects men to office, and the office must be either filled or forfeited.

“ Election to service,” as Dr. Henry van Dyke says, “is the supreme saving truth.” Faithful service will bring rich reward, no doubt, therefore election is the greatest favor to the individual; but any unfaithful servant may have reason to wish that he had never been counted among the elect at all. We are told that “many shall come from the east and west to sit down in the kingdom of God,” while the degenerate children of the chosen race are left out. That solemn truth of the perils of privilege should never be omitted from the scriptural doctrine of God's choice of men.

I hope it may appear, before we are through, that this old faith in a divine election still offers men the right sort of courage for worthy living and for good hope in dying. * The Gospel for an Age of Doubt, p. 316.

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