Calvinism and Arminianism —
C. H. Mackintosh
We have lately received a long letter, furnishing a very
striking proof of the bewildering effect of one-sided theology.
Our correspondent is evidently under the influence of what is
styled the high school of doctrine. Hence, he cannot see the
rightness of calling upon the unconverted to "come", to "hear",
to "repent", or to "believe". It seems to him like telling a
crab-tree to bear some apples in order that it may become an
Now, we thoroughly believe that faith is the gift of God, and
that it is not according to man's will or by human power. And
further, we believe that not a single soul would even come to
Christ if not drawn, yea, compelled by divine grace so to do;
and therefore all who are saved have to thank the free and
sovereign grace of God for it; their song is and ever shall be,
"Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory,
for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake".
And this we believe not as part of a certain system of doctrine,
but as the revealed truth of God. But, on the other hand, we
believe just as fully, in the solemn truth of man's moral
responsibility, inasmuch as it is plainly taught in Scripture,
though we do not find it amongst what are called "the five
points of the faith of God's elect".
We believe these five points, so far as they go; but they are
very far indeed from containing the faith of God's elect.
There are wide fields of divine revelation which this stunted and
one-sided system does not touch upon, or even hint at, in the
most remote manner. Where do we find the heavenly calling?
Where, the glorious truth of the Church as the body and bride of
Christ? Where, the precious sanctifying hope of the coming of
Christ to receive His people to Himself? Where have we the
grand scope of prophecy opened to the vision of our souls, in
that which is so pompously styled "the faith of God's elect"?
We look in vain for a single trace of them in the entire system
to which our friend is attached.
Now, can we suppose for a moment that the blessed apostle Paul
would accept as "the faith of God's elect" a system which leaves
out that glorious mystery of the Church of which he was
specially made the minister? Suppose any one had shown Paul
"the five points" of Calvinism, as a statement of the truth of
God, what would he have said? What! "The whole truth
of God"; "the faith of God's elect"; "all that is essential to be
believed"; and yet not a syllable about the real position of the
Church — its calling, its standing, its hopes, its privileges!
And not a word about Israel's future! A complete ignoring, or
at best a thorough alienation, of the promises made to Abraham,
Isaac, Jacob, and David! The whole body of prophetic teaching
subjected to a system of spiritualizing, falsely so called,
whereby Israel is robbed of its proper portion, and Christians
dragged down to an earthly level — and this presented to us with
the lofty pretension of "The faith of God's elect"!
Thank God it is not so. He, blessed be His name, has not
confined Himself within the narrow limits of any school of
doctrine, high, low, or moderate. He has revealed Himself. He
has told out the deep and precious secrets of His heart. He has
unfolded His eternal counsels, as to the Church, as to Israel,
the Gentiles, and the wide creation. Men might as well attempt
to confine the ocean in buckets of their own formation as to
confine the vast range of divine revelation within the feeble
enclosures of human systems of doctrine. It cannot be done, and
it ought not to be attempted. Better far to set aside the
systems of theology and schools of divinity, and come like a
little child to the eternal fountain of Holy Scripture, and
there drink in the living teachings of God's Spirit.
Nothing is more damaging to the truth of God, more withering to
the soul, or more subversive of all spiritual growth and
progress than mere theology, high or low — Calvinistic or
Arminian. It is impossible for the soul to make progress beyond
the boundaries of the system to which it is attached. If I am
taught to regard "the five points" as "the faith of God's
elect", I shall not think of looking beyond them; and then a
most glorious field of heavenly truth is shut out from the
vision of my soul. I am stunted, narrowed, one-sided; and I am
in danger of getting into that hard, dry state of soul which
results from being occupied with mere points of doctrine instead
of with Christ.
A disciple of the high school of doctrine will not hear of a world-wide
gospel — of God's love to the world — of glad tidings
to every creature under Heaven. He has only gotten a gospel for
the elect. On the other hand, a disciple of the low or Arminian
school will not hear of the eternal security of God's people.
Their salvation depends partly upon Christ, and partly upon
themselves. According to this system, the song of the redeemed
should be changed. Instead of "Worthy is the Lamb", we should
have to add, "and worthy are we". We may be saved to-day, and
lost to-morrow. All this dishonors God, and robs the Christian
of all true peace.
We do not write to offend the reader. Nothing is further from
our thoughts. We are dealing not with persons, but with schools
of doctrine and systems of divinity which we would, most
earnestly, entreat our beloved readers to abandon, at once, and
for ever. Not one of them contains the full, entire truth of
God. There are certain elements of truth in all of them; but
the truth is often neutralized by the error; and even if we
could find a system which contains, so far as it goes, nothing
but the truth, yet if it does not contain the whole truth, its
effect upon the soul is pernicious, because it leads a person to
plume himself on having the truth of God when, in reality, he
has only laid hold of a one-sided system of man.
Then again we rarely find a mere disciple of any school of
doctrine who can face Scripture as a whole. Favorite texts will
be quoted and continually reiterated; but a large body of
Scripture is left almost wholly unappropriated. For example,
take such passages as the following, "But now God commandeth all
men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). And again, "Who will
have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the
truth" (1 Timothy 2). So also, in 2 Peter, "The Lord ... is
long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish,
but that all should come to repentance" (chapter 3:9). And, in
the very closing section of the volume, we read, "Whosoever
will, let him take the water of life freely".
Are these passage to be taken as they stand, or are we to
introduce qualifying or modifying words to make them fit in with
our system? The fact is, they set forth the largeness of the
heart of God, the gracious activities of His nature, the wide
aspect of His love. It is not according to the loving heart of
God that any of His creatures should perish. There is no such
thing in Scripture as any decree of God consigning a certain
number of the human race to eternal damnation.* Some may be
judicially given over to blindness because of deliberate
rejection of the light (see Romans 9:17; Hebrews 6:4-6;
10:26-27; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12; 1 Peter 2:8). But all who
perish will have only themselves to blame. All who reach Heaven
will have to thank God.
If we are to be taught by Scripture we must believe that every
man is responsible according to his light. The Gentile is
responsible to listen to the voice of creation. The Jew is
responsible on the ground of the law. Christendom is
responsible on the ground of the full-orbed revelation contained
in the whole Word of God. If God commands all men, everywhere
to repent, does He mean what He says, or merely all the elect?
What right have we to add to, or alter, to pare down, or to
accommodate the Word of God? None whatever.
Let us face Scripture as it stands, and reject everything which
will not stand the test. We may well call in question the
soundness of a system which cannot meet the full force of the
Word of God as a whole. If passages of Scripture seem to clash,
it is only because of our ignorance. Let us humbly own this,
and wait on God for further light. This, we may depend upon it,
is safe moral ground to occupy. Instead of endeavoring to
reconcile apparent discrepancies, let us bow at the Master's
feet and justify Him in all His sayings. Thus shall we reap a
harvest of blessing, and grow in the knowledge of God and His
Word as a whole.
A few days since, a friend put into our hands a sermon recently
preached by an eminent clergyman belonging to the high school of
doctrine. We have found in this sermon, quite as much as in the
letter of our correspondent, the effects of one-sided theology.
For instance, in referring to that magnificent statement of the
Baptist in John 1:29, the preacher quotes it thus, "The Lamb of
God, which taketh away the sin of the whole world of God's
But there is not a word about "God's chosen people" in the
passage. It refers to the great propitiatory work of Christ, in
virtue of which every trace of sin shall yet be obliterated from
the wide creation of God. We shall only see the full
application of that blessed Scripture in the new heavens and the
new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. To confine it to the
sin of God's elect can only be viewed as the fruit of
* It is deeply interesting to mark the way in which Scripture
guards against the repulsive doctrine of reprobation. Look, for
example, at Matthew 25:34. Here, the King, in addressing those
on His right hand, says, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit
the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world".
Contrast with this the address to those on His left hand:
"Depart from Me ye cursed [He does not say 'of My Father'] into
everlasting fire, prepared [not for you, but] for the devil and
his angels". So also, in Romans 9.
In speaking of the "vessels of wrath",
it says "fitted to destruction" fitted not by God
surely, but by themselves. On the other hand, when speaking of
the "vessels of mercy", it says "which He had afore prepared
unto glory". The grand truth of election is fully established;
the repulsive error of reprobation, sedulously avoided.
From Miscellaneous Writings, by C. H. Mackintosh.
Calvinism and Arminianism - One-sided Theologies?