Alexander Campbell Views Concerning the Doctrines of Election and Reprobation (1856)









A S   E M B O D I E D   I N   T H E






F U L T O N,   M O:

P U B L I S H E D   B Y   T.   L.   S T E P H E N S.




      The following extract (copied from an original document verbatim)
is taken from the Minutes of the Redstone Baptist Association, held
at Peters Creek Church, Washington county, Pennsylvania, on the second
day of September, one thousand eight hundred and seventeen. The
Circular Letter, prepared by Brother A. Campbell, was read and accepted
without amendment.





To the Churches in connection with the Red Stone Baptist
Association, the following Circular is addressed.


      In our *last circular letter, we addressed you on the first and most fundamental doctrine of the christian religion--the doctrine respecting the sacred and sublime relation of Father, Son and Spirit, in the one incomprehensible Jehovah, the only living and true God, into whose name we have been baptised.

      We are now to call your attention to a subject next in order to, and inseparably connected with, the former, viz: "The will or purpose of the Most High in creating angels and men, as revealed in the sacred scriptures, as the end of all his works." If rightly investigated, this subject will open to our view many mysteries in the sacred volume, interpret and vindicate the ways of Providence, and will exhibit the grand ultimatum or final destiny of all events in earth and in heaven. When we attempt to think of the Eternal, our thoughts immediately turn to his perfections: these perfections are portrayed in his works and in his word. Of these we may acquire some knowledge, but of the essence or being of the Almighty we can obtain no knowledge, at least in this present life. Limited, however, as our minds are, in thinking of God, when we conceive of him, our thoughts burst the narrow confines of time and space--under the wings of faith [3] soar beyond the morning of creation, and meditate on God before he formed the earth or stretched forth the heavens. Yea, we can conceive of him existing alone, blessed and independent, inhabiting, eternity, before the morning stars sang together, or angels lisped his praise. Rational inquiry demands, where then were the legions of angels, the numberless generations of men, with all the works of six thousand years? Revelation replies, they had no existence, save in the purpose of him who says, "I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done; saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."

      In submitting to your consideration a few thoughts on this interesting, subject, we shall attempt to propose and answer a few pertinent inquiries, the first of which shall be,--Has God any purpose or determination respecting his creation? In answer to this inquiry, we would remark, that the times, purpose, counsel and decree, occur frequently in the scriptures; and are synonymously used to denote the determination or intention of a rational agent concerning its own actions or those of others, and are so used when applied to God.

      The word decree is frequently a respect to the determination of the mind expressed in word or writing, but primarily has a respect to the intention or appointment in the mind. Now, it must be observed, that every rational action, or every action of a rational agent, is a result of a previous determination in the mind of the agent, and herein is the essential difference betwixt the actions of a rational agent, and the actions or movement of a machine or of inanimate matter. The former are the effects of determination or volition in the agent,--the latter are the effects of extrinsic causes. A wheel turns, a tree falls, the waters move, the earth trembles, and the winds blow, as they are affected by external causes, and not from any motive or intention of their own. But a man or a spirit sets from a determination of their own, which determination or purpose is the result of the exercise of reason, as is manifest to all without need of metaphysical speculation.

      A human action without intention is not properly the man's [4] own: as, for instance, if a man superior in strength put a sword in my hand, and with his strength thrust that sword into the vitals of my neighbor; or, if I asleep, or in the delirium of a fever should do so, this action, not proceeding from a proper determination of my mind, is not properly my own and is not considered the subject of blame. Hence, it is, that the laws of all nations, ancient and modern, as well as the laws of God, discriminate between those actions resulting from intention and purpose in the mind, and those resulting, from extrinsic causes. The former are the subject of praise or blame; the latter are not, neither can be. It is obvious that it is owing to human frailty, that any of our actions are the result of external causes; and therefore disembodied spirits and angels act always from their own purpose or intention. Now, as all our proper actions, or the actions of our proper selves, are the result of previous purpose or determination of the soul; so the actions of angels, and of God himself, in whose moral image we were fashioned, are the result of previous determination, or of a purpose formed in the order of nature, or of time previous to the action.

      We may also add, that it is the intention or purpose in the mind of the agent that characterizes action, so as to make it good or bad; for the same action is either good or bad, according to the intention of the agent. For example, if a physician amputate a limb, to prevent a mortification, it is a good action; but if a neighbor amputates a limb, to avenge a quarrel, it is a bad action. Now the action is the same in both, viz., the amputation of a limb; but the purposes or intentions are not: hence the purpose of the agent characterizes the action.

      From what has been said, the following conclusions are, we deem, inevitable, viz: that an intention or purpose of the mind is essential to every rational action; that it is the intention or purpose of the mind, that distinguishes the actions of a man from the actions of a machine, or inanimate matter; and that it is the purpose that constitutes them good or bad.

      Now, if God be rational, (as nature cries aloud through all her works, and as revelation indubitably asserts), then every action or work of God is the result of a purpose or intention, [5] formed in his own mind, anterior in the order of nature or of time. For though there can be no past nor future in the purposes of Him who is of one mind forever, yet in the execution of them in time they are prior and posterior to each other, though sound reason asserts and maintains the doctrines now stated. It is however necessary that our minds should be established in this truth, not merely through the evidence of reason, but from the testimony of Him who alone perfectly comprehends himself. Let us hearken then to what the Spirit saith by the prophets and apostles:--Isaiah 14:24 & 27. The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; as I have purposed, so shall it stand. The Lord of hosts hath purposed, who shall disannul it? So we read of his eternal purpose, and of the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. Now there are many devices in the heart of man; but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand--for, saith he, I will do all my pleasure.

      From what has been said, as it is unnecessary to multiply testimony, where one is sufficient, it appears manifest, that God has a purpose or determination respecting all his works or creatures, which purpose is the plan in his own mind of all that he hath done or shall do; of all that he hath suffered or shall suffer to be done to eternity.

      The first inquiry being answered as far as convenient at present, we shall propose the 2nd. viz: What are the chief properties of the Divine purposes? The first peculiarity of the Divine purposes is, they are all as ancient as God himself. We are all older than our purposes,--some of us are ten, twenty or forty years older than our present purposes, The reason is obvious: we are continually increasing in knowledge, and we now know or think we know more perfectly than formerly; therefore we abandon one purpose and adopt a new one. This is a plain evidence of our weakness and folly.

      "Not so the Ancient of days," whose understanding is infinite. He knows no more now than he always knew, therefore he has no, reason to change his purpose. If we could suppose he knows any thing now which he did not formerly know, we might suppose that there is something which he will yet know, of which [6] he is at present ignorant and uninformed, which may be so important a discovery, as to cause a revolution in his mind, deeply affecting the whole universe.

      Such a supposition is derogatory to the Divine character, levels the Most High as low as we, makes the Infinite finite, and circumscribes every perfection by the scale which measures ours. There cannot be any increase or diminution with God. Man is still on the increase in knowledge, and is continually altering his purposes till nature dissolves and dies. But to him who is perfect, time, experience, eternity adds nothing. The purposes of God then are as ancient as himself, and are therefore called by the apostle Paul his "eternal purpose."

      A second peculiarity of the Divine purposes is, they are independent. Man is dependent, in forming his purposes, on a variety of circumstances,--on past experience, on experience of others, and on the advice of others. But saith the Spirit, "With whom took he counsel? who instructed and taught him in the path of judgment? who hath directed the spirit of the Lord?" No, he depends not on any for advice; for, saith the apostle, "He purposed in himself," and "he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."

      A third peculiarity of the Divine purpose is, they are immutable. Every thing in this world is continually changing, ourselves, our thoughts, our purposes. He alone, who is God of Jacob, can say, "I change not." He alone is of one mind, and the thoughts of his heart are the same to all generations. There are but two reasons why any creature alters its purpose--these are ignorance and imbecility. If I abandon my determination, it is either because I perceive it is wrong or that I am not able to accomplish it. No man ever desisted from any of his purposes but upon a conviction that it was not the best, consequently wrong, or that he discovered insurmountable impediments to his accomplishing it. But who, that is "excellent in counsel and wonderful in working," ever departed from his purpose upon a conviction that it was not the best, or that impediments beyond his control obliged him to desist from it? On such an hypothesis his wisdom and power would be impeached and disgraced; no longer [7] could it be said that he is of infinite understanding, and of almighty power.

      If then we could imagine for a moment that God's will or intention ever changes, we must at the same time dispute the plainest evidence of reason, and earliest testimony of revelation. We must say that his understanding is finite, and that there is something too powerful for him to oppose. But from what has been said, we may safely assert, that the foundation of God standeth sure; that his purpose is immutable; that the Lord has purposed, who shall disannul it? his counsel shall stand, and he shall do all his pleasure.

      To avoid prolixity, we would enumerate in one particular the grand peculiarities of the Divine purposes--they are wise, they are good, and shall in due time be accomplished. These properties of the Divine counsels are asserted in the following testimonies of Holy Scriptures: "He is wise in counsel; he is good and he doeth good; hath he said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall it not come to pass? Who is he that sayeth and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? I have purposed and I will do it, I will do all my pleasure. For he doeth whatsoever pleases him in the armies of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth. All is good, yea, very good."

      Having shown what the peculiarities of the Divine purposes are,--we now proceed to a third question, viz: What are the objects of the counsels or purposes of God? To this query we shall give the following answer.

      We would observe in the first place that the objects of the Divine purposes are God himself, and his creatures. Respecting himself and his creatures he has purposed certain things; but as his purposes concerning himself are better understood in considering what he has purposed concerning his creatures, we shall attend first to these.

      Every thing in the universe is the creature of God, apart from himself. Amongst those creatures of God there are two chief orders, viz., angels and men, on whose account all other creatures exist.

      The events and issue of all other creatures are connected with and subservient to these. These only are created capable of [8] knowing and delighting in God. These only are created susceptible of receiving exquisite happiness in contemplating the Divine excellence. But as the dignity and happiness of these two superior orders depend in some measure on the inferior orders, it was necessary that the Divine purposes should include every creature in the universe. None too minute, none too great to be left out or excluded from it. This will appear obvious from reason and revelation.

      If we reasonably contemplate the lower world, we shall perceive that all the tribes of animals, visible or invisible to the naked eye, are so many links in the same chain or steps in the same ladder up to the creature man. So that if one species of beings should by any means become extinct, the species immediately above it, and dependent on it, would become extinct, and so on, till instead of this fair and well inhabited edifice, we would be presented with a ruined and desolate earth.

      It was therefore necessary for man's sake, for whom the sun shines, the planets move, the sea teems with life, and the earth is replenished with innumerable tribes of animals--we say it was necessary for his sake that the Divine purposes should include every creature, from the gnat to the mammoth, from the fry to the whale. To this revelation agrees, when it says "the hairs of your head are numbered--are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? and not one of them is forgotten before God." Concerning all these creatures, but especially concerning man, God has purposed or determined the number of each, the properties, times, modes and circumstances of existence.

      "God," says the apostle, "has determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation."

      Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world. He gave the sea his decree that the waters should not pass his commandment, when he placed the sand for the bound for the sea, by a perpetual decree, when he had made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of thunder! Hence, we read of the definite legions of angels, of the elect angels, of the number of man's months, of his appointed time, of his fixed habitation of the last day.

      And with respect to the souls and eternal state of all men, [9] the same language runs through the divine oracles. Hence, we read of some appointed unto wrath, and some appointed to obtain salvation through Christ; hence, we read of some ordained to eternal life, and some of old ordained to condemnation; of some vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory, and some vessels of wrath, fitted unto destruction; of many called and few chosen; of some from the beginning chosen unto salvation, and some sent unto their own place, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

      The means also by which these appointments were to be accomplished, are as fully the object of the Divine purpose as the end or event itself. Hence, we read, "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." "Except a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God." "He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not the testimony of God shall be damned." "Those that know not God and disobey the gospel shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power."

      In the Divine purposes, the means and the end are inseparably connected, and in the accomplishment of these purposes, this connection is, and shall always be visible to all concerned. As the answer to the query which has been proposed is deeply involved in the query which shall be given to a fourth inquiry, we shall, previous to our furnishing the answer which has been so far given, proceed to the next, viz: What is the end or final purposes of God?

      That God has or had one ultimate end in creating all things, or in creating angels and men, is most evident to the enlightened scripturian. The ultimate end of the irrational or corporeal creation, is for the subserviency of man.

      The sun, moon and stars--the earth with all its minerals, vegetables and animal productions--can answer no higher end than the conveniency or happiness of man. Man, then, is the ultimate end of all God's lower works. He is the exquisite building of God, and the visible heavens and earth with their hosts, is but the scaffolding, and this scaffolding must be raised as high and continue as long as the building is raising or the family of man is completing. [10]

      But it is not the whole family of man, but the elect part, or remnant according to the election of grace, for whose sake all things are subservient. The sun's career is lengthened, time prolonged, generations multiplied, revolutions accomplished, and the whole of the universe kept in motion for the elects' sake. So that truly or strictly speaking, the happiness of the elect is the final cause, or ultimate end of all material or mundane things. "All things," saith the apostle, "are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours," or for your sake. And therefore, saith Paul, "I endure all things for the elect's sake."

      But the ultimate end of man and angels is something which we have not yet considered; as all things below angels and men are means to promote a certain end, in relation to angels and men, so angels and men themselves are but means to promote still higher ends, and through them every thing tends to the promotion of that chief end; as every mundane thing is but the scaffolding, to the edifice of man. So man and angel are but the scaffolding to a dome still more majestic and sublime! What, then, is the final cause, the high end of all the purposes of God? for all the works of God, which we have seen, are the effects of his purposes. The answer we dare not give from all the stores of human wisdom; but let the living oracles declare; let the celestial guests who environ the throne of the Highest declare; let the four and twenty elders that fall down before Him that sitteth on the throne--that worship Him that liveth for ever and ever--that cast their crowns before the throne--let them declare it, saying, "thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." In accordance with them, Solomon, the wisest of men, hath said, "the Lord hath created all things for himself."

      Hence, the purposes of God have for their ultimate end, or final cause, his own glory. But, it may be justly asked, what is the glory of God? In general terms we would reply, that the manifestation of his excellences, to beings capable of contemplating them, is his glory. Therefore, whatsoever tends to place [11] his excellences in the most conspicuous light, is declarative of his glory. But, to be more particular and explicit, we would affirm, that the glory of God consists in the communication and manifestation of himself to his rational offspring. What is he himself, then, that we way know in what this communication and manifestation of himself consists? Now the Spirit of God, which searches all the deep things of God, repeatedly declares, that "God is love." "And he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God and God in him." The same Spirit declares, that "God is a spirit" and "God is truth," which are the only expressions in the Divine volume descriptive of its Author.

      But in relation to the purposes and works of God, the apostle John declares, that "God is love." It is then the communication and manifestation of love that is the true glory of God--the communication of this love to his own creatures, that seems to have been the glorious purpose of God which issued in the creation of angels and men. They only am "fit to be filled with the fulness of God," and to become partakers of the Divine nature, because he constituted them such. It is love, then, before angels or men were formed, had its existence; for angels and men owe their existence to it; and, consequently, all the Divine have for their ultimate end, or final cause, the manifestation of love.

      As we have already seen that God is love, and the glory of God is the manifestation of love; is all, then, were, created for the glory of God, they were created for the manifestation of love, which is the ultimate end of all the counsels of God. Now, as the Eternal Word, or only-begotten of the Father, is the alone proper object of the infinite love of the Father, and capable of reciprocating it, of course, then, all the counsels or purposes of God were laid in Christ, who is called the wisdom of God, because he is alone the infinite object, the infinite gift, and infinite means of this love; or the wise means which the Father chose for the display of it. In consequence of this, all things are said to be created for Christ, the infinite object of the infinite love of the Father; hence we read that from eternity, the Eternal Word rejoiced in the habitable parts of this earth, and his delights were with the sons of men; therefore, the Father promised eternal [12] life to men in Christ Jesus before the world began. The glory which Christ had with his Father before the world was, consisted in his being infinitely beloved by his Father, as appears from John 17th; and the glory of his people consisted in their being rendered fit objects for the complacent love of Christ, and in their beholding that love which the Father manifested to Christ. John 17th, 24th & 26th--"Father," says he, "I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them."

      Moral evil, however, soon appears in the creation; a considerable number of the angels become subject to its consequences, the human family partakes of it, all the children of men are affected by it. Why, then, is it suffered to exist--why to extend its dire contagion--why to multiply its requests--why to prolong its reign? These are questions, or rather this is one question, which necessarily comes in our way, and which is connected with the subject; and nowhere could it appear in a connection of thought more advantageous to its due consideration and easy comprehension than when seated by the side of Eternal love, or passing through the august ranks of the heavenly boats, or making its temporary abode on the flowery and ambrosial banks of Eden. It is permitted to exist, to travel so far, to reign so long, merely to open a vent for the display of Infinite and Eternal love. Eternal love never could have had a display worthy of itself, had not sin reigned unto death. Jesus Christ, the unspeakable gift, and fullest exhibition of infinite and everlasting love, never would have been exhibited had set sin been permitted to exist. We may then say--

"What else is evil but the shade
By Wisdom is the picture laid,
To make his love arise, and show
Its brightest glory to our view."

"Nor yet could sin-forgiving grace
'Mong all the creatures find a place;
While all was good, no room could be
For mercy's aid to misery." [13]

      Amongst all the creatures of God, before any of them sinned, there was not one of them that could be a worthy object of infinite love, for this plain reason, that love requires loveliness corresponding with itself. The object of infinite love must be the object of infinite loveliness, which no finite creature could be, however excellent. When Christ, then, who was the eternal and infinite object of the Father's infinite and eternal love, unites with men, and takes their nature into union with himself, they, in consequence of this union, become the worthy objects of the infinite complacencies of God. Had not sin, then, triumphed unto death, he never would have taken part with flesh and blood.

      Again, the wrath of God against sin, is the jealousy of his infinite love. He hates sin; his wrath is kindled against it, because it is destruction to those whom he loves. It cannot hurt him; it hurts those whom he loves: therefore is his wrath kindled against it. Therefore is he called the "jealous" God. Now when Jesus Christ had the sins of his people laid to his account, and stands, in their place, an object of the curse of the Eternal Father, then there is an opportunity afforded for manifesting the infinite jealousy of the infinite love of God and his Son, and to those connected with him in the new covenant; that sin hath abounded merely to the superabounding of grace, and grace abounded to the glory of love, which is the glory of God; so that the ultimate end of all God's counsels, is the display of love, or of himself. The condemnation of the wicked, and his wrath against them, ultimately redounds to the glory of love, in the vessels afore prepared unto glory, inasmuch as an eternal picture of their own demerit and just desert is exhibited in the punishment of the vessels fitted to destruction. And "so all partial evil is universal good." Truly, we may conclude with the apostle, saying, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways are past finding out! For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen."

      We may, partially at least, illustrate by a common similitude, the views of the Divine purposes which have been given to the preceding observations. The whole rational creation may be compared to a great house, of which-the material universe is but [14] the scaffolding. This great edifice was planned and erected by the great Artificer who built all things, God. This house he built, and replenished for himself, for an habitation for himself. The unfading residence of all his excellences, harmoniously and gloriously displayed. Now as there are, in a great house, vessels of gold and silver and precious stones, and vessels of wood and stone and earth--the former, for the use of the illustrious personage whose it is; the latter, for those who are to minister to his pleasure, to support his dignity, and maintain his glory; so there are, in this magnificent palace, a variety of vessels of different natures and quantities, each of which in its own place promotes the general end, the glory of the proprietor and possessor. The great dome is still rising higher and higher; every generation adds to its magnificence, but its capstone will be laid by and bye. The wisdom and ability of the Architect secures its completion. He did not, like foolish mortals, begin to build without ascertaining whether he were able to finish. He does not, like foolish mortals, provide more or less materials than necessary--not one stone, not one pin, superfluous or deficient. The materials and the means by which they are to be cemented were ordained of him before time began, or the foundation was laid, so that at least he will not have to say, with regret, "I began to build, and was not able to finish;" or, "I have provided more materials, and have been at much greater expense, than necessary. I might have finished upon a narrow scale, or at much less expense, a building equally or more suitable to my design." What christian would not say, "that be far from the only wise God." Nay, when the building is finished, when the great day arrives, when the final division is made in the rational creation, and the two great assemblies are placed in their own apartment, there will not be any thing excluded that was not designed ere time began. He will not have to say of any apartment, I determined otherwise concerning you, but you disappointed and frustrated my design." Nay, he will not have to regret that any thing eventuated contrary to his original design, but will, with the same complacency as at the beginning, declare, all is good, all is just, all is wise, all is right, yea, perfectly so.

      We shall now briefly consider the common objections made to [15] this view of the purpose of God. When our minds are exercised in the consideration of this great subject in the light of revelation, we would scarcely suppose that an objection could exist against it. But, alas! the scripture plainness of any doctrine is no defence against the cavils of poor, blind, deluded man. There is not a truth in the revelation of God, against which the pride and ignorance of man does not object. Some object against one part and some against another. But this doctrine has had a host to oppose it, in all ages of the world. From the days of Cain down to the present age, objections have been urged against it. But shall we reject it? then might we have been drowned in the deluge, overthrown with the Sodomites, overwhelmed in the Red Sea, destroyed in the wilderness: then might we have crucified the Lord of glory, have been buried in Jerusalem's ruins, partook of the plagues of antichrist, and hurled through the wide gate to bottomless perdition. In all these the majority partook. But what are the objections? and from what quarter do they come? It is all one, whether we take them from the mouth of Cain, the obstinate Jew, the sceptical Greek, the infidel Roman, or the modern Arminian. Their objections are one and the same. Moses, in his day, withstood them, Christ silenced them, Paul refuted them, Calvin opposed them, and the saints in all ages have testified against them. They are reducible to three--the first comprehends all that is said against this doctrine, on the supposition, that it impeaches the Most High with unrighteousness, or partiality, or as a respecter of persons. Jesus Christ removes this objection in one sentence, and shows the reason why any make it: Mat. 20 and 15th--"Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? is thine eye evil because I am good?" An evil eye is the cause of the objection; and pride says it is not lawful, for my Maker to dispose of me without consulting my pleasure.

      Here, we might pause; but we would pray the objector to survey the visible creation, the providence of God every day toward his creatures, rational and irrational. If this is beyond his case, let him look into the family of man, and let him show on his own or any other principle, how God is impartial in causing one to be born to affluence, another to poverty; one to good health [16] and long life, another to sickness and premature death; one to the exercise of his bodily members, another to blindness, deafness or dumbness; one to the exercise of reason, another to idiotism; one to possess mental powers but a degree inferior to an angel, another but to a degree superior to a brute. Let him show impartiality in this, and then we shall show impartiality in raising a Lazarus to Abraham's bosom, and permitting a Dives to sink to hell according to His sovereign will. He that is just in that which is little, is in that which is much; and he that is unjust in little, is unjust in much. Let the objector reflect, that he might as well accuse his Maker with unrighteousness and partiality because he was not Adam, Moses, Solomon, or Paul, as that he is what he is, or what he shall be. Nay, let him consider, that God should not, on his own principle, have made him at all, without consulting his pleasure. Shall the thing formed, say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus?" The christian replies to every query that respects a discrimination in the lot of man, in the words of Christ: "even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight." But if the objector would wish to know how the apostles would, or did, refute this objection, we refer him to Romans the 9th & 24th.

      The second objection to the purposes of God, as viewed by us, is,--that which comprehends all that is said on the ground of praise and blame, or as it was proposed to Paul in the form of a query: "Why doth he yet find fault; for who hath resisted his will?" If God has willed every thing that comes to pass, how can he find fault with any, for who could do otherwise than he does? This is radically the same with the first; it is an impartation of the righteousness of God; but as it is spoken of as distinct from the former, we shall consider it as a second.

      We presume that the answer given by the Divine Spirit to this objection will suffice us at present. We are persuaded the treasury of human wisdom cannot afford a better. We shall briefly comment on it. It runs in these words--"Nay, but oh man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto [17] honor?" Now, when we consider that this objection was made not against God showing mercy to whom he will, so much as against God hardening whom he will, we must perceive that the apostle admits the fact when he considers the objection is an acknowledgment of the truth against which it is made--he calls it a reply against God. God does so. But why should a man strive with his Maker? hath not God as much power over men, and as much right to use them as he pleases, as the potter over the clay? And, if the potter of the same lump of clay, makes two vessels, the one for an honorable, and the other for a common use, hath not God, at least, the same power and right over two men, to make the one a vessel of mercy or of honor, and the other a vessel of dishonor or of wrath--the one to manifest his mercy, and the other his wrath? But there is a distinction here in the apostle's reasoning which should not be overlooked, and that is between justice and sovereignty. Sovereignty makes a difference amongst men, but justice rewards men according to this difference. There is a fitness in the vessel for the use for which it is made, which makes it unfit for any other use. When the vessels are formed, it is mete to put each to its proper use--while they were in the same lump it was the potter's pleasure that made the difference--but now justice or correctness that each be used according to its fitness, so that we must not confound sovereignty with distributive justice, any more than we must not confound justice with mercy, in our view of the "just God and Saviour." While we think abstractly of justice, we cannot conceive of mercy; so when we think abstractly of sovereignty, we cannot conceive of justice--such are our finite minds when exercised on infinite perfections. But by viewing each perfection in its own place, without confounding it with any other, we can arrive at correct knowledge, as far as it goes, of the Divine character, so that we conclude he is a sovereign and merciful God. Hence, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, bat "of God that showeth mercy."

      In connection with this, we mention the third objection against the doctrine stated, which is, that it indisposes the mind that admits it, to the use of any means, in order to be saved. Nay, that it forbids any effort on the part of man, or endeavor to be [18] saved; that it teaches a man to consider his own actions as the actions of a machine as unavoidable and as blameless. This is nearly akin to the preceding, but as it occupies a distinct place in the ranks of our opponents, it deserves to be distinctly noticed. There is a combination of error in the minds of those who present the objection. They not only disbelieve that God is a sovereign, but also they discredit the testimony of God concerning the natural state of all men. The objection proceeds upon the supposition, that men do something to obtain salvation, which the purpose or ordination of God prevents them from doing. But the word of God teaches us that man can do nothing to save himself; that he has so destroyed himself, or that his ruin is so complete, that every faculty of his soul is so depraved, that, until he is born from above, all he can do is abominable in the sight of God. "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." "The natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them." "The carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be." So, that instead of this doctrine being averse to the salvation of any, it is only in consequence of its being true, that any could be saved. So that, except the Lord of Hosts had a remnant, according to the election of grace, we had all been as Sodom, and perished as the men of Gomorrah--so then, if there be no election, there is no salvation.

      A second error in the objection is, that the objectors consider that the means of salvation are the efforts of men; whereas, the testimony of God reveals the achievements of Jesus Christ as the means, and the alone means, of salvation. It is also true, that the word of God is a means of salvation; but the reason is, because it exhibits the means which God uses to save men. And no man can profit from the scriptures, but as he is taught by the Spirit which indited them; which gift of the Spirit is as sovereign as the sending of Christ into the world. So, then, if there be no revelation, there are no means of salvation. From this it appears obvious that none but those born from above, can use the means of salvation, and such only are exhorted to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Again, it is in consequence of the sovereign purpose of God, that his [19] word is sent to any portion of the family of man. How many are destitute of it? how few comparatively enjoy it? All that have the bible, then, possess it in consequence of a sovereign decree. It presents truth well authenticated to all men where it arrives; and all the panaceas contained in it are addressed to men as believers and not as unbelievers of it; and by the commandment of the Everlasting Father, it is to be preached to all nations, and to all men, where it comes, for the obedience of faith; and all are assured, that whosoever believes it shall be saved, and he that rejects it shall be damned. When the Holy Spirit accompanies this word, then, and then only, is it effectual; and all that the preacher who rightly divides the word of truth, has to present to unbelievers is, truth with its evidence, or the gospel well authenticated.

      Another mistake of the objector is manifest in the objection, viz: that God cannot make a creature who shall always act freely, and yet all his actions be known and determined of God. That this is within the compass of the Divine power, the scriptures fully evince. That God is not the author of sin; that he cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man, is most obvious; and that man acts freely, and yet of necessity, is equally plain--not however in metaphysical proposition in the scriptures, but in certain and incontestable facts. For instance, no man ever acted more freely than Judas Iscariot, in betraying Christ for thirty pieces of silver, and yet no action was ever more certainly determined than that very action. For Christ was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. A thousand actions recorded in scripture, indeed all prophecy contained in them, demonstrate that men act freely in all that they do, and all their actions are fixed as certain as that Christ shall come again, or that time shall end.

      But our present limits forbid our further delay on this part of the subject. We shall now conclude with a brief examination of the chief advantages we derive from the view of the Divine purposes which has been given. The advantages we enjoy from a correct view of the purposes of God are numerous, but the following are the chief: Pride, the most common and the most dangerous of human corruptions, hath its cure in this doctrine. [20] Now, as humility is so essential to our happiness, and is a part most interesting in the salvation of man, so that doctrine which teaches it fully and on infallible principles is, of all others, salutary and divine. The language of this doctrine is, that there is no difference amongst men but what grace makes. No man hath aught of excellence or superiority to boast of. Whatever he possesses, grace hath bestowed; and why should be boast as though he received it not? When we look to the pit from which we were dug and the rock from whence we were hewn, all boasting and self-preference is at an end. Where is boasting then? it is excluded. Where from? from the mind which believes in the purposes of God as presented to your view in this epistle.

      Despair, the next and most destructive evil, is banished from the believer of this doctrine. Pride and despair are two opposite evils. It is spiritual pride that keeps multitudes from despair. They fancy there is something so good about them that it would be a reflection on the Deity to punish them forever. This conceit is, in their minds, a certain antidote against despair. But suppose that some ray of light should shine into their minds, to show them that their imaginary excellence was but a dream, an illusion--what then? Despair ensues, and naught can save the reflecting mind from despair but a view of that sovereignty, displayed in showing mercy to whom He will. What vileness, guilt and wretchedness could lead that man to despair, who believed the testimony of the sovereign grace of God which exhibits him showing mercy to the chief of sinners, to all that call upon him in the name of Jesus Christ. This doctrine, then, is a sovereign remedy, when rightly understood, against price and despair, each of which stand at the utmost distance from it.

      Contentment--the soul of all happiness is its genuine fruit; godly contentment, which no plant of earthly origin can produce. But what is this contentment? An enlightened resignation of soul and body, of every interest in time and eternity, to God, and a hearty acquiescence in his sovereign will. This is christian contentment--and such is the rational part of this sublime doctrine! It teaches the saint that all anxiety is in vain--that Infinite wisdom and Sovereign goodness order all things right, and anticipate his baneful desires after every interesting object. [21] And as love is the moving cause, and the display of it--the ultimate end of God's purposes--the christian, knowing this, rejoices even when clouds and darkness encompass and overshadow the ways of Providence to man. Anxiously desiring that all saints may have a more abundant experience of this heavenly truth, and that you all may fully understand, heartily acquiesce, and incessantly rejoice in it,

      We remain, dear brethren, your servants,
for Jesus' sake,  

      * Any one having this letter, which was written in 1816, will confer a lasting favor an the publisher of this pamphlet by sending him a copy by mail. [3]

T H E O L O G Y.

      One of the grandest and most sublime pieces of Theology ever composed in America, viz: that memorable letter written by Mr. ALEXANDER CAMPBELL, of Bethany, Va., nearly forty years ago, in support of the "despised" doctrines of Election and Predestination, addressed to the churches, in connection with the Redstone Baptist Association, held at Peters Creek Church, Washington county, Pennsylvania, in 1817, A. D., and lately published by T. L. STEPHENS, Fulton, Mo., in a pamphlet form, on fine paper and beautiful new style type, which he is now ready to send by mail in any quantity, free of postage, to any point in the Union, on the following terms, viz:

      Price per single copy,       25 cts.
         "    for five copies, $1 00
         "    for thirty copies,   5 00

      Remittances may be in gold, currency, stamps and small amounts in silver coin.

      For sale at the MEDICAL DEPOT.
Fulton, Callaway Co., Mo.  

[VACDEAR 1-23]


      The electronic edition of Views of Mr. Alexander Concerning the Doctrines of Election and Reprobation as Embodied in the Circular Letter Addressed to the Churches in Connection with the Redstone Baptist Association, in 1817 (Fulton, MO: T. L. Stephens, 1856) has been produced from a copy held by the Disciples of Christ Historical Society.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained; however, corrections have been offered for misspellings and other accidental corruptions. Emendations are as follows:

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 4:      synonomously [ synonymously
 p. 7:      and the the thoughts [ and the thoughts
 p. 16:     Armenian. [ Arminian.
 p. 17:     suffice .us [ suffice us
 p. 20:     manisfest in [ manifest in
 p. 21:     pur- purposes of God as [ purposes of God as

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
Derry, PA

Created 28 February 1999.
Updated 7 July 2003.

Alexander Campbell Views Concerning the Doctrines of Election and Reprobation (1856)

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