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By Roger Salter
Special to Virtueonline
October 29, 2022

My resolution to become an Anglican occurred in a bookshop. Picking up a leather-bound, pocket-size Book of Common Prayer (much disparaged in my religious background) I perused its pages inquisitively, and eventually my eye settled upon the Article on Predestination and Election. It was seen to be so eminently biblical, balanced, and beautifully eloquent in such brief compass. It was truly a gem of Augustinian confession and affirmation - accurate, attractive, and readily memorable; a sweet resource for contemplation, wonder and gratitude for the magnificence of the grace of God. The Article still is cherished for the truth contained in it, couched in such pastoral tone, and emphatic on the theme of electing love. It is poetically alluring and assuring of the mercy of God to whom we may freely appeal for our salvation.

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God: Predestination is primarily a matter of Life. Foremost in the mind of God is the bestowal of life to undeserving, hostile sinners, spiritually deceased and inert, with no sincere desire for him and the holiness he desires to create within us. His everlasting intent is to reclaim us and restore us by his resolute determination to rescue us through his sovereign mercy alone, without any cause or virtuous quality within ourselves. His motivation is pure pity towards those who only harbor enmity towards him.

Whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us: This compassionate decision of God precedes the creation of the world and its human inhabitants. It is timeless and unchangeable; his eternal counsel is unreachable and unfathomable to us, beyond our prying eyes or probing enquiry. God's in-depth intent is private to him alone. His thoughts are lofty and his reasons for anything do not have to be seconded by us for their validity.

To deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind: Mankind is in absolute and certain peril and faces eternal doom due to our revolt against God in that person, our first parent, fully equipped by creation to function as our efficient racial representative and responsible head of our species. Adam made the fatal decision that condemns us all through union with him by dint of inherited nature and federal connection. There was what Augustine terms "the great offense in the garden" (not to be trivialized by the eating of an undisclosed fruit - an 'apple', so say , but to be viewed gravely as a heart-deep rebellion against the will of the Lord). There has been the occurrence of the Fall of mankind, the degradation of our race in disobedience to the Most High through reckless pride and ambition that lay behind the simple plucking of the forbidden fruit. Our test in Adam was a failure. God's purpose is to reverse the dire consequences in a plan of deliverance and redemption. The chosen are associated in the design of God with Jesus Christ the pre-eminent Elect One of the Father. The elect are loved with an eternal love. The gift of faith brings us into experiential union with him and admission to the sphere of divine fellowship and favor.

And to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor: Jesus Christ is the central agent in the effectuation of Divine Election. He is the embodiment of the mighty love the Triune God exercises in selecting the company of the redeemed ones. In his secret counsel and the covenant agreed between the three persons of the Godhead, the persons of the elect are indissolubly esteemed and cherished, divinely embraced, fondly regarded, included in the Father's affection toward the Son, his approval of the worth and work of Christ's undertaking as Savior and restorer of human dignity and integrity. Salvation is the renovation and repair of human nature toward harmonious compatibility with the one true and holy God of perfect righteousness. Christ saves those who are given to him and performs everything necessary to their reinstatement to divine favor. In Christ's heartfelt concern, and through his redemptive, atoning action, the chosen are qualified for everlasting life with God. Those due for consignment to hell by their own guilt are certified fit for heaven through the meritorious effort and obedience of Christ on their behalf.

Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: They through Grace obey the calling: The benefit of eternal election to everlasting salvation is a blessing beyond price and estimation of value. It is superior to any other conceivable good fortune to be granted by heaven to the denizens of earth. Words of appreciation fail to describe the marvelous benefit of Christ wrought and bought (purchased) by the lover of our souls. In all eternity we shall never measure the infinite extent of Messiah's lowly, sacrificial, arduous endeavor and complete compassion in securing our eternal welfare and bliss. It excites our ever-increasing wonderment and defies creaturely comprehension. The songs of highest appreciation will resound throughout the heavenly courts for ever and ever. "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" [Revelation 5:12).

Perfect redemption! Perfect timing! What Christ has infallibly secured for his people it is the Spirit who deigns to summon them to the enjoyment thereof. Those whom Christ has won for glory the Spirit woos to their inheritance. The loveliness of Christ, and the aptness of his Saviorhood for our predicament as wretched sinners, chargeable for countless offenses against the occupant of the great white throne - when these grand things are revealed by the Spirit - grace ineluctably allures us and draws us to him. There is a romance established between sinner and Savior that inevitably binds each to the other. Christ presents himself as irresistible and the renewed heart succumbs to his grace and beauty. The call to salvation is effectual [look to Augustine of Hippo, Isidore of Seville, Bernard of Clairvaux, Pascal of Port Royal, Joseph Hall, John Davenant, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Chalmers, Adolphe Monod for full endorsement of the effectual call).

"Thus, through God's grace human free will is restored, which the first man had lost; in fact, Adam had free will to do what is good, even though he did it with God's help. We obtain our will to do what is good and embrace God perfecting us, thanks to divine grace. We receive the power to begin and to perfect what is good from God, who gave us the gift of grace; as a result of that, our free will is restored in us.Whatever good we do, it is God's, thanks to his prevenient and subsequent grace; but it is also ours, thanks to the [God-made] obedient power of our wills." Isadore.

This view is fully supported by Bernard in his treatise On Grace & Free Choice, Cistercian Publications. See also Bernard of Clairvaux, Theologian of the Cross, Anthony N.S. Lane, Liturgical Press, 2013.

They be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity: Being born from above (regeneration) the chosen receive a multiplicity of divine endowments that surpass the highest degree of human amazement and baffle our deepest contemplations.

We are justified freely. No effort, merit, present or potential qualification, pertains to this free reckoning of God as to our status before him. Jesus Christ is solely and fully our justification. Our rectitude before God is won and donated by our revered Redeemer. His purity, innocence, virtue and obedience are imputed to us by his will and testament actualized by his atoning sacrifice and substitutionary blood-shedding. In his death he bequeathed life and peace with God to us. Faith in his Person and over-all saving accomplishment on our behalf is our God-written receipt of the complete deliverance he achieved and secured for the sincere believer. The law, with which we cannot comply in the least, still commands "Do this!" The Gospel of Christ's merciful undertaking cries out from the cross "It is done"; for Jesus announced that his mission of rescue is comprehensively complete: "It is finished!" We know that we are saved by the confidence the Lord has given us in the blood-shedding. Forgiveness of the evil that permeates our nature, performs our wickedness of thought, speech and action, defies and denounces God; this corruption and rebellion is cleansed from our hearts and erased from our record by the purifying sacrifice of the God-Man, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

Adoption is the central privilege of the Covenant of Grace. God not only gathers us to himself as the company of the redeemed who are now in a right relationship to him; he chooses to be our Father and call us his children - sons and daughters of the Lord. It is beyond marvelous that there should be such an alteration in our parenting. Formerly we were children of the evil one. We inherited his nature, affections, and habits. We were in thrall to his tyranny, but we actually enjoyed the tastes, preferences and behavior we inherited through his implanting of our vile and inbred tendencies. We were willing captives motivated by similar foul desires.

Now we resemble our heavenly Father and we are beloved heirs to the entire wealth of his generous goodness in perpetual provision, our welfare guaranteed and guarded to the end that we are assuredly invulnerable to want and harm (Psalm 23). The ultimate honor accorded to us is that we are being fashioned in the likeness of Christ - the perfect man. The Lord Jesus is our companionable and considerate Elder Brother.

Being made in the image of Christ is an eminently practical feature of lives. We live holily in our demeanor and deeds, and helpfully in our love of neighbor doing what is best for them in every instant of contact and in best using every opportunity in serving others, nudging them toward the kingdom - not only in kindness but necessary and humble warning and correction. In ourselves aspiration and action are not always commensurate, but we appeal urgently for God's enabling. We are neither dominant nor available as "door-mats" in our outreach to those who are strangers to the Lord.

Everlasting felicity is a splendid term for our eternal dwelling with God. If Jesus is All to us, then our destiny to abide with him forever brings elation to drooping spirits often experienced here on earth. The prospect is exhilarating and immensely encouraging. His pledge fortifies our hope, presenting it as certainty. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me . In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3). This is Bliss.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well as because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God. This summary of experiential predestinarian conviction is truly sublime. The consideration of the great theme of the divine purpose commences with godly rumination. This approach entails humility and an honest listening to and examination of the Word of God. It does not begin with an attitude of resistance on the basis of speculative hearsay, acquired assumptions, or prejudged conclusions. We do not come in the temper of quarrelsomeness ("But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" Romans 9:20). Any enquiry into the mind of God proceeds in modest faith in the trustworthiness and reliability of God's indisputably wise revelation and seeks the discernment and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We come to Scripture to be taught and not to force the confirmation of any presupposed prejudices. Godliness implies teachableness before the Almighty. My hasty reasoning must not ignite any instant offense at any statement from Sacred Scripture. "My thoughts are higher than your thoughts." Scripture is not a "pick-and -choose" arrangement. Nor are we cavaliers expertly wielding the sword of the Spirit this way and that in defense of our predisposed bias. We are students under the scepter of King Jesus.

The electing love of the Lord Jesus, the outcome of his saving endeavor, is ultimately victorious and cannot be diminished by any failure of its objective. "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:37-40 cf John 10:25-30 & 17: 1-5, 24). The will of Father and Son cannot be frustrated.

The sovereign election of believers is the kind of spiritual delicacy that Charles Spurgeon says we should roll under our tongue. It is holy, heavenly confection that is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to all godly persons. This is the language of intimacy and our taste of the Lord is superlatively good. The believer may say, Christ is before me, with me, and waiting for me in the reality of his eternal love. It is a union that had to be (the divine must), that is enjoyed in the present, and that cannot be broken. Whitefield, his mentors the Puritans, spoke fervently of a felt faith, as did the church fathers in their devotional expressions. Our reliable feelings emerge from faith in the pronouncements of the oracles of God. The Spirit accompanies us in our fellowship with Christ, our apprehension of and attachment to him. He is known to be real and that he supports us. The Spirit is the witness to our coupling with Christ. The Word written and the Word indwelling us conjoin to convince us of the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus as our Savior. The Spirit is fully apprised of the warfare within us; our fighting with indwelling sin and our struggle to overcome temptation. He hears our urgent cry, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25). We are not finally overcome. He, the Spirit of Christ, counters our defilement, so distasteful to us, by raising our minds to high and heavenly things, those sublime levels of perception and fascination with the ravishing display of the nature of the Three-in-One in the disclosure of the infinite wisdom of his will, his enchanting ways, and perfect works. The excellence of the Triune God!. His incomparable beauty, efficiency, and goodness elicits our love, adoration, gratitude and trust toward "The Father, of majesty unbounded; Your adorable, true and only Son; And the Holy Spirit, the Counselor (Te Deum).

So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchedness of most unclean living, no less perilous perilous than desperation. Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and in our doings that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God. The emphasis of the Article is godly consideration. Devoid of the Spirit of Christ rashness and negativity cloud the topic of predestination. Electing love is the gospel nuance to be grasped and seized upon. Chosen to life is the prominent strand in the multifarious doctrine of Predestination in all its elements. The promises are spoken to every person who comes within range of the earnest commendation of Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Reconciler to God. No one has advance knowledge of certain exclusion from the kingdom. It is in vain to be curious. There is no light for such futile interrogation. The responsibility of all who hear is to take hold of Christ. It would seem obvious that this is the only safe and sane option. There is no obstructive force apart from our own settled disposition to spurn him and our perverse inclination to refuse him. The Promise holds good to all who confide in it. Election is manifest in true repentance and sincere trust in Christ. The certification of election is in the clear reliance upon the Lord Jesus and the efficacy of the salvation he has wrought. We see our election in the bruised and bloody victim on the cross who bore our sins, and in gazing firmly into his tender eyes and shining face as victor over sin and death in the resurrection and his consequent availability to all who call on him. Our salvation is all of grace and our condemnation due to our own unbelief and sin. We must must not pry into the mystery of divine determination but adhere carefully to the way to life as delineated generally in the biblical message addressed to all. We look to Jesus who deserved our salvation for us and grants it freely to whoever applies to his mercy. Deprivation of salvation is our self-earned desert, our forfeiture of free pardon.

Article seventeen is the doctrine of our Reformed Church. It is to be interpreted accurately in the grammatical and historical manner consonant with the known convictions of its authors; Cranmer was a clear-cut Predestinarian in line with the Augustinian tradition, no matter whether the decisive influence upon him was Luther or Calvin. He heeded both, agreed with them, and each maintained the position of the Bishop of Hippo. Cranmer arrived intelligently and faithfully at his own viewpoint. Diarmaid MacCulloch declares that Cranmer constructed the faith of the Ecclesia Anglicana on the principle of Predestination (All Things New). The Archbishop's advisers and assisting colleagues (Jewel, Ridley and so on) concurred with him. Anglicanism is definitely Calvinistic, although Calvin did not invent the doctrines of grace, and did not introduce the English Reformers to them. Predecessors abound in English and European religion throughout every generation of Christian believers.

The English Article does not play down the fact of election and distinguishing grace in any way. Its phrases chime with Calvin's language; its necessary and strong pastoral caution evinces that it advocates "Real" Predestination, and not any other 'diluter' suggestion that totes mere prescience or simple foreknowledge. It is God who elects and not we ourselves, who by foreseen faith and virtue influence the choice of God in our favor. Arminianism does not willingly allude to the topic of election because it has actually explained it away through the adoption of a false philosophy congenial to the natural man - the exaggerated capacity of the human free will. That the Reformation historian A.G. Dickens can construe the official Anglican position in our Article as "most rigorous" is an indication of its forcefulness in the presentation of soteriological truth [see The English Reformation, Fontana, 1976, page 346].

Electing love is the bedrock of our understanding of saving grace. It presents the fundamental layer of Anglican understanding of the purpose of salvation and its eager proclamation. We need to dig down and joyfully expose it with recurring frequency. It keeps our doctrinal structure enduring and strong and our souls humble. When will we, thankfully and faithfully, fully receive it without hesitation and and nervous apology?


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