THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION REPUDIATES SALVATION BY WORKS
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).
The way which “seemeth right” and which ends in “death,” death eternal, is salvation by human effort and merit. The belief in salvation by works is one that is common to human nature. It may not always assume the grosser form of Popish penances, or even of Protestant “repentance”—i.e., sorrowing for sin, which is never the meaning of repentance in Scripture—anything which gives man a place at all is but a variety of the same evil genus. To say, as alas! many preachers are saying, God is willing to do His part if you will do yours, is a wretched and excuse-less denial of the Gospel of His grace.
To declare that God helps those who help themselves, is to repudiate one of the most precious truths taught in the Bible, and in the Bible alone; namely, that God helps those who are unable to help themselves, who have tried again and again only to fail. To say that the sinner’s salvation turns upon the action of his own. will, is another form of the God-dishonoring dogma of salvation by human efforts. In the final analysis, any movement of the will is a work: it is something from me, something which I do. But the doctrine of God’s sovereignty lays the axe at the root of this evil tree by declaring, “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).
Does someone say, Such a doctrine will drive sinners to despair. The reply is, Be it so; it is just such despair the writer longs to see prevail. It is not until the sinner despairs of any help from himself, that he will ever fall into the arms of sovereign mercy; but if once the Holy Spirit convicts him that there is no help in himself, then he will recognize that he is lost, and will cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and such a cry will be heard.
If the author may be allowed to bear personal witness, he has found during the course of his ministry that, the sermons he has preached on human depravity, the sinner’s helplessness to do anything himself, and the salvation of the soul turning upon the sovereign mercy of God, have been those most owned and blessed in the salvation of the lost. We repeat, then, a sense of utter helplessness is the first prerequisite to any sound conversion. There is no salvation for any soul until it looks away from itself, looks to something, yea, to Someone, outside of itself.