The Free Offer:
Calvin Vs. Pighius (and John Murray)
A. Quotes from John Murray, "The Free Offer of the
Gospel," in Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 4 (Great Britain:
Banner, 1982) - the wrong view
"… the real point in dispute in connection with the
free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God
desires the salvation of all men" (p. 113).
"… the expression ‘God desires,’ in the formula that
crystallizes the crux of the question, is intended to notify not at all
the ‘seeming’ attitude of God but a real
attitude, a real disposition …" (p. 114).
"If it is proper to say that God desires the
salvation of the reprobate, then he desires such by their repentance.
And so it a mounts to the same thing to say ‘God desires their
salvation’ as to say ‘He desires their repentance.’ This is the same as
saying that he desires them to comply with the indispensable conditions
of salvation. It would be impossible to say the one without implying the
other" (p. 114).
"… God himself expresses an ardent desire for the
fulfilment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable
counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the
realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards
that which he has not been pleased to decree. This is indeed mysterious
…" (p. 131).
B. Quotes from John Calvin,
Calvin’s Calvinism (Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2009) - the
"… I have learned that every separate heresy
introduces into the church its peculiar questions that call for a more
diligent defense of the Holy Scripture than if no such necessity of
defense had arisen" (p. 26; quoting Augustine with approval).
"… God is so far from being variable, that no shadow
of such variableness appertains to him, even in the most remote degree"
"God is not like a mortal man, who is ever flexible, variable, and changes his mind and purposes every hour.
very thing against which the monk so violently fights is that the
adorable God is ever of one mind and consistent with himself!" (p.
"We, however, with greater reverence and sobriety,
say ‘God always wills the same thing, and this is the very
praise of his immutability.’ Whatever he decrees, therefore, he
effects; and this is in divine consistency with his omnipotence.
The will of God, being thus inseparably united with His power,
constitutes an exalted harmony of his attributes …" (p. 165).
"In his Manual to Laurentius, Augustine more
freely and fully explains whatever of doubt might yet remain. ‘When
Christ shall appear to judge the world at the last day, that
shall be seen in the clearest light of knowledge that the faith of
the godly now holds fast, though not yet made manifest to their
comprehension; how sure, how immutable, how all-efficacious is the
will of God; how many things he could do, or has power to do, that
he wills not to do (but that he wills nothing that he has not power
to do); and how true that is which the psalmist sings, "The Lord has
done in heaven whatsoever pleased Him" [Ps. 115:3]. This,
however, is not true if he willed some things and did them not …
[God] can do that which he wills to be done. Unless we fully believe
this, the very beginning of our faith, by which we profess to
believe in God Almighty, is periled" (pp. 32-33).
"... God [has] the right and the power to have mercy
on whom he will and to harden whom he will, according to his own
pleasure and purpose. The apostle therefore maintains that the
right of hardening and of showing mercy is in the power of God alone,
and that no law can be imposed on him as a rule for his works because
no law or rule can be thought of better, greater, or more just, than his
own will" (p. 58).
"Where he [i.e., God] gives it [i.e., grace] not, it is because He
wills not to give it …" (p. 98; quoting Augustine with approval).
"When Pighius holds that God’s election of grace
has no reference to or connection with his hatred of the reprobate,
I maintain that reference and connection to be a truth, inasmuch as
the just severity of God answers, in equal and common cause, to that
free love with which he embraces his elect" (p. 65).
"Now let Pighius boast, if he can, that God wills
all men to be saved. The above arguments, founded on the Scriptures,
prove that even the external preaching of the doctrine of salvation,
which is very far inferior to the illumination of the Spirit, was not
made of God common to all men" (p. 93).
"'But Paul teaches us,' continues Georgius, 'that God "would
have all men to be saved"' [I Tim. 2:4]. It follows, therefore, according to his
understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in his
wishes or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should
reply that God on his part wills all men to be saved, or as far as he is
concerned, seeing that salvation is nevertheless left to the free will of
each individual, I in return ask him, Why, if such
be the case, God did not command the gospel to be preached to all men
indiscriminately from the beginning of the world, and why he suffered
so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the
darkness of death?" (p. 153).
"After this, Pighius, like a wild beast escaped from his cage,
rushes forth, bounding over all fences in his way, uttering such sentiments
The mercy of God is extended to everyone, for
God wishes all men to be saved; for that end he stands and
knocks at the door of our heart, desiring to enter. Therefore,
those were elected from before the foundation of the world, by whom he
foreknew he should be received. But God hardens no one, excepting by
his forbearance, in the same manner as too fond parents ruin their
children by excessive indulgence.
Just as if anyone, by such puerile dreams as
these, could escape the force of all those things that the apostle
plainly declares in direct contradiction to such sentiments.
[1. Argument from election and reprobation]
And just as if it were nothing at all to his readers when Paul
positively asserts that out of the twins, while they were yet in the
womb of their mother, the one was chosen and the other rejected, without any respect to the works of either, present or
future (the former of which there could be none), but solely by the
good pleasure of God that calls.
[2. Argument from the hardening of the
reprobate] As if it were nothing when the apostle testifies,
‘It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that
sheweth mercy,’ who hardens whom he will, and has mercy on
whom he will [Rom 9:16, 18].
[3. Argument from the reprobate being 'vessels
of wrath'] As if it were nothing when the same apostle avers that
'God sheweth forth his power in the vessels of wrath' in
order that he might make known the riches of his grace on the vessels of
mercy’ [vv. 22, 23]. Paul undeniably here testifies that all those of Israel who were
saved, were saved according to God’s free election, and that therefore 'the election obtained it, and the rest were blinded’
11:7]" (pp. 139-140).
"Out of that very human reason that is the mother of all
errors, you form that God of yours, who wills, without any
election or predestination of his own, that all men should
be saved. Has, then, the word election, which
occurs so frequently in Scripture, no meaning whatever? Is
it altogether a vain and empty term? Have the law, the
prophets, and the gospel no meaning whatever when they
everywhere proclaim aloud that all those who were chosen by
the eternal counsel of God before the foundation of the
world are called and illuminated unto salvation? We repeat, is
the united and harmonious testimony of the law, the
prophets, and the gospel an utter vanity when they
pronounce, free from all ambiguity, that the source and
cause of eternal life is the free love of God by which he
has loved and embraced not all mankind, but those out of
mankind whom he pleased? What will you gain after all, I ask
you, by thus roaring against this truth a hundred times
over? You dazzle the sight of the ignorant and the
inexperienced by setting before their eyes as a shining
cloud your doctrine that God will have all men to be saved.
But if these words of the apostle are not in perfect harmony
with that election whereby God predestinated his own
children unto eternal life, let me ask you this question:
How is it that if God willed all men to be saved, he did not
show unto all nations and all men the way of salvation?
Universally and well known is that remarkable word of God in
the law: 'Behold, I set before thee this day the way of life
and of death' [Deut. 30:19; Jer. 21:8]. If, therefore, God
willed to gather together unto salvation all men without
distinction, why did he not set before all men in common the
way of life and of salvation? Instead, the fact is that he
deemed only one family or nation worthy of this high
privilege. Nor did he confer this great blessing upon that
one family for any other reason than because he loved them
(if the testimony of Moses is to be believed), and because
he would 'choose them for a peculiar people' [Deut. 14:2;
Deut. 26:18]" (pp. 303-304).
C. Quote from William Cunningham, The Reformers and the
Theology of the Reformation (Great Britain: Banner, 1989), pp. 398-399
"Calvin consistently, unhesitatingly,
and explicitly denied the doctrine of God's universal grace
and love to all men,—that is, omnibus et singulis,
to each and every man,—as implying in some sense a desire of
purpose or intention to save them all; and with this
universal grace or love to all men the doctrine of a
universal or unlimited atonement, in the nature of the case,
and in the convictions and admissions of all its supporters,
stands inseparably connected. That Calvin denied the
doctrine of God's universal grace or love to all men, as
implying some desire or intention of saving them all, and
some provision directed to that object, is too evident to
anyone who has read his writings to admit of doubt or to
require proof. We are not aware that the doctrine of a
universal atonement ever has been maintained, even by men
who were in other respects Calvinistic, except in
conjunction and in connection with an assertion of God's
universal grace or love to all men. And it is manifestly
impossible that it should be otherwise. If Christ died for
all men, pro omnibus et singulis,—this must have
been in some sense an expression or indication of a desire
or intention on the part of God, and of a provision made by
Him, directed to the object of saving them all, though
frustrated in its effect, by their refusal to embrace the
provision made for and offered to them. A universal
atonement, or the death of Christ for all men,—that is, for
each and every man,—necessarily implies this, and would be
an anomaly in the divine government without it. No doubt, it
may be said, that the doctrine of a universal atonement
necessitates, in logical consistency, a denial of the
Calvinistic doctrine of election, as much as it necessitates
an admission of God's universal grace or love to all men;
and we believe this to be true. But still, when we find
that, in point of fact, none has ever held the doctrine of
universal atonement without holding also the doctrine of
universal grace,—while it is certain that some men of
distinguished ability and learning, such as Amyraut and
Daillee, Davenant and Baxter, have held both these doctrines
of universal atonement and universal grace, and at the same
time have held the Calvinistic doctrine of election; we are
surely called upon in fairness and modesty to admit, that
the logical connection cannot be quite so direct and certain
in the one case as in the other. And then this conclusion
warrants us in maintaining, that the fact of Calvin so
explicitly denying the doctrine of God's universal grace or
love to all men, affords a more direct and certain ground
for the inference, that he did not hold the doctrine of
universal atonement, than could be legitimately deduced from
the mere fact, that he held the doctrine of unconditional
personal election to everlasting life. The invalidity of the
inferential process in the one case is not sufficient to
establish its invalidity in the other; and therefore our
argument holds good."