Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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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 right view

"… 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" (p. 88).

"God is not like a mortal man, who is ever flexible, variable, and changes his mind and purposes every hour. The very thing against which the monk so violently fights is that the adorable God is ever of one mind and consistent with himself!" (p. 164-165).

"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 as these:

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’ [Rom. 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."