5. It is no part of the doctrine of Election, that the non-elect cannot comply with the terms of the gospel. The efforts to vindicate the doctrine of election without separating it from this unscriptural notion, have not only proved futile, but done harm. There is but one thing that prevents the non-elect from accepting the offers of mercy, and that is their cherished enmity against God. We are well aware that the Scriptures represent it to be impossible for man to do what they are unwilling to do. Hence says our Saviour, “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” His idea doubtless is, that men cannot come to him, because they are unwilling to come; for he had just said, in the course of the same address, “And ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” He supposes that mere unwillingness renders it impossible for them to come. This mode of speaking not only runs thro’ the Bible, but is agreeable to the plainest dictates of reason and common sense. All the inability of the non-elect therefore to comply with the terms of the gospel, arise from their unwillingness to comply. Their inability is of a moral, and not a physical nature. It is a criminal impotence. It consists in nothing but their own voluntary wickedness. While, therefore, it is proper to say, that men cannot do what they are unwilling to do, it is also proper to say, that they can do what they are willing to do. It is no perversion of language to say, that a knave can be honest, or that a drunkard can be temperate; for every one knows that they could be, if they would. Hence it is no perversion to say, that a sinful man can become holy, or that the non-elect can comply with the terms of the gospel. Their unwillingness lays them under no natural inability, and may at any time be removed by their being willing. The non-elect are just as able to repent and believe the gospel as the elect, if they were but disposed to do so. They are capable of doing right as of doing wrong. The doctrine of election leaves them in full possession of all their powers as moral agents, and all possible liberty to choose or to refuse the offers of mercy. But for his voluntary wickedness, Judas was as able to accept the gospel as Paul. The non-elect are able to comply with the terms of the gospel, if they choose to do it. It is therefore their own choice, and not the decree of election, that shuts them out of the kingdom of heaven. All representations of the doctrine of election, therefore, that deny the non-elect natural power to comply with the overtures of mercy, form no part of that doctrine as exhibited in the Bible.
Gardner Spring, The Doctrine of Election (Boston: Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, 1851), 5-54. Also published as: Gardiner Spring, The Doctrine of Election Illustrated and Established: In A Sermon Preached on the Evening of the Second Lord’s Day in December, 1816 (New-York : Printed by E.B. Gould, 1817), 9-12.