The External and Internal Call
Thus far we have discussed the Surety of the covenant and the partakers of this covenant, the church. We shall now proceed to consider the ways in which the Lord brings these partakers of the covenant into the covenant, and how He leads them to the ultimate goal of eternal felicity. The first aspect of this way is the calling.
The Calling: God’s Declaration of the Gospel to Sinners
The calling is a gracious work of God, whereby He invites the sinner by means of the gospel to exchange the state of sin and wrath for Christ, in order that through Him he may be reconciled to God and obtain godliness and salvation. By means of this calling He also, by the Holy Spirit, efficaciously translates His elect into this state.
The calling is a gracious work of God: “And (the king) sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Mat. 22:3, 14); “. . .Him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3); “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).
God calls neither by the law of nature nor by the works of nature, whereby, in doing good, He nevertheless does not leave Himself without witness to the heathen (Acts 14:17). “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him” (Acts 17:27). For in all this Christ is neither proclaimed to them nor are they exhorted to believe in Him. The heathen are subject to the covenant of works, and whatever God does in and toward them has reference to that covenant. They are thus obligated to live according to this rule, “Do this and thou shalt live.” Therefore neither the law of nature, nor God’s works belong to the calling; the heathen are not called.
This call also does not occur by way of the moral law of Scripture. The moral law must be viewed in a twofold sense: It must be viewed either in its demands, whereby it reveals the perfect conditions of the covenant of works, or in its purpose, as having been given to the church as a rule of life and as the standard for true holiness. In its first sense the law is preached to convict man of sin (Rom. 3:20), thus bringing man to despair of being saved by his works. Here the function of the law ends. If, however, Christ is simultaneously preached by means of the gospel, man, being rejected by the law, is allured by the gospel. Thus, wherever Christ is preached, the law functions as a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ (Gal. 3:24). The law, however, neither teaches about Christ nor calls to Him, and thus the moral law is not a functional element of the calling. This is different as far as the ceremonial law is concerned, which belongs to the gospel.
The true means whereby we are called, however, is the gospel. “Whereunto He called you by our gospel” (2 Th. 2:14). The word “gospel” means a good tiding, the content of which is as follows: “Poor man, you are subject to sin and to the wrath of God. You are traversing upon the way which will end in eternal perdition. God, however, has sent His Son Jesus Christ to be a Surety; in His suffering and death there is the perfect satisfaction of the justice of God, and thus acquittal from guilt and punishment. In His obedience to the law there is perfect holiness, so that He can completely save all who go unto God through Him. Christ offers you all His merits, and therefore eternal salvation. He calls and invites everyone: “Turn unto Me and be saved, receive Me, surrender to Me, enter into a covenant with Me and you will not perish but have everlasting life.” This declaration is recorded in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. The first gospel declaration is found in Genesis 3:15, where we read that the Seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent. Since then, God has frequently and in various ways caused the gospel to be proclaimed (Heb. 1:l). “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them” (Heb. 4:2).
Prior to the coming of Christ it was called the gospel of promises. “. ..separated unto the gospel of God, (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures)” (Rom. 1:l-2). Subsequent to Christ’s coming it is called the gospel of fulfillment. “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled” (Mark 1: 1415).
The Distinction Between Law and Gospel
Law and gospel are frequently placed in contradistinction to each other. If in such a contradistinction the reference is to the ceremonial law, its purpose is to refer to Christ’s coming in the flesh, whose coming was typified by the ceremonies. The gospel of fulfillment, however, declares that Christ has come. In the matter itself there can be no contradistinction, since the gospel is comprehended in the ceremonies and proclaimed by them.
However, there is an essential difference between the moral law and the gospel. The law has first of all been given by God the Lord as the sovereign, majestic, and sole Lawgiver, and is pertinent to all mankind. The gospel, however, is the manifestation of God as being “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exo. 34:6), and does not pertain to all, but only to some. Secondly, the law can partially be known by nature (Rom. 2:15), but the gospel can only be known by revelation (Eph. 3:5). Thirdly, the law is a condition of the covenant of works which promised salvation upon the perfect keeping of the law and knows of no forgiveness (cf. Rom. 10:5; Mat. 19:17). The gospel, however, is a declaration of the covenant of grace, promising believers forgiveness and salvation by Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:8-9). Fourthly, the law begets the knowledge of sin in the sinner (Rorn. 3:20), confronts him with wrath (Rorn. 4:15), and thus brings forth fear and trembling (Isa. 33:14). The gospel, however, is the precious administration of the power of God unto salvation (Rorn. 1:16). This gospel is the means whereby God calls men unto salvation.
God could immediately and nonverbally reveal Christ to man, bring him to Christ, cause him to believe in Him, and thus lead him to salvation. It has pleased the Lord, however, in order that His manifold wisdom be revealed and His other attributes be glorified, to make man a partaker of this salvation by means of the word of the gospel, leading rational man in a rational way. The use of this means is referred to as calling, since all men are going astray on a way which is not good and which leads to destruction. God calls out to men who are going astray that the way upon which they are traversing will make them eternally miserable, and invites them to come to Christ as the only way unto salvation.
The Distinction Between External and Internal Call
Concerning this calling a distinction is made between an external and an internal call. They both proceed from God, occur by means of this Word, pertain to the same matters, and are presented equally to all. Both calls are addressed to human beings who by nature are the same. They are, however, distinguishable. The one functions externally only by means of the Word, to which also the Holy Spirit does join Himself in His common operation, resulting in common illumination and historical faith. The other, however, penetrates the very heart of man, powerfully illuminating it with wondrous light, revealing spiritual mysteries to man in their essential form, and powerfully inclines the will to embrace those mysteries in Christ, and to the obedience of faith.
There is an infinite difference between the corrupt intellect of man–that is, the Arminians and other proponents of free will–and the Holy Scriptures. The question is: Does the obtaining of salvation proceed from man? Is he the only and essential cause of his salvation, or is God the only essential cause and can man, being absolutely incapable, do nothing to obtain salvation? The Arminians will readily admit that God has prepared and accomplished salvation and that God has given and revealed Christ the Mediator. However, they attribute this acceptance and entering in upon that way to the good will and power of man. This could be likened to what transpires on a race track. The government has put the prize on display and has prepared the track. The acquisition of the prize, however, is contingent upon the runners themselves.
In order to protect the idol of man’s own ability and of his good will as being the cause of his own salvation, the Arminians would prefer to do away with the distinction between the external and internal call, between the noneffectual and the effectual call. They would view them as being the same, and thus recognize only one calling. The effect would then not be due to the efficacious operation of God working more in one person than in another. Instead, it would be related to the outcome; namely, that the one person obeys the call by his free will (which enables him either to respond or to reject this call) and thus be saved. Another person will despise and reject this call by the same neutral free will. Scripture, however, rebukes and refutes such foolish thoughts and demonstrates first of all that the calling is effectual unto salvation as a result of God’s purpose, “. . .who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28); “for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29). The actual exercise of faith in those who are called proceeds from this purpose. “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).
Scripture conveys in the second place that there is no distinction in man himself, but that this distinction originates with God. “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). Man, however, by attributing the cause of one having more faith than another to his goodness and power, would create such a distinction. There is thus a calling which is of an effectual nature and penetrates the inner man–his intellect, will, and inclinations, changing and sanctifylng them. This is the internal call. There is a calling by means of the Word of God which is not accompanied by God’s effectual operation (which generates faith and love), but which comes to the external ear only. It leaves man in his natural state, who, in his wickedness, rejects this external call. He despises this call due to
his free will which wills by way of necessary consequence. This is true of most who are called (Mat. 22:5, 14). We shall discuss both calls individually, considering the external call first.
The External Call: Not Extended to All Men
Concerning the external call the question arises, Is this call universal; that is, does God call all men upon the face of the earth to Christ, and through Him unto salvation? The Lutherans answer in the affirmative. We maintain that this call does not come to all men. Although it does come to entire areas, nations, peoples, and languages, it does not come to all. The entire Scripture and the experience of all ages contradict this. Cain was the first to be driven away from the countenance of God, whereas the gospel remained in the genealogy of Seth. Abraham and his seed were received into the church of God and to them the oracles of God were committed, whereas God left all the heathen to walk in their own ways (Acts 14:16). “He showeth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for His judgments, they have not known them” (Psa. 147:19-20). After Christ’s coming, this calling has also not been universal. The entire continent of America was unknown1 and remained unknown for at least a thousand years and was thus deprived of the gospel. The interior is still largely unknown.’ There have always been countries where the gospel has not been proclaimed. Also today, most nations upon the face of the earth are deprived of the gospel. This fact is so obvious that it cannot be refuted, and it thus remains a certainty that this calling is not universal.
Objection #I: All men have been called in Adam and in Noah, as well as in other ancestors who have had the gospel and rejected it. For this reason God removed the candlestick from them, as is evident in Revelation 2 and 3.
Answer: We deny that those descendants to whom the gospel has not been proclaimed can be said to have been called simply because their ancestors were called, for it is true what the prophet says, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father” (Ezek. 18:20). Thus, the rejection of the gospel by our ancestors cannot be imputed to their descendants. We deny that all men have been called in Adam, Noah and in other ancestors, for all who are comprehended in Adam and in Noah are not comprehended in the covenant of grace, nor are they the recipients of the offer of grace. In this respect everyone must be viewed individually, none being called by the gospel but those to whom the gospel is proclaimed.
Objection #2: “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4); “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:ll); “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). From these texts it can be concluded that the calling is universal, and that all men are individually called.
Answer: The word “all” frequently means “various.” Experience confirms that such is the meaning in these texts. These texts pertain to the proclamation of the gospel over the entire world, in contrast to being previously limited to the seed of Abraham. It refers to all sorts of nations without distinction, but not to every nation without exception.
Objection #3: Scripture indicates that there have been many believers who did not live where the church was situated, such as Job, Melchizedek, Baalam, Cornelius, etc. This proves that the calling extends beyond the limits of the visible church, and thus is universal.
Answer: From the calling of some individuals, one cannot deduce the universal calling of all. Some of these individuals lived prior to the time when Abraham’s seed was set apart. Such was true in the life of Shem and the patriarchs, when the knowledge of true religion had not been entirely removed from other generations. Others, even though they did not belong to Abraham’s seed, have lived where the church was situated, and due to such circumstances became believers and proselytes.
Objection #4: There have been many who, though living far from the church, lived godly lives and did good works. Their knowledge was consequently sufficient unto salvation. The calling is thus universal.
Answer: The law of nature is innate in all men. From this proceeds natural religion and thus also natural virtues. In chapter one we demonstrated that this is not sufficient unto salvation. This natural knowledge, religion, and virtuousness differ in their essential nature from the true knowledge of God in Christ, and from true religion and virtuousness, so that the one does not necessarily follow the other. From all this it is certain that the calling is not universal. Wilhemus a’ Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans., by Bartel Elshout, (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publ., 1992), 2:191-197. [Italics Original; footnote and # original; underlining mine.]
The External Call of the Gospel Comes to All who Hear the Gospel
Question: Does God call all who are under the ministry of the gospel, but who as yet are not saved, or does God call the elect only?
Answer: God calls all and everyone who live under the ministry of the gospel. This must be noted so that one may have liberty to receive Christ by faith, which one would not have if the gospel were not offered–and also in order that the justice of God would be acknowledged in punishing those who neglect so great a salvation and do not obey the gospel. The following must be noted in order that everyone may be convinced of this matter.
First, compare yourself with the wild Indians, who neither know Christ nor have knowledge of salvation. Do you not see that God deals differently with you than with them? Would you wish to trade places with them? Why not? Is it not because there is more hope for salvation where you are than where they are? Will not the condemnation of those who have lived under the ministration of the gospel, but who do not repent, be greater than the condemnation of the wild heathen? Why would this be if salvation had not been offered to you? This therefore proves that all who hear the gospel are called.
Secondly, everyone who is under the ministry of the gospel hears the voice of the minister as he preaches, exhorts, and rebukes. It is thus addressed to him who hears it. The minister is a servant of Christ, a “steward of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1), and an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Therefore he who hears the minister hears Christ, and he who rejects the minister rejects Him (Luke 10:16). Consider also that the very words of God Himself are contained in Scripture. Since, therefore, everyone hears the voice of the minister and the very words of God resound in his ears, all that is said is addressed to him who hears it and he is called by the gospel.
Thirdly, Scripture states clearly that many who perish had been called. “. ..many be called, but few chosen” (Mat. 20:16); “. . .and (he) bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse” (Luke 14:16-18); “And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come” (Mat. 22:3). Had the guest without the wedding garment been invited? He most certainly was. It was not his crime that he did not come, but rather that he came in the wrong way, that is, without a wedding garment. It is thus evident that everyone who is under the ministry is called and invited to come to Christ.
Fourthly, there is a general and unconditional declaration to all, that is, to him who thirsts, who is without money, and who wills (Isa. 55:l-2; John 7:3’7; Rev. 22:17). He who neither wills nor is thirsty will refrain from coming. This is his own doing and he will be responsible, having been invited and having heard this general calling.
Fifthly, since many reject the gospel, it is necessarily offered to them, for whatever is not offered cannot be rejected. “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). Many are disobedient to the gospel (2 Th. 1:8), and are disobedient to the Son (John 3:36). It thus follows that Christ was offered to them and they were commanded to believe in Christ.
Sixthly, the exhortations to repent and to believe are joined together. No one will be in doubt that the exhortation to repent pertains to everyone, and thus each will also have to acknowledge that the exhortation to believe pertains to everyone, for they are of equivalent importance. “…repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Seventhly, unbelief is a dreadful sin; yes, it is a sin whereby we esteem God to be a liar. “He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son” (1 John 5:lO); “And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin.. .of sin, because they believe not on Me” (John 16:8-9). If Christ were not offered to him who remains in his unbelief, he would not be accountable and his unbelief would not be a sin. Since his unbelief is a sin, however, it is clearly evident that the gospel was offered to him.
Eighthly, since a dreadful judgment awaits unbelievers, the gospel has most certainly been offered to them, and they have most certainly been called. Observe this in the following texts: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Th. 1:8); “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin” (John 1522). If everyone who is under the ministry of the gospel had not been not called, and Christ had not been offered to them, how can they then be punished and how can their condemnation be the heavier? Since, however, they are punished for disobedience to the gospel, and are punished more severely than others, it follows that it was offered to them.
Since Christ is offered to all who are under the ministry, it not only follows that everyone may come and no one needs to remain behind for fear whether he is called or not; but it also follows that everyone is obligated to come to Christ and to receive Him in order to be justified, sanctified, preserved, and glorified. One must not interpret this to mean that everyone is under obligation to believe that Christ has died for him and is his Savior. Far be it from us to suggest this, for this is not the essence of faith. Faith is not assurance; for assurance is a consequence of faith. Faith consists in the translation of a soul–perplexed about his wretched condition and desirous for reconciliation, peace, holiness, and glory–from self into Christ. Faith consists in receiving Him who offers Himself and who calls and invites every sinner to Himself, the promise being added that those who will come will not be cast out. It finally consists in a reliance of the soul upon Him as the almighty, true, and faithful Savior. If, however, someone is lively in the exercise of these acts and truly perceives this to be so within himself, only then does the assurance follow that Jesus has died for him. He who lives under the ministry of the gospel is obligated to believe in Christ. However, he is not obligated to believe that Christ has died for him and to be assured of this. Far be it from us to suggest this, for then someone could believe a lie, since faith can have nothing else but truth as its object.
God’s Objective in Calling Men
This begets another question: In calling the sinner to Christ, does God aim for the salvation of all? In calling all who are under the ministry of the gospel, is it God’s objective that all would become partakers of salvation?
Answer: No, for God cannot fail to achieve His objective. Then all who are called would, of necessity, have to be saved. In order to understand this matter correctly, we should consider the following:
(1) The calling is first and foremost intended to gather in the elect. “And he gave some. . .pastors and teachers; fo; the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:ll-12). God does not send the gospel to those geographical regions where there are no elect to be found. Furthermore, when the elect in a certain region are gathered in, God generally removes the gospel from that area. Since the elect are in the world, however, and are intermingled with others, the calling comes to all; that is, to all the elect and also to others. By means of the calling, that is, by means of the proclamation of the gospel, God grants repentance and faith to His elect- which He withholds from others.
(2) We must make a distinction between the objective of God–He who works–and the objective of His work: the gospel. The very nature of the gospel is suited to lead man unto salvation, as it sufficiently reveals to him the way unto salvation and stirs him to be persuaded to believe. The gospel is not to be blamed when all who hear it are not saved; rather, man himself is the guilty one. He is to be blamed if he does not desire to be taught and led.
Such is the objective of the gospel. God’s objective in causing the gospel to be proclaimed to the nonelect is to proclaim and acquaint man with the way of salvation, to command man to enter this way, and to display His goodness, presenting all the reasons to him for doing so and promising him salvation upon repentance and true faith in Christ. The Lord would indeed do this upon man fulfilling the condition for which He holds him accountable, and which the human nature, having been created holy in Adam had been capable of doing. If he does not accomplish this, it is not because God hinders him or deprives him of the ability to do so, but because man wills not; and thus man himself is to be blamed, for it is the goodness of God which should lead him to repentance. It is also God’s objective to convict man of his wickedness in his refusal to come upon such a friendly invitation, as well as of the righteousness of God in punishing such rejecters of this offered salvation (John 15:22). Such is God’s purpose and objective in allowing the gospel to be proclaimed to the unconverted. It is, however, neither God’s purpose and objective to give to them His Holy Spirit nor to save them. This is evident for the following reasons:
First, it would be contradictory to the omniscience of God. God knows those who are His. He knows that the reprobate will not be saved, and it cannot be His purpose or objective to save them. Man knows that a dead person will not arise; it therefore cannot be his objective to make him alive by calling him. God also knows this concerning the unconverted and the spiritually dead; this therefore cannot be His objective.
Secondly, it would be contradictory to eternal election. God has eternally chosen certain individuals by name and has appointed them to be the recipients of eternal salvation. This is in contrast to others whom He has not chosen, but concerning whom He wills that they remain in their sins and be condemned for their sins. Since He has decreed to condemn them righteously for their sins, it could not have been His objective to save them in having the gospel proclaimed to them. He had different objectives, however, which we have stated in the foregoing.
Thirdly, God cannot be thwarted in the achievement of His objective. He must of necessity accomplish what He has purposed, since He is omniscient, all-wise, and omnipotent. “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa. 46:lO); “For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?” (Isa. 14:27). If God had purposed to save them, they of necessity would most certainly be saved. They are not saved, however, and God therefore also did not have their salvation in view.
Those who imagine that man, upon the proclamation of the gospel, has sufficient ability to repent and to believe in Christ (a matter which we shall discuss shortly), object to this. In their view nothing more is necessary than that the gospel be preached. They insist that by allowing the gospel to be preached God has as His objective and intent to save all- and if sinners do not come and believe, this is contrary to God’s objective. God thus does not accomplish what He has purposed; this, however, we have just refuted. They support their proposition as follows:
Objection #I: God would act deceitfully if He were to call someone to salvation, and yet were not sincere in doing so.
Answer: God calls all who hear the gospel unto salvation, and it is His objective and intent to give salvation to all who truly believe. Faith and true repentance are, however, singular gifts of God’s grace, which He gives to all whom He wills to save. Others, however, God leaves to themselves who, being unwilling–and due to their wickedness, blindness, and unwillingness, are unable–do not fulfil this condition, and thus will not be saved. Since God has prior knowledge of this and has decreed not to give them the gifts of grace, and since He cannot be thwarted in the achievement of His purpose, He therefore also cannot have their salvation in view. God nevertheless does not deal deceitfully by making the way of salvation known to them, in obligating them by way of many arguments to enter upon this way, promising to save them upon repentance and faith in Christ. God sincerely and truly has all this in view. In all this He has in view that the unconverted be convinced of His goodness, their wickedness, and His justice–and to punish them in consequence of this. The fact that man is not able to repent and believe is not God’s fault, but man is to be blamed. God did purpose to provide them with all the means unto salvation, withhold additional grace from them, leave them over to themselves, and condemn them for their failure to repent and for their wickedness; however, He did not purpose to save them. One matter may relate to various purposes, and thus by purposing or not purposing one thing, one cannot conclude the purposing or not purposing of something else. Here the objective relates to the means and not to the ultimate end of salvation. The gospel is an able and sufficient way unto salvation.
Objection #2: God invites everyone to come to the wedding feast, that is, salvation (cf. Mat. 22:34; Luke 14:16). It must thus have been His objective that they would come.
Answer: His purpose is to invite them, obligate them to come, propose salvation upon condition of faith and repentance, and not hinder them. The invitation contained a condition to come with a wedding garment. The guest without a wedding garment could not be admitted to the wedding feast–not because he was not invited, but because by not having a wedding garment he did not meet the condition included in the invitation. It is God’s objective to provide them with all the means unto salvation and to be acknowledge and glorified in this. In calling to the wedding feast there is, however, not the objective to carry them to the wedding feast and to give them the wedding garment. It is absolutely necessary that the Lord do this for them, since they of themselves neither understand nor are willing, and thus also are not able to do so. Since, however, it is not His objective to do this for them, not being obligated to do so, it follows that it was not His objective to save them. The invitation therefore obligates them to come and to believe, and if they come in the way of repentance and faith, they will also obtain salvation. This does not imply, however, that it is God’s objective to unconditionally give them salvation or to grant them what is needed to meet the condition.
Objection #3: If God does not purpose the salvation of all who are called by the Word, no one would be able to take it seriously, and noone would dare to com, since none would know whether he were addressed by God.
Answer: God’s Word, being the truth, is sufficient for everyone. One may freely rely upon it, and one will not be deceived. That Word promises salvation to all who believe and to all who receive Christ unto justification and sanctification. This declaration is directed to everyone, and everyone must believe it, apply it to himself, and say, “If I believe and truly repent, I shall be saved.” God does have foreknowledge as to who will be unwilling to come.
God leaves man over to himself, doing him no injustice by withholding renewing grace from him who once had the ability to obey God in all things. God permits man to exercise his own free will, whereby he voluntarily rejects Christ and all heavenly benefits. However, God grants to the elect, in addition to His Word, the Holy Spirit who bestows upon them faith and repentance. Since the required conditions are thus met in this way, they are saved. From all this we observe that man from his side must respond to the Word of God and believe that he will be saved if he believes and repents. He thus need not torment himself with the question whether God addresses him personally. He must leave this matter in God’s hands. This is as much as asking: “Is God willing or is He not willing to give faith and repentance to me?” A sinner has no prior knowledge of this, and the Lord will give it to those to whom He pleases. The sinner, however, must understand it to be his duty to respond to the Word of God, to believe in Christ who is offered to him, to repent, and to believe that he will be saved if he does so. We have thus observed that God from His side has not purposed to give faith and repentance to all men, and it is therefore also not His objective to save them all, but rather the elect only. He nevertheless does not deal deceitfully with men. Wilhemus a’ Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans., by Bartel Elshout, (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publ., 1992), 2:202-209. [Italics Original; underlining mine.]
[Notes: a’ Brakel was the quintessential Dutch Protestant Scholastic, who was able to merge, quite successfully, a strong pietist emphasis with standard Protestant Scholastic theology, language and categories. On the free offer, while it is clear a’ Brakel was not as generous in his expressions regarding God’s disposition in the well-meant offer as say Calvin or classic-moderate Calvinists were (or even other high orthodox Calvinists like Manton), nonetheless he does exhibit a clear commitment to the well-meant offer which was an expression of grace and favor to the invitee in the external call of the Gospel. I say this, notwithstanding some of his problematic statements would not be entirely compatible with the classic-moderate position. However, even with these problematics in mind, a’ Brakel is also interesting because of the way in which he connects the offer with the gracious call and invitation which exhibits God’s “friendly disposition” to the invitee. All of which is nothing short of a robust well-meant Gospel offer theology.]
1It must again be remembered that this statement was made in 1700.