IV.—We assert that the number of the elect, and also of the reprobate, is so fixed and determinate that neither can be augmented or diminished. It is written of God that “He telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names” (Psalm 147:4). Now, it is as incompatible with the infinite wisdom and knowledge of the all-comprehending God to be ignorant of the names and number of the rational creatures He has made as that He should be ignorant of the stars and the other inanimate products of His almighty power, and if He knows all men in general, taken in the lump, He may well be said, in a more near and special sense, to know them that are His by election (2 Tim. 2:19). And if He knows who are His, He must, consequently, know who are not His, i.e., whom and how many He hath left in the corrupt mass to be justly punished for their sins. Grant this (and who can help granting a truth so self-evident?), and it follows that the number, as well of the elect as of the reprobate, is fixed and certain, otherwise God would be said to know that which is not true, and His knowledge must be false and delusive, and so no knowledge at all, since that which is, in itself, at best, but precarious, can never be the foundation of sure and infallible knowledge. But that God does indeed precisely know, to a man, who are, and are not the objects of His electing favour is evident from such Scriptures as these:

“Thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name” (Exod. 33:17). “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee” (Jer. 1:5). “Your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). “I know whom I have chosen” (John 13:18). “I know My sheep, and am known of Mine” (John 10:14). “The Lord knoweth them that are His” (2 Tim. 2:19). And if the number of these is thus assuredly settled and exactly known, it follows that we are right in asserting—

V.—That the decrees of election and reprobation are immutable and irreversible. Were not this the case—

(1) God’s decree would be precarious, frustrable and uncertain, and, by consequence, no decree at all.

(2) His foreknowledge would be wavering, indeterminate, and liable to disappointment, whereas it always has its accomplishment, and necessarily infers the certain futurity of the thing or things foreknown: “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and, from ancient times, the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa. 46:9,10).

(3) Neither would His Word be true, which declares that, with regard to the elect, ”the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29); that “whom He predestinated, them He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30); that whom He loveth, He loveth to the end (John 13:1), with numberless passages to the same purpose. Nor would His word be true with regard to the non-elect if it was possible for them to be saved, for it is there declared that they are fitted for destruction, etc. (Rom. 9:22); foreordained unto condemnation (Jude 4), and delivered over to a reprobate mind in order to their damnation (Rom. 1:28; 2 Thess. 2:12).

(4) If, between the elect and reprobate, there was not a great gulf fixed, so that neither can be otherwise than they are, then the will of God (which is the alone cause why some are chosen and others are not) would be rendered inefficacious and of no effect.

(5) Nor could the justice of God stand if He was to condemn the elect, for whose sins He hath received ample satisfaction at the hand of Christ, or if He was to save the reprobate, who are not interested in Christ as the elect are.

(6) The power of God (whereby the elect are preserved from falling into a state of condemnation, and the wicked held down and shut up in a state of death) would be eluded, not to say utterly abolished.

(7) Nor would God be unchangeable if they, who were once the people of His love, could commence the objects of His hatred, or if the vessels of His wrath could be saved with the vessels of grace. Hence that of St. Augustine.[1] “Brethren,” says he, “let us not imagine that God puts down any man in His book and then erases him, for if Pilate could say, ‘What I have written, I have written,’ how can it be thought that the great God would write a person’s name in the book of life and then blot it out again?” And may we not, with equal reason, ask, on the other hand, “How can it be thought that any of the reprobate should be written in that book of life, which contains the names of the elect only, or that any should be inscribed there who were not written among the living from eternity?” I shall conclude this chapter with that observation of Luther. [2] “This,” says he, “is the very thing that razes the doctrine of free-will from its foundations, to wit, that God’s eternal love of some men and hatred of others is immutable and cannot be reversed.” Both one and the other will have its full accomplishment.

[1] Tom. 8, in Psalm 68, col. 738.
[2] De.Serv. Arbitr. cap. 168.


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