William Tant

5 Arminianism Examined

Observations Upon A Few Texts Which Appear To Favor Arminianism

“To the law and to the testimony.”—Isaiah 8:20

As “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect,” (fully established in the truth) “and thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” it becomes God’s people not to twist or rend the sacred word from its true meaning; nor to endeavour to make it bend to any system, rather than every system should bend to it. There are some blessed portions which clearly set forth the truths of eternal, unconditional, and irreversible election; full, discriminating, and complete redemption; irresistible, sovereign, and effectual calling; free, immutable, and everlasting justification; and certain, constant, and final perseverance to heaven; while some equally blessed portions appear, at first sight, to favour opposite sentiments, but which, upon examination, really do not. For the sake, therefore, of those who may be perplexed thereupon, I will notice the following. 

I Cor. 8:11, “Through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died.”

It, appears, from the whole of the chapter whence this verse is taken, that though the persons to whom the apostle wrote at Corinth, were called by grace, yet so little was the knowledge some possessed of divine things, that they had not learnt that an idol is nothing in the world;—and from being constantly among those who worshipped idols, as well as from deeply rooted prejudice, instead of eating the meat offered to idols as not effected by this superstition, they eat it with much awe and dread, and so wounded their weak consciences. The apostle, however, refers to some who possessed knowledge enough to see the folly of idols and idolaters, and looked upon the meat offered to idols as no more than common food, and knew that eating the same made them, neither better nor worse. Therefore he exhorts the stronger brother not to wound the feelings of the weaker, by too bold an use of the liberty produced by this knowledge; for, says he, “if any man,” whose conscience is weak and knowledge small, “see thee, which hast knowledge, sit at meat in the idol’s temple,” whatever contempt may be felt by such an one for an idol, yet he offends his weaker brother, or the brother’s weak conscience is wounded; therefore the weaker brother loses those comforts, of, and tranquility of mind, he would otherwise have had; and so his peace and communion with the stronger brother perish. As to the weaker brother’s life in and from Christ perishing, this is impossible, for says Christ, “my sheep shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands; my Father, which gave them me, is greater than all, and none can pluck them out of greater Father’s hands.” And it would be well fox the Lord’s people at all times to bear in mind the apostle’s words, “ye that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak;” not only by spiritual communion, but by a cautious walk; for frequently babes in grace are staggered and distressed by the life of their elder brethren, when, at the same time, their elder brethren may not altogether be living in sin. The apostle in another place exhorts believers to abstain from “foolish talking and jesting,” as being inconvenient, Eph. 5:4; and in like manner in this place he says, seeing the distressing effects of eating meat in the manner referred to, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth.”

2 Peter 2:1, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you; who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” 

Here the apostle does not mean that the false teachers, of whom he speaks, were bought by the precious blood of Christ; but that ancient Israel was bought by the Lord, and ancient Israel being bought, the false prophets who were among them were bought too. Israel was bought in a fourfold sense; first, by the destruction of Pharoah and his host; thus God gave the lives of the Egyptians for the life of his, own people, and so the Psalmist sings, “he redeemed them from the hand of the enemy; and the waters covered their enemies,” Psalm 106:10, 11. Secondly, by the destruction of the Canaanitish nations, for “there was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Levites the inhabitants of Gideon:” other they took in battle. For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that lie might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses, Joshua 11:20; so “he gave them the lands of the heathen: and they inherited the labour of the people,” Psalm 105:44. Thirdly, by the destruction of Babylon, for says the prophet, “Babylon, the glory of the Chaldees’ excellency, shale be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,” Isaiah 13. “And I will rise ap against them, saith the Lord of Hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the Lord. I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of Hosts,” chap. 14. All of which came to pass through the instrumentality of Cyrus the Persian, who was anointed or qualified for the work; and saith God, “be shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives,” Isaiah 45:13. And fourthly, by the destruction of all the enemies of Israel, who occasionally made war against them, for “their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their bands:—but “many times did he deliver them,” Psalm 106:42, 43. And the false prophets among Israel “brought upon themselves swift destruction;” for God had commanded Israel to put every false prophet to death, Deut. 13:5. In consequence of which command, Elijah was justified in putting Baal’s four hundred and fifty prophets to death, I Kings 18:40, and Jehu acted right in putting all Baal’s prophets to the edge of the sword, 2 Kings 10:25. So the apostle here says, “there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, and like the false prophets of old, shall bring upon themselves swift (or sudden and unexpected) destruction.”

Rev. 22:19, “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.” 

The Lord does not, by this declaration, design to convey to his church the thought, that having written the names of his people in the volume of covenant counsels, for the purpose of blessing them with salvation and eternal glory, he afterwards blots them out, for “he changeth not,” Mal. 3:6; but the meaning appears to be this: If any man should commit so presumptuous a sin as to take away any part of this sacred book, God will not suffer his people to own such an one as fellow-heir of the same inheritance. And thus his name in the visible church on earth shall be blotted out, and his professional interest in the book of life taken away. Esau said of Jacob, “he hath taken away my blessing,” Gen. 27:36. Now how could this be said by Esau when he had never had the blessing? The fact is, Isaac thought Esau was the person interested in the blessing, and Esau was confident of the same thing; but the event proved that Jacob was the person God had appointed for it. And the “heirs of promise” often receive into the arms of their affection and bosons of their fellowship, the seed of the serpent; deceived by their appearance, they think them interested in the same mercy, blessed with the same grace, and loved with the same love as themselves; but time often brings them to light, and God’s people are obliged to discover them. Thus the election obtains the blessing, and the rest being blinded, they. Are made manifest to God’s saints, by which their part among God’s people on earth is taken away.

I John 2:2. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 

The word world is often used in the inspired volume, but cannot always mean every one of Adam’s race. Thus we read, “the world is gone after him,” John 12:19. This cannot mean even all the Jewish nation, to say nothing about all Adam’s posterity, for the Pharisees themselves who said this did not go after Christ. “The whole world lieth in wickedness,” 1 John 5:19. This must mean the whole world of unregenerate sinners; for if the apostle had meant every one of Adam’s race, he would have included himself and fellow-believers, concerning whom he had just before said, “we know that we are of God.” And when he says, “Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and also for the sins of the whole world, he must mean, not for us only who already believe through grace, but for the whole world of believers to the end of time, John 17:20.

Colossians 1:28, “Warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” 

The apostle cannot here mean that he expected every one of Adam’s children would be presented perfect in Christ Jesus: for in another place he says of some, “God shall send them strong delusions that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The expression “every man,” is often used in the inspired volume, but cannot mean every man in the world universally: let us look at a few passages, “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith,” Rom. 12:3, this cannot mean universally so, for “all men have not faith,” 2 Thess. 3:2, but must mean, “every man” who has faith has it according as God gives it: and faith is called “the faith of God’s elect,” Titus 1:1, or faith which none but the elect will ever possess. “Every man, according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren,” Acts 11:29. This must mean every one of the disciples, as the whole verse reads, “then the disciples, every man,” &c. “Then shall every man have praise of God,” I Cor. 4:5. This cannot mean every man in the world universally shall, at the judgment day, receive praise of God; for to some Christ will say, “depart, ye cursed,” and to others, “come, ye blessed;” it must mean, every man who is approved or praised, shall receive the testimony not from man, but God. “The kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it,” Luke 16:16. Now if these words are parallel to Matthew 11:12, “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force,” not entering by the gate into the sheep-fold, but climbing up some other way, it cannot mean every man universally, for then Christ would condemn his own sheep, who “enter in by the gate into the sheep-fold,” but must mean every goat who puts on sheep’s clothing, presseth into it. Or, if the words are descriptive of the earnest pursuit of a regenerated soul after the things of God, it must mean, that every man who belongs to this kingdom by eternal union, when called by grace, “presseth into it,” or presseth towards heavenly realities, as Paul said of himself, “I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” “The head of every man is Christ,” 1 Cor. 11:3. This cannot mean that Christ is covenantly the head of every man; for we read, “he is the head of his body, the church,” which church consists of those the Father hath given Christ out of the world. “The Spirit is given to every man to profit withal,” 1 Cor. 12:7. This cannot mean every man universally, because Christ says, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive.” But read it as every man who can receive the Spirit by virtue of interest in that covenant engagement of the Spirit, “thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” and all is uniform; and when the apostle, in the words with which I began, said, “warning every man, and teaching every man, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” he meant that he was anxious “every man” to whom the Lord should bless his ministry, should know that all his perfection was in Christ and from Christ, as many of the Colossian saints knew Christ in them, and Christ alone, “the hope of glory.” “That he by the grace of God, should, taste death for every man,” Heb. 2:9. This, cannot mean that Christ tasted death for every descendant from Adam, because Christ’s death was the consequence of his Mediatorship, in which Mediatorship he became responsible for all their sins on whose behalf he died; and all those for whom he became responsible, had eternal life given them on the ground of this responsibility: and as “his goings forth in mediatorial acts were of old, even from everlasting,” so all interested in his death were “quickened together with him,” that is, had eternal life given them in him from everlasting. So that Christ being the “beloved Son of God,” by virtue of this quickening, they were sons in him: and through his Mediatorship they have, when his spirit is sent forth in their hearts, a living agreement and communion with God. Therefore the “every man” Christ tasted death for, is every son, in other words, “the whole family in heaven and earth named in Christ.”

Hebrews 12:15, “Looking diligently lest any man fail, of the grace of God.” 

The apostle does not mean that those who possess the grace of God should be looking diligently after it, lest they should lose it, as if there were a possibility for grace to fall out of a man. But he is exhorting the spiritual Hebrews to be looking diligently after the work of grace among themselves, for fear any in their their communion only had a name to live while dead; and notwithstanding they might profess the name of Christ, yet failed, or were destitute of a gracious and saving knowledge of him; “lest,” says he, “there be any fornicator or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birth-right.” And the verse preceding is often taken to establish the tenet of progressive sanctification. But the meaning appears to me to be somewhat similar to the other; indeed the two verses are very closely united by the apostle, and our translators have only separated them by a colon. “Follow peace with all men.” What can be this peace? “He,” (Christ) “is our peace,” Eph. 2:14. Well, but some will say, “all men have not got Christ, therefore how can Christ be followed with all men?” The apostle, for this very reason, because all men have not really and truly got Christ, thus speaks, “follow peace with all men.” Be upon the close pursuit of an experimental revelation of Christ in the heart by the Holy Ghost. Whatever may be the profession of men, nothing but this is true religion, and destitute of this, every man’s religion will be found to be rotten and corrupt. Therefore “follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” What holiness is it without which no man can see the Lord? Not creature-holiness; for, says Paul, “I find that in me, that is in my flesh, that there dwelleth no good thing,” Rom. 7:18. So the holiness the apostle alludes to cannot be an holiness obtained from creature-doings, for that holiness is worth nothing, because in the creature, considered apart from Christ, there is “no good thing.” Even the uprightness of Adam, was not the holiness here alluded to, for “with out it no man shall see the Lord.” And Adam, while he stood perfect in Eden, never saw the Lord in the spirituality of his law, the fulness of his grace, the riches of his mercy, the glory of his justice, and the sovereignty of his-love; but by Christ being brought home to the soul by the blessed testimony of the Spirit, we see the Lord in all the harmony of his attributes, the love o£ his heart, the grace of his lips, the preciousness of his relations, and the glory of his covenant characters: we can approach him with holy confidence as the God of our salvation, take his promises as our own, and bless his name as our portion, our friend, and our everlasting refuge.

Titus 3:8, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works.” 

These words are sometimes referred to for the purpose of proving that gospel ministers ought to be constantly affirming good works; but the apostle means, that being justified by grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life, this is a faithful saying, and these things concerning the grace of God he would have Titus, and every other servant of Christ, affirm constantly, that they which know the power of them may produce the effects mentioned.

Jude ver. 21, ”Keep yourselves in the love of God.” 

The apostle does not here suppose that believers are their own keepers, for, he says, they are preserved in Christ Jesus. But having described a certain sort of men who creep in unawares among God’s saints, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, or charge the grace of God with lascivious effects, then describes the stability of those who have the Spirit of God. “Praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God.” That is, by breathing after the love of God, through the unctious power of the Holy Ghost, you are enabled to discover interest in the love of God. And as the consequence thereof, ye are building up yourselves on our most holy faith, on the precious doctrines of the gospel, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is discovered in those doctrines “unto eternal life.”

2 Peter 3:9, “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 

This does not mean that the Lord is desirous that all Adam’s children should be saved, and come to repentance; but Peter addresses these words to them “who have obtained precious faith,” and says, he, “the Lord, is not slack concerning his promise” of deliverance, consolation, and glory, made to his people, “but is longsuffering to us-ward,” whom he hath chosen to salvation, and as an evidence thereof has made us “partakers of the divine nature,” not willing that any of us, to whom he has “given exceeding great and precious promises,” should perish, but that all of us should come to repentance. No other people are understood, in these words, but those whom the apostle calls us, which us are, in his first epistle, 4:7, called the “house of God.” And Paul says, the “house of God is the church of the living God,” 1 Tim. 3:15. Therefore God is not willing that any part of his church should perish, but that all the members of his church should come to repentance.

Luke 19:41-44, “And when he came near he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace I but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” 

Many take occasion, from these words, to infer, that the Lord Jesus Christ strives, seeks, and endeavours, to save men universally, but cannot accomplish his wishes; but let it be remembered Jesus is here speaking as a man, in contemplation of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans, together with the dispersion of the Jewish nation, and the miserable cruelties which they would have to endure at the hands of their enemies. But there is no reference made by Christ, in this compassionate exclamation, to spiritual things; but he confines his pathetic language wholly to temporals. Jerusalem did not know “the time of her visitation,” when he, as the promised Messiah, had actually come, and for her rejection of him, the Jewish nation was to be scattered. Yet, for the sake of argument, I would suppose for a moment, that the Jewish nation, as a nation, received Christ. This might have been done, and yet the Jews, as a nation, have no grace: England nationally acknowledges Christ as the Messiah, at this very moment, but, alas! very, very few know anything of him by a grace communion with him. Therefore no inference can be drawn from these words of Christ, that Jerusalem had out sinned her day of grace; or that men universally have a day of grace put into their hands, which they may out sin. It might, with as much propriety, be inferred, that because Christ said, when he reached Lazarus’ grave, roll ye away the stone, that therefore he could not raise Lazarus to life without Lazarus’ consent, as to say he desired to save’ the inhabitants of Jerusalem spiritually and eternally, but could not do it because they were not willing. And yet this is the notion most current among religious teachers. Jesus called the period when he was speaking, Jerusalem’s day, not God’s day of grace, nor God’s day of striving to save it. Jerusalem’s peace, not God’s peace, nor God’s offer of peace. Instead of a day of grace being out sinned, I would say it cannot, for the promise is certain to all who have grace, and they only can be said to have a day of grace: “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law but under grace.”

Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things.” 

The all for whom Christ was delivered up, is explained by the words “all things.” Now it is certain God does not give his people a rest in this world, neither does he give them the honours, the riches, the pleasures, the pomps, the vanities, nor the esteem of this world. Instead of these things, God’s people are tempest-tossed, contemned, poor, afflicted, and hated in this world. Therefore, by the “all things” freely given, we must understand “all things” treasured up in Christ for them; “all things” God in sovereignty sees fit to give; “all things” needful; “all things” that will be for their good; all things that will be for Gods glory. If, then, we admit a distinction in the “all things” given, so we must admit a distinction in the “all” to whom they are given. The “all,” then, for whom Christ was delivered up, and the “all” to whom is freely given “all things,” must be “all” who are interested in Christ by election union; “all” whom God in sovereignty is pleased to quicken; “all” whom he needs to compose the mystical temple of his grace; “all” whom he is determined to do good to; and “all” whom he has predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, glorifying himself in their salvation, and glorifying them in Christ for ever.

Reader, if thy heart accords with the harmonious views I entertain of the Scriptures of truth, thou wilt perceive that Arminianism has no ground to stand upon in either of the portions we have examined. Many more might have been opened up, which the advocates of the heresy I refer to, bring forward to support their God-dishonouring notions; but I should swell my little work too much to notice them. And, by way of conclusion, allow me to remind you of three things:

First, God never contradicts himself. What he speaks under the Old Testament dispensation, he proclaims under the New; and what was “written afore time,” the Holy Ghost teaches his people at the “set time,” and gives them to know experimentally the “patience and comfort of the Scriptures.” In the Old Testament it was promised, “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head,” in the New we read, “he hath ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, triumphing over them in it.” In the Old Testament God says of his church, “my delight is in her,” and in the New we read, it is “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” who has the “glory of God.” In the Old Testament we find the Lord reserved to himself “seven thousand men who bowed not to the image of Baal,” and in the New we find, he has “a remnant according to the election of grace.” In the Old the Lord says of each of his people, “deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom,” in the New, Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” In the Old we read God gives grace and glory, in the New we find that God’s people are “born not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.” Then no promise is given by God but what he fulfills; no persons are delighted in by God but his church; none will worship God aright but the election of grace ; no salvation can be known but by the finished work of Christ; and no having grace without having glory.

Second, God never reverses his dealings with his people. He indeed varies their circumstances, changes their situations, and leads them into different paths, so that they “have here no continuing city:” but he never deals unkindly, unwisely, or thoughtlessly, with them. If he suffers them to fall, it is to humble them, to mortify fleshly confidence, and to open up to their view more fully the mercy he has stored up in Christ for them, the love in which he has inwrapped them, and the grace which superabounds towards them. If he permits them to be harassed by the tempter, to be persecuted, oppressed, and afflicted, it is that they might be partakers of his holiness. The Lord always has some good in store for his people, which good is often brought out of evil: and the Lord never suffers his people to be tried but brings them “forth as gold,” and gives them full proof that he sits at the furnace, or that “one like unto the Son of Man” is in the fiery trial, and that he will not suffer a hair of his children’s head to fall to the ground.

And lastly, God cannot be charged with creature infirmity. We may, indeed, make promises, but in consequence of some unforeseen circumstance we are unable to perform them. We may love persons and things, but our love being founded upon the loveliness of the objects loved, a something arises which turns our love into hatred. We may be very hospitable, but meeting with poor returns and with much ingratitude, we cease to exercise our benevolence. But not so with the Lord: he knew his people “would deal very treacherously;” therefore did not found his love upon the creature but upon himself. He knew the devil would roar, the world oppose, and the flesh resist; therefore his promises are yea and amen in Christ, and provision in him is made to overcome every obstacle, for “known unto God are all his works from the beginning.” He knew that without him his people could “do nothing,” consequently, though he should load them with his benefits, yet he knew they would not acknowledge them without his almighty power put forth in their souls; therefore the work of grace in them, as well as the work of salvation for them, stands upon “I will” and “they shall.” Then, dear reader, if taught of God, you know that the “joy of the Lord is your strength,” and that “boasting is excluded by the law of faith.”

William Tant (?) was a High-Calvinist gospel preacher. He served as pastor for the church meeting at Jireh Chapel, Robert Street, Brighton.