Obtaining Grace

Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
~ 2 Thessalonians 1:2

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
~ Romans 9:16

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:10

Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
~ Luke 13:24

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
~ Mark 10:27

The Mode of Obtaining the Grace of Christ. The Benefits It Confers, and the Effects Resulting From It, by John Calvin. The following contains an excerpt from Book Three, Chapter 22 of his work.”The Institutes of the Christian Religion”.

Book Three

The Mode of Obtaining the Grace of Christ. The Benefits It Confers, and the Effects Resulting From It.

This Doctrine Confirmed by Proofs From Scripture.

7. Now, let the supreme Judge and Master decide on the whole case. Seeing such obduracy in his hearers, that his words fell upon the multitude almost without fruit, he to remove this stumbling-block exclaims, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” “And this is the Father’s will which has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing,” (John 6:37, 39). Observe that the donation of the Father is the first step in our delivery into the charge and protection of Christ. Some one, perhaps, will here turn round and object, that those only peculiarly belong to the Father who make a voluntary surrender by faith. But the only thing which Christ maintains is that though the defections of vast multitudes should shake the world, yet the counsel of God would stand firm, more stable than heaven itself, that his election would never fail. The elect are said to have belonged to the Father before he bestowed them on his only begotten Son. It is asked if they were his by nature? Nay, they were aliens, but he makes them his by delivering them. The words of Christ are too clear to be rendered obscure by any of the mists of caviling. “No man can come to me except the Father which has sent me draw him.” “Every man, therefore, that has heard and learned of the Father comes unto me,” (John 6:44, 45). Did all promiscuously bend the knee to Christ, election would be common; whereas now in the small number of believers a manifest diversity appears. Accordingly our Savior, shortly after declaring that the disciples who were given to him were the common property of the Father, adds, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine,” (John 17:9). Hence it is that the whole world no longer belongs to its Creator, except in so far as grace rescues from malediction, divine wrath, and eternal death, some, not many, who would otherwise perish, while he leaves the world to the destruction to which it is doomed. Meanwhile, though Christ interpose as a Mediator, yet he claims the right of electing in common with the Father, “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen” (John 13:18). If it is asked whence he has chosen them, he answers in another passages “Out of the world;” which he excludes from his prayers when he commits his disciples to the Father (John 15:19). We must, indeed hold, when he affirms that he knows whom he has chosen, first, that some individuals of the human race are denoted; and, secondly, that they are not distinguished by the quality of their virtues, but by a heavenly decree. Hence it follows, that since Christ makes himself the author of election, none excel by their own strength or industry. In elsewhere numbering Judas among the elect, though he was a devil (John 6:70), he refers only to the apostolical office, which though a bright manifestation of divine favor (as Paul so often acknowledges it to be in his own person), does not, however, contain within itself the hope of eternal salvation. Judas, therefore, when he discharged the office of Apostle perfidiously, might have been worse than a devil; but not one of those whom Christ has once ingrafted into his body will he ever permit to perish, for in securing their salvation, he will perform what he has promised; that is, exert a divine power greater than all (John 10:28). For when he says, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition,” (John 17:12), the expression, though there is a catachresis in it, is not at all ambiguous. The sum is, that God by gratuitous adoption forms those whom he wishes to have for sons; but that the intrinsic cause is in himself, because he is contented with his secret pleasure.

8. But Ambrose, Origin, and Jerome, were of opinion, that God dispenses his grace among men according to the use which he foresees that each will make of it. It may be added, that Augustine also was for some time of this opinion; but after he had made greater progress in the knowledge of Scripture, he not only retracted it as evidently false, but powerfully confuted it (August. Retract. Lib. 1, c. 13). Nay, even after the retractation, glancing at the Pelagians who still persisted in that error, he says, “Who does not wonder that the Apostle failed to make this most acute observation? For after stating a most startling proposition concerning those who were not yet born, and afterwards putting the question to himself by way of objection, ‘What then? Is there unrighteousness with God?’ he had an opportunity of answering, that God foresaw the merits of both, he does not say so, but has recourse to the justice and mercy of God,” (August. Epist. 106, ad Sixtum). And in another passage, after excluding all merit before election, he says, “Here, certainly, there is no place for the vain argument of those who defend the foreknowledge of God against the grace of God, and accordingly maintain that we were elected before the foundation of the world, because God foreknow that we would be good, not that he himself would make us good. This is not the language of him who says, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ (John 15:16). For had he chosen us because he foreknow that we would be good, he would at the same time also have foreknown that we were to choose him,” (August. in Joann. 8, see also what follows to the same effect). Let the testimony of Augustine prevail with those who willingly acquiesce in the authority of the Fathers: although Augustine allows not that he differs from the others, but shows by clear evidence that the difference which the Pelagians invidiously objected to him is unfounded. For he quotes from Ambrose (Lib. de Prædest. Sanct. cap. 19), “Christ calls whom he pities.” Again, “Had he pleased he could have made them devout instead of undevout; but God calls whom he deigns to call, and makes religious whom he will.” Were we disposed to frame an entire volume out of Augustine, it were easy to show the reader that I have no occasion to use any other words than his: but I am unwilling to burden him with a prolix statement. But assuming that the fathers did not speak thus, let us attend to the thing itself. A difficult question had been raised—viz. Did God do justly in bestowing his grace on certain individuals? Paul might have disencumbered himself of this question at once by saying, that God had respect to works. Why does he not do so? Why does he rather continue to use a language which leaves him exposed to the same difficulty? Why, but just because it would not have been right to say it? There was no obliviousness on the part of the Holy Spirit, who was speaking by his mouth. He, therefore, answers without ambiguity, that God favors his elect, because he is pleased to do so, and shows mercy because he is pleased to do so. For the words, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy on whom I will show mercy,” (Exod. 33:19), are the same in effect as if it had been said, God is moved to mercy by no other reason than that he is pleased to show mercy. Augustine’s declaration, therefore, remains true. The grace of God does not find, but makes persons fit to be chosen.

9. Nor let us be detained by the subtlety of Thomas, that the foreknowledge of merit is the cause of predestination, not, indeed, in respect of the predestinating act, but that on our part it may in some sense be so called, namely, in respect of a particular estimate of predestination; as when it is said, that God predestinates man to glory according to his merit, inasmuch as he decreed to bestow upon him the grace by which he merits glory. For while the Lord would have us to see nothing more in election than his mere goodness, for any one to desire to see more is preposterous affectation. But were we to make a trial of subtlety, it would not be difficult to refute the sophistry of Thomas. He maintains that the elect are in a manner predestinated to glory on account of their merits, because God predestines to give them the grace by which they merit glory. What if I should, on the contrary, object that predestination to grace is subservient to election unto life, and follows as its handmaid; that grace is predestined to those to whom the possession of glory was previously assigned the Lord being pleased to bring his sons by election to justification? For it will hence follow that the predestination to glory is the cause of the predestination to grace, and not the converse. But let us have done with these disputes as superfluous among those who think that there is enough of wisdom for them in the word of God. For it has been truly said by an old ecclesiastical writer, Those who ascribe the election of God to merits, are wise above what they ought to be, (Ambrose. de Vocat. Gentium, lib. 1, c. 2.)

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