Faith is not an effect of election, but is a necessary requisite foreseen by God in those who are to be elected. And the decree concerning the bestowing of faith precedes the decree of election.
Of this article also there are two entire members:
I. In the FIRST of them, three assertions are included. (1.)
|Faith is not an effect of election.| (2.) |Faith is a necessary requisite in those who are to be elected or saved.| (3.) |This requisite is foreseen by God in the persons to be elected.| I confess, all these, when rightly understood and correctly explained, agree entirely with my opinion, on the subject. But the last of the members is proposed in terms too odious, since it makes no mention of God, whose benefit and gift I acknowledge faith to be.
I will now proceed to explain myself on each of these assertions:
1. With regard to the FIRST, the word |Election| is ambiguous. For it either signifies |the election by which God determines to justify believers, while those who are unbelievers or workers are rejected from righteousness and salvation: |Or it signifies |the election by which he determines to save certain particular persons, as such, and to bestow faith on them in order to their salvation, other particular persons being also rejected, merely in reference to their being such particular individuals.| Election is received according to this latter signification, by those who charge me with these articles. I take it in the former acceptation, according to Romans ix.11: |For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger.|
I will not now enter into a prolix disputation, whether or not the sense in which I receive it, be the correct one. It is evident, at least, that there is some decree of God by which he determines to justify believers; and which, since it excludes unbelievers from righteousness and salvation, is appropriately called |the decree according to election| or |with election,| as being that which does not include all men within its embrace. This decree I consider as the foundation of Christianity, of man's salvation, and of his assurance of salvation; and it is this of which the Apostle treats in the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, and in the first chapter to the Ephesians.
But I have not yet declared what my sentiments in general are about that decree by which God is said |to have determined absolutely to save certain particular persons, and to bestow faith upon them in order to their salvation, while others are reprobated from salvation and faith;| although I have confessed, that there is a certain decree of God, according to which he determines to administer the means to faith and salvation, as he knows them to be suitable and proper to his righteousness, mercy and severity. From these premises it is deduced as a most manifest consequence, that faith is not an effect of that election by which God determines to justify those who believe.
2. With regard to the SECOND assertion, from the particulars thus explained it is concluded, that |faith is a necessary requisite in those who shall be partakers of salvation according to the election of God ;| or, that |it is a condition prescribed and required by God, to be performed by those who shall obtain his salvation.| |This is the will of God, that whosoever believeth in the Son hath eternal life; he that believeth not, shall be condemned.| The propositions contained in this passage cannot be resolved into any other than this brief one, which is likewise used in the Scripture, |Believe, and thou shalt be saved.| In which the word |believe| has the force of a demand or requirement; and the phrase |thou shalt be saved| has that of a suasion, by means of a good that is promised. This truth is so clear and perspicuous, that the denial of it would be a proof of great perversity or of extreme unskilfullness. If any one say, |It is a condition, but yet an evangelical one, which God may himself perform in us, or, (as it is better expressed,) which he may by his grace cause us to perform; |the man who speaks thus, does not contradict this truth, but confirms it when he adds this explanation, |of what description soever that condition may be.|
3. With regard to the THIRD, I say that we must distinguish between the condition by which it is required, that by which it is performed, and that by which it is seen or foreseen as performed. This third member, therefore, is proposed in a manner much too confused. Yet, when this confusion is corrected by the distinction which we have stated, nothing of absurdity will be apparent even in that member. Because foreseeing or seeing, in the very nature and order of things follows the performance itself; the performance has its own causes into which it is to be resolved; and the efficiency of those causes is not necessary, unless faith be prescribed and required by the law of faith and the gospel. Since therefore faith is said |to be foreseen by God in those who are to be saved,| those causes, without the intervention of which there could be no faith, are not removed, but are rather appointed. Among those causes, I consider the preventing, accompanying and succeeding [subsequent] grace of God, as the principal. And I say, with Fulgentius, |Those persons will be saved, or they have been predestinated and elected, who, God foreknew, would believe by the assistance of his preventing grace, (I add and of his accompanying grace,) and would persevere by the aid of his subsequent grace.| In this first member, then, there is nothing except truth of the greatest purity.
II. The second member is, |The decree concerning the gift of faith, precedes the decree of election;| in the explanation of which I employ the same distinction as in the former, and say, |The decree of election, by which God determines to justify and save believers, precedes the decree concerning the bestowment of faith.| For faith is unnecessary, nay it is useless, without this previous decree. And the decree of election, by which God resolves to justify and save this or that particular person, is subsequent to that decree according to which he determines to administer the means necessary and efficacious to faith, that is, the decree concerning the gift of faith.
If any one says, |God wills first absolutely to save some particular person; and, since he wills that, he also wills to bestow faith on him, because without faith, it is not possible for him to be saved.| I tell him, that he lays down contradictory propositions -- that |God wills absolutely to save some one without regard to faith,| and yet that, |according to the will of God, he cannot be saved without faith.| Through the will of God it has been revealed to us, without faith it is impossible for any man to please God, or to be saved. There is, therefore, in God no other will, by which he wills any one to be absolutely saved without consideration of faith. For contradictory wills cannot be attributed to God. If any person replies, |God wills the end before he wills the means leading to the end; but salvation is the end, and faith the means leading to the end,| I answer, first, Salvation is not the end of God; but salvation and faith are the gifts of God, bound and connected together in this order between themselves through the will of God, that faith should precede salvation, both with regard to God, the donor of it; and in reality. Secondly. Faith is a CONDITION required by God to be performed by him who shall be saved, before it is MEANS of obtaining that salvation. Since God will not bestow salvation on any one, except on him who believes, man is on this account incited to be willing to believe, because he knows that his chief good is placed in salvation. Man, therefore, tried by faith, as the means, to attain to salvation as the end; because he knows that he cannot possibly obtain salvation except through that means. And this knowledge he does not acquire except through the declaration of the divine Will, by which God requires faith from those who wish to be saved, that is, by which he places faith as a condition in the object, that is, in the person to be saved.