According to the most lengthy of the Church of England's Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion:
The godly consid-eration of Predestin-ation and our Elec-tion in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh in their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth establish and con-firm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God. And yet, the study of the subject has most dangerous effects on the "carnal professor." (1)Speaking of the doctrine of election as "a comforting article when it is correctly treated," the Formula of Concord (Lutheran) offers a similar caution:
Accordingly we believe and maintain that if anybody teaches the doctrine of the gracious election of God to eternal life in such a way that disconsolate Christians can find no comfort in this doctrine but are driven to doubt and despair, or in such a way that the impenitent are strengthened in their self-will, he is not teaching the doctrine according to the Word and will of God.... (2)During the magisterial Reformation, the doctrine of election was regarded as a corollary to justification, the nail in the coffin of synergism (justification and regeneration by human cooperation with grace). Pastorally, election was used to drive away despair and anxiety over one's salvation. John Bradford, an Edwardian divine who was martyred under "bloody Mary," wrote that this doctrine was a "most principal" tenet since it places our salvation entirely in God's hands. "This, I say, let us do, and not be too busybodies in searching the majesty and glory of God, or in nourishing doubting of salvation: whereto we all are ready enough." (3) As we will see, all of this is carefully expounded by Calvin as well.
Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of many books, including The Gospel-Driven Life, Christless Christianity, People and Place, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, The Christian Faith, and For Calvinism.
Issue: "Predestination and the Freedom of God" Nov./Dec. 1998 Vol. 7 No. 6 Page number(s): 29-34
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