51 From this article also powerful admonitions and warnings are derived, as Luke 7, 30: They rejected the counsel of God against themselves. Luke 14, 24: I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. Also Matt. 20, 16: Many be called, but few chosen. Also Luke 8, 8. 18: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, and: Take heed how ye hear. Thus the doctrine concerning this article can be employed profitably, comfortingly, and savingly a.
52 But a distinction must be observed with especial care between that which is expressly revealed concerning it in God's Word, and what is not revealed. For, in addition to what has been revealed in Christ concerning this, of which we have hitherto spoken, God has still kept secret and concealed much concerning this mystery, and reserved it for His wisdom and knowledge alone, which we should not investigate, nor should we indulge our thoughts in this matter, nor draw conclusions, nor inquire curiously, but should adhere b to the revealed Word c. This admonition is most urgently needed.
53 For our curiosity has always much more pleasure in concerning itself with these matters d than with what God has revealed to us concerning this in His Word, because we cannot harmonize it, which, moreover, we have not been commanded to do e.
54 Thus there is no doubt that God most exactly and certainly foresaw before the time of the world, and still knows, which of those that are called will believe or will not believe; also which of the converted will persevere f and which will not persevere; which will return after a fall g, and which will fall into obduracy h. So, too, the number, how many there are of these on either side, is beyond all doubt perfectly known to God. 55 However, since God has reserved this mystery for His wisdom, and has revealed nothing to us concerning it in His Word, much less commanded us to investigate it with our thoughts, but has earnestly discouraged us therefrom, Rom. 11, 33 ff., we should not reason in our thoughts, draw conclusions, nor inquire curiously into these matters, but should adhere to His revealed Word, to which He points us.
56 Thus without any doubt God also knows and has determined for every one the time and hour of his call and conversion i. But since this has not been revealed to us, we have the command always to keep urging the Word, but to entrust the time and hour j to God, Acts 1, 7.
57 Likewise, when we see that God gives His Word at one place k, but not at another l; removes it from one place m, and allows it to remain at another; also, that one is hardened, blinded, given over to a reprobate mind, while another, who is indeed in the same guilt, is converted again, etc.,–in these and similar questions Paul n 58 fixes a certain limit to us how far we should go, namely, that in the one part we should recognize God's judgment o. For they are well-deserved penalties of sins when God so punishes a land or nation for despising His Word that the punishment extends also to their posterity, as is to be seen in the Jews. And thereby p God in some lands and persons exhibits His severity to those that are His q what we all would have well deserved, and would be worthy and worth, since we act wickedly in opposition to God's Word r and often grieve the Holy Ghost sorely, in order that we may live in the fear of God, and acknowledge and praise God's goodness, to the exclusion of, and contrary to, our merit in and with us, to whom He gives His Word, and with whom He leaves it, and whom He does not harden and reject.
60 For inasmuch as our nature has been corrupted by sin, and is worthy of, and subject to, God's wrath and condemnation, God owes to us neither the Word, the Spirit, nor grace; and when He bestows these gifts out of grace, we often thrust them from us, and make ourselves unworthy of everlasting life, Acts 13, 46. And this His righteous, well-deserved judgment He displays in some countries, nations, and persons, in order that, when we are placed alongside of them and compared with them s, we may learn the more diligently to recognize and praise God's pure t, unmerited grace in the vessels of mercy.
61 For no injustice is done those who are punished and receive the wages of their sins; but in the rest, to whom God gives and preserves His Word, by which men are enlightened, converted, and preserved, God commends His pure u grace and mercy, without their merit.
62 When we proceed thus far in this article, we remain on the right v way, as it is written Hos. 13, 9: O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thy help.
63 However, as regards these things in this disputation which would soar too high and beyond these limits, we should, with Paul, place the finger upon our lips, and remember and say, Rom. 9, 20: O man, who art thou that repliest against God?
64 For that we neither can nor should investigate and fathom everything in this article, the great Apostle Paul declares w, who, after having argued much concerning this article from the revealed Word of God, as soon as he comes to the point where he shows what God has reserved for His hidden wisdom concerning this mystery, suppresses and cuts it off with the following words, Rom. 11, 33 f.: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? that is, outside of and beyond that which He has revealed to us in His Word.
65 Accordingly, this eternal election of God is to be considered in Christ, and not outside of or without Christ. For in Christ, the Apostle Paul testifies, Eph. 1, 4 f., He hath chosen us before the foundation of the world, as it is written: He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. This election, however, is revealed from heaven through the preaching of His Word, when the Father says, Matt. 17, 6: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. And Christ says, Matt. 11, 28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And concerning the Holy Ghost Christ says, John 16, 14: He shalt glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. 66 Thus the entire Holy Trinity, God Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, directs all men to Christ, as to the Book of Life, in whom they should seek the eternal election of the Father. For this has been decided by the Father from eternity, that whom He would save He would save through Christ, as He x Himself says, John 14, 6: No man cometh unto the Father but by Me. And again, John 10, 9: I am the Door; by Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved.
67 However, Christ, as the only-begotten Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father, has announced to us the will of the Father, and thus also our eternal election to eternal life, namely, when He says, Mark 1, 15: Repent ye, and believe the Gospel; the kingdom of God is at hand. Likewise He says, John 6, 40: This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life. And again y: God so loved the world, etc. z.
68 This proclamation the Father wishes all men to hear and desires that they come to Christ; and these Christ does not drive from Him, as it is written John 6, 37: Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.
69 And in order that we may come to Christ, the Holy Ghost works true faith through the hearing of the Word, as the apostle testifies when he says, Rom. 10, 17: Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, aa when it is preached in its truth and purity.
70 Therefore, whoever would be saved should not trouble or harass himself with thoughts concerning the secret counsel of God, as to whether he also is elected and ordained to eternal life, with which miserable Satan usually attacks and annoys godly hearts. But they should hear Christ ab, who is the Book of Life and of God's eternal election of all of God's children to eternal life: He testifies to all men without distinction that it is God's will that all men should come to Him who labor and are heavy laden with sin, in order that He may give them rest and save them, Matt. 11, 28.
71 According to this doctrine of His they should abstain from their sins, repent, believe His promise, and entirely trust in Him; and since we cannot do this by ourselves, of our own powers, the Holy Ghost desires to work these things, namely, repentance and faith, in us through the Word and Sacraments. 72 And in order that we may attain this, persevere in it, and remain steadfast, we should implore God for His grace, which He has promised us in Holy Baptism, and, no doubt, He will impart it to us according to His promise, as He has said, Luke 11, 11 ff.: If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him!
73 And since the Holy Ghost dwells in the elect, who have become believers, as in His temple, and is not idle in them, but impels the children of God to obedience to God's commands, believers, likewise, should not be idle, and much less resist the impulse of God's Spirit, but should exercise themselves in all Christian virtues, in all godliness, modesty, temperance, patience, brotherly love, and give all diligence to make their calling and election sure, in order that they may doubt the less concerning it, the more they experience the power and strength of the Spirit within them. 74 For the Spirit bears witness to the elect that they are God's children, Rom. 8, 16. And although they sometimes fall into temptation so grievous that they imagine they perceive no more power of the indwelling Spirit of God, and say with David, Ps. 31, 22: I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Thine eyes, yet they should, without regard to what they experience in themselves, again ac say with David, as is written ibidem, in the words immediately following: Nevertheless Thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto Thee.
75 And since our election to eternal life is founded not upon our godliness or virtue, but alone upon the merit of Christ and the gracious will of His Father, who cannot deny Himself, because He is unchangeable in will and essence, therefore, when His children depart from obedience and stumble, He has them called again to repentance through the Word, and the Holy Ghost wishes thereby to be efficacious in them for conversion; and when they turn to Him again in true repentance by a right faith, He will always manifest the old paternal heart to all those who tremble at His Word and from their heart turn again to Him, as it is written, Jer. 3, 1: If a man put away his wife, and she go from him and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to Me, saith the Lord.
76 Moreover, the declaration, John 6, 44, that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him, is right and true. However, the Father will not do this without means, but has ordained for this purpose His Word and Sacraments as ordinary means and instruments; and it is the will neither of the Father nor of the Son that a man should not hear or should despise the preaching of His Word, and wait for the drawing of the Father without the Word and Sacraments. For the Father draws indeed by the power of His Holy Ghost, however, according to His usual order ad, by the hearing of His holy, divine Word, as with a net, by which the elect are plucked from the jaws of the devil. 77 Every poor sinner should therefore repair thereto ae, hear it attentively, and not doubt the drawing of the Father. For the Holy Ghost will be with His Word in His power, and work by it; and that is the drawing of the Father.
78 But the reason why not all who hear it believe, and some are therefore condemned the more deeply af, is not because God had begrudged them their salvation; but it is their own fault, as they have heard the Word in such a manner as not to learn, but only to despise, blaspheme, and disgrace it, and have resisted the Holy Ghost, who through the Word wished to work in them, as was the case at the time of Christ with the Pharisees and their adherents. 79 Hence the apostle distinguishes with especial care the work of God, who alone makes vessels of honor, and the work of the devil and of man, who by the instigation of the devil, and not of God, has made himself a vessel of dishonor. For thus it is written, Rom. 9, 22 f.: God endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.
80 Here, then, the apostle clearly says that God endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath, but does not say that He made them vessels of wrath; for if this had been His will, He would not have required any great long-suffering for it. The fault, however, that they are fitted for destruction belongs to the devil and to men themselves, and not to God.
81 For all preparation for condemnation is by the devil and man, through sin, and in no respect by God, who does not wish that any man be damned; how, then, should He Himself prepare any man for condemnation? For as God is not a cause of sins, so, too, He is no cause of punishment, of damnation; but the only cause of damnation is sin; for the wages of sin is death, Rom. 6, 23. And as God does not will sin, and has no pleasure in sin, so He does not wish the death of the sinner either, Ezek. 33, 11, nor has He pleasure in his condemnation. For He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet. 3, 9. So, too, it is written in Ezek. 18, 23; 33, 11: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. 82 And St. Paul testifies in clear words that from vessels of dishonor vessels of honor may be made by God's power and working, when he writes thus, 2 Tim. 2, 21: If a man, therefore, purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work. For he who is to purge himself must first have been unclean, and hence a vessel of dishonor. But concerning the vessels of mercy he says clearly that the Lord Himself has prepared them for glory, which he does not say concerning the damned, who themselves, and not God, have prepared themselves as vessels of damnation.
83 Moreover, it is to be diligently considered that when God punishes sin with sins, that is, when He afterwards punishes with obduracy and blindness those who had been converted, because of their subsequent security, impenitence, and wilful sins, this should not be interpreted to mean that it never had been God's good pleasure that such persons should come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. For both these facts are God's revealed will:
First, that God will receive into grace all who repent and believe in Christ.
Secondly, that He also will punish those who wilfully turn away from the holy commandment, and again entangle themselves in the filth of the world, 2 Pet. 2, 20, and garnish their hearts for Satan, Luke 11, 25 f., and do despite unto the Spirit of God, Heb. 10, 29, and that they shall be hardened, blinded, and eternally condemned if they persist therein.
84 Accordingly, even Pharaoh (of whom it is written, Ex. 9, 16; Rom. 9, 17: In very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee My power, and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth) perished, not because God had begrudged him salvation, or because it had been His good pleasure that he should be damned and lost. For God is not willing that any should perish, 2 Pet. 3, 9; He also has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live, Ezek. 33, 11.
85 But that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, namely, that Pharaoh always sinned again and again, and became the more obdurate, the more he was admonished, that was a punishment of his antecedent sin and horrible tyranny, which in many and manifold ways he practised inhumanly and against the accusations of his heart towards the children of Israel. And since God caused His Word to be preached and His will to be proclaimed to him, and Pharaoh nevertheless wilfully reared up straightway against all admonitions and warnings, God withdrew His hand from him, and thus his heart became hardened and obdurate, and God executed His judgment upon him; for he was guilty of nothing else than hell-fire. 86 Accordingly, the holy apostle also introduces the example of Pharaoh for no other reason than to prove by it the justice of God which He exercises towards the impenitent and despisers of His Word; by no means, however, has he intended or understood it to mean that God begrudged salvation to him or any person, but had so ordained him to eternal damnation in His secret counsel that he should not be able, or that it should not be possible for him, to be saved.
87 By this doctrine and explanation of the eternal and saving choice ag of the elect children of God His own glory is entirely and fully given to God, that in Christ He saves us out of pure ah mercy, without any merits or good works of ours, according to the purpose of His will, as it is written Eph. 1, 5 f.: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. 88 Therefore it is false and wrong ai when it is taught that not alone the mercy of God and the most holy merit of Christ, but that also in us there is a cause of God's election, on account of which God has chosen us to eternal life. For not only before we had done anything good, but also before we were born, yea, even before the foundations of the world were laid, He elected us in Christ; and 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; as it is written concerning this matter, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, Rom. 9, 11 ff.; Gen. 25, 23; Mal. 1, 2 f.
89 Moreover, this doctrine gives no one a cause either for despondency or for a shameless, dissolute life, namely, when men are taught that they must seek eternal election in Christ and His holy Gospel, as in the Book of Life, which excludes no penitent sinner, but beckons and calls all the poor, heavy-laden, and troubled sinners aj, to repentance and the knowledge of their sins and to faith in Christ, and promises the Holy Ghost for purification and renewal, 90 and thus gives the most enduring consolation to all troubled, afflicted men, that they know that their salvation is not placed in their own hands,–for otherwise they would lose it much more easily than was the case with Adam and Eve in paradise, yea, every hour and moment,–but in the gracious election of God, which He has revealed to us in Christ, out of whose hand no man shall pluck us, John 10, 28; 2 Tim. 2, 19.
91 Accordingly, if any one presents the doctrine concerning the gracious election of God in such a manner that troubled Christians cannot derive comfort from it, but are thereby incited to despair, or that the impenitent are confirmed in their wantonness, it is undoubtedly sure and true that such a doctrine is taught, not according to the Word and will of God, but according to ak reason and the instigation of the devil.
92 For, as the apostle testifies, Rom. 15, 4: Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. But when this consolation and hope are weakened or entirely removed by Scripture, it is certain that it is understood and explained contrary to the will and meaning of the Holy Ghost.
93 By this simple, correct al, useful explanation which has a firm and good foundation in God's revealed will, we abide; we flee from, and shun, all lofty, acute questions and disputations am; and reject and condemn whatever is contrary to these simple, useful explanations.
94 So much concerning the controverted articles which have been discussed for many years already among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession, in which some have erred and severe controversiae (controversies), that is, religious disputes, have arisen.
95 From this our explanation, friends and enemies, and therefore every one, may clearly infer that we have no intention of yielding aught of the eternal, immutable truth of God for the sake of temporal peace, tranquility, and unity (which, moreover, is not in our power to do). Nor would such peace and unity, since it is devised against the truth and for its suppression, have any permanency. Still less are we inclined to adorn and conceal a corruption of the pure doctrine and manifest, condemned errors. But we entertain heartfelt pleasure and love for, and are on our part sincerely inclined and anxious to advance, that unity according to our utmost power, by which His glory remains to God uninjured, nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and thus justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ.