“The text says, ‘From the beginning God chose you to be saved;’ but our opponents say, that God chooses people because they are good; that He chooses them on account of the many works which they have done. Now, we ask, in reply to this, what works are those that the ‘chosen’ did that caused God to elect His people? Are they what we commonly call ‘works of law’–works of obedience which the creature can do? If so, we reply to you, if men cannot be justified by the works of the law, it seems to us pretty clear that they cannot be elected by the works of the law; if they cannot be justified by their good works, they cannot be saved by them. Then the teaching of election could not have been formed on good works.
“‘But,’ others say, ‘God elected them on the foresight of their faith.’ Now, God gives faith therefore He could not have elected them on account of faith, which He foresaw. If there were twenty beggars in the street, and I determine to give one of them a dollar, will anyone say that I determined to give that one a dollar, that I elected him to have the dollar, because I foresaw that he would have it? That would be talking nonsense. Likewise, to say that God elected men because He foresaw they would have faith, would be too absurd for us to listen to for a moment. Faith is the gift of God. Every virtue comes from Him. Therefore it cannot have caused Him to elect men, because it is His gift. Election, we are sure, is unconditional, and altogether apart from the virtues which the saints acquire after salvation. What, though a saint should be as holy and devout as Paul, what though he should be as bold as Peter, or as loving as John, yet he would claim nothing from his Maker.
“I never knew a saint from any denomination who thought that God saved him because he foresaw that he would have these virtues and merits. Now, my brethren, the best jewels that the saint ever wears, if they be jewels of his own fashioning, are not pure. There is something of earth mixed with them. The highest grace we ever possess has something of earthliness about it. We feel this when we are most refined, when we are most holy; and our language must always be like Paul’s:
I am the chief of sinners; Jesus died for me.
“Our only hope, our only plea, still hangs on grace, as exhibited in the person of Jesus Christ. And I am sure we must utterly reject and disregard all thought that our graces which are gifts of our Lord, which are planted by His right-hand, could have ever caused His love. And we must forever sing:
What was there in us that could merit esteem, Or give the Creator delight? Nothing was found Father, so we must forever sing, Because it seemed good in your sight.”
– Charles Spurgeon, Election