Election and Good Works (Toplady)

 When it comes to the doctrine of unconditional election, some have objected by saying this doctrine leads people to neglect to do good works.  They reason this way: if God doesn’t elect people based on good things they’ve done, why would anyone do good works?  It’s not a new objection!  Augustus Toplady (d. 1778) answered this objection in one of his sermons on sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10).  He wrote that if election is unconditional and not dependent upon anything we do,

…Then (may some say) “farewell to gospel obedience; all good works are destroyed.” If by destroying good works you mean that the doctrine of unconditional election destroys the merit of good works and represents man as incapable of earning or deserving the favor and kingdom of God, I acknowledge the force of the objection.

Predestination does most certainly destroy the merit of our works and obedience, but not the performance of them since holiness is, itself, one end of election (Eph. 1:4), and since the elect are as much chosen to sanctification on their way as they are to that ultimate glory which crowns their journey’s end – and there is no coming at the one but through the other.

So that neither the value, nor the necessity, nor the practice of good works is superseded by this glorious truth of unconditional election.  Our acts of evangelical obedience are no more than assembled and consigned to their proper place and restrained from usurping that praise which is due to the alone grace of God.  And our acts of evangelical obedience are restrained from arrogating that office which only the Son of God was qualified to discharge.

The edited quote is found in Augustus M. Toplady, The Works of Augustus M. Toplady, vol. 3 (London: Richard Baynes, 1825), 21–22.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015