Remember my preference



Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Sovereignty of Grace




   This straightforward and clearly written book dispels the notion that election and predestination are cold, austere doctrines originated by John Calvin. Arthur Custance conclusively shows that these doctrines are alive, vital, the very heart of the gospel.
     The Sovereignty of Grace provides a lucid discussion that gets at the heart of the matter and never loses sight of the essence of the profound doctrine at issue. The author begins by tracing the historical development of the doctrine of election and demonstrates that it is explicitly taught in both the Old and New Testament (especially by John and Paul). Beginning with Scripture and extending through Augustine up to the Reformers, there is an unbroken chain in the teaching of predestination.
     Custance gives clear, solid definitions of the five points of Calvinism. With compelling logic he points out the inconsistencies in the Arminian position (among others) and the undeniable necessity of the Calvinistic view.
     The author adds a welcome new dimension to what might seem to be a purely theological study by discussing the practical implications of Calvinism. For example, he examines the comfort there is in exploring how the sovereignty of God is worked out in the daily relationships of life. He has fresh insights into the questions of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, of punishment and rewards. He is not afraid to tackle knotty problems such as, "Why evangelize if election guarantees the salvation of all who are predestined?"
     The Sovereignty of Grace provides a good addition to the library of that person who wants a straightforward presentation of election, one that avoids the extremes of oversimplification on one hand and obscure theological jargon on the other.

     pg 1 of 5     



      In the very worst period of the great depression in Canada, I found myself in the fall of 1933 in the province of Saskatchewan, which was perhaps the hardest hit of all the provinces. And I found myself in the worst possible position in terms of survival, since I had no resources and no job, and at that time there was no such thing as relief or welfare for transients. I was some miles north of Prince Albert, facing the winter months in a tiny little shack about twelve by sixteen feet in an area where coal was not available and wood was scarce. The temperature in this part of Canada can be bitterly cold, so cold in fact that the tiny stove I had would not keep itself going much of the time, and the temperature would drop to about -25 degrees F. inside. On one occasion a hot water bottle froze in the bed during the night!
     Yet it was marvellously quiet, and, since I had come to know the Lord only about a year before, the Bible was largely an unknown book to me and I had a wonderful opportunity to study it. That winter I went eight times through the entire Bible and worked out, almost entirely on my own, a personal systematic theology. I shall never regret the cold or the isolation. It was a golden period of my life in many ways, and an enormous privilege.
     One afternoon that stands out in my memory as a time of glorious apprehension, I knelt down on a small rug which a friend had made for me out of overcoat samples, and I opened my Bible that lay on the bed before me at John 15. I have always loved to study on my knees. I still have my bed lighted specifically for this purpose — and what better attitude could there be for studying the Word of God. I read meditatively with pencil in hand, marking things as I went, and in due time I came to John 15:16: "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you." The words seemed to stand out from the page and this tremendous truth flooded my soul. I seemed to be kneeling in the silence of an eternity and hearing the words inwardly for the first time, though it was by no means the first time I had read them. I was quite simply overwhelmed. He, the Lord Jesus Christ, had chosen me; not I Him! I had always assumed myself to be the one who had acted. It was I

     pg 2 of 5      

who for some reason had felt a need and sought the Lord to fulfill it. I was the one who had taken the initiative.
     In the youthful enthusiasm of my Christian experience (I was then twenty-three) I had often preached to small groups and spoken to individuals about their need of a Saviour. It had seemed proper to argue with them, or plead with them, or in one way or another try to persuade them to "make their decision for the Lord," as I supposed I had made my decision for the Lord. It seemed to me to be my privilege and responsibility to persuade men by the zeal of my missionary activity. But here, suddenly, I was jolted into the realization that it was not I who had decided for the Lord; the Lord had decided for me! I have had the joy since of leading not a few to the Lord over the years and, what is perhaps every bit as important, of seeing many of these new bairns go on and grow into mature and fruitful children of God. And I know that at times it must have seemed to anyone watching my activities that I really did believe my powers of persuasion can be critical in the moment of decision. Yet I know this is not so.
     I know with my heart and my mind that in the final analysis it is the Lord's work to draw men unto Himself and ours only to "lift Him up" (John 3:14). Men are not born again by human will, nor because of blood relationships, nor even because out of their own inner being they desire to be saved (John 1:12, 13). It is perfectly true that whosoever will may come, but it is also true that whosoever may, will come. We will to come only because God has graciously worked upon our wills to turn them about. We may come only because He has opened the way for us and in us, making it possible. Whosoever will, may come; and whosoever may, will come. When God makes it possible by converting our wills to seek his face, then we may come, and only then. At the same time, because of his sovereignty, once this turnabout has been wrought in us by his Holy Spirit, then the rest is certain, no matter how long it takes. We shall come.
     As I knelt before the Lord after hearing these wonderful words, in a manner of speaking, for the first time, there was instantly born in my mind a first real intimation of man's true nature and of the sovereignty of God's grace. And I spent the remainder of those winter months reading nothing but the Word of God and constantly finding in it reflections of the wonderful truth of his sovereignty in our salvation. This became the rock upon which over a period of some forty years I thereafter built the edifice of my theology.
     During the winter months of 1970-1976, after retirement, I lectured or gave seminars to varying numbers of people from fifteen to two hundred in this quiet little town and always the ultimate emphasis has been upon the sovereignty of grace. Finally it seemed good to try to set down something of the substance of these lectures and seminars in the hope that their usefulness might in the Lord's goodness be extended to a larger audience.

     pg.3 of 5     

     Due to the circumstances under which my theological development took place, without formal training in the subject and usually far away from the kind of library facilities that are considered normal to such a training, surprisingly little was owed in my development to the great writers on these themes like Augustine, Calvin, Owen, Spurgeon, Hodge, Strong, Warfield and a host of others. All of these I read now with delight, and it never ceases to amaze me how a deep study of these great fundamental truths in the Word of God leads to a meeting of minds. Those winter months nearly forty-five years ago established a pattern of thinking which subsequently worked itself out until the agreement with these great men of God was very nearly complete. What they contributed above all was refinement and certain modes of expression which are beautifully apt. When I began to read them for the first time about fifteen years ago, I found their powers of expression when dealing with matters that I had struggled to put into words by myself were like a great liberating force, setting my mind free in wonderful new ways. This circumstance may explain in part why I have not always followed the lines of reasoning which are customarily followed by those whose training and background has been more formal and routine. This is why I have sometimes used different passages of Scripture to support the same basic conclusions. And this is why I have coined some phrases and developed some lines of argument that they did not employ. But my agreement with them is well-nigh complete.
     I'm not sure that Calvin was always wholly logical in his conclusions, but then I am sure I am not either. I do not agree with him, for example, in his view regarding Double Predestination, not for philosophical reasons but because I do not believe either Scripture or logic demands it. And I suspect Calvin himself may have had second thoughts on the matter.
     As to the great Confessions — the Westminster Confession, the Thirty-nine Articles, the Heidelberg Confession, the Canons of Dort, and so forth — I rejoice in them. Surely here the human mind has been exercised with the deepest and most profound aspects of truth, finding a peculiarly appropriate eloquence for the task in the choice of words. What feasts the statements are, and how poor is the man who has never reflected upon them! Surely there is no meatier food for the human intellect than is here displayed in an ordered form.

     And so with these words of explanation, I commend to the Lord this study of his gracious sovereignty in salvation, without which no man would be saved, but all would remain dead and lost. I cannot but rejoice in the wonderful words of a hymn which expresses so profoundly, yet so succinctly, the great truth which I have struggled to elaborate in the chapters which follow.

     pg.4 of 5     

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Saviour true;
No! I was found of Thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea;
'Twas not so much that I on Thee took hold,
As Thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love; but O the whole
of love is but my answer, Lord, to Thee!
For Thou wert long beforehand with my soul;
Always Thou lovedst me.



Arthur C. Custance

"The Terraces"
Butternut Bay Road
Brockville, Ontario

     pg.5 of 5     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter

Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us