Book Review: God Sovereign and Man Free, by Nathan Lewis Rice
Reviewed by Nathan Pitchford
Synopsis: Written in the mid-nineteenth century and recently made available again as a facsimile reprint, God Sovereign and Man Free sets forth an irrefutable defense of the scriptural doctrines of divine foreordination and election. Its balance of positive scriptural proofs, rebuttals of philosophical Arminian objections, and practical applications make it useful for any believer who is seeking to understand the biblical teaching on divine sovereignty and human responsibility, regardless of his primary motivation.
From the beginning, Nathan Rice is working from the foundational assumption that the doctrine of God's sovereignty is a necessary and important truth, given the vast assortment of biblical passages dealing with the topic; and it is also full of much practical benefit to the believer, as a truth which reveals much of God's essential glory and grace. Furthermore, it is a doctrine which most naturally follows a sincere and unbiased reading of the text of scriptures, and does not require, as all contrary systems, the importation of a preconceived human philosophy. In support of these assertions, he brings to the table the following lines of evidence:
1. An examination of the fruits that this doctrine has had throughout Church history.
It is notable that, among those believers who have adhered to the doctrines of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, no fundamental heresy has arisen; as many have among those who, although at the first evangelical, have imported the philosophies of Arminianism into their exegeses of scriptures. Furthermore, any cursory examination of history will flesh out in many thousand ways the genuine holiness and unremitting gospel-loyalty in the face of all manner of opposition that have characterized those most devoted to the precious truths of God's sovereignty and foreordination. If the tree is evil, the fruits cannot but be evil; but where the fruits are good, the tree must likewise be good.
2. An appeal to overwhelming biblical evidence
The foregoing line of evidence, while encouraging and stimulating reading, is at best probable, and not absolutely certain. But when Mr. Rice begins to examine scriptures, the candor and humility with which he examines the biblical text, and the certainty of the conclusions that he draws from them, without any philosophical appeals, is sufficient to set the matter beyond any reasonable doubt. Throughout these chapters it becomes apparent that, to object to these truths, one must not argue with Nathan Rice, but with the scriptures themselves.
3. An examination of Arminian objections
Following the irrefutable positive case for the biblical teaching, Mr. Rice examines the most reasonable philosophical objections of the Arminians, and convincingly demonstrates that they are neither reasonable nor scriptural, but instead derive from an errant human definition of such concepts as justice and mercy. When one allows God, in his word, to define justice and mercy, the objections dissolve away of their own accord.
After thus demonstrating the scriptural necessity of foreordination, Nathan Rice goes on, as from general to particular, to prove from the scriptures the doctrine of the eternal election of certain persons to salvation. Then, having established these truths beyond all cavil, he tenderly and skillfully applies them to the Christian's heart, showing just how practical and soul-stirring they really are, when properly understood. While demonstrating much gracious patience with our dear Arminian brothers, he nevertheless remains firm enough to demonstrate to them the better part of love, and thus he offers to them (and all of us) the deeply-satisfying portrait of the sovereign and merciful God of the bible.