Where did that come from?
In 1545 AD to 1563 AD the Council of Trent the Church set itself against the attempts of many to bring reform to the errors which had been induced into its doctrine. In Chapter 5 the Church affirms doctrine in opposition to doctrine already established in the Council of Orange in 529 AD. It states as follows:
On the necessity, in adults, of preparation for Justification, and whence it proceeds.
(The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.)
Whereas in 529 AD, the Church understood Justification was by faith alone, unaided by man's actions, for he was dead in his sins. God in His mercy, so acted upon man as to turn his will toward God and bring him to faith in Christ. You may remember our discussing the Sovereign Grace of God against the nature of man to control his own destiny.
Here in Trent, the Church affirms the sovereign will of man against the Sovereign Grace of God. This understanding pervades most Churches to this day. They affirm that Christ die for people he cannot save, because their will supersedes His work of Grace. They are not saved of His Grace alone, but only aided by it. His work of Grace must have our free co-operating work of faith added to it, for his Grace alone is not sufficient to bring us to faith. The Scripture says, (Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:). But Trent states through this assisting grace, man converts himself to his own justification. He does this by an act of his will, choosing to believe. This act of his faith, when added to Grace brings regeneration. But Orange in 529 AD affirms that this faith is a gift of God and not of ourselves. Therefore, our Salvation is wholly and completely the work of God. The concept of Grace alone is foreign to most Churches today, it is the doctrine introduced at Trent that prevails. Yet, this article of faith affirmed at Trent is not sound Christian doctrine.
Now prevenient grace. Christ died for all, but only those who cooperate with this grace will be saved. This leaves a multitude of people for whom the price has been paid, but because they do not cooperate with it, don't fully understand it, or at lest enough to be persuaded, or are just not ready at a particular time, must all perish. Worse than that, there will be multitudes that would have been saved, but something happened to them and they died before hearing the Gospel. They would have believed, but God must still cast them in Hell, for this Grace must be aided with man's personal faith.
Even worse than that, there will be whole nations that will perish, because they do not have the Gospel preached to them. Thousands would believe, God knows they would believe, but he must still cast them to hell because they could not aid this prevenient grace. So not only does their Salvation depend upon themselves, but on us for not getting it to them. So God must also cast them to Hell because of our actions, for they would have believed had the Gospel been preached.
It still gets worse, for all eternity, there will be people in Hell who would have been in heaven glorifying God, but they did not hear for some reason or another. God must condemn them. God will exist for all eternity having not accomplished the full measure of his work. God Himself will for ever be under the mark of perfection in Salvation. He died for all, He could not save all.
People tell me the doctrine of Sovereign Grace is harsh and cold. I say the doctrine of prevenient grace is insufficient for both God and man. I say it presents the most horrid acts of judgment to be imagined. It leaves God insufficient in His means and His provisions. It leaves Him an insufficient God. God forbid. For me, the doctrine of Election is a most comforting doctrine. I fall upon an all sufficient Sovereign God. With all my sin and weaknesses, He is my stay and hope of Salvation. My heart longs to love and serve Him, and that is not of myself, it is a gift of God. Praise His Name!
May the Grace of God be with you all,