“The advocates for their own free will in opposition to sovereign grace have determined that the doctrine of fixed decrees in the divine mind concerning the future state of men is inconsistent with the liberty of their own wills and with the proper influence of precepts and promises, rewards and punishments. And, having quoted a number of precepts with considerations to enforce them (of which the Bible is full) they boast that they have gained their argument when in truth they have never touched the point in debate. We know and as firmly hold as any free willer on earth that all men are under moral government where precepts and promises, exhortations, warnings, etc. have their proper place and ought to influence us in all our conduct. And I believe from the bottom of my heart that God never did nor ever will punish any but the guilty, and that he will finally reward every man according to his works. But in the present controversy the true state of the question is this, viz., Whether the whole plan of God’s government and the final issue of every action through the universe has not been known and fixed in his counsels from the beginning so that nothing can be put to it nor anything taken from it? Eccl. iii, 14.
Or whether many events are not held in suspense and uncertainty in his infinite mind till they are decided by the free will power of men? We hold the first, they the last side of this question. But instead of attending to the true state of the controversy and instead of referring the decision of it to the divine oracles, tradition and corruption has carried them into the way which this writer pursues of representing our doctrine to be that God decrees some men to misery in the same manner that he does others to happiness. Yea, this slanderer, in imitation of those who have gone before him, sets reprobation foremost and would have people believe that we hold God’s first design to be the damnation of multitudes and then secondly the irresistible salvation of a number! Hoping no doubt by these horrid colorings to guard people sufficiently against all the Gospel weapons which are appointed to pull down the strongholds that are raised against the knomledge of God and to cast down the imaginations which keep men’s thoughts too high to yield their all to a meek and lowly Jesus, 2 Cor. x, 4, 5. Many in latter ages have carried their imaginations so high on this subject as,
To assume a dignity to themselves that they will not allow to the eternal God, for they claim a self-determining power in their own wills while they deny it to the Most High and insist upon it that his choice of some men to salvation rather than others is from either a foresight or aftersight of good dispositions and good doings in them more than others, so making that to be the cause of his choice which he declares is the effect of it and representing that God is influenced in his work by motives without himself at the same time that they hold to a power to determine all their own actions within themselves. Can any imagination ever be entertained more absurd or more contrary to Holy Writ than these are! See Matt. xi, 25-28; Rom. viii, 29, 30; Eph. i, 4, 5; 1 Pet. i, 2; 1 John iv, 19.” Isaac Backus, The Sovereign Decrees of God