August 4, 2017

Remaining Quotes by Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844) on the Free Offer and the Death of Christ

1) The Free Offer
5. Death puts a period to our probation. This world is not our home. The great errand on which we were sent into the world, is, that we may prepare for eternity. It is now the season of trial—the most important period of our being. Every act of ours will have some influence on us through interminable ages. To every soul God has assigned a great and important work. All things are now preparing for the day when God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing. The gates of heaven are now flung wide open to every sinner. Heaven with all its glories, is brought within his reach. At this critical moment, the world is presenting all its charms. The path to hell is broad, and easy, and of rapid descent. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, and all the fascinating pleasures of sin, are now exerting their united influence to try this immortal soul, whether it will yield and go to hell, or whether it will resist, deny itself, and take up every cross, despising the shame. Every hour, and every moment is big with consequences. The season of trial is short. It is to be enjoyed but once. Eternity comes hastening on. Every sinner is now on trial once for all. He is now invited by all the love and compassion of a bleeding Saviour, and urged by all the horrors of the second death, to enter the ark of safety. He is now called upon to strive—to agonize to enter the strait gate. But death closes the scene forever. At midnight the cry is made, “behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.” Then those that are ready enter heaven, and the door is shut. To the impenitent, death closes the door of heaven, and closes it forever. The voice of the Saviour, and the sound of the gospel will be heard no more. Ministers will preach no more. No more will they warn every man night and day with tears. No Sabbath will again dawn upon the sinner. The doors of the sanctuary will never again be opened to him, and a voice from the mercy-seat inviting him to enter, will be heard no more.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XIII: Death,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 178–179. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 2: The Contemplation of Death (Deuteronomy 32:29),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 13–14. There are some minor discrepancies between the 1995 version and the 1854 edition.
6. Is it because salvation is not freely offered. The invitation is, “Ho everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; buy wine and milk without money and without price.” “The Spirit and the bride say come; and let him that heareth, say come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” “Come for all things are now ready.” Salvation is now freely offered, and always has been; and you may rest assured, that it will never be offered more freely.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon VIII: Indecision in Religion,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 121. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 3: Indecision in Religion (I Kings 18:21),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 20. There is a discrepancy. In this edition, before the Isa. 55:1 quotation, it is introduced by the sentence, “Salvation is freely offered.” The last sentence in this version says, “And you are invited, entreated, nay, commanded to accept. This always has been the case; salvation always has been freely offered to you.”
The Spirit strives with men, not merely to show them their guilt and danger; but to show them their need of a Saviour, and to incline them to come to Christ. When they see their need of Christ, they are unwilling to come to him. “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Now the Spirit comes to draw reluctant hearts. If it were not for this awful reluctance of the sinner to come to Christ, this drawing would not be necessary.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XXXVI: God’s spirit will not always strive,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 360. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 52: God’s Spirit Will Not Always Strive (Genesis 6:3),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 440.
3. The sinner is invited to Christ for life. “I am come,” said Christ, “that they might have life.” “He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” Sinners are invited to Christ that they may receive life. And Christ says, “ye will not come unto me that ye might have life!” Now it is clear, that none but those who are under sentence of death, and are destitute of spiritual life, are invited to Christ for life. The offer of life, is proof positive that all to whom the offer is made, are lost. The gospel offer, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,” is made to those, and those only who are spiritually dead.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XXXVII: Salvation for the Lost,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 367. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 53: Salvation for the Lost (Luke 19:10),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 447.

2) The Atonement
Though salvation is freely offered to every sinner who hears the gospel, yet such is the depravity of the human heart, that not a single son or daughter of Adam will accept. Left to themselves, all will go to destruction, notwithstanding the atonement and the free offer of salvation. What then shall be done? Shall the Saviour’s death be in vain? Here the covenant of redemption comes in as the only ground of hope. It is through this covenant, that any one ever was, or ever will be saved.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon V: Perseverance of the Saints,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 73. This entire portion is strangely missing or omitted in the 1995 edition (see “Sermon 25: The Perseverance of the Saints [Philippians 1:6],” p. 193), which alleges to be “Taken from the original handwritten manuscripts of the Rev. Asahel Nettleton” (Title page). William C. Nichols, of International Outreach, Inc., says the “first 29 chapters [which this section is included in] have been taken word for word from Nettleton’s handwritten manuscripts.” Apparently the “Hartford Seminary [in Hartford, Connecticut] manuscripts...are fragile, faint, torn, and difficult to read and handle.” One wonders if perhaps this is the reason for this omission. It would be worth investigating the original. This discrepancy or deletion can’t be due to “illegible handwriting” since a “hole in the manuscript” since there is no footnote indicating such, as Nichols says would be the case (ibid., i.). In 1995, as indicated in Nichols’s preface, Mr. Tom Newman (director of the Hartford Seminary Library) and Mrs. Carolyn Sperl (head of Reference and Interlibrary Loans at the Seminary) assisted Nichols as the time.
But this is not all. Think of his love—his boundless compassion for sinners. Think of your vileness—the number and aggravation of your sins; and yet the Saviour has laid down his life for you. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son”—And what returns have you made for this unspeakable gift? You have been ashamed of him. Were you justly condemned to die by the laws of the state; and at the awful crisis, should some kind friend step forward and offer to die in your stead; and with his dying breath, request an affectionate remembrance; would not the bare mention of his name, bring tears into your eyes? But what has the Saviour done? Groaned and died under the weight of all your sins, to deliver you not from the momentary pangs of death; but from the fire that shall never be quenched. And what returns have you made? You have been ashamed of him. “Scarcely for a righteous man will one die.” “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” How ungrateful to be ashamed of Christ!
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 31: The Sin and Consequences of Being Ashamed of Christ (Luke 9:26), in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 269. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon III: The Sin and Consequences of Being Ashamed of Christ,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 47. Christ’s “love” and “boundless compassion for sinners” includes his “laying down his life” for all the lost Nettleton is addressing. He quotes John 3:16 to support that idea, and indiscriminately tells the lost in his audience that the Savior “groanded and died under the weight of all their sins” to deliver them from “the fire that shall not be quenched,” or for their eternal salvation, not merely temporal sufferings.
Bring this subject, my hearers, home to your hearts. How do you feel when you know that others are ashamed of you? Suppose one of your companions should be ashamed to own an acquaintance with you—should blush and hide his face at the bare mention of your name—should flee at your approach—and should bolt and bar his door lest he should be disgraced by your society. To be treated thus by your equal would be trying. To be treated thus by your best friend, would be heart rending. But this is nothing. Christ the friend of sinners, who groaned and died on the cross to save you, will be ashamed of you. O, to have Christ ashamed of you! Let all your friends—Let all the world be ashamed of you—Let them cast out your name as evil—Let them point and hoot at you as you pass along the streets; still it is nothing to the punishment that is coming upon you, if you are now ashamed of Christ. If Christ were your friend, this might be easily borne. It would be nothing. You might even esteem “the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of” this world. But to have Christ ashamed of you—who can bear it?
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon III: The Sin and Consequences of Being Ashamed of Christ,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 49. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 31: The Sin and Consequences of Being Ashamed of Christ (Luke 9:26), in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 271. There is a slight discrepancy in this version. Instead of “best friend,” it has “your equal.” In the context, clearly Nettleton is talking to unbelievers who are ashamed of Christ, and will have “punishment coming upon” them.
Let me appeal to the experience of impenitent sinners. Do you love to pray? Do you love to meditate and converse on the subject of religion? Why is it that all the motives which are presented to your minds, are insufficient to induce you to comply with the terms of the gospel? Why do you not repent? Do you say, you cannot? Then certainly you are totally depraved. If you had the least love to God, you could not help repenting. Think against who you have sinned. What a heart must that be that can feel no contrition for sin committed against such a glorious being? Think of the love of Christ in dying for your sins, and in offering you salvation without money and without price. Surely if this is not sufficient to melt your hearts, they must be harder than adamant.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 44: Total Depravity (Genesis 6:5),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 397–98. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XXVIII: Total Depravity,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 317–18. It is clear in the context that Nettleton is addressing the unregenerate, or those who may “venture on in sin in view of these threatenings.”
Hence we find that the Scriptures speak of God’s reconciling the world unto himself—not of his being reconciled to the world, or to their plans of salvation. But the fact that Christ has died, and that a way of salvation has been provided, does not settle the question whether the sinner will be saved. If he is displeased with the plan of salvation, and does not freely subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, instead of being saved, he will fall under an aggravated condemnation.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XX: Sinners Entreated to be Reconciled to God,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 252. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 39: Sinners Entreated to be Reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 359.
That God should give his Son to die for this rebellious world—that Christ should consent to assume our nature, and suffer in out stead—and that salvation should be freely offered to the children of men, in an exhibition of astonishing mercy. And that all with one consent, should begin to make excuse, and refuse to accept of offered mercy, is proof of astonishing depravity. We should naturally expect that God would do no more for such ungrateful creatures. But he has given us his Holy Spirit to strive with them. This may properly be styled God’s last effort with sinners.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 52: God’s Spirit Will Not Always Strive (Genesis 6:3),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 439. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XXXVI: God’s spirit will not always strive,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 359. It is clear in the context that Nettleton is addressing lost sinners, and telling them God gave his Son to die for them, or for “all” who “with one consent, should begin to make excuse, and refuse to accept of offered mercy,” due to their “astonishing depravity.”
Your sins have been committed against Christ who died for sinners—and is it hard that you should be required to feel sorrow for sins which have contributed to nail the Saviour to the cross? What a heart must that be which does not melt in view of a Saviour’s dying love?
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XXXV: The Nature and Reasonableness of Evangelical Repentance,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 356. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 51: The Nature and Reasonableness of Evangelical Repentance (Acts 17:30),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 436. Nettleton is obviously speaking to unbelievers in the context, and including all of them in the class of “sinners” for whom Christ died. That he says their “sins...contributed to nail the Saviour to the cross” bespeaks an unlimited imputation.
We learn from this subject why ministers preach the gospel. Although Christ has come and laid down his life for sinners, they all with one consent refuse to come to him for pardon and eternal life. The business of ministers is to show them their lost condition, and to urge them to come to Christ for life. This is the reason why Paul, and the other apostles preached the gospel to sinners;—and this is the reason why missionaries are sent into all parts of the world to proclaim the gospel.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 53: Salvation for the Lost (Luke 19:10),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 449. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XXXVIII: Salvation for the Lost,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 369. It is clear in the context that Nettleton is addressing all the lost when he says that the “sinners” for whom Christ came and “laid down his life” are those who “with one consent refuse to come to him for pardon and eternal life.”
II. Why is it [the inefficacy of the means in themselves to convert sinners] so?
Not because the atonement is not sufficient for all men.
Not because salvation is not offered to all
.
But it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, because
Sinners always will wrong, and always run wrong.
Asahel Nettleton, “Plans of Sermons, and Brief Observations on Texts of Scripture: Romans ix:16,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 375–76. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Plans of Sermons, and Brief Observations on Texts of Scripture: Romans 9:16,” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 455–56.
The house of heaven.
I. The door of heaven is opened.
By whom? Rev. iii:7, 8. “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth,” &c.
How?  By his sufferings and death.
For whom? “Who gave himself a ransom for all.” “Tasted death for every man.” “We thus judge if one died for all.”
II. The door will be shut.
When? At death—when the Spirit ceases to strive.
By whom? By Christ the master of the house.
How long will it be shut?
Forever. He that is holy—holy still. He that is filthy—filthy still.
When the door is shut some will be shut out, and some will be shut in.
If it should now be shut, where should we be found?
Asahel Nettleton, “Plans of Sermons, and Brief Observations on Texts of Scripture: Matthew xiii:25,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 389–90. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Plans of Sermons, and Brief Observations on Texts of Scripture: Matthew 13:25,” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 469–70. Nettleton appears to use 2 Cor. 5:14, 1 Tim. 2:6, and Heb. 2:9 in universal ways, as he includes all who will be eventually shut out within the scope of these texts. The door of heaven is currently opened for them by the death of Christ.

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Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844) on Total Depravity and Free Agency

This doctrine [of total depravity] does not imply that men are as bad as they can be. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.” And all the finally impenitent will wax worse and worse forever. The longer sinners suffer in hell, the more will they deserve to continue there.

This doctrine does not imply that men are not free moral agents. They possess all the faculties which are essential to moral agency—reason, judgment, memory, will, and affections. If they were not free moral agents, they could not be the subjects of moral depravity. To say, therefore, that total depravity is inconsistent with free agency is absurd. It if is, there can be no such thing as sin or blame in the Universe. For if total depravity annihilates free agency, then partial depravity destroys it in some degree. So far as an individual is depraved, so far as he is not free, and of course, not blame-worthy.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 44: Total Depravity (Genesis 6:5),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 394–95. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XXVIII: Total Depravity,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D. D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 314–15.

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August 3, 2017

Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844) on Revelation 3:20

Christ knocks “at the door of they heart, O sinner. Though invisible to mortal eyes, he is here, whether you regard it or not.

He knocks. But how?

By his word—by a preached gospel—by the admonitions of conscience—and by the strivings of his Spirit. Nor is this all.

He calls. “Unto you O men, I call, and my voice is unto the sons of men.” He calls by all the invitations of mercy contained in the Bible.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 41: Christ Standing at the Door (Revelation 3:20),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 377. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XXV: Christ Standing at the Door,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D. D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 297.
He does not knock at the door of his friends merely, but at the door of his enemies. He knocks at the door of the vilest of sinners. . . .

3. Behold the extent of his willingness to receive sinners. The sinner sometimes says, I am willing to receive Christ, but he is not willing to receive me. But what says the text? “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” Does not this imply his readiness and willingness to come in? Nor is this all—He calls, open unto me—open unto me. Nor is this all—He says, “if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in.” He positively declares that he is willing. Nor is this all—you may say, I am such a great sinner—I have rejected him so long, that he will not receive me now. But what says the Saviour? “If any man hear my voice”—vile as he may be, if he is on the side of hell—“if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.”

If you are not now a Christian, permit me to say that you have never heard his voice, nor opened the door, nor been willing to receive him. You have never complied with the invitation in the text. The Saviour is ready and willing, but you will not come to him that you might have life.

4. Behold your danger. The Saviour stands at your door. He does not sit. He stands ready to enter or ready to depart . . . He may say, as he once said to the Jews, “I go my way. Ye shall see me, and shall die in your sins.” How often “I would,” and “ye would not.”
Nettleton then quotes a hymn that includes these words:
O lovely attitude, he stands,
With melting heart and loaded hands,
O matchless kindness, and he shows
This matchless kindness to his foes.
Ibid., 380–382; Ibid., 300–302.

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August 2, 2017

Michael Lynch on John Davenant’s (1572–1641) Life and Impact

Dr. Michael Lynch discusses the context of John Davenant’s life and his impact at the Synod of Dort and contributions to our understanding of election and atonement.


Source: The Davenant Institute

Augustine (354–430) on His Immoderate Praise of Plato and His Later Views on Romans 7:14

I have been rightly displeased, too, with the praise with which I extolled Plato or the Platonists or the Academic philosophers beyond what was proper for such irreligious men, especially those against whose great errors Christian teaching must be defended.
Saint Augustine, The Retractations, trans. Sister Mary Inez Bogan (The Fathers of the Church Series, vol. 60, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1968), 10; Retr. 1.1.4.
(1) While I was still a priest, we were in Carthage at the same time happened to read the Epistle of the Apostle to the Romans and I, after I, to the best of my ability, replied to certain questions asked me by some of my brethren, they wanted my reply put into writing rather than merely spoken. When I yielded to them, another book was added to my previous works.

In this book I said: “However, what he says, ‘We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am carnal,’ (Rom. 7:14) adequately shows that the Law can be fulfilled only by spiritual men, the kind that the grace of God transforms” (cf. An Explanation of Certain Passages from the Epistle of the Apostle to the Romans 41; cf. Rom. 1:11), I certainly did not want this applied personally to the Apostle who was already spiritual, but to the man living “under the Law” but not yet “under grace” (Rom. 6:14). For prior to this time, in this way I understood these words which, at a later date, after I had read certain commentators on the Sacred Scriptures whose authority moved me (cf. Cyprian, De dominica oratione 16; Ambrose, De paenitentia 1.3), I reflected upon this more deeply and I saw that his own words can also be understood about the Apostle himself: “We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am carnal.” To the best of my ability, I have carefully showed this in those books which I recently wrote about the Pelagians (cf. On the Grace of Christ and Original Sin 43 [Retr. 2.76]; Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 1.17–25 [Retr. 2.87]; Against Julian 2.3, 6.23, 6.70 [Retr. 2.88];  An Unfinished Work Against Julian 1.99; Sermon 154. Cf. also To Simplician 1.1 [Retr. 1.23]; On the City of God 22.21 [Retr. 2.69]). In that book, then, and in the words, “but I am carnal,” and then in what follows up to the place where he said: “Unhappy man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24–25), I said that this describes the man still under the Law, not yet living under grace who wishes to do good, but, overcome by the lust of the flesh (1 John 2:16), does evil. Only the “grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:25) by the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) frees from the dominion of this lust, and the “charity . . . poured forth in our hearts” (Rom. 5:5) through Him conquers the lusts of the flesh lest we yield to them to do evil but rather that we  may do good. Hence, then, the Pelagian heresy is now overthrown (cf. On Heresies 88), which maintains that the charity whereby we live righteously we live righteously and devoutly is not [poured forth] from God in us, but from ourselves. But in those books which we have published against them, we have also showed that these words are more correctly understood also of the spiritual man already living under grace, because of the body of the flesh which is not yet spiritual, but will be at the resurrection of the dead; and because of the very lust of the flesh with which saintly persons are in conflict in such a way that, though they do not yield to it and do evil, yet in this life, they are not free from those movements which they resist by fighting against them (cf. Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 1.10; 1.17 [Retr. 2.87]; On the Perfection of the Justice of Man 11.28 [this work is not reviewed in the Retractations]; On the Grace of Christ and Original Sin 39; 43 [Retr. 2.76]). They will not have them, however, in that life where “death” will be swallowed up “in victory” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:54–55). Therefore, because of this lust and its movements which we resist in such a way that, nevertheless, they are in us, every saintly person already living “under grace” can say all those things which I have said are the words of the man not yet living “under grace,” but “under the Law.” It would take too long to explain this here and I have mentioned where I have explained it.
Saint Augustine, The Retractations, trans. Sister Mary Inez Bogan (The Fathers of the Church Series, vol. 60, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1968), 96–98; Retr. 1.22.1.
The first two books which I wrote as a bishop are addressed to Simplician, bishop of the Church in Milan who succeeded the most blessed Ambrose. They deal with various questions. I put into the first book the two on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. The first of these is on the passage: “What shall we say, then? Is the Law sin? By no means!” (Rom. 7:7) up to the place where he says: “Who will deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24–25). In this question, the words of the Apostle: “The Law is spiritual, but I am carnal” (Rom. 7:14), and other words where he shows that the flesh wars against the spirit, I have explained as though he were describing a man “under the law” and not yet living “under grace” (Rom. 6:14). Long afterwards, to be sure, I thought—and this is more probable—that these words could also refer to the spiritual man (cf. Retr. 1.22.1).
Saint Augustine, The Retractations, trans. Sister Mary Inez Bogan (The Fathers of the Church Series, vol. 60, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1968), 119; Retr. 2.27.

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Similarly, Longnecker said:
Thus Romans 7:7–25 is not specifically either Paul’s or mankind’s preconversion state or postconversion experience. Nor is it the cry of only “the man under the law” or “the Christian who slips back into a legalistic attitude to God.” It is Paul uttering mankind’s great cry of its own inability. It is Paul’s and humanity’s realization that in our history and experience we have become so bound up by sin that there can be deliverance and victory only through God. This is not the recognition of the legalist. Rather, it is the abiding realization of the sensitive and is felt most by those who are the closest to God.
Richard N. Longnecker, Paul Apostle of Liberty: The Origin and Nature of Paul’s Christianity (Twin Book Series; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977), 114.

July 31, 2017

William Brenton Greene (1854–1928) on God’s Goodness

(3) His goodness, in all its forms, is boundless. It includes (a) benevolence, which has for its objects all sensitive creatures (Ps. CXLV:9); (b) love, which has rational beings for its objects (John II:16); (c) mercy, which has for its objects the miserable (Isa. LXIII:9); (d) grace, which has for its objects the undeserving (Rom. V:8). When any suffer, it is at least because this is right; it cannot be because of lack of power or of mercy in God. When sinners are lost it is at least because His justice so requires; it cannot be because God lacks either the power (Heb. VII:25) or the wish to save them (I Tim. II:4). Hence, “God is love” (I John IV:8). Though He is much else, love is that in which He delights. Moreover, as the expression of His love ever harmonizes with His justice, so His justice is always exercised in love. God never feels so much compassion as when He punishes most severely (Ezek. XXXIII:11).
W. Brenton Greene, Jr., Christian Doctrine (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1905), 15–16. On pages 32 and 36 he repeats his view that God wishes to save all. Compare this with J. Gresham Machen’s interpretation of 1 Tim. 2:4 and Ezek. 33:11. Machen also says, “He [God] wishes that all men shall be saved.”


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PCA History

Upon Greene’s death in 1928, J. Gresham Machen wrote of him, “I loved Dr. Greene. He was absolutely true, when so many were not. He was always at Faculty and Presbytery, no matter how feeble he was. He was one of the best Christians I have ever known.”—Ned B. Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954) 439.

July 30, 2017

Arthur W. Kuschke’s (1913–2010) Response to the Minority Report on the Free Offer of the Gospel

To give the reader some context, there was a dispute in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church over the ordination of Gordon H. Clark in the 1940’s. It is sometimes called the Clark/Van Til controversy, but there were many more people involved. This dispute included 1) a legal question on the OPC meeting in which Clark was ordained, 2) the issue of divine incomprehensibility, 3) matters of the intellect, will and emotions, both in God and in man, 4) divine sovereignty and human responsibility, as well as 5) the free offer of the gospel. These are brought up both in the Complaint and in the Answer. It is the last topic that is the focus of this post. In Kuschke’s response below, he mentions both the committee report and the minority report. These are both contained in the original journal article, if one wishes to read them for further context.
THE FREE OFFER OF THE GOSPEL

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Salvation is to be received freely, and it is offered freely by Him who says, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:22).

There is no dispute among us [in the Orthodox Presbyterian Chuch] about the facts of election and reprobation. From the foundation of the world God has chosen some unto salvation in Christ. Others He has passed by and ordained to eternal wrath. But since these things are so, how is it that God freely offers salvation to all, both elect and reprobate, and with the offer reveals a desire that all should be saved? Here lies the question at issue in our church [the OPC]. Some say that in His universal offer God does reveal Himself as truly desiring the salvation of all, although for His own wise and holy reasons He does not decree to bestow salvation upon all. Others have been reluctant to use the word “desire”; they say God commands all men to come, but they question whether He in any way wills or desires that all should come.

The Committee Report

The committee report says plainly, “The full and free offer of the gospel is a grace bestowed upon all. Such grace is necessarily a manifestation  of love or loving kindness in the heart of God . . . The grace offered is nothing less than salvation in its richness and fullness. The love or loving kindness that lies back of that offer is . . . the will to that salvation.”

And does God in some sense will the salvation of those whose salvation He does not decree? This is the very truth revealed to us, for example, in Matthew 23:37, in our Lord’s lament over Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” The report says that we have here “the most emphatic declaration on the part of Christ of His having yearned for the conversion and salvation of the people of Jerusalem.” Moreover His will to bless them is sent in contrast with their will: “I have willed—ye have not willed.” The will of Christ is opposed to that which actually occurred, and He “therefore willed (or wished) the occurrence of that which God had not secretly or decretively willed.”

Ezekiel 33:11, according to the report of the committee, does not reflect upon the hidden will of God’s decree, but upon His will as made known to us in the gospel: “As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no delight (or pleasure) in the death of the wicked, but rather in his turning from his way and that he live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, and why will ye die, O house of Israel?” It is an oath-supported declaration of God’s will toward sinners, that He takes pleasure in or desires their universal repentance and life. The Committee report decides after a full discussion, that the same expression of God’s benevolence and lovingkindness toward mankind as a whole, both elect and reprobate, is also taught in II Peter 3:9—“The Lord . . . is longsuffering on your account, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

The Minority Report

The minority report, though brief, takes up many points, and it does not seem needful to consider them all here. But two of the positions adopted call for serious attention: the view that “God has not a will that can be frustrated as well as one that cannot be,” and the view that, “the gospel offer . . . is conditional or hypothetical.”

The first assertion appears to do violence to the fact that there is a will in God which is grievously rejected by sinners. This is His revealed or preceptive will. And surely it is with this rather than His secret or decretive will that we are dealing in the doctrine of God’s universal offer of the gospel. The surprising failure to take note of this fact apparently accounts for a number of errors in the minority report. It condemns the idea that God has what it calls “frustrable desires,” as though God’s desires to save all were decretive. Samuel Rutherford’s admirable polemic, against the Arminian notion that it is God’s “intention or decree” to save all, is quoted; but such “intention” respects God’s decretive will, not His revealed will. That God desires the salvation of the reprobate is said to be “not . . . precedented by the language of Reformed theologians”; but Rutherford and Turretin, to mention only two, use this language when dealing with God’s preceptive or revealed will. The Complaint is alleged to say that “there is a logical conflict between the gospel and reprobation,” and to “assert or suggest that the Lord’s will is irrational” to us, but the Complaint does not take these positions and again, a failure in the minority report to discern between God’s decretive will and His revealed seems to account for such a misunderstanding. And yet the committee report makes the distinction plain in numerous places. In the exegesis of Isaiah 45:22, for example, the committee report says that it is surely God’s “pleasure that all repent and be saved. Obviously, however, it is not his decretive will that all repent and be saved. While, on the other hand, he has not decretively willed that all be saved, yet he declares unequivocally that it is his will, and, impliedly, his pleasure that all turn and be saved. We are again faced with the mystery and adorable richness of the divine will. It might seem to us that the one rules out the other. But it is not so. There is multiformity to the divine will that is consonant with the fullness and richness of his divine character, and it is no wonder that we are constrained to bow in humble yet exultant amazement before his ineffable greatness and unsearchable judgments. To deny the reality of the divine pleasure directed to the repentance and salvation of all is to fail to accept the witness borne by such a text as this to the manifoldness of God’s will and the riches of his grace.”

Is God’s Free Offer Conditional?

At the beginning of the minority report it is asserted that “God desires the salvation of sinners.” but later this expression is interpreted to mean that “God desires that if any sinner repent he be saved . . . The gospel offer, in other words, is conditional or hypothetical and as such it is universal.”

Here a serious confusion is obvious. To be sure there is a conditional element in the external call of the gospel: the promise of salvation is granted only on condition that the sinner repent and believe. God says, If you repent, I promise salvation. The promise on God’s part, and the enjoyment of salvation on the sinner’s part, do not hold good and do not go into effect without the conditions of repentance and faith. But is God’s command conditional? No, it holds good as a command regardless of the sinner’s obedience. The same is true with God’s offer; it is unilateral, its validity to sinful man does not depend upon reciprocal action on man’s part. God does not say, If you are in the position of accepting it, then I am in the position of offering you salvation. He says, I offer you this salvation: accept it. He says, Come to the waters, Take of the waters, look unto me and be saved.

The topic in view moreover is not just the offer, but the free offer, and the minority report in its title and at other places uses the word “the free offer.” To describe God’s offer as “free” is to follow the language of the Westminster Standards: “God freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ” (Confession, VII, 3) and “he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him” (Larger Catechism, Q. 32). The meaning of the word “free” as ascribed to God is given in Confession II, I, where in a list of God’s perfections He is said to be “most free,” and the Scripture proof is Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens, He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.” God is independent of man. His gospel offer, as “free,” does not depend upon man and is not conditioned upon man’s acceptance. It is unilateral and unconditional. He makes the offer to all men in their sins before they think of accepting it. To describe His free offer as conditional or hypothetical, as does the minority report, is a contradiction in terms.

It is also a grave impoverishment of the gospel proclamation. The very fact that the divine offer is free and unconditional reveals that salvation must be entirely by God’s power and by God’s initiative. His free offer does not bestow salvation and does not promise efficacious grace. But it is a valid universal offer. And as free that offer is itself a lovingkindness upon all; and it opens our eyes to God’s desire, so plainly declared in His word, that all should be saved.

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July 29, 2017

David Mark Rathel’s Critique of Tom Nettles on John Gill (1697–1771)

Baptist historian Thomas Nettles remains an influential exponent of the idea that Gill did not deny duty faith, and his work has influenced other Gill researchers.35 One can center Nettles’ research on Gill around two key publications. In By His Grace and For His Glory, a work that features his first significant published work on Gill, Nettles rightly acknowledges that Gill did not believe in the free offer of the Gospel.36 However, he claims that Gill ‘affirmed that it was the duty of all men to repent of sin and the duty of all who heard the Gospel to believe it.’37 He contends that this fact frees Gill from the charge of hyper-Calvinism.

In claiming that Gill did not deny duty faith, Nettles unfortunately does not sufficiently explore Gill’s soteriology. Though he surveys some aspects of Gill’s thought – Gill’s ordering of the divine decrees, his understanding of sanctification, and his pastoral ministry practices – he fails to probe Gill’s desire to frame salvation as an eternal act of God that requires minimal human participation. Most notably, he does not address the doctrine of eternal justification in a significant manner even though it was a key component of Gill’s theological project.

This neglect causes Nettles to misrepresent Gill on the matter of duty faith. For example, Nettles cites a passage from Gill’s Cause of God and Truth that he admits prima facie appears to deny duty faith. Gill wrote, ‘God does not require all men to believe in Christ; where he does it is according to the revelation he makes of them.’38 Nettles tries to soften the implications of this statement by arguing that Gill intended only ‘to highlight man’s responsibility for that which is available to him.’39 Per Nettles, Gill wrote merely about those who have no access to the Gospel. He argued that such people are responsible only for what they receive through general revelation.

Though Gill indeed addressed this topic in this passage, Nettles leaves unaddressed the next sentence in Gill’s work. There Gill wrote, ‘Those who only have the outward ministry of the word, unattended with the special illuminations of the Spirit of God, are obliged to believe no further than the external revelation they enjoy, reaches.’40 Put simply, Gill indeed stated that people only have a responsibility for the revelation that they receive; those who receive no access to the Gospel are accountable only for the general revelation that they have, but those who receive only the external call are obligated only to perform legal repentance and not trust in Christ for salvation. Gill makes this point even more explicit in the subsequent sentences in which he contrasts the mere legal obligations attending the external call with the salvific obligations attending the internal call. Nettles’ argument, then, takes Gill out of context. It does so because Nettles has not sufficiently explored Gill’s work on the external and internal callings as well as the soteriological convictions that undergird them.

In a subsequent publication, Nettles attempts to associate Gill with those who participated in the Evangelical Revival. A lack of adequate attention to Gill’s soteriology also appears here, however, when Nettles implies several times that Gill held to the traditional understanding of justification by faith rather than the more eccentric position of eternal justification. This fact is troubling given Gill’s repeated protestations against justification by faith.41

Most interesting is the fact that in this publication Nettles nuances his earlier defense of Gill. He admits, ‘There is a central point, however, in which he [Gill] appears to hold the Hyper-Calvinist view [regarding duty faith].’ He offers as evidence a quote from Gill’s sermon entitled Faith in God and His Word in which Gill claimed, ‘Man never had in his power to have or to exercise [faith in Christ], no, not even in the state of innocence.’ Nettles then admits, ‘Theoretically, Gill held that the non-elect were not obligated to evangelical obedience, because the necessity of such obedience did not exist in unfallen humanity as deposited in Adam.’42

Surprisingly, despite this admission, Nettles remains cautious about labeling Gill a hyper-Calvinist, and he does not retract his earlier claim that Gill affirmed duty faith. He even continues to praise Gill, arguing that Gill’s works exhibit ‘the central concerns and zeal of the Great Awakening.’43

Nettles does so because he claims that Gill was only theoretically a hyper-Calvinist. He argues that in Gill’s scheme ‘while many [people] exhibit…only a legal repentance and a historical faith, and the non-elect may not be theoretically obligated to the “faith of God’s elect,” ministers of the Gospel preach repentance and faith in a Gospel way.’44 Nettles’ argument reduces to the contention that, even though Gill denied all people have an obligation to respond to the Gospel, at the practical level he still preached the Gospel, and this fact means that his hyper-Calvinism was merely hypothetical.

I have the utmost respect for Nettles and his contribution to Baptist scholarship, but I find this argument is unpersuasive. As noted, Gill’s commentaries and sermons reveal that his soteriological convictions often caused him to interpret Scripture in such a way that he minimized universal calls to respond to the Gospel. Such an act displays that he held his principles at more than just a theoretical level; they regularly affected his preaching and exposition of Scripture.

The differences between Gill’s ministry and that of the evangelists of the Evangelical Revival, those to whom Nettles wishes to compare Gill, are therefore stark. Gill constructed a ministry philosophy that emphasized encouraging only sensible sinners to respond to the Gospel and often eschewed giving Gospel exhortations to all people. The evangelists of the Evangelical Revival did not.

With Nettles, then, readers find a contradictory portrayal of Gill. In one work, Nettles claims Gill did not deny that all people have an obligation to respond [to] the Gospel. In another, without retracting this claim, he admits that Gill likely held to the hyper-Calvinist tenet of denying duty faith but deems this point irrelevant because he does not believe it affected Gill’s ministry. Both claims are incorrect, and Nettles could have avoided these errors by more completely examining how deeply Gill’s soteriology shaped his thought and practice.
_______________
35. Nettles’ research has influenced two other defenses on Gill. These two works, coupled with those works already mentioned in this paper, constitute the entirety of contemporary defenses of Gill. See Jonathan Anthony White, ‘A Theological and Historical Examination of John Gill’s Soteriology in Relation to Eighteenth-Century Hyper-Calvinism’ (PhD diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010). White surveys Gill’s soteriology but relies on the work of Nettles, his supervising professor, when interpreting Gill. As I demonstrate here, Nettles does not interpret Gill correctly, and this fact hinders White’s argument. In addition, Timothy George offers a very cautious defense of Gill. He rejects Gill’s soteriology – especially eternal justification – but relies heavily on Nettles when assessing Gill’s ministry practice. The incorporation of the Nettles material, material that does not examine Gill in light of his soteriology, gives George’s argument an unbalanced feel. Readers are warned of the dangers of Gill’s soteriology but do not see how that soteriology shaped Gill’s understanding of Gospel offers or duty faith. This is an unfortunate occurrence in an otherwise excellent essay. See George, ‘John Gill,’ pp. 26–9.
36. Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life, rev. ed. (Cape Coral: Founders, 2006), pp. 27–8, 47–8.
37. Ibid., p. 42.
38. Ibid. This quotation originally appears in The Cause of God and Truth, p. 307.
39. Nettles, By His Grace, pp. 42–3.
40. Surprisingly, Nettles quotes this sentence but does not address it. See Ibid., pp. 42–4.
41. See Tom J. Nettles, ‘John Gill and the Evangelical Awakening,’ in The Life and Thought of John Gill (1697–1771): A Tercentennial Appreciation, ed. by Michael A. G. Haykin (New York: Brill, 1997), pp. 136–7. Here Nettles praises Gill for defending the doctrine of justification by faith, but the form of justification Gill emphasized in the work which Nettles cites is eternal justification. See Collection of Sermons and Tracts, vol. I, pp. 200–16. Furthermore, when comparing Gill to John Wesley, Nettles associates Gill’s understanding of justification with that of George Whitefield. See Nettles, ‘John Gill and the Evangelical Awakening,’ 137n, 163. While Whitefield, like Gill, would have rejected some of Wesley’s convictions, Nettles makes no mention of the unconventional aspects of Gill’s theology of justification. Whitefield would have brokered no agreement with those. E.g. Gilbert Tennent, an occasional critic of Whitefield, once correctly noted Whitefield’s rejection of eternal justification. Thomas S. Kidd, George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Founder (New Haven: Yale, 2014), pp. 196–7.
42. Nettles, ‘John Gill and the Evangelical Awaking,’ p. 153. Italics added. Proponents of the no-offer position – men such as John Brine – denied that prelapsarian Adam had an ability to believe the Gospel. Gill’s position on this matter is rather complex, though there is no doubt that he did at times affirm Adamic inability. C.f. Cause of God and Truth, 307; Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, ed. by Joseph Belcher. (Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), vol. II, p. 421.
43. Nettles, ‘John Gill and the Evangelical Awaking,’ p. 170.
44. Ibid., p. 154.

Bio:
David Mark Rathel is presently a PhD candidate in systematic theology at the University of St Andrews under the supervision of the Rev. Dr. Stephen R. Holmes. He is the author of Baptists and the Emerging Church Movement: A Baptistic Assessment of Four Themes of Emerging Church Ecclesiology (Wipf & Stock, 2014).

July 19, 2017

Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) on God’s Will of Precept and Permissive Decree

Use 3. To conclude, a word to the Wicked, who march furiously against God and his People, let them know God’s Decree is Unchangeable, God will not alter it, nor can they break it, and while they resist God’s Will they fulfill it. There’s a twofold Will of God, Voluntas praecepti & decreti; The Will of God’s Precept, and of his Decree. While the Wicked resist the Will of God’s Precept, they fulfill the Will of his Permissive Decree. Judas betrays Christ, Pilate condemns him, the Soldiers crucify him; while they resisted the Will of God’s Precept, they fulfilled the Will of his Permissive Decree, Acts 4.28. Such as are wicked, God commands one thing, they do the quite contrary; to keep Sabbath, they profane it; while they disobey his Command they fulfill his Permissive Decree. If a Man set up two Nets, one of Silk, the other of Iron, the Silken Net may be broken, not the Iron: God’s Commands are the Silken Net; while Men break the Silken Net of God’s Command, they are taken in the Iron Net of his Decree; while they sit backward to God’s Precepts, they row forward to his Decree; his Decree to permit their Sin, and to punish them for their Sin permitted.
Thomas Watson, A Body of Practical Divinity Consisting of Above One Hundred Seventy Six Sermons on the Lesser Catechism Composed by the Reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminster (London: Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, 1692), 39. See also Augustine on God’s will not defeated.

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Thomas Taylor (1576–1633) on God’s Offers of Peace and Christ’s Loving Invitation

3. In all thy care to believe and be saved, mark well what abundance of encouragements thou hast to come unto Christ: that the Father gave him, and he gave himself for the life of the World; and what is freer than gift? That our preaching of the word is the ministry of reconciliation, and God by us offers you conditions of peace. That Christ himself gave a most loving invitation to laboring Sinners to come unto him, with promise of ease for their Souls: and we are sent in his name to invite you to him in like manner. That ye have not only a word of promise, which were enough, especially seeing the promises of God in Christ are free, universal, everlasting, but bound with an Oath, I will not the death of a Sinner; and, Christ by an Oath was made our Priest in things pertaining to God: so to give a doubting Soul the stronger consolation, when they fly to him for refuge.
Thomas Taylor, “Commentarius in Commentariensem: Or, the Jaylors Conversion,” in The Works of that Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ (London: Printed by T. R., & E. M. for John Bartlet theelder and John Bartlet the younger, and are to be sold at the Golden Cup near Austins gate in the new Buildings, 1653), 187–188. This work contains a forward by Edmund Calamy, as well as endorsements by William Gouge, Arthur Jackson, Simeon Ash, Joseph Caryl, Thomas Manton, William Greenhill, William Strong, George Griffith, Thomas Brooks, Ralph Venning, and William Jemmat.

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