June 1, 2018

Humphrey Chambers (c.1599–1662) on the General and Special Love of God

Most certain it is from the word of the Gospel (which is the truest and clearest light that ever shone in the Church of the faithful) that Christ doth not love all Mankind alike, but he loves some and not others.

There is indeed a general and common love of Christ, wherein he comprehends all Mankind alike, which he manifests to them in making (as he himself saith, Matt. 5:24) his sun to rise on the evil, and on the good; and sending his rain on the just, and on the unjust; and as Paul saith, Acts 14:17. He doth good to all Nations, though they walk in their own ways; giving them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their bodies with food, and their hearts with gladness; and supplying them with the common things of this life, suitable to their Humanity.

But he hath a special love to his Elect, to the Church which is his Body; these he loves as his own flesh; yea, as partakers of the same Divine Nature with himself; and according to this love he communicateth to these, of all that very fullness of God which he hath received from his Father.

Now with this special love, he loves not all Mankind alike, but only some, passing by the rest.
Humfry Chambers, Animadversions on Mr. William Dells Book Intituled The Crucified and Quickned Christian (London: Printed by R. N. for Sa. Gellibrand, at the Ball in Pauls Church-yard, 1653), 76–77.

This work has an imprimatur by John Owen.
Humfry Chambers was pastor of Claverton Parish, Somerset, and a member of the Assembly of Divines.

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April 27, 2018

Matthew Henry (1662–1714) on Luke 7:30

The Pharisees, who were most in reputation for religion and devotion, and the lawyers, who were celebrated for their learning, especially their knowledge of the scriptures, rejected the counsel of God against themselves; they frustrated it, they received the grace of God, by the baptism of John, in vain. God in sending that messenger among them had a kind purpose of good to them, designed their salvation by it, and, if they had closed with the counsel of God, it had been for themselves, they had been made for ever; but they rejected it, would not comply with it, and it was against themselves, it was to their own ruin; they came short of the benefit intended them, and not only so, but forfeited the grace of God, put a bar in their own door, and, by refusing that discipline which was to fit them for the kingdom of the Messiah, shut themselves out of it, and they not only excluded themselves, but hindered others, and stood in their way.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), 1846.

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February 25, 2018

Thomas Wilson (1563–1622) on General and Special Love

Tim. What could God see in us then to move him to love us?

Sil. First, he saw in us his own creation, which he loved with a general love, as he doth all the works of his hands. Secondly, he saw in us much misery through sin, and this made him love us with a pitiful love. Thirdly, he loved his elect being yet sinners, in that he purposed in himself to call and justify them in due time. And now lastly, having grafted his elect in his Son by faith, and justified them, he loveth them actually, having set his own image in them.

Tim. You hold then that there are several degrees of God’s love, even towards his elect?

Sil. There be so, for he cannot love his elect with that degree and kind of love when they are sinners, as he doth after they are in his Son justified and sanctified: for now sin which bred hatred and enmity, is defaced and cast out by remission; and holiness which God loveth, imprinted in them, and brought in by renovation.
Thomas Wilson, A Commentary on the Most Divine Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (London: Printed by E. Cotes in Aldersgate-street, 1653), 144.

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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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Nettles

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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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.