April 14, 2016

Joseph Hacon (1603–1662) on the Extent and Intent of Christ’s Death

Since Joseph Hacon appears to be very similar in his position to James Ussher, John Davenant, Richard Baxter, and Edward Polhill, particularly in his idea of an ordained sufficiency for all and other things he says, I thought I would post his comments on the dispute. He wrote:
Qu. 93. For whom was his Death a satisfactory ransom?
A. For all.
Qu. 94. How doth that appear?
A. The Scriptures plainly affirm it so, telling us, that he died and gave himself a ransom for all, tasted Death for every one.

The controversy is not, Whether Christ did die for all, or no: but how, and in what sense, it is so said. There be many places of holy Scripture, and many arguments, not easily solved; because, as I think, insoluble; which are brought to prove, that Jesus Christ did suffer death for all men: But when it is also said, that he died for his sheep; and for his Church; and that for whom God delivered up his son, to them he giveth all things; and when his Death, Resurrection, and Intercession, do as in a chain, one draw the other, Rom. 8. And when it is certain, that God doth not give all things to all men, as namely, not Faith and Repentance; we are of necessity put upon it to distinguish: which we do so as to satisfy our selves; yet finding withal, that Contention is fed with a fire that is unquenchable.

We believe, as our Church [of England] hath made profession, and taught us, that the Son of God did offer a full, perfect, and sufficient oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and that he died for every man. And although notice of this be not given to every man, or all the world; yet may it be given, and truly declared to them.

Such love did God bear to Human nature, or all mankind, more than to the lapsed Angels; that there was, and is a possibility for every man whatsoever to be saved, though he do not perform the Law, or Covenant of works. God’s justice is so far satisfied, that way is made for mercy, pardon, and favour. Nevertheless, for the actual participation of benefit by Christ’s Death, and application to each particular person, there is more to be done, than what is done by Christ for all the world. The fruit of his passion, as to life eternal, is derived only to his body mystical, to such as are more nearly united to him, than by the common Relation, or kin, or claim of human nature, which he took upon him, and for which he suffered. And although by his blood he obtained, as well Universal, as eternal Redemption; yet by Faith in his blood are we justified. And he who is said to be the Saviour of all men, is said also to be the Saviour of his Body; that is, of such as partake of his Spirit, and are subject to him, and joined to him, as the parts of the Body are to the Head: So all men are not.

In this Nation at some especial times, comes forth a General Pardon: in which case though we set aside the Exceptions, or the excepted; Those persons to whom it is really and truly intended, must sue out their pardon: otherwise, they may be supposed not to accept of it. And if then, any shall urge the Term, and Title of the General Pardon, and insist, without end upon this, That a pardon it is, and such a pardon as is general to all the people, without taking notice of any thing else further to be done; he that hath but small skill, can easily see, how weak such kind of reasoning is.

Now whereas Faith is God’s gift, and he bestoweth his Spirit where he will, and man cannot believe of himself, nor perform the condition required; here beginneth the first overture of that secret difference that is betwixt man and man: and here first openeth it self, the great mystery of Election, in that the Ransom, or Satisfaction which God hath accepted, as general, and sufficient for all men, that whosoever believeth should not perish; doth not actually, and efficaciously, profit all men to life eternal, because to all men it is not given, to believe and perform the condition.

Whereas others think best to distinguish here, the universal particle All; all, both Jews and Gentiles: or all, that is, the several kinds, or estates of men: or all, that is, all the Elect. I do now distinguish the Intentional particle, For: which denoteth the end, or intention; and sometimes moreover the effect of the Intention.

The death of Christ was for all, but not for all alike, or in the same manner, or with the like issue & event. He gave himself, and suffered sufficiently, with a general Intention for all; but efficaciously, with a special Intention, for some only.

When we say sufficiently, we do not mean a mere or bare sufficiency, as if there were only price and worth enough in Christ’s blood, to redeem all. As a rich man may have money enough in his chest, to relieve all the poor in the Town: But we mean a sufficiency with promise and proffer of benefit for all, yet not without a condition to be performed: As when a rich man doth give such a sum of money, to be by dole distributed to all the poor of that Town where he liveth: provided that they orderly attend at such a time and place to receive it. The Gift is intended for them all. But some it may be, had no notice of it: and perhaps some others have no mind to take it. Yet were the alms intended for them all, and to each of them who did absent themselves, it may be truly said, Had you waited as was appointed, you had received your dole. But so it cannot truly be said to such poor, as live in distant places, because it was not intended, nor provided for them.

There is no possibility for Satan and his angels to be saved by the death of Christ, not only because their nature was not assumed, but because Christ’s death in the purpose of God, was not ordained for them, as it was for mankind. This Proposition therefore [If Satan believe, he shall be saved] is not true, because Christ died not for him. But this Proposition [If Judas Iscariot believe, he shall be saved], was true, because Christ died for him.

A favourite may procure a place at Court, for his friend in the Country; who nevertheless doth choose to live retiredly, and in the shadow, rather then in the view and glory of the world: the preferment in the mean time being ready for him, intended for him, and proffered him.

And that in this sense, our Blessed Saviour did suffer death for all men: as our Church [in the Thirty-Nine Articles] hath framed the Answer; Jesus Christ redeemed me and all mankind, may be proved out of those words, 1 John 3:23. This is his Commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son. There is not only a Command or Commission to the Apostles, to preach the Gospel to every Creature: But a Command also to every one that hears it, to believe it. Now, first, God doth not command any thing to be believed that is not true: and whosoever believeth in the Son of God, must believe, this at the least, that he died for him; therefore God commandeth every man that heareth the Gospel, to believe that the Son of God died for him. Now whatsoever I believe, is not therefore true because I believe it; but it must be true before it be believed: so for all those that are commanded to believe, did Christ suffer Death, and offer Sacrifice.

And if any man shall hold on the contrary, that Faith doth not consist in believing this or that proposition, as, Jesus Christ gave himself for me; but in laying hold on, and apprehending and receiving Christ a Saviour, and that this is the right object of that kind of Faith, which is given in command to every one that heareth the Gospel; Then I argue, secondly thus: God doth not command any thing that is impossible. I mean not, that is impossible to such a person as now he is, and at such a time; but that is impossible in it self to be done. But now it is a thing not possible or any way feasible, for me to lay hold on Christ a Saviour, unless he be ordained and appointed a Saviour for me: and this cannot be, but by God’s appointment and institution, setting him forth to be a common Sacrifice and propitiation: thus it is in life spiritual, even as in corporal life, and the course of nature, it is impossible to be fed and nourished by a stone, because it never was ordained of God for food. Therefore Jesus Christ did give himself a Sacrifice for all men that hear the Gospel: and as for them who never heard of him, he offered Sacrifice for their sins also: and whosoever shall go and tell them so, shall tell them but the truth. Although, until they hear it, they do not sin, in not believing it; as they do, who hear, and believe not. So much for the general intention, and ordination of Christ’s Death for all men.

But as there is this general Redemption, by means of that one Sacrifice for all men; so there is proper to those who are chosen to life, A special Redemption; which, as it proceeds from Election, Eph. 1:4. so it consists in actual forgiveness of sins, v.7. in whom we have Redemption, the forgiveness of sins. All men are no where said to be elected, All men are no where said to be forgiven. So some Redemption belongs to all; but, not every kind of Redemption.

And that the intention of benefit by Christ’s Passion, was not alike to all, on his part; but more to some than to others; appeareth hence, that there was not the like application of it, made by him to all. He who offered himself a Sacrifice for the sins of all men, yet did pray for some only, Joh. 17:9. And God who gave his son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, did absolutely intend, that the benefit of that promise should infallibly take place, in some, by removing that infidelity, which might have hindered them, and by giving faith which enabled them, to perform the condition, and lay hold on the promise, for want of which faith, others are lost. If in time, and in execution, he dealeth not alike the fruit of Christ’s Death to all men; then may we safely gather, that his purpose and intention, touching the fruit of Christ’s Death was not alike to all men. Executio est speculum Decreti, we may safely behold and view, God’s purpose and determination, in what he doth in time effect and bring to pass.

And if any man shall now murmur within himself and say: I know not whether I be of that selected number, for whom Christ’s Death was intended to be actually & every way efficacious; nor whether God’s love and good will be as much to me, as it is to any other, and shall thereupon neglect the duties of God’s law, and the means of his own eternal safety, giving ear to the whispers of some false teachers, by whom he is encouraged so to do, or at leastwise excused for so doing, rather than listening to the grave and wholesome advice, of our Church-Articles; which is, To receive God’s promises, in such wise, as they be generally set forth in holy Scriptures; I shall only desire him to call to mind that saying of Moses Deut. 29. Secret things belong to the Lord, our God; but things revealed belong to us. In which words the Man of God setteth bounds to our knowledge, and to our search, as once he did to the people at the foot of the mount, that they might know their distance and keep it, and not at their utmost peril, break through, and gaze. And whosoever he be that shall refuse, to entertain and embrace points of belief, and the Doctrine of godliness fully revealed; and in the mean time busily intermeddle with secrets reserved; shall add to disobedience, the sacrilege of curiosity, and may fear that God will set his face against him, that shall dare to cross and thwart, in such a manner, so severe an Edict made known and published.
Joseph Hacon, A Review of Mr. Horn’s Catechisme: And Some few of his Questions and Answers noted by J.H. of Massingham p. Norf. (Cambridge: Printed by John Field, 1660), 53–61. Some of the spelling has been updated and modernized.

Hacon was a native of Topcroft, Norfolk, where he was born on the 17th of May, 1603. He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and, after entering Holy Orders, was made Rector of Massingham in his 40th year. After a few years, he was made Registrar of the Parish. He was buried at Massingham Parva on the 18th September, 1662. See Ronald F. McLeod, Massingham Parva: Past and Present (London: Waterlow & Sons, 1882), 113–114.

April 8, 2016

Thomas Horton (d.1673) on God’s Gracious Offer and Tender of Salvation

The second is the persons to whom this benefit is offered and tendered. And they are here [in Rev. 22:17] laid forth two manner of ways: First, In their extended notion; and secondly, in their limited. The extended notion is whosoever; the limited notion is that will, ὁ θέλων, which does carry both an indefinite and a restrained sense with it.

First, Take it in the extended sense. Here is a gracious offer and tender of salvation to all men indefinitely; an o yes, Heus omnes, as it is in that place of the Prophet, Isa. 55. 1. This is the scope of the Ministry, and the Tenor of the Evangelical Dispensation, as the Scripture declares it to us, Mark 16. 15. Christ sent his Apostles with this Commission, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. And Col. 1. 23. The Gospel is said to be preached to every creature under heaven, i.e. rational creature.

This it proceeds from God’s Bounty and Royalty, and love to mankind; So God loved the world, John 3. 16. And after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared, in Tit. 3. 4. God bore that special love to the sons of men above the fallen Angels, as to offer them Salvation by Christ, which the others are uncapable of; and this it is general and unlimited, as to the proposal and exhibition of it. We may say to every man living, Believe in the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved; come to Christ and thou mayest have life by him; here’s none excluded of what rank or condition soever, whether Jew or Gentile, whether male or female, whether bond or free, if he be a man he is invited to come and to take of the water of life freely, as it is here signified and expressed in the Text. Though God hath his secret number of such persons whom he hath appointed to Salvation, in his rejection of others; and neither hath he like intention towards all, elect and reprobate; neither have all the Grace to receive Christ, and to apply him unto themselves, yet the offer is to all men indefinitely; neither are any to exclude themselves where God himself does not exclude them. And that’s the first Designation of the Persons here invited in the sense of extension, Whosoever.
Thomas Horton, “Sermon XLIX: Grace Freely Offered to Thirsty Souls,” in One Hundred Select Sermons Upon Several Texts: Fifty upon the Old Testament, And Fifty on the New (London: Printed for Thomas Parkhurst at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside near Mercers-Chappel, 1679), II:457.


April 7, 2016

Henry Warner Coray (1904–2002) on Common Grace

When Adam disobeyed his creator and brought the human race into a state of ruin, it was as though he opened earth’s flood-gates and let in all the currents and tides of hell itself. The world would have been transformed into hell had not God intervened. He intervened in two ways: first He promised to send a Redeemer who should some day put away all evil and the author of evil. That event was to take place sometime in the future. Again, He checked the course of wickedness in society. He restrained the extreme powers of sin that gripped human nature, softened the heart and curbed the full energy of Satan’s control over humanity. As Dr. Van Til has expressed it, He “applied the brakes.”

This is one aspect of a most important truth. It is sometimes called the doctrine of common grace. By common grace is meant not that this form of grace is to be valued cheaply, but that it is commonly bestowed on mankind. It is universal in application. All men everywhere receive its benefits, to a greater or less degree. How otherwise are we to understand life? Surely the Biblical portrait of human nature is black indeed. It reveals the heart to be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Shakespeare accurately has one of his actors declare, “There’s naught but villainy in our cursed nature.” How then do we square this diagnosis with the case of certain individuals who, though unbelievers, nevertheless attain to lofty heights of morality and character? Doubters and infidels are frequently kind and decent. Scoffers are sometimes, paradoxically, less self-centered than professing Christians. What is the explanation? How is this to be reconciled with the Bible doctrine of the total depravity of man? The answer is that God sprinkles the dew of common grace upon many who have never received special or redemptive grace. Negatively He restrains the destructive forces of corruption and positively He grants moral virtues and what the Chinese call “heaven-bestowed-endowments.”

A number of factors are active in repressing sin in society. The conscience, for instance, is a blessing of common grace. Let the imagination play for a moment with the question of what kind of world this would be if every person’s conscience were to be amputated? What a conflagration of iniquity would sweep over the earth! It would reduce the present fire of destruction, devastating as it is, to the proportions of a bonfire by contrast. In God’s providence the conscience checks, to an extent, the impulse to sin, tethers the wild steeds of passion and lust and exercises a mellowing influence on us all. The effect is that in normal times most people are able to dwell peaceably and quietly, even in a non-Christian community.

Civil law is another influence for good in the sphere of common grace. God has ordained the “powers that be,” or governments, for the protection of society. A state of anarchy would mean inevitable misery, untold suffering. Almost any form of law is better than no law and order. In pagan countries law enforcement has a beneficent result. In Japan, for example, strict justice holds crime at a surprisingly low scale. Men refrain from perpetrating evil deeds not from a pure motive, which is to honor God, but rather to stay out of prison. It is clear then that the establishment of governments and ordinances enhances the goodness of God, for it exhibits His solicitude for a sinful race. Yet how pitifully few return Him thanks for this mercy!

Furthermore, public opinion might be said to be a dike that holds back the waves of crime and lawlessness. What men think of us profoundly affects our actions. There are those who do not steal because they are too proud to steal. Others in business are honest for the sake of “gaining face.” Multitudes are courteous not because the Lord enjoins courtesy, but to excite admiration. These are questionable virtues to say the least. But they are instrumental in curtailing the corruption that is in the world through lust.

On the positive side, God’s Word makes it plain that every good thing which contributes to our material and mental comfort flows from the reservoir of divine mercy. Our Lord teaches that God is kind to the unthankful and to the evil as well as to His children. Have the lines fallen to us in pleasant places? We should realize that this is not due to any innate goodness in us but to the loving-kindness of Jehovah. Do we enjoy a goodly heritage of health or wealth or talent? With true thankfulness we should sing, “All that Thou sendest me mercy given” Are we blessed with personal charm, physical beauty, a naturally cheerful disposition? Then let us keep in mind Paul’s penetrating question, “What hast though that thou hast not received? Why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”

Finally two observations are in order. In the first place, common grace is not to be confused with special grace. The benefits and advantages of common grace will not save the soul, justify the sinner or give eternal life to one dead in trespasses and sins. Esau’s manliness, Balaam’s eloquence, Absalom’s winsomeness, the kindness of the barbarians on the island of Melita, in no wise contributed to their salvation. They were merely ornaments of common grace. Gifts of natural endowments are not to be identified with the fruit of the Spirit.

In the second place, knowledge of the doctrine of common grace should, under the impulsion of the Spirit of God, draw the sinner into the vestibule of the mansion of redemptive grace. Think of it! All of us have by our waywardness and stubborn rebellion forfeited the right to a single blessing from Heaven. But God is rich in mercy and continues to open His hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. He lavishes upon us every good and every perfect gift. May his goodness lead us all to repentance toward Him and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ!


Richard Clark Reed (1851–1925) on Calvinism and the Love of God

II. With reference to the unsaved, what is the doctrine of Calvinism? This question is the crucial test of the system. It smiles benignantly on the elect, but it is supposed to wear a very harsh and forbidding aspect when it turns its face towards the unsaved. If this be true, if it have no pity in its heart for the incorrigible sinners who destroy themselves, we are ready to say that it is not of God. Christ wept tears of compassion while looking on the sinners who had sinned away their day of grace. If Calvinism have not the spirit of Christ, it is none of his. It professes to find its chief supporter in Christ. It can only make good this profession by showing a love as broad and a sympathy as tender as his.

What can we say in its behalf? We can say that Calvinism puts no limit whatever on the love of God. It limits the number of saved, but it does not restrict the love of God to the saved. It limits the application of the benefits of redemption, but it does not ascribe the limitation to the want of love. It accepts John iii.16 in all its length and breadth: ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish.’ Calvin is good authority with all Calvinists, and his comment on this text is as follows: ‘Christ brought life, because the heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish. He employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite indiscriminately all to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such, also, is the import of the term world. Though there is nothing in the world that is worthy of God’s favor, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world when he invites all men, without exception, to the faith of Christ.’

The Synod of Dort, called the ‘grim synod,’ because of the rigidity of its Calvinism, was careful not to bound the love of God by the decree of election. ‘As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called; for God doth most earnestly and truly declare in his word what will be acceptable to him, namely, that all who are called should comply with the invitation. He, moreover, promises seriously eternal life and rest to as many as shall come to him and believe on him. It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel, and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the word refuse to come and be converted. The fault lies in themselves.’ This declaration represents the belief of all the great Calvinistic churches of the Reformation period, and it plainly implies that they held and taught that God’s love is world-wide and race-embracing. They do not modify nor dilute the broadest statements of the word of God touching his gracious readiness to receive all sinners, without exception, on the ground of their faith and penitence, to the arms of his forgiving love.
Richard Clark Reed, The Gospel As Taught By Calvin (Richmond, VA: The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1896), 112–115.


April 5, 2016

Henry Hickman’s (d.1692) Reply to Peter Heylin (1599–1662) on John Hooper (c.1495/1500–1555), Hugh Latimer (c.1487–1555), John Calvin (1509–1564), and Reprobation

I have all this while said nothing of Bishop Hooper and Bishop Latimer, out of whose Writings the Doctor hath transcribed so much. And truly the things transcribed out of them are so impertinent that it would be no hazard to my Reader if I should wholly pass them over in silence. Yet I will not; but first shall say something of the men, secondly of their writings. Latimer was once a very hot Papist, as himself acknowledgeth against himself. Being converted from Popery, he was as zealous for the Reformed Religion; boldly reproving the sins of all, whether Rulers or Ruled. In his Sermons he used a style, which perhaps was then accounted elegant; but would now be judged ridiculous, at least unbeseeming the Pulpit. Hooper I look upon as one that feared the Lord from his youth; for he chose from his youth to leave Oxford, that he might not ensnare his conscience. Beyond the Seas he fell into acquiantance with the learned Henry Bullinger; and returned not into England till the Reign of King Edward: when he gained more love from the Laicks, than Clergy, being a stiff Non-conformist. Hand in drawing up the Articles of Religion he had none, one of them being diametrically opposite to his declared judgment; yet because he was very great, both for piety and learning, as his writings evidently show, therefore his judgment is not to be sleighted. And if Dr. Heylin have proved, or any one else can prove, that he and Latimer held the opinions afterwards called Arminian; I will grant that those opinions were not by the Protestant Church in King Edward’s time adjudged intolerable. Whether they held them or no? must be considered. First, I yield that they both asserted Universal Redemption. This being granted, the Doctor dare say, that

Dr. H[eylin]. Part 2. page 50.
He, (Mr. Hickman he means,) will not be confident in affirming, there can be any room for such an absolute Decree of Reprobation, antecedaneous and precedent to the death of Christ, as his great Masters in the School of Calvin have been pleased to teach him.
Ans. Mr. Hickman’s mind is best known to himself, so are his great Masters in the School of Calvin, if he ever had any such; but this I am confident of, that Calvin’s Decree of Reprobation may be maintained, and yet Universal Redemption not denied. Monsieur Amyrald [Amyraut], as great a Scholar as this last age hath afforded, hath in a whole Book defended Calvin’s absolute Decree against Mr. Hoard; yet the same Amyrald most strenuously defends Universal Redemption. Two Dissertations also of Bishop Davenant are published by careful and faithful hands: in the first, he sets himself to assert Universal Redemption by Christ; in the second, to assert Personal, both Election and Reprobation.

Let us see now what the Doctor can find in Latimer and Hooper.

Dr. H. Part 2. pag. 37.
Latimer in his Sermon on Septuages. rebukes those vain Fellows who abuse Election and Reprobation to carnal Liberty, or Presumption.
Answ. Why so doth Calvin, so doth Ursin[us], so do our Divines at the Synod of Dort.

Dr. H. page 38.
Hooper in his Preface to the ten Commandments, saith, “We must not extenuate Original Sin, nor make God the Author of Evil; nor yet say, that God hath written fatal Laws, with the Stoicks, and in the necessity of destiny violently pulleth one by the hair into Heaven, and thrusteth the other headlong into Hell.”
Answ. All this is just according to Calvin’s method. No Calvinists say, that God’s Decree offereth violence to Man’s Will, or pulleth a man into Heaven. Only they say, that Electing love makes men willing, and that Holiness is an effect of Election. As for Sin, that, they say, is not an effect of Reprobation, but only a Consequent. I, but

Dr. H. page 39.
Bishop Latimer teacheth us, that we are to enquire no further after our Election, than as it is to be found in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Answ. Why so teach the Calvinists too, that our Election is not to be known, but by our knowledge of our interest in Christ. But the Anticalvinist will not say with Latimer, If thou findest thy self in Christ, then art thou sure of eternal life: He saith, A man may be in Christ, and be a Reprobate; a man may be in Christ to day, and in Hell to morrow.

Perhaps the Doctor will find more against Calvinistical Reprobation; or if he do not, he must be concluded to have beaten the Air. First we must hear what he makes Calvinistical Reprobation to be. ‘Tis that, he saith,

Dr. H. Part 2. pag. 47.
By which the far greater part of mankind are pre-ordained, and consequently pre-condemned to the the pit of torments, without any respect had unto their sins and incredulities. This is generally, he saith, maintained and taught in the Schools of Calvin.
Ans. If it be so, then I am sure I never was in any School of Calvin; for I never heard or read of any such Reprobation: nay, I never read of any person whatsoever, that asserted such a Reprobation. Sundry famous Schoolmen, quoted by Dr. Rivet in his fifth Disputation de Reprobatione, were of opinion, that if God had decreed even innocent creatures to eternal damnation, he had decreed nothing unworthy of himself; and they seem to have but too much countenance for this bold and audacious Tenent from a passage of St. Austin’s, in his 16. cap. de Praedestinatione & Gratia: But the Calvinists (as many as I have met with) say, that as God never actually damned any man but for sin, so he never decreed to damn any but for sin. All that they say is but this, that Whereas Judas and Peter were both alike corrupted by the fall, and both alike apt by nature to abuse and reject grace, the reason why God determined effectually to cure the corruption of Peter and not of Judas, was the mere good pleasure of his will. The Calvinists are not engaged to say, that God reprobates any man who was not worthy to be reprobated. All that their opinion obligeth them to, is but this, Not to make sin the cause of preterition or non-election, comparatively considered. And against such preterition there is nothing in the Prayers of our Church, nothing in Latimer, nothing in Hooper, nothing in Cranmer, nothing in the whole Tenth Chapter of the Doctor’s second Part. And it is a wonder, that so ancient a Divine should trouble himself in so many pages to do execution upon a mere Chimæra: and yet this employment was so pleasing and acceptable to him, that he falls to it again in his Eleventh Chapter; In which, page 64, he makes the main Controversie in the Point of man’s Conversion to move upon this hinge, Whether the influences of God’s grace be so strong and powerful, that withall they are absolutely irresistible, so that it is not possible for the will of man not to consent unto the same? But they that have either read the determinations of the Synod of Dort, or Calvin’s own Institutions, know, that the Controversie moves upon no such hinge: but this is the Question, Whether when converting Grace hath produced the whole effect God designed it unto, man still remains unconverted, and indifferent either to turn himself or not turn himself unto God? If converting Grace do leave a man thus indifferent, they say, that Conversion is rather to be ascribed to man than God; and that Paul made himself to differ from other Persecutors, and not God. But they never say, that God forceth or offereth violence unto the natural faculty of the will, or destroyeth any liberty that is essential to it. If any violence be offered, it is only unto corrupt lusts, and sinful inclinations; in which, I hope, I may have fair liberty to say, that the freedom of man’s will doth not consist. Let but any one fairly and impartially state this Question, by drawing Propositions concerning it out of the Writings before mentioned, and he will find nothing in Hooper or Latimer contradictory. The tenth Article of King Edward’s he will find perfectly to express the mind of the Calvinists. And so I might dismiss this matter, had not the Doctor thought meet page 67, as also in another Writing, to smite at us with a Dilemma, or something like a Dilemma, grounded upon the omitting of this Article in Queen Elizabeth’s time. Either this Article did favour Calvinism, or it did not: If it did not, why do the Calvinists alledge it? If it did, why is it in our latter Editions of the Articles left out? We have learnt from Logick, that such Dilemmas are not to be used, which may be inverted or retorted upon those that make them; and such is the present Dilemma, apparently, notoriously such. For thus I argue, Either this Article is Anti-calvinistical, or it is not: If it be not, why doth the Doctor produce it as such? If it be, why did our Reformers in Queen Elizabeth’s time (who were, as he would fain persuade us, Anticalvinistical) leave it out? He must either answer for himself, or not expect that we should answer for our selves: which yet we could easily do, did any Law of Disputation require it of us; for this might be the reason of the omission, because there was nothing in King Edward’s tenth Article, but what doth naturally and lineally descend from our present seventeenth Article.
Henry Hickman, Historia Quinq-Articularis Exarticulata; Or, Animadversions on Doctor Heylin’s Quinquarticular History (London: Printed for Robert Boulter at the Turks-head in Cornhil over against the Royal Exchange, 1674), 179–183.


Note: William Lorimer, Richard Baxter and Andrew Fuller, in addition to Hickman above, all claimed that John Hooper and Hugh Latimer taught universal redemption, in the sense that Christ satisfied for the sins of all men.

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) on the Possibility of Salvation

In the context, Edwards is seeking to show unbelievers various motives for coming to Christ. In the following, he underscores the fact of their salvability:
4. The possibility of obtaining. Though it be attended with so much difficulty, yet it is not a thing impossible. Acts viii. 22. “If perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” 2 Tim. ii. 25. “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” However sinful a person is, and whatever his circumstances are, there is, notwithstanding, a possibility of his salvation. He himself is capable of it, and God is able to accomplish it, and has mercy sufficient for it; and there is sufficient provision made through Christ, that God may do it consistent with the honour of his majesty, justice, and truth. So that there is no want either of sufficiency in God, or capacity in the sinner, in order to this. The greatest and vilest, most blind, dead, hard-hearted sinner living, is a subject capable of saving light and grace. Seeing therefore there is such necessity of obtaining the kingdom of God, and so short a time, and such difficulty, and yet such a possibility, it may well induce us to press into it. Jonah iii. 8, 9.
Jonathan Edwards, “Pressing into the Kingdom of God," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:656.

March 19, 2016

Obadiah Sedgwick (c.1600–1658) on Christ Begging Sinners

Sedgwick (a Westminster divine) first describes these sinners in Laodicea as “mere formal people” with “little or no power of godliness at all in them,” or “a company of mere hypocrites, or at least of formal professors” (p. 13). Then he says:
4. They were so provokingly sinful, that Christ’s stomach had much ado to bear with them. He could hardly forbear to spew them out of his mouth, (verse 16). Yet at their doors does Christ stand and knock, He begs at the door of beggars, mercy begs to misery, happiness begs to wretchedness, riches begs to poverty, light begs to blindness, and all-sufficiency begs to nakedness, and beseeches those poor and miserable sinners to take gold from him, those naked sinners to take raiment from him, and those blind sinners to take ointment from him, (v. 18.)
Obadiah Sedgwick, The Riches of Grace Displayed in the Offer and Tender of Salvation to Poor Sinners (London: Printed by T. R. & E. M. for Adoniram Byfield at the Bible in Popes head Alley neer Lumbard street, 1657), 14–15. On page 17, Sedgwick wrote about Christ’s “motions” and  the “indefiniteness of his desire” to save all sinners. Elsewhere he said:
Acts 2.36 Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ: yet to these doth Christ (in his Apostle Peter) preach and begs of them to repent and to save themselves, and assures them by promise of pardon if they would come in, see verses 38, 39, 40.
Ibid., 42–43.
And now brethren, have I finished my work on this Text, a Theme of as sweet mercy as ever sinner heard.

The Saviour of sinners knocking at the door of sinners; A Saviour begging of that sinner to be saved: Have you opened your doors, or have you not? Will you open them to Christ, or will you not? will you let in Christ and close with him, or will you not? will you accept of communion with him, or will you not?
Ibid., 270–271.

In another book, while expounding on 20 ways in which Jesus Christ is earnest and importunate with sinners to hearken unto him, Sedgwick said:
4. He entreats them to hearken unto him; we beseech you in Christ’s stead, &c. 2 Cor. 5.20. Jesus Christ doth as it were fall upon his knees unto the Sinner, and begs of him to be reconciled to him.
Obadiah Sedwick, The Fountain Opened: And the Water of Life Flowing Forth, for the Refreshing of Thirsty Sinners (London: Printed by T. R. and E. M. for Adoniram Byfield at the Bible in Popes-head-alley, near Lumbard-street, 1657), 403.

He later said:
Christ is thus earnest with Sinners to hearken unto him, because he is Christ. How earnest is the Parent with the untoward child; speaks, entreats, weeps, argues, &c. because he is a Parent; were he not a Christ, he would never thus mind them, nor importune them, but because he is a Christ, therefore he is full of compassion, and full of desires: he regards them, who do not regard him; he pities them, who pity not themselves; he would help them, who need help, but as yet see not their need of his help. Compassions are always earnest.
Ibid., 409.


Other men within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following:

Augustine (Early Church Father), Hugh Latimer (Early English Reformer), Isaac Ambrose (Puritan), Daniel Burgess (Puritan), Jeremiah Burroughs (Westminster divine), Richard Baxter (Puritan), Joseph Caryl (Westminster divine), Thomas Case (Puritan), Stephen Charnock (Puritan), John Collinges (Puritan), John Flavel (Puritan), Theophilus Gale (Puritan), William Gearing (Puritan), Andrew Gray (Puritan), William Gurnall (Puritan), Robert Harris (Westminster divine), Thomas Larkham (Puritan), Thomas Manton (Puritan), John Murcot (Puritan), George Newton (Puritan), Anthony Palmer (Puritan), Edward Reynolds (Westminster divine), John Richardson (Puritan), Samuel Rutherford (Westminster divine), John Shower (Puritan), Richard Sibbes (Puritan), Sydrach Simpson (Westminster divine), William Strong (Westminster divine), George Swinnock (Puritan), John Trapp (Puritan), Ralph Venning (Puritan), Nathaniel Vincent (Puritan), Thomas Watson (Puritan), Daniel Williams (Puritan), Samuel Willard, Benjamin Wadsworth, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

Daniel Williams (c.1643–1716) on God Begging in Christ

Our Creator, being considered thus as God in Christ, who is satisfied as to the Violations of his Law, the Honour of his Government vindicated, and the Ends of it secured, though Pardon and Life be granted to Sinners, it will follow, that in a consistency with rectoral Justice, he can so far suspend the Curse of the Law towards sinful Man, and exert his Mercy, as 1. To be willing to admit to Peace and Favour all whom Christ shall present to him. 2. To be ready to forgive our Offences. 3. To make Offers of Peace, Pardon and Salvation to lost Sinners, begging them to be reconciled, &c. 4. To return his expelled forfeited Spirit to strive with the work on dead Sinners in order to their acceptance of this offered Salvation. 5. To be long-suffering, and waiting to be gracious in the use of fit Methods and Means to conquer their Resistance.
Daniel Williams, An End to Discord; Wherein is demonstrated That no Doctrinal Controversy remains between the Presbyterian and Congregational Ministers, fit to justify longer Divisions. With a true Account of Socinianism as to the Satisfaction of Christ (London:, Printed for John Lawrence at the Angel, and Tho. Cockril at the Three Legs in the Poultry, 1699), 128.


Other men within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following:

Augustine (Early Church Father), Hugh Latimer (Early English Reformer), Isaac Ambrose (Puritan), Daniel Burgess (Puritan), Jeremiah Burroughs (Westminster divine), Richard Baxter (Puritan), Joseph Caryl (Westminster divine), Thomas Case (Puritan), Stephen Charnock (Puritan), John Collinges (Puritan), John Flavel (Puritan), Theophilus Gale (Puritan), William Gearing (Puritan), Andrew Gray (Puritan), William Gurnall (Puritan), Robert Harris (Westminster divine), Thomas Larkham (Puritan), Thomas Manton (Puritan), John Murcot (Puritan), George Newton (Puritan), Anthony Palmer (Puritan), Edward Reynolds (Westminster divine), John Richardson (Puritan), Samuel Rutherford (Westminster divine), John Shower (Puritan), Richard Sibbes (Puritan), Sydrach Simpson (Westminster divine), William Strong (Westminster divine), George Swinnock (Puritan), John Trapp (Puritan), Ralph Venning (Puritan), Nathaniel Vincent (Puritan), Thomas Watson (Puritan), Samuel Willard, Benjamin Wadsworth, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

March 13, 2016

Edward Polhill (1622–1694) on God’s Will for the Conversion of Reprobates

...God doth will the conversion of reprobates in a double manner.

1. God wills their conversion, Voluntate simplicis complacentiæ; Conversion even in a reprobate would make joy in heaven, it would be τὸ εὐάρεϛον, grateful and well-pleasing to God; if we believe him swearing by his life, his pleasure or delight is in the wicked man’s turning, (Ezek. xxxiii. 11). God delights in his image, wherever it be.

2. God wills their conversion Voluntate virtuali vel ordinativâ Mediorum; for the right understanding whereof I shall lay down four things.

1. The proper end and tendency of all means is to turn men unto God: within the sphere of the church, such is the end and tendency thereof. Why did Christ come, but to turn every one from his iniquities? (Acts iii. 26.) Why did he preach, but that his hearers might be saved? (John v. 34.) Why did the apostle warn and teach every man, but to present every man perfect in Christ? (Col. i. 28.) John’s baptism was εἰς μετάνοιαν, (Matth. iii. 11). Church-censures were εἰς οἰκοδομὴν, (2 Cor. x. 8.) Even the delivering to Satan was for the destruction of the flesh, (1 Cor. v. 5.) Conversion is the true center of the means. Nay, without the sphere of the church, the true end and tendency of things is such, that God might be seen in every creature, (Rom. i. 20.) Sought and felt in every place, (Acts xvii. 27.) Witnessed in every shower, (Acts xiv. 17.) Feared in the sea-bounding sand, (Jer. v. 22.) Humbled under in every abasing providence, (Dan. v. 22.) Turned to in every judgment, (Amos iv. 11). In a word, the end and tendency of all God’s works is that men might fear before him, (Eccles. iii. 14.) The whole world is a great ordinance, as it is in itself, preached forth the power and goodness of God who made it; and as it is the unconsumed state of so many crying sins, preached forth the clemency and mercy of God who spares it, and dashes it not down about the sinner’s ears. All the goodness and forbearance of God leads men to repentance, (Rom. ii. 4.) That piece of gospel [Whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy] seems legible in his patience; for it may be naturally and rationally concluded, that that God, who in his clemency spares men though sinners, will in his mercy pardon them when repenting and returning. This is the true duct and tendency of his patience, even that men might turn and repent.

2. The tendency of the means to conversion is such, that if men under the administration is such, that if men under the administration thereof turn not unto God, the only reason lies within themselves, in their own corrupt hearts. If God purge, and men are not purged, it is because there is lewdness in their filthiness, (Ezek. xxiv. 13.) If he would gather, and men are not gathered, it is because they will not, (Matt. xxiii. 37.) If he spread out his hands, and men come not in, it is because they are rebellious, (Isa. Ixv. 2.) If he be patient and long-suffering, and they repent not, it is because of their hardness and impenitent heart, (Rom. ii. 5.) The apostle calls the heretical seducers in his time μετατιθέντες, such as did turn or transfer the grace of God from its true end or scope, Jud. 4. And what those seducers did doctrinally, that do all sinners practically; so far forth as they live under the means and turn not, they do thereby transfer and remove the means from their genuine end.

3. God doth by a formal decree will the means with their tendencies. All ordinances are sealed by the divine will, and go out in its name, and are what they are from its ordination. Without this, means are no longer means, but mere empty names and vain shadows.

4. Out of God’s formal decree of the means doth result his virtual will of men’s conversion. That God, who doth formally will the means with their tendencies, even unto reprobates, doth virtually will their conversion as the true scope and end of those means. Hence it is said, that Christ would have gathered the unbelieving jews, (Matth. xxiiii. 37,) and God would have all men to be saved, (1 Tim. ii. 4,) viz. in respect of his virtual or ordinative will.  Hence God brought in, wishing, Oh! that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments. (Isai. xlviii. 18.) And what are these wishes? Surely all the diffusions of light, promulgations of laws, expansions of gospel grace, waitings of divine patience, and strivings of the Holy Spirit are (as I may so say) God’s Oh’s after conversion, in as much as they have a tendency thereunto; and God in willing that tendency, doth virtually will men’s return also. Excellent is that of learned [William] Ames; “Deus eminenter et virtuali quadam ratione eatenus vult salutem hominum, quatenus vocat ipsos ad salutem.” Thus with this virtual will God doth will the conversion of reprobates. But then you will say, If so, God’s will is frustrated; for reprobates are never actually converted. I answer, that God’s formal decree is only of the means with their tendencies; and therefore is not frustrated, but fulfilled, in the actual exhibition of such means. And God’s virtual will (though it be of the conversion of reprobates) yet in their non-conversion is not frustrated, because it is not an absolute but conditional will, nisi per ipsos steterit, unless their own voluntary corruption do impede the effect; which in reprobates it always doth. But you will yet reply, Then God’s will is conditional, and by consequence imperfect. To which I answer, with the judicious bishop Davenant, That volitions merely conditional agree not with the perfection of the divine nature; for that were to suspend God’s will for a time, and then post purificatam conditionem, to make it become absolute. But mixtly-conditional volitions, that is, such as are grounded on some absolute decree, may be allowed: as for example, that mixed conditional decree, that if Cain or Judas believe they shall  be saved, is grounded on that absolute decree, that whosoever believes shall be saved. Now this virtual will of conversion of reprobates is not purely conditional, but mixtly conditional, for it results out of God’s absolute decree of the means with their tendencies. Wherefore, notwithstanding these objections, I conclude, That God doth virtually will the conversion of reprobates, so far forth as the means have a tendency thereunto.
Edward Polhill, “The Divine Will Considered in its Eternal Decrees,” in The Works of Edward Polhill (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1998), 128–129.


This idea can also  be found in Theophilus Gale, among other 17th century theologians. Gale wrote:
God’s Providential Will is that, whereby he is said to will and intend an end, when he in his providence, either gracious or common, affords such means which have an aptitude to produce it. As where God sends his Gospel, he may be said to really intend the salvation of those to whom it is sent, albeit they are not all saved; because he vouchsafeth them those means which have a real aptitude to produce the same, were they but really embraced and improved.

March 12, 2016

Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691–1747) on Matt. 23:37


Christ’s Lamentation Over the Inhabitants of 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 I” Matt. 23:37.

“Then I said I have labored in vain. I have spent my strength for naught and in vain,” are words which we find Isa. 49:4. It is manifest that the Messiah is here introduced, complaining that he had labored in vain, and spent his strength for naught. By his strength we may understand his bodily energies; which we may conceive to have been far more vigorous in the Lord Jesus than in men ordinarily, from his numerous journeys. But we must also understand by it the powers of his mind—his capacity and his faculty for teaching with so much wisdom, and for performing his mighty and wonderful works. With this strength the Messiah had labored. (Understand the labor of his prophetical office; his preaching and working of miracles, in which he displayed zeal of no ordinary kind: Ps. 69:9; “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”) But all this was in vain, for naught, to no purpose. (Understand this in relation to the majority in comparison with the rest—that his labors yielded little or no fruit, in comparison with what they should have yielded.) It is true there were some, with respect to whom he did not labor in vain; but they were few, and thus his labors were for naught and in vain, in relation to the greater part in Israel, as is said in the following verse: “Israel will not suffer himself to be gathered.” [Dutch translation]

Truly, thus it was; neither his discourses nor miracles found admittance with the majority of the Jews; the chief priests and scribes remained the hardened, bitter enemies of the Lord Jesus: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11.)

The fulfillment we behold in the words of our text, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets," etc.

In what precedes, the Lord Jesus denounces upon the Pharisees and Scribes eight woes, on account of their sins, on account of their hindering the Gospel, (verse 13;) on account of their covetousness, (verse 14;) on account of their blind zeal, (verses 15, 16;) on account of their erroneous teachings, (verses 17–22;) on account of their display of zeal in regard to the minor matters of the law, whilst they neglected its weightier duties, (verses 23, 24;) on account of their pretense of great holiness in partaking of their food, (verses 25, 26;) on account of their deceiving the people with the mere appearance of righteousness, (verses 27, 28;) on account of their pretended high regard for departed saints, whilst they persecuted the living, and were ready to stone Christ himself, (verses 29–32.) Hereupon, he severely reproves them, and sharply upbraids them in the words of our text, “O Jerusalem!” etc, in which is contained a lamentation over the obstinacy and unbelief of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and which are followed by a prediction of its destruction.

Words in point in these evil days, in which we may pour forth lamentations, nay, lift up our voices in cries of distress.

Oh! that we mourned over ourselves, and knew at least in this our day the things that belong to our peace!

In the words of the text we find two parts:

I. An earnest protestation of the Saviour’s: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem !” etc.

II. An upbraiding of them for their unwillingness: and “Ye would not.”

I. The Saviour’s address is directed, as on another occasion with tears, (Luke 19,) to the city of Jerusalem—the capital of the whole Jewish land, the seat, the court of the Jewish state, the city of the great King, beautiful for situation; the joy of the whole earth, where were the thrones of judgment and the tribes of Israel assembled, the holy city and place of worship, (Matt. 4:5,) the holy temple, the place of God’s fire and hearth, (Isa. 31:9,) the city of God, therefore denominated Jehovah Shammah, (The Lord is there,) that is, the place favored with his special presence. By Jerusalem is here, however, to be understood the Jewish people, the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The repetition of the word Jerusalem is here designed to impart emphasis to the address. This form of speech occurs elsewhere in the Scriptures, as Jer. 22:29, “O earth, earth, earth! hear the word of the Lord;” Rev. 8:13, “Woe, woe, woe!” There it is triple. The twofold form is also found, as in Ezek. 21:6, “Sigh, sigh!” John 3:3, “Verily, verily!” Here it is, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” This intimates the earnestness, zeal, and emotion of the Lord Jesus; the importance of the subject; the awfulness of their unbelief; the certainty of their destruction and desolation. This Jerusalem is reproved with accompanying upbraiding: “Thou that killest the prophets.” Prophets were holy men raised up out of all the tribes and families of Israel, endowed with extraordinary gifts, and infallibly moved by the Spirit of God to teach the people of God; to foretell future events, and confirm their words with a godly life. Such the Lord himself had sent to them from time to time. This is added in the text: “Which are sent unto thee.” Truly a great benefit; for “Where there is no vision the people perish.” (Prov. 29:18.) (But they are false prophets who run and yet are not sent. Jer. 23:21.) But oh! base ingratitude, prophets whom the Lord had sent to them, they had killed, stoned!

Stoning was one of the modes of capital punishment among the Jews. Jerusalem was the ordinary place of the killing of the prophets, (Luke 13:33;) and thus by making itself guilty of such tyrannical acts, from being the house of God, it had become a den of  thieves. It is therefore said of its former state, Isa. 1:21, “How is the faithful city become an harlot! it is full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers,” and Jer. 2:34, “Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents;” and Matt. 21:35, 36, the chief priests and elders of the people are designated as husbandmen, who beat some, killed others, and stoned others of the servants whom the Lord of the vineyard sent to them, as appears verses 23, 25.

The Lord Jesus further testifies: “How often would I have gathered thy children together.” Here the city is represented as a mother; and the Jews who were of the same religion, and came hither from all parts of the land of Canaan, as her “Children,” Hos. 2:1–4, that is, inhabitants.

These Jesus “would gather,” that is, he diligently employed all means to convert them—form them into a new people, and bless them in his kingdom. Whereby? By the means of grace which the Lord granted them, by teaching and preaching among them, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, (“Repent and believe the Gospel,”) doing wonders, working miracles, healing their sick; nay, journeying throughout their land and doing good. (Acts 10.) For this purpose he chose his disciples; whose business it was to gather the Jews, inviting them saying, “Come, for all things are ready.” (Luke 14.) But how?

“As a hen gathereth her chickens.” It is known that a hen when she sees birds of prey hovering in the air, utters a peculiar sound, by which she calls together her young, at the same time elevating her feathers and spreading out her wings, thus forming a place of refuge for them; thus wings are also ascribed to God, Ps. 17:8; 36:7; 63:7; Deut. 32:1, especially the Lord Jesus. (Mal. 4:2.) Thus in our text the Lord Jesus comes under notice as a hen, extending her wings to and over her chickens, to allure and gather sinners to himself. He is not only a roaring lion, roaring over his prey for its preservation, but as a bird thus will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem. (Isa. 31: 4, 5.) Thus God covers the righteous with his wings. The Psalmist also on several occasions ascribes to God a shadow. What the sun does in relation to the inhabitants of the world, warning and defending them against wind and cold, all this the shadow of God’s wings does in relation to sinners who betake themselves to them. The wings which are ascribed to God in Christ, betoken these two things.

1. That defense and protection which the sinner finds by faith in Christ, and thus with God through Christ, against the deserved wrath of God, power of temptation, and the attacks of Satan. Hence the Lord Jesus is denominated a hiding-place from the wind. (Isa. 32:2.) This is the benefit which God promises to his Church. (Isa. 4:5, 6; Ps. 91:4.)

2. That refreshment and consolation which the godly find with God in Christ, in whom many have found a refuge; as one who flees out of a storm to a hiding-place, or who from the burning rays of the sun seeks a refreshing shade, or the covert of a great rock, and thus revives his drooping spirit. So says the bride, Cant. 2:3, “I sat down under his shadow with great delight;” Mal. 4:2, “With healing in his wings.”

The great prophet and compassionate high-priest Jesus, contemplating their exposure to many seductions, and the aim of the hellish bird of prey, has extensively and frequently called men by the voice of the Gospel, to shelter themselves under the wings of his grace and gracious protection. During the whole time of his public ministry, he stretched out his hands, but to a gain-saying people; to an evil, hardened, unbelieving generation, as appears from our second head:

II. “And ye would not.” The Saviour would say, You have made constant opposition to my designs. It was the unceasing aim and endeavor of the Pharisees and Scribes, as much as in them lay, to hinder the progress of the Gospel. They themselves would not enter in, and they would not that Jesus should gather their children, but to that moment sought to root out the Prince of life in Israel from among his people.

We are not, however, to apprehend this, as if their unwillingness that Jesus should gather their children, could render his whole work of no effect. By no means; for many were gathered, whom Jesus had in view, and others who were restrained for a while by malicious opposers, were afterwards brought in through the ministry of the Apostles; at least “as many as were ordained to eternal life.” (Acts 13:48.)

The advocates of free will wrest this text to establish their erroneous tenet, as if man had power to comply with the divine call if he would. No: this place speaks of the divine call, by which Christ is offered for justification. That men who are not elected resist it we admit; for the carnal mind is enmity against God. The natural man hates the Father and the Son, (John 15:24,) and hates all true holiness. It is true that viewed in their natural helplessness, they also cannot come, (John 6:44;) but it is also true that they slight the outward means. This they do willingly, and with an evil disposition not to permit themselves to be gathered. It is their pleasure, their delight, so to do. Therefore the Lord Jesus reproves and reproaches the Jews, saying, “And ye would not.” We cannot hence, however, infer free will, and the power and faculty in the natural man to believe without supernatural grace and effectual calling, as do Pelagians, Arminians, and all devotees of free will, as if it were legitimate reasoning to say, They can of themselves not will; consequently they can also of themselves, will to come and believe. But the inference does not follow, for the sinful not will-ing we have natural power in ourselves; but for a holy and right will-ing we stand in need of supernatural grace, which we have not of ourselves. Christ does not say that the Pharisees and Scribes, and inhabitants of Jerusalem could believe and turn; but upbraids them with this, that “they would not;” and this was an aggravation of their disobedience, as displaying their determination, obstinacy, willfulness, in not coming to him. They would not even calmly consider his person, his works and doctrines; but with bitter and settled prejudice, persisted in their opposition to him, and willfully hardened themselves. Nay, so abandonedly wicked were they, that they could not endure that any of their children were gathered by him. It did not then proceed from ignorance, but from unwillingness. Of this the Lord Jesus also reproachfully reminded them: “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” This was proposed to them under the similitude of those invited to the marriage, who would not come. (Matt. 22:3; Luke 19:22.)

This now was suited to the purpose of the compassionate Saviour, which was not only to censure the Scribes, but sharply to upbraid and threaten them; for their wickedness towards him beyond measure aggravated their guilt and hastened their destruction: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou wouldst not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Verse 38.) The words of the text, my hearers, be it remembered, proceeded out of the mouth of him who was the best of preachers. They are full of power, earnestness, compassion, and emotion. So much so, that I have been unable to make them the subject of my study without emotion. Give them for a moment I pray you your particular attention. When the merciful Jesus says, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! it is as if with weeping and with earnest voice, he had burst forth in the following strain:

“That Chorazin and Bethsaida have not improved my mighty works, for their repentance I must remind them of, by denouncing upon them a woe; that the exalted Capernaum has not turned at my word, shall thrust it down to hell, (Matt. 11:20, 24,) and aggravate its condemnation beyond that of Sodom; that my Nazareth, where I have lived and been brought up, so lightly esteems my prophets, I can readily forget, (Luke 4:23, 24;) that the inhabitants of Gergesa preferred their swine to myself, gives me but little concern, (Matt. 8:34;) but that thou, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! the scene of my wonders, whom I have made great among the nations, and princes among the provinces, (Lam. 1:1,) and exalted above all and chosen thee as my habitation and dwelling-place, (Ps. 32:13, 14,) my vineyard, planted upon a very fruitful hill, to which I have done all that could be clone to it, (Isa. 5:1–4;) that thou Jerusalem, thou Zion, so maliciously rejectest my grace, that breaks my heart, that causes me to sigh; that I neither can nor will so lightly forget; my grace is far too precious; I have too clearly revealed myself to thee to be thus rejected by thee, and that thou, O Jerusalem! shouldest so hastily rush to destruction! Were it the sin of an Amorite, a Canaanite, or Jebusite, I would bear with it four hundred years; were it that of the first world, I would grant them an hundred and twenty years for repentance; were it a Sodom or Gomorrah, Admah or Zebvim, I would spare it for ten righteous, (Gen. 18:32; Deut. 29:32;) but now, that it is thou, Jerusalem, who shall present an excuse for thee, O Jerusalem! or who shall have compassion upon thee? Thou hast forsaken me, (Jer. 15:5, 6;) and what occasion? Didst thou but know how evil and bitter a thing it is that thou hast forsaken me! (Jer. 2:19.) Didst thou but know the things that belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes! Thou wilt not come to me that thou mightest have life! and though year after year I have stretched out my hands to thee, and would gather thee as a hen does her chickens under her wings; and though I have sent to thee my servants the prophets, rising up early, (Jer. 7:13; 25:4,) who have invited thee in my name, thou yet wouldst not!”

Hearers, ye must be strangers in our Americau [American?] Jerusalem not to perceive how applicable are these words to ourselves and our consistory. Raritan, Raritan! how often would I have gathered thee, but thou wouldst not! It is true, God has not sent to us prophets, in a strict sense of that term, whose work it is to foretell future events: these were peculiar to the old dispensation, and the beginning of the new. He has, notwithstanding, given us pastors and teachers—ministers of the New Testament, who are also prophets. It is also true, that they are not here at the present time, stoned or killed; but how many are there who resist them, and thus kill them, as far as in them lies. Had those opposers been possessed of the power, who knows if they would not have killed us. How many evil and rude persons are there, who in every way molest faithful ministers, so that they are compelled to perform their work amid sighs and groans. How many the disobedient, who remain ignorant and unconverted, of whom we must say, I have labored in vain? To how many must we say, How often would the Lord have gathered you by his word and servants, “but ye would not.” The Church swarms with such evil ones—those who will not. Thousands are to be found throughout Christendom; and thus, also, the greater part among ourselves, are those to whom the holy Jesus would be compelled, as to the Jews, to say: “Ye would not come to me.”

I shall here make manifest two things:

1. That the Lord Jesus has long sought to gather you, as a hen does her chickens.
2. That all who have remained unconverted thus far, “would not.”

As long as you have had, read, and heard the word of God, as long as you have enjoyed the preached word, the Lord has been engaged in gathering you. How often have you heard the divine sighs: “Oh! that they were wise, that they understood this, that they considered their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29;) “Oh! that my people had hearkened unto me!” (Ps. 81:14;) “Oh! that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandments!” (Isa. 48:18;) “Oh! that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!” (Luke 19:42.)

How often have the invitations of the Gospel been uttered in your hearing. Truly these are intended for all, without exception, who live within its sound: “Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.” (Isa. 45:22.) “Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17.) “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” (Rev. 3:18.) How long has the Lord Jesus warned and invited you by his servants who have been sent to you, coming, now piping, and now mourning! How often has the Lord Jesus, with weeping eyes, and cheeks suffused with tears, mourned over you, as of old over Jerusalem!

Certainly, we must regard the Lord Jesus as lamenting when his servants do so in his name, and pour forth expressions of grief, for it is in his name that they come, his own word which they utter—the same as was uttered by him: “He that heareth you heareth me.” (Matt. 10.) They are ambassadors for Christ, and pray as if God besought by them. (2 Cor. 5.) How appropriate, then, the words of the text, “How oft would I have gathered you!'” but alas! that we have reason to say to you, “and ye would not!”

This is true,

Of you wicked, who are persisting in your sins;
Of the unconverted, who live without true holiness;
Of those who have not fled for refuge to Jesus;
Of those who are still strangers to Christ, having never seen him;
Of those who have never been convinced of their need of Jesus, in order to salvation;
Of those who have not realized the preciousness of Jesus;
Of those who have, as yet, never engaged in covenant transactions with the Lord Jesus.

How many years have you been invited and called? but, pray, tell me what has prevented you from heeding the divine call? Is it not your own unwillingness, or do you imagine the divine decree to be the occasion of it? [Heedless men accuse God of injustice, as if he were the cause of their unregeneracy and destruction.] But the decree of God neither compels nor prevents you: that is not the rule of your doing and leaving, but his revealed will. You have not remained unbelieving and unconverted because you imagined that God prevented you, but because you felt no desire.

Or will you ascribe it to this: that God has never wrought the will in you—that he has never drawn you? That were again to cast the blame upon God; for tell me, I pray you, was the Lord under obligation to perform those acts towards you? Have you ever, with real earnestness, besought him to draw you?

Or, when you would come, have men prevented you? But if any have endeavored to prevent you, others have urged you to flee destruction, and have gone before you not only with their word but also with their example.

Or, will you cast the blame upon your inability? Thus do the carnally secure, employing their inability as an excuse for their sinful security. But do you not know that the fault is your own? Inability excuses you not; for, have you done all that you should? I have done, you say, my utmost. But then, would you make use of means: you would not neglect attendance at church, catechisings, or other public religious exercises; you could search the word of God, be more engaged in prayer, and prostrate yourself before the Lord Jesus.

Have you ever felt that you remained unconverted because you could not? Oh! no: your difficulty has not been a can not, but a will not. Seek as many evasions, cover yourselves with as many fig-leaves as you may, I must say, with the Lord Jesus, “Ye would not!” He has given you his word and servants, means and time for repentance, and sometimes also, the Spirit for conviction, and now and then stirs up to exercise your conscience; but you resist the Spirit, and thus the obstacle is in your will: “Ye will not come to Christ!” Wouldst thou know the reason of thine unwillingness? It is,

1. Because thou dost not sufficiently see the necessity of coming to the Lord Jesus: your estrangement and lost state does not weigh heavily upon your heart.

2. Because you can not properly come to Jesus, except you deny yourself, forsake all your vain pleasures, honor and esteem. You have, with the young man in the gospels, too much worldly good. You are still too much attached to the world and your sins.

You imagine that you can effect it yourself, by means of attendance at church, and going to the Lord’s table; by the repetition of some forms of prayer, some moral deeds and good works, and similar self-righteous performances.

You imagine that you can come when you will. There is in your estimation always time enough for repentance, and therefore you constantly procrastinate. To-morrow, Then, and Then, are your words.

You say you will come to Christ, you would go to heaven: but who would not fain go to heaven? Who would not gladly be saved? But you take no pleasure in the method, in the way of salvation. The way is too narrow for you: the holiness of it is not congenial to your feelings. Were the way to Jesus and heaven a broad and sinful way, oh! how many would then come! You would serve God and mammon; you would fain retain your sins.

You take no pleasure in the consequences of that way—the cross, reproach, derision, persecution. (Acts 14:22.) Through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God.

You imagine that you are already believers and regenerated persons, because born of Christian parents; supposing that you can not fall short of heaven. False ground’s soul-destroying imagination, by which thousands deceive themselves under the Gospel! a way which seemeth right to a man, by which Satan keeps back millions from God. See, thus is it with natural men. These are the reasons of your unwillingness! Oh! how unhappy and miserable is your state! for,

1. You are still estranged from the Lord Jesus, who will gather his people as a hen does her chickens;
2. It is a fearful rejection of the revealed way of salvation;
3. It is an awful insult to the Father;
4. It is a contempt of the Son of God—that fountain and rock of salvation;
5. It is a reckless disregard of the day of grace.

How does this heighten your criminality; how will it aggravate your condemnation, that the Lord would gather you, that he long bore with you, so often would have taken you under his wings, but “ye would not!”—that he invited and you refused, stretched out his hands, but you opposed; rejecting his counsel, not willing that he should be King over you. (Prov. 1.) Oh! if there is aught that will render the worm of conscience exquisitely tormenting and intolerable, it is above all, that the dear Saviour would have gathered you, “and ye would not!” O miserable sinners! would that ye were wise and willing. How long shall the Lord suffer you, O unbelieving and perverse generation! How long will ye refuse?

I pray you suffer yourselves to be gathered. There is still time for repentance. The Lord Jesus still stands with extended arms to gather you. He still waits upon you.

Nowhere else can you find defense and protection. It is absolutely necessary that you should put your trust under the shadow of his wings, for otherwise “You shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on you.” (John 3:36.)

All that is in Jesus, and is to be enjoyed under his wings, is so inviting—it is so refreshing. Oh! that you had experience of it! “I sat down under his shadow,” says the bride, “with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (Song of Sol. 2:3.) O sinner! how canst thou longer refuse? If you come to him you shall not be cast out.

Yet once consider. Can the kindness and love of the great God and good Saviour not move you? How would he gather you in order to defend you against that wrath which you have deserved? Will he himself be your rock and refreshment? and will you not come? Have you no pleasure in it? How can you find it in your heart to do thus? Is not the kindness of God of so much weight with you, when yet it is so great that David exclaims, “How excellent is thy loving-kindness! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings;” and should not you, then, forsake the pleasures of sin and the joys of this world? Do you not violence to your own soul?

Do you not go contrary to your own judgment when you despise Jesus, and sin against him? (Prov. 8:36.)

And whither shalt thou betake thyself at that day when heaven and earth shall be in flames? What wings shall then be able to cover thee from the face of God and the wrath of the Lamb? Oh! there shall be no place of refuge, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Heb. 10.)

Resolve, I pray you, to be willing, and to arise and come to Jesus.

Behold the danger which presses upon and threatens you.

Acknowledge in a lively manner the necessity of coming to Jesus: So shalt thou have life; for, saith He, “He that findeth me findeth life.” (Prov. 8.)

Oh! that you had a lively impression of your inability and unwillingness, that in holy dismay you might look for the drawing which the Lord Jesus promised when he said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me,” (John 12;) and therefore pray with the Spouse, (Song Sol. 1:4,) “Draw me, we will run after thee.”

We conclude with Heb. 12:5: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.”

Preached at New-Brunswick,
Anno 1745.
Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, “Christ’s Bitter Lamentation Over the Inhabitants of Jerusalem,” in Sermons by Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, trans. William Demarest (New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, 1856), 385–402.

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