May 27, 2016

Lucas Trelcatius, Sr. (1542–1602) on General and Particular Grace

The grace, and good will of God is, either noted generally, whereby God doth benefit all men; or particularly, whereby he doth good to the Elect in Christ: but this universal, and general grace ought to be discerned from the singular, and particular: as also the universal, and common benefits towards all, as they are men, from the Particular towards men, as they are Christians.
Lucas Trelcatius, A Brief Institution of the Common Places of Sacred Divinity. Wherein, the Truth of every Place is proved, and the Sophismes of Bellarmine are reprooved, trans. John Gawen (London: Imprinted by T. P. for Francis Burton, dwelling in Paules Church-yard, as the Signe of the Green Dragon, 1610), 218–219.

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Walter Haddon (1516–1572) and John Foxe (1517–1587) on the Grace and Will of God

And so after the first manner of speaking, I do confess, that there is a certain general grace of God, and a certain free choice of Election laid open to all, without exception: that he may receive it, that hath a will to receive it, so that under this word laid open God’s outward calling be understood, which consists in precepts, in exhortations, in Rules, written either in the ten Commandments, or in the conscience, or in preaching of the word. And in this sense may we rightly say: Pharaoh himself wanted not the grace of God, nor Saul: no nor any of the rest, whom he did oftentimes allure with gentle promises: terrify with miracles, reward with gifts, invite to repentance with prolonging punishment: suffer with much patience alluring and calling all men daily to amendment of life. All which be infallible tokens of his merciful will, called Voluntas Signi.

But after the second manner of speaking: if we behold the mercy of God, and that grace which maketh acceptable or if we respect that will of his, wherewith he not only willeth all to be saved, but wherewith he bringeth to pass, that these whom he will, shall be saved: the matter doth declare it self sufficiently: that that Mercy and Grace of accepting those things, whereunto they are called is not laid open for all and every one indifferently, but is distributed through a certain special dispensation and peculiar Election of God: whereby they that are called according to the purpose of his grace, are drawn to consent. By means whereof it cometh to pass, that the same calling according to God’s purpose failing, every man hath not in his own hand to choose, or refuse that earnest desire and general Grace indifferently offered, but such as have either received the gift of God, or are denied the gift of God. Neither doth the matter so wholly depend upon the choice of our will, either in choosing, or refusing totally: for then might it be verified, that there was no Predestination, before the foundations of the world were laid, if our Election were necessarily guided by our wills, and that our will were the foundation of our Salvation. Therefore whereas they say, that God doth accept them, which will embrace his grace, and reject them which will not receive it, is altogether untrue. Nay it rather had been more convenient to fetch our fountain from the wellspring of Grace, then from the puddle of our own will. So that we might speak more truly, on this wise: That God doth endue us with his grace, and favorable countenance, because we should be willing to embrace his ordinances and Commandments: on the contrary part, as concerning those that will not receive his grace offered, that such do worthily perish. And that the very cause, that they will not receive it, doth not arise, because their will is not helped: and that they do therefore not receive it, because they are not themselves received first.
Walter Haddon and John Foxe, Against Ierome Osorius, Bishop of Siluane in Portingall and against his slaunderous inuectiues. An Aunswere Apologeticall: For the necessary defence of the Euangelicall doctrine and veritie (London: Printed by John Daye, dwellyng ouer Aldergate, 1581), 209v–210v. [some spelling updated]
The will of God is taken [in a] manner of ways: sometimes for his secret counsel, wherewith all things are necessarily carried to the end, whereunto God hath directed them before. And so do we say, that nothing is done besides this will: It is also sometime[s] taken for that, which God approveth, and maketh acceptable unto himself: And in this sense, we do see many things done, now and then, contrary to his will discovered in the scriptures. And therefore according to his will, God is said, that he willeth all men, to be saved, whereas yet not all, nay rather but a very few are saved.
Ibid., 227v–r. [some spelling updated]

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May 25, 2016

Robert L. Reymond’s (1932–2013) Qualification on God’s Immutability and Impassibility

Classical theists have sometimes represented God’s immutability in such a sense that they have portrayed him as being virtually frozen in timeless immobility and impassibility. They reason that any movement or feeling on his part such as anger, joy, or grief must either improve his condition or detract from it. But since neither is possible for a perfect being, he remains, to use James I. Packer’s characterization of this position, in an ‘eternally frozen pose’8 as immobile and impassible, that is, inaccessible  to and incapable of feelings or emotions.

But this is not the Bible’s description of God. The God of the Bible is constantly acting into and reacting to the human condition. In no sense is the God of Scripture insulated or detached from, unconcerned with, or insensitive and indifferent to the joys and miseries of fallen mankind. Everywhere the Bible depicts him both as one who registers grief and sorrow over and displeasure and wrath against man’s sin, and as one who in compassion and love has taken effective steps in Jesus Christ to reverse the misery of his elect and even the rest of mankind to a degree. Everywhere Holy Scripture portrays him as entering deeply into authentic interpersonal relations of love with his people and truly caring about them and their happiness. As W. Norris Clarke states, the biblical God is a ‘religiously available God on the personal level’.9

To say then that God is unchangeable or immutable must not be construed to mean that he cannot and does not act. The God of the Bible acts, indeed, acts with passion, on every page of Scripture. In other words, he is not static in his immutability; he is dynamic in his immutability. But his dynamic immutability in no way affects his ‘Goodness’. To the contrary, he would cease to be the God of Scripture if he did not will and act in the ways the Bible ascribes to him. But he always wills and acts, and Isaiah declared, in faithfulness to his decrees: ‘In perfect faithfulness,’ Isaiah sings, ‘you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago’ (25:1). Therefore, Louis Berkhof is correct, in my opinion, when he concludes:
The divine immutability should not be understood as implying immobility, as if there were no movement in God.... The Bible teaches us that God enters into manifold relations with man and, as it were, lives their lives with them. There is change round about Him, change in the relations of men to Him, but there is no change in His being, His attributes, His purpose, His motives of action, or His promises.10
Thus, as Jürgen Moltmann has most notably contended in our time,11 whenever and wherever God’s impassiblity is interpreted to mean that he is impervious to human pain or incapable of empathizing with human grief we must renounce it and steadfastly distance ourselves from it.12 For while such is descriptive of Aristotle’s concept of God as ‘thought thinking thought’ and of Buddha, it is in no sense descriptive of the God of Holy Scripture who as a God of infinite love showed his love to suffering humankind by giving his own Son up to the death of the cross.13 John R. W. Stott bears testimony to my point here with the following words:
In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And  in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. This is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.... There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ ... is God’s ... self-justification in such a world’ as ours.14
When our Confession of Faith declares then that God is ‘without ... passions’ it means that he has no bodily passions such as the need to satisfy hunger of the desire to fulfill himself sexually. We do however affirm that God is impassible in the sense that the creature cannot inflict suffering, pain, or any sort of distress or discomfort upon God against his will. Insofar as God enters into such experiences, it is always the result of his deliberate voluntary decision. God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us. Ours come upon us often unforseen, unwilled, unchosen, and forced upon us against our wills. His are foreknown, willed, and chosen by him and are never forced upon him ab extra apart from his determination to accept them. In short, God is never the creature’s unwilling victim. Even when Jesus hung upon the cross his suffering was according to the predeterminate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). And he himself said, you will recall: ‘No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This ... I received from my Father’ (John 10:18).
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8. J. I. Packer, “Theism for Our Time,” in God Who is Rich in Mercy (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 16.
9. W. Norris Clarke, “A New Look at the Immutability of God,” in God, Knowable and Unknowable, edited by Robert J. Roth (New York: Fordham, 1973), 44.
10. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 59.
11. Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (London: SCM, 1974).
12. God’s ‘passibility’ pertains to him only at the level of his tri-personhood, not at the level of his essential deity.
13. We will say more about God’s love in the ninth address.
14. John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1986), 335–6.
Robert L. Reymond, ‘What is God?’—An Investigation of the Perfections of God’s Nature (Fearn, Ross-shire, UK: Mentor, 2007), 100–103.
By what they have said about his immutability, as a consequence of their understanding of God’s eternality as involving timelessness, classical theists have sometimes portrayed God as One virtually frozen in timeless immobility or inactivity (this is one example of the theological mischief which accrues to the ascription of timelessness to God). These theists correctly argue that since God is a perfect being, he is incapable of any ontological change, since any change must be either for the better or for the worse. He cannot change for the better since he is already perfect, and he cannot change for the worse since that would result in his becoming imperfect. The same holds true, it is incorrectly argued, with regard to any motion or activity on his part. Any movement must either improve his condition or detract from it. But neither is possible for a perfect Deity. Therefore, he remains in an “eternally frozen pose” (Packer’s characterization) as the impassible God. But this is not the biblical description of God. The God of Scripture is constantly acting into and reacting to the human condition. In no sense is he metaphysically insulated or detached from, unconcerned with, or insensitive or indifferent to the condition of fallen men. Everywhere he is depicted both as One who registers grief and sorrow over and displeasure and wrath against sin and its ruinous effects and as One who in compassion and love has taken effective steps in Jesus Christ to reverse the misery of men. Everywhere he is portrayed as One who can and does enter into deep, authentic interpersonal relations of love with his creatures, and as a God who truly cares for his creatures and their happiness. In sum, as W. Norris Clarke declares, God is a “‘religiously available’ Go on a personal level.”41 To say then that God is unchangeable, that is, “immutable,” must not be construed to mean that he cannot and does not act. The God of the Bible is portrayed as acting on every page of the Bible! He is not static in his immutability; he is dynamic in his immutability. But his dynamic immutability in no way affects his essential nature as God (that is, his “Godness”); to the contrary, he would cease to be the God of Scripture if he did not will and act in the ways the Bible ascribes to him. But he always wills and acts, as Isaiah declared, in faithfulness to his decrees: “In perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago” (Isa. 25:1). Berkhof correctly concludes:
The divine immutability should not be understood as implying immobility, as if there is no movement in God. . . . The Bible teaches us that God enters into manifold relations with man and, as it were, lives their life with them. There is change round about Him, change in the relations of men to Him, but there is no change in His being, His attributes, His purpose, His motives of actions, or His promises.42
Thus whenever divine impassibility is interpreted to mean that God is impervious to human pain or incapable of empathizing with human grief it must be roundly denounced and rejected. When the Confession of Faith declares that God is “without . . . passions” it should be understood to mean that God has no bodily passions such as hunger or the human drive for sexual fulfillment. As A. A. Hodge writes: “we deny that the properties of matter, such as bodily parts and passions, belong to him.”43

We do, however, affirm that the creature cannot inflict suffering, pain, or any sort of distress upon him against his will. In this sense God is impassible. J. I. Packer says this well:
Insofar as God enters into experience of that kind, it is by empathy for his creatures and according to his own deliberate decision, not as his creatures’ victim. . . . The thought of God as apathetos, free from all pathos, characterized always by apatheia, represents no single biblical term, but was introduced into Christian theology in the second century: what was it supposed to mean? The historical answer is: not impassivity, unconcern, and impersonal detachment in face of the creation; not insensitivity and indifference to the distresses of a fallen world; not inability or unwillingness to empathize with human pain and grief; but simply that God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us, for his are foreknown, willed and chosen by himself, and are not involuntary surprises forced on him from outside, apart from his own decision, in the way that ours regularly are. In other words, he is never in reality the victim whom man makes to suffer; even the Son on his cross . . . was suffering by his and the Father’s conscious foreknowledge and choice, and those who made him suffer, however free and guilty their action, were real if unwitting tools of divine wisdom and agents of the divine plan (see Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:20).44
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41. Clarke, “A New Look at the Immutability of God,” in God, Knowable and Unknowable, ed. Robert J. Roth (New York: Fordham, 1973), 44.
42. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 59.
43. A. A. Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1869), 73–4.
44. Packer, “Theism for Our Time,” ed. Peter T. O’Brien and David G. Peterson, God Who is Rich in Mercy (Grand Rapids, Mich. Baker, 1986), 7, 16–17.
Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 178–179.

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May 6, 2016

Richard Muller on Moïse Amyraut (1596–1664) and Confessional Boundaries: Part 3

Amyraut’s doctrine, although hardly a reprise of Calvin, arguably fell within confessional boundaries set by the Canons of Dort: it was never formally condemned as a heresy.
Richard Muller, “Beyond Hypothetical Universalism: Moïse Amyraut (1596–1664) on Faith, Reason, and Ethics,” in The Theology of the French Reformed Churches: From Henri IV to the Revocations of the Edict of Nantes, ed. Martin I. Klauber (Reformed Historical-Theological Studies, eds. Joel R. Beeke and Jay T. Collier; Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014), 198.
Nearly all the older scholarship went astray from the actual evidence in its assumptions that hypothetical universalism per se ran counter to the Reformed confessions—notably, the Canons of Dort—and that Amyraut’s form of hypothetical universalism, derived from the theology of his teacher, Cameron, was representative of hypothetical universalism in general.
Ibid., 205. [Note: Warfield is an example of the misguided older scholarship that involves mischaracterization and historical lumping. See B. B. Warfield, The Westminister Assembly and its Work (1959 repr.; Edmonton, AB, Canada: Still Waters Revival Books, 1991), 56, 144n94; The Plan of Salvation (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1915), 118.]
Given that Amyraut’s hypothetical universalism did not arise out of a significantly different outlook on theology or rest on a different method from that of his Reformed orthodox contemporaries, his theology ought not to be read out of the context of that orthodoxy and its Scholastic methods—nor, indeed, ought Amyraldian or Salmurian theology to be interpreted as a heresy and set outside of the bounds of the orthodoxy of the era. Certainly, Amyraut’s detractors accused him of heresy, but there is no synodical decision or confessional document that confirmed the accusation. In short, Amyraldianism was a form of Reformed orthodoxy that other orthodox Reformed writers pointedly opposed and censured, but it remained within the confessional boundaries and partook of the same Scholastic method Amyraut’s opponents employed
Ibid., 208.

For more by Muller on the same, see here (part 1) and here (part 2).

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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.

Bio:
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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.