October 21, 2014

A Brief Biography of Ezekiel Culverwell (ca. 1554–1631)

Since there isn't a biographical sketch of Ezekiel Culverwell on the Internet yet (not even on Wikipedia), I thought I would fill that gap with this quote from Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia:
Culverwell, Ezekiel (ca. 1554–1631)
Church of England clergyman and a leading member of the conference movement. Culverwell was born in London, son of Nicholas Culverwell. He was part of a network of puritan leaders. His eldest sister, Elizabeth, was the mother of William Gouge. Two younger sisters, Ceclilia and Susan, married respectively Laurence Chaderton and William Whitaker. His eldest brother, Samuel, married a daughter of Thomas Sampson.

Culverwell graduated from Oxford in 1573, proceeding M.A. in 1577. Ordained in about 1585, he became chaplain to Robert, the third Lord Rich, at Little Leighs, Essex, and preacher at nearby Felsted. He joined the conference of ministers led by George Gifford, which met in and around Braintree, in the process becoming a friend of the clergyman Richard Rogers, who frequently mentions him in his diary. It seems likely, therefore, that he stood godfather to Ezekiel Rogers.

Although his nonconformity soon drew the fire of John Aylmer, bishop of London, Culverwell was in 1592 instituted by Aylmer as rector of Great Stambridge, Essex. In 1598 he married, as his second wife, Winifred Barefoot (née Hildersham), possibly the sister of Arthur Hildersham, and was thereafter accepted as a member of the influential Barrington-Hildersham connection. In one of his three extant letters he addressed Lady Joan Barrington as "cousin."

Following the death of Arthur Dent in 1603, he saw Dent's last work, The Ruine of Rome, through the press, adding a dedicatory epistle to Lord Rich. In 1605 at Great Stambridge, he solemnized the marriage of Mary Forth to John Winthrop, the future governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who later acknowledged that it was Culverwell's ministry that had converted him to "true religion."

After many citations before the London consistory court following the implementation of the Constitutions and Canons of 1604, Culverwell was deprived of Great Stambridge by the High Commission in 1609 for his continued refusal to observe the ceremonies of the Church of England. Evidently spending the rest of his life in London, he maintained contact with Winthrop and was a friend and correspondent of such leading Calvinist theologians as John Burgess, John Dod, Richard Sibbes, and James Ussher. In his Treatise of Faith (1623; 8th ed. 1648), the most important of his handful of published works, he sought to modify the doctrine that Christ died only for the elect. When Alexander Leighton accused him of Arminianism in A friendly triall of the Treatise of Faith (Amsterdam, 1624), Culverwell issued a spirited defense--A briefe answere to certain objections against the Treatise of Faith (1626)--affirming his adherence to the decrees of the Synod of Dort.

Culverwell was buried in the parish of St. Antholin, London, on 14 April 1631, having made a brief will in July 1630. Among his bequests was one to young Ezekiel Cheever, presumably another godson: £10 and a third of all his Latin books. Culverwell's influence on Gouge, Winthrop (recipient of two [of] his extant letters), Cheever and, perhaps, the family of Richard Rogers earns him an honorable place in the dispersal of the "puritan" tradition of English Calvinism."

October 20, 2014

Ralph Robinson (1614–1655) on Christ's Willingness to Receive Sinners

"5. For the fifth. Why Chirst is called a fountain opened. He is called so in three respects. 
1. To show how willing he is that sinners should make use of him. He is not a sealed fountain; but a fountain opened. Jesus Christ is marvelous ready and desirous that polluted souls would make use of his blood. All the invitations which he uses in the Gospel show his readiness, Rev. 22:17. He hath for this purpose appointed the Ministry of the Gospel that solemn invitation might therein be made to defiled souls, that they would wash and be clean. All the complaints which he makes of sinners remissness and backwardness in coming to him, are a proof of his readiness. Take but two places for this, the one is John 5:40. The other is in Luke 13:24. With how much sadness of heart doth Jesus Christ utter those words, How often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens and ye would not: He that commands his door always to be kept open, doth declare his mind to be, that all that want succour should turn in for relief. Christ keeps open house for all penitent sinners."

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October 19, 2014

John Randall (1570–1622) on God's Love and Goodwill

"The Reasons of the doctrine are these: First, all the good that ever God doth to all or any of his creatures, it is merely of his own love, and good will towards them; therefore this Communion, which God affords the faithful to have with him, is much more for his love. That all the good that ever God doth to any of his creatures comes from his love, we may see Psalm 145:16. Thou openest thy hand and fillest all things living of thy good pleasure; then much more this communion. I say much more; for the Reason ariseth upon many advantages: First, if all the good he doth to the other creatures comes from his love, much more the good he doth to man must come from his love, Man being the choice and prime of the creatures: Secondly, if to men in general, of love, then much more to true believers, being the prime and choice of men in God's estimation: Thirdly, if all the good God doth to true believers come from his love, then much more this blessed communion, which is the prime and choice, and indeed the very Summe of all the good we receive from God; so that the reason stands very strong."
John Randall, "Saint Paul's Triumph," in The Works of That Famous Divine, Master John Randall (London: Printed by H.L. for Nathanael Newbery, in Popes-head Alley at the Starre, 1629), 27-28.

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Vavasor Powell (1617–1670) on God's Love and Mercy Bestowed on Sinners

Powell begins to exhort lost "sinners" (p. 65) to exalt Christ and to "submit unto the Lord Jesus." He says, "there are many of you here this day that stand in need of Christ, who have not stooped, and bowed down to him." He beseeches them in order to incite their hearts to consider various motives. Here is one of them:
"6. Because that all the love and mercy which the Lord hath revealed to you, and bestowed on you, they are to bring you to obedience unto him.

O consider! what mercies God hath heaped upon you, he hath given you Houses, Lands, Children, Servants, Honours, pleasure, and dominion, and he hath made your enemies to stoop to you; O now what doth the Lord expect from you? but that you should submit unto his Son."
Vavasor Powell, Christ Exalted Above All Creatures by God His Father (London: Printed by Robert Ibbitson for Livewell Chapman at the Crown in Popes-head Alley, 1651), 67.

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October 17, 2014

Ralph Venning (c. 1621–1674) on Paradox in God's Will

"96. He [the orthodox Christian] believes that God willeth all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth [1 Tim. 2:4 in the margin]: and yet he believes that to them who are without all things are done in Parables; that seeing they may see, and not perceive, and hearing they may hear, and not understand [Luke 8:10], lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them: yea, he believes that they could not believe, because he hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, and be converted, and he should heal them [John 12:39-40]."
Ralph Venning, Orthodox Paradoxes: Or, A Believer Clearing Truth by Seeming Contradictions, 2nd Part (London: Printed by S. G. for J. Rothwell, at the Fountain and Bear in Goldsmiths-row in Cheapside, 1657), 13.
"110. He believes that 'tis the pleasure of the Lord that the wicked should die; and yet he believes that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked." Ibid., 15.
"161. He believes that nothing can be done against the will of God; for, Who hath resisted his Will? and yet he believes that every sin is committed against the Will of God." Ibid., 21.
"214. He believes that God willeth all men to be saved, 1 Tim. 2:4. and yet he believes that God wills not the salvation of all men." Ibid., 27.
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"43. He believes that God doth all that he wills to do; and yet he believes that God wills that to be which he never doth.

44. He believes that God's willing of sin is rather a permission than a willing; and yet he believes it to be a willing permission.

45. He believes that God's will is one; and yet that his will is manifold.

46. He believes that though men leave the will of God undone, yet his will is never disappointed."
Ralph Venning, Orthodox Paradoxes, Theological and Experimental. Or, A Believer Clearing Truth by Seeming Contradictions, 6th Edition (London: Printed for J. Rothwell, at the Fountain and Beare in Goldsmiths-Row in Cheapside, 1654), 5.
"48. He believes that [1 Tim. 2:3-4] God would that all men should be saved; and yet he believes that his will is not changed, nor frustrated though many are damned." Ibid., 6.

"61. He believes that God never made any man on purpose to reprobate him; and yet he believes that God ever purposed to reprobate some men." Ibid., 7.

"He knows that grace is much resisted; and yet he believes that there is nothing works so irresistibly." Ibid., 11.
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William Whittingham (c. 1524–1579) on God's Loving Offer

"He [Paul in 2 Cor. 5:18-20] commendeth the excellency of the ministry of the Gospel, both by the authority of God himself, who is the author of that ministry, and also by the excellency of the doctrine of it: for it announces atonement with God, by free forgiveness of our sins, and justification offered unto us in Christ, and that so lovingly and liberally, that God himself does after a sort pray men by the mouth of his ministers to have consideration of themselves, and not to despise so great a benefit."
William Whittingham, The New Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ (London: Imprinted by Robert Barker, 1616), 180.

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October 15, 2014

William Whittaker (1629–1672) on Slighting God's Glorious Inheritance

"2. Consider what we do in slighting and undervaluing this glorious Inheritance. 
1. We most unworthily requite the greatest love that ever was or can be imagined. Does God so expostulate with his people of Israel, because of their ingratitude for outward preservations and deliverances, those outward mercies bestowed upon them, 32. Deuter. 6. Do you thus requite the Lord? May not God much more expostulate with us in respect of these greater mercies? do you thus requite the Lord, O foolish and unwise? 
Hath God been so gracious to us, as to take care of our souls, and of our everlasting well-fare, and shall we thus requite him? Our engagements for Common mercies are great, but our engagements for these mercies, how much greater are they?

Consider what a mercy it is that there should be a possibility of our obtaining this Inheritance.

We who in our natural constitution are but one step from hell, and everlasting flames; and between us, and it there is nothing but a brittle and uncertain life; What astonishing love is this? God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, 3. John 16, 1 John 3.5.

Now, how disingenuous and unworthy is it in us to slight and undervalue these high discoveries of love.

Again, Consider what a mercy it is not only that heaven is become possible, but also that God vouchsafes us this privilege to discover the excellency of heaven, and his blessing upon the means, that by all we might be made meet to partake of this Inheritance. These are mercies that God doth not vouchsafe to all men, 147 Psal. 19, 20. He hath not dealt so with other nations.

Farther, not only is this inheritance possible, and a discovery made of it, and means afforded for the obtaining it, But God gives us also many encouragements to make use of these means: this Inheritance is not only purchased but proffered and tendered: if we are willing to accept, and do not refuse it, God will bestow it. Nay, God doth not only proffer it but he importunes our acceptance of it: how often doth Christ persuade, and persuade with a great deal of importunity, that you would accept of this Inheritance, I have stretched out my hand all the long to a gainsaying people."
William Whittaker, Eighteen Sermons Preached Upon Several Texts of Scripture (London: Printed for Tho. Parkhurst, and are to be sold under the Gate on London-Bridg, and at his Shop at the three Crowns and Bible in Cheapside near Mercers Chappel, 1674), 64-66. He was the son of Jeremiah Whitaker (1599-1654), the Westminster divine.

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Jeremiah Whitaker (1599–1654) on Christ's Infinite Love to Men and His Desire After the Nations

"3. He is the desire of all Nations because his desire is after the Nations, though he needs them not, though thousands of Angel[s] stand before him, & thousand times ten thousands daily Minister unto him, though he lies in the bosom of his Father from all eternity, as one brought up with him and was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; yet such infinite love did he bear to men in whom there was nothing lovely, that he saith of himself, my rejoicing is in the habitable part of the earth, and my delights are with the Sons of men."
Jeremiah Whitaker, Eirenopoios, Christ the Settlement of Unsettled Times (London: Printed for John Rothwell, and are to be sold at his shop in Pauls Church-yard, at the Signe of the Sunne, 1642), 52-53. His son was William Whitaker (1629-1672). Jeremiah's last name is spelled as "Whittaker" on EEBO.

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October 9, 2014

Nathanael Ball (1623–1681) Referencing 2 Peter 3:9

"4. Tho thou art a great sinner yet thou art not a sinner in hell; thou art a sinner upon earth still. And there is this difference betwixt sinners upon earth, and sinners in hell; that the first are yet under hope, while the others are past it. It is thy great misery, that thou art yet among the unconverted; but 'tis great mercy, that thou art not among the damned. The place in which thou yet art, is the place of repentance, and not of punishment. We must look upon no sinners as past hope, that are not past this life: Why, thou livest yet; Christ hath not denounced the final sentence against thee; thou hast not yet stood before his Judgment-seat, and heard him say to thee, Depart thou cursed into everlasting fire. What is the patience and long-suffering of God towards thee for, but to show thee that they condition is yet recoverable? 2 Pet. 3:9. It is enough to answer thy despairing thoughts, to tell thee, that yet the Lord waits to be gracious. Dost thou not see how God doth lengthen out the thread of thy life day after day? He could snatch thee away in an instant, but yet he continues thee where thou hast Calls, and Means, and Opportunities for the good of thy Soul. Why, 'tis not thus with those that are in Hell; they are beyond all help, and beyond all hope; but thou art not, through the riches of the goodness of God. The great thing that thou wantest, is but a heart to know the things of thy Peace, in the day of thy Visitation."
Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 88-89. 

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Credit to Travis Fentiman for bringing Nathanael Ball to my attention.

October 7, 2014

Nathanael Ball (1623–1681) on Christ's Absolute and Conditional Will to Save

"1. There is an absolute willingness in Christ to save some sinners, and these sinners are those whom God hath, from all eternity, chosen to life; and who thereupon do come to Christ, that they might have life, being awakened and stirred up thereunto by the inward and effectual working of God's Spirit and Grace upon their hearts. Now there is in Christ an absolute willingness to save all such; he is fully resolved to be wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption to them, John 6:37.

2. There is a conditional willingness in Christ to save other sinners, yea all sinners, yea even those that shall never be saved; by which Christ stands ready to receive, and pardon, and embrace them, in case they come to him, and repent and believe the Gospel: which they never do, through the hardness and impenitency of their hearts, to which they are justly left, they are eternally lost, though Christ could have saved them, and would have saved them, if the Condition had been performed, Luke 13:34."
Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 178-179.

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Credit to Travis Fentiman for bringing Nathanael Ball to my attention.

Nathanael Ball (1623–1681) on Christ's Earnest Offer of Liberty

"Use. And now, doth the Lord Jesus Christ offer this Liberty to you? Oh then, I beseech you, let it be accepted of you. Oh Beloved, 'tis offer to this end, that it should be accepted: not that it should be made light of, as if there were no great matter in it, whether you had it, or had it not. I therefore urge that Scripture upon you now, Heb. 12:25. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh: For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven. What, shall Christ make such an offer to you, and will you not close with it? Will you that are in Bondage perish in your Bondage, when you might be set free? Is it such a good condition that you are in, that you should desire to stay in it? The prison and bondage of the Body, though it be nothing to this that your souls are in, yet how glad are poor Creatures to hear, that there is any hope or way for deliverance out of that. Oh, sirs, let not Christ lose his love, let him not lose his labour, let him not lose his longing: fain he would have you set at liberty: And therefore, don't hug your chains, as if you were loath to part with them. Lay this to your heart, that Freedom is offered to you; how can you shift it, but you must close with it now? If it had not been offered, there had been some excuse: but will you put it off, now it hath been offered; yea, when it hath been offered particularly to every one of you, that there is none of you have been excluded from this gracious Invitation: and when it hath been offered with a notwithstanding, notwithstanding all the great and grievous sins which you have lived in, as it was said to Judah, Jer. 3:1-2. Thou hast played with many lovers: yet return to me, saith the Lord: And when it hath been offered frequently, not once or twice, but often; How often would I have gathered you, saith Christ to Jerusalem? God hath seen you neglect this Salvation, such a Sermon, and such a Sermon; and yet he hath sent again, and again, and again to you: And when it hath been offered with so much importunity and earnestness, that you have never been pleaded with about any thing in this World, as you have about getting this Freedom: and when it hath been offered to you so freely, that you shall be redeemed at another's cost, and not at your own: you have sold yourselves for naught, and ye shall be redeemed without price: I say, when it hath been offered, and thus offered, why what's your duty from all this, but to close with it? 1. Close with it thankfully. What? Is there yet Freedom for me, for such a one as I? Oh, blessed be God! admired be his Mercy! adored be his Name! 2. Close with it thoroughly. Take heed of doing it by halves: take heed of parting with your sins but as Pharaoh would part with the children of Israel; he would yield to this and that upon force, but he never came up to God's terms. 3. Close with it quickly, before your day of Grace be at an end, before it be too late to look out for it. Oh, sirs! stir, stir for your souls, for the Lord's sake, quickly, quickly; you may else be undone to all eternity. Opportunities of grace are not long lived; and when they are over, you will wish you had improved them, and then there will be no fetching them back. I commend that awakening Scripture to you, Heb. 12. 15-17. Look diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up, trouble you, and thereby many be defiled: Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat, sold his birth-right. For ye know, how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. That may be lost in a little time, that can never be recovered."
Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 64-67.  

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Credit to Travis Fentiman for bringing Nathanael Ball to my attention.

An Excerpt from Erroll Hulse on the Views of Calvin

"As we would expect, Calvin’s teaching anticipates the formularies of Dort including the doctrine of God’s love for all mankind and the free, unfettered and uninhibited offers of the gospel to sinners.

In his commentary on Romans 5:18 Calvin writes: “Paul makes grace common to all men, not because it in fact extends to all, but because it is offered to all. Although Christ suffered for the sins of the world, and is offered by the goodness of God without distinction to all men, yet not all receive him.” Note Calvin uses the word offered. Also noteworthy is his concept of God’s goodness which is consistent with his belief in common grace. The goodness of God is given to all mankind, not the elect only.

Calvin’s concept of common grace has been the subject of intense study. The most comprehensive work ever written on the subject of common grace is in Dutch by Abraham Kuyper in three large volumes. An important work discussing the various positions held on common grace is by Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel.1 Writers on this subject refer to Calvin’s recognition that the good in mankind, including religious aspiration, decent behaviour, social brotherliness, artistic and scientific achievement, is bestowed by God. There are many such references in Calvin’s Institutes.2

In Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” he suggests that we have here a lament which expresses a “maternal kindness.” He writes as follows: “In a manner of speaking, God bares his breast to us in the overtures of the gospel.”… “Indeed, it is precisely the tender-heartedness of God’s lament in the Person of his Son that renders human unbelief in response to the Gospel such a monstrous thing. For this reason–the sinner’s stubborn refusal to respond appropriately to God’s kind overtures–a dreadful vengeance awaits us as often as the teaching of his gospel is put before us, unless we quietly hide ourselves under his wings, in which he is ready to take us up and shelter us.”3

In his lectures on Ezekiel, Calvin expressly states that God announces through the prophet, “his wish is that all should be saved” (Ezekiel 18:23,32). Likewise on 2 Peter 3:9 Calvin observes, “Though God has secretly determined to save the elect alone, he declares in the Gospel that he desires the salvation of all. The only solution open to us is to acknowledge that in his revealed will God stretches out his hand to all alike, even though secretly he has determined to save one and not another. Nonetheless, there is no ultimate disharmony between God’s purpose of election and the universal call of the gospel, however difficult this harmony may be for us to comprehend.”
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1. Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972), 232.
2. John Calvin, Institutes, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1960), 276.
3. With regard to the tender-heartedness of God, Don Carson speaks of God's yearning, inviting, seeking love and he refers to John 3:16 and Ezekiel 33. Don A. Carson, Love in Hard Places (Paternoster, 2002), 15.
Excerpt from Who Saves? God or Me? by Erroll Hulse, published by Evangelical Press in January 2009. This quote can be found here and here.

Curt Daniel on Loving Our Enemies and a Hyper-Calvinist Error

On 06/29/2014, Dr. Curt Daniel preached on Luke 6:27-36 and the topic "Love Your Enemies." Around minute 30:40-33:10, he took some time to speak against a variety of hyper-Calvinism that denies God's universal love (Note: not all varieties deny it). He said:
"We at this church believe in the 5 points of Calvinism; we would be mainstream Calvinists. But there is something called hyper-Calvinism, and I've read some of their books, and they go beyond this [the mainstream teaching on God's love]. And they say God does not love everybody; he has only love for those that are Christians, that he has chosen [the elect]. They misunderstand this. The bible says God has a general love for everybody, even though He reserves a special love for the elect, His children. But this movement goes beyond that and says, 'No, no, no. God loves only the elect.' And then I say to them, and I've had to say to some of them, I say, 'Well if God only loves Christians, then we should only love Christians, and not love non-Christians.' And I've seen them, where they bite their lips, because they see the logic of this and they change the subject. And I say, 'Well what do you do with Jesus? He loved the Pharisees; He prayed for those that were killing Him; and He gave us the example. He healed people that never even said thank you!' And one of them [a hyper-Calvinist] had the audacity to say, 'Well that was Jesus, not me, and that was in His humanity and not in His deity.' And I said, 'You missed the whole point! We're to imitate Jesus. He is showing us, not just perfect humanity, but He is showing us the heart of God! God has a general love for all people, and when we show that love, even to ungrateful, God-hating people that hate us too, we're imitating God.' So, brethren, let's not be like the hyper-Calvinists who are imitating the Pharisees. Let's imitate the Lord Jesus Christ by loving and doing good to those that are unthankful; they'll never say thank you to us or to God, and in that we are being merciful like our heavenly Father is.

Let me boil it down to this: it's not just showing mercy and kindness; we are showing grace! What is grace? It's God's undeserved kindness! Yes, [to] that person that hates you. He doesn't deserve a good response, but do it anyway. And by showing love, you are showing undeserved grace! And in no other way, dear brethren, can we so imitate God as when we show grace to those that hate us and despise us and don't deserve love. So go to that enemy that I asked you to think about this morning, and do good to him, and show him the love of God."