"It appears to me an incontrovertible fact that God is represented in his word as exercising goodness, mercy, kindness, long-suffering, and even love towards men as men. The bounties of Providence are described as flowing from kindness and mercy; and this his kindness and mercy is held up as an example for us to love our enemies, Matt. v. 44, 45; Luke vi. 35, 36. And this the apostle extols; calling it, "The riches of his goodness," &c., keenly censuring the wicked for despising it, instead of being led to repentance by it, Rom. ii. 4. And what if God never intended to render this his goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering effectual to the leading of them to repentance? Does it follow that it is not goodness? And while I read such language as this, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," -- and that the ministry of reconciliation was in this strain - "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech [men] by us; we pray [them] in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." -- I can draw no conclusion short of this, that eternal life through Jesus Christ is freely offered to sinners as sinners, or as Calvin, on John iii. 16, expresseth it, "He useth the universal note both that he may invite all men in general unto the participation of life, and that he may cut off all excuse from unbelievers. To the same end tendeth the term world; for although there shall nothing be found in the world that is worthy of God's favour, yet he showeth that he is favourable unto the whole world, when he calleth all men without exception to the faith of Christ. But remember that life is promised to all who shall believe in Christ, so commonly, that yet faith is not common to all men; yet God doth only open the eyes of his elect, that they may seek him by faith."
September 28, 2006
"It were very unreasonable to expect, since this world shall continue but a little while, that all God's managements and ways of procedure, in ordering the great affairs of it, should be attempered and fitted to the judgment that shall be made of the present apprehension and capacity of our (now so mudded and distemptered) minds. A vast and stable eternity remains, wherein the whole celestial chorus shall entertain themselves with the grateful contemplation and applause of his deep counsels. Such things as now seem perplex and intricate to us, will appear most irreprehensibly fair and comely to angelical minds, and our own, when we shall be vouchsafed a place amongst that happy community. What discovery God affords of his own glorious excellencies and perfections, is principally intended to recommend him in that state wherein he, and all his ways and works, are to be beheld with everlasting and most complacential approbation. Therefore, though now we should covet the clearest and most satisfying account of things that can be had, we are yet to exercise patience, and not precipitate our judgment of them before the time; as knowing our present conceptions will differ more from what they will be hereafter, than those of a child from the maturer thoughts of the wisest man; and that many of our conceits, which we thought wise, we shall then see cause to put away as childish things."
John Howe, "The Reconcilableness of God's Prescience of the Sins of Men, with the Wisdom and Sincerity of His Counsels, Exhortations, and Whatsoever Means He Uses to Prevent Them," in The Works of John Howe (Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990), 2:513.
September 27, 2006
For those who may not realize it yet, my blog is frequently devoted to an attempt to revive the revealed will of God among Calvinists. I am not seeking to subtract or minimize what is true of God's special or decretal will (as some of them suspect), but only to underline certain biblical, historical and systematic teachings that I hope will restore a clearer vision of God's revealed will. I believe that the revealed will, and truth that pertains to it, has been eclipsed by a strong interest in God's decrees. This emphasis on and interest in God's special decrees is understandable, given the rampant free will theologies prevalent in our autonomous culture(s). Also, since God has told us some things about his decrees in scripture, believers find tremendous comfort in the fact that God is indeed almighty, and he will certainly bring his special purposes and promises to pass. All historic Calvinists rejoice in God's glorious sovereignty.
However, we should not favor some truth as the expense of others. For this reason, I am seeking to get fellow "Calvinists" to climb from point 1 to point 5 below:
1) The bible distinguishes between a decretal (sometimes called secret) and preceptive (sometimes called revealed) will in God.
2) God commands all that hear the gospel call to believe in Christ and repent.
3) This preceptive will reveals an ardent and sincere desire in God that men believe (or comply with the command).
4) This shows that God wills the salvation of all (I don't mean equally), for repentance is salvation.
5) God wills the salvation of all by a righteous and completely sufficient means, i.e. on the basis or ground of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So, there is a sense in which Christ can be said to have died for the salvation of all.
Some get stuck at point 1 (not really thinking of the latter as a "will"), while others are fine up until point 3. Many of them choke on points 4 and 5 (especially what I am saying about point 5), see the logic, and then revert back to problems that pertain to point 3 (and 1 by implication).
These are my 5 points for restoring God's revealed will. Once they are completely and coherently adopted, the ripple effect for the rest of one's systematic and biblical theology is quite profound. I believe that the above 5 truths (viewed in conjunction with truths that pertain to God's sovereign decrees) will produce a warm and truly evangelistic Calvinism so necessary for our day.
If you ever wonder where I am at in my daily theological meditations, I am at Golgatha, contemplating what the Godman was doing on the cross, and reflecting on how it should impact all of my thinking and behavior. The Apostle Paul was frequently there himself.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
"But sacrifice, expiation, is one— the single, glorious, indivisible act of the divine Redeemer, infinite and inexhaustible in merit. Had there been but one sinner, Seth, elected of God, this whole divine sacrifice would have been needed to expiate his guilt. Had every sinner of Adam's race been elected, the same one sacrifice would be sufficient for all. We must absolutely get rid of the mistake that expiation is an aggregate of gifts to be divided and distributed out, one piece to each receiver, like pieces of money out of a bag to a multitude of paupers. Were the crowd of paupers greater, the bottom of the bag would be reached before every pauper got his alms, and more money would have to be provided. I repeat, this notion is utterly false as applied to Christ's expiation, because it is a divine act. It is indivisible, inexhaustible, sufficient in itself to cover the guilt of all the sins that will ever be committed on earth. This is the blessed sense in which the Apostle John says (1 Jn. 2:2): "Christ is the propitiation (the same word as expiation) for the sins of the whole world."
The following declaration is found in Confession xv. I, Larger Catechism, 159. ‘Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached in season and out of season by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.’ This certainly teaches that faith and repentance are the duty of all men, not of some only. No one contends that the Confession teaches that God has given a limited command to repent. ‘God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.’ But how could he give such a universal command to all sinners if he is not willing to pardon all sinners? If his benevolent love is confined to some sinners in particular? How could our Lord command his ministers to preach the doctrine of faith and repentance to ‘every creature’, if he does not desire that every one of them would believe and repent? And how can he desire this if he does not feel infinite love for the souls of all? When the Confession teaches the duty of universal faith and repentance, it teaches by necessary inference the doctrine of God’s universal compassion and readiness to forgive. And it also teaches in the same inferential way, that the sacrifice of Christ for sin is ample for the forgiveness of every man. To preach the duty of immediate belief on the Lord Jesus Christ as obligatory upon every man, in connection with the doctrine imputed to the Confession by the reviser, that God feels compassion for only the elect, and that Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient for all, would be self-contradictory. The two things cannot be put together.”W. G. T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure & Mixed (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1986), 25.
Larger Catechism, 95, declares that ‘the moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God; to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature; to humble them in the sense of sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of his obedience.’ But what is the use of showing every man his need of Christ, if Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient for every man? What reason is there for convincing every man of the pollution of his nature, and humbling him for it, unless God is for every man ‘most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin?’ The doctrine taught in this section, that all men are to be convicted of sin, like the doctrine that all men are to repent and to pray, supposes that God sustains a common benevolent and merciful relation to them all.Ibid., 26.
September 25, 2006
What's significant about the following quote is that John Howe is saying that some theologians, who distinguish between the will of God's good pleasure (voluntas beneplaciti) and will of sign (voluntas signi), do not think of the will of sign (or God's revealed will) as a "will" (voluntas) at all. In effect, they think the only real will is God's secret will (voluntas beneplaciti). They basically make a distinction without a difference in their system. Some think of God's command as not indicating a desire or will in God for compliance, but that God only willed the command (or sign) itself. Howe says that such conceptions of God's will are not adequate to address the "ignominious slander which" men of "profane and atheistical dispositions would fasten upon God."
"I must here profess my dislike of the terms of that common distinction, the voluntas beneplaciti, et signi, in this present case. Under which, such as coined, and those that have much used it, have only rather, I doubt not, concealed a good meaning, than expressed by it an ill one. It seems, I confess, by its more obvious aspect, too much to countenance the ignominious slander which profane and atheistical dispositions would fasten upon God, and the course of his procedure towards men; and which it is the design of these papers to evince of as much absurdity and folly, as it is guilty of impiety and wickedness: as though he only intended to seem willing of what he really was not; that there was an appearance to which nothing did subesse. And then why is the latter called voluntas? Unless the meaning be, he did only will the sign; which is false and impious: - and if it were true, did he not will it with the will of good pleasure? And then the members of the distinction are confounded. Or, as if the evil actions of men were, more truly, the objects of his good pleasure, than their forbearance of them. And of these faults the application of the distinction of God’s secret will, and revealed, unto this case, though it be useful in many, is as guilty."
John Howe, "The Reconcilableness of God's Prescience of the Sins of Men, with the Wisdom and Sincerity of His Counsels, Exhortations, and Whatsoever Means He Uses to Prevent Them." in The Works of John Howe (Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990), 2:502.
What Paul teaches so abundantly of the sacrificial death of Christ is taught by the Apostle John (First Epistle, ii. 2). Jesus Christ "is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." The word here used is hilasmos, propitiation, expiation; from hilaskomai, to reconcile one's self to any one by expiation, to appease, to propitiate." And in chapter iv. 10, it is said, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." The inconsistency between love, and expiation or satisfaction for sin, which modern writers so much insist upon, was not perceived by men who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. In chapter i. 7, this same Apostle says, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." To cleanse, katharizein, kathairein, katharismon poiein, agiazein, louein (Revelation i. 5) are established sacrificial terms to express the removal of the guilt of sin by expiation.Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 2:511.
This is what is meant when it is said, or implied in Scripture, that Christ gave Himself as a propitiation, not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. He was a propitiation effectually for the sins of his people, and sufficiently for the sins of the whole world. Augustinians have no need to wrest the Scriptures. They are under no necessity of departing from their fundamental principle that it is the duty of the theologian to subordinate his theories to the Bible, and teach not what seems to him to be true or reasonable, but simply what the Bible teaches.Ibid., 2:558–559.
"It cannot be unobserved by them that have made themselves any part of their own study, that it is very incident to our minds, to grasp at more than they can compass; and then, through their own scantiness (like the little hand of a child) to throw away one thing that hath pleased us, to make room for another, because we cannot comprehend both together. It is not strange, that our so straitly limited understanding should not be able to lodge commodiously the immense perfections of a Deity; so as to allow them liberty to spread themselves in our thoughts in their entire proportions. And because we cannot, we complain, when we feel ourselves a little pinched, that the things will not consist; when the matter is, that we have unduly crowded and huddled them up together in our incomprehensive minds, that have not distinctly conceived them.And though this consideration should not be used for the protection of a usurped liberty of fastening upon God, so arbitrarily and at random, what we please (as indeed what so gross absurdity might not any one give shelter to by such a misapplication of it?) we ought yet to think is seasonably applied when we find ourselves urged with difficulties on one hand and on the other, and apprehend it hard with clearness and satisfaction to ascribe to God what we also find it not easy to ascribe. Nor would it be less unfit to apply it for the patronage of that slothfulness wherein our discouraged minds are sometimes too prone to indulge themselves. To which purpose I remember somewhat very apposite in Minucius Felix, that many through the mere tediousness of finding out the truth, do rather, by a mean succumbency, yield to the first specious show of any opinion whatsoever, than be at the trouble, by a pertinacious diligence, of applying themselves to a thorough search. Though the comprehension of our minds be not infinite, it might be extended much farther than usually it is, if we would allow ourselves with patient diligence to consider things at leisure, and so as gradually to stretch and enlarge our understandings. Many things have carried the appearance of contradiction and inconsistency, to the first view of our straitened minds, which afterwards, we have, upon repeated consideration and endeavor, found room for, and been able to make fairly accord, and lodge together.Especially we should take heed lest it be excluded by over-much conceitedness, and a self-arrogating pride, that disdains to be thought not able to see through every thing, by the first and slightest glance of a haughty eye; and peremptorily determines that to be unintelligible, that an arrogant, uninstructed mind hath only not humility enough to acknowledge difficult to be understood. When it is too possible some may be overprone to detract from God what really belongs to him, lest any thing should seem detracted from themselves; and impute imperfection to him rather than confess their own; and may be so over-ascribing to themselves, as to reckon it a disparagement not to be endured, to seem a little puzzled for the present, to be put to pause, and draw breath awhile, and look into the matter again and again; which, if their humility and patience would enable them to do, it is not likely that the Author of our faculties would be unassisting to them, in those our inquiries which concern our duty towards himself. For though, in matters of mere speculation, we may be encountered with difficulties whereof perhaps no mortal can ever be able to find out the solution, (which is no great prejudice, and may be gainful and instructive to us,) yet, as to what concerns the object of our religion, it is to be hoped we are not left in unextricable entanglements; nor should think we are, till we have made our utmost trial; the design being not to gratify our curiosity, but to relieve ourselves of uncomfortable doubtfulness in the matter of our worship, and (in a dutiful zeal towards the blessed object thereof) to vindicate it against the cavils of ill-minded men."
John Howe, "The Reconcilableness of God's Prescience of the Sins of Men, with the Wisdom and Sincerity of His Counsels, Exhortations, and Whatsoever Means He Uses to Prevent Them," in The Works of John Howe (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990), 2:476-478.
Some of the writings of John Howe can be found online HERE.
September 22, 2006
When the Reformed theology describes the universal offer of salvation as sincere, it does not merely mean that the human preacher, who obviously cannot distinguish with certainty between the elect and the non-elect, must for that reason issue to all men indiscriminately a most sincere offer of eternal life and an equally sincere invitation to accept that offer. It most assuredly means that, but it means incomparably more. The Reformed theology insists that God Himself, who has determined from eternity who are to be saved and who are not, and therefore distinguishes infallibly between the elect whom He designed to save by the death of Christ and the reprobate whom He did not design to save, makes on the ground of the universally suitable and sufficient atonement a most sincere, bona fide, offer of eternal life, not only to the elect but to all men, urgently invites them to life everlasting, and expresses the ardent desire that every person to whom this offer and this invitation come accept the offer and comply with the invitation.R. B. Kuiper, For Whom Did Christ Die? (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 86.
Observe what Kuiper says about the gospel in the above quote. It is:
1) An "Offer" and an "Invitation."
2) That it is "God Himself" who is offering Christ to all that receive the external call, and not merely us who are ignorant of the special decrees/"designs" of God.
3) That the offer by God is "most sincere, bona fide," or well-meant.
4) That this sincere offer is based or grounded upon a "universally suitable and sufficient atonement" by Christ.
5) That God "ardently desires" compliance from all that hear the call, and "gives expression" to this ardent desire in such a way that he "urgently invites" all. In other words, the revealed will of God is an active principle (he "expresses" it by urgent invitations) in God to the effect that he ardently desires gospel compliance from all unbelievers, whether elect or not.
R. B. Kuiper (1886–1966) was President of Calvin College (1930–33) and Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (1933–1952). He finished his career as President of Calvin Seminary.
“Second, the substitutionary character of Christ’s obedience automatically also involves equivalency inasmuch as it corresponds completely to the demand of the law. This equivalency, however, was understood differently by the Reformation than by Rome. Duns Scotus believed that some holy human being or an angel could also have made satisfaction for our sins if God had approved of this substitution, for “every created offering has as much value as God agrees to and no more.” Similarly, the Remonstrants later taught that not the justice of God but only the fairness (aequitas) demanded any satisfaction and that “the merit that Christ paid was paid off in accordance with the estimation of God the Father.”Squarely in opposition to this view, Aquinas called Christ’s passion not only a sufficient “but a superabundant satisfaction for the sins of the human race.” The question was even considered whether one drop of Christ’s blood would not have been sufficient for the purpose of atonement. This whole way of looking at the subject, both in Aquinas and in Duns Scotus, is based on an external quantitative estimate of the suffering of Christ.In principle, the Reformation broke with this system of calculation. This is evident from the fact that it rejected both the “acceptation” of Scotus and the “superabundance” of Aquinas; that beside the passive obedience, it also included the active obedience in the work of Christ; that, while it did call Christ’s sacrifice equivalent to, it did not consider it identical with what we were obligated to suffer and to do; that it considered it completely sufficient, so that no augmentation by our faith and good works was needed, either along Catholic or Remonstrant lines. The Reformed said that Christ’s work by itself was completely sufficient for the atonement of the sins of the whole world so that, if he had wanted to save a smaller number, it could not have been less, and if he had wanted to save a higher number, it would not have had to be greater.Sins indeed are not money debts, and satisfaction is not a problem of arithmetic. The transfer of our sins to Christ was not so mechanical a process that the sins of all the elect first had to be carefully counted, then laid on Christ, and separately expiated by Christ. Nor did Christ pass through all the phases of human life and make separate satisfaction for the sins of every phase or age, as Irenaeus and others pictured it. Neither did he suffer precisely the same (idem) things we do, nor in the same way, for consciousness of guilt and so on could not occur in him, nor did he know spiritual death as the inclination to do evil, and he did not suffer eternal death in form and duration, but only intensively and qualitatively as God-forsakenness.There is even some truth in “acceptation,” for the strict justice of God required that every human should personally make satisfaction for himself or herself; and it was his grace that gave Christ as the mediator of a covenant and imputed his righteousness to the members of that covenant. A quantitative calculation, therefore, does not fit in the case of vicarious satisfaction. In the doctrine of satisfaction, we are dealing with factors other than those that can be measured and weighed. Sin is a principle that controls and corrupts the whole creation, a power and a realm that expands and organizes itself in numerous actual sins. The wrath of God is a fury directed against the sin of the whole human race. His righteousness is the perfection by which he cannot tolerate being denied or dishonored as God by his creatures. Vicarious satisfaction, accordingly, means that as the guarantor and head, Christ entered the relationship to God – his wrath, his righteousness, his law – in which the human race stood. For that humankind, which was given to him to reconcile, he was made to be sin, became a curse, and took its guilt and punishment on himself. When the Socinians say that in any case Christ could make satisfaction only for one person and not for many, inasmuch as he only bore the punishment of sin once, this reasoning is based on the same quantitative calculation as the “acceptation” of Duns Scotus and the “superabundance” of Aquinas. For though the sin that entered the world through Adam manifests itself in an incalculable series of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, and though the wrath of God is felt individually by every guilty member of the human race, it is and remains the one indivisible law that has been violated, the one indivisible wrath of God that has been ignited against the sin of the whole human race, the one indivisible righteousness of God that has been offended by sin, the one unchangeable eternal God who has been affronted by sin. The punishment of Christ, therefore, is also one: one that balances in intensity and quality the sin and guilt of the whole human race, appeases the wrath of God against the whole human race, fulfills the whole law, fully satisfies the righteousness of God, and again makes God known and recognized in all his perfections of truth and righteousness, of love and grace, throughout the human race. That punishment, after all, was laid on him who was not an individual on a level with other individuals but the second Adam, head of the human race, both Son of Man and Son of God.”
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 3:400-402.
“In the case of financial debts, satisfaction indeed cancels out forgiveness, since here what matters is not the person who pays but only the sum of money that is paid. But in the case of moral debts, this is very different. They are personal and must be punished in the guilty person himself or herself. If a substitute is admitted in this situation, the admission of such a substitute and the crediting of his merits in exchange for those of the guilty person is certainly always an act of grace.”
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 3:376.
September 21, 2006
“II. The Difference between a penal and a pecuniary satisfaction. These differ precisely as do crime and debt, things and persons, and therefore the distinction is both obvious and important. Many, who either are incapable of understanding the question, are ignorant of its history, or who are unscrupulous as to the manner in which they conduct controversy, are continually charging our doctrine with the folly of representing the sacrifice of Christ as a purely commercial transaction, in which so much was given for so much, and in which God was in such a sense recompensed for his favours to us that however much gratitude we may owe to Christ, we owe on this behalf none to God. Long ago the doctrine of the Reformed Churches was unanswerably vindicated from such puerile charges by all its most authoritative expounders. “Here the twofold solution, concerning which jurists treat, should be accurately distinguished. The one, which ipso facto liberates the debtor or criminal because that very thing which was owed is paid, whether it was done by the debtor or by another in his name. The other, which ipso facto does not liberate, since not at all the very thing which was owed, but an equivalent, is paid, which, although it does not thoroughly and ipso facto discharge the obligation, yet having been accepted – since it might be refused – is regarded as a satisfaction. This distinction holds between a pecuniary and a penal indebtedness. For in a pecuniary debt the payment of the thing owed ipso facto liberates the debtor from all obligations whatsoever, because here the point is not who pays, but what is paid. Hence the creditor, the payment being accepted, is never said to extend toward the debtor any indulgence or remission, because he has received all that was owed him. But the case is different with respect to a penal debt, because in this case the obligation respects the person as well as the thing; the demand is upon the person who pays as well as the thing paid; i.e., that the penalty should be suffered by the person sinning; for as the law demands personal and proper obedience, so it exacts personal enduring of the penalty. Therefore, in order that a criminal should be absolved – a vicarious satisfaction being rendered by another hand – it is necessary that there should intervene a sovereign act of the supreme law-giver, which, with respect to the law, is called relaxation, and with respect to the debtor is called remission, because the personal endurance of the penalty is remitted, and a vicarious endurance of it is accepted in its stead. Hence it clearly appears that in this work (of Redemption) remission and satisfaction are perfectly consistent with each other, because there is satisfaction in the endurance of the punishment which Christ bore, and there is remission in the acceptance of a vicarious victim. The satisfaction respects Christ, from whom God demanded the very same punishment, as to kind of punishment, though not as to the degree nor as to the nature of the sufferings which the law denounced upon us. The remission respects believers, to whom God remits the personal, while he admits the vicarious punishment. And thus appears the admirable reconciliation of justice and mercy – justice which executes itself upon the sin, and mercy which is exercised towards the sinner. Satisfaction is rendered to the justice of God by the Sponsor, and remission is granted to us by God.” (Turretin, Locus XIV. Quaestio 10.)Hence pecuniary satisfaction differs from penal thus: (a.) In debt, the demand terminates upon the thing due. In crime, the legal demand for punishment is upon the person of the criminal. (b.) In debt, the demand is for the precise thing due – the exact quid pro quo, and nothing else. In crime, the demand is for that kind, degree and duration of suffering which the law – i.e., absolute and omniscient justice – demands in each specific case, the person suffering and the sin to be expiated both being considered. (c.) In debt, the payment of the thing due, by whomsoever it may be made, ipso facto liberates the debtor, and instantly extinguishes all the claims of the creditor, and his release of the debtor is no matter of grace. In crime, a vicarious suffering of the penalty is admissible only at the absolute discretion of the sovereign; remission is a matter of grace; the rights acquired by the vicarious endurance of penalty all accrue to the sponsor; and the claims of law upon the sinner are not ipso facto dissolved by such a satisfaction, but remission accrues to the designed beneficiaries only at such times and on such conditions as have been determined by the will of the sovereign, or agreed upon between the sovereign and the sponsor.”
Archibald Alexander Hodge, The Atonement (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1867), 35-37.
September 17, 2006
But Spurgeon would appear to be over-generous to Gill when he writes: 'Gill is the Coryphaeus of Hyper-Calvinism, but if his followers never went beyond their master, they would not go very far astray.' The keystone of Hyper-Calvinistic thinking is clearly to be found in Gill and especially in his two volumes, The Cause of God and Truth, published to refute Arminianism. In these he argues at length that men are not responsible for 'coming to him [Christ], or believing in him to the saving of their souls,' because they cannot do so 'without the special grace of God'. Unregenerate men can only be called to an 'historic faith', that is to say an assent to the facts of the gospel. As far as texts of Scripture were concerned, Gill believed, 'I know of none that exhort and command all men, all the individuals of the human race to repent, and believe in Christ for salvation.' His case is that men are only obligated as far as the 'revelation' they receive. Men in general are only given an 'external' revelation and with this nothing more than an historical, not saving, faith can be required of them. The elect, on the other hand, are given an 'internal' revelation, making them 'sensible' of their lost estate, acquainting them with Christ and thus leading them 'to venture on him, rely upon him, and believe in him.' The gospel makes no promises to 'dead men', only to 'sensible sinners'.Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2000), 127–129.
In accordance with this, Gill claimed that all texts appearing to show a favourable desire on God's part towards all the lost do not have any reference to their salvation. Thus when God says, 'Why will ye die?' Gill believed we are to understand: 'the death expostulated about, is not eternal, but a temporal one, or what concerns their temporal affairs, and civil condition, and circumstances of life.' Similarly, when Christ says, 'How often would I have gathered thy children...' it is to be understood not of gathering to salvation but only of a gathering to hear him preach and thus be brought to historical faith 'sufficient to preserve them from temporal ruin'. And the will of Christ to gather them 'is not to be understood of his divine will... but of his human will, or of his will as a man; which, though not contrary to the divine will, but subordinate to it, [is] yet not always the same with it, nor always fulfilled.'
...it is hard to see how [Tom] Nettles' defense of Gill can be sustained.Ibid., 131n2.
In an article for the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary Journal on Andrew Fuller's Response to the "Modern Question" — A Reappraisal of the Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Dr. Gerald Priest writes:
"What troubled Robert Hall and certainly Andrew Fuller was the fact that, for all his assertions of proclaiming the gospel to everyone, Gill undervalued the general call when insisting upon the effectual call. As E. F. Clipsham put it, “Gill...went to great lengths to explain away the meaning of ‘all’ wherever it occurs in connection with the universal proclamation of the gospel, and studiously avoided the direct commands and exhortations in the Bible [for all men] to repent and believe on Christ and be saved.” Since Gill believed that Christ died only for the elect, then the “all” of Scripture should be interpreted as all the elect (or those justified from eternity past), not all the world."
Gerald L. Priest, "Andrew Fuller's Response to the "Modern Question" — A Reappraisal of the Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation," DBSJ 6 (Fall 2001), 50.
September 15, 2006
The following quote is taken from a review article by Robert W. Oliver on By His Grace and for His Glory, A Historical, Theological and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life, by Thomas J. Nettles [Thomas J. Nettles, 442pp.. pbk, 1986, $12.95, Baker Book House.]
[Source: The Banner of Truth 284 (May 1987) 30-32.]
"Perhaps Dr Nettles' most surprising conclusion is that John Gill was not a Hyper-Calvinist. He concedes that Gill did not accept the free offer of the Gospel, but insists that he did teach that men have a duty to repent and to believe in Jesus Christ (p 94ff). He quotes Gill as saying that 'men are to believe in Christ, to love the Lord with all their heart, to make themselves a new heart and a new spirit (p 97). Gill made this statement in the context of a discussion of Acts 3.19, which he insisted was a demand for legal as opposed to evangelical repentance. Unlike evangelical repentance, legal repentance was an external change not associated with salvation. Gill went on to make the very guarded concession, 'If, therefore, evangelical and internal conversion were here intended, it would only prove that the persons spoken to were without them, stood in need of them, and ought to apply to God for them' (J. Gill, The Cause of God and Truth, London, 1838, p 64). Professor Nettles also states the 'Gill affirms that those who hear the gospel "are obliged to love the Lord on account of redemption by Christ; since all who see their need of it, and are desirous of an interest in it, have no reason to conclude otherwise, than that Christ died for them, and has redeemed them by his blood"', (p 95). Gill does not, in fact, make this statement of 'those who hear the gospel', but of 'all to whom the gospel revelation comes' (Cause of God and Truth, p 315). Of unbelievers he has just declared that, 'such cannot be obliged to love the Lord for that revelation, which was never intended for them, nor for that grace which will not be vouchsafed to them' (Ibid., p. 314). In Gill's thinking, those 'to whom the gospel revelation comes' are those who 'have no reason to conclude otherwise than that Christ died for them, and has redeemed them by his blood' (Ibid., p. 315), in a word, Christians. The coming of the gospel revelation has to be seen as a part of God's saving activity. Gill's arguments on human responsibility often hinge on the distinction between natural and spiritual responsibilities. He made his position clear when he wrote, 'As for those texts of Scripture, I know of none, that exhort and command all men, all the individuals of human nature, to repent and believe in Christ for salvation; they can only, at most, concern such persons who are under gospel dispensation; and in general, only regard an external repentance, and an historical faith in, or assent to, Jesus as the Messiah' (Ibid., p. 308). Gill has undoubtedly had a bad press and it is good that he should be considered sympathetically. As Dr Nettles shows, he did believe in evangelism, as, in fact, many other Hyper-Calvinists have done. He stood firm against Christological heresy and against Arminianism at a time when both were gaining ground in England. A great and godly man, he was not the ogre that some have suggested. Dr Nettles' tentative conclusion deserves consideration: 'Perhaps, rather than imputing blame upon Gill for the leanness of the times, he should be credited with preserving gospel purity, which eventuated in the efforts to use means for the conversion of the heathen' (p 107). Nevertheless when Gill's writings are considered, the weight of the evidence supports the traditional view that he was a Hyper-Calvinist."
"...it is hard to see how Nettles' defense of Gill can be sustained." -- Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Carlisle, Penn.: Banner of Truth, 2000), 131n.
"1. There was a proportion between the seats of suffering in Christ, and the seats of sin in us. Man sinned in his body, sin was organically and instrumentally there; proportionably Christ suffered in his body, no part of it but was racked upon a tormenting cross: because our corporeal parts had been weapons of iniquity, justice made his the subjects of misery. Man sinned in his soul, there was the prime and chief seat of sin; proportionably Christ suffered in his soul; nay, there was the prime and chief seat of suffering, because the main residence and venom of sin was in our souls, the greatest pressure and bitterness of wrath was upon his. He was exceeding sorrowful, even to death; he was sore amazed, and as it were fainted away; yea, for very anguish he sweat drops of blood, and upon the cross cried out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? All this befel him, who was fortitude and constancy itself. Under the law, justice had an eye for eye, tooth for tooth, wound for wound, stripe for stripe; in Jesus Christ it had a suffering body and soul, as a compensation for the sinning bodies and souls of men.2. There was a proportion between the penal sufferings in Christ, and those in the threatening of the law. Christ suffered not the very idem, neither indeed could he do so; because there was a change of person, and in strictness, Si alius solvit, aliud solvitur : but his sufferings came as near to those in the law, as could possibly stand with a just decorum to his sacred person; as little was abated as might be. This will appear by the many steps of his humiliation. He, the Son of God, very God, assumed our frail nature. But might this infinite and wonderful condescension satisfy justice for the sin of the world? no, he must be under the law, and fulfil all righteousness. Well, that being done, might that obedience (wherein so high an honour was reflected upon the law, as that it was obeyed perfectly in all things, and that by its Maker) satisfy for sin? No, that alone was not enough; there must be shedding of blood, or no remission. But if there must be blood, might not a few drops of his blood, the same being of an infinite value, do the work? No, the law calls for death, without that he could not be an expiatory sacrifice for us. But if a death must be, might not a simple one, being of so great a person, serve the turn? No, the law pronounces a curse, and that he was made, the marks and tokens of wrath were upon him: and why all this, but that God would have his sufferings comply, and come as near the terms of the law as might be? It is true, he did not bear the accidentals of punishment, his sufferings were not eternal; but in the law punishment is eternal, only as it relates to a finite creature, which can never satisfy, but not as it relates to a mighty sponsor, who could pay down all at once, and swallow up death in victory. He suffered not the worm of conscience, or desperation. But the first of these is from sin, inherent, and putrifying in conscience; and the second, from the imbecility of the creature, sinking under its burden, neither of which could be in him. He bore not the accidentals of punishment; but as great a person as he was, the essentials could not be abated. There was in his sufferings, pæna sensus, when the fire of wrath melted him into a bloody sweat; and pæna damni, when the eclipse of favour made him cry out of forsaking. Though God in his sovereignty would relax the law, and introduce his own Son, as a sponsor to satisfy for us; yet his Son standing in that capacity, he would in justice have him suffer as near the penalty in the law as could be.3. There was a proportion between the sufferings of Christ, and the sin of a world. Sin is an infinite evil; and his sufferings, to compensate it, were of an infinite value. Sufferings are not to be estimated as money, which, in whose hands soever it be, is one and the same, but according to the dignity of the person. Hence that of the people to David, Thou art worth ten thousand of us. (2 Sam. xviii. 3.) Hence, that Spanish proverb, used to Charles the Ninth, to move him to seize upon the chief protestants, One salmon's head is more worth than the heads of fifty frogs. In the Roman laws, punishments were varied according to the conditions of persons. Free men were not under the same punishments as servants. The lex porcia would not leave rods upon the back of a free man: the sufferings of a prince and a private man, are not to be valued at the same rate. At the death of Abner, David took special notice of it, and cried out, A prince, a great man is fallen this day in Israel. (2 Sam. iii. 38.) The sufferings of great men are very estimable; what then are the sufferings of a God, such as our Saviour? The Scripture is very emphatical in setting forth this to us: God purchased the church with his own blood. (Acts, xx. 28.) God laid down his life for us. (1 John iii. 16.) The Lord of glory was crucified. (1 Cor. ii. 8.) The man, God's fellow, was smitten. (Zach. xiii. 7.) He offered up himself through the eternal Spirit. (Heb. ix. 14.) The Prince of life was killed. (Acts iii. 15.) His Deity stamped an infinite value upon his sufferings, such as made them a full compensation for the sin of a world. That, therefore, of Socinus, that the sufferings of Christ have no more virtue in themselves, than if a mere man had suffered, is no less than horrible blasphemy, and for ever to be abhorred by us.4. There was a proportion between the sufferings of Christ, and the sufferings of a world. "One died for all," saith the apostle. (2 Cor. v. 14.) But what an one was he? No less than very God: his Deity elevated his sufferings into a kind of infinity. Upon this account his sufferings, though but the sufferings of one, did equalize, nay, snperexceed the sufferings of a world. For as the French divines have observed; if you multiply one, you shall at last have the number of all men: but a collection of all men, however multiplied, will never equal the power, authority, dignity, wisdom, sanctity, and Deity of Christ. In the sufferings of a world, every sufferer would have been but a mere creature; but in his sufferings, the sufferer was no less than God himself. Here therefore, justice appears more signally, than if all the world had suffered and that for ever. His sufferings, though but temporary, did more than counterpoise the eternal sufferings of a world. Should we suppose, which is impossible, that all men had paid and passed through eternal sufferings, those would have delivered them from the curse of the law; the sufferings of Christ (which shews their equivalency, and more) produce the same effect, and over and above, merit life eternal. There is a double order in punishing; the order of justice would have a punishment infinite in magnitude; but because a finite creature cannot bear it, the order of wisdom will have it infinite in duration. But, as the French divines have observed, Christ being substituted in our room, the order of justice returns again. Our Saviour's sufferings were of an infinite value, the sum of sufferings was paid down all at once. In these, therefore, justice is more illustrious than it could have been in eternal ones; wherein mere finite creatures would have been ever paying a little, and a little, but could never have satisfied divine justice."
Edward Polhill, "A View of Some Divine Truths" in The Works of Edward Polhill 1622-1694 (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), 15-16.
September 14, 2006
"But now Christ has suffered for the sins of the world, we ought to hate no man, because Christ has suffered and satisfied for his sins, and therefore we should endeavor to bring him to Christ."
Jonathan Edwards, Miscellanies, 781.
September 11, 2006
Be sure to check out all my other extensive quotes on John Gill here (click).
1) Gill himself wrote:
1) Gill himself wrote:
That there are universal offers of grace and salvation made to all men, I utterly deny; nay I deny that they are made to any; no not to God's elect: grace and salvation are promised for them in the everlasting covenant, procured for them by Christ, published and revealed in the gospel, and applied by the Spirit.
John Gill, The Doctrine of Predestination Stated, London, 1752, p. 29.
2) Owen Thomas said the following about Gill's views:
2) Owen Thomas said the following about Gill's views:
The same topic [Tony: the topic of the universality and particularity of Christ's work] has stirred up much controversy amongst the Baptists in England. In general, apart from those known as Arminian Baptists, they held to the higher and more limited understanding of atonement. This was particularly the case for Dr. John Gill and John Brine, the ablest and most influential theologians from amongst them in the last century. They would not allow that the gospel was good news to sinners as such, nor that it pertained directly to any except sinners who had already been brought to feel their need of it. They denied the existence of any offer of salvation in the gospel, not even to the elect, but that it was purely a revelation and declaration of salvation for the elect alone. It was a salvation for them; they had been chosen by God to receive it; it had been won for them by Christ, and to them only the Holy Spirit would apply it. Those who have heard the declaration of the gospel and ultimately are lost, are not condemned because of their failure to believe spiritually and savingly in Christ. These are Gill's own words20 and he has similar comments scattered here and there in his writings.Owen Thomas, The Atonement Controversy in Welsh Theological Literature and Debate, 1707–1841 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2002), 130.
20. John Gill, An Answer to the Birmingham Dialogue Writer, Collection of Sermons and Tracts (London, 1773), Vol. II, pp 119, 145, 147.
"God's will, decree or purpose to justify his elect, is the eternal justification of them."
John Gill, The Doctrine of Justification by the Righteousness of Christ Stated and Maintained, 1756, p. 52.
3) Tom Ascol wrote this about Gill:
Gill so closely identifies the council [the Covenant of Redemption] with the covenant of grace that the distinctions between them are virtually meaningless. This results in the inevitable tendency to collapse salvation history back into eternity - an error which seventeenth century federalism diligently seeks to avoid.
Thomas B. Ascol, The Doctrine of Grace; A Critical Analysis of Federalism in the Theologies of John Gill and Andrew Fuller (Ph. D. thesis presented to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, 1989), 77.
4) Robert Oliver says this about Gill:
Gill taught that justification is an eternal act of God, very closely linked with his election of sinners. He wrote, "It does not begin to take place in time, or at believing, but is antecedent to any act of faith."17Robert W. Oliver, History of the English Calvinistic Baptists (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2006), 7.
Gill seems to work on the assumption that since the decree to elect is election, so the decree to justify is justification. If such an analogy were true it might be argued that the decree to create is creation and the decree to redeem is redemption. This error can only lead to evangelistic and pastoral confusion. Faith, instead of being directed towards Christ as the sinner's only hope, becomes a belief by the elect sinner that he is justified.
17. Gill, Body of Divinity, p. 203.
5) Spurgeon said this about Gill:
Gill is the Coryphaeus of hyper-Calvinism, but if his followers never went beyond their master, they would not go very far astray.Charles H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998), 16.
6) C. Matthew McMahon said this about Gill:
Hyper-Calvinism formally took shape in 1707 at the time of John Hussey and his disciple, John Skepp. Skepp in turn prompted the young, and soon to be well-known Dr. John Gill, down a road that would spawn one of Hyper-Calvinism’s “greater” works, The Cause of God and Truth. Though Hyper-Calvinism had appeared in the writing of Hussey and the preaching of Skepp, Gill’s work far surpassed them both in notoriety and volume. Gill’s Hyper-Calvinist work focused on dismantling the heresy of Arminianism, the opposite extreme on the theological spectrum. However, in doing so, Gill’s result was an unbridled Hyper-Calvinism.All house and no doors: A Brief Critique of the False Teachings of Hyper-Calvinism by C. Matthew McMahon
7) Cunningham said:
We fully admit the general fact upon which the argument is based,--namely, that in Scripture, men, without distinction and exception, have salvation, and all that leads to it, offered or tendered to them,--that they are invited to come to Christ and to receive pardon, and assured that all who accept the offer, and comply with the invitation, shall receive everything necessary for their eternal welfare. We fully admit that God in the Bible does all this, and authorizes and requires us to do the same in dealing with our fellow-men. Very few Calvinists have ever disputed the propriety and the obligation of addressing to men, indiscriminately, without distinction or exception, the offers and invitations of Gospel mercy; and the few who have fallen into error upon this subject,--such as Dr Gill, and some of the ultra-Calvinistic English Baptists of last century,--have usually based their refusal to offer to men indiscriminately pardon and acceptance, and to invite any or all to come to Christ that they might receive these blessings, upon the views they entertained, not about a limitation of the atonement, but about the entire depravity of human nature,--men's inability to repent and believe.William Cunningham, Historical Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994), 2:344.
8) Mark Jones writes:
Incidentally, John Gill (1697–1771) rejected this distinction [between God's love of benevolence and love of complacency] as fiercely as [Samuel] Rutherford affirmed it,17 though one may question whether Gill accurately understood how orthodox Reformed theologians used it--which is not entirely uncommon in Gill's interpretation of the Reformed tradition.18 Gill's hyper-Calvinism and avowal of justification from eternity certainly contributed to his distaste for this doctrine. This also shows how similar antinomian theology is to hyper-Calvinism. In the end, the distinction between God's benevolent love and his complacent love has a rich Reformed pedigree.19Mark Jones, Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest? (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 84–85.
17. "It is high time that these distinctions about the love of God, with that of an antecedent and consequent one, were laid aside, which so greatly obscure the glory of God's unchangeable love and grace." John Gill, A Collection of Sermons and Tracts (London: George Keith, 1773-78), 3:210.
18. See Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 141, 147.
19. This distinction is used in the Acta of the Synod of Dort: Acta Synodi Nationalis: in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Dordrechti: Isaaci Joannidis Canini, 1620), 49. Thomas Goodwin refers to it as an "old distinction" (i.e., going back to the Medieval theologians). The Works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D. (1861-66; repr., Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 1:109.
"If the atonement of Christ were considered as the literal payment of a debt - if the measure of his sufferings were according to the number of those for whom he died, and to the degree of their guilt, in such a manner as that if more had been saved, or if those who are saved had been more guilty, his sorrows must have been proportionately increased - it might, for aught I know, be inconsistent with indefinite invitations. But it would be equally inconsistent with the free forgiveness of sin, and with sinners being directed to reply for mercy as supplicants, rather than as claimants. I conclude therefore, that an hypothesis which in so many important points is manifestly inconsistent with the Scriptures cannot be true.
On the other hand, if the atonement of Christ proceed not on the principle of commercial, but of moral justice, or justice as it relates to crime - if its grand object were to express the divine displeasure against sin (Rom. 8:3) and so to render the exercise of mercy, in all the ways in which sovereign wisdom should determine to apply it, consistent with righteousness (Rom. 3:25) - if it be in itself equal to the salvation of the whole world, were the whole world to embrace it - and if the peculiarity which attends it consist not in its insufficiency to save more than are saved, but in the sovereignty of its application - no such inconsistency can justly be ascribed to it...
There is no contradiction between this peculiarity of design in the death of Christ, and a universal obligation on those who hear the gospel to believe in him, or a universal invitation being addressed to them...If that which sinners are called upon to believe respected the particular design of Christ to save them, it would then be inconsistent; but they are neither exhorted nor invited to believe anything but what is revealed, and what will prove true, whether they believe it or not."
Owen Thomas, The Atonement Controversy in Welsh Theological Literature and Debate, 1707-1841 (Banner of Truth, 2002), 132-133. Thomas' footnote #23 says Andrew Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, in Complete Works, Vol. 1 (London, 1831), pp. 65-66. I own the Sprinkle edition (1988) of Fuller's Works, and this quote appears in Vol. 2, pp. 373-374.
"The particularity of redemption consists in the sovereign pleasure of God with regard to the application of the atonement; that is with regard to the persons to whom it shall be applied."
September 8, 2006
But, then, let me remark further, while there is this temptation not to declare all the counsel of God, the true minister of Christ feels impelled to preach the whole truth, because it and it alone can meet the wants of man. What evils has this world seen through a distorted, mangled, man-moulded gospel. What mischiefs have been done to the souls of men by men who have preached only one part and not all the counsel of God. My heart bleeds for many a family where Antinomian doctrine has gained the sway. I could tell many a sad story of families dead in sin, whose consciences are seared as with a hot iron, by the fatal preaching to which they listen. I have known convictions stifled and desires quenched by the soul-destroying system which takes manhood from man and makes him no more responsible than an ox. I cannot imagine a more ready instrument in the hands of Satan for the ruin of souls than a minister who tells sinners that it is not their duty to repent of their sins or to believe in Christ, and who has the arrogance to call himself a gospel minister, while he teaches that God hates some men infinitely and unchangeably for no reason whatever but simply because he chooses to do so. O my brethren! may the Lord save you from the voice of the charmer, and keep you ever deaf to the voice of error.C. H. Spurgeon, Revival Year Sermons (London: Banner of Truth, 1959), 88. Also cited in Robert W. Oliver's History of the English Calvinistic Baptists: From John Gill to C. H. Spurgeon (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2006), 14–15.
I am presently reading through Oliver's book above. It is based on his "doctoral dissertation submitted to the Council for National Academic Awards in 1986 under the title, 'The Emergence of a Strict and Particular Baptist Community among the English Calvinistic Baptists from 1770 to 1850'." (xiii)