January 14, 2007

Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) and the Idea of God Begging

Samuel Rutherford, a man who was a High Calvinist, said the following while preaching from Song of Solomon 2:14:
"God has made Holes and Windows in Christ that his Doves may flee into, and make their Nest in his Heart. O Dear and Precious Dwelling; The Lodging cost us Nothing, yet we are desired to Dwell in it. Now what is Christ's Petition? Cause Me to hear thy Voice. It is ordinary for man to beg from God, for we be but His beggars; but it is a miracle to see God beg at man. Yet here is the Potter begging from the clay; the Savior seeking from sinners!"
Samuel Rutherford, Christ and the Doves Heavenly Salutations, With Their Pleasant Conference Together: Or A Sermon Before the Communion in Anwoth. (Anno 1630), p. 8.

This quote is actually interesting in light of what some confused people are saying on the internet today:
"The only time I have ever heard anyone say that God begs for anyone to do anything, is when I was in a 100% Arminian church. God doesn't beg anyone to do anything, He commands all men everywhere to repent."
This is a very common example of a false either/or dilemma. God can both command and entreat/"beg" men to come to him. It's not an either/or. It's the same sort of reasoning that says the Gospel is a command, not an offer, or that it's a command, not an invitation. This is one of the reasons why I quoted D. A. Carson below on the subject of false dilemmas.

Think of this analogy for a moment. A parent sees their child dangerously running toward moving traffic to their eventual ruin. The parent yells, "Stop running! Come here! Come to me! Look out!" There's a commanding and authoritative tone in all of this, but there is also, at the same time, a passionate plea and entreaty for the child to come to the parent. Wouldn't you think it very strange for someone to think that a godly parent can only command their child to come to them out of danger and not also passionately plea for them to do so?! Yet this is how some would have us think about the biblical portrayal of God.

Now, in drawing this analogy, I also acknowledge what R. L. Dabney said long ago as well:
"The truth we must apprehend, then, is this—we cannot comprehend it—that God eternally has active principles directed towards some objective, which combine all the activity of rational affections with the passionless stability of his rational judgments, and which, while not emotions, in the sense of change, or ebb or flow, are yet related to his volitions in a way analogous to that which obtains between the holy creature's optative powers and his volitions."
It's time to start documenting more Calvinists who have spoken of God "begging" sinners to come to him.

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