January 14, 2007

God Begging? (Samuel Rutherford on God Begging)

Update on 8-11-07:

The Rutherford quote below is from page 8 of

Christ and the Doves
Heavenly Salutations,
With their Pleasant CONFERENCE together:
Or A
IN ANWOTH. Anno 1630.

He appears to be talking about Christ's desire for the Church.

Samuel Rutherford, a man who was a HIGH Calvinist, apparently said the following while preaching from Song of Solomon 2:14:

"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!"

I don't have the original source to check the context, so I don't know if Rutherford is here asserting that God is begging from lost sinners necessarily (but Spurgeon explicitly says that God does so). Perhaps he is speaking of "sinners" as being the church/Israel (some of which may be lost, given his ecclesiology) which is typologically portrayed in the Song of Solomon, in his judgment. Nevertheless, this quote is actually funny 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. Stay tuned!

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