August 28, 2007

William Bates (1625–1699) on Christ's Sufficiency

"The devil makes his advantage of the timorous conscience, as well as of the seared: solitude is his scene, as well as the noisy theatre; and by contrary ways, either presumption or despair, brings sinners to the same end. He changes his methods according to their dispositions; the tempter turns accuser; and then such who had but a dim sight of sin before, have an over-quick sight of it, and are swallowed up in an abyss of confusion. The condition of such is extremely miserable. It is observed by those who are bitten with a mad dog, that their cure is extremely difficult, if not impossible; for being tormented with thirst, yet are so fearful of water, that the sight of it sometimes causes sudden convulsions and death. This is a significant emblem of a despairing soul: for when enraged conscience bites to the quick, the guilty person filled with estuations and terrors, ardently thirsts for pardon, yet fearfully forsakes his own mercies: whatever is propounded to encourage faith in the divine promises, he turns to justify his infidelity. Represent to him the infinite mercies of God, the unvaluable merits of Christ sufficient to redeem the lost world; it increases his despair, because he has perversely abused those mercies, and neglected those merits. The most precious promises of the gospel are killing terrors to him; as the sweet title of friend, wherewith our Saviour received Judas when he came to betray him, was the most stinging reproach of his perfidious villany. Thus it appears, how dangerous it is to delay repentance and reconciliation with God till sickness and a death-bed, when the remembrance or forgetfulness of sin, the sense or security of conscience, may be equally destructive."

Let not the reader be confused. Bates is affirming more than a bare, internal sufficiency--like the wealth of rich man who could pay (but actually doesn't) the ransom price of all of the lost world. Rather, Bates is affirming an external sufficiency of Christ to save all of lost humanity--which would be like a rich man who is not only intrinsically rich, but actually does pay the ransom price for all and therefore offers to free all under certain conditions.

Incidentally, those who ultimately perish after hearing the gospel were required to perform a condition (i.e., to believe/repent), but there can be no condition if there be no gift [see Richard Baxter's The Universal Redemption of Mankind (London, 1694), p. 247 for more on this]. Classical hypers saw this connection and rejected the idea that Christ was offered to the non-elect, since he in no sense died for them (the gift), as strict particularists maintain.

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