September 28, 2007

John Flavel on Christ Knocking: Chapter 5

This action of knocking is sometimes ascribed to the soul, and is expressive of its desire to come into the gracious presence and communion of God: so Matt. 7:7, "To him that knocketh, it shall be opened;" that is, to him that seeks by importunate prayer, fellowship and communion with the Lord, it shall be granted. But here it is applied to Christ, and is expressive of his importunate desire to come into union and communion with the souls of sinners.
John Flavel, Christ Knocking at the Door of Sinners' Hearts; or, A Solemn Entreaty to Receive the Saviour and His Gospel in This the Day of Mercy (New York: American Tract Society, 1850), 107.
II. We must consider WHAT is MEANT BY CHRIST'S KNOCKING at the door, and what that action implies. In the general, knocking is an action significant of the desire of one who is without, to come in; it is a sign appointed to that end. And what is Christ's knocking, but a signification to the soul of his earnest desire to come into it—a notice given to the soul of Christ's willingness to possess it for his own habitation? It is as if Christ should say, "Soul, thou art the house that was built by my hand, purchased and redeemed by my blood; I have an unquestionable right to it, and now demand entrance." More particularly, there are divers great things implied in this gracious act of Christ's knocking at the door of the soul.
Ibid., 109.
(2.) Christ knocks in the word by its awful threatening, menacing the soul that opens not with eternal ruin; these are dreadful knocks. 0, sinner, saith Christ, wilt thou not open? Shall all the tenders of my grace made to thee be in vain? Know then, that this thy obstinacy shall be thy damnation.
Ibid., 116.
(3.) The Spirit knocks by the gracious invitations of the word; and without this, no heart would ever open to Christ. It is not frosts and snow, storms and thunder, but the gentle distilling dews and cherishing sunbeams that make the flowers open in the spring. The terrors of the law may be preparatory, but only the grace of the gospel is that which effectually opens the sinner's heart. The obdurate flint will sooner break when smitten upon the soft pillow, than upon the anvil. Now the gospel abounds with alluring invitations to draw the will and open the heart of a sinner; such as that, Matt. 11:28, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." What a charming voice is here; he that considers it, may well wonder what heart in the world can resist it. Like unto this is Isaiah 55:1, "Ho, every one that thirtieth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Come, sinner, come; though thou hast no qualifications nor worthiness, nor righteousness of thy own though thou art but a heap of sin and vileness, yet come; grace is a gift, not a sale. And such is John 7:37, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink." As if he had said, My grace is not a sealed fountain; it is free and open to the greatest of sinners; if they thirst, they are invited to come and drink. This is that oil of the gospel-grace which makes the key turn so pleasantly and effectually among all the cross-wards of man's will. Thus you see how the word preached becomes an instrument in the Spirit's hand to open the door of a sinner's heart, at which it knocks by its mighty convictions, dreadful threatenings, and gracious invitations.
Ibid., 116–117.
(2.) As God makes use of the hammer of judgments, so he makes use of mercies to make way for Christ into the hearts of men. Every mercy is a call, a knock of God: and truly if there were any ingenuousness left unextinguished in the heart, one would think mercy would prevail more than all judgments. Knowest thou not that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? Rom. 2:4. Or in other words, Dost thou not see the hand of mercy stretched out to lead thee into a corner, there to mourn over thy sins committed against so gracious and merciful a God? By every mercy you receive, Christ doth, as it were, sue you to open your hearts to him; they are so many gifts sent from heaven to make way for Christ into your hearts. It would be an endless task to enumerate all the mercies bestowed to this end upon the unregenerate: but surely this is the errand of them all; and the Lord takes it ill when his end is not answered in them: hence is that complaint, Jer. 5:24; "Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season. Some of you have been marvellously preserved in times of common contagion and death, when thousands have fallen at your right hand and left: then have you been preserved or recovered, according to Exod. 15:26, "I will put none of these diseases upon thee, for I am the Lord that healeth thee. "I am Jehovah Rophe, the Lord the physician: many of you have been at the grave's mouth in diseases, others upon the deep; yet the hand of mercy pulled you back, and suffered you not to drop into the grave and hell in the same moment. O what a knock was here given by the hand of mercy at thy hard heart. Certainly, if men would but observe, they might see a marvellous working and moulding of things by the hand of providence, for the production of thousands of mercies for them: and if mercy would do the work and win you over to Christ, many rods had been spared which your obstinacy has made necessary. O ungrateful sinners, doth your Redeemer thus woo you by so many gifts of mercy, and yet will you shut him out? "Do ye thus requite the Lord, foolish people and unwise?" For which of all his benefits do your ungrateful souls shut the doors upon him?
Ibid., 119–120.
4. Sometimes Christ knocks with a succession of convictions, a quick repetition of his calls. Some men have had thousands of convictions in a few years; for in this case the Lord saith, as in Exod. 4:8, "If they will not hearken to the voice of the first sign," yet they may "believe the voice of the latter sign." And yet sometimes neither the former nor the latter avail any thing. "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Matt. 23:37. "How often!" intimating the many calls Christ gave Jerusalem to come unto him, yet all in vain.
Ibid., 122–123.
I know it is hard for men to dwell with their own convictions: guilt and wrath are sad subjects for men's thoughts to dwell upon; but it is far better to dwell with the thoughts of sin and wrath here, than to be under them in hell for ever. You may be freed from your convictions and your salvation together. Be not too eager after peace—a good trouble is better than a false peace. And on the other hand, beware that your convictions turn not into discouragements to faith; this will cross the proper intention of them: they are Christ's knocks for entrance, and were never intended to be bars or stumbling-blocks, but steps in your way to Christ.
Ibid., 130–131.
MOTIVE 3. Jesus Christ has an unquestionable right to enter into and possess every one of your souls. Satan is but an usurper: Christ is your lawful owner and proprietor; thy soul, sinner, hath not so full a title to thy body, as Christ hath to thy soul. Satan keeps Christ out of his right. Christ knocks at the door of his own house; he built it, and therefore may well claim admission into it: it is his own creature. "By him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible;" bodies or souls. Col. 1:16. The invisible part, thy soul, is his workmanship a stately structure of his own raising. He has also a right by redemption; Christ hath bought thy soul, and that at the invaluable price of his own blood. Who then can dispute the right of Christ to enter into his own house? But, alas, he cometh to his own and his own receive him not. John 1:11.
Ibid., 135–136.
MOTIVE 5. Christ this day solemnly demands entrance into thy soul; he begs thee to open to him, 2 Cor. 5:20; he commands thee to open unto him, 1 John 3:23; he denounces eternal ruin to those who refuse him entrance. Now consider well here is entrance demanded under pain of the eternal wrath of God: this demand is recorded in heaven; at your own peril be it, if you shut the door against him. Only this will I say in my Redeemer's behalf; if you refuse, bear witness heaven and earth this day that Christ solemnly demanded entrance into thy soul, and was refused; bear witness that the door was shut against the only Redeemer, who intreated, commanded, and threatened eternal damnation to the rejecters of him. Oh, methinks that scripture, Prov. 1 : 24-31, should strike terror into the very centre of the soul that refuses the offers of Christ!
Ibid., 137.
1. An opening heart to Christ is a work wholly and altogether supernatural; a special work of the Spirit of God, never found upon any but an elect soul. There are common gifts of the Spirit, such as knowledge, vanishing convictions, etc., but the opening of the heart by faith is the special, saving, and peculiar work of the Spirit. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom He hath sent." John 6:29. Yea, the almighty power of God, the exceeding greatness of his power, is exerted in the work of faith. Eph. 1:19. It rises not out of nature, as common gifts do; but of this it is expressly said, "Not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Eph. 2:8. Where this work is effectually wrought, we may reason as solidly as comfortably from it, both backward to the electing love of God, and forward to our eternal glorification with him. Rom. 8:30.
Ibid., 138.

John Flavel (1630–1691) on Christ Begging

MOTIVE 5. Christ this day solemnly demands entrance into thy soul; he begs thee to open to him, 2 Cor. 5:20; he commands thee to open unto him, 1 John 3:23; he denounces eternal ruin to those who refuse him entrance. Now consider well here is entrance demanded under pain of the eternal wrath of God: this demand is recorded in heaven; at your own peril be it, if you shut the door against him. Only this will I say in my Redeemer's behalf; if you refuse, bear witness heaven and earth this day that Christ solemnly demanded entrance into thy soul, and was refused; bear witness that the door was shut against the only Redeemer, who intreated, commanded, and threatened eternal damnation to the rejecters of him. Oh, methinks that scripture, Prov. 1:24-31, should strike terror into the very centre of the soul that refuses the offers of Christ!
John Flavel, Christ Knocking at the Door of Sinners' Hearts; or, A Solemn Entreaty to Receive the Saviour and His Gospel in This the Day of Mercy (New York: American Tract Society, 1850), 136–137.


It's also worth noting that there are no false either/or dilemmas between offers and commands in Flavel. For him, as with all other orthodox Calvinists, Christ commands, AND entreats, AND offers AND invites through the gospel. It's not one of these things (commands) to the exclusion of the others (offers, invitations, etc.). They rightly understood the scriptures.

Other men within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following:

Augustine (Early Church Father), Hugh Latimer (Early English Reformer), Isaac Ambrose (Puritan), Daniel Burgess (Puritan), Jeremiah Burroughs (Westminster divine), Richard Baxter (Puritan), Joseph Caryl (Westminster divine), Thomas Case (Puritan), Stephen Charnock (Puritan), John Collinges (Puritan), John Flavel (Puritan), Theophilus Gale (Puritan), William Gearing (Puritan), Andrew Gray (Puritan), William Gurnall (Puritan), Robert Harris (Westminster divine), Thomas Larkham (Puritan), Thomas Manton (Puritan), John Murcot (Puritan), George Newton (Puritan), John Oldfield (Puritan), Anthony Palmer (Puritan), Edward Reynolds (Westminster divine), John Richardson (Puritan), Samuel Rutherford (Westminster divine), John Shower (Puritan), Richard Sibbes (Puritan), Sydrach Simpson (Westminster divine), William Strong (Westminster divine), George Swinnock (Puritan), John Trapp (Puritan), Ralph Venning (Puritan), Nathaniel Vincent (Puritan), Thomas Watson (Puritan), Daniel Williams (Puritan), Samuel Willard, Benjamin Wadsworth, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

John Flavel: A Moderate Calvinist?

Take a look at this. John Flavel is indiscriminately exhorting any and all of his unregenerate listeners to come to Christ. He sets out various motives for them to come, and says this:
MOTIVE 3. Jesus Christ has an unquestionable right to enter into and possess every one of your souls. Satan is but an usurper: Christ is your lawful owner and proprietor; thy soul, sinner, hath not so full a title to thy body, as Christ hath to thy soul. Satan keeps Christ out of his right. Christ knocks at the door of his own house; he built it, and therefore may well claim admission into it: it is his own creature. "By him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible;" bodies or souls. Col. 1:16. The invisible part, thy soul, is his workmanship a stately structure of his own raising. He has also a right by redemption; Christ hath bought thy soul, and that at the invaluable price of his own blood. Who then can dispute the right of Christ to enter into his own house? But, alas, he cometh to his own and his own receive him not. John 1:11.
John Flavel, Christ Knocking at the Door of Sinners' Hearts; or, A Solemn Entreaty to Receive the Saviour and His Gospel in This the Day of Mercy (New York: American Tract Society, 1850), 135–136.

This sermon, which was originally titled England's Duty Under the Present Gospel Liberty, came out in 1689 (see Beeke's Meet the Puritans [RHB, 2006], p. 252.). Flavel died in 1691, so it was apparently a late work. This is not the only comment that suggests universal redemption in this sermon, but the one above is particularly strong.

John Flavel (1630–1691) on Being Concerned About Your Convictions

2. If every conviction be a knock of Christ, how deeply are we all concerned in the success of convictions. Conviction is an embryo of the new creature: if it come to a perfect new birth, it brings forth salvation to your souls; if it fails, you are finally lost. It is of infinite moment, therefore, to every one, to be tender of these convictions of conscience. It is true, conviction and conversion are two things: there may be conviction without conversion, though there can be no conversion without conviction. The blossoms on the trees in the spring of the year cannot properly be called fruit, but are rather the rudiments of fruit, or something in order to fruit. If they open kindly, and knit or set firmly, perfect fruit follows them; but if a blight or a frosty morning kill them, no fruit is to be expected. Thus it is here. Great care, therefore, ought to be taken about the preservation and success of convictions, both by the soul itself that is under them, and by all others who are concerned about them.
John Flavel, Christ Knocking at the Door of Sinners' Hearts; or, A Solemn Entreaty to Receive the Saviour and His Gospel in This the Day of Mercy (New York: American Tract Society, 1850), 130.
I know it is hard for men to dwell with their own convictions: guilt and wrath are sad subjects for men's thoughts to dwell upon; but it is far better to dwell with the thoughts of sin and wrath here, than to be under them in hell for ever. You may be freed from your convictions and your salvation together. Be not too eager after peace—a good trouble is better than a false peace. And on the other hand, beware that your convictions turn not into discouragements to faith; this will cross the proper intention of them: they are Christ's knocks for entrance, and were never intended to be bars or stumbling-blocks, but steps in your way to Christ.
Ibid., 130–131.

Honestly, this is one of the best sermons I have ever read. I am mainly reading it to see what Flavel, in the latter years of his life, says about the revealed will of God (like his use of the term "intention" above). However, I keep coming across excellent illustrations and statements that are well-worth posting, such as those contained in the two quotes above.

I had a roommate once who humorously said, "have you ever noticed that if you're not reading what Tony is reading, you must be backslidden?" He said this because I was urgently pressing (understatement?) others to read what I was reading in order to get excited about the same theological insights I was gaining through the literature. With that in mind, let me just say that if you're not reading this sermon by Flavel, you're backslidden, and you should be concerned about this conviction :-)

September 27, 2007

Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) on God Withdrawing Common Grace

Prop. VII. The holiness of God is not blemished by withdrawing his grace from a sinful creature, whereby he falls into more sin. That God withdraws his grace from men, and gives them up sometimes to the fury of their lusts, is as clear in Scripture as anything (Deut. xxix. 4): "Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear," &c. Judas was delivered to Satan after the sop, and put into his power, for despising former admonitions. He often leaves the reins to the devil, that he may use what efficacy he can in those that have offended the Majesty of God; he withholds further influences of grace, or withdraws what before he had granted them. Thus he withheld that grace from the sons of Eli, that might have made their father's pious admonitions effectual to them (I Sam. ii. 25): "They hearkened not to the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them." He gave grace to Eli to reprove them, and withheld that grace from them, which might have enabled them against their natural corruption and obstinacy to receive that reproof. But the holiness of God is not blemished by this.

1. Because the act of God in this is only negative. Thus God is said to "harden" men: not by positive hardening or working anything in the creature, but by not working, not softening, leaving a man to the hardness of his own heart, whereby it is unavoidable by the depravation of man's nature, and the fury of his passions, but that he should be further hardened, and "increase unto more ungodliness," as the expression is (2 Tim. ii. 19). As a man is said to give another his life, when he doth not take it away when it lay at his mercy; so God is said to "harden" a man, when he doth not mollify him when it was in his power, and inwardly quicken him with that grace whereby he might infallibly avoid any further provoking of him. God is said to harden men when he removes not from them the incentives to sin, curbs not those principles which are ready to comply with those incentives, withdraws the common assistances of his grace, concurs not with counsels and admonitions to make them effectual; flasheth not in the convincing light which he darted upon them before. If hardness follows upon God's withholding his softening grace, it is not by any positive act of God, but from the natural hardness of man. If you put fire near to wax or rosin, both will melt; but when that fire is removed, they return to their natural quality of hardness and brittleness; the positive act of the fire is to melt and soften, and the softness of the rosin is to be ascribed to that; but the hardness is from the rosin itself, wherein the fire hath no influence, but only a negative act by a removal of it: so, when God hardens a man, he only leaves him to that stony heart which he derived from Adam, and brought with him into the world. All men's understandings being blinded, and their wills perverted in Adam, God's withdrawing his grace is but a leaving them to their natural pravity, which is the cause of their further sinning, and not God's removal of that special light he before afforded them, or restraint he held over them. As when God withdraws his preserving power from the creature, he is not the efficient, but deficient cause of the creature's destruction; so, in this case, God only ceaseth to bind and dam up that sin which else would break out.
Stephen Charnock, "Discourse XI: On The Holiness of God," in The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 2:166–167.


September 26, 2007

Calvin and Henry on Acts 3:26

NKJ Acts 3:26 "To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities."


1) Jesus is sent to bless at least "each one" of the Jews Peter was addressing, but also the whole nation by implication.

2) "Each one" of the Jews Peter was addressing must have included some who were non-elect.

3) Jesus was sent "to bless" "each one" of them.

4) This sending must involve an intention or volition in God.

5) This intentional sending of Jesus to bless was in order to turn each one of them away from their iniquities, i.e., to save them.

Peter was basically telling them that God loved them (in that he sought "to bless" them) and had a wonderful plan (to turn them from their iniquities) for their lives :-)

"For we must always remember this, that all mankind is accursed, and, therefore, there is a singular remedy promised us, which is performed by Christ alone. Wherefore, he is the only fountain and beginning of the blessing. And if so be that Christ came to this end, that he may bless the Jews first, and, secondly, us, he hath undoubtedly done that which was his duty to do; and we shall feel the force and effect of this duty in ourselves, unless our unbelief do hinder us."

"After his resurrection, he was to be preached indeed to all nations, but they must begin at Jerusalem, Luke xxiv. 47. And, when they went to other nations, they first preached to the Jews they found therein. They were the first-born, and, as such, had the privilege of the first offer. So far were they from being excluded for their putting Christ to death, that, when he is risen, he is first sent to them, and they are primarily intended to have benefit by his death. [3.] On what errand he was sent: "He is sent to you first, to bless you; this is his primary errand, not to condemn you, as you deserve, but to justify you, if you will accept of the justification offered you, in the way wherein it is offered; but he that sends him first to bless you, if you refuse and reject that blessing, will send him to curse you with a curse," Mal. iv. 6."

God, through Peter, was making a well-meant offer to the entire Jewish nation on the ground of Christ as the singular remedy for all mankind.

September 23, 2007

John Flavel (1630–1691) on Christ's Consentual Entry into the Hearts of Men

"1. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter III
"3. Christ's knocking at the door of the heart shows the method of the Spirit in conversion to be in harmony with the nature of man's soul. Mark Christ's expression in the text; he does not say, Behold, I come to the door and break it open by violence. Christ makes no forcible entries, whether sinners will or not; he will come in by consent of the will, or not at all. "I stand and knock; if any man open the door, I will come in to him." There is a great difference between a friendly admission by consent, and a forcible entrance: in a forcible entrance, bars of iron are brought to break open the door; but in a friendly admission, one knocks and the other opens. Forcible actions are unsuitable to the nature of the will, whose motions are free and spontaneous; therefore it is said, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." Psalm 110:3. It is true, the power of God is upon the will of man in the day of his conversion, or else it would never open to Christ; but yet that power of God doth not act against the freedom of man's will; God makes it willing, taking away the obstinacy and reluctance of the will by the efficacy of his grace—a sweet and pleasant victory; and so the door of the will still opens freely: "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love." Hos. 11:4. "I drew them," there is almighty power: but how did this power draw them? "With cords of a man," that is, with rational arguments convincing the judgment. Beasts are driven and forced, but men are drawn by reason. It must be confessed that when the day of God's power is come for bringing home a poor sinner to Christ, the power of God's Spirit draws him effectually: "Every man that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me," John 6:45; yet the soul comes freely by the consent of his will, for this is the method of Christ in drawing souls to him. There is in the day of a sinner's conversion an offer made for the will, both by Satan and by Christ; Satan bids riches, honors, and pleasures, with ease and quietness to the flesh in the enjoyment of them. Abide where thou art, saith Satan; remain with me, and thou shalt escape all the persecutions, losses, and troubles in which conscience entangles other men; thou shalt draw thy life through peace and pleasure to thy dying day. O, saith the flesh, this is good; what can be better for me? But then, saith Christ, dost thou not consider that all these enjoyments will quickly be at an end! and what shall become of thee then? Behold, I offer thee the free, full, and final pardon of thy sins; peace and reconciliation with God; treasures in heaven; all these shall be thine, with troubles, reproaches, and persecutions in this world. The understanding and conscience of a sinner being convinced of the vanity of earthly things, and the indispensable necessity of pardon and peace with God I say, when a convinced judgment hath duly balanced these things, and laid them before the will, and the Spirit of God puts forth his power in the renovation of it, it moves towards Christ freely, and yet cannot, according to its natural order, act otherwise than it doth. And doubtless this is the true meaning of that expression so often mistaken and abused in Luke 14:23, "Compel them to come in." What, by forcing men against the light of their consciences? No; to the shame of many Protestants let us hear the explanation of Stella, a popish commentator upon this passage: "Christ compels men to come in, by showing to their will such an excelling good as it cannot but embrace;" for the will is naturally carried to the best good, And thus the Spirit works upon the soul harmoniously and agreeably to its nature."

September 22, 2007

Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583) Answers "What is the Gospel?"

The gospel is, therefore, the doctrine which the Son of God, our Mediator, revealed from heaven in Paradise, immediately after the fall, and which he brought from the bosom of the Eternal Father; which promises, and announces, in view of the free grace and mercy of God, to all those that repent and believe, deliverance from sin, death, condemnation, and the wrath of God; which is the same thing as to say that it promises and proclaims the remission of sin, salvation, and eternal life, by and for the sake of the Son of God, the Mediator ; and is that through which the Holy Spirit works effectually in the hearts of the faithful, kindling and exciting in them, faith, repentance, and the beginning of eternal life. Or, we may, in accordance with the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth questions of the Catechism, define the gospel to be the doctrine which God revealed first in Paradise, and afterwards published by the Patriarchs and Prophets, which he was pleased to represent by the shadows of sacrifices, and the other ceremonies of the law, and which he has accomplished by his only begotten Son; teaching that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; which is to say that he is a perfect Mediator, satisfying for the sins of the human race, restoring righteousness and eternal life to all those who by a true faith are ingrafted into him, and embrace his benefits.

The following passages of Scripture confirm this definition which we have given of the gospel: "This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life and I will raise him up at the last day." "And that repentance and remission of sin should be preached in his name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 6:41. Luke 24:47. John 1:17.)
The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans. G. W. Willard (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, n.d.), 101–102.


September 21, 2007

Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583) on God's Will

David has posted some excellent material by Ursinus on God's will as found in the Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism. Go here and read:

One can also download it for free here.

September 20, 2007

Richard Muller on Amyraut and Confessional Bondaries: Part 2

Whereas, therefore, some distinction can be made between various lines of development within Reformed orthodoxy, such as between the Swiss orthodoxy of the line of Turretin and Heidegger and the Academy of Saumur, between the northern German Reformed of Bremen or the Herborn Academy and the rather different approach of Franecker theologians in the tradition of Ames, between the Cocceian or federalist line and the Voetian approach, between the British Reformed theology of Owen and that of Baxter, or between the British variety of Reformed theology in general and the several types of Reformed teaching found on the continent, there is no justification for identifying any one of these strains of Reformed thought as outside the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy or as not evidencing the characteristics of Reformed scholasticism. Voetius and Cocceius obliged the same confessions—and Voetius could identify several lines of Reformed thought on, for example, the work of Christ, including that of Crocius and the Saumur theologians. He disagreed with these thinkers but did not set them outside of the Reformed Confessions.[114] Turretin, similarly, indicates his disagreement with the Saumur theologians on various issues, but consistently identifies them as Reformed and as "our ministers."[115] Owen and Baxter acknowledged each other's theologies as belonging to the same confessional tradition. Owen, moreover, thought highly of Cameron and Amyraut on such issues as the divine justice and the doctrine of the Trinity—at the same time that he abhorred elements of the teaching of Twisse and Rutherford, both of whom stood closer to him than to the Salmurians on the issues addressed in the Formula consensus Helvetica. All of these branches of the Reformed tradition stood within the boundaries established by the major national confessions and catechisms of the Reformed churches.
114. On Voetius' and Cocceius' confessionality, see in particular the approbatie of both the Utrecht and Leiden faculties in Zacharias Ursinus Schat-Boeck der Verklarigen over den Nederlandtschen Catechismus, uyt de Latijnshe Lessen van Dr. Zacharias Ursinus, op-gemaecht van Dr. David Paraeus, vertaelt, ende met Tafelen, &c. Verlicht, door Dr. Festus Hommius, nu van nieuws oversein ... door Johannes Spiljardus, 2 parts (Amsterdam: Johannes van Revensteyn, 1664), fol. A4, r.–v.; and on Voetius approach to Crocius and Saumur, see his Problematum de merito Christi, pars secunda, in Sel. Disp., II, p. 252.

115. Turretin, Inst. theol. elencticae, IV.xvii.4;; XIV.xiv.6.
Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1:79–80.

Also, see Richard Muller on Amyraut and Confessional Boundaries.

John Calvin on Romans 2:4 and The Puritan Concept of Common Grace

Update on 1-15-08:

In addition to reading what follows, the reader should investigate my documentation of many Puritans on The Grace of God, The Goodness of God, The Love of God and The Gospel Offer. You will be able to see what they say about Romans 2:4 as well. Since one hyper-Calvinist on the internet has linked to this post while making many inaccurate historical claims (after only browsing my blog for a few minutes), one should diligently read what the primary sources say.

Concerning the concept of grace, William Jenkyn (1613–1685) correctly wrote:
Grace in its proper notion signifies that free goodness, favour, or good will whereby one is moved to benefit another, as both the Hebrew and Greek words manifest.
Exposition on the Epistle of Jude (James & Klock Publishing Company, 1976), 89.

If one rejects that God at least has a good will toward the non-elect in this world (i.e., that he seeks their ultimate well-being), then one does not agree with the meaning behind the term "common grace." As Romans 2:4 says, the kindness, goodness and longsuffering of God toward rebellious man is meant to lead them to repentance. It's evidence that God wills for them to turn from their wicked ways AND LIVE. That's what is ultimately behind these terms (i.e., goodness, kindness, benevolence, longsuffering, etc.) in scripture. The grace of God is not less than his good will towards his creatures. Or, since some claim to admire Calvin's doctrine, observe what he says on Romans 2:4:
...the Apostle anticipates their arrogance, and proves, by an argument taken from a reason of an opposite kind, that there is no ground for them to think that God, on account of their outward prosperity, is propitious to them, since the design of his benevolence is far different, and that is, to convert sinners to himself. Where then the fear of God does not rule, confidence, on account of prosperity, is a contempt and a mockery of his great goodness. It hence follows, that a heavier punishment will be inflicted on those whom God has in this life favored; because, in addition to their other wickedness, they have rejected the fatherly invitation of God. And though all the gifts of God are so many evidences of his paternal goodness, yet as he often has a different object in view, the ungodly absurdly congratulate themselves on their prosperity, as though they were dear to him, while he kindly and bountifully supports them.
Notice in this first part that Calvin says:

1) The "design" of God's "benevolence" is "to convert sinners to himself."

2) God's "goodness" is associated with this conversion seeking benevolence that some mock and show contempt for in their vain "prosperity."

3) God's "benevolence" and "goodness" are then associated with his "favor."

4) Conversion seeking goodness, benevolence and favor are then associated with God's "fatherly invitation," and those who are to receive "a heavier punishment" are in view, i.e. the reprobate who hear the "fatherly invitation."

5) "All the gifts" that they receive are evidences of God's "paternal goodness" toward the "ungodly."

6) God is said to "kindly" and "bountifully" support them through their prosperity.

Calvin continues:
Not knowing that the goodness of God, etc. For the Lord by his kindness shows to us, that it is he to whom we ought turn, if we desire to secure our well-being, and at the same time he strengthens our confidence in expecting mercy. If we use not God’s bounty for this end, we abuse it. But yet it is not to be viewed always in the same light; for when the Lord deals favorably with his servants and gives them earthly blessings, he makes known to them by symbols of this kind his own benevolence, and trains them up at the same time to seek the sum and substance of all good things in himself alone: when he treats the transgressors of his law with the same indulgence, his object is to soften by his kindness their perverseness; he yet does not testify that he is already propitious to them, but, on the contrary, invites them to repentance. But if any one brings this objection — that the Lord sings to the deaf as long as he does not touch inwardly their hearts; we must answer — that no fault can be found in this case except with our own depravity. But I prefer rendering the word which Paul here uses, leads, rather than invites, for it is more significant; I do not, however, take it in the sense of driving, but of leading as it were by the hand.
Notice what Calvin says in this second part:

1) God's kindness shows us to whom we should turn, i.e. it is with a view to our well-being, so that we ought to desire Him.

2) God strengthens the ungodly to expect mercy if they would but turn and not abuse His bounties.

3) God's favors are associated with blessings and benevolence, and these things are to train us to seek himself.

4) God patiently indulges transgressors of his law in order to soften them by his kindness.

5) God is inviting them to repentance.

6) The unrepentant deaf cannot blame God for not efficaciously touching their hearts. They have only their own depravity to blame. W. G. T. Shedd echoed this point when he said:
The fact that God does not in the case of the nonelect bestow special grace to overcome the resisting self-will that renders the gifts of providence and common grace ineffectual does not prove that he is insincere in his desire that man would believe under the influence of common grace any more than the fact that a benevolent man declines to double the amount of his gift, after the gift already offered has been spurned, proves that he did not sincerely desire that the person would take the sum first offered.
7) Calvin prefers the term "lead" rather than "invites" because it is "more significant." He has already granted that God invites sinners above, but he prefers the stronger language of "leads." He does not want it to connote that men are "driven," as if violence is done to their wills. Rather, it is a gentle leading, as if by the hand. The Puritan John Flavel echoes this point when he alludes to Romans 2:4. John Flavel said:
Thus the goodness and forbearance of God doth, as it were, take a sinner by the hand, lead him into a corner, and say, "Come, let us talk together; thus and thus vile hast thou been, and thus and thus long-suffering and merciful has God been to thee; thy heart has been full of sin, the heart of thy God has been full of pity and mercy." This dissolves the sinner into tears, and breaks his heart in pieces. If any thing will melt a hard heart, this will do it. How good has God been to me. How have I tried his patience to the uttermost, and still he waits to be gracious, and is exalted that he may have compassion.
This is the classical conception of common grace as articulated by Paul in Romans 2:4, and as articulated by Calvin, Flavel, Shedd, and others. One may also want to consider what the Puritan John Howe has to say in his allusions to Romans 2:4:
3. Consider the forbearance of God towards you, while you are continually at mercy. With what patience doth he spare you, though your own hearts must tell you that you are offending creatures, and whom he can destroy in a moment! He spares you that neglect him. He is not willing that you should perish, but come to the knowledge of the truth, that you may be saved; by which he calls and leads you to repentance, Rom. ii 4. On God's part, here is a kind intention; but on man's part, nothing but persevering enmity.
To reject what these men are saying is to reject what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 2:4 since they are all in agreement. Therefore I repeat: If one rejects that God has a good will toward the non-elect in this world (i.e., that he seeks their ultimate well-being), then one does not agree with the meaning behind the term "common grace."

Since I started with Jenkyn, I will also end with Jenkyn. He said:
God is gracious even unto them who abuse his grace. He affords the means and offers of it to them who turn it into lasciviousness. He holds the candle to them who will not work by, but wanton away the light. He calls men though they will not hear, and woos them who will not be entreated. Certainly, God does not only show himself a God in powerful working, but even in patient waiting upon the wicked; none but a God could do either. O sinner, how inexcusable wilt thou be in that great day, when God shall say, "What could I have done more?" Isa. v. 4; or how couldst thou desire me to wait longer for thy good? Certainly, thine own conscience shall be God's deputy to condemn thee. If thou shalt give an account for every idle word which thou thyself hast spoken, how much more for every unprofitable word which thou hast made God speak to thee!
Ibid., 96.
We should fear to pervert the patience and long-suffering of God to a presumption and a delaying of repentance. This being a despising that goodness which leads to repentance, and a treasuring up wrath by God's forbearance, Eccl. viii. 11; Rom. ii. 4. God intended mercy to be prized, not despised; and He who has made a promise of repentance, has not made a promise of repentance when we please; nay, how justly may God punish the contempt of his grace with final impenitence! Heb. iii. 7, 11, 12. Repentance delayed till death is seldom unto life.
Ibid., 97.

September 19, 2007

Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) on God's Sincere Gospel Offers

[3.] How meltingly doth he bewail man's wilful refusal of his goodness! It is a mighty goodness to offer grace to a rebel; a mighty goodness to give it him after he hath a while stood off from the terms; and astonishing goodness to regret and lament his wilful perdition. He seems to utter those words in a sigh, "O that my people had hearkened unto me, asn Israel had walked in my way" (Ps. lxxxi. 13)! It is true, God hath not human passions, but his affections cannot be expressed otherwise in a way intelligible to us; the excellency of his nature is above the passions of men; but such expressions of himself manifest to us the sincerity of his goodness: and that, were he capable of our passions, he would express himself in such a manner as we do: and we find incarnate Goodness bewailing with tears and sighs the ruin of Jerusalem (Luke xix. 42). By the same reason that when a sinner returns there is joy in heaven, upon his obstinacy where is sorrow in earth. The one is, as if a prince should clothe all his court in triumphant scarlet, upon a rebel's repentance; and the other, as if a prince put himself and his court in mourning for a rebel's obstinate refusal of a pardon, when he lies at his mercy. Are not now these affectionate invitations, and deep bewailings of their perversity, high testimonies of Divine goodness? Do not the unwearied repetitions of gracious encouragements deserve a higher name than that of mere goodness? What can be a stronger evidence of the sincerity of it, than the sound of his saving voice in our enjoyments, the motion of his Spirit in our hearts, and his grief for the neglect of all? These are not testimonies of any want of goodness in his nature to answer us, or unwillingness to express it to his creature. Hath he any mind to deceive us, that thus intreats us? The majesty of his nature is too great for such shifts; or, if it were not, the despicableness of our condition would render him above the using any. Who would charge that physician with want of kindness, that freely offers his sovereign medicine, importunes men, by the love they have to their health, to take it, and is dissolved into tears and sorrow when he finds it rejected by their peevish and conceited humor?
Stephen Charnock, "Discourse XIII: On the Goodness of God," in The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 2:286–287. Also in Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1971), 599.


Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) on God Begging God and His Affectionate Invitations

1. How affectionately doth he invite men! What multitudes of alluring promises and pressing exhortations are there everywhere sprinkled in the Scripture, and in such a passionate manner, as if God were solely concerned in our good, without a glance on his own glory! How tenderly doth he woo flinty hearts, and express more pity to them than they do to themselves! With what affection do his bowels rise up to his lips in his speech in the prophet, Isa. li. 4, "Hearken to me, O my people, and give ear unto me, O my nation!" "My people," "my nation!"—melting expressions of a tender God soliciting a rebellious people to make their retreat to him. He never emptied his hand of his bounty, nor divested his lips of those charitable expressions. He sent Noah to move the wicked of the old world to an embracing of his goodness, and frequent prophets to the provoking Jews; and as the world continued, and grew up to a taller stature in sin, he stoops more in the manner of his expressions. Never was the world at a higher pitch of idolatry than at the first publishing the gospel; yet, when we should have expected him to be a punishing, he is a beseeching God. The apostle fears not to use the expression for the glory of divine goodness; "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us" (2 Cor. v. 20). The beseeching voice of God is in the voice of the ministry, as the voice of the prince is in that of the herald: it is as if Divine goodness did kneel down to a sinner with ringed hands and blubbered cheeks, entreating him not to force him to re-assume a tribunal of justice in the nature of a Judge, since he would treat with man upon a throne of grace in the nature of a Father; yea, he seems to put himself into the posture of the criminal, that the offending creature might not feel the punishment due to a rebel. It is not the condescension, but the interest, of a traitor to creep upon his knees in sackcloth to his sovereign, to beg his life; but it is a miraculous goodness in the sovereign to creep in the lowest posture to the rebel, to importune him, not only for an amity to him, but a love for his own life and happiness: this He doth, not only in his general proclamations, but in his particular wooings, those inward courtings of his Spirits, soliciting them with more diligence (if they would observe it) to their happiness, than the devil tempts them to the ways of their misery: as he was first in Christ, reconciling the world, when the world looked not after him, so he is first in his Spirit, wooing the world to accept of that reconciliation, when the world will not listen to him. How often doth he flash up the light of nature and the light of the word in men's hearts, to move them not to lie down in sparks of their own kindling, but to aspire to a better happiness, and prepare them to be subject to a higher mercy, if they would improve his present entreaties to such an end! And what are his threatenings designed for, but to move the wheel of our fears, that the wheel of our desire and love might be set on motion for the embracing his promise? They are not so much the thunders of his justice, as the loud rhetoric of his good will, to prevent men's misery under the vials of wrath: it is his kindness to scare men by threatenings, that justice might not strike them with the sword: it is not the destruction, but the preserving reformation, that he aims at: he hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked; this he confirms by his oath. His threatenings are gracious expostulations with them: "Why will ye die, O house of Israel" (Ezek. xxxiii. 11)? They are like the noise a favorable officer make in the street, to warn the criminal he comes to seize upon, to make his escape: he never used his justice to crush them, till he had used his kindness to allure them. All the dreadful descriptions of a future wrath, as well as the lively descriptions of the happiness of another world, are designed to persuade men; the honey of his goodness is in the bowels of those roaring lions: such pains doth Goodness take with men, to make them candidates for heaven.
Stephen Charnock, "Discourse XIII: On the Goodness of God," in The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 2:285–286. Also in Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1971), 598–599.


Note: Oddly enough, the Sovereign Grace edition has a Foreword written by Gordon H. Clark (a hyper-Calvinist) while he was at Butler University. He strongly recommends the book and says that "...when...the essence and attributes of God are called into question, to whom else can we better go than to Stephen Charnock?" And, "the material that Charnock discusses is firmly founded in the Word of God." Ibid., 6–7. In this work, Stephen Charnock strongly argues for well-meant offers and common grace.

See also Charnock on God's Importunate Entreaties.

September 18, 2007

Richard Muller on Amyraut and Confessional Boundaries: Part 1

Prompted by a post by Marty Foord, I have been checking what Dr. Muller has to say about Amyraut and the Saumur school of theology in his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. Muller writes:
There were also bitter battles among the Reformed—over Cocceian theology, over the espousal of Cartesian principles, and over the various teachings of the Academy of Saumur, over the soteriology of Richard Baxter, and over various responses to the Socinian denial of an essential or ad intra divine attribute of punitive justice. On none of these issues, however, did the Reformed churches rupture into separate confessional bodies or identify a particular theologically defined group as beyond the bounds of the confessions, as had been the case at the Synod of Dort. Amyraut was, after all, exonerated by several national synods in France, and the debate over his "hypothetical universalism" did not lead to the charge of heterodoxy against others, like Davenant, Martinius, and Alsted, who had, both at Dort and afterward, maintained similar lines of argument concerning the extent of Christ's satisfaction.[104] The Westminster Confession was in fact written with this diversity in view, encompassing confessionally the variant Reformed views on the nature of the limitation of Christ's satisfaction to the elect, just as it was written to be inclusive of the infra- and the supralapsarian views on predestination[105]. Amyraut, moreover, arguably stood in agreement with the intraconfessional adversaries like Turretin on such issues as the fundamental articles of faith.[106]

Even when it was censured in the Formula Consensus Helvetica, the Salmurian theology was not identified as a heresy but as a problematic teaching that troubled the confessional orthodoxy of the church: the preface to the Formula specifically identifies the faculty of Saumur as "respected foreign brethren," who stand on the same "foundation of faith" but whose recent teachings have become a matter of grave dispute. The Formula consciously refrained from any reference to Cocceian theology, despite the desire of a few theologians to censure this variety of Reformed thought as well.[107] Nor, indeed, did the adoption of a modified Cartesian philosophy by thinkers like Heidanus, Burman, or Tronchin take them beyond the pale of orthodoxy. This is not to diminish the controversies or to claim that Cocceian federalism, the Salmurian theology, and the rise of Cartesian tendencies among the Reformed did not place enormous strains on orthodoxy – nor does it ignore the fact that the critical techniques of Cappel and the adoption of Cartesian principles by various Reformed thinkers pointed toward the beginning of a new era in which confessional orthodoxy would fade.
104. Cf., e.g., John Davenant, A Dissertation on the Death of Christ, as to the Extent of its Benefits, trans., Josiah Allport (London: Hamilton, Adams and Co., 1832); also note Davenant's On the Controversy among the French Divines of the Reformed Church, concerning the Gracious and Saving Will of God toward Men, in ibid., pp. 561–569, where Davenant indicates his differences with Cameron.

105. See Benjamin B. Warfield, The Westminster Assembly and its Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), p. 56.

106. Moyse Amyraut, De mysterio trinitatis, deque vocibus ac Phrasibus quibus tam Scriptura quam apud Patres explicatur, Dissertatio, septem partibus absoluta (Saumur: Isaac Desbordes, 1661), pars I (pp. 3–5); see below, 9.1 (A.2; B.2) and see the description of the treatise in PRRD IV, 2.2 (D.2). Also note Amyraut, A Treatise Concerning Religions, in Refutation of the Opinion which accounts all Indifferent. Wherein is also evinc'd the Necessity of a particular Revelation and the Verity and preeminence of the Christian Religion (London: M. Simons, 1660).

107. Formula Consensus Helvetica, praefatio, in Niemeyer, Collectio confessionum, II, p. 730. Also see Martin I. Klauber, "The Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675): An Introduction and Translation," in Trinity Journal, 11 (Spring 1990), pp. 103–123 (a useful history which, unfortunately omits the preface of the Formula from its translation); and
note the remarks of Schaff in Creeds of Christendom, I, p. 486.
Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1:76–77.

Also, see Richard Muller on Amyraut and Confessional Boundaries: Part 2.

September 16, 2007

John Flavel (1630–1691) on Christ Knocking: Chapter 4

I have already included some of these quotes in previous posts, but I want to include them again in order to demonstrate all that is said in chapter 4 regarding God's revealed will, as Flavel saw it.
THE verb here rendered "I stand," would strictly be rendered "I have stood," but being joined with a verb of the present tense, is here translated "I do stand," a frequent Hebraism in Scripture. It intimates the continued patience and long-suffering of Christ; I have stood and still do stand,-exercising wonderful patience towards obstinate sinners.
John Flavel, Christ Knocking at the Door of Sinners' Hearts; or, A Solemn Entreaty to Receive the Saviour and His Gospel in This the Day of Mercy (New York: American Tract Society, 1850), 73.
Thus Wisdom, that is, Christ, expresses himself: "I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded." Prov. 1:24. Here you have not only Christ's earnest calls, but suitable gestures also, to gain attention. The stretching forth of the hand was a signal given to procure attention. Acts 21:40. Yet none regards; and this the Lord does not once or twice only, but all the day long, Isa. 65:2, showing forth all long-suffering, as the apostle speaks, 1 Tim. 1:16.
I. WHAT DIVINE PATIENCE is. It is an ability in God not only to delay the execution of his wrath for a time towards some, but to delay it in order to the eternal salvation of others.
3. There is a yet greater evidence of the patience of God in his bearing with us under the guilt of the special sin of slighting and neglecting Jesus Christ. Here is a sin that goes to the very heart of Jesus Christ. He can bear any sin rather than that; and yet this has Christ borne from every one of you. You have spurned the yearnings of his mercy, slighted his grace, trampled his precious blood under foot, and yet he has borne with you to this day. Let thy conscience answer, whether thou art not equally deep in the guilt of making light of Christ with those upon whom this sin was charged by the Lord Jesus. Matt. 22:2-6. Christ suffered the wrath of God in thy stead, and brought home salvation in gospel-offers to thy door; and then to be slighted! No patience but his own could bear it. Every sermon and prayer you have sat under with a dead heart, every motion of his Spirit which you have quenched, what is this but making light of Christ and the great salvation? Here the deepest project of infinite wisdom, and the richest gift of free-grace, wherein God commends his love to men, are undervalued as small things: thus have you done days without number; and yet his hand is not stretched out to cut thee off in thy rebellion.
Ibid., 77.
6. The vast expense of his riches and bounty upon it, during the whole time of his forbearance and patience towards us, speaks him infinite in his long-suffering towards us. " Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" Rom. 2:4. As if he had said, "Vile sinner, canst thou compute the treasures of mercy thou hast been riotously wasting all this while? Dost thou know what vast sums Christ has spent upon thee to preserve thee so long out of hell?" There are two treasures spending upon sinners, all the time of God's forbearance with them: there is the precious treasure of thy time wasted, and the invaluable streams of gospel-grace running all this while to waste. Thy time is precious; the whole of thy time between thee and eternity is but little, and the most of it has been wasted in sin and upon vanity. But that is not all, the treasures of gospel-grace have been wasting all this while upon thee. It is compared to golden oil, maintaining the lamps of ordinances. Zech. 4:12. Who would maintain a lamp with golden oil for careless children to play by? Yet this has God done while thy soul has trifled with him. The witnesses and "ministers of Christ, in Rev. 11:3, 4, are compared to those olive-trees that drop their precious oil, their gifts, graces, yea, and their natural spirits with them, into this lamp, to keep it burning. All this while the blood of Christ has been running in vain, the ministers of Christ preaching and beseeching in vain, the Spirit of Christ striving with you in vain. You burn away golden oil, and yet your lamp is not gone out. O marvelous patience! O the riches of God's forbearance!
Ibid., 79.
Some sinners have been cut off in the beginning of their days, many in the very acts of sin, and those not greater than thy sins; they are gone to their own place, and thou art still left a monument of the patience and forbearance of God. The sin of Achan was not a greater sin than thy covetousness and earthliness of heart is ; the sin of Nadab and Abihu, in offering up strauge fire, was not greater than thy superstition in offering up uncommanded services to God: yet the hand of God fell on them, and smote them dead in the day and place wherein they sinned, they perished; they were taken away in their iniquities, but thou art reserved. O that it may be for an instance and example of the riches of divine patience, which may at last lead thee to repentance.
Ibid., 80.
The exercise of his patience is a standing testimony of his reconcilable and merciful nature towards sinful man.
Ibid., 81.
This long-suffering is an attribute very expressive of the divine nature; he is willing sinners should know, whatever their provocations have been, that there is room for pardon and peace, if they will yet come in to accept the terms. This patience is a diadem belonging to the imperial crown of heaven; the Lord glories in it, as peculiar to himself: "I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger; for I am God, and not man." Hos. 11:9. As though he had said, "Had I been as man, the holiest, meekest, and most mortified upon earth, I had consumed them long ago; but 'I am God, and not man:' my patience is above all created patience; no husband can bear with his wife, no parent with his child, as I have borne with you." This is one reason of Christ's waiting upon trifling sinners, to give proof of his gracious, merciful, and reconcilable nature towards the worst of men.
Ibid., 81.
2. The Lord exercises this patience towards sinners, thereby to lead them to repentance; this is the direct intention of it. The Lord desires and delights to see ingenuous relentings and brokenness of heart for sin; and there is nothing like his forbearance and patience in promoting such an evangelical repentance. All the terrors of the law will not break the heart of a sinner, as the patience and long-suffering of God will; therefore it is said that the goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering of God, lead men to repentance. Rom. 2:4. These are fitted to work upon all the principles of humanity which incline men to repentance; reason, conscience, gratitude, feel the influences of the goodness of God herein, and melt under it. Thus Saul's heart relented: "Is this thy voice, my son David? and Saul lifted up his voice and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil." 1 Sam. 24:16, 17. Thus the goodness and forbearance of God doth, as it were, take a sinner by the hand, lead him into a corner, and say, "Come, let us talk together; thus and thus vile hast thou been, and thus and thus long-suffering and merciful has God been to thee; thy heart has been full of sin, the heart of thy God has been full of pity and mercy." This dissolves the sinner into tears, and breaks his heart in pieces. If any thing will melt a hard heart, this will do it. O how good has God been to me. How have I tried his patience to the uttermost, and still he waits to be gracious, and is exalted that he may have compassion. The sobs and tears, the ingenuous relentings of a sinner's heart, under the apprehensions of the sparing mercy and goodness of God, are the music of heaven.
Ibid., 81–82.
4. From the patience and long-suffering of Christ, we may learn the invaluable preciousness of souls, and the high esteem, Christ has for them. Though your souls be cheap in your own eyes, and you are contented to sell them for a trifle, for a little sensual pleasure and ease, yet certainly Jesus Christ has a high estimate of them, else he would never stand knocking with such importunity, and waiting with such wonderful patience for their salvation. Christ knows their worth, though you do not; he accounts, and so should you, one of your souls of more worth than the whole world. Matt. 16:26. The soul of the poorest child or meanest servant is of greater value in Christ's eye, than the whole world; and he has given three great evidences of it.

(1.) That he thought it worth his blood to redeem and save it. "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ." 1 Pet. 1:18, 19. Had they not been precious in his eyes, he would never have shed his most precious blood to ransom them.

(2.) Were they not highly valuable in his eyes, he would never wait with such unwearied patience to save them. He has borne thousands of repulses and unreasonable denials from you. Sinner, Christ has knocked at thy door in many a sermon, in many a prayer, in many a sickness in all which thou hast denied him or delayed him; yet still he continues knocking and waiting. Thou couldst not have made the poorest beggar in the world wait at thy door so long as thy Redeemer has been made to wait, and yet he is not gone; at this day his voice sounds in thine ears, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Here is clear demonstration of the preciousness of thy soul in the Redeemer's eyes.

And then,

(3.) When Christ ends the treaty, and gives up the souls of men for lost, with what sorrow does he part with them. Never did one friend part from another with such demonstrations of sorrow as Christ parts with the souls of sinners. The bowels of his compassion roll together; for he knows what is coming upon them, and what that eternal misery is into which their willful rejection of him will cast them. You read of the Redeemer's tears shed over the obstinate inhabitants of Jerusalem: "And when he was come near, he beheld the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes." Luke 19:41, 42. Like unto this is that expression, Isa. 1:24, "Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies." Though it be an ease to his justice, yet he cannot give them up without an "Ah," an interjection of sorrow; so in Hos. 11:8, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel?" I must do it, but how shall I go about it? All these expressions show the great value God has for your souls; and did you know it also, you would not make Christ wait one hour longer.
Ibid., 89–90.
There are two glasses turned up this day, and both are almost run down: the glass of the gospel running down on earth, and the glass of Christ's patience running down in heaven. Be sure of it, that for every sand of mercy, every drop of love that runs down in vain in this world, a drop of wrath runs into the vial of wrath which is filling up in heaven.
Ibid., 91.
8. My exhortation is to all that are in an unregenerate state, that they presume not to try the patience of Christ any longer. If you have any regard to your eternal happiness, exercise not his patience another hour. O that this hour might put an end to Christ's waiting and your danger! Hitherto you have wearied men, but will you weary God also? Christ has called, but you have refused; he has stretched out his hands, but you have not regarded. Prov. 1:24. Your thoughts have been wandering after vanity while the voice of the gospel has been sounding in your ears: some of you have been sottish, and incapable of apprehending spiritual truths; others of you sensual, given up to the pleasures of the world, and abandoning all serious thoughts about the world to come. Some of you have been buried alive in the cares of the world, and others settled upon a dead formality in religion; and to this day Christ hath called upon you in vain. Now that which I exhort you to is, that you venture not to try the patience of Christ one day longer; if you have any regard to the everlasting happiness of your souls, come not under the guilt and danger of one denial or delay more. If you ask me, Why may we not venture a little longer? Christ has borne with us all this while, and will he not bear a little longer? May we not take a little more pleasure in sin? May we not hazard one sermon or Sabbath more? I answer, No. If your souls are precious in your eyes, let there be no more denials, nor delays to Christ's suit. For,

(1 ) How patient and long-suffering soever Christ has been, yet there will be an end of the day of his patience a time when he will wait no longer, when his Spirit shall strive no more with you. There will be a knock of Christ at the heart, which will be the last knock that ever he will give a time when the master of the house will rise up, and the door be shut. Matt. 25:10. You have had to do with a meek and patient Saviour; but believe it, sinners, there is a day of "the wrath of the Lamb" and that day will be dreadful. Then will sinners cry "to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." Rev. 6:16. O if this wrath be once kindled, though but a little! Blessed are they that trust in him, that have finished their agreement with him. The day of Christ's patience towards Jerusalem was a long day, but it had an end, and it ended in their desolation, Matt. 23:37; therefore try the patience of Christ no further: you know not the limits of it; it may end with your next refusal, and then where are you?

(2.) The longer Christ has exercised his patience already towards you, the more terribly will he avenge the abuse of it upon you in hell. It is past doubt with me, that there are different degrees of torment in hell: the Scriptures are plain and clear on this point. Now, among all the aggravations of the torments of hell, none can be greater than the reflections of damned souls upon the abused patience and grace of Christ. Those who had the best means, the loudest calls, and the longest day under the gospel, will certainly have the hottest place in hell, if the goodness and longsuffering of Christ do not now lead them to repentance. The cries of such souls will be heard above the cries of all other miserable wretches who are cast away. It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for Capernaum. Matt. 11:23. O friends, you little know the reflections of conscience in hell upon such hours as you now enjoy such wooing, charming voices and allurements to Christ as you now hear. There are many thousands of souls in hell from the dark, heathenish parts of the world, where they never heard of Christ; but your misery will be far beyond theirs, your reflections more sharp and bitter: therefore delay no longer, lest you perish with peculiar aggravation of misery.

(3.) Try the patience of Christ no further, I beseech you, forasmuch as you see every day the patience of Christ ending towards others--patience retiring, and justice arising to triumph over the abusers of mercy. You not only read in scripture the ending of God's patience with men, but you may see it every day. If you look into scripture, you may find the patience of God ended towards multitudes of sinners, who possibly had the same presumptions and vain hopes for the continuance of it that you now have. If you look into 1 Peter 3:19, 20, you there find that Christ "went and preached unto the spirits in prison ; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah. "The meaning of which is, that in the days before the flood, Christ by his Spirit strove with the disobedient and rebellious sinners in the ministry of Noah, who then were living men and women as we are, but now are "spirits in prison," that is, damned souls in hell, for their disobedience: and truly, brethren, you may frequently behold the glass of patience run down, the very last sand in it spent upon others. Whenever you see a wicked, Christless man or woman die, you see the end of God's patience with that man or woman; and all this for a warning to you, that you venture not to trifle and dally with it as they did.
Ibid., 94–98.


John Preston (1587-1628) on God's Desires

"If you consider, first, those speeches in Ezekiel, I desire not the death of a sinner: and, Why will ye die, O ye house of Israel? Such expostulations are very frequent; O that my people would return: and, How often would I have gathered you as the hen gathereth her chickens? I say, these are the speeches of God, and God speaks as he means; you shall find by the manner, and the fashion, and the figure of the speeches, that God desires it earnestly: Why will ye die? O ye house of Israel? by way of interrogation: and, O that my people would do thus and thus. Even this God desires, that a sinner would return."

John Flavel (1630–1691) on the Shorter Catechism and Common Grace

Q. 5. How many ways may God be said to tempt to evil?

A. (1.) By withdrawing his grace either common or special, 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. Howbeit, in the Business of the Ambassadors of the Prince of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the Wonder that was done in the Land, God left him to try him, that he might know all that was in his Heart. (2.) By permitting Satan and wicked Men to tempt, 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. He moved David against them, to say go number Israel and Judah. With I Chron. xxi. 1. Satan stood up against Israel and provoked David, Matt. iv. 1. Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the Wilderness, to be tempted of the Devil. (3.) By presenting Occasions in his Providence, which he knows will be abused to Sin, as in the Fall of Adam, the hardening of Pharaoh, &c.
John Flavel, An Exposition of the Assemblies Catechism, with Practical Inferences from each Question (Salisbury: Edw. Easton, 1767), 227–228.


This question-and-answer exposition on the Westminster Assembly's Shorter Catechism can be found in volume 6 of his Works published by Banner of Truth.

September 13, 2007

John Flavel (1630–1691) on 1 Peter 3:19–20

If you look into 1 Peter, 3:19, 20, you there find that Christ "went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah." The meaning of which is, that in the days before the flood, Christ by his Spirit strove with the disobedient and rebellious sinners in the ministry of Noah, who then were living men and women as we are, but now are "spirits in prison," that is, damned souls in hell, for their disobedience...

Flavel's interpretation is right. The text is speaking about Christ in his pre-incarnate state in the days of Noah, and not of his intermediate state between his death and resurrection. I am weary of all the bizarre theories [one might even say 'myths'] that surround this text.

Flavel himself, however, may need some clarification. The "spirits in prison" are technically not in their final abode, i.e., "hell" in that sense, but they are in a place of torment among the unregenerate dead in their disembodied intermediate state, and awaiting their final judgment, i.e., "hell" in that sense. Flavel is not wrong in what he says, but the reader may be left confused because of the equivocations that can occur in the use of the term "hell."

For good exegetical studies on this, see the following commentaries:

Curtis Vaughn and Thomas D. Lea, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 94–99. This is in the Bible Study Commentary series. I would highly recommend all the volumes by Dr. Curtis Vaughn in the New Testament portion of this series.

Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 157–162; 203–239. This is in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series.

Paige Patterson, A Pilgrim Priesthood: An Exposition of First Peter (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 134–146.

September 12, 2007

Hans Boersma on Justification in John Owen (1616–1683)

Justification before Faith: Several Views

John Owen

Ius ad rem and ius in re

It would be misleading to argue that there is one standard Calvinist doctrine of justification to which Baxter reacts.246 Not all of Baxter’s opponents held to justification before faith. Furthermore, the ensuing discussion will make clear that there were also varying shades of opinion among those who did accept this particular position. Despite these differences, however, there are common elements in the positions that will be outlined below: none of them restricts justification to an act of God which follows faith. All of the views under discussion place at least some aspect of justification prior to faith. The result is that justification by faith is interpreted as the enjoyment of something which was, at least in a sense, already present prior to faith. For a clearer picture of the type of doctrine which Baxter opposes in his rejection of the view that justification precedes faith it is necessary to study the views of Baxter’s opponents in more detail.

Baxter’s most notable antagonist was John Owen. Much of the controversy between Baxter and Owen concerns the immediate benefits of the atonement. In his Death of Death (1647) Owen – in line with Pemble and Twisse – objects to the idea that Christ purchased “not salvation, but salvability."247 To maintain the immediate procurement of the benefits of the covenant, Owen distinguishes between stipulations about the future that are sub conditione and those that are sub termino.248 In the former case, the future event is uncertain; in the latter, it is certain. Having defined the nature of a condition in such a way as to imply uncertainty, Owen concludes that “it oppugns the whole nature of the Deity, and overthrows the properties thereof, immediately and directly.”249 Owen does acknowledge that the benefits of Christ’s death are not received without some intervention of time. They are granted sub termino. The reason for the delay is that Christ’s death is not a physical cause. If it were a physical cause it would immediately bring about its effect. Since Christ’s death is a moral cause, however, a law or covenant intervenes between the sacrifice and the enjoyment of the benefits.250

The use of the distinction between moral and physical causes enables Owen to maintain a temporal distance between Christ’s procuring the benefits and his actual granting of them. Owen can now make an analogous temporal distance between ius ad rem and ius in re.251 The former is a right to be enjoyed in due time; the latter means the present possession of that to which one already has a right. A man who has an estate has a ius in re. The son, however, will enjoy this estate only upon the father’s death, though he has a present ius ad rem.252 Owen maintains that Christ’s death has procured an ipso facto delivery from the curse.253 This delivery gives the elect a right to justification or ius ad rem.

Justification As Terminating in Conscience

It is only a small step from the assertion that Christ has procured an ipso facto delivery from the curse to the statement that justification by faith is only the process of becoming conscious of one’s justification. It has been stated in Owen’s defense that he categorically denies adhering either to justification from eternity or to a justification which is only in foro conscientiae.254 To some extent, such a defense is justified. Owen explicitly disavows justification from eternity and also argues that justification is not only in conscience.255 While full justice must be done to Owen on this point, it cannot be denied that there is, at the very least, some tension in his thinking. As Gavin McGrath suggests:
There was, however, a modicum of contradiction in Owen’s thought: on one hand, he insisted that the death of Christ merited ipso facto the justification of the elect, his death was a cause independent from the faith and repentance, for the truest sense a person was not justified before personal faith.256
The tension in Owen’s thought can be put in even sharper terms. Owen not only suggests that Christ’s death merited justification ipso facto, but he goes as far as to suggest that the elect thereby acquired a right to justification.

What is more, while Owen does not hold that justification was in foro conscientiae alone, this is definitely an essential part of justification. Owen suggests rhetorically “whether absolution from the guilt of sin and obligation unto death, though not as terminated in the conscience for complete justification, do not precede our actual believing…”257 Thus, justification is a process. It begins prior to faith and is terminated or completed in the conscience.258 Owen thinks that this absolution prior to faith may be the justification of the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).259

Owen bases the ius ad rem not only on Christ’s purchase, but ultimately on the covenant of redemption between God and Christ.260 Baxter is correct in stating in Owen’s own words:
One learned man <i.e., Owen> saith, that, Absolution in heaven, and Justification differ as part and whole; and that Justification is terminated in conscience; and so makes a longer work of Justification, then they that say it is simul & semel; or, then I whom Mr. Crandon blames for it …261
For Owen, justification begins with the pactum salutis between God and Christ and with Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Baxter is therefore correct in suggesting that justification from eternity is not far removed from Owen’s thinking. The ius ad rem is procured for the elect on the twofold basis of the covenant of redemption and Christ’s death. This right to justification is a benefit which follows immediately upon the sacrifice.

Justification and Union with Christ

Owen appears to base the ius ad rem on the covenant of redemption and the atonement. Elsewhere, however, he links the ius ad rem to union with Christ. As C. F. Allison observes:
A sinner in justification becomes truly righteous as he becomes a member of Christ whose righteousness is thereupon imputed to him in such a union. A justified person is truly righteous, then, because he is in Christ. Owen places more explicit emphasis on this union with Christ than even Downame does, and perhaps more than anyone of the period with the exception of John Donne.262
Owen is of the opinion that a person is truly righteous in Christ. Strictly speaking, therefore, it is no longer forensic righteousness. The question must be raised whether such a concept of mystical union is compatible with the idea that payment is not made by the debtor but by Christ.263 Does Owen’s concept of mystical union still allow for such a differentiation between the person of Christ and the person united to him? Owen makes some strong statements regarding man’s right to justification: “Where merit intercedes, the effect is reckoned as of debt; that which is my due debt I have a right unto… They, then, who are under merit have also a right unto that whereof it is the merit.”264 Owen bases this right on the union with Christ. He states that Christ is “their <i.e., those "under merit"> surety, doing that whereby he merited only on their behalf, yea, in their stead, they dying with him…”265

On the one hand, Owen insists that it is the covenant of redemption and the death of Christ which give the ius ad rem. On the other hand, he also argues that union with Christ gives the ius ad rem. These two positions are incompatible.266 It is not difficult to see why Owen comes to this confused position. It originates from a combination of two irreconcilable thought patterns. He wants to do justice both to the immediacy, the absolute character, of Christ’s benefits – which demands a ius ad rem at the time of Christ’s sacrificial death – and to the fact that “no blessing can be given us for Christ’s sake, unless, in order of nature, Christ be first reckoned unto us.”267 When, on one occasion, Owen links up the ius ad rem with the pactum salutis and the atonement, and, on another occasion, with union with Christ, this illustrates that he has ultimately not succeeded in separating the ius ad rem from the ius ad re. Having isolated the ius ad rem he is uncertain as to its proper position in the process of justification.

Owen maintains that it is the “ungodly” who are united to Christ.268 The ungodly are united to Christ prior to faith. It is true, Owen admits that “Christ is ours before and after believing in a different sense.”269 But what exactly is lacking prior to faith? It is God’s act of pardoning mercy which is to be “completed in the conscience.” It is the “hearts persuasion” regarding God’s promise. It is “the soul’s rolling itself upon Christ.”270 These are all descriptions of assurance of faith. It seems that only assurance is lacking before faith. This implies a far-reaching identification of faith and assurance.271 Once faith, or assurance, has been given justification is complete. Owen maintains that the elect do not have union with Christ before faith, even though justification is not yet complete at this time.

The following process of justification emerges from Owen’s argument:

Justification is based on the pactum salutis and the purchase of Christ. Because these give the actual right to justification, they must be included in the process of justification. Following Christ’s atoning death comes union with Christ, which preceeds faith. The right to justification is also connected to this union with Christ. Finally, justification is terminated or completed in the conscience, when one attains assurance of faith.
246. Iain Murray, for instance, is inaccurate when he states that "with respect to the great doctrines of salvation" the theology of the Puritans "was united, cohesive and homogeneous," and that Baxter is the "one outstanding exception" ("Richard Baxter-' The Reluctant Puritan'?" in Advancing in Adverisity, Proc. of the Westminster Conference, 1991 [Thornton Heath, Surrey: Westminster Conference, (1992)], pp. 7-8).
247. Owen, Death of Death (1647), in Works 10.207.
248. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.465.
249. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.465.
250. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.459, 472. Owen may seem to contradict himself when he speaks of the immediate effects of Christ's death as a moral cause. On the one hand, he states: "Moral causes do never immediately actuate their own effects, nor have any immediate influence into them" (p. 459). On the other hand, he says: "By the death of Christ we are immediately delivered from death with that immediation which is proper to the efficiency of causes which produce their effects by the way of moral procurement" (p. 472). What Owen likely means, is that Christ's death is not immediate in a temporal sense: its benefits are only enjoyed sub termino, once the new law or covenant has taken effect and is interposed. Christ's death is immediate in a logical sense: the enjoyment of its benefits is not dependent on the uncertain fulfillment of another cause, as would be the case if the benefits would be granted sub conditione.
251. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.466, 476. Cf. p. 478; Vindiciae Evangelicae, in Works 12.607, 610.
252. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.466.
253. Owen, Death of Death, in Works 10.268; Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.474-75. J.I. Packer's description of the Calvinist view on redemption may serve as an description of Owen's insight: "Christ did not win a hypothetical salvation for hypothetical believers, a mere possibility of salvation for any who might possibly believe, but a real salvation for his own chosen people. His precious blood really does 'save us all'; the intended effects of his self-offering do in fact follow, just because the cross was what it was. Its saving power does not depend on faith being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it. The cross secured the full salvation of all for whom Christ died" ("Saved by His Precious Blood'," pp. 133-34.). To regard this viewpoint as the general Calvinistic stand seems to me an overstatement since it does not do justice to the variety of opinion within Calvinistic thought.
254. Allison, Rise of Moralism, p. 174; Wallace, "Life and Thought of John Owen," pp. 283-85; Wallace, Puritans and Predestination, p. 146; Daniel, "Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill," p. 319.
255. Owen, Death of Death, in Works 10.276-77; Vindiciae Evangelicae, in Works 12.592, 596, 601-04.
256. McGrath, "Puritans and the Human Will," p. 264.
257. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.470.
258. Owen states explicitly: "Neither yet do I hence assert complete justification to be before believing. Absolution in heaven, and justification, differ as part and whole" (Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.470).
259. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.470.
260. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.477. Bass draws attention to the important place of the pactum salutis as the basis of Owen's soteriology ("Theology of John Owen," pp. 38-39; Bass, "Platonic Influences," pp. 106-09). Bass suggests that Owen's idea of a covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son stems from his reading of Platonic literature: "His thinking of the covenant was tempered more by the vertical ladder of ascent and descent than in a horizontal development of the covenants of Jehovah who was progressively revealing himself through the course of an eschatological history" (p. 109). Bass correctly draws attention to the importance of the covenant of redemption for Owen's theology. He provides no proof, however, for his assertion that Platonic influences lie at the basis of this concept in Owen.
261. Baxter, Confession, pp. 190-91. Baxter gives here a direct quotation of Owen (cf. above, n. 258). Cf. Confession, p. 218.
262. Allison, Rise of Moralism, p. 175. Union with Christ is a central theme in Owen's theology. Cf. Owen, Discourse concerning the Holy Spirit (1674), in Works 3.463-67, 478, 516-18; 4.383-86; Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.468-71; Doctrine of the Saints Perseverance (1654), in Works 11.336-41; Duty of Pastors and People Distinguished (1644), in Works 13.22-22; R.W. De Koeyer, "Pneumatologia: Een onderzoek naar de leer van de Heilige Geest bij de puritein John Owen (1616-1683)," ThRef, 34 (1991), 244; Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life, pp. 32-36; B. Loonstra, Verkiezing - verzoening - verbond: Beschrijving en beoordeling van de leer van het pactum salutis in de gereformeerde theologie, Diss. Utrecht 1990 (The Hague: Boekencentrum, 1990), p. 106; Wallace, Puritans and Predestination, pp. 154-55. For a discussion of Owen's views on union with Christ in the context of communion with Christ, see Jonathan Jong-Chun Won, "Communion with Christ: An Exposition and Comparison of the Doctrine of Union and Communion with Christ in Calvin and the English Puritans," Diss. Westminster Theological Seminary 1989, pp. 258-91.
263. Baxter is fearful that a high Calvinist view of imputation leads to the idea that we merit our own justification (cf. below, pp. 236-37).
264. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.468.
265. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.468. Cf. Duty of Pastors and People Distinguished, in Works 13.23.
266. Owen clearly sees the atonement and union with Christ as temporally separate. Union with Christ takes place when the Holy Spirit is first given in regeneration (Discourse concerning the Holy Spirit, in Works 3.464, 478, 516-17; Doctrine of the Saints Perseverance, in Works 11.337). Cf. Baxter's comment: "If we are Absolved, Pardoned, Justified, and have Right to heaven from eternity, or before Faith, then we have all these before we in Christ, or joyned or united to Christ, or are made his members. But the Consequent is false: therefore so is the Antecedent" (Confession, p. 283).
267. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.469. Christ had obtained a right for Peter, though he only received Christ and faith when "the term was expired" (pp. 469-70).
268. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.470.
269. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.470.
270. Owen, Of the Death of Christ, in Works 10.470.
271. This view is supported by Beeke's careful analysis of Owen's views on assurance. (Joel R. Beeke, "Personal Assurance of Faith: English Puritanism and the Dutch 'Nadere Reformatie:' From Westminster to Alexander Comrie (1640-1760)," Diss. Westminster Theological Seminary 1988, pp. 177-263; and in Joel R. Beeke, Assurance of Faith: Calvin, English Puritanism, and the Dutch Second Reformation, American University Studies: Theology and Religion, 89 [New York: Lang, 1991], pp. 213-80. Beeke's 1991 publication is a revised form of his earlier dissertation.) Beeke argues that in an earlier stage Owen held that "assurance is part and parcel of faith" (Assurance of Faith, pp. 213-14). The shift away from this close identification of faith and assurance is noted first in Owen's Doctrine of the Saints' Perseverance (1654; Assurance of Faith, p. 219).
Hans Boersma, A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter's Doctrine of Justification in Its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2004), 103–108. This work is based on the author's doctoral dissertation (Th.D.) at the State Univ. of Utrect, 1993.