May 30, 2007

John Flavel (1630–1691) and Faith as Our Voluntary Response

"Coming to Christ notes the voluntariness of the soul in its motion to Christ. It is true, there is no coming without the Father's drawing; but that drawing has nothing of coaction in it; it does not destroy, but powerfully, and with an overcoming sweetness, persuade the will. It is not forced or driven, but it comes; being made "willing in the day of God's power," Psal. 110: 3. Ask a poor distressed sinner in that season, Are you willing to come to Christ? O rather than live! life is not so necessary as Christ is! O! with all my heart, ten thousand worlds for Jesus Christ, if he could be purchased, were nothing answerable to his value in mine eyes! The soul's motion to Christ is free and voluntary, it is coming."

Too many Calvinists think that the expression "faith is the gift of God" is contrary to the truth that saving faith is our free, voluntary response to the Father's effectual drawing. Saving faith is the gift of God since he gives us the moral ability to trust him, but it is also our act. God does not give us faculties that we previously did not have when he regenerates us. Rather, he liberates our faculties from their former stubbornness and fixation upon sin so that we may freely come to him. Faith is our free act, which is why it is called our responsibility.

By saying that faith is our act, some fear that we are then saying that faith is a "work." What they fail to realize is that there is a difference between an act and a work. When the bible condemns "works" as being antithetical to grace, it is not condemning actions as such. It is condemning actions that reach within for self-sufficiency and/or self-righteousness. All "works" are actions, but not all actions are "works" in that negative sense.

Faith is indeed our act, but it is an act that reaches out (not within) for righteousness like the hand of a beggar reaches out for the benefits or virtue of another. It is the voluntary hand-of-the-heart, so to speak, that desperately reaches out to the seamless garment of Christ's righteousness in order to be made well (see Matt. 9:20-22).

We are justified by God in Christ alone, on the principle of grace alone, through our act of faith alone.

Query: If our act is required for justification, how can we escape the idea that our justification is by "works"?

Answer: Because, in condemning "works", Paul is not condemning actions as such, but particular kinds of actions wherein the sinner seeks to establish self-righteousness, rather than reaching out to Christ for righteousness.

May 25, 2007

Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499–1562) Quote on Christ's Redemption of Our Neighbor

Aristotle, in his Ethics, taught many things concerning friendship: and in his Rhetorics he entreated at large concerning the same. And in effect his judgement is, that to love a man, consists in this; namely, that when we wish well unto him, then we do well unto him: and that for himself not for our own sake. Here does human wisdom stay, but Christian godliness is lifted higher. For such a one both wills well, & does well unto his neighbour; and not for his own proper commodity, but for God and Christ his sake; because he knows that his neighbour is created by God the Father, and is redeemed by the blood of Christ. Let charity then be thus defined; that it is a power inspired into our minds by the heavenly Spirit, whereby we wish well unto our neighbours, and do good unto them, according to our power; and that for God and Christ his sake.
Peter Martyr Vermigli, “Of Love,” in The Common Places, trans. Anthonie Marten (London: Henry Denham/Henry Middleton, 1583), II:558.

I've posted the following quote before, but this may be better documentation:
They [the anti-predestinarians] also grant that "Christ died for us all" and infer from this that his benefits are common to everyone. We gladly grant this, too, if we are considering only the worthiness of the death of Christ, for it might be sufficient for all the world's sinners. Yet even if in itself it is enough, yet it did not have, nor has, nor will have effect in all men. The Scholastics also acknowledge the same thing when they affirm that Christ redeemed all men sufficiently but not effectually.
Peter Martyr Vermigli, Predestination and Justification, trans. Frank A. James (Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, 2003), 8:62.

(HT: David Ponter)

John Calvin (1509–1564) on Lamentations 3:33

Lam. 3:33. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
That such thoughts, then, might not tempt us to unbelief, the Prophet here puts a check on us, and declares that God does not afflict from his heart, that is, willingly, as though he delighted in the evils of men, as a judge, who, when he ascends his throne and condemns the guilty to death, does not do this from his heart, because he wishes all to be innocent, and thus to have a reason for acquitting them; but yet he willingly condemns the guilty, because this is his duty. So also God, when he adopts severity towards men, he indeed does so willingly, because he is the judge of the world; but he does not do so from the heart, because he wishes all to be innocent — for far away from him is all fierceness and cruelty; and as he regards men with paternal love, so also he would have them to be saved, were they not as it were by force to drive him to rigor.
Calvin, Lamentations 3:33.


Observe that:

1) Calvin does not hesitate to say that God "wishes" all of the "world" to be "innocent," i.e., to be "saved." There is a universal saving will of God. Within the "world" are some that he finally condemns, so the "world" includes the non-elect.

2) Calvin clearly affirms the universal love of God.

May 21, 2007

Vermigli on Christ's Sufficient Redemption

"Not all those who are called are predestined. For Christ said: "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt 22:14). But they contend that the calling is universal and that God would wish everyone saved. If it is understood as universal calling because it is offered to all and no one is excluded by name, it is true. If it is also called universal because the death of Christ and his redemption is sufficient for the whole world; that also is most true. But if this universality is meant so that he it is in everyone's hand to receive the promises, I deny it: because to some it is given, to others it is not given. As if we did not see also that for a long time the very preaching of the Gospel was not given to many places, ages, and nations. God would have all to be saved, provided they believe. He gives faith to whom it seems good to him. For he may justly do with his own what he will."

Peter Martyr Vermigli, “Providence and Predestination" in Philosophical Works, trans., by Joseph P. McLelland, (Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, 1994), vol 4, p., 332.

May 19, 2007

May 15, 2007

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on Universal Redemption


Of Universal Redemption

95. By what hath been said, it appeareth how far Christ may be said to have died for all. Certainly (de re) all that Christ giveth to all, which is the fruits of his Death, he procured for all by his death: whatever we say of conditional Intentions, he certainly intended to give all that he giveth. But all these following particulars are given by Christ, either to all, or to more than the Elect.

1. The Human Nature, common to all, is advanced and brought nigh to God, in Christ's Incarnation. 2. Christ's Sacrifice for Sin, and his perfect Holiness, are so far Satisfactory and meritorious for all men, as that they render Christ a meet Object for that Faith in him which is commanded men, and no man shall be damned for want of the Satisfactoriness of Christ's Sacrifice, or for want of a Savior to die for him, and fulfil all Righteousness, but only for the abusing or refusing of his Mercy. 3. Christ's conquest of the Devil and the World, hath made man's conquests of them the more easy or possible. And his Victory over Death and his Resurrection, hath procured a Resurrection to all the World. 4. All men are his Subjects by Obligation, as he is the Redeemer, and so are under his healing, saving kind of Government. 5. A clearer revelation of Life and Immortality, is made by him, even to those that perish. And they have far greater helps than else they would have had, to set their hearts on a better World. 6. Especially a Law of Grace is made by Christ for all the world; (In the last Edition to all that hear the Gospel, and in the first to all the rest.) By the Promise of which, as by an Act of Oblivion, or Instrument of Donation, God hath Enacted and Given a full Pardon of all Sin to all Mankind, with Reconcilation, Adoption, and Right to Christ and Heaven, on condition of their acceptance of it, as offered them. So that men are pardoned and justified by that Instrument or Gift, if they will believe, and will not unthankfully reject their Mercies. 7. Apostles and ordinary Ministers were appointed to preach this Gospel to all the World, and make the Offer of Christ and Life to all men without exception. 8. The execution of the violated Law of Innocency is forborn to all men, in the greatest part; Judgments kept off; and they kept out of Hell, while they have time and means to prepare for their Salvation. 9. Many and great Mercies which signify God's goodness, and lead towards Repentance, are given to all the world; even mercies forfeited by sins against the Law of Innocency, and given by the Grace of our Redeemer. 10. It is made all mens duty, to believe (the Revelation made to them) to repent, to accept more mercy, and to seek their own Salvation. And such duty is not the smallest mercy. 11. He hath recorded his Word and Grace in the holy Scriptures, which all are allowed to use for their good. He hath filled his Doctrine or Gospel with such powerful convincing Reasons and Persuasions, which have a tendency to convince men, and convert them. 12. He secondeth his Word by many such Providences (in his Works, his Mercies, his Afflictions,) as greatly tend to win mens Souls. 13. He hath left his excellent Example to the world, which greatly tendeth to mens Conviction and Salvation. 14. He hath appointed several Church-Ordinances, which are mercies to more than the Elect; as is the visible communion also which they have with the Upright, and their examples, prayers, &c. 15. To all these he addeth an obligation on all Christians, to do their best to convert and save all others. 16. And the Office of Magistrates under Christ, is appointed for these saving uses, to promote the Salvation of all the people. 17. Death itself is now turned into a medicinal means, by the prospect of it to convert and save men. 18. Usually Gods patience alloweth men time of Repentance, and taketh them not at the first denial, that they may consider and correct their former error. 19. Remedies are offered men fetched from Satan and Sin itself. The Tempter (by the malice of his temptations) oft detecteth his own fraud and mens danger. A natural enmity against Devils, and all that is known to be of them, is put into all Mankind: and Sin hath a sting to the Flesh itself, and is made such a misery to Sinners even in this life, as may much tend to alienate and deter them from it. And the world itself is made such a palpable vanity, and smart vexation, as tendeth to drive men to look out for a better, and not to love it above God. 20. Lastly, To all these means, there are certain internal motions, and strivings of the Spirit of Christ, which he commonly vouchsafeth men in some degree, and which irritate Conscience to do its office; and which if men will but so far yield to as they can, have a tendency to their recovery. All these twenty sorts of means and mercies Christ giveth to all, or to more than the Elect.

96. It being certain de re that Christ so far died for all, as to procure them all such Benefits as he giveth them, the question remaining is de nomine, whether it be a fit phrase to say that Christ died for all? And this is put out of question by the Scripture, which frequently useth it, as is proved by the fore-cited Texts. We may well speak as God ordinarily there speaketh.

97. There are certain fruits of Christ's death which are proper to the Elect, (or those that are in a state of Salvation). As 1. Grace eventually effectual working them to true Faith, Repentance and Conversion. 2. Union with Christ the Head, as his true living members. 3. The actual forgiveness of sin, as to the grand spiritual and the eternal punishment, Rom. 4. 1. 7. & 8. 1. 33, 34. 4. Our actual Reconciliation with God, so as to be beloved as his peculiar people. 5. Our Adoption and Right to the heavenly Inheritance, Psal. 4. 6. & 8. 16, 17, 18. 6. The Spirit of Christ to dwell in us, and sanctify us, by a habit of Divine Love, Rom. 8. 9, 13. Gal. 4. 6. Col. 3. 10. 1 Pet. 1. 16. & 2 Pet. 1. 4. 1 Joh. 4. 15. Joh. 3. 5, 6. 1 Cor. 6. 19. Gal. 5. 17, 18, 22. 2 Cor. 6. 1. 7. Employment in sincere holy acceptable Service, where they and their duties are pleasing to God, Heb. 11. 5, 6. 1 Pet. 2. 5, 9. 8. Access in prayer, with a promise of being heard in all that's good for us (in God's measure, time and way,) through Christ, Joh. 14. 13, 14. Heb 10. 19, 20, 22. 9. Well-grounded hopes of Salvation and peace of Conscience thereupon, Rom. 5. 1, 2, 3, 4, &c. 10. Spiritual communion with the Church-mystical in Heaven and Earth, Heb. 12. 22, 23, 24. Eph. 2. 19, 20, 21, 22. I Cor. 3. 22. 11. A special interest in Christ's intercession with the Father, Rom. 8. 32, 33, &c. 12. Resurrection unto Life, and Justification in Judgment; Glorification of the Soul at Death, and of the Body at the Resurrection, Phil. 3. 20, 21. 2 Cor. 5. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Rom. 8. 17, 18, 30, 32, 35, 36, 37, &c.

All these Benefits Christ hath made a conditional Deed of Gift to all the world: But only the Elect accept them, and possess them. From whence we certainly infer, that Christ never absolutely intended or decreed that his death should eventually put all men in possession of these Benefits: And yet that he did intend and decree that by his death all men should have a conditional Gift of them. (As Dr. Twisse doth frequently assert.)

98. Chirst therefore died for all, but not for all equally, or with the same intent, design or purpose: So that the case of difference in the matter of Redemption, is resolved into that of Predestination; and is but Gods different Decrees about the effects of Redemption.

99. The particle [For] when we question whether Christ died [For] All is ambiguous: 1. It may mean [In the strict representation of the persons of all as several, so that they may be said to have died or satisfied in and by him, as civilly in their own persons, though not naturally]. And thus Christ died not for all, or for any man: which yet is in some mens conceits, who thence say that Christ died not for all, because he did not so personate all. 2. It may signify [to die by the procurement of all mens sins, as the assumed promeritorious cause.] And thus Pareus himself in his Irenicon saith, That the sins of all men lay on Christ; and so he died for all, that is, for all mens sins as the cause of his death: And you may tell any wicked man, Thy sins killed Christ (what-ever the deniers say to excuse them). 3. Or it meaneth, that Christ died finally for the good of all men. And that is true, as afore explained. He died for the good of all; but not equally; that is, not with the same absolute Will, Decree or Intention of attaining their Salvation.

100. But the conditional New Covenant, without any difference in the tenor of it, doth equally give Christ, Pardon and Life to all Mankind (antecedently to mens rejecting the offer) on condition of acceptance. And Christ equally satisfied Gods Justice for all the lapsed Race of Adam, so far as to procure them this Gift or Covenant, and the other foresaid common mercies: But not equally as to his Decree of the success: For there Election differenceth.

101. It is a thing so contrary to the nature of Christianity, and the Spirit of Christ in his Saints, to extenuate Christ's Merit's, Purchase, Interest or Honour, or rob him of his due, that doubtless so many sincere Christians would never be guilty of such injurious extenuations, and narrowing of Christ's successes, but that they cannot reconcile special Grace with universal, and mistakingly judge them inconsistent: Nor durst opprobriously reproach his universal Grace, as they do, by calling it vain, lame, imperfect, a mockery, &c. if the conceit of their defending some truth by it did not quiet and deceive their Consciences. Whereas indeed universal Grace and special, do as perfectly and harmoniously consist, as Nature and Grace do, and as the foundation and the building, and as any generical and specific Natures: And so doth a general Decree, that [All who will believe shall be saved, and that this Promise shall be made to the world] with a special Decree that [Paul shall believe and be saved.]

But on two accounts I pass by all the rest about the extent of Redemption, 1. Because I must give you a special Disputation or Tractate on that subject. 2. Because the most Judicious of English Divines (so far as I can know them by their works) Bishop Davenant hath said so much in his two Posthumous Dissertation de Redempt. & Prædestinat. (Published out of the hands of Bishop Usher) as might suffice to reconcile contenders on these two points, were not men slothful in studying them or partial or incapable in judging these matters.
Richard Baxter, Catholick Theologie (London: Printed by Robert White, for Nevill Simmons at the Princes Arms in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1675), I.ii.53–54.


May 14, 2007

Douty on Sufficiency

"If God designed that Christ die only for the elect, how can the infinite worth of His death, by itself, afford ground for offering salvation to all men? However valuable His sacrifice, it cannot furnish salvation for the non-elect, if it was designed exclusively for the elect. If a multi-millionaire were to move to my street, he would doubtless have more than enough to cover the debts of all his neighbors, but his wealth would bring them no relief if he had already stipulated that it was only for the use of his friends in another town.

When Limited Atonement men repeat the dictum of the Schoolmen of the Middle Ages (that "Christ died for all sufficiently, for the elect effectually"), they do not mean what those divines meant. They only mean that His death, in its intrinsic value, was sufficient for all; they deny that Christ intended to suffer it for all. Davenant says that "it never occurred to the Schoolmen to defend this sufficiency only, and to deny absolutely that Christ died for all." This transferring of the term "sufficiency" from the intention of dying to the mere intrinsic value of Christ's death per se, is something novel. The British theologian declares: "Common sense refuses that it should be granted that he died sufficiently for all, Who is denied to have died . . . for some." Surely, we cannot be authorized to offer salvation to every sinner, if Christ did not die for every one.

The Limited Atonement concept represents the great God of measureless kindness and generosity to be like another rich man who provides abundantly for his whole starving community, and then limits the applicability of his provision to a fraction of the citizens. Such a man would hardly be praised for his largeness of spirit. Then can God, thus conceived of, be praised for His? We maintain, therefore, that it was not that God, by a sovereign decree, set a limit to the applicability of Christ's atoning death; but that men, by their stubbornness, have set a limit to its application. They are the limiters, not He. As Shedd says: "The author of impenitence and unbelief is the author of limited redemption."
Norman F. Douty, Did Christ Die Only for the Elect? (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1998), 40-41.

In this quote, one can see the way Douty is connecting a unlimited imputation of to Christ and an ordained (or intended) sufficiency for all, which grounds the free offer of the gospel. Without an unlimited imputation of sin to Christ, an unlimited sufficiency makes no sense. And, if there is no unlimited sufficiency, then there's no reasonable ground for free gospel offers. This is why Bunyan says, "for the offer of the gospel cannot, with God’s allowance, be offered any further than the death of Jesus Christ doth go; because if that be taken away, there is indeed no gospel, nor grace to be extended." If Christ's death is not sufficient to save the non-elect, then there is nothing offered to them for the taking. It would be like God offering the hollow of a donut to your non-elect neighbor through your gospel preaching.

Furthermore, election does not create natural impossibilities so that the non-elect cannot be saved. God not only gives them the necessary faculties with which to believe (a will, a mind and a heart), but he offers a remedy to them that is suitable and applicable for them. There is no natural impossiblity created in Christ's satisfaction any more than there is a natural impossibility created in the sinner himself according to election. Election involves God's purpose to give some the moral ability to believe (i.e. to use their faculties rightly and cease from their aversion to the gospel), and His non-granting of moral ability to others. Thus, election is concerned with moral impossibilities and not with natural impossibilities. Charles Hodge was surely correct, then, to echo the sense of Dort: "no one dies for want of an atonement." If they perish, it is "solely to be imputed to themselves."

Wardlaw (1779-1853) on Humility and Interpretation

"An humble docility of spirit is one of the first requisites to the discernment of divine truth. Under the divine teaching promised to believing prayer, a babe may comprehend, what a philosopher, who scorns to ask the promised illumination, may misconceive and pervert to his destruction."
Ralph Wardlaw, Two Essays (Glasgow, 1830), p. 294.


On the Middle Verse

NKJ Psalm 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.

"It may perhaps be considered beneath the dignity and solemnity of our subject to remark that this eighth verse of this Psalm is the middle verse of the Bible. There are, I believe, 31,174 verses in all, and this is the 15,587th." Barton Bouchier quoted in C. H. Spurgeon, Psalms (Kregel Publications, 1980), p. 504.

"Literally, "Good is it to trust in Jehovah more than to confide in man." This is the Hebrew form of comparison, and is equivalent to what is stated in our version, "It is better," etc. It is better, (1) because man is weak,--but God is Almighty; (2) because man is selfish,--but God is benevolent; (3) because man is often faithless and deceitful,--God never; (4) because there are emergencies, as death, in which man cannot aid us, however faithful, kind and friendly he may be,--but there are no circumstances in this life, and none in death, where God cannot assist us: and (5) because the ability of man to help us pertains at best only to this present life,--the power of God will be commensurate with eternity." Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the Old & New Testaments: Psalms (Baker, 1978), Vol. 3, p.169-170.

"He that devotes himself to God's guidance and government, with an entire dependence upon God's wisdom, power, and goodness, has a better security to make him easy than if all the kings and potentates of the earth should undertake to protect him." Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible (Hendrickson, 1991), p. 912.

"The allusion is probably to the hostility of the Samaritans and the Persion satraps during the building of the Temple. The Jews had learnt by painful experience how little they could trust in princes, for the work which had begun under Cyrus had been threatened under Cambyses, and had been suspended under the pseudo-Smerdis, and it was not till Darius came to the throne that they were allowed to resume it (Ezra iv.)." J. J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms (Kregel, 1989), p. 341.

May 8, 2007

A Common Quotation from Augustine?

Have you ever heard the expression, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity"? Sometimes it is attributed to Augustine. The earliest references go back to either Meldenius or Luther (see update below).

Philip Schaff has an interesting note on the subject. See Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 8 vols. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002), 7:650-653.

The specific section from Schaff's book can be found HERE or HERE.

He writes:
"The authorship has recently been traced to RUPERTUS MELDENIUS an otherwise unknown divine, and author of a remarkable tract in which the sentence first occurs. He gave classical expression to the irenic sentiments of such divines as Calixtus of Helmstadt, David Pareus of Heidelberg, Crocius of Marburg, John Valentin Andreae of Wuerttemberg, John Arnd of Zelle, Georg Frank of Francfort-on-the-Oder, the brothers Bergius in Brandenburg, and of the indefatigable traveling evangelist of Christian union, John Dury, and Richard Baxter."
"The author of this tract is an orthodox Lutheran, who was far from the idea of ecclesiastical union, but anxious for the peace of the church and zealous for practical scriptural piety in place of the dry and barren scholasticism of his time."
"...Richard Baxter, the Puritan pacificator In England, refers to the sentence, Nov. 15, 1679, In the preface to The True and Only Way of Concord of All the Christian Churches, London, 1680, In a slightly different form: "I once more repeat to you the pacificator's old despised words, 'Si in necessariis sit [esset] unitas, in non necessariis libertas, in charitas, optimo certo loco essent rcs nostrae.'"
"But who was Meldenius? This is still an unsolved question. Possibly he took his name from Melden, a little village on the borders of and Silesia. His voice was drowned, and his name forgotten, for two centuries, but is now again heard with increased force. I subscribe to the concluding words of my esteemed colleague, Dr. Briggs: "Like a mountain stream that disappears at times under tile rocks of its bed, and re-appears deeper down in the valley, so these long-buried principles of peace have reappeared after two centuries of oblivion, and these irenical theologians will be honored by those who live in a better age of the world, when Protestant irenics have well-nigh displaced tile old Protestant polemics and scholastics."
(HT: Michael Patton)

Update on 9-13-14:

Henri A. G. Blocher says that the statement, "In necessariis, unitas; in non necessariis (or dubiis), libertas; in omnibus, caritas [in articles of faith that are necessary, unity; in non-necessary (or doubtful) ones, freedom; in all, charity]" was coined by Martin Luther. Blocher remarks that the statement is "often ascribed to Rupertus Meldenius, whose Paraenesis votiva of 1626 ends with similar words, but it comes from Luther's sermon preached March 10, 1522 (Luther's Werke, Weimar Ausgabe, vol. X [third tome], 14)." See Henri A. G. Blocher, "Jesus Christ the Man: Toward a Systematic Theology of Definite Atonement," in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, ed. David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2013), 541n1.

Reid's Confession

Reid Ferguson, of Responsive Reiding, has posted an interesting confession. It's one that I can relate to.

p.s. Reid, please take that accursed snap feature off of your blog ;-)

May 7, 2007

Sola Fide, Michael Patton and the Beckwith Situation

I've been having a conversation with C. Michael Patton (of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries) on the issue of sola fide and how we should respond to Dr. Francis Beckwith's recent return to Rome. The dialogue began HERE and the rest is HERE.

UPDATE on 5-18-07: It appears that Reclaiming the Mind is changing their servers. One may have to check back later if the above links are not working at present.