November 30, 2007

The Revealed Will in Nathaniel Vincent's (1638–1697) The Conversion of a Sinner: Part 2

"Hereby He shows His gracious nature, that He delights not in the death and destruction of His creatures. Indeed, death will be inflicted upon them upon their obstinate continuance in evil, but showing mercy and giving life are the things that please God. Therefore He calls the most obdurant to conversion."
Nathaniel Vincent, "The Conversion of a Sinner," in The Puritans on Conversion, ed. Don Kistler (Ligonier: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990), 113.
"The Lord calls upon us to turn to leave the obstinate without excuse who will not turn, who will not come to Christ that they might have life. Of Israel He said, "All the day long have I stretched forth My hand to a disobedient and gainsaying people," Rom. 10, but their disobedience rendered them without apology. When the unconverted fall into God's revenging hands, they are the less to be pitied. They can have nothing to plead because God stretching forth His hands by way of instruction in the gospel was in vain. These sinners against their own souls, whose neck is an iron sinew, who will neither be terrified by menances nor mollified by the expressions of the greatest kindness and mercy, when they are summoned to the bar, how will they be struck speechless having not one word to say against their condemnation!

They were called unto grace and glory but they would not hearken. They were told of their danger but they would not seek to prevent it. They were informed of the ways of sin and were warned against them, nay, wooed and entreated with the most passionate earnestness not to be cruel to themselves by giving way to such a cursed thing, yet they would not be content to be freed from sin and become the servants of righteousness. And surely their mouths must be stopped, or, if they say anything when sentence is passed upon them, it must be to side with the justice of God against themselves, to acknowledge the equality of His ways and the inequality of their own."
 Ibid., 115–116.
"4. Consider who it is that calls upon you to turn and what is His design in it. You are undone wretches who have neither skill, nor will, nor power to save yourselves. And He that calls after you is a God to whom power and mercy belongs, and His design is to make His power and mercy known to you. His aim is to bring you near that He might manifest Himself to you as He manifests Himself unto the world, to shield you from danger, to supply your needs according to the riches of His glory, to deliver you from every evil work, and to preserve you to His heavenly kingdom, and is there any harm in all of this?"
 Ibid., 148.
"7. Not only His Word and ministers and Spirit, but also His providences call upon you to turn to God. Both His mercies and His judgments press this exhortation to conversion. The streams of goodness that continually run towards you, and which sometimes swell and overflow abundantly, signify that it is your wisdom to forsake the broken cisterns and come to the fountain of living waters. His mercies speak this language, that it is good to return to, and obtain an interest in, the Father of them. Then these mercies will be in mercy. Cords of love are cast about you on purpose to draw you unto the God of love and peace. Oh, that you would run to Him! The riches of His goodness are unlocked and discovered that hereby you may be led unto repentance, Rom. 2:4.

His judgments, likewise, are inflicted in pursuance of the same design. That is the voice that's uttered by them, "God return unto the Lord, for He hath torn and He will heal you; He hath smitten, and He will bind you up," Hos. 6:1."
 Ibid., 149–150.
"8. Consider, as yet it is not too late to return to God. Though hitherto stupid, if now you will awake; though hitherto refractory, if now you will yield yourselves to the Lord; though hitherto you have shut the door to keep sin in and to keep Christ out, if now at last you will open at the knock of the gospel and consent that your lusts should be expelled and the Lord Jesus enter, He is ready to receive you into grace and favor, and all former denials, affronts, and repulses shall be forgotten and forgiven. The scepter is still held forth, the Lord is not removed from His mercy-seat. Mercy and grace may now be had if you will come for it. But if you will not know when you are well-offered, and are resolved not to cease from your stubborn way, an oath may soon be sworn in wrath that you shall never enter into rest. God may say, "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still. He that is joined to the profits and pleasures of the world which he makes his idols, let him alone. He that despises the offer of grace shall not have another offer; he who now refuses to be converted shall never be a convert."
Ibid., 150–151.

For Part 1, click HERE

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Brief Bio:
Nathanael Vincent was born in Cornwall to John and Sarah Vincent. He graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1656 and a Master of Arts in 1657. He was then appointed chaplain of the Corpus Christi College.

Vincent was ordained at age twenty-one and became rector of Langley Marish, Buckinghamshire. Ejected by the Act of Uniformity of 1662, he spent three years as a private chaplain to Sir Henry Blount before moving to London in 1666. In 1672, Vincent was licensed as a Presbyterian preacher.

While Vincent’s ministry was marked with appreciation by those who came to hear him preach, the government’s non-tolerant approach to nonconformity inflicted persecution and multiple imprisonments on him. Vincent’s imprisonments left him so weak that for some time he was unable to preach, and resorted to writing. Most of his fourteen books were written in prison. His books reflect a warm, experiential piety. His love and concern for the body of Christ is evident in every book.

Vincent died suddenly in 1697, at age fifty-eight; he was survived by his wife, Anna, and six children. He was buried in the nonconformists’ burial ground at Bunhill Fields.

November 29, 2007

Matthew Mead (1629–1699) on God's Grace, Love and Offers

Restraining grace holds in the sinner, but it is renewing grace that changes his nature. Now many are held in by grace from being open sinners, that are not renewed by grace, and made true believers.
Matthew Mead, The Almost Christian Discovered (New York: Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., 1856), 66.
Restraining grace may cause a moral change; but it is renewing grace that must cause a saving change. Now, many are under restraining grace, and so changed morally, that are not under the power of saving grace, and so changed savingly.
 Ibid., 89–90.
2. A man may have the Spirit, and yet not be born of the Spirit. Every true Christian is born of the Spirit. A hypocrite may have the gifts of the Spirit, but not the graces: the Spirit may be in him by the way of illumination, but not by way of sanctification; by way of conviction, but not by way of conversion. Though he may have much common grace for the good of others, yet he may have no special grace for the good of himself; though his profession be spiritual, yet his state and condition may be carnal.
 Ibid., 111.
Thirdly, Many deceive themselves with common grace instead of saving, through that resemblance that is between them. As many take counterfeit money for current coin, so do too many take common grace for true. Saul took the devil for Samuel, because he appeared in the mantle of Samuel: so many take common grace for saving, because it is like saving grace; a man may be under a supernatural work, and yet fall short of a saving work; the first raiseth nature, the second only reneweth nature: though every saving work of the Spirit be supernatural, yet every supernatural work of the Spirit is not saving; and hence many deceive their own souls, by taking a supernatural work for a saving work.
 Ibid., 173–174.
Some take common grace for saving; whereas, a man may believe all the truths of the gospel, all the promises, all the threatenings, all the articles of the creed, to be true, and yet perish for want of saving grace. Some take morality and restraining grace for piety and renewing grace; whereas it is common to have sin much restrained, where the heart is not renewed.
 Ibid., 187–188.
It is likeness which is the great ground of love; now there is the highest dissimilitude and unlikeness between an unregenerate sinner, and a child of God, and therefore a child of God cannot love a sinner as a sinner: "in whose eyes a vile person is contemned." He may love him as a creature; He may love his soul, or be may love him under some relation that he stands in to him. Thus God loves the damned spirits, as they are his creatures, but as fallen angels he hateth them with an infinite hatred. So to love a sinner quatenus a sinner, this a child of God cannot do; so neither can a sinner love a child of God as a child of God. That he may love a child of God, that I grant, but it is upon some other consideration; he may love a person that is holy, not the person for his holiness, but for some other respect.
 Ibid., 120–121.
Question. You say, "But how shall I come to know whether I am almost or altogether a Christian? If a man may go so far, and yet miscarry, how shall I know when my foundation is right—when I am a Christian indeed?"

Answer 1. The altogether Christian closes with, and accepts of Christ upon Gospel terms. True union makes a true Christian: many close with Christ, but it is upon their own terms; they take him and own him, but not as God offers him. The terms upon which God in the gospel offers Christ, are, that we shall accept of a broken Christ with a broken heart, and yet a whole Christ with the whole heart. A broken Christ with a broken heart, as a witness of our humility; a whole Christ with a whole heart, as a witness of our sincerity. A broken Christ respects his suffering for sin; a broken heart respects our sense of sin; a whole Christ includes all his offices; a whole heart includes all our faculties. Christ is a King, Priest, and Prophet, and all as Mediator. Without any one of these offices, the work of salvation could not have been completed. As a Priest, he redeems us; as a Prophet, he instructs us; as a King, he sanctifies and saves us. Therefore, the apostle says, "He is made to us a God of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." Righteousness and redemption flow from him, as a Priest, wisdom, as a Prophet, sanctification, as a King.

Now many embrace Christ as a Priest, but yet they own him not as a King and Prophet; they like to share in his righteousness, but not to partake of his holiness; they would be redeemed by him, but they would not submit to him; they would be saved by his blood, but not submit to his power. Many love the privileges of the gospel, but not the duties of the gospel. Now these are but almost Christians, not withstanding their close with Christ; for it is upon their own terms, but not upon God's. The offices of Christ may be distinguished, but they can never be divided. But the true Christian owns Christ in all his offices: he doth not only close with him as Jesus, but as Lord Jesus: he says with Thomas, "My Lord, and my God." He doth not only believe in the merit of his death, but also conforms to the manner of his life. As he believes in him, so he lives to him: he takes him for his wisdom, as well as for his righteousness; for his sanctification, as well as his redemption.
Ibid., 189–191.

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Brief Bio:

"During the time of Oliver Cromwell's rule, Mead identified with the Independents. In 1658, Cromwell appointed Mead curate of Mew Chapel, Shadwell, near Stepney; however, Mead lost that position after the Restoration." Joel Beeke & Randall Pederson, Meet the Puritans, p. 444.

"In 1669, he formally became William Greenhill's assistant pastor at Stepney. Shortly after Greenhill's death in 1671, Mead was asked to succeed Greenhill as pastor. He was installed by John Owen on December 14." Ibid., 445.

"Mead succeeded Owen in 1683 as a Tuesday morning lecturer at Pinner's Hall, a position he held until his death. He wholeheartedly supported John Howe's attempt in 1690 to unite Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Mead was asked to preach for the service inaugurating "the Happy Union of Independents and Presbyterians" in Stepney on April 6, 1691." Ibid., 445.

"Mead died at the age of seventy on October 16, 1699. John Howe, who preached at Mead's funeral, called his friend a "very reverend and most laborious servant of Christ." Ibid., 446.

November 25, 2007

D. A. Carson on Matthew 7:16

NKJ Matthew 7:16 "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

A friend recently asked me about this passage (particularly about the meaning of "fruit") and part of my reply included this material by Carson. I may as well put it on my blog as well:
One's "fruit"—not just what one does, but all one says and does—will ultimately reveal what one is (cf. James 3:12). The Semitic way of expression (i.e., both positive and negative—viz., every good tree bears good fruit, no good tree bears bad fruit, etc.) makes the test certain, but not necessarily easy or quick. Living according to kingdom norms can be feigned for a time; but what one is will eventually reveal itself in what one does. However guarded one's words, they will finally betray him (cf. 12:33-37; Luke 6:45). Ultimately false prophets tear down faith (2 Tim 2:18) and promote divisiveness, bitterness (e.g., 1 Tim 6:4-5; 2 Tim 2:23), and various kinds of ungodliness (2 Tim 2:16). Meek discernment and understanding the dire consequences of the false prophets' teaching are needed. But at the same time censoriousness over minutiae must be avoided.
D. A. Carson, "Matthew," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gæbelein (Zondervan, 1984), 8:191.

November 24, 2007

William Bates (1625–1699) on Common and Special Grace

"Now such is the mercy of God, that he gives his spirit, to assist men by his illuminating, preventing, restraining and exciting grace, to forsake their sins, that they may be saved: and if they did faithfully improve the lower degrees of grace, (though they can claim nothing by right) he would from his good pleasure afford them more grace: but they are so averse from God; and strongly bent to the present world, that they so long resist the pure motions of grace in their hearts, till the gales of the Spirit expire, and revive no more; according to that terrible threatening, 'my spirit shall no longer strive with man, for he is flesh.' Gen. 6.

Besides the common grace afforded to natural men, there is a supereffluence of grace bestowed upon some to convert them, which infallibly obtains its end. Those who are the patrons of free-will methinks should allow that God is master of his own will, and the free dispenser of his own grace. This especial grace works powerfully, yet conveniently, to the reasonable nature. There is no charm so sweet, no constraint so strong; as the operation of it: for the understanding is convinced by so clear and strong a light, of our being undone for ever without God's pardoning mercy, 'that his loving-kindness is better than life;' and this is represented to the will with that powerful application, that the will certainly chooses it. When there is a wavering and indifferency of the will to a propounded object, it is either from some defects in the object, or in the apprehension of it: but when the supreme good is so represented, that it fills all the capacities of the soul, the will as certainly embraces it, as one that is burnt up with thirst, and near a cool stream stoops and drinks to quench it. The holy spirit, who knows the manner of his own operations, expresses the efficacy of them in the resemblances of the creation and resurrection, wherein the divine power cannot be frustrated; yet it is so congruous to the frame of man's nature, that the freedom of the will is then in its most noble exercise: 'men are drawn to Christ by the teachings of God;' not by overruling violence upon their faculties, but by instruction and persuasion suitable to them."

Some Writings by John Trapp (1601-1669)

Commentary on John
Commentary on the Pentateuch
Commentary on the Epistles and Revelation
Commentary on the New Testament
Annotations on the Old and New Testament
The True Treasure

Some of Trapp's works are also listed at the Post-Reformation Digital Library

Study Light also has an organized arrangement of Trapp's commentary on various books of the bible

See also the .pdf files available here (click).

Amyraut and Baxter PDFs

Both of these works are rare. To my knowledge, they are the only copies of these particular works online. This is the only work by Amyraut in English available online. Both of these pdf's are about 20mb in size.

Amyraldus / Amyraut, Moïse / Moses (1596-1664)

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 above the pagan, Mahometan, and Jewish rationally demonstrated. Rendered into English out of the French copy of Moyses Amyraldus late professor of divinity at Saumur in France. London: Printed by M. Simmons for Will. Nealand bookseller in Cambridge and are to be sold there and at the sign of the Crown in Duck-lane, [London], 1660. [24], 539, [1] pp. British Library.

Baxter, Richard (1615-1691)


These sources were found HERE.

(HT: DWP)

November 22, 2007

A Reason for Thanksgiving and Thanks-Living

NKJ Psalm 119:65 You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word.
"65. 'Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.' This is the summary of his life, and assuredly it is the sum of ours. The Psalmist tells the Lord the verdict of his heart; he cannot be silent, he must speak his gratitude in the presence of Jehovah, his God. From the universal goodness of God in nature, in verse 64, it is an easy and pleasant step to a confession of the Lord's uniform goodness to ourselves personally. It is something that God has dealt at all with such insignificant and undeserving beings as we are, and it is far more that he has dealt well with us, and so well, so wondrously well. He hath done all things well: the rule has no exception. In providence and in grace, in giving prosperity and sending adversity, in everything Jehovah hath dealt well with us. It is dealing well on our part to tell the Lord that we feel that he hath dealt well with us; for praise of this kind is specially fitting and comely. This kindness of the Lord is, however, no chance matter: he promised to do so, and he has done it according to his word. It is very precious to see the word of the Lord fulfilled in our happy experience; it endears the Scripture to us, and makes us love the Lord of the Scripture. The book of providence tallies with the book of promise: what we read in the page of inspiration we meet with again in the leaves of our life-story. We may not have thought that it would be so, but our unbelief is repented of now that we see the mercy of the Lord to us, and his faithfulness to his word; henceforth we are bound to display a firmer faith both in God and in his promise. He has spoken well, and he has dealt well. He is the best of Masters; for it is to a very unworthy and incapable servant that he has acted thus blessedly: does not this cause us to delight in his service more and more? We cannot say that we have dealt well with our Master; for when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; but as for our Lord, he has given us light work, large maintenance, loving encouragement, and liberal wages. It is a wonder that he has not long ago discharged us, or at least reduced our allowances, or handled us roughly; yet we have had no hard dealings, all has been ordered with as much consideration as if we had rendered perfect obedience. We have had bread enough and to spare, our livery has been duly supplied, and his service has ennobled us and made us happy as kings. Complaints we have none. We lose ourselves in adoring thanksgiving, and find ourselves again in careful thanks-living."

November 21, 2007

Reflections on Anti-Labelism

"Once you label me, you negate me." --  Soren Kierkegaard

If you have engaged in theological dialogue and debate at all, you have no doubt encountered the person who says, "I don't like labels." You might also, if you're anything like me, immediately view that person as suspect. Frequently it's the case that such a person wants to hide or evade some point of argumentation from Scripture or history. If their view was correctly identified (labeled), their error might be discovered and successfully refuted, so they dodge labeling altogether, even while hypocritically using labels themselves. For that reason, I sometimes label those who say they don't like labels as "anti-labelites." This type of person is like a slippery, postmodern eel that doesn't want to be pinned down on any point.

However, not everyone who objects to labels is that type. One might have legitimate concerns and cautions about labels since they can be used to smear people and/or their beliefs.

For instance, consider the label "catabaptist." Credobaptists in the past have been labeled as "catabaptists," as if they were averse to baptism. Actually, they simply do not consider the water sprinkling of an infant as "baptism." Disagree with credobaptists if you will, but it is blatantly unfair to call them "catabaptists," or even "anabaptists" [re-baptizers]. The "anabaptist" label begs the question, or assumes that sprinkling an infant constitutes a legitimate baptism. Remember, my point here concerns accuracy and fairness in labeling, and not whether or not paedobaptism is true or false. What I said above just serves to illustrate the point of unfair labeling. One should not expect a credobaptist to call themselves an "anabaptist" or a "catabaptist." It both assumes the legitimacy of paedobaptism and serves to smear the credo, as if they are averse to baptism.

Many more examples could be used to illustrate the point of unfair labeling.

One should be careful when using labels to describe those who differ. We should be concerned about historical accuracy and with using objective descriptions. I think it is good to strive to use descriptive labels that even our opponents can accept. I am not saying that we should be slaves to their label preferences either. Sometimes they may prefer a label that is actually misleading and/or deceptive. We can and should avoid those. I think we can strive for objectivity in labeling if both parties acknowledge their bias and seek to understand one another. Or, even if our opponent does not wish to acknowledge their bias, we should make an effort to so understand their position that we can accurately and objectively define or label it in such a way that, if they were reasonable, they themselves could accept the terms. If we refuse to be objective in this way, but rather use smear terms and labels, then it is no surprise that more anti-labelites are produced. We become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

November 16, 2007

John Howe (1630–1705) on God's Preceptive Will

(1.) His will is really crossed; somewhat is done, that is against his will. I mean his will concerning our duty, not his will concerning the event; against his preceptive will, and consequently against that good, which he wills to us upon the supposition of our compliance with his just and righteous will. He really wills many things in reference to men, which he doth not will effectually to procure that they shall be done. He wills our obedience and duty; and, as this is connected with it, he wills also our felicity and happiness. The will of God in the former part, is expressed by his precepts; in the latter, by his promises, so far as they are of a general tenor. But there is a will of his in reference to the event, of which it may be truly said, Who hath resisted his will? When the commands of God are disobeyed, and persons by their disobedience rush upon vengeance, and put themselves under the effects of divine displeasure; then is that done, which is averse to the legislative will of God, as it is signified to us by his word. And this is implied in the expression in the text of his being vexed; namely, that there is a matter or object lying before him, at which he may take offence, or resent.
John Howe, Sermons on Several Occasions, publ. by E. Fletcher (London: H. Woodfall, 1744), 2:229–230.

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John Howe (1630–1705) on God's Wonderful Patience

3. We are hence to note, and admire the wonderful patience, and bounty of God to this wretched world. How admirable are the riches of his goodness, and his sparing and sustaining mercy! that the treasures of wrath are shut up, and the treasures of bounty opened to a world, where he hath, upon the matter, but little or no love! One would wonder that this world should not have been in flames many an age ago, considering how enmity against God hath been transmitted from age to age. But how much more reason have we to wonder, that he so concerns himself about, and takes such care for a company of wretched miscreants, among whom he is not valued! Still his treasures are opened to us; his sun shines, his rain falls, and in ways of grace and mercy he leaves not himself without witness, in that he is continually doing us good, Giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness; though in the mean time men will not know who feeds them, and maintains their life, and parcels out their breath to them, every moment, from time to time.

Surely it becomes us deeply to adore that patience, and bounty, that are so continually exercised towards such creatures, who are here shut up in the dark, as it were, from one day to another. God appears not to them; they see him not, and in the mean time agree in this, that they will have no thoughts of him, but have him in perpetual oblivion. Yet all the while they have natural powers and faculties, which if employed in the inquiry, might easily inform them, that they did not make themselves; that they have not their life in their own hands, neither can they prolong it at their own pleasure, in as much as all of us live, and move, and have our being in God. However, they content themselves with their ignorance of him; and yet he hath sustained the world, and upheld the pillars of it, when sometimes it hath been ready to dissolve, and burst asunder, with that weight of wickedness that hath overwhelmed it for a time.

We ought surely in the contemplation of this to say, how far are his ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts! Men sometimes when they receive but a petty injury, and an apparent wrong from another, are presently wondering, that the earth doth not swallow up the man that hath done them this palpable wrong; that vengeance spares him; or that God suffers such a one to live. Oh why do not we turn all our wonder this way; that God spares those that are perpetually affronting him! making it as it were the whole business of their life to testify to all the world, how little they care for him that made them! We ought then to consider with great admiration that vast and immense goodness, which is so indulgent to men all this while.
John Howe, Sermons on Several Occasions, publ. by Ebenezer Fletcher (London: H. Woodfall, 1744), 1:144–146.

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November 15, 2007

Tormented by a Lamb

NKJ Revelation 14:10 "he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Notice that the texts says "Lamb." This idea will be particularly tormenting for those in hell who heard the gospel. They are not merely tormented in the presence of "Christ," or in the presence of the "Son of God." They are said to be punished in the presence of the "Lamb." Why is that so tormenting? Forever in their minds will be the truth that the Lamb was their appointed rememdy in this world. The Lamb was slain as their substitute and suffered that they might be saved. Rather than applying his blood to themselves through faith, they spurned the sufficient Saviour, and receive heightened condemnation as a result. They might have been healed by looking to the slain Lamb while in this world, but now hell is heated hotter by the vision and perpetual contemplation of Him and His office. The same Lamb that is the everlasting delight of the eternally redeemed is the source of torment for the eternally damned. Of all things, they are tormented by a "Lamb."

John Howe (1630–1705) Exhorting Pretend Christians About the Design of Christ's Dying

Again, is it righteous to deny the Lord that bought thee, to neglect that great salvation which he is the author of? And whereas he came to bless thee in turning thee from thine iniquities, wilfully to remain still in an accursed servitude to sin? when he was made manifest to destroy the works of the devil, still to yield thyself a captive at his will? Whereas he died that thou mightest not any longer live to thyself, but to him that died for thee, and rose again; and that he might redeem thee from thy vain conversation; and that thou art so expressly told, that such as still lead sensual lives, mind earthly things, have not their conversation in heaven, are enemies to the cross of Christ. Is it no unrighteousness, that in these respects thy whole life should be nothing else but a constant contradiction to the very design of his dying? a perpetual hostility, a very tilting at his cross? Is there no unrighteousness in thy obstinate infidelity, that wickedly denies belief to his glorious truths, acceptance of his gracious offers, subjection to his holy laws? No unrighteousness in thy obstinate, remorseless impenitency? thy heart that cannot repent? that melts not, while a crucified Jesus, amidst his agonies and dying pangs, cries to thee from the cross, О sinner, enough, thy hard heart breaks mine! yield at last, and turn to God. Is it righteous, to live as no way under law to Christ? to persist in actual rebellion against his just government, which he died, and revived, and rose again, to establish over the living and the dead? yea, and that while thou pretendest thyself a Christian? In a word: Is it righteous to tread under foot the Son of God, to vilify his blood, and despise his Spirit? Is this the righteousness that thou talkest of? Are these thy qualifications for the everlasting blessedness? If thou say, thou confessest thou art in thyself, in these several respects, altogether unrighteous, but thou hopest the righteousness of Christ will be sufficient to answer for all; no doubt Christ's righteousness is abundantly available to all the ends for which it was intended by the Father and him; but it shall never answer all the ends that a foolish, wicked heart will fondly imagine to itself.
John Howe, "The Blessedness of the Righteous," in The Works of the Rev. John Howe (New York: John P. Haven, 1838), 1:237.

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John Howe (1630–1705) on 1 Peter 3:18–20

When it was said concerning the old world before the flood, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man," it is implied, it had been constantly and generally striving, until then; but that it was now time, by the holy, wise, and righteous judgment of Heaven, to surcease, and give them over to the destruction which ensued. Which text, 'tis true, some interpret otherwise; but if we will allow that of the 1 Pet. iii. 18, 19, 20, to mean that, while Noah, that preacher of righteousness, did it externally, Christ was, by his Spirit, inwardly preaching to that generation, who were now since in the infernal prison; not while they were so, (which the text says not,) but in their former days of disobedience on earth; this place will then much agree with the sense, wherein we (with the generality of our interpreters) take the other.
John Howe, "The Living Temple," in The Works of the Rev. John Howe (New York: John P. Haven, 1838), 1:105.

One can see that John Howe agrees with John Flavel on this passage. He's saying that while Noah was preaching externally to disobedient sinners, Christ was, by His Spirit, preaching through him to that generation. As a result of their disobedience, they are now shut in prison and awaiting final judgment, especially for sinning against such patient "strivings" of the Spirit. The text is not saying that Christ in his intermediate state (between the time of his death on the cross and his resurrection) went and preached to spirits in prison.

More from Howe on Common Grace

"X. Ever since the apostacy, even upon the first declared constitution of a Redeemer, and in the shining forth of that first cheering ray of gospel light and grace, "the seed of the woman shall break the serpent's head;" a promise was implied of the communication of the Spirit; that curse, which made the nature of man, as the accursed ground, unproductive of any thing but briers and thorns; and whereby all holy, vital influences were shut up from men, as in an enclosed, sealed fountain, being now so far reversed, for the Redeemer's sake, as that all communication of the Spirit should no longer remain impossible. And hereupon, some communication of it, in such a degree, as might infer some previous dispositions and tendencies to holy life, seems to have been general; (and is therefore fitly enough wont to be called common grace:) but then, in that lower degree, it is not only resistible, but too generally resisted with mortal efficacy; so as that it builds no living temples; but retiring, leaves men under the most uncomfortable and hopeless (but chosen) shades of death."
"But he having interposed, undertaken, and performed, as he hath; what is the effect of it? What! that the Spirit should now go forth with irresistible almighty power to convert all the world? That, the event too plainly shows, was not the design. Or that it should immediately supply men with sufficient grace and power to convert themselves? That, no scripture speaks, and it were strange, if such sufficient grace were actually given to all, it should prove effectual with so very few. But the manifest effect is, that the Spirit may now go forth, (the justice, and malediction of the law not reclaiming against it,) and make gentle trials upon the spirits of men, inject some beams of light, and some good thoughts, with which if they comply, they have no cause to despair of more; and so, that which is wont to be called common grace, may gradually lead and tend to that of a higher kind, which is special, and finally saving. That light, and those motions, which have only this tendency, must be ascribed to the Spirit of God, co-operating with men's natural faculties; and not to their own unassisted, natural power alone; for we are not sufficient of ourselves to think one right thought. And now if they rebel against such light and motions violently opposing their sensual imaginations and desires, to their light, and the secret promptings of God's Holy Spirit; they hereby vex his Spirit, provoke him to leave them, and do forfeit even those assistances they have had, and might further have expected, upon the Redeemer's account. All which seems to be summed up, as a stated rule, in that of our Saviour—" To him that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not" (where having manifestly includes use and improvement) "shall be taken away that which he had." Which latter words must be taken not for a prediction, expressive of the certain event, or what shall be; but a commination, expressing what is deserved, or most justly may be. The true meaning or design of a commination, being, that it may never be executed. And to the same sense is that of Prov. i. 23, 24, &c. "Turn at my reproof—I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you: but I called, and they refused; I stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way." &c. v. 31." Ibid., 1:105.

John Howe (1630–1705) Speaking to the Devil's Captives About the Redeemer

And when thou so fallest in with the world, how highly dost thou gratify the pretending and usurping god of it! The great fomenter of the sensual, worldly genius; The spirit itself that works in the children of disobedience, and makes them follow the course of the world, holds them fast bound in worldly lusts, and leads them captive at his will; causes them (after his own serpentine manner) to creep and crawl in the dust of the earth. He is most intimate to this apostate world; informs it (as it were) and actuates it in every part; is even one great soul to it. The whole world lies in that wicked one; as the body, by the best philosophers, is said to be in the soul. The world is said to be convicted when he is judged. He having fallen from a state of blessedness in God, hath involved the world with himself in the same apostacy and condemnation; and labours to keep them fast in the bands of death. The great Redeemer of souls makes this his business, to loose and dissolve the work of the devil. With that wicked one thou compliest against thy own soul and the Redeemer of it, while thou neglectest to desire and pursue this blessedness. This is thy debasement, and his triumph; the vile succumbency gives him the day and his will upon thee. He desires no more than that he may suppress in thee all heavenly desires, and keep thee thus a slave and a prisoner (confined in thy spirit to this low, dark dungeon) by thy own consent. While thou remainest without desire after heaven, he is secure of thee, as knowing then thou wilt take no other way, but what will bring thee unto the same eternal state with himself in the end. He is jealous over thee, that thou direct not a desire nor glance an eye heaven-ward. While thou dost not so, thou art entirely subject, and givest as full obedience to him, as thy God requires to himself in order to thy blessedness. But is it a thing tolerable to thy thoughts, that thou shouldst yield that heart-obedience to the devil against God? And this being the state of thy case, what more significant expression canst thou make of the contempt of Divine goodness? О the love that thou neglectest, while the most glorious issue and product of it is with thee an undesired thing! Yea, this the thing itself speaks, were there no such competition. What, that when eternal love hath conceived, and is travailing to bring forth such a birth; that when it invites thee to an expectation of such glory shortly to be revealed, the result of so deep counsels and wonderful works, this should be the return from thee, I desire it not? Is this thy gratitude to the Father of glory, the requital of the kindness, yea, and of the blood, of thy Redeemer? If this blessedness were not desirable for itself, methinks the offerer's hand should be a sufficient endearment. But thou canst not so divide or abstract, it consists in beholding and bearing his glorious likeness who invites thee to it; and therefore in the neglect of it thou most highly affrontest him.
John Howe, "The Blessedness of the Righteous," in The Works of the Rev. John Howe (New York: John P. Haven, 1838), 1:258.

John Howe, The Blessedness of the Righteous Opened (New York: John P. Haven, 1835), 262–263.

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November 9, 2007

Jeremiah Burroughs (c.1600–1646) on Means to Draw Sinners to Christ

Secondly, In that Christ that is God-man, in one person, calls us to come to him: hence we have this Meditation, That certainly, the Lord is infinitly inclined to do good unto the Children of men, this is a mighty encouragement for all poor Souls to come to Christ, for when thou hearest, that Christ the Son of God is made man in one person, by that thou mayest gather this for thy encouragement, that certainly God is infinitely inclined to do good unto the Children of men, God would never Have wrought so strange a work, as to unite our Natures into one person with his Son, if he had not meant to do some infinite good unto mankind; the Lord hath given a most evident demonstration of it, in uniting mans Nature to his own Son. As if the King should be pleased to marry his Son to one that is the nearest Kinswoman you have, you would by that gather such an argument as this, and all your friends would conclude, surely the King doth intend much good to this family, that he is strongly inclined to prefer this family: So when God is pleased to marry his Son to our flesh, Yea, to take our Nature into a nearer union with him, then the Wife is taken into the Husband, we may gather this argument, and conclude, Surely, God doth intend much good unto the Children of men, and therefore come.

Thirdly, From this consideration, who Christ is, God manifested in the flesh, we may gather this encouragement to come to him, That the Lord in uniting the divine Nature with the Human in Christ, hath done already a greater work for the Children of men, than the saving of their Souls comes to; the saving of thy Soul is a difficult work; thou thinkest thus, Alas! for me to come and think to be saved by Christ, this is too great a thing, too good to be true, it is not possible that ever such a poor sinner as I am, should be raised to the glory that I hear of in the word, that God will raise his Saints unto, thou thinkest that the Salvation of thy Soul is so great, and so mighty a thing, and therefore that perhaps doth somewhat discourage thee in coming: but then, when thou hearest what Christ is, and how God hath united the divine and human Nature together in one person, from thence thou mayest gather this encouragement, that God hath done a greater work than to save thy Soul, for so it is: It is a greater work for God to unite the divine and human Nature together in one person, than to save all the Souls in the world. As if Christ should say thus, Oh, Come to me, know what I am, I am the Son of the Father, of the same Nature and being, and I am likwise made man, God the Father hath united my divine Nature to your flesh, and in this he hath done a greater work than the saving of your Souls, in this he hath shewed what intentions he hath for the good of mankind, and in this the terror of the almighty is taken away, and therefore come to me, that is the first Argument, come to Christ.

ARG. II.

Secondly, Come to Christ, Why? For Christ hath come to you; do you come to him, for he hath come to you; that Christ might come to you, he hath even come, as it were, from the Bosome of the Father, and for a time was willing to have his glory Eclipsed, to come into this world, to be in the form of a Servant, to be in a mean condition here in this world, Christ hath suffered more in coming to you, than you can possibly suffer in going to him, Christ is content to come from the Father to you, what is it that you can go from to come to him. He is said in the Book of the Canticles, to come leaping over the Mountains, he comes leaping over all difficulties to you, if you think there are some difficulties in your going to Christ, know, that there was far greater difficulties that lay in the way in his coming to you, but whatsoever there was in the way, he was resolved to go through them all, and did come, and was here in the world, in the flesh, that he might save you, and he that is thus come to you, calls you to come to him.

ARG. III.

Thirdly, You must know, That Christ is the great Mediator that is set between God and the Children of men: it is he that hath undertaken the great work, the greatest work that ever was in the World, to Mediate between the infinite offended God, and your sinful wretched Souls, for through your sins there was such an infinite distance made between God and you that it was impossible you should ever have gone without this Mediator. It is an argument of mighty use, if rightly understood, and throughly considered of, the vast distance that sin hath made between God and sinful creatures, that they can never come to God, but through the glorious Mediator that is come into the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, that was made by God the Father the Head of the second covenant, and hath undertaken to make up all the wrongs that our sins have done unto God, to pacify the wrath of God, and to satisfy the justice of God, it is he that hath undertaken to make peace between the Father and you, and it is he that calls unto you to come to him. If there were a company of Prisoners in danger of Death, and one should come to the Prince to mediate for them, to make peace between the Prince and them, one that the prisoners should know to be the only Son of the Prince, the delight of his Soul, and he is sent by the Prince himself to come to make peace and undertake it for them, and he comes unto the Prison doors, and calls to the Prisoners lying in their dungeon, and saith, arise, and come to me, hearken what I shall bring to you, observe my direction, and peace shall be made between the Prince and you, you shall have pardon, you shall have your lives; would not this stir them up to hearken unto him, and greedily to come unto the grate? Christ is come for this very end, this was the work that God the Father sent him into the world about, to be a Mediator between himself and poor, wretched, sinful creatures, and now he comes unto them, calls unto them and says, come to me, If you did but know what Christ was, and what his work was in coming into the world, it could not but mightily draw your hearts to come to him when he calls.

ARG. IV.

Fourthly, Come to me saith Christ, for if ever there were any that deserved to be hearkened unto, and to come unto when he calls, certainly I deserve it; For I have not only come to be a Mediator, but the truth is, it hath cost me my blood, I have manifested such Love unto you, that I have laid down my Life for you, I have shed my most precious blood, I have been willing to be made a curse, and all for the saving of your souls; my Love hath been more to you, then to mine own life, for that was laid down for you. I have undertaken, indeed, to mediate between my Father and you, but it hath cost me much, yet in Love to you I have thus done, all my blood is shed, the work is done, the price is paid, Come to me that you may have Life. And this is the meaning of that forementioned place, The Servant is bidden to go and invite the Guests, for all is ready, so here, the work is done, Christ hath done the work, there could not be that argument to our fore Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, they could not have such an argument to draw them, Christ could not say to them, Come to me, for I have not only undertaken to Mediate between the Father and your Souls, but I have laid down my life for you, shed my blood for you, I have paid the price already for you, I have purchased your Souls, I have done the whole work, it is finished. But now there is this Argument to draw your Hearts to Christ, for the work is finished, the greatest work that ever was, or shall be undertaken in the World, the greatest work of all is finished, and upon the finishing of this work, Christ calls you to himself, and saith, Come to me.
Jeremiah Burroughs, Four Books on the Eleventh of Matthew (London: Printed by Peter Cole, 1659), 159–163.

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November 4, 2007

Hanserd Knollys (1598–1691) on Revelation 3:20


"20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

[Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.] Christ called this Church, her Elders and Members, to consider how unwilling he was to leave them, to forsake them, and cast them off , if they would take his counsel and amend. Behold, that is, observe well what I have yet further to say to you, ere I depart from you. [I stand at the door, and knock.] Christ knocks at the door of our Hearts by the powerful Operations of his holy Spirit, as 1 Thess. 1. 4, 5. and Heb. 4. 12. Christ continued his presence still with this Church, notwithstanding their luke-warmness, (as he did of old, Hos. 6. 4-9. and Hos. 11. 1-4-7, 8, 9-12. How shall I give thee up Ephraim?How shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together;) because, First, Christ knew some of those luke-warm ones were elect ones, whom the Father had given unto him, John 6. 37, 38, 39, 40. and 2 Tim. 2. 19. and John 10. 16. or else Christ doth this to leave them without excuse, Rom. 1. 20. and Heb. 2. 1, 2, 3.

[If any man hear my voice, and open the door.] That is in the Ministry of the Word, and open the door of his heart, by a willing consent to accept his offers of Grace upon Gospel-Terms. [I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me.] This is a great encouragement unto them to answer his earnest desire, and gracious Invitation to open their Hearts, and to admit him entrance, by promising them, First, Union with him; [I will come in to him.] Secondly, Communion with him; [and sup with him, and he with me.] By supping together, we may understand the mutual fellowship between Christ and their Souls, in the sacred Ordinances of God, 1 John 1. 3."


According to the above material, Knollys thinks that the gospel is an "offer of grace" and a "gracious invitation" wherein Christ "earnestly desires" sinners to "open their hearts" and "admit him entrance." In other words, Christ wills for all of those in the visible church [according to Knollys' covenantal ecclesiology] that hear the external call [the "Ministry of the Word"] to comply with the gospel terms/commands.

A brief bio on Knollys at CCEL says:
"In London he was instrumental in the formation of a baptist church at Great St. Helen's, Bishopsgate. Knollys took part with Kiffin and Keach in many baptist endeavours. Knollys was one of the seven men who sent out the invitation to the 1689 General Assembly. Two years after he had subscribed the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, he was called to his Master."

November 1, 2007

A William Greenhill (1598–1671) Observation on Ezekiel 33:11

Obs. 4. Sinners, in what condition soever they be, have no cause to despond or despair of mercy, so that they turn from their evil ways. Let them be great sinners, old sinners, sinners under judgments, ready to be destroyed and cut off by the hands of enemies, as these were, yet if they turn from their sins, there is hope of mercy for them. For,

(1.) God takes pleasure rather in their conversion and salvation, than in their death and destruction: "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." If a state say to a company of its subjects, who are traitors, and upon traitorous designs, I have no pleasure in your ways which lead unto death, but my pleasure is that you turn from them and live; is not here a large door of hope opened unto them, whatever their treasons be?

(2.) Lest men, being deeply guilty, should suspect the reality of God herein, (for guilt is full of jealousies,) the Lord swears to it, and that by his life, which is the most unquestionable thing of all, for none doubts whether he be the living God; "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure," &c. So that here is God's word and oath, two sufficient bonds, to secure it.

(3.) Here is God's command and earnest desire of their turning; "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways." When a man's servant is abroad on some dangerous design, and his master commands him again and again to leave it off, and come home to him; or if the servant be in a deep water, and the master sees he will be drowned if he come not back again, he calls to him, and commands him to return; is not this an argument that he seeks his good, and would have him safe.

(4.) God sets the strongest arguments before them that can be thought of, life and death. If ye go on, there is no hope of mercy, you must die; if you will turn, here is life, ye shall live: here is great mercy. They are not left unto uncertainties, whether they shall have life or no; but life is propounded and offered unto them, and where that is promised there is a wide door of mercy opened. God is troubled at it, that sinners forsake mercy and embrace it not: Why will ye die? Why will ye not turn from your evil ways unto me the living God? Am I so ill a God? Have 1 dealt so unkindly with you, as that you will not come unto me? testify against me, tell me wherein. Like that in Micah vi. 3, "O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me:" if there be any such thing lie in the way, I am ready to remove it.
William Greenhill, An Exposition of the Prophet Ezekiel, revised and corrected by James Sherman (Edinburgh: J. Nichol, 1863), 669.

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1) He was close friends with John Preston and Jeremiah Burroughs.
2) Greenhill served as a divine at the Westminister Assembly, but sided with the Independents against the Presbyterians.
3) With Owen, Goodwin, Nye, Caryl, and Bridge, he drafted the document of faith and order that the Savoy Conference approved in 1658.
4) John Howe referred to Greenhill as "that eminent servant of God whose praise is still in the churches."

See Joel Beeke & Randall Pederson, Meet the Puritans (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2006), 297–200.

John Peter Lange's Commentaries on the Holy Scriptures


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