January 30, 2008

Greg Welty on Calvinism and the Bene Esse of the Gospel

To my fellow Calvinists, I’m going to be a bit more blunt (as is my right; I’ve just defended our distinctive views!). There is a distinction between esse and bene esse. There’s a difference between a doctrine being part of the essence of the gospel (its esse), and a doctrine being part of the well-being of the gospel (its bene esse). In light of this, I find the popular Spurgeon quote to be unhelpful, that "Calvinism is the gospel." I understand what Spurgeon was trying to say, but I think it can be both misleading and unhelpful, to the extent that I never use that quote myself. It’s just not worth it, for it usually generates more heat than light. Surely we don’t want to get someone to think that he has to believe in all the traditional points of Calvinism if he is going to believe the gospel, and yet that is exactly what that quote can convey if it is tossed around loosely. Most of the evangelical non-Calvinists I know may not believe in the five points of Calvinism, but they do believe in the five solas of the Reformation, and even if you think that is inconsistent, God never sent a man to hell for being inconsistent, but only for his sins.

Far better to simply give the arguments for Calvinism as best you can, and pray that the Lord blesses your efforts. So I would counsel my fellow Calvinists in the SBC not to say, "Arminianism denies the essence of the gospel," but rather, "Calvinism promotes the well-being of the gospel, by bringing out for God’s people all the more clearly how grace is really grace." Non-Calvinists may disagree even with this latter statement, but at least they’ll know what our motives are: to magnify the greatness of God’s grace, not to draw the circle of fellowship more narrowly than Christ himself has drawn it.
Greg Welty, "Election and Calling: A Biblical Theological Study," in Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, eds. E. Ray Clendenen & Brad J. Waggoner (Nashville: B&H, 2008), 243.

Also in his lecture on "Election and Calling: A Biblical/Theological Study," from the Building Bridges Conference: Southern Baptists and Calvinism, November 2007

John Bunyan (1628-1688) on God's Grace, Goodness, Offers and Saving Will

Statue of John Bunyan in Bedford

"God also sheweth by this, that the reprobate do not perish for want of the offers of salvation, though he hath offended God, and that upon most righteous terms; according to what is written,
‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live’(Eze. 33:11, 18:31, 32).
‘Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts’ (Zec. 1: 3). So then, here lieth the point between God and the reprobate, I mean the reprobate since he hath sinned, God is willing to save him upon reasonable terms, but not upon terms above reason; but not reasonable terms will [go] down with the reprobate, therefore he must perish for his unreasonableness.

That God is willing to save even those that perish for ever, is apparent, both from the consideration of the goodness of his nature (Psa. 145:9), of man’s being his creature, and indeed in a miserable state (Job. 14:15, 3:16). But I say, as I have also said already, there is a great difference between his being willing to save them, through their complying with these his reasonable terms, and his being resolved to save them, whether they, as men, will close therewith, or no; so only he saveth the elect themselves, even ‘according to the riches of his grace’ (Eph. 1: 7). Even ‘according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus’ (Php. 4:19). Working effectually in them, what the gospel, as a condition, calleth for from them. And hence it is that he is said to give faith (Php. 1:29), yea the most holy faith, for that is the faith of God’s elect, to give repentance (Act. 5:31), to give a new heart, to give his fear, even that fear that may keep them for ever from everlasting ruin (Eph. 1: 4); still engaging his mercy and goodness to follow them all the days of their lives (Jer. 32:40; Eze. 36:26, 27), that they may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psa. 23: 6), and as another scripture saith, ‘Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing, is God’ (2Co. 5: 5; Rom. 8:26, &c.).

But I say, his denying to do thus for every man in the world, cannot properly be said to be because he is not heartily willing they should close with the tenders of the grace held forth in the gospel, and live. Wherefore you must consider that there is a distinction to be put between God’s denying grace on reasonable terms, and denying it absolutely; and also that there is a difference between his withholding further grace, and of hindering men from closing with the grace at present offered; also that God may withhold much, when he taketh away nothing; yea, take away much, when once abused, and yet be just and righteous still. Further, God may deny to do this or that absolutely, when yet he hath promised to do, not only that, but more, conditionally. Which things considered, you may with ease conclude, that he may be willing to save those not elect, upon reasonable terms, though not without them.

It is no unrighteousness in God to offer grace unto the world, though but on these terms only, that they are also foreseen by him infallibly to reject; both because to reject it is unreasonable, especially the terms being so reasonable, as to believe the truth and live; and also because it is grace and mercy in God, so much as once to offer means of reconciliation to a sinner, he being the offender; but the Lord, the God offended; they being but dust and ashes, he the heavenly Majesty. If God, when man had broke the law, had yet with all severity kept the world to the utmost condition of it, had he then been unjust? Had he injured man at all? Was not every tittle of the law reasonable, both in the first and second table? How much more then is he merciful and gracious, even in but mentioning terms of reconciliation? especially seeing he is also willing so to condescend, if they will believe his word, and receive the love of the truth. Though the reprobate then doth voluntarily, and against all strength of reason, run himself upon the rocks of eternal misery, and split himself thereon, he perisheth in his own corruption, by rejecting terms of life (2Th. 2:10; 2Pe. 2:12, 13)."
John Bunyan, The Works of John Bunyan (London: Blackie & Sons, 1862), 2:353. Also in John Bunyan, "Reprobation Asserted," in The Works of John Bunyan (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), 2:353. Archive.org has volume 2 of his Works HERE as well.

The Decades of Henry Bullinger (1504-1575)

The First Decade (Google, Archive)
The Second Decade (Google, Archive)
The Third Decade (Google, Archive)
The Fourth Decade (Google, Archive)
The Fifth Decade (Google, Archive)

RHB: $65

Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575) on General Grace

Again, what is he which knoweth not, that the grace of God, which is otherwise undivided, is divided and distinguished according to the diverse operations which it worketh? For there is in God a certain (as it were) general grace, whereby he created all mortal men, and by which he sendeth rain upon the just and unjust: but this grace doth not justify; for if it did, then should the wicked and unjust be justified. Again, there is that singular grace, whereby he doth, for his only-begotten Christ his sake, adopt us to be his sons: he doth not, I mean, adopt all, but the believers only, whose sins he reckoneth not, but doth impute to them the righteousness of his only-begotten Son our Saviour. This is that grace which doth alone justify us in very deed. Moreover there is a grace, which, being poured into our minds, doth bring forth good works in them that are justified. This grace doth not justify, but doth engender the fruits of righteousness in them that are justified. Therefore we confess and grant, that good works belong to grace, but after a certain manner, order, and fashion.
Heinrich Bullinger, "3rd Decade, Sermon 9," in The Decades of Henry Bullinger, ed. Thomas Harding (Cambridge: The University Press, 1850), 329–330.

Note his reference to Matthew 5:45 when he speaks of a "general grace." He then distinguishes "general grace" from that grace which justifies and sanctifies.

January 28, 2008

John Bunyan (1628–1688) on General Love and Grace

God hath universal love, and particular love; general love, and distinguishing love; and so accordingly doth decree, purpose, and determine: from general love, the extension of general grace and mercy: but from that love that is distinguishing, peculiar grace and mercy: ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ saith the Lord, ‘yet I loved Jacob’ (Mal. 1: 2). Yet I loved Jacob, that is, with a better love, or a love that is more distinguishing. As he further makes appear in his answer to our father Abraham, when he prayed to God for Ishmael: ‘As for Ishmael, [saith he] I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee’ (Gen. 17:20, 21). Touching which words, there are these things observable.

1. That God had better love for Isaac, than he had for his brother Ishmael. Yet,

2. Not because Isaac had done more worthy and goodly deeds, for Isaac was yet unborn.

3. This choice blessing could not be denied to Ishmael, because he had disinherited himself by sin; for this blessing was entailed to Isaac, before Ishmael had a being also (Rom. 4:16-19; Gen. 15: 4, 5, chapter 16).

4. These things therefore must needs fall out through the working of distinguishing love and mercy, which had so cast the business, ‘that the purpose of God according to election might stand.’

Further, Should not God decree to shew distinguishing love and mercy, as well as that which is general and common, he must not discover his best love at all to the sons of men. Again, if he should reveal and extend his best love to all the world in general, then there would not be such a thing as love that doth distinguish; for distinguishing love appeareth in separating between Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, the many called, and the few chosen. Thus by virtue of distinguishing love, some must be reprobate: for distinguishing love must leave some, both of the angels in heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth; wherefore the decree also that doth establish it, must needs leave some.
John Bunyan, "Reprobation Asserted," in The Works of John Bunyan (London: Blackie & Sons, 1862), 2:340. Also in "Reprobation Asserted," The Whole Works of John Bunyan (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 2:340. Archive.org has volume 2 of his Works HERE as well.

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Note the association in Bunyan between "general love," "general grace and mercy," and "blessings." He does not think there is a general mercy but no general grace. Further, he does not believe there is a general grace but no general love. In his view, general love is manifested in general grace and mercy, and the example of the "blessings" that Ishmael received in Genesis 17 are given as an example of all of these things.

He even uses the expression "common grace" in the following quote:
Now the book of life in this place must not be so strictly taken as if it included those only that were elect of God to eternal life, but must be understood of that book wherein are recorded the rules and bounds of visible church-communion; and so all those that, through the gifts and operations of special or common grace, do fall within the compass of those rules and bounds. Thus it was in the type at the return out of captivity, none were to be admitted entrance into the church but those that could show their privileges by genealogy and the records of the church; and to others it was said that they had neither portion, nor lot, nor memorial, in Jerusalem (Ezr. 2:62, 63; Neh. 7:64, 65; 2:20).
 Ibid., 3:449.

John Flavel (1630–1691) on Christ Knocking: Chapter 6

"HERE are pains and patience, all means used by Christ to gain entrance into the souls of sinners. The language speaks the earnestness of his suit, and the vehemency of his desire to be in union with the souls of men."
"All the miracles he wrought on earth were so many works of mercy. He could have wrought miracles to destroy and ruin such as received him not; but his almighty power was employed to heal and to save the bodies of men, that thereby he might win their souls unto himself." Ibid., 144.

"3. As his life, so his doctrine was a most pathetic invitation unto sinners. "Never man spake like this man." John 7:46. Whenever he opened his lips, heaven opened, the very heart of God was opened to sinners; the whole stream and current of his doctrine was one continued powerful persuasive to draw sinners to him. This was his language: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. 11 : 28. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." John 7:37. He compares his invitations to the call of a hen, to gather her chickens under her wings: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings!" Luke 13:34. Certainly the whole gospel is nothing but the charming voice of the heavenly bridegroom." Ibid., 144-145.

"5. His sorrows and mourning upon account of the obstinacy and unbelief of sinners, speak the vehemence of his desire after union with them. It is said, Mark 3:5, "When he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." You see that a hard heart is a grief to Jesus Christ. How tenderly did Christ mourn over Jerusalem, when it rejected him. It is said that when Jesus came nigh to the city, he wept over it. Luke 19:41. The Redeemer's tears wept over obstinate Jerusalem spoke the zeal and fervor of his concern for their salvation; how loath Christ is to give up sinners. What a mournful voice is that in John 5:40 : "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." How ready would I be to give you life; but you would rather die than come to me for it. What can Christ do more to express his willingness? All the sorrows that ever touched the heart of Christ from men, were on this account, that they would not yield to his calls and invitations." Ibid., 145-146.

"8. The dreadful threatening of Christ against all who refuse him and shut, the doors of their hearts against him, show his vehement desire to prevent the loss and ruin of souls. The threatenings of Christ are not intended to discourage any from coming to him, to fright away souls from him; no, that is not their intention: but to bring them under a blessed necessity of compliance with his terms. O the dreadful threatenings which, like claps of thunder, come from the mouth of Christ against all who refuse or delay to come unto him: "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." John 8:24. "He that believeth not the Son shall, not see life." John 3:36. What a terrible thunder-clap is that against all unbelievers. "He that believeth not, shall be damned." Mark 16:16. All these and many more warnings are given from heaven to prevent the ruin of men; the very threatenings of the gospel carry a design of mercy in them: damnation is threatened, that it may be prevented." Ibid., 147-148.

"2. And that which still increases the wonder is, that though Christ make no profit by our conversion, yet has he impoverished himself to gain such unprofitable creatures as we are to him. He hath made himself poor to make us rich; so speaks the apostle: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." 2 Cor. 8:9. He expends his riches, but gains no advantage to himself. His incarnation impoverished his reputation. Phil. 2:7. How poor was Christ when he said, "But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." Psalm 22:6. How poor in temporal comforts, when he said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Matt. 8:20. Yea, how poor was he in spiritual comforts, when that astonishing cry broke from him upon the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Matt. 27:46. O let it astonish us, that Christ should earnestly desire union with our souls upon terms of such deep self-denial to himself.

3. Though Christ gain nothing by you, and impoverished himself for you, yet he endures many vile repulses, delays, and denials of his suit, and yet will not leave you. O astonishing grace! One would think that the least delay, and much more a refusal of an overture from Christ, upon such terms as these, would make his indignation quickly rise against such a soul; and that he would say, Thou hast refused my offer, so full of self-denying and condescending grace, and never shall another offer be made to so unworthy a soul. Yet you see he is contented to wait as well as knock: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Ibid., 158.

"(2.) As the soul is capable of espousals to Christ on earth, so it is capable of glory with Christ in heaven throughout eternity. ''Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me." John 17:24. The soul of man has a natural capacity of enjoying eternal blessedness which other creatures have not. And this will be the aggravation of hell-torments, that men capable of the highest happiness should, as it were, receive that capacity in vain; but that which constitutes an actual right to the everlasting enjoyment of Christ in glory, is the soul's espousals to him here by his grace. Upon these two accounts it is that Christ puts such a price upon them, courts their love so affectionately, laments their loss so pathetically, and encourages his ministers to all diligence in persuading and wooing them for him with such abundant rewards. Dan. 12:3. Know then your own worth and dignity; neither pawn nor sell so precious a thing as thy soul for any thing Satan can set before thee by way of exchange for it. "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul!" Mark 8:37." Ibid., 161-162.
Previous chapters covered:





John Flavel (1630–1691) on Counting the Cost of Coming to Christ

"If ever you bring the treaty between Christ and your souls to a happy conclusion, you must sit down and count the cost, Luke 14:28, else it will be vain to engage yourselves in the profession of religion. It is not Christ's design to draw you under a rash, inconsiderate engagement, and so to reap more dishonor by your apostasy than ever he shall have glory by your profession. He would have you foresee and seriously bethink yourselves of all the troubles and inconveniences you may afterwards meet with for his sake. You are to embark yourselves with Christ, and abide with him in storms as well as in sunshine; you must "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." Rev. 14:4. There is no retreating after engagement to Christ. "If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." Heb. 10:38. It is eternal death by the law of heaven, to desert Christ's colors in the day of battle. Well, then, retire into the innermost closet of thy soul; sit quiet and patiently there, till thou hast debated this matter fully with thy own thoughts, and hast balanced the good and the evil, the profits and losses of religion. For want of this the church is filled with hypocrites, and hell with inconsiderate and rash professors: the more we deliberate, the better we shall conclude."

Salvation and Conversion as Imperatives

NKJ Acts 2:40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."

"Be saved" is a command. One should not say that God commands men to repent but doesn't command men to be saved. He commands both, but to be saved through his gospel terms, i.e., faith and repentance. This should be basic theology, but apparently the point has to be made.

Also, this is nothing new:

NKJ Isaiah 45:22 "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

One might also note that conversion is salvation (as well as a command):

NKJ Acts 3:19 "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

"If God desires people to repent of sin, then certainly he desires them to be saved, for salvation is the fruit of such repentance."

John Calvin (1509–1564) on John 5:34 and God's Saving Will

NKJ John 5:34 "Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.
Calvin comments:
these things I say that you may be saved. By this statement he means that it is not so much from a regard to himself as from a desire to promote the advantage of men, that he raises up the heralds of his Gospel by whom he testifies to us concerning his will. In this we see also a striking proof of his wonderful goodness, by which he regulates all things for our salvation. It is therefore our duty, on the other hand, to strive that the great care which he bestows in saving us may not be fruitless.
From Calvin's Commentaries on John 5:34

The reader should take note of Jesus' audience in the immediate context. He is going to address grumbling, legalistic Jews:
John 5:10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed."
They were even of the sort that were trying to kill him:
John 5:16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
These same men inquired into John's teaching but rejected it:
John 5:33 "You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.
Calvin rightly remarks on the context:
...they sent to John, and — as if their motive had been a desire to learn — inquired at him who was the Messiah, and yet paid no attention to his reply.
They were manifestly in unbelief and rejected the word of John and Jesus himself:
John 5:38 "But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.
Their unbelief was willful stubbornness against God's witness:
John 5:40 "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
They did not love God:
John 5:42 "But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.
Moses accuses these same men who thought they were following Moses:
John 5:45 "Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.
They did not believe Moses:
John 5:46 "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"
It is to these same men (some of whom were no doubt non-elect) that Jesus indiscriminately says:
John 5:34 "Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.
Christ willed their salvation. What could be more plain?

The Puritan John Flavel said:
What a mournful voice is that in John 5:40: "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." How ready would I be to give you life; but you would rather die than come to me for it. What can Christ do more to express his willingness? All the sorrows that ever touched the heart of Christ from men, were on this account, that they would not yield to his calls and invitations.
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), 146.

January 20, 2008

Hugh Latimer (c. 1485-1555) on God's Saving Will

The following is taken from "A SERMON PREACHED BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER, ON THE SUNDAY CALLED SEPTUAGESIMA, THE 14TH DAY OF FEBRUARY, ANNO 1552." Latimer was one of the oldest of the first generation English reformers.
"There are some now-a-days that will not be reprehended by the gospel; they think themselves better than it. Some, again, are so stubborn, that they will rather forswear themselves, than confess their sins and wickedness. Such men are [the] cause of their own damnation; for God would have them saved, but they refuse it: like Judas, the traitor, whom Christ would have had to be saved, but he refused his salvation; he refused to follow the doctrine of his master Christ. And so, whosoever heareth the word of God, and followeth it, the same is elect by him: and again, whosoever refuseth to hear the word of God, and follow the same, is damned. So that our election is sure if we follow the word of God."

January 14, 2008

The Five Volume Works of Stephen Charnock (1628-1680)

Volume 1 (Google Books, Archive.org)
Volume 2 (
Google Books, Archive.org)
Volume 3 (
Google Books, Archive.org)
Volume 4
Volume 5


Search Internet Archive here (click) for other volumes.



In my opinion, Stephen Charnock's Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God (contained in the first two volumes of his Works) should be mandatory reading for every Christian. He is certainly one of my favorite Puritan authors. I am almost finished with his Discourse upon God's Patience, which discourse is enough to abase the soul in the contemplation of it, and move one to worship and marvel at God's powerful patience.

Fire and Ice also has some of his writings online HERE.

January 12, 2008

The Practical Works of David Clarkson

Volume 1 (Google Books, Archive.org)

Volume 2 (Google Books, Archive.org)

Volume 3 (Google Books, Archive.org)

RHB sells the set for $48

Select Works

Donald J. MacLean (from the James Durham Thesis) has several interesting quotes by Clarkson HERE, particularly from his sermon on Revelation 3:20.

David Clarkson (1622–1686) on God's Goodness and Love

Proceed we now to those other graces and affections which hypocrites may, in some measure and degree, seem to partake of.

3. They may have some love to God; some affection to Christ, some love to the people of God; yea, to holiness and the ways of God.

(1.) Some love to God, which may be raised upon such grounds as this: they may apprehend God to be good in himself. The heathens gave him the title, not only maximus, but optimus; not only the greatest, but the best good: the summum bonum, the chief good. The Platonists make him το άγαθον, the idea of goodness, goodness in perfection, in whom there is a concurrence of all perfections, a confluence of all things amiable and excellent. A natural man may apprehend him to be so good, as other things deserve not the title of good compared with him. This we may infer from Christ's discourse with the young man: Mat. xix. 16, Since thou dost not conceive me to be God, why callest thou me good, knowing that none is good but God? None comparatively good; none good as he is, originally, essentially, perfectly, unchangeably. Now goodness is the proper object of love; and an object duly propounded to its proper faculty will draw out some act or motion to it. As an hateful object, propounded as most hateful, does usually raise some motion of hatred, so an amiable object, propounded as most amiable, does usually raise some motion of love.

Further, they may apprehend him to be the fountain of goodness, not only to be good in himself, but to be the author of all good to others. So does Plato describe God to be good, and the cause of good. The light of nature leads men to subscribe to that of James, chap. i. A natural man may discover not only goodness in God, but riches of goodness, and that distributed, and that duly expended and laid out upon the sons of men; and the apostle tells us, this discovery is such, as does lead, &c., Rom. ii. 4; nay, it does not only lead, but draw (it is not χαλέι, but άγει). Now, how does it draw? How is goodness attractive but by virtue of love? In this manner, what cause have we to love him, who is so rich in goodness? And how should it grieve me to have offended him, whom I have so much cause to love?

Moreover, they may apprehend that all the good things they enjoy do come from God; that they are parcels of that treasury of those riches of goodness which are in God. Laban, though an idolater, and that in dark times, could see and acknowledge, that what he enjoyed was from the blessing of God, Gen. xxx. 27. Now here is a stronger engagement to love, when God is apprehended, not only good in himself, and good to others, but good to him. This we find will beget some love in the brute creatures; no wonder if it raise some motions of love in the more apprehensive sort of men; who, notwithstanding the fall, have yet this advantage of beasts, they can apprehend a good turn, an engagement to love more clearly, and have more ability to reflect upon the Author of it.

Further, they may conceive the blessings they enjoy proceed from the love of God, Ps. xliv. 8. They may conclude, because he blesses them, he therefore loves them; and this is a strong engagement to love, even upon the worst of men, Mat. v. 46. The worst of men cannot resist such an engagement. The publicans will return some love for love. And may not natural men, apprehending strongly that God loves them (and has many ways expressed his love to them), make some return of love again?

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January 11, 2008

A Dictionary of Thoughts

My favorite book of quotations is available on Google books. It is called A Dictionary of Thoughts and was originally compiled by Tryon Edwards (pictured on the left). The Revision Editor, Ralph Emerson Browns, wrote:
"Tryon Edwards published his first book of quotations in 1852 under the title, Jewels for the Household, a substantial work of 448 pages. The title Dictionary of Thoughts was first given to the larger revised and enlarged by C. N. Catrevas with the assistance of C. A. Bender and of Jonathan Edwards who, like the compiler, was a descendant of the great preacher and educator of the same name."

A. A. Hodge (1823-1886) on the Confession and Common Grace

"3. The moral government of God over all men, and especially his government of his Church, includes also, besides an external providence ordering the outward circumstances of individuals, an internal spiritual providence, consisting of the influences of his Spirit upon their hearts. As "common grace," this spiritual influence extends to all men without exception, though in various degrees of power, restraining the corruption of their nature, and impressing their hearts and consciences with the truths revealed in the light of nature or of revelation; and it is either exercised or judicially withheld by God at his sovereign pleasure. As "efficacious" and "saving grace," this spiritual influence extends only to the elect, and is exerted upon them at such times and in such degrees as God has determined from the beginning."
"3. That the sole agent in this effectual calling is the Holy Ghost; that he uses Gospel truth as his instrument; and that, while all sinners are active in resisting the common influences of grace before regeneration, and all believers in co-operating with sanctifying grace after regeneration, nevertheless every new-created soul is passive with respect to that divine act of the Holy Spirit whereby he is regenerated, may all be proved under the following distinct heads :—

(1.) There are certain influences of the Spirit in the present life which extend to all men in a greater or less degree; which tend to restrain or to persuade the soul; which are exerted in the way of heightening the natural moral effect of the truth upon the understanding, the heart, and the conscience. They involve no change of principle and permanent disposition, but only an increase of the natural emotions of the heart in view of sin, of duty, and of self-interest. These influences, of course, may be resisted, and are habitually resisted, by the unregenerated. The fact that such resistible influences are experienced by men is proved—(a.) From the fact that the Scriptures affirm that they are resisted. Gen. vi. 3; Heb. x. 29. (6.) Every Christian is conscious that anterior to his conversion he was the subject of influences impressing him with serious thoughts, convincing him of sin, tending to draw him to the obedience of Christ, which he for the time resisted. We observe the same to be true of many men who are never truly converted at all." Ibid., 170-171.
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January 10, 2008

The Works of John Flavel (1630–1691)

This is the 1770 eight volume edition on Google Books, but I can't find volume 5 yet.

January 7, 2008

James Janeway (1636–1674) on Common Grace

Thirdly, Because men are so exceeding apt to be mistaken, and to misapprehend concerning themselves, that they are in a state of acquaintance with God, while they are mere strangers unto him; such as those whom our Saviour speaks of, Matt, vii, 22, 23, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" and then he will profess unto them, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye workers of iniquity." They take it for granted, that because of such privileges, and gifts, and common graces which they had, therefore they were well acquainted with Christ; but our Saviour answereth, "I never knew you;" that is, I never had any acquaintance with you.
James Janeway, Heaven Upon Earth; or, Jesus the Best Friend of Man (London: Thomas Nelson, 1847), 74.

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Janeway was ejected in 1662 for Nonconformity and licensed as a Presbyterian minister in 1672. He died when he was 38.

January 2, 2008

George Whitefield (1714–1770) on Preaching and the Love of God

We are to preach the gospel: to whom? To every creature: here is the commission, every creature. I suppose the apostles were not to see every creature; they did not go into all nations: they had particular districts: but wherever they did go they preached. Did you ever hear that Paul, or any of the apostles sent away a congregation without a sermon? No, no; when turned out of the temple they preached in the highways, hedges, streets, and lanes of the city; they went to the water side; there Lydia was catched. My brethren, we have a commission here from Christ; and not only a commission, but we have a command to preach to every creature: all that are willing to hear. "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear;" and if some shall say, they will not come if we do preach, would to God we tried them, "where the carcass is there will the eagles be gathered together." We are to preach glad tidings of salvation; to tell a poor benighted world lying in the wicked one the devil, their state and condition; we are to tell them, "God is love;" to tell them, that God loves them better than they do themselves. We must preach the law, but not leave the people there. We must tell them how Moses brings them to the borders of Canaan, and then tell them of a glorious Joshua that will carry them over Jordan; first to show them their wants; and then point out to them a Jesus that can supply, and more than supply all their wants. This we are to tell every creature: and it is for this that people stone gospel preachers. I do not think the prisoners would be angry with us if we were to tell them, the king commissions us to declare to them that they might come out of their prison, that their chains may be knocked off. If you was to go to one of them and say, Here you have your chains; and he was to say, I have no chains on at all, you would think that man's brain was turned: and so is every man's who does not see himself to be in the chains of sin and deceit. We are "to preach liberty to the captives, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord; sound the jubilee trumpet, and tell them the year of release is come:" that Jesus can make them happy.
George Whitefield, "The gospel, a dying saints Triumph," in Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield, ed. John Gillies (New Haven:Whitmore & Buckingham and H. Mansfield, 1834), 520.

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A Brief Analysis of George Whitefield's Reply to John Wesley on God's Mercy and Love

George Whitefield, in his dispute with Wesley over the subject of Calvinism, wrote:
Farther, you say, page 18th, paragraph 19th—-"This doctrine makes revelation contradict itself." For instance, say you, "The asserters of this doctrine interpret the text of the scriptures, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, as implying that God, in a literal sense, hated Esau and all the reprobates from eternity!" And when considered as fallen in Adam, were they not objects of his hatred? And might not God, of his own good pleasure, love or show mercy to Jacob and the elect, and yet at the same time do the reprobate no wrong? But you say, "God is love." And cannot God be love, unless he shows the same mercy to all?

Again, says dear Mr. Wesley, "They infer from that text, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, that God is love only to some men, viz. the elect, and that he has mercy for those only; flatly contrary to which is the whole tenor of the scripture, as is that express declaration in particular, The Lord is loving to every man, and his mercy is over all his works." And so it is, but not his saving mercy. God is loving to every man, he sends his rain upon the evil and upon the good. But you say, God is no respecter of persons. No! for every one, whether Jew or gentile, that believeth on Jesus, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him. But he that believeth not shall be damned. For God is no respecter of persons, i. e. upon the account of any outward condition or circumstance in life whatever. Nor does the doctrine of election in the least suppose him to be so; but as the sovereign Lord of all, who is debtor to none, he has a right to do what he will with his own, and dispense his favors to what object he sees fit, merely at his pleasure. And his supreme right herein is clearly and strongly asserted in those passages of scripture, where he says, I will have mercy, on whom I will have mercy, and have compassion on whom I will have compassion, Rom. ix. 15. Exodus, xxxiii. 19.
Taken from "Whitefield's Letter to Wesley," in Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield, ed. John Gilles (New Haven: Whitmore & Buckingham, 1834), 639.

Observe the flow of the argument. Whitefield cites Wesley's argument as follows:
Farther, you say, page 18th, paragraph 19th—-"This doctrine makes revelation contradict itself." For instance, say you, "The asserters of this doctrine interpret the text of the scriptures, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, as implying that God, in a literal sense, hated Esau and all the reprobates from eternity!
Wesley is saying that Whitefield's position on sovereign election makes revelation contradict itself. He then cites his problems with how some interpret Romans 9:13.
NKJ Romans 9:13 As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."
Whitefield replies:
And when considered as fallen in Adam, were they not objects of his hatred?
Whitefield grants that there is a sense in which God hated Esau, when "considered as fallen in Adam." So his reply is basically, "in one sense, yes." He also argues that Wesley himself would have to grant that as well, when considering men as fallen in Adam, i.e., as contemplating them as sinners, and not without a cause.

Whitefield continues:
And might not God, of his own good pleasure, love or show mercy to Jacob and the elect, and yet at the same time do the reprobate no wrong?
In other words, he's arguing that God's love and mercy shown to Jacob and the rest of the elect does not imply that injustice or wrong is done unto the reprobate.

Wesley's problem and Whitefield's position become more clear in what is said next:
But you say, "God is love." And cannot God be love, unless he shows the same mercy to all?
Wesley's problem, according to Whitefield, is not that Wesley thinks that God is merciful to all. Rather, it's just that Wesley thinks that Whitefield's theology would entail that God is somehow unjust unless he EQUALLY shows mercy to all, i.e., "the same mercy." Instead of telling Wesley that God only loves or is merciful towards the elect, he is actually arguing that God is ESPECIALLY merciful or loving toward the elect.

Here are three options:

A) God wills to equally show mercy, love or grace to all.

B) God is merciful or loving to all, but God wills to especially show mercy, love or grace to the elect.

C) God is only merciful, loving or gracious to the elect.

Rather than taking position (C) in response to Wesley's position (A), Whitefield takes position (B). This will become more clear as the argument continues to unfold. Position (C) is actually quite like position (A) in terms of the thinking processes behind it. Wesley cannot grasp how God can love and hate the same human object at the same time but in different senses. He therefore concludes that God must love all equally. Those in position (C) have the same reasoning problem, but they arrive at a different conclusion. Since they cannot perceive how God can love and hate the same human object at the same time but in different senses, they conclude that God only loves the elect. Rather than discern the biblical balance in position (B), they both split the biblical data into half-truths, according to their focus or theological preferences, and either arrive at position (A) or (C) accordingly. They erroneously think the law of non-contradiction states that "A cannot be non-A at the same time," rather than it being "A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same sense." Tri-theists and Unitarians suffer from the same rationalistic disorder, as all error ultimately does. This is why people tend to think in terms of false either/or dilemmas, such as either position (A) or position (C). Position (B) is just a "contradiction" to them, so it is quickly and scornfully dismissed. Wesley is actually arguing against position (C) because he is thinking in terms of false either/or dilemmas. Whitefield tries to correct the error by making careful distinctions that Wesley is continually missing.

Whitefield cites Wesley again and continues the argument:
Again, says dear Mr. Wesley, "They infer from that text, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, that God is love only to some men, viz. the elect, and that he has mercy for those only; flatly contrary to which is the whole tenor of the scripture, as is that express declaration in particular, The Lord is loving to every man, and his mercy is over all his works.
Notice that Wesley is actually arguing against the position that God only loves the elect. He cannot distinguish between senses of God's love, so he's hammering away against position (C). One can tell that he is quite emotional in his argumentation. If position (C) were actually the position of Whitefield or of Calvinism in general, then that is quite understandable. However, Whitefield puts forth position (B) again. He says:
And so it is, but not his saving mercy. God is loving to every man, he sends his rain upon the evil and upon the good.
He grants that Wesley's citation of Psalm 145:9 (NKJ Psalm 145:9 The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.) teaches that there is a sense in which God is merciful and loving to every man, but not in terms of his willingness to grant "saving mercy." The latter is reserved for the elect alone, according to Whitefield. Notice also Whitefield's citation of Matthew 5:45 and his interpretation of it. He infers from it that "God is loving to every man" in that "he sends his rain upon the evil and upon the good." He does not overreact to Wesley and emotionally swing over to position (C). Rather, he calmly argues for the rational and biblical position (B) in his response.

Wesley then brings up the "God is not a respecter of persons" argument, as if Whitefield's election position entails such a thing:
But you say, God is no respecter of persons.
Whitefield replies:
No! for every one, whether Jew or gentile, that believeth on Jesus, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him. But he that believeth not shall be damned. For God is no respecter of persons, i. e. upon the account of any outward condition or circumstance in life whatever. Nor does the doctrine of election in the least suppose him to be so; but as the sovereign Lord of all, who is debtor to none, he has a right to do what he will with his own, and dispense his favors to what object he sees fit, merely at his pleasure. And his supreme right herein is clearly and strongly asserted in those passages of scripture, where he says, I will have mercy, on whom I will have mercy, and have compassion on whom I will have compassion, Rom. ix. 15. Exodus, xxxiii. 19.
In other words, Whitefield is saying that his view of election is not based in any "outward condition or circumstance in life." God's choice of some is not at all based in any virtue or quality found in those chosen. Election is not a reward due to the chosen, but a sovereign prerogative of God whereby he is determined to have mercy upon some and not others. Some receive mercy and others receive justice. No one receives injustice.

In fact, one could further argue that the justice of God's wrath is underlined because of the wickedness of the response to his grace and favor shown to the reprobate. The extent of their damnation proves how good God was to them (the magnanimity of his grace), the power of His patience and the justice of his wrath. Heightened judgment presupposes that some sincere good was done unto them, which could not be the case if God only loved the elect, i.e., position (C).