July 31, 2009

Some Important Historical and Theological Distinctions in Theophilus Gale's (1628–1678) The Court of the Gentiles

But while we are thus characterising the Authors of this new Method, we must also do such Calvinists, who incline to them in some points, that justice, as to free them from all imputation or suspicion of Arminianism: It's well known, that some of great worth and truly orthodox in point of Grace, have yet somewhat inclined towards the new Method in point of universal objective Grace, as pious and learned Usher, Davenant, and others both in our and the French Churches, who hold, Christ's death to be an universal remedy applicable to all, but yet are far from asserting an universal subjective Grace, or any velleitie in God of saving all men, which Amyraldus and others assert. As for those who hold absolute and particular Election and Reprobation, Original sin in its full extent, mens natural impotence and being dead in sin, efficacious Grace in the conversion of sinners, with God's absolute, efficacious, immediate, total and predeterminative concurse to all natural as well as supernatural actions, as Davenant, and some others, who incline to an objective universal Grace, do, I have no controversy with them, but can own them as friends of Grace, albeit in some modes of explicating it, they differ from us.
Theophilus Gale, The Court of the Gentiles. Part IV. Of Reformed Philosophie. Book III. Of Divine Predetermination (London: Printed for John Hill at the Black Lyon in Fleet-street, and Samuel Tidmarsh at the Kings-Head in Cornhill, 1678), 150 (III.iv.150). Some spelling has been updated.

Observe the following points made by Gale above:

1) There are some Calvinists who have points that seem to incline them to Arminianism.
2) Gale wants to free them from all imputation or suspicion of Arminianism.
3) Examples of such "truly orthodox" Calvinists of "great worth" are James Ussher and John Davenant.
4) They view Christ's death to be an universal remedy applicable to all.
5) Gale distinguishes these men from the views of Amyraut.
6) These men hold to:
     a) absolute and particular election and reprobation,
     b) original sin,
     c) men's natural impotence,
     d) efficacious grace in conversion,
     e) and God's sovereignty over all things, both natural and supernatural.
7) Davenant, again, is an example of this position, and Gale not only has "no controversy" with them [although he has some differences with them], but owns them as "friends of grace."

The observations of this Puritan are also reflected in the recent scholarship of Dr. Richard Muller. Theophilus Gale's book The True Idea of Jansenism has a preface by John Owen.

Menzeis, a high Calvinist like Gale, said:
The [Popish] Pamphleter might have known that Protestants do not exclude from the Reformed Churches, the learned Camero, Amyrald, Capellus, Dallaeus who with many others especially in the French Church assert universal redemption.
John Menzeis, Roma Mendax (London: Printed for Abel Roper, at the sign of the Sun over against St. Dunstanes Church in Fleet-street, 1675), 190. Also in John Menzeis, The Church of England Vindicated against Her Chief Adversaries of the Church of Rome: Wherein the most Material Points are fairly Debated, and Briefly and Fully Answered (London: Printed for C. Wilkinson, T. Dring, and C. Harper, and are to be Sold at their Shops in Fleetstreet, 1680), 190.

July 29, 2009

Dr. Sam Waldron on Rationalism and the Hyper-Calvinistic Denial of the Love of God for All

The following audio clip was extracted from Dr. Waldron's first lecture on apologetics, which can be downloaded from RBS here (or directly here).

Download Audio Clip Here

Dr. Waldron said:
Such proud reason produces both Arminianism (if men have free-will, God can't be sovereign), and hyper-Calvinism (if God elects certain people, He can't love anybody else).

R. K. McGregor Wright (1940–2012) Defines Hyper-Calvinism

Hyper-Calvinism. The illogical conclusion of some Calvinists that because God is sovereign and so will certainly save the elect, we are not responsible for our sin, for preaching the gospel, for inviting all sinners to come to Christ or for missionary endeavors. Some have also denied common grace, rejected missions and preached antinomianism.
R. K. McGregor Wright, No Place for Sovereignty (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1996), 237.

I think there are some problems with this definition historically, but I wanted to highlight his true statement that some who are hyper-Calvinistic deny common grace.

J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937) on Common Grace

The Bible does certainly teach that the good that is already in man ought to be fostered in order to check the evil. Whatsoever things are true and pure and of good report--we ought to think on those things. Certainly the principle of overcoming the world's evil by the good already in the world is a great principle. The old theologians recognized it to the full in their doctrine of "common grace." There is something in the world even apart from Christianity which restrains the worst manifestations of evil. And that something ought to be used. Without the use of it, this world could not be lived in for a day. The use of it is certainly a great principle; it will certainly accomplish man', useful things.
J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 138. The whole text of Christianity & Liberalism is available online here.


HT: James Durham Thesis and Martin Downes

July 28, 2009

Theophilus Gale (1628–1678) on Christ's Affections, Gracious Invitations and Willingness to Save

(1.) Doth Christ weep over the Sins and Ruines of impenitent Jerusalem? Hence then Infer, That Christ's Affections are Relative: his sorrow stands in relation to the sinners miseries; as also his joy to the sinners good. All Christ's Affections, while on earth, were very generous and public: he discovered little or nothing of private Interest and Passion: All his Affections, Actions, and Passions were relative. Yea, the whole of Christ as Mediator, is Relative: He espoused human Nature not for himself, but for sinners: He lived not for himself, but for his people: He died not for himself, but for sinners: Thus here he wept not for himself, but for Jerusalem.

(2.) This also discovers to us, The Heroic, and pure strain, or temperment of Christ's Affections. Doth he, indeed, shed tears over Jerusalem, who is now meditating, how she may shed his blood: Has he so much pity and bleeding compassion for her, who hath so little pity and compassion for herself? Oh! what incomparable generous Affections are here? What an unparalled sweet humor is there lodged in the heart of this great Emmanuel? Who could ever have imagined that human nature had been capable of such pure, and definteressed [sic] Affections, had we not so real an experiment thereof in this Sovereign Messiah?

(3.) Hence likewise we may collect, How really and cheerfully willing Christ is to save sinners. Certainly, he that makes such bitter Lamentation over the foreseen Ruines of Jerusalem, must needs have a very cordial, and unfeigned will and desire of her salvation. This we find expressed to the life, Matt. 23:37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem―How oft would I have gathered thy children together, even as an hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not? What a pathetic expostulation is here, which carries in it notices of vehement Affections? Oh! how willing is Christ to give unto sinners the things that belong unto their peace? Yea, is he not more willing to bestow great things than small? Doth not his willingness to give, infinitely exceed the sinners willingness to receive? Is not Christ more glad to receive poor and weary souls, than they are to come unto him? May sinners come too soon to Christ, or before they are welcome? Has Christ set any bars or rails about his Throne of Grace? May not whoever will, come and drink freely, and deeply of this living fountain? Is not every thing about Christ mighty drawing, alluring, and inviting? How drawing and encouraging is his Gospel? What alluring and inviting Arguments are there in his blood and passion? Has not Christ removed all groundless cavils and objections, which foolish sinners are apt to make against coming to him for life? Doth not Jerusalem first break with him, before he breaks with her? And when that unhappy breach is made, doth not his weeping over her sufficiently argue, how fain he would be reconciled to her? how much it would please him to see her but cast half an eye towards him? how much his heart would leap within him, to behold her, in the Prodigal's posture, returning towards him? Did Christ ever cease to make tenders of Grace to her, til she ceased to accept or desire the tenders of his Grace? Yea, is not Christ's forwardness to give, beyond the Sinners forwardness to receive? Did Christ ever refuse to give, til sinners refused to ask what they wanted? Oh! how oft doth Christ's kindness overcome the Sinners unkindness? Did he not frequently express great love and pity, when he had the greatest cause to express severe wrath? Oh! what infinite pleasure and satisfaction doth Christ take, in his gracious effusions and communications to sinners? Doth he not think himself sufficiently paid for what Grace he hath given forth, if he may but obtain the souls desires after more? How industrious is he in seeking sinners, when they have lost themselves? Oh! what a sad consideration is it, that Christ should be so boundless and large in his offers, and we so narrow in our receivings?

(4.) Christ's weeping over Jerusalem instructs us further, What a dreadful sin it is to reject Christ, and all other concerns of our peace. Christ's gracious invitations unto, long waitings for, and at least tears over Jerusalem, do greatly aggravate her impenitence, and unbelief towards him. For the lower Christ condescends to sinners, the nearer he comes to them, and the more importunate he is in the offers of his Grace; the greater is their sin in rejecting such gracious and sweet offers. What? doth Christ come unto his own; his own children, spouse, subjects, brethren, and friends? and will not his own receive him? Doth he so freely open his gracious heart to sinners, and will they shut their hearts against him? Is he so forward to give, and shall we be so backward to receive? Doth Christ offer such great things to sinners, and shall they prefer such poor toys before them? Yea, is Christ in himself so incomparably excellent, and will sinners yet so much disdain him, and so proudly shift themselves of him? Can there be a more heinous sin than this, to meet Christ's bowels and pity with kicks, and contempt? Oh! study the weight of this sin.

(5.) This Lamentation of Christ over impenitent Jerusalem teacheth us also, That mans Ruine is from himself? If after all Christ's gracious Invitations; all his unwearied forbearances; all his bitter and salt tears, Jerusalem will still persist in her rebellious contempt of his gracious offers, how inexcusable is her sin, and inevitable her ruine? What will prevail upon her, if Christ's Tears, and Intreaties will not prevail? What can save her, if her Redeemers Grace and Mercy save her not? What is it that keeps Evangelic sinners from being saved? is it any defect in the Object, or its Revelation? is it mere simple Ignorance, or Impotence in the subject? No; but it is wilful blindness and impotence: they shut their eyes and will not see; they bolt their hearts and will not open to Christ, who knocks at the door of the soul, by many gracious Invitations of his Gospel and Spirit. And do not such deservedly perish, who electively embrace their own ruine, and wilfully reject the things that belong to their peace, Matt. 23:37? Surely this wilful Impotence, or rather impotent wilfulness evidently demonstrates, That impenitent sinners frame their own Hell.

(6.) Hence also infer, That the greater privileges, and marks of favor Christ doth confer on any People or Church, the more sorely doth he resent any unkindness from such. The resentment of a final unkindness, from such as have been obliged by special favors, is more afflictive, than greater unkindnesses from others. For Jerusalem, who lay under so many, and essential obligations, to reject Christ, and all his gracious tenders of mercy, Oh! how much doth this break his heart? What swords and spears to pierce through his soul is this? For Jerusalem, when she is made fat with Divine mercies, to kick against those bowels, whence her mercies flowed, how much doth this wound and grieve the heart of Christ?
Theophilus Gale, Christ's Tears for Jerusalem's Unbelief and Ruine (London: Printed for M. Widdowes at the Green Dragon in St. Pauls Church-Yard, 1679), 64–69. Some of the spelling has been modernized.

Online Encyclopedia

Theophilus Gale (1628–1678) on Christ's Heart in the Gospel Offer

The offers of Grace made in the Gospel, or Covenant of Grace, are very Real, and Cordial: There is never a line, no nor a word of the Gospel, but it carries Christ's heart wrapt up in it: Every promise is a love-letter sent by Christ, to assure the sinner, how affectionate his heart is set towards him: There is not an expression that drops from the mouth of Christ, but is full of bleeding Affection: Every promise gives the sinner a good Law right to Grace, provided that he accept of it when offered: If Christ be real in any thing, he is so in the offers of Grace to sinners.
Theophilus Gale, Christ's Tears for Jerusalem's Unbelief and Ruine (London: Printed for M. Widdowes at the Green Dragon in St. Pauls Church-Yard, 1679), 106.

Online Encyclopedia

July 27, 2009

Daniel Burgess (1645–1713) on God's Will of Complacency

Reader, I cannot yet have done with thee. I must say to thee, as Ruth to her Mother in Law, Intreat me not to leave thee, or return from following after thee with this Inference. I must insist a little more upon God's so astonishing Intreaty. And I would to God I could find or make words prevalent with thee to insist much hereon. To be often musing what it is, that God's intreaty of sinners to be reconciled, doth in good sober Truth import. I beseech thee go and consult God himself in holy Prayer unto him. Go consult his Ministers, the best of them; and such through whose Mouths he is most likely to speak his Heart unto thee. Go consider, and take advice, whether it import not thus much: To wit, a real will of God without any design or unsincerity, to have sinners reconciled unto him; even as many of them as he sends his Gospel unto. A will of complacence, as of a thing that would be highly grateful unto him; though not a Will efficacious, and effective of it against all wilful and affected unfitness in sinners; super-added unto their natural. A Will, that indeed doth not so overpower all things, as to bring all sinners unto Reconciliation; but yet one that leaves nothing but their own obstinate Wills to keep them from it. And makes, that all who live under the Gospel, and who do seek it as they are directed by the Gospel, may reasonably judge their obtainment of it most highly probable; and conclude that if their labour for it be lost, it will not be through failure on God's part, but their own.

Tis very certain, that such influences of the Holy Spirit were communicated under the Old Testament, that of all that lived and died then unreconciled unto God, the fault was laid at their own doors. Thou gavest thy good Spirit to instruct them, Neh. 9:20. Turn ye at my reproof, behold I will pour my Spirit to you, I will make known my words unto you, Prov. 1:23, &c. O how much more must we now conclude in the Gospel day, that Mens destruction is of themselves? That the Holy Spirit is always striving with sinners, and persuading them to be reconciled, until they do by very great provocations cause him to withdraw for ever from them.

By the Prophets of old, the Holy Ghost never spake in the wondrously condescensive Language, which he useth in the New Testament. Herein shows the Language of incomparable tenderness; and such as put it beyond the most jealous suspicion, that God is desirous of our Happiness in the said Reconciliation. Herein the Majesty of Heaven even courts every vile Worm of us. And in most compassionate manner, assays to melt and overcome the pervertest sinner: Even thy self, my Reader, thy self in particular.
Daniel Burgess, Man's Whole Duty, and God's Wonderful Intreaty of Him Thereunto (London: Printed by J. Richardson for Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside; and John Lawrence at the Angel in the Poultry, 1690) 98–101. Google Books has an edition of this work HERE.


Daniel Burgess (1645–1713) on God Begging

And for Sinners, that make light of all God's Calls to Reconciliation; and are inflexible by his very entreaties, for whole Weeks, Months, and Years together; who sees it not? Their Life is a practical protest, that they will bear the prison of Hell, the torment of Fire, and that for the space of Eternity, rather than be friends with God. So they love God; so they love themselves. Tis true, we cannot here persuade them, but that they do truly love themselves, and their God too. But in utter darkness itself men will see better. There they will see and say, God was kind, and made them good offers; but they were themselves their own destroyers; being by sin bewitched, in heart to murder him, and in act to murder themselves. There they will understand the sense, as well as feel the truth, of Prov. 8:36 and 35.

There they will know to their torment, what it is for God to beseech and pray sinful Dust to come take Pardon and Peace; and for them to lend him a deaf ear, or give him a more reproachful repulse against convictions of Conscience. Reader, there stay a while: Think, and speak with thy self of the huge imports of this word: [As though God did beseech you by us.] How, GOD beseech? SOVEREIGNTY beg? And that of both Creatures and Rebels too? What meaneth this, and what is it we are to learn by it? God beseech! The word astonishes me; and filleth my mind with these thoughts above others. First, How powerful is Love? Secondly, How loveful is the Divine Majesty, that thus condescendeth, that makes Omnipotence stoop? Thirdly, How wonderful is this condescension, whereunto God never stooped before, and beyond which it is not to be thought possible that he should ever stoop? Fallen Angels, had nothing like it: Fallen Men, can have nothing beyond it. God stoops; he stoops low; he stoops lowest, unto us. The lowest that the nature and honour of his Government will admit. God beseech!
Daniel Burgess, Man's Whole Duty, and God's Wonderful Intreaty of Him Thereunto (London: Printed by J. Richardson for Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside; and John Lawrence at the Angel in the Poultry, 1690) 94-96. Google Books has an edition of this work HERE.


Observe: According to Daniel Burgess, God "beseeches," "stoops" and "begs" in the gospel call for all "to take pardon and peace," even towards those who finally "bear the prison of hell," out of "love" and "kindness," and makes them "good offers."

July 15, 2009

Paul Hartog on John Calvin (1509–1564) and the Extent of the Atonement

The Baptist Bulletin said:
Paul Hartog (PhD, Loyola University, Chicago) has written a brief academic study that explores John Calvin’s view on the extent of the atonement. This is available for a limited time as a free download (a 72-page electronic book in PDF format).

• Download A Word for the World: Calvin on the Extent of the Atonement (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 2009). (Update: HERE or HERE)
David has also blogged on it at Theology Online.

Hartog also wrote a brief article on Calvin: Still Making Points with Baptists.

Paul Hartog is an associate professor at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary (Ankeny, Iowa). He has earned MA and MDiv degrees in theological studies (Faith), an MA in history (Iowa State University), a ThM in Ethics (St. Andrew’s Theological College), and a PhD in New Testament and Early Christianity (Loyola University, Chicago). He has also ministered as an assistant pastor in Baptist churches in Slater, Iowa, Romeoville, Ill., and Grimes, Iowa.

July 14, 2009

David Gay on the Free Offer and Incipient Hyper-Calvinism

After quoting passages from Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd on the subject of God's compassionate desire for the salvation of all men, David Gay wrote:
This is getting close to our weak spot. We want the 'appearance of the divine power', do we not? We want the 'awakening' and 'convictions' of 'numbers of secure souls'. Do we preach with Brainerd's pressing urgency to sinners and emphasize the 'ability and willingness of Christ to save'? I confess that I have not yet begun to preach the gospel to sinners biblically. The simple stark fact is, I have not appreciated just what this free offer involves. And because of that I have failed to preach the gospel properly. I have thought too much in negative terms, lesser terms. I have tried to defend the gospel from the ravages of Arminianism and 'easy-believism'. I have not understood the freeness of the gospel. Do you feel the same? This is a large part of our problem, I am sure.

But now I come to the heart of it.

It is clear that God delights in the salvation of sinners. It is proper to say that God takes pleasure in their salvation. But to say that does not go far enough; it falls short of the scriptural teaching on the free offer. The point is: Does God actually desire the salvation of sinners? Does he want sinners to be saved? And further, Does God desire the salvation even of those who are reprobate?

This is the fundamental point at issue in the free offer. John Murray put it this way: 'It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men'.

I assert that this is the heart of the matter. Does God desire the salvation of all men? The answer is, Yes! Therefore we must, in our preaching, declare indiscriminately to all our hearers that God desires to see them saved. Further, we are preaching the gospel to sinners properly, only when we are convinced of the truth of such a desire in God and say so very clearly. We can only persuade sinners to be reconciled to God when we are persuaded that God not only delights in their salvation, but he actually desires it.
David Gay, "Preaching the Gospel to Sinners: 2," Banner of Truth 371–372 (August–September 1994): 44–45.

In the first part, Gay makes it clear that he is writing these things because he sees "a practical, or incipient, hyper-Calvinism and a paralysis creeping upon us." He says "there is a kind of incipient hyper-Calvinism abroad," and so he urges his Calvinistic brothers to freely offer Christ "with pressing urgency and vigor." He observes how "we retreat into hyper-Calvinism as a defense mechanism" in response to an Arminian background and free-willism. See David Gay, "Preaching the Gospel to Sinners," Banner of Truth 370 (July 1994): 23.

James Montgomery Boice (1938–2000) on Common Grace and God's Good Purpose

There is one more thing we need to learn about common grace from Paul's sermon on Mars Hill. It is in the words that immediately follow those I quoted earlier. Having spoken of grace, Paul concluded, "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:27-28). This is important. For it is a way of saying that God also has a good purpose in his good actions. He wants us to recognize his goodness, to turn from sin, to reach out and find him, and so be able to express our gratitude in true faith and proper obedience.

Paul writes the same thing in Romans, observing that the "kindness, tolerance and patience" of God are meant to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
James Montgomery Boice, The Glory of God's Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999), 24.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) on God's Love and Judgments

That is why God gives people over. But can you not see that the object of it all is love? God wants people to see what He is doing. God is trying to awaken the human race. People will not listen to the Gospel; they laugh at it and ridicule it. They make fun of Jesus Christ and blaspheme His holy blood shed on the cross on Calvary's hill. But "God so loves the world" that He is trying to open their eyes to the inferno they are creating. This is God's way of calling men and women to repentance. As Paul puts it in Romans 2:4: "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."

Or as Peter says in the third chapter of his second epistle, "There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation" (vv. 3-4). And Peter has his answer. Why does God tolerate the world as it is? Why has He not blasted it to destruction long since? Here is the answer: "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (v. 9). Can you not see that God, by allowing men and women to reap the consequences of their own folly, is just trying to awaken us, to make us see our wretchedness, our rottenness, our vileness, our hopelessness, our utter helplessness? He is awakening us, calling us to repentance before it is too late. It is God's love that allows this. We will not listen to His appeals, so he tries another method, but it is all in love.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Triumphant Christianity, vol. 5, Studies in the Book of Acts (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2006), 206–207.


Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) on Common Grace

And now I come in the third place, to a most important matter which is so often forgotten. It is the Holy Spirit who is responsible for what is called common grace. Let me give you some definitions of what this means. Common grace is the term applied to those general blessings which God imparts to all men and women indiscriminately as He pleases, not only to His own people, but to all men and women, according to His own will. Or, again, common grace means those general operations of the Holy Spirit in which, without renewing the heart, He exercises a moral influence whereby sin is restrained, order is maintained in social life, and civil righteousness is promoted. That is the general definition. The Holy Spirit has been operative in this world from the very beginning and He has had His influence and His effect upon men and women who are not saved and who have gone to perdition. While they were in this life and world they came under these general, non-saving operations of the Holy Spirit. That is what we mean by common grace.

Now, how does the Holy Spirit do this? Well, there are various answers to that question. You will remember that we are told in the prologue of John's Gospel about 'the true light which lighteth every man' (John 1:9). It does not matter how you translate that verse – 'the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world' says the Authorised Version; 'the Light that lighteth every man was coming into the world,' says another. We are not concerned about that. We are interested in the phrase 'the light which lighteth every man'. And there is such a light. It is a kind of natural light, as we call it, natural understanding. It is the light that is in the conscience and there is that light of conscience in every person born into this world. Now that is one of the operations of the Holy Spirit in what is called common grace. It is a light that comes from Christ, because He is the Head of the human race, but it is the Holy Spirit who puts that light into everyone who is born.

Then this same general light also manifests itself in governments, and in laws, and in the various 'powers that be' as Paul calls them in Romans 13:1. You see, it is not man who decided to set up governments and states; 'the powers that be are ordained of God,' says Paul. God divided up the bounds of the nations. He decided that there must be rulers, governors and magistrates and that they should not bear the sword in vain (Rom. 13:4). This is God's work, and He has done all this and keeps it going by means of the Holy Spirit.

Now I think you see at once, without my emphasizing it, that many Christian people are in grave error with regard to this matter. They seem to have the idea that God has nothing to do with the unsaved world. But that is not scriptural. Even those who are unsaved are under this influence of the Holy Spirit. It is not a saving influence, nor is it a redemptive influence, but it is a part of God's purpose.

Another way in which common grace manifests itself is by what may be called public opinion. There Is such a thing as a general public opinion, a general consensus of opinion about moral subjects. People who are not Christian at all believe that certain things are wrong and should be prohibited, that other things are right and should be encouraged. There is a sense of right and wrong in humanity. Now that is nothing but a manifestation of common grace. If the Holy Spirit were not operative in men and women in this general way, human beings, as a result of the Fall and of sin, would have festered away into oblivion long ago.

Next to that is what is generally described as culture. By that I mean arts and science, an interest in the things of the mind, literature, architecture, sculpture, painting and music. Now, there can be no question at all but that cultivation of the arts is good. It is not redemptive, but it improves people, it makes them live better lives. Now, where do all these things come from? How do you explain men like Shakespeare or Michelangelo? The answer from the Scripture is that all these people had their gifts and were able to exercise them as the result of the operation of common grace, this general influence of the Holy Spirit.

So you see once more that not only sinners and those who do not believe in God deny common grace, but that often even those of us who are Christians do the same. People tend to glory in Shakespeare, as if were responsible for his powers, but he was not. He had only what he had received. All these gifts that man and women have come from God. And that is why true Christians, as they look out, not only upon creation, but even at culture, discover a reason for glorifying and for praising God.

You see, what is wrong with culture is not the thing itself, it is rather that people give their worship, their praise and their adoration to those men and women who have produced the works rather than to the God who enabled them to do it. But if you look at these things under the heading of common grace, you will see that they all bring glory to God because it is through the Spirit that He dispenses these general gifts to humanity. We shall be reminded later of how our Lord Himself tells us that God sends his rain upon the evil and the good and causes His sun to rise on the just and the unjust – it is the same thing. The God who sends rain and sunshine and gives crops to the evil farmer as well as to the Christian farmer, dispenses artistic and scientific gifts in exactly the same way, indiscriminately, to bad and good, saved and unsaved. It is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Then another way in which common grace manifests itself is this. We read in Isaiah 45: 'I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil.' What does this mean? Not that God is the creator of sin, not that He is the author of evil – as such – but that He is the author of the evil consequences that follow certain actions. He controls everything. In that sense He makes peace and creates evil. In other words, it is the Holy Spirit who see to it that certain actions lead to certain painful and evil consequences. Those, then, are some of the ways in which common grace manifests itself.

But let us look now at the effects of all this. The first is that the execution of the sentence of judgment upon man and woman in sin was delayed. Have you not sometimes asked yourself the question: Why was it that God did not immediately punish sin by bringing the world to an end in the Garden of Eden? the answer is that God decided, in His own inscrutable and eternal will, not to do so.

But the further question is: How can the world go on existing at all in sin? The answer is that it is kept in existence by this power that the Spirit puts into it. It is the Spirit who keeps the world going. Human life is prolonged both in general and in particular. 'The goodness of God,' says Paul in Romans 2:4, 'leadeth thee to repentance.' Peter says the same thing in his second epistle: 'The Lord . . . is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish that all should come to repentance' (2 Pet. 3:9). God is patient and long-suffering; to Him a thousand years are as one day and one day as a thousand years. He keeps the world going by the Holy Spirit instead of pronouncing final judgment.

The second effect of common grace is that the Holy Spirit strives with men and women. Take that statement in Genesis 6:3: 'My spirit shall not always strive with man.' It does not exhaust the meaning of those words, but it does, at any rate, mean that a time was coming when instead of keeping men and women alive, in spite of their sin, God would stop and the flood would come and they would all be destroyed. The striving, in other words, has two meanings. It means 'keeping in existence, keeping going', and it also means that God was there, as it were, pleading through His Spirit, trying to get men and women to see the enormity of their sins and of their actions before it was too late. You find the same idea in Stephen's sermons recorded in the seventh chapter of Acts. He says, 'Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost' (Acts 7:51). The Holy Ghost is there, with this general work of conviction, but people resist it instead of yielding to it.

And, again, in Romans 1, we see the same thing. Paul there teaches that 'God gave them over to a reprobate mind' (Rom. 1:28). Read again in the second half of that chapter the terrible description of the moral iniquity, the horrible, foul perversions, of the world at the time when Paul was writing. Why was this? Paul's answers [sic] is, 'God gave them up unto vile affections' (v. 26). Now up to a point He did not do that. Up to a point, God, by the Holy Spirit, restrained men and women from these vile affections and that is why the world is not always as bad as it might be. God, through the Holy Spirit, restrains the foulest manifestations of sin, but there are times when He gives people up to them. Are we, I wonder, living in such an age? Compare the twentieth century with the nineteenth. It is obvious that the moral level is very much lower today. That does not mean that everybody was a Christian in the Victorian era, but it does mean that even people who were not Christians were better men and women, speaking generally, than people now. Why? It was because of the general influence of the Holy Spirit. But it does look as if again, today, God is giving humanity over 'unto vile affections' as Paul outlines in Romans 1.

Therefore I deduce that one of the results of the operation of the Holy Spirit in common grace is that God does restrain men and women. He does specifically restrain sin. That is why God has appointed governments, authorities, magistrates and powers: it is to keep sin within bounds. Though God knows that there are certain people in the world who will never be saved, He does not allow them to live just as they please and to give fuller manifestation to sin; He restrains it in them.

In other words, there is a general sense of morality and right and even of religion in the world, apart from a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We all know many people, do we not, who are religious but who are not Christian. There are many people who would say that they believe in God and who are concerned about practicing religion, and some of them make great sacrifices for their religion. They do not believe that they are so sinful that nothing but the death of Christ can save them. They are not Christian in our sense of the term, but you have got to grant that they are religious. What is it that makes a person religious? It is nothing but the operation of common grace. It is one of God's ways of restraining sin, of keeping it within bounds. So every sense of morality and rightness and religion, the belief in goodness, beauty and truth, such as you have in the Greek philosophers – it is all the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit. Paul puts it clearly in Romans 2:14, 'For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves.' That is the basis and the authority for saying all that.

And then lastly, under common grace, we have, as I have already mentioned, those common blessings which God gives – the sun and the rain. Our Lord spoke about it in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:44–5. Paul spoke about exactly the same thing at Lystra, where he healed a man who was lame and then made this remarkable statement:
Sirs . . . we also are men of like passion with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities [these gods] unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: who in times past suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. Acts 14:15–17
And, lastly, we have that statement of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:10 where he talks about Christ as 'the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe'. That phrase, 'the Saviour of all men', does not mean salvation in the sense of the soul being saved but that He is the sustainer, the one who is kind and good to men and women.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Creation and Common Grace" in Great Doctrines of the Bible: God the Holy Spirit (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 2:24–28.


July 12, 2009

Gerald Hamstra on the Tears of Jesus

What is the significance of these tears of Jesus? Certain theologians have taught that they were of little value as they were but human tears. It is true that Jesus wept only in his human nature, for God cannot weep. We may indeed distinguish between the two natures of Christ, but we may never separate the one from the other. He possessed two natures; however, he was only one person. Furthermore, these tears have a rich significance for they were Messianic tears. Christ was the Messiah. As such he reveals who God is. He gives us a precious view of what lives in the heart of God. Without Christ, these secrets would have remained hidden for ever.

The sinless Saviour was fully in agreement with the Father's justice in punishing the impenitent. Likewise, he believed in the sovereignty of God, as is evident from his own words, especially those recorded in Matthew 11 verse 25: 'I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes'. Yet the Saviour's tears reveal the sacred inner emotions of his sorrow. It is a sorrow that can never be measured. How strong was ever his desire that sinners would be saved! Was not the design of his entire ministry? Did he not spend all his time and energy for that purpose? Indeed, in life and death, he sought as no other has ever done, the honour of his Father and the salvation of the lost.

Are not his utterances as recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew a commentary on these tears of Jesus? See him exclaim, 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!'.

Ah, what a tenderness is here! How fervently the Saviour longs for the salvation of the lost! If only the unconverted sinner could know how rich a love dwells in the heart of our precious Redeemer! He understands the plight of the sinner as no one else. His gracious warnings are a proof of this; no less so are his tears. They cry out to the sinner: 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live' (Ezek. 33:11).
Gerald Hamstra, "Jesus Weeping over the Holy City," Banner of Truth 385 (October 1995): 26.

Iain Murray's Summary of His Book Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism

In a Banner of Truth article in November of 1995, Iain Murray included an extract from his book on Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching. Before the extract, he summarizes the intention of the book as follows:
The book is intended to show the momentous difference between evangelistic Calvinistic belief and that form of Calvinism which denies any desire on the part of God for the salvation of all men.
Iain H. Murray, "John Gill and C. H. Spurgeon," Banner of Truth 386 (November 1995): 16.

Iain Murray on the Sincerity of God's Offer

Finally, we can observe that the sincerity of God's offer even to the non-elect is in accordance with the truth that God does desire, delight and approve of things which, for other reasons, He has not determined to carry into effect. This distinction can be illustrated from God's commandments. His commandments express what He desires should be done. When the Israelites disobeyed them He cries–"O that my people had hearkened unto me." "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river . . ." (Psa. 81:13; Isa. 48:18; Deut. 5:29). Unmistakably such verses express what was God's desire. Yet we must say that though their actions were, in their own nature, displeasing to God, He had nevertheless willed and permitted such conduct for wise and holy ends. Similarly with the Gospel offer. God desires that everyone should believe it; He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11) but delights in their conversion1–thus Christ yearned for the salvation of the people of Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37). Yet this desire, in the case of the non-elect, is for the fulfillment of something which in His inscrutable counsel and sovereign purpose He has not actually decreed to come to pass. This distinction between God's desire and His will, or, more correctly stated between the will of God's benevolence and His decretive will, underlies the free offer of the Gospel.2 His benevolence and compassion, expressed in the universal call to repentance, extend to every creatures whom He has not decreed to save. At this mysterious evidence of the unsearchable character of God's ways the humble believer stops and says with Calvin "we go no farther than the Lord leads us by his Word."
1. "God delights in the conversion and eternal life of the sinner, as a thing pleasing in itself, and congruous with his infinitely compassionate nature, and therefore demands from man as a duty due from him to turn if he would live."–Francis Turretin (1623–1687), Professor of Theology at Geneva. Quoted in W. G. T. Shedd's Dogmatic Theology, vol. II, p. 483 (1889 edit.).

2. This distinction may be a new one to many readers but it is far from novel. Calvin, in expounding 2 Peter 3:9 (God is "not willing that any should perish"), distinguishes between God's wish or revealed will and His determinate (hidden) purpose in the following words: "But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the Gospel. For God there stretches out his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead unto himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world." Commentaries on The Catholic Epistles, p. 419.
Iain H. Murray, "The Free Offer of the Gospel: Viewed in the Light of the Marrow Controversy," Banner of Truth 11 (June 1958): 13–14.

July 11, 2009

Erroll Hulse on Hyper-Calvinism, Responsibility and John Gill

I thought this might be a useful addition to David's post [at Theology Online] asking, Was John Gill a hyper-Calvinist?
The essence of hyper-Calvinism is to minimise the moral and spiritual responsibilities of sinners. Hyperism undoubtedly affects preaching and teaching and is very dangerous because it can stultify and destroy the witness and life of a church. There are few exceptions. There have been some like William Gadsby, who although they intellectually adhered to hyperism nevertheless preached with such power and warmth that many were converted. They were better than the system to which they adhered. Gill's church on the other hand shrunk and we are not surprised. When Gill declared, "that there are universal offers of grace and salvation made to all men, I utterly deny", he was expressing with accuracy the deficiency of all his writings and works. Valuable though they may be in many other ways they are destitute of pleadings with sinners to repent, believe and be saved.
Erroll Hulse, The Free Offer of the Gospel: An Exposition of Common Grace and the Free Invitation of the Gospel (Worthington and Haywards Heath, Sussex,. UK: Carey Publications, 1973), 15.
John Gill, John Brine, Lewis Wayman and John Skepp were firmly in the hyper-Calvinist camp.
Ibid., 23.

Update on 9-1-2014:
As we look closely at his [Gill's] life and works we find that theologically he mingled with high Calvinists and you will look in vain for references to men at lower Calvinistic levels. Although these names may not be familiar to us now it is noteworthy that Gill's friendship was with Richard Davis, John Skepp, and John Brine who were all hyper-Calvinists. His preferences in literature lay in the direction of Tobias Crisp and the orthodox men of Holland such as Witsius, but also happily with Thomas Goodwin and John Owen. Gill's failure lay not so much in what he said but in what he omitted to say. Had he followed John Owen's line he would have surely ranked amongst the greatest theologians. He certainly was one of the most learned men the Baptists have ever produced. Unhappily he restricted the Gospel by failing to beseech the unconverted to be converted to God. To fail to do justice to scriptures which highlight man's responsibility to believe and repent and to suppress the gracious invitations of Christ to all men is to deprive the word "Gospel" of its real meaning. Invitations and exhortations are to the Gospel what heaters are to cold buildings in an English winter. Turn them off and the people freeze.
Erroll Hulse, An Introduction to the Baptists (Haywards Heath, UK: Carey Publications, 1976), 31.

Erroll Hulse's Definition of an "Offer"

The etymology—the facts relating to the formation and history of the use of a word or words—of the term "offer" takes us back to 1548. At that time a proposal of marriage was regarded as an offer. The word means a proposal to give or do something, to tender for acceptance or refusal. To carry this forward, we could say that an offer means that someone is proposing or expressing willingness to do something conditional upon the assent of the person addressed. Thus God said to David: "I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them" (2 Sam. 24:12).
Erroll Hulse, The Free Offer of the Gospel: An Exposition of Common Grace and the Free Invitation of the Gospel (Worthington and Haywards Heath, Sussex,. UK: Carey Publications, 1973), 13.

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Erroll Hulse on the Connection between Common Grace and the Free Offer

2. The connection between Common Grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel.

We have noted that the goodness of God extends to fallen mankind as a whole, not only in the provision of fruitful seasons, food and gladness, but in a multiplicity of benefits. But does God wish the very highest good for men, the highest blessing being eternal salvation? We say, Yes! The quotation just made from Acts 17 shows that common grace finds its fullest expression in the provision of a Gospel to be addressed to all without exception. Because he has provided the Gospel God now commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). But does he desire or wish salvation for all? We answer, Yes! He declares his feelings in unmistakable terms. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:32; 33:11). Moreover the optative (expressing wish or desire) force of the words, "Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me" (Deut. 5:29; 32:29; Psa. 81:13ff.; Isa. 48:18) expresses the same truth.

Consistent with these expressions are the teachings of Jesus (Matt. 5:44–48; Luke 6:35, 36) where we are exhorted to be "merciful" even as our Father is merciful. This mercy must include the desire for the salvation of man. If some disagree they cannot deny the clearest expressions of Jesus concerning his wish for the people to be saved, firstly, when he asserts his frustration concerning the ingathering of the Jews: "How oft would I have gathered you and ye would not" (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34), and secondly in his tears over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41–44).

Again the connection between God's goodness to all mankind and the free offer of the Gospel is seen in Rom. 2:4. The express purpose of God's goodness and forbearance to sinners is to lead them to repentance.

Likewise Paul and Barnabas try to stop the idolatry of the priests at Lystra by showing that all good things come from the sovereign Lord. Why then sacrifice to men? The provision of good things is a witness to remind men of God and turn them from vanities to him (Acts 14:16, 17).

The goodness of God towards all men is most clearly expressed in Isa. 45:22, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else". The same goodness is expressed in 1 Tim. 2:4, "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth". What could be clearer than that and who dare restrain the plain meaning of this verse or for that matter of 2 Peter. 3:9 where plainly the long-suffering of God is declared that the unrepentant might come to repentance?

The freeness of the Gospel overtures, or offers, as found in such passages as Isa. 55:1, "Ho, every one that thirstesth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price", and the poetic constraint of the closing paragraph of the Bible. "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely", offers further cogent proof of the most gracious expressions of God concerning his will for all men to be saved, not to mention those passages of sustained reasoning with sinners to turn and live, such as Isa. 1:16–20 and Ezek. 33:12–20, and also shorter expressions belonging to the same category such as Matt. 11:28–30 and Rev. 3:20.

Common grace, then, finds its highest expression in that desire and will of God not only for fallen man's temporal well-being but for his soul's salvation and eternal happiness.
Erroll Hulse, The Free Offer of the Gospel: An Exposition of Common Grace and the Free Invitation of the Gospel (Worthington and Haywards Heath, Sussex,. UK: Carey Publications, 1973), 7–8.

July 10, 2009

Iain H. Murray on God's Universal Love and Willingness to Save all Men

...there is a general proclamation of the love of God which comes to men in the preaching of the cross.
Iain H. Murray, "The Cross: The Pulpit of God's Love," Banner of Truth 494 (November 2004): 8.
What but that same love can explain such words as, 'You will not come unto me that you might have life' (John 5:40)? Or the tears that accompanied, 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!' (Luke 13:34; Matt. 23:37)? "Love towards all mankind in general', John Owen wrote, 'is enforced upon us by the example of Christ's own love and goodness, which are extended unto all.'19 And Owen encouraged his hearers to dwell on 'the love of Christ in his invitations of sinners to come unto him that they may be saved'.20

Some have sought to escape from the force of Christ's example by referring it to his human nature and not to his divine! But, as R. L. Dabney21 comments: 'It would impress the common Christian mind with a most painful feeling to be thus seemingly taught that holy humanity is more generous and tender than God.'

Christ's example, that reveals the very character of God, remains the permanent standard for the church. The same love of which he spoke to Nicodemus, and which he showed to the multitude, lies in his command that 'repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem' (Luke 24:47). And the apostles understood it when they preached indiscriminately to the Jerusalem sinners, who had rejected the Son of God, the astonishing news that God has sent Jesus 'to bless you, in turning every one of you from his iniquities' (Acts 3:26).22

Universal gospel preaching is proof of the reality of universal divine love. It is the same love of which we read in Ezekiel 33:11: "'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; turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?'" When the Pharisees complained of Christ, 'This man receives sinners, and eats with them', Jesus responded by speaking of the character of God: he is like the father of the prodigal son who 'saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him' (Luke 15:20). Christ's unwillingness that men should be lost is the same as the Father's. He desires that all men everywhere should turn and live. As John Murray has written:
There is a love of God which goes forth to lost men and is manifested in the manifold blessings which all men without distinction enjoy, a love in which non-elect persons are embraced, and a love which comes to its highest expression in the entreaties, overtures and demands of gospel proclamation.23
19. Works, vol. 15 (London: Banner of Truth, 1966), p. 70. The italics are in Owen.
20. Ibid, vol. 1, p. 422.
21. Discussions: Evangelical and Theological (reprinted, London: Banner of Truth, 1967), p. 308.
22. For the way in which the gospel message is individualized in apostolic testimony see also Acts 2:38; 3:19; Colossians 1:28; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9.
23. Collected Writings, vol. 1, p. 68.
Ibid., 8–9.
If there is no love except special love for the elect, then no one has any right to apprehend any love in God for him before he has evidence of his election, which is to say, before he is converted. And that would mean that preachers must not speak of the love of Christ indefinitely to all their unconverted hearers. But that would be to subvert gospel preaching. It would no longer be 'good news' for all; and no longer an appeal 'not to refuse the offered love of God'.

The nature of conversion is an issue involved here. Are men brought into the kingdom of God by an action of God that by-passes the human mind and will, or are those faculties involved in the change from death to life? Does Christ draw men to himself irrespective of their thoughts and their consent? The scriptural answer has to be that conversion includes hearing and understanding; the Holy Spirit uses truth to convince of sin; that is the first work. But conviction of sin only speaks of God's holiness; it tells the sinner nothing of God's willingness to pardon; it does nothing to remove the suspicion—common to fallen man—that God is against him and unconcerned for his happiness. For that another message is needed. It is only the disclosure of love which can persuade the sinner of God's readiness and willingness to pardon, and thus the necessity that love be made known to all indefinitely in the free offer of the gospel. Love is the great attraction. Love stands foremost in the gospel appeal. 'It is not the over-heavy load of sin', says John Bunyan, 'but the discovery of mercy . . . that makes a man come to Jesus Christ . . . Behold how the promises, invitations, calls, and encouragements, like lilies, lie round about thee! Take heed that thou dost not tread them underfoot, sinner. With promises, did I say? Yea, he hath mixed all those with his own name, his Son's name; also, with the names of mercy, goodness, compassion, love, pity, grace, forgiveness, pardon, and what not, that he might encourage the coming sinner'.11

On the same point, John Owen wrote, 'Christ draws none to himself whether they will or no; but he casts on their minds, hearts, and wills the cords of his grace and love, working in them powerfully, working on them kindly, to cause them to choose him . . . Drawing grace is manifested in, and drawing love proceeds from, the suffering of Christ on the cross.'12

This love is to be proclaimed in the gospel not to men as elect but to men as sinners.13 That is why any message that would not include love to individuals until there is evidence of election turns the gospel upside down. It withholds the very truth most conducive to brings souls to rest in Christ. Without question, history teaches us that the evangelists most used of God have all been men for whom love has been the main theme.14 Our sin must be discovered, says Richard Sibbes, 'to drive us out of ourselves', but then 'there must be a great deal of persuasion to still the accusing conscience of a sinner, to set it down, make it quiet, and persuade it of God's love'.15

Persuading men of God's love is the great calling of the Christian ministry. It is part of preaching 'to root out all the secret reserves of unbelief concerning God's unwillingness to give mercy, grace and pardon to sinners'.16 It cannot be done without conviction in the preacher that this love is a wonderful reality, and that it is to be pressed on all his hearers.

Yet, it may be asked, if this love is not necessarily saving, should the distinction between 'general' and 'special' not be made clear to people when the gospel is being presented? The answer has to be no, for Scripture itself makes no such distinction in the presentation of the gospel to the lost. And the reason why it does not do so is plain: it is not a doctrine either of special love or of general love that is to be offered to sinners; it is rather Christ himself
. More than that, it is not ultimately preachers who offer Christ to others; but Christ—divine love incarnate—speaks in the gospel and offers himself fully and freely to the most undeserving, if they will but receive him. 'Christ offers himself in mercy to the worst soul'17, even, as Whitefield used to say, to 'the devil's castaways'.
11. Bunyan, Works, vol. 1, p. 286, 298. 'Men must see something in Jesus Christ, else they will not come to him' (p. 295). A fine example of preaching that pleads with men can be seen in the closing pages of Bunyan's Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, from which these quotes are taken.
12. Works, vol. 9, p. 592.
13. See ibid, vol. 6, p. 523. Owen is including both the universal and the particular when he says that the freeness of God's mercy does not interfere with the efficacy. 'Though he [God] proclaim pardon in the blood of Christ indefinitely, according to the fullness and excellency of it, yet he giveth out his quickening grace to enable men to receive it; for he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy. but this lies in the thing itself; the way is opened and prepared, and it is not because men cannot enter, but because they will not, that they do not enter.' p. 529.
14. Evidence for this statement is vast. I give some of it in my book, Pentecost Today? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1998), pp. 90–9.
15. Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, vol. 2 (repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth 2000), pp. 186, 84.
16. Owen, Works, vol. 6, p. 504.
17. Sibbes, vol. 2, p. 187. 'It is our office, thus to lay open and offer the riches of Christ.'
Iain H. Murray, "The Cross: The Pulpit of God's Love—Part 2," Banner of Truth 495 (December 2004): 16–17.

July 9, 2009

Dan Philips' Karate, or Kah-rrah-tay?

For those of you who are familiar with Seinfeld, you may recall the pathetic episode in this sitcom when Kramer was involved in Karate classes. He eventually told Jerry and Elaine about it, and Kramer called it "Kah-rrah-tay" so that he sounded like he was deeply knowledgeable about it. Kramer even boasted about being "top in the class" in order to give inspiration and encouragement to Elaine to run the J. Peterman catalog. Jerry and Elaine eventually discovered that Kramer was top in his class because he was merely fighting little crumb crunching kids. Elaine's inspiration turned to disillusionment, and the J. Peterman company eventually produced the hilarious-looking urban sombrero.

Well, it seems that Kramer is not the only one involved in Kah-rrah-tay. Dan Philips on TeamPyro has reposted his "Karate exegesis [requested classic re-post]," wherein he discusses his view of "effective redemption" in order to show us how and why he is "top of his class." From the looks of it, he, too, is just fighting kids.

Dan seeks to illustrate his method of giving theological karate chops by showing how he might discuss...
Purposeful Redemption — that is, the view that our sovereign Lord died so as actually to save particular people (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 1:15), not to save everyone in general but nobody in particular. (Or "Effective Redemption," in that we affirm that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners [1 Timothy 1:15], not merely make it possible for them to add the necessary critical ingredient to save themselves.)
First of all observe his overly simplistic either/or dilemma:

1a) Either the Lord died so as actually to save a particular people, or
2a) to save everybody in general but nobody in particular.

Apparently he is only concerned to contrast his view with his perception of Arminian teaching on the subject. Dan's own view is that Christ not only came to save the elect in particular, but that He also only died for their sins. This is strict particularism. From the rest of Dan's statements in his post, it would also seem that he is unwittingly suggesting that Christ actually saves the elect at the time of the cross.

He describes Arminianism as if they believe Christ came "to save everybody in general but nobody in particular." Their view would more fairly be described as saying that Christ came to save everybody equally (and nobody especially), and He therefore died for the sins of all men. Also, what is absent from Dan's simplistic either/or dilemma is the classic dualistic position held by many Calvinists; namely that Christ came to save all men according to God's revealed will (and He expressed this in sufficiently dying for the sins of all men), but Christ especially came to save his elect. This is another variety of particular redemption, as acknowledged by J. L. Dagg, that Dan leaves out of the picture altogether.

Again, Dan suggests that either:

1b) Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, or
2b) Christ came into the world merely to make it possible for men to be saved if they just "add the necessary critical ingredient to save themselves."

For those who are not used to the language, "sinners" above is just code for "the elect." So, either Jesus came into the world to save the elect, or Christ came merely to make it possible for all men to be saved if they believe (presumably by a faith arising from their free will). First, there's no hint in Dan's presentation that Christ came in to the world to save any of the non-elect in any sense, even though Dan has stated that he believes that elsewhere. And, given that Dan thinks that God is expressing a willingness to save all men via common grace, and common grace flows from the cross, why doesn't he think that Christ came into the world to save all those that receive common grace by virtue of his death? He omits these things.

Moreover, Dan uses the term "merely" to qualify the second option, that Christ "merely" came into the world to make it possible for all men to be saved. Why say "merely"? Does Dan also think that Christ came into the world to render all men saveable by his death? If so, how can he consistently believe this since Christ only suffered for the sins of the elect in his view? The rest are without a remedy, and thus utterly without the hope of being saved. Consequently, there's no need for the qualifying term "merely," since Dan cannot consistently say the non-elect are rendered saveable at all on his view.

Missing again is the classic dualistic position; namely, that Christ came into the world to especially save his elect, but also to render all men saveable by an all-sufficient sacrifice that grounds the well-meant offer to all men, and leaves them without any excuse. The only barrier remaining to their salvation is their own moral inability, not the need of a sacrifice for their sins as well.

After these overly simplistic dichotomies, Dan brings up defeaters that his opponents might use against him, along with his own Kah-rrah-tay responses. The first is 1 John 2:2:
Our friend pulls out 1 John 2:2 — "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world," and slaps it on the table with the air of a gambler laying down the winning card.

"The whole world," our friend emphasizes meaningfully, perhaps tapping the verse in his Bible. "Not for ours only."
Rather than produce a long defensive dissertation in response, Dan wants to turn things around and suggest that 1 John 2:2 is a problem for his opponents. Rightly expecting a puzzled look in response, Dan choppingly says "kiyai!," and then asks, "Your idea is that 'world' means every human being who ever was, or ever will be born, right?" (Nod.) "So, do you believe that every human being ever born will go to Heaven?"

Remember, his Kah-rrah-tay opponent is merely a theological kid, so hence the rash "Nod" to the question about the meaning of "world." "World" does not have to mean either every human being who ever was or will be, as opposed to a) all of the elect or b) some of the elect. It's as if Dan hasn't considered the possibility that the "world" is all living unregenerate humanity on earth, or some of these in some given place at some point in history. Observe the following chart [click the picture to enlarge]:

The proper view of what the "world" is biblically is not (A), (C1), or even the entire class of all the elect considered in the abstract. Rather, it is (C2), or all living unregenerate humanity on earth at any given point in time, which includes the unbelieving elect and non-elect. Some eventually come out of the world by the effectual grace of the Holy Spirit [i.e. the believing elect in C1] and eventually enter heavenly bliss (D1), while others remain in the world and eventually die in their unbelieving state (D2). Dan, again, sets up a simplistic picture of what his opponents believe on the term "world," as if they all think it is (A). Then, since they cannot biblically prove that the "world" is ever used of class (A), or all humanity that will ever exist, he can suggest that it may mean all of the elect as such or perhaps the believing elect in some contexts. He never pauses to consider if (C2) would make sense, as in John 3:16 or 1 John 5:19. It's as though Dan can't conceive of a consistent Calvinist saying what Ezekiel Culverwell said, i.e. "I profess I cannot find any one clear place where [the World] must of necessity be taken for the Elect only."

There are a number of factors driving Dan to think of the "world" as the elect in some instances. One of them is the double payment argument. This is why Dan asks his opponent who thinks of the "world" as more than the elect according to 1 John 2:2 the following question: "So, do you believe that every human being ever born will go to Heaven?" He thinks his opponent will have a "real problem" with 1 John 2:2 since it is said that Christ is [not 'could be,' etc.] the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Since propitiation "is a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God," all those for whom Christ propitiated cannot possibly run the risk of going to hell. Dan employs Owen's double payment argument and asks his Kah-rrah-tay opponent:
So, if you're right about 'the whole world,' then John is saying that Christ has turned away the wrath of God for the sins of every human being ever born — you, me, Judas, the Beast, the False Prophet — everyone.

On that understanding, how can anyone be under God's wrath, which Christ propitiated? How can anyone be in Hell? Why are they there? For what are they being judged and punished?
Dan doesn't seem to realize that this is a double-edged sword. Wasn't Dan under God's wrath when he was in unbelief (Eph. 2:3), despite the fact that Christ died for his sins? Didn't Dan stand under the condemnation of God when in unbelief (John 3:18), despite the fact that he was one of the elect for whom Christ died? Was God making sham threats about perishing to unbelieving Dan in the gospel call, since Dan was never really in a damnable state? On Dan's system, it would seem, the elect are never damnable and the non-elect are never saveable. The elect are not receiving sincere threats and the non-elect are not receiving sincere offers, by implication. If Dan rejects this thinking or conclusion, then on what basis was he subject to God's wrath and standing condemned? Because of his unbelief? Well, didn't Christ die for that unbelief? We could say to Dan as he says to his opponent:
On that understanding, how can any of the elect be under God's wrath, which Christ propitiated? How can any of them really be subject to damnation and therefore sincerely threatened with perishing? Why do the unbelieving elect stand condemned? For what are they being judged and punished?

"For their unbelief," Dan may say.

"Oh, I see. Is unbelief a sin?," I ask innocently.

"From what I read, unbelief certainly is a sin." I can conclude sympathetically, "you have a real problem. On your view, either unbelief isn't a sin, in which case God is a liar; or none of the elect can be under God's wrath, in which case, again, God is a liar; or Christ really isn't a propitiation for all the sins of the elect—in which case, one more time, God is a liar. Do you think God is a liar?"
Dan would not accept the view that all of the elect are justified at the cross, or in eternity, but he has opened to door to that position in order to get the conclusion he wants, i.e. a strictly limited atonement based on the commercial causal categories involved in the double payment argument. If Christ can be the propitiation for the sins of all of the elect and yet they, when in unbelief, can stand condemned and be subjects of God's wrath, then why can't Christ also be the propitiatory sacrifice for more than the elect? Our Kah-rrah-tay exegete needs to consider the arguments of Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney, John Davenant, Edward Polhill, Curt Daniel, among others, who are Calvinists that rejected the double payment argument. Carl Trueman doesn't even think it is a strong argument.

On 1 John 2:2, Charles Hodge rightly said:
This is what is meant when it is said, or implied in Scripture, that Christ gave Himself as a propitiation, not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. He was a propitiation effectually for the sins of his people, and sufficiently for the sins of the whole world. Augustinians have no need to wrest the Scriptures. They are under no necessity of departing from their fundamental principle that it is the duty of the theologian to subordinate his theories to the Bible, and teach not what seems to him to be true or reasonable, but simply what the Bible teaches."
 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 2:558–559.

Along the same lines, R. L. Dabney said:
In 1 John 2:2, it is at least doubtful whether the express phrase, “whole world,” can be restrained to the world of elect as including other than Jews. For it is indisputable, that the Apostle extends the propitiation of Christ beyond those whom he speaks of as “we,” in verse first. The interpretation described obviously proceeds on the assumption that these are only Jewish believers. Can this be substantiated? Is this catholic epistle addressed only to Jews? This is more than doubtful. It would seem then, that the Apostle’s scope is to console and encourage sinning believers with the thought that since Christ made expiation for every man, there is no danger that He will not be found a propitiation for them who, having already believed, now sincerely turn to him from recent sins."
 R. L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2002), 525.

"Maybe now our friend might be willing to consider that the text is capable of a better construction." Either way, we would encourage Dan to study what other Calvinists have said on 1 John 2:2.

The simplistic either/or dilemmas, the faulty conceptions of the "world" and the employment of the double payment argument (and Owen's Trilemma that is built on it) may seem like "karate exegesis" to some, but it really results in Kah-rrah-tay eisegesis, and merely inspires others to create theological urban sombreros :-)

Here are the funny scenes from Seinfeld:

UPDATE: I linked to this post in the comment section of Dan's post on TeamPyro, but he deleted it. I was accused of using the comment section as a "link depot." One cannot win. If you engage at length in the comment section there, you're "trolling." If you leave a single link to some extensive response that's too long to leave in a comment section, then you're using the place as a "link depot." It's standard in the blogosphere to leave a link to a longer response, but he apparently "disagrees."

It's really about information control.

July 8, 2009

Walter Chantry on the Mutual Attraction Between Jesus and Sinners

...Christ energetically and persistently went in search of sinners with an insatiable desire to find them.
Walter J. Chantry, "The Mutual Attraction Between Jesus and Sinners," Banner of Truth 494 (November 2004): 28.
Jesus is like the injured Father who ran to meet his lost son and, upon meeting him, fell on his neck with kisses. Jesus is like the father who leaves the party that delights his heart to go outside and to plead with the obstinate 'scribe and Pharisee sinner' to join the merrymaking over sinner(s) who have returned.
Ibid.: 29.
I am afraid that too many, like the scribes and Pharisees, see sinners as bothersome. We are attempting to build a 'clean' society and they are in the way. They disrupt our programme and dirty the landscape. But they are torn asunder by their sins and taken captive by the wicked one at his will. Is there no loving pity for sinners? Their humanity is utterly shattered by their own sin.
Our Saviour's heart is drawn out to these scenes of lost humanity. He has an urge to be near the broken specimens known as sinners. We say that we want to imitate our Lord Jesus. Surely if we begin to be more like him, we too will desire to spend time with sinners, to be fishers of men, to labour at recovering lost humanity. The Saviour's high purpose in coming into the world was 'to seek and save that which was lost'. How can we be like him and not share that purpose to some extent?
Ibid.: 30.
Evangelism of sinners is very close to the core of his heart of love.
Ibid.: 31.
Never does God take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:32, 33:11). The last-mentioned verse declares that God's pleasure arises from seeing the wicked turn from his way to live.
Even as Jesus rejoiced in the recovery of the lost, he showed compassion upon the benighted scribes and Pharisees. He took time to seek out Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Simon (Luke 7), and others. Not only did he eat with sinners, Jesus also ate with Pharisees and scribes in order to win them.
When Jesus walked on earth, sinners and publicans sensed something of that lovingkindness and compassion. Thus they kept coming to him. They would not approach the scribes and Pharisees, because these men had an uncaring, critical spirit toward them. Our Lord's love for sinners drew them to his ministry. It appealed to sinners to arise and return home. Oh, may God give us such an imitation of Christ's love that we may be effective evangelists for his glorious kingdom!

Ministers especially are called to represent the Saviour to sinners, not only in words but in disposition. The clergy (scribes and Pharisees then) should display a desire to be near to sinners, a compassion for sinners, a joy in recovering the lost, a pleading with the most obdurate sinners.
Ibid.: 32.

July 7, 2009

John Howe (1630–1705) on Anthropopathic Speech, God's Will and His Compassion

IV. If with any that have lived under the gospel, their day is quite expired, and the things of their peace now for ever hid from their eyes, this is in itself a most deplorable case, and much lamented by our Lord Jesus Christ himself.–That the case is in itself most deplorable, who sees not? A soul lost! A creature capable of God, upon its way to him, near to the kingdom of God–shipwrecked in the port! O sinner, from how high a hope art thou fallen; into what depths of misery and woe!

And that it was lamented by our Lord, is in the text. He "beheld the city,"–very generally, we have reason to apprehend, inhabited by such wretched creatures,–"and wept over it." This was a very affectionate lamentation. We lament often, very heartily, many a sad case, for which we do not shed tears. But tears,–such tears,–falling from such eyes,–the issues of the purest and best-governed passion that ever was,–showed the true greatness of the cause. Here could be no exorbitancy or unjust excess, nothing more than was proportionable to the occasion. There needs no other proof that this is a sad case, than that our Lord lamented it with tears; which that he did we are plainly told, so that touching that there is no place for doubt. All that is liable to question is, whether we are to conceive in him any like resentments of such cases in the present glorified state?

Indeed we cannot think heaven a place or state of sadness or lamentation; and must take heed of conceiving anything there, especially on the throne of glory, unsuitable to the most perfect nature and the most glorious state. We are not to imagine tears there, which in that happy region are wiped away from inferior eyes; no grief, sorrow, or sighing, which are all fled away and shall be no more, as there can be no other turbid passion of any kind. But when expressions that import anger or grief are used, even concerning God himself, we must sever in our conception everything of imperfection and ascribe everything real perfection. We are not to think such expressions signify nothing; that they have no meaning or that nothing at all is to be attributed to him under them.

Nor are we, again, to think they signify the same thing with what we find in ourselves and are wont to express by those names. In the Divine nature, there may be real and yet most serene complacency and displacency,–namely, that are unaccompanied with the least commotion, and import nothing of imperfection, but perfection rather; as it is a perfection to apprehend things suitably to what in themselves they are. The Holy Scriptures frequently speak of God as angry and grieved for the sins of men, and their miseries which ensue therefrom; and a real aversion and dislike is signified thereby, and by many other expressions which in us would signify vehement agitations of affection that we are sure can have no place in him. We ought, therefore, in our own thoughts, to ascribe to him that calm aversion of will in reference to the sins and miseries of men in general; and in our own apprehensions to remove to the utmost distance from him all such agitations of passion or affection; even though some expressions that occur carry a great appearance thereof, should they be understood according to human measures, as they are human forms of speech: as,–to instance in what is said by the glorious God himself, and very near in sense to what we have in the text,–what can be more pathetic than that lamenting wish, "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!"

But we must take heed lest, under the pretense that we cannot ascribe everything to God that such expressions seem to import, we therefore ascribe nothing. We ascribe nothing, if we do not ascribe to him a real unwillingness that men should sin on and perish; and consequently, a real willingness that they should turn to him and live, which so many plain texts assert. And therefore it is unavoidably imposed upon us, to believe that God is truly willing of some things, which he doth not think fit to interpose his omnipotency to hinder, and is truly willing of some things which he doth not put forth his omnipotency to effect: that he most fitly makes this the ordinary course of his dispensations towards men,– to govern them by laws, and promises, and threatenings, (made most express to them that live under the gospel,) to work upon their minds, their hope and their fear; affording them the ordinary assistances of supernatural light and influence with which he requires them to comply, and which, upon their refusing to do so, he may most righteously withhold, and give them the victory to their own ruin; though oftentimes he doth, from a sovereignty of grace, put forth that greater power upon others, equally negligent and obstinate, not to enforce, but effectually to incline, their wills, and gain a victory over them to their salvation.

Nor is his will towards the rest altogether ineffectual, though it have not this effect. For whatsoever thou art that livest under the gospel, though thou dost not know that God so wills thy conversion and salvation as to effect it whatsoever resistance thou now makest; though thou art not sure he will finally overcome all thy resistance and pluck thee as a firebrand out of the mouth of hell; yet thou canst not say his good-will towards thee hath been without any effect at all tending thereto. He hath often called upon thee in his gospel to repent and turn to him through Christ; he hath waited on thee with long patience, and given thee time and space of repentance; he hath within that time been often at work with thy soul. Hath he not many times let in beams of light upon thee, shown thee the evil of thy ways, convinced thee, awakened thee, half persuaded thee? And thou never hadst reason to doubt but that, if thou hadst set thyself with serious diligence "to work out thy own salvation," he would have wrought on, so as to have brought things to a blessed issue for thy soul.

Thou mightest discern his mind towards thee to be agreeable to his word, wherein he hath testified to thee he desired not the death of sinners, that he "hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth," or in the death of the wicked, "but that he should turn and live;" exhorted thee; expostulated with thee and others in thy condition, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" He hath told thee expressly thy stubbornness and contending against him did "grieve" him, and "vex his Spirit;" that thy sin wherein thou hast indulged thyself hath been "an abomination to him," that it was "the abominable thing which his soul hated,"–that he was "broken with the whorish heart" of such as thou, and "pressed therewith as a cart that was full of sheaves."

Now, such expressions as these, though they are borrowed from man, must be understood suitably to God; though they do not signify the same thing with him as they do in us, yet they do not signify nothing. As, when hands and eyes are attributed to God, they do not signify as they do with us, yet they signify somewhat correspondent,–as active and visive power; so these expressions, though they signify not in God such unquiet motions and passions as they would in us, they do signify a mind and will really, though with the most perfect calmness and tranquillity, set against sin and the horrid consequences of it; which yet, for greater reasons than we can understand, he may not see fit to do all he can to prevent. And if we know not how to reconcile such a will in God with some of our notions concerning the Divine nature, shall we, for what we have thought of him, deny what he hath so expressly said of himself or pretend to understand his nature better than he himself doth?

And when we see, from such express sayings in Scripture (reduced to a sense becoming to God), how God's mind stands in reference to sinners and their self-destroying ways, we may thence apprehend what temper of mind our Lord Jesus also bears towards them in the like case, even in his glorified state. For can you think there is a disagreement between him and the Father about these things? And whereas we find our blessed Lord, in the days of his flesh, one while complaining men "would not come to him that they might have life;" elsewhere grieved at the "hardness of their hearts;" and here scattering tears over sinning and perishing Jerusalem,–we cannot doubt but that–the innocent perturbation which his earthly state did admit being severed–his mind is still the same in reference to cases of the same nature; for can we think there is any disagreement between him and himself? We cannot therefore doubt but that,—

1. He distinctly comprehends the truth of any such case. He beholds from the throne of his glory above, all the treaties which are held and managed with sinners in his name, and what their deportments are therein. "His eyes are as a flame of fire," wherewith he "searcheth hearts and trieth reins" He hath seen, therefore, sinner, all along, every time an offer of grace hath been made to thee, and been rejected; when thou hast slighted counsels and warnings that have been given thee, exhortations and entreaties that have been pressed upon thee, for many years together; and how thou hast hardened thy heart against reproofs and threatenings, against promises and allurements; and beholds the tendency of all this, what is like to come of it,–and that, if thou persist, it will be bitterness in the end.

2. That he hath a real dislike of the sinfulness of thy course. It is not indifferent to him whether thou obeyest or disobeyest the gospel,–whether thou turn and repent, or no; that he is truly displeased at thy trifling, sloth, negligence, impenitency, hardness of heart, stubborn obstinacy and contempt of his grace; and takes real offence at them.

3. He hath real kind propensions towards thee, and is ready to receive thy returning soul, and effectually to mediate with the offended Majesty of heaven for thee as long as there is any hope in thy case.

4. When he sees there is no hope, he pities thee, while thou seest it not, and dost not pity thyself. Pity and mercy above are not names only; it is a great reality that is signified by them, and that hath place there in far higher excellency and perfection than it can with us poor mortals here below. Ours is but borrowed and participated from that first fountain and original above. Thou dost not perish unlamented, even with the purest heavenly pity, though thou hast made thy case incapable of remedy: as the well-tempered judge bewails the sad end of the malefactor, whom justice obliges him not to spare or save.
John Howe, "The Redeemer's Tears Wept Over Lost Souls," in The Works of John Howe (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1862), 2:315–320.


Part of this is cited with approval by Iain H. Murray in "The Cross: The Pulpit of God's Love Part 2," Banner of Truth 495 (December 2004): 14. In Murray's article, he strongly affirms God's love for all men and God's desire that all men be saved, citing Howe (and others) to sustain his case historically.