August 27, 2009

Samuel Slater (d.1704) on God's Readiness and Desire to Receive Sinners

You that are Elder, and are yet in your sins, walking on in the vanity of your minds, suffer the word of exhortation, do you return, and that presently, for you have nothing to shew why you should not; you have taken your swing, and rambled far enough, and lived without God long enough; a man would think you have had your belly full of wind and ashes, and husks, that you have had enough of base sins, and what is worse than childish vanities, and are guilty of such egregious, and ruining follies that you have reason to be weary of them. I beseech you learn to be wise, it is, indeed it is high time, if you will not be wise now, when will you? You that are younger, do ye apply your hearts to true wisdom, come, ye Children, hearken to me, come, ye young men and maidens, come in to God, who desires you, who calls you, who stands with his arms ready and stretched out to receive you, come to him in whom you will find rest to your Souls, and have such joys as will be great and cheap, and never end in sorrow. It is much more easy for you to return than it is for old sinners, who have grown grey in their rebellion and obstinacy, for you are not gone so far from God as they have done, and you have not so many Chains and Fetters,...
Samuel Slater, The Souls Return to its God, in Life, and at Death (London: Printed for John Dunton at the Black Raven in the Poultry, 1690), E1r.

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John Cotton (1584–1652) Explains God's Sincere and Earnest Will and Desire for the Salvation of the World

Since we do not have Cotton's original Treatise dealing with predestination, we must rely on Twisse's copy in his examination of this Treatise. He records Cotton's words as follows:
Besides, to cleare this point more fully, the will of God towards the world is put forth in a disjunct axiome; viz. either to give life unto the world, upon the condition of their obedience; or to inflict death, upon the condition of their disobedience. Now, as in a disjunct axiome the whole proportion is true, if either part be true; so the will put forth in a disjunct axiome is alwayes accomplished, if either act be accomplished.

But if it be objected, how may it appeare this will of God to give life to the world, upon condition of their obedience, is serious and not pretended; since if hee would hee is able to give them such hearts as would cause them to obey him?

I answer; That God willeth it seriously, appeares manifestly by the declaration of his will already mentioned; viz. his Oath, his Covenant, yea, and the workes of each Person in the Trinity, tending to this end, to give life to the world: all which it were blasphemy to thinke they were not done seriously. Doth the living God sweare, and not sweare in earnest? God forbid. Doth God enter into Covenant with his creature, and intend no performance of promise according to his Covenant? farre be it from the just and holy God to doe it, and from us to imagine it. Shall we think each Person in the Trinity slighteth the worke of the salvation of mankind, because mankind slighteth to work out their salvation with the Trinity?

But, besides the declaration of Gods will, thus seriously expressed, I produce the teares of our Saviour over Jerusalem, lamenting their carelesse neglect of the day of their peace: which argued, not onely in Christ as man, a serious compassion of their affected ignorance and misery; but also, as God, a tender consideration of their peace, and of providing the meanes for it. Moreover, what shall we thinke of those passionate exclamations? Oh, that there were in this people an heart to feare mee, and to keep my commandments alwayes, that it may goe well with them, and with their children forever! Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! Oh, that my people had hearkened unto mee, and that Israel had walked in my wayes! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. Do not all these speeches expresse an earnest and serious affection in God, as concerning the conversion and salvation of this people, whereof sundry died in their sinnes? It is true, God might have given them such hearts as to have feared and obeyed him; which though hee did not, yet his will that they had such hearts was serious still. To cleare it by a comparison: The father of the family hath both his son and servant dangerously sick of the stone; to heale them both, the father useth sundry medicines, even all that art prescribeth, except cutting: when hee seeth no other remedy, he perswades them both to suffer cutting, to save their lives: they both refuse it; yet his sonne hee taketh, and bindeth him hand and foot, and causeth him to endure it, and so saveth his life. His servant also hee urgeth with many vehement inducements, to submit himselfe to the same remedy; but if a servant obstinately refuse, hee will not alwayes strive with him, nor enforce him to such breaking and renting of his body. But yet, did not his Master seriously desire his healing and life, though hee did not proceed to the cutting asunder of his flesh, which hee saw his servant would not abide to heare of? So in this case, both the elect and men of this world are dangerously sicke of a stony heart; to heale both sorts the Lord useth sundry meanes; promises, judgments, threatnings, and mercies: when they refuse, hee draweth them both; the one with his almighty power, the other with the cords of man, (viz. such as are resistible) to this cutting and wounding, that their soules might live: and the elect are brought to yeeld; and the men of this world break all cords asunder, and cast away such bonds from them. Shall we now say, God did not seriously desire the healing of such mens hearts, because hee procured not to bind them with strong cords, to breake them with such woundings as they will not abide to heare of? Thus having laid down the grounds of my judgment touching the first Point, That there is a will and purpose in God for to reward the world as well with life, upon condition of obedience; as with death, upon condition of disobedience; I come now to the grounds of the second Point.
William Twisse, A Treatise of Mr. Cottons (London: Printed by J. D. for Andrew Crook, and are to be sold at his shop at the Signe of the Green Dragon in Pauls Church-yard, 1646), 100–102.

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August 26, 2009

John Cotton (1584–1652) on God's Love for Mankind

Since we do not have Cotton's original Treatise dealing with predestination, we must rely on Twisse's copy in his examination of this Treatise. He records Cotton's words thusly:
"And amongst them of our selves, onely this let me adde; because, verum & bonum convertuntur, every divine truth is rich in profitable use: I have been confirmed in this truth, by the holy usefulness thereof to all sorts.

1 To the Elect it maintaineth and cherisheth the freeness and largeness of the riches of the grace of God to them, whose salvation he carrieth along in all the wayes of it, not according to their works, but according to his purpose and grace given them in Christ before the world was; under whom also are spread the everlasting armes of Gods almightie power and eternal love to guide and preserve them to his heavenly kingdome; which grace to us is so much the more magnified, when wee behold the severitie, and yet equitie, of his justice towards the world of mankind; who though he love them as his creatures, yet he dealeth with them according to their workes, which in the end windeth up in their woeful and just destruction."
William Twisse, A Treatise of Mr. Cottons (London: Printed by J. D. for Andrew Crook, and are to be sold at his shop at the Signe of the Green Dragon in Pauls Church-yard, 1646), 135.

This "love" for "the world of mankind" as "his creatures," according to Cotton, clearly includes those individuals who are finally and justly destroyed.

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August 25, 2009

On "Dortian Calvinism," and Other Sloppy Labels

I recently read a post on Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin's blog dealing with “Dortian” Calvinism and “regular” Calvinism, so I decided to leave a few comments that I will post here as well, with a few adjustments.
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In conversations I’ve had with Dr. David Allen (Dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), it seems that he was (previously) under the impression that “Dortian Calvinism” was Calvinism with the strict view of limited atonement. He is now very much aware of the historical diversity among Calvinists on the issue of the extent of Christ’s satisfaction. So, the label “Dortian Calvinism” is, for the most part, erroneously being used only to describe Calvinists with the Owenic perspective on the extent of Christ’s death. Through his own studies and through my conversations with Dr. Allen, men of his soteriological persuasion are seeing the historical inaccuracy of such language. I suspect that we will see the decline of the label “Dortian Calvinism” in the future, which is good. There was significant diversity at Dort, and all parties (whether Calvinistic or not) should at least acknowledge that fact.

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Incidentally, the labels "5 point" and "4 point" Calvinism should also be dropped, but, unfortunately, I doubt that will be the case, due in part to theological laziness. Even Amyraut taught a limitation in Christ's intentionality as it related to the elect and consequently in the Holy Spirit's application of his benefits, but not in the imputation of sin to Christ (unlike Owen). John Davenant, who should be distinguished from the Amyraldian trajectory (as recently acknowledged by Dr. Richard Muller), taught a similar kind of dualism, i.e. Christ suffered for the sins of all men, but with a special intentionality to ultimately apply the benefits only to the elect.

Strict particularists and Dualists (in the English and Bremen delegations) were both present at Dort, and the Dortian language was left ambiguous enough to include BOTH parties. So, if the "5 points" come from Dort, they can ALL be considered "5 pointers." If the "5 points" come from John Owen (or Beza, Turretin, etc.), then only the strict particularists can be called "5 pointers."

Notice what J. L. Dagg even says about the historical label "particular redemption":
The adaptedness of Christ's death to serve as a ground for universal gospel invitations, constitutes it in the view of some persons a universal redemption. . . Other persons who maintain the doctrine of particular redemption, distinguish between redemption and atonement, and because of the adaptedness referred to, consider the death of Christ an atonement for the sins of all men; or as an atonement for sin in the abstract.
J. L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, VA.: Gano Books, 1990), 326.

Dagg knows about "others" who "maintain the doctrine of 'particular redemption'" who yet "consider the death of Christ an atonement for the sins of all men." If one reads W. G. T. Shedd carefully, one can see that he fits in this latter description by Dagg. But here's the point: Just as people automatically associate the label "5 pointer" with Owenism today, even so they automatically equate the term "particular redemption" with the view that "Christ only suffered for the sins of the elect." The language is imprecise, so this automatic association of ideas may be an error.

We're better off talking about where people find the limitation as we distinguish between the 1) intent, 2) extent and 3) application.

1) Does one think Christ has a special intention that corresponds to the concept of unconditional election? All Calvinists must agree that he did. That's one area where there can be a kind of "limitation."

2) Does one, in addition to the above, think that the limited special intent also causes a limit in the imputation of sin to Christ, so that he was only judicially punished for the elect? That's another degree of limitation, and not all Calvinists (even at Dort) agree on this issue.

3) Does one think that the eternal application of Christ's benefits only to some human beings (the believing elect) results from the Holy Spirit effectually operating in accord with the inter-Trinitarian purpose of unconditional election? This is another area of "limitation."

All Calvinists must agree to #1 and #3, but they do not all agree on #2. I'm content to call those who agree with #1 and #3 "moderate Calvinists," while those who also agree with the further limitation in #2 "strict Calvinists," since Christ was strictly or solely punished for the sins of the elect, not all mankind. That seems fair, and much more accurate than the sloppy "4 point" or "5 point" or "Dortian Calvinist" labels. It's not as easy to explain in conversations because people generally want to use quick and easy bumper sticker theological slogans, rather than critically engage the facts.

Stephen Lobb (c.1647–1699) on Christ's Sufferings

Propos. 1.


1. That on the account of Christ's sufferings in humane nature all mankind is, in some sense, so far redeemed from that misery, in which, antecedently unto the Promise of Christ's death, they did lie, that they are not in a much more happy condition than the faln Angels, not only upon the account of their receiving at least a temporarie reprieve from everlasting flames, but also because their Salvation is become possible.

EXPLICATION.


Faln man, antecedently unto the promise of the Messiah, being in as helpless, and as desperately miserable condition, as the Devils themselves, and as unable to satisfy divine justice, any other way, than by remaining in chains of darkness for ever, Christ's sufferings afford that relief unto all mankind, as to deliver them from this misery that is so desperate; for their salvation is not now as impossible, as it was before the promise of the Lord Jesus: For the Lord Christ satisfying infinite justice, no one man can truly say, that the reason why he perished is because there was not enough in the blood of Christ to ransom him: for whosoever doth sincerely believe, shall be actually redeemed from the wrath to come. Our remaining in our sin is the great reason, why the wrath of God abideth on us; so St. Austin, that great enemie to Pelagianism, so much envied by the Arminians. "Quod ergo ad magnitudinem et potentiam pretii; & quod ad unam pertinet causam generis humani: Sanguis Christi Redemptio est totius mundi, sed qui hoc seculum, fine fide Christi, & sine regenerationis sacramento, pertranseunt, redemptionis alieni sunt. Aug. lib. ad Artic. sibi imposit. ad Artic. I.

Again, "Sed hoc inter malos homines, et Dæmones distat: quod hominibus etiam valde malis superest, si Deus misereatur, Reconciliatio: Dæmonibus nulla servata est conversio. Aust. ubi sup. ad Art. 6.
Stephen Lobb, The Glory of Free-Grace Displayed (London: Printed by T.S. for B. Alsop, at the Angel and Bible against the Stocks-market, 1680), 66–67.

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August 24, 2009

Anthony Hoekema (1913–1988) on Rationalism, God's Universal Saving Desire and Hyper-Calvinism

Avoiding a Rationalistic Solution

Peter Toon, in his The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity, points out that among the English nonconformists of the late seventeeth and middle eighteenth centuries there emerged a type of Hyper-Calvinism which, like that of Herman Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed Churches, denied the well-meant gospel call. One of the reasons why this type of theology developed, according to Toon, was an overly rationalistic understanding of God's dealings with human beings.

The same comment can be made, I believe, about the position of Herman Hoeksema and his followers on the gospel call—it is based on an overly rationalistic understanding of God's dealings with his human creatures. Here is the crux of the matter. The Bible teaches, as we saw above, that God seriously desires that all who hear the gospel should believe in Christ and be saved. The same Bible also teaches that God has chosen or elected his own people in Christ from before the creation of the world. To our finite minds it seems impossible that both of these teachings could be true. A kind of rational solution of the problem could go into either of two directions: (1) To say that God wants all who hear the gospel to be saved; that therefore he gives to all who hear sufficient grace to be saved if they so desire; this grace is, however, always resistable; many do resist and thus frustrate God's design. This is the Arminian solution, which leaves us with a God who is not sovereign, and which thus denies a truth clearly taught in Scripture. (2) The other type of rational solution is that of Hoeksema and the Hyper-Calvinists: Since the Bible teaches election and reprobation, it simply cannot be true that God desires the salvation of all to whom the gospel comes. Therefore we must say that God desires the salvation only of the elect among the hearers of the gospel. This kind of solution may seem to satisfy our minds, but it completely fails to do justice to Scripture passages like Ezekiel 33:11, Matthew 23:37, 2 Corinthians 5:20, and 2 Peter 3:9.

We must refuse to go into either of these two rationalisic directions. Since the Scriptures teach both eternal election and the well-meant gospel call, we must continue to hold on to both, even though we cannot reconcile these two teachings with our finite minds. We should remember that we cannot lock God up in the prison of human logic. Our theology must maintain the Scriptural paradox. With Calvin, our theological concern must be not to build rationally coherent system, but to be faithful to all the teachings of the Bible.

The well-meant gospel call has tremendous significance for missions. The missionary or evangelist must bring the gospel message with this confidence: "Not only do I desire each of you to turn from your sins to God so that you may be saved, but this is God's desire as well. God has no pleasure in the death of anyone who is not living in harmony with his will; God wants you to turn from your ways and live. God is therefore making his appeal through me, as I say to you, 'Be reconciled to God!'" With this confidence we must bring the gospel to everyone, trusting that God will bless the word and will bring about the results which he has decreed.
Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved By Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 78–79.

Observe the following points from the quote:

1) Hyper-Calvinists reject the well-meant offer of the gospel.
2) Herman Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed Church are Hyper-Calvinists for their rejection of the well-meant offer.
3) The crux of the issue is whether or not God seriously desires the salvation of all men.
4) It is the Hyper-Calvinists who reject this idea because the Bible teaches election and reprobation.
5) Their rationalistic solution does not square with such passages as 2 Pet. 3:9, Ezek. 33:11, Matt. 23:37 and 2 Cor. 5:20.
6) "The well-meant gospel call" is interchangeble with God's desire for the salvation of all. To reject the latter is to reject the former.
7) Hoekema thinks his position is like Calvin's, in that it avoids either of the "rationalistic solutions."
8) The missionary's message "must" involve the fact that God [not merely the preacher] desires the salvation of all those that hear the external gospel call.

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August 22, 2009

Walter Chantry on God's Attitude Toward Unbelievers

God's Attitude Towards Unbelievers

An Exposition of Ezekiel 33:11 by Walter J. Chantry

"Say unto them, 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, turn ye from evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel"?

Humility of mind increasingly ought to characterize God's people as they grow in grace. Our duty as Christians is to learn sound doctrine, but it is essential that our minds do not draw conclusions that are unwarranted by God's Word. It is very easy to make that mistake. You may learn one doctrine and draw conclusions from it that are contrary to other parts of Holy Scripture.

In the study of the Bible, we should always remember Isaiah 55:9, 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.' Before the mind of God, human reason can appear ludicrous. Logic often tries to capture God, but it is meant to be God's captive. Now, reason is very important for knowing God. It is possible for man to really know God. And to really know God, your reason must function properly. But in functioning, reason must be the tool of the Holy Spirit and the servant of his revelation, the Bible. Logic cannot be the producer or the master of truth. Rather, logic (or reason) must be the instrument for receiving and applying truth that God has spoken. Only in this way can we know and understand the Author of all Truth.

Some Christians have begun to understand predestination. They see in the Bible that the Eternal God has fixed all events before the world began; that he causes everything to come to pass, even events that are evil in our eyes; even the death of the Lord Jesus Christ was appointed by the Sovereign Lord. And the eternal destinies of all men were determined prior to the creation of the world. Seeing that salvation is all of grace, and that it is God who makes the difference between those who are finally saved and those who are forever lost, many Christians draw the conclusion that God does not desire all men to be saved. Such logic is contrary to the express statements of Scripture. This form of human reason makes sinners hesitate to receive the gospel invitations of Christ, and also causes some preachers to hesitate in urging all sinners to repent and believe.

I would like to disabuse your minds of such thoughts, and hope, by God's grace, that Ezekiel 33:11 will do just that. Notice the verse. The prophet was commanded, 'Say unto them, 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, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?' You will see in the text the following truths.

God desires the Salvation of All Sinful Men

All without exception. There is no other way to understand the text. We are here speaking of God's will as his desire, not as his decree. God has not foreordained that all men will be saved. All men will not be saved. There is eternal punishment for those who despise God and continue in their rebellion against him, and the Lord himself has purposed and promised to carry out that punishment. But the Lord does not delight in this destruction of his creatures.

You will notice at the start of our text how forceful God is in making this statement. He swears by himself, for he can swear by none greater. 'As I live, saith the Lord.' I am swearing by myself that I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. I am swearing by myself that I do have pleasure in the wicked turning from his ways to live. It can easily and confidently be drawn from this passage that God does not want you to die, you who are reading these words. God does not desire that you perish, but he desires that you repent and come to life. This universally applies to sinners.

The prophet often repeats this statement. If you turn to Ezekiel 18, you will find precisely the same assertions in verses 23 and 32. Verse 23 reads, 'Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should return from his ways and live?' If you could read the verse as a Jew would, you would note an emphatic negative, reading this way: 'I do not by any means desire the death of a wicked person'. Our text in Ezekiel 33 is spoken to impertinent sinners who are refusing to turn to God, and who are about to taste his wrath. God is speaking to sinners who are going to die in their sins, but he still asserts that he has no pleasure in their deaths. I desire you to turn to me and live, God is saying.

Now God is not playing with words. He is not baiting hopelessly lost men with sarcastic appeals. When the Lord says that he wants sinners to turn and live, he is expressing a sincere and earnest love for all sinners. He really desires that all men be converted.

Jesus expressed this desire quite clearly in Matthew 23:34-38. 'Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets and wise men and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city. That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zecharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation, 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 gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate.' Notice that Jesus is speaking to a people who are finally going to perish, and he knows it. That these people are about to be consumed by the wrath of God is the main intent of Christ's statement. He is pronouncing a curse upon them. Yet, in the midst of sentencing them, Jesus expresses his love of them and a desire that they would repent and believe. He reminded these very people, who would soon perish, that they had been repeatedly invited to come to him. He assured them that even at that moment he desired them to freely partake of his saving mercy. In verse 37, our Lord said, 'I would have gathered you, but you would not'. The Saviour sincerely desired their conversion. He wanted to gather Jerusalem into his saving and protecting grace, but they spurned his sincere invitation and refused to turn.

You remember Christ's invitations to Jerusalem. Once he stood in the temple and cried, 'If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink'. Some people have said that the invitation is extended only to those who have a sense of being thirsty, but I feel this is reading into the text a meaning not at all intended. Christ is inviting all men within his hearing. He is expressing a desire that all sinners be thirsty and come to him and drink of the water of life.

So many universal pleas are made to sinners. Some cannot be understood in any but universal terms. 'Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else' (Isa. 45:22). 'God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent' (Acts 17:30). God clearly invites you to mercy and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. More than that, he commands you, 'Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways'. And he lovingly and condescendingly pleads, 'Why will ye die?' In other words, it is only your own obstinate will that prevents your receiving of Christ. There is no outside force holding you in your sin. It is your obstinacy alone that is the cause of your unbelief.

There is no reason from the standpoint of the gospel that you cannot be saved. For in it God freely offers you eternal life in Jesus Christ. He lovingly desires your repentance. But it is also clear from the text that if you will not repent, then you must die. God does not desire that you be saved apart from the means that he has appointed. God invites you to turn from sin. He has sent messengers to tell you that he sincerely desires you to come to Christ. Your blood is upon your own head, and your damnation will be more severe if you will not believe and live. Will you abuse the compassionate appeals of the Father and the Son who sincerely desire your salvation? If you do, your house will be eternally desolate, and justly so!

Problems That Arise

Be assured that problems arise. God is not uncomfortable with his words. He does not contradict himself. For instance, you may wonder 'How can God be sincere in offering salvation to men whom he has appointed to wrath before they were born? What is the sense of an impassioned plea to men so enslaved to sin that they cannot respond, especially when he has not purposed to give them the grace to respond?' Other questions could be asked. But we will find these difficult enough for now.

Again I would remind you that these are human problems. We ask in perplexity, 'How can God desire that some men be saved when he has appointed those same men to final destruction?' Jesus Christ feels at home with these two concepts side by side. Matthew 11:25 records our Saviour praying, 'I thank thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.' He praised the Father for his sovereignty. He rejoiced that God finally determines who will be saved by hiding things necessary for salvation from some and revealing them to others; and all of this because it 'seemed good' to him. Yet immediately in verse 28 Jesus cries, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' In so saying, Christ expresses his sincere desire that his hearers acknowledge their burdens and come to him for rest. The invitation is given to all, even those whose eyes are blinded. And Christ is comfortable with these two things side by side.

As John Calvin has said, 'Although God's will is simple, yet there is great variety involved in it, as far as our senses are concerned. Besides, it is not surprising that our eyes should be blinded by intense light, so that we cannot certainly judge how God wishes all to be saved, and yet has devoted the reprobate to eternal destruction, and wishes them to perish.' A contradiction? No. It is something that does not fit together in our minds, but the light of God's wisdom can bring them into harmony. Here are some suggestions as to how the problems may be resolved in your minds:

There Are Distinctions Within the Love of God

God loves saints in a way that he does not love sinners. He expresses a common love to all men in giving them all sunshine and rain (Matt. 5:43-48). No one can deny that this universal love of God is sincere. But the difference of God's special love for holy men will be displayed when saints are ushered into heaven and sinners are cast into hell. Though God loves sinners for a time, his goodness will come to an end. But his love for saints is unbounded by time. 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love' (Jer. 31:3).

Gospel invitations express a general love for all men. God freely invites all to repent and receive forgiveness of sins. 'Turn ye!' says our text. All men everywhere are included in the plea. But God's distinguishing love for his elect begins to appear when he effectually calls men into union with Christ. A special and differentiating love is exhibited by renewing the wills of some so that they do respond to the gospel offer. The special love for his elect does not cancel his general love for reprobate and elect alike, any more than your special love for your son makes your general love for boys less sincere.

In Luke 14 there is a parable which clearly illustrates the point (beginning at vs. 16). 'A certain man made a great supper and invited many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were invited, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse.' Then the excuses are given. He continues, 'So the servant came and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servants, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast said, and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servants, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.'

Notice that Gospel invitations are given to men who will not accept them. But more important just now, notice the two groups of men. One group was sincerely invited, but refused to attend the gospel feast. The other group was compelled to come. Was the offer to the first group insincere because they were not compelled to come or because the second group was? No! It is perfectly sincere. But the marvel of God's grace is that he will not take a 'no' for an answer from some men. If you had a banquet and invited fifteen people to come, but were insistent that five come, would it make your offer to the other ten insincere? Of course not. You really want them all to be there. But you must have the friends in attendance. Why should the lord compel the halt and blind to be there? Not because they were more dignified. Not because of anything in themselves. But that his house may be full. For the praise of the glory of his grace, God has compelled the worst sinners to repent and believe.

Another point that will help to reconcile these things in our minds may be drawn from the same parable. You say, 'It appears that God's love to reprobate sinners is frustrated. How could God be eternally frustrated?' The lord's love for the first group invited to the feast was not frustrated. It was expended. You have seen this in the lives of men. You have known men who sincerely love their wives. But after a time of repeated unfaithfulness from his spouse, a man will find his sincere love quenched. It is quenched not because it is insincere love, but because it is abused love. So God's love for sinners is terminated when they persist in their wicked ways. The Bible nowhere suggests that God loves men in hell. He does not. Hell is a place where the last vestige of God's favour is removed. God's expression of love to his creatures need not be eternal to be sincere.

There is Complexity In the Character and Mind of God

There is simplicity. But especially to the ignorant human mind, there is complexity to God's way. Hence Jesus may weep in love for Jerusalem even while he solemnly states his intention to destroy her. Some men would say, 'Either Jesus was incapable of saving Jerusalem, or else he was insincere in saying that he wished to do so.' But neither is true. Neither is the necessary conclusion of logic. It is perfectly possible for someone to have deep pity while sentencing in judgment.

I like the example that Robert Dabney gave on this subject in an essay. He tells of George Washington sentencing Major Andre to death. You will recall that Major Andre was the officer in the British army who had served as the British agent to receive traitorous information from Benedict Arnold. Major Andre was captured with information about American forts. George Washington had a genuine admiration, love and compassion for Andre and did not want to sign his death warrant. Yet he did sign it. Why? Because of the complexity of the general's motives. Not because he lacked the power to excuse Andre. He had that authority. Not because he failed to love Andre. He did love him. But because the good of his country and the good to all men were involved, he made the decision that Andre must die.

Some no doubt said, 'Washington is a hypocrite to say he loves Andre and then condemn him'. Others no doubt said, 'His hands must have been tied. He really loved the man, so he must have lacked the authority to release him.' Neither is true. Washington could have forgiven Andre and wished to do so. Yet he felt at ease in sending him to the gallows, because of higher considerations. That is just an earthly illustration to warn you away from oversimplified logic when you come to heavenly truths. Remember that God's ways are higher than your ways and his thoughts than your thoughts. We can see reasons or avenues along which the mind of God might travel in loving and condemning at the same time, but unless the Word of God gives us the answers, we dare not make our mind the source of truth by coming to firm conclusions.

If you are insistent that God cannot lovingly invite sinners while he has justly assigned them to an eternity of suffering, then answer another question. How could God be really angry with his elect at the same time that he fully purposed to redeem them? Ephesians 2:3 says that Christians were in the past 'children of wrath even as others' who finally perish.

How could God be angry against you just as he is angry against the reprobate when he loved you with an eternal, electing love? These are by no means simple questions. Do not try to reduce the mysteries of God's mind to the simplicities of your mind. God is angry with the elect who have not yet believed on his name. And God still loves the reprobate who has not yet been cast into hell.

It is Your Responsibility to Take a Sincere Gospel Invitation to all sinners

Even if your mind is still confused as to how God's desiring will, expressed in the Gospel, can be reconciled with God's decreeing will, accomplished in history, it is still your responsibility to invite all. Our text in Ezekiel 33 commands the Lord's servants to 'Say unto them . . . Turn ye, turn ye'. You are commissioned to tell men of God's displeasure at wicked men dying in their sins. You are to tell them that it would please him if sinners turn from sin and live. You are to beseech men, 'Why will ye die'. You are to invite men to turn. You are to command all sinners to turn and live. You are to do so on God's authority.

Though you may have talked in the presence of sinners about election, you must assure them that Gospel-invitations are to them. You are to reason from the sincere desire of God that they repent. You are to assure men that the universal offer of mercy to all who repent and believe gives them a right to go to Christ for mercy. You have the very Word of God to assure them that if they will believe and repent, as God desires them to do, God will certainly give them life. Implied in the words of our text is the assurance that if you will turn, you will live and not die.

Some poor sinners who have been made aware that they have criminally offended God hesitate to turn to Christ. They hesitate because they are not sure they are welcome. They have heard about election and feel that unless they can be sure that God has chosen them to life from eternity, that the offers of salvation do not apply to them. Before they may be sure the invitation is for them to attend the gospel feast, they feel they must know whether God has eternally intended to compel them to come. You are to assure poor sinners that God does not delight in the death of any and that he wishes the repentance of all sinners. And further, he commands all rebels to lay down their arms with a purpose to obey his law. It is not necessary to question whether you are an elect sinner. If you are a sinner, the invitation and the ultimatum are issued to you.

Other poor sinners have begun to feel the weight of their sins and have wanted to flee for their lives to Christ, but they have been held back by another error. They have heard that Jesus only invites hungry and thirsty sinners to Himself. They have been told that only awakened sinners are addressed in Gospel invitations. Then the sinner begins to say to himself, 'I'm not really sure that I am convicted of my sins as I ought to be. I don't know if the Spirit has done a deep enough work of bringing sorrow for sin. Maybe I don't really thirst for Christ. Maybe I'm not truly hungry. I haven't mourned as others have. I've read their testimonies. Maybe the offer of mercy isn't for me.'

The Bible does teach that no man ever will respond to the gospel without a prior work of God upon his soul. 'No man can come to me except the Father which has sent me draw him.' God does awaken sinners to bring them to himself. However, Gospel invitations do not ask a man to discern this work of God in his heart before he may feel that the invitation is to himself. The invitation in our text does not ask about the sinner's desire to turn from sin. Rather it expresses God's desire that the sinner turn and live. In this text is sufficient warrant for any sinner to receive life in Jesus Christ.

Now a man who is altogether ignorant that he is a sinner, will not think that the passage refers to him. A proud man who refuses to admit that he has sinned will imagine that this verse has nothing to say to him. The language of invitations must be suited to the condition of sinners. But the invitations of the Bible never require a certain degree of feeling before you are welcome to go to Christ. They never suggest that a certain course of study on sin is needed before you will know enough to be welcome as a penitent. All sinners, simply as sinners, are invited to repent and believe. There is no extra step required. You need not be convinced that you are convicted that you are a sinner.

God wants you to acknowledge that you are a sinner. The best way to do that is to turn from your sin and live. You have a right to come to Jesus Christ today, because you are a sinner and sinners are ordered to believe and repent. It is your right, not because you deserve it in yourself, but because God's Word grants you the right. Go to Christ for mercy. If any ask how you hope to receive pardon for sin, you a rebel and a scoundrel, answer, 'I have no rights from my character or works, but I have here a passport to God's throne of mercy. It contains an oath from himself that if I do go to Christ and turn from sin, he will give me life. I would not have dared to believe that it was possible, except that he has said so himself. He says right here in Ezekiel 33:11 that he does not want me to die. See, it has my name right here . . . "wicked". He says he wants me to turn and live. He even begs me to turn. I can't understand why, but God has said it.'

If any ask if you have been sufficiently awakened, tell him that you do not read that requirement here. He says 'wicked', not awakened wicked, or elect wicked. Don't let anyone put an extra step in your way. God has made it clear that the wicked are welcome. That perfectly suits my case.

Sinner, do you see that Jesus holds out the water of life to you? If you do not drink of these living waters, the day will come that you will be terribly conscious of thirst. It will be a thirst that will never be quenched, like that of Dives who looked up from his torment, praying that only a finger be dipped in water and placed on his tongue. The request was refused for him and will be for you if you spurn sincere offers of mercy. Today Jesus says, 'If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scriptures have said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of water.' There is no reason for you to wait. He does not ask you to figure out election and reprobation before you come. He does not ask you to measure the extent to which the Spirit has been working in your soul. If you perish in your sins it is still true that God wishes you would turn. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die?' is a command and a question given to all outside Christ. Answer it now. Obey it now. Turn to the Lord of grace who entreats you in love and patience.
Walter J. Chantry, “God’s Attitude Toward Unbelievers,” Reformation Today 41 (January–February, 1978): 11–18; continued on p. 6. This Exposition appeared first in the Sword and Trowel, U.S.A. It can also be read online here and here.

August 17, 2009

More Quotes from Benjamin Grosvenor's (1675–1758) The Temper of Jesus

II. For what reasons, common to the case of all great sinners, is the Lord Jesus so desirous of their conversion, and that they should know that he is so?
Benjamin Grosvenor, "The Temper of Jesus; or Grace to the Chief of Sinners," in Sermons by Benjamin Grosvenor (Isle of Wight: Printed for the Author by R. Tilling, Newport, 1808), 9.
6. For a standing example of the riches and freeness of the grace of Christ, in the offer of it to the vilest of sinners.

Begin at Jerusalem, and after the saving efficacy of my grace appears there, no one will question the possibility of their own salvation. Shall not a poor penitent sinner be accepted, when the vilest of sinners are courted? Poor sinners of the Gentiles must not question his grace, when they see it offered to his murderers. When they see him willing to have mercy upon those who had no mercy upon him, and desirous of no other reparation for the injuries they did him, but only, that they would not refuse the grace he now offered to them, and that too before all the rest of the world.
Ibid., 12.
Secondly. For what reasons, common to the case of all great sinners, is our Lord so desirous of their conversion, and that they should know that he is so?

That he is willing they should be converted and saved, is very plain: he has not left this to be made out by inference and deduction, but has asserted it in so many words. "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved."

His behaviour towards some of the vilest of sinners, demonstrates to what low degrees of condescension he can stoop, with how much tenderness he will use those upon their return, whom by such indulgent measures he endeavours to reclaim.

I am affected when I read, that God staid till the cool of the day, an emblem of rebated anger, before he comes to deal with fallen Adam; and then follows the sinner with a promise, who was endeavouring vainly to hide himself from a curse, "The seed of the woman shall break the serpent's head; what a seasonable relief and stay to a trembling rebel!

Manasseh was proverbial for wickedness, sold himself to work iniquity, and thereby to the devil, and yet God did not suffer satan presently to run away with the purchase; but by a sore affliction brought him to his knees, humbled and reformed him; and if he was not truly converted and saved, still the method God used with him, was the ready way to it.

When Christ came into the world bringing salvation, to whom did he offer it? Was it not to publicans and harlots? Publicans, the worst of men accounted; and harlots, the worst of women? Giving this reason, that "He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." It was with this good design he kept such bad company. And as a specimen of his saving power, he carried about with him several of those notorious converts, as it were with this proclamation—'Behold the mighty things my grace can do, what sinners I can reclaim, what sins I can pardon, and how many devils I can cast out. Look upon these and believe, that I am able to save to the utmost all that come unto God by me; look upon these and believe, that no kind, number, degrees of sins, can keep a man out of heaven, that does not keep him from coming to Christ.
Ibid., 12–13.
The reasons of this merciful conduct towards the vilest and greatest of sinners may be such as these.

1. The desperateness of the case of great sinners makes it needful, that they should have good assurances.

Their danger is more near and imminent. They are upon the very brink of destruction. Their damnation lingereth not, but hastens to meet them, and they at the same time are advancing apace toward that; as Goliah, with large steps, made haste to meet the fatal sling and stone, with which David also ran toward him at the same time. Their sins are a vast number, the cry of them loud for vengeance, the weight and aggravations of them are heavy: satan the executioner has them bound in the chains of lust, under the sentence of a condemning law; the justice of God is whetting its glittering sword to cut them off; and their is but a single breath between them and damnation, which may very easily and suddenly be stopped: so that the mercy is greatly heightened in being offered to such as these in the first place, and with a particular solicitude to win them over: this wine must be given to them that are so ready to perish.

Besides this, it is with great difficulty that great sinners, upon conviction, are even now brought to believe there is mercy for them: it would have been harder still, had there been no instances of extraordinary grace to sinners of an uncommon size.

Had the Gospel taken a large round before it had come to Jerusalem, the proffers of mercy would not have been so easily believed, as when they came so fresh from his own lips, whose anger they had much more reason to fear, than to hope for his mercy; but the unparalleled grace of sending it to them first, was superior to all objection. This sets it as much above all doubt and scruple, as it was beyond all example or expectation. Indeed, before sinners are awakened to a sense of their sins, and of God's justice, they are very confident of his mercy; the mercy of God is infinite, say they, goodness is his nature, he never made any creatures to do them any hurt, and it is an easy thing enough to entertain the hopes of salvation through the merits of Christ, and the mercy of God. But how suddenly is the style altered, upon a deep conviction of conscience, and the opening the eye to the number, nature, and aggravation of their sins, together with the law, the holiness and justice of God arming against them? Then, is there mercy for such a wretch as I? Is it possible for me to be saved? Can so black a soul as mine be washed into purity, and so much guilt as I have contracted be removed? They, who before thought sin but a trifle, are now ready to think it all unpardonable; they, who a little before were ready to say, there is no fear, are now ready to conclude, there is no hope: they now do as much need the encouragement of such an instance as this, as before they were ready enough to abuse it.
Ibid., 16–18.
The offer of salvation, is, indeed, amazing grace; but mercy merely offered saves no man, without acceptance of the grace, and compliance with the method of salvation. It is to as many as received him, that power is given to become the sons of God. What is included in this acceptance of mercy; how the grace of God works it in us, what we can do, or cannot do in it, belongs not to me at present to inquire. But the absolute necessity of the thing itself, is what appears from this text, against all presumption whatsoever: because, there is nothing in heaven or earth provided in the room of faith and holiness, nor can any one stand forth and say, that the grace of the Gospel has made provision of any thing, either in God, Christ, or the Spirit of God, to stand in the room of faith and holiness; for without faith I have no part in God nor Christ. And further, because these sinners of Jerusalem, who did not repent and believe, according to this commission, were afterwards, notwithstanding the grace of the offer, finally destroyed. In a word, the immense goodness of this offer forbids all despair, and yet at the same time doubles the damnation of such as dare sinfully presume upon it on the one hand, or refuse it on the other.
Ibid., 26.
5. The infinite sufficiency of the merits of Christ's death and sufferings is seen in this offer. The ancients used to say, if you would see the Trinity, you must go to Jordan; where the Son was baptized in the river, the Holy Ghost descending upon him, and the Father's voice was heard, saying, "This is my beloved Son." I may say, if you would see the infinite sufficiency of the merits of Christ, and the exceeding riches of his grace, you must go to Jerusalem, and see to what sort of people he does in the first place open the treasures of mercy. "The unsearchable riches of Christ;" unsearchable indeed, since Jerusalem's sins could not exhaust them: "Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you, forgiveness of sins, and by him, all that believe, are justified, from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Ibid., 28–29.
8. This obliges all that have obtained this grace, to be of a like merciful and forgiving spirit. To be implacable is to be like a devil; to be a Christian is to be like this Jesus, who, upon a cross, prayed for his enemies, "Father forgive them." Like this Jesus, who, after his resurrection, courted these murderers into the salvation purchased by his death and blood; who gladly bestowed it upon all that would accept it, and waited forty years upon the rest, that they might have time and space to repent.
Ibid., 30.
How must those who are weak in the faith be received? Who though perhaps mistaken in differing from us, yet are not therefore enemies; are not viler for mistaking the mind of Christ, than Jerusalem sinners for killing the person. Will it please him, who has forgiven thee, and them, so many talents, to see thee take thy brother by the throat for a few pence; and they too not borrowed by him, but imposed upon him by thee? Will perpetual worrying of thy brother suit the temper of that Jesus, who was no sooner got down from the cross, in a manner, but contrives how to save them that nailed him to it?
Ibid., 31.
Think once more, to whom it was this offer was going to be made: they had spit in his face, in whose presence angels cover theirs, raptured with delight and joy, and have no sweeter extasies than to behold his beauty. They had blindfolded his eyes, which had so often wept over them and their children, and so often turned up to his Father in heaven for them; they struck him, buffeted, scourged him; they mocked him, despised him, and exposed him to the most contrived indignities, that ever attended a crown of thorns, and adismal cross; he forgave it all, to everyone of them that would but repent.
Ibid., 33.
Well, in the last agonies of his life, he calls some friends about him, and says to this purpose—'I am dying of the wounds they have given me; I had reason to expect a kinder return: however, I forbid all revenge upon any of those that relent upon it, and, before I die, I order that there be an act of grace forthwith drawn up, and proclaimed for the pardon of my murderers, upon condition only that they be sensible of what they have done, that they acknowledge their fault ; and to give them assurance that they may depend upon it, I will have it subscribed, and sealed, with some of that very blood which they have drawn.
Ibid., 33–34.

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Benjamin Grosvenor (1675–1758) on The Temper of Jesus and God's Offers of Grace

I have more significant quotes from this excellent sermon, but here is the first one:
IV. These great blessings of repentance and remission of sins are commanded to be offered in the first place, to some of the vilest of sinners, beginning at Jerusalem.

It is very affecting, that the first offers of grace should be made to those, who of all people in the world had done it the most despite! That the heavenly gift should be tendered to those first, who least deserved it! Not that any can deserve it at all, for then it were not grace; but they of all people had most deserved the contrary! That they who had abused Christ to a degree beyond the most pitiful description, should yet lie uppermost in his care, and stand foremost in his pity, and find so much mercy from one, to whom they showed none at all!

One would rather have expected the apostles should have received another kind of charge; and that Christ should have said, 'Let repentance and remission of sins be preached, but carry it not to Jerusalem, that wicked city, that has been the slaughter-house of my prophets, whom I have often sent. After them I sent John the baptist, a burning and a shining light, him they killed in prison. Last of all, I myself, the Son, came also: and me, with wicked hands, they have crucified and slain. They may do the same by you; the disciple is not like to be better (treated) than his Lord: let not the Gospel enter those gates, through which they led me, its author, to crucifixion.

'I have been preaching there myself this three years, I have mingled my tears with my sermons, I have supported my pretensions and character from the Scriptures of Moses and the prophets, I have confirmed them by divine miracles, and sealed all with my blood, yet they would not give ear! Oh Jerusalem! Jerusalem! all that I have left for thee now is, what I have before dropt over thee, viz. a compassionate tear and wish, "That thou hadst known in this thy day the things that belonged to thy peace!" but now they are hid from thine eyes! and so let them remain, for I charge you, my apostles, to preach repentance and remission of sins to all other nations, but come not near that wicked city.'

But God's thoughts are not as ours, neither are his ways as our ways; but as far as the heavens are above the earth, so are his thoughts and ways above ours. Our way is, to make the chief offenders examples of justice; to avenge ourselves upon those who have done us personal injury and wrong; but Christ chooses out these, to make examples of mercy, and commands the first offer of eternal life to be made to them, and all the world are to wait till they have had the first refusal of the Gospel-salvation.

As if our Lord had said, 'It is true, my sufferings are an universal remedy, and I have given my life a ransom for many, that the Gentiles afar off might be brought nigh, and all the ends of the earth might see the salvation of God. And therefore go into all nations, and offer this salvation as you go; but, lest the poor house of Israel should think themselves abandoned to despair, the seed of Abraham, mine ancient friend, as cruel and unkind as they have been, go, make them the first offer of grace, let them have the first refusal of Gospel-mercy: let them that struck the rock drink first of its refreshing streams; and they that drew my blood be welcome to its healing virtue.

'Tell them, that as I was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so, if they will be gathered, I will be their shepherd still. Though they despised my tears, which I shed over them, and imprecated my blood to be upon them, tell them it was for their sakes I shed both; that by my tears I might soften their hearts towards God; and by my blood I might reconcile God to them.

"Tell them I live; and because I am alive again, my death shall not be their damnation; nor is my murder an unpardonable sin, but that the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin, even the sin by which that blood was drawn.

'Tell them, you have seen the prints of the nails upon my hands and feet, and the wounds of the spear in my side; and that those marks of their cruelty are so far from giving me vindictive thoughts, if they will but repent, that every wound they have given me speaks in their behalf, pleads with the Father for remission of their sins, and enables me to bestow it; and by those sufferings which, they may be ready to think, have exasperated me against them, by those very wounds, court and persuade them to receive the salvation they have procured. Say, "Repent, that your sins may be blotted out, against the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord," Acts iii. 19.

'Nay, if you meet that poor wretch that thrust the spear into my side, tell him there is another way, a better way, of coming at my heart, if he will repent, and look upon him whom he has pierced and will mourn. I will cherish him in that very bosom he has wounded; he shall find the blood he shed an ample atonement for the sin of shedding it. And tell him from me, he will put me to more pain and displeasure by refusing this offer of my blood, than when he drew it forth. In short,

'Though they have gainsayed my doctrine, blasphemed my divinity, and abused and tormented my person; taken away my life, and what is next valuable to every honest man, endeavoured to murder my reputation too, by making me an impostor, and imputing my miracles to a combination with Belzebub: however, go to Jerusalem, and by beginning there, show them such a miracle of goodness and grace, that they themselves must confess too good for the devil to have any hand in, too God-like for him to be assisting to; that may convince them of their sin, and at the same time, that nothing can be greater than their sin except this mercy and grace of mine, which, where their sin has abounded does thus much more abound, beginning at Jerusalem.'
Benjamin Grosvenor, "The Temper of Jesus; or Grace to the Chief of Sinners," in Sermons by Benjamin Grosvenor (Isle of Wight: Printed for the Author by R. Tilling, Newport, 1808), 5–9.

This section of Grosvenor's sermon is cited by Samuel Davies in order to make similar points. See "The Wonderful Compassions of Christ to the Greatest Sinners," in Sermons on Important Subjects, by The Late Reverend and Pious Samuel Davies, 5th edition (New York: Printed for T. Allen, 1792), 3:70–72. It is also partially quoted in WM. Symington's Life and Character of Stephen Charnock in The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 1:8–9.

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August 16, 2009

Benjamin Grosvenor (1675-1758) on Jesus' Willingness to Save

"3. Consider that the time is coming, when this name Jesus will be the most lovely sound, and he that wears it, appear to be the most lovely person in the world.

At death, oh then for an interest in this Jesus, and all the saving import of his name! At judgment, when he shall come in the glory of his Father, and in the glory of his holy angels, and in his own glory. When he shall take his place upon the throne, as judge of the world, and as the Saviour of them that believe in Jesus. Let them that are able figure to themselves with what a spirit and joy they will look up to him who have an interest in him, and lift up their heads, because their redemption and Redeemer are come. As for others, I am persuaded they would never have been represented crying to the rocks, and to the mountains, to fall on them, and hide them from his face, if it were to any purpose to cry to Jesus himself at that day. "No (says Jesus), I wore this name long enough to let you know that I was willing of your salvation, as well as that of others, but you would none of me. You have no more to do with that name. I am judge of all the world, and will give to every man according to his works; but I am Jesus only to those who believed in me, and belong to me. Your sins have ruined you, which you would not be saved from; and when you despised the reason of this name, you threw away the benefit of it too."

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Stephen Lobb (c.1647-1699) Citing Matthew 23:37

"Thou art therefore, O man! inexcusable, if thou neglectest thy duty, and wilt not strive to enter in at the strait gate, since by striving, thou mayst have an entrance into the heavenly glory given thee; 'tis possible, 'tis probable; but if thou wilt not strive for Heaven, nothing more sure, than that Hell will be thy portion. Oh consider these things and remember, That if you die in your sins, your destruction will be of your selves, you will be found self-condemned sinners, to whom the Lord may say, How often would I have gathered you together, but you would not, and consequently his ruine is from himself, and not from the Lord."
Stephen Lobb, The Glory of Free Grace Displayed (London: Printed by T.S. for B. Alsop, at the Angel and Bible against the Stocks-Market, 1680), 69-70.

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August 13, 2009

Hugh Latimer (c.1487–1555) on Christ Begging

I can't find this in Latimer's Sermons that are available online, but Austin Phelps critically attributes the following to "Bishop Latimer" in the end of one of Latimer's discourses:
Will ye have Jesus Christ? What say ye? Speak now — now or never. See, sinners! I offer you the Lord. Will you accept him? Ah, poor Christ! Must he go a-begging? Out, ye hard-hearted! What will Christ say when he comes to judge you? I'll tell you what he'll do. He will bind you in bundles, and burn you. He will say, 'Here is a bundle of drunkards: Devil, take them. Here is a bundle of liars: Devil, take them.'
Austin Phelps, English Style in Public Discourse (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1883), 222. It is also quoted by Jean Claude, but he prefers not to name Latimer as the source.

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) was a Credobaptist

Some time ago Dr. Curt Daniel told me about the book Great Doctrines of the Bible and that Lloyd-Jones was a credobaptist. I just finished reading his chapter on baptism, and it is true. Here are a few quotes from that section:
What, then, do we conclude at this point? Surely the critical question to ask is this: What is baptism meant to do? What does it signify? What is its purpose? Well, I have already answered the question. If the great thing about baptism is that it is a sealing by God of that which I know has already happened to me, then, surely, it is for an adult believer. It cannot be a seal to an uncomprehending infant, that is impossible. If baptism were only a sign, then I could see a great argument for baptising an infant. But, as everybody is agreed, even those who put up the case for infant baptism, much more important than the sign is the sealing. Surely, then, baptism is only for a person who knows, who is aware of, what is happening. It does seem to me that, as you look at the case of the Ethiopian eunuch and the apostle Paul himself, both of whom seem to have been baptised more or less in private, the important thing about baptism is the seal. As far as I myself am concerned, that last argument is conclusive.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 3:43.
In conclusion, as far as I am concerned, those who are to be baptised should be adult believers. I cannot see the case, as I have tried to show you, for infant baptism. But as to the mode, it can be sprinkling or immersion or a combination of the two, which I personally believe is the more scriptural and the method for which great evidence can be produced historically.
Ibid., 3:46.

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August 9, 2009

Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) on Christ Begging

"What ails you at him, Sirs? O! is he not worth your while, though you should run through hell to come to him? Is there not a heart in all this company that would fain be at him? Alas! would you rather go to the devil than come to Christ? That a comely Jesus cannot get two or three hearts in all this company, O pity! pity! and a thousand pities tht the beauty of the Godhead cannot get a lover! Will you all be so mad as to run by Christ to other lovers, while he begs your love, as if he were upon his knees, and sends us to pray you in his stead to be reconciled with him, and come to him?"

August 6, 2009

D. A. Carson on the Love of God, the Free Offer and Hyper-Calvinism

If the love of God refers exclusively to his love for the elect, it is easy to drift toward a simple and absolute bifurcation: God loves the elect and hates the reprobate. Rightly positioned, there is truth in this assertion; stripped of complementary biblical truths, that same assertion has engendered hyper-Calvinism. I use the term advisedly, referring to groups within the Reformed tradition that have forbidden the free offer of the Gospel. Spurgeon fought them in his day. Their number is not great in America today, but their echoes are found in young Reformed ministers who know it is right to offer the Gospel freely, but who have no idea how to do it without contravening some element in their conception of Reformed theology.
D. A. Carson, "On Distorting the Love of God," in The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2000), 22–23.

John Murray (1898–1975) on Hyper-Calvinism and the Free Offer

The second evil is that of hyper-Calvinism. Those thoroughly convinced of the error of Arminian anthropology and soteriology have quite properly reacted from the type of evangelism that is the characteristic expression of it. But deep persuasion of the particularism of the plan of salvation, and revulsion from Arminian evangelism, have sometimes been the occasion for the abandonment of evangelism altogether or, at least, for the denial of the full and free offer of the gospel to lost men. If this reaction does not go to the length of theoretically denying the free offer of the gospel, it nevertheless manifests itself in a conspicuous awkwardness and lack of spontaneity in the preaching of the free offer. Reaction from the error of Arminian doctrine and methods, together with persuasion of man's total inability and God's absolute predestination, have rendered many unable to understand or work out in practice the complete congruity of man's inability and of consistent particularism in the plan of salvation with the full, free and unfettered offer of Christ to lost sinners, and they have also been unable to appreciate the congruity of man's inability and God's predestination with the necessity for the most urgent and passionate appeal for the exercise of faith and repentance.
John Murray, "The Message of Evangelism," in The Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976), 1:131–132.

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John Humfrey (1621–1719) on Redemption

These words appear at the beginning of this book:
A Testimony to Mr. Humfrey's former Writings, by two of his Brethren, Ministers, while living.

To Mr. J. H.

I Think by studying of the Scriptures, and things more than others have said before you, you escape the Temptations to Siding and Partiality: And I think you hit on many considerable Truths which many overlook, and improve many which some do lightly pass over.

Richard Baxter.

I am of the same Mind,

Thomas Manton, D.D
.
Humfrey wrote:
Of
Redemption.


As for this Head of Redemption, I am for a middle Way, as Mr. Baxter was, and Dr. Davenant in his Book De morte Christi, which Arch-bp. Usher approv'd, and was byas'd toward the Universality of it. For seeing the Scripture is so express and full that Christ dy'd for all, that he tasted Death for every Man, that he was a Propitiation for the Sins of the whole World; and that so many more Texts might amply be quoted, there is some Sense wherein this Universality must be maintained, or the Scripture be forsaken.

The Death of Christ therefore may be considered as it hath purchased Remission and Salvation on Condition, and so it is for all, and acknowledged (as Mr. Baxter notes) by Dr. Twiss. But the strict Calvinist will have more, that it redounds to purchase the Condition also, and the Redeemed therefore are only the Elect. This Inference I dislike quite, and the Proposition, that Christ by his Death (whereby he hath made Satisfaction for our Sins) hath purchased the Condition also for any, I question.

For the Inference, If there was a double Redemption, once to purchase Pardon and Life on Condition, and another to purchase also the Condition, then would it be plain, that one was for all, and the other for the Elect only. But Redemption is but one, though that one may have a double Respect, and Dr. Davenant and Mr. Baxter no doubt thought not any otherwise: that is, a Respect to the whole World, or a Respect to the Elect. As it respects all the World, it does purchase Remission and Salvation on Condition; as it respects the Elect, it does farther (as they must hold) purchase for such the Condition also. Upon this account therefore with them it does not follow, that none are redeemed but the Elect, because that tho' in one respect, as Christ by his Redemption hath purchased also the Condition (supposing it so) it was for the Elect: yet in another respect, as it hath purchased Pardon and Life only on Condition, it is for the World; so that in these diverse Respects, all are redeemed, and also the Elect only. I will not wonder therefore at these two Eminent Men, Mr. Baxter and Bishop Davenant, that they affirm Redemption to be Universal and Special both, I thank them for their Pains, their great Pains, but in good earnest it is an Inconsistency I cannot fully, but half approve.

For as for the Proposition it self, that Christ hath by his Death purchased the Condition for the Elect (that is, the Grace which effects their Faith and Repentance, and sincere Obedience, which is the Condition that they may be effectually saved) I have an Objection against it, which you shall have by the by, that I think could not be answered, even by them. The strict Calvinists agree with these middle ones in the Proposition, and are peremptory, that if our Redemption be no more for the Elect than others, which is the purchasing Remission and Salvation on Condition, and not the Condition it self, then does our Salvation lie at Man's own Free Will; so that tho' Christ hath redeemed all, there may not be any one saved for all that. An Allegation really inconsiderate, because Redemption is so distinguished from Election, that it is no Link in its Chain, and is to be so distinguished as either of them to have their Bounds. Redemption hath procured Pardon and Life upon Condition, and there is its Bounds; and as for the Condition, there is no Obligation on Free Grace, but God may dispose it (he may give Faith) where he pleases, so as it lies upon Election, not on Man's Free Will therefore but on God's, for him to give it unto one and not another: and thus Election takes care that Redemption be not in vain.

To establish us the more, we are to consider, in this great Matter of Election and Salvation, that God is to be acknowledged as Rector and Lord both in it; and consequently these Divines that hold the Death of Christ to be for all, in purchasing Pardon and Salvation on Condition, but that the Condition flows not from the Power of Man's Free Will, nor directly from Christ's Purchase, but from Election, do manifestly give God his Glory, while they make him as Lord to give the Condition to his Elect; and as Rector, to judge of them as of all the World according to that Condition.

For my Objection now against the Proposition I am to offer, it is this, that instead of what they say against Universal Redemption, that it destroys Free Grace, I must tell them, that Redemption Special does indeed do it. For the Free Grace of Election we all know to lie in this, that out of the Mass of Mankind, who have no Merit one more than another, God does choose whom he will for no Cause but his own Free Pleasure. Now if Christ hath purchased the Condition for the Elect, then does God choose them from the rest upon Merit, the greatest Merit that can be, even Christ's Merit; and when the choosing the one that hath his Merit is the Reason of his Choice, and not the other because without it, this does destroy the Freeness of Election altogether. This Objection is the firmer, because the Calvinists do all contend about Election, that it has no respect to Christ's Merit and our Faith, but only as they are the Effect of it, that is, because God does elect, choose or determine some to be saved, therefore he sends his Son to procure by his Redemption their Salvation, and gives them Faith to that end: And why do they stand on this, that Christ's Merits must not be considered in Election, but because Election is free, and so free that there must be no Merit even from Christ to the Elect, as the Reason why he chooses one and not the other. I need not add as to them, that nothing without God, and done in time, as Christ's Death was, can be the Cause of his Eternal Will. His Will is himself, and God has no Cause.

The Lutheran here contends with the Calvinist, and stands upon that Text, He hath chosen us in Christ. The Preposition έν in Greek signifies through, and when it is join'd with Christ, through, is through his Merits. This appears (say they) in a former Verse of the same Chapter; He hath blessed us with all Blessings, έν Χριστω, in Christ; and in a following Verse, In him, έν ω, we have Redemption; now when these Words, He hath chosen us in him, is in the middle Verse between them, and they won't understand them as they must be understood, the Lutheran is offended as if the Calvinist would not acknowledge the Truth when convinced. He chooses us, says the Calvinist, that we may believe and be holy, not because we believe and are holy; and because he hath chosen us to Salvation, he hath sent his Son to redeem us (as before) as the means to procure Pardon and Life, and Faith for his Elect, that we may be saved: But the Lutheran says, God chooses the Believer, and that the Redemption of Christ is the Cause, the meritorious Cause of our Election, as well as of our Justification or Salvation. Here is extream Opposition: One says, Election is the Cause of Redemption; and the other says, Redemption is the Cause of Election; and who shall find out a middle-way, or any thing towards it, between them? I pray give me leave, and what if I shall say this, that tho' Christ by his Redemption hath purchased no more for any but Pardon and Life upon Condition, as it belongs to all; yet may we conceive that he hath thereby so pleased the Father, as to obtain that there shall be an Election, that he will give his Grace (the first Grace) to some, that his Sons Obedience and Sufferings shall have their Effect; but tho' he gives it, he will be free in the giving; he will give it to some, but to whom he pleases; he gives it, but without Obligation by that Redemption to give it to any one more than another. As we are all faln in Adam, we are all redeemed by Christ, and all alike in the same Estate; no particular Man can say, Christ hath merited for him more than for others, that for his Merit he should be chosen, and have Grace given him, rather than the other, but all lies on Free Grace, or God's Free Will perfectly, and so Universal Redemption and Free Grace do both stand together.

For my speaking now farther of Redemption: Redemption is a metaphorical Word, and to speak of it according to the Law of the Jews, or the Law of the Romans, and supposing a Captivity or Slavery, to ask, what it is, who are the Captives, how they came to be so, whose Captives, what is the Price that redeems us, when and how, and to whom paid, and twenty such Questions may be ask'd, which any other may answer that will, it is not my Work? but if this Question in general be ask'd, what Redemption is, and the Apostle says it is Remission of Sins (In whom we have Redemption, even Remission of Sins) I will tell freely my Thoughts of it, not that it is, but that it hath obtained Remission; a Universal Conditional Remission, which will be best conceived by a Pardon at Law, an Act of Grace or Pardon by an Act of Parliament: Suppose the Nation in Rebellion, and under the Guilt of Treason, and the Prince to grant a General Pardon, an Act passes, and the whole Nation is pardon'd: The Gospel-Covenant is such an Act of Pardon for all the World; and if you object, then all the World must be saved, I answer, The Act must be read, we must see how it is drawn, and we find Conditions in it: All are pardoned indeed on Condition, but the Conditions must be performed and pleaded for suing out the Act, and obtaining the Benefit of it.

There are none of us must question but the Gospel, together with Remission of Sin, brings a Law (the Covenant of Grace is a Pardon and Law) requiring Obedience in order to our Salvation. He hath chosen us in Christ, that we should be holy: He hath redeemed us from Iniquity, that we should be a peculiar People, zealous of Good Works: We are his Workmanship, and created unto Good-works in (or through) Christ Jesus. By these Texts it appears, that to make us holy, or that we should be holy is the End (or one End) of Christ redeeming us, and yet did God create Man to this End, to be holy; he made us to serve him, and he put his Law in Man's Heart to obey it; and seeing Holiness was the End of his Creation, how can it be said the End of our Redemption? I know none have ask'd the Question, and I must take leave my self to answer, The Law of Creation was a Law of Innocency, requiring us to be so holy as to be without Sin; and when that was broke, and there was Sin committed, there could be no Righteousness according to that Law any more; and therefore was it necessary for Christ by his Coming not only to atone God in regard to the Sin, but to procure also another Law, and such as through Grace may be performed, that so a Righteousness (call'd by Daniel an Everlasting Righteousness) might be brought in (when else there could, I say, be none in the World) which together with Remission of Sin is required to Life everlasting.

And forasmuch as to the end that Men may repent, believe and be holy, Christ hath procured Remission and Salvation for all upon that Condition, which does encourage them to it, and is the Use they should make of it, and God would have all to repent, tho' none do but such as he chooses to give his special Grace to them to do it: We are not to think that none are redeemed but they that do attain that End, no more than you may argue, that when the Scripture says that God will have all to come to Repentance, and the Acknowledgement of the Truth, that yet God indeed will have none to repent, but those that do it: For God does use the Means to all so far as is fit for him to bring them to it. And when the Fault lies on them, you must not lay it on him, as if he willed it not. In like manner hath Christ done all he was to do, that Men should repent, believe, and be holy, in procuring this Encouragement, so as for his part he may be said to have redeemed them from their Iniquity (and when all are so redeemed, those that become godly are more peculiarly so) but all do not take the Encouragement to do it, and so the Fault does lie on themselves, and not on him, nor on God neither, that he does not give them all more Grace, because he acts herein as Dominus absolutus in regard to particular Persons, in choosing freely whom he pleases, without any Merit in themselves, or procured by Christ, for any one more than another, to give them his special Grace for their effectual Salvation, when he gives but his common Grace to others that effects it not.

Against Universal Grace by Christ you may say, One Man has such a Blessing, and not another, and Christ hath procured it. I answer, Christ hath procured all Blessings (especially spiritual ones) both for him and for others, on the Condition which is required to the obtaining them; and the one has them and not the other, because he performs the Condition, and not the other. Life (Life eternal) is a Blessing, and procured or purchased by Christ for all on Condition, for whosoever believes and repents shall live. The Elect now perform this Condition and have Life, the Reprobate does not and perishes. Life here is the Blessing, and procured or purchased by Christ; but the Condition is not purchased or procured (as before) Or if procured, procured only to be given, and that by Free Grace to whom God will, but not procured to be given to this Man and not that, or more to one than another. I may yet be more easy, and distinguish between what Christ hath purchased for Mankind, by his dying for us, and what he gives in executing his Father's Will and Free Pleasure. It is reasonable that Christ taking on him our Flesh, the Flesh of all, and dying for all, to hold that what he hath purchased with the Price of his Blood is for all, and all alike; tho' what he does in Execution of his Father's Will, which is free, be bestowed on one rather than another. And consequently, that what he asks his Father, be such as he may ask for Peter, which he asks not for John, and for his own Disciples, what he prays not for others. I pray not for the World, says Christ, he prays not for all; yet, that he died for the World, and for all, is express in Scripture. I speak it mainly in regard to Salvation for Sinners, and Redemption to be for all, though Faith, Repentance, and the Grace for Application be given by Christ so some only, not as Purchaser, but Executor of his Father's Election.

An APPENDIX to this Second Head.

If Redemption be Universal, according to the Scripture, it is but reasonable to believe the Grace of God, which is given for the Application of it, to be Universal also: and I will not question therefore but as to those that have the Gospel (saying nothing to the contrary neither as to others) that God does vouchsafe so much Grace to the Adult, that they may believe, repent, and be saved, if they will; and when they may if they will, who can deny that Grace to be so much as may be said necessary, and sufficient? And yet if they will, I acknowledge it to be of farther Grace, which we call special, or the Grace of God's Elect. This doctrine appears by these Scriptures. God will have all to repent and be saved, 2 Pet. 3:9. He would, but Man will not, Matt. 23:37. Whosoever will may come, Rev. 22:17. And yet none do come unless the Father draws him, John 6:44. The Command, Work out your Salvation, includes that all have Power, and yet is it God that must work in us to will and to do, or the Work will never be done, Phil. 2:13. By these Scriptures and the like we may see how Truths of Scripture are mystical, deep, and to be founded by Faith; for if I followed only my Reason, I confess I should be apt to think otherwise, that seeing the Grace which is Universal reaches thus far, that Man may, if he will, it seems enough to leave there; for if he will not (when he hath so much Grace that he may if he will) God is just to condemn him; and if he will, he must attribute it to this Grace, which is Universal, as that without which he could not have willed, and with it he does both will and do, and is saved.

In the Council of Trent, Father Paul in his History of it, does tell us of an Opinion broached by Ambrosias Catharinus, to this Effect, (whose Book I have seen) that there are some singular Persons, as Paul, the Disciples, and the like, that God does take an extraordinary Care of, so as it is impossible for them to fail of Salvation, Matt. 24:24. and these only are the Elect (as John writes to the Elect Lady, unto whom this Grace which is special doth belong) but as for the Generality of Mankind, or Christians, they have the Gospel and the Grace of God, which is universal, and according to their Improvement thereof, some there be that are, and others that are not converted by it, and saved.

Unto this Opinion, without mentioning that Author, there is an excellent person, Dr. Henry More, who gives his Suffrage, in these Words; "I do profess I do verily think, that there is such a thing as discriminating Grace (as they call it) in the World; and that to such a Difference for Good, that some few of Mankind by virtue thereof will be irresistibly saved; but that the rest of the World are Probationers, that is, have Free Will, and are in a Capacity of being saved, some greater, some less, and that whosoever is damn'd, it is long of himself. For as Syracides saith, God hath no need of the wicked Man." Dr. More's Mystery of Godliness, p. 502.

We take it for granted, that the whole World is divided into the Elect and Reprobate, and that no Reprobate, and none but the Elect, can be saved: But may not it be a Question ask'd, where either of these are expressly said in Scripture? Examine your selves, prove your own selves, know you not Christ is in you, unless ye be Reprobates? May not a Man examine himself, and find not Christ in him, but be reprobate and unapproved, at present, and yet have Grace given hereafter, so as to repent, believe, and be saved; I say only, may not this be ask'd?

Of the Opinion therefore of Catharinus and Dr. More, my Genius, which leads me still into the middle-way of disputed Points, would make me a ready nad thankful Follower; but yet it is the Scripture alone that won't let me. Scripture is the Rule of my Faith, and the very Truth of the Scripture, as I believe it, is as I have said, and I must be unsay and unbelieve to say any more.
John Humfrey, Free Thoughts (London: Printed for T. Parkhurst at the 3 Crowns in Cheapside, and Jonathan Robinson at the Goldon-Lion in St. Paul's Church-yard; and sold by J. Morphew near Stationers-hall, 1710), 8–15.

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