October 29, 2009

John Witherspoon (1722–1794) on the Extent of Christ's Death

II. I proceed now to the second thing proposed, which was, to consider the extent of this propitiation, founded on the last clause of the text: "And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." In general, when we remember that this epistle was written chiefly to the converts of the circumcision, it may convince us, that in all probability this expression was intended against the great and national prejudice of the Jews, of which we see very frequent notice taken in the New Testament. As they had the oracles of God committed to them, as for the wise purposes of his providence he had separated them from other nations, and the Messiah was to descend from them according to the flesh, they apprehended that all the blessings of his reign were to be confined to themselves: therefore they are often given to understand, that the purpose of mercy was far more extensive, and that Christ came with a view to fulfill that promise made to the father of the faithful, Gen. xxii. 18. "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." The expression in the text, then, undoubtedly implies, that redemption through the blood of Christ was to be preached to sinners of the Gentiles; that as he had been the Saviour of all ages, by the efficacy of that sacrifice which he was to offer in the fullness of time, so the virtue of it was not to be confined to the house of Israel, but to belong to sinners of every nation under heaven.

I am sensible, my brethren, that very great controversies have been raised, in another view, as to the extent of Christ's death, and the import of this and other such general expressions in the holy scriptures. In this, as in most other debates, matters have been carried a far greater length than the interest of truth and piety requires; and, as is also usual, they have arisen from an improper and unskillful mixture of what belongs to the secret counsels of the Most High with his revealed will, which is the invariable rule of our duty. Without entering, therefore, into these debates, which are unsuitable to our present employment, or rather giving my judgement, that they are for the most part unnecessary, unprofitable, or hurtful, I shall lay down three propositions on this subject, which I think can hardly be called in question, and which are sufficient foundation for our faith and practice.

1. The obedience and death of Christ is of value sufficient to expiate the guilt of all the sins of every individual that ever lived or ever shall live on earth. This cannot be denied, since the subjects to be redeemed are finite, the price paid for their redemption is infinite. He suffered in the human nature, but that nature intimately and personally united to the divine; so that Christ the mediator, the gift of God for the redemption of sinners, is often called his own and his eternal Son: Rom. viii. 32. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Such was the union of the divine and human nature in Christ, that the blood which was the purchase of our redemption is expressly called the blood of God, Acts xx. 28. "To feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." This is the great mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh, in which all our thoughts are lost and swallowed up.

2. Notwithstanding this, every individual of the human race is not in fact partaker of the blessings of his purchase; but many die in their sins, and perish for ever. This will as little admit of any doubt. Multitudes have died, who never heard of the name of Christ, or salvation through him; many have lived and died blaspheming his person, and despising his undertaking; many have died in unbelief and impenitence, serving divers lusts and passions; and if the scripture is true, he will at last render unto them according to their works. So that if we admit, that the works of God are known to him from the beginning of the world, it can never be true, that, in his eternal counsels, Christ died to save those who, after all that he hath done, shall be miserable for ever. "He is a rock, his work is perfect." His design never could be frustrated; but, as the apostle Paul expresses it, Rom. xi. 7. "The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." But,

3. There is in the death of Christ a sufficient foundation laid for preaching the gospel indefinitely to all without exception. It is the command of God that this should be done: Mark, xvi. 15. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." The effect of this is, that the misery of the unbelieving and impenitent shall like entirely at their own door; and they shall not only die in their sins, but shall suffer to eternity for this most heinous of all sins, despising the remedy, and refusing to hear the Son of God: Heb. x. 26. 27. "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgement, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Let us neither refuse our assent to any part of the revealed will of God, nor foolishly imagine an opposition between one part of it and another. All the obscurity arises from, and may be resolved into, the weakness of our understandings; but let God be true and every man a liar. That there is a sense in which Christ died for all men, and even for those who perish, is plain from the very words of scripture: 1 Tim. iv. 10. "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all me, especially of those that believe." 1 Cor. viii 11. "And, through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" Thus it appears, that both in a national and personal view, Christ is "the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
John Witherspoon, "Christ's Death a Proper Atonement for Sin", in The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: Printed for J. Ogle, Parliament-Square; M. Ogle, Glasgow; Ogles, Duncan, & Cochran, London; and T. Johnston, Dublin, 1815), 107–108.

October 27, 2009

Augustine on God's Will


These are the great works of the Lord, sought out according to all His pleasure, and so wisely sought out, that when the intelligent creation, both angelic and human, sinned, doing not His will but their own, He used the very will of the creature which was working in opposition to the Creator's will as an instrument for carrying out His will, the supremely Good thus turning to good account even what is evil, to the condemnation of those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace. For, as far as relates to their own consciousness, these creatures did what God wished not to be done: but in view of God's omnipotence, they could in no wise effect their purpose. For in the very fact that they acted in opposition to His will, His will concerning them was fulfilled. And hence it is that "the works of the Lord are great, sought out according to all His pleasure," because in a way unspeakably strange and wonderful, even what is done in opposition to His will does not defeat His will. For it would not be done did He not permit it (and of course His permission is not unwilling, but willing); nor would a Good Being permit evil to be done only that in His omnipotence He can turn evil into good.
Augustine, "On Faith, Hope and Love," in NPNF, 1st series, ed. P. Schaff (1888; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 3:269.

Here is the Latin:
C. Haec sunt magna opera Domini, exquisita in omnes voluntates eius), et tam sapienter exquisita, ut quum angelica et humana creatura peccasset, id est, non quod ille, sed quod voluit ipsa fecisset, etiam per eamdem creaturae voluntatem, qua factum est, quod creator noluit, impleret ipse quod voluit, bene utens et malis, tamquam summe bonus ad eorum damnationem, quos iuste praedestinavit ad poenam, et ad eorum salutem, quos benigne praedestinavit ad gratiam.) Quantum enim ad ipsos adtinet, quod Deus noluit, fecerunt; quantum vero ad omnipotentiam Dei, nullo modo id efficere valuerunt. Hoc quippe ipso, quod contra voluntas eius. Propterea namque magna opera Domini, exquisita in omnes voluntates eius, ut miro et ineffabili modo non fiat praeter eius voluntatem, quod etiam contra eius fit voluntatem; quia non fieret, si non sineret (nec utique nolens sinit, sed volens); nec sineret bonus fieri male, nisi omnipotens et de malo facere posset bene.
S. Aurelii Augustini, “Enchiridion ad Laurent,” in  De Doctrina Christiana Libri Quatuor et Enchiridion ad Laurentium, ed. Car. Herm. Bruder (Lipsiae: Sumtimbus Et Typis Caroli Tauchnitii, 1838), 238.

Since I have seen this section in Augustine's Enchiridion referenced in a number of the Puritans (like John Arrowsmith, a Westminster divine), I decided to post the entire chapter. See also Thomas Watson on God's will of precept and permissive decree. Théodore Bèze, Walter Haddon, Jacob Kimedoncius, Edward Bulkley, William Perkins, Guillaume Bucanus, Daniel Featley, Richard Resbury, Wiliam Twisse, John Knox, William Whitaker, and Johannes  Hermanus Dalhusius also cite this section from Augustine approvingly.

Prosper rightly represents historic Augustinianism on God's will, and he said this:
Likewise, he who says that God will not have all men to be saved but only the fixed number of the predestined, speaks more harshly than we should speak of the depth of the unsearchable grace of God.
Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans. by P. De letter (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 159.

Update on 10-18-14:
“These are the great works of the Lord, sought out unto all His wills” (ver. 2): through which mercy forsaketh none who confesseth, no man’s wickedness is unpunished. . . . Let man choose for himself what he listeth: the works of the Lord are not so constituted, that the creature, having free discretion allowed him, should transcend the will of the Creator, even though he act contrary to His will. God willeth not that thou shouldest sin; for He forbiddeth it: yet if thou hast sinned, imagine not that the man hath done what he willed, and that hath happened to God which He willed not. For as He would that man would not sin, so would He spare the sinner, that he may return and live; He so willeth finally to punish him who persisteth in his sin, that the rebellious cannot escape the power of justice. Thus whatever choice thou hast made, the Almighty will not be at a loss to fulfill His will concerning thee.
Augustine, "Exposition on the Book of Psalms," NPNF, 1st Series, ed. by Philip Schaff (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 8:545. [Note: Augustine's meaning in the underlined portion above is this: In the sense that God doesn't want man to sin (but rather to obey), in that sense (i.e. according to the revealed will) he wishes to spare the sinner, that he may return and live.]

Calvin cites both of these quotes (from Augustine's Enchiridion and Exposition of the Psalms) in his Institutes 1.18.3.

October 26, 2009

John Thornbury on God's Will

God’s Desires and God’s Decrees

Of course those who are of an Arminian persuasion have no problem with these verses which teach so clearly that the invitation to salvation is indiscriminate. After all, their redemptive scheme is universal in the absolute sense. They teach that it is God’s solitary and ultimate design to make salvation available equally to all of Adam’s race. With this, of course, the Calvinist disagrees. But if, as the Calvinist teaches, there is a special decree of election, what is the purpose of a universal call? If God has not determined to change the hearts of all is He merely taunting people with a plea to come for forgiveness? How can such a call be sincere? Indeed, would not such a call represent God as frustrated and defeated, just as the Arminians teach?

Calvinists answer this objection by distinguishing between God’s will of desire and His will of decree. Unless this clarification between God’s two wills is made it is impossible to incorporate all the teachings of Scripture into a balanced and harmonious scheme. God, undoubtedly, wishes all to turn to Him while reserving the right to determine that some will actually turn to Him. There is of course some difficulty in harmonizing such seemingly antagonizing concepts, just as it is hard for the human mind to conceive how God can be one substance, yet existing in three persons. The difficulty is in the finitude of our minds. It is not in the clarity of the teachings of Scripture or in the dictates of logic.

Typical of doctrines of grace preachers who ground the universality of the gospel invitation in God’s desire that all turn to Him is the well-known Charles Spurgeon. In the sermon, “Salvation by Knowing the Truth,” he seeks to honestly interpret 1 Timothy 2:4 which states that God wishes all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Spurgeon, with not a little sarcasm, upbraids those who seek to twist this text to mean that God wishes some to be saved. He passes this view off as little better than exploding the text by using grammatical gunpowder. The true meaning he explains in a sermon, “Salvation by Knowing the Truth”:
It is quite certain that when we read that God will have all men to be saved it does not mean that He wills it with the force of a decree or a divine purpose, for if He did, then all men would be saved .... Does not the text mean that it is the wish of God that men should be saved? The word “wish” gives as much force to the original as it really requires, and the passage should run thus—”whose wish it is that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. As it is My wish that it would be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, He is not less benevolent than we are.”6

Of course Spurgeon anticipates that some will query, “If God be infinitely good and powerful, why does not His power carry out to the full all His beneficence?” In other words, why does not infinite divine omnipotence accomplish that which infinite divine benevolence wishes? Spurgeon simply answers, “I cannot tell. I have never set up to be an explainer of all difficulties, and I have no desire to do so.”7

Those in both the Arminian and Calvinistic camps who fail to distinguish between the two aspects of God’s will have the greater problem because they must inevitably resort to exegetical gymnastics to get rid of the texts that do not immediately suit their particular system. The balanced Calvinist, such as Spurgeon, has a philosophical problem in reconciling different aspects of God’s nature, but after all why should we be too troubled by the mysteries of God’s being? The twin truths of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility stand, admittedly, in dynamic tension to each other. But they are not contradictory.

One of the most thorough and incisive discussions of the two aspects of the divine will can be found in Robert Dabney’s essay titled, “God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy, As Related to His Power, Wisdom, and Sincerity,” which was printed in his Evangelical and Theological Discussions. He defends with great candor and integrity the biblical teachings of a free offer of salvation to all. He continually refers to those who see only one saving disposition of God, and that is His sovereign love to the elect, as extremists. His philosophical and psychological case that a person, even God, can have connotative propensions (propensities), which are not necessarily carried out in elective decisions, is, at least to my mind, quite convincing.8

To make the matter simple, suppose that a parent has repeatedly commanded a child, for purposes of safety, never to play with the box of matches in the kitchen cabinet. The child, fascinated by fire and driven by a natural desire to resist authority, insists on getting the matches and setting little fires in the yard. One day the parent looks from his window and sees the youngster engaged in this mischievous practice. It would be possible for the parent to rush outside and deal with the danger by taking the matches from the child. Thinking, however, that it might be a good punishment for the child to burn his hands he simply watches him carry out his own wishes. In such a case the parent genuinely wants the child to leave the matchbox alone, yet he chooses, for a higher or ultimate end, to allow him to do it.

Such illustrations, of course, in the end prove nothing as far as theology is concerned. But they do point out the fact that a person can have complex emotions that can on the surface seem to be antithetical to one another. The parent has the ability by a sheer act of intervention to carry out his wish that the child leave the matches alone, yet he chooses not to use this power. Even so there is no reason to doubt that God desires people to do things which is a desire accompanied by commands and promises of reward or punishment, and yet He has also chosen not to put forth the sovereign power to induce people to carry out such commands.

The late John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse of Westminster Theological Seminary, in a pamphlet titled The Free Offer of the Gospel, see, as do Dabney and Spurgeon, the universal call based on God’s compassion for human beings. Their exposition of the troublesome text, 2 Peter 3:9, is interesting. The verse says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

This text has been the format for many a match of wits between Calvinists and Arminians. A typical approach of the former is to establish that the “you” of the verse are the elect spoken of in chapter 1, verse 2. What the verse means, so the Calvinist often argues, is that God is merciful and longsuffering toward His chosen people and that He is not willing that any of them be lost.

Murray and Stonehouse, in the aforementioned pamphlet, challenge this exposition. In their view there is no reason in the analogy of Scripture why we should not regard this passage as teaching that God in the exercise of His benevolent longsuffering and lovingkindness wills that none should perish but that all should come to repentance.9

The longsuffering spoken of, say Murray and Stonehouse, is not the sovereign and efficacious purpose toward the chosen but His merciful and kind disposition to men in general. “We do not believe that the restriction of the reference to the elect is well-established.”10

The authors of The Free Offer, both well-known defenders of Reformed theology, feel no constraint in affirming God’s good will toward sinners generally.
Does not, as a matter of fact, the language “not wishing that any should perish,” mean that “all should come to repentance”? Does this not set before us a basic antithesis between the death or destruction that awaits impenitent sinners and by implication, the life eternal which men may enter upon thorough repentance? God does not wish that any men should perish. His wish is rather that all should enter upon life eternal by coming to repentance.... The language of the clauses, then, most naturally refers to mankind as a whole as men are faced with the issues of death or life before the day of judgment comes. It does not view men either as elect or as reprobate, and so allows that both elect and reprobate make up the totality in view.11
6. Charles H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1880), XXV, pp. 49–50.
7. Ibid., p. 51.
8. Robert L. Dabney, “God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy,” Discussions Theological and Evangelical, Vol. 1, (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publications, 1890), pp. 282–313).
9. John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse, The Free Offer of the Gospel (Phillipsburg, NJ: Lewis J. Grotenhuis, n.d.), p. 21.
10. Ibid., p. 23.
11. Ibid., p. 24.
John Thornbury, “God’s Universal Call to Men,” Reformation and Revival 2:4 (Fall 1993), 102–106. This entire article can be downloaded here (click).

October 24, 2009

Archibald Alexander (1772–1851) on Natural and Moral Inability

...many adopted with readiness a distinction of human ability into natural and moral. By the first they understood merely the possession of physical powers and opportunities; by the latter, a mind rightly disposed. In accordance with this distinction, it was taught that every man possessed a natural ability to do all that God required of him; but that every sinner laboured under a moral inability to obey God, which, however, could not be pleaded in excuse for his disobedience, as it consisted in corrupt dispositions of the heart, for which every man was responsible. Now this view of the subject is substantially correct, and the distinction has always been made by every person, in his judgments of his own conduct and that of others. It is recognized in all courts of justice, and in all family government, and is by no means a modern discovery. And yet it is remarkable that it is a distinction so seldom referred to, or brought distinctly into view, by old Calvinistic authors. The first writer among English theologians that we have observed using this distinction explicitly, is the celebrated Dr. Twisse, the prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, and the able opposer of Arminianism, and advocate of the Supralapsarian doctrine of divine decrees. It was also resorted to by the celebrated Mr. Howe, and long afterwards used freely by Dr. Isaac Watts, the popularity of whose evangelical writings probably had much influence in giving it currency. It is also found in the theological writings of Dr. Witherspoon, and many others, whose orthodoxy was never disputed. But in this country no man has had so great an influence in fixing the language of theology, as Jonathan Edwards, president of New Jersey College. In his work on "The Freedom of the Will," this distinction holds a prominent place, and is very important to the argument which this profound writer has so ably discussed in that treatise. The general use of the distinction between natural and moral ability may, therefore, be ascribed to the writings of President Edwards, both in Europe and America. No distinguished writer on theology has made more use of it than Dr. Andrew Fuller; and it is well known that he imbibed nearly all his views of theology from an acquaintance with the writings of President Edwards. And it may be said truly, that Jonathan Edwards has done more to give complexion to the theological system of Calvinists in America, than all other persons together. This is more especially true of New England; but it is also true to a great extent in regard to a large number of the present ministers of the Presbyterian church. Those, indeed, who were accustomed either to the Scotch or Dutch writers, did not adopt this distinction, but were jealous of it as an innovation, and as tending to diminish, in their view, the miserable and sinful state of man, and as derogatory to the grace of God. But we have remarked, that in almost all cases where the distinction has been opposed as false, or as tending to the introduction of false doctrine, it has been misrepresented. The true ground of the distinction has not been clearly apprehended; and those who deny it have been found making it themselves in other words; for that an inability depending on physical defect, should be distinguished from that which arises from a wicked disposition, or perverseness of will, is a thing which no one can deny who attends to the clear dictates of his own mind; for it is a self-evident truth, which even children recognize in all their apologies for their conduct.
Archibald Alexander, "The Inability of Sinners," in Theological Essays: Reprinted from the Princeton Review (New York & London: Wiley and Putnam, 1846), 266–267.


For an example where the distinction has been misrepresented, see Canon XXI in the Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675).

October 18, 2009

William Prynne (1600–1669) on the Will of God

Thirdly, when God doeth offer Grace to men, he doth not immediately infuse his Grace into their hearts, but he works it in them by the use of means: now Reprobates, when as God tenders Grace unto them do alwayes slight, neglect, and vilifie the means by which he offers, and conveyes his Grace; so that if they misse of Grace, (as they alwayes doe:) they cannot lay the fault on God, or say, that he intended not to Convert them; but they must take the blame upon themselves alone; because if they had used the meanes with care, and Conscience as they ought, and done that which was requisite on their parts; God would have wrought effectually by his Spirit in their hearts, for ought they could tell, or thinke to the contrary.

Fourthly, when God doth seriously invite us to Repentance, and true saving Faith; he doth not alwayes peremptorily promise, much lesse resolve to worke this Faith, and Repentance in our hearts, (for then they should be alwayes wrought effectually in us, because Gods purposed, and resolved Will, is alwayes executed, and cannot be resisted:) but he doeth onely seriously declare, what things he doth approve, and require in us, and what course wee ourselves must take, if we will be saved: A King may seriously wish and desire, that such a Subject of his were a Rich, or Honourable person; and with all inform him of the way and meanes to purchase Wealth and Honor; but yet he may not purposely resolve to make him such a one; God doth earnestly wish, Command, and desire, that all men should repent, and turne unto him, and that none should offend, or sinne against him; but yet he hath not eternally purposed to cause them to repent, or to inable them to convert, and not to sinne: for most men goe on in sinne, without repentance: in many things we offend all; and there is no man that liveth; and sinneth not: God may desire something in his revealed Will, which he hath not decreed to effect in his secret Will: he desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should repent, and live; yet sinners alwayes die in sinne, without repentance: He desires, that all men should be saved, and that none should perish; yet we know, that few are saved and that most men perish: Since therefore God may command, desire, and require something in his revealed Will, which he hath not absolutely decreed to effect in his hidden Will; it followes not, that God doth therefore resolve to worke effectually by his Grace in Reprobates, when as he offers means of Grace unto them: and so he mocks them not.
William Prynne, God No Imposter Nor Deluder: Or, An Answer to a Popish and Arminian Cavill, in the Defence of Free-Will, and Universal Grace (Printed by Elizabeth Allde, 1629), 6–8.


William Levitt (fl.1652) on the Will of God

Object. How can God be said to will the salvation of all, according to 1 Tim. 2. 4. if he have elected some only, and rejected others?

Answ. 1. Although it cannot be properly said that God hath two Wills, as in reference to himself, or in himself, his Will being entire; yet forasmuch as part of his Will is revealed, and part kept secret, according to our capacities, we may say there is a revealed and a secret Will of God, or a declaring and a decreeing Will of God; now the tender of grace being universal, all men ought in point of duty to wait upon God in his Ordinances, he affording like means to the reprobate as to the elect, he may well be said to Will the salvation of all: Hence are the ungodly left without excuse; for although the decreeing will of God cannot be resisted, yet his declaring will is resisted every day by every sin we commit.
William Levitt, The Glorious Truth of Redemption by Jesus Christ, Rescued out of the Hands of Unrighteousness (London, Printed for the Author, 1652), 16.

I can't find Levitt's dates yet, but it is clear from this brief treatise that he was a high Calvinist seeking to refute Arminianism and other errors.

October 17, 2009

Joseph Truman (1631–1671) on Christ's Satisfaction

5. Though Christ's death as a satisfaction, expiation, was the cause of no more to us than this, That, if we repent and believe, we shall be justified and saved, Satisfaction and Propitiation being only for sin: yet, considering this suffering of Christ, as a highly pleasing meritorious act, as a worthy voluntary undertaking for the Honor of God we may say, Christ did merit that God should give this Faith, work this Condition, and keep it in the Elect: for all would, notwithstanding this (and the easie reasonable terms made of their interest in it) through their own wilful wickedness, have perished; and he deserved that his blood should not thus far be lost, as water spilt on the ground; but that he should have some fruit of the travel of his soul, in seeing a Seed, actually to honour, venerate, and adore their Redeemer. Though I must say, for the honour of our Redeemer in this great affair, He will have some reward in those that perish in that he did a wonderful kindness for them, it being only through their own chosen refusal, that they had no benefit by it. His Goodness and Grace is not therefore no Grace because men reject it. And to do a good and gracious act, is a reward and satisfaction in it self. And you may as well maintain, That, except God be ignorant, and know not that men will reject his mercy, he cannot be righteous and just in punishing them for it: which is contrary to the knowledg of the whole world; as to say, Except God be ignorant, and know not that they will through their wicked wilfulness refuse his Mercy, his Grace and Mercy is no Grace and Mercy. If one of you take a long, tedious, and hazzardous journey, to disswade your friend from something you hear he designs to do, which you know will undo him, though he wilfully persist, and will not be perswaded by you, and so is undone by it; yet he is bound to thank you all his life after, and your kindness ceaseth not to be kindness; and you have this satisfaction and reward, You did a kind act, though he reap no benefit. And suppose you might have prevailed with him, if you had there stayed longer with him, and taken more pains; yet your kindness ceaseth not to be a kindness because you did not greater kindness; since that which you did, would have been enough, had it not been for his wilful obstinacy: And his after-ruing of his own folly, bears a loud testimony to, and tends to the honour of your kindness, Oh that I had hearkened to my Friend! How have I hated instruction, and would not incline mine ear to him that instructed me? They in Hell, if they would and could do as befits them, or as Christ hath deserved from them, would spend time as well in admiring the love of God, and the Redeemer, in this wonderful once offered and urged Kindness, as in ruing that they lost it through their own chosen wilful madness. Some go on such grounds in speaking of these things, that (holding to their way) they must necessarily deny that sinners in Hell will ever rue, and befool themselves for their loss of salvation by Christ: But if any will hold so much power in man to receive Christ, as that they will rue it as their madness, and folly, and sin, to reject him, and perish by so doing; I can from that demonstrate (as clearly as I can do any thing) that this I now speak in this digression inevitably follows. Let me but ask you this, Was there no cause for Adam (when faln from the benefit) to thank God for making that promise, Obey and Live; when as God might have annihilated him, notwithstanding his obedience, had it not been for that promise? And do you never thank God for it, though God knew he would fall? But to return: As Christ's sufferings did not as an expiation or satisfaction, but as a highly meritorious act, deserve or obtain, that God should give greater things to those that believe, than Adam lost, for the honour of the Redeemer, and of this great work of Redemption: so, he did deserve, that God should cause some to believe; and so from eternity his death, forseen or undertaken, was a cause, a meritorios cause or motive why God would, that is, decreed, to make some, and so, though more remotely, such particular persons, the Elect, to accept offered mercy and Christ, which they would otherwise (as others) have rejected. Some call this, the Covenant of Redemption; but it is an immanent act, and from eternity, and an elicite act of the will; and therefore is properly a Decree, and belongeth to the Will of Purpose, and not to his Legislative Will, his Rectoral Will. Methinks you may see hence, how it cometh to pass that we sometimes read of Christ's dying for the world; and in other places that he laid down his life for his sheep; sometime, tasted death for every man, dyed for all; sometime again, gave himself for the Church; in one place, a Saviour of the body; in another, a Saviour of the world. He dyed for the Elect and World both, so far, that whosoever should believe on him, should not perish; but for the Elect, as they which were much in his eye, being those who certainly should believe, and so be actually saved. Though God and Christ did, as one saith, æque intend this satisfaction, a propitiation conditionally applicable to every one; yet he did not ex æquo, as fully intend it for to be actually applied to every man. There is much of truth in that frequently cited passage of Ambrose, Christus passus est pro omnibus, pro nobis tamen specialiter passus est. Like that, a Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe. Will any dare to say, Here is nothing of grace or kindness to the World? Joh. 3. 16. He so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. V. 17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. Cannot you see plainly here what is meant by the World, and that his first coming was to save it, though his second will be to take a severe account? V. 18. He that believeth on him, is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he believeth not. Can you say, a sick man dyed, because he took not such a Medicine; when, if he had taken it, it would not have cured him? You cannot say, the Devils continue to be condemned, because they reject Christ; because, if they should accept him, they would still perish; for there was no satisfaction made for them: And may not the same be said of them that perish, if no satisfaction be made for them? So John 12. 47. If any man hear my words, and believe not (surely you will say this is mean of a non-elect man) I judg him not; for I came not into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world. Which reason would have no shew of reason, except Christ came to save that man, except he be one of that World he came to save. If Election and Redemption were of the same latitude and strictness, you might as well say to sinners, Repent, for you are elected, for you are foreknown in the Scripture-sense, for you are given to Christ by the Father, in that special sense; as, Repent, for you are redeemed, Christ dyed for you; you are bought with a price: therefore glorifie God with your bodies and spirits, which are his: But the Apostle would not venture to speak thus, You are elected; therefore repent, glorifie God: for he should have spoken what he knew not to be true.

I will say no more but this here: Whether is it a more likely way to lay a foundation for Religion in this World, to encourage and draw mens hearts to repent, return, to tell them Christ hath dyed for you, and hath obtained this of the Father for you, That if you return, you shall live, notwithstanding all your former sins; or, to say, Repent, return: for, any thing you know, Christ hath dyed for you; for any thing you know, he hath obtained this from God, That if you turn, you shall live; though it is ten to one he hath not: or however, we cannot tell whether he hath or no. And if he hath not, then as this is true, that if the Devils should repent and return, they should yet perish, because no Satisfaction was made for them; so if you should repent and believe, you should yet perish, because no Satisfaction made for you.
Joseph Truman, The Great Propitiation; or, Christ's Satisfaction; and Man's Justification by it Upon his Faith; that is, Belief of, and Obedience to the Gospel (London, Printed by A. Maxwell, for R. Clavell, in Cross-key Court in Little Britain, 1672), 212–220.


October 8, 2009

John Humfrey (1621–1719) on the Purchase of Faith

To come up closer then to this person, & speak exactly, if I can. The death of Christ, as it is Redemptory, Propitiatory, or Satisfactory for sin, hath this fruit I speak of, Pardon. It is this is the direct immediate & proper fruit of it; I think I may say too, the only (such) fruit of it, for, Pardon for all sin of Omission and Commission, and consequently a disobligation from all punishment, of Loss and Suffering, is (passively taken) no less than a right to Impunity and Life, and this is held forth upon condition of Faith and Repentance to all the World: But the Condition it self (performed by some) is not the fruit of Christs death, as a Propitiation, though by way of Redundancy it comes by it. If you ask me what Redundancy? or How? I will tell you (though I can't Peremptorily,) as thus. In all things whatsoever we pray for, suppose it to be for fair weather (as we have Collects for such Occasions), we ask it in Christs name, for his sake, or through his merits, when yet it would be a strange speech to say Christ dyed that we may have fair weather: And nevertheless there is some sense in which there is a Truth in this; for if Christ had not atoned God by his satisfaction for sin, there is no blessing could be obtained for, or by, any. Now, when there is some distinction must be made here, so that, mediately, indirectly, or some way, by way of Redundancy, such blessings, even as these, are the benefits of Christs Redemption to such and such particular persons, let that distinction be formed right, and in such a sense will the condition we speak of be a fruit hereof to the Elect, even by its redundant merit and value.

The purchase of Christ made, was a purchase for us, and for himself. His purchase for us was, that we should be pardoned upon Condition: He purchased for himself, a power to give us that condition, that our pardon may be compleat. All power is committed to me in Heaven and Earth, saith Christ, after he was risen. There is accordingly a Redemption by price (our Divines say), and by power. Pardon upon condition is the fruit of his Redemption by price: But the Condition is the Effect of his Redemption by power. When by his Death (I say) he had paid the price of a pardon for All upon Condition; by his Resurrection he receives power to confer the condition to whom he pleases, that is the Elect, which when they perform, they are justified, or have absolute right in it. And that may be a good resolution as to the sense of that Text, He was delivered for our sins, and raised again for our justification. to make the matter though more plain, we have that Text in Acts. Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Repentance we see (and so faith) comes from this power, the power of Christ as a King, rather than as a Priest; and if as a Priest both, 'tis by vertue of his Intercession as he is at Gods right hand, rather than of his Oblation. Now Christ intercedes for nothing but according to Gods will; His will is his Decree, and it is from the decree, his decree of Election, that our faith and repentance does come. It is not from Christs purchase by price; it is not from the power of our free will; but it is from Election (which belongs to God not as Rector, but as Lord of his own gifts) working the same effectually in us. It is out of this Treasury Christ gives it; And not by virtue of a right to any from his death, but by the power of an endless life. Not as Testator, but as the Executor or Dispenser of his Fathers Election.

In fine, Christ by his death did merit, or procure this power, that he hath at Gods right hand: By this power he gives us Repentance and Faith. Faith and Repentance then is not the fruit of Chirsts death any otherwise than mediately or indirectly, as being derived from this power, which he obtained by it.

God (I again say) for the merit of Christs life and death exalts him to the power mentioned. Wherefore God hath highly exalted him. By this power, or as exalted, Christ gives his Spirit to work Faith and Repentance in whom he chooses, or hath chosen. By this work they are regenerated, and that Article in the Agreement (or Covenant as some call it) between Father and Son [When though shalt make his Soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed,] is made good to him. In this way about then, and no other, does Faith and Repentance come to the Elect by his death, when the direct and immediate fruit of it is Universal. That is, Faith and Repentance (the Condition) is the fruit of Christs death as all other Blessings are, which are asked of God for Chirst's merits sake, or which he, as Prince and Saviour, bestows on his people.
John Humfrey, Peace at Pinners-Hall Wish'd and Attempted in a Pacifick Paper Touching The Universality of Redemption, the Conditionality of the Covenant of Grace, and our Freedom from the Law of Works (London, Printed and are to be Sold by Randal Taylor near Amen-Corner, 1692), 4–7.

October 7, 2009

John Humfrey's (1621–1719) Classical Christology as it Relates to the Atonement

There is a distinction which this Gentleman hath not (I suppose) ever considered, which may bring light, and some Conviction to him. A distinction of Christ in the Flesh, and of Christ in the Spirit. It is we know a Scripture distinction. What Jesus Christ now hath done for us in the flesh he hath, and must have done for All; and the direct and immediate fruit of it belong to all, for he took on him our flesh, not as the flesh of the Elect, but as the flesh of Mankind (the nature of man, not that of Angels): What he does for us in the Spirit is peculiar to some, and if it be saving, to the Elect only. The work of Christs redemption (being by his Blood) was wrought for us through his Flesh, (in which all mankind have Union with him,) and that is therefore Universal, with the benefit that does directly and immediately issue from it: the giving us Faith and Repentance is the work of Christ through the Spirit, (in which his Members only have Union with him) and is particular to the Chosen.
John Humfrey, Peace at Pinners-Hall Wish'd and Attempted in a Pacifick Paper Touching The Universality of Redemption, the Conditionality of the Covenant of Grace, and our Freedom from the Law of Works (London, Printed and are to be Sold by Randal Taylor near Amen-Corner, 1692), 4.


October 1, 2009

A Few Historical References by John Humfrey (1621–1719) on the Redemption Controversy

Sir, you know there are two sorts of such as oppose Arminianism. One that is the high sort, and the other the moderate sort that are for the middle way in these Controversies, and I confess myself one who have wrote several pieces, so called. We that are of this sort, do hold Election to be of particular persons (not the choosing Believers to be saved with the Arminian and Lutherans, but the choosing Persons to believe): But Redemption we hold to be Universal. The Scriptures say, Christ died for all, and for every man. God so loved the World, (says Christ) that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. By the World, this Gentlemen must understand the Elect: but when by the words [that whosoever believeth in him] Christ plainly intimates, that there are some of those God loves, do believe, and some not; the World must be more than the Elect. Of the world of those God loves so as to give his Son, to dye for them; some believe in him, and have everlasting life, and some believe not and perish. But of the Elect all believe, and none perish.

One Text more I will quote: Whom he did predestinate, them he called: Whom he called, them he justified: Whom he justified, them he also glorified. And why is Redemption here left out of the Apostolical Chain, but because those he hath redeemed, are all the world? If the Doctrine that this Gentleman hath received were right, the Apostle would have said, Whom he did predestinate, them he Redeemed.

I shall use no more Arguments, or Scriptures, when so many may be had; but because this Gentleman was apt to think me singular in what I said, it is fit he know that the Church of England (and consequently our Holy Martyrs, Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Bradford,) does in her Catechism assert this Doctrine, when the child is made to answer there, Who hath redeemed me and all mankind. The excellent Dr. Bishop Davenant, hath wrote a Book on purpose, De Morte Christi, to maintain this point. Archbishop Usher (not to name any of our Eminent forraign Divines) hath done the like. Mr. Baxter, that every foot is commending this book of Davenants so highly, is one, I won't scruple to say now he is dead, no less profound himself, and chose to go this way with them.
John Humfrey, Peace at Pinners-Hall (London: Printed and be Sold by Randal Taylor near Amen-Corner, 1692), 2–4.

Observe the following points in the above:

1) Humfrey distinguishes between the two sorts of Calvinists who oppose Arminianism: the "high sort" and the "moderates."
2) The "moderates" hold to a form of universal redemption.
3) He lists Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Bradford, Davenant, Ussher and Baxter as "moderates."

Note (5-8-13): Joseph Truman also calls himself a "moderate" several times in opposing certain free will theologians in A Discourse of Natural and Moral Impotency (London: Printed for Robert Clavel; and are to be sold at the Sign of the Peacock in St. Pauls Church yard, 1675). See, for example, pp. 115, 124.