November 30, 2009

Maurice Roberts on the Free Offer of the Gospel and Dutch-American Hyper-Calvinism

The Free Offer may be defined like this:

It is the invitation given by God to all sinners to believe in Jesus Christ, with the promise added that if they do so believe they will at once receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Maurice Roberts, "The Free Offer of the Gospel," Banner of Truth 503–504 (August–September 2005): 39.
Implied in the concept of this Free Offer are the following ideas. The Offer made is for all who hear it, whether they be elect or not. The Offer is not to be restricted or modified by the preacher in his presentation. The Offer is an expression of love and grace on God's part towards sinful, unbelieving men. The Offer is sincere on God's part, and it is genuinely and well meant. The Offer is addressed to sinners as they are and requires of them repentance and faith.
Ibid., 39.

Roberts deals with two objections to the Free Offer. The first he calls 'English Hyper-Calvinism,' which involves the denial of 'duty-faith.' Here is the second:
(2) God gives no 'well-meant' offer to any but to the elect. This view might be termed 'Dutch-American Hyper-Calvinism', as it is associated with the Dutch American theologian of the twentieth century, Herman Hoeksema, the founder of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. The argument is this: God has elected some sinners to eternal life and reprobated others; God makes no promise or offer in the gospel to any except the elect.

Implied in this view are the following points: God in no sense loves the non-elect. There is no grace of any kind, either Saving Grace or Common Grace, given or offered to any except elect persons. It would be insincere of God to offer Saving Grace to those whom he has eternally reprobated – and this is a thing impossible. God cannot be said to desire or to wish anything which he has not decreed to happen, since this would be tantamount to frustrating God's will. It is not proper for a preacher to 'offer' Christ promiscuously to a mixed audience of Christians and non-Christians. We may not teach that it is possible for God to will according to his precept what he does not will in his eternal decree.
Ibid., 40.
2. Dutch-American Hyper-Calvinism

The starting-point of this view is that God's will is one, not manifold. If he has eternally elected only some to eternal life it is wrong to suppose that he gives a well-meant offer of salvation to any but the elect only.

We would respond to this view as follows. The fact is that the Bible does speak of God as wanting and wishing all sinners to be saved. See the texts: Isa. 45:22; Ezek. 18:23, 30–32; Ezek. 33:11; Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34; 1 Tim. 2:3–4; 2 Pet. 3:9. This is as certainly a matter of divine revelation as is his eternal election. Both are stated as revealed facts in scripture.

The way to interpret scripture is not to stress one truth to the detriment of another but to hold both truths at the same time. So we affirm both God's eternal election and his well-meant offer to all sinners who hear the gospel. We are obliged to do this because this is how God himself reveals his will to us. Put simply, it is this: God has fixed the number of the elect from eternity past; yet God desires every sinner who hears his gospel to receive it and to be eternally blessed in Christ.
Ibid., 42.

At the end of this article, Roberts supplies the readers with several quotes from orthodox writers affirming God's desire to save all men, such as John Calvin, Francis Turretin, William Greenhill, David Dickson, Thomas Halyburton and Patrick Fairbairn.

November 29, 2009

Iain Murray’s Review of David Silversides’ Book on the Free Offer

The Free Offer: Biblical and Reformed

David Silversides; Foreward: J. J. Murray Marpet Press, 16 Edward Street, Kilsyth, Scotland G65 9DL, 128 pp., £7.95.

This is a valuable addition to literature demonstrating that the gospel is good news for every hearer. It is more particularly oriented to answering the teaching of the Protestant Reformed Church of America (PRC) – encouraged in Britain through the British Reformed Fellowship – that the 'free offer' only means that the gospel is to be preached to all; it is no expression of love in God for all. So the preacher must not individualize the message to convey to his hearers the belief that the gospel is sent for their salvation; he must rather confine himself to generalities (not knowing who the elect are). The reasoning behind this belief is that God only has love for the elect and so the love revealed in the gospel can only have reference to them. Contrary to this position, Mr Silversides argues that 'The overtures of the gospel are an expression of God's love', and he sets out to prove that, in addition to saving love, there is a love in God for all men. We believe he succeeds and he does so without any of the rancour that has sometimes disfigured disagreement among Christians.

The orientation of the argument as a response to PRC writers makes this work of value chiefly to those who have been influenced by the supposition that the PRC teaching represents the purest Calvinism. It is to counter that idea that the author makes effective use of many Reformed authors from the Reformation and Puritan periods, showing that divine love is not to be confined to the elect alone. The scriptural case is foremost but, for those unconcerned with the historical, the book is somewhat specialist. It is not impossible that the other side may also produce 17th-century quotations which appear to contradict those here given. The fact is that it was not until the eighteenth century that hyper-Calvinism really became prominent, and earlier Reformed writers were more concerned with answering Arminianism.

In order to keep what he considers the main point clear, Mr Silversides does not argue that the free offer proves that God desires the salvation of all to whom the message comes. But can the divine love, that the author wants to uphold, be without desire for the highest good of those loved? To side-line the question of desire will not, we think, blunt the hyper-Calvinist's claim that a free-offer, expressive of love to all, attributes two wills to God – fulfilled in the case of the elect and unfulfilled in the case of all others. But that charge needs to be met (as the author to some extent does) on other grounds. We do not think that Scripture allows us to make the question of God's desire secondary. In the words of Professor John Murray, 'It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the free-offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men' (Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 113). Further on this point, see the chapter by John Piper on 'Are There Two Wills in God? Divine Election and God's Desire for All to be Saved' in The Grace of God, the Bondage of the Will, T. Schreiner and Bruce Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995). We hope and believe that David Silversides' thorough work will be of help to many on this important issue.

Iain H. Murray
From the "Book Reviews," in Banner of Truth 507 (December 2005): 22.

Note: Observe carefully that Iain Murray, like Phil Johnson, appeals to Piper's article, but Murray explicitly does so to answer the issue of hyper-Calvinism on the primary subject of God's desire for the salvation of all men. Phil Johnson links to the same article in his Primer on Hyper-Calvinism, but wants to make the issue of God's universal saving desire secondary (in order to protect his friend James White from the charge), explicitly contrary to Murray. There is some difference between Murray and Johnson on this particular subject. Johnson is more with Silversides in making the matter secondary, unfortunately.

Moreover, Murray thinks God's universal love necessarily entails that God desires the highest good (i.e. the eternal salvation) of all men in the revealed will, therefore he says: "But can the divine love, that the author [Silversides] wants to uphold, be without desire for the highest good of those loved?" In addition to refuting Silversides (as Murray does), this also answers the Gillite position that God loves all merely in a temporal sense, but doesn't desire their highest good, or in the sense of their eternal salvation. As mainstream Calvinism teaches, God's benevolent love for all is necessarily associated with His desire to eternally save all in His revealed will.

More Wonderful Paradoxes in Augustine

"But our very Life descended hither, and bore our death, and slew it, out of the abundance of His own life; and thundering He called loudly to us to return hence to Him into that secret place whence He came forth to us–first into the Virgin's womb, where the human creature was married to Him,–our mortal flesh, that it might not be for ever mortal,–and thence "as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, rejoicing as a strong man to run a race." For He tarried not, but ran crying out by words, deeds, death, life, descent, ascension, crying aloud to us to return to Him. And He departed from our sight, that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here. He would not be long with us, yet left us not; for He departed thither, whence He never departed, because "the world was made by Him."
Augustine, "The Confessions of St. Augustine," NPNF, 1st series, ed. Philip Schaff (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 1:74.

November 28, 2009

Narrowly "Reformed"

Some Reformed Baptists have been complaining about Dr. Scott Clark's narrow use of the term "Reformed," such that 1689 LBCF advocates do not qualify as truly "Reformed." Some of the discussion initially began on Micah Burke's blog here, and James White commented here and then here. I tried to post my following comments on Burke's blog, but got this reply:
Lockheed said...
Sorry Ynottony, I don't welcome your comments here
Here is my attempted post that was not allowed:
Dr. Clark's narrow interpretation of the "Reformed" label is further revealed by the fact that he doesn't think that so called "hypothetical universalists" should be considered "Reformed" or "Calvinists." He can't think, for example, that John Davenant, Matthias Martinius, Carleton, Ward, Goad, Hall, Crocius and Alsted signed the Synod of Dort in good conscience, or that they were truly "Reformed," contrary to what Dr. Richard Muller has said. The same is true of some Westminster divines, such as Calamy, Seaman, Vines, Harris, Marshall, and Arrowsmith. Dr. Richard Muller acknowledges that these men taught forms of "hypothetical universalism." Muller also says that Musculus, Zanchi, Ursinus, Bullinger, Twisse, John Preston and James Ussher also taught a non-Amyraldian "hypothetical universalism," but Dr. Clark cannot agree and think these men truly "Reformed."

Note carefully that Muller says that Ursinus, of Heidelberg, taught a "hypothetical universalism," and Clark [the "Heidelblog" blogger] cannot agree with that, or think Ursinus himself was "Reformed" if Muller is right. Even Robert Godfrey, in his doctoral dissertation, says that Martinius' moderate statement at the Synod of Dort on the extent of Christ's death for all "was almost a direct quotation from Ursinus." Godfrey says, "Some of the strict Calvinists might well have taken considerable exception to this. But Martinius had a surprise waiting for them if they did, for though he did not cite the source of his thesis, Martinius' statement was almost a direct quotation from Ursinus." On page 200 of his thesis, Godfrey says that Martinius' Theses in fact showed that he "really was within the camp of orthodox Calvinism and that he definitely accepted the received distinction and at least in large part the received restriction on efficacy." Muller even grants that John Bunyan and Jacob Kimedoncius taught a "hypothetical universalism," so Dr. Clark has to view them out of bounds as well, as not true "Calvinists" or truly "Reformed."

My point here is not to argue what atonement view is correct, but just to demonstrate how radically different Dr. Clark's Reformed boundaries are on this issue as compared to Dr. Muller, and Dr. Godfrey. So, Clark's narrow interpretation of the label "Reformed" surfaces in other areas as well, not just on the subject of baptism.
That's all that I was attempting to post on Burke's blog. I might add, now, that James White is just as sectarian as Scott Clark is on the atonement, but not in the area of baptism when it comes to the "Reformed" label. White regularly hosts and approves Turretinfan as a blogger on historic Calvinism, and everything said about Clark above (on the atonement) applies to the anonymous and unaccountable Turretinfan as well. They cannot allow that any of these non-Amyraldian "hypothetical universalists" are truly "Reformed," and they must therefore disagree with the historiography of Dr. Muller and Dr. Godfrey. The concerns of the moderates at Dort about Reformed catholicity were quite valid. We're seeing the fruits of the predicted sectarianism today, especially manifested on the topic of the extent of the atonement.

[Update: A lot more discussion can be found here and here. Dr. Gonzales has an interesting reply here, and he rightly calls Clark's views "sectarian". Dr. Haykin has a response here. White's final thoughts are here.]

November 27, 2009

Timothy Manlove (1633–1699) on Offers of Gospel-Grace

An unregenerate State is a miserable State. How should it be otherwise? Can a Man harden himself against God and prosper? No, no: Such Persons are under the Wrath and Indignation of the Almighty, an Abomination to him; he is of purer Eyes than to behold them. His holy Law is armed with the most dreadful Curses, and the Threatnings against them. God shall would the Head of his Enemies; and the hairy Scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his Trespasses, Psal. 68.21. They are Slaves of Satan, led Captive by him at his Will, who employs them in treasuring up unto themselves Wrath against the Day of Wrath: Even the Offers of Gospel-Grace which are daily made to them, as they aggravate their Sin, will also make their Condemnation heavier. Thus that which was designed for their Good, becomes the savour of Death unto Death unto them. What shall I say? They are Heirs of Hell, condemned already in Point of Law; tho Judgment has not yet passed the final Sentence: They are not sure of being spared an hour longer. One would think this should make them ill at ease, till the Affairs of their Souls be in a better posture.
Timothy Manlove, Præparatio Evangelica: Or, A Plain and Practical Discourse Concerning the Soul's Preparation for a Blessed Eternity (London: Printed for Nevill Simmons, Bookseller in Sheffield, Yorkshire: And sold by George Coniers, at the Rink in Little Britain, 1698), 121.

According to Manlove, a Presbyterian, these unregenerate "Heirs of Hell" are daily receiving offers of Gospel-Grace which were designed for their good, and this is why it aggravates their sin and makes their condemnation heavier.


John Brentnall on John Calvin and the Free Offer

The issue of God's sincerity in freely offering salvation to the reprobate and to sinners wholly unable of themselves to respond, Calvin handles with due reverence. Who are we mortals to question the sincerity of the thrice-holy God? While we should humbly submit our minds to the truth that 'God desires nothing more earnestly than that those who are perishing and rushing to destruction should return into the way of safety', we should restrain ourselves from all prying into the 'indissoluble bond' between God's secret and revealed will. It should satisfy us that God's secret election is revealed by the outward call of the gospel, he warns. He adds indignantly that 'it would be a shocking sacrilege to carry the enquiry further; for that man offers an aggravated insult to the Holy Spirit who refuses to assent to his simple testimony'.

The furthest Calvin is prepared to go is to conclude that by the gospel call, God intends 'to draw to himself the elect', and at the same time 'to take away all excuse from the reprobate'. Here, we believe, is the heart of the problem. Certain Calvinists, who want all the questions answered to the satisfaction of their logic-tidy minds, are simply not prepared to stop reasoning where God is silent, and submit their restless intellects to the revealed will of God.
John Brentnall, "Calvin and the Free Offer," The Banner of Truth 383–384 (August–September 1995): 30–31.

November 25, 2009

Thomas Lamb's (died c. 1672 or 1686) Crucial Agreement with Goodwin

"...yet I deny not, but grant with him [John Goodwin], that the denial of Christ's Death for the sins of all, doth detract from God's Philanthropy, and deny him to be a lover of men, and doth in very deed destroy the very foundation and ground-work of Christian faith."
Thomas Lamb, Absolute Freedom from Sin by Christs Death for the World (London: Printed by H. H. for the Authour, and are to be sold by him, 1656), 248.

Keep in mind that Benjamin Brook, in his Lives of the Puritans (vol. 3, p. 466) recently published in 1996 by Soli Deo Gloria, said that "it is extremely obvious, that, upon the disputed points, he [Lamb] was a strict Calvinist," and Brook references this treatise to sustain that point.

Thomas Lamb (died c. 1672 or 1686) on Salvation Available in Christ for All

...God commandeth no man to believe in Christ for salvation for whom there is no salvation in him; or that God on the contrary upon all occassions counseleth and chargeth men to take heed of uncertain, empty and vain dependencies, and from seeking help, peace and safety where they are not to be found.
Thomas Lamb, Absolute Freedom from Sin by Christs Death for the World (London: Printed by H. H. for the Authour, and are to be sold by him, 1656), 268.

It doesn't get plainer than this: If Christ only suffered for the sins of the elect, then God is commanding the rest to believe in Christ for salvation for whom there is no salvation in him. They are being counseled and charged by God [and us] to depend on something uncertain, empty and vain. They are being told to seek help, peace and safety where they are not to be found.

McClintock & Strong

November 24, 2009

Bob Sheehan on God's Love to the Non-Elect in Reformation Today

Increasingly, there is a tendency among a vocal minority within the Reformed tradition, not only to emphasise the distinguishing and electing love of God, but also to speak of the non-elect in such a disparaging way that the impression that they give is that God loves his elect and despises the rest!
Bob Sheehan, "God's Love to the Non-Elect," Reformation Today 145 (May/June 1995): 13. This was originally a paper given at the Carey Ministers' Conference in 1995.

[Note: Given what Sheehan says below, he clearly means to refute the idea that God merely despises the rest, and has no love, kindness or benevolence for them, etc.]

It is sometimes gratuitously assumed by those who loudly declare God's hatred of the non-elect that priority and judicial hatred exclude all possibility of the non-elect knowing anything of the love of God in any way. This is a serious mistake.
Ibid., 14.

When God hates the non-elect with the hatred of priority, before he brings them to their full experience of judicial hatred in eternity, we must not assume that such hatred means that he ceases to care for them, show them benevolence, kindness, affection and love. There is a hatred that is not malevolent and devoid of kindness. Even when the judge has sentenced the prisoner to death, and that sentence is inevitable, he does not have to order the prisoner to be maltreated while he awaits execution in order to show how opposed he is to his crimes! Some brethren seem to think he does! Holy hatred will result in hell, but hell is not on earth.
Ibid., 15.

In Reformed circles there are an increasing number of 'Jonahs'. They are quite happy as long as they are saved and provided for by God and sit contented waiting for wrath on the people whom God has not chosen to be his own. To such, God shows himself to be of a quite different character. God had concern for the 120,000 small children of Nineveh and the cattle as well (Jonah 4:11). God is concerned for the welfare of cattle and children among those who are not his chosen race.
Ibid., 15.

Our Lord exhorted his disciples to love their enemies and do them good, not only because their reward would be great but also because by so doing they would be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the unthankful and evil (Luke 6:35). We are to love our enemies because God loves his. His mercy is the pattern for ours.

We may not pretend that the unthankful and evil are the elect before conversion. That would be special pleading: eisegesis not exegesis. The parallel passage shows that our Lord is speaking of common blessings such as the sun and the rain which both the good and evil, the elect and non-elect, experience.

Nor may we try to slide away from the verb 'love' and call it benevolence or general mercy, general kindness or common grace. We are called to love (agapate) and in so doing be sons of the Most High. There is no ambiguity here, except for those who want to create it.

We can say even to the enemies of God while they remain in the world, 'You are God's offspring, his creation, and he is kind to you. He does you good. He shows you kindness. He loves you. His creatorial care and providential provision proclaim this.' God does not despise the non-elect! He shows them love and kindness.
Ibid., 16.  

[Note: Again, Sheehan probably means to say that God does not merely despise the non-elect. He does hate them in one sense, but he also loves them in another sense, as Sheehan observes from scripture.]

As Jesus preached and healed all sorts of people, some who would believe and some who would not, the elect and the non-elect, he had compassion towards them because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). He did not look at the crowd with a distinguishing squint, with compassion on the elect but not on the non-elect! He had compassion on the crowd universally and promiscuously. This compassion to all, which so marked his words, was regular feature of his ministry (cf Matthew 14:14).

We may not pretend that the word compassion means something other than a manifestation of love. Loveless compassion is a repulsive concept, a contradiction in terms, nothing other than cold comfort. There is nothing so repugnant as charity shown without feeling for those who are helped. It is the worst sort of Dickensian hypocrisy and totally inapplicable to the compassion of the incarnate God. Christ had compassion on sinners, and so should we!
Ibid., 17.

When our Lord met the rich, young ruler, a self-righteous prig if there ever was one, it is said that our Lord loved him (egapesen: Mark 10:21). Of course, he did not love him for his sin but he loved him when he was yet under its power.

Some, alarmed that God's Son should be said to love such a man, allow their theory to colour the story. They assure us that as Christ loved him he must have eventually been saved, that he must have been one of the elect. Although he went away sad, he must, after he had turned the corner have had second thoughts and returned to be saved! How strange that the Holy Spirit caused all three Gospel writers to omit this from the account! There is more than a suspicion of special pleading here. The fact is that Christ loved him, sinner though he was, because Christ is the friend of sinners.
Ibid., 17.  

[Note: Sheehan is refuting Arthur Pink's interpretation of the passage here.]

Some brethren would like to blot Matthew 23:37 out of their Bibles. It is an embarrassment to their neat, systematic approach to God's work in salvation. We may not, however, blot out what is recorded by inspiration of God and what displays so much of the compassionate heart of the incarnate God. Nor may we explain it away so as to evacuate it of any real significance.

The Son of God, towards the end of his ministry, reflected with deep sadness over his unfulfilled longing. He had often longed to gather the Jews under his saving protection, but they would have none of it. Their determination to die grieved him deeply. He took no pleasure in the death of these sinners. He yearned that their attitude might have been different.

Analogies at this point are extremely difficult. All the works of God are unique because he is unique. There is always mystery when we relate to decretive will of God (What he has planned) to the preceptive will (what he has revealed as pleasing to him for us to do). This far we may go. His rejection by the Jews was neither a matter of indifference nor of pleasure to him. Their stubborn sinfulness caused him great grief. God never enjoys human unbelief. For wise reasons in himself he may choose not to over-ride it and compel them to come in, but that unbelief is not only an affront to his holiness but a grief to his heart.
Ibid., 19.

Is not the term 'hard Calvinist' so often an accurate description? It is utterly inappropriate for us to despise those who are under the priority and judicial hatred of God.
Ibid., 20.

Our understanding of God's attitude to the non-elect as they live upon this earth is not a merely academic matter. It will radically affect our preaching of the gospel and our approach to unregenerate people. We need to be sons of the Most High and followers of the Master in this matter. Are we?
 Ibid., 20.

November 22, 2009

The Fifth Pair of Magic Glasses

Is your theological system feeling constrained by context? Do you feel like you're about to see the blue screen of death whenever you look at universal passages in scripture? Well now there is help! If you have a singular, decretal or cycloptic view of Christ's death and therefore feel the desperate need to compare 1 John 2:2 with John 11:52, maybe these will help:

My price is only $6.66. Don't wait. Get your pair today! Your fellow "exegetes" need your assistance, SIR, so get busy "exegeetin" with the fifth pair of magic glasses. Oh, and remember to say "exegesis" excessively while you are using them, so that you sound smart (or textually-driven rather than system-driven) to others.

Previous versions can be viewed here, here and here. I am tempted to start a "Magic Glasses" blog category! hahaha

Analyzing John Piper's Comparison of John 11:52 and 1 John 2:2

At 12:01pm on Nov. 18th, Piper tweeted the following remark:
On definite atonement: Compare 1 John 2:2 ("for the whole world") with John 11:52 ("to gather into one the children of God")
What does this mean? It's only a Tweet, but let's analyze it anyway.

First of all, "definite atonement," in Piper's view, means more than Jesus died for all the elect as such, or all the believing elect." It means that Jesus died ONLY for the sins of the elect, which obviously includes the believing elect. So what does his comparison prove?

Well, the preceding verse says this:
ESV John 11:51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation,
What is meant by "the nation"? I take it to mean all the Jews in Israel, at least living at that time, whether elect or not. That seems like the most natural reading of the text. Piper cannot take it that way if "died for" means "died for the sins of" since he holds to a limited imputation of sin to Christ. And, since he is comparing this verse to 1 John 2:2, "died for" must mean "as a propitiation for," on his comparison. Either he has to think "die for" does not mean "died for the sins of," or he has to oddly (see John 11:50; 18:35) take "the nation" as code language for only the elect within the nation of Israel. He might try to take "the nation" to mean an abstract class meaning "Jews" in general, but that still boils down to the particular elect individuals among the Jews, for him. Piper can't take the verse to mean Jesus died for the sins of all in the nation of Israel at that time, so he must go some other way, otherwise his view of "definite atonement" is undermined by the previous verses (John 11:50, 51) in his comparison.

The next verse says:
ESV John 11:52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
Notice that the second part of the verse ("the children") has a particular people in view, so it would be very awkward for "the nation" to mean something abstract, like a class of thing called "Jew," without specifying particular or individual Jews. So, for him, either "the nation" means 1) all of the elect as such in the nation, whether believing or not-yet-believing or it means 2) all the believing elect in the nation of Israel, on Piper's theology. Who then are the "children of God who are scattered abroad"? Are they other Israelites scattered abroad, i.e. the diaspora? Are they other believers who are gentiles? The visible church? Given Piper's baptistic ecclesiology, he's probably not following Augustine's theology, so he probably thinks "the children of God" are either all of the elect gentiles scattered abroad, or all of the presently believing elect gentiles [not the visible church]. It would also be awkward for the Apostle John to call unbelievers "the children of God," as they are still hostile and not sharing in adoption, so Piper may be more inclined to take "the children" as the believing gentiles.

Keep in mind that he is comparing this to 1 John 2:2:
ESV 1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Piper is probably reading the passage this way:

Option 1: He is the propitiation for our [all believing Jews, i.e. "the nation"] sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world [all the believing gentiles, i.e. "the children scattered abroad"].

Or possibly, but less likely, this way:

Option 2: He is the propitiation for our [all the elect Jews, whether believing or not, i.e. "the nation"] sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world [all the elect among the gentiles, whether believing or not, i.e. "the children scattered abroad"].

Since Piper may be more inclined to take "the children" as the believing gentiles in John 11:52, he probably likes Option #1 above. But if Option #1 is the case, 1 John 2:2 says nothing more than Christ is the propitiation for all believers, whether Jew or Gentile. That's not in dispute. Even an Arminian can agree with that. It doesn't get him "definite atonement," or that Jesus ONLY died for believing Jews and Gentiles. In fact, he himself would have to admit that Jesus died for more than believing Jews and Gentiles, since all in the elect class are not yet believing. Again, Option #1 does not get him "definite atonement," even on his own theological assumptions.

How about Option #2? The verse would be saying nothing more than Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of all elect people as such, whether Jew or Gentile. That also is not in dispute, as it does not say that Jesus ONLY died for the sins of elect people. That in no way establishes his case for "definite atonement."

The most he can possibly do by his comparison is try to negate the argument of others that 1 John 2:2 means that Jesus died for more than the elect (thus neutralizing the text), not establish "definite atonement." If he tries to do the latter, then he is doomed to failure, as that text would only be saying, on his theology, that Jesus died for all of the elect, or at least all the believing elect. It would be like arguing that Jesus only died for the sheep because he died for the sheep, or only died for his friends because he died for his friends, or only died for the church because he died for the church, or only died for Paul because he died for Paul [Gal. 2:20]. As is so commonly the case among advocates of "definite atonement," it would be an attempt to infer a negative (Christ died only for these) from a bare positive assertion (Christ died for these).

November 21, 2009

Jean Daillé (1594–1670) on the Greatness of Man's Corruption in Rejecting God

I acknowledge that this is properly the crime, first, of those who reject the gospel of the Son of God, the true word brought in by the Holy Spirit; and, secondly, of them that, living under the Mosaic covenant, rebelled against the word of God preached to them by Moses and the prophets. But I affirm, that even they are not exempt from it, who have sinned, or do sin, in the darkness of paganism. For though these people do not reject the word either of the gospel or the law, neither of which is addressed to them; yet they cannot be excused of contemning that other voice of God, which makes itself heard from heaven throughout all the earth, and sounds secretly in every man's heart, and privily calls them to repentance for their sins, to piety, honesty, justice, and rectitude. They profanely reject this sacred declaration of the Deity, without which God never left a man among the nations, no, not the most forlorn, or most desperately plunged in idolatry and viciousness, as the apostle teaches us in the Acts. They despise those admirable directions he gives them in the governing of the world, to seek him, feel him, and find him, Acts xiv. 17; xvii. 26, 27. They make light of the evidences he offers them in his administration of the universe of his eternal power and Godhead; and finally, abuse the riches of his mercy, of his patience, and of his long-suffering, by which his goodness invites and solicits all men to repentance, Rom. i. 20; ii. 4. Hence how astonishing, not only the justice, but even the gentleness and benignity, of God, who having right to punish men upon the first sin of which they are found guilty, yet does it not; but calls and invites them to repentance, and waits for them, and causes not his wrath to fall upon them, till, to the crime of their sin, they have added that of rebellion against the second way of salvation, which in his loving-kindness offers them; namely, the way of repentance. For that which the apostle says here of fornicators, and the avaricious in particular, is true of all vices in general; the wrath of Heaven cometh not upon them who are guilty, but when by their unbelief and obduracy they have made themselves children of rebellion; and there is not a sinner in the world, how great and enormous soever his crimes may be, but this good and all-merciful Majesty receives most readily to mercy, provided only he repent; according to the prophet's saying, that God willeth not the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live, Ezek. xxxiii. 11; so that henceforth it is not simply sin that condemns men, but impenitence and unbelief. And the goodness of God so much the more gloriously appears in this his procedure towards them, for, that he might have the liberty of treating thus with them, he bought it (if I may so speak) at the price of the blood of his only Son, whom he (such is the goodness to us) delivered up to the death of the cross, to preserve the interests of his justice, which opposed this way of mercy which he determined to open unto men after their falling into sin. But this very thing shows us, on the other hand, how great the corruption of men is, and how untractable the furiousness of the passion they have for vice, in that, not content to be debauched from the service of their Sovereign, (which is of itself a horrible crime, and worthy of a thousand penalties,) they are so desperately in love with sin, that, to continue in it, they despise, and even reject, with an enraged insolence, all this holy and sacred mystery of the kindness of God, and are so enchanted and bestialized by the poisons of sin, that they prefer its short, vain, and wretched pleasures before Divine grace and salvation, and less dread the wrath of their Sovereign, the society of devils, and the torments of hell, than the loss of that unworthy and shameful delight which the practice of sin, and the fulfilling of its lusts, gives them for a few days.
Jean Daillé, An Exposition of The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Colossians, trans. James Sherman (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1843), 182. The Google books link includes his exposition of Philippians (in the first part) as well as the exposition on Colossians (in the second part).

For more by Daillé on the death of Christ, click here.


Jean Daille (1594–1670) on "World" as Cited by Pierce

Thomas Pierce was apparently an Arminian, but he cites Jean Daille on the topic of the biblical use of "world." The latin quotes are in the margin with the source, which was probably this work [click], on pages 16 and 17.

Pierce wrote:
"Nay, as the Learned Daille doth acknowledge, (who is farre from being an Arminian) whensoever the World in Holy Writ doth not signifie Mankind, it clearly signifies the greater and worser part."
Thomas Pierce, 'ΑΥΤΟΚΑΤΑ'ΚΡΙΣΙΣ, or, Self-Condemnation, Exemplified in Mr. Whitefield, Mr. Barlee, and Mr. Hickman. With Occassional Reflexions on Mr Calvin, Mr Beza, Mr Zwinglius, Mr Piscator, Mr Rivet, and Mr Rollock: But More Especially on Doctor Twisse, and Master Hobbs (London, Printed by J. G. for R. Royston at the Angel in Ivy-lane, 1658), 202–203.
"...he gives notice to Spanhemius, that if we suffer our own selves to understand the world of the Elect onely, (a trick never heard of, saith Daille, from any writer in the World, whether Jew or Gentile) we shall encourage the bold and licentius people to make God's word a Nose of Wax, and forge up on it what sense they please." Ibid., 203.

November 20, 2009

Magic Glasses for 1 Tim. 2:4

Yes, you too can now behold wonders in 1 Timothy 2:4 and call it "exegesis"!

For previous versions, see here and here.

Erroll Hulse on the Redeemer's Tears

These are a few quotes from Hulse's article in Reformation Today in 1995. As Hulse says on page 25, he borrowed the title of this article from one of John Howe's (1630-1705) expositions of this passage. Where are other Reformed Baptists in our country speaking this way?
Jesus complained that the people of Jerusalem had steadfastly resisted his efforts to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks (Matt 23:37).
Erroll Hulse, "The Redeemer's Tears Wept Over Lost Souls," Reformation Today 146 (July/August 1995): 21–22.
Jesus said of these reprobate Jews, 'How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chickens, but you were not willing.' Every effort had been expended on seeking to win them.

Fundamental to the gospel is the love of God for all mankind. 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.' This love is expressed in the riches of God's kindness, tolerance and patience, kindness intended to lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4). God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). 'He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance' (2 Peter 3:9).
Ibid., 22.
Common grace is seen in the fact that Jesus contended with the lost of Jerusalem.
Ibid., 23.
We experience grief just as Jesus did. We experience the sorrow of seeing sinners destroy themselves by unbelief and impenitence. We love them just as Jesus loves them. We seek their salvation just as Jesus does. We know that God's justice will be vindicated in the damnation of sinners, but we also know that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. 'Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ez 18:23).
Ibid., 23.
He [Jesus] was willing to save all of them.
Ibid., 23.
The kind of anguish experienced by Christ was the frustration and sorrow of pain and humiliation. What he suffered in his soul was as intense as was the pain suffered in his body. He endured the cross (physical torment) and scorned the shame (spiritual torment – Heb 12:2). He felt acutely the shame of rejection at the hands of those he came to save. We suffer similarly in seeing the gospel of salvation slighted and rejected. His discouragement is expressed in the words of Isaiah 49, 'I have laboured to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain.' But he is comforted with the response of Jahweh, 'I will make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.' Romans 11 declares that there will always be a Jewish remnant that believes as well as a fulness gathered in due course.
Ibid., 24.

November 18, 2009

R. C. Sproul (1939–2017) Evades the Question: "Does God Desire All People to be Saved?"

Though he seems to allow for it [Chosen by God, pp.195-197], I can't recall R. C. Sproul ever teaching on God's willingness to save all men.
Now there is a video (that I originally saw on Justin Taylor's blog) of Mark Driscoll explicitly asking R. C. Sproul the question, "Does God Really Want All People to be Saved?"; and Driscoll even distinguishes so as to reference God's revealed will, not the decretal sense of His will. Instead of answering the specific question put to him, Sproul answers a different question, i.e. "Does God take delight in punishing or meeting out wrath upon people?" I left some comments on Justin's blog regarding the question he was actually asked.

Sproul has popularized Calvinistic and Reformed theology for years, but he has neglected talking about God's revealed will. Consequently, this generation of Calvinists in the U.S. have a massive blind spot on the subject, and this is opening the way for many of them to reject the well-meant offer of the gospel. This is one of the reasons why I frequently post primary Calvinistic sources on my blog. It's crucial for the very life of the church that we understand God's passionate zeal for saving sinners; and although I've benefited from much of his teaching, R. C. Sproul, sadly, has not been helping us in this respect, and neither did John Gerstner in his latter days.

Update: I was able to ask Sproul the same question in different words. His response can be heard and read here (click).

November 17, 2009

From Thomas Lamb's (died c. 1672 or 1686) Preface to the Reader in the Book Absolute Freedom from Sin by Christs Death for the World

"And from hence it followeth, first, that if those that are saved be but few, and those void of those humane excellencies and worldly helps that others have, this salvation cannot be attributed to any qualification in or proceeding from those persons more than others, but is begun, continued and perfected to and in them by the gift of God alone which excelleth to them above others, and this is the principle matter in the Book.

And secondly, seeing furniture from God by his Spirit is promised and afforded unto these few destitute of humane Arts or Learning, enabling them to defend themselves in the Truth against those that abound therein, this hath imboldened the publishing of this Book, though I had no humane Arts in answering him that had; the Reader therefore may understand that whereas I have been taught of God the precious Truth of Christ crucified for the sins of the world, as the onely Doctrine of the Gospel begetting faith or the belief thereof in the souls of men in whom it is begotten, and charging the belief thereof upon all, and is a firm foundation for such belief from the worse of sinners, condemning all or any for not believing the same, and whosoever do believe it knowingly do believe also themselves sinners, and by this means the remission of all their sins, and are thereby accepted as just in the sight of God.

This knowledg I have for long time since endeavoured to work in the minds of others, as knowing it to be their Life, Prov. 3.18. wherein as some have praised God for my Labours, so have I had no small opposition from others, who first conclude that if Christ died for all mens sins all must needs be saved, they not considering that some bring in damnable Heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction, 2 Peter 2.1. And that none can be condemned or blamed for the sin of unbelief but he whose sins Christ died for.

But further they urge, this denies election of some above others, and concludes free will and a power in man to believe, and the grace of God to man for salvation no other than what depends upon something performed as a condition of his acceptance with God and that final falling away of Saints is a thing possible, as being left by God to the liberty of their own will.

These as I have upon good reason knowingly denied them to be any natural consequences of the death of Christ for all men, yet nevertheless many who own the Death of Christ for all, do own these as true consequences, and these not onely of more common and ignorant sort of people, but men of parts and good esteem for Learning.

Hence it is that the opposers of Christs Death for all are animated to conclude these consequences undeniably to follow, and therefore reject it wholly as false Doctrine."

Hereupon I have been pressed in my spirit to publish something in print, declaring and plainly proving that the Death of Christ for all hath not any affinity with these things, but is a Truth without them..."
Thomas Lamb's "Preface to the Reader," in Absolute Freedom from Sin by Christs Death for the World (London: Printed by H. H. for the Authour, and are to be sold by him, 1656), x-xi. [No Pagination; pages numbered manually from the beginning]

November 16, 2009

Thomas Lamb's (died c. 1672 or 1686) First Words to the Reader in a Treatise of Particular Predestination

"For as much as the glory of God ought to bee most deare in our eyes, which wee ought to seeke, and preferre more than our lives; I could not with good conscience and reason, but publish these few lines following, (especially being earnestly desired by some of my deare friends,) and the reasons are, first, because the truth of the Gospel, which holds forth Christs giving himself a ransome for all men, 1 Tim. 2. 6. A propitiation for the sinnes of the whole world, 1 John 2. 2. and that he tasted death for every man Heb. 2. 9. (which is such a glorious truth, as without which first the Gospel of Gods free grace cannot be preached to all men, secondly neither can wicked men nor unbelievers be required to believe; and thirdly neither can the not believing in Christ be concluded to be a sinne,) all which being professed by the people of God (who desire in all sincerity to walke in all the wayes of God, and to bee led wholy by the rule of his word, whatever the hazard be thereby) they are thereby scandalized to hold free-will, and to denie particular election of persons, and persons hereby kept from the truth: to the end therefore that these stumbling blockes might be taken out of the way: these following lines doe manifestly declare Christs dying for all, and particular Election to stand together, which therefore can be no let to hinder people from the wayes of God, nor yet from discerning this particular truth of Christs dying for all, the excellency whereof none can prize, but those that know it; the which excellency if others could know, I am confident they would not bee such enemies to their owne soules as to slight it."
From Thomas Lamb's initial words "To the Impartial Reader," in A Treatise of Particular Predestination (London, 1642), i-ii. [No Pagination; Pages Numbered Manually from the Beginning]

Thomas Lamb (died c. 1672 or 1686) on Christ's Death for All as a Ground to Preach to All

"...and seeing Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Joh 14.6. and without him there is no way but wandring, no truth but errour, no life but death; and seeing also that Christ is no otherwise the Way, Truth, and Life, than as He is the Propitiation and atonement for the sins of the whole world, by which He took whatsoever was against us out of the way, nailing it to his Cross, Col. 2.14. It cannot but be truth, that Christ died for the sins of all and every man, as a ground for preaching glad tidings to all and every man, as a ground for faith for every man, as a ground to conclude unbelief a sin in every man; this as Gospel-truth I have preached and disputed for a long time, and been a great sufferer in witness thereof, and do still look upon it as such a glorious Truth as ought to be countenanced and encouraged; yet some there be that both think and say that this cannot stand but by denying Gods election of some above others; and also it maintains free-will, and the liableness of the best of Saints to fall away both totally and finally from God. And I myself have been aspersed to hold these Errours, as I verily believe it not altogether unknown to your Highness."
From Thomas Lamb's dedicatory letter to "His Highness Oliver Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland," in Absolute Freedom from Sin by Christ's Death for the World, as the Object of Faith in Opposition to Conditional, Set Forth by Mr. John Goodwin in his Book (London: Printed by H. H. for the Authour, and are to be sold by him, 1656), iii-iv. [No pagination; pages numbered manually from the beginning of the dedication]

November 14, 2009

Dictionary of National Biography

Eventually I will search these volumes for terms such as "non-conformist," "puritan," "divine," "dissenting," and "reformer" in order to find more obscure names of Calvinistic theologians. I will also be using this for some biographical entries of men that I have posted. You can read about this reference work here, or find a person in the Oxford Biography Index here. The Online Books Page has a complete index here.

Volume 1: Abbadie—Anne (Archive, Google)
Volume 2: Annesley—Baird (Archive, Google)
Volume 3: Baker—Beadon (Archive, Google)
Volume 4: Beal—Biber (Archive, Google)
Volume 5: Bicheno—Bottisham (Archive, Google)
Volume 6: Bottomley—Browell (Archive, Google)
Volume 7: Brown—Burthogge (Archive, Google)
Volume 8: Burton—Cantwell (Archive, Google)
Volume 9: Canute—Chaloner (Archive, Google)
Volume 10: Chamber—Clarkson (Archive, Google)
Volume 11: Clater—Condell (Archive, Google)
Volume 12: Conder—Craigie (Archive, Google)
Volume 13: Craik—Damer (Archive, Google)
Volume 14: Damon—D'Eyncourt (Archive, Google)
Volume 15: Diamond—Drake (Archive, Google)
Volume 16: Drant—Edridge (Archive, Google)
Volume 17: Edward—Erskine (Archive, Google)
Volume 18: Esdaile—Finan (Archive, Google)
Volume 19: Finch—Forman (Archive, Google)
Volume 20: Forrest—Garner (Archive, Google)
Volume 21: Garnett—Gloucester (Archive, Google)
Volume 22: Glover—Gravet (Archive, Google)
Volume 23: Gray—Haighton (Archive, Google)
Volume 24: Hailes—Harriott (Archive, Google)
Volume 25: Harris—Henry I (Archive, Google)
Volume 26: Henry II—Hindley (Archive, Google)
Volume 27: Hindmarsh—Hovenden (Archive, Google)
Volume 28: Howard—Inglethorp (Archive, Google)
Volume 29: Inglis—John (Archive, Google)
Volume 30: Johnes—Kenneth (Archive, Google)
Volume 31: Kennett—Lambart (Archive, Google)
Volume 32: Lambe—Leigh (Archive, Google)
Volume 33: Leighton—Lluelyn (Archive, Google)
Volume 34: Llwyd—Maccartney (Archive, Google)
Volume 35: MacCarwell—Maltby (Archive, Google)
Volume 36: Malthus—Mason (Archive, Google)
Volume 37: Masquerier—Millyng (Archive, Google)
Volume 38: Milman—More (Archive, Google)
Volume 39: Morehead—Myles (Archive, Google)
Volume 40: Myllar—Nicholls (Archive, Google)
Volume 41: Nichols—O'Dugan (Archive, Google)
Volume 42: O'Duinn—Owen (Archive, Google)
Volume 43: Owens—Passelewe (Archive, Google)
Volume 44: Paston—Percy (Archive, Google)
Volume 45: Pereira—Pockrich (Archive, Google)
Volume 46: Pocock—Puckering (Archive, Google)
Volume 47: Puckle—Reidfurd (Archive, Google)
Volume 48: Reilly—Robins (Archive, Google)
Volume 49: Robinson—Russell (Archive, Google)
Volume 50: Russen—Scobell (Archive, Google)
Volume 51: Scoffin—Sheares (Archive, Google)
Volume 52: Shearman—Smirke (Archive, Google)
Volume 53: Smith—Stanger (Archive, Google)
Volume 54: Stanhope—Stovin (Archive, Google)
Volume 55: Stow—Taylor (Archive, Google)
Volume 56: Teach—Tollet (Archive, Google)
Volume 57: Tom—Tytler (Archive, Google)
Volume 58: Ubaldini—Wakefield (Archive, Google)
Volume 59: Wakeman—Watkins (Archive, Google)
Volume 60: Watson—Whewell (Archive, Google)
Volume 61: Whichcord—Williams (Archive, Google)
Volume 62: Williamson—Wordon (Archive, Google)
Volume 63: Wordsworth—Zuylestein (Archive, Google)

Volume 1: Abbott—Childers (Archive, Google)
Volume 2: Chippendale—Hoste (Archive, Google)
Volume 3: How—Woodward (Archive, Google)

Errata (Archive, Google)

Index and Epitome: (Archive, Google, Google 2nd edition)

November 13, 2009

Augustine (354–430) on God's Love and the Son's Dying for Men

Who is there, moreover, who should not be earnestly disposed to give the return of love to a God of supreme righteousness and also of supreme mercy, who has first loved men of the greatest unrighteousness and the loftiest pride, and that, too, so deeply as to have sent in their behalf His only Son, by whom He made all things, and who being made man, not by any change of Himself, but by the assumption of human nature, was designed thus to become capable not only of living with them, but also of dying at once for them and by their hands?
Augustine, "On the Catechising of the Uninstructed," NPNF, 1st Series, ed. Philip Schaff (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 3:307. This is from chapter 22.39.


1) "Who is there..." means everybody. It is all inclusive of every particular living human.
2) Every human should give thanks to God because God loved them.
3) The Father loved them by sending His only Son, "who made all things" [i.e. including every particular human].
4) The Son shares the nature of every human.
5) The Son was designed [by the love of the Father] to die at once for them all, even the one's who "by their hands" killed Him.

Thomas Lever (1521–1577) on Christ's Blood Shed to Save All Men

Woe, woe, woe unto you hypocrites that stumble at a straw, and leap over a block, that strain out a gnat, and swallow up a camel, that pity more the loss of men's bribery, which was given to corrupt some men, than the treading under foot of Christ's blood, which was shed, to save all men, that do imagine it pity to drive the thieves, murderers and wolves from among the lambs of God, redeemed with Christ's precious blood, and committed unto your governance and keeping.
Thomas Lever, Sermons, ed. Edward Arber (London: Bloomsbury,1871), 85–86. Some spelling and English updated.


R. C. Sproul (1939–2017) on Passive Hardening and Common Grace

In order to understand it [passive hardening] properly we must first look briefly at another concept, common grace. This refers to that grace of God that all men commonly enjoy. The rain that refreshes the earth and waters our crops falls upon the just and the unjust alike. The unjust certainly do not deserve such benefits, but they enjoy them anyway. So it is with sunshine and rainbows. Our world is a theater of common grace.

One of the most important elements of common grace we enjoy is the restraint of evil in the world. That restraint flows from many sources. Evil is restrained by policemen, laws, public opinion, balances of power, and so on. Though the world we live in is filled with wickedness, it is not as wicked as it possibly could be. God uses the means mentioned above as well as other means to keep evil in check. By his grace he controls and bridles the amount of evil in this world. If evil were left totally unchecked, then life on this planet would be impossible.

All that God has to do to harden people's hearts is to remove the restraints. He gives them a longer leash. Rather than restricting their human freedom, he increases it. He lets them have their own way. In a sense he gives them enough rope to hang themselves. It is not that God puts his hand on them to create fresh evil in their hearts; he merely removes his holy hand of restraint from them and lets them do their own will.
R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1986), 145.

Robert Harris (1581–1658) on God's Common and Special Love

"But here it must be remembered, that there is a twofold love in God; first, a common love, which he bears to all the creatures: Secondly, a special love, which he placeth upon his own: (like as there is a double providence of God, first general, which extendeth to all, secondly special, which he exerciseth only toward his children) we may not conclude any thing to our selves upon those evidences that seal up a general love of God only, or his general providence; but ground upon such as are signs of his special love, or else we do nothing."


Notice how Harris connects God's common love with general providence. God provides for all creatures in his general love.

November 11, 2009

Robert Harris (1581-1658) on God Begging in His Calls and Offers of Grace

If ye stop your ears to God's calls and offers of grace, he also will be as deaf to your suits and cries: If ye stiffen your necks against God, and make your hearts hard aganst him, when he comes a begging to you, he also will shut his eyes, and stop his ears in your distresses, according to that, Prov. 1. Because I called, and you would not hear, I stretched out my hands unto you, but all to no purpose; Therefore shall ye call upon me, but I will not answer, ye shall seek me early, but ye shall have no answer: And thus shall you receive like for like, measure for measure, &c.
Robert Harris, "Sermons on the Beatitudes: Sermon IX," in The Works of Robert Harris (London: Printed by James Flesher, for John Bartlet the elder, and John Bartlet the younger, and are to be sold at the Gilt Cup, on the South side of Pauls neer Austins Grace in the new Buildings, 1654), 187. [Some spelling changes were made]


Robert Harris (1581–1658) on Christ Begging

A man must make to Christ, that quickning spirit, pitch upon his person, partake of his Spirit, derive from him the righteousness of faith, before he can have righteousness of nature and life. Therefore first see all things out of Christ to be no better than chaffe, then huskes, Luk. 15. then offall, then dogs-meat, Phil 3. Next, see, that in him is all fulness of provision, milk, honey, bread indeed, Isa. 55. whatsoever makes for life. Thirdly, that he is most able and willing to supply thee: so willing, as that he begs, commands, prayes, threatens, doth all that can be done to draw thee in, and thereupon thirst and reach after him, and with him after his righteousness of Justification first, of sanctification next, the former whereof is here presupposed, though not directly (I think) intended.
Robert Harris, "Sermons on the Beatitudes: Sermon IX," in The Works of Robert Harris (London: Printed by James Flesher, for John Bartlet the elder, and John Bartlet the younger, and are to be sold at the Gilt Cup, on the South side of Pauls neer Austins Grace in the new Buildings, 1654), 157.


Robert Harris (1581–1658) on Common and Peculiar Grace

"There are graces of two sorts. First, common graces, which even reprobates may have. Secondly, peculiar, such as accompany salvation, as the Apostle hath it, proper to God's own children only."


John Stott on Our Need to Apeal in our Proclamations

Tom Ascol tweeted an excellent quote by John Stott:
It is not enough to expound a thoroughly orthodox doctrine of reconciliation if we never beg people to come to Christ.
John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1986), 201.

I would add this: And we will never sincerely "beg people to come to Christ" until we are thoroughly persuaded that God himself wishes all men to be saved in the revealed will and through our appeals, as taught by the passage (2 Cor. 5:18-20) that Stott is expounding.

November 10, 2009

John Owen on the Willingness of God to Save and the Love in God's Words

I've been reluctant to post this since, as Stebbins rightly and critically says, "Owen is freer in his preaching than in his theologizing," particularly after his very early work on The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. See K. W. Stebbins, Christ Freely Offered (Lithgow NSW, Australia: Covenanter Press, 1996), 29. Nevertheless, this much is true: some Calvinists are so "stiff" (to borrow an expression from Phil Johnson) today that they are not even as free in their preaching as Owen was in his, so it becomes necessary to quote him on the will and love of God toward the lost. Iain Murray, after acknowledging that Calvin can speak of God's desire and wish for the salvation of all sinners, appeals to this section in Owen as well, and says that "Even ready to urge the willingness of Christ to receive all and to make clear that the blame for unbelief does not lie in any failure on God's part: 'the way is open and prepared, and it is not because men cannot enter, but because they will not', (see Works of John Owen, vol. 6, pp. 521–29)." See Murray's "Calvin and the Atonement," Banner of Truth 398 (November 1996): 19. Here is part of that section in Owen to which Murray appeals:
Hear, then, once more, poor sin-hardened, senseless souls, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness. Is it nothing unto you that the great and holy God, whom ye have provoked all your days, and whom you yet continue to provoke,–who hath not the least need of you or your salvation,–who can, when he pleaseth, eternally glorify himself in your destruction,–should of his own accord send unto you, to let you know that he is willing to be at peace with you on the terms he had prepared? The enmity began on your part, the danger is on your part only, and he might justly expect that the message for peace should begin on your part also; but he begins with you. And shall he be rejected? The prophet well expresseth this, Isa. xxx. 15, "Thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not." The love and condescension that is in these words, on the one hand, on the part of God, and the folly and ingratitude mentioned in them on the other hand, is inexpressible. They are fearful words, "But ye would not." Remember this against another day. As our Saviour says, in the like manner, to the Jews, "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Whatever is pretended, it is will and stubbornness that lie at the bottom of this refusal.
John Owen, "Exposition Upon Psalm CXXX," in The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (Philadelphia: Leighton Publications, 1871), 6:521.

After extensively criticizing Owen's theological take on the Ezekiel passages, Stebbins said:
In preaching on Ezekiel 33:11 and 2 Cor. 5:20 he is able to proclaim "[God's] condescension that He may so entreat us–that He may exercise pity, pardon, goodness, kindness, mercy towards us. He is so full, that He is, as it were, pained until He can get us to Himself, that He may communicate of His love to us. . . .Says God, "O ye sons of men, why will ye die? I beseech you, be friends with Me; let us agree;–accept the atonement. I have love for you; take mercy, take pardon; do not destroy your own souls." ...He is of an infinite loving and tender nature; He entreats us to come to Him, and swears we shall not suffer by our so doing." (Works IX p41) Such preaching would warm the hardest heart, were it not the heart of unregenerate man. This fact Owen had in mind. He knew he could not reach the heart of the unregenerate. And so his preaching and promises were directed at those unconverted in whose hearts God was even yet working. His aim was to encourage their hearts and ours "in the belief of the promises". And therefore he freely applies the spiritual meaning of Ezekiel's plea for renewal.

It is a pity that in his theology he felt obliged to rationalise away the import of such passages by removing all spiritual value from them.
Stebbins, Christ Freely Offered, 29.

One could desire that some modern "stiff" Calvinists would at least imitate Owen's later and mature manner of preaching, but even more that they would return to Calvin's theology and preaching, as it is more akin to scripture on this subject, not system-driven.

November 9, 2009

John Witherspoon (1723-1794) on the Common Manner of Theological Controversy

"The truth is, I cannot help thinking, from the manner of conducting theological controversies, that it is very common for many to plead for that charity to themselves which they never give to their adversaries; while the power of prejudice hinders them from observing the inconsistency between their reasoning and practice."

Stephen Denison (d.1649) on Christ's Willingness to Save

Secondly, if Christ be the only Saviour, then let us trust in him alone. Our Fathers trusted in him, and were not confounded, Psalm 22:5. Yea, if God's wrath be kindled but a little, blessed are all that trust in Christ, Psalm 2:12. Let us not trust in our own works; Christ is sufficiently able of himself to save them which come unto God by him, Hebrews 7:25. And he is as willing as able; he entreateth us to be reconciled to God, 2 Corinthians 5:20. Christ is like an indulgent nurse, and we are like unto froward children; the nurse would kiss us and be friends, but we hang back and resist. But let us kiss the Son lest he be angry, and we perish from the right way, Psalm 2.
Stephen Denison, An Exposition Upon the First Chapter of the Second Epistle of Peter (London: Printed by Richard Field for Robert Mylbourne, and are to be sold at the great South doore of Pauls, 1622), 17. I've made some spelling changes and updated some of the english.

November 8, 2009

Henry Rogers' Analysis of John Howe (1630–1705) on the Will of God

He the proceeds [in the Tractate on Divine Prescience] to vindicate the sincerity of the Divine "counsels, exhortations, and commands" to all men. He remarks, that there can be no doubt of this, with regard to those who comply with them. With regard to those who do not, he argues, that God is, in an intelligible sense, really willing that all men should be saved, and that it would be really grateful to the infinite benevolence of his nature, if they were all to accept the salvation which the gospel provides; but that, though he is willing that all should be saved on such terms as the gospel offers, and in a method that harmonizes with the intelligent and moral nature of man, he is not willing that they should be saved at any rate or in any method.

Howe's sentiments on this subject may, I think, be illustrated in a very familiar manner. A parent is truly willing to reclaim a disobedient child, and to employ many apt methods for this purpose. But there is, at the same time, a point beyond which he will not go. He will not persist in his beneficent intention at all hazards; he will not compromise his own character; he will not expose his authority to the contempt of the rest of his family; he will not procure obedience by concessions, which, though they might succeed probably in a single instance, might fearfully weaken his general authority.—Now what is more common than such a case? Do we not often really desire to attain a certain object, provided it can be attained only at a certain expense; and yet as sternly resolve to forego it, if we find it cannot?

Thus it is, Howe argues, with God: there is a sense in which he really wills the salvation of all men; and, in consequence, has sincerely provided all those means of moral suasion which are likely to operate on a reasonable creature; but that when men persist in refusing to yield to these, he resolves to do no more, and leaves them to the consequences of their own obstinacy. This, he contends, is his general conduct; conduct by no means inconsistent with the supposition, that he may employ still further and more efficacious means for the recovery of some. The reasons which limit the employment of those means we know not.
Henry Rogers, The Life and Character of John Howe with an Analysis of His Writings (London: William Ball, 1836), 555–557.