November 2, 2009

William Perkins (1558–1602) on Matthew 23:37

The first is touching the will of Christ, I would. According to the two natures of Christ: so be there two wills in him, the will of his godhead and the will of his manhood. Some [such as Beza and Turretin] think that these words are meant of the will of his manhood. For they suppose him here to speak as the minister of circumcision, and consequently as a man. This I think is a truth, but not all the truth. Because the thing which he willeth, namely the gathering of the Jews by the ministry of the Prophets, was begun and practiced long before his incarnation. Wherefore (as I take it) here his divine will is meant or the will of his godhead, which is also the will of the Father, and the Holy Ghost.
William Perkins, A Treatise of God's Free Grace, and Man's Free Will (Cambridge: Printed by John Legat And are to be sold at the signe of the Crowne in Pauls Churchyard by Simon Waterson, 1601), 23. Calvin said, "I admit that here [in Matt. 23:37] Christ speaks not only in the character of man, but upbraids them with having, in every age, rejected his grace." See Institutes, 3.24.17.See also Deut. 18:18; John 12:49; 8:26; 14:10; and 17:8 for places that show Jesus spoke the words that the Father gave Him to speak. Also, as Jonathan Edwards said in Miscellany #180, “...the love the human nature [of Christ] had to mankind, and by which he was prompted to undergo so much, it had only by virtue of its union with the Logos; ‘twas all derived from the love of the Logos, or else they would not be one person.”
If we compare this text with Isa. 6:10 they seem to be contrary. For here Christ saith, I would have gathered you: there he saith, Harden them that they be not gathered and converted. God therefore seems to will and not to will one and the same thing. Answ. There is but one will in God: yet doth it not equally will all things, but in divers respects it doth will and nill the same thing. He wills the conversion of Jerusalem, in that he approves it as a good thing in itself: in that he commands it, and exhorts men to it: in that he gives them all outward means of their conversion. He wills it not, in that he did not decree effectually to work their conversion. For God doth approve, and he may require many things, which nevertheless for just causes known to himself, he will not do. The confirmation of the Angels that fell, God approved as a thing good in itself, yet did not he will to confirm them. A judge in compassion approves and will the life of a malefactour: and yet withall he wills the execution of justice in his death. Even so God sometimes wills that in his signifying will, which he wills not in the will of his good pleasure.

By this which hath been said, we learn, that where God erects the ministry of his word, he signifies thereby that his pleasure is to gather men to salvation. In this regard the prophet Isaiah saith, that the preaching of the gospel is a banner displayed that all nations may come unto it. All this is verified in this our English nation. For more then forty years hath God displayed this banner unto us, and more then forty years hath he signified in the ministry of his word, that his will is to give mercy and salvation unto us. First therefore we owe unto God all thankfulness & praise for this endless mercy. Secondly we are to reverence the ministry of the word, in as much as God signifies his good will unto us thereby, & we are in all obedience to subject ourselves to it: and for this cause we must suffer our selves to it: and for this cause we must suffer our selves to be converted and gathered by it. Subjects use to reverence the letter of their Prince, how much more then must we reverence the letter of the living God sent unto us, that is, the ministry of the word, & conform ourselves to it. Thirdly, here we may learn to foresee our miserable condition in this lad. For though God for his part have long signified his will unto us touching our everlasting good, yet there is nothing to be found in the most of us, but a neglect or contempt of the gospel: and in most places men are weary of it as the Israelites were of manna. What, weary of the goodness of God, that offers and proclaims mercy unto us? Yea, verily. And the more weary are we of our own happiness, and consequently hasten to our own perdition.
Ibid., 44–47.

In Edward Leigh's annotations on this text, he mentions Perkins.
Christ speaketh not of the will of his good pleasure, for that cannot be resisted, but of his signified will in the Ministry of the Prophets, and of himself as he was a Prophet and Minister of the Circumcision unto the Jews, for so he might will their conversion and yet they will it not. Perkins.
Edward Leigh, Annotations Upon All the New Testament Philologicall and Theologicall (London: Printed by W. W. and EG. for William Lee, and are to be sold at his Shop at the Turks-Head in Fleetstreet next to the Miter and Phoenix. Anno Dom. 1650), 63.

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