December 31, 2009

Theophilus Gale (1628–1678) on God Begging

1. Doth Christ assume sinners into such a blessed state of Friendship with himself? Hence then we may infer, what the infinie condescension, and Soverain Dominion of Free Grace, towards lapsed undone man is. What? Is it possible, that the great Jehovah should stoop so low, as to engage in such intimate friendship with his poor creature? Yea, that the most glorious, pure, and spotless Being, shoudl be content to mingle with impure, dirtie, sinful flesh and bloud? Yea, farther, that the ever-blessed God should court, and beseech his deformed creature, to enter into a strict bond of friendship with himself? what transcendent condescendence is this? Was it ever known, that Beautie courted Deformitie; that Riches begged friendship of Povertie; that Honor bended the knee to Reproche, and Disgrace; that the King beseeched the Malefactor to be reconciled to him; that Happiness wooed Miserie to be its Spouse? Yet, Lo! thus it is in this business of Friendship with Christ: the first, and supreme Beautie courts the most deformed sinner; the infinitely rich, and self-sufficient Being; the most Honorable Lord of Glorie wooeth his wretched, reproached, and captive rebel to be, not only reconciled to him, but his Spouse begs his poor nothing-creature to be friends with him. O the unparalleled, and admirable Soveraintie of this Divine, condescendent Grace! Who would ever have thought, or imagined, that such Al-Sufficient, and omnipotent Grace, should have stooped so low, to proud self-conceited, and rebellious sinners? What a wonder of wonders is this, that free-grace should pursue sinners with continued offers, yea, importunate desires of Friendship, when they pursue it with repeted Effronts, and Acts of Rebellion? O! How should the friends of Christ admire, and adore the Lengths, Breadths, Depths, and Heights of this Transcendent condescension of God?

December 28, 2009

H. Henry Meeter (1886–1963) on Common Grace

Meeter defines common grace as follows:
This influence of God whereby he through various means restrains vile passions and brings to pass many deeds of outward good by unregenerate men, contrary to the evil principle of sin in their hearts, making them do what their sinful hearts would otherwise not do, is what the Calvinist terms common grace. It is "common" because it is not confined to any unique group as is special grace, but is a grace which is given to all men, through not to all in equal measure. As one believer may have more of special grace than another, so one unbeliever may have more of common grace than another. Thus Calvin compares Camillus, a Roman in whom much common grace was found, with Catiline, in whom there was little of it [Institutes, 2.3.4].
H. Henry Meeter, The Basic Ideas of Calvinism, rev. Paul A. Marshall, 6th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 53.

He then asks:
Can These Acts Be the Result of Grace in God?

But can this influence of God, whereby he restrains evil passions and prompts to outward good, truly be called grace? What is grace? The Old Testament word chen and the New Testament word charis, which are translated by "grace" in our English Bible, have a wide variety of meanings, some of which are irrelevant to our purpose. It is of importance here to note that the word in the Bible may mean (1) an attitude of favor in God to any one; (2) undeserved favor; (3) favor which God works in the hearts of his people whereby he produces faith and conversion; (4) good things which we owe to the favor or grace of God.

The important question for us is this: Does God show any grace, any attitude of favor, and goodwill, any love, to unregenerate, specifically to such that are nonelect or reprobate sinners? We can begin by saying that as reprobate, as sinners, they are never the objects of God's favor, but always of his wrath. God is glorified in the administration of his justice as revealed in the eternal punishment of the wicked. There are many texts in the Bible which express the attitude of hatred of God to the wicked. Nevertheless, that same Bible does express an attitude of favor, even of love of God to nonelect sinners. In Romans 2:4 Paul speaks of the goodness of God to those who will be lost. "Goodness" here means not mere acts of goodness, but an attitude of goodness in God toward those addressed in that verse. This is clear, not only from the meaning of the word, which is "kindness," but also from the synonyms used there–"forbearance" and "long-suffering"–which also express attitudes in God. In Psalm 145:9 we read: "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies [an attitude in God] are over all his works." Luke 6:35 instructs us: "Love ye your enemies . . . and ye shall be children of the Highest, for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil."

But how can God love and hate the same persons at the same time? If he hates the wicked, the reprobate, and will punish them for their sins, how can he be said in any sense to love them? According to strict supralapsarian logic, I suppose this is a real problem. For according to this view God, back in eternity, at the outset, decided as his very first decree to glorify himself in two of his attributes, his love and grace toward vessels of honor, the elect, and his punishing justice toward vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, the reprobate. Thereupon, as his second decree, God decided to create these vessels of honor and these vessels of wrath. Note that on this supralapsarian basis the reprobate are already conceived of in the decree of their creation as vessels of wrath. They never were considered objects of love in any sense. The infralapsarian view holds that God first decided to create human beings. As such they were all conceived as objects of his love. Then God decided to permit the fall and in his electing love to save some and to pass by others, the nonelect, and punish them in his wrath for their sins. On this basis it is possible for God to love the nonelect as creatures. A parallel instance would be the case of the righteous father whose heart bleeds for his lost son whose misdeeds demand his expulsion.

Calvin takes this position when he raises the very question here discussed: "Wherefore in a wonderful and divine manner He both hated and loved us at the same time. He hated us, as being different from what He made us; but as our iniquity had not entirely destroyed His work in us, He could at the same time in every one of us hate what he had done, and love what proceeded from himself." [Institutes, 2.16.4, quoting Augustine] Likewise in his replies to the calumnies made against his view of the secret providence of God, Calvin states in reply to Calumny I:
Proofs of the love of God towards the whole human race exist innumerable, all which demonstrate the ingratitude of those who perish or come "to perdition." This fact, however, forms no reason whatever why God should not confine His especial or peculiar love to a few, whom He has, in infinite condescension, been pleased to choose out of the rest. When God was pleased to adopt unto Himself the family of Abraham, He thereby most plainly testified that He did not embrace the whole of mankind with an equal love. . . . And in the next place, if God does love His own, it does not the less follow that He has a right to reject as a just Judge those to whom He has in vain shown His love and indulgence throughout their whole lives as the kindest Father [John Calvin, Calvin's Calvinism: A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God (London: Sovereign Grace Union, n.d.), pp. 26, 269–270.]
Thus from the writings of Scripture and from the teachings of Calvin, we learn that God does have an attitude of favor, or grace, to the nonelect, and that this common grace will one day add to their punishment, because it did not lead them to repentance and life for God.
Ibid., 54–56.

See also H. Henry Meeter, Calvinism: An Interpretation of Its Basic Ideas. Volume 1: The Theological and the Political Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1939), 73–76.

About this book, Louis Berkhof said, "No other work in the English language offers us such a concise, and yet complete and thoroughly reliable resume of the teachings of Calvinism." Cited in John J. Timmerman's Promises to keep: a centennial history of Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975), 59. This quote also appears on the back cover.

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H. Henry Meeter (1886–1963) taught for thirty years in the Bible department of Calvin College. He had graduated from the same college and from Calvin Theological Seminary before obtaining a B.D. degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. He subsequently earned his Th.D. degree from the Free University of Amsterdam.

December 24, 2009

John Bunyan (1628–1688) on the Mercy and Love of God

Mercy and love are seen, in that God gives us rain and fruitful seasons, and in that he filleth our hearts with food and gladness; from that bounty which he bestoweth upon us as men, as his creatures.
John Bunyan, "Light for Them That Sit in Darkness," in The Works of John Bunyan (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977), 1:432.

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Notice how Bunyan associates the mercy and love of God shown in the general bounties He grants to men as his creatures. For Bunyan, the mercy of God shown to all men is a kind of love. This shows a contrast between Bunyan and some modern bible readers who think God is merciful to all, but does not love all. Such a dichotomy is not only foreign to scripture, but it is foreign to the Puritans, whom they claim as heroes.

John Bunyan (1628-1688) on the Power of Christ

"Jesus Christ also made manifest his eternal power and Godhead, more by bearing and overcoming our sins, than in making or upholding the whole world; hence Christ crucified is called 'the power of God.' 1 Cor. 1:23, 24."
John Bunyan, "Light for Them That Sit in Darkness," in The Works of John Bunyan (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977), 1:432.

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December 21, 2009

Carl F. H. Henry on God's Sincere and Strong Wish for Human Salvation

Verses that imply God's sincere and strong wish for human salvation are not necessarily inconsistent with the divine election of only some to eternal life.
Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), 6:106.

After citing Matt. 18:14; John 3:16, 17; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:4, 6; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:14, Henry says, "To explain the terms 'world' and 'all' in these verses as meaning 'all the elect' seems contrived," even though Henry argues that 2 Peter 3:9 has the elect in view. Ibid.

December 19, 2009

God's Love, Goodness, Kindness and Mercy Interrelated in Luke 6:35–36

Luke 6:35-36 35 "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
I just realized the connection of ideas in this brief passage. Notice how "love," "goodness," "kindness" and "mercy" are all interrelated here. We are told to love (i.e. be good, kind and merciful) to our enemies, and thus to image/imitate the Father as "sons" this way. Some want to argue that God is good, kind and/or merciful to all, but does not love all. This passage alone refutes those strange divisions.

December 15, 2009

Thomas Scott (1747–1821) on the Death of Christ for All and Presumption

There is a sense in which Christ may properly be said to have died for all; and the infinite sufficiency of his merits and atonement, with the general proposals made in the Scripture, authorise and require the ministers of Christ, to call on all that hear them without exception, to repent and believe the gospel. But sober Christians, even if they hesitate as to some deep points of doctrine, will scarcely contend, that Christ died with an express intention of saving all men; yet this express intention alone could warrant a sinner, while an entire stranger to "the things which accompany salvation," confidently to believe, that Christ died for him, and will assuredly save him. Such a confidence, therefore, is entirely destitute of any scriptural foundation, and is a most unwarrantable presumption.
Thomas Scott, "The Warrant and Nature of Faith in Christ," in The Theological Works of the Rev. Thomas Scott (Edinburgh: Peter Brown and Thomas Nelson, 1830), 580.

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December 14, 2009

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) on Jesus' Love for the Rich Young Ruler

"3rdly, Some natural good wishes for his welfare are implied in this love. There is in every wise and good man, a hearty desire of the happiness of his fellow-creatures, he loves them all in this sense, even the foolish and the wicked. Human nature that has any goodness in it, is ready to wish well to any person, though he be an utter stranger, and unknown, especially if he has some agreeable qualities. There may be an innocent inclination to see all men happy, though we know this shall not be brought to pass; for the word of God declares that the most part of men walk in the broad way, and shall go down to hell. You know how passionately St. Paul longed for the salvation of all his countrymen the Jews. This is called a love of benevolence; and it is evident, by the following particulars, that the Lord expressed this good-will toward the young man in my text."

On page 158, Watts argues against the notion that Jesus only loved him in His [Jesus'] human nature.

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Thomas Scott (1747–1821) on Natural and Moral Ability

"But sinners cannot obey the call. This is a truth if truly understood. They are under a moral, not a natural inability. Is this distinction useless and unintelligible? Is there no difference betwixt a covetous wretch, who with a full purse hath no heart; and a compassionate man who hath no money, to relieve a fellow-creature in distress? Both are effectually prevented, but the one from himself, the other by an external hinderance. Every generous man at once indignantly condemns the one, and wholly justifies the other. When the case is put, divested of all false colouring, the one could if he would, and the other would if he could. It is said of God that he "cannot lie." But whence arises this impossibility? Surely not from external restraint, but from the perfection of his essential holiness. Satan cannot but hate his Maker. Not because of outward force put upon him, but through the horrid malignity of his disposition.*

* If there be no real difference betwixt the want of natural faculties, and the want of moral dispositions, there can be nothing culpable even in Satan's opposing God, and endeavouring the destruction of men; for it is as impossible at least that he should do otherwise, as that sinners should perfectly obey the law, or of themselves repent and believe the gospel; and if they are excusable, Satan is consequently so too. Indeed, on this supposition, all characters are reduced to a level; for in proportion to the degree of evil disposition, or moral inability to good, evil actions become excusable: and by parity of reasoning, in proportion to the degree of moral excellency of disposition, or of moral inability to evil, good actions being unavoidable, become less praise-worthy. Thus, the more inwardly holy any man is, the less esteem is his piety, justice, and charity entitled to; for he can scarcely do otherwise. An angel, as confirmed in holiness, is still less entitled to commendation; for in some sense it is impossible he should do otherwise than be holy. He cannot sin. And through necessary excellency of nature it is strictly impossible that God should do any thing inconsistent with the most consummate wisdom, justice, truth, and goodness. He cannot: and, shall we say, this inability (which is the incommunicable glory of his nature) renders him less entitled to our admiring, adoring, grateful love, than otherwise he would be?

Every one must see what confusion would be introduced into civil and domestic concerns, if no regard were paid to this distinction, and an inveterate propensity were allowed as an excuse for crimes: and it introduces equal perplexity into all our discourses on divine things; because it runs directly counter to all our rules of judging characters and actions. A good outward action without the least corresponding disposition, is in reality mere hypocrisy: as the disposition to good and aversion to evil increase, good actions have more genuine sincerity, and the character more amiableness. When we can say with the apostles, "We cannot but do" so and so–we are entitled to as much esteem and approbation as mere men can be. This moral inability to evil is much stronger in angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect; and therefore we are taught to look forward to such a holy state and temper as the summit of our wishes and desires: and God himself, who, being under no restraint, but doing his whole pleasure, cannot but be perfectly and unchangeably holy, is proposed as the object of supreme love, admiring gratitude, and adoring praise.

On the other hand a bad action, if done without intention, or the least disposition to such moral evil, is deemed purely accidental, and not culpable. When it is contrary to a man's general disposition and character, and the effect of sudden temptation, it is considered as more venial than when the effect of a rooted disposition; and for a criminal to plead, "I am so propense to theft and cruelty, that I could not help it," would be to condemn himself as the vilest miscreant, not fit to live, in the opinions of judge, jury, and spectators.

There can be no difficulty in proving, that this distinction is implied throughout the Bible, and has its foundation in the nature of things; and so far from being novel, it is impossible that a rational creature can be unacquainted with it. No man ever yet missed the distinction between the sick servant who could not work, and the lazy servant who had no heart to his work; that is, betwixt natural and moral inability; and no man could govern even his domestics in a proper manner, without continually adverting to it.

"But," say some, "human nature now must be laid low, and grace exalted." Now we ask, Which lays human nature lowest? To rank man among the brutes, who have no power, or among fallen spirits who have no disposition, to love and serve God? Or which most exalts grace? To save a wretch who could not help those crimes for which he is condemned to hell: or to save a rebel, who was willingly an enemy to his Maker, and persisted in that enmity, till almighty power, by a new creation, overcame his obstinacy, and made him willing to be reconciled?"


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December 13, 2009

R. C. Sproul on God's Love and Common Grace

To love your neighbor and your enemy is to be a son of the heavenly Father, because this is precisely what God Himself does. His benefits accrue not only to believers but to unbelievers as well. When people remain at enmity with God, they do so while they are receiving benefits from His hand.

When Jesus commands us to love our enemies, He defines that love not so much in terms of feelings of affection but in terms of actions. To love our enemies requires that we bless them when they curse us and do good to them when they hate us. This is what it means to mirror and reflect the love of God, because God does good to those who hate Him and blesses people while they are cursing Him.

Jesus illustrates the beneficent love of God by pointing to the sun and the rain. God makes His sun rise on the wicked as well as the good and sends rain on both the just and the unjust. When we observe a rain shower, we do not see the raindrops falling with personal discrimination. We don't see bad people getting wet and good people walking through the shower untouched. The righteous and the wicked both need an umbrella. At the same time, the refreshment needed for the fields is received in the same rainfall by the wicked farmer and the righteous farmer. Sun and storm alike affect both.

The description of the benefits of God enjoyed jointly by the wicked and the righteous is called in theology "common grace." Common grace is called "grace" because all of the benefits we receive from a Holy God are undeserved. All the good things we receive from the hand of God are gifts. They are not rewards earned by our merit. Grace, by definition, means the undeserved or unmerited favor of God. These favors are poured out from His bounty on believer and unbeliever alike. The air that we breathe, the food that we eat, and the water that we drink are all benefits that come from Him. Perhaps it is in recognition that He owes us none of these things that we call the prayer of thanksgiving that accompanies a meal saying "grace." Of course the common grace of God includes far more than the daily necessities of life. At times the gifts of His common grace are poured out in abundance and may include great prosperity for its recipients. All that we have are gifts from his treasure house of common grace.

Common grace is called "common" because it is distinguished from the special grace that is the grace of salvation. Special grace is what God extends to His elect, by which they are brought into His family through adoption. On the other hand, all people, commonly, receive the benefits of common grace.

There is irony here, however. The gifts of God's common grace, which flow out of His benevolence and beneficence, which are blessings for the moment, actually become occasions for judgment for the wicked. Every blessing an impenitent person receives from God that is greeted with ingratitude adds to the heaping up of wrath against the day of judgment. God does not give these gifts to torment the sinner. They are truly beneficial. They become nonbeneficial in the long run only because of the obstinate sinfulness of the wicked. The wicked's misuse and abuse of the good gifts of God do not render these good gifts to be bad gifts.
 R. C. Sproul, Loved by God (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2001), 139–141.

December 12, 2009

R. C. Sproul on Love and Hate in God

Later, when we examine the distinctive types of the love of God, we will try to show that certain types of God's love can coexist with a type or kind of divine hatred. In the meantime, however, we can say that God may love a person in one sense or in one way, while at the same time hating him in another sense or another way. In essence, not all kinds of divine love are absolutely antithetical to all kinds of divine hatred.
R. C. Sproul, Loved by God (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2001), 106.

December 7, 2009

Richard Gilpin (1625–1700) on Common Grace

"But then the sinning wilfully or falling away there mentioned, is only that of total apostasy; when men that have embraced the gospel, and by it have met with such impressions of power and delight upon their hearts, which we usually call common grace, do notwithstanding reject that gospel as false and fabulous, and so rise up against it with scorn and utmost contempt, as Julian the apostate did."

Richard Gilpin, Dæmonologia Sacra; Or, A Treatise of Satan's Temptations, ed. Alexander Ballock Grosart (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1867), 301.



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December 5, 2009

Stephen Denison (d.1649) on the Son's Sufficient Redemption

Secondly, destruction must needs be of a mans self, and not of God, because God hath sent a sufficient redemption by the means of his own Son; and hath commanded it to be preached to every creature: yea he hath commanded us to believe in Christ, whom he hath sent, 1 John. 3:23. And therefore if when a pardon is offered, we willfully refuse it, then our destruction is of ourselves.
Stephen Denison, The New Creature (London: Printed by Richard Field, dwelling in the great Woodstreete, 1619), 78.

[Note: I am not posting this as conclusive proof that Denison believed that Christ redeemed all men, but only to show that he grounds the gospel command and offer upon Christ's "sufficient redemption." Notice also that he says the gospel is a command *and* an offer, and that we are to preach "it" to every creature; that is, a sufficient redemption. According to Denison, men do not perish for want of a sufficient redemption, but for refusing it.]