January 31, 2010

Henry James Carpenter on the Double Payment Argument

But I proceed to notice another objection, and one very commonly urged against this doctrine [general redemption]. It is objected, that if our Lord died for all, then it would be unjust to punish any one, for this would be to exact a double penalty for the same offence—to punish the same sins twice over.

No doubt it would be unjust to punish the sinner if Christ had borne his sins, with the stipulation that his sins should be absolutely forgiven—that, in consequence of his sacrifice, all men should be unconditionally pardoned, irrespective of their state of mind, irrespective of their believing or not believing, of their receiving the Gospel or rejecting the Gospel.

But nothing like this doctrine can be discovered in the Bible; the death of our Lord is nowhere in Scripture represented in this light. There we read, as I observed before, that a certain medium is necessary before the benefits of Christ's death can be actually applied to any man. Men must have faith; they must believe on Christ—they must trust wholly in his atoning sacrifice, that they may be forgiven their trespasses. "He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." The Lord Jesus is "set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood."

It is undeniable that our Lord could have annexed what condition he, in his wisdom, thought fit, in order that man should receive the benefits of the sacrifice he was about to offer; and it is no more unjust to punish the sinner who rejects Christ's offer of salvation than to treat an imprisoned debtor as still liable to his debt, because he refuses to send a petition to his rich benefactor, who freely paid his debt, but stipulated that the benefits of his generous payment should only be enjoyed by those debtors who would comply with his condition, and petition him for their release.
Henry James Carpenter, Did Christ Die For All Men, Or For The Elect Only? A Letter To A Friend In Ireland (London: T. Hatchard, 1857), 21.

January 26, 2010

Al Martin Agrees With John Murray On The Free Offer

Richard Mayhue reports the following about Al Martin's differences with the later John Gerstner, who rejected the well-meant offer:
In a letter dated September 12, 1991, the Elders of Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, New Jersey, pastored by Al Martin, himself a staunch proclaimer of Reformed doctrine, disavow Dr. Gerstner's teaching on the atonement beginning on p. 118 and continuing through p. 131. They write that, "Dr. Gerstner strays from the mainstream of historic Calvinistic teaching regarding the free offer of the Gospel." This disclaimer letter comes with every copy of Dr. Gerstner's book that they distribute. A review of Dr. Gerstner's work by Reformation Today seriously questions his discussion of total depravity, election, and irresistible grace as it relates to his analysis of dispensational thought.6
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6. Tom Wells, "Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism: A Review," Reformation Today 125 (Jan–Feb 1992): 25–32.
Richard L. Mayhue, "Who Is Wrong? A Review of John Gerstner's Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth," in The Master's Perspective on Contemporary Issues, ed. Robert L. Thomas (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1998), 2:62.

Another has reported the content of this letter as follows:
Trinity Book Service (of Reformed Baptist Al Martin’s church) sends a warning with Gerstner’s book that includes the following: “Dr. Gerstner strays from the mainstream of historic Calvinism regarding the free offer of the gospel. . . . [W]e cannot endorse his treatment of the subject of the atonement as it relates to the free offer of the gospel. We in fact commend the writing of Stonehouse and Murray on the Free Offer of the Gospel.
The same goes with Walter Chantry (see here and here) and Erroll Hulse. They are all influential Reformed Baptists who agree with John Murray's view that God desires the salvation of all men in the revealed will.

January 23, 2010

Thomas Manton (1620–1677) Comparing the Elect with the Reprobate

As truly as it can be said to John or Thomas, or any elect person, If you do not believe you shall be damned, so surely may it be said to a reprobate, to Judas, or any other, If you believe you shall be saved. If the reprobate have a like favour with the elect in the general offer of grace, they are left without excuse, the tender being so great, and so far the same unto both; though the elect's receiving be the effect of special grace, yet the reprobate's rejecting is without excuse, he voluntarily turning back upon his own mercies.

This quote is significant for a number of reasons:

1) It points out that the flip-side of sincere offers to the non-elect are sincere threats to the unbelieving elect. Those who reject the idea that God is giving well-meant offers to the non-elect sometimes see the other side and also reject the notion that God is ever threatening the unbelieving elect with perishing. They accuse their opponents of making a Christ of faith since their opponents insist that faith makes a vital, instrumental difference. Manton underlines the importance of faith.
2) He says that the elect and non-elect are favored just the same in the general offer of grace.
3) "Offer" is linked to the idea of a "tender."
4) Manton distinguishes the general offer of grace that all receive from "special grace," thus associating the "favour" that the non-elect receive in the offer with common grace, by implication.
5) Grace and mercy are associated, such that it would be absurd to think that God is being merciful to all, but not gracious.

Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949) on God's Simultaneous Love and Hate

So far as the actual manifestation of the love of God in human consciousness is concerned, a fundamental difference lies in this, that the enjoyment of the common love of God outside of the kingdom does not exempt man from being subject at the same time to the divine wrath on account of sin. Love and wrath here are not mutually exclusive. Within the circle of redemption, on the other hand, the enjoyment of the paternal love of God means absolute forgiveness and deliverance from all wrath. Even this, however, is not sufficient clearly to mark the distinction between these two kinds of love, the wider and the narrower. For, previously to the moment of believing, those who are appointed for salvation, no less than the others, are subject in their consciousness to the experience of the wrath of God. It would seem, therefore, that in his pre-Christian state the one who will later become a child of God is not differentiated from the one who never will, inasmuch as both are in an equal sense the objects of the general benevolence of God and of His wrath in their experience.
Geerhardus Vos, "The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God," The Presbyterian and Reformed Review 13 (January, 1902): 24–25.

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John Newton (1725–1807) Accurately Describing Some Calvinists

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of . Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress this wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify.
John Newton, “On Controversy,” in The Works of John Newton, 6 vols. (New York: Published by Williams & Whiting, 1810), 1:245.

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Substitute the term "controversy" with "debate," and read the quote again. There are some Calvinists who engage in debate, hold up their adversaries to ridicule in the process, and treat them with contempt. They provoke instead of convince, which serves only to harden the opposition instead of winsomely persuading them. This is contrary to their claim to be engaging in sincere evangelism in these debates. These verses are not heeded:
2 Timothy 2:24–26:  24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,  25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,  26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Their combative approach serves to puff up their followers, instead of edifying them. While indulging in this behavior regularly, they consequently flatter their own superior judgments in the process, with the result that they consider themselves comparatively wise or good. Their self-righteousness feeds upon doctrines rather than upon good works. They still have the heart of a Pharisee, even though their heads are stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.

The Calvinists who are guilty of this would never admit to it, being blinded by pride, but their behavior gives them away. Watch how they are treating others in the midst of "controversy," or in the aftermath of "debate."

January 22, 2010

Samuel Willard (1640–1707) on God Begging

Use. Let the Consideration of these things call on us all, on Children in particular, to labour to make sure of the Adoption. Let this be your great Ambition, to be the Children of God: And that, not by an outward relation in the Gospel Covenant only, but by that which is introduced by Faith in Christ, thro' whom only you can obtain Sonship & Heirship to this incorruptible and never fading Inheritance. Your Earthly Parents must dye shortly, if they are not gone already, and it is a poor Portion, which they can bestow on you, which can never make you happy. But if God once be your Father in Christ, you are happy indeed: He will be your Father in Heaven. He lives for ever, He will take care of you, He will never fail nor forsake you; He will keep you safe through an evil World, and bring you without fail to his Heavenly Kingdom: He will do more for you, then you can ask or think. He offers this to you, and begs of you to accept it. Receive Christ for your Spouse, and his Father will be your Father, his God your God, and nothing shall ever seperate you from his Love. [February 14 1698]
Samuel Willard, A Complete Body of Divinity in Two Hundred and Fifty Expository Lectures on the Assembly's Shorter Catechism (Boston in New England: Printed by B. Green and S. Kneeland for B. Eliot and D. Henchman, and sold at their shops, 1726), 490–491.
7. In the grief he expresseth when men after all wilfully reject his tendered forgiveness. He speaks after the manner of men, when he tells us of his Spirit being grieved at such carriages, Psal. 95.10. And what is this but a grief of compassion, extended to such as are in misery! he might justly be enraged at mens despising of such favour offered them, and fall on them in his fury; and may in time be provoked to it by their obstinacy; but how often doth he express such compassion, as Christ did, in Mat. 23.37. Luke 19.41, 42. And this shows how ill God takes it, when men refuse him the glory of his Grace in forgiving them, by disregarding it, when he comes and begs their entertainment of it.
Samuel Willard, The Truly Blessed Man (Boston in N.E.: Printed by B. Green, and J. Allen, for Michael Perry, 1700), 259–260.

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January 21, 2010

Matthew Poole's (1624–1679) Annotations on Matthew 5:45

"As your heavenly Father hath a common love, which he extendeth to all mankind, in supplying their necessities, with the light and warmth of the sun, and with the rain; as well as a special love and favour, which he exerciseth only toward those that are good, and members of Christ; so ought you to have: through you are not obliged to take your enemies into your bosom, yet you ought to love them in their order. And as your heavenly Father, though he will one day have a satisfaction from sinners, for the wrong done to his majesty, unless they repent; yet, to heap coals of fire on their heads, gives them good things of common providence, that he might not leave them without witness, yea, and affords them the outward means of grace for their souls: so, although you are bound to seek some satisfaction for God's honour and glory from flagitious sinners, and though you may in an orderly course seek a moderate satisfaction for the wrong done to yourselves, yet you ought to love them with a love consistent with these things; that so you may imitate your heavenly Father, and approve yourselves to be his children."

Note: Like the other Puritans, notice the connection Poole makes between God's common love and the common bounties of providence, or common grace. They are all interconnected.

Paul Zylstra Defines the Well-Meant Offer

First of all, we should define what is meant by the well-meant offer in the light of such Scripture passages as Ezekiel 33:11; 18:23, 32; Matthew 5:44-48; 23:37; Luke 6:35, 36; 13:34; Acts 14:17; Deuteronomy 5:29; 32:39; Psalm 31:13f.; Isaiah 48:18; 45:22; II Peter 3:9.

God does not "desire," "will," "delight in" the death of the impenitent and reprobate; rather He desires, wills, and delights in their repentance and salvation. This grace deals with the full and free offer of the gospel to all without distinction—with respect to the revealed will, of course, and not the decretive will of God.1

This divine will (delight, desire) to save every man is not merely the bare preceptive will of God, but the expression of the heart of God himself—a real and necessary attitude of lovingkindness inherent in the free offer. The gospel is not simply an invitation; it is also an offer that God desires the recipients to enjoy fully.

This divine desire, however, is not desire to salvation apart from the means of repentance and faith. God desires the salvation of the reprobate by their repentance. Thus to say "God desires their salvation" is to say "God desires their repentance."2
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1. Cf. the excellent and concise statement in the booklet by John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse, The Free Offer of the Gospel (1948), especially page 15.
2. Ibid., page 4.
Paul Calvin Zylstra, "The Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel," The Reformed Journal (April 1961): 17.

January 20, 2010

An Edwardsian Definition of Hell

Hell is a spiritual and material furnace of fire where its victims are exquisitely tortured in their minds and in the bodies eternally, according to their various capacities, by God, the devils, and damned humans including themselves, in their memories and consciences as well as in their raging, unsatisfied lusts, from which place of death God's saving grace, mercy, and pity are gone forever, never for a moment to return. Edwards nowhere gives such a comprehensive definition, but this is the way we put his message together as his overall view of hell, to which he gave so much reflection in his study and in his pulpit.
John H. Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1998), 53.

January 14, 2010

Chrysostom on Matthew 23:37

3. Then He directs His speech unto the city, in this way too being minded to correct His hearers, and saith, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” What meaneth the repetition? this is the manner of one pitying her, and bemoaning her, and greatly loving her. For, like as unto a woman beloved, herself indeed ever loved, but who had despised Him that loved her, and therefore on the point of being punished, He pleads, being now about to inflict the punishment. Which He doth in the prophets also, using these words, “I said, Turn thou unto me, and she returned not.”

Then having called her, He tells also her blood-stained deeds, “Thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not,” in this way also pleading for His own dealings; not even with these things hast thou turned me aside, nor withdrawn me from my great affection toward thee, but it was my desire even so, not once or twice, but often to draw thee unto me. “For how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not." And this He saith, to show that they were ever scattering themselves by their sins. And His affection He indicates by the similitude; for indeed the creature is warm in its love towards its brood. And everywhere in the prophets is this same image of the wings, and in the song of Moses and in the Psalms, indicating His great protection and care.

“But ye would not,” He saith. “Behold your house is left desolate,” stripped of the succor which cometh from me. Surely it was the same, who also was before protecting them, and holding them together, and preserving them; surely it was He who was ever chastening them. And He appoints a punishment, which they had ever dreaded exceedingly; for it declared the entire overthrow of their polity. “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” And this is the language of one that loves earnestly, earnestly drawing them unto Him by the things to come, not merely warning them by the past; for of the future day of His second coming doth He here speak.

What then? Did they not see Him from that time? But it is not that hour which He meaneth in saying, Henceforth, but the time up to His crucifixion. For since they were forever accusing Him of this, that He was a kind of rival God, and a foe to God, He moves them to love Him by this, namely, by showing Himself to be of one accord with His Father; and He indicates Himself to be the same that was in the prophets. Wherefore also He uses the same words as did the prophets.
Chryosostom, "Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew," NPNF, 1st Series, ed. Philip Schaff (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 10:447-448.

January 12, 2010

Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) on God's Hate for the Unbelieving Elect

God doth hate his elect in some sense before their actual reconciliation. God was placable before Christ, appeased by Christ. But till there be such conditions which God hath appointed in the creature, he hath no interest in this reconciliation of God; and whatsoever person he be in whom the condition is not found, he remains under the wrath of God, and therefore is in some sense under God's hatred.
Stephen Charnock, "A Discourse of God's Being the Author of Reconciliation," in The Works of Stephen Charnock (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1986), 3:345.

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John Howe (1630–1705) on God Seeking Those Never Won by His Loving Allurements

Men are easier of acquaintance towards one another, they slide insensibly into each others bosoms: even the most churlish, morose natures are wrought upon by assiduous repeated kindnesses, gutta cavat lapidem, &c. as often-falling drops at length wear and work into very stones: towards God their hearts are more impenetrable than rocks, harder than adamants. He is seeking with some an acquaintance all their days: they live their whole age under the gospel, and yet are never won. They hearken to one another, but are utterly unpersuadable towards God; as the deaf adder that hears not the voice of the charmer though charming never so wisely. The clearest reason, the most powerful arguments move them not: no nor the most insinuative allurements, the sweetest breathings of love: "How often would I have gathered thee, as the hen her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." God draws with the cords of a man, with the bands of love: but they still perversely keep at an unkind distance.
John Howe, "The Blessedness of the Righteous," in The Works of the Rev. John Howe (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1862), 1:194.

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C. H. Spurgeon (1834–1892) on the Consistency of God's Loving and Just Character

"God is practically, as far as we are concerned, bound by his own revelation of his own character. He has been pleased to tell us that he is just, and that he is the Lord God, merciful and gracious. In a few words, he has given us the sum of himself by saying that “God is love.” When a man says concerning himself, “I have a right to do as I like, but I am generous as well as just,” you feel sure he will exercise the right which he claims in a manner according to, and consistent with, his own statement of what he is, and if he has rightly estimated his own character, he will give bountifully and pay honourably. Rest assured, then, that God’s sovereignty never will prove him to have misrepresented himself, or to have deceived us. When he says that he is just, he neither can nor will act unjustly towards any creature he has made. There was never a pang or a pain inflicted arbitrarily by God. God never pronounced a curse upon any man unless that man had clearly and richly earned it by his sin. No soul was ever cast into hell by sovereignty. God takes counsel with himself, but he stoops not to caprice. How comes the hapless creature, then, to this dread torment? Sin brings the sinner into a ruined state; justice pronounces the sinner’s doom. Sovereignty may let that doom stand. What if it moves not to avert the issue. Justice it is that pronounces the curse. Be assured, man, however much you may kick against the doctrine of election, you have no reason to do so. Whatever that doctrine may involve, it is not possible but that God must, and will, act towards you in a way so strictly just that, when you yourself come to discover it in eternity, you will not be able to cavil, but be compelled to stand speechless. Moreover, God has been pleased to assure you that he is love; that he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. Now, whatever sovereignty may decree, you may rest assured that the decree will be in consonance with the fact that God is full of mercy, grace, and truth. I know some of you set up the decree of God like a huge monster before you. You paint a horrible picture, as though the visage of him that speaketh to you from heaven were cruel and pitiless. But that picture is drawn by your perverse imagination; it is not God’s portrait of himself, for he saith, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he would turn unto me and live.” God mocks not when he says, “Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die, O house of Israel?” That is honest emotion which God feels over a sinner who ruins himself when he cries, “How can I give thee up? How shall I set thee as Admah? How shall I make thee as Zeboim? My bowels are moved; my repentings are kindled together!” God willeth not the death of a sinner, but had rather that he should turn unto him and live. So he himself assures us, and, sovereign as he is, yet he still remains both just and gracious for ever, and let us not doubt it for a moment. The rainbow, the rainbow of his own glorious attributes of mercy, ever surrounds the throne."
Charles Spurgeon, "Sermon #3412: The Heavenly Rainbow," MTP, 60:384-385.

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January 7, 2010

Robert Peterson and Michael Williams on the Love of God and Hyper-Calvinism

"We also affirmed that the Bible teaches two seemingly contradictory, but ultimately complementary truths: (1) God loves a sinful world, and (2) he has a special effective love only for the elect. Only by affirming these two truths simultaneously do we do justice to scriptural teaching. If we refuse to hold the two truths in tension and downplay the first, we err in the direction of hyper-Calvinism; if we downplay the second, we err in the direction of Arminianism."
Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams, Why I Am Not an Arminian (Downers Grove, ILL: IVP, 2004), 214.

Robert A. Peterson on the Well-Intentioned Offer and Hyper-Calvinism

We need to invite people to trust Christ. The Gospel call invites all, it really does. There is no doubt in my mind, biblically, about when we read in the book of Acts that God has commanded people everywhere to repent. Also, when He told the apostles in the great commission to take the Gospel to all the nations, there is not only the intention of God for us to take the Gospel call to everyone, but this is a well meant offer of the Gospel. Who would ever say the Gospel call is not a well meant offer? Hyper-Calvinists. And here we get into some history with the Protestant Reformed Church breaking with the Christian Reformed Church, because it was not considered to be reformed enough. One of the issues was that God does not sincerely offer the Gospel to the reprobate. In brief, I agree with [Anthony] Hoekema [click] that the Gospel offer is well-intentioned, not only on the part of the less-than-omniscient preacher or witness, but on the part of Almighty God Himself.
Robert A. Peterson, Humanity, Christ & Redemption (Covenant Theological Seminary, 2006), Lecture 29, The Application of Salvation: Calling, II, 1–2.
Hyper-Calvinism...begins with sovereignty of God passages, and there are plenty of those, and it correctly affirms God's absolute sovereign sway is human affairs. But it becomes hyper when it feels threatened with affirming genuine human responsibility alongside of sovereignty. So human freedom is squelched, and among other things, the well-meant offer of the Gospel is denied. You cannot do that; there are many biblical passages that affirm the well intentioned offer of the Gospel.
Ibid., 2.

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Brief Bio:

Robert A. Peterson (Ph.D., Drew University) is professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He was formerly professor of New Testament and theology at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.

Educational Background
BS, Philadelphia College of Bible, Langhorne, PA
MDiv, Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, PA
MPhil and PhD (both in historical theology), Drew University, Madison, NJ


Presbytery and Denominational Service
Licensed and Ordained, Philadelphia Presbytery (PCA) (1981)
Teaching Elder, Missouri Presbytery (PCA) (1990-present)

January 1, 2010

Theophilus Gale (1628–1678) on Christ's Willingness to Give Life to Sinners

(2.) Is not Christ extreme willing, and readie to give out life to sinners? Doth he not long for, and thirst after the Salvation of lost souls? Are not his offers of life exceeding Free, chearful, and universal? May not al that wil, come and drink freely of this living Fountain, Revel. 21.6? Is not he as readie to give as we are to ask; to open, as we are to knock, Joh. 4. 10. Doth he not give Liberally, and Abundantly to al that desire friendship with him, Cant. 5. 1? Yea, doth he not wait long, and greatly importune sinners to be reconciled to him? So 2 Cor. 5. 20. We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. Now is not this an hainous crime, that Christ, who is the Lord of Glorie, should come and beseech his enemies to be reconciled to him, and yet they go on in open Hostilitie against him? What? Doth Christ, who is the person offended, and injured, stoop so low, as to become a supplicant, and beseech you, who are rebellious Subjects, to be reconciled to him, and his Father? And wil you sleight such gracious condescension, such unparalleld offers of mercie? Oh! What prodigious Impietie is this?
Theophilus Gale, Theophilie: Or a Discourse of the Saints Amitie with God in Christ (London: Printed by R. W. for Giles Widdows at the Green Dragon in St. Paul's Church-Yard, 1671), 251–252.
Lo! Christ is willing to be friends with thee; he offers life to thee; take heed what thou doest; neglect not so great salvation. Remember what it is that is offered to thee; and who it is that offers it.
Ibid., 262. [Note: Gale says this in the context of talking about the misery of such as reject Christ.]

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