March 31, 2010

D. A. Carson on Matthew 23:37

Almost exact verbal equivalence between these verses and Luke 13:34–35 makes it nearly certain that both Matthew and Luke are following the same written source (Q?) and therefore that at least one of the two evangelists displaced this prayer from its setting in the life of Jesus. Certainly the lament is more integral to the setting in Matthew than in Luke (cf. Suggs, pp. 64–66; Garland, pp. 187–97). Jesus undoubtedly lamented over the city on other occassions (Luke 19:41–44), and the broad compassion of his words is characteristic (Matt 9:35–38).

The effect of the lament is twofold. First, it tinges all the preceding woes with compassion (note the doubling of "Jerusalem" [cf. 2 Sam 18:33; 1 Kings 13:2; Jer 22:29; Luke 10:41; 22:31]). There is also a change of number from Jerusalem to people of Jerusalem: "you [sing.] who kill . . . sent to you [sing.] . . . your [sing.] children . . . your [pl.] house . . . you [pl.] will not see." The effect is to move from the abstraction of the city to the concrete reality of people. Jesus' woes in Matthew 23 therefore go far beyond personal frustrations: they are divine judgments that, though wrathful, never call in question the reality of divine love (see discussion on 5:44–45).

Second, the Christological implications are unavoidable, for Jesus, whether identifying himself with God or with wisdom, claims to be the one who has longed to gather and protect this rebellious nation. Phrased in such terms, Jesus' longing can only belong to Israel's Savior, not to one of her prophets. The authenticity of the lament is frequently denied on the ground that the historical Jesus could not possibly have said it (e.g., Suggs, p. 66). But it is a strange criticism that a priori obliterates any possibility of listening to the text in such a way as to hear a historical Jesus who was not only conscious of his transcendent origins but who in many ways laid claims to his origins as part of his compassionate and redemptive self-disclosure.

37 Verses 37–39 preserve Jesus' last recorded public words to Israel. Jerusalem, the city of David, the city where God revealed himself in his temple, had become known as the city that killed the prophets and stoned those sent to her. Stoning to death, prescribed in the law of Moses for idolatry (Deut 17:5, 7), sorcery (Lev 20:27), and several other crimes, is also laid down in the Mishnah (M Sanhedrin 7:4) for false prophets. It could also be the outcome of mob violence (21:35; Acts 7:57–58) or conspiracy, which apparently is how Zechariah died (2 Chron 24:21). "How often" may look back over Israel's history—viz., Jesus' identifying himself with God's transcendent, historical perspective (John 8:58); but more probably "how often" refers to the duration of Jesus' ministry. During it he "often" longed to gather and shelter Jerusalem (by metonymy including all Jews) as a hen her chicks (cf. Deut 32:11; Pss 17:8; 36:7; 91:4; Jer 48:40); for despite the woes, Jesus, like the "Sovereign Lord" in Ezekiel 18:32, took "no pleasure in the death of anyone.
D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gæbelein (Regency Reference Library; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 8:486–487. Bracketed material is original.

March 28, 2010

Matthew Henry (1662–1714) on John 5:34

...why then did Christ here urge the testimony of John? Why, these things I say, that you may be saved. This he aimed at in all this discourse, to save not his own life, but the souls of others; he produced John's testimony because, being one of themselves, it was to be hoped that they would hearken to it. Note, First, Christ desires and designs the salvation even of his enemies and persecutors. Secondly, The word of Christ is the ordinary means of salvation. Thirdly, Christ in his word considers our infirmities and condescends to our capacities, consulting not so much what it befits so great a prince to say as what we can bear, and what will be most likely to do us good.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1992), 1946.

March 25, 2010

Andrew Gray (1634–1656) on Christ's Five Glorious Robes

Oh! have ye not need of this great salvation? Shall I tell you that Christ is courting you to embrace it; that he putteth on all his most glorious robes, and manifesteth himself unto you, as a suitor making offer of himself, and of his great salvation? O tell me! have ye seen him? Or do ye think to see him this say? What robes had he on? There are five glorious robes wherewith he clothes himself, when he condescendeth to manifest himself to his people. First, he cometh to his own with the garments of salvation, according to that word, Zech. ix. 9, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation. Nay, your King is come here to-day, and will ye not fall in love with him, when he is clothed with the garments of salvation? Can ye ever have a more conquering sight of Christ than when he is clothed with such an excellent robe, and offering you salvation? Secondly, He appeareth to his own sometimes in a garment dyed in blood, according to that word, Isa. lxiii. 1, Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments in blood, as one that treadeth the wine-fat? And now I say to thee that will not look to Christ, when he appears in the garments of salvation, have ye a heart to refuse him that hath fought such a combat for you; who hath trode the wine-press alone, and hath stained all his garments with the blood of his enemies? Or is there any here who dare refuse this salvation, when they see how he treadeth his enemies in anger, and trampleth them in his fury, and thus sprinkleth their blood on his garments? O tremble at this sight, and seek quarters from him in time, or he shall dye his garments with the blood of thy immortal soul. Thirdly, Christ appeareth unto his own, being clothed with those humble robes of condescendency, when he came in the similitude of sinful flesh. O! what a sight was that, to behold the Prince of Heaven clothed with our nature? What a sight was that to behold him, that was clothed with light as with a garment, to be clothed with our infirmities? Ye he condescended to clothe himself thus, that we might have access unto him, and be partakers of his gift. O! can we refuse him, when we have thus pressed him to put on beggars'-weeds, that he might say to worms, ye are my brethren, and my sisters. Fourthly, Christ sometimes manifesteth himself, being clothed with the garments of beauty and ravishing majesty; such was the sight that the spouse got of Christ, Cant. ii. 3, As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons; and Cant. v., when she saw him, white and ruddy, and the standard-bearer of ten thousand; such was that joyful sight of him, when his garments were as the light, and white as the snow, which he had at the transfiguration, when those glorified ones did come, as it were, ambassadors from the higher house to make him a visit. Fifthly, Christ sometimes appeareth to his own in robes of dreadful majesty, and terrible highness and loftiness, when that soul, upon the first sight of him, remains dead, and there remains no more life in them; such was the sight that Daniel got, in his x. chap., and such was the sight that John got of Christ, Rev. i. 13. –18. And I would ask at all that are here, what a sight have ye got of Christ to-day; in which of all these robes have ye seen him? It is true, we are not now to look for the extraordinary sights of him; but ye, if ever thou hast seen him in any of his wooing robes, sure he hath appeared matchless, and how shall ye then refuse him?
Andrew Gray, "On the Great Salvation," in The Works of the Reverend and Pious Andrew Gray (Aberdeen: Published by George King, 1839), 93–94.


March 18, 2010

Timothy Manlove (1633-1699) on Special and Common Grace

"7. Consider what great encouragement ye have humbly to expect the assistance of special grace, if ye carefully improve the Abilities and Helps that are already granted you. It's likely that Satan and your own corrupt Hearts may suggest to you, that it is to no purpose to trouble your Thoughts about these things, because special Grace is the Gift of God, who doth with his own as he pleaseth. But to this I answer; Tho tis true that Grace is a free Gift, else it were not Grace: Yet it doth not therefore follow that ye must sit still in a sluggish Stupidity, and expect to be saved without any care or concern of your own about it. Are not the Mercies of common Providence, as Food, Raiment, Friends, Health, &c. the Gifts of God? Will ye therefore argue that no care is to be taken about these things? How then comes it to pass that your Thoughts and Endeavours are employed early and late in the World, and for it? It seems ye are most willing to be imposed upon, and to have a Cloak for your Sloth in spiritual Matters; tho ye would laugh at him who should argue at the same rate as to temporal Concerns.

Therefore, to be plain with you, I must tell you; ye have no reason to expect the help of special Grace, while through mere Sloth and Perverseness ye will not excite your natural Faculties, nor strike in with Convictions and other Helps of common Grace which are vouchsafed you. But rather ye may justly fear, lest ye should be given up to a reprobate Sense, to blindness of Mind, and hardness of Heart. For the turning away of the Simple shall slay them, Prov. 1:32."
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), 126.


March 16, 2010

Michael A. G. Haykin on John Gill and the Free Offer of the Gospel

The free offer of the gospel

It should occasion no surprise that Gill’s development of the doctrine of the everlasting covenant, in which he highlighted the role of the Spirit, along with his tenacious commitment to the notion of eternal justification should then lead to the rejection of the free offer of the gospel.48 For example, in a tract that he wrote in response to a rejection of predestination by the Methodist leader John Wesley (1703-91), Gill considered biblical verses like Acts 17:30, which states that God "now commands all men everywhere to repent" and Mark 16:15, in which there is a command to "preach the gospel to every creature." Gill did not believe that either of these verses can be used to support the idea of the free offer of the gospel.

He admitted that the "gospel is indeed ordered to be preached to every creature to whom it is sent and comes." But, Gill observed, it needs noting that God has not seen fit to send the gospel to every person in the world: "there have been multitudes in all ages that have not heard it." Therefore, Gill stated, "that there are universal offers of grace and salvation made to all men, I utterly deny." Not even to the elect does God make an "offer" of salvation. Rather, the proclamation of the gospel informs the elect that "grace and salvation are provided for them in the everlasting covenant, procured for them by Christ, published and revealed in the gospel, and applied by the Spirit."49 In his systematic theology, Gill suggests another way of dodging the plain import of such verses: they are really only speaking about "an external reformation of life and manners," not "spiritual and internal conversion."50 Not surprisingly Gill warns gospel preachers to be careful lest, when they preach repentance, they give their hearers the idea that repentance is "within the compass of the power of man’s will." To preach like this is what Gill calls the "rant of some men’s ministry,…low and mean stuff, too mean for, below, and unworthy of a minister of the gospel."51
48. Nettles believes differently; see his "John Gill and the Evangelical Awakening" in Haykin, ed., Life and Thought of John Gill, 131–70.
49. The Doctrine of Predestination Stated, and Set in the Scripture-Light (2nd ed.; London: G. Keith, 1752), 28–9.
50. Cited Oliver, History of the English Calvinistic Baptists, 9.
51. Doctrines of God's Everlasting Love, 79-80. I owe this reference to Garrett, Jr., Baptist Theology, 99.
Michael A. G. Haykin, "Hyper-Calvinism and the Theology of John Gill," A Paper from the True Church Conference (Feb. 2010), 14–15.

March 15, 2010

More from Thomas Lamb (died c. 1672 or 1686) on Christ's Death for All

So also affirmatively, say I, Christ gave himself a ransom and propitiation for the sins of all, and every man.
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), 254.
Fourthly, that Christ by his Death is Lord and Mediatour of the new covenant of grace, having fully suffered for all sins and transgressions of men against Gods most holy Law, so that now no man shall perish but through not believing remission of his sins through Christ alone.

McClintock & Strong

Walter Chantry on the Importance of Man's Will in Conversion

"It is vital for every minister to appreciate the importance of man's will. For in evangelism the will must be addressed. In preaching the gospel we are not only to shine the light of truth upon darkened minds. We are also to appeal to men's perverted wills to choose Christ. Faith is as much an act of the will as it is of the mind. When by the Spirit a mind understands essential truths, by the same Spirit the will must trust Christ. Repentance is a selecting of good and a refusing of evil. Volition is central to faith and repentance.

Indeed, in conversion, a man must make a decision. We shy away from that term because in modern jargon a 'decision' has come to be identified with an outward expression, such as raising the hand or going forward to the front. While such external acts have nothing to do with forgiveness of sins, the heart must make a decision to be saved.

When Christ stood to cry 'If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink', He was soliciting a willing choice of Himself as satisfying drink for the soul. God urges all sinners to come just because they may come. And it is our duty to inform the sinner that he has a warrant, a right to choose Christ. Beyond this, we must assure him that he has a positive duty to embrace the Saviour."
Walter J. Chantry, "Man's Will—Free yet Bound," Banner of Truth 140 (May 1975): 5.

Theophilus Gale (1628–1678) on God's Intention in the Means of Salvation

God's Providential Will is that, whereby he is said to will and intend an end, when he in his providence, either gracious or common, affords such means which have an aptitude to produce it. As where God sends his Gospel, he may be said to really intend the salvation of those to whom it is sent, albeit they are not all saved; because he vouchsafeth them those means which have a real aptitude to produce the same, were they but really embraced and improved. In this regard Davenant and others affirm, that Christ's death is, παν φά-μαχον, an universal remedy applicable to all, and that God, by his Voluntas Providentia (as Aquinas styles it) intended it as such. This intention or will of God is measured by the nature of the means, and therefore reducible to God's Legislative Will, which gives constitution and measure to all the means of man's salvation.
Theophilus Gale, The Court of the Gentiles (Printed by H. Hall, for Tho. Gilbert, 1677), Part IV, Book II, 357. Or see Theophilus Gale, The Court of the Gentiles. Part IV. Of Reformed Philosophie. Wherein Plato’s Moral and Metaphysic or Prime Philosophie is reduced to an useful Forme and Method (London: Printed by J. Macock, for Thomas Cockeril, at the Sign of the Atlas in Cornhil, near the Royal Exchange, 1677), 357 (II.v.4).

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