June 15, 2012

Increase Mather (1639–1723) on the Lord's Casting Off and Common Love

We proceed therefore to the second Question, viz.

Quest. What is implied in this casting off for ever?

Answ. 1. It implieth a change as to divine Dispensations. In the Scripture, when the Lord threatened to cast off his people, that is intended, viz. that he would make an alteration as to the tenor of his dispensations towards them: here it is set in opposition to finding God, If thou seek him, he will be found of thee, but if thou forsake him he will cast thee off: Now finding God doth imply the enjoyment of his favour, and therefore in Casting off is implied the deprivement of the Lord's favourable presence. It is indeed most true, that the special favour of God is unchangeable, Rom. 5.2. This Grace wherein we stand. He that hath once access into the special grace and favour of God stands and abideth therein for ever, in respect of that there is no casting off for ever; In the Covenant of grace the Lord hath promised saying, I will not cast off the Seed of Israel for all that they have done, Jer. 31.37. But then there is a common favour, in respect of outward blessings, which are the effects of common love, & that may utterly cease, Hos. 9.15. I will love them no more. I have loved them, (saith the Lord) i.e. bestowed outward mercies on them, but I will do so no more. They shall have no more such days of peace, no more such plenty, no more such means of grace as once they did enjoy. Thus of a friend the Lord may turn to be an Enemy, Isai. 63.10. But they rebelled and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their Enemy, and he fought against them. Whilst a Covenant people, carry it so as not to break Covenant, the Lord blesseth them visibly, but if they degenerate them blessings are removed, and woeful Judgements come in their room, & that's implied in this casting off which the Text speaketh of, fcil. that mercies shall be taken away, as it was said of Saul that when God cast him off he took away his mercy from him, 1 Chron, 17.13. because he was deprived of that great outward blessing and dignity which once he did enjoy, And the sending of contrary misery to those mercies; that instead of peace there shall be Wars, instead of plenty poverty, instead of health terrible sicknesses, instead of planting, plucking up and destroying, these things are implied in this casting off, thus Psal. 89.38. But thou hast cast off and abhorred; thou hast been wroth with thine anointed. I conceive the Psalmist in those words hath [c] respect to the sad change of Providence which befell the Lord's People in Rehoboams time, for the Psalm was written by Ethan, who was contemporary with Solomon, and probably lived to see the woeful changes which happened five years after Solomon's death, when the Land was invaded and sorely wasted by the Heathen Enemies, and some (though not all) of the wrath of God poured out upon his people, and upon the Apostatized Children of David, strong holds were brought to ruine, and they did not stand in the day of Battle as in former times they had done, now these temporal Judgements are called a casting off.
Increase Mather, A Discourse Concerning the Danger of Apostasy (Boston: Printed in the Year, 1679), 43–45. Or see Increase Mather, A Call from Heaven to the Present and Succeeding Generations (Boston, Printed by John Foster 1679), 43–45. In connection with Matt. 5:45, he also affirms God's common love for all men in The doctrine of singular obedience, as the duty and property of the true Christian: opened and applied (Boston in New-England, : Printed & sold by Timothy Green, at the north end of the town, 1707), 8.

Notice the connection between various aspects of common grace/mercies and common love in Mather's theology. The Lord's "favorable presence" is associated with "common favor," "outward blessings," "the means of grace," "outward mercies," "days of peace," "plenty," "health" and "planting." These are all experienced by some who are finally cast off, i.e. the non-elect.

No comments: