April 30, 2012

Anthony Burgess (d.1644) on Common Love and Outward Mercies

"2. If it should be granted that those temporal mercies thou aboundest with, come from the light of his countenance, yet it is only in temporal things. If we do suppose that they come from Gods love to thee, yet this is but a common and general love: It doth not at all make to thy peculiar happiness, neither doth it tend to the special favour of God. It may not be denied, but God from a common love to men, who have been just and diligent in their ways, may bestow some outward mercies, as a temporal reward. Thus Austin thought the Romanes had that great Dominion given them, because of their justice. And so the Scripture saith, a diligent hand maketh rich, Prov. 10.4. But what is this common love without a special? What is it for God so to love thee, as to make thee strong, healthy, wealthy, and not give Christ and Heaven to thee? Oh, therefore rest not in the enjoying of these outward mercies, but look to that which is the chiefest of all! If thou hast grace, pardon of sinne, and Christ, thou canst not be damned; but if thou have the great things of this world, thou mayest have also the great torments of Hell hereafter. As Ishmael had of Abraham, some rich gifts, but not the Inheritance: As Luther said, of the great Turkish Empire, which God hath given to wicked and ungodly men, it's but mica [Latin unclear] canis, a crum that the dog may have, but not the Childrens Bread.

3. Let it be given to wicked men thus, from a common love, yet it is withall from Gods anger and hatred, if you do regard them in a spiritual consideration. For, they are not sanctified to them; they are not thereby made more holy, or drawn nearer to God. They do become snares and occasions of sins to them: so that they will at the Day of Judgment, even curse the day that ever they had such abundance. They will cry out, Oh that they had been poor, miserable, deformed! That they had been under any calamity, then that they had such abundance; for that hath made Hell seven times hotter: That hath been like oil poured into the flame, which hath made the first burn more terribly. That which Solomon observed of wealth, (Eccl. 5.13.) is true of all other outward mercies, Beauty, Strength, Honours; How often are they given to the hurt of them that have them? Thus David's imprecation is fulfilled in them, Let their Table become a snare unto them. As too much blood endangers the body: especially these outward mercies are sure to be a snare to them; because they hinder and oppose all those Christian Qualifications which are absolutely necessary to every Disciple of Christ. Thus it's required, that a man must love Christ more then Father or Mother, or life itself; that he must deny himself, and take up his Cross. All which cannot be, because of immoderate love to these outward mercies. This is the Camels bunch; This is that which chokes the Word. The Pharisees, because they were covetous, derided Christ. If then, you comfort yourselves, because God hath given you all outward fulness; examine how these are sanctified to you. What spiritual effects do these mercies bring upon you? Do you not pray the worse, hear the worse? Are not your hearts the more distracted and divided? Doth not the earth make you forget Heaven? Oh then, be afraid and tremble at these things, rather than confidently rejoice in them! Did not Abraham tell Dives, He had received good things in this life? but for eternity, he was not to receive so much, as a drop of water. Pray unto God, that all they good things be not given thee here, and thou have nothing hereafter."
Anthony Burgess, The Godly Man's Choice (London, Printed by Abraham Miller for Thomas Underhill at the Signe of the Anchor and Bible in Pauls Church-yard, 1659), 27-28. [some spelling updated and modernized]

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Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) on the Free Offer as God's Common Love

I'm only including the following quote here for what he says about God's desire in connection with the free offer and for describing the free offer of grace as "common love." The rest will just leave the modern reader confused. Shepard writes:
Thesis 119.

The free-grace of God in Christ (not works) is the only sure foundation of justifying faith, or upon which faith is built, Rom. 3. 24, 25. 1 Pet. 2.4, 5, 6. Mat. 16.18. This free-grace therefore must first be revealed by the Spirit of God in the Ministry of the Gospel in order unto faith, Rom. 10.14, 15. Eph. 1.13. which general revelation of free-grace, some make to be the first evidence on which faith rests, and thus far it is true; but now this free grace is revealed two ways.

1. In the free offer of it to be our own by receiving it, Act. 10.43. Gal. 2.16.

2. In the free promise of it revealing it as our own already, having actually and effectually received it, Joh. 1.12. Rom. 5.1, 2. 1 John 5.12.

The free offer of grace (containing Gods call, commandment and beseechings to believe and be reconciled) gives us right to this possession of Christ or to come and take and so possess Christ Jesus by faith. Jerem. 3.22. 1 Cor. 1.9. Rom. 1.5, 6. The free promise of grace (containing revealed immutable purposes and actual assurances of present and future grace) gives us right to the fruition of Christ, or to enjoy Christ as a free gift when 'tis offered; the command and desire of the donor to receive it to be our own, gives us right and power to possess it: and when it is received, his promise to us assuring us that it is and shall continue our own, gives us right and priviledge to enjoy it and make use of it. For by two immutable things (the promise confirmed by oath) we have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to the hope before us, Heb. 6.17, 18, 19. The free offer is the first ground of our faith, why we receive Christ to be our own: but the free promise is the first ground of the assurance of faith, why we are assured and persuaded that he is our own already: for the Gospel containing three things, 1. The revelation of Christ: 2. The free offer of Christ, 3. The promise of Christ to all those that receive this offer; Hence faith (which runs parallel with the Gospel (the proper object of it) first sees Christ, secondly receives Christ, thirdly is assured of the love of Christ having received him.

The free offer of grace being made to the soul because it is poor and sinful, cursed and miserable, and that therefore it would receive Christ, hence it is that in this respect the soul is not bound first to see some good in it self and so to receive him, but rather is bound (at first breathings of God upon it) rather to see no good, nothing but sin and perdition, death and darkness, enmity and weakness, and therefore to receive him, Luk. 14.21. Revel. 3.17, 18. Gal. 3.22. Rom. 11. 32. Hos. 13.3. But the promise of free-grace, being actually given to the soul (and not declared only as it is in the free offer, because it hath received Christ already by which he is actually its own) hence it is that in this respect, the soul is bound to see some good or saving work of grace in it self first, and so embrace and receive the promise and Christ Jesus in it: So that although in receiving Christ to be our own, we are to see no good in our selves wherefore we should receive him or believe in him; yet in receiving him as our own already, we must first see some good (the work of free grace in us) or else we have no just ground thus to receive him: No man can challenge any promise belonging to him without having a part in Christ the foundation of them; no man can have Christ but by receiving of him or believing in him, Joh. 1.12. Hence therefore they that say that the first evidence of Gods love and free grace or actual favour, is to a sinner as a sinner, had need consider what they say; for is it to a sinner as possessed with Christ and receiving him, or as dispossesed of Christ nor having of him, but rather refusing and rejecting of him. If they say the first, they then speak the truth, but then they raise down their own pernicious principle, that Christ and Gods love belongs to them As sinners: If they affirm the latter, then they do injuriously destroy Gods free grace and the glory of Christ, who think to possess promises without possessing Christ, or to have promises of grace, without having Christ the foundation of them all. For though the common love of God (as the bare offer of grace is) may be manifested without having Christ, yet special actual love cannot be actually our own, without having and first receiving of him: And if the Spirit of God convince the world of sin (and consequently of condemnation) while they do not believe, Joh. 16.9. I wonder how it can then convince them of pardon of sin and reconciliation, before they do believe? unless we will imagine it to be a lying spirit, which is blasphemous. These things not considered of, have and do occasion much error at this day in the point of evidencing, and hath been an inlet of deep delusion, and open gaps have been made hereby to the loose ways and depths of Familism and gross Arminianism, and therefore being well considered of, are sufficient to clear up the ways of those faithful servants of the Lord (who dare not sow pillows, nor cry peace to the wicked, much less to sinners as sinners) both from the slanderous imputation of legal ministrations after an old Testament manner, as also of making works the ground of faith, or the causes of assurance of faith; the free offer being the ground of the one, and the free promise the cause and ground of the other: Briefly therefore.

1. The free offer of grace is the first evidence to a poor lost sinner that he may be beloved.

2. The receiving of this offer by faith (relatively considered in respect of Christs spotless righteousness) is the first evidence showing why he is beloved, or what hath moved God actually to love him.

3. The work of sanctification (which is the fruit of our receiving this offer) is the first evidence showing that he is beloved.

If therefore a condemned sinner be asked whether God may love him, and why he thinks so? he may answer, Because Jesus Christ is held forth and offered to such a one: If he be further asked, why or what he thinks should move God to love him? he may answer, Because I have received Christs righteousness offered, for which righteousness sake only I know I am beloved, now I have received it: If he be asked lastly, how he knows certainly that he is beloved; he may answer safely and confidently, Because I am sanctified: I am poor in spirit, therefore mine is the kingdom of heaven: I do mourn, and therefore I shall be satisfied, &c. We need in time of distress and temptation all these evidences, and therefore it is greatest wisdom to pray for that spirit, which may clear them all up unto us, rather then to contend which should be the first.

And thus we see that the whole moral law is our rule of life, and consequently the law of the Sabbath, which is a branch of this rule: We now proceed to show the first branch, of things generally and primarily moral.
Thomas Shepard, THESES SABBATICÆ, Or, The Doctrine of the Sabbath (London, Printed by T. R. and E. M. for John Rothwell [at the] Sun and Fountain in Pauls Church-yard, 1650), 222-224.

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John Collinges (1623–1690) on God's Love and Hate in Different Respects

1. As love stands opposed to hatred, and wrath, and Enmity. Considering man as Gods creature, he was not hated of God, God hateth not the work of his own hand; but considering him as a lapsed creature as degenerated into the Plant of a strange Vine, after that God had created him a generous, noble plant, so he because the object of God's wrath, hatred, and Enmity. We were Children of wrath by nature saith the Apostle, Eph. 2.3. God is angry with the wicked every day. How Suitable, to us now is it, to have a Saviour? That is Love, and who hath Loves, considering the aversion in the holy Divine Being, from Mankind as rebellious Seed, a Seed of Evil-doers? Who could have suited us to have become a Saviour unto us, but one who had a kind propension, and inclination to us, inclining him to the great work of mans Redemption, and Reconciliation to God, especially also considering that there could be no remission of sins without blood, no reconciliation without the reconcilers Death, he had need have loves that should die for his Friend, and he much more who should die for Enemies that were by his death to be made friends.
John Collinges, The Intercourses of Divine Love Betwixt Christ and his Church (London: Printed by T. Snowden, for Edward Giles Bookseller in Norwich, near the Market-place, 1683), 156. [some spelling updated]

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John Collinges (1623-1690) on the Loves of God

"First, Love in the strict, and proper Notion of it, signifieth the Persons or the Creatures Propension and Inclination to some Object, and its Complacency in it. And in this Abstract, and purer Notion of it, it agreeth to the Divine Being, and Christ is the Subject of Love. There is in the eternal Son of god, strong Propensions and Inclinations to do good to the Sons of men. To love, the Philosopher saith, is Velle bonum; to will good to another: There is in Christ a Propension, a strong Inclination to will good to the Sons of Men; He hath a Complacency in some of the Sons of Men. Love is a Term that signifies Affections, and all our Affections are but the motions of our Wills towards their Objects. We say, there are no Affections in God: That is true; But there is something in the Divine Being, which is proportionable to what in us we call Affections. In us Affections are extravagant Motions, mutable Passions; there are no such things in God: In us something out of our selves draws out our Love. There is no such Passions and Affections in God: But if we consider Love in its pure Nature, as it is the kind motion of the Will to an Object, so Christ is Love, and he hath Loves; that is, there is in him, pure and admirable Propensions and Inclinations of his Will to do good to the Children of Men, especially to some particular Souls amongst the Sons of Men. These indeed are not kindled in the Divine Being, from any thing in us, or out of itself, as Flames of Love in the Creature usually are: Yet even in Creatures Love oftentimes is an inaccountable thing, but in God it is always so; he sheweth Mercy because he will shew Mercy, and loveth freely. That's the first thing.

But Secondly, The word [in Cant. 1:2] is plural, not Love but Loves. God is one, and his Love is one, Christs Love is one in himself, but as the River, that went out of Eden to water the Garden of Paradise Gen. 2.10. was one in its Original, and Source, but from thence it was parted, and became into four Heads. So that Oneness of the Divine Propension and Inclination to do good to poor Creatures, being out of the Divine Being, it divides itself into many Heads, and as the Sea which is one in itself, yet as it passeth by several Lands and washeth upon various Shoars receives several Names, and so admits of a plural number; so the Love of Christ, which in him is but one Good-will to poor Creatures; yet as it sheweth itself, in Serving the necessities of various Souls, or the various necessities of the same Soul, so it becomes Loves, and admits of plurality, there is in Christ pardoning Love, and a healing Love, a strenthening Love, and a comforting Love; therefore the Spouse saith Thy Loves. There is but One Love in Christ, but it becomes many when it washeth upon various shores, and touches our diverse wants.

Thirdly, The plural Number speaketh the Dimensions of that Love which is in Christ, or rather the want of Dimensions in it. The plural number hath no bounds, the singular is bounded by Unity, Millions of Millions, 'tis all still but the plural number. Loves teacheth infiniteness. When the Spouse saith, They Loves, it is as much as thine infinite, unmeasurable Love, Christ hath not only a good Will, a kind-inclination, an Propension to the Sons of Men, but an infinite, unmeasurable, unfathomable Propensions and Inclination o do good to the Souls of his Saints. The Apostle prayeth for the Ephesians. Eph. 3. 17, 18. That Christ might dwell in their Hearts by Faith; that they being rooted and grounded in Love, might be able to comprehend with all Saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and heighth, and to know the Love of Christ which passeth knowledge, heighth, and depth, and length, and breadth, are the boundaries of our knowledge but the Love of Christ passeth knowledge.

Fourthly, Love signifies some Specialties of Affection. A good man hath Love for many Women, but Love's only for the Wise of his Bosom. Love signifie both a common, and a singular and special Love. Christ hath a Philanthropy, or common Love for all the Sons of Men; but he hath a [unclear Greek word omitted], a special Love and Kindness for some. Joseph caused all his Brethren, to have a Mess set for them, but for Benjamin, a double Mess. God gave Esau the Mountains of Edom. There was Love, but Jacob had the Blessing, Esau had his Love, Jacob had his Loves. That the Gospel is preached to every Creature, is from Christ's Love, but that any by the Gospel are made New creatures this is from his Loves. It is kindness to them that they have the Gospel, but a far greater kindness, a kindness of another nature to the Soul that it is inabled to receive the Gospel, and is turned into the likeness of it.

5. Loves may signify the Effects, and inclinations of Love, and indeed Terms of Affection applyed unto God, do very ordinarily in Scripture signify this, Et affectum, & effectum; Both the Motion of the Divine Will within itself and the effect of it, upon the Creature. So it is true, that Christ hath Loves, his Good-Will to poor Creatures doth not exhaust itself in one or another Emanation, in one or another Stream, but in various Emanations, in a multitude of Streams, and thus you see there are two things in the Proposition asserted.

1st. That in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is an infinite, unmeasurable Good-Will to the Children of Men, especially to such of them as are by Faith united to him.

2dly. That this Good-will of Christ toward them, declareth itself in a great variety of Indications and Effects, Suited to their various necessities; It is not a Love that evaporates in Air, as the Love of some impotent persons, whose Love towards us terminates within their own Souls.

These are the two Points I have to prove, and they are of exceeding easy demonstration, to those who believe the History of the Gospel, or the Matter, and Propositions of the whole Word of God.

Solomon tells us of Christ under the notion of Wisdom (the Apostle calls Christ The Wisdom of God, 1. Cor. 1.24.) that before ever the Earth was, when there were no Depths nor Fountains abounding with Water, when God prepared the Heavens, and set a compass upon the face of the Deep, when he established the Clouds, Prov. 8. 24, 25, 31. He was Rejoycing in the habitable part of his Earth, and his Delights were with the Sons of Men. The Apostle tells those of the Ephesians who were Saints and faithful, That they were chosen in Christ before the Foundation of the World, that they should be holy, and without blame before him, in Love, predestined unto the Adoption of Children, by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his Will, To the Praise of the Glory of his Grace, wherein hath made us accepted through the Beloved, in whom we have, Redemption through his Blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the Riches of his Grace, &c. There is no portion of the Word of God, that part of it especially which we call the Gospel, but affordeth us an abundant proof of this; What meant his being made Surety of a better Covenant for us (as the Apostle to the Hebrews tells us?) His being given for a Covenant for the people, Isa. 42. 6. a Light to the Gentiles, to open the Eyes of the blind to bring out the Prisoners from the Prison, and them that sit in Darkness out of the Prison-house? His being the Lamb slain from the beginning of the World, Rev. 13.8. His Speaking by the Mouths of the Prophets (as the Apostle tells us), His growing up as a tender Plant, and as a Root out of a dry ground, having no form, nor comliness, nor beauty to be desired, his being despised, & rejected of men, as man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs, his bearing our griefs, and carrying our Sorrows, being Smitten of God, and afflicted, his being wounded for our Transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, when the chastisement of our peace lay upon him? His suffering stripes that we might be healed, &c. What signified his incarnation, his death and p [blot in text here], his resurrection, and ascension, his taking care for his Gospel to be preach'd to every creature, &c. his being grieved for the hardness of peoples hearts, and troubled for their unbelief, his frequent preaching while he was upon the Earth, his weeping over Jerusalem, his invitations of people to come unto him that they might have life, his complaints that they would not come unto him, &c. I say what do all these things signify from him who needeth not his creature, being over all God blessed forever, but that he hath loves, an infinite good will to the Children of men? No man is at cost, taketh pains in any business, suffereth hard things to go through it, but either out of kindness to himself or to another. Our Lord did not do, and suffer these things for himself, he had no need of them, if it were for us it speaks his loves.

2. But this is no more than what every one who owneth Christ, and the Gospel will easily grant, That Christ is Love and hath a Love for the Sons of men, yea and that there is an infiniteness, and unmeasurableness in the Love of Christ. But that he hath Loves in the Other sense: Some Specialties of Love, some particular propensions to some Souls more than others; this is what the proud world cannot so easily digest. Yet is this as plain in the Revelation of holy Writ as the other. It speaks of an Election or choice of some to Holiness and Happiness before the foundation of the world; the choice of Some must suppose the passing by or not electing others, experience shows us that not only the good things of common providence, but even the external means of Grace are granted to some not to others.

3. Neither doth this grate so much. The most perverse opiners in this point must grant the publication of the Gospel, an effect of the Love of Christ, and that there is a very inequal distribution of it by the wise Providence of God, but as to them to whom the Gospel is alike preached, they know not how to allow Loves in Christ; have they then forgot what the Apostle saith, Rom. 9.6. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel; Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all Children: But in Isaac shall thy seed be called, that is, They who are the Children of the flesh these are not the Children of God, but the Children of the Promise counted for the seed. And again. Rom. 2.28, 29. He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that in the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the Letter, whose praise is not of men but of God. Doth not experience teach us that even where the Gospel is preached some repent of their sins, some are hardened, some believe, others are locked up in unbelief, some are holy and blameless, others are loud and profane. But they will say. This is not from any Loves in Christ, he is alike to all, but from the differing motions and inclinations of the will of man. I yet ask, Whence is it? Seeing human Souls are Equal and have the same powers, and faculties, how comes it that one man loveth God, and the ways of God, another hates and abhoreth every thing almost that hath the image and Superscription of God upon it? Is a man a God to himself and the first cause of any motions that are truly and spiritually good? Is it not God that giveth to will, and to do, of his own good pleasure? Hath a man any thing which is good which he hath not received? If one hath received such a power, such an inclination, such a disposition from God, there is Special Love; then Christ hath Loves besides a common Philanthropy, a good will to the generality of mankind, shewed in other things which will not bring Souls to Eternal Salvation, he hath a special Love and kindness to some Souls, which he manifesteth in such dispensations to it, as shall certainly bring the Soul to Eternal Life and Salvation; and these are those of which the text Speaks."
John Collinges, The Intercourses of Divine Love Betwixt Christ and his Church (London: Printed by T. Snowden, for Edward Giles Bookseller in Norwich, near the Market-place, 1683), 149-153. [some spelling changes; much italics left out due to length]

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John Collinges (1623–1690) on God's Willingness to Save Sinners

Secondly, Nay, consider, his will is not only full enough of power, but there is an earnestness of desire in his will to save the greatest sinners, that leaving their sins, will turn to him; this will be easily enough evinced from his expressions and actions, tending to that end; He speaks, he swears, he pleads, he expostulates, he weeps, he invites, he comes, he dies.

1. He speaks, that you have heard, he saith, I will save scarlet, crimson, sinners; I will say to them that are in their blood, live, I will pour out water upon the unclean.

2. He swears, and hath bid us to tell you his oath Ezek. 33.61. say unto them, As I live (saith the Lord) I desire not the death of a sinner, but had rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live. Lo, he could swear by no greater, he swears by himself. O happy creatures (saith Turtullian) for whom God is pleased to put himself to his oath! O unbelieving wretches, if we will not trust our God swearing! Yes further,

3. He pleads, Turn yee, turn ye from your evil ways, why will ye die O ye house of Israel? Micah 6.3. O my people! what have I done to thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. He expostulates, Isai. 5.4. What could I have done more, for my vineyard then I have done? Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

4. He appeals to the mountains and foundations of the earth, Mic. 6. 1, 2, 3. to the sinners themselves, Isa. 5. 3, 4. Judge now O yee inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

5. He wishes groaning, Deu. 5. 29. O that there were such an heart in them that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and their children for ever. And again, Deut. 32.29 O that they were wise, that they understood this, and would consider their latter-end.

6. He professeth he knoweth not how to destroy them, Hosea 11. 8. How shall I give thee up Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee O Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim, my heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.

7. He weeps when he comes nigh Jerusalem, he wept over it, and said, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem --- how oft would I have gathered thee, as an hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but thou wouldst not? Mat. 23. 37, 38. Christ would, but the sinner would not.

8. He invites, Isa. 55. 1, 2, 3. Ho, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters, & he that hath no money come, yea buy and eat without money, and without price; and again, ver. 3. Incline your ear and come unto me, and your soul shall live; Hark how he calls, Mat. 11.29. Come unto me all ye that are weary, and heavy laden, and I will ease you. The Father saith come, the Son saith come, the Spirit saith come, you that are in the hedges come, he sends out his servants to highway-people, Mat. 22.9. To as many as are found there; why stay you disputing his will, when he so often saith come, come? Rev. 22. 17. The Spirit and the Bride say come, and let him that heareth say come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him drink of the water of life freely. Is not all this enough to let thee know God is willing, and Christ is willing to receive thee? Lo, Christ will come to thee.

9. See that essence of glory, bowing the Heavens and coming down, laying aside his robes of Majesty, & putting on thy filthy garments, see him tiring himself in going about from place to place, upon no other errand than this, to cry at the markets, Oh, if any sinners love life, happiness, if any will go to heaven, let them come to me, I will show them the way to my fathers bosom, and endear them to my fathers heart. Read his Sermons, observe his pains, thou wilt find a willing Saviour, not excepting publicans, and harlots from the kingdom of God.

10. Wouldst thou have more tokens of his will yet? See him dying, hanging upon the cross, dropping out his last blood, breathing out his last breath, stretching out his dying arms to encircle sinners should run in to him, breathing out the breath of free grace in his very last act upon a thief that had not an hour to live; Who shall despair? who shall say Christ is not willing to save him, and not blaspheme eternal love? speak truth! corrupt heart say thou art not willing to be saved.

11. Is not this yet enough? Observe him setting Ministers in his Church, lest thou shouldst not read, and none should tell thee the truth of his eternal love, to speak out his good will in thine ears: All our errand is nothing but this, sinners Christ is willing to save you, And as Embassadours for Christ as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ, stead to be yee reconciled to God 2 Cor. 5,20. Why canst thou not believe his will? Consider in thy Saviours will, there is not only a latitude for, but an eagernesse of thy eternall salvation: Why therefore doest thou say, my sins are so great that God will not pardon me? Believe, O blaspheme not the God of infinite good-will.
John Collinges, "A Cordial for a Fainting Soul," in The Works of John Collings, Vol. 1 (London, Printed for Richard Tomlins at the Sun and Bible in Pye-corner, 1655), 56–58.

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It sounds like Collinges was familiar with Isaac Ambrose's (1604–1664) words here (or vice versa):
Who shall say, Christ is not willing to save him, and not blaspheme eternal Love? Speak Truth: Corrupt Hearts speak Truth; say not Christ is unwilling, but you are unwilling; I would, but ye would not.
Isaac Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus: A View of the Everlasting Gospel; Or, the Soul’s Eyeing of Jesus as Carrying on the Great Work of Man’s Salvation, from First to Last (Edinburgh: Printed for James Ormiston, 1723), 246–247.

April 29, 2012

John Collinges (1623-1690) on Heaven Begging

"And from hence let us be instructed, upon what sad terms every child of the devil is damned, and such especially as live in places where the Lord Jesus Christ is preached; they will be damned for not receiving Christ, for not opening the door of their hearts, and stretching out their hearts in the desires and pantings after Christ, for not closing with an offered Christ and promise; your damnation will not be (Sirs) for not meriting Christ; No, God never required that at your hands. God never required you should earn him, he requires nothing but that you should receive him, that you should be willing, and your hearts should be open to let in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that you should hunger and thirst after him, and close with him, not pay a penny, only take, and that freely. Ah Lord! upon what ill terms will the men of this generation go down to hell? Men think to lay their damnation another day at God's door; and to say, Lord, we could not believe, thou never elected us, nor gave us faith, and Christ, &c. But friend, God will let thee know that thy damnation is of thyself. Mr. Fenner has noted that in that chapter of Ezekiel, 18. cap. God hath freed his three wills from the damnation of any. 1. His secret will; I have no pleasure (saith he) in the death of him that dieth. 2. His revealed will; God says, Repent and turn, so shall not iniquity be your ruin. 3. His permissive will; Make you (saith God) a new heart and a new spirit. And finally, he casts all the fault of their damnation upon their own rebellious wills; Why (saith he) will you die O ye house of Israel. Friends! Is there any of you before me this day that have no part nor portion in the Lord Jesus Christ? For the Lord's sake let what you have heard sink upon your thoughts. Perditio [spelling is unclear] tua ex te, O Israel. Sinners, your damnation is of yourselves: if you will be saved you may. Heaven goes a begging this day, whosoever will let him drink of the water of life freely; it may be some of you have been great sinners, some of you old corrupted sinners: yet if you will, I say, if you will, you may be the Sons of God, heirs, joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. You that are children of wrath, if you will, you may be heirs of grace. Behold Christ stands at the door and knocks: this day he knocks once more; he cries, whosoever will. Whosoever hath ears to hear, let him hear, if you will not hear, it is not because Christ wants a heart, but because you want ears: Christ calls, Ho every one that thirsts, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat: yea, come buy wine and milk without money, and without price; hearken diligently unto me, and eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear and come unto me, hear and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David, Isa. 55. 1, 2, 3. Remember (Sirs) Jerusalem might have been gathered, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but she would not; if you will not, Christ hath washed his hands of your blood: your damnation is of yourselves. And ah! think, (poor creatures) think what bad terms these are to be damned upon: what a gnawing upon your conscience in hell another day will it be to think, If I would I might have been saved; Heaven and glory might have been mine if I would, but now I am tormented, and shall be so for ever, because I would not have the Lord Jesus Christ; this makes damnation the heavier, to think, there is no more required but only to open the door to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. I say it makes it the heavier as well as the juster."
John Collinges, "A Cordial for a Fainting Soul: Serm. IX," in The Works of John Collings, Vol. 1 (London, Printed for Richard Tomlins at the Sun and Bible in Pye-corner, 1655) 151-153. [some spelling modernized]
"Behold! he stands at the door and knocks: he is willing, he is willing, he stands at the door: thy opening is after his knocking; he knocks this day, he calls to thee, (Ah Lord! Break open the door that will not open!) thou are prevented with love, he stands at the door, and knocks before thou canst have the least thought of opening; Hark (sinner!) hear him knocking; Turn, turn, why will ye die O house of Israel? hear him calling, Drunkard, Vain person, Swearer, Sabbath breaker, turn, open the doors of your hearts." Ibid., 154.
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Collinges is one among many sovereign grace advocates that I have documented who have used this begging metaphor. The other names include Augustine, Hugh Latimer, Samuel Rutherford [Westminster divine], Thomas Manton, Jeremiah Burroughs [Westminster divine] John Trapp, Sydrach Simpson [Westminster divine], Robert Harris [Westminster divine], Theophilus Gale, Isaac Ambrose, Stephen Charnock, John Flavel, Richard Sibbes, John Shower, William Gurnall, George Swinnock, Ralph Venning, Daniel Burgess, Samuel Willard, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Andrew Gray, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse and John MacArthur.

April 24, 2012

Edmund Calamy (1600-1666) on the General and Special Love of God

"Love, as attributed unto God, is not a quality; as it is in man, but an effect of free grace, and it is either more generall or more speciall: Of the more generall Love of God towards man, we read in Mar. 10.21. where it is said, of the young man that came to Christ; That Jesus beholding him, loved him. Of the more speciall Love of God towards some, we read Jerem. 31.3 2 Thes. 2.16. John 13.1.

The more generall, or common Love of God, is manifested in, and by his common gifts and dispensations, such as the young man that came to Christ was indued with (to wit) great place in the World, great possessions, morall righteousnesse, desire of, and indeavour after eternall life, with the injoyment of temporall felicity, and predominate corruption.

But the more speciall Love of God towards man, is manifested in, and by his Fatherly chastisements and scourgings, as this Text tells us, Whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth, &c, whom the Lord loveth after a speciall manner, he sooner, or later certaily chastiseth; He scourgeth every sonne whom he receiveth unto glory."
Edmund Calamy, Evidence for Heaven (London: Printed for Simon Millerat the Star in Pauls Church-yard toward the West end, 1657), 163-164.

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Increase Mather (1639–1723) on Common and Special Grace

There is the common Grace of God, all Creatures are the subjects of that. Psal. 145.9. The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. He does good to all: there is common Grace which all the worlds of God are the subjects of; but then there is also Special Grace that the Elect of God are the subjects of, and this is the Grace that brings Salvation. Psal. 106.4. Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people, O visit me with thy salvation. Thus we see what is intended by Grace: It is the free favour of God which He is pleased to manifest to His People, tho' they deserve it not.
Increase Mather, "A Dying Testimony to the Sovereign Grace of God in the Salvation of His Elect," in Five Sermons on Several Subjects (Boston: Printed by B. Greene, 1719), 37.

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April 20, 2012

Richard Muller on the Problem of TULIP

The following is an extract from Muller's paper on the question "Was Calvin a Calvinist? Or, Did Calvin (or Anyone Else in the Early Modern Era) Plant the “TULIP”? He also reads this section, with a few modifications, in his recent audio lecture at Westminster Seminary.
1. The Problem of TULIP. By way of addressing these issues, we should note first and foremost the problem of TULIP itself — an acrostic that has caused much trouble for the Reformed tradition and has contributed greatly to the confusion about Calvin and Calvinism. (I don’t plan to tiptoe through this issue.) It is really quite odd and a-historical to associate a particular document written in the Netherlands in 1618-19 with the whole of Calvinism and then to reduce its meaning to TULIP. Many of you here know that the word is actually “tulp.” “Tulip” isn’t Dutch — sometimes I wonder whether Arminius was just trying to correct someone’s spelling when he was accused of omitting that “i” for irresistible grace. More seriously, there is no historical association between the acrostic TULIP and the Canons of Dort. As far as we know, both the acrostic and the associated usage of “five points of Calvinism” are of Anglo-American origin and do not date back before the nineteenth century.[15] It is remarkable how quickly bad ideas catch on. When, therefore, the question of Calvin’s relationship to Calvinism is reduced to this popular floral meditation — did Calvin teach TULIP? — any answer will be grounded on a misrepresentation. Calvin himself, certainly never thought of this model, but neither did later so-called Calvinists. Or, to make the point in another way, Calvin and his fellow Reformers held to doctrines that stand in clear continuity with the Canons of Dort, but neither Calvin nor his fellow Reformers, nor the authors of the Canons, would have reduced their confessional position to TULIP.

In fact, it is quite remarkable how little the acrostic has to do with Calvin or Calvinism, as is most evident in the cases of the “T” and the “L.” I don’t think Calvin ever uttered a phrase that easily translates as “total depravity.” He certainly never spoke of “limited atonement.” Neither term appears in the Canons of Dort, nor is either one of these terms characteristic of the language of Reformed or Calvinistic orthodoxy in the seventeenth century. Like the TULIP itself, the terms are Anglo-American creations of fairly recent vintage. “Total depravity,” at least as understood in colloquial English, is so utterly grizzly a concept as to apply only to the theology of the Lutheran, Matthias Flacius Illyricus who an almost dualistic understanding of human nature before and after the fall, arguing the utter replacement of the imago Dei with the imago Satanae and indicating that the very substance of fallen humanity was sin. Neither Calvin not later Reformed thinkers went in this direction and, to the credit of the Lutherans, they repudiated this kind of language in the Formula of Concord. What is actually at issue, hidden under the term “total depravity” is not the utter absence of any sort of goodness but the inability to save one’s self from sin.

The question of the “L” in TULIP, of “limited” versus “universal atonement,” also looms large in the debate over whether or not Calvin was a Calvinist. This question, too, arises out of a series of modern confusions, rooted, it seems to me, in the application of a highly vague and anachronistic language to a sixteenth- and seventeenth-century issue. Simply stated, neither Calvin, nor Beza, nor the Canons of Dort, nor any of the orthodox Reformed thinkers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries mention limited atonement — and insofar as they did not mention it, they hardly could have taught the doctrine. (Atonement, after all is an English term, and nearly all of this older theology was written in Latin.) To make the point a bit less bluntly and with more attention to the historical materials, the question debated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, concerned the meaning of those biblical passages in which Christ is said to have paid a ransom for all or God is said to will the salvation of all or of the whole world, given the large number of biblical passages that indicate a limitation of salvation to some, namely, to the elect or believers. This is an old question, belonging to the patristic and medieval church as well as to the early modern Reformed and, since the time of Peter Lombard, had been discussed in terms of the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s satisfaction in relation to the universality of the preaching of redemption.

The question at issue between Calvin and the later Reformed does not entail any debate over the value or merit of Christ’s death: virtually all were agreed that it was sufficient to pay the price for the sins of the whole world. Neither was the question at issue whether all human beings would actually be saved: all (including Arminius) were agreed that this was not to be the case. To make the point another way, if “atonement” is taken to mean the value or sufficiency of Christ’s death, no one taught limited atonement — and if atonement is taken to mean the actual salvation accomplished in particular persons, then no one taught unlimited atonement (except perhaps the much-reviled Samuel Huber).

Historically, framed in language understandable in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there were two questions to be answered. First, the question posed by Arminius and answered at Dort: given the sufficiency of Christ’s death to pay the price for all sin, how ought one to understand the limitation of its efficacy to some? In Arminius’ view, the efficacy was limited by the choice of some persons to believe, others not to believe, and predestination was grounded in a divine foreknowledge of the choice. In the view of the Synod of Dort, the efficacy was limited according to the assumption of salvation by grace alone, to God’s elect. Calvin was quite clear on the point: the application or efficacy of Christ’s death was limited to the elect. And in this conclusion there was also accord among the later Reformed theologians.

Second, there was the question implied in variations of formulation among sixteenth-century Reformed writers and explicitly argued in a series of seventeenth century debates following the Synod of Dort, namely, whether the value of Christ’s death was hypothetically universal in efficacy. More simply put, was the value of Christ’s death such that, it would be sufficient for all sin if God had so intended — or was the value of Christ’s death such that if all would believe all would be saved. On this very specific question Calvin is, arguably, silent. He did not often mention the traditional sufficiency-efficiency formula; and he did not address the issue, posed by Amyraut, of a hypothetical or conditional decree of salvation for all who would believe, prior to the absolute decree to save the elect. He did frequently state, without further modification, that Christ expiated the sins of the world and that this “favor” is extended “indiscriminately to the whole human race.” Various of the later Reformed appealed to Calvin on both sides of the debate. (Only a very few writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth century argued that Christ’s death was sufficient payment only for the sins of the elect.) Later Reformed theology, then, is more specific on this particular point than Calvin had been — and arguably, his somewhat vague formulations point (or could be pointed) in several directions, as in fact can the formulae from the Synod of Dort.
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15. See Ken Stewart, “The Points of Calvinism: Retrospect and Prospect,” in Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, 26/2 (2008), pp. 187-203. There are, of course, many early references to the “five points” or “five articles” in controversy between Reformed and Arminian: e.g., Peter Heylin, Historia quinqu-articularis: or, A declaration of the judgement of the Western Churches, and more particularly of the Church of England, in the five controverted points, reproched in these last times by the name of Arminianism (London: E.C. for Thomas Johnson, 1660); and Daniel Whitby, A Discourse concerning I. The true Import of the Words Election and Reprobation … II. The Extent of Christ’s Redemption. III. The Grace of God … IV. The Liberty of the Will … V. The Perseverance or Defectibility of the Saints. London, 1710; second edition, corrected, London: Aaron Ward, 1735), often referenced as “Whitby on the Five Points” or “Five Arminian Points”: note George Hill, Heads of Lectures in Divinity (St. Andrews: at the University Press, 1796), p. 78. Occurrences of phrases like “five distinguishing points of Calvinism” also occur earlier, referencing the Canons of Dort without, however, specification of the points themselves: see, e.g. Daniel Neal, The History of the Puritans and Non-conformists ... with an account of their principles (London: for J. Buckland, et al., 1754), I, p. 502; Ferdinando Warner, The Ecclesiastical History of England, to the Eighteenth Century (London: s.n., 1756-57), II, p. 509; note also that the editor of Daniel Waterland’s sermons identified justification by faith alone as one of the “five points of Calvinism”: see Waterland, Sermons on Several Important Subjects of Religion and Morality, preface by Joseph Clarke, 2 vols. (London: for W. Innys, 1742), p. xviii.
Later in the paper and lecture, Muller says:
The term “Calvinism,” like the acrostic TULIP, has been, in short, a cause of a series of problems concerning the identity of the Reformed tradition and of Calvin’s relationship to the tradition. Both identifiers are anachronistic and reductionistic. Each of the several meanings of “Calvinism” results in mistaken understandings of the thought of John Calvin and its relation to the Reformed tradition of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Use of the acrostic TULIP has resulted in a narrow, if not erroneous, reading of the Canons of Dort that has led to confused understandings of the Reformed tradition and of Calvin’s theology.

....if you must, “gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” but don’t plant TULIP in your Reformed garden.

April 19, 2012

Some Important Moderate Calvinist Writings

First there is James Ussher. One should first read his The True Intent and Extent of Christ's Death and Satisfaction Upon the Cross, and then his An Answer of the Archbishop of Armagh to Some Exceptions Taken Against His Aforesaid Letter. The student would do well to start here.

Then there is John Davenant's very important work A Dissertation on the Death of Christ, As To Its Extent and Special Benefits. It's contained in volume 2 of his exposition on the book of Colossians.

Edward Polhill's Essay on the Extent of the Death of Christ (extracted from his treatise on The Divine Will Considered in It's Eternal Decrees, and Holy Execution of Them) is also important reading. It counts as both a reaction against Owenism and against Arminianism.

Richard Baxter's work on the Universal Redemption of Mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ (or here for a recent edition) should be read as well. His work does have some problems, though, and it's not organized very well. It doesn't surprise me that it has not been reprinted. Nevertheless, it is important, even as a response to John Owen's Death of Death from a moderate Calvinistic perspective. In addition to his above work, one could also read this brief extract from his Catholick Theologie on "Of Universal Redemption". For more from a Baxterian perspective, these extracts from John Humfrey's Peace at Pinners-Hall Wish'd and Attempted in a Pacifick Paper Touching The Universality of Redemption, the Conditionality of the Covenant of Grace, and our Freedom from the Law of Works and The Middle-Way in One Paper of Election & Redemption, as well as from his Free Thoughts are worthwhile. William Lorimer is an example of another Baxterian.

Note: The above writings by Ussher, Davenant, Polhill and Baxter should not be considered "Amyraldism," as they did not depend upon Amyraut, though there are definite conceptual similarities and shared historical reliance on earlier thinkers (i.e. early church fathers and early Reformers). Modern Reformed historiography, such as in Richard Muller's recent lectures and writings (as well as Jonathan Moore's work on John Preston), has shown that the moderate English variety of so called "hypothetical universalism" (originally a pejorative label) is distinct from the Saumur variety, and existed prior to Amyraut, even going back to early Reformers such as Musculus, Bullinger, Ursinus, and others. With that said, if one wants to learn about the Amyraldian variety of moderate Calvinism, see the writings listed here (click).

One can consult sections from books that can be found here:

http://theologicalmeditations.blogspot.com/p/the-atonement.html

And here:

http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=8466

If one wants a modern book written from a classic-moderate perspective on the extent of the atonement, then I would recommend the following:

Norman F. Douty, Did Christ Die Only for the Elect? A Treatise on the Extent of Christ's Atonement (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998). 

April 15, 2012

Jeremiah Burroughs (c.1600–1646) on God Begging

This Westminster divine wrote:
Sixth encouragement may be, He sends his Ambassadors to woo you to come in, and tells them they shall not take a denial at your hands, 2 Cor. 5. 20. They entreat and beg as in his Name, nay it is the beseechings and entreatings of God himself, as if a King should send one of the Attendants on him to a poor condemned Prisoner, and say, Go tell such a one that he must come for his pardon, and tell him, I beseech him, and take no denial of him, I beseech him to come in; would not this manifest the great willingness of the King to pardon; God does so, he sends his Ministers and beseeches you to come in and take a pardon; 'tis as certain God speaks thus by his Ministers, as if you heard God speaking by himself, this should move you to come in, Christ begs and entreats you to be reconciled, that his blood might not be shed in vain: seeing it is so, that God begs of thee to come in, why shouldest not thou come in, and take pardon of thy sin, Why cans't not thou come in and give up thy self and all thou hast and are to him?
Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Remission, Or a Treatise shewing that True Blessedness Consists in Parton of Sin (London: Printed for Dor. Newman, and are to be sold at his Shop at the Kings Arms in the Poultry, 1674), 216-217. [Some of the spelling has been updated]

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Burroughs is one among many sovereign grace advocates that I have documented who have used this begging metaphor. The other names include Augustine, Hugh Latimer, Samuel Rutherford [Westminster divine], Thomas Manton, John Trapp, Sydrach Simpson [Westminster divine], Robert Harris [Westminster divine], Theophilus Gale, Isaac Ambrose, Stephen Charnock, John Flavel, Richard Sibbes, John Shower, William Gurnall, George Swinnock, Ralph Venning, Daniel Burgess, Samuel Willard, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Andrew Gray, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse and John MacArthur.

Anthony Hoekema on "Irresistible Grace" and a Criticism of TULIP

It is commonly said that Calvinists believe in "irresistible grace." This expression is, in fact, part of the "TULIP" acronym, which stands for the so-called "Five Points of Calvinism": Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.22 The term "irresistible grace" conveys an important biblical truth. As we saw, regeneration is monergistic and not synergistic. It is not a work in which God and man cooperate, but it is the work of God alone. All that was said about the natural state of fallen human beings, about effectual calling, and about the way in which God regenerates his people supports the affirmation that the grace which regenerates us is indeed irresistible.

Objections, however, have been raised against the use of the expression "irresistible grace." The first objection is that this term suggests a kind of overpowering domination on God's part, giving the impression that God violates our wills and deals with us as if we were things instead of persons. A second objection is the contention that God's grace may indeed sometimes be resisted--does not the Bible speak of those who resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51)?

These objections, however, can be answered. I dealt with the first objection earlier, in connection with effectual calling.23 In reply to the contention that God violates our wills in regeneration, we may say that since we are by nature dead in sin, our wills need to be renewed so that we may again serve God as we should. God's action in regenerating us, therefore, is no more a violation of our wills than is the artificial respiration applied to a person whose breathing has stopped. Herman Bavinck has put it well: God's [effectual] calling "is so powerful that it cannot be conquered, and yet so loving that it excludes all force."24 Or listen to C. S. Lewis: "The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and his compulsion is our liberation."25

In connection with the second objection, it should be noted that the expression "irresistible grace" did not originate with the Calvinists. It was the Remonstrants (or Arminians) at the Synod of Dort (1618–19) who used this expression, which they had gotten from the Jesuits, to characterize the Reformed position on regeneration.26 Bavinck goes on to say that Reformed theologians did not wish to deny that God's grace was often resisted. Therefore they preferred to speak of "invincible" or "unconquerable" grace, or to say that God's saving grace was "finally irresistible."27 The grace of God may indeed be resisted, but it will not be successfully resisted by those whom God has chosen in Christ to salvation from before the creation of the world. As Cornelius Plantinga aptly says, "Nobody can finally hold out against God's grace. Nobody can outlast Him. Every elect person comes . . . to 'give in an admit that God is God.'"28
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22. For helpful discussions of these five points, together with Scriptural proof, see Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972); also David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1965).
23. See above, pp. 89–91.
24. Roeping en Wedergeboorte (Kampen: Zalsman, 1903), p. 224.
25. Surprised by Joy (London: Collins, Fontana Books, 1960), p. 183.
26. Bavinck, Dogmatiek, 4:65.
27. Ibid., pp. 65-66.
28. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., A Place to Stand (Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1979), p. 151.
Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 104–105.

Commenting on this section in Hoekema, particularly the last paragraph, Kenneth Stewart writes:
A fine scholar from this branch of the Reformed family pointed out, for example, in 1989, that the I in TULIP was actually a caricature of the position championed in the Synod of Dordt. Those who derided the Reformed idea of effectual calling or prevailing grace branded it "irresistible."53 This is the kind of inside information that needs circulating. It should change popular Calvinism's use of TULIP.
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53. The "I" of the acronym T-U-L-I-P, far from encapsulating Dordt's intended emphasis, actually relays the protest of the Dutch Remonstrants against early seventeenth-century Calvinism in a way dependent on Jesuit writers of that time. How is it possible that irresistible, a term intended to besmirch and caricature the concept of a grace that eventually prevails over all opposition, has been taken up and championed by those it was meant to portray unfavorably? See Anthony Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), pp. 104–105.
Kenneth J. Stewart, Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 91.

See also A. A. Hodge's criticism of the term.

Joseph Seiss on "the Sorry Fault of the Church of Ephesus"

I immediately thought of some "discernment ministries," apologists, and many others when I read these words by Seiss, due to the way they treat people:
"There is such a thing as having and exercising a sharp penetration into the true and the false, a correctness of judgment in sacred things, a zealous and self-sacrificing devotion to the right and true, and an earnest-minded severance from false apostles and all evildoers, and yet being without that warmth and purity of love which is the first impulse in the breast of young disciples, and without which, well cherished and kept in vigorous life, there is unfitness to meet the judgment or to stand in it. And this was the sorry fault of the Church of Ephesus."
Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1987), 70.

April 9, 2012

A Brief Comment on God’s Love of Benevolence and Love of Complacency

A friend of mine on Facebook recently posted a picture that included these words:
God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
I left this comment:

While this quote says something that is true, it is too simple. As far as God’s “love of benevolence” which He has for all mankind made in His image, no matter what they do or don’t do, the quote is true. However, theologians rightly distinguish this sense of love from God’s “love of complacency,” which concerns God’s love for and delight in those who are obedient. The following passages speak to this second sense of God’s love, such that we may or may not abide in this love:

NKJ John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

NKJ John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

NKJ John 15:9–10 9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

One can see that this sense of God’s love is conditional, and depends on what we do or don’t do. We can liken these two senses of God’s love to human parents who love all their children no matter what they do or don’t do (“love of benevolence”), but take delight in and have a growing affection (“love of complacency”) for children who are obedient. Considering these two aspects of God’s love allows us to account for the above passages which are conditional, as well as for others that differ, and are unconditional in nature. The distinction is important.

Mark Jones noted:
This view [on love of benevolence and love of complacency, and God loving obedient Christians more and more] is by far the majority position among Reformed divines from the time of the Reformation onward, but today it is hardly ever discussed or preached on in Reformed circles.
Mark Jones, Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? (Phillipsburg: NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 86.