April 8, 2013

William Fenner (1600–1640) on the Salvability of Mankind

Secondly, here is God's gracious provision which he hath taken with the world, that though man were in a way of damnation, invincibly; yet now he is put in a way of probability of salvation: ver. 16 [John 3:16]. though he were damnable by nature, yet now he is salvable by Christ.

Thirdly, here is a general proclamation upon the condition of faith, that this salvability may be attained, if a man believe. In the same verse, God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, &c. It is a condition of faith, put to all, none excepted. Whosoever he be that believeth in Christ, he shall be saved.

Fourthly, here is the reprobation of the world, he that believeth not, is condemned already. The cause whereof cannot be cast on Christ, for, God hath not sent his Son to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved: It was Christ's primary purpose, and the first end of his coming, to save the world: it is an accidental end, or rather an event of his coming, that the world is condemned. Christ is not the cause of it: he is not the efficient cause, for he is a Savior: not the deficient cause, for he is a sufficient Savior.

That the cause of their condemnation is from themselves, and not from Christ: is proved by three arguments,

First from their own consciences: he that believeth not, is condemned already. He cannot here speak of the condemnation of hell, for he is not in hell already. But he speaks of an apprehensuall [sic] condemnation in their own consciences: as Chrysostome observes, he means the condemnation of their own consciences; he that believes not, his conscience tells him that it is his fault that he believes not; though it be not his power to believe, yet God hath gone so far, he hath so far struggled with men's consciences, that there is no default on his part: They cannot excuse themselves, saying, I have no power to believe: their own consciences will tell them that God hath knocked at their hearts, and offered them power to believe, but they rejected it. They cannot say, I know not how to believe; his own conscience will tell him that God hath offered instruction to him, whereby he might have been taught, but that he refused it: So that he that believes not, is condemned already; his own conscience rises within him, and tells him that it is his own fault that he doth not.
William Fenner, "The Enmity of the Wicked, to the Light of the Gospel," in XXIX Choice Sermons on Several Texts of Scripture (London: Printed by E. T. for John Stafford, at the Signe of the George at Fleet-Bridge, 1657), 331–332. [Some spelling updated]

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