November 10, 2013

William G. T. Shedd (1820–1894) on Romans 2:4

Ver. 4. ή] "or," in case thou dost not thus imagine, "dost thou despise," etc. The particle introduces a new case. πλούτου is emphatic by collocation. It is a frequent word with St. Paul: not a Hebraism, but a common term for abundance. Plato (Euthyphro, 12) speaks of πλούτος της σοφίυς. χρηστότητος] "goodness," in the sense of good-will, or kindness: not the attribute by which God is good (holiness), but by which he does good (benevolence). It is a general term, under which άνοχή and μακροφυμία are species. For the meaning of these, see comment on iii. 25. καταθρονεις] the contempt is in the disregard of the tendency of the divine goodness to produce repentance. άγνοων "not recognizing." The word implies an action of the will along with that of the understanding. It is that culpable ignorance which results: 1. from not reflecting upon the truth; and 2. from an aversion to the repentance which the truth is fitted to produce. It is the "willing ignorance" spoken of in 2 Pet. iii. 5. Compare also the use of άγνοειν in Acts xvii. 23; Rom. x. 3. μετάνοιάν] sorrow for, and turning from, the sins that have been mentioned, and charged home. άγει] the present tense denotes the natural tendency and influence of the divine attribute of goodness. The context shows that this tendency was resisted and thwarted. The apostle is not speaking, here, of the effectual operation of special grace upon the human will, but only of common influences.

November 7, 2013

Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) on God's Kneeling Mercy

Use 2. Believe in this Mercy, Psal. 52. 8. I trust in the mercy of God for ever. God's Mercy is a Fountain of Salvation, what greater Encouragement to believe than God's Mercy. God counts it his glory to be scattering Pardons; he is desirous that sinners should touch the golden Scepter of his Mercy, and live. And this willingness to shew Mercy appears two ways:

1. By his intreating of sinners to come and lay hold on his Mercy; Rev. 22.17. Whosoever will, come and take the water of life freely. Mercy woes sinners, it even kneels down to them. It were strange for a Prince to entreat a condemned Man to accept Pardon. God saith, poor sinner, suffer me to love thee, be willing to let me save thee.

2. By his joyfulness when sinners do lay hold on his Mercy. What is God the better, whether we receive his Mercy or no? What is the Fountain profited that others drink of it? Yet such is God's goodness, that he rejoyceth at the Salvation of sinners, and is glad when his Mercy is accepted of. When the Prodigal Son came home, how glad was the Father? and he makes a Feast to express his joy. This was but a Type or Emblem, to shew how God rejoyceth when a poor sinner comes in, and lays hold of his Mercy. What an encouragement is here to believe in God, he is a God of Pardons, Nehem. 9.17. Mercy pleaseth him, Micha 7.18. Nothing doth prejudice us but Unbelief. Unbelief stops the current of God's Mercy from running: It shuts up God's Bowels, closeth the Orifice of Christ's Wounds, that no healing Vertue will come out, Matth. 13.58. He could not do mighty works there because of their unbelief. What dost thou not believe in God's Mercy? Is it they sins discourage? God's Mercy can pardon great sins, nay, because they are great, Psal. 25.11. The Sea covers great Rocks as well as lesser Sands; some that had an hand in crucifying Christ, found Mercy. As far as the Heavens are above the Earth so far is God's Mercy above our sins, Isa. 55.9. What will tempt us to believe, if not the Mercy of God?
4. To Sin presumptuously, to know what is good, yet not to do it, is hainous, because it is Ingratitude: 'Tis an high Abuse of God's Kindness; and God cannot endure, or all Things, to have his Kindness abused. God's Kindness is seen in this, that he hath acquainted the Sinner with his Mind and Will; that he hath not only instructed him, but perswade him, made mercy stoop and kneel to the Sinner; he hath Wooed him with his Spirit, that he would flee from Sin, and pursue Holiness: Kindness is seen in this, that God hath spared the Sinner so long, and not struck him dead in the Act of Sin: Kindness in this, that tho' the Sinner hath sinn'd against his Conscience, yet now, if he will repent of Sin, God will repent of his Judgments, and the white Flag of Mercy shall be held forth, Jer. 3.1. Thou hast played the Harlot with many Lovers; yet return again to me, said the Lord. But the Sinner is of a base morose Spirit; he is not melted with all his Love; but his Heart, like Clay, hardens under the Sun. Here's an apparent Abuse of God's Kindness; and God cannot endure to have his Kindness abused. The Vulture draws Sickness from Perfumes; so the Sinner contracts Wickedness from the Mercy of God. Here's high Ingratitude!


November 2, 2013

Nicholas Bernard (d.1661) Describing James Ussher's (1581–1656) View on Universal Redemption

The only point which he [Thomas Pierce] names here, is, That the Primate [James Ussher] embraced the doctrine of universal redemption, and saith, in that he doth as good as say all, He [Pierce] doth not assert it from his own knowledge, but saith he hath it from many most unquestionable persons which had it poured into their ears, by the Primate's own mouth. If it were in a Sermon of his [Ussher's] at the Church in London, the last he preached in that City, and many months before his death, (which I am informed by others is the sense of it) I was present at it, and with me there was no new thing observed to have been uttered by him differing from what his judgment was many years agone, since I had the happiness to be known unto him. It may be some of these persons produced for witnesses being strangers to him and taking him to be of the other extremity might apprehend it as a retractation, but they were much mistaken in it; If they heard him affirming, That by the death of Christ all men receive this benefit that they are Salvabiles, or put into a capacity and possibility of salvation, That terms of peace are procured for all mankind, That all men's sins are become pardonable, mercy attainable, (in which state those of the Angelical nature which fell, are not), That there is some distinction to be made between his satisfaction (rightly understood) and his intercession, according to that of our Saviour, I pray for these, I pray not for the world, &c. It is possible, for ought I know, some such expressions might be his then. But that by his Universal Redemption should be understood such an Universal grace, that the same measure of it without any distinction should equally and alike be conferred and applied to Judas, which was to Peter; and that the only difference was the free-will of Peter in accepting, without any further cause of thanks to God for his grace in inclining him accordingly, &c. This I suppose will not be attested to have been professed by him, either in this or any other Sermon, or private conference with him. And in this present enlargement, I would not be understood to interpose myself in the controversy, or to affix thus much upon Mr. Pierce's judgment, but only to aver that the Primate at his last in this particular differed not from what he had declared formerly.
Taken from Nicholas Bernard's second letter to William Barlee in Barlee's A Necessary Vindication of the Doctrine of Predestination, Formerly asserted. (London: Printed for George Sawbridge, at the Bible on Ludgate-Hill, 1658), A4r–B1r. [or pp. xviii–xix; manually numbered from the first page]