April 18, 2013

Bartholomew Ashwood (1622–c.1680) on God's Benevolent Love

Secondly, Another excellent Disposition in Christ, is his Love, not only his Philanthropy, or good Will he bears to all men, and the Desire he hath of their Salvation, Ezek. 33.11. But his αγαπη his special Love, from αγαν valde & παυομας acquiesco, such an ardent Affection hath the heart of Christ, for a person adhering to him, that it greatly acquiesces in, and is fully contented with him, Eph. 2. 4. Such is the Sweetness of Christ's Nature, that it is full of Love, God is Love, 1 John 4. 16. And as the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you, Joh. 15. 9. Now this Love of Christ to his people, is, 

First, A supreme Love, the chiefest Love, he hath a love of Benevolence to all, Mark 10. 21. He beheld the young man and loved him; but the Love he bears his own, is transcedent, and exceeds the Love of men and Angels, Joh. 15. 13.
Bartholomew Ashwood, The Best Treasure, Or, The Way to be Truly Rich (London: Printed for William Marshal, 1681), 139.

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Ken Stewart on the Modern Veneration of TULIP

“Late Twentieth- and early twenty-first-century advocates of five-point Calvinism–whether of the sovereign-grace or apologetic school–have been wedded to the TULIP formula since at least 1932 in a fashion uncharacteristic of Calvinists of any earlier era. Even those who have felt that the acronym could be improved have done their fine-tuning of it wearing kid gloves as it were; they were that anxious to avoid the appearance of tampering with what they took to be a time-honored and venerable formula. As the acronym is apparently no older than the early twentieth century, we must ask ourselves what the pervasive use of this acronym says about those who have utilized and still utilize it. At the very least this use suggests that the users of the acronym have not understood the Calvinist past very well. There has been too great a willingness to reiterate, as though venerable, something with a relatively short and checkered history. Could it also mean that they have willingly consented to take a very loose rendering of the theology of Dordt in place of the actual burdens of Dordt?”
Kenneth J. Stewart, Ten Myths About Calvinism (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2011), 86-87.

April 15, 2013

Barry H. Howson on Gill, Brine, Knollys and the Second Tenet of Hyper-Calvinism: The Denial of Duty-Faith

"The second important tenet of hyper-Calvinism held by Gill and Brine is akin to the first but a logical step beyond it. Since Calvin believed in the free offer of the gospel to all men it logically meant for him that all had a duty to believe the gospel. This is implied in his comment of [on?] 2 Cor. 2:25, where he writes, "But the question arises how this can be consistent with the nature of the Gospel which he defines a little later as the 'ministry'. The answer is easy: the Gospel is preached unto salvation, for that is its real purpose, but only believers share in this salvation; for unbelievers it is an occasion of condemnation, but is they who make it so."[149] The hyper-Calvinists, however, believed that only the elect were obliged to exercise saving faith and evangelical repentance. To put it negatively, it was not the duty of the non-elect to exercise these graces because they did not have the ability to do so, only the elect did. This was called the "modern question" which both John Brine and John Gill affirmed.[150] It is true that Gill did not directly enter into the debate but his words in many places leave us in little doubt where he stood on the issue.[151] For example, Gill maintains in The Cause of God and Truth,
However there are many things which may be believed and done by reprobates, and therefore they may be justly required to believe and obey; it is true, they are not able to believe in Christ to the saving of their souls, or to perform spiritual and evangelical obedience, but then it will be difficult to prove that God requires these things of them, and should that appear, yet the impossibility of doing them, arises from the corruption of their hearts.[152]
And again he states,
God never calls persons to evangelical repentance, or requires them to believe in Christ to the saving of their souls, but he gives that special grace, and puts forth that divine energy which enables them to believe and repent. God does not require all men to believe in Christ, and where he does, it is according to the revelation he makes of him. He does not require the heathens, who are without an external revelation of Christ, to believe in him at all; and those who only have the outward ministry of the word, unattended with the special illuminations of the Spirit of God, are obliged to believe no further than the external revelation they enjoy, reaches; as that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, &c., not believe these things is the sin of all that are under the gospel dispensations, as it was the Jews.[153]
In another place he writes,
The things spiritually good which man cannot do, have been instances in; as to convert and regenerate himself, to believe in Christ, and to repent of sin in an evangelical manner; and these are things which he is not obliged to do of himself, and will not be damned for not performing of them. There are indeed things which man is obliged to, which he now cannot do, as to keep the whole law; which impotency of his is owing to his sin and fall.[154]
Though Gill did not directly enter into the debate concerning the modern question, his friend, John Brine, did. In 1743 he responded to Maurice's pamphlet on the modern question with A Refutation of Arminian Principles. In it he affirmed that only the elect have a duty to exercise saving faith and evangelical repentance. He states, "With respect to special Faith in Christ, it seems to me, that the Powers of Man in his perfect State were not fitted and disposed to that Act." The reason for this, he contends, is that "this Act necessarily supposes a Dependence on Christ for Salvation, as Creatures lost and miserable in ourselves; but 'till Man was fallen and become miserable, he could not exercise such a Trust in Christ, as a Redeemer." He goes on to say that "special Faith in Christ, belongs to the new Creation, of which he as Mediator between God and his People, is the Author; and therefore, I apprehend, that a Power of acting this special Faith in him, was not given to Man, but, or according to the Law of his first Creation." For Brine, this ability comes only to the elect. Again, after examining the subject of repentance in the Old Covenant to the Jews he concludes that "Evangelical Repentance and special Faith, are Duties only of such Persons, to whom God reveals himself in his word, as their Redeemer through Christ." In this place Brine contends that the interpreter needs to distinguish between "natural and evangelical Repentance" and of "historical and special Faith." Only natural repentance and historical faith are required of all humans.[155] And so he can say,
But special Faith in those heavenly Mysteries, the Powers of Man in a State of Innocence, it is apprehended were not disposed to, and fitted for, by his Creation Principles, and therefore it is concluded, that special Faith becomes a Duty, only upon the Supposition of the Infusion of super-Creation-Principles, into the Souls of Men.[156]
In other words special faith only becomes a duty for the elect who are given the power to exercise it.

Did Knollys espouse this second important hyper-Calvinist tenet, that it is not the duty of the non-elect to exercise evangelical repentance and saving faith in Christ? Or, to put it positively, that it is only the duty of the elect to exercise these things? It would appear from our study of Knollys' teaching concerning "the offering of the gospel" that he implicitly believed it was the duty of all people to come to Christ. This, however, is not only implicitly but also explicitly stated in at least one place in his writings. In his 1674 treatise The Parable of the Kingdom of God Expounded he writes,
It's the duty of every person, that sees their need and want of Christ, his holy Spirit, and sanctifying Grace to attend upon the Ministry of the Gospel and Administrations of the holy Ordinances of God, and to accept and receive Christ and Grace offered freely, without money or price.... And as it is their Duty to hear, so it is their Duty to believe, 1 Joh. 2. 23. and by faith to accept and receive Jesus Christ offered to them upon Gospel terms of free Grace.[157]
It is also explicit from his answer to the Pithay Baptist Church question concerning prayer with unbelievers. Knollys along with several other London Particular Baptists wrote back to the church stating,
Prayer is a part of that homage which every man is obliged to give to God; 'tis a duty belonging to natural, and not only instituted religion.... It cannot be supposed that man being such a creature as he is should not be obliged to love, fear, and obey God.... If hereunto it be objected, that such persons have not the Spirit, therefore ought not to pray; this objection is not cogent, forasmuch as neither the want of the Spirit's immediate motions to, or its assistance in duty, doth not take off the obligation of duty. If it would, then also from every other duty; and consequently all religion be cashiered. If the obligations to this and other duties were suspended merely for want of such motions and assistance, then unconverted persons are so far from sinning in the omission of such duties, that it is their duty to omit them. 'Tis certain no man can, without the assistance of the Holy Spirit, either repent or believe; yet it will not therefore follow, that impenitency and unbelief are not sins; if these be sins, then the contrary must be their duty. It cannot be their sin to cry to God for the assistance of his Spirit to enable them thereunto. If a duty be no duty to us, except we be immediately moved to it; then whether sin doth not cease to be a sin, if the Spirit do not immediately hinder us from it; and thus by the same reason we may omit a duty, we may likewise commit a sin; and hereby that great rule of duty God hath given unto men to walk by, is wholly made void, or at least allowed to be but a rule only at some certain times, viz. when the Spirit immediately moves us to the observance of it; till then it hath no authority to oblige us: and so every man is sinless, whatever sin be committed, or whatever duty be neglected, if the Spirit do not immediately hinder us from the one and move us to the other. 
Moreover the design of the objection doth as effectually discourage such as are under doubts and desertions, from this duty, as any other person; and thus it would be as that great enemy to the souls of men would have it, namely, that there would be but very few in the world to acknowledge God in this solemn part of his worship: whereas all men are obliged to acknowledge him as the fountain of all goodness; and themselves to be dependent creatures on him, and therefore to supplicate him for those blessings whereof they stand in need: or otherwise it must follow, that they have no wants, and are not dependent on him, but are all-sufficient: or if they be under the sense of wants and of their dependence upon the supreme goodness, yet they must not (at least in the way of prayer) acknowledge those wants, and that dependence, by seeking unto God for the bettering their conditions: but they be obliged hereunto, not only from those innate notions they have of God in their minds, but by the express revelations of their Divine will in the holy scriptures. Christianity improves and rectifies, but it doth not abolish our reason; it helps to better mediums and motives to perform our service to God, but it doth not in any wise make void that which was a duty before
If yet it be objected, that an unregenerate person fails in the due manner of the performance of this duty, therefore he ought not to pray; not to be joined with in prayer; We answer -- the defect in the manner (though a sin) doth not discharge the person from the obligation; for still it is his duty to pray: 'tis true there are such directions given in the holy scriptures as to the right performance of this duty, which the mere light of nature could not give; yet the duty itself of invocating God is so agreeable to the universal reason and sentiments of mankind, that there is nothing spoken of this in the scriptures but what doth suppose it previously to be a duty: therefore, unless we suppose that the law of nature is totally obliterated, we must conclude that mankind are under an obligation to this duty. But if a failure in the manner doth take off this obligation, then every unconverted person is sinless, if he totally neglect this and every other duty. Yea, every Christian, when under deadness and distractions is discouraged from this duty; and thus a door would be opened to all manner of wickedness and irreligion in the world. Again, as the aforesaid defect doth not discharge the person himself from the duty, neither are we so far concerned therein, as thereby to derive guilt and pollution to ourselves, in case we should join in prayer with such a person; for if it would, then may we not communicate in duty with any person of whose sincerity we are not assured. But where such an assurance is made necessarily to our discharge to those duties which jointly are to be performed with others we know not: much more might have been added, but we consider what herein is said may suffice.[158]
Knollys believed it was the duty of unbelievers to pray, and consequently, to offer to God all that is due Him from the creature. It is evident that Knollys did not hold this hyper-Calvinistic tenet of "no duty faith" but would have affirmed the "modern question" of the eighteenth century.

____________________
149. Calvin, NT Commentaries, X, 35.
150. One can see a hint of this tenet in Skepp when he says, "Conversion Work is not so easy and common, as the Generality of Persons imagine, who think they want only to be told their Duties, and if they will attend, they may perform all that is told them; for this corrupt Notion hath got footing in the Hearts of Men, that God will require no more than they are able to perform; but I have shown, that the Law of God requires more then the Creature is able to give; for otherwise Righteousness would be by the Law, and Christ would have died in vain" (Divine Energy, p. 208). And again, "Without [the Spirit's efficacious and irresistible work upon the soul in regeneration], as the Prophet's Staff in Gehazi's Hand: (for Spiritual Gospel Duties, and Moral Duties too, require more Ability and Skill than most Men seem to be aware of:) forasmuch as all Mankind sustained such a Loss in the Fall of Adam, and received such a deadly blow, and mortal Wound (in a Moral and Scripture Sense) as can never be made up to them, but by the Gift of Grace, and Righteousness through Christ Jesus; together with the Spirit of Life, and Strength, communicated from him, as the Second Adam, and New Covenant Head, in such a Manner as to quicken their Souls, and renew their Hearts; thereby working in them a Principle to will, and also an Ability suited for the Performance of all sorts of Duties, whether Moral or Evangelical" (Ibid., p. 57). Again, "And out of this Part of the Spirit's supernatural and efficacious Work upon the Hearts of God's Elect in effectual Calling, it is, that Faith and every other Grace, Spiritual Duty and Performance do arise" (Ibid., p. 169). Again, "Now Faith is to be consider'd first as a Moral Duty, and so the Law requireth Faith (as well as Mercy and Justice, as our Lord declares) as one of the weighty Matters and of the greatest Moment: Thus, as a necessary Moral Duty He that cometh to God in an Act of Worship, must believe that he is, and that he is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek him. But this is not enough, for there must also to this be added a Gospel justifying saving Faith.... The Soul, thereby is convinced now, that his Work and Duty is not to work for Life, Righteousness, and Acceptance with God, but to believe for Righteousness by laying hold of it as in another, being of meer Grace provided for him" (Ibid., pp. 153-4). Again, "'Tis therefore only Men's Ignorance makes them to think or talk of Faith as some easy Thing; and as if it was no more than a Moral Duty and Act of the rational Creature, assenting and consenting to this and the other revealed Truth and Proposition laid down or to be evidenced and demonstrated from the Word; whereas 'tis, as I have shew'd under the first Head, a new created Principle of the New Creature, and is to be found only in the Souls of the New-born who are born from above.... Faith is not of ourselves, but is the Gift of God, and must be wrought in the Soul by Energy or Operation of God" (Ibid., p. 157). And again, "There is more of the Spirit of God, as to his Efficiency and Energy, and kind Assistances in every gracious Act and Spiritual Duty, than some are aware of, or care to own" (Ibid., pp. 174-5). And again, "I have from the Holy Scriptures and the Saints Experience, endeavour'd to evince something of the passive Work of the Spirit of God upon the Hearts of his Elect, both in and after effectual Calling and Conversion, as the first in all that is Good, in which it appeareth Man is wrought upon, and moved, before ever he can move, so as to perform one Spiritual Act or Duty" (Ibid., pp. 176-7).
151. Even Tom Nettles believes that Gill held this tenet. He states: "Although I think the judgment should still be surrounded with cautions and caveats, there may be compelling evidence that Gill held to [this] distinctive Hyper-Calvinist tenet" ("John Gill and the Evangelical Awakening," p. 153).
152. Gill, Cause of God, p. 158.
153. Ibid., p. 166. See also Ibid., pp. 31-32, 115, 170, and 208.
154. Gill, Answer to Birmingham ... Second Part, in Sermons and Tracts (1773), II, 153. See also Ibid., II, 154. In addition, see his Body of Divinity, where he answers the questions, "Whether faith is a duty of the moral law, or is to be referred to the gospel?" and "Whether repentance is a doctrine of the law or the gospel?" (p. 376).
155. Brine, Refutation, pp. 4-8.
156. Ibid., p. 26. See also Ibid., pp. 19, 29, 44.
157. Parable, pp. 112-113. The phrase "that sees their need and want of Christ" is not spoken in a hyper-Calvinist sense because the context is concerned with offering the "spiritual Oyle unto whomsoever will buy it."
158. Ivimey, English Baptists, I, 417-420. The other signatories were William Kiffin, Daniel Dyke, Laurence Wise, Henry Forty, William Collins, Nehemiah Coxe, James Jones, Thomas Hicks, Joseph Morton, James Hycrigg, Robert Snelling and Thomas Hopgood. Moreover, it should be noted that the 1677/89 Confession similarly states in Chapter XXII. 1,3, "THE light of Nature shews that there is a God, who hath Lordship, and Soveraigntye over all; is just, good, and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the Heart, and all the Soul, and with all the Might.... Prayer with thanksgiving, being one special part of natural worship, is by God required of all men" (In Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions, pp. 280-281).

April 14, 2013

Barry H. Howson on Gill, Knollys and the First Tenet of Hyper-Calvinism: The Denial of the Free Offer

The Theology of Hyper-Calvinism and Hanserd Knollys

This section will examine the theology of hyper-Calvinism from the writings of its most important Baptist expositors, John Gill and John Brine, and compare their writings with Knollys' in order to see if he espoused hyper-Calvinism or elements of it.[129] Hyper-Calvinism is one step beyond that of the High Calvinism of the seventeenth century. Consequently, the two primary distinctives of hyper-Calvinism are: that the gospel is not to be offered indiscriminately to all people; and secondly, its corollary, that it is the duty only of the elect to exercise saving faith and evangelical repentance.[130] Three secondary distinctives include: eternal justification; an eternal covenant of grace; and an excessive emphasis on irresistible grace and the passivity of the elect in their salvation.[131] There is no doubt that Brine and Gill were High Calvinists but it is also evident from their writings that they went a step further holding to, and emphasizing, the above hyper-Calvinistic distinctives.[132] We will examine these distinctives held by Gill and Brine comparing them with Knollys' writings.

The first hyper-Calvinist distinctive that Gill and Brine held was that the gospel or grace or Christ ought not to be offered to all people indiscriminately but only to those who are the elect.[133] This was not the teaching of Calvin. In his comment on Acts 2:21 where the Apostle Peter preached, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," Calvin writes, "We must also observe the universal word, 'whosoever'. For God admits all men to Himself without exception and by this means invites them to salvation, even as Paul deduces in Rom. 10." And again commenting on Romans 1:16 he states,
The Gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, but its power is not universally manifest....When, therefore, the Gospel invites all to partake of salvation without any difference, it is rightly termed the doctrine of salvation. For Christ is there offered, whose proper office is to save that which is lost, and those who refuse to be saved by Him shall find Him their Judge.[134]
John Gill disagrees with Calvin. He states in The Cause of God and Truth in reference to Isaiah 55:1:
These words are no call, invitation, or offer of grace to dead sinners, since they are spoken to such who were thirsty, that is, who, in a spiritual sense, were thirsting after pardon of sin, a justifying righteousness, and salvation by Christ; after a greater knowledge of him, communion with him, conformity to him, and the enjoyment of him in his ordinances, which supposes them to be spiritually alive.... The persons here encouraged are such, who not only have no money, but know they have none; which are poor in spirit, and sensible of their spiritual poverty; which sense arises from the quickening influences of the Spirit of God upon their souls.[135]
Again he states,
I know of no exhortations to dead sinners, to return and live, in a spiritual manner. Those referred to in Ezex. [sic] xviii., I have often observed, respect civil and temporal, and not spiritual and eternal things; we may, and should indeed, encourage and exhort sensible sinners to believe in Christ, and testify their repentance, by bringing forth fruits meet for the same.[136]
In some places Gill gives the impression that the gospel ought not to be offered to anyone whether elect or not:
Salvation is not offered at all by God, upon any condition whatsoever, to any of the sons of men, no not to the elect: they are chosen to it, Christ has procured it for them, the gospel publishes and reveals it, and the Spirit of God applies it to them; much less to the non-elect, or to all mankind; and consequently this doctrine, or God according to it, is not chargeable with delusion and insult.[137]
Again in his tract The Doctrine of Predestination, Stated, Gill writes,
That there are universal offers of grace and salvation I utterly deny; nay, I deny they are made to any; no, not to God's elect; 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; much less are they made to others.... Let the patrons of universal offers defend themselves ... I have nothing to do with it.[138]
This, however, did not mean that the gospel should not be preached to all. He states,
The ministers of the gospel are sent to preach the gospel to every creature; that is, not to offer, but to preach Christ, and salvation by him; to publish peace and pardon as things already obtained by him. The ministers are ... criers or heralds; their business is ... to proclaim aloud, to publish facts, to declare things that are done, and not to offer them to be done on conditions; as when a peace is concluded and finished, the herald's business, and in which he is employed, is to proclaim the peace, and not to offer it; of this nature is the gospel, and the whole system of it; which preaches, not offers peace by Christ, who is Lord of all.[139]
John Brine concurred with Gill that the gospel or grace was not to be offered. In A Refutation of Arminian Principles, Brine's response to Matthias Maurice's pamphlet A Modern Question, he challenges Maurice's contention that it is the duty of all people to exercise saving faith and evangelical repentance. This is the logical progression of the "no offers of grace" teaching and is one step beyond it. However, in a work entitled, The Certain Efficacy of the Death of Christ published in the same year as A Refutation he clearly states his disapproval of offering grace to all:
But I am of opinion, that an Offer or Proposal for acceptance of New Covenant Blessings, is not made to Men, whilst they are under the old Covenant, or Law of Works, which are all men 'till regenerated, or so long as they are under the Dominion of Sin. Offers of grace as I conceive, are not made to those who are not under grace, nor interested in the Covenant of Grace, which many are not, to whom the Gospel is preached.[140]
Moreover, in A Refutation when considering passages of Scripture where repentance and faith are exhorted he states, "It evidently appears, that the Persons addressed were the happy Subjects of a Conviction of their Misery by Nature, and therefore not to be considered in a State of Unregeneracy;"[141]

Did Knollys espouse this hyper-Calvinist tenet? Along with the hyper-Calvinists Knollys believed that the gospel should be preached to all.[142] But contrary to this first hyper-Calvinist tenet he believed the gospel should be offered to all. When preaching on Colossians 3:11 that "Christ is all, and in all", he says, "Let me tell you God offers you Christ upon Gospel-terms,... God doth offer Christ to lost sinners without respect to price or person. He invites them, that have no money, to come, and buy Wine, and milk (that is to say, Christ) without price."

And, again, when preaching on Luke 19:10 where Jesus said, "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost," Knollys proclaims, "The Lord having propounded or offered Jesus Christ to lost sinners, outwardly and in generall by the word, and inwardly and perticular to this or that lost sinner by the Spirit, accompanying that word of the Gospel with divine light and power to the heart of the sinner, doth enable the poore soul so to assent unto what is propounded."[143] In 1688 commenting on Revelation 22:17 where "The Spirit and bride say, Come", Knollys writes, "The Church of God, and the holy Spirit of God, and all converted persons, do invite all sorts of sinners, especially, thirsty sinners, without exception against any Persons, that are willing, and without any price, to take Christ freely."[144] Notice that Knollys says that the church of God is to invite not only thirsty sinners but "all sorts of sinners." Gill had said that the offer of Isaiah 55:1 was only to thirsty sinners. In the Parable of the Kingdom he writes, "These that sell this Mystical and Spiritual Oyle are Christ and His Ministers, and Servants.... Ordinarily and commonly Christ authorizes and commands his faithful Servants (the Ministers of the Gospel) whom he appoints, commissions and sends to offer this spiritual Oyle to sale, and to sell it unto whomsoever will buy it." And again in the same treatise he calls sinners "to open the door of your hearts to Christ."[145]

At the end of the first part of his treatise, The World that now is, he calls unbelievers to believe and repent, exhorting them "to come to Christ because there is salvation in no other."[146] In the second part of the same treatise he closes with another exhortation to "profane sinners" calling them to get into a state of salvation before Christ comes from heaven to judge the quick and the dead, and before they die. He goes on to counsel them to consider: that they are dead in trespasses and sins and are without Christ; that they are in need of Jesus Christ; and that God offers Christ to poor, lost, miserable sinners upon gospel-terms of free grace (everyone who is willing may come to Christ and have Christ freely). He then exhorts them to suffer Jesus to come into their hearts by his Spirit and Word, and open their hearts to Christ when he knocks at the door of their souls and let him come in (if the sinner be willing to open the door of his heart, Christ will come in by his Holy Spirit).[147] It is evident that from the beginning of his Baptist ministry to the end, Knollys believed the gospel should be offered to all, and that the minister should offer the gospel to all. Knollys' extant writings make it quite clear that he had a passionate concern for lost sinners and that he called them to seek Christ, repent, come to him upon "Gospel-terms", and to attend the "means" of salvation in order that they might be converted.[148] Knollys did not hold this first important hyper-Calvinist tenet."

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129. Daniel sees Gill as the leader of hyper-Calvinism not only among Particular Baptists but in all circles; it found "its cohesion in [him]" (Daniel, "John Gill," p. 9).
130. Daniel sees these as the main tenets of hyper-Calvinism (Ibid., p. x). He, however, unites these tenets into one.
131. See Toon, Hyper-Calvinism, pp. 108-138. For a complete definition of hyper-Calvinism by those who have done the most work in this area see Ibid., pp. 144-145, and Daniel, "John Gill," p. 767. Daniel states: "Hyper-Calvinism is that school of supralapsarian 'Five Point' Calvninism which so stresses the sovereignty of God by overemphasizing the secret over the revealed will and eternity over time, that is minimizes the responsibility of Man, notably with respect to the denial of the word 'offer' in relation to the preaching of the Gospel of a finished and limited atonement, thus determining [sic: undermining] the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly with the assurance that the Lord Jesus Christ died for them, with the result that presumption is overly warned of, introspection is over-encouraged, and a view of sanctification akin to doctrinal antinomianism is often approached." He then summarizes it even further, "It is the rejection of the word 'offer' in connection with evangelism for supposedly Calvinistic reasons. In all our researches, the only real tangible thing which differentiates the Hyper from the High Calvinists is the word offer." I particularly agree with this last definition but with one qualification: duty-faith logically follows the no-offer theology and is also a distinctive, and therefore, also marks a person off as a hyper-Calvinist and not simply a High Calvinist.
132. Most Baptist historians consider these men to be hyper-Calvinists (see Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life [Grand Rapids, 1986], pp. 84-89). In addition, the most recent assessments including Alan Sell, Great Debate, Robert Oliver, "John Gill (1697-1771) His Life and Ministry," in The Life and Thought of John Gill; and Curt Daniel, "John Gill," consider these men to be hyper-Calvinists. Nettles, however, disagrees and defends Gill (By His Grace, pp. 89-107; it, however, should be noted that in a recent essay Nettles has modified his view seeing some hyper-Calvinistic elements in Gill [Nettles, "John Gill and the Evangelical Awakening," in The Life and Thought of John Gill, pp. 131-170]).
133. The hyper-Calvinists do not reject such words as: God holds forth, stretches out, extends, reveals, shows, directs, bestows, imparts, communicates and encourages. Preachers may: call, preach, proclaim, declare, publish, speak and teach. But they are not to use the word "offer" because they cannot "offer" Christ, only God can.
134. Calvin, NT Commentaries, VI, 62; VIII, 27. See also his comments on John 3:16 and 2 Cor. 2:15.
135. Gill, Cause of God, pp. 19-20.
136. Ibid., p. 172. See also Ibid., pp. 19-20, 87-88, 102, 152-153, 155, 156, 164, 167, 172, 181, 184, 209, 210, 211. Moreover, see his "Recommendatory Preface" to Richard Davis' Hymns composed on several subjects where he explains why Davis used the phrases of offering Christ or grace, and assures the reader that at the end of Davis' life he "changed his mind in this matter, and disused the phrase, as being improper, and being to bold and free for the minister of Christ to make use of" (p. 64). In his Body of Divinity Gill states, "Nor is the gospel ministry an offer of Christ, and of his grace and salvation by him, which are not in the power of the ministers of it to give, nor of carnal men to receive" (Body of Divinity [1839; 2nd. reprint Atlanta, 1957], p. 539).
137. John Gill, An Answer to the Birmingham Dialogue-Writer, in Sermons and Tracts (1773), II, 119; see also p. 146. See also Cause of God, pp. 103, 156; and The Doctrine of Predestination stated and set in the Scripture Light (1752) in Sermons and Tracts (1814), III, 118.
138. Ibid.
139. John Gill, An Answer to the Birmingham Dialogue-Writer's Second Part, in Sermons and Tracts (1771), II, 146-147. In The Cause of God and Truth he states, "The ministers of the Gospel, though they ought not to offer and tender salvation to any, for which they have no commission, yet they may preach the gospel to all men, and declare, that whosoever believes shall be saved" (p. 164; see also, p. 88; and Body of Divinity, p. 539).
140. John Brine, The Certain Efficacy (1743), p. 75, quoted in Toon, Hyper-Calvinism, p. 129.
141. John Brine, A Refutation of Arminian Principles, Delivered in a intitled, The Modern Question Concerning Repentance and Faith, examined with Candour, & In a Letter to a Friend (1743), p. 11.
142. See 1677/89 Confession X.4; Christ Exalted, p. 12; Parable, pp. 50-51; and Revelation, pp. 241-242.
143. Christ Exalted, pp. 13, 21.
144. Revelation, pp. 241-242.
145. Parable, pp. 107-108, 120.
146. World, pt. 1, pp. 100-103.
147. World, pt. 2, pp. 32-35. See also Parable, pp. 47, 112.
148. See Christ Exalted, pp. 12-13.

April 9, 2013

Jonathan Edwards' (1703–1758) Exhortation to Unbelievers from His Sermon on God's "Glorious Grace"

II. Let all be exhorted to accept the grace of the gospel. One would think, that there should be no need of such exhortations as this, but alas, such is the dreadful wickedness and the horrible ingratitude of man's heart, that he needs abundance of persuading and entreating to accept of God's kindness, when offered them. We should count it horrible ingratitude in a poor, necessitous creature, to refuse our help and kindness when we, out of mere pity to him, offer to relieve and help him. If you should see a man in extremity of distress, and in a perishing necessity of help and relief, and you should lay out yourself, with much labor and cost, out of compassion to him, that he might be relieved, how would you take it of him, if he should proudly and spitefully refuse it and snuff at it, instead of thanking you for it? Would you not look upon it as a very ungrateful, unreasonable, base thing? And why has not God a thousand times the cause, to look upon you as base and ungrateful, if you refuse his glorious grace in the gospel, that he offers you? When God saw mankind in a most necessitous condition, in the greatest and extremest distress, being exposed to hellfire and eternal death, from which it was impossible he should ever deliver himself, or that ever he should be delivered by any other means, He took pity on them, and brought them from the jaws of destruction by His own blood. Now what great ingratitude is it for them to refuse such grace as this?

But so it is: multitudes will not accept a free gift at the hands of the King of the World. They have the daring, horrible presumption as [to] refuse a kindness offered by God himself, and not to accept a gift at the hands of Jehovah, nor not his own Son, his own Son equal with himself. Yea, they'll not accept of him, though he dies for them; yea, though he dies a most tormenting death, though he dies that they may be delivered from hell, and that they may have heaven, they'll not accept of this gift, though they are in such necessity of it, that they must be miserable forever without it. Yea, although God the Father invites and importunes them, they'll not accept of it, though the Son of God himself knocks and calls at their door till his head is wet with the dew, and his locks with the drops of the night, arguing and pleading with them to accept of him for their own sakes, though he makes so many glorious promises, though he holds forth so many precious benefits to tempt them to happiness, perhaps for many years together, yet they obstinately refuse all. Was ever such ingratitude heard of, or can greater be conceived of?

What would you have God do for you, that you may accept of it? Is the gift that he offers too small, that you think it too little, for you to accept of? Don't God offer you his Son, and what could God offer more? Yea, we may say God himself has not a greater gift to offer. Did not the Son of God do enough for you, that you won't accept of him; did he [not] die, and what could he do more? Yea, we may say that the Son of God could not do a greater thing for man. Do you refuse because you want to be invited and wooed? You may hear him, from day to day, inviting of you, if you will but hearken. Or is it because you don't stand in need of God's grace? Don't you need it so much as that you must either receive it or be damned to all eternity, and what greater need can there possibly be?

Alas, miserable creatures that we are, instead of the gift of God offered in the gospel's not being great enough for us, we are not worthy of anything at all: we are less than the least of all God's mercies. Instead of deserving the dying Son of God, we are not worthy of the least crumb of bread, the least drop of water, or the least ray of light; instead of Christ's not having done enough for us by dying, in such pain and ignominy, we are not worthy that he should so much as look on us, instead of shedding his blood. We are not worthy that Christ should once make an offer of the least benefit, instead of his so long urging of us to be eternally happy.

Whoever continues to refuse Christ, will find hereafter, that instead of his having no need of him, that the least drop of his blood would have been more worth to them, than all the world; wherefore, let none be so ungrateful to God and so unwise for themselves, as to refuse the glorious grace of the gospel.
Jonathan Edwards [1720], Sermons and Discourses 1720-1723 (WJE Online Vol. 10), Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach, pp. 397–398.

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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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April 2, 2013

Nicholas Darton (1603-1649?) on God's Desire for Sinners to Return

"The first encouragement, I say, why thou shouldst not despair, though thou hast most grievously run astray from the fold of Christ, is taken from the absoluteness of God's call, calling thee by all manner of means to come away speedily to the fold again. 
Never did the Heart desire more after the water-brooks, then doth God desire at this present that thou should return again unto him: Ho (saith he) every one that thirsteth come to the waters, and you that have no money, come notwithstanding, buy and eat, yea come buy whine and milk, &c. And again, as if he did extremely long for the conversion of all that are astray, he divulges his desire thus, [cast away all your transgressions, and make you a new heart, and a new spirit, for why will ye die O house of Israel? as if he should have said thus, I do not desire that any one should perish in his going astray, I had rather that he would return and keep the fold, for I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord, wherefore saith he, turn your selves and live for ever. And again, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Oh think not then that God doth not call thee because thou art so sinful, so foul and ugly, and so generally abounding with the practice of all crying crimes, for be assured that it is most true, because thou art so, therefore doth he out of his mere grace and favour call thee that thou shouldst return again unto him. For illustrations sake, had not David his call to return again unto the fold, after that his hands were bathed in blood? had not Rehaboam and Manassah their call from heaven, after they had committed most grand idolatries? Father, had not Mary Magdalen her call from heaven, after she was possessed with seven devils? Nay, had not Saint Paul his effectual calling too, after he had practiced persecution upon the Saints? Wherefore be not dismayed by reason of they heinous sins, as if thou were past all hope that thou should never see the Shepherd of thy soul again, and that thou canst never come to the sheepfold any more at all, for [magis proprium est Deo misereri pro bonitate quam irasci pro justitia] It is more usual with God to take pity upon a poor straying sheep for his mercies sake, than to reject him forever for his justice sake, and therefore he invites all to come for comfort [saying, Come unto me all that are weary and heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Oh then hearken to God's call, and obey his voice, lest thine impenitency and ungodly courses provoke the great Shepherd here and Bishop of our souls, at the latter day to reject thee, indeed, and as upon the foolish Virgins to shut the door upon thee, [saying, Non novi vos,] I know you not, depart from me ye workers of iniquity."
Nicolas Darton, The True and Absolute Bishop (London: Printed by Tho. Badger, for Humphrey Mosley, and are to bee sold at his Shop at the Princes Armes in Saint Pauls Churchyard, 1641), 15-16. Some spelling updated.

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John Corbet's (1620-1680) Moderation

"27. Whereas we are charged with immodesty and boldness in our inquiries and conclusions, we profess that in the Doctrines of predestination, redemption, divine Grace, free will, original sin, justification, perseverance, and assurance of Salvation, we differ not from the Established Doctrine of the Church of England, and we approve her moderation used in those Articles, which we take in the same sense with the English Episcopal Divines in general, that lived in Queen Elizabeth's and King James his times [sic]. And for our parts we judge that the controversies about these points might be lessened, and would gladly do our endeavors to the lessening of them."
John Corbet, An Account of the Principles and Practices of Several Nonconformists (London: Printed for Tho. Parkhurst, at the Bible and 3 Crowns near Mercers Chappel, at the lower end of Cheap-side, 1682), 21-22. 

Given what is said by Corbet in his writings and in other secondary sources (about his agreement with Baxter, for example), I think he was moderate in his Calvinism, or within the Davenantian and Baxterian trajectory on redemption. The above is just a sample of implicit evidence.

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John Corbet (1620–1680) on the Salvability of All men

That the Non-Elect are not under an impossibility of being saved, is evident from the Position before proved, That the negation of God's Decree doth not infer an impossibility of the Event.
John Corbet, A Humble Endeavour of Some Plain and Brief Explication of the Decrees and Operations of God, About the Free Actions of Men: More Especially of the Operations of Divine Grace (London: Printed for Tho. Parkhurst, at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside, near Mercers-Chappel, 1683), 12.
Nor doth God Decree the Salvation of men upon such Conditions, as make the Salvation of most men impossible; but the Conditions of being saved are such as do abundantly testify the Goodness of God in the salvability of men in general.
Ibid., 12.

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George Whitefield (1714–1770) on Preaching to Self-Righteous Sinners, or Sinai Before Zion

For the law must be preached to self-righteous sinners. We must take care of healing, before we see sinners wounded, lest we should say, 'Peace, peace,' where there is no peace. Secure sinners must hear the thundering of Mount Sinai, before we bring him to Mount Zion. They who never preach up the law, it is to be feared, are unskillful in delivering the glad tidings of the gospel. Every minister should be a Boanerges, a sun of thunder, as well as a Barnabas, a son of consolation. There was an earthquake and a whirlwind, before the small still voice came to Elijah: we must first show people that they are condemned, and then show them how they must be saved. But how and when to preach the law, and when to apply the promises of the gospel, wisdom is profitable to direct.
George Whitefield, Select Sermons of George Whitefield (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1990), 151.

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