November 30, 2014

Anthony Palmer (c.1618-1679) on Christ Begging

"Shall God's Free-grace, his Christ, go a begging this day, and will not a sinner come up to his terms? Old sinners, that are going into the grave and Hell too, will not you accept of Free-grace, for Christ, the Spirit, this day? that are upon the brink of the grave and everlasting burnings, and have many a thousand sins yet unpardoned?"
Anthony Palmer, The Gospel New-Creature (London: Printed for Edward Brewster, at the Crane in Pauls Church yard, 1658), 122.


Other advocates within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following men:

Augustine, Hugh Latimer (Early English Reformer), Samuel Rutherford (Westminster divine), Thomas Manton (Puritan), Jeremiah Burroughs (Westminster divine), John Trapp (Puritan), Sydrach Simpson (Westminster divine), Joseph Caryl (Westminster divine), Robert Harris (Westminster divine), Theophilus Gale (Puritan), William Gearing (Puritan), Richard Baxter (Puritan), Isaac Ambrose (Puritan), Stephen Charnock (Puritan), John Richardson (Puritan), John Flavel (Puritan), Thomas Watson (Puritan), Thomas Case (Puritan), Richard Sibbes (Puritan), John Shower (Puritan), John Collinges (Puritan), William Gurnall (Puritan), Andrew Gray (Puritan), George Swinnock (Puritan), Ralph Venning (Puritan), Daniel Burgess (Puritan), Samuel Willard, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

Anthony Palmer (c.1618-1679) on God's Design and Willingness to Save Sinners Freely

"3. If God hath so laid the Design to save a Sinner freely, then how great, how just is the Condemnation of guilty sinners that will not hasten in unto it: how could the Lord have laid it more freely then he hath? Oh that any sinner, for ever condemned to Hell without it, should withstand it! Why sinner? Shall the Blessed God, that might have much glory in condemning thee to all Eternity, be willing to save thee freely; and wilt thou not come and bow unto him, & accept of it? All the contempt of God, in all his Holy Commands, is not like this, to turn the back upon Free-Mercy, Free-Salvation: This will be the Worm that never dies to any of your Souls that shall not come into, and rightly accept of Gospel-salvation, that you might have been saved freely, have had grace, remission of sins, Jesus Christ, the Spirit, Eternal Life freely, and yet turned your backs upon it?"
Anthony Palmer, The Gospel New-Creature (London: Printed for Edward Brewster, at the Crane in Pauls Church yard, 1658), 115-116.


Anthony Palmer (c.1618–1679) on Mistaking Common Grace for True Grace

Take you heed also, that you take not that which is called Common-Grace, which is Common to Reprobates, for true grace. There's a false faith, a false Repentance, a false Hope, and so of the rest, in which you may assuredly go to Hell; you may have a harmless conversation, and do some good works of Charity and yet perish for ever, you may have nothing of the New-Creature in you; and yet give all your goods to the poor.

In a word, you may leave outward gross sins, have convictions of wrath to come, have purposes, (such as they are) to be better, take up to New-Duties, have common grace, think you have faith, repentance, hope that you are humble, patient, have a good conversation, and do good works; and yet not be New-Creatures in Jesus Christ, as we shall further evince.
Anthony Palmer, The Gospel New-Creature (London: Printed for Edward Brewster, at the Crane in Pauls Church yard, 1658), 198–199. He also affirms common grace on pages 183, 191, 203, and 204–205.


Note: By "true grace," the Puritans mean a grace that is lasting, or that special grace of God that changes the heart unto eternal life. Here is how the Puritan Elnathan Parr explains the difference:
There are three sorts of men [that] go to Hell: 1. Such as continue in sin; a man need no great skill to read their doom. 2. The second are such, who have only a show of Religion, these are Hypocrites. 3. Such who have true grace, but it is temporary and continues not. A man may have true grace without salvation, but no true saving grace. True grace is then saving when it continues.

This distinction of grace is gathered out of the Hebrews, where Paul saith, That a man may be enlightened, partake of the Holy Ghost, and taste of the good word of God, and of the powers of the life to come, and yet be a cast-away. Now such graces were true, but temporary: So the stony and thorny ground had true grace, but not continuing, which is the note of good ground.
Elnathan Parr, A Plaine Exposition Upon the Whole Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelth Chapters of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans (London: Printed by George Purstowe for Samuel Man, dwelling in Pauls Church-yard at the signe of the Swanne, 1620), 421–422.


Martin Luther (1483–1546) on the Will of God and Matthew 23:37

The Diatribe is deceived by its own ignorance in that it makes no distinction between God preached and God hidden, that is, between the Word of God and God Himself. God does many things which He does not show us in His Word, and He wills many things which He does not in His Word show us that He wills. Thus, He does not will the death of a sinner--that is, in His Word; but He wills it by His inscrutable will. At present, however, we must keep in view His Word and leave alone His inscrutable will; for it is by His Word, and not by His inscrutable will, that we must be guided. In any case, who can direct himself according to a will that is inscrutable and incomprehensible? It is enough simply to know that there is in God an inscrutable will; what, why, and within what limits It wills, it is wholly unlawful to inquire, or wish to know, or be concerned about, or touch upon; we must only fear and adore!

So it is right to say: 'If God does not desire our death, it must be laid to the charge of our own will if we perish'; this, I repeat, is right if you spoke of God preached. For He desires that all men should be saved, in that He comes to all by the word of salvation, and the fault is in the will which does not receive Him; as He says in Matt. 23: 'How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not!' (v. 37). But why the Majesty does not remove or change this fault of will in every man (for it is not in the power of man to do it), or why He lays this fault to the charge of the will, when man cannot avoid it, it is not lawful to ask; and though you should ask much, you would never find out; as Paul says in Rom. 11: 'Who are thou that repliest against God?' (Rom. 9.20).
Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. by J. I. Packer & O. R. Johnston (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 2003), 170–171.
Here, God Incarnate says: 'I would, and thou wouldst not.' God Incarnate, I repeat, was sent for this purpose, to will, say, do, suffer, and offer to all men, all that is necessary for salvation; albeit He offends many who, being abandoned or hardened by God's secret will of Majesty, do not receive Him thus willing, speaking, doing and offering. As John says: 'The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not' (John 1.5). And again: 'He came unto His own, and His own received Him not' (v. 11). It belongs to the same God Incarnate to weep, lament, and groan over the perdition of the ungodly, though that will of Majesty purposely leaves and reprobates some to perish. Nor is it for us to ask why He does so, but to stand in awe of God, Who can do, and wills to do, such things. I do not think anyone will raise the quibbling objection that this will, of which it is said: 'How often would I!', was displayed to the Jews even before God was incarnate, inasmuch as they are accused of having slain the prophets before Christ, and of resisting His will thereby. For it is well known among Christians that all that was done through the prophets was done in the name of the coming Christ, Who had been promised, that he might become God Incarnate. Thus all that has been offered to men through the ministry of the Word from the beginning of the world may rightly be called the will of Christ.
Ibid., 176.


Rightly did Muller say:
Luther thus juxtaposes almost paradoxically the assumptions that all things come to pass necessarily by the decree of God's eternal will, that all human beings are foreordained to salvation or damnation, that God nonetheless genuinely wills (as scripture states) the salvation of all people, and that those who are rejected by God are rejected for their unbelief.
Richard A. Muller, "Predestination," in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, ed. Hans J. Hillerbrand (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 3:333. One wishes that Muller would speak just as clearly and explicitly about Calvin believing the very same thing, since Calvin is just as clear as Luther on God's revealed desire for the salvation of all men.

Remaining Quotes that Highlight the Revealed Will of God in Nathanael Ball's (1623–1681) Spiritual Bondage and Freedom

The 3rd Inquiry is, Upon what account Christ doth offer this freedom, in respect of himself? I will give you an answer to this in three things.

1. Upon the account of his Purchase: he hath purchased Freedom, and therefore he may offer it; 'tis his own to dispose of, as a thing that a man hath bought is his own: the Lord Jesus was willing to buy Freedom for you, that he might give it to you. And here, it may be, you may desire to be resolved in two Questions. Qu. 1 Of whom did Christ buy it? Qu. 2. And what did Christ pay for it? Ans. to the 1. He bought this Freedom at the hand of his Father's justice: for by sin we were all fallen into the hand of Justice, and out of that hand we could not be taken, but by Christ's making full Satisfaction to it; therefore he had to deal with a just and an angry God in this business. This is the meaning of that, in Gal. 4:4-5.--God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Mark here how 'twas with us, and how it must be with Christ, that he might redeem us. We were under the Law, i.e. we lay liable to all that the Law could threaten to us, or inflict upon us: And therefore, Christ he must be, and he was made under the Law, i.e. in what he was to do for our Deliverance, he must give the Law or the Justice of God its full demand: and he must not expect to have anything abated of it, by any such thing as mercy; for he had not at all to deal with that in this work, he was not made under Mercy, but under the Law. Now from hence we may quickly give an answer to the 2nd Question, What did Christ pay for this Freedom? Ans. Why to be sure some great price, since he had to do with the offended and enraged Justice of God. For you must know and believe, that for our sins, the wrath of God was dreadfully kindled against us: and if Christ would put himself in our place, and be our Redeemer, all this wrath must dreadfully burn against him; he must suffer so, as that he must be made a curse for us; and he must be so bruised and broken, and marred by the heavy weight of Punishment that lay upon him, that people might even be astonished to see him, and so as to make him that he could not even be known who he was, he looked so ghastly. See. Isa. 52:14. and therefore, his precious Life and Blood must go for it; Body, Soul and all must be filled with the tokens of God's displeasure. And therefore, you shall find the Lord, as it were, stirring up his Justice, as if that itself were too slow, against him, when his sufferings are spoken of, Zech. 13:7. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow. Oh beloved, the great worth that there is in one drop of Christ's Blood! but in this Work, he must pour it out like water: See Psal. 22:14, 15. and therefore, I pray observe this, that generally when you have this Redemption of Chirst spoken of his Blood is mentioned with it, to show what an inestimable price he paid for it. See Zech. 9:11. As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant,--Eph. 1:7. In whom we have redemption through his blood. Heb. 9:11, 12. -- By his own blood -- 1 Pet. 1:18, 19. Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, -- but with the precious blood of Christ ----

2. Upon the account of his Pity. The Pity and tender Compassion that was in the heart of Christ towards poor sinners, as he saw them lie in their lost condition; he saw they needed Deliverance, and he could not pass him by, as this and that man did the man that lay among thieves; but as the good Samaritan; he would go to them to pour in Wine and Oil into their Wounds, and bind them up. Do you think, Beloved, that ever Christ would have endured, that such cruelty from his Enemies, and such severity from his Fathers Justice, should have been exercised upon him, if he had not had his heart full of pity towards poor sinners, as it could hold? Certainly, 'twas his mercy that made him undergo all that misery. See Heb. 5:1, 2. Tit. 3:4. Beloved, Jesus Christ saw that we were pitiful creatures by sin, and by reason of what was due to us for sin, and he did pity us, Isa. 63:9.--In his pity he redeemed them: Yea, and he doth pity us still, and he hath compassion for poor sinful creatures still, Heb. 4:15. We have not an high Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Therefore his pity to you makes him, that he cannot but offer this Liberty to you.
Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 59–62.

There is one thing that is very observable about this in the Scripture, which I would commend unto you; and that is, That Christ, in the offers of his Grace, doth not only speak in a general way to all in common, as if he should say, Here 'tis amongst you: but in many places he comes to offer it in a particular kind of Language, as if he had to deal with persons severally and apart from one another, and were singling of them out one by one: to teach us, that every particular person must own it has his great duty, to look after Christ, and the Benefits that come by Christ for himself. See John 4:10. Mark how particularly Christ speaks here: Jesus answered and said unto her, [i.e. the woman of Samaria] If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. So Rev. 3:18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. So vers. 20. If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. q.d. There must not be one of you, but must each for himself be labouring for a share in these things.
Ibid., 97–98.

8. One thing more briefly, about this Freedom by Christ, as to another name by which 'tis called, serving to set out the excellency of it, and that is, 'tis called the Blessing of God. Now that's a precious thing indeed; What's all that we have, if we have not God's Blessing with it? Why 'tis his Blessing that keeps us from his curse; when God intended the greatest good to Abraham, he summed it up in this, I will bless thee, Gen. 12:2. And so when you wish the greatest mercy to others, you pray that God would bless them; his blessing is the comfort of every Calling, of every Relation, of every Condition. Why now this Freedom by Christ is God's blessing, See Acts 3. ult. Unto you first, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. And therefore all that I shall say upon it, is this, That if you have not this Freedom by Christ, you'll never have God's blessing, and therefore you'll have God's curse, that will be your Portion. I grant that in some sense you may be said to have his blessings, that is, you may have outward mercies; in which respect God said he would bless Ishmael himself, tho he were the Son of the Bondwoman, Gen. 17:20. But he may bless you thus, and yet you may be cursed forever, and so you will be if Christ doth not make you Free: And oh Sirs, what a dreadful thing will it be to lye under the curse of God to eternity!
Ibid., 243–244.

4. By this Freedom Christ leaves matter of the highest Condemnation upon the refusers of the Gospel. Sirs, I beseech you consider this. The Lord Jesus is resolved to make use of this Freedom one way or another, with all of you, either to save or damn you: Where he can't make the one use, that is to save sinners, he will make the other use of it, that is to sink sinners. Where it doth not serve as an Engine to raise them, 'twill serve as an Engine to ruin them. Doubt not of it, Christ will have enough to say from this salvation of his, when he hath offered it, and you have despised it, to leave you without excuse. 'Twill furnish him abundantly with Arguments to plead against you, that will stop all your mouths at the last day; when he shall tell you, how he had prepared a Remedy that would have delivered you from all your misery, and how he did most willingly shed that precious blood of his, which would have washed away all your sins: and if you had but come to him, you might have been as safe, and as blessed as others that believed in him: but nothing would prevail with you to bring you in: You either did not look after him at all, or if you did, it was not to purpose: You could not find in your hearts to turn every sin out of doors: there must be something of your Lusts that must be spared, and something of his Terms that must be abated: You were afraid of buying Christ too dear. Well now, what shall Christ do, but make use of this Freedom and Gospel for a Witness against you? and be sure of it, he is resolved to do it. That place doth intimate so much to you before-hand, in John 3:18, 19. But I shall say no more of the Uses which Christ makes of this Freedom; but shall come to show the excellent Uses that Christians may make of it.
Ibid.,  369–370.

Why don't you consider before it be too late, under what Offers of Grace you live; what heart-rending thoughts, do you think you shall have a little while hence, when you shall look back upon the opportunities you have lost, without hope of having any more? Will it not be an heavy charge against you, that you have despised a precious Christ, and lost a precious Soul? If you believe that you are sinners, what's the reason that you don't regard a Saviour? Is Christ beholding to you, to accept of his Salvation? or are you beholding to him, that he is so willing you should have it? If you could be contented to live in your sins all your days, can you be contented to suffer for them to all eternity? I tell you, Hell is ready for you, if you will not repent and believe the Gospel; and the more calls you have now, the more Torments you'll have there! Is it fit that such sinful Worms as you are, should take upon you to tell Christ that you won't have him? And do you think that he doth not observe your unkindness, and frowardness to him, tho for the present he lets you alone? If you have no love for Christ, have you none for yourselves? Will this World last always, that you provide no better for another? Do you think that Christ cannot tell what do to with his mercy, because he offers it to you? And now I have blown the Trumpet, and given you warning, because I see the Sword is a coming, now read Ezek. 33. the nine first Verses.
Ibid., 438–439.


Credit to Travis Fentiman for bringing Nathanael Ball to my attention.

See also these posts from the same work:

November 29, 2014

Lewis Stuckley (c.1621-1687) on God's Offers and Tenders of Grace

"Fourthly, You have sinned impenitently, notwithstanding all the means for your repentance and reducement, which God hath most wonderfully vouchsafed you. The Lord hath for many years striven with you to put away your sins, and to reclaim you from your miscarriages: sometimes God hath come up to Mount Ebal, and threatened you with sword, famine, fire, and pestilence, and yet you have refused to hear from thence: he hath lept to Mount Gerrizim, and allured you by all kinds of blessings; and yet you have carried yourselves stoutly and impudently towards all the offers and tenders of grace for your recovery. God would have healed you; he hath said, wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, my Father, thou art the guide of my youth, turn thou unto me; yet you returned not. You have had many of the Lord's faithful ambassadors, who have laid seige at your hearts, to engage them to the Lord, and to take you off from your sinful ways, but alas! all the glad tidings of mercy have not affected you, have not won you: all the ordinances of Jehovah have found little place in you, have left no impression upon your souls; You have justified Judah and Samaria in all their stubbornness and rebellion against the Lord. How righteous is it with the Lord to call upon the ministers, Let them alone, threaten them no more, promise them no more."
Lewis Stuckley, A Gospel-Glass (London: Printed for the Author, and are to be sold by Giles Widdows at the Maiden-head in Aldersgate-street, near Jewen-street, 1670), 435-436. Also in Lewis Stuckley, A Gospel Glass (London: Printed by R. Edwards, Crane Court, Fleet Street; for W. Suitaby, Maxwell and Wilson, Williams and Smith, and Byfield and Son, 1809), 352.

November 26, 2014

Jeremiah Burroughs (c.1600–1646) on Hell as an Infinite Ocean of Scalding Lead

It is a notable speech Augustine [Serm. 66. ad fratres in Eremo1] hath: Go, (says he) and mark and attend the Sepulchres of rich men, and when you see their rotten bones, consider who they once were, and know they do cry unto you; O you men, why do you seek so much to satisfy yourselves in these fading things, and heap upon yourselves vexation, to attain happiness for yourselves in these things? Consider our bones here, and be struck with astonishment, to abhor your luxury and covetousness; for, says he, they cry thus to you, You now are, and we were, and time will be, when you shall be what we are.

And then consider with yourselves, what a doleful condition that man is in, that hath set his heart upon things that are for a season: When those are at an end, he may say, How the thoughts of my heart, and all my hopes are at an end; now I must bid an eternal farewell to all my comforts, to husband, and wife, and neighbors, and friends, and companions; I shall never meet with you more, and never have mirth and jollity, and sporting, and gaming any more, but I must bid farewell to all, and Sun is set, and the season is at an end for all my comfort, and before me I see an infinite vast Ocean, and I must launch into it; Lord, what provision have I for it? What a dreadful shreek will that soul give, that sees an infinite Ocean it must launch into, and sees no provision that it hath made for it? Indeed those that die, and are bespotted, and know nothing of this infinite Ocean that they must launch into, they are never troubled; but those that die, and their consciences are enlightened, they have given a most dreadful shreek, to see themselves launching into an infinite Ocean of scalding Lead, and must swim naked in it forever.
Jeremiah Burroughs, Moses His Choice, With His Eye Fixed Upon Heaven: Discovering the Happy Condition of a Self-Denying Heart (London: Printed by Thomas Ratcliffe for R. Doleman, and are to be sold by Thomas Vere at the Angel without Newgate, 1660), 326–327.


1. Sermones ad fratres in Eremo was apparently a spurious collection of sermons attributed to Augustine.

Nathanael Ball (1623-1689) on the Three Great Suitors Seeking Us

"All three Persons are concerned in the Freedom that comes by Christ: why, then consider,

1. That there was not a word spoken in Heaven against the recovering of poor Sinners out of their lost condition; not a word against showing Mercy to them. You know, there be many great things upon Earth that come to a Proposition, but then they meet with an Opposition, and such an Opposition, that the thing propounded is dashed all to pieces. But it was not so in Heaven: there every one was for it; the Father was for it, the Son was for it, and the Holy Ghost was for it; and yet every one might have been against it. And Oh, how much might have been said to have spoiled all; there was enough might have been alleged, to have turned all their hearts against us: but every one was willing that the business of our Redemption should go forward, all went on our side. You may therefore be fully assured, that though there was none but the second Person that did visibly appear in the Work of our Redemption, yet that they are all well-wishers to it. Here's no place left for doubting, whether their hearts be as inclinable towards your Salvation, as Christ did express, by word of mouth, that his heart was in the days of his Flesh: for, they do all, by mutual consent, unite together in this Design of doing your Souls good, and the voice of one, is the voice of all. And when Christ did invite and call poor Sinners to come unto him, and declared so much readiness to receive and embrace all that were weary and heavy laden; you must know, that he did not only do this to show his own kindness and good-will to the Children of Men, but also to show what kindness and good-will the other Persons had in their hearts towards them too. And if you look into 1 John 5:7. you shall find them all joined together in this matter of Salvation by Christ, compared with ver. 11. What an engagement then is it to us to accept of this Salvation, when we have, as I may say, three such great Suitors seeking us; the Father sending his Son, and the Son coming from the Father, and now Christ by his Spirit knocking at the door of our Hearts for an entrance. Oh, that as they are all willing that we should be saved, we were all willing to close with this Salvation!" 
Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 168-170.


Credit to Travis Fentiman for bringing Nathanael Ball to my attention.

Compare the following:

Thomas Halyburton said:
"O sinners! what hearts have ye, if ye can refuse the desire, the supplication, the intreaties of a whole Trinity? All the love of the Father, all the grace of the Son, and all the blessings that are enjoyed by communion with the Holy Ghost, all plead with you for your compliance."
Jonathan Edwards said:
"All the persons of the Trinity are now seeking your salvation. God the Father hath sent his Son, who hath made way for your salvation, and removed all difficulties, except those which are with your own heart. And he is waiting to be gracious to you; the door of his mercy stands open to you; he hath set a fountain open for you to wash in from sin and uncleanness. Christ is calling, inviting, and wooing you; and the Holy Ghost is striving with you by his internal motions and influences."
Nicholas Clagett wrote:
"Was there any need for God to stoop to offer you a Covenant of Salvation, wherein the whole Trinity doth humble themselves? The Father, so much as to have thoughts of grace to relieve and succour lost sinners; the Son that humbled himself to an obscuring incarnation, a life of sorrows, spotless obedience, a bloody death the price of Redemption. The Holy Ghost to come into vile sinners, to plead the acceptance, and improvement of the Father and Son's love. O inconsiderate sinners! of what a scarlet tincture is your unworthy slighting of the Trinity's kindness, your treading under foot the blessed God's acts of grace!"

November 25, 2014

Matthew Newcomen (c.1610–1669) on Offers of Grace and the Damned Being Without Excuse

In the third place, Is the Word of God the Word of his Grace? Then this reproves all those that have lived under the continual dispensation of this Word of Grace, and yet have not got saving Grace, no saving good by it; but continue blind, ignorant, impenitent, hard-hearted, secure, unbelieving, unholy, and that under the constant preaching of the Word. O that such would in the fear of God consider,

First, How dangerous their condition is.

Secondly, How great their Condemnation will be.

First, Consider how dangerous your condition is. All you that live under the Word of Grace, and get no saving Grace, no saving good by it. Read that one Text, Heb. 6:7-8. For the Earth that drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, (that is, answerable to their gift, and labours, and continuance) is blessed of God. But that which bringeth forth briars and thorns, is near unto cursing, (How near, and unto what cursing in this life, God only knows, but to be sure their end will be sad) whose end is to be burned. A fearful end, and such as should make the heart of every one who is guilty of being unfruitful under the Word of Grace, tremble to think or hear of it; especially considering how little hope there is for such a one to escape this curse, and to escape this dreadful and dismal end: for if the Word of Grace, that is the power of God himself unto Salvation, if that can do no good upon thee, what can? if that cannot work upon thy blind, ignorant, prophane hard heart, no not in ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years, what can? I tell thee, if thou art past getting good by the Word of Grace, thou art past getting good by any thing at all. Luke 16:31. If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they hear though one from the dead were sent unto them. If what thou hearest from the Word of Grace, of the Wrath of God against impenitent sinners, and the Grace and Mercy of God towards poor repenting sinners; if what thou readest and hearest in and from the Word of the torments of Hell, and of the joys of Heaven; if what thou readest and hearest from the Word of these things do not bring thee to Repentance, and Faith in the Lord Jesus, nothing else will. No, though one should come immediately out of Hell, with Hell-flames about his ears, and burning brimstone dropping down at his heels, to warn thee, and fright thee from those torments; or, if an Angel should come from Heaven, cloathed with the Sun, and crowned with Stars, to allure thee to Holiness by those glorious Rewards; neither the one or the other will work upon thee to any purpose, if the Word of Grace hath not wrought upon thee; for that is the Instrument that God hath appointed and ordained, and made fit and able to work Grace in the Soul; and therefore if that do not work upon thee, what canst thou think will?

And if thou continue still in this condition, not profitting by the Word, without any saving work of the Word upon thee, O consider how inexcusable, how intolerable thy damnation will be. Why doth our Saviour tell Chorazin and Bethsaida, and the rest of the Cities where he had gone up and down preaching the Word of Grace, that it should be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorra, for Tyre and Sidon in the day of Judgement, than for them, Matt. 11:22-24. But because Sodom and Gomorrah never had the Word of Grace preached among them, as these Cities had had. Turks and Heathens, Sodomites and Gomorrahns, yea the Devil and his Angels shall have more to plead in excuse of themselves in the day of Judgement, than those that have lived under the Word of Grace, and never did get any saving good by it.

Turks and Heathens, Sodomites and Gomorrahans will be able to say, Lord thou never sentest Prophets, or Apostles, or Ministers among us, to tell us of the danger of sin, or to call and summon us to Repentance; to make known to us thy Will and the ways of Grace and Holiness; if thou hadst, we should never have gone on in our sins and impenitence, we would certainly have laid hold upon the offers of Grace, and ways of Life. The Devil and his angels will be able to say, Lord, thou didst never provide nor propound for us a way of reconciliation and recovery since we first sinned against thee, as thou didst for man after his transgression; if thy Son had taken our nature as he did the nature of man, and had provided us such a Covenant of Peace and Reconciliation as he did for man, and the glad Tidings thereof had been published to us by the Gospel as it was to man, possibly we had not persisted so obstinately in our rebellion against thee. These and the like pleas may even the Devils have for themselves in the day of Judgment, whither true or no, that is not our question. But now thou who hast lived all thy days under the Word of Grace, and never got any saving good by it, but livest and diest an ignorant, prophane, impenitent, unbelieving creature, as the Lord knows too many do: When thou shalt appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, thou wilt not have this nor anything else to plead for thyself. If Christ should say to thee, as Judges here upon the Bench to Malefactors, What canst thou say for thyself why sentence of condemnation should not pass upon thee? Poor creature, thou wilt not have one word to say, but must be as that man in the parable, Matt. 22. Altogether speechless. When the Judge shall say to you, How is it that you appear here in the guilt of all your sins? were you never told of these sins of yours? were you never exhorted to repentance? were you never directed the way to get your sins pardoned? were you never invited, persuaded, entreated that you would be saved? did I not send my Ministers, and did not they in my Name, and in my Stead, beseech you that you would be reconciled to God? and did not they tell you what you must do that you might be reconciled? did you not live under the dispensations of that Word of Grace that was able to work Grace in you, that did work Grace in others, and was as able to work it in you? why then are ye found in a graceless condition this day? O when Jesus Christ shall in the presence of all his Saints and Angels thus expostulate with the souls of such as live and die without any saving good, how inexcusable, how intolerable will their condemnation be!

O think of it, and as you desire to escape the confusion of that day, and the condemnation of Hell, O labor yet to get Grace wrought in your hearts by the power of this Word of Grace.
Matthew Newcomen, Ultimum Vale: Or, The Last Farewell of a Minister of the Gospel to a Beloved People (London: [publisher not identified], 1663), 29–33.


Compare with Nicholas Clagett.

November 23, 2014

Highlighting Richard Muller's Citations of Calvin on God's Slowness to Anger and Willingness to Save

Muller writes:
God's temporal anger stands over against the sins both of the wicked and the godly and is revealed in the earthly punishments meted out to sinners. Here, frequently, God defers punishment and "suspends" his anger against the ungodly in order to demonstrate his willingness to pardon sin--but neither does he tolerate the abuse of his patience.579
579. Calvin, Commentaries on Nahum, 1:3 in loc. (CTS Minor Prophets, III, p. 422).
Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 3:583.

Calvin comments on Nahum 1:3:
We now then see the design of the Prophet: for this declaration — that God hastens not suddenly to wrath, but patiently defers and suspends the punishment which the ungodly deserve. This declaration would not have harmonized with the present argument, had not the Prophet introduced it by way of concession; as though he said, — “I see that the world everywhere trifle with God, and that the ungodly delude themselves with such Sophistries, that they reject all threatening. I indeed allow that God is ready to pardon, and that he descends not to wrath, except when he is constrained by extreme necessity: all this is indeed true; but yet know, that God is armed with his own power: escape then shall none of those who allow themselves the liberty of abusing his patience, notwithstanding the insolence they manifest towards him.”
...Scripture consistently teaches that God is slow to anger. The psalmist and the prophets often "borrow" this language from the declarations of Moses in Exodus 34.583 Nonetheless, God's anger is heavy and grievous when it is exercised. Scripture also testifies to the power of God's judgment on the reprobate--God himself speaks of his wrath as fire.584 Yet, the temporal anger of God may be appeased by the "amendment of life" and by contrition, given that God's natural or essential goodness consistently leads him to mitigate his anger.585 God cannot "divest himself of his mercy, for he remains ever the same." Indeed, God works toward the salvation of the human race at the very same time that he is angry at sin: the ground of our hope of mercy and pardon is, therefore, the "infinite and inexhaustible" goodness of God, who does not respond in anger to the constant provocation of sinful humanity.586
583. Musculus, Loci communes, liv (Commonplaces, p. 1040, col. 2), citing Exodus 34, passim; Num. 14:18-21, 27-31, et passim; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:5; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3; Calvin, Commentaries on Joel, 2:12-13, in loc.; cf. idem, Commentaries on Nahum, 1:3, in loc. (CTS Minor Prophets, II, p. 60; III, p. 421). Here Musculus' loci communes are clearly topical sections based on Musculus' commentaries: each text is developed at some length.
584. Musculus, Loci communes, Iiv, (Commonplaces, p. 1043, col. 2, p. 1044, col. 2), citing Deut. 32:22ff.
585. Musculus, Loci communes, Iiv (Commonplaces, p. 1051, col. 2).
586. Calvin, Commentaries on Jonah, Jonah 4:2, in loc. (CTS Minor Prophets, III, pp. 123, 125).
Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 3:583-584.

Calvin's Comments on Joel 2:13:
The Prophet, having proclaimed the dreadful judgment which we have noticed, now shows that he did not intend to terrify the people without reason, but, on the contrary, to encourage them to repentance; which he could not do without offering to them the hope of pardon; for as we have said before, and as it may be collected from the whole of Scripture, men cannot be restored to the right ways except they entertain a hope of God’s mercy inasmuch as he who has been ungodly, when he despairs, wholly disregards himself, observing no restraint. Hence the Prophet now represents God as propitious and merciful, that he might thus kindly allure the people to repentance.

He says first, And even now the Lord says, Turn ye to me. The Prophet exhorts the people, not in his own name, but speaks in the person of God himself. He might indeed have borne witness to the favor which he proclaimed; but the discourse becomes more striking by introducing God as the speaker. And there is a great importance in the words, even now; for when one considers what we have noticed in the beginning of the chapter, a prospect of relief could hardly have been deemed possible. God had, indeed, in various ways, tried to restore the people to the right way; but, as we have seen, the greater part had become so void of feeling, that the scourges of God were wholly ineffectual; there remained, then, nothing but the utter destruction which the Prophet threatened them with at the beginning of the second chapter. Yet, in this state of despair, he still sets forth some hope of mercy, provided they turned to him; even now, he says. The particles וגם, ugam are full of emphasis, “even now” that is, “Though ye have too long abused God’s forbearance, and with regard to you, the opportunity is past, for ye have closed the door against yourselves; yet even now, — which no one could have expected, and indeed what ought to be thought incredible by yourselves, — even now God waits for you, and invites you to entertain hope of salvation.” But it was necessary that these two particles, even now, should be added; for it is not in the power of men to fix for themselves, as they please, the season for mercy. God here shows the acceptable time, as Isaiah says (Isaiah 49:8) to be, when he has not yet rejected men, but when he offers to be propitious. We must then remember that the Prophet gives not here liberty to men to delay the time, as the profane and scorners are wont to do, who trifle with God from day to day; but the Prophet here shows that we must obey the voice of God, when he invites us, as also Isaiah says, ‘Behold now the time accepted, behold the day of salvation: seek God now, for he is near; call on him while he may be found.’ So then, as I have reminded you, these two particles, even now, are added, that men may be made attentive to the voice of God when he invites them, that they may not delay till tomorrow, for the Lord may then close the door, and repentance may be too late. We at the same time see how indulgently God bears with men, since he left a hope of pardon to a people so obstinate and almost past recovery.

Calvin's comments on Jonah 4:2:
Jonah would not have shrunk from God’s command, had he been sent to the Ninevites to teach what he had been ordered to do among the chosen people. Had then a message been committed to Jonah, to set forth a gracious and merciful God to the Ninevites, he would not have hesitated a moment to offer his service. But as this express threatening, Nineveh shall be destroyed, was given him in charge, he became confounded, and sought at length to flee away rather than to execute such a command. Why so? Because he thus reasoned with himself, “I am to denounce a near ruin on the Ninevites; why does God command me to do this, except to invite these wretched men to repentance? Now if they repent, will not God be instantly ready to forgive them? He would otherwise deny his own nature: God cannot be unlike himself, he cannot put off that disposition of which he has once testified to Moses. Since God, then, is reconcilable, if the Ninevites will return to the right way and flee to him, he will instantly embrace them: thus I shall be found to be false in my preaching.”

 Calvin continues on Jonah 4:2:
And it is also added, that he is slow to wrath. This slowness to wrath proves that God provides for the salvation of mankind, even when he is provoked by their sins. Though miserable men provoke God daily against themselves, he yet continues to have a regard for their salvation. He is therefore slow to wrath, which means, that the Lord does not immediately execute such punishment as they deserve who thus provoke him.
John Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, trans. John Owen, vol. 14 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 3:125.

November 22, 2014

Edward Leigh (1602-1671) on God's General and Special Mercy

"2. He hath great mercy in him; if God be merciful at all, he must needs be merciful in great measure, yea above all measure, beyond all degrees, in all perfection; for the essence of God is infinite, and his wisdom, power, and mercy are infinite.

There is a mercy of God which extends to all his creatures, Psal. 145:9. Luke 6:35. God is merciful unto all men, but especially to some men whom he hath chosen unto himself.

The special mercy of God is offered unto all within the Church, Ezek. 16.6. Acts 13.40. but is bestowed only upon some, viz. such as receive Christ, John 1.11, 12.

This life is the time of mercy, wherein we obtain pardon for sin; after this life there is no remission or place for repentance.

All blessings Spiritual and Corporeal are the effects of God's mercy. Common blessings of his general mercy, special blessings of his special mercy."


Note: Richard Muller (in PRRD, 3:579) quotes the above portion from Leigh on divine mercy and says, "These effects of mercy, together with the distinction between general and special mercy, correspond closely with the effects and the formal description of God's grace, just as they overlap somewhat with the analysis of other divine attributes and affections." General mercy corresponds to general or common grace (Neh. 9:31).

November 20, 2014

Richard Muller on the Grace and Patience of God in Reformed Orthodoxy

There is also good ground for concluding that the modern conception of "common grace" finds its root more in the period of Reformed orthodoxy that [sic] in the era of Calvin and his contemporaries, given that many of the orthodox theologians were willing to define the gratia Dei as a bounty or graciousness extending to all creation.526 While God is gracious to all, his grace is particularly bestowed upon those who are his in Christ: "God's free favor is the cause of our salvation, and of all the means tending thereunto, Rom. 3:24 & 5:15, 16; Eph. 1:5, 6, & 24; Rom. 9:16; Titus 3:15, Heb. 4:16; Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 12:4, 9. The gospel sets forth the freeness, fulness, and the powerfulness of God's grace to his Church, therefore it is called the Gospel of the grace of God, Acts. 20:24." This grace is such that it is given freely without desert and it is "firm and unchangeable, so that those which are once beloved, can never be rejected, or utterly cast off, Psalm 77:10."527
526. Cf. Maresius, Collegium theol.,; Wendelin, Christianae theologiae libri duo, I.i.22; Leigh, Treatise, II.xi (pp. 83-84); but note Heidanus, Corpus theol., II (p. 162), who reserves gratia for the elect and refers benignitas to all creation. For the modern debate, see Abraham Kuyper, De gemeene gratie, 3 vols. (Leiden: Donnet, 1902); Herman Kuiper, Calvin on Common Grace (Goes: Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, 1928); William Masselink, General Revelation and Common Grace: A Defense of the Historic Reformed Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953); Richard Arden Couch, "An Evaluation and Reformulation of the Doctrine of Common Grace in the Reformed Tradition" (Th. D. diss., Princeton University, 1959).
527. Leigh, Treatise, II,xi (p. 84).
Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 3:572.
Related to God's grace are a series of other affections that appear variously in the Reformed orthodox theology--patience, long-suffering, compassion, condescension. Patience and longsuffering are the willingness of God to moderate "his anger toward creatures, and either defers punishment or for a moment withholds his wrath."532
God is Patient, Psalm 103.8; Job 21:7. God's patience is that whereby he bears the reproach of sinners and defers their punishments; or it is the most bountiful will of God, whereby he doth long bear with sin which he hateth, sparing sinners, not minding their destruction, but that he might bring them to repentance. See Acts 13:18.533
Even so God both endures "with much longsuffering" the sins of the reprobate and, at the same time, is patient with the elect prior to their conversion, willing their repentance rather than their immediate destruction because of sin.534 It is, thus, "the most bountiful will of God not suffering his displeasure suddenly to rise against his creatures offending, to be avenged of them, but he doth warn them beforehand, lightly correct and seek to turn them unto him."535 The divine compassion, similarly, is the disposition of God to deliver creatures from their misery. It is manifest when "the object of the divine goodness of love [is] involved in misery, such as man who is a sinner and subject to death."536
532. Wendelin, Christianae theologiae libri duo, I.i.25; Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst, I.iii.36.
533. Leigh, Body of Divinity, II. xiii (p.299), citing marginally Nahum 1:3 and Isa. 30:18; cf. Cocceius, Summa theol., III.x.67.
534. Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst, I.iii.36.
535. Leigh, Treatise, II.xiii (p. 100).
536. Venema, Inst. theol., VIII (p. 185).
Muller, PRRD, 3:573–574.

Note: See also J. Mark Beach, "The Idea of a 'General Grace of God' in Some Sixteenth-Century Reformed Theologians Other Than Calvin," in Church and School in Early Modern Protestantism: Studies in Honor of Richard A. Muller on the Maturation of a Theological Tradition, edited by Jordan J. Ballor, David Sytsma and Jason Zuidema (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013), 97–109; and J. Mark Beach, "Calvin's Treatment of the Offer of the Gospel and Divine Grace," MAJT 22 (2011), 55–76. The first work by Beach covers the views of Bullinger, Musculus, and Vermigli (men "in the era of Calvin") on general grace. Beach says:
...the idea of a general grace of God was a theological concept shared by mid-sixteenth-century Reformed theologians. It is clear that Bullinger, Musculus, and Vermigli (each contemporaries of Calvin), accept to varying degrees some notion of a non-saving divine favor or goodness directed toward the non-elect and unbelievers.
Beach, "The Idea of a 'General Grace of God'...," 108.

There is significant continuity between what Edward Leigh and others say (as quoted by Muller) in the seventeenth-century, and what these earlier Reformed theologians said in the sixteenth-century. The difference is mainly in the extent to which the topic of grace is covered and their willingness to use the terminology, not in their the view of the generalis gratia Dei as such. As Beach says:
The concern of these theologians is to distinguish grace, rightly understood, from synergistic misconceptions and outright Pelagian abuses. Since at that time the locution "general grace" had, for some, a specifically Pelagian aroma, Reformed theologians were guarded in how they used those words. Some, like Vermigli, were hesitant to use the term, whereas others, like Bullinger and Musculus, were careful to define it. Thus we see Bullinger and Vermigli explicitly attacking a notion of "general grace" that identifies grace with nature along Pelagian lines.

Beach continued:
...the idea of a general grace of God is not altogether uncommon in Reformed theology in the middle of the sixteenth century. The gifts that come to fallen humans, the blessings that bedeck their lives, and the benefits that allow the human project--even in its rebellion against God--to move forward are divine gifts, divine blessings, and divine benefits.

Last, the several portraits of grace and common grace as formulated by some of Calvin's contemporaries prove to be, not surprisingly, distinct but also not incongruous with one another. Bullinger, Musculus, and Vermigli hold in common the idea that God acts upon unregenerate persons in a manner that is gracious, being undeserved and kindly, but also non-salvific [not resulting in eternal salvation] in character. This general sort of divine grace, however, remains distinct from grace in its saving operations. All of the above shows that, among the mid-sixteenth-century Reformed theologians, Calvin was not a solitary voice sounding the idea of a general grace of God.
Ibid., 109.

Here's J. Mark Beach's profile at Mid-America Reformed Seminary (click). His doctoral dissertation was on Christ and the Covenant: Francis Turretin's Federal Theology as a Defense of the Doctrine of Grace (Ph.D. diss., Calvin Theological Seminary, 2005).

Edward Leigh (1602–1671) on God's Common and Special Grace

So much in general of God's virtues. Secondly, in special, the virtues which imply not imperfection in the reasonable creature, are attributed to God. The principle of which are:

1. Bounty or Graciousness, by which God shows favor to the creatures freely, and that either commonly or specially; 1. Commonly, when he exercises beneficence and liberality toward all creatures, powering upon them plentifully all goods of nature, body, mind and fortune, so that there is nothing which tastes not of the inexhausted fountain of his blessings and goodness. Matt. 5:44, 45. Psal. 36:5, 6. God's bounty is a will in him to bestow [a] store of comfortable and beneficial things on the creature in his kind. This bounty he showed to all things in the creation, even to all Spirits, all men and all creatures, and does in great part show still, for he opens his hand and fills every living thing with his bounty, he gives all things richly to enjoy.

2. Specially toward the Church, by which he bestows eternal life on certain men fallen by sin, and redeemed in Christ, Titus 2:11 & 3:4. As this is exercised toward the whole Church, so in a special manner toward some members of it, as toward Enoch, Moses, Jacob, David, Paul, and especially Abraham, who is therefore often called the Friend of God; he made with him and his seed a perpetual league of friendship, and he constantly kept his Laws and Statutes, John 15:14, 15.

God's Graciousness is an essential property, whereby he is in and of himself most gracious and amiable, Psa. 145:8. God is only gracious in and of himself, and whatsoever is amiable and gracious, is so from him.

God's Graciousness is that whereby he is truly amiable in himself, and freely bountiful unto his creatures, cherishing them tenderly without any desert of theirs, Psa. 86:15, 111:5. Gen. 43:29.

God is gracious to all, Psa. 145:8, 9, 10. but especially to such whom he does respect in his well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Exod. 33:19. Isa. 30:19. Luke 1:30. Gen. 6:8. 1 Cor. 15:10. God's free favor is the cause of our salvation, and of all the means tending thereunto, Rom. 3:24 & 5:15, 16. Eph. 1:5, 6 & 2:4. Rom. 9:16. Titus 3:5. Heb. 4:16. Rom. 6:23. 1 Cor. 12:4, 9. The gospel sets forth the freeness, fulness, and the powerfulness of God's grace to his Church, therefore it is called the Gospel of the grace of God, Acts 20:24.

God's Graciousness is firm and unchangeable, so that those which are once beloved can never be rejected, or utterly cast off, Psa. 77:10.

God bestows, 1. Good things. 2. Freely. 3. Plentifully. Psa. 111:4. 4. In a special manner He is gracious towards the godly.

Love is 1. grounded often on something which may deserve it; the grace of God is that love of his which is altogether free. 2. Grace is such a kind of love as flows from a superior to an inferior; love may be in inferiors toward their superiors.


Edward Leigh (1602-1671) on God's Patience and Long-Suffering

"God is Patient, Psalm 103:8. Job 2:17 [?]. God's patience is that whereby he bears the reproach of sinners and defers their punishments; or it is the most bountiful will of God, whereby he doth long bear with sin which he hates, sparing sinners, not minding their destruction, but that he might bring them to repentance.

This is aggravated:

1. In that sin is an infinite injury offered to him, therefore in the Lord's Prayer it is called a Trespass.

2. He is infinitely affected with this; hence in the Scripture he is said to be grieved with our sins, to be wearied, as a cart full of sheaves; he is said to hate sin, for although he be such a perfect God that none of our sins can hurt him, yet because he is a holy and just God, he cannot but infinitely distaste sinners.

3. He can be revenged immediately if he please; men many times are patient perforce, they would be revenged, but they know not how to compass it. He apprehends at the same time what he has done for us, and withal our unthankfulness, unkindness, and yet he endured Cain, Saul, Judas a long time.

4. He beholds the universality of sin, all men injure him, the heathens are given to idolatry, blasphemy among Christians, the profane sort are full of oaths, adulteries, the better negligent, lazy, cold.

5. God not only [does] not punish, but still continues his benefits; the old drunkard is still alive.

6. He sets up a Ministry to invite us to come in, and we have that many years; Forty years long was I grieved with this generation.

7. In Christ patience was visible, there was living patience.

8. He afflicts lightly and mercifully to win us; he makes thee sick and poor, to see if it will make thee leave thy sinning.

9. God is Long-suffering, Exod. 34:6.

It is that whereby he expects and waits a long time for repentance; or it is the most bountiful will of God not suffering his displeasure suddenly to rise against his creatures offending, to be avenged of them, but he does warn them beforehand, lightly correct and seek to turn them unto him. Christ endured Judas till the last."


November 14, 2014

Richard Muller on God's Universal and Special Love in Early Reformed Thought

The second kind of divine love [in distinction from the love of God ad intra] that Musculus identifies is the love of the creator for all his creatures, resting on his creation of all things as good in the beginning. It would be impossible, Musculus notes, given the nature of God, for God to "make evil things and love them after they were made" or to "make good things and not love them when they were made." Nor could it be that God loved his creation in the beginning and subsequently ceased to love it--for God's love is immutable. Nor, again, is God's love hindered by the subjection of the created order to corruption after the fall, for the creation not only remains God's work despite this corruption, but also it was God's own "most wise and unsearchable purpose" that has subjected the entire creation to this bondage and vanity, as the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 8, or indeed as is written in the Wisdom of Solomon, "thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which thou hast made."475

Third, above his love for all creation, God loves humanity in general. This love, Musculus notes, ought to be a source of wonder on our part: we would not be surprised if Scripture were to tell us that God loves his angels, inasmuch as they have a heavenly nature and purity and have been chosen as God's "special ministers." Yet Scripture speaks instead of the surpassing love of God for human beings, made in the image of God and accorded a special dignity "above all other creatures." God has not, moreover, forsaken us after the Fall but continues to care for us with his special providence. Beyond this, God so loves human beings that in the incarnation "God was made man, to the end that man should be advanced into the fellowship of God's nature." There could be no greater indication of the love of God for humanity than this personal union of human nature with the divine nature. So, too, the love of God for all humanity is seen in the death of his Son for our redemption. And finally, the general love of God for humanity is manifest in the universal calling of the gospel.476 This divine love for the world and specifically for humanity, Calvin writes, is the "first cause ... and source of our salvation."477

The fourth species of divine love, according to Musculus, is the "special" love of God for those human beings chosen "to the adoption of children, before the foundation of the world," a love not extended to the entire human race, as indicated by the text in Romans, "Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated." Reflecting definitions from the older scholastic tradition, Musculus indicates that this love "comprehends" all of the other elements of the salvation of the elect, namely, "predestination, calling, the gift of faith and of the Spirit, justification, regeneration, and the renewal of mind and life": all of these things are referred to the goodness and love of God by the apostle in Titus 3:4-8.478 Calvin also identifies the special, saving love of God as a sign of God's utter mercy, apart from all human works, to save some by grace: "this love was founded on the purpose of his will (Eph. 1:5)."479

Fifth, there is in God a love of the good, simply because it is good. This love is directed particularly toward all that is "just, honest, gentle, meek, mild, and merciful" and evidences a love of true goodness in human conduct.480 Musculus enquires how this can be so if we are saved according to God's mercy and not according to our works. The solution to the problem is that "we must consider the love of God toward us in two respects": first, God loves us merely on account of his own goodness. Our salvation has "no cause in us" but arises only out of the goodness of God. By this love we are made good despite our sinful condition. Second, God also loves "good, faithful, and obedient persons: this second form of divine love toward believers, argues Musculus, is in no way hindered or prevented by the former, prior, love, "for he who of his infinite goodness loves us without cause" can love us still more "when we are godly." This divine love of the good in us, Musculus concludes, ought to inspire believers to be "studious in goodness, godliness, and righteousness" and to be thankful toward God for his kindness.481
475. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, pp. 960–961), citing Wisdom, 11:25.
476. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, pp. 961–963).
477. Calvin, Commentary on John, 3:16 (CTS John, I, p. 122).
478. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, p. 963, cols. 1–2).
479. Calvin, Commentary on John, 3:16 (CTS John, I, p. 123).
480. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, p. 964, col. 1), citing 2 Cor. 9:7.
481. Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, pp. 964–965). Musculus develops the practical implications of his teaching at length (pp. 965–977).
Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 3:563–564.

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on God Kneeling to Entreat

The torments of the damned must needs be extreme, because they are the effect of Divine Revenge: Wrath is terrible, but Revenge is implacable: When the great God shall say; I will now be righted for all the wrongs that I have born from rebellious creatures; I will let out my wrath, and it shall be stayed no more, you shall now pay for all the abuse of my Patience! Remember now how I waited your leisure in vain, how I stooped to persuade you; how I, as it were, kneeled to entreat you: did you think I would always be slighted by such miscreants as you? O, who can look up when God shall thus plead with them in the heat of Revenge? Then will he be revenged for every mercy abused, for his creatures consumed in luxury and excess; for every hours time misspent; for the neglect of his word, for the vilifying of his messengers, for the hating of his people, for the prophanation of his ordinances, and neglect of his worship, for the breaking of his Sabbaths, and the grieving of his Spirit, for the taking of his Name in vain, for unmerciful neglect of his servants in distress. O the numberless bills that will be brought in! And the charge that will overcharge the soul of the sinner! And how hotly Revenge will pursue them all to the highest! How God will stand over them with the rod in his hand (not the rod of fatherly chastisements, but that Iron rod wherewith he bruiseth the rebellious) and lay it on for all their neglects of Christ and grace! O that men would foresee this! And not put themselves under the hammer of revenging fury, when they may have the treasure of happiness at so easy rates! And please God better in preventing their woe!
Richard Baxter, The Saints Everlasting Rest, 10th edition (London: Printed by R. W. for Francis Tyton, and are to be sold at the sign of the three Daggers in Fleet-street, 1650), 334–335.
Direct. xxvi. 'Conclude not the worse of the effects of a discovery of your bad condition, than there is cause.' Remember that if you should find that you are unjustified, it followeth not that you must continue so: you search not after your disease or misery as incurable, but as one that hath a sufficient remedy at hand, even brought to your doors, and cometh a begging for your acceptance, and is freely offered and urged on you: and therefore if you find that you are unregenerate, thank God that hath shewed you your case; for if you had not seen it, you had perished in it: and presently give up yourselves to God in Jesus Christ, and then you may boldly judge better of yourselves; it is not for despair, but for recovery that you are called to try and judge. Nay, if you do but find it too hard a question for you, whether you have all this while been sincere or not, turn from it, and resolvedly give up yourselves to God by Christ, and place your hopes in the life to come, and turn from this deceitful world and flesh, and then the case will be plain for time to come. If you doubt of your former repentance, repent now, and put it out of doubt from this time forward.
Richard Baxter, "Christian Politics," in A Christian Directory: Or, A Sum of Practical Theology, and Cases of Conscience (London: Printed for Richard Edwards; and Sold by James Duncan, Paternoster Row, and by All Other Booksellers, 1825), 6:534.


Other advocates within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following men:

Augustine, Hugh Latimer [Early English Reformer], Samuel Rutherford [Westminster divine], Thomas Manton [Puritan], Jeremiah Burroughs [Westminster divine], John Trapp [Puritan], Sydrach Simpson [Westminster divine], Joseph Caryl [Westminster divine], Robert Harris [Westminster divine], Theophilus Gale [Puritan], William Gearing [Puritan], Isaac Ambrose [Puritan], Stephen Charnock [Puritan], John Richardson [Puritan], John Flavel [Puritan], Thomas Watson [Puritan], Thomas Case [Puritan], Richard Sibbes [Puritan], John Shower [Puritan], John Collinges [Puritan], William Gurnall [Puritan], George Swinnock [Puritan], Ralph Venning [Puritan], Daniel Burgess [Puritan], Samuel Willard, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Andrew Gray, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

November 13, 2014

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) on Moral Power as Distinct from Natural Faculties

"3. I easily acknowledge that grace giveth such a power as is commonly called Moral, distinct from the natural faculties, as our corrupt estate contains an opposite impotency. But this is but an applying of the terms [Can] and [Cannot] [Power] and [Impotency] to Dispositions and Undisposedness, to Habits and their Privations. 
4. A new heart and spirit, I easily confess necessary. But those words do commonly signify in Scripture, only new Inclinations, Dispositions, Qualifications. It is a new heart, though only the old faculties and substance. I hope you will not follow Illyricus.
5. Where you say that [without faith a man can no more Receive Christ, nor do ought towards it, than a dead man can walk or speak.] I Reply 1. That proves not faith to be equivalent to a Potentia vel facultas, any otherwise then that it is of as absolute necessity, but not that it is of the same nature. If you show an illiterate man a Greek or Hebrew book, he can no more read in it then a dead man, that is, both are truly in sensu composito impossible: But yet it is but a habit that is wanting  to one, and a power or faculty natural, to the other. And so it may truly be said that a sinner cannot do well that hath accustomed to do evil, no more than a Leopard can change his spots, or a Blackmoore his skin. Yet if you mean that such are equally distant from actual change as a dead man, it is but a dead comparison. A dead man wants both natural faculties, and an inclination or moral power. An unbeliever wants but one."
Richard Baxter, The Reduction of a Digressor (London: Printed by A. M. for Thomas Underhill, at the Anchor and Bible in Pauls Church-yard near the little North-door, and Francis Tyton, at the three Daggers in Fleetstreet near Dunstans Church, 1654), 131.


November 12, 2014

Douglas Groothuis and Kierkegaard on Silence and Truth

Diversions and the omnipresent noise and clutter of contemporary culture erect barriers to the serious and disciplined pursuit of truth. Although I do not believe it is included in any apology for the Christian worldview (it is scarcely mentioned anywhere at all), one of the key elements in considering Christian truth claims is not an argument at all, but a condition in which arguments may be understood and appreciated. That condition is silence. No one has stated it better than Kierkegaard, who wrote before the onset of electrification and its manifold mind-numbing media.
In observing the present state of affairs and of life in general, from a Christian point of view one would have to say: It is a disease. And if I were a physician and someone asked me, "What do you think should be done?" I would answer, "Create silence, bring about silence." God's Word cannot be heard, and if in order to be heard in the hullabaloo it must be shouted deafeningly with noisy means, then it is not God's Word; create silence!

And we humans, we clever fellows, seem to have become sleepless in order to invent every new means to increase noise, to spread noise and insignificance with the greatest possible ease and on the greatest possible scale. Yes, everything has been turned upside down. The means of communication have been perfected, but what is publicized with such hot haste is rubbish. Oh, create silence!45
In the silence of rational reflection, truth may disclose itself to the receptive soul.46
45. Kierkegaard, in Provocations, p. 372. For an absorbing treatment of the meaning of silence, see Max Picard, The World of Silence, trans. Stanley Goodman (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1952).
46. On the dangers of diversion in our technological society see Douglas Groothuis, The Soul in Cyberspace (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997).

Groothuis also posted the Kierkegaard quote on his old blog here (click).

Thanks to Carrie Hunter for bringing this quote in Groothuis' book to my attention.

Nathanael Ball (1623–1689) on Pleading, not Merely Publishing

To be Pleaders with you about it. The Lord gives us leave to be exceeding earnest with you about the matters of your souls, to stir you up by all the Ways and by all the Arguments that possibly we can, to look after this Freedom. He requires that we should lay out the very strength of our spirits in this Work; that we should deal with you as for our lives, and as for the saving of our own souls. He would have us study what to say to you, and to pray much to God, that he would fill our mouths with Arguments when we come to speak to you; and that he would help us, that we may not be willing to let you alone in your trifling careless delays; but to urge upon you the necessity of this Freedom, and the danger of missing of it, and the benefit that you will reap by it. Ministers should not only be Publishers, but they should be Pleaders, yea, Beseechers of their hearers in this matter: We pray you in Christ's stead (saith the Apostle) be ye reconciled to God, 2 Cor. 5:20.
Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 56–57.


Credit to Travis Fentiman for bringing Nathanael Ball to my attention.

Similarly, B. H. Carroll said:
This scripture [Ezek. 33:11] teaches that those commissioned to publish the good tidings of salvation to men are exhorted by the Spirit of God to pray as they publish. They are not to be dumb placards on the wall; they are not to be cold advertisements in a paper; they are not be mere abstract announcements, but that publication shall be loving, sympathetic, earnest, accompanied by their prayers that God will lead the men to salvation whom he thus invites through the gospel.
[Note: Observe today how some preachers and apologists merely declare facts or abstract propositions in their evangelistic endeavors. They do not plead with men to lay hold of the freedom available in Christ. John J. Murray (in his preface to Silversides' book on The Free Offer) observes of our day that "although the gospel offer has not been consciously denied, the wooing note of former times has been lacking." We need to be watchful against this subtle coldness of heart and spirit of the hyper-Calvinist error.]

Herman Bavinck (1854–1921) on God's Love, Goodness, and the Means of Grace

Now it is indeed possible to speak of God's love to creatures or people in general (the love of benevolence), but for this the Scripture mostly uses the word "goodness," and as a rule speaks of God's love, like his grace, only in relation to his chosen people or church (the love of friendship).
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 2:215.
...the reprobates also receive many blessings, blessings that do not as such arise from the decree of reprobation but from the goodness and grace of God. They receive many natural gifts--life, health, strength, food, drink, good cheer, and so forth (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:17; 17:27; Rom. 1:19; James 1:17)--for God does not leave himself without a witness. He endures them with much patience (Rom. 9:22). He has the gospel of his grace proclaimed to them and takes no pleasure in their death (Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; Matt. 23:37; Luke 19:41; 24:47; John 3:16; Acts 17:30; Rom. 11:32; 1 Thess. 5:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Pelagians infer from these verses that God's actual intention is to save all people individually, and therefore that there is no preceding decree of reprobation. But that is not what these verses teach. They [the aforementioned verses] do say, however, that it is the will of God that all the means of grace be used for the salvation of the reprobates. Now, these means of grace do not as such flow from the decree of reprobation. They can be abused to that end; they may serve to render humans inexcusable, to harden them, and to make their condemnation all the heavier--like the sun, which may warm but also scorch a person. Yet in and by themselves they are not means of reprobation but means of grace with a view to salvation.164
164. Synopsis purioris theologiae, XXIV, 54ff.; H. Heppe, Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche, 134–35.
Ibid., 2:398.


November 6, 2014

William Prynne (1600–1669) on the Sufficiency and Efficacy of Christ's Death

"Thirdly, that Christ Jesus died sufficiently for all mankind, but effectually for none but the Elect, and true believers, who alone are saved by his death.

The sufficiency of Christ's death for all mankind, is expressed in these several places [in the Book of Common Prayer]. O God the Son redeemer of the World, have mercy upon us miserable sinners. Above all we must give humble and hearty thanks to God the Father, &c. for the redemption of the world, by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, &c. Almighty God our heavenly Father which of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our Redemption, who made there (by his own oblation once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, &c. O Lambe of God which takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayers. Secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me and all mankind. O Saviour of the world save us, which by the Cross and Passion has redeemed us: All this must be understood only of the sufficiency and merit of Christ's death, not of the efficacy, benefit, and application of it, which belongs to none but to the true Church of Christ, even the Elect and true believers as these passages ensuing will inform us. When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the Kingdom of heaven to all believers. We pray thee help thy servants, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood. O Lord save thy people, and make thy chosen people joyful. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and Redeemed his people. To give knowledge of Salvation to his people, for the remission of their sins. His mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations. He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel, &c. Spare thy people whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood. This is the blood of the new Testament, which is shed for you, and for many for the Remission of sin. Grant that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, & through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. Now the Church the mystical body of Christ, is the blessed company of all faithful and elect people, and none else but they; as the next prayer, the Collect on good Friday, and the places quoted in the first Position, prove. And whereas the Minister in distributing the Bread and wine, saith particularly to every man: take this in remembrance that Christ died effectually for all men; but the contrary, that he died only thus for the Elect and faithful: because our Church prohibits all such as want true faith and repentance, or live in any gross and known sins, to come to the Sacrament, admitting none but true and faithful penitents to it: so that the Minister and our Church do always look upon all Communicants, as the elect and chosen Saints of God, endued with true faith and repentance, and so they may well apply (at leastwise in the judgement of Charity) the efficacy and merits of Christ's death unto them. I will conclude this point with the passage of A Prayer necessary for all men. Jesus Christ thy only Son hath perfectly fulfilled thy Law, to justify all men that believe and trust in him. And thus much for our Common Prayer Book."