September 26, 2016

John Calvin (1509–1564) on the Proper Office of the Gospel

The Gospel is preached for salvation: this is what properly belongs to it; but believers alone are partakers of that salvation. In the mean time, its being an occasion of condemnation to unbelievers—that arises from their own fault. Thus Christ came not into the world to condemn the world, (John iii. 17,) for what need was there of this, inasmuch as without him we are all condemned? Yet he sends his apostles to bind, as well as to loose, and to retain sins, as well as remit them. (Matt. xviii. 18; John xx. 23.) He is the light of the world, (John viii. 12,) but he blinds unbelievers. (John ix. 39.) He is a Rock, for a foundation, but he is also to many a stone of stumbling. (Isaiah viii. 14.) We must always, therefore, distinguish between the proper office of the Gospel, and the accidental one (so to speak) which must be imputed to the depravity of mankind, to which it is owing, that life to them is turned into death.
John Calvin, “Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians,” in Calvin’s Commentaries, trans. J. Pringle, 22 vol. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 20:161.

Along the same lines, in his comments on Romans 1:16, Calvin said:
The gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, but the power of it appears not everywhere: and that it is the savour of death to the ungodly, does not proceed from what it is, but from their own wickedness.
These quotes by other Reformed theologians say the same:

James Nalton (c.1600–1662):
...the Gracious pardon of God that is tendered in the Gospel, does not kill, or condemn any in it self, or in its own Nature, but through the contempt of those that do disregard it, in this regard, not simply, but accidentally, through the Corruptions of men’s hearts, and Natures, in this regard, the Gospel may be said to increase a man's curse and condemnation...
Matthias Martinius (1572–1630):
...and the gospel, which in itself is a savor of life unto life, becomes to the unbelieving a savor of death unto death, by accident, through their own fault,...
William Fenner (1600–1640):
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.
And Strong said:
Every man that is under the curse, is under the Covenant that inflicts the curse: but all Mankind by nature are under the curse; therefore the curse is the curse of the first Covenant; and the Gospel does not make men miserable but leaves them so. He that believes not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him; that is, only by accident, as the mercy of it is condemned; so indeed it heightens the sin, and aggravates the condemnation: but the curse is properly the curse of the first Covenant, the Gospel in itself speaks nothing but blessing.
William Strong, A Discourse of the Two Covenants [...] (London : J. M. for Francis Tyton, 1678), 2. See also pp. 42, 43.


September 18, 2016

John Bunyan (1628–1688) on Reprobation and the Loving Heart of God

Consider, 1. That the simple act of reprobation, it is a leaving or passing by, not a cursing of the creature.

Consider, 2. Neither doth this act alienate the heart of God from the reprobate, nor tie him up from loving, favouring, or blessing of him; no, not from blessing of him with the gift of Christ, of faith, of hope, and many other benefits. It only denieth them that benefit, that will infallibly bring them to eternal life, and that in despite of all opposition; it only denieth so to bless them as the elect themselves are blessed. Abraham loved all the children he had by all his wives, and gave them portions also; but his choice blessing, as the fruit of his chiefest love, he reserved for chosen Isaac. Gen. xxv. 5, 6.
John Bunyan, “Reprobation Asserted,” in The Whole Works of John Bunyan, 3 vols. (1875; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 2:338.


Note: The Reformed scholastics generally distinguish between preterition and pre-damnation in God’s eternal decree touching the non-elect. By the term “reprobation” above, Bunyan clearly has in mind the notion of simple preterition (negative reprobation), or the divine decree not to grant certain blessings, such as faith, to the non-elect. He’s not dealing with God’s purpose to give the non-elect over to damnation on account of sin (i.e. pre-damnation). Pre-damnation is always on account of sin (even in William Twisse’s supralapsarian construct), and so is conditional, but preterition is unconditional, and is therefore a simple passing-by.

Update (re: predamnation and Twisse):

Notice what Nicholas Byfield (1579–1622) said about preterition and predamnation:
Fifthly, that whereas Divines make two parts of the decree of reprobation, Preterition and Predamnation; all Divines [even the supralapsarians] are agreed for the latter [predamnation], that God did never determine to damne any man for his owne pleasure, but the cause of his perdition was his owne sinne. And here is reason for it: for God may, to shew his soveraignty, annihilate his creature; but to appoint a reasonable creature to an estate of endlesse paine, without respect of his desert, cannot agree to the unspotted justice of God. And for the other part of passing over, and forsaking a great part of men for the glory of his justice, the exactest Divines doe not attribute that to the mere will of God, but hold that God did first looke upon those men as sinners, at least in the generall corruption brought in by the fall. For all men have sinned in Adam, and are guilty of high treason against God.
Nicholas Byfield, A Commentary Upon the First Three Chapters of the First Epistle General of St. Peter (London: Printed by Miles Flesher and Robert Young, 1637), 312.

Notice that Byfield says all divines are agree on the cause of predamnation being sin. They know that to say otherwise entails blasphemy, since it would be against Gods just nature. It is also worth noting that the terminology of “predamnation” (prædamnatio) is frequently used among the Reformed orthodox. It’s in Lucas Trelcatius, Franciscus Junius, Francis Turretin (Institutes, 1:381, 382, 389), Richard Stock, Edward Leigh, Nathanael Homes, Adam Martindale, Johannes Wollebius, Thomas Manton, James Ussher, George Newton, John Trapp, and Edward Polhill, just to name a few. William Cunningham noted that there are “two distinct acts, which Calvinistic theologians usually regard as included in what is commonly called the decree of reprobation, namely, first, praeteritio, or passing by, which is an act of sovereignty; and secondly, praedamnatio, which is a judicial act, described in the [Westminster] Confession as ‘ordaining them to dishonour and wrath for their sin’” (Historical Theology, 2:422–23). For more on this, it is worth consulting Donald W. Sinnema, The Issue of Reprobation at the Synod of Dort (1618–19) in Light of the History of this Doctrine (PhD diss. University of St. Michaels College, University of Toronto, 1985).

On a discussion board, someone has posted this quote from William Twisse, as if it is contrary to what I said:
In like sort, if I am demanded whether God did decree, of the mere pleasure of his will, to refuse to give grace and glory unto some, and to inflict upon them damnation. To this I cannot answer at once, there being a fallacy in the demand. But distinguish them: I answer and say, that, as touching the point of denying grace, God doth that of his mere pleasure; but as touching the denial of glory, and the inflicting of damnation, he doth not decree to do these of mere pleasure, but rather merely for sin, to wit, for their infidelity and impenitency, and all the bitter fruits that shall proceed from them. So that reprobation, according to our tenet rightly stated, is the decree of God partly to deny unto some, and that of his mere pleasure, the grace of faith and repentance, for the curing of that infidelity and hardness of heart, which is natural unto all, and partly to deprive them of glory, and to inflict damnation upon them, not of his mere pleasure, but merely for their final continuance in sin, to wit, in infidelity and impenitency, and all the fruits that proceed therehence.
William Twisse, The Riches of God’s Love Unto the Vessels of Mercy, Consistent with His Absolute Hatred or Reprobation of the Vessels of Wrath (Oxford: Printed by L. L. and H. H. Printers to the University, for Tho. Robinson, 1653), 1:5–6.

This quote actually substantiates my point about Twisse. Notice that, with respect to “denying grace,” i.e. negative reprobation, Twisse says this is of God’s mere pleasure. There is no cause in the creature that moves God either to elect some unto faith or to refuse others the grace of faith. However, “as touching the denial of glory, and the inflicting of damnation, he doth not decree to do these of mere pleasure [i.e. without a cause], but rather merely for sin, to wit, for their infidelity and impenitency,” and all sin that proceeds from this. Twisse then distinguishes between senses of “reprobation” in the decree of God: 1) to deny unto some, of his mere pleasure, the grace of faith and repentance, and 2) “to deprive them of glory, and to inflict damnation upon them, not of his mere pleasure, but merely for their final continuance in sin,” etc. 

The first sense is of God’s “mere pleasure,” or without a cause in the creature, but the second sense is not of God’s mere pleasure, but on account of sin in the creature. So, it is fair to say that, according to Twisse, the first sense, or negative reprobation, is unconditional (i.e. without a cause in the creature) and the second sense, or positive reprobation, is conditional (i.e. with a cause in the creature). As Twisse elsewhere said, “...God in this decree of condemnation hath alwayes the consideration of that sinne for which hee purposeth to damne them; for, undoubtedly, hee decrees to condemne no man but for sinne. It is impossible it should be otherwise; condemnation, in the notion thereof, formally including sinne” (A treatise of Mr. Cottons clearing certaine doubts concerning predestination together with an examination thereof [London: Printed by J.D. for Andrew Crook, 1646], 111; emphasis mine).

As Richard Muller has rightly noted, Twisse also distinguished between an unconditional election or predestination to faith and a conditional election or predestination to salvation. Zanchi and Bucer also made this distinction. Election to faith is of God’s mere pleasure, or unconditional, but election to salvation is through the instrumentality of faith and repentance, and so “conditional” in that instrumental sense, even though God grants the meeting of the condition in the elect. Corresponding to this in the case of the non-elect or reprobate, the denial of the grace of faith is of God’s mere pleasure, or unconditional, but the decree to damn is not of God’s mere pleasure, but on condition of final impenitence, infidelity, and all the sinful fruits that stem from unbelief.

Note what Twisse said:
In this respect of another will of God, I willingly confess, one may be accounted predestinate absolutely, and another reprobated absolutely, to wit, in respect of the will of giving the grace of faith and repentance unto one, and denying it to another [i.e. preterition, or negative reprobation]: And that because faith and repentance are not given and denied upon any condition, but absolutely, according to the mere pleasure of God; as we are ready to maintain. But herehence no species of contradiction arises, for like as it is not contradiction to say that God wills absolutely unto Paul the grace of faith and repentance, and conditionally wills unto him and everyone salvation, to wit, upon the condition of faith and repentance: In like sort, there is no contradiction to say that the same man predestinated absolutely unto faith, and conditionally unto salvation: In like sort it may said without all contradiction, that the same man is both reprobated absolutely from faith, and yet reprobated conditionally from glory unto condemnation. And lastly, in like manner, there is no contradiction to say, that the same man is predestinated conditionally to obtain salvation; and yet absolutely reprobated from faith: especially seeing it is all one, to be predestinated conditionally to obtain salvation, and conditionally to obtain damnation: for he that is ordained to be saved in case he do believe, is therewithal ordained to be damned in case he believe not: The ground whereof is, that of our Savior “whosoever believes shall be saved, whosoever believes not shall be damned.” Now if God may both will unto a man salvation conditionally, to wit, upon the condition he believes, and yet withal will the denial of faith absolutely unto him, without all contradiction, (as I have already proven) it follows, that without contradiction, a man may be said both to be predestinated to obtain salvation conditionally, viz. In case he do believe, and so to be predestinated absolutely, to be hardened, or to have the grace of faith denied to him. So that this Author’s conclusion depends merely upon confusion of different denominations of a man said to be absolutely, or conditionally predestinated: which may be in respect of different things whereto he is predestinated, to the one absolutely, to the other conditionally, and consequently without all contradiction. For he that is absolutely reprobated from the grace of faith, may yet be conditionally predestinated unto salvation. For to be conditionally predestinated unto salvation, is to be conditionally predestinated unto damnation, and what sober man will say man will say, that there is any contradiction in this, to say that the same man is both conditionally reprobated unto damnation, and absolutely reprobated from faith. Faith being such a gift of God, that like as God absolutely bestows it on some, so as absolutely he denies it to others. But as for condemnation, that is inflicted on none but for sin, like as salvation is bestowed on none of ripe years, but as reward of obedience. In like manner, God decreed not either to bestow the one, or inflict the other but conditionally, to wit, upon the condition of faith on the one side, and upon the condition of infidelity on the other. Now if such confusion be committed in these denominations of the predestinate and reprobate, absolutely and conditionally, one the part of things willed by God, as namely in respect of grace and glory on the one side, and in respect of the denial of grace and glory, together with inflicting damnation on the other; How much more must this confusion be augmented, if not only different things willed by God (as before mentioned) are confounded, but over and above the act of God’s will is confounded with things willed by him. For as the act of God’s will, that it admits no condition, I have formerly demonstrated by diverse arguments…
William Twisse, The Riches of God’s Love unto the Vessels of Mercy, consistent with his absolute hatred or reprobation of the Vessels of Wrath (Oxford: Printed by L. L. and H. H. Printers to the University, for Tho. Robinson, 1653), 1:176.

This represents what Twisse is saying above:

Unconditionally predestined to faith. Unconditionally denied the grace of faith.
Conditionally predestined to salvation. Conditionally predestined to condemnation.

One can summarize Twisse’s view by saying, as Edwin H. Palmer said in his Twelve Theses on Reprobation, “Reprobation as preterition is unconditional, and as condemnation it is conditional” (The Five Points of Calvinism: A Study Guide [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972], 129).

Robert Reymond, a supralapsarian, said something similar:
And, while it is true that God’s determination to pass by the rest of mankind (this “passing by” is designated “preterition” from the Latin praeteritio) was grounded solely in the unsearchable counsel of his own will, his determination to ordain those whom he had determined to pass by to dishonor and wrath (condemnation) took into account the condition which alone deserves his wrath—their sin.
Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 345.

Twisse said:
For as for God’s purpose to damne, we willingly professe, that as God damnes no man but for sin, so he purposeth to damne no man but for sinne. But as for his purpose to give or deny the grace of regeneration, the grace of faith and repentance, we as readily profess, that not the purpose only, but the very giving of faith and repentance, for the curing of infidelity and hardnesse of heart in some, and the denying of it unto others, so to leave their naturall infidelity and hardnesse of heart uncured, proceeds merely according to the good pleasure of his will, according to that of the Apostle, He hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardneth; And by a cloud of testimonies out of Austin we can prove, that in this very sense he understood the Apostle in that place.
William Twisse, The Riches of God’s Love unto the Vessels of Mercy, consistent with his absolute hatred or reprobation of the Vessels of Wrath (Oxford: Printed by L. L. and H. H. Printers to the University, for Tho. Robinson, 1653), 1:109.

Commenting on supralapsarianism and Twisse’s view, John Gill said:
I answer, the Supralapsarians distinguish reprobation into negative and positive; negative reprobation is non-election, or preterition, a passing by of some, when others were chosen; the objects of this decree, are men considered as not yet created, and so neither wicked nor righteous. Positive reprobation is the decree of damnation, or that which appoints men to everlasting ruin, to which it appoints no man but for sin. It is therefore a most injurious representation of the Supralapsarians, that they assert that God has reprobated, that is, appointed innocent persons to eternal destruction; when they, over and over, say, as may easily be observed in the writings of that famous Supralapsarian, Dr. Twiss, that God has not decreed to damn any man, but for sin: and that the decree of reprobation is of no moment, or reason of nature, before, and without the consideration of sin. Now, if it is not incompatible with the justice of God, to damn men for sin, it can be no ways incompatible with his justice, to decree to damn men for sin.
John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 157.

We see in Twisse and others that God’s determination to damn is on account of their sin, or, as Reymond put it, positive reprobation takes “into account the condition which alone deserves his wrath—their sin.” To say Twisse’s view is an “unconditional determination to damn men on account of sin” is incoherent, and not representative of Twisse’s thought. If God is taking into account men’s sin when he purposes to damn them, then that is clearly a condition in them, and so it is a conditional determination to damn men on account of sin. As Twisse said above, “God decreed not either to bestow the one [salvation], or inflict the other [damnation] but conditionally, to wit, upon the condition of faith on the one side, and upon the condition of infidelity on the other.” According to Twisse, “it may said without all contradiction, that the same man is both reprobated absolutely from faith [i.e. preterition], and yet reprobated conditionally from glory unto condemnation.”

Paul N. Archbald’s Summary of Theodore Beza (1519–1605) on the Grace and Love of God

Beza also occasionally speaks in terms of what could be called common grace. He suggests that, in a sense, Christ died for the wicked, because all things were created by the Father in the Son (1 Corinthians 15:22). The wicked therefore receive life and blessing, but all this turns to a curse for them. Only those grafted into Christ are made partakers of His resurrection-life.66 Beza rejects the idea that the incarnation made all without exception members of Christ. Union with Christ applies to the church alone. It is by covenant, not by nature.67

It is still possible, however, to speak of a universal love of God. At Montbéliard, Andreae asked if God has ever loved those who are now damned, or will be. Beza replied with Augustine’s distinction that God both hates and loves at the same time. He loves what He has created, and He loves His ordaining of human beings as vessels for some use or other. He hates the sinful works of men, the ungodliness which He Himself did not make. God, “in that He makes vessels of perdition of the mass of the lost, does not hate what He does.”68
66. Questions, 21a-22.
67. Ibid., 36-36a.
68. Coll. Mont., 212-213. [“...Deum odisse simul & amare homines: amare videlicet homines quatenus sunt opus suum, odisse vero in hominibus opera hominis, id est peccata...]
Paul N. Archbald, A Comparative Study of John Calvin and Theodore Beza on the Doctrine of the Extent of the Atonement (PhD diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1998), 294–295. See also pp. 222–223. William Strong (d.1654), the Westminster divine, also said Beza taught God’s “common love” for all creatures as such, along with Calvin.

Beza wrote:
But lest thou exclaim that I do wrangle, I confess that the Lord doth do[?] an incredible favor and leniency, even towards the vessels of wrath, ordained to destruction. When is it that he should not destroy Cain by and by? Whence is it that he should protract the flood so many years? Whence is it that he should bless Esau with the plentifulness of the earth? That Ishmael should grow to a great kindred? That he should suffer the Caananites and the Amalachites so long? That he should not take away Saul by and by, but suffer him so long to enjoy the benefit of this life, and also the renown and benefits of the Kingdom of Israel? Finally, that we prosecute antiquities, whence is it that he so nourisheth, and so favorably suffereth so many wicked Turkes, such tyranny of Antichrist, and finally thyself with so many false Prophets, who cease not to seduce whomsoever they may from God's truth. Great, yea great and incomprehensible is this goodness of God towards his enemies, which would God they could once acknowledge, whosoever are elect among them, and be not known, that they might at the last return to him, who truly showeth himself favorable, and slow to wrath even to his adversaries.
Theodore Beza, An Evident Display of Popish Practices, or Patched Pelagianism, trans. William Hopkinson (London: Imprinted by Ralph Newberie, and Henry Bynnyman, 1578), 62–63. In the "benefits" that God gives the vessels of wrath who are "ordained to destruction," He is being "good" to them, "blessing" them, and showing Himself "favorable" to them. This backs up Archbald's claim above that "Beza also occasionally speaks in terms of what could be called common grace."

September 14, 2016

Jeremiah Burroughs (c.1600–1646) on Hosea 11:4 and the Difference in the Love of God

Again, He loves thee with the very same Love wherewith he loves Jesus Christ himself; In John 17, about the latter end, That thou mayest love them with the same Love wherewith thou hast loved me, saith Christ to the Father. Oh! to have the same Love that the Father loves Christ withal, Is not this a strong Bond to bind thy heart to God? If God had loved thee only so, as to give thee an estate and honors here in this world, this is no other love but that the Reprobate may have, and will this Love satisfy thee? Oh! the difference between the Love of God to his Saints, and the Love of God to other men! he loves the great ones of the world that are wicked with no other love, but with the love that he loves a Reprobate; but he loves the Saints with the same Love wherewith he loves his Son, and this Love will bring thee one day, to be one with the Father and the Son, and is not here a strong Bond of Love to gain thy heart to Himself?
Jeremiah Burroughs, An Exposition with Practical Observations Continued Upon the Eleventh, Twelfth & Thirteenth Chapters of the Prophesy of Hosea (London: Printed by Peter Cole, at the sign of the Printing-Press in Cornhil, near the Royal Exchange, 1651), 82–83. Some spelling updated.