February 29, 2016

Thomas Mallery (fl.1662) on the Love of God

There is a threefold love of God to us.

First, a general love, a love of benevolence, or good will, common to all his creatures, as they are the works of his hand, so his mercy and love are over all his works; the invisible things of his Wisdom and Power are seen in every creature, Rom. 1. 20. And what of God is in any creature is lovely, and he loves every thing himself hath made.

Secondly, a particular love, a love of beneficence or bounty: Thus he loves man above all his other creatures before his fall, Pro. 8. 31. After his fall, Psal. 8. 4, 5. Heb. 2.16 Titus 3.4.

Thirdly, a more special and peculiar love, a love of Communion and Complacency; it is of such out of mankind whom God hath loved in Christ, with an everlasting love: these are believers according to Election.

Man is Partaker with other creatures of all that love of God that communicates to them, yet hath a special love of God that communicates to him, and no other creature hath part with him: Believers partake of all that love of God that communicates itself to all other creatures, and to all other men: yet hath a special love of God, in which no other creature, and no other men, partake with him. Thus a believer is Heir of all that love that ever issued forth from God, of this love of God the Text [Rom. 8:38–39] speaks.
Thomas Mallery [or Mallory], The Inseparable Communion of a Believer with God in His Love (London: Printed for R. D. near the Royal Exchange, 1674), 14–15.

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February 27, 2016

An Explanation of the Intent-Extent Distinction

When it comes to explaining the differences between non-Calvinists (including Arminians) and varieties of Calvinism on the subject of the design of the atonement, it is necessary to distinguish (not separate) between the intent and extent of the atonement. Notice that I said “explaining the differences” between these views. I did not say the people within these camps must themselves distinguish between the intent and extent of the atonement when they articulate their own atonement position. However, they must make these distinctions when attempting to accurately describe other positions historically. 

There is a difference between describing and prescribing, and we are all accountable to God to be honest about the views of other people. We should strive to the best of our ability to accurately portray the positions of those people with whom we disagree, even as we would want them to describe our own views accurately. That does not mean we are prescribing that they make the same distinctions when presenting their own theological perspective. Some positions have no need for the distinction, as we shall see. It does become necessary to make certain historical distinctions that you yourself might not make within your own view if you’re going to endeavor to properly describe other viewpoints. Even if we think that someone is making a distinction without a difference, then make that argument. We should still acknowledge that they themselves are making such a distinction.

The intent-extent distinction, for example, is crucial for those seeking to engage in objective historical theology on the design or purpose of the atonement. Various groups think about the will of God differently. Some see more complexity in the will of God than others, just as they see more complexity in the love and grace of God, and so different terminology is preferred.

Consider the four viewpoints below on the will of God and the atonement:

NON-CALVINIST
VIEW
MODERATE CALVINIST
VIEW
HIGH CALVINIST
VIEW
HYPER-CALVINIST
VIEW
God equally desires or intends the salvation of all.

 

Therefore He intended that Christ die as an equal satisfaction for all.
God desires the salvation of all, but intends or purposes to effect the salvation of the elect alone.

Therefore, even though God intended that Christ die to effect an equal satisfaction for the sins of all, Christ also has a special intent to effect the salvation of the elect alone.
God desires the salvation of all, but intends or purposes to effect the salvation of the elect alone.

Therefore Christ came to die as an equal satisfaction for the sins of the elect alone, since He intends their salvation alone.
God only desires or intends the salvation of the elect.



Therefore Christ came to die as an equal satisfaction for the sins of the elect alone, since He intends their salvation alone.

In the top level we can see what the groups generally think about the will of God. The second level shows what they think about the atonement in relationship to the will of God.

Describing the Views on the Will of God

Christians have used different terms for the “will” of God, depending on the stronger or weaker volitional content they want to import into the term. Weaker forms (likened to a velleity) include delight, wish, and sometimes desire. In some cases, these terms are not thought to involve an active principle in God. Some Calvinists prefer the term “delight” to convey a mere passive disposition in God’s revealed will, for example. With the term “desire,” one is moving toward more of a notion of an active principle. Stronger volitional terms include seek, strive, will, intent, and especially purpose.

Position 1: Since SBC non-Calvinists and Arminians think of God as equally willing the salvation of all men, they generally stick with the strongest volitional terms to convey God’s desire, intent, or purpose to effect that end. Even though some qualifications may be needed, their view may simply be summarized as “God equally desires or intends the salvation of all men.” They obviously want to also emphasize that this will is “in Christ” and “on condition of faith,” etc.

Positions 2 and 3: The Reformed orthodox (including moderate and high “Calvinists”) make a distinction in their thinking on God’s will, so they sometimes speak of the secret and revealed will, the decretal and preceptive will, the effectual and ineffectual will, voluntas beneplaciti and voluntas signi, and the antecedent and consequent will (in some cases, though this last distinction is sometimes rejected), etc. They usually reserve the strongest volitional language for God’s secret or effectual will, such as “intent” or “purpose,” but it is not uncommon in the early and post-Reformation scholars to use these strong terms for God’s revealed will as well. In modern times, however, they are reserved for the effectual will of God. Consequently, in various ways, the mainstream Reformed or “Calvinistic” theologians think of God wishing or desiring the salvation of all men, but intending or purposing the salvation of the elect alone. It is fair to summarize their view this way: God desires the salvation of all, but intends or purposes to effect the salvation of the elect alone. While a few today (mostly high Calvinists who are very ignorant of their own Reformed tradition) quibble over the term “desire,” and prefer to use language with less volitional content (such as “delight” or “wish”), they still agree that God, in His revealed will, wishes, wills, or desires the salvation of all men through repentance and faith in the gospel call. Both moderate and high Calvinists share this in common, even though they disagree over the atonement, as we shall see.

Position 4: Even though there are a variety of hyper-Calvinists (i.e. the classic Gillite variety; the Protestant Reformed Church [PRC] variety; and a modern eclectic variety that borrows from Gill’s re-definitions of “common love” and “common grace,” but sides with the PRC in re-defining “free offers” and in their acceptance of “duty-faith”), they do share one thing in common: they all, without exception, deny that God in any sense desires the eternal salvation of the non-elect. This is the essential basis for their re-definitions of the common love or benevolence of God (or total rejection of God’s universal benevolent love in the PRC variety), their re-definitions of the general grace of God (or total rejection of any “common” or “general grace” in the PRC variety), and their re-definitions of the free offer of the gospel (or total rejection of “free offers” in the Gillite variety). Even though they still distinguish between senses of God’s will, such as the decretal-preceptive will distinction (and other types of distinctions), their view on the will of God can simply be summarized this way: “God only desires or intends the salvation of the elect.”

Now that we see how these various traditions think about the will of God, as well as what kind of terminology they prefer to use for various categories of God’s will, we’re in a better place to understand how they think and speak about God’s will in relationship to the atonement of Christ, and why the intent-extent distinction is important, at least for historical reasons.

Describing the Views on the Atonement

How one thinks about the will of God has a direct bearing on their view of Christ’s intent in making the atonement, and in their view about the extent of His satisfaction.

Position 1: Since the non-Calvinists and Arminians think God equally intends the salvation of all men, they say that God intended that Christ die as an equal satisfaction for the sins of all men. He substituted himself in the stead of all men as a display of the fact that God equally wishes all men to repent and believe in Christ unto salvation. Those in this position may want more nuances and other terminology, but this is generally their view as represented in the popular literature, at least among those in the SBC. There seems to be no need to distinguish between God’s “intent” and the “extent” of Christ’s atonement in this view, given that Christ’s atoning work is all grounded in God’s equi-benevolent love for all men. God equally wants all men to believe unto salvation in Christ, therefore Christ came to die with that same equal intention, and thus satisfied for the sins of all men.

Position 2: This position requires that one distinguish between God’s efficacious purpose to save the elect alone, and the extent of Christ’s satisfaction, just as this position requires that people distinguish between God’s common and special love, or God’s common and special grace. God desires the salvation of all men in His revealed will, they say, and therefore desires to give men a well-meant gospel offer of salvation. This offer of salvation can only be given to those who are in a truly saveable state. Offerability presupposes salvability, and salvability presupposes an antecedent satisfaction for sin. Without the shedding of blood, no man can be saved. Through Christ’s death as an all-sufficient (or qualitatively equivalent) sacrifice for the sins of all men, every man is put into a saveable state, and thus into an offerable state. They can be sincerely offered salvation through Christ since they are now legally capable of being saved, since an atonement has been made for their sin.

Living non-elect humans differ from non-elect angels in this respect: the first group is saveable and the latter is not. Why? Because the former have a satisfaction made for them, which makes those that hear the gospel call doubly culpable if they do not believe. Thus, in one sense, God intended to put every man in a saveable state so as to display the beauty of his benevolent generosity and grace, as well as to demonstrate the extent of man’s sinfulness for neglecting so great a salvation. However, in another sense, God, in his electing grace, has purposed to effect the salvation of the elect alone through the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit, who eventually applies the all-sufficient benefits of Christ’s death to them by means of the grant of faith.

Since those in this camp think of God’s will in this complex fashion, they are sometimes called “Dualists” in their view of the atonement. Even if you disagree with them, you must still describe them as distinguishing between God’s effectual purpose or intent to effect the salvation of the elect alone, and God’s intent in Christ in making a qualitatively equivalent satisfaction for sin. God did effectually intend that Christ’s death accomplish a suitable remedy for every man (i.e. an ordained sufficiency), but God does not effectually intend to save every man thereby. Similarly, even though God in his common grace and providential love displays a wish or desire for the repentance and salvation of every man, it does not follow that He effectually purposes their salvation.

Everyone seeking to accurately describe this second position must distinguish between Christ’s intent to save and the extent of the satisfaction. The former is special, and for the elect alone, but the latter (the extent of His death) is general and for all. Disagree with it if you want, but you must still make the intent-extent distinction of you want to 1) accurately portray what they believe, and 2) detect the position in other theologians in the past. Objective historiography requires this.

Position 3: There is historical precedent for labeling this group as “high Calvinists,” but some in this group do not accept such a label. How they wish to be described is beside the point. They are a group of orthodox Calvinists who differ from the so-called “moderate” view when it comes to the extent of the atonement. For people in this camp, God’s effectual intent to save the elect alone and the extent of Christ’s satisfaction are equal in latitude: both are for the elect alone.

Since God intends to effect only the salvation of the elect, they argue that the imputation of sin to Christ corresponds to God’s electing purpose. They seek to verbally distance themselves from a crass commercialism or a quantitative equivalentism involved in Christ’s satisfaction for sin (i.e. so-much-suffering-for-so-many-elect-sins), but quantitative sin-bearing ideas and pecuniary cause-and-effect categories seem to inevitably arise in their frequent use of the double-payment argument, as well as (or especially) in John Owen’s famous “Trilemma.” Nevertheless, one should acknowledge in their descriptions of this group that they seek to distance themselves from commercialism, at least verbally, if not consistently. Also, the majority in this group see certain bounties of providence, or common grace, flowing to all as a result of Christ’s death. They tend to speak of a “universal aspect” in this sense alone, which sometimes confuses people since others conceive of a “universal aspect” differently, or of a “universal aspect” that involves an all-encompassing satisfaction for sin. The phrase “universal aspect” can therefore be ambiguous and confusing in the debate.

While high Calvinists do agree with the moderate Calvinists that God desires the salvation of all men in His revealed will, they argue that Christ did not pay a ransom price or redeem any but the elect alone. There really is no need to make an intent-extent distinction in this view since both correspond to each other, which is one reason why they think they are logically consistent and others are not. However, it is still the case that people in this group (like all the others) need to make an intent-extent distinction (in terms of Christ’s intent to save and the extent of His satisfaction) if they want to properly describe people in the moderate group historically. If they have an honest desire to accurately describe “Amyraldism,” or other forms of so-called “Hypothetical Universalism,” making the intent-extent distinction is still necessary.

Position 4: This position differs from the third position in terms of its rejection of the idea that God desires the salvation of all men. Again, this is the one thing that every variety of hyper-Calvinism shares in common, without exception. While the Gillites differ from the PRC in some respects, they do share that in common, along with modern eclectic varieties of hyper-Calvinism.

However, like those in position 3, they do agree that God’s intent to save the elect alone corresponds to the extent of Christ’s satisfaction. There is no need to make the intent-extent distinction to describe this group, but they, like all others, still need to make the distinction if they want to fairly describe other viewpoints without caricature. Historical honesty requires it.

People in this group are more prone to think of Christ’s death as a quantitative (rather than a qualitative) equivalency. Some argue in a so-much-suffering-for-so-many-elect-sins manner. This is why many, if not most of them, repudiate the notion that Christ’s death is sufficient for all. Not only does the extent of Christ’s satisfaction correspond to God’s limited saving intention, but the sufficiency of Christ’s death also explicitly corresponds to God’s elective purpose alone. They find fault with high Calvinists for embracing the “sufficient for all” aspect of the Lombardian Formula, and argue that they are the most logically consistent. After all, if arguing that the extent of Christ’s death is limited by God’s intent to save the elect alone, then why not the sufficiency of it as well? Why is there any need for a so-called “universal aspect” at all in the death of Christ? So some argue. The saving intention of God governs the extent of Christ’s satisfaction, as well as the sufficiency of the atonement, to the point that any “universal aspect” totally disappears.

Conclusion

This post is not about debating which position is correct biblically. It is about the need to properly describe the various positions historically, and how the intent-extent distinction is crucial for understanding the debate, particularly with respect to classic-moderate Calvinism. Without this distinction, one can fail to recognize the many theologians in the past who were in fact moderate. Also, without the distinction, one cannot properly describe the varieties of so-called “Hypothetical Universalism.”  If you wish to debate which view is correct, pick another place to comment. This is not it. If you want to correct my own descriptions of the various views, I welcome your input. Or, if you want clarification on any particular point that I mentioned above, I welcome your questions as well.

February 21, 2016

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) on Rom. 2:4 and the Will of God; With Reference to Ezek. 33:11, Matt. 5:45, 23:37, Acts 14:17, 1 Tim. 2:4–6, and 2 Pet. 3:9

There, then, is our second term, leadeth, and here we arrive at what has often proved to be a very difficult statement, which has often led to a good deal of discussion and debate and confusion. The Apostle’s statement is that God’s goodness leads them to repentance, and we need to know what he means by this. Why does he use this particular term? In Romans 8:14, he says, ‘For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God’, and that is exactly the same word as we have here, where we are told that the goodness of God ‘leadeth thee unto repentance’. Now this term does not, of course, mean forcing; it does not mean driving or bludgeoning. What is obviously means is a constraining influence. That is what you do when you lead a horse, or a dog, or any other animal. You are bringing to bear a constraining influence if you are holding the reins or the halter, or whatever it may be. There is no force of necessity, but there is a sense of constraint, there is an influence, a constraining influence, and what the Apostle says is that God’s goodness exercises this kind of constraining influence on men to bring them to repentance.

In view of that, then, we again have to ask what exactly he is teaching here. It is important that we should be clear about our terms, and the first thing we notice is that he is talking about unbelievers. These are the people who are not brought to repentance, therefore they are the unbelievers. And what the Apostle says is that they are without excuse because they are despising the goodness of God which was meant to bring them to repentance.

Now you see where the difficulty arises in the realm of theology. Here are unbelievers who die unrepentant, and yet the Apostle says that the goodness of God leads them, exercises this constraining influence upon them, to bring them to repentance. And it is not surprising that this has often been a bone of contention, and has engaged the attention of those who desire to have a truer understanding of God’s way of salvation and of how any single one of us ever does come to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

So what do we make of this? We must go back again to 2 Peter 3, this time to verse 9. Is it not interesting to notice the parallel between these Apostles? Always where you come across a difficult place in Scripture the thing to do is to compare Scripture with Scripture, to find another one, a parallel statement, something that is similar, and here it is: ‘The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance’. You notice it is saying almost precisely the same thing. And do you know that there are other statements in the Scriptures which speak to the same effect. You will find in Ezekiel 33:11, for instance, that God says, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked’. And you will find other statements in the Scriptures in which God, as it were, appeals to them, to the nation of Israel, and beyond the nation of Israel to all people, with the word ‘Oh!’ And you remember how our Lord Himself wept over Jerusalem and said, ‘Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often would I . . . and ye would not!’ [Matthew 23:27].

Now all these statements are parallels with the statement in this passage and therefore I must ask this question: What, then, is God’s goodness meant to do with regard to the unbeliever? For it is the unbeliever with whom we are dealing. There are people who have tried to evade this difficulty by saying that this statement means that God has shown His goodness to the unbeliever to render him without a single excuse; that He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends His rain on the just and the unjust, so that at the day of judgment they will have nothing to say. God’s goodness will be the answer to their every excuse. And yet, you see, we cannot accept that as an explanation, because if the Apostle had meant to say that, he would have put it in that way, and he would never have used the word ‘leadeth’. This word is too active and positive a word for that. If that had been merely God’s object, it would have had no effect upon them, it would not have been designed to have an effect upon man. But you cannot use the word ‘lead’ without getting the idea of a constraining influence. When you talk about somebody leading somebody else or of being led by a truth, it is very positive. That other idea just leaves it there on the wall, as it were, passive and negative, there merely to rob me negatively of any chance of excusing myself. But this is an active word.

What then, does it mean? It seems to me that there is only one conclusion we can come to, and that is that God’s goodness is meant and designed to bring men to repentance and salvation; and when I say ‘men’ I mean all men, unbelievers as well as believers. We are dealing with unbelievers here. The Apostle is arguing with men who will not repent and he says, even to them, that God’s goodness leads you, was meant and designed to lead you, to repentance. So the Apostle here is teaching that God manifests a positive favour even to the unbeliever – and that is where the importance of being clear about these matters comes in.

It is, as I have shown, a parallel with what our Lord teaches in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘. . . for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust’ [Matthew 5:45]. At this point, you remember, the Lord is talking to the disciples, and He tells them that they are to be perfect even as their Father which is in heaven is perfect; He tells them to love their enemies, and to do good to them that hate them. He says, you should do it because God does it. So we are to love our enemies as God loves His enemies. He loves the unbeliever and He shows that love in this goodness through the sun and the rain. There is the parallel.

We find the same again in Paul’s sermon at Lystra in Acts 14. But indeed it seems to me to be parallel also with what the Apostle has already been saying in chapter 1:20, where he says, ‘For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse’. So the teaching must be that this goodness of God is a manifestation of God’s grace to all men, sinners and unbelievers included. By these things He would lead all men to repentance and therefore to salvation. For as I have already quoted from 2 Peter 3:9, He does not wish that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Now then, where have we landed? ‘Does that mean’, says someone, ‘that  you are completely denying the doctrine of predestination and election?’ It sounds like it, does it not? But I am not. How, then, you may ask, do you reconcile these things? In this way: this is the manifestation of a grace of God, but it is obviously not efficacious grace; it is not effectual grace; it is not a constraining grace; it is not the irresistible grace. Because, although God manifests this grace to these people, it does not lead them to repentance. It is mean to, and it is designed to, but it does not do so. Why not?

Well, the answer is – and here we come up against a great mystery which we shall never solve in this world – there is clearly a difference between what God desires and what God wills and brings to pass. What God wills He performs and brings into being. But – and this is the astounding things that we are told – God does not wish that any should perish. He wishes that all should come to repentance. There are some who are brought to repentance, there are some who are not. It is God who brings to repentance, for no man left to himself would repent – this text proves that once and for ever with an unusual clarity. Though God manifests His goodness and His forbearance and His longsuffering, men despise it, they use it to serve themselves, their own ends, and their sins. They pass it by, they do not trouble to look at it. Though God has manifested His grace, and though He meant it to bring them to repentance, it does not do so. No one would repent if God did not bring us to repentance by an act of His will and by His constraining and effectual grace.

Now let me try to elaborate that a little, because it is important if we want to be clear about the Scriptures we are studying. We shall find the same thing again as we go on in this Epistle – it is at the very heart of chapter nine. It is there, as we have seen, in 2 Peter 3:9, it is in 1 Timothy 2:6, and so on. It is in many places in the Bible, and it is our business as Bible students and those who are anxious to glorify God, to come to an understanding of these things.

So consider yet another example of this in Acts chapter seventeen. The Apostle Paul, preaching at Athens, said, ‘The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent’. That is an absolutely universal statement; you cannot imagine anything more all-inclusive than that. In other words, the gospel is to be preached to all creatures. The offer of salvation is to be made to everybody. Not to some, but to all.

Now if you want to know what hyper-Calvinism means, it is the teaching which says that the gospel is only to be offered to some. And I have had the distinction of being called a dangerous Arminian by people who hold that belief, because I say that the gospel should be offered to all
. God commandeth all men everywhere to repent, which means that if you repent, then you come to salvation, it is the first step in it. Yes, and therefore the offer of salvation, the offer of Christ and His perfect work, should be preached to all men without distinction. And that message is to be preached in order that men may come to know God’s goodness and in order that they may yield to it. I say, therefore, that God wishes that all men should come to repentance and to salvation, but it is equally clear that He does not will it. Then that leads me to say that this extraordinary statement here in the second half of Romans 2:4 gives the lie directly to all who try to argue that what the gospel does it persuade us to repent. It is an absolute proof that we cannot be persuaded. God has manifested His goodness, His forbearance, His longsuffering. He has commanded that all men everywhere should repent. There is all the moral suasion that you can ever get.

But what is leads to in the case of the unbelievers is that they despise it. That is what the natural man does with it. Moral suasion will never save anybody. No man is saved simply by the influence or the general effect of the appeal of the gospel upon him. No man can repent or believe until he has a new nature. He must be born again, because ‘the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [1 Corinthians 2:14]. The natural is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So when God commands such a man to repent, he defies God and says he does not want to repent. When God showers His goodness upon him to lead him to repentance, he despises it. It is God alone who saves, by the mighty operation of His Holy Spirit in the depth of the soul and of the personality.

If ever a text, which on the surface seemed to be saying the opposite, proved that, it is this text – the goodness of God is designed to lead men to repentance. It does not do so. It never has done so. Man will always use God’s goodness to serve himself. He will trade on it. He will make merchandise of it. The last thing he does is so to see it that he repents. That is not what makes a man repent. It is the operation of the Holy Spirit in giving a man a new mind, a new outlook and a new understanding. The first proof that a man has been born again is that he repents and believes the gospel. That is the order of salvation. I commend to you the wisdom of working out this text again. Study it, take it with its parallels, and I think you will see that it will bring you to that inevitable conclusion.
D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapters 2:1–3:20, The Righteous Judgment of God (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1989), 51–56.
In studying this verse, we have not only been handling a rather difficult subject, but have been looking into something marvelous and wonderful, something inscrutable, something, I take it, that we will never fully understand throughout eternity, and it is this: how God, being who and what He is, could ever show any grace or love or kindness to those who have not only sinned and rebelled against Him, but whom He knows will remain finally impenitent. But He does so, and He addresses them like this, ‘Oh that ye had known!’ I do not pretend to be able to put these things into such intellectual order that no difficulties are left. There are difficulties. But, my dear friends, we are talking about God and we are but human beings! We are looking into the eternal, the character of God, and our business is to accept our Scriptures, not to try to evade a problem like this by saying, ‘Ah, it is just there in order to render them without excuse’. No. The word ‘leadeth’ is active and positive, we have had to face it. And there, it seems to me, is the only answer – He wishes the salvation of all, but He does not will it, for what God wills He brings to pass. But here, to me, is the mystery – that He wishes this, that He wishes their salvation and proves it by His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering. He wishes that even those who are impenitent should finally have repented and come to salvation. ‘Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!’

Let us therefore, my dear friends, tread carefully. Let us approach these high and great and abstruse matters with reverence and with godly fear. Above all, let us be careful of passing judgment upon God and what He does. That is what these people do who are without excuse, these despisers of His goodness. Let us, then, in a spirit of adoration and worship look at the words that the Holy Spirit gave to the Apostle, let us give them their full content, and let us always beware of pressing any statement by our own logic beyond its own meaning and its own context. But above all, let us always be careful to compare Scripture with Scripture, lest in our ignorance and haste we be guilty of so describing God as to make Him contradict Himself, and, indeed, of having a contradiction at the very center and heart of His own life and eternal being. What a privilege to be allowed to look into these things! Let us thank God.
Ibid., 57–58.

The original audio of this sermon may be heard here (click).

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February 20, 2016

Edward Reynolds (1599–1676) on God’s General and Special Love

Insomuch that even in God himself (to whom these passions are but by an anthropopathy attributed) that more general love of his providence and preservation (which is common to all his creatures) is (if I may so speak) of a lower degree (though not in respect of any intention or remission in his will, but only the effects thereof towards the things themselves) than that more special love of adoption, which he extendeth only to those, whom he vouchsafeth to make one in him, who was ‘unigenitus’ and ‘dilectus’ from everlasting.

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Note that Reynolds, a Westminster divine, connects God's general love with His "providence and preservation" that is "common to all his creatures." Biblically, and historically among all mainstream Calvinists, God's providential bounties that extend to all men are indicative of God's common, general or beneficent love.

February 18, 2016

Arthur Hildersham (1563–1632) on the Revealed Will of God

Look thou, & enquire thou into the revealed will of God, and there thou shalt find enough to encourage thee to turn unto him, and to assure thee that thou needest not doubt to find mercy, and grace with him, if thou canst now seek it.

First, God hath revealed in his Word, that he doth not desire nor take pleasure in the destruction of any wicked man; no not in his temporal destruction. He gave the old World warning of the Flood, an hundred and twenty years before it came, that by their repentance, they might have prevented it, as you shall see by comparing. 1 Peter 3.20. with Gen. 6.3. He gave Pharaoh, and the Egyptians warning of the plagues they enforced him to bring upon them, that by their repentance they might prevent them. And in giving them warning of the fiery hail, he expressly saith, he did it to that end that they might save their servants, and their cattle from that destruction. Exod. 9.19. Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field, &c. When his people had so deeply provoked him, to bring them into miserable captivity, and he had assured them by his Prophets, that he would do it; yet how oft was his heart turned within him, and his repentings kindled together? as the Prophet speaketh, Hosea 11.8. How oft, and how earnestly doth he warn them of it? How many means doth he use to persuade them, that by their repentance they would prevent it; See for proof of this, Jeremy 26.2, 3. And 36.2, 3, 6, 7. And if he take no pleasure in the destruction of the bodies of wicked men, is it possible he should delight in the destruction, and damnation of their souls? No, no, hearken how deeply he protesteth against this, Ezekiel 33.11. Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Yea, he protesteth this so deeply, even for this very purpose, that he might encourage every poor sinner to turn unto him. I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth saith the Lord God, Ezekiel 18.32; wherefore turn your self, and live ye.

Secondly, God hath revealed in his Word, that he doth earnestly desire the repentance and salvation of the most wicked man, and taketh great pleasure in it; and therefore earnestly seeketh to reclaim them, Ezek. 33.11. As I live saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in his death, but that he turn from his way, and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die O house of Israel. And this thou hadst heretofore, and hast this day experience of in thy self. How earnestly, and how mightily hath God laboured with thee this way? Yea, he beseecheth thee, and prayeth thee to be reconciled to him. 2. Cor. 5.20. Yea, there is nothing would so much delight him, as to see thee repent; as is set forth in the father of the prodigal, O what mirth and joy made he when he returned to him? Luke 15.23, 24.

Thirdly, God hath revealed in his Word, that Christ with all his merits, should be in the ministry of the Gospel offered unto all that feel themselves to be sinners (as the brazen serpent was lifted up, for all to look upon that were stung, Num. 21.9.) unto thee as well as unto any other is he offered, and thou art commanded to believe he died for thee. Mar. 16.15. Preach the Gospel to every creature. And what is it to preach the Gospel to him? Surely, to say to him as Lu. 2.11. Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. So Christ inviteth all. Joh. 7.37. Jesus cried saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. And of his invitation of sinners in this sort, the Lord saith, Isa. 45.19. I said not in vain seek ye me, I the Lord speak righteousness. If a poor sinner being thus invited, should come to Christ for grace, would he reject him? No, in no wise. Joh. 6.37. All that the father giveth me, shall come unto me, and him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.

Fourthly, God hath not in words only, but really given thee cause to feel by manifold experiments, that he loveth thee, and wisheth thee well. Even this is an argument of his love, that he hath preserved thee from so many dangers, Ps. 41.11. By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me; that he feedeth and cloatheth thee, Deut. 10.18. He loveth the stranger in giving him food and raiment; that thou sleepest so safely, and quietly on nights, Psal. 127.2. He giveth his beloved sleep. Thou wilt say, these are but common mercies.

I answer. True, yet concerning them, observe four things. 1. That to the faithful, these are pledges of his special love, as these places have proved. 2. That they are arguments of his goodness, even towards all men that enjoy them. For so saith the Apostle, Rom. 2.4. And if any man should have done this for thee, saved thy life but once, when thou wert in danger to have lost it, delivered thee out of debt, and danger, maintained thee with food, and raiment all thy life, thou wouldest not doubt but he loved thee unfainedly. Thou wouldest count it a foul sin to suspect or doubt of his love, or to entertain such a thought, O but for all that he hath done this for me, I doubt I have not his heart, I doubt he hath purposed in himself to be my destroyer in the end. And is it nothing for thee to suspect this of God? 3. Though these be but common mercies, yet it is a great sin to despise or set light by them. Rom. 2.4. Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering? 4. Thou depisest them if thou be not by them led, and encouraged to repent, and turn unto God Rom. 2.4.

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February 14, 2016

John Calvin (1509–1564) on John 12:48 and Jesus’ Ardent Desire

48. He who rejecteth me. That wicked men may not flatter themselves as if their unbounded disobedience to Christ would pass unpunished, he adds here a dreadful threatening, that though he were to do nothing in this matter, yet his doctrine alone would be sufficient to condemn them, as he says elsewhere, that there would be no need of any other judge than Moses, in whom they boasted, (John v. 45.) The meaning, therefore, is: “Burning with ardent desire to promote your salvation, I do indeed abstain from exercising my right to condemn you, and am entirely employed in saving what is lost; but do not think that you have escaped out of the hands of God; for though I should altogether hold my peace, the word alone, which you have despised, is sufficient to judge you.”
John Calvin, “Commentary on the Gospel of John,” in Calvin’s Commentaries, trans. William Pringle, vol. 18 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996), 2:51. Erroll Hulse cites this passage in Calvin as he affirms Jesus’ desire for all to be saved in Who Saves, God or Me? Calvinism for the Twenty-First Century (Darlington, UK: Evangelical Press, 2008), 138.

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