June 30, 2017

Daniel Rogers (1573–1652) on God’s Well-Meaning and Loving Offer of Grace

First, it is accidental to God’s offer of Grace, that the condemnation of the wicked is aggravated thereby. For it is not through his default, but theirs. His offer is directly to his own elect; but if the other will mix themselves, and abuse this offer, their blood be upon their heads. Put case a Prince offer his pardon to ten of whom he knows none will not accept it: is it his fault to offer it? or is he the cause of their contempt? Doth he infuse it into them? No surely. Nay further, (to stop the mouth of all such cavilers) this I add, That God doth not hereby only aggravate their judgment: for he doth by his Gospel bestow upon them many gifts of his Spirit, much restraint of sin, many merciful allowances which others want, so that by this means their condemnation is lessened.
Daniel Rogers, Naaman the Syrian His Disease and Cure (London: Printed by Th. Harper for Philip Nevil, 1642), 13 [errata; or insert at the beginning of the book].
Fifthly, let thy stony heart break in pieces between the hammer of his Sovereignty, and the pillow of his long suffering and patience toward thee. Surely in that he hath so long had thee as so infinite advantage, its strange that ever he should forbear thee so long, offer thee such means & ordinances; or should pass by the days of thine ignorance, or suffer any seed or remainder of a tender heart to abide in thee. I say, it is strange he should restore thee out of so many perils, diseases, and hazards: still present thee with hope and possibility of forgetting such a multitude of transgressions, and forgiving thy offenses. What should all this argue, save a most bountiful abatement of extremity & rigor, and that (notwithstanding his power, yet) his love is more prevailing with him, to spare thee? Shall this kindness of his, leading thee to repentance, be an occasion to forget both his sovereignty, and thine own guiltiness, and (according to thine hard heart which cannot repent) wax stout and willful against him, and so heap up wrath against the day of just vengeance [Rom. 2:4]? No, rather, this mixture of both, should keep thee within bounds, and put holy thoughts of his purpose and pleasure into thee: than breed a desperate enmity on the one side, or security on the other, (to both which thy heart is far more propense) then to come in, give up thy weapons, and tremble at thy wretchedness.
Ibid., 18. On page 19, Rogers continues to encourage sinners to repent by speaking of “those cords which the Gospel puts in, and offers thee in this dungeon, and of that ladder which is thrust in for thee to come up by.”
Also do not by this doctrine [of God’s sovereignty], disorder the secret and revealed will of God, but reverendly distinguish and observe both. The one is that by which he hath determined the ends: The other whereby he appoints the duties of men: The one is unknown to thee: adore it, but snare not thyself with it: let not that forestall thy care and diligence in use of the means appointed by the revealed will. Say not thus, if I knew myself ordained to salvation, I would apply myself willingly to them: but how do I know whether I belong to God, and shall not use the means in vain to increase my judgment? I answer thee, Election is not revealed to any to encourage them to use means, or believe. But means of faith are offered to encourage to believe. The knowledge of Election (in such as attain it) flows from faith, not faith from it. Fall thou to the means as God offers them: which shall be a sign unto thee of an humble and plain heart: and descant not upon that thou knowest not (a sign of a froward, rebellious spirit.) Thou are in the dungeon: the Lord offers thee a ladder to come out, cords and rags to hail thee up. As Ebedmelech did to Jeremiah. Should Jeremiah standing in his mire, have felt more will to descant upon Ebedmelech’s purpose in the casting in of rags and cords, then desire to apply himself to the way of coming out, might he not have lain long enough there? but if God have given thee the heart of Jeremiah, to tremble at the dungeon: thou wilt not find leisure to quarrel with Ebedmelech, what his meaning is unto thee, but simply judge his meaning by his act, his love by his cords: and say, thou mayest leave thy offer, for then thou mightest have spared this labor. Therefore, I obey thy charge, and trust thee for drawing me up, who gavest me thy cords! and when I am drawn out, then will I say, now I know thy good will by the effect thereof. Do so in this case, and prosper.
Ibid., 26–27. For virtually the same thoughts, see also Daniel Rogers, A Practicall Catechism (London: Printed by I. N. for Samuel Man, 1632), 183.
This offer will appear so much the freer, if also we mark the circumstances in which the Scripture expresseth the offer, called the cords of love by Hosea: by which he draws the soul to see his meaning, sometimes by his long patience and waiting upon her; notwithstanding all her deafness of ear, and deadness of heart, and dallying with his offer. Oh! his locks are bedewed with the drops of night! His long suffering and patience is a bottomless depth beyond all the expectation of man! It is long ere thy unbelief could weary him; he hath lengthened out the season of grace, according to the length of grace itself; forborn thee long, kept off judgment a long while, which might have swept thee away from hope many years since. He hath recovered the lives of many of us twice or thrice, that we might renew our covenants and keep them. And he hath spared us when we have broke them, pressing in upon us with renewing of good motions and affections which we had quenched, as being loth to lose us, giving us helps and means even out of season, after long contempt, confessing himself to mean as he speaks: Why lay you out your money, and not for bread, and your silver for that which profits not? Hearken unto me! eat good things!

So sometimes by his protestations of his loathness that any poor soul should perish! Why will ye die oh ye house of Israel! Anger is not in me, why should flame consume the stubble! What should I do to my vine that I have not done? Sometimes by his passions and lamentations; Luke 19:42. Oh! that thou hadst seen, even in that day, the things that concern thy peace; but now they are hidden!

Those tears and mournings over Jerusalem for her hard heart and contempt, have been and are still over thee! If there be any dampings and streightnings [sic] of spirit, thou hast caused them by thy dalliance and heart that would not repent. But the Lord for his part still cries, How oft would I have gathered thee as the Hen doth her chickens? Sometimes by his writings to this feast of his Son, sometimes by his contestation, sometimes by his entreaties and earnest exhorting, sometimes by his allurements, to persuade and toll on the heart that hangs off, by the promise of all the good things which he offereth; sometimes by his severe threats to all that refuse his offers: all these show how willing and cordial he is to part with his grace: and lastly, sometimes by the universality of it, that he dispenses it without all respect of persons, age, sex, states and conditions, who exempt not themselves.
R. P., Collections, Or Brief Notes Gathered Out of Mr Daniel Rogers’s Practical Catechism for Private Use ([London] n.p.: Printed for the Author, 1648), 118–120. See also Daniel Rogers, A Practicall Catechism (London: Printed by I. N. for Samuel Man, 1632), 178–179. Rogers distinguishes between “common grace” and “peculiar grace” on page 207.
Let this be a sweet preparative unto us, to frame us to believe. Entertain we not any base cursed thoughts of God in the simplicity of his offer. Nourish all possible persuasion in the soul of his unfeigned meaning towards thee in this kind: thou canst honor him no better, than to agree with him, in his meaning well to thee. There is no greater difficulty of faith than this seed of bondage in us, to judge of God by ourselves. We muse as we use. If we have an enemy, we cannot forget his wrongs, we meet him not without indignation: and therefore so we think of God also to us, and the rather, because he hath so much vantage over us. But oh poor wretch, jealousy against his love? Is it not rather oil to the flame? Pull down thy traitor’s heart; hate not him whom thou hast hurt; put on an holy and child-like opinion of him, who when he needed not, yet purposed, sent, received this satisfaction for thee, and therefore cannot lie in offering it to thee. Say thus: Lord, thy sweet offer, naked bosom, cords of love, passions of sick love, sometime to allure, sometime to contest, command, urge, threaten, and beseech, turning thee into all forms of persuasion, to win my soul: all these convince me of thy well-meaning towards me. If my own enmity to my enemy, and the slander of Satan that thou enviest my good, do assault me never so much, and my traitorous heart conspire with them, yet this thy gracious offer in thy Gospel, shall bear down all. Read Isa. 55:7. For my ways are not as your ways, nor my thoughts as your thoughts: but as far above them, as heaven above the earth. Add this: All the understanding of man cannot comprehend the love of this offer, no more than the eye of a needle can the great Camel: and shall I go about to lessen it?
Ibid., 125–126. See also Daniel Rogers, A Practicall Catechism (London: Printed by I. N. for Samuel Man, 1632), 184–185.
For an Offer is no otherwise differing from a promise, then as a general out of which a particular issueth: the promise is included in an offer, but yet in special, expressing the covenant of God to all that express the offer, that he will receive them, be their God, both in pardon and all-sufficiency.
Ibid., 121. See also Daniel Rogers, A Practicall Catechism (London: Printed by I. N. for Samuel Man, 1632), 180.

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June 27, 2017

Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949) on God’s Will of Decree and Will of Precept, His Love, and His Emotion

71. What do we understand, respectively, by the will of decree and the will of precept?

The will of decree is God’s free determination of all that will come to pass and how it will occur. The will of precept is the rule laid down by God for rational beings to direct their conduct accordingly.

72. What difficulty does this distinction cause?

Many things that God forbids occur, and many things that He commands do not occur. Therefore, the will of decree and the will of precept seem to directly oppose each other.

73. Can all attempts to remove this difficulty be considered successful?

a) Some have denied that the existing will has the character of a will, and they wish to degrade it to merely a prescription. One must observe, however, that in God’s prescriptions His holy nature speaks and that in fact they are founded upon a strong desire in God. More precisely, the problem here is this: How can there be two desires in God, one that wills the good and abhors the evil, and one that leaves the good unrealized and permits the evil to appear?
Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, trans. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., 4 vols. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2014), 1:23. Clark is an example of what Vos is referring to: “It would be conducive to clarity if the term will were not applied to the precepts. Call the requirements of morality commands, precepts, or laws; and reserve the term will for the divine decree. These are two different things, and what looks like an opposition between them is not a self-contradiction.” See Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation (Hobbs, NM: The Trinity Foundation, 1995), 222–223. For a refutation of this position in earlier theologians, see John Howe on God's Will (Voluntas Beneplaciti, et Signi).
93. In what ways does God reveal His love ward His creatures?

By (a) His goodness; (b) His grace; (c) His lovingkindness; (d) His mercy or compassion; (e) His longsuffering.

94. What is God’s goodness and what is it sometimes called?

It is His love toward personal and sentient creatures in general and can also be called Amor Dei generalis, “God’s general love.”
Ibid., 28. Notice the interconnection between Vos’ idea of divine love with God’s goodness, grace, mercy, compassion, and longsuffering. All of these things are expressions of divine love for Vos, even in a general sense.
98. What is God’s lovingkindness?

The love of God insofar as it, as a special tenderness, seeks to lead the sinner to conversion. [Vos references Rom. 2:4, among other passages.]
Ibid., 29. Not only is divine love connected to goodness, grace, mercy, compassion, and longsuffering, it is God’s “special tenderness” that “seeks to lead the sinner to conversion.”
119. Is there emotion or feeling in God?

Not in the sense of an intense transitory movement of emotion, something passive, whereby the will retreats into the background (compare affectus from afficere, “to be affected”). Certainly, however, in the sense of an inner divine satisfaction that accompanies the energetic expression of His will and His power and His understanding.
Ibid., 35. Vos seems to think that there is emotion or feeling in God, but “Not in the sense of an intense transitory movement of emotion,” or “something passive,” such as is in the creature, as if His will retreats into the background so that He is passively affected by that outside of Himself.

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June 26, 2017

Pierre-Charles Marcel (1910–1992) on the Call of God and the Gospel Offer

Where there is preaching there is the call of God. The word is preached nowhere without its being by the providence and the will of God, who wishes to show his love to and through us. Since it is already established that preaching is the instrumental cause of faith, we may add that when God sends a preacher those who hear must not doubt that God loves them and wishes to provide for their salvation and to call them personally to enter his kingdom . . . . As for the listener, he must be convinced that this word is not of men but of God, and that it does not come to him from earth but from heaven. The remission of sins, the promise of eternal [p. 62 begins] life, the proclamation of salvation are not within man’s power. It is Christ who, through the mouth of his messengers, speaks and promises all. The proffered remission of sins is a veritable promise of God. The condemnation which is announced to unbelievers is a very certain judgment of God.
Pierre Charles Marcel, The Relevance of Preaching, trans Rob Roy McGregor (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1963), 61–62.
(1) Preaching is a public proclamation of the infinite love of God. For everyone indiscriminately (the unconverted who attend worship; those, protestants or no, who abstain from coming to hear the word where it is preached), the preaching of the law and the gospel bears evidence of the boundless love of God. It confirms that God does not take pleasure in the death of the sinner, but in his conversion and new life. It declares that the sacrifice of Christ is, without qualification, sufficient for the remission of all sins, that no one will suffer loss because he has the mistaken notion that this sacrifice is not sufficiently valid and efficacious for all [p. 105 begins] men: “But the free gift is not like the trespass . . . But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more . . . (Rom. 5:15, 20).

(2) Preaching is a safeguard against the self-destruction of man by sin. The preaching of the word is equally a proclamation of the goodness and compassion of God toward all men. By virtue of his holiness God everywhere wills to turn sinners from sin, which leads to death, and by virtue of his goodness and grace, he cautions them against their self-destruction. By seeing to it that the word continues to be preached, God temporarily postpones the execution of the death sentence which must fall inexorably upon all those who will not repent and believe. It a certain sense, the offer of salvation is for them a blessing. The purpose of preaching the word is to revealed clearly to all alike the divine compassion with regard to sinners (Ps. 81:13; Prov. 1:24; Ezek. 3:18, 27; 33:11; Amos 8:11; Matt. 11:20–24, 23:37, etc.).

(3) For those who are hardened in unbelief, the preaching of the word is, every often, also the source of all types of blessings and not (as some might be inclined to believe) just a malediction. Illumination of the understanding, the heavenly gift, participation in the Holy Spirit, and delight in the word of God and in the powers of the age to come, have been and sometimes are the portion of those who have fallen or who will fall away by denying Christ (Heb. 6:4–6).
Ibid., 104–105. On page 106, Marcel also argues that the preaching of the word of God is a “restraining grace.”

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June 24, 2017

John Calvin (1509–1564) on the Gospel Invitation and Offer, Universal Promises, and the Gift of Faith

For nothing is more certain than that the Gospel is addressed to all promiscuously, but that the Spirit of faith is bestowed on the elect alone, by peculiar privilege. The promises are universal. How does it happen, therefore, that their efficacy is not equally felt by all? For this reason, because God does not reveal His arm to all. Indeed, among men but moderately skilled in Scripture, this subject needs not to be discussed, seeing that the promises of the Gospel make offer of the grace of Christ equally to all; and God, by the external call, invites all who are willing to accept of salvation. Faith, also, is a special gift.
John Calvin, “CCCIV.—To Melanchthon, (28th November 1552),” in Letters of John Calvin, ed. Jules Bonnet (Edinburgh: Thomas Constable, 1857) 2:364–65. Also in “CCCV.—To Melanchthon (28th November 1552),” in Letters of John Calvin, ed. Jules Bonnet (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1858), 2:379–80. Credit to Donald John MacLean for the find. See “John Calvin and the Gospel Offer,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 34.1 (Spring 2016): 53–69. The above quote is on page 53.

Latin:
Nihil enim magis notum est quam verbi praedictionem omnibus promiscue esse communem, sed fidei spiritum solis electis sinculari privilegio donari. Universae sunt promissiones. Qui fit igitur ut non peraeque apud omnes vigeat earum efficacia? Nempe quia non omnibus brachium suum Deus patefacit. Nec vero apud homines mediocriter in scriptura versatos ea res disputatione indiget: quum pariter omnibus Christi gratiam offerant promissiones, et externa voce invitet Deus quoslibet in salutem: peculiare esse fidei donum.
Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omnia. (W. Baum et al. (ed.); 59 vols.; Braunschweig, 1863–1900), 14:417 (CO 14, col. 417).

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John Mayer (1583–1664) on Ezekiel 18:23, 30–32

Have I any pleasure at all, that the wicked should die, but that he should turn from his ways and live? The case of a wicked man turning and living, notwithstanding his former wickedness being laid open in the premises, now he infers upon this ground that the Lord wills not, neither delights in any mans death, but in his conversion and salvation, that none, how far soever they have gone in sin, might despair, but by hope in his mercy be drawn to turn unto him, that is so gracious.

But against this it is objected both that he has fore-appointed some to damnation, and that it is not in man to will, but he works to will and to do of his own good pleasure: if then he take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, why does he not turn him?

Sol[ution]. He offers him grace and pardon for all that is past to turn him, yea he counsels him to turn, and entreats him, by his benefits seeks to lead him to repentance [Rom. 2:4], and which is more than all this, he knocks at the door of his heart by his Spirit [Rev. 3:20], and who can say then, but that it is true, which is here said, he delights not in his dying?

Obj[ection]. But all this is nothing, if either he has fore-appointed him to death, or works not effectually with the means, whereby he may be converted.

Sol[ution]. He fore-ordains none to damnation, but such as he foresees will be impenitent, when he has used all the means of reclaiming them, that may be, and therefore Christ speaking of the cursed going into hell fire, says not prepared for you, but for the devil and his angels, whereas contrariwise to the blessed he says, come into the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning, so that impenitent sinners come into condemnation by their preferring of the pleasures of sin before the joy of salvation; for his effectual working upon his will, he works so by his word and Spirit, that he may, if there be not an aversion in his will, turn himself being thus holpen, as it is said here v. 32. Turn yourselves and live, for if God, who bids us thus to do, stood not ready to help and enable us, this were but a delusion. But doing all that can be expected to be done on his part, yea that he could do, as he says, Isa. 5 the impenitent sinner is unreasonable in charging him, as the cause of his non-conversion, when as indeed he is solely the cause thereof to himself and consequently of damnation, as a man in the water held up by the chin, that thrusts away his hand that holds him up that he might swim out, if he sinks and be drowned, is the sole cause of his own death. And the rather is the sinner the cause of his own damnation, because he is not only held up as it were, but exhorted over and over to turn and live, v. 30, 31, 32. so that unless God would save him against his will, or take and carry him to heaven as a block or dead thing, he never putting on to do any thing tending to salvation, and so do more for him, then for any that are saved, he can never attain life, but must die and perish everlastingly. God indeed as August[ine] has it, made thee without thee, but thou must not expect, that he should save thee without thee.
John Mayer, A Commentary Upon All the Prophets Both Great and Small (London: Printed by Abraham Miller and Ellen Cotes, 1652), 421–422. Some spelling modernized.

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June 20, 2017

John Calvin (1509–1564) on God’s Love and Goodness

True it is that God giveth oftentimes some sign of his love too all men in general: but yet is all Adam’s offspring cut off from him, till we be grafted in again by Jesus Christ. Therefore there is one kind of love which God beareth towards all men, for that he hath created them after his own image, in which respect he maketh the Sun to shine upon all men, nourishing them and having a care of their life. But all this is nothing, in respect of the special goodness which he keepeth in store for his chosen, and for those that are of his flock: howbeit not for any worthiness which he findeth in them, but for because it pleaseth him too accept them for his own.
John Calvin, Sermons of M. John Calvin upon the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Galatians (Imprinted at London: By [Henrie Bynneman, for] Lucas Harison and George Bishop, 1574), 9–10.

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Thomas Anyan (c.1580–1632) on the Will of God and Reprobation

For the will of God toward, mankind is (if I may so speak) Orbicular, environing universal man, with Mercies and Judgements, with Salvation, and Damnation: if with repentance and works of righteousness we turn to the right hand, we shall find a Merciful Father, and be accepted of him; but if we remain obdurate in our sin, and turn to the left hand, we shall see an Angry Judge and rue the punishments of his wrath. Which change and alteration is in us, not in God; God doth not bow to man, but man doth come to God; nor doth God leave any man of any nation, but man doth revolt from his Creator. Not only the Schools, but Expositors both Orthodox & Romish, stand at this day much distracted, with a diversity, or at least a divers conceit of the Will of God; of his Antecendent, and Consequent, Hidden and Revealed will, of his Absolute, and Conditional Will: whereas to speak properly, God’s Will is one and the same, nor can he be said to have two Wills, no more than to have two Wisdoms, two Mercies, two Goodnesses, or a diversity of other [of] his Essential Attributes. But as the Wisdom of God (to instance in that Attribute) is by St. Paul termed πολυποίκιλος, Eph. 3.10. which some render Multiformis, others Multis modis varia, and our English Manifold; which is yet but one: so the Will of God being one and the same in itself, may yet in respect of us, and the diverse effects thereof, be termed πολυποίκιλος, Manifold, and Divers. The ground of all these Distinctions is taken out of Damascene [i.e. John of Damascus, De Fide Orthodoxa, ii. 29], and by Damascene out of Chrysostome, Hom. 1. in Epist. ad Eph. [or here; see also his Homily 18 on Hebrews], There is in God (saith he) a two-fold Will, θέλημα - οιον, θέλημα πρῶτον, το μη απολεσθαι ημαρτηχότας. There is in God a two-fold Will, a First and a Second; the first and principal will of God doth immediately proceed from God himself, whereby he desireth to do good unto all, τὸ μη απολεθαι ἡμαρτηχότας, & it is Voluntas simplicis complacentiæ, and may be termed Voluntas benefactiendi. His secondary will doth proceed from contingent causes without God, and is occasioned by us, and it may be termed Voluntas iustitiæ, which doth arise from our sins, which God cannot but put in execution without prejudice to his Justice. The first is the Will of God, wherein he taketh delight and pleasure, and is by the same Father termed Θέλημα προηγουμενον, the principal will of God. That which hath been spoken I thus bring home to my text. That it is the Will of God to leave many of most nations in the corrupt mass of perdition, I well know: but that it is his principal Will, his εύδοχια, or Voluntas simplicis complacentiæ, to decree the absolute reprobatio of any man of any nation, I utterly deny. Deus non est prius ultor, quam homo est peccator, saith Aug. ep. 105 [Letter 105]. Man deserves his punishment, before he hath it, & God makes no man a reprobate without just cause. The word Reprobation or Reprobate is in Scripture seldom used to this purpose, & the Greek word Αδοκιμος will hardly carry it, signifying as well Improbus, or Reprehensione dignus, as a Reprobate, and therefore should be used more sparingly, and not so absolutely determined of. In the Fathers the opposite to Predestination to life eternal is Predestination to a second death; and to Election to grace, they oppose Dereliction in the Mass of perdition, seldom Reprobation. In those parts of St. Austin, which I have read, I never met with the word Reprobus as opposite to Elect, but once; & whosoever hath spent most hours in reading the works of that Judicious Father, did never in that sense read it twice.

June 19, 2017

Samuel Spring (1746–1819) on Natural and Moral Ability

5. Does the total depravity of man consist in the destitution of any faculties or abilities which are necessary to constitute a moral agent. For, if men were not moral agents, or were destitute of natural ability to keep the divine commands, they would be incapable of moral action. It is not possible for men to be disobedient, except they have natural ability to be obedient. For the commands of God never exceed the natural ability of man. God does not require the improvement of more talents than he has given. “For to whom much is given much shall be required.” The depravity of man, therefore, does not consist in the destitution of natural ability to obey the divine command; but in those volitions or exercises which are opposed to it. It is the will or heart of man which is depraved. Accordingly Christ does not condemn sinners because they are destitute of natural ability to come to him; but because they refuse: therefore he says, “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.” Sinners are able to do their duty, but not willing. For God requires no natural impossibilities.

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Richard Baxter’s (1615–1691) Notes on 1 Timothy 2:5–6

5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6. Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

5, 6. For it must move us to pray for all, in compliance with this Will of God, that would have all Men saved; because there is One God who is good to all, and One Mediator between God and Mankind, who took on him the Common Nature of all Men, and gave himself a Ransom for all, revealed in the Season appointed of God, (or to be preached to all in due time, as God pleaseth.)

Note, The Controversie about Universal Redemption, too hotly agitated by Beza, Piscater, and others, on one side, and by many on the other, I have fully handled in my Catholick Theologie, and Methodus Theologiae; and it needs no more than as aforesaid: 1. Whoever is damned, it is not because no Ransom was made for him, or because it was not sufficient for him. 2. By Gods Will to save all, is meant the Effects of his Will that have a tendency to their Salvation. 3. It is notorious, that God hath made an Universal Act of Grace or Oblivion, giving Pardon of all Sin, and Right to Life in Christ, to all Men, without exception, on Condition of Believing-acceptance; and hath commissioned his Ministers to offer this Gift to all Men, to the utmost of their power, and entreat them to accept it; and doth by many Mercies intimate to them, that he useth them not according to the mere violated Law of Innocency, but on Terms of Grace. 4. Few Christians have the face to affirm, that this Universal Conditional Pardon and Gift (or Law of Grace) is no Fruit of the Death of Christ. 5. If therefore this Act of Pardon was purchased by Christ, and given to all, no modest Face can deny, that he so far died for all, as to purchase for them all that he actually giveth them. 6. It is usual to say that we give a Man a Benefit, (e. g. Life to a condemned Malefactor) if it be given him on the fair Condition of his Acceptance, and brought to his own Will, and he entreated to receive it. 7. If any Wrangler say, that this is unfit Language, (to say, He is willing that Men shall be saved, who offereth them Salvation freely, unless he also make them willing:) Let him confess, that it is but the Name that he denieth, and none of the Gifts in question. 8. And be it known, that Unwillingness cometh not from a Physical Impossibility, through the want of Natural Faculties, (as it is with Brutes) but from a voluntary Pravity, which aggravateth the Sin. 9. And the mutable Will of Man is to be changed by Reason: And God giveth Men Reasons in their kind sufficient to persuade them to accept of Christ and Life. 10. And lastly, No Man can say, that Adam when he fell had not Grace enough to make him Able to have stood, which he might have used, and should have done, to his actual standing: Nor, that God never giveth such a power to believe (or at least to come nearer the State of a true Believer) to many that might bring it into Act, and do not. This much is enough to end this Controversie with modest Wits.
Richard Baxter, “The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy,” in A Paraphrase on the New Testament (London: Printed for B. Simmons, at the Three Cocks in Ludgate-street, 1685), xxx3v.

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B. B. Warfield (1851–1921) on the Westminster Confession, the Love of God, and the Universal Sincere Offer of Salvation in Christ

The Confession Based on the Love of God.

2. It is frequently objected again that the Confession makes too little relatively of the love of God and too much relatively of His sovereignty, and thus reverses the emphasis of the Bible. The framers of the Confession are not responsible, however, for this separation of God’s love and sovereignty; to them His sovereignty seemed a loving sovereignty, and His love a sovereign love, and in founding the whole fabric of their Confession on the idea of God’s undeserved favor to lost sinners, they understood themselves to be glorifying His love to sinners. It is perfectly true that they seldom make use of the term “love”; but this is due to the exactness of their phraseology, by which they prefer to speak of God’s “goodness” and “grace”—by the one of which terms they designate His general love and by the other His special love for His people. When this is understood, so far as they from neglecting to emphasize the love of God, that it is rather within the truth to say that there is no other one subject so repeatedly and emphatically and lovingly dwelt upon. The “goodness” of God is one of His essential attributes (II., i.) and is infinite (V., iv.); nay, all “goodness” is in and of Him (II., ii.). It was in order to manifest His “goodness” that He created the world (IV., i.); and hence it is manifested by the light of nature (I., i.)—even that He is good and doeth good to all (XXI., i.); as also by the course of providence (I., i.; V., iv.), which is so administered as to redound to the praise of His “goodness” (IV., i.). Even His dealings with sin manifest His goodness (V., iv.). Especially does His treatment of the elect, however, flow from His free unchangeable love (XVII., ii.; III., v.; V., v.); His love follows them at every step, and every separate blessing bestowed upon them is a “grace”: effectual calling (X., ii.), faith (XIV., i.), justification (XI., iv.), pardon (XV., iii.), adoption (XII., i.), each is reckoned among the saving graces (XIII., i.; XVI., iii.; XVII., i.; IX., iv.). All His acts to His children are those of a gracious God (V., v.), all things being made to work together for their good (V., vii.), even His correctings being gracious (V., v.) and all to the praise of His glorious grace (III., v.). There is certainly no lack of emphasis on God’s love here; though no doubt it is His sovereign love that is emphasized. Nor is it at all true that in glorifying God’s infinite love for His children, the Confession minimizes or fails to give due recognition to His unspeakable love for all His reasonable creatures. He is the God of love: “Most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, the rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (II., i.). Moved by this love He has voluntarily condescended to covenant with men as men, with a view to their fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward (VII., i.); and when men had spurned this offered favor, He was pleased to make a second covenant, “wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith him him, that they may be saved (VII., iii.)—an assertion of the universal sincere offer of salvation in Christ which is not taken away, but rather established, by the immediately subsequent assertion that God has further taken care that it shall not in all cases remain without fruition. To overlook these and similar passages in the effort to represent the Confession as disregarding the proportion of faith is most seriously to misrepresent its teaching. As a matter of fact the Confession builds its whole fabric on God’s love, and emphasizes His general love quite as strongly as the Scriptures themselves; although like the Scriptures, it does not substitute a general benevolence for the whole round of Divine attributes, or deny His sovereignty or His justice in proclaiming His love.
B. B. Warfield, On the Revision of the Confession of Faith (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1890), 25–27. Commenting on this writing by Warfield, Bennett said, “...there is a genuine love of God for all and a desire for all to be saved. Warfield clearly teaches this in the quotation above, and Charles Hodge says it in his sermon on John 3:16 in Princeton Sermons.” See Christopher Bennett, “For God So Loved the World,” Foundations 38 (Spring 1997): 3–4.

Later on, Warfield references a criticism of Robert Smith Candlish about the Confession:
Dr. Candlish, in supporting his overture in the Free Church Presbytery of Glasgow, supplies a good example of how they are presented. “The Confession,” he is reported as saying, “did not express, in their scriptural proportions, some aspects of the Gospel, and these were such vital and precious truths as the love of God to the world, His free offer of salvation to all men, and the responsibility of every one who heard this gracious call for accepting or refusing it. It was not meant that these truths were not contained in the Confession. He strongly contended that they were in it, but they were not so prominent in it proportionately to the statement of other truths—those of the sovereignty and almighty power of God’s grace—as they were in the Bible” [The Glasgow Herald 37 (Tuesday, February 12, 1889), p. 10].

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June 16, 2017

Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844) on Romans 2:4

His goodness is manifest throughout all creation . . . . some of the richest temporal mercies are often overlooked and perhaps entirely forgotten, merely from the fact that they are so common . . . . All these mercies to us are but common blessings.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 20: Despisest Thou the Riches of God’s Goodness? (Romans 2:4),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 150–151. Nettleton also calls these common blessings “distinguished favors” (Ibid., 151). This sermon does not appear in the 1845 edition edited by Bennet Tyler.
In the gift of his Son to our lost and ruined world he has manifested the riches of his goodness named in our text. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God was under no obligation to send his Son to die for rebels against himself. Why then should he come to this earth with a message of peace and good will to man? Why not take on him the nature of angels and extend pardoning mercy to them? It is owing to the riches of divine goodness, my hearers, that the cross of Christ was erected in our world and not in the world of despair. But every mercy is heightened from the fact that we are sinners. God commendeth his love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

“He saw the nations dead in sin,
He felt his pity move.
How sad the state the world was in,
How boundless was his love.”
Ibid., 152.
The riches of divine goodness appear not only in the sufferings and death of the Son of God, but in the melting invitations of mercy to sinners.—Ho every one that thirsteth. In the parable of the great supper the invitation is to all. Come for all things are now ready. The riches of divine goodness (are offered to) the poorest and vilest of sinners. To us, my hearers, is the word of this salvation sent. Yes, pardon, peace, and all the treasures of heaven are brought even to our doors and offered to us for nothing. Not only are they freely offered, but even pressed upon our acceptance by every endearing consideration.
Ibid.
One would think, that after sinners had rejected the free offers of salvation, God would make no further exertions to save them from deserved wrath. But to all this, he has superadded the strivings of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s last effort to save sinners . . . . So many years has the Savior been standing with open arms and with a bleeding heart inviting him to life. So many duties have been neglected, and so many sins committed in the sight of the sin-hating God and yet the sinner has been spared . . . . He has opened the windows of heaven and shed around us the light of the glorious gospel to lead us to repentance.
Ibid., 153.
All who neglect the gospel do emphatically despise the riches of divine goodness. Every day they trample under foot the Son of God. Sinners despise the forbearance and longsuffering of God, every moment they are unconcerned for their souls . . . . Think what Christ has done for your salvation and what returns you have made? Will you this day render him the homage of your hearts? Or will you continue still longer to despise all the offers of a bleeding Savior? Will you say, What is the Almighty, that I should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
Ibid., 156.

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Samuel Langley (d.1694) on the Death of Christ and the Lord’s Supper

It must be acknowledged, that these words [“Take, eat, this is the Body of Christ which is broken for you,” or “And this Cup is the New Testament in Christ’s blood which is shed for you”] considered absolutely and in themselves, may be interpreted more generally either, 1. of Christ’s being sacrificed for the redemption of all the world of mankind, the genus humanum; and that not only sufficienter (for that which is paid for the redemption of persons, is not strictly a price, because it is sufficient in its own nature to be a worthy and valuable consideration to redeem them) but conditionally by way of Christ’s intention also to redeem mankind, that is, upon the condition of believing: So that this Gospel may be preached to every human creature (not so to any lapsed Angel) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. God so loved the world, &c. Or, 2. (if this please not, the fuller explication whereof may be seen in learned Camero, and the larger disquisition of it in the acute Amyraldus) Christ died for all, in that he bought all, to be Lord and Ruler over them, as Mediator in the Kingdom he hath received by dispensation from the Father to be Lord of all. Or, 3. as he procured some common benefits for all. But I conceive it’s manifest, these words of administration considered as words of administration in the Sacrament, and so with special relation to the Sacrament, cannot be understood in so large a sense, q. d. Christ died for thee if thou wilt believe, or on condition of they faith; or Christ died for thee, or was broken for thee, that he might have power of thee as Lord and Judge, or to purchase some common benefits for thee, as he died for all mankind. For so they might be applied to heathens, yea to the most wicked of heathens, and such as are visibly in the most notorious opposition of, and apostasy from the very name of Christianity; and so this should be no more an application of comfort to the visibly most worthy receiver, then is applicable to the vilest Mahumetan on the face of the earth.
Samuel Langley, Suspension Reviewed, Stated, Cleared and Settled Upon Plain Scripture-Proof (London: Printed by J. Hayes for Thomas Underhil at the Anchor and Bible in Pauls Church-yard, 1658), 65.

Benjamin Woodbridge’s (1622–1684) View of the Extent and Effects of the Death of Christ

Harvard College’s first ever graduate said:
...I am altogether proselyted to renowned Bp. Davenant’s judgement, concerning the extent and effects of the death of Christ, (if that be Arminianisme) especially since I read Daylee’s [Daille’s] late Vindication of Amyrauld against Spanhemius. And the chief reason that inclines me to it, besides the evidence of truth, is the advantage I have thereby to give a clear and smooth answer to all the Scriptures, which the Arminians are wont to use in defense of their cause.
Benjamin Woodbridge, The Method of Grace in the Justification of Sinners (London: Printed by T. R. and E. M. for Edmund Paxton in Pauls-Chain, right over against the Castle Tavern, near Doctors Commons, 1656), A5r.

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Biographical Sketches
Woodbridge, in the words of Cotton Mather, was “the Leader of this whole Company [of Graduates of Harvard College], and . . . a Star of the first Magnitude in his Constellation.” Calamy speaks of him as “a great Man every way; . . . the first Graduate of the College; . . . the lasting Glory as well as the first Fruits of that Academy.”
John Langdon Sibley, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge Massachusetts. Volume 1. 1642–1658. (Cambridge: Charles William Sever, 1873), 20.

June 15, 2017

Martin Luther (1483–1546) on Christ’s Sacrifice for the Sins of the Whole World

All the prophets well foresaw in the Spirit, that Christ, by imputation, would become the greatest sinner upon the face of the earth, and a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; would be no more considered an innocent person and without sin, or the Son of God in glory, but a notorious sinner, and so be for a while forsaken (Psalm 8), and have lying upon his neck the sins of all mankind; the sins of St. Paul, who was a blasphemer of God, and a persecutor of his church; St. Peter’s sins, that denied Christ; David’s sins, who was an adulterer and a murderer, through whom the name of the Lord among the heathen was blasphemed.

Therefore the law, which Moses gave to be executed upon all malefactors and murderers in general, took hold on Christ, finding him with and among sinners and murderers, though in his own person innocent.

This manner of picturing Christ to us, the sophists, robbers of God, obscure and falsify; for they will not that Christ was made a curse for us, to the end he might deliver us from the curse of the law, nor that he has anything to do with sin and poor sinners; though for their sakes alone was he made man and died, but they set before us merely Christ’s examples, which they say we ought to imitate and follow; and thus they not only steal from Christ his proper name and title, but also make him a severe and angry judge, a fearful and horrible tyrant, full of wrath against poor sinners, and bent on condemning them.
Martin Luther, “Of Jesus Christ: #202,” in The Table Talk of Martin Luther: Luther’s Comments on Life, the Church and the Bible (Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2003), 174.

Note: Notice that in Luther’s theology, Christ, by imputation, was “a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world,” and had “lying upon his neck the sins of all mankind.” Luther explains that by saying that, “the law, which Moses gave to be executed upon all malefactors and murderers in general, took hold on Christ.” He then specifies that some of these people are the unbelieving “sophists” and “robbers of God,” who “obscure” and “falsify” the fact that “Christ was made a curse for us” by way of imputation, yet Christ “for their sakes alone [i.e. for sinners as such] was made man and died.” In other words, in Luther’s theology, he views the death of Christ as involving an unlimited imputation of sin, or a universal satisfaction for all sinners “in general.”

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June 11, 2017

Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844) on 2 Corinthians 5:20

Many, I am aware, express strong desires for salvation, and sometimes say they would give all the world, if they had it, for an interest in the divine favor, while they have never found in their hearts, to feel the least degree of contrition for their sins, or the least degree of love and gratitude to the God who made them, and the Savior who died for them. Whatever value such individuals may place on a heaven of eternal happiness, they do actually prefer sin to all things else;—and in spite of the offers of eternal life, the calls of a bleeding Savior, the invitations, commands, and threatenings of Almighty God, they are now forcing their way down to eternal perdition.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 39: Sinners Entreated to be Reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:20),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 363. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XX: Sinners Entreated to be Reconciled to God,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D. D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 256. Notice that the “them” for whom the Savior died are those without a saving interest in the divine favor, who lack contrition for their sins, nor do they have a love and gratitude to God. “They” are headed “down to eternal perdition.” The “them” and “they” must therefore include the non-elect.

As Nettleton continued this sermon, he said:
And now all things are ready; God is inviting and beseeching you to accept his mercy!
Ibid., 364; Ibid., 257.
God himself is beseeching you to be reconciled ... Why will you stand out against the will of heaven?
Ibid., 365; Ibid., 258.
Again—consider what God has done for your salvation. The gift of a Savior was not an act of justice to our world. Sinners had no right to demand the blood of the Son of God to atone for their guilt .... This Savior has concluded a treaty of peace for rebellious man .... Will you not hearken to the voice of the heavenly charmer?—your bleeding Savior? Have you no repentance—not a tear to shed for the sins which nailed him to the cross? O what amazing love invites!
Ibid., 366–367; Ibid., 259–60.
But he arose from the dead, and ascended to his throne of glory, from which he now invites you to his arms, and beseeches you to accept the salvation which he has purchased with his blood—and is he unworthy of your love? .... God beseeches—God commands your compliance now.
Ibid., 368–69; Ibid., 261–62.

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June 10, 2017

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813–1843) on Christ’s Sufficiency and Willingness to Save All

1. Show that it is not by reason of anything in Christ that sinners are lost.

It is not because Christ is not sufficient to save all.
The whole Bible shows that Christ is quite sufficient to save all the world—that all the world would be saved, if all the world were to come to Christ: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.’ The meaning of that is, not that sins of the whole world are now taken away. It is quite plain that the whole world is not forgiven at present. (1) Because the whole is not saved. (2) Because God everywhere calls sinners to repentance, and the first work of the Spirit is to convince of sin—of the heavy burden that is now lying on Christless souls. (3) Because forgiveness in the Bible is everywhere attached to believing. When they brought to Jesus a man sick of the palsy, Jesus, seeing his faith, said unto him: ‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee.’ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ The simple truth of the Bible is, that Christ hath suffered and died in the stead of sinners—as a common person in their stead; and every man that is a sinner hath a right to come.

Christ is quite sufficient for all, and I would prove it by this argument: if he was sufficient for one sinner, then he must be sufficient for all. The great difficulty with God (I speak as a man) was, not how to admit many sinners into his favor, but how to admit one sinner into his favor. If that difficulty has been got over in Jesus Christ, then the whole difficulty has been got over. If one sinner clothed in Christ may come unto God, then all sinners may. If one sinner may have peace with God, and God be yet just and glorious, then every sinner may have peace with him. If Christ was enough for Abel, then he is enough for all that come after. If one dying thief may look to him and be saved, so may every dying thief. If one trembling jailer may believe on Jesus, and rejoice believing, so may every other trembling sinner. O brethren! you may doubt and wrangle about whether Christ be enough for your souls, but if you die Christless, you will see that there was room enough under his wings, but you would not.

Sinners are lost, not because Christ is unwilling to save all.
The whole Bible shows that Christ is quite willing and anxious that all sinners should come to him. The city of refuge in the Old Testament was a type of Christ; and you remember that its gates were open by night and by day. The arms of Christ were nailed wide open, when he hung upon the cross; and this was a figure of his wide willingness to save all, as he said: ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.’ But though his arms were firmly nailed, they are more firmly nailed wide open now, by his love and compassion for perishing sinners, than ever they were nailed to the tree.

There is no unwillingness in the heart of Jesus Christ. When people are willing and anxious about something, they do everything that lies in their power to bring it to pass. So did Jesus Christ: ‘What could have been done more for my vineyard, that I have not done in it?’ But if they are very anxious, they will attempt it again and again. So did Jesus Christ: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered your children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ But if they are still more anxious, they will be grieved if they are disappointed. So was Jesus Christ: ‘When he came near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.’ But if they are very anxious, they will suffer pain rather than lose their object. So did Jesus Christ: The good Shepherd gave his life for the sheep. Ah! dear brethren, if you perish, it is not because Jesus wishes you to perish.

A word to anxious souls. How strange it is that anxious souls do most of all doubt the willingness of Christ to be their Saviour! These should least of all doubt him. If he is a willing Saviour to any, O surely he is a willing Saviour to a weary soul! Remember the blind beggar of Jericho. He was in your case—blind and helpless—and he cried: ‘Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy upon me.’ And when. the crowd bade him hold his peace, he cried so much the more. Was Jesus unwilling to be that beggar’s Saviour? He stood still, and commanded him to be brought, and said: ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole.’ He is the same willing Saviour still. Cry after him; and, though the world may bid you hold your peace, cry after him just so much the more.

A word to careless souls. You say Christ may be a willing Saviour to others, but surely not to you. O yes! he is quite willing for you too. See him sitting by the well of Samaria, convincing one poor sinful woman of her sins, and leading her to himself. He is the same Saviour toward you this day. If you do perish, it is not because Christ is willing. He wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. He pleads with you, and says: ‘Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?’
R. M. McCheyne, “42. Ye will not come unto me (John 5:40),” in From the Preacher’s Heart (Additional Remains, 1846; repr. Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1993), 294–296. Also in Robert Murray McCheyne, “Sermon LXVIII,” The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, 2 vols. (New York: Robert Carter, 1847), 2:394-396.

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Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on John 17:9

9, 10. It is out of special Love to them, for the Salvation and welfare of these, that I now pray to thee, and not for the mere Worldlings and Enemies of thy Kingdom, (though for them also I have such desires and Prayers as signifie my common Love; and the Elect among them yet unconverted, I have such requests for, as are suited to their state.) But these that thou hast give me peremptorily to save, are the People of thy peculiar Love as well as mine. And all that I so love thou lovest also, and it is in them that I am glorified, and my Person, Office and Grace is honoured, which others do but swinishly despise.
Richard Baxter, “The Gospel According to St. John,” in A Paraphrase on the New Testament (London: Printed for B. Simmons, at the Three Cocks in Ludgate-street, 1685), F1v. See also Richard Baxter on Christ's prayer in John 17.

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