March 28, 2008

Thomas Manton (1620–1677) Citing Romans 2:4

(2.) In seeking to reclaim us, and soften us by many mercies, and by his kind dealing with us. God would break the heart rather than the back of the sinner, and therefore he seeks to melt us with acts of kindness. Now for us to continue our pride and rebellion after all this, what a pride is this of how horrible a nature? Rom. ii. 4, 'Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance, not considering that the goodness of God should lead us to repentance?' God withholds his hand, and is loath to strike; nay, not only so, but doth follow us with acts of grace and kindness, and maintain us with his own expenses, and yet the proud heart of man will not relent. Mark that word, they 'despise his goodness;' they do in effect say, God shall not have my heart for all this. Oh, how great is this pride! These are considerations that may give us a little light to judge of that pride that is in obstinacy and impenitency in sin. If you consider God's absolute right, he hath not only a dominion of jurisdiction over us, but a full propriety in us, to use us at his pleasure; and this right of his is backed with almighty power, and doth not stand with the creature's courtesy; and though it be so, yet it is managed with a great deal of condescension and love; he beseecheth poor creatures, and tendereth offers of peace, and they are fed and maintained at his charge, and taste of his goodness and bounty.
Thomas Manton, "Several Sermons Upon the CXIX Psalm [Sermon XXII]," in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 6:198.

Thomas Manton (1620–1677) on Moral and Natural Ability

(3.) Impotency and weakness, which lieth in the wilfulness and hardness of their hearts. Our non posse is non velle. Our inability lies in our unwillingness: Ps. Iviii. 4, 5, 'They are like to the deaf adder, that stoppeth her ear, which will not hearken to the charmer, charming never so wisely;' Mat. xxiii. 37, 'How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not?' Luke xix. 14, 'His citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.' Now what more proper cure for all these evils than the word of God? Teaching is the proper means to cure ignorance, for men have a natural understanding. Warning of danger and mindfulness of duty is the proper means to cure slightness. And to remove their impotency (which lieth in their obstinacy and wilfulness), there is no such means as to beseech them with constant persuasions. The impotence is rather moral than natural. We do not use to reason men out of bare natural impotency, to bid a lame man walk, or a blind man see, or bid a dead man live; but to make men willing of the good which they rejected or neglected; in short, to inform the judgment, awaken the conscience, persuade the will: yet it is true the bare means will not do it without God's concurrence, the evidence and demonstration of the Spirit; but it is an encouragement to use these means, because they are fitted to the end, and God would not appoint us means which should be altogether in vain.

March 27, 2008

Entwadumayla: He Who Greets With Fire

When I watch this video, I can't help but think of the Lion of the tribe of Judah who will eventually come in fire. "Entwadumayla" means "He who greets with fire."

NKJ Revelation 5:5 But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."

NKJ 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For those that can handle it, I think the first attack in this video [click here] better depicts how things will be when he returns, i.e. sudden and unbelievably powerful.

[Other possible spellings: Eetwidomayloh, Ntwadumela, Ntwaidumela, Ntwydmala]

March 24, 2008

J. I. Packer (1926–) on God's Love and Will

God's love is spoken of by means of a varied and overlapping vocabulary. Goodness (glorious generosity), love itself (generous goodness in active expression), mercy (generous goodness relieving the needy), grace (mercy contrary to merit and despite demerit), and loving-kindness (KJV) or steadfast love (RSV) (generous goodness in covenantal faithfulness), are the main terms used. The often-echoed self-description whereby God expounds his name (Yahweh, the Lord) to Moses on Sinai crystallizes these ideas: "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin..." (Exod. 34:6-7). The New Testament gauges divine agape by the staggering gift of God's Son to suffer for mankind's salvation (see Rom. 5:7-8), and thus deepens all these ideas beyond what Old Testament minds could conceive.

God's love is revealed in his providential care for the creatures he made. "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made...The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing" (Ps. 145:9, 15-16; and see also Ps. 104:21; Matt. 5:45; 6:26; Acts 14:17).

God's love is revealed in the universal invitations of the gospel, whereby sinful humans are invited to turn in faith and repentance to the living Christ who died for sins and are promised pardon and life if they do. "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16; see also Rom. 10:11-13; Rev. 22:17). "God is love (agape). This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:8-10). And God in the gospel expresses a bona fide wish that all may hear, and that all who hear may believe and be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-6; cf. 4:9-10). This is love in active expression.
J. I. Packer, "The Love of God: Universal and Particular," in Still Sovereign, eds. Thomas R. Schreiner & Bruce Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 283.

Incidentally, I am only quoting the above passage to show Packer's statements about God's love, grace, mercy, goodness and universal saving will. I hope the reader does not get the impression that Packer no longer believes in a strict particular redemption. He does, as is seen in the rest of this writing. He favorably cites Berkhof, Owen, and Nicole with respect to their arguments on the nature and extent of the atonement.

March 23, 2008

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on Christ's Death for Those Already in Hell

6. It is as good arguing, to say, some were in Heaven when Christ died, therefore he died not for them, as to say, some were in Hell, therefore he died not for them. For it may as wisely be said, those in Heaven were past all need of satisfaction, as that those in Hell were past all hope and remedy.

The time was, when they had hope from that satisfaction set before them, and when it was a sufficient remedy for them, and wanted nothing but their own consent to make it fully effectual: As the time was when those now in Heaven had need of it, and did accept it offered them.

Abraham saw Christ's day and rejoiced, and Moses counted the reproaches of Christ greater Riches than the Treasures of Egypt: But the impenitent then refused Christ, and his Government, and therefore were justly denied his further Mercies.

7. Only this much may be concluded by this arguing; that Christ at the time of his dying, did not intend the Saving of those that were then in Hell; and so it is as true, that Christ at his death did not intend for the future to give Regeneration, the first Reconciliation, Pardon, Adoption, Union with him, or Glory to those in Heaven; for they had received them all long before, as the Damned had lost them all before by their Rejection.

But it follows not hence, that therefore Christ bore not the punishment of all mens sins, according to his first undertaking.
Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption of Mankind (London: John Salusbury, 1694), 440–41.

Thomas Manton (1620–1677) on God Begging: Part 2

1. Consider God's gracious invitation. God hath fully opened his mind concerning the receiving of sinners that come to Christ. He prays us to come, makes public proclamation: Isa. Iv. 1, 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.' God by his ministers goes a begging to poor creatures: 2 Cor. v. 20, 'Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.' He pitieth those that do not come to him, Ps. Ixxxi. 13, 'Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!' so Luke xix. 41, 42, 'When he was come near he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!' He professeth his loathness that any should perish: Ezek. xxxiii. 11, 'As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will you die, house of Israel?' he reasoneth with them—'Why will you die?' So Ezek. xviii. 31. He chideth them for not coming, John v. 40, 'Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.' He promiseth and offereth to them all the favour that may be: John vi. 27, 'Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you;' Mat. xi. 28, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' Ye need not fear an entertainment. Now it is a great advantage to faith to consider these passionate forms. Show yourselves men by a literal revolution of the promises; though it be but an act of understanding and memory, yet God may bless it. Constant thoughts have a natural efficacy; when God is in them, and giveth his blessing, they work much.

5. God doth not only admit them to come, but of his own accord inviteth them that are slack and backward. The Scriptures do every where record the entreaties of God: he draweth us with cords of Love; cords that are woven and spun out of Christ’s heart and bowels: In one place thus, Cant. 4.8. Come away from Lebanon, my Sister, my Spouse, from the Lions dens, from the mountains of Leopards: Christ’s love is hot and burning, he thinketh we tarry too long from his embraces. So Cant. 5.2. Open to me my Sister, my Spouse, &c. Christ stands begging for entrance: Lost man, do but suffer me to save thee; poor sinner, suffer me to love thee: These are the charms of Gospel Rhetorick! So Isaiah. 49. Hearken to me, and attend to the words of my mouth, &c. Oh sinners, you will not hearken to me for the good of your Souls! You see none singeth so sweetly as the Bird of Paradise, the Turtle that chirpeth upon the Churches hedges, that he may cluck sinners to himself: The Scripture is full of such an holy witchcraft, such passionate charms, to entice Souls to their happiness.
Thomas Manton, “A Practical Commentary; Or, An Exposition with Notes, on the Epistle of Jude,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton , 22 vols. (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 5:58.


March 22, 2008

Carl Trueman on Double Jeopardy

This is old news, but still worth posting. Carl Trueman was interviewed on Reformation 21 awhile back and he was asked this question:
Following on from the previous question, it is sometimes argued that the Hodges (Charles and Archibald Alexander) as well as R. L. Dabney, did not agree with Owen’s view of “limited atonement,” in particular disagreeing with the use of the “double jeopardy” argument that Owen employed. What do you make of this?

Aha, here you probe one of my weaknesses. I rarely read the Hodges and gave up on Dabney many years ago. Indeed, I am an early modernist in terms of scholarship, and, with the exception of Warfield, have really no interest in American theology and have never found any non-contemporary American theologian to be that helpful compared to the European Reformed Orthodox of the seventeenth century. Thus, I have to plead ignorance on their comments on this point. As to the `double jeopardy’ argument, that is not a strong element of the limited atonement argument; I would not rest my case on that point; and neither did Owen. Far more significant is the covenant of redemption (which, as noted above, was seen by the Reformed Orthodox to be defensible on exegetical grounds), and the issues raised by the Socinian critique of what we now call penal substitution, along with Hugo Grotius’s response to the same.
Whether Owen put heavy stress on that particular argument (among others) and literal payment concepts to sustain his viewpoint can be debated, but here one can see that Trueman clearly doesn't think it is a "strong element" in the "limited atonement argument." Nevertheless, it is like Atlas among contemporary American Calvinists. It seems as though the whole world is resting upon that issue in order to sustain their strictly limited viewpoint, since it so frequently and inevitably comes up. I would be willing to bet my entire library that some "half-witted gargoyle" [credit to Steve for this humorous expression] is going to stand up and pose the "dilemma" to the panel of speakers at the upcoming John 3:16 Conference during the Q&A time, as if no one has ever considered it before. And on their face will be a look of utter invincibility. I might be willing to pay someone to snap a photo of it when it happens.

For an interesting critique of a related Trueman article by Flynn some time ago, see HERE.

March 20, 2008

On "Invitations"

Yesterday I enjoyed eating lunch with a brother in Christ who does not describe himself as a Calvinist. In our pleasant conversation, the issue of altar calls came up. I recently sent the following to him in an email and thought it worth putting on the blog as well. I said:

Tonight I was reflecting on the issue of "invitations" that came up just after our lunch conversation. I wanted to mention that the term "invitation" need not connote "altar call." I have no complaints against altar calls as such. I only have the exact same concerns that you have regarding manipulative altar calls. However, I do think issuing altar calls should be optional for each preacher or church leader. While they should never hesitate to give hearty invitations for the listeners to come to Christ, this need not always issue in a plea to come forward. In other words, preachers should not be under any legalistic obligation to give altar calls. Neither should anyone be smeared or besmirched for giving altar calls.

Calvinists who complain against altar calls should only be concerned about the manipulative sort. Or, they might legitimately complain against others who wish to mandate that they give altar calls. Whether one gives an altar call or not, there should be strong pleas and invitations to come to Christ throughout a scriptural exposition, and not merely at the end as a sort of homiletical punctuation mark. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones rightly makes that point in his book on preaching (see Preaching & Preachers [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972], p. 282.).

My concern about fellow Calvinists is not so much their rejection of altar calls. I am more concerned about their failure to give miserable and despairing sinners assurance that God truly wills their salvation, and that by the death and universal grant of an all-sufficient Saviour. I am concerned that they may hesitate to give passionate pleas and hearty invitations because they may not be sure themselves that God really wishes to save all of their hearers. If that is in the back of their minds, then they have a distorted vision of God as a result of their warped perception of Calvinism. That's a sure sign that the revealed will of God in the gospel has been diminished or entirely eclipsed by a speculative decretal emphasis in their theology.

March 17, 2008

Owen on Regeneration in the OT

"First, Although the work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit was wrought under the Old Testament, even from the foundation of the world, and the doctrine of it was recorded in the Scriptures, yet the revelation of it was but obscure in comparison of that light and evidence which it is brought forth into by the gospel. This is evident from the discourse which our blessed Savior had with Nicodemus on this subject; for when he acquainted him clearly with the doctrine of it, he was surprised, and fell into that inquiry, which argued some amazement, “How can these things be?” But yet the reply of our Savior manifests that he might have attained a better acquaintance with it out of the Scripture than he had done: “Art thou,” saith he, “a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?” — “Dost thou take upon thee to teach others what is their state and condition, and what is their duty towards God, and art ignorant thyself of so great and fundamental a doctrine, which thou mightst have learned from the Scripture?” For if he might not so have done, there would have been no just cause of the reproof given him by our Savior; for it was neither crime nor negligence in him to be ignorant of what God had not revealed. This doctrine, therefore, — namely, that everyone who will enter into the kingdom of God must be born again of the Holy Spirit, — was contained in the writings of the Old Testament. It was so in the promises, that God would circumcise the hearts of his people, — that he would take away their heart of stone, and give them a heart of flesh, with his law written in it, and other ways, as shall be afterward proved."

Although the Gospel of John is a New Testament book, nevertheless, the discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3 is an Old Testament event. I might also add that, even though regeneration took place in the OT, there is development and expansion in the blessing with respect to the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the people of God today. So, there are elements of continuity and elements of discontinuity between the OT age and NT age regarding regeneration and the people of God.

March 14, 2008

More from Thomas Manton (1620–1677) on Common and Special Love

The cause why so few are won to believe in Jesus Christ is because they have not the Spirit's revelation.

This I shall prove to you by these reasons:

1. Because without the Spirit's revelation all the outward tenders and reports of Jesus Christ will be to no purpose. The efficacy of the word lieth in the Spirit's assistance. I told you in the former point how powerful the word of God is, but withal I told you it was when the Spirit sets it home upon the heart. God may knock at the door and yet no man open to him; and, therefore, he speaketh by way of supposition, if he doth but barely knock: Rev. iii. 20, 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.' It is put upon an if: it is a great peradventure whether any man will open the door or no, when it is but a bare knock of the word. The spouse pleadeth excuses when Christ stood and knocked, saying, 'Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled,' Cant. v. 2; but in the 4th verse it is said, 'My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him; 'that signifieth the working of his Spirit, and then she opened. Men would fain take one nap more in sin when they are roused by the ministry; but when God puts his fingers upon the handles of the lock, Christ hath an admittance and the door then flieth open: Acts xi. 19-21, 'The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.' God's hand was upon the lock. If the word be anywhere spoken of as powerful, it is in reference to the Spirit, as 1 Thes. i. 5, 'Our word came unto you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost;' therefore in power, because in the Holy Ghost.

2. Because the Spirit's revelation is the token of God's special love; and that is not given to every one: God has appointed his special love but for a few. The outward revelation is to leave men without excuse; it is but a token of God's common love: 2 Cor. iv. 3, 'If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost'—hidden from their hearts, though it be revealed to their ears. Those that are lost have not the inward discoveries—that is, the effectual discovery and special effect of God's peculiar love: Acts xiii. 48, 'As many as were ordained to eternal life believed;' such have God's special love. Those that have least have many times an outward revelation: Acts xiv. 17, 'God left not himself without a witness, in that he did good;' yet, ver. 16, 'he suffered them to walk in their own ways.' They had a revelation, but they had not an efficacious revelation. And in this sense it is said, that 'many are called but few are chosen, many are invited and few wrought upon. They have the doctrine of life propounded to them, but they have not the Spirit of life setting it home upon their hearts; few taste of God's special love.
Thomas Manton, "A Practical Exposition Upon the Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah: The First Verse," in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 3:210–211.
First, What is this love of God in Christ? Here I take it actively for the love wherewith he loveth us. Love may be considered--

First, As an attribute or a perfection in God; so it is said, 1 John iv. 8, 'God is love.' Which noteth his readiness, self-propension, or inclination to do good.

Secondly, As it relateth and passeth out to the creature; so there is a common love and a special love. His common love is set forth: Ps. cxlv. 9, 'The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.' This love floweth in the channel of common providence. But then there is a special love, which is called his love in Christ: Eph. i. 3, 'Who hath blessed us with spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.' This love may be considered as purposed or expressed. As purposed: 2 Tim. i. 9, 'According to his purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.' His gracious purposes were from everlasting; he determined within himself that we should receive these fruits of his love through Jesus Christ. As expressed, and that two ways; as revealed in the gospel, and as applied to our hearts.
Manton, "Sermons Upon Romans VIII: Sermon XLVII," in Works, 12:413.
Second case is about the actual persuasion of God's love to us. For since this love of gratitude ariseth from a sense or apprehension of God's love to us in Christ; therefore God's children are troubled when they cannot make particular application, as Paul, and say, 'He loved me, and gave himself for me,' Gal. ii. 20.

Ans. 1. A particular persuasion of God's love to us is very comfortable. Things that do most concern us do most affect us; as a man is more pleased with legacies bequeathed to him by name, than left indefinitely to those who can make friends. If I can discern my name in God's testament, it is unquestionably more satisfactory and more engaging than when with much ado I must make out my title, and enter myself an heir: Eph. i. 13, 'After that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.' It is not sufficient to know that the gospel is a doctrine of salvation in general, or to others only, but every one should labour, by a due application of the promises of the gospel unto themselves, to find it a doctrine of salvation unto themselves. Salvation by Christ is a benefit which we need as much as others, and therefore should give all diligence to understand our part and interest in it. God's love to us is the great reason of our love to God; ours a reflection; the more direct the beam, the stronger the reflection. It is the quickening motive to the spiritual life, Gal. ii. 20. Certainly they are much to blame who can so contentedly sit down with the want thereof, so they may be well in the world; if God will love them with a common love, so as they may live in peace, and credit, and mirth, and wealth among men. Our joy, comfort, and peace, much dependeth on the sense of our particular interest: Luke i. 46, 'My soul doth rejoice in God my Saviour;' and Rom. v. 11, 'We rejoice in God, as those that have received the atonement.' It is uncomfortable to live in doubts and fears, or else to live by guess and uncertain conjectures. Well then, if we would maintain the joy of faith, the vigour of holiness, we should get our interest more clear.
Manton, "Sermons Upon 2 Corinthians V: Verse 14," in Works, 13:154.
[1.] If you interpret it of his divine love, the difficulty will not be great; for there is a general and common love, and a special love. With the first, God loves all his creatures, especially mankind, and amongst them those that have any strictures of his image in them more than others. But then there is a special love, and so all those are saved whom God thus loveth. So God loveth his own people, either with a love of good-will when they are uncalled: Jer. xxxi. 3, 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love;' or else with a love of complacency, when called and converted: Zeph. iii. 17, 'He will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love.' Now this will easily salve the matter; there was a general love, or a liking and approbation of those moral virtues and good things which he saw in him [the rich young ruler], but not that special love which brings grace and salvation along with it.
Manton, "Sermons Upon Mark X. 17–27: Sermon V," in Works (1874), 16:457.
3. When men have received many mercies. Men cannot endure to have their kindness despised. Joseph thought it ingratitude to wrong his master, who had committed all things to him, Gen. xxxix. 9; and shall we wrong God? Every sin is not a sin against knowledge, but every sin is a sin against mercies. There is a common love which all receive, food and raiment. It is their charge, Rom. ii. 4, that they despise not his kindness and the riches of his goodness. But his people have tasted his love in Christ. Every sin of yours is a stab at the heart: John vi. 67, 'Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 'Is this the fruit of all his tender love sealed to you by the Spirit? Ps. Iv. 12, 13, 'It was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have borne it. But it was thou, a man, mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.' David took it ill from Achitophel, and Christ from Judas. From a professed enemy we could expect no better; but from a friend, it is grievous; you have tasted of his bread, and been fed with hidden manna.
Manton, "Sermons Upon Psalm xix. 13: Sermon VI," Works (1874), 21:393.


Thomas Manton (1620–1677) on the Will and Human Responsibility

God being our creator, doth preserve the liberty of his workmanship; he applieth himself to every creature according to the nature of it, so as to improve it, not destroy it; he offereth no violence to our natural faculties, but super-addeth grace; draweth, that we may run, Cant i. 4; not hoisteth up, as dead things by pulleys and engines. The will is not compelled, but overcome by the sweet efficacy of grace; being actuated by God, we act under God; that is, by our own voluntary motion, and in a way of operation proper to us. I say, God influenceth all things according to their natural inclination; he enlighteneth by and with the sun, burneth by and with the fire; reasoneth with man; acts necessarily with necessary causes, and freely with free causes; draweth us with the cords of a man, Hos. xi. 4. Now we pervert this order, if we lie upon the bed of ease, and cry, 'Christ must do all.' Christ that doth all for you, doth all in you, and by you; he propoundeth reasons which we must consider, and so betake ourselves to a godly course; he showeth us our lost estate, the possibility of salvation by Christ, sweetly inviting us to accept of grace, that he may pardon our sins, sanctify our natures, and lead us in the way of holiness to eternal life.

March 11, 2008

Robert Traill (1642–1716) on Common and Special Grace

3. Grace is considered as it is in the vessels that receive it, in men that partake of it. And here it will be needful to distinguish. The grace of God as received, comes under a very notable distinction of common grace, and saving grace, or special. Somewhat hath been hinted of the same distinction, betwixt common and special saving mercy. But of this distinction, as to grace received, I would speak more fully.

First, Common grace is so called, not because it is ordinary and usual, (for in bad times it is rare enough), but because it is not saving. It is most likely, that in such happy times (which we cannot now boast of, but only hope for when saving grace is bestowed on many, common grace is dispensed more frequently also. That there is such a thing as common grace, is as certain, as it is that there is such a creature (if I may so call him) as a hypocrite in the church, or in the world. For an hypocrite is nothing else but an unrenewed sinner, painted over with more or less common grace. And to men that see the outside of others only, he may appear like a true Christian.

I would give some particular instances of this common grace.

1. There is a common enlightening grace, a common illumination, Heb. vi. 4. and x. 26. The apostle supposeth, that there is an enlightening, and a receiving a knowledge of the truth that may be where a fatal apostasy may follow. The Lord may give the light of his word; and, in and by that light, may dart in some clear beams of gospel-truth on such that are led no farther. It is far from being true, that all knowing heads have sound hearts. There may be, and often is, much clear light in the mind about points of saving truth, when there is no sense, no savour, no faith in the heart. Acts xxvi. we find Paul speaking in the most noble assembly that it is like he ever spoke in; a King and a Queen, and a Roman Governor greater than both. In this august assembly, Paul, though a prisoner in bonds, remembers his being an apostle, and preacheth Christ, and takes Christ's grace in converting him for his text: ver. 24. When he is thus speaking, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul thou art beside thyself: much learning doth make thee mad. At the same time, ver. 28. Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. This was a great deal better than Festus's word, yet a poor word in itself. It spoke some glancing of ineffectual light on his mind. An almost Christian, and no more, is but a sinner almost saved, and no more; or one that is no Christian, and never saved at all.

2. There is common awakening grace. The Lord sometimes alarms the consciences of the ungodly, and may raise a great sense of sin in such as are never forgiven; and fears of hell, yea, a foretaste of hell, in some that never escape it. I have sinned, Saith Pharaoh; I have sinned saith Saul: I have sinned (saith Judas), in betraying innocent blood. Alas, poor wretch! it had been better to have confessed his sin against his master, to his master, than to his murderers. Felix trembled when Paul preached. It was grace in God to come so near to him, and great power was put forth. What else could make such a great prince as Felix was, to tremble at the words of a poor prisoner standing before him in his chains? Awakening grace is but common grace. The law wounds many a conscience that the gospel doth not heal, because not applied to. No wound can the law make, which the gospel cannot heal. Boast not of your wounds by the law, unless you can tell how you were healed. There is no cure for a conscience wounded by sin and by the law, but the blood of Jesus shed for sin. Did ye come to it? Heb. xii. 24. Did he apply it to you? Were you cured of your wounds before ye went to him, and before he came to you? Woeful is that cure, and worse than the wound. Many poor creatures are wounded by the law, and to the law they go for healing. But God never appointed the law to heal a wounded conscience; and it never did, nor can, nor will, to the end of the world, nor to eternity. It is Christ's name, and property, and glory, to be the only physician of souls; and all must die of the disease of sin, that are not his happy patients.

3. There is common restraining grace; an act of God's grace and wisdom, which he often puts forth in his ruling of this wicked world. How quickly would this earth become a hell, were it not for this restraining grace? If all unrenewed Men were permitted by God, to commit all the Sin Satan tempts to, and their Natures incline them to, there would be no living in this World for the godly. This restraining grace we find a Heathen had, Gen. 20.6. I with-held thee from sinning against me, saith the Lord to Abimelech. And which is more, we find a great Saint praying for it. Ps. 19.13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have Dominion over me: That is, lay a powerful restraint on me by thy grace, that when I am tempted, my way may be hedged up, and I may be kept from complying with the Temptation. But yet bare restraining grace is not desired by a Christian in good case, without sanctifying grace: He desires not only the restraining of the outward Acts of Sin, but the removing of inward Inclinations to Sin; he begs the renewing and changing of the Heart. So David, when he had fallen foully, by the strength of inward Corruption, and God's leaving him to himself; when recovered by Grace, and renewed unto Repentance, prays like a wise Believer. Psal. 51.10. Create in me a clean Heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Robert Traill, "Sermons Concerning the Throne of Grace: Sermon VIII," in The Works of the Late Reverend Robert Traill, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: Printed for J. Ogle, 1810), 1:146–150?. Also in Robert Trail, The Throne of Grace (London: Printed by J. Orme, for Nathanael Hiller, at the Prince's Arms in Leaden-hall-Street, over against St. Mary Ax Church, 1696), 206–210.


March 8, 2008

Hell's Bells? An Edwardsian Miscellany on Time and Hell

If you grew up listening to rock music like I did, then you've no doubt heard the song "Hells Bells" by ACDC. It has an interesting bell sound at the beginning. Listen to it here:

I actually think this sound represents something that will be the case in hell. I'll explain.

It is easy for us to lose the sense of time when we are on our computers, playing around, or engaged in good conversation with pleasant company, unless we hear a clock making a sound. It's almost like we are in a timeless state and escape the sense of passing moments, until we hear a sound. The escape from elapsing time may even be desired, so some people may use drugs to experience it. It's as if one loses a sense of responsibility for the way we are spending our time when this temporary escape occurs. Watching television may even produce this effect, which may be why so many people continually watch it. It produces a mental diversion, however temporary. Sleep obviously does the same thing.

When we hear an alarm or see a clock, we are shocked at how much time has elapsed. We suddenly wake up, in one form or another, to a sense of passing moments again.

Now consider the following.

It is said that those in hell will not "rest" day or night:

NKJ Revelation 14:11: "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."

At the very least, this must mean that they will not have any mental relaxation, as well as bodily comfort. They will no longer have their diversions. Their imaginations will not be able to veer off into some pleasant dream or thought, so as to escape the sense of passing moments. God will make sure that their consciences keep intensely focused on each portion of time as they endure their just and everlasting punishment. Their consciences will pound inside of their heads, like the gong of a large bell, to make them perpetually aware of why the waves of grief and anguish keep rolling in for an eternity. This will force them to reflect on how they squandered time and their gracious opportunities while on earth, as they weep and grind their teeth.

In this way, the consciences of the damned will act as "Hells Bells," and it will be a chief source of torment.

March 7, 2008

Sufficiency Analogies

Update on 9-21-11:
The reader will want to check these sources (click) to get an idea of how the sufficiency of Christ's death has been differently understood.

On a discussion board awhile back, I wrote a few analogies on the subject of sufficiency so that they might see the distinction between an actual sufficiency position and a hypothetical sufficiency position regarding the nature and extent of Christ's death. I also made a few historical observations at the end. Here is a revised version of it:

Scenario #1: An Ordained or Actual Sufficiency

Suppose 5 men are in jail for offending a great and wealthy King. They are each fined a million dollars and put in jail. Without the fine being paid, they cannot be freed by anyone. The King is compassionate and forgiving, so He decides to send His Son to pay the fine of each of them: the sum of 5 million. Nevertheless, he adds conditions for their release, since He is the one paying their fine through His Son. They each must acknowledge their guilt and agree to join the King's army. Two of the men in jail are convicted of their guilt (especially because of the King's manifest compassion and generosity), acknowledge it and agree to join the King's army. Consequently, they are set free, but the others remain in jail.

Observe: With respect to each of the 5 men in jail, the King's payment is actually sufficient to set each of them free, but each of them must meet the terms in order to be released. The great King is infinitely wealthy himself, so he could have, hypothetically speaking, paid the fine of 10000000+ more men in that kind of a situation. In this first scenario, the King bears an ordained or actual sufficiency with respect to each of the 5 men, since he actually paid the fine of each, i.e., the sum of 5 million. If any of them remain in jail, it is not because they lack a sufficient payment of their fine, or the faculties necessary to comply (natural barriers). It is only because they fail to meet the King's terms of release: confession and agreement to join the army (moral barriers).

Scenario #2: A Hypothetical Sufficiency

Suppose the same 5 men are in jail under the same circumstances as described above. They are each fined a million dollars and put in jail. Without the fine being paid, they cannot be freed by anyone. In this scenario, however, the great and wealthy King decides to send His Son to pay the fine of 2 of the 5 men: the sum of 2 million dollars. The same terms are declared for release, i.e., in order for them to be freed, they must confess their guilt and agree to join the King's army. Two of the men in jail are convicted of their guilt (especially because of the King's manifest compassion and generosity), acknowledge it and agree to join the King's army. Consequently, they are set free, but the others remain in jail.

Observe: With respect to 2 of the men in the jail, the King's payment is actually sufficient to set them free, but they experience their freedom when the terms are met. The great King is infinitely wealthy himself, so he could have, hypothetically speaking, paid the fine of the other 3 (and 10000000+ more men besides in such a situation). With respect to 3 of the 5 men in jail, the King is hypothetically sufficient to have paid their debt, since he is intrinsically wealthy enough to do so, but he did not actually do so. The King is in the situation of an actual sufficiency for 2 of them, and in a situation of a mere hypothetical sufficiency for 3 of them.

N.B.: In Scenario #2, only 2 of the men can possibly go free (so long as they meet the aforementioned terms), since their fine is actually paid. As it was said above, without the fine being paid, they cannot be freed by anyone. It does not matter if the other 3 confess their guilt and agree to join the King's army. Their fine is not paid, so they cannot possibly go free. They not only have the moral barrier of their own stubborness (if they didn't acknowledge their guilt) in the way, but they also have a natural barrier as well, since their fine is not paid.

In conclusion, this is the distinction between an ordained or actual sufficiency vs. a hypothetical sufficiency. My own view is depicted in Scenario #1. I think that Jesus actually suffered sufficiently for the guilt of the entire human race, since he took their flesh and satisfied the curse of the law on their behalf, as the last Adam. That's classical Christology. The view of the strict particularists, such as John Owen, is depicted in Scenario #2. They think that Jesus only actually suffered for the guilt of the elect alone. He only satisfied the curse of the law on their behalf (the elect). That view did not exist until the time of Theodore Beza (with the possible exception of Gottschalk of Orbais) in the mid to late 1500's, with the rise of High Federalist theology. The formula "sufficient for all, efficient for the elect" (sufficientur pro omnibus, efficator pro electis) is very old. The phrase explicitly goes back to the time of Peter Lombard in the middle ages (in the time of the "schoolmen"), but the concept is implicitly found in the church fathers, such as Ambrose. The Lombardian formula, if we may call it that, was altered with the rise of a strict particularist view of Christ's death. Instead of saying that "Christ suffered sufficiently for all" (an expression found in Calvin and acknowledged as true in his writings), the idea changed to "Christ could have suffered sufficiently for all." That's no mere speculation. Owen was conscious of the fact that he was differently viewing and changing the classic formula.

Later theologians acknowledge the switch and talk of an extrinsic sufficiency vs. an intrinsic sufficiency. The former (extrinsic sufficiency) was the classical conception of Christ's death as it relates to all mankind, but the latter (intrinsic sufficiency) was the Owenic/Bezan model, as it relates to the non-elect. For "extrinsic" is meant an actual sufficiency ordained by God for all, and the latter is meant a hypothetical sufficiency, that is, in the case of the non-elect. In the Owenic/Bezan model, actual sufficiency collapses into efficiency, with the result that Christ's death is only actually sufficient for the elect (but hypothetically sufficient for the non-elect) and efficient for the elect. In fact, on that model, if it is actually sufficient for anyone, it must necessarily be efficient for them as well, i.e., if Christ died for someone, they cannot fail but to be freed from guilt and pardoned, so they (Beza, Owen, Turretin, etc.) think. The classic Lombardian model, on the other hand, has the actual sufficiency of His death being adequate for all (but distinguishes Christ's motives or will in making that accomplishment), and not just the elect. The efficiency, or the effectual application of Christ's death, was thought to involve the necessary work of the Holy Spirit working through a sovereign regenerating act and the instrumentality of faith. In other words, Christ's death, taken by itself, does not ipso facto release anyone from their sin debt. Faith (as an instrument) appropriates the benefit, and only the elect obtain it because of the Spirit quickening them in order that they may have the moral liberty (removal of the moral barrier) to do so. The rest do not obtain it because of their own remaining moral depravity, i.e., they have only themselves to blame. There are no physical or natural barriers in the way of the non-elect that blocks their pardon. Only their own stubborness is the barrier. As the Synod Dort says:
"However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient [there are no natural barriers in the way], but because they themselves are at fault [their own moral barrier remains]."

March 4, 2008

Ambrose (c.340–397) on Christ's Suffering

The following quote by Ambrose is important because it is an ancient source for the concept that Christ suffered sufficiently for all, but efficaciously for the elect. This idea is much older than Lombard and Aquinas. Ambrose is quoted by John Davenant (Dissertation, p. 400) and others to argue for a dual aspect to Christ's death.
"A certain creditor," it says, "had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty" [St. Luke 7:41]. 24. Who are those two debtors if not the two peoples, the one from the Jews, the other from the Gentiles, beholden to the Creditor of the heavenly treasure? It says, "The one owed five hundred pence, the other fifty" [St. Luke 7:41]. Extraordinary is that penny on which the King's image is written, which bears the imprint of the Emperor [cf. St. Mark 12:15–16]. To this Creditor we owe not material wealth, but assays of merits, accounts of virtues, the worth of which is measured by the weight of seriousness, the likeness of righteousness, the sound of confession. Woe is me if I do not have what I have received, truly, because only with difficulty can anyone pay off the whole debt to this Creditor; woe is me if I do not ask, "Remit my debt." For the Lord would not have taught us so to pray that we ask for our sins to be forgiven [cf. St. Matthew 6:12] if He had not known that some would only with difficulty be worthy debtors [cf. St. Luke 11:4]. 25. But which is the people which owes more if not we by whom more is believed? God's words were believed by them [cf. Romans 3:2], but His Virgin Birth by us. Ye have the talent [cf. St. Matthew 25:15], the Virgin Birth; ye have the hundredfold fruit of faith [cf. St. Matthew 13:8]. Emmanuel was believed, God with us [cf. St. Matthew 1:23]; the Cross, the Death, the Resurrection of the Lord were believed. Although Christ suffered for all, yet He suffered for us particularly, because He suffered for the Church [etsi christus pro omnibus passus est, pro nobis tamen specialiter passus est, quia pro ecclesia passus est]. Therefore, there is no doubt that he who has received more, owes more [cf. St. Luke 12:48]. And according to me, perhaps he who owed more offended more, but through the Lord's mercy, the case is changed, so that he who owed more loves more, if he nevertheless attains Grace. For he who gives it back possesses Grace, and he who possesses it repays, insofar as he possesses, for the possession consists in the repayment and the repayment in the possession. 26. And, therefore, since there is nothing which we can worthily repay to God—for what may we repay for the harm to the Flesh He assumed, what for the blows, what for the Cross, the Death, and the Burial? Woe is me if I have not loved! I dare to say that Peter did not repay and thereby loved the more; Paul did not repay—he, indeed, repaid death for death, but did not repay other debts, because he owed much. I hear himself saying, because he did not repay, "Who hath given to Him first, that he might be recompensed again?" [Romans 11:35]. Even if we were to repay cross for Cross, death for Death, do we repay that we possess all things from Him, and by Him, and in Him [cf. Romans 11:36]? Therefore, let us repay love for our debt, charity for the gift, grace for wealth; for he to whom more is given loves more [cf. St. Luke 7:42–43].
Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), 201–202.


[HT: Dr. Curt Daniel]

March 1, 2008

Flynn's Calvin Bomb

After years of reading and research, Flynn (David) has posted a MASSIVE amount of Calvin quotations on the Calvin and Calvinism blog that should transform opinion about the great Reformer! As David says:
...the following list, I believe, will be the most comprehensive list regarding Calvin’s view on the extent of the expiation and redemption that is available either online or in hard-print.

These are just a few of his findings taken from Calvin's most recently published Sermons on Acts 1–7:
On the other hand, when Luke speaks of the priests, he is speaking of the responsibility of those who hold public office. Principally, they are ordained to bear God’s word. So when some falsehood appears or Satan’s wicked disseminations proliferate, it is their duty to be vigilant, confront the situation, and do everything in their power to protect poor people from being poisoned by false teachings and to keep the souls redeemed by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ from perishing, from entering into eternal death.
John Calvin, Sermons on Acts 1–7, Sermon 9, Acts 4:1-4, p., 112.
And that speaks not only to those who are charged with the responsibility of teaching God's word, but to everyone in general. For on this point the Holy Spirit, who must be our guide, is not disparaging the right way to teach. If we wish to serve our Master, that is the way we must go about it. We must make every effort to draw everybody to the knowledge of the gospel. For when we see people going to hell who have been created in the image of God and redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, that must indeed stir us to do our duty and instruct them and treat them with all gentleness and kindness as we try to bear fruit this way.

But still Stephen had a special reason. He. was speaking to the Jews, who professed to be God's people. That then has to do with the 'brothers' Stephen was talking about at the outset. That is the relationship we now have with the papists, although they differ from us. They confess that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the world and then destroy his power while still retaining some sign of the gospel. They confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that what the Evangelists wrote about him must be adhered to as God's truth, even though they do not believe it. So if we have that in common with the papists, there is some appearance of brotherhood.
John Calvin, Sermons on Acts 1–7, Sermon 41, Acts 7:51, p., 587–588.
And now there is another reason we must extend this teaching a bit further. It is, as I have already said, that, seeing that men are created in the image of God and that their souls have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we must try in every way available to us to draw them to the knowledge of the gospel. First, we try to reach them through gentleness and kindness. But have we determined whether men can be brought into obedience unto God in this way? Since we see that there is such hardness and rebellion in them that they cannot be won in this way, it is no longer a matter of using gentle tactics. Rather, we must storm out against them, as the Holy Spirit shows us here. And because of that, we understand why many people think they would like for us to refrain from all harshness when we speak of the pope and his ilk, calling him an antichrist, a murderer, a robber who kills poor souls, a thief who pillages God's honour.
John Calvin, Sermons on Acts 1–7, Sermon 41, Acts 7:51, p., 593.

I would like to echo the sentiments of Reid Ferguson, and also say to David:
On behalf of many many folks, and hopefully generations to come, thank you for your tireless efforts in this regard. We will all be better for it.