June 23, 2009

Thomas Becon (c.1512–c.1567) on the World as Mankind in John 3:16

Thomas BeconBut now let us go forth and see what is the way to come by this gift. For all things are not of like force to obtain this gift. Christ himself shows it plainly by his word, when he saith, that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. This is an evident proof that only faith, that is, the trust in the grace and mercy of God, is the very hand wherewith we must take unto us this gift. For even as God giveth by love and mercy, so we do take and receive by faith, and can receive no otherwise. As for thy merit for doing this or that, it hath no place. For our works are nothing requisite to the obtaining of this gift, only is it necessary to show ourselves ready through faith, and even as it is given of God, by love; so we ought to receive it by faith in Christ. As, for an example; we are told here that God is merciful and ready to forgive, and that he declares his love and charity toward us by this—when he sends his only begotten Son into the flesh, and lays our sins upon him; according to this saying of John, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world; that by this gift and love our hearts may be confirmed against sin and the biting worm of conscience; forasmuch as God is not now angry with us, but standeth sure by his promise of grace and mercy which he has made with us, for his Son Jesus Christ's sake. He that believeth this is sure to be saved. For this gift is given to make us safe from death and sin. For even as a great flame is in comparison with a drop of water; so is Christ in comparison with the sins of the world. As soon as they touch Christ, and as soon as the gift is received by faith, our sins are quite consumed and abolished, even as a dry stalk is by a hot fire. For here thou hearest by the word of Christ, that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son for the world, that all who believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He saith precisely here, They that believe in him. He saith not, He that taketh upon him this or that work, and is thereby endeavouring himself to purchase God's favour. It is only faith that purchases this gift. Wherefore let our adversaries withstand this sentence ever so much, let them rail ever so much against it, yet is this sentence sure and invincible; that they who believe in him shall have everlasting life, and shall not perish. And see thou put nothing hereto, nor take any thing from it, lest thou shouldest seem to take upon thee to correct Christ's judgment. These are excellent words and the words of life; God grant us his grace to print them in our hearts. For he that hath these words surely fixed in his heart, can neither be afraid of the devil, nor of sin, nor of hell, but will be of a quiet heart, and say, I am without all fear; for I have with me the Son of God, whom God hath given unto me by love and by the word of God, that is, by the gospel, which certifies me thereof. And thy word, O Lord, and thy Son Jesus will not deceive me, in whom alone I put my trust. If I be weak in faith, grant me grace that I may believe more steadfastly. For besides this, I have no other help in this evident gift and love of God, but that we should all, by a little and a little, believe more and more in this gift. For faith is requisite, as thou hearest here of Christ. And the stronger faith is, the greater is the joy, pleasure, and security that is felt rising in the mind, so that after that the mind is most prone and ready to do and to suffer all things which we know God requires of us, and wills us to do, knowing that he is loving, and uses nothing but love toward us.

But thou wilt say, If I were as Peter, Paul, and Mary were, this gift would be comfortable unto me. For they are saints, and doubtless this saying pertains but unto them. How should I, who am a sinner, by any means understand that it pertains unto me, who have so often offended God by my sins, and have made him my enemy? Such thoughts cannot be avoided, when the heart, after this kind of preaching and reasoning, beholds itself, and considers its sins. And here must we be circumspect and wary, lest we, laying aside God's word, give ourselves any long time to such thoughts, but forthwith must we return to the word, and order our judgment according to the same. For those thoughts are nothing but mere incredulity and unbelief, which goeth about to withdraw us from this sweet gospel. And truly unbelief can be overcome by no other means than by the word of God. Of this Christ spake—that we should not doubt of this word; saying, that his Father, the true and eternal God in heaven, did so love the world, that he delivered his only begotten Son. And this is sure, that the world here does not signify Mary, Peter, and Paul only; but the world signifies all mankind. Therefore if thou takest thyself to be of mankind, or if thou dost not believe that, compare thyself with other mortal men, that thou mayest understand that thou art a man. For why shouldest thou not suffer thyself to be of this name, seeing that Christ with plain words saith, that God gave not his Son only for Mary, Peter, and Paul, but for the world, that all should receive him that are the sons of men. Then if thou or I would not receive him, as though he did not appertain unto us, truly it would consequently follow, that Christ's words are not true, whereas he saith he was given and delivered for the world. Wherefore hereof appears, that the contrary thereto is most assuredly true, that is, that this gift belongs as well unto thee as to Peter and Paul, forasmuch as thou also art a man as they were, and a portion of the world, that God may not be judged in his word, and this thought rise in our heart, thinking on this wise: Who knoweth whether I am also of their number, to whom the Son of God is given, and eternal life promised. For that is as much as to make God untrue to his promise. Wherefore when this thought comes upon thee, suspect it, as thou wouldest suspect the devil, lest thou be therewith deceived. And say thou, What is that to me, that I am neither Peter nor Paul? If God would have given this gift to them only that should have been found worthy, he would have given it to the angels, to the sun, and to the moon; for they are pure and undefiled creatures, which always obey God, and never decline or swerve from his precepts. But this is the truth of the matter, he gave Him to the world, and the world is no worthier thereof than as I said before. Wherefore, although I am neither Peter nor Paul, yet will I not suffer myself to be put beside this gift, but will challenge as much for my part as David and all the holy apostles did. Whatsoever I am, yet God is not to be taken as unfaithful to his promise. I am a portion of the world, wherefore if I take not this gift as mine own I make God untrue.
Thomas Becon, "Faith in Christ," in the Writings of the Rev. Thomas Becon (London: Printed for the Religious Tract Society, 1830), 497–500.


June 22, 2009

Joseph Alleine (1634–1668) on God’s “Soul-Encouraging Call”

I. The God that made thee, most graciously invites thee.

First, His most sweet and merciful nature invites thee. O the kindness of God, his boundless compassion, his tender mercies! As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts: "higher than heaven, what can we do? Deeper than hell, what can we know? Job 11:7, 8, 9. "He is full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy." Psa. 86: 15. This is a great argument to persuade sinners to come in, "Turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil."

If God would not repent of the evil, it would be some discouragement against our repenting. If there were no hope of mercy, it would be no wonder that rebels should stand out; but never had subjects such a gracious prince, such pity, patience, and clemency to deal with, as you have. "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?" Micah 7:18. O sinners! see what a God you have to deal with: if you will but turn, "he will turn again, and have compassion on you; he will subdue your iniquities, and cast all your sins into the depths of the sea." "Return unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will return unto you." Mal. 3:17. Zach. 1:3. Sinners do not fail in that they are too high thoughts of God's mercies, but in that, 1, They overlook his justice. 2. They promise themselves mercy out of God's way. His mercy is bound beyond all imagination; Isa. 55:9, great mercies, 1 Chron. 21:13, manifold mercies, Neh. 9:19, tender mercies, Psa. 25:6, sure mercies, Isa. 54:8, everlasting mercies; and all is thy own, if thou wilt but turn. Art thou willing to come in? The Lord hath laid aside his terror and erected a throne of grace. He holds forth the golden sceptre: touch and live. Would a merciful man slay his enemy when prostrate at his feet, acknowledging his wrong, begging pardon, and offering to enter with him into a covenant of peace? Much less will the merciful God. Study his name.

Secondly, His soul-encouraging call and promises invite thee. Ah, what an earnest suitor is mercy to thee! how lovingly, how instantly, it calleth after thee! how earnestly it wooeth thee! "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever; only acknowledge thine iniquity. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; return, and I will heal thy backslidings. Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return unto me, saith the Lord." "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Ezek. 33:11. "If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All the transgressions that he hath committed they shall not be mentioned unto him; in his righteousness that he hath done, he shall live. Repent, and turn you from all your transgressions: so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? for I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye." Ezek. 28:21, 22, 30, 31, 32.

O melting, gracious words! the voice of God, and not of a man! This is not the manner of men, for the offended sovereign to sue to the offending traitorous rebel. O how doth mercy follow thee, and plead with thee! Is not thy heart broken yet? O that "today you would hear his voice!"
Joseph Alleine, An Alarm to Unconverted Sinners (Hanover, NH: Printed by Charles Spear, 1816), 202–205.


June 19, 2009

Joel Beeke on Jeremias Bastingius (1551–1595)

This post is meant to supplement the Calvin and Calvinism entry on Bastingius.
Bastingius, Jeremias (Dutch, Bastinck; 1551–1595), Dutch Reformed theologian best known for his exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism. Bastingius was trained by several prominent second-generation Reformers. He studied in Heidelberg under Zacharius Ursinus in 1573, where Peter Dathenus was his roommate, and in Geneva under Théodore de Bèze in 1574, where he boarded with Lambert Daneau. He also received instruction from Kaspar Olevianus and was graduated under Girolamo Zanchi as doctor in theology in Heidelberg (1575–1576).

His reputation was such that he was called in 1578 to Antwerp, the most prominent of the Low Countries' Reformed churches at the time. During his Antwerp pastorate (1578–1585) Bastingius enjoyed the confidence of the Dutch churches. When the provinces of Holland and Zeeland drafted a church order without involving the Reformed churches officially, Bastingius was still consulted privately by the provinces. With Jean Taffin he gave counsel to the Walloon ministers concerning this matter. Bastingius was consulted by Gaspar van der Heyden prior to his publication of a revised version of the Heidelberg Catechism in 1580. Consequently, the National Synod of Middelburg decided that Bastingius, in cooperation with Classis Walcheren, should compose exegetical studies (Exegemata) related to the catechism.

After the fall of Antwerp (1585), Bastingius settled temporarily in Zeeland. Shortly thereafter he accepted a call to Dordrecht (1585), where he remained for eight years. Here his renowned exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism was published in Latin, In Catechesim religionis Christianae, quae in Ecclesiis et scholis, tum Belgii tum Palatinatus traditur, exegemata, sive commentarii (1588). This popular work reflected the influence of Ursinus and Zanchi, as well as Calvin, to whom he refers more than thirty times. Several translations followed: an English text in 1589 (six reprints between 1592 and 1617), a Dutch version in 1591 (seven new editions printed by 1762), and a German translation in 1596. Bastingius himself translated it into Flemish. This work motivated the Synod of Friesland to express deep appreciation for Bastingius's "faithful labors toward the edification of the church of Christ."

Bastingius was a careful exegete. He preferred Calvin's hermeneutics over Melanchthon's, as he felt Calvin strove for a method that did justice to the context of all scripture. Consequently, Bastingius persuaded Daneau to publish his Methodus Sacrae Scripturae tractandae in 1579.

Bastingius was a leading figure in ecclesiastical assemblies. Numerous times he was a member of the moderamen of his classis; he represented his provincial or particular synod at the National Synod of 1587; and he served as president (1588) and assessor (1592) of his particular synod. Though he embraced strong Calvinistic convictions, he showed remarkable tolerance for those who embraced different persuasions from his own. His congenial and peace-loving disposotion explains why his circle of friends included men such as Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Johannes Wtenbogaert, and Gerardus Joannes Vossius.

Soon after his appointment to the board of regents of the University of Leiden (1593), Bastingius was honorably dismissed in 1595, as he lacked the firm hand required to guide the students. Subsequently he was appointed professor of theology. He never functioned as such, however, since shortly after his appointment he died at the age of forty-four.
Joel Beeke, "Bastingius, Jeremias," in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, ed. Hans J. Hillerbrand, 4 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 1:127–128.

June 18, 2009

Sources for Amyraut (1596-1664) Studies

Since I just sent this information to someone in an email, I decided that it might be good to make some of it public as well, in case anyone else is engaging in Amyraut studies.

Primary works in French, Latin, and German:

Post-Reformation Digital Library listings for Moïse Amyraut

Primary works in English:

1) Richard Lum's translation of A Brief Treatise on Predestination by Moyse Amyraut. This was done in partial fulfillment for his doctoral degree at Dallas Theological Seminary in June, 1985. Dr. Curt Daniel sells copies of this, but I don't know if he will be in the bookselling business for much longer.

2) Matthew Scott Harding's translation of Amyraut's A Brief Treatise on Predestination is also available to purchase at Amazon.

3) Moyses Amyraldus, A Treatise Concerning Religions, in Refutation of the Opinion Which Accounts all Indifferent; Wherein is Also Evinc'd the Necessity of a Particular Revelation, and the Verity and Preeminence of the Christian Religion Above the Pagan, Mahometan, and Jewish Rationally Demonstrated (London: Printed by M. Simmons for Will. Nealand bookseller in Cambridge and are to be sold there and at the sign of the Crown in Duck-lane, 1660). This can be obtained online at the following links:

4) Moses Amyraldus, A Discourse Concerning the Divine Dreams Mentioned in Scripture, trans. Ja. Lowde (London, Printed by A.C. for Walter Kettilby, at the Bishops-head in St. Paul's Church-Yard, 1676). This work is available on Early English Books Online.

5) Moses Amyraldus, The Evidence of Things not Seen, or Diverse Scriptural, and Philosophical Discourses; Concerning the State of Good and Holy Men After Death (London, Printed for Tho. Cockrill at the Sign of the Three Legs, in the Poultry, 1700). This work is available on Early English Books Online.

6) Matthew Paul Harmon, Moyse Amyraut’s Six Sermons: Directions for Amyrauldian Studies (Th.M. thesis, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2008). Dr. Daniel sells copies. Check WorldCat for nearby libraries that may have it.

Important Secondary works:

1) John Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata (London: Printed for T. Parkhurst and J. Robinson, 1692). Good editions of this work are available on Early English Books Online, as well as at the Post-Reformation Digital Library. Dr. Curt Daniel also sells copies of this, but I have read that some of the print is poor in his editions. I'm not sure.

2) Brian G. Armstrong, Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy: Protestant Scholasticism and Humanism in the Seventeenth-Century France (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004). This should still be in print. This is a revised copy of his dissertation entitled The Calvinism of Moise Amyraut: The Warfare of Protestant Scholasticism and French Humanism (Ph.D. diss., Princeton Theological Seminary, 1967). UMI ProQuest sells copies of the dissertation HERE.

3) Frans Pieter Van Stam, The Controversy Over the Theology of Saumur, 1635-1650 (APA-Holland University Press, 1988). Dallas Theological Seminary has a copy of this dissertation (possibly obtained through Dr. Curt Daniel). I don't know where else one might get this very important and excellent work. One might check WorldCat for libraries nearby that may have it.

4) Lawrence Proctor, The Theology of Moïse Amyraut Considered as a Reaction Against Seventeenth-Century Calvinism (Ph.D. diss., University of Leeds, 1952). Dr. Curt Daniel sells copies of it. Check WorldCat for libraries nearby that may have it.

5) Donald Davis Grohman, The Genevan Reactions to the Saumur Doctrine of Hypothetical Universalism, 1635-1685 (Ph.D. diss., Knox College, Toronto, 1971). Dr. Curt Daniel sells copies of it. Check WorldCat for nearby libraries that may have it.

6) Roger Nicole, Moyse Amyraut (1596-1664) and The Controversy on Universal Grace: First Phase (1634-1637) (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1966). Dr. Curt Daniel sells copies of this dissertation. Otherwise, it is hard to obtain dissertations done at Harvard. Check WorldCat for nearby libraries that may have it.

7) Matthew Paul Harmon, Moyse Amyraut’s Six Sermons: Directions for Amyrauldian Studies (Th.M. thesis, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2008). Dr. Daniel sells copies of this. Check WorldCat for nearby libraries that may have it.

Other sources for information:

Lectures by the Amyraldian Association at Norwich Reformed Church can be obtained HERE.

Dr. A. C. Clifford's contact information is HERE.

Dr. Curt Daniel can be contacted HERE, though he may no longer be selling old books.

Dr. Curt Daniel's church website is HERE.

June 16, 2009

Erroll Hulse on John 3:16 and Hyper-Calvinism

By selective use of Reformed Confessions it is possible to claim to be reformed but at the same time hide the fact that you are a hyper-Calvinist. The hyper-Calvinist denies that God loves all mankind and that the gospel is good news to be declared to all without exception. That is the very essence of hyper-Calvinism. Calvin, the great organiser of the evangelisation of France, writes on John 3:16: 'For although there is nothing in the world deserving God's favour, he nevertheless shows he is favourable to the whole world when he calls all without exception to the faith of Christ.'

Rev. H Hoeksema, in a booklet entitled The Gospel, denies that the gospel can be offered since fallen man is unable to repent. Hoeksema says that the promise of the gospel is not iven to all but only to the seed of Abraham (that is, to the elect).

It is typical of hyper-Calvinism to rationalise. By rationalising I mean that the hyper takes the doctrine of total depravity and reasons that because man's will is crippled by the fall it is futile to offer the gospel. Moreover it cannot be sincere of God to offer the gospel to all if he does not intend to save all. In other words this rationalisation effectively emasculates the gospel so that it is not good news for the sinner at all.

It is impossible for the hyper to proclaim the love of God for sinners. What he can proclaim is that out there in the world are God's elect and God loves them but he hates the rest! That is hardly good news!

The good news is that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life. Rightly did Calvin understand that it is this fallen, perishing world that God loved.

The gospel that came to me as a sinner was the gospel of God's love, that he loved me and found no pleasure that I should perish in hell. The good news was conditional. To be saved I had to repent and believe on Christ. That I had to do my very self. But in the event I could not because of my slavery to sin, yet I knew that to be saved I would have to repent and believe. There was only one thing to do and that was to look to Christ to do for me, and in me, what I could not do myself. When I looked to him in my hopeless state he saved me. Hallelujah! It was the love of God for lost sinners that drew me. It was the love of God that held before me Christ, crucified on the cross for me. The exact order of John chapter three applied: God's love for sinners and God's love expressed in the cross for sinners.

This is the love of God that we must take to all without exception. The conditions must be set before all sinners that to be saved they must repent and believe. If they discover the enormity of their sinful depravity then let them not despair. Point them to Christ. Do what the Methodist preacher did to the young Spurgeon when he exhorted him personally from the text from Isaiah" 'Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God and there is no other' (Is 45:22).

We accept truth by faith not human reason

The problem both with the Arminian and the hyper-Calvinist is that they rationalise according to human reason. The Arminian reasons that the sinner can of himself do whatever God commands. Therefore he believes that man has free will. The hyper does the same but rationalises in a different way. He reasons that because man is enslaved in his will, it is inconsistent for the Lord to offer him something that he has not the power to respond to. Can we who follow Calvin and the Puritans help Arminians and hypers?

It is much easier to help Arminians because most of them have not been faced with the doctrine of the fall and of election. I used to be a rapid Arminian. Hypers are more difficult to help because they tend to entrench themselves in their human rationalisation. But some have been delivered from that. The hyper-Calvinist (Standard Bearer group) in Northern Ireland referred to in RT 132 cannot endure the word antinomy used by Jim Packer in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. They cannot abide it and call it poison! This is not surprising because it challenges them to renounce their rationalisation. Since I believe in common grace and the love of God for all mankind I am called an Arminian by them. I am honoured to be placed in the company of John Calvin, Jim Packer, Prof John Murray, Dr Lloyd-Jones and the Puritans all of whom decline the rationalistic constrictions of hyperism. It might help to point to the fact that there are a number of subjects concerning God that are above human rationalisation as we read in Isaiah:

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts,
declares the LORD

Herman Bavinck in his book The Doctrine of God[1] begins his monumental study of the names and attributes of God by considering the fact that God is both knowable and unknowable. We can applaud him for his discernment. That certainly is the correct place to begin.

We must stress the knowability of God because to know him in the personal way of being reconciled to him and loving him is to enjoy eternal life, as Jesus said: 'Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent' (Jn 17:3). We may know God extensively and comprehensively according to all that he has revealed of himself in Holy Scripture.

Does God have Feelings?

Yet there are ways in which we cannot know God. We are finite and he is infinite. He is eternal and we are created. He is immutable and we are subject to change. There are some issues we can never fully grasp. We simply accept them. One such subject is the Trinity.[2] Another difficult issue which soars above us is what theologians call the impassibility of God. God in his divine being cannot suffer in the way that we do. He is not physical. He cannot be overcome with surprise. He is not subject to moods and passions. Are we to conclude that God is devoid of emotion or feeling? What are we to make of the statement, 'God is love'?

Surely we are to understand by God's love everything that constitutes true love, including emotion and feeling. There is no such thing as love which does not feel. Love as expressed in the Scripture is a love which comes from all the heart, that is all the affections. Yet how can an impassible God have feeling? This feeling is not confined to love. We read in Scripture that wrath is being treasured up against the day of wrath (Rom 2:5). This wrath must be conceived of in terms of controlled feeling. We know that God loves and hates, and loves and hates in a way we can understand. Yet at the same time he loves and hates in a way which is peculiar to himself, that is in a way which does not deny his immutability as God. Details of this subject transcend our ability to grasp. God is at one and the same time both knowable and unknowable.

A similar problem confronts us with God's love for sinners. How can he love and hate sinners at the same time? 'You hate all who do wrong' (Ps 5:5). At the same time we read, 'But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.' The stress is on the fact that while we were sinners we were loved. This is not because we were better sinners or meritorious sinners. The text does not say that God loved us because he saw he could do something with us to make us attractive. We were children of wrath but at the same time we were loved. And God so loved us that he gave his one and only Son for us.

Righteous hatred and love mingle in our hearts at the same time. We are not permitted to hate with the hatred of vengeance. Vengeance belongs to God (Rom 12:19). It is not too much for us to believe that God contains within himself all that goes to make up perfect love and perfect hatred. We know that is so, but how it is so is unknowable. And it does not matter because we are required to believe, not to rationalise.

God loathes the wicked in their detestable, sinful practices (Ez 18:10-13). At the same time he says: 'Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?' declares the sovereign LORD. 'Rather am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?' Moab deserved severe judgment. Her destruction as a nation was decreed yet at the same time the LORD declared, 'Therefore I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out... So my heart laments for Moab like a flute; it laments like a fulte for the men of Kir Hareseth' (Jer 48:31,36).[3] Jesus wept bitterly over lost sinners of Jerusalem (Lk 19:41). Being filled with his love we weep over lost sinners.

How then does God both hate and at the same time sorrow like a heartbreaking, mournful melody played on a flute? According to the hyper God only loves the elect and hates the non-elect. Hypers cannot take John 3:16 and say that God loves the fallen sinful world, that is, loves sinners as sinners. A hyper cannot say to a sinner, 'God loves you and wishes you to be saved and he has so loved you that he has given his only begotten Son that you might not perish but have eternal life.' We note well that John 3:16 does not say, for God so loved the elect. The Holy Spirit did not write the text that way. Are we to understand that 'the world' here means both Jews and Gentiles? The word 'world' must be interpreted in the way it is used throughout the Gospel, namely, all people without exception not all people without distinction. In John's Gospel the Jews do not stand in contrast to the world. The world is that whole world into which Jesus came, that world which did not recognise him (Jn 1:10).

I conclude by drawing attention to that little word so. 'God so (Greek houtōs) loved the world.' What a glory there is in that word so. We find the same word in 1 John 4:11, 'Beloved, if God so loved us.' How we could be so loved is as mysterious as it is wonderful. The word so fills the text with the sunshine of heaven and fills our hearts with wonder, love and praise. It fills our souls with a desire to tell the whole world of that great and marvellous love of God for lost sinners. 'Love so amazing, so divine demands my life, my soul, my all!'
1. Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, translated by William Hendriksen, 403 pages, Eerdmans, 1951, Banner of Truth, 1977).
2. Andrew King told us at the Carey Family Conference of a conversation he had with a Muslim. The Muslim said that part of his religion was belief in the transcendence of God. Andrew responded by asking his Muslim friend if he was prepared to accept the Christian doctrine of the Trinity since that truth also belongs to the transcendent. We can understand it yet we cannot. We know yet we do not know. God is transcendent.
3. Further proof that God loves sinners can be found by engaging in a word study of the Hebrew word hesed (loving-kindness) which occurs almost 250 times in the Old Testament.
Erroll Hulse, "John 3:16 and Hyper-Calvinism," in Reformation Today 135 (September-October, 1993): 27-30.

Update on 9-1-2014:
Hyper-Calvinism—The essence of Hyper-Calvinism is to deny the common grace of the love of God to all men. In other words, it teaches that God only loves the elect and has only hatred for the non-elect. Further, Hyper-Calvinism denies the sincere free offers of the gospel to all men.
Erroll Hulse, Who Are The Puritans? And What Do They Teach? (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2000), 24. 
The very essence of hyper-calvinism is the denial of common grace and the free offer of the gospel.
 Erroll Hulse, Reformation Today
As we see from the Westminster Confession and the 1689 Baptist Confession the Puritans believed in the doctrines of grace such as election and particular redemption (Rom 8:28-30). They followed Calvin in resisting false human rationalisations. For instance they resisted the idea that God only loves the elect and hates the non-elect. This error is called hyper-Calvinism. It is a very serious error which is recurring today. The Puritans were experts in their understanding of the concept of common grace although they did not use that term. Their teaching accords fully with the way in which the doctrine of Common Grace is expounded by Prof John Murray (cf Works). They believed that the Holy Spirit is constantly active in restraining evil and promoting good throughout society. The Puritans believed in the universal love of God for all mankind (1 Tim 2:1-6; 2 Peter 3:9). They believed in the universal provision of God for all mankind according to the covenant made with Noah as representative of the whole world (Gen 8:20-22 and Ps 145).
Erroll Hulse, "The Example of the English Puritans," Reformation Today.
Two heresies in particular destroy the Gospel as far as its evangelistic thrust is concerned. One is hyper-Calvinism in which the free offers of the Gospel are denied and in which an excuse is made of the fact that men are dead in sin and therefore there is no point in evangelizing. Total human responsibility (men know that they ought to repent and believe the Gospel) must be maintained together with faith in the sovereignty of God. These matters cannot be reconciled to human logic. The hyper-Calvinist in his desire to be logical comes to the wrong conclusion that it is inconsistent to command sinners to repent and believe when they are unable to do so, which is entirely an unbiblical and false conclusion!
Excerpted from an address by Erroll Hulse to The Carey Conference in 1975
Now it is true that the doctrines of grace misconstrued can lead to what we call hyper-alvinism—that is the denial of the free offers of the Gospel. Departing from the position held by John Calvin, the hyper-Calvinist thinks it inconsistent, indeed dishonouring to God, to offer the Gospel to all men. The main misunderstanding has centred around the issue of man's ability. Free offers seem in the eyes of the hyper-Calvinists to imply free will and this to them contradicts the sovereignty of God in His irresistible grace to call whom He wills to Himself.
To outline the history of hyper-Calvinism in all its branches, and in particular its fettering and shackling influence in the realm of persuading souls would take a College term to accomplish. A brief outline, however, is necessary.
Joseph Hussey (1660-1694) was one of the architects of hyper-Calvinism who applied strict logic to Christian doctrine and wrote a book the title of which testifies truly to its contents, God's Operations of Grace but no Offers of His Grace. Others associated with this position were Skepp, Wayman, Brine and the famous John Gill.

In the Dutch speaking world the question of the free offer has been debated down the years and there has been an overflow of the controversy into the American Dutch churches which in turn has affected the English world. The Dutch have given much more attention to the subject of common grace. Common grace is implicit in Puritan theology. John Owen gives it some of its best statements (See Owen's commentary on Hebrews 6:4-6. Also Works Vol. 3, p. 236, and Vol. 11, p. 640ff.). The question is of crucial importance because common grace teaches that, although man has fallen, God always addresses him as man, that is, according to His revealed will that He, God, desires the salvation of all men, and never addresses them in terms of His secret will. 'The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever.' Hence the Puritans used such texts as 2 Peter 3:9 and 2 Tim. 2:4, 'who will have all men to be saved', at their face value and without any equivocation; that is that God declares His will for the salvation of all sinners to whom the Gospel is addressed upon the terms proposed, namely, the obedience of faith.

A denial of common grace, which is the position of Herman Hoeksema of our century, turns the Gospel into a principle of divine power and causation. As James Daane, a contemporary American theologian points out, 'Such a Gospel can be announced—cooly, objectively, without pathos or human concern or tears—but it cannot be preached with persuasion' (The Freedom of God. A study of election and the pulpit. James Daane, Eerdman, 1973.).
From Adding to the Church: A Puritan Approach to Persuading Souls by Erroll Hulse. This article appeared in Adding to the Church: and other papers given at the Westminster Conference, (Westminster Conference, 1974) being papers read at the 1973 Conference." excerpts from Adding to the Church -- The Puritan Approach to Persuading Souls by Erroll Hulse
Update on 9-15-14:
[Herman] Hanko speaks for a minority, Dutch, hyper-Calvinistic school, a group hostile to the doctrine of common grace that God loves all men and desires that all be saved.
Erroll Hulse, "Global Revival: Should We Be Involved in Concerts of Prayer?" Reformation and Revival 2.4 (Fall 1993): 29.

Update on 2-17-16:
Hyper-Calvinism denies both the free offer of the gospel and common grace. In essence, Hyper-Calvinists would emphasize divine responsibility to the exclusion of human responsibility. Since Calvinists believe that the work of salvation is entirely God’s work, Hyper-Calvinists would take that a step further and say that since men and women can do nothing to save themselves, it is wrong to call people to do what they cannot do — it is just for God to work in the heart, not for others to call them to repentance.
Erroll Hulse, Who Saves, God or Me? Calvinism for the Twenty-First Century (Darlington, UK: EP Books, 2008), 91–92.

Update on 6-20-17:
Thirdly there is the question of God’s love. If God only loves the elect and only hates the non-elect, what constraint is there for the sinner to turn and believe? Richard Baxter in his Call to the Unconverted drives home the strong language and reasoning used by the sovereign Lord, as expressed in Ezekiel 18. He has no pleasure in the wicked that he should die, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his wicked way and live. Our Lord made it clear that we are to love our enemies because God looks upon them with kindness (Luke 6:35). The love of God for all mankind, even the most terrible sinners, is well expressed by the Puritan John Howe in his sermon, ‘The Redeemer’s tears shed over lost souls’.

Clearly, God’s redeeming love for the elect goes beyond the ‘loving-kindness’ he displays to all men. But the Bible teaches clearly that God regards all his creatures with compassion and concern.
Erroll Hulse, “Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility,” Evangelical Times 33.9  (September 1999): ?.

June 14, 2009

John Preston (1587–1628) on Complexity in the Will of God

Object. 2.
It may be objected, is it possible that the same will should be carried upon the same object in different respects, as if God should will the damnation and Salvation of Judas both at the same time?

To this I answer, that it is most possible for a man to will and to nill one and the same thing upon the same object if it be in different respects; as for example, a man may will his friend's departure from him, and yet not will it, he wills his departure out of a desire he has of his friends good, and yet will it not out of a love he has of his friend’s company, and so God here he wills that all men should be saved, and therefore he beseeches men to believe, because it is agreeing to him, and it is so, neither can it be otherwise because of the conformity the thing itself has with his will; yet he will not use all means to bring this to pass. A father will not have his son drunk, if he will tie him up in a chamber he will not be drunk, yet he will not take such a course, though he has a will his son should not be drunk, so God though he do will that men should be believe and repent and be saved, yet he will not be said to use all the means for the effecting of it in all men, because he will glorify his justice as well as his mercy.
John Preston, Riches of Mercy to Men in Misery (London: Printed by J.T. and are to be sold by John Alen at the rising sun in Saint Pauls Church Yard, 1658), 422.


HT: Flynn's post on John Preston (1587-1628) on the Well-Meant Offer

June 10, 2009

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on the Wedding Feast, Christ's Objective Sufficiency and the "New Futile Evasion"

The 8th. Text which I will insist on is Matt. 22:2-4, 12, 13. The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a certain King, which made a Marriage for his Son, and sent forth his Servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding, and they would not come: And he sent forth other Servants, saying, Tell them that were bidden, saying, Behold, I have prepared my Dinner, My Oxen and my Fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: Come unto the Marriage, &c. Then said he to his Servants, the Wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy, So 12. 13.

Here it is agreed on that God is the King: The Wedding feast, is Christ and the benefits of his Death offered by the Gospel. The killing of the Fatling most say, doth intimate the killing of Christ that he may be to us the Bread of Life, and his Flesh Meat indeed, and his Blood Drink indeed. The Messengers are Preachers: The message is the Gospel Invitation or Offer. Hence therefore I thus argue; If all the things are ready before hand which upon coming in to Christ are to be received, yea and ready for those that refused to come, and only their not coming, or not coming preparedly do hinder their participation, then Christ was a Sacrifice made ready even for all that refused to come. But, &c. Ergo, &c.

I mean not that Christ was appointed to save final refusers considered as such: But he was a Sacrifice for all the Sins of the same Men, except their final refusal, and thereby made ready for them all those saving benefits, which upon coming in they were to receive. This message any Minister of the Gospel may now deliver to unbelievers: Come in to Christ; accept him as a Redeemer, Lord and Saviour, and with him pardon and Salvation; for all this is ready: All that is prerequisite to believing or coming in, is done by Christ, as far as concerned him as a Sacrifice and a Donor of his Testamentory benefits; and as far as unsatisfied Justice did require: All things that are requisite objectively to your believing are ready. Now this could not be a truth; if Christ had not been a sacrifice for these Mens Sins: For how is all ready when the very first and most needful thing is unready, that is, an expiatory Sacrifice for sin? When satisfaction to justice is unready? Can they make this? Or are they called to make it? Or would their coming in make it, which was not before made? Or would coming in serve turn without satisfaction? Rather it should be said to them (as to the Devils) come not, for nothing is ready. For where Christ is not ready, and satisfaction for sin not ready, there nothing is ready which a sinner is called to by the Gospel. The Cause being wanting, all the Effects must needs be wanting.
Obj. All may be said to be ready, in that Christ's Death is sufficient for All.
Ans. That's true; and I desire no more; if you understand it as Divines have hitherto done, and as this Text proves it; that is, that it is a sufficient Ransom, Sacrifice, &c. for All. But according to the new futile evasion, it is false, viz. that Christ's Death was only sufficient to have been a Sacrifice or Ransom for All, if God or Christ had so been willing: but indeed was no Ransom for them at all. For is this making all ready? Is Christ any readier for those he died not for, than for the Devils? or than if he had never died at all? Will you send to a Prisoner and say, I have paid 1000 l. for thy fellow Prisoner that owed by 500 l. the sum is sufficient to have discharged thy debt too, if I had ever intended it, therefore come and receive a discharge, for all is ready? Or will you bid your Servant go to all the Town and say, I have killed and dressed meat enough for you all, resolving that some of you shall never taste of it on any conditions, therefore come now and partake of it all, for all things are ready? The Readiness that Christ speaks of here is such, as supposeth all things to be ready except receiving by Faith: nothing but coming is wanting.
Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption of Mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ, (London: Printed for John Salusbury at the Rising Sun in Cornhill, 1694), 343–345.