May 25, 2010

The Contradiction Between the Early and Later John Gerstner (1914–1996) on the Will of God

1) The early John Gerstner:
4. "If predestination is true, God is insincere in inviting all men to salvation!"

Again, you will ask, Why if a man is not elected or predestined to eternal life but is actually passed over in the decrees of God, does God proceed to strive with him nonetheless? Why does God send his gospel to a person who has been predestined to be left to himself and perish? Or in the form of an objection it is said: If predestination is true, God is insincere in inviting all men to salvation.

Now before we come to grips with this question in its fundamental nature, let me call attention incidentally to a significant fact. The situation which is before us at the moment is in no sense different from the situation we would have if there were no such thing as predestination. That is, if there were merely foreknowledge and no predestination of events God would know from all eternity that certain persons were going to disbelieve and to perish in their sins. He has perfect knowledge of all things and therefore knows who will believe and who will not believe. The question can still be raised, just as legitimately as in the predestination context, why does God strive and work and present the gospel and its means of grace to persons whom he knows are going to reject every overture which he makes? We know that God knows the outcome and we also know that God does work strenuously for the salvation of people whose unbelief he has known from all eternity. This is just to remind you once again that as long as there is such a thing as foreknowledge we have problems like this regardless of the doctrine of predestination. Predestination, in other words, does not bring a problem like this into existence; it exists independently of predestination and is made neither better nor worse, that is more or less severe, by the doctrine of predestination.

Otherwise it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask why God strives with men whom he knows and has predestined should perish. Again, incidentally, before coming to this question, let me notice another significant point. This question really does concern God and not us. What I mean is this: we may wonder why God, who knows all things, including the fact that certain persons will in spite of all efforts reject and disbelieve, continues to work with them to persuade them to believe; but, we cannot ask why we would do so with all men. We do not know the outcome. To us there is always a possibility that anybody with whom we work and for whom we pray may be an object of the divine mercy and may be predestined to eternal life and may actually believe and be saved. God knows, in a given instance, that such is not going to happen, but we never know it. Therefore, we can not only work in obedience preaching the gospel but we can work in hope that our preaching will be successful in the salvation of the persons with whom we strive. It does not affect our evangelistic endeavors or zeal in the slightest, but nevertheless it is a question which we may ask concerning God himself.

What reason, then, are we able to discover why God, who knows the futility of certain endeavors to convert certain persons, does proceed to make these endeavors which he knows are going to be futile? There appear to be several reasons. First, God by this means shows the hardness of the sinful heart. As we have said, it is only the wickedness of the human heart and not the decree of God which causes men to reject the overtures of God and his gospel. What more clearly reveals the depths of depravity than the rejection of such invitations from a glorious God? Second, this hardness of the human heart apart from the converting presence of the Holy Spirit shows that God is essential to goodness. Third, God's sincerity is evident in that if any person whosoever accepts the gospel, God will accept him. Fourth, the elect see, in the invitations of God and their rejection by men, how hard their own hearts were apart from the grace of God and what they would have done apart from that grace. They may say now and through all eternity as they contemplate the righteous judgments of God against the wicked, "There but for the grace of God go we.
John H. Gerstner, A Predestination Primer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1963), 35–37. See also Robert Reymond's citation of this early work.

2) The later John Gerstner:
Most Reformed theologians also include, as a by-product of the atonement, the well-meant offer of the gospel by which all men can be saved. Some Reformed theologians take a further step still and say that God even intends that they should be saved by this atonement which nevertheless was made only for the elect. For example, John Murray and Ned Stonehouse write:
Our Lord . . . says expressly that he willed the bestowal of his saving and protecting grace upon those whom neither the Father nor he decreed thus to save and protect.
One may sadly say that Westminster Theological Seminary stands for this misunderstanding of the Reformed doctrine since not only John Murray and Ned Stonehouse but also Cornelius Van Til, R. B. Kuiper, John Frame, and, so far as we know, all of the faculty have favored it. The Christian Reformed Church had already in 1920 taken this sad step away from Reformed orthodoxy and has been declining ever since. The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. had even earlier, though somewhat ambiguously, departed and the present mainline Presbyterian church affirms that "The risen Christ is the savior for all men."

The Presbyterian Church in the United States (now part of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.) is not far behind, and the separatist Presbyterians such as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America are following in this train. Only the Protestant Reformed Church seems willing to hold to the whole counsel of God on this doctrine.

Serious as this error is, it does not constitute a radical break with the Reformed tradition, though it does lay a foundation for it. For example, Murray and Stonehouse insist that, though God truly desires the salvation of the reprobate, He does not decree that. Rather, He decrees the opposite. They recognize theirs as a very dangerous position and appeal to great mystery:
We have found that God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which he has not been pleased to decree. This is indeed mysterious, and why he has not brought to pass in the exercise of his omnipotent power and grace, what is his ardent pleasure lies hidden in the sovereign counsel of his will.
However this is not "mystery" but bald contradiction, as these two fine Reformed theologians well realized. How does one account for Homer(s) nodding? The answer is simple—the exegesis seemed to demand it. The two authors "tremble at God's word" and God's Word seemed to them clearly to say that God desired what God did not desire. We certainly agree that if God says that He desired what He did not desire we would have to agree with God. Since we know that God does not desire what God does not desire, for this is evident on every page of Scripture, as well as in the logical nature of God and man, we know this exegesis is in error, must be in error, cannot but be in error.

But where is its error? It must be that Murray and Stonehouse are talking literally where He desires to be taken anthropomorphically. Almost everything said about God or by God in Scripture is anthropomorphism. The "everlasting arms," His "riding on the clouds," the "eyes" and "ears" of the Lord—there are literally hundreds of such metaphorical, anthropomorphic expressions describing God. This is, of course, admitted by all. On the other hand, it is rightly contended, God is also described literally as loving, rejoicing, happy, thinking, and so forth. Can we say that when God is described in physical or finite terms the expressions are metaphorical, but when He is described ontologically or psychologically the expressions are literal? No, for sometimes that is the case and sometimes not. When God is described psychologically as suffering, frustrated, or grieved, Murray, Stonehouse, and all sound theologians would deny these to be literally true. They know that, in the early church, patripassionism (the teaching that the Father suffers) was a heresy.

The question facing us here is whether God could "desire" that which He does not bring to pass. There is no question at all that He can desire certain things, and these things which He desires He possesses and enjoys in Himself eternally. Otherwise, He would not be the ever-blessed God. The Godhead desires each Person in the Godhead and enjoys each eternally. The Godhead also desires to create, and He (though He creates in time) by creating enjoys so doing eternally. Otherwise He would be eternally bereft of a joy He presently possesses and would have increased in joy if He later possessed it—both of which notions are impossible. He would thereby have changed (which is also impossible) and would have grown in the wisdom of a new experience (which is blasphemous to imagine).

If God's very blessedness means the oneness of His desire and His experience, is not our question (whether He could desire what He does not desire) rhetorical? Not only would He otherwise be bereft of some blessedness which would reduce Him to finitude, but He would be possessed of some frustration which would not only bereave Him of some blessedness, but would manifestly destroy all blessedness. This is clearly the case because His blessedness would be mixed with infinite regret. Our God would be the ever-miserable, ever-blessed God. His torment in the eternal damnation of sinners would be as exquisite as it is everlasting. He would actually suffer infinitely more than the wicked. Indeed, He would Himself be wicked because He would have sinfully desired what His omniscience would have told Him He could never have.

But why continue to torture ourselves? God, if He could be frustrated in His desires, simply would not be God. When, therefore, we read of God's "desiring" what He does not bring to pass, let us not "grieve" His Spirit by taking this literally, but recognize therein an anthropomorphic expression.
John H. Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism, ed. by Don Kistler, 2nd edition (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 2000), 142–146.

3) Here's Gerstner's "Forward" to Engelsma's book that he also wrote later in his life:
This is certainly an interesting, informative, lively, learned discussion of the essence of the gospel call to all mankind. In my opinion, Professor Engelsma carefully defines and convincingly avoids "hyper-Calvinism" himself and clears his denomination, the Protestant Reformed Churches, of so teaching.

The locus of the debate among Calvinists concerns what is called "the well-meant offer." Let me locate first what is mean by "well-meant offer" and the area of difference among Calvinists concerning it.

There is much related to this title that is shared by all Calvinists though sometimes differently phrased; namely, that reprobates hear the call and that is a "serious" call to them. There is one part of the understood meaning of well-meant offer" that is affirmed by many Calvinists today and denied by others; namely, that God desires and intends the salvation of reprobates in that call they hear or read.

The "well-meant offer" is understood, by both sides, to include the notion that God intends and desires the salvation of reprobates when the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached to everyone who hears with his ears or reads with his eyes. The late John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse in The Free Offer of the Gospel and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church could declare in 1948 (citing The Free Offer of the Gospel by Murray and Stonehouse):
...there is in God a benevolent lovingkindness towards the repentance and salvation of even those whom he has not decreed to save. This pleasure, will, desire is expressed in the universal call to repentance.... The full and free offer of the gospel is a grace bestowed upon all. Such grace is necessarily a manifestation of love or lovingkindness in the heart of God, and this lovingkindness is revealed to be of a character or kind that is correspondent with the grace bestowed.

The grace offered is nothing less than salvation in its richness and fullness. The love or lovingkindness that lies back of that offer is not anything less; it is the will to that salvation. In other words, it is Christ in all the glory of his person and in all the perfection of his finished work whom God offers in the gospel. The loving and benevolent will that is the source of that offer and that grounds its veracity and reality is the will to the possession of Christ and the enjoyment of the salvation that resides in him (quoted in Hyper-Calvinism & the Call of the Gospel, p. 43).
I have italicized the three statements that can only mean in that context that God desires and intends ("will" is used on the sense of "intend") the salvation of the reprobates. Much else that is stated can be so interpreted but is not unambiguous. All Calvinists (and indeed all Christians) agree that not all humans persons are saved. Arminians do champion the notion that God desires and intends the salvation of every person. Calvinists do not, but here Calvinists John Murray, Ned Stonehouse, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church do so teach.

On the other hand, Herman Hoeksema, the Protestant Reformed denomination, and our author David Engelsma in this book emphatically reject the "well-meant offer" as including God's desire and intention to save reprobates.

As a Calvinist, not associated ecclesiastically with the tiny Protestant Reformed denomination and sharply divergent from some of her doctrinal positions, I feel it absolutely necessary to hold with her here where she stands, almost alone today, and suffers massive vituperation and ridicule from Calvinists (no less) for her faithfulness at this point to the gospel of God.

I had the incomparable privilege of being a student of Professor Murray and Stonehouse. With tears in my heart, I nevertheless confidently assert that they erred profoundly in The Free Offer of the Gospel and died before they seem to have realized their error which, because of their justifiedly [sic] high reputations for Reformed excellence generally, still does incalculable damage to the cause of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of His gospel.

It is absolutely essential to the nature of the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent that whatever His sovereign majesty desires or intends most certainly--without conceivability of failure in one iota thereof--must come to pass! Soli Deo Gloria! Amen and amen forevermore! God can never, ever desire or intend anything that does not come to pass, or He is not the living, happy God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but an eternally miserable being weeping tears of frustration that He was unable to prevent hell and can never end it thus destroying Himself and heaven in the process.

"God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen" (1 Tim. 6:15, 16).

John H. Gerstner
Ligonier, PA
From John Gerstner's "Forward," in Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel by David Engelsma (Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1994), vii–ix.

After Gerstner quotes A. H. Strong (in Systematic Theology, p. 290) stating the proposition that love (both in God and in ourselves) implies a desire that all creatures should fulfill the purpose of their existence by being morally conformed to the holy One, Gerstner says “all Calvinists must disagree because what God desires He does.”

See John H. Gerstner, The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards, 3 vols. (Powhatan, VA: Berea Publications; Orlando, FL: Ligonier Ministries, 1993), 3:285.

May 24, 2010

A Response to R. C. Sproul's (1939–2017) Answer to My Question on the Well-Meant Offer

Since there are limitations on Chris Arnzen's Iron Sharpens Iron radio program (link #2), I was not able to interact with R. C. Sproul's response during the call. Chris frequently has audio interruptions when someone stays on and he receives another call at the same time, so one has to hang up just after the question sometimes. Here is the audio recording and transcript of my question to Sproul with his response:

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My Question: My question for you concerns the well-meant nature of the gospel offer, since this is also one of the tough issues that Christians face. There's a small but increasing group of Calvinists who think that there is no willingness, or desire, or wish on the part of God in His revealed will for the salvation of the non-elect, or the reprobate. Would you say that you agree with such men as Prosper, Ursinus, Edwards, John Murray, Iain Murray and J. I. Packer (just to name a few) who believe that there is a genuine wish or desire on the part of God for the salvation of all men? And would you say that God's gospel offer is indeed well-meant?

Dr. R. C. Sproul's Answer: Yes, the question of the integrity of the universal offer of the gospel is one that Reformed people (you mentioned the panoply of scholars who have addressed this issue over the years)...and the...I would hold the traditional view that was expressed by Ursinus and later by John Murray (and others) that there is a genuine offer of the gospel that is related to God's generally gracious disposition to all who are fallen, with certain qualifications. Keep in mind that the gospel is not offered indiscriminately, in the sense that it's offered to anybody. It's offered to anybody who believes. And so in a very real sense that restriction...and I mean that should go without saying...that the universal...what we call the universal offer of the gospel is contingent upon a response of faith. And the reason I put that little quibble in there, Tony, is that we're hearing more and more from preachers in the media who announcing that God loves everybody unconditionally, and that sort of leaves the impression that people don't have to do anything in order to be redeemed, including repent and believe. If God loves me unconditionally, without any conditions, then it's like Mr. Rogers neighborhood [Chris Arnzen laughs]... [God loves me?] exactly and precisely just as I am. That's very dangerously misleading. And so, yes, I believe that the Gospel is offered to all who believe. Now, again, somebody's going to say, "Isn't it true that only the elect will believe?" Yes, that would be true, but nevertheless it's offered to anyone who does in fact believe and trust in [it?].

My response: Since Dr. Sproul, in my opinion, did not sufficiently answer Mark Driscoll when he asked the question about God's saving will for the salvation of all men (as Calvinists understand it), I thought I would take the opportunity to ask the same sort of question. I was hoping to get him to directly say three things: 1) He does believe that God desires the salvation of all men; 2) He therefore agrees with John Murray on the free offer; and 3) that the gospel offer is well-meant, even to the non-elect. In fishing for a response, I deliberately put three hooks in the water instead of just one :-)

Sproul at least implicitly affirmed all three points by saying that he "would hold the traditional view that was expressed by Ursinus and later by John Murray (and others) that there is a genuine offer of the gospel that is related to God's generally gracious disposition to all who are fallen..." There are three useful things here: 1) He agrees with John Murray's position; 2) He sees continuity between the views of John Murray and Ursinus; and 3) He calls this position "the traditional view." We might also add that he thinks this offer is related to God's general grace. I was glad to hear that, and thankful that he responded to that extent.

Then there seemed to be some confusion on his part, I think, regarding the "indiscriminate" nature of the offer. One should keep in mind that there is a difference between hearing an offer and being given what is offered. All who hear the gospel are in fact receiving an offer of life, even if they do not believe, but those who do not believe are not receiving what is offered to them. For example, I might offer to buy you all one of Sproul's books if you send me an email, but I will only give you one of his books if in fact you comply. Even if you do not comply, you are still receiving an offer, but you are not getting the book(s). Sproul seems to want to underline the conditional nature of receiving what is offered, but, in so doing, he blurs these distinctions. Instead of saying that he does not believe the gospel is indiscriminately offered to all men, I think he should have said that the eternal benefits promised in the gospel are not indiscriminately given to all those offered in the call of the gospel.

Sproul shows the same confusion in one of his books, when he says:
Reformed theologians differ over the question of the offer of the Atonement to the human race. Some insist that the offer of the gospel is universal. The Cross and its benefits are offered to anyone who believes. Others insist that this concept of a universal offer is misleading and involves a kind of play on words. Since only the elect will in fact believe, in reality the offer goes out only to them. The benefit of Christ's atonement is never offered by God to the impenitent or the unbelieving. Since belief and repentance are conditions met only by the elect, then ultimately the Atonement is offered only to them.
R. C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale), 176.

In contrast, observe what the Larger Catechism says:
Q68: Are the elect only effectually called?
A68: All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.
Observe also what the 39 Article says about the offer in Article 7:
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.
I think Sproul would agree with this, but he just expresses himself in a way that may confuse some people. I suspect that he wants to underline the conditional nature of the offer as the Synod of Dort in Article 8:
As many as are called by the gospel, are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly shown in his Word, what is pleasing to him, namely, that those who are called should come to him. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life, and rest, to as many as shall come to him, and believe on him.
What the Synodists mean is that God will give what is promised (eternal life), only to those who shall come to him and believe on him. God will not give what is promised in the gospel to all men, but only to those that meet the conditions of the sincere call and offer of the gospel. Many of those who perish were "unfeignedly called" and sincerely offered eternal life, but only the elect comply and thus receive what is promised.

If I had the opportunity to talk further with Sproul, I believe he would concur with all of these points. I am thankful for his ministry and for his godly disposition as he interacts with all people, particularly with Christians asking sincere questions. May his tribe increase.

Update on 4-23-17:

Sproul repeated the same error in this article (click). He said:
It is also important to understand that the gospel is to be preached universally. This is another controversial point, because on the one hand the gospel is offered universally to all who are within earshot of the preaching of it, but it’s not universally offered in the sense that it’s offered to anyone without any conditions. It’s offered to anyone who believes. It’s offered to anyone who repents.
He is correct to say that "the gospel is offered universally to all who are within earshot of the preaching of it." But, Sproul then takes away what he said by saying, "it's not universally offered in the sense that it's offered to anyone without any conditions. It's offered to anyone who believes. It's offered to anyone who repents."

This is poorly worded. Again, he's collapsing the idea of receiving an offer with receiving what is offered. In other words, when anyone hears the gospel, they are being offered eternal life. However, in order to receive what is being offered, one must repent and believe. The obtaining of eternal life (the thing offered) is through the conditions of believing and repenting, but even those who do not believe and repent are still being truly and sincerely offered life by God,  though they do not obtain eternal life since they do not fulfill the conditions.

If Sproul continues to speak this way, some will be misled to think that only those who repent and believe (i.e. the elect) are being offered by God. This limits the offer to the elect who believe. The truth is that only the believing elect receive what is offered since God grants them the moral ability to believe, but all those who hear the gospel (even the non-elect) are receiving an offer.

Mark Dever is making a similar mistaken when he reportedly said at T4G in 2014, "We have no good news for unrepentant sinners. We only have good news for repentant sinners."

As I pointed out on Kevin DeYoung's Facebook page at the time, the gospel is objectively good news for all that hear it, no matter what the response is. The gospel reports to everyone that hears the external call that God is so favorably disposed to mankind that He has made a way for all men for the obtaining eternal life. The hearers need only to repent and believe in Christ and they will eternally benefit from this objective good news. Dever's wording, as it stands, leads one to think that only the believing elect are receiving good news when they hear the gospel. The truth is that everyone is receiving good news that hears the gospel, but only believers eternally benefit from the good news since they have fulfilled the condition of the gospel call.

May 22, 2010

Richard A. Muller on the Extra Calvinisticum

extra calvinisticum: The Calvinistic extra; a term used by the Lutherans to refer to the Reformed insistence on the utter transcendence of the human nature of Christ by the Second Person of the Trinity in and during the incarnation. The Reformed argued that the Word is fully united to but never totally contained within the human nature and, therefore, even in the incarnation is to be conceived of as beyond or outside of (extra) the human nature. In response to the Calvinistic extra, the Lutherans taught the maxim, Logos non extra carnem. It is clear that the so-called extra calvinisticum is not the invention of the Calvinists but is a christological concept, safeguarding both the transcendence of Christ's divinity and the integrity of Christ’s humanity, known to and used by the fathers of the first five centuries, including Athanasius and Augustine. It is also clear (1) that Reformed emphasis on the concept arose out of the tendency of Reformed christology to teach a communicatio idiomatum in concreto over against the perceived Lutheran emphasis upon a communicatio idiomatum in abstracto and (2) that the polarization of Lutheran and Reformed Christologies owed much to the debate over the mode of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, in which the Lutherans emphasized the real but illocal presence of Christ’s body and blood by reason of the communicated omnipresence of the Logos and the Reformed emphasized the transcendence of the divine and the heavenly location of Christ’s body. Against the Lutherans, the Reformed interpreted the extra calvinisticum in terms of the maxim Finitum non capax infiniti, the finite is incapable of the infinite. In other words, the finite humanity of Christ is incapable of receiving or grasping infinite attributes such as omnipresence, omnipotence, or omniscience.
Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1985), 111.

May 18, 2010

Augustine (354–430) on Matthew 5:44–45

"The Lord in the Gospel saith, "If ye love them that love you, what reward shall ye have? do not the publicans this?" Then what would He have us do? "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you." If then He bids us love our enemies, whence brings He an example to set before us? From God Himself: for He saith, "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven." How doth God this? He loveth His enemies, "Who maketh His sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust." If this then be the perfection unto which God inviteth us, that we love our enemies as He loves His; this is our boldness in the day of judgment, that "as He is, so are we also in this world:" because, as He loveth His enemies in making His sun to rise upon good and bad, and in sending rain upon the just and unjust, so we, since we cannot bestow upon them sun and rain, bestow upon them our tears when we pray for them."
Augustine, "Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John," NPNF, 1st series, ed. Philip Schaff (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 7:515.


May 14, 2010

J. C. Ryle (1816–1900) on Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34

On Matthew 23:37:
We learn, in the last place, from these verses, that those who are lost forever, are lost through their own fault.

The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are very remarkable. He says, "I would have gathered thy children together,--and ye would not,"

There is something peculiarly deserving of notice in this expression. It throws light on a mysterious subject, and one which is often darkened by human explanations. It shows that Christ has feelings of pity and mercy for many who are not saved, and that the grand secret of man's ruin is his want of will. Impotent as man is by nature,--unable to think a good thought of himself,--without power to turn himself to faith and calling upon God,--he still appears to have a mighty ability to ruin his own soul. Powerless as he is to good, he is still powerful to evil. We say rightly that a man can do nothing of himself, but we must always remember that the seat of impotence is his will. A will to repent and believe no man can give himself, but a will to reject Christ and have his own way, every man possesses by nature, and if not saved at last, that will shall prove to have been his destruction. "Ye will not come to me," says Christ, "that ye might have life." (John v. 40)

Let us leave the subject with the comfortable reflection, that with Christ nothing is impossible. The hardest heart can be made willing in the day of His power. Grace beyond doubt is irresistable. But never let us forget, that the Bible speaks of man as a responsible being, and that it says of some, "ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." (Acts vii. 51.) Let us understand that the ruin of those who are lost, is not because Christ was not willing to save them--nor yet because they wanted to be saved, but could not--but because they would not come to Christ. Let the ground we take up be always that of the passage we are not considering--Christ would gather men, but they will not to be gathered; Christ would save men, but they will not to be saved. Let it be a settled principle in our religion, that men's salvation, if saved, is wholly of God; and that man's ruin, if lost, is wholly of himself. the evil that is in us is all our own. The good, if we have any, is all of God. The saved in the next world will give God all the glory. The lost in the next world will find that they have destroyed themselves. (Hosea xiii. 9.)
J. C. Ryle, Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew–Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1982), I:310–311.

On Luke 13:34:
Let us learn, for another thing, from these verses, how great is the compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners. We see this brought out in a most forcible manner by our Lord's language about Jerusalem. He knew well the wickedness of that city. He knew what crimes has been committed there in times past. He knew what was coming on Himself, at the time of His crucifixion. Yet even to Jerusalem He says, "How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not."

It grieves the Lord Jesus Christ to see sinners going on still in their wickedness. "As I live," are His words, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) Let all unconverted people remember this. It is not enough that they grieve parents, and ministers, and neighbors, and friends. There is one higher than all these, whom they deeply grieve by their conduct. They are daily grieving Christ.

The Lord Jesus is willing to save sinners. "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." "He would have all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Pet. iii. 9; 1 Tim. ii. 4.) This is a mighty principle of the Gospel, and one which sorely perplexes narrow-minded and shallow theologians. But what says the Scripture? The words before us, no less than the texts just quoted, are distinct and express. "I would have gathered they children," says Christ, "and ye would not." The will of poor hardened unbelieving man, and not the will of Christ, is the cause why sinners are lost forevermore. Christ "would" save them, but they will "not be" saved.

Let the truth before us sink down into our hearts, and bear fruit in our lives. Let us thoroughly understand that if we die in our sins and go to hell, our blood will be upon our own heads. We cannot lay the blame on God the Father, nor on Jesus Christ the Redeemer, nor on the Holy Ghost the Comforter. The promises of the Gospel are wide, broad, and general. The readiness of Christ to save sinners is unmistakeably declared. If we are lost, we shall have none to find fault with but ourselves. The words of Christ will be our condemnation: "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." (John v. 40.)

Let us take heed, with such a passage as this before us, that we are not more systematic than Scripture. It is a serious thing to be "wise above that which is written." Our salvation is wholly of God. Let that never be forgotten. None but the elect shall be finally saved. "No man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him." (John vi. 44.) But our ruin, if we are lost, will be wholly of ourselves. We shall reap the fruit of our own choice. We shall find that we have lost our own souls. Linked between these two principles lies truth which we must maintain firmly, and never let go. There is doubtless deep mystery about it. Our minds are too feeble to understand it now. But we shall understand it all hereafter. God's sovereignty and man's responsibility shall appear perfectly harmonious one day. In the meantime, whatever we doubt, let us never doubt Christ's infinite willingness to save.
J. C. Ryle, Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), II:140–142.

From the notes on verses 31–35:
34--[O Jerusalem, &c.] This remarkable passage is found in St. Matthew's Gospel, (Matt. xxiii. 37,) at the very end of our Lord's ministry, in almost the same words. I cannot see any satisfactory explanation of this circumstance excepting that our Lord must have twice used the same expression about Jerusalem in the course of His ministry on earth.

To suppose that our Lord was at the end of His ministry in this part of St. Luke's Gospel is, on the face of the narrative, utterly improbable. To suppose that St. Luke thrust in this remarkable saying about Jerusalem at this particular point of his Gospel, out of its place and order, and without any connection with the context, is equally improbable.

I see on the other hand no improbability whatever in the supposition that our Lord made use of this remarkable saying about Jerusalem on two distinct occasions during His ministry. I can quite understand that His mighty and feeling heart was deeply touched with sorrow for the sin and hardness of that wicked but privileged city. And it seems to me both likely and natural that language like that before us would fall from His lips on more than one occasion.

[How often.] I cannot think, as some do, that this expression refers to many visits which our Lord had made to Jerusalem, during His ministry. I rather refer it to all the messages and invitations which for many centuries He had sent to Jerusalem by His servants, the prophets.

[Would would not!] The Greek word in both these phrases is stronger than appears from our English translation. It is literally, "I willed, and ye willed not."

Few passages in the Bible throw the responsibility of the loss of the soul so distinctly on those who are lost.--"I would," "ye would not."--Two wills are expressly mentioned, the will of Christ to do good, and the will of man to refuse good when offered.

Let it be noted that our Lord does not say, "thou wouldest not," but "ye would not."--By this mode of speaking, He makes it plain, that He charges the guilt of Jerusalem on its inhabitants, the men and women who dwelt there, and specially on the priests, and Scribes and Pharisees who governed the city. They were neither willing to be gathered themselves, nor to let others round them be gathered. They neither entered in themselves into the kingdom, nor allowed others to enter. Christ was willing, but they were unwilling.

We must be careful, however, not to confine "ye would not," to the Scribes, Pharisees, and rulers. The verse which follows shows clearly that our Lord includes all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Ibid., II:144–145.

Howard Vos said:
Into the context of stern denunciation Jesus introduced a note of tenderness. With a breaking heart He lamented over the city and nation that refused Him and His message.
Howard F. Vos, Matthew: A Bible Study Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), 159.

Walter Chantry on Matthew 5:43–48

Text: Matthew 5:43-48 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Download or Play Chantry's Sermon in MP3 Here

The Works of Thomas Shepard (1605–1649)

Volume 1 - (Internet Archive, Google Books)
Volume 2 - (Internet Archive, Google Books)
Volume 3- (Internet Archive, Google Books)

Biographical entry in Brook's The Lives of the Puritans
Biographical entry in DNB

May 6, 2010

Alphabetical List of Names in Brook's Lives of the Puritans

Since the list of Puritan names in Benjamin Brook's The Lives of the Puritans do not appear in alphabetical order, and since I am researching all of these names, I put the list in order. There are 480 total.

I decided to move this post to my secondary blog [LINK]. I also put it in my Links list on the right of this blog.

May 1, 2010

Donald Grohman on Francis Turretin, Conditional Decrees and the Saumur Theologians as Reformed Brethren

...Turretin states that he is in opposition to the Arminians and the Salmurians. He explains first that those who hold to the idea of universal mercy must necessarily understand the order of the decrees to be different from the order normally accepted by the Reformed theologians.4 Moreover, Turretin says again that although some of the Saumur theologians would not admit that they hold to a "conditional decree," since this terminology had been condemned by the Gallic Synod, nevertheless it is obvious that they do hold to this idea.1 The chief writers among them—and here Turretin names Amyraut, Testard, De la Place, and Cappel—frequently use the term "conditional decree," and Turretin argues further that their theological position requires a conditional decree. He says that "since no act of proper and intrinsic will in God concerning the event of anything can be granted, which does not imply a decree, whoever recognizes a conditional will in God, must necessarily admit a conditional decree in him."2

At this point, Turretin feels it is necessary to comment on the opinion of those who argue that the whole matter is not worthy of being seriously debated, because what is involved is just a difference in the method of instruction, not a difference in doctrine. Turretin rejects this idea, arguing that questions involving mercy, redemption, and universal calling cannot be confined simply to method.3

Nevertheless, even Turretin goes on to admit that the doctrine will remain sound just as long as both parties are willing to accept the following points: (1) that all men are corrupt and unable to overcome their sin without the grace of God; (2) that God elects some to salvation and passes over many whom he leaves in their misery by a just judgment; (3) that efficacious grace, without which salvation is impossible, is a gift given by God only to the elect; and (4) that the only way of creating faith within us is for the Spirit to present the Gospel to us. All of thse points, Turretin says, are held in common against the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians.1 It is presumably because the Saumur theologians accepted these points that Turretin continually refers to them as his brethren of the Reformed faith. Although he strongly disagrees with their position, it is interesting to note that he does not feel that the issue at stake concerns the fundamentals of the faith.
4. Ibid., IV, xvii, 2-4. See infra, pp. 92–104.

1. The use of this term was one of the issues raised against Amyraut and Testard at the Synod of Alençon in 1637 (Armstrong, pp. 91-94). See supra, pp. 15, 62.
2. Turretin, IV, xvii, 9.

3. Ibid., IV, xvii, 11.

1. Ibid., IV, xvii, 12.
Donald Davis Grohman, The Genevan Reactions to the Saumur Doctrines of Hypothetical Universalism: 1635–1685 (Th.D. thesis, Knox College, Toronto School of Theology, 1971), 73–74.

[Note: Grohman interprets Turretin like Richard Muller. For Muller, see here and here. Muller says, "Turretin, similarly, indicates his disagreement with the Saumur theologians on various issues, but consistently identifies them as Reformed and as "our ministers." Owen and Baxter acknowledged each other's theologies as belonging to the same confessional tradition." See Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1:79–80.]