September 24, 2011

Jonathan Moore on John Owen, Henry Scudder, Edward Polhill and English Hypothetical Universalism

Although language could be very heated at times, and this controversy was deemed by many to be of the utmost importance, polemic fell short of using such emotive language, provided that a common abhorrence of, and separation from, Arminianism could still be established.125 Indeed, those sometimes charged with being hard, harsh and obstinate on this point could sometimes prove to be most charitable in the larger context of the Puritan brotherhood. For example, it was John Owen himself who wrote a recommendatory preface in 1674 to Westminster Divine Henry Scudder's The Christians daily Walk, in which a recommendatory preface by Baxter also appeared. In this book Scudder spends a section of five pages defending a hypothetical universalist position, and in his recommendation Owen covers himself accordingly by distancing himself from some unspecified expressions in the book.126 But his willingness to commend it warmly on the basis of the plain and practical godliness it promotes is indicative of the relative importance given to this in-house Reformed debate, at least in Post-Restoration England, even by one of the staunchest defenders of particularism.

Indeed there is even evidence that might lead one to doubt whether the later Owen would have ever republished his Death of Death without revising it in terms of its severe tone and language concerning hypothetical universalism.127 In his recommendatory preface to English Hypothetical Universalist Edward Polhill's book on the divine decrees, of which 65 pages are taken up with a robust refutation of particular redemptionism and defense of English Hypothetical Universalism,128 Owen ventures to express my own dissent from some of his apprehensions, especially about the Object and Extent of Redemption. Had I seen this discourse before it was wholly Printed, I should have communicated my thoughts unto him upon that Subject, and some few passages in it: but where there is an agreement in the substance and design of any Doctrine, as there is between my judgment and what is here solidly declared, it is out duty to bear with each other in things circumstantial, or different explanations of the same Truth, when there is no incursion made upon the Principles we own.129

So by the 1670's, it was not hypothetical universalists by "Papists, Socinians, Arminians, [and] Quakers"130 that Owen wanted to see attacked, and that from the apparently much safer vantage point of a Reformed Orthodox fortress free from the embarrassing cracks of vituperous intra-Reformed debates, and lined with a good insulating layer of warm fellowship for the godly.131
125. Davenant’s opposition to Arminian/Remonstrant theology was strenuous and extensive. Accordingly, Owen never attributed heresy to Davenant, but, on the contrary, spoke reverently of him, and especially appreciated Davenant’s treatise on justification, employing it in the 1670s in his own writings an justification and perseverance (Owen, Works, 3:218–219; 5:208, 368; 11:497). On the other hand, Owen’s chief opponent in Death of Death was an altogether different case. Unlike Davenant, Thomas Moore was unlearned and unqualified, and went far closer to Anninianism and even Pelagianism in his bold efforts to defend his system of universal redemption. This provoked sustained and open contempt from Owen and repeated charges of “abominable” or “gross error” as well as “heresies” (ibid., 10:189, 356–358, 379, 381–382, 398–399, 403, 415). Cf. the sentiments expressed in Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725, 1st edn, 4 vol. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 1:76–77, 80 and Trueman, John Owen: Reformed Catholic, 29–31.
126. Henry Scudder, The Christians daily Walk, in holy Security and Peace. Being an Answer to these Questions: 1. How a Man may do each present Days work with Christian Cheerfulness?, 2. How to bear each Present Days Cross with Christian Patience? Containing familiar Direction, shewing 1. How to walk with God in the whole Course of a Mans Life. 2. How to be upright in the said Walking. 3. How to live without taking Care or Thought in any thing. 4. How to get and keep true Peace with God, wherein are manifold Helps 10 prevent and remove damnable Presumption; also to quiet and ease distressed Consciences [...] commended to the Practice of all Professors, by Dr Owen and Mr Baxter, [1627] 11th edn (London: For Lodowick Lloyd, 1674), 331–336, Alv. Scudder’s defense of hypothetical universalism also appeared in the edition that had most likely enthused Owen as a young man (Henry Scudder, The Christians daily Walke, in holy Securitie and Peace. Being an Answer to these Questions: 1. How a Man may doe each present Daies Worke with Christian Chearfullnesse?, 2. How to bear each Present Daies Crosse with Christian Patience? Containing familiar Directions, shewing 1. How to walk with God in the whole Course of a Mans Life. 2. How to be upright in the said Walking. 3. How to live without taking Care or Thought in any thing. 4. How to get and keepe true Peace with God, wherein are manifold Helpes to prevent and remove damnable Presumption; also to quiet and ease distressed Conscences. First intended for private Use: now (through importunity) published for the common Good, [1627] 8th Corrected and enlarged edn [London: I.L. for Henry Overton, 1642], 350–357; Scudder, Christians daily Walk, 1674, Alr).
127. We have already noted above that Owen would have revised it in terms of his change of mind on the necessity of the atonement.
128. Edward Polhill, The Divine Will considered in its eternal Decrees and holy Execution of them, 1st edn (London: For Henry Eversden, 1673), 281–346.
129. Polhill, Divine Will, A6r-A6v. The other recommendatory preface to this volume was written by English Hypothetical Universalist and Westminster Divine Lazarus Seaman.
130. Ibid., A7r.
131. Soon after the Restoration, a disillusioned Owen had given up hope for a Christian unity based on confessional uniformity (Owen, Works, 14:314–315).
Jonathan Moore, "The Extent of the Atonement: English Hypothetical Universalism versus Particular Redemption," in Drawne into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism, eds. Michael A. G. Haykin and Mark Jones (Oakville, CT: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011), 154–156. Other material from Moore's article concerning Hypothetical Universalism and Westminster Assembly can be read here (click) and the same at the Synod of Dort here (click). Worth reading as well are Richard Muller's comments in the same book. He, like Moore, says these were "in-house Reformed debates," i.e. indicative of a plurality of trajectories within the Reformed orthodox camp.

Scudder's moderate views first appeared on this blog in October of 2007 (I know of no other source affirming him as moderate before that date), and then in David Allen's article on the atonement in 2010 in Whosoever Will (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 73–74. Moore's comments now in print regarding Scudder's "hypothetical universalism" are further vindication of our reading of Scudder's moderate position.

September 19, 2011

Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661) on God's Love and Hate

2. Our Divines say God loveth the persons of the Elect, but hateth their sins, M. Denne offendeth at this, and so doth the Arminians with the same reason, if God hate the works of iniquity he cannot but hate the persons, and workers of iniquity also: Its true, the Lord hateth so the persons of the Elect for their sins; as he taketh vengeance of their sins on their Surety Christ, but this consisteth with the Lords loving of their persons to eternal salvation: The truth is, Gods affection ad intra of hatred and displeasure, never so passeth on the persons of the Elect, as on the persons of the Reprobate; he had thoughts of love and peace in secret, from eternity, to his own Elect, he did frame a Heaven, a Saviour for them, before all time.

3. Propos. Our Divines do rightly teach, that there is a twofold love in God; Amor benevolentia, A love of well willing, which he did bear to them before the world was, & it is called the love of Election: Of this love, Rom. 9.13. Paul speaketh, I have loved Jacob and hated Esau; this is fountain love, the well-head of all our salvation: There is another love called Amor complacentiae, A love of complacency, a love of justification (so M. Denne termeth it) which presupposeth faith: Without which its unpossible to please God, Heb. 11.6. of this Christ speaketh, Joh. 14.21. He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him, ver. 23. If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and will come unto him, and make our abode with him; so Christ the wisdom of God saith, I love them that love me, Pro. 8.17. And so Christ speaketh of his love to his redeemed and sanctified Spouse, Can. 4.9. Thou hast ravished my heart my sister, my Spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thy eyes, with one chain of thy neck: Holiness and the image of God is the object of this love, not the cause nor any hire: it is not so properly love as the other. God rather loveth persons, desiring well and good to them, then things. Mr. Denne is not content with this distinction; and why: The love of Election, and the love of Justification (saith he) are not diverse loves, or divers degrees of love, but divers manifestations of one and the same infinite love; as when a Father hath conveyed an Inheritance to his son, here is no new love from the Father to the son, but a new manifestation of that love wherewith the Father loved the son before. Answ. Men should not take on them to refute they know not what; not any Protestant Divines ever taught, that there is a new love in God, or any new degree of love in God, that was not in him before: Arminians indeed tell us of new love, new desires, and of ebbing & flowing; love and hatred succeeding one to another in Gods mind, these Vorstian blasphemies we disclaim; it is indeed, one and the same simple and holy will of God, by which he loved Peter and John from eternity, and choose them to salvation, & by which he so loveth them in time, as of Free-grace he bestoweth on them Faith, Holiness, Pardon in Christ, and followeth these with his love; and the former is called his love of good will to their person, ere they do good or ill: the latter his love of complacency to their State, and the Lords new workman-ship in them, as with the same love the husband chooseth such a one for his wife, and loveth her being now his married Spouse.

Obj. 2. Men like those whom they love, and so doth God. Ans. We grant all; these termes of Gods good loving, and good-liking, are chosen of Divines to express the thing. God loveth and liketh Jacob not Esau, from eternity, ere he believe or do good: but he doth not so love and like Jacob from eternity, to bestow Faith and the Image of the second Adam on him, while in time he hear the Word and be humbled for sin, and the truth is, the love of complacency is not a new act of Gods will that ariseth in God in time, but the declaration of Gods love of good will in this effect, that God is pleased to bestow faith & his beauty of holiness which maketh the soul lovely to God, and it is rather the effect of eternal love, then love And God hath a love of complacency toward the persons of the Elect, & love of good will (though not of chusing good will toward them) for their holiness, Cant. 4.9.

Obj. 3. It is absurd that God should love the Elect with infiinite love to chuse them to salvation, as touching their persons, and withall to hate them with an infinite hatred, as workers of iniquity. Answ. It were absurd I grant, if Gods hatred to the Elect as sinners, were any immanent affection in God opposite to his love, by which he should be averse to their persons. But Gods hatred to the Elect, because they are sinners, is nothing but his displacency against sin (not against the person) so as he is to inflict satisfactory punishment on the surety Christ for their sin. A Father may so love his Prodigall Son, as to retain a purpose to make him Inheritor of a Kingdom (if he had a Crown for himself) and to pay his debts, and yet both hate and punish his profuse and lavish wasting of his goods.
Samuel Rutherford, The Tryal & Triumph of Faith (London: Printed by John Field, and are to be sold by Ralph Smith, at the Sign of the Bible in Cornhill neer the Royall Exchange, 1659), 398-401. David Silversides cites this section of Rutherford's Trial in order to counter the Hoeksemian view that God never hated the elect. See The Free Offer: Biblical & Reformed (Glasgow, Scotland: Marpet Press, 2005), 41–42.

September 11, 2011

Isaac Ambrose (1604–1664) on Christ's Affectionate Invitations

Use 1. I have been long in the Proof: But a Word of Use, and I have done. What? Is Christ most willing to receive Sinners? O then be exhorted! Who would not come to Jesus Christ? Me thinks, now all Sinners of all Sorts should say, Though I have been a Drunkard, a Swearer, an unclean Person, yet now I hear Christ is willing to receive Sinners, and therefore I will go to Jesus Christ. This is my Exhortation, O come unto Christ, come unto Christ! Behold, here in the Name of the Lord I stand, and make Invitation to poor Sinners; Oh will yet not come? how will you answer it at the great Day, when it shall be said, The Lord Jesus made a Tender and Offer of Mercy to you, and you would not accept of it? Oh come to Christ, and believe on Christ; as Christ is willing to receive you, so be you willing to give up your Souls to him. The Motives to this I may lay down in these Particulars.

1. The Doctrine of Christ, Come unto me,---- and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise case out. All the Arguments of God and Christ, of which you have heard, the Practice of Christ while he was upon Earth: Lay these together, and apply them to your own Souls; Oh what Work will they make!

2. The Calls of God, and Christ, as they are frequent in Scriptures: Consider that Text, Ho every one that thirsts, come ye to the Waters! Isa. 55. 1. [Ho] He begins Proclamation-wise: We usually say, Vocations, Interjections speak very affectionate Motion towards the distressed. Certainly Christ's Love is a very affectionate Love: He lays his Mouth to the Ears of those that are spiritually deaf, and cries aloud, Ho [every one] Christ invites all: As many as ye shall find, bid them to the Marriage, Matth. 22. 9. As the Heavens are general in their Influence, not one Grass on the Ground but is bedewed; so are Christ's Invitations to his Feast: Not one Man in all the World but he is invited; [Ho every one that thirsteth] So the Apostle, Let him that is athirst, come; and whosoever will, let him take the Water of Life freely, Rev. 22. 17. A Thirst, and a Will is one and the same: It is your Will that makes up the Match: If you will but sit down at God's Table; if you will but have the Hon[e]y-comb with the Honey; if you will but drink his Wine with his Milk; if you will drink, yea, drink abundantly of the Flaggons of the new Wine of his Kingdom; why, then come, Come ye to the Waters, come unto me and drink. Christ's Arms are spread abroad to receive Sinners: He calls and knocks; and calls and waits; and calls and beseeches: Every Word here hath so much Sweetness and Dearness in it, as it plainly speaks him free and willing to receive you, if you will but come.

3. The Wooings of Christ to gain your Hearts: Consider him bowing the Heavens, and coming down, and laying aside his Robes of Majesty, and putting on your filthy Garments: Consider him going about from Place to Place, on no other Errand, but to gain your Hearts, and win your Souls: And, who ever spake such effectual Words as Christ spake when he was upon the Earth? Who ever gave such precious Jewels to a Bride, as Christ gave to his Spouse? Who ever put on such Apparel as Christ did, when he wooed his Church? The Prophet wonders at it, Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed Garments from Bozrah?---- Wherefore art thou red in thine Apparel, and thy Garments like him that treadeth in the Wine Fat? Isa. 63. 1. 2. Whoever gave such a Love Token, as Christ gave when he laid down his Life? Oh, consider him living, or dieing, and say, Never Love like to this. Ah! poor Sinners, see your Jesus hanging on the Cross, dropping out his last Blood, breathing out his last Breath, stretching out his dying Arms to encircle Sinners; and come, Oh come and throw your selves into his bleeding Arms! Away with all prejudicate Opinions! Who shall say, Christ is not willing to save him, and not blaspheme eternal Love? Speak Truth: Corrupt Hearts speak Truth; say not Christ is unwilling, but you are unwilling; I would, but ye would not.

4. The Weepings of Christ if he cannot prevail. Thus we find him in the Gospel expressing himself, not only in Words, but in Tears. And when he was come near Jerusalem, he beheld the City, and wept over it, Luke 19. 41. Christ coming to the City, and seeing it, and foreseeing the Desolation that should come upon it, his Bowels yearned within him towards the People, and he mourned secretly within himself. q.d. O Jerusalem, thou hast had many Priests to advise thee, and many Prophets to instruct thee in the Ways of Life, but now these Days are gone and past; nay, the great Prophet of the World is come to woo thee, but yet thy Heart is hardened, and thou wilt not receive the Things belonging to thy Peace, and therefore I will turn my Preaching into Mourning and Sighing, Oh that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy Day the Things belonging to thy Peace. And then his Heart even breaks, and he weeps again, But now they are hid from thine Eyes! Sinners, suppose Christ should come and weep over you, as he did over Jerusalem, saying, O ye sinful Souls, had but you known, even you in this your Day the Things belonging to your Peace: And suppose that you should see one Tear trickling down after another: What? Christ to weep for you, over you? Methinks, if you had Hearts of Stone, it should melt your Hearts: Surely it is no light Matter that makes Christ weep: Children weep often, but Wisemen seldom, yet here the wisest of Men weeps for them that would not weep for themselves: Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem.
Isaac Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus: A View of the Everlasting Gospel; Or, the Soul's Eyeing of Jesus as Carrying on the Great Work of Man's Salvation, from First to Last (Edinburgh: Printed for James Ormiston, 1723), 246–247.


September 5, 2011

Anthony Burgess (d.1644) on Ezekiel 33:11

This Westminster Divine wrote:

I shall now in the next place, consider the work of Grace, under the notion of Conversion, or Turning unto God, which is one of the most frequent words in the Scripture to denote that duty. For the better opening of the words upon which I intend to build this discourse, we may observe God himself, inditing a Sermon for Ezekiel the Prophet to Preach, wherein there is, 1. The Doctrine, I have no pleasure in the death of a wicked man. 2. The confirmation of it by an Oath, which God himself makes, As I live, saith God. 3. The use of Exhortation, Turn ye, Turn ye. 4 The Motive, Why will ye dye? For the occasion of these words, you may see God giving Commission to Ezekiel to be a Watchman, admonishing him by several Arguments to discharge his trust faithfully; and in that all Ministers are concerned: It was Chrysostomes wonder, if any spiritual Officer, who had charge of souls committed unto him, could be saved; for if a man is not able to give an account for his own sin, how shall he do it for other? Therefore the forepart of his Chapter should be the faithfull Ministers Looking glass, wherein he should often look: And if there be so much joy in heaven, for the reducing of one sheep that goeth astray, how much rather for the conversion of a wandring Shepherd! Another part of his duty is, to vindicate and justifie God; for the Jews quarrelled and repined at Gods providence, as if his wayes were unequall, or as if God did delight in the destruction of men, yea, though they turned from their wicked wayes. Now my Text is an Apology unto that calumny, where the clear contrary is confirmed by an Oath of God himself; who though he cannot lye, and so his word is enough, yet for condescension to our capacity, and to confirm our faith, doth swear, That he delights not in the death of a wicked man, O beatos nos quorum causa Deus jurat, O miserrimos si nec juranti Domino credimus. Tertullian.

Now this Text is frequently urged and debated upon in the matter of Reprobation, corrupt Teachers concluding from hence, that there is no Election or Reprobation absolutely, because God doth seriously will every mans life, and no wicked mans death. Some answer, that this place is wholly impertinent to that question; for (say they) the Prophet speaks not here of eternal life, but temporal, and that which is by the violence of the sword: And (say they further) the antecedents and consequents do evidently shew, that the sense is, God doth not will the death of a wicked man, if he will turn from his wickedness; for the Jews charged God foolishly, as if they were punished unjustly, for they persawded [sic] themselves they turned to God, and yet their calamities were not taken away: This is probable, but grant the Text to be comprehensive of Eternal death, as many other places are; such that, God would not have any to perish, but come to the knowledge of the truth, &c. 1 Tim. 2. v. 4. Then the answer is known, which may easily be made good, though it be not my work now, God hath an approving will, and an effective or decreeing will. Gods approving will is carried out to the objects, as good in it self; but Gods Effective will is, when he intends to bring a thing about. God had an approving will, that Adam should stand, therefore he gave him a command, and threatned him if he did fall; yet he had not an effective will, to make him to stand, for then who could have hindred it? Thus Christs tears over Jerusalem (How often would I have gathered thee, and thou wouldest not?) were not Crocodiles tears (as some say the Calvinists make them) for though Christ, as God, had not decreed the conversion of the Jews, yet the thing it self was approved of, and commanded, and he as the Minister of the New Testament, affectionately desired it: So here in the Text, God by this pathetical expression, doth declare, how acceptable and desireable a thing it is in its self, that the Jews should be converted; how distastfull and unpleasant their damnation was: therefore mark the expression, he doth not say, I do not will the death of the wicked, but I have no pleasure in it: And if that of the Arminians be true, that God doth effectually will the conversion of all, why then are not all converted? Who hath resisted his will? but I intend grapes, and not thornes; practical not controversal matter from this Text.

The first Observation is, That the damnation and destruction of a wicked man, is unpleasing to God, is not that which he delightes in.

Before I open the point, you may object one known and evident place (there being many others also equivolent to it) Prov. 1. 26. I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh: This argueth their destruction was pleasing to him, Hence judgments upon the wicked are compared to Sacrifices, because they are so acceptable to him.

To Answer this; Both these are true, God delights not in the death of a sinner, yet He will laugh at their Destruction: For if you consider death and hell, as the sinners misery meerly, and as sin brings it, so it is displeasing to God; but as it is an act of justice punishing the impenitent for his wickedness; so it is well pleasing to God, for he is just as well as mercifull. Even as a just Judge that condemneth a Malefactor, may pity the man condemned for his Crimes, and the execution be grievous to him, as its the mans misery; yet as he is a just Judge, so he delights also to have justice done: but this is handled in Controversies.

Let us see wherein it appeareth, that this is not well pleasing to God; and that therefore the whole fault and blame of a mans perdition, is wholly on his own head:

First, Gods unwillingnesse to damn, is seen in the original and primitive institution and creation of man: He made him after his own Image; indued him with all sufficient power and ability to persevere: There was no spot, or blemish, or defect him him, onely he was mutable, and might Apostatize from this happy estate if he would: Seeing then God withheld nothing from him, that might make him happy and in him he covenanted withall mankinde, intending the like good to them; hence it doth appear, how well pleasing it was unto God, that man should continue in a state of holiness before him: Sin then came into the world, and by it death through Adams voluntary transgression: There was no Antecedaneous decree from God, necessitating him to sin: It was his own willful choice, and that when he knew the penalty to the contrary; but yet so, that Gods permissive decree of his fall, did precede, though not necessitating: If therefore sin had been inbred in mans heart at first, as it is now since his fall, then the cause would have been imputed to God; but then he had that priviledge of power to do that which is good; and to withstand what is evil.

Secondly, Gods unwillingness is seen, even since mans revolt; For whereas he might have dealt with us as the lapsed Angels, who are left without any remedy, he hath appointed an Ark to save some Righteous persons. There was never such offers and tenders to Angels, as here in the Text, Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye be damned? Now the means God hath appointed for a mans recovery are divers:

First, There are means by way of love and goodness: There are also means by way of chastisements and afflictions By way of Love; How winning and overcoming should that be? Love doth surround thee; its love that thou livest, that thou breathest; its love, thou art preserved from hell and damnation; its love, that thou hast any support at all; therefore the goodness of God in all the Creatures thou enjoyest, should lead thee to repentance, Rom. 2. The Sun that shines to thee, the Earth that brings forth fruit for thee, the health and perfection of the senses, should melt thee always into good. Again, because naturally we are slavish, and so moved rather by judgements than mercies; rather driven with whips than drawn with silken cords of love; therefore God leaveth not that way unattempted also: Hence the Prophets are so diligent in informing the Israelites, what was the cause of their plagues, famines, the sword and captivity, even their sins; and therefore they should not be so much weary of them, or cry out of them, as of their iniquities: God doth not punish willingly, saith the Scripture, Psal. 104. like the Bee that naturally gives honey, but stings not unless provoked. As the Physician doth not willingly put his Patient to torments, but for his good: Thus it is here, God seeth all his love upon thee will do thee no good, thou doest abuse it, and grow wanton under it, therefore he will take another course, he will throw thee sometimes into the water, to see if that will get the filth out of thee; sometimes into the fire, to see if that will fetch the dross out: If therefore God would leave thee incurable, he would let thee alone, and punish thee no more, as he threatens some, Hosea 4.14. O then know there is never a mercy, or an affliction, never a smile from God or frown from him, but he will have an account of it: How hath it made thee weary of thy sins, and willing to repent?

Secondly, The means God hath appointed, are either external or internal. External, are the Scriptures, and the preaching of the word of God. As where the Sun shineth, that is to give light and life; so where the Gospel ariseth, that is to beget spiritual and supernatural life: The word of God therefore, and the preaching thereof, is compared to all effectual and energetical things, to Mustard-seed; to Leaven, to a Sword, to an Hammer, to Fire: Now why doth God cause this noise alwayes to sound in thy ears, but because thou shouldst hearken and be obedient? It is true indeed, we must distinguish of wicked men, they are either such as live in Paganism, in the ignorance of God, and without the Church (though God hath not left such without a testimony and witness, their consciences within, and the creatures without, bearing witness of God) yet we cannot say, that God so immediately wills their salvation, as of others, still keeping to the first distinction we mentioned, and not contradicting that: Why indeed God should thus differently dispense the means of grace to some, and not to others; yea neglect the far greater part of mankinde, is a mystery too deep for us to wade in: Gods ways are always most just, when they are most secret and unknown to us; yet even of such destitute persons, we may say, God hath no pleasure in their death, according to our premised sense; for he giveth them warnings against sin, and implanted a thousand witness within them, to accuse them, if ever they do evil: or such wicked men, who live under the sound of the trumpet that are awakened, and reminded every day of their transgressions; to such as these God discovers, how unwilling he is, that they should perish in their impieties. Consider therefore, that every leaf in the Scripture, every Sermon thou hearest, will be a terrible matter of account at that dreadful day: God will say, How often would I have converted thee, instructed thee, but thou wouldst not! Then there are internal means, of which anon.

Thirdly, Gods pleasure in the conversion of wicked men is seen, by those pathetical and affectionate expressions, which we see the Scripture useth; which do not onely argue Gods will, but the height and strength of his will: As here in the Text; First, Gods Oath, As I live (saith God;) then the ingemination of the duty: Turn ye, turn ye; lastly, a vehement expostulation, Why will ye die? So you may read many times in the Scripture those exclamations, Oh that my people were wise, that they would consider their latter end; and we see Christ himself, though in the midst of all the pomp and glory which was attributed to him; yet weeping over Jerusalem, Oh that thou hadst known the things that belong to thy peace, &c. Luke 19.42. The truth of this also will further be amplified, if you consider what zealous and importunate Messengers his Prophets are: We beseech you, and intreat you to be reconciled unto God, 2 Cor. 5. 20. If ye will not hear (saith Jeremy) my soul shall mourn in secret for you, Jer. 13.17. The consistency of these things, with their adversaries calumniously fasten upon them, See in Controversial Writers.

Fourthly, That the death of a wicked man is displeasing to God, appeareth in that sin, which is the cause of death, is the onely evil hated by him, and that onely which he hath decreed to punish to all eternity: Thou art of purer eyes, than to behold iniquity, Hab. 1. and, God is angry with the wicked every day: He that commands us to hate it, how much rather must he himself loath it? God therefore is not the author and lover of sin; for Non est author ejus, cujus est ultor, He is not the Author of that which he is the Avenger: How then can God delight in thy damnation, when the cause of it is so abominated by him! Indeed (as you heard) seeing damnation is an act of Justice, and so hath the nature of good, God doth delight in it; but as it is the ruine of the creature by sin, so it is not acceptable to him.

Fifthly, Gods unwillingness that the wicked should perish, appeareth in those internal means, and inward works of Gods Spirit, that are vouchsafed to many: God thinks it not enough to give the word, and the ordinances, and thus outwardly to knock at the door; but he also opens the door in some measure. Hence come those convictions of Conscience, those illuminations of the understanding, and many such secret motions of Gods spirit, that if possible, the soul might at last bewail its sins, and turn unto God. Its true, thus far God doth not go with every one, neither are all admitted unto such favor, but many within the means of Grace, have their hearts thus continually beaten upon, and their consciences thus convinced and smitten: And therefore such who shall yet retain their natural pravity and wickedness, when so many remedies shall be applied, argue the greater obstinacy, & judgement of God upon them.

Now to all this, there is one grand and main Objection; which is, If God do thus will and delight in the conversion of men, If those invitations are serious, and so pathetical, Why then doth not God change the hearts of all? why are not all converted? why are any damned?

To this there is a true Answer and a false Answer returned: The false Answer is by Arminians and others; Therefore some are converted and not others (say they) because some do receive the grace of God offered, and not others: But this is to put all the glory of mans conversion upon his own will; for why do some receive the grace of God, and not others? Can any receive grace, without the help of grace? Must there not be supernatural life breathed into a man before he can stretch out his hand towards God? besides, this opposeth all those places of Scripture, which describe man dead in sin, and unable to any good; and conversion is not the awakening of a man asleep, but the resurrection of one that is dead: Therefore the true answer is, that although God hath revealed his approving will thus, about the salvation of sinners; yet the Scripture doth plainly limit his effective will, to those that are elected, not to all men, but to some, Rom. 9. There this question is on purpose handled, and the Apostles conclusion is, On whom he will, he sheweth mercy, and whom he will, he hardens, And doth there silence all those cavils, that proud sinners may make; even this very Objection he instanceth in, Who hath resisted his will? So that you must compare one Scripture with another; and be sure to keep sobriety and humility in this great mystery, not launching further into this Ocean, than the Scripture is a star to guide you in.

Secondly, Though God doth thus will the salvation of sinners, yet he is also a God of Soveraignity and Power: None may prescribe to him; he is of boundless Wisedom & Counsel, & none can search out or know the depths of God, but the spirit of God. How many things doth the Scripture reveal, as objects of faith, which cannot be comprehended by us; that are above all humane reason though not contrary to sound reason! Our Saviour hath taught us an excellent way to resolve these dispensations of God, Even so Father, for so it pleaseth thee, Mat. 11. As Ipse dixit must be the ground of faith; so Ipse voluit of our submission.

Use 1. Of instruction, concerning the inexcuseableness of wicked men, who perish in their sins? Who may be blamed but thy own self? Although we have it from Adam, to lay our sins off from our selves, yet these fig-leaves will not cover our nakedness, for to God thou canst not impute thy ruine: O Israel, they perdition is of thy self, Hosea 13.9. Let no man say, when he is tempted, that he is tempted of God, for he tempts no man, but every one is led aside by the lusts of his own heart, James 1. Oh thou! that in this life time flatterest thy self, thy sins must not be owned by thee, none may put thee in minde of what thou art; when God shall at the say of judgement, discover all hidden things of darkness, then it will be manifest, thou, even thy own self, hast undone thy self: God hath done like a gracious, good, just and merciful God, but thou hast been a cruel enemy unto thy own soul, Qui voluntatem Dei spreverant invitantem, voluntatem Dei Sentent vindicantem, You shall find his power in punishments; who have despised his grace and mercy in offers thereof. Austin. Neither may you excuse your selves, by casting your sins on Satan; for although he be a Tempter, and doth continually suggest corrupt lusts unto thy heart; yet this is onely by temptation, by suggestion, he doth not make thee sin, whether thou wilt or no: Thou art stubble, and that makes the sparks of fire which come from him, so easily inflame. As some Heathens have imputed their miscarriages to I know not what, Fate, and the constellation of Stars; so many Christian people, put their iniquities off either to God or the Devil: What would you have them to do? they cannot help it; How could God punish and damn thee for these sins, if he caused them in thee? God indeed hath a just and terrible providence about the sins of men, he is not an idle spectator of them, but yet he doth not infuse any wickedness into men; that they have of themselves, onely God may guide and order it to wise ends, and cause it to run down what channels he pleaseth.

Use 2. The aggravation of the wickednesse of those sinners, who stand out wilfully against the goodness and patience of God, that would lead them to repentance; For how shall any mouth be opened for thee? who shall plead for thee? What excuse hast thou? Consider, that God desireth thy conversion, who doth not need thee, who can be honored, though thou art damned in hell: he can raise up children to Abraham out of stones: When therefore God shall thus invite thee for thy good and advantage onely, he is not bettered by thee, not made the more happy, then they forehead must be brass, that doth not blush at such ingratitude; cry out, Who am I, Lord? what am I, that I should be regarded? wilt not thou have praise, and honor and glory though I be a cast-away? why should my life and salvation be so dear to thee, who am naturally a cursed enemy to thee?

Use 3. Of consolation to broken and tempted Christians, who sit down like Job upon the dunghill, abhorring themselves; they are loathsome in their own eyes, and because so, therefore they think God will not receive such Monsters into his presence: Oh, they say, though God take pleasure in the life and salvation of others, yet he will not surely do so to me: But Oh this Text, should be sweeter than the honey or honey comb to thee; God saith, As he liveth, he delighteth not in thy damnation: Art thou therefore weary of they sins? doest thou renounce thy lusts? Then be not afraid to come, Those that come to him he will in no ways cast off: God saith, Why will ye dye, O house of Israel? Do thou turn the Text, and say, Why shall I dye, O God of Israel? set this Scripture against Hell, Devil and all accusations of conscience, God doth not delight to bruise and break thee with those many temptations, that are worse than death it self.

Use 4. Of direction unto Christians, under all their miseries and troubles, not to repine at God, but to blame and humble themselves. The Jews here, had the devouring sword come upon them, which did cut them off father and son together; now they thought Gods ways were not equal herein: And thus Solomon, The wickednesse or foolishnesse of a man, perverteth his own ways, and then his heart fretteth against the Lord, Prov. 19. 3. As God hath no pleasure in the death of a man repenting, so neither in the troubles, calamities, and sad afflictions he lieth under: He doth not afflict willingly; Were it not our rebellion and untowardness, we should not have so many stripes and scourges from him: Oh this is an excellent way to humble our selves in the dust; why should a living man complain for the punishment of his sins? Lam. 3.
Anthony Burgess, "Serm. LXVI. Shewing that the Damnation of Wicked Men is unpleasing to God, and that which he delights not in.," in Spiritual Refining: Or, A Treatise of Grace and Assurance (London: Printed by Jo. Streater, for T. U. and are to be sold by Thomas Johnson at the Golden-Key in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1658), Part 1, 403–408. David Silversides cites a small portion of Burgess' words above to sustain his case in The Free Offer: Biblical & Reformed (Glasgow, Scotland: Marpet Press, 2005), 65.


R. B. Kuiper (1886–1966) on Common Grace

The term common grace is used in different senses in different theologians. Wesleyan Arminianism teaches that, although man is by nature totally depraved, God bestows on every individual at birth sufficient grace to receive Christ in faith of his free volition. Because such grace is said to be bestowed on all, it is denominated "common." It is further contended that he who exercises that grace by believing in Christ is in consequence born again. The Reformed position, on the other hand, insists that only he who by the grace of the Holy Spirit has been born again is capable of saving faith. Therefore it rejects the Wesleyan Arminian concept of common grace and employs that term in a radically different sense. It distinguishes sharply between common grace and special or particular grace and ascribes renewing quality only to the latter.

God's Favor to All

Scripture teaches unmistakably that God bestows His saving grace upon the elect, but it teaches just as clearly that He manifests an attitude of favor to all men. The Psalmist sang: "The Lord is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all" (Ps. 145:8, 9). In Jesus' command to His disciples, "Love your enemies . . . that ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven" (Mt. 5:44, 45), the love of God for His enemies is undeniably implicit. God's universal love is basic to the doctrine of common grace.

Scripture ascribes to the goodness of God the blessings of nature granted to all. Immediately after the Deluge God promised that the earth would not again be destroyed by a flood but that, so long as the earth remained, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night would not cease (Gen. 8:21, 22). Paul told the people of pagan Lystra and Derbe that God never left Himself without witness but did good, giving rain and fruitful seasons, and thus filling men's hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). And in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus stated that God in love causes the sun to shine on the evil and the good, and rain to descend on the just and the unjust (Mt. 5:45).

Vestiges of God's Image

When man fell into sin, God permitted him to retain certain vestiges of the Divine image in which he had been created. Prominent among those vestiges is a "sensus Deitatis." According to Romans 1:19-21, the heathen have some knowledge of God. In his Institutes of Christian Religion Calvin insisted that "a sense of Deity is inscribed on every heart," even on the hearts of those who "seem to differ least from the lower animals" (I, iii, 1). Nor did God deprive man at his Fall of the precious gift of reason. It continued to be exercised by the offspring of ungodly Cain as well as by the descendants of godly Seth. In fact, in the early history of mankind the former excelled in the arts and sciences (Gen. 4:20–22). Calvin said: "In reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from the Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we should avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or contemn truth wherever it appears." Referring to pagan lawgivers, philosophers, rhetoricians, physicians, and mathematicians, he declared: "We cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without the highest admiration" (Inst., II, ii, 15). Fallen man also continues to to be a moral being; that is to say, he has a sense of right and wrong, a conscience which tells him it is right to do the right, wrong to do the wrong. The Gentiles "show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing on another" (Rom. 2:15).

By no means does the fact of man's retention of vestiges of the Divine image detract from his total depravity. His Fall resulted in the complete loss of true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). The Apostle Paul charged the heathen with suppressing the truth by their wickedness (Rom. 1:18, RSV) and changing the truth of God into a lie (Rom. 1:25); and of both Jew and gentile he said: "There is none righteous, no, not one. . . . There is none that seeketh after God. . . . There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom. 3:10, 11, 18). Hence Calvin, having lauded the wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit to the pagans of antiquity, went on to say: "Still, though seeing, they saw not. Their discernment was not such as to direct them to the truth, far less to enable them to attain it, but resembled that of the bewildered traveller who sees the flash of lightning glance far and wide for a moment, and then vanish into the darkness of the night, before he can advance a single step. So far is such assistance from enabling him to find the right path. Besides, how many monstrous falsehoods intermingle with those minute particles of truth scattered up and down in their writings as if by chance. . . . To the great truths, what God is in himself, and what he is in relation to us, human reason makes not the least approach" (Inst., II, ii, 18). The Canons of Dort having granted that there remain in fallen man "the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior," go on to assert: "But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and hinders in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God" (III–IV, 4).

Restraint of Sin

God graciously restrains sin both in the individual and in the race. That truth is plainly implicit in the divine assertion, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man" (Gen. 6:3). With reference to Sarah, Abraham's wife, God said to Abimelech, king of Gerar: "I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her" (Gen. 20:6). And Scripture teaches that human government was ordained by God for the punishment of evil as well as the encouragement of that which is good (Rom. 13:1–4). Were it not for the Divine restraint of evil, human intercourse on this sin-ridden earth would be utterly chaotic. Since there is Divine restraint, a more or less orderly society occurs.

Encouragement to Good

Scripture teaches not only that God holds sin in check in the lives of the unregenerate; it ascribes to them the exercise of love and the doing of good. Said Jesus to His disciples: "If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what than have ye? for sinners even do the same" (Luke 6:32, 33). Here it becomes necessary to distinguish between "love" and "love," "good" and "good." Elsewhere, Scripture says of the unregenerate: "There is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:12); and they are described as "haters of God" and "hating one another" (Rom. 1:30; Tit. 3:3). Only those who are born again are capable of "spiritual" good; that is to say, good motivated by love for God or that love for men which springs from love for God. The Heidelberg Catechism defines good works as "those which are done from true faith, according to the law of God, and to his glory" (Answer 91). Such works only the regenerate can perform. Yet, by virtue of the common grace of God others can and do perform good that may be denominated "civic" or "natural." But, though there is an outward conformance to precepts of God, there is something essentially lacking in them. Of such good the Westminster Confession of Faith says: "Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them is more sinful, and displeasing to God" (XVI, 7).

Sincere Offer of the Gospel

A most significant aspect of the doctrine of common grace is what Reformed theology designates "the universal and sincere offer of the Gospel." On the basis of Scripture, Reformed theology holds that from eternity God elected certain persons to eternal life and decreed that the others would because of their sins perish everlastingly. The latter phase of divine predestination is variously described as "preterition," "rejection," or "reprobation." Also on the basis of Scripture Reformed theology holds that "as many as are called by the Gospel are unfeignedly called. For God has most earnestly and truly declared in his Word what is acceptable to him; namely, that all who are called should come unto him" (Canons of Dort, III-IV, 8). Yet such passages as Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; Mt. 11:28; 23:37; and II Pet. 3:9 teach unmistakably that God not only promises eternal life to sinners in the case that they repent and believe, but most cordially invites all who hear the Gospel to repent and believe in order that they may be saved. The last-named passage says in so many words that God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Thus Divine reprobation and the Divine offer of the Gospel admittedly constitute a paradox. Human reason has proved unable to harmonize them fully with each other. Here, as indeed everywhere, Reformed theology subjects human logic to the Divine logos. Commenting on Ezek. 18:23, Calvin said: "God desires nothing more earnestly than that those who are perishing and rushing to destruction should return into the way of safety. . . . If any one should object, 'then there is no election of God, by which he has predestined a fixed number to salvation,' the answer is at hand: the prophet does not here speak of God's secret counsel, but only recalls miserable men from despair, that they may apprehend the hope of pardon, and repent, and embrace the offered salvation. If any one again objects, 'this is making God act with duplicity,' the answer is ready: that God always wishes the same thing though by different ways and in a manner inscrutable to us. Although, therefore, God's will is simple, yet great variety is involved in it, as far as our senses are concerned. Besides, it is not surprising that our eyes should be blinded by intense light, so that we cannot certainly judge how God wishes all to be saved, and yet has devoted all the reprobate to eternal destruction and wishes them to perish" (Calvin's Commentaries in loco).

Contrast With Saving Grace

Common grace as described in the foregoing paragraphs differs essentially from particular or saving grace. No amount of common grace will save a sinner from sin and death. Yet common and saving grace are closely related. They may be said to be independent. Saving grace presupposes common grace. For example, a covenant of nature, which God established with Noah and his descendants, guaranteed the continuity of the human race (Gen. 8:21–9:17). With that covenant as a background, God subsequently established a covenant of grace with Abraham and his seed, and in so doing guaranteed the continuity of the church (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:1–7). Had there been no human race, there could have been no church. in another example it may also be asserted without hesitation that because of His elect God frequently bestows blessings on men in general. For the sake of ten righteous persons God would have spared wicked Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:32). Jesus' saying, "Ye are the salt of the earth" (Mt. 5:13) indicates that God for the present bears with this sinful world because of the presence in it of His children as a preservative. The tribulation that will come to pass toward the end of time will be shortened for the elect's sake (Mt. 24:22). Whether it is solely for the sake of His chosen people that God dispenses the blessings of common grace to mankind is definitely another matter. So sweeping an assertion would be unwarranted.

Historical Survey

Although the doctrine of common grace is found by suggestion in some of Augustine's writings, it never came to be elaborated by the Church of Rome. Rome's disparagement of the natural, in contradistinction to the spiritual, accounts for that neglect. The anabaptists, instead of correcting that error, compounded it by positing an antithesis of the spiritual and the natural. To the present day a powerful strain of this persists in much of Protestantism. Hence, many Protestants—perhaps most of them—show little interest in the doctrine of common grace. The 16th-century Reformers, notably Calvin among them, may be said to have discovered that doctrine. Late in the 19th century and early in the 20th it was elaborated and strongly stressed by such Dutch Calvinists as Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck. The former wrote three large volumes on this subject.

More recently, the present century witnessed considerable controversy on common grace among American Calvinists, particularly in the Christian Reformed Church. In 1920 Ralph Janssen, Professor of OT at Calvin Seminary, was charged with leanings toward higher criticism. Although he was exonerated by the Synod of that year, charges against him persisted. He retorted that his critics were neglecting the doctrine of common grace, and he quoted Kuyper and Bavinck to that effect, under both of whom he had studied at the Free University of Amsterdam. When he refused to defend himself at the Synod of 1922 because, as he contended, certain members of that Synod had by their denial of common grace disqualified themselves for proper evaluation of his teaching, that body found him guilty as charged. However, the very next Synod, that of 1924, found two of his most vehement critics, Henry Danof and Herman Hoeksema, guilty of denying the historic Reformed doctrine of common grace. These men insisted that an attitude of favor on the part of God to the non-elect is out of the question and that they are incapable of doing good whatsoever. Under three heads, Synod emphatically reaffirmed the doctrine of common grace. It also recommended further study of the subject. Attempts in that direction were subsequently made by Herman Kuiper, Cornelius Van Til, James Daane, William Masselink, and Alexander De Jong, among others. Discussion has brought to the fore the importance of the time factor. It is obvious that, although God from eternity decreed unalterably the damnation of certain men, so long as the non-elect have not in actual historical fact finally rejected Christ by unbelief, God does not exclusively regard them nor deal with them qua reprobate, but in many ways manifests His goodness to them. Yet that leaves the paradox of Divine reprobation and common grace unsolved. It has become increasingly clear that this paradox must be permitted to stand without modification. It behooves Christians to beware of detracting from either of its elements.

A significant question demanding further consideration than so far received is whether Christ merited the blessings of common grace for the non-elect by the Atonement. That God ever beholds His elect in Christ is perfectly clear. For Christ's sake He blesses them with natural blessings as well as spiritual. Does God also for the sake of Christ bestow some good things on the non-elect? Calvin has not answered that question explicitly. William Cunningham has said: "Many blessings flow to mankind at large from the death of Christ, collaterally and incidentally, in consequence of the relation in which men, viewed collectively, stand to each other" (Historical Theology, II, 333). Robert S. Candlish observed that the entire history of the human race from the Apostasy to the Final Judgment is a dispensation of forbearance in respect to the reprobate, in which many blessings, physical and moral, affecting their characters and destinies forever, accrue even to the heathen, and many more to the educated and refined citizens of Christian communities. He has asserted: "These come to them through the mediation of Christ" (The Atonement, 358 f.). Also, L. Berkhof, while admitting that Reformed theologians generally have been hesitant to say that Christ's atoning blood merited the blessings of common grace for the reprobate, has concluded that undoubtedly significant benefits accrue from Christ's death to the entire race of men (Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, 1938, 438).
R. B. Kuiper, "Common Grace," in The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Marshallton, Delaware: The National Foundation for Christian Education, 1972), 3:48–53.