December 31, 2013

John Yates (fl. 1612–1660) on God's Serious and Hearty Desire for the Salvation of Every Soul

God's preparation and donation of faith.

Leaving the power of Man's innocency, and universal freedom to believe legally or Evangelically, we fall into the safe way, and say, that wheresoever the Gospel is preached, God gives or is prepared to give faith in Christ. He mocks no man, but is serious in the salvation of every soul, to which the Gospel is sent. Every hearer in the Church is zealously persuaded to repent. The Ministers mind and God's meet in his holy ordinances, and the Word is earnestly spoken to every ear. God himself goes with his message from seat to seat, and from man to man, with true and hearty desire of his conversion; yet notwithstanding he gives not equal grace to all, as shall appear in our distribution thereof.
John Yates, The Saints Sufferings and Sinners Sorrows (Printed by T. Cotes, for N. Bourne, dwelling at the Royall Exchange, 1631), 196–197.
God is prepared to give faith to all that hear his Gospel.

Matt. 23:37. I would, ye would not. It is the will of God by the Gospel that all should be gathered unto him. Man's will resisteth God's will, and makes that Gospel of none effect that should be effectual unto all. God may add further grace and give men hearts to receive as freely, as his Gospel is offered unto them: but such grace is a royal prerogative, and reserved for some of many. All are beholding to God, but some find and feel the very riches of his grace, and are never able to be thankful enough, that they above others should receive so much.
John Yates, The Saints Sufferings and Sinners Sorrows (Printed by T. Cotes, for N. Bourne, dwelling at the Royall Exchange, 1631), 198–199.


November 10, 2013

William G. T. Shedd (1820–1894) on Romans 2:4

Ver. 4. ή] "or," in case thou dost not thus imagine, "dost thou despise," etc. The particle introduces a new case. πλούτου is emphatic by collocation. It is a frequent word with St. Paul: not a Hebraism, but a common term for abundance. Plato (Euthyphro, 12) speaks of πλούτος της σοφίυς. χρηστότητος] "goodness," in the sense of good-will, or kindness: not the attribute by which God is good (holiness), but by which he does good (benevolence). It is a general term, under which άνοχή and μακροφυμία are species. For the meaning of these, see comment on iii. 25. καταθρονεις] the contempt is in the disregard of the tendency of the divine goodness to produce repentance. άγνοων "not recognizing." The word implies an action of the will along with that of the understanding. It is that culpable ignorance which results: 1. from not reflecting upon the truth; and 2. from an aversion to the repentance which the truth is fitted to produce. It is the "willing ignorance" spoken of in 2 Pet. iii. 5. Compare also the use of άγνοειν in Acts xvii. 23; Rom. x. 3. μετάνοιάν] sorrow for, and turning from, the sins that have been mentioned, and charged home. άγει] the present tense denotes the natural tendency and influence of the divine attribute of goodness. The context shows that this tendency was resisted and thwarted. The apostle is not speaking, here, of the effectual operation of special grace upon the human will, but only of common influences.

November 7, 2013

Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) on God's Kneeling Mercy

Use 2. Believe in this Mercy, Psal. 52. 8. I trust in the mercy of God for ever. God's Mercy is a Fountain of Salvation, what greater Encouragement to believe than God's Mercy. God counts it his glory to be scattering Pardons; he is desirous that sinners should touch the golden Scepter of his Mercy, and live. And this willingness to shew Mercy appears two ways:

1. By his intreating of sinners to come and lay hold on his Mercy; Rev. 22.17. Whosoever will, come and take the water of life freely. Mercy woes sinners, it even kneels down to them. It were strange for a Prince to entreat a condemned Man to accept Pardon. God saith, poor sinner, suffer me to love thee, be willing to let me save thee.

2. By his joyfulness when sinners do lay hold on his Mercy. What is God the better, whether we receive his Mercy or no? What is the Fountain profited that others drink of it? Yet such is God's goodness, that he rejoyceth at the Salvation of sinners, and is glad when his Mercy is accepted of. When the Prodigal Son came home, how glad was the Father? and he makes a Feast to express his joy. This was but a Type or Emblem, to shew how God rejoyceth when a poor sinner comes in, and lays hold of his Mercy. What an encouragement is here to believe in God, he is a God of Pardons, Nehem. 9.17. Mercy pleaseth him, Micha 7.18. Nothing doth prejudice us but Unbelief. Unbelief stops the current of God's Mercy from running: It shuts up God's Bowels, closeth the Orifice of Christ's Wounds, that no healing Vertue will come out, Matth. 13.58. He could not do mighty works there because of their unbelief. What dost thou not believe in God's Mercy? Is it they sins discourage? God's Mercy can pardon great sins, nay, because they are great, Psal. 25.11. The Sea covers great Rocks as well as lesser Sands; some that had an hand in crucifying Christ, found Mercy. As far as the Heavens are above the Earth so far is God's Mercy above our sins, Isa. 55.9. What will tempt us to believe, if not the Mercy of God?
4. To Sin presumptuously, to know what is good, yet not to do it, is hainous, because it is Ingratitude: 'Tis an high Abuse of God's Kindness; and God cannot endure, or all Things, to have his Kindness abused. God's Kindness is seen in this, that he hath acquainted the Sinner with his Mind and Will; that he hath not only instructed him, but perswade him, made mercy stoop and kneel to the Sinner; he hath Wooed him with his Spirit, that he would flee from Sin, and pursue Holiness: Kindness is seen in this, that God hath spared the Sinner so long, and not struck him dead in the Act of Sin: Kindness in this, that tho' the Sinner hath sinn'd against his Conscience, yet now, if he will repent of Sin, God will repent of his Judgments, and the white Flag of Mercy shall be held forth, Jer. 3.1. Thou hast played the Harlot with many Lovers; yet return again to me, said the Lord. But the Sinner is of a base morose Spirit; he is not melted with all his Love; but his Heart, like Clay, hardens under the Sun. Here's an apparent Abuse of God's Kindness; and God cannot endure to have his Kindness abused. The Vulture draws Sickness from Perfumes; so the Sinner contracts Wickedness from the Mercy of God. Here's high Ingratitude!


November 2, 2013

Nicholas Bernard (d.1661) Describing James Ussher's (1581–1656) View on Universal Redemption

The only point which he [Thomas Pierce] names here, is, That the Primate [James Ussher] embraced the doctrine of universal redemption, and saith, in that he doth as good as say all, He [Pierce] doth not assert it from his own knowledge, but saith he hath it from many most unquestionable persons which had it poured into their ears, by the Primate's own mouth. If it were in a Sermon of his [Ussher's] at the Church in London, the last he preached in that City, and many months before his death, (which I am informed by others is the sense of it) I was present at it, and with me there was no new thing observed to have been uttered by him differing from what his judgment was many years agone, since I had the happiness to be known unto him. It may be some of these persons produced for witnesses being strangers to him and taking him to be of the other extremity might apprehend it as a retractation, but they were much mistaken in it; If they heard him affirming, That by the death of Christ all men receive this benefit that they are Salvabiles, or put into a capacity and possibility of salvation, That terms of peace are procured for all mankind, That all men's sins are become pardonable, mercy attainable, (in which state those of the Angelical nature which fell, are not), That there is some distinction to be made between his satisfaction (rightly understood) and his intercession, according to that of our Saviour, I pray for these, I pray not for the world, &c. It is possible, for ought I know, some such expressions might be his then. But that by his Universal Redemption should be understood such an Universal grace, that the same measure of it without any distinction should equally and alike be conferred and applied to Judas, which was to Peter; and that the only difference was the free-will of Peter in accepting, without any further cause of thanks to God for his grace in inclining him accordingly, &c. This I suppose will not be attested to have been professed by him, either in this or any other Sermon, or private conference with him. And in this present enlargement, I would not be understood to interpose myself in the controversy, or to affix thus much upon Mr. Pierce's judgment, but only to aver that the Primate at his last in this particular differed not from what he had declared formerly.
Taken from Nicholas Bernard's second letter to William Barlee in Barlee's A Necessary Vindication of the Doctrine of Predestination, Formerly asserted. (London: Printed for George Sawbridge, at the Bible on Ludgate-Hill, 1658), A4r–B1r. [or pp. xviii–xix; manually numbered from the first page]


October 14, 2013

Robert Godfrey on the Path to Compromise at the Synod of Dort

Path to Compromise

This sensitivity [for Protestant unity concerning Reformed relations with Lutheranism] did not move the strict group, however. The strict German and Swiss delegations through bitter experience had already been disillusioned about hopes of concord with Lutherans. The Dutch provincial delegations had other reasons for disregarding an appeal to Lutheranism. They read such an appeal in the context of their own struggles with the Remonstrants and construed the call to Protestant unity as another Remonstrant smoke screen designed to obscure the real issues. This fear seemed to be supported because as early as 1609 defenders of Arminius had claimed that their teachings were no different from what was taught by Lutherans on the matters at hand.[44] On January 16, 1619 the Remonstrants wrote to Maurice asking for toleration if they could not support the decrees of the Synod. Brandt summarized this letter: ". . . they humbly pray'd that the same freedom might be allowed to them which the Lutherans had enjoy'd in these Provinces, and who were of the same opinion themselves, in the business of the Five Points, and who moreover differed from the Reformed in other matters."[45] Brandt also noted the appeal of March 19, 1619 that the Remonstrants made to the political delegates at the Synod when they submitted the last of their written defense:
Observe then how inconsistently they act with themselves; they who in Germany call Melanchthon, a most pious Soul, and cry him up for his extraordinary virtues and gifts of all kinds (as Zanchius and all the Palatine Divines are wont to do) yet here in the Low-Countries will not so much as admit, either to the exercise of their Ministry, or to the Table of the Lord, one who practices Melanchthon's moderate way of preaching, and who, for the sake of peace, is contented to forbear meddling with the doctrines of the Contraremonstrants.[46]
Although the strict Calvinist group at the Synod was not moved by an appeal to Lutheran feelings, there were three grounds upon which an effective appeal for compromise might succeed with them. In fact, the final compromise was accomplished on the basis of these appeals. The first plea was the need for the decisions of the Synod to be approved unanimously. The second appeal was the form in which final Canons were to be stated, and the third was the need to placate the English delegation that represented the largest Reformed church and was the strongest political ally of the United Provinces. On the basis of these three considerations, the strict group was willing to compromise.

On the matter of unanimity, the Provincial delegations, especially, were sensitive to the charge of vindictiveness and revenge that could easily be raised against them in their judgment of the Remonstrants. To refute this charge the foreign delegations had been invited in the first place. The Provincial delegates were especially eager for a unanimous vote at the Synod to condemn the Remonstrants. They wanted the world to see that Calvinists from all over Europe were united in maintaining the Contra-Remonstrant case. Bogerman verbalized something of that concern when he spoke against Davenant's request to have the various Judicia read publically. Bogerman reasoned, as Balcanqual reported:
. . . Though the suffrages of all Colledges do agree . . . in the thing itself; yet because there was some disagreement in phrases and forms of speaking, it was to be feared that the Remonstrants and other Jesuits and Dominicans present would make a great matter of these verbal differences, that they would cast abroad among the people strange reports of the dissensions of the Synod.[47]
Bogerman's reasoning was supported by a majority vote of the Synod reflecting the great concern on this issue. Samuel Ward further testified to this concern in writing some years later to Archbishop Ussher:
Some of us were held by some half Remonstrants for extending the oblation made to the Father to all, and for holding sundry effects thereof offered serio, and some really communicated to the reprobate. . . . We were careful that nothing should be defined which might gainsay the Confession of the Church of England, which was effected, for that they were desirous to have all things in the Canons defined unanimi consensu.[48]
The second ground of compromise was the form in which Bogerman, supported by Bishop Carleton, chose to express the Canons. At the same time when the decisions on the form of the Canons were being made, Balcanqual worried that each Contra-Remonstrant minister would want his particular theological insight to be stated explicitly in the Canons.
. . . if your L. care do not now most of all show it self for procuring of good counsel to be sent hither for the constitution of the Canons, we are like to make the Synod a thing to be laughed at in after ages. The President and his provincials have no care of the credit of strangers, nor of that account which we must yield at our return unto all men that shall be pleased to call for it; their Canons they would have them so full charged with catechetical speculations, as they will be ready to burst, and I perceive it plainly, that there is never a contra-Remonstrant minister in the Synod, that hath delivered any doctrine which hath been excepted against by the Remonstrants, but they would have it in by head and shoulders in some Canon, that so they might have something to show for that which they have said.[49]
Balcanqual's worries were no doubt justified in relation to the Provincials, but it seems probable that Balcanqual misunderstood Bogerman. Bogerman's biographer has shown that he was not so fanatical as has sometimes been thought and that he was chosen President because of his familiarity with the issues, his stability, and his friendship with Maurice and Count William Louis.[50]

Bogerman decided that the Canons were to be formed for the edification of the Dutch church, not to settle subtle academic questions. Bishop Carleton agreed that the style of the Canons should be popular and not scholastic.[51] This decision meant that the many of the specific problems and differences could be ignored. The Canons would be framed with these theses stating the orthodox belief followed by the rejection of specific heterodox beliefs. It meant that with a little ambiguity and flexibility a compromise could be reached.

The commission that Bogerman appointed to write the Canons arrived at a compromise without much trouble. Only on the Second Article did a problem arise, and on the Second Article a last minute addition on the absolute necessity of Christ's death delayed final approval, but even that issue was finally resolved.[52]

Balcanqual expressed satisfaction with the results of the compromise, and implicitly recognized the influenced wielded by the English at the Synod as Europe's largest Reformed Church and as the Netherlands' most powerful ally.

The Deputies appointed by the Synod have taken pains I must needs confess to give our Colledge all satisfaction; besides the second Article, some of our Colledge have been earnest to have this proposition out. (Infideles damnabuntur non solum ob infidelitatem, sed etiam ob omnia alia peccata sua tam originale quam actualia.) Because they say that from thence may be inferred that original sin is not remitted to all who are baptized, which opinion hath been by more than one council condemned as heretical: they have therefore at their request put it out; so I know now of no matter of disagreement among us worthy the speaking of. . . .[53]

Ambassador Carleton in his letter to the King after the Synod also testified to the significant influence of the English delegation:
This day I presented my lord bishop of Landaff, and the rest of your majesty's commissioners, who have assisted at the Synod, to the states and the prince of Orange, to take their leaves: by both which I was desired to acknowledge to your majesty the full satisfaction they have had in these reverend persons, and their great obligation for the favour, they sparing not to publish in their open assembly, that this synod (which hath given, as it were, a new soul and life to this state) is your majesty's work; and thereupon to profess to owe to your majesty the fruits of their best abilities in all occasions for the service of your person and kingdoms: which I do now undertake in their behalf, to be as really meant, as freely tendered. . . .[54]
While the notion that the Synod was "his majesty's work" must be discounted to some extent as courtly flattery, it was certainly true that the English had an immense impact on the Synod as a whole and on the Second Article in particular. Davenant emerged as the most articulate spokesman for the moderate position, and Bishop Carleton emerged as the great compromiser. Ambassador Carleton emerged in Balcanqual's letters as the ready source of political pressure on the Dutch, when it appeared from time to time that the strict and uncompromising group might dominate the Synod.

The final form of the Canons on the Second Article[55] indicated the ways in which the tension between unity and division were finally resolved and an acceptable compromise reached. The Second Head of Doctrine was composed of nine theses or canons stating the orthodox position on the death of Christ. These canons were followed by a list of seven errors which were rejected. The theses and rejected errors may be summarized as follows: 1) God's justice requires the infinite punishment of sin. 2) Christ satisfied for our sins in our place. 3) Christ's death is of infinite value and sufficient for the sins of the whole world. 4) Christ's death is of infinite value because Christ was not only perfectly man but also truly God. 5) Whoever believes in Christ will have eternal life, and this promise and the command to repent and believe should be preached to all persons indiscriminately. 6) The reason that some do not believe and therefore are not saved is not due to any deficiency in the death of Christ, but is their own responsibility. 7) Those who do believe owe all their salvation to Christ's merit and nothing to their own merit. 8) God willed that Christ's death would effectively redeem only the elect and that only to the elect would he give faith and all other saving gifts. 9) This will of God always has been and always will be accomplished. The Canons rejected seven specific errors: 1) Christ died without a certain decree to save anyone. 2) Christ died only to make a new covenant possible. 3) Christ died so that God could choose new conditions for salvation and those conditions can be fulfilled by the free will of man. (This error is labeled Pelagian.) 4) Salvation is the result of faith itself, not of the applied merits of Christ. (This is labeled Socinian.) 5) By the death of Christ all men are freed from original sin and received into grace. 6) The distinction between application and accomplishment makes salvation dependent on the will of man. (This is labeled Pelagian.) 7) Christ did not die for those whom God loved as elect since they would have no need for such a death.

These Theses were quite different from any of the Theses proposed by the various delegations, although some similarity existed between the final Canons and the Theses proposed by the Dutch professors. Canons Three and Four were similar to Thesis One of the Dutch professors; Canon Five resembled Thesis Three, and Canon Eight reflected Thesis Five. All but two of the errors rejected in the official Canons were mentioned by the Dutch professors in their Theses. Approximately half of the final Canons may have reflected the work of the Dutch professors. The methodology of the Canons was quite different, however, from that of the Dutch professors. Dijk expressed this difference well in his general observations on the First Article: ". . . men niet aprioristisch van het decreet Gods uitging, maar aposteriorisch van de historische feiten. . . ."[56] Whereas most of the Theses began with God's intention in sending Christ to die, the Canons began with man's need for salvation and the way in which Christ met that need.

This a posteriori approach made compromise possible, and the compromise expressed the concerns of both the strict and the moderate groups at the Synod. Canons Eight and Nine reflected the strict and mediating insistence that God sovereignly applies to the elect the salvation which he accomplished in Christ. Since the vast majority of the Synod was either strict or mediating in their positions on the Second Article, it was hardly surprising that this ringing statement on God's sovereignty was included. What was surprising was the degree to which the concerns of the moderates were represented in the Canons. Especially Davenant's concerns reflected in his Dissertation were met by these Canons.

The first sign of Davenant's impact was the extended treatment of what Davenant called 'mere sufficiency.' Far from ignoring sufficiency completely, as Beza seemed to prefer and as the Genevan delegates actually did in their Theses, the final form of Canons Three and Four spoke at length about the infinite value of the death of Christ. The second aspect of Davenant's influence was reflected in the silence of the Canons on the question of the 'ordained sufficiency.' The Canons contained neither an affirmation nor a rejection of this concept. This seemed to be a clear compromise designed so both moderates and strict Reformed could be satisfied on this point. The third mark of Davenant's thought was the extended statement in Canon Five on the need to communicate he Gospel to all. This statement again reflected the moderate, 'catholic' concern so absent in the Genevan Theses. The compromise rested in the fact that while there was a clear declaration of the necessity to preach the Gospel to all, there was no theological connection drawn between universal preaching and the death of Christ. The moderates and the strict were left free to their own opinions about the foundation for the universal offer of the Gospel.

The Canons of the Synod of Dort were accepted by all the delegates and represented a triumph of compromise for the international Reformed community. The evaluation given by Walter Rex on the Synod appropriately emphasized the significance of the compromise.
Dordrecht has come to signify all that was backward and rigid in Calvinism, and the Synod does in fact represent a narrowing of orthodox territory insofar as Arminianism was concerned. If one studies the Canons in connection with the separate opinions of the delegates, one finds far more flexibility than has been commonly supposed. There was still room in orthodoxy for a certain individuality and a limited spirit of compromise.[57]
44. Van Itterzon, op. cit., pp. 159–165.
45. Brandt, The History of the Reformation . . ., III, 212.
46. Ibid., III, 260. In a letter of June 18, 1619 Carleton indicated that the Remonstrants were still using this appeal for toleration. Carleton expressed concerns very much like those of DuMoulin in charging that the Remonstrants were innovators in the Church and disturbers of the state: "For howsoever the Arminians alledge, that the liberty of this country in matters of religion should be no more straitned unto them than unto the Lutherans and Anabaptists, who have their meetings and preachings by public permission; yet it is not so understood by the state; first, in regard that the Lutherans and Anabaptists are no innovators, but began and continued with the beginning and increase of this state. Next, because they have been always content to live peaceably and under the protection of this state: Whereas the Arminians by a factious conspiracy did aim at the sovereignty. Lastly, because it appears by the new levies of men here in Holland and Utrecht made by the Arminians, and their rigorous proceedings against those, who were well-affected in religion, their end was to breed a mutation both in church and state, which was never attempted either by Lutherans or Anabaptists." Carleton to Nauton, Carleton, op. cit., pp. 372–373.
47. Hales, op. cit., Appendix, p. 18, March 9, 1619.
48. Fuller, op. cit., p. 90.
49. Hales, op. cit., Appendix, p. 35, March 25, 1619.
50. H. Edema van der Tuuk, Johannes Bogerman (Gronigen, 1868), pp. 185–186.
51. Dijk, op. cit., p. 170 and Van Itterzon, loc. cit., pp. 274–275.
52. See Brandt, The History of the Reformation . . ., III, 282. Also, Balcanqual reported the exact nature of the debate on the absolute necessity of the death of Christ in his final report, Hales, op. cit., Appendix, pp. 38–39. He made this summary of the matter: ". . .upon Tuesday in the afternoon we had a Session, in which were read the Canons of the first and second Article, and were approved, except the last of the second Article, which we never heard of till that hour, and the second heterodox in that same Article, what they were Dr. Davenant will inform your L. the last was such as I think no man of understanding would ever assent unto. On Thursday morning we had another Session in which was nothing done, but that it was reasoned whither that last heterodox should be retained; our Colledge in that whole Session maintained dispute against the whole Synod; they condemned the thing itself as a thing most curious, and yet would have it retained only to make the Remonstrants odious, though they find the very contrary of that they would father upon them in their words." Hales, op. cit., Appendix, pp. 35–36, April 9/19, 1619.
53. Hales, op. cit., Appendix, p. 34, April 4/14, 1619.
54. Carleton, op. cit., p. 366, May 8, 1619.
55. The Second Article of the Canons is usually called the Second Head of Doctrine. The Canons of the Synod of Dort are printed in Schaff, op. cit., III, 550ff.
56. Dijk, op. cit., p. 172.
57. Rex, op. cit., p. 87.
W. Robert Godfrey, Tensions within International Calvinism: The Debate on the Atonement at the Synod of Dort, 1618–1619 (Ph.D. Dissertation, Stanford University, 1974), 252–264.
These delegates to the Synod did not realize that on the question of the extent of the atonement there were dangerous differences of expression and emphasis that would have to be faced and resolved. They did not realize that a wide spectrum of opinions would come to light in the Judicia of the various delegations. This spectrum was grounded in the very history of Reformed theology from the time of Calvin and Beza. This spectrum revealed itself in discussions of the value of the distinction between the sufficiency and the efficiency of the death of Christ. The strictest Calvinists wanted to abandon the distinction, as had Beza, while others felt that a broad definition of the sufficiency of the death of Christ for all was imperative.
 Ibid., 266.
The history of the Synod when viewed in detail reveals that the Calvinism at Dort was neither irrelevant, monolithic nor uncompromising. The Calvinists at Dort saw that the foundations of Reformed theology and the peace and order of the Dutch Church were at stake in their different theological expressions and methodologies representing very different hopes and fears for the Reformed community. They demonstrated in the final form of the Canons their ability to compromise by defining what was held in common and by remaining silent on what was not. Indeed, the Synod represented the victory of a moderate form of contemporary Calvinism. The moderate infralapsarians, who were a considerable majority at the Synod, triumphed on the First Article. The moderates on the extent of the atonement, who were a considerable minority at the Synod, also triumphed by wresting important concessions from their colleagues.
Ibid., 268.

September 3, 2013

Henry Ainsworth (1569–1622) on God's Common and Special Bounty

God's virtue in respect of his will are bounty, and justice: Bounty is that, by which out of love, God procureth to every creature the good thereof, and it is common, and particular: common bounty is towards all creatures, even such as offend him, directing them to their natural good, and sustaining them therein, so long as justice suffereth, Luk. 6:36. God cannot hate his creatures, as his works, for so they carry similitude of God, the first cause: and none can hate himself, or his similitude, for a similitude is something of himself. God's bounty to his creatures presupposeth not any debt, or duty, which implyeth imperfection; and if God were bound to his creatures, he should depend on them, and be imperfect.

God's bounty which is infinite, giveth creatures good things, of nature, of soul, and body, and of outward things.

Such is God's bounty, as the creatures suffer no evil, unless God's justice require it, or a greater good confirm it; of this virtue God is called patient, and longsuffering.

Particular, or special bounty, is that whereby God loved some men (in Christ) fallen into sin, and furthereth them to eternal salvation. God's special bounty, is the first beginning, both of salvation, and of the means thereto. This bounty is no inherent quality in us, but we [who] are the object of it, it is a grace making us grateful, not finding us so.
Henry Ainsworth, The Old Orthodox Foundation of Religion (London: Printed by E. Cotes, and are to be sold by Michael Spark at the Blue Bible in Green Arbour, 1653), 16–17.


August 25, 2013

Brief Notes by Erroll Hulse, James Dennison, John Armstrong, Joel Beeke and Mark Jones on Hyper-Calvinism

But [Herman] Hanko speaks for a minority, Dutch, hyper-Calvinistic school, a group hostile to the doctrine of common grace that God loves all men and desires that all be saved.
Erroll Hulse, "Global Revival: Should We Be Involved in Concerts of Prayer?," Reformation and Revival 2.4 (Fall 1993): 29.
Historically the term hyper-Calvinism has been reserved for the doctrine that the unregenerate are to hear only legal conviction and terrors of judgment from the pulpit, not the free offer of the gospel.
James T. Dennison, Jr., Review of The American Pietism of Cotton Mather: Origins of American Evangelicalism. By Richard F. Lovelace, JETS 25.1 (March 1982): 96.
A biblical study which demonstrates that the Father’s heart is one of love for all people, especially for His own. A good corrective to the emphasis of newer hyper-Calvinism.
John Armstrong, Review of The Love of God, by John MacArthur, Reformation and Revival 7.2 (Spring 1998): 146.
On the other hand, a growing number of Reformed conservatives today, moving beyond Calvin, are espousing the idea that God does not sincerely offer grace unconditionally to every hearer of the gospel. The result is that the gospel preaching is hampered and man's responsibility is often dismissed, if not denied. Happily, we are freed from such rationalistic, hyper-Calvinistic conclusions about the doctrines of grace when we read Puritan writings such as John Bunyan's (1628-1688) Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, John Howe's (1630-1705) The Redeemer's Tears Shed over Lost Souls, or William Greenhill's (1598-1671) sermon, "What Must and Can Persons Do toward Their Own Conversion."10
10. John Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ (1681; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004); John Howe, The Redeemer's Tears Wept over Lost Souls (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978); William Greenhill, "What Must and Can Persons Do toward Their Own Conversion," in Puritan Sermons: 1659-1689: The Morning Exercises at Cripplegate (Wheaton, Ill.: Richard Owen Roberts, 1981), 1:38-50.
Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 963.

Robert K. Churchill on Clark, Gill and Matthew 23:37

Apparently Clark accepts the exegesis of Matt 23:37 as given by John Gill. The verse cited is Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often would I have gathered thy children…and ye would not!” According to Gill, “How often would I have gathered”, refers to the subjects or disciples of leaders, and “and ye would not” refers to civil and religious leaders (pp. 215f). It does seem to this reviewer that, if this is not forced exegesis, it is a bit overly ingenious. Why not let the verse speak its more natural message and rejoice in this passionate illustration of the sincere offer of the gospel to all men? Mysterious? Certainly; it is the heart of God. There are fragments in this chapter which critics might seize upon as being hyper-Calvinism.
Robert K. Churchill, “Religion, Reason and Revelation, by Gordon H. Clark: A Review,” WTJ 24:2 (May 1962): 234.

Bio at OPC

August 14, 2013

Benjamin Keach (1640–1704) on Christ's Offer of Love

6. But here is sad News to such who slight this Salvation, and refuse Jesus Christ, great will their Condemnation be: The Men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment with this Generation, and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold a greater than Jonas is here. The greatness of this Saviour who preaches the Gospel to you, and is come to save you, will aggravate your Condemnation. What was Jonas to Jesus Christ? Also our Saviour saith, The Queen of the South shall rise up in Judgment with this Generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the uttermost Parts of the Earth to hear the Wisdom of Solomon; and behold a greater than Solomon is here. Solomon was a mighty King, and for Wisdom exceeded all that went before him. But alas, what was Solomon to Jesus Christ, who is the Wisdom of God itself, and the express Image of the Father's Person, and the Brightness of his Glory? O know you, Sinners, this Day, that Jesus Christ, this glorious King, and Prince of the Kings of the Earth, this mighty Saviour is come to your Doors: Behold, I stand at the Door and knock: Will you not open the Door, nor cry to him to help you to open to him, to enable you to believe in him? What do you say, shall the Son of God stand at your Doors, and you not so much as ask, Who is there? Who is at my Door? Shall Christ be kept out of your Hearts, and stand at your Doors, whilst Sin commands the chiefest Room, and has absolute Power over you, and rules in you? How will you be able to look this Blessed Saviour in the Face another Day? Is he come through a Sea of Blood to offer his Love to you, and to espouse you unto himself for ever, and will not you be persuaded to break your League with the old Lovers, who will at last stab you at the very Heart, and betray your Souls into the Hands of Divine Wrath? Nay, they have done it already: What are your Lovers bur your Lusts, your Pride, your Earthly-mindedness, your sinful Pleasures, Profits and Honours? O resolve to desert them, they otherwise will damn your Souls for ever, and expose you to the Torments of Hell-Fire: And to deliver you from them, and from that wrath which is due to you for them, (I mean, for your Sins) is Christ come, and this great Saviour is offered to you. The Lord help every oneof you to consider of this, and to lay it to Heart.
Benjamin Keach, A Golden Mine Opened: Or, The Glory of God's Rich Grace Displayed in the Mediator to Believers: And His Direful Wrath Against Impenitent Sinners. Containing the Substance of Near Forty Sermons Upon Several Subjects (London: Printed, and sold by the Author at his House in Horse lie-down, and William Marshall at the Bible in Newgate-street, 1694), 386–387.
Christ loves all men with a love of pity, but he loveth his Elect with a love of Complacency.
Benjamin Keach, Tropologia: A Key to Open Scripture Metaphors (London: Printed by John Richardson and John Darby for Enoch Prosser, 1682), 3:18.


August 12, 2013

Andrew Willet (1562-1621) on God's Revealed Salvific Will

Willet sets forth this argument put forward by some men:
Argum. 1. God would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. God would have no man to perish, but would have all men to come to repentance. God will not the death of a sinner: Ergo, the death and damnation of men, standeth not properly with the will of God.
In reply, Willet gives six answers. Here is the 4th:
4. We must understand these and like places, not of the secret, but of the revealed will of God, who offereth unto all the outward means of salvation: there is voluntas medi[?] vel signi, and, voluntas finis[?]: the will of God concerning the end, and concerning the means leading to the end: So although God have [has] willed and determined every man's end, some one way, some another, yet the eternal means of salvation are denied to none. And that this is the Apostle's meaning, that which followeth doth declare: God would have all men come to the knowledge of the truth, vers. 4. and to come to repentance [2 Pet. 3:9 in margin]. Thus also Augustine expoundeth these words: Remota hac discretione, quam divina scientia intra secretum institiae suae sentinet, syncerissime credendum est, &c. Setting apart the consideration of the secret counsel of God, it is sincerely to be believed, that God would have all men to be saved: that is, offering to all the outward means of salvation, as his word and sacraments: cont. articul. fals. imposit. articul. 2. To this purpose Saint Ambrose lib. 2. de vocat. Gent. c. 1. Quamnis[?] omnes dominus saluos[?] fieri, &c. Although God would have all men saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth: non tamen sibi dispensationum suarum abstulit potestatem, &c. yet hath he not taken away the power of his dispensation, that the order of his counsel should run otherwise, then he in his secret judgment had appointed.
Andrew Willet, Synopsis Papismi (London: Imprinted by Felix Kyngston, for Thomas Man, and are to be sold by Henry Fetherston, dwelling at the Signe of the Rose in Pauls Church-yard, 1614), 882.

This reply sounds very similar to the perspective of Theophilus Gale (click to read).


August 9, 2013

Thomas Case (1598–1682) on God and Christ Begging

This Westminster divine wrote:
Fifthly; Neither is there any Pardon to be expected at this Judgement Seat. Pardons were tendered in the Gospel upon gracious terms, but ungracious Sinners would have none of them, or would have them upon their own terms, Sin and Pardon too; their Pardons were nothing, unless they might have dispensations, also, such as the Pope sells often times; but Christ's Pardons, fo[?]. Pardon & Repentance, Pardon of sin and forsaking of sin, Pardon of sin and Hatred of sin, Pardon and Holiness, would not be accepted, and now the time of Pardons is out; the day of Grace is expired; no cries nor entreaties will prevail with the Judge; no, though the Sinner would fall upon his knees, and weep as many Seas of Tears, as once the Ministers wept Tears of Compassion over them; or as Christ himself shed drops of blood upon the Cross; Christ was once upon his knees, in the Person of His Ministers, beseeching them to be reconciled. Though the Sinner was first in the Transgression, yet God was first in the Reconciliation; and followed the Sinner (as it were), on his knees, entreating him to accept of Mercy, as if God had stood in as much need of the Sinner, as the Sinner did of Mercy; but nothing would prevail, a deaf ear was still turned to Christ's importunity, and now Repentance is hid from the eyes of the Judge, as once Repentance was hid from the eyes of the Sinner; the things of their peace are everlastingly hid, because they knew them not in that the day of their Vision: As Sinners obdurated their heart against Christ's voice, so Christ will harden his heart against the Sinner's cry, Prov. 1:24.

Sixthly; There shall be no mitigation of the punishment; not a farthing abated of the whole debt, Matt. 5:26. There was once Mercy without Judgment, before the Sinner; now there shall be Judgment without Mercy; now Sinners shall know that God is not mocked, that the Lamb of God is also the Lion of the Tribe of Juda; His voice was once, Fury not in me; now the voice will be, Meekness is not in me, mercy is not in me; now must the Sinner expect nothing but the utmost severity of divine justice, who once despised the yearnings of Christ's bowels, the lowest condescensions of divine Grace; the Sinner in his day, knew no moderation in sin, the Judge now in his day, will know no mitigation of Judgment; there will be a Sea of wrath, without a drop of Mercy.
Thomas Case, Mount Pisgah: Or, A Prospect of Heaven (London: Printed by Thomas Milbourn, for Dorman Newman, at the Chirurgious Arms in Little-Brittain, near the Lame-Hospital, 1670), 2:169–170.

The following is from a secondary source from the "Morning Exercises," or "a collection of sermons that present the system of Reformed theology in sermon form." As Ryan McGraw says, Case "introduces the sermons by indicating that he and several other members of the Westminster Assembly preached the sermons. Unfortunately, Case did not tell his readers who his fellow preachers were or who was responsible for which sermons." But, given what Case said above in his own writings, it is clear that he would concur with the following statements in Sermon XVIII :
2. If the wind do not, lets see whether the Sun cannot prevail. Poor self-destroying Caitiff, Look yonder on the amiable Jesus Christ; (for a marriage between whom and thy precious soul I am now wooing) Do but observe his condescending willingness to be united to thee: That great Ahashuerus courts his own captive Hester. The Potter makes suit to his own clay; Woos thee, though he wants [needs] thee not; is infinitely happy without thee, yet is not, cannot be satisfied but with thee. Heark how he commands, entreats, begs thee to be reconciled, 2 Cor. 5:20. Swears and pawns his life upon it, that he desires not they death, Ezek. 33:11. Seals his oath with his blood; and if after all this thou art fond of thine own damnation, and hadst rather be at an agreement with hell, than with him; see how the brinish tears trickle down his cheeks, Luke 19:41, 42. He weeps for thee, that dost not, wilt not weep for thy self: Nay, after all this obdurate obstinacy, is resolved still to wait, that he may be gracious, Isa. 30:18. Stands yet and knocks, though his head be wet with rain, and his locks with the dew of the night; fain he would have thee open the door, that he may be come in and sup with thee, and thou with him, Rev. 3:20.


Other advocates within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following men:

Augustine (Early Church Father), Hugh Latimer (Early English Reformer), Isaac Ambrose (Puritan), Daniel Burgess (Puritan), Jeremiah Burroughs (Westminster divine), Richard Baxter (Puritan), Joseph Caryl (Westminster divine), Stephen Charnock (Puritan), John Collinges (Puritan), John Flavel (Puritan), Theophilus Gale (Puritan), William Gearing (Puritan), Andrew Gray (Puritan), William Gurnall (Puritan), Robert Harris (Westminster divine), Thomas Larkham (Puritan), Thomas Manton (Puritan), John Murcot (Puritan), George Newton (Puritan), John Oldfield (Puritan), Anthony Palmer (Puritan), Edward Reynolds (Westminster divine), John Richardson (Puritan), Samuel Rutherford (Westminster divine), John Shower (Puritan), Richard Sibbes (Puritan), Sydrach Simpson (Westminster divine), William Strong (Westminster divine), George Swinnock (Puritan), John Trapp (Puritan), Ralph Venning (Puritan), Nathaniel Vincent (Puritan), Thomas Watson (Puritan), Daniel Williams (Puritan), Samuel Willard, Benjamin Wadsworth, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

August 7, 2013

Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) on Christ Begging

Christ is lovely in his disposition. A good nature is able to render deformity itself lovely. Christ is lovely, not only in his complexion, but in his disposition; He is of a loving and merciful disposition, and in this sense may be called deliciæ humani Generis. It is reported of Marcus Aurelius the Emporour, that he was of a most affable winning temper, given to clemency, and every day he would set one hour apart to hear the causes of the poor. Thus Jesus Christ is of a most sweet disposition, He will not always chide, Psalm 103:9. He is inclinable to show mercy to the penitent. He delights in mercy, Micah 7:18. He invites sinners to come to him, Matt. 11:28. He begs of them that they would be saved, 2 Cor. 5:20. He knocks at their hearts by his Spirit, till his head be filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night, Rev. 3:20. If any poor soul accepts of his offer, and doth arise, and go to him, how doth Christ welcome him. Christ makes the Feast, Luke 15:23 and the Angels make the music, verse 7. But if men will not receive the tenders of grace, Christ grieves, Mark 3:5. He is like a Judge that passeth the sentence with tears in his eyes, Luke 19:42. And when he came nigh the City, he wept. Ah sinners, I come to save you, but you put away salvation from you. I come with healing under my wings, but you bolt out your Physician; I would have you but open your hearts to receive me, and I will open heaven to receive you, but you will rather stay with your sins and die, than come to me and live, Psalm 81:11. Israel would none of me. Well sinners, I will weep at your Funerals; Oh how lovely is Christ in his disposition! He comes with his supplying oil to pour into sinners wounds; He would fain break their hearts with his mercies, He labours to overcome their evil with his good.
Thomas Watson, Christ's Loveliness, Or, A Discourse setting forth the Rare Beauties of the Lord Jesus, which may both amaze the eye, and draw the heart of a sinner to him. (London: Printed by J. T. for Ralph Smith at the Bible in Corn-hill, 1657), 351–354. Some spelling updated. This book is contained in the larger work entitled, The Saints Delight. To which is annexed a Treatise of Meditation (London: Printed by T. R. & E. M. for Ralph Smith at the Bible in Corn-hill, near the Royal Exchange, 1657).


Other men within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following:

Augustine (Early Church Father), Hugh Latimer (Early English Reformer), Isaac Ambrose (Puritan), Daniel Burgess (Puritan), Jeremiah Burroughs (Westminster divine), Richard Baxter (Puritan), Joseph Caryl (Westminster divine), Thomas Case (Puritan), Stephen Charnock (Puritan), John Collinges (Puritan), John Flavel (Puritan), Theophilus Gale (Puritan), William Gearing (Puritan), Andrew Gray (Puritan), William Gurnall (Puritan), Robert Harris (Westminster divine), Thomas Larkham (Puritan), Thomas Manton (Puritan), John Murcot (Puritan), George Newton (Puritan), Anthony Palmer (Puritan), Edward Reynolds (Westminster divine), John Richardson (Puritan), Samuel Rutherford (Westminster divine), John Shower (Puritan), Richard Sibbes (Puritan), Sydrach Simpson (Westminster divine), William Strong (Westminster divine), George Swinnock (Puritan), John Trapp (Puritan), Ralph Venning (Puritan), Nathaniel Vincent (Puritan), Daniel Williams (Puritan), Samuel Willard, Benjamin Wadsworth, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

August 6, 2013

Isaac Watts (1674‒1748) on Natural and Moral Impotency

Object. I. But may it not be said here, If there be only an outward Sufficiency of Salvation provided for the Non-elect, by a conditional Pardon procured through the Death of Christ if they should repent and believe, but no inward Sufficiency of Grace provided to enlighten their Minds, to change their Hearts, and enable them to exercise this Faith and Repentance, the Event will be infallibly and necessarily the same, and their Damnation as necessary and certain, as if there were no outward Salvation provided; since they of themselves cannot repent, they cannot believe; for by the Fall all Men are become blind in Spiritual things, and dead in Sin.

Answer. It is granted, that no Sinner will truly and sincerely repent and believe in Christ, without the powerful and effectual Influences of converting Grace; and therefore they are called Blind and Dead in Sin, because God knows the final Event will be the same as if they were under a natural Impossibility, or utter natural Impotence. And for this reason the Conversion of a Sinner is called, A New Creation; Being born again; Giving Sight to the Blind; or, a Resurrection from the Dead: And the Necessity of Divine Power to effect this Change, is held forth in many Places of Scripture.

Yet we must say still, that Sinners are not under such a real natural Impossibility of repenting and believing, as though they were naturally Blind or Dead. 'Tis true, the Blind and the Dead have lost their natural Powers of Seeing and Moving; but when Scripture represents the Inability of Sinners to repent, or believe in Christ, by such Figures and Metaphors as Death or Blindness, it must be remembered these are but Metaphors and Figures, such as the holy Writers and all the Eastern Nations frequently use; and they must not be understood in their literal Sense, as if Men had lost their natural Powers or Faculties of Understanding, Will, and Affections, which are the only natural Powers necessary to believe and repent.

Now 'tis plain that these natural Faculties, Powers, or Capacities, are not lost by the Fall; for if they were, there would be no manner of need or use of any moral Means or Motives, such as Commands, Threatenings, Promises, Exhortations; these would all be impertinent and absurd, for they could have no more Influence on Sinners, than if we command or exhort a blind Person to see, or a dead Body to rise or move; which Commands and Exhortations would appear ridiculous and useless. And since the blessed God, in his Word, uses these moral Means and Motives to call Sinners to Repentance and Faith, it is certain that they have natural Powers and Faculties sufficient to understand and practice these Duties; and therefore they are not under a Necessity of Sinning, and of being destroyed, since there is nothing more wanted in a way of sufficient natural Powers, Faculties, or Abilities, than what they have.

All the other Impotence and Inability therefore in Sinners to repent and believe, properly speaking, is but moral, or seated chiefly in their Wills. 'Tis a great Disinclination or Aversion in these natural Faculties, to attend to, learn, or practice the things of God and Religion*; and this holds them fast in their sinful State in a similar way, as if they were blind and dead, and I said the final Event will be the same, i.e. they will never repent without Almighty Grace. And upon this account that strong and settled Inclination to Sin, and Aversion to God, which is in the Will or Affections, is represented in our own Language, as well as in the Eastern Countries, by Impotence or Inability to forsake or subdue Sin: As when a Drunkard shall say, I had such a strong Desire to the Liquor, that I could not but drink to excess, I could not with-hold the Cup from my Mouth: Or when a Murderer shall say, I hated my Neighbor so much, that having a fair Opportunity, I could not help killing him: Or when we say to a Man of Fury in his Passion, You are so warm at present, that you cannot see thins in a true Light, you cannot hearken to Reason, you cannot judge aright, you are not capable of acting regularly. And that this is the Manner of speaking in the Eastern Countries, is evident from the Bible, Gen. xxxvii. 4. Joseph's Brethren hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him: Yet you will grant all this is but moral Impotence, i.e. a very strong Inclination to Excess of Drink, or Murder, or Passion, or a strong Aversion to the contrary Virtues. Even in the things of common Life the Can-not sometimes signifies nothing but the Will-not, Luke xi. 7. Trouble me not, my Door is shut, my Children are with me in Bed, I cannot rise to give thee; i.e. I will not. And with regard to Faith or believing in Christ, our Saviour explains his own Language in this manner. In one place he saith, No Man can come unto me except my Father draw him, John vi. 44. And in another Place he charges the Jews with this as their Fault: Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have Life, John v. 40. So in the Parable one Excuse is, Luke xiv. 20. I have married a Wife, and I cannot come. All these Citations intend the same thing: their Can-not is their Will-not, i.e. 'tis the Strength of their Aversion to Christ, which is a moral Impotence or Inability to believe in him, and the Fault lies in the Will.

St. Paul speaks to the same purpose, Rom. viii. 7. where he shows, that 'tis the Aversion or Enmity of the Carnal Mind to God, which hinders it from obeying the Law of God, and at last he says, it cannot be subject to it. The Carnal Mind is Enmity against God, for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be: So then they who are in the Flesh cannot please God. The Fault still lies in the Will of sinful Man; and 'tis this makes it criminal, while it is not naturally impossible to be avoided or overcome.

And upon this account God is pleased to use moral Means and Motives, (viz.) Promises, Threatenings, Commands, &c. toward all Men, such as are suited to awaken their Hearts, and excite and persuade their Will to use all their natural Abilities, to set their natural Powers or Faculties to work, to attend to, and learn, and practice Faith and Repentance; and 'tis by these very means God persuades his Elect powerfully to repent and believe. But when Persons will not hear, nor be influenced by these Motives, because of their strong and willful Aversion to God and Godliness, their Crime is entirely their own, and their Condemnation is just. They have natural Powers or Faculties in them, which, if well tried, might overcome their native Propensity to Vice, though they never will do it.

If the great God, in a way of Sovereign Mercy, gives some Persons superior Aids of Grace to overcome this moral Impotence, and conquer this Aversion to God and Goodness; if he effectually leads, inclines, or persuades them by his Spirit to repent and believe in Christ, this does not at all hinder the others from exercising their natural Powers of Understanding, and Will in believing and repenting.

Nor can any thing of their Guilt and willful Impenitence be imputed to the blessed God, who is Lord of his own Favours, and gives or with-holds where he pleases, and who shall say to him, what dost thou? Why should mine Eye be evil toward my Neighbour, because the Eye of God is good? Or what Pretense have I to charge God with Injustice, when he does more for me than he is bound to do, though he does more for my Neighbor than he has done for me?

Let this then be constantly maintained, there is a natural, inward Sufficiency of Powers and Faculties given to every Sinner to hearken to the Calls and Offers of Grace and the Gospel, though they lie under a moral Impotence; and there is an outward Sufficiency of Provision of Pardon in the Death of Christ, for every one who repents and accepts the Gospel, though Pardon is not actually procured for all Men, nor secured to them. And thus much is sufficient to maintain the Sincerity of God in his universal Offers of Grace through Jesus Christ, and his present Commands to all Men to repent and trust in his Mercy; as well as to vindicate his Equity in the last great Day, when the Impenitent and Unbelievers shall be condemned. Their Death lies at their own doors, for since there was both an outward and inward Sufficiency for their Recovery, the Fault must lie in their own Free-will, in their willful Aversion to God and Christ, and his Salvation. I think this Distinction of natural and moral Power and Impotence, will reconcile all the various Expressions of Scripture on this Subject, both to one another, and well as to the Reason of things, which can hardly be reconciled any other way.

* I grant this Inability to repent has been sometimes called by our Divines a Natural Impotence, because it arises from the original Corruption of our Nature since the Fall of Adam; and in this Sense I fully believe it. But this Spring of it is much better signified and expressed by the Name of Native Impotence, to show that is comes from our Birth; and the Quality of this Impotence is best called Moral, being seated chiefly in the Will and Affections, and not in any want of Natural Powers or Faculties to perform what God requires: And the Reason is plain, (viz.) That no new natural Powers are given by converting Grace, but only a Change of the moral Bent or Inclination of the Soul, a happier Turn given to our natural Faculties by the sovereign Grace of God and his Spirit.

Whether the Spirit of God effectually persuade the Will to repent and believe in Christ, by immediate Influence upon the Will itself, or by setting the Things of the Gospel before the Mind in so strong a Light, and persuading the Soul so to attend to them, as shall effectually influence the Will, this shall not be any Matter of my present Debate or Determination; for in both the Event and Consequences are much the same: There is no new natural Power or Faculty given to the Soul in order to Faith and Repentance, but a divine Influence upon the old natural Powers, giving them a new and better Turn.


July 30, 2013

Benjamin Austin (fl. 1641-1650) on God's Favors to the Wicked

"Who afore would not have supposed these murmuring Israelites to be in a happy estate, they did ask only for flesh and were fed with quailes, they desired cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic, God feedeth them a whole month with the daintiest food. Their bellies were now filled with God's hid treasure, and they had more then heart could wish. But at the length this proveth a curse, as all God's blessings are to the wicked: who punisheth men the more, because they make not the right use of his manifold favours, which he continually heapeth on them. God giveth them to show his love, and to draw men unto him, but proud man receiveth them as due debts, and not as any favours from the most High, and therefore are they not profited, not benefited by them."

July 19, 2013

Augustine on God's Wish and Will

"God no doubt wishes all men to be saved and to come into the knowledge of the truth; but yet not so as to take away from them free will, for the good or the evil use of which they may be most righteously judged. This being the case, unbelievers indeed do contrary to the will of God when they do not believe His gospel; nevertheless they do not therefore overcome His will, but rob their own selves of the great, nay, the very greatest, good, and implicate themselves in penalties of punishment, destined to experience the power of Him in punishments whose mercy in His gifts they despised. Thus God’s will is for ever invincible; but it would be vanquished, unless it devised what to do with such as despised it, or if these despises could in any way escape from the retribution which He has appointed for such as they."
Augustine, "A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter: Chapter 58," NPNF, 1st Series, ed. by Philip Schaff (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 5:109.

De Spiritu Et Littera, c. 58.

July 18, 2013

Joseph Truman (1631–1671) on the Natural/Moral Ability Distinction in Twisse

That Distinction well understood, which is must insisted on by the French Protestant Divines, would much conduce herein, namely the distinction of Natural and Moral Impotency.

And though many of Dr. Twisses Judgment in other things, oppose it, yet he himself in many places, when pressed with difficulties, fled to it as his chief Sanctuary, Vindic. grat. lib. 2. Errat. 9. Sect. 6. pag. (mihi) 211.
Joseph Truman, A Discourse of Natural and Moral Impotency (London: Printed for Robert Clavel; and are to be sold at the Sign of the Peacock in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1675), 3.


See one quote from Twisse here (click), and also Archibald Alexander's statements about Twisse and others (click).

July 14, 2013

Thomas Schreiner on 2 Peter 3:9

3:9 The first part of v. 9 draws an implication from v. 8. If God does not reckon or indeed experience time as we do, then it follows that he is not slow about keeping his promise (cf. Hab. 2:3). The promise (epangelia), of course, hearkens back to v. 4 and refers to the promise of the Lord's coming. God, that is, the Father, is not dilatory in fulfilling the promise uttered about his Son's coming again. The Son will come as promised, but the apparent slowness should not be misunderstood. The phrase "as some understand slowness" could possibly refer to those in the churches wavering under the influence of the false teachers.50 More likely the reference is to the false teachers themselves, referring to them negatively as "some" who lack an understanding of God's ways.51 The verse may be highly ironic. The false teachers use God's patience as an argument against God, when it should lead them to repentance.52

Peter explained why the coming is delayed. God is patient with his people. Notice that the verse says "patient with you (eis hymas). The reason for his patience is then explicated. He does not want "anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." The idea that God is patient so that people will repent is common in the Scriptures (Joel 2:12-13; Rom. 2:4). That he is "slow to anger" is a refrain repeated often (Exod 34:6; Num 14:18; Neh 9:17; Psa 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 3:10; 4:2; Nah 1:3), but he will not delay forever (see esp. Sir 35:18). We should note at the outset that perishing (apolesthai) refers to eternal judgment, as is typical with the term. Repentance (metanoia), correspondingly, involves the repentance that is necessary for eternal life. Peter did not merely discuss rewards that some would receive if they lived faithfully. He directed his attention to whether people would be saved from God's wrath. We must also ask who was in view when he spoke of "anyone" (tinas) perishing and "all" (pantas) coming to repentance. One option is that he considered every person without exception. Some understand 1 Tim 2:4 similarly, "God . . . wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."53 We do not have space to comment on the text is 1 Timothy here, but we should note that debate exists over the meaning of "all men" in 1 Tim 2:4 as well. Or we can think of Ezek 18:32: "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!" (cf. also 18:23) In this latter instance God's regret over the perishing of anyone is clear. Nevertheless, we have to ask whether the verse in 2 Peter has the same meaning as the texts in Ezekiel. If it does, how does this fit with the teaching that God has ordained and decreed that only some will be saved? Many scholars, of course, doubt that the Scripture teaches that God ordains that only some will be saved, but in my estimation the Scriptures teach that God ordains that only some will be saved, but in my estimation the Scriptures do clearly teach such an idea (cf. John 6:37, 44-45, 65; 10:16, 26; Acts 13:48; Rom 8:29-30; 9:1-23; Eph 1:4-5, 11, etc.).54 Space does not permit a full answer to this question, but an answer that has a long pedigree in church history suffices. We must distinguish between two different senses in God's will. There is a decretive will of God and a desired will of God. God desires the salvation of all in one sense, but he does not ultimately ordain that all will be saved. Many think this approach is double-talk and outright nonsense.55 Again, space forbids us from answering this question in detail, but this view has been recently and convincingly argued by J. Piper.56 He demonstrates that such distinctions in God's will are not the result of philosophical sleight of hand but careful biblical exegesis.

Having said all this, 2 Pet 3:9 may not relate to this issue directly anyway. The "anyone" and "all" in the verse may be an expansion of "you" (hymas) earlier in the verse.57 Peter did not reflect, according to this view, on the fate of all people in the world without exception. He considered those in the church who wavered under the influence of the false teachers. God desires every one of them to repent. But even if this solution is correct, it does not solve the issue theologically, for Peter probably reflected on God's desired will instead of decreed will in this instance. That is, he was not teaching that all of those in the church whom God desires to repent will actually repent. Even if the verse is restricted to those influenced by the false teachers, Peter referred to what God desires, not to what he ordains. At the end of the day, restricting "anyone" to church members is not the most satisfying solution in this text. By extension we should understand 2 Pet 3:9 in the same way as Ezek 18:32. It refers to God's desire that everyone without exception be saved. It follows, then, that Peter spoke of the desired rather than the decreed will of God. God has not ordained that all will be saved since many will perish forever.58 Still, God genuinely desires in one sense that all will be saved, even if he had not ultimately decreed that all will be saved. Many object that a desire that is not decreed is nonsense and theological double-talk. I would reply that such a view is rooted in biblical exegesis, that the Scriptures themselves, if accepted as a harmonious whole, compel us to make such distinctions. Such complexity is not all that surprising since God is an infinite and complex being, one who exceeds our understanding. In other words, such exegesis is not a rationalistic expedient but an acknowledgement of the mystery and depth of God's revelation. Neither dimension of the biblical text should be denied. God really and truly desires that every person repent and turn to him. We should not retreat to God's decreed will to nullify and negate what the text says. Nor should we use this verse to cancel out God's ordained will. Better to live with the tension and mystery of the text than to swallow it up in a philosophical system that pretends to understand all of God's ways. God's patience and his love are not illusions, but neither do they remove his sovereignty.
50. Kelly, Peter and Jude, 362.
51. Bigg, Peter and Jude, 296; Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 187.
52. I owe this insight to my research assistant, Jason Meyer.
53. Vögtle remarks that this verse rules out Calvinist theology (Judasbrief, 2 Petrusbrief, 231-32). Cf. also the comments of Fuchs and Reymond, 2 Pierre, Jude, 116.
54. For a defense of this view see T. R. Schreiner and B. A. Ware, eds., Still Sovereign (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000).
55. This view is suggested already by J. Calvin (Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948], 419-20).
56. J. Piper, "Are There Two Wills in God?" in Still Sovereign, 107-31.
57. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 313; Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 188; Horrell, The Epistles of Peter and Jude, 180 (though he thinks all people can be included by extension). Fornberg argues, on the other hand, that the adversaries are included in God's desire for all to repent (An Early Church in a Pluralistic Society, 71).
58. We cannot adduce the evidence here, but not universalism is ruled out by many biblical texts.
Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (The New American Commentary, vol. 37; Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 380–383.

June 1, 2013

A Note by John Calvin (1509–1564) on Isaiah 45:7

Fanatics torture this word evil, as if God were the author of evil, that is, of sin; but it is very obvious how ridiculously they abuse this passage of the Prophet. This is sufficiently explained by the contrast, the parts of which must agree with each other; for he contrasts “peace” with “evil,” that is, with afflictions, wars, and other adverse occurrences. If he contrasted “righteousness” with “evil,” there would be some plausibility in their reasonings, but this is a manifest contrast of things that are opposite to each other. Consequently, we ought not to reject the ordinary distinction, that God is the author of the “evil” of punishment, but not of the “evil” of guilt.
John Calvin, “Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah,” in Calvin’s Commentaries, trans. William Pringle, 22 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981), 8:403.


Richard Muller on Common Misunderstandings of the Canons of Dort

Common Misunderstandings of the Canons

Of the three Forms of Unity, the Canons of Dort have been the least understood and least appreciated. Much of the reason for this lies in a reductionist reading of the Can­ons through the lens of the rather unfortunate phrase, “five points of Calvinism” and the even more problematic attempt to explain the canons with the acronym TULIP. There are five doctrinal topics addressed by the Canons not, however, because “Calvinism” can be collapsed into “five points” but because the articles of doctrine put forth by the Remon­strants contained five main sections. The broader teachings of the “Calvinist” or, as more accurately named, “Reformed” church­es remain in the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism. The Canons of Dort serve as an interpretive codicil or appendix to the two main confessional documents, set against the Remonstrant articles for the purpose of preventing a mistaken reading of Reformed doctrine. The acronym TULIP is a modern attempt, originating probably in the early twentieth century and certainly not in use before the late nineteenth century. Not only is it reductionistic, it has often led to a very mistaken and narrow reading of the Canons. The best use that one can make of it is to indicate how the Canons cannot be easily wedged into its terms.
Richard Muller, “The Canons of Dort,” Forum 20.1 (Winter 2013): 11.

May 29, 2013

Geoff Thomas on Spurgeon's Battle with Hyper-Calvinism

Geoff Thomas gives an overview of Iain Murray's May 19th, 1995 address to the annual Grace Baptist Assembly (a "group of 1689 Confessionalists") on the subject of "C. H. Spurgeon and His Battle with Hyper-Calvinism." Thomas says that, "It is not that this group of 1689 Confessionalists are drifting in that direction, indeed a better grasp of experiential Calvinism would lift us all-pulpits and churches. But, as lain Murray pointed out, whenever Calvinism is revived, hyper-Calvinism appears. Conversely, when Calvinism is eclipsed then hyper-Calvinism is a spent force." A brief survey of Spurgeon's battle with James Wells is given, along with 4 errors of hyper-Calvinism. Here's the fourth error:
4. The hyper-Calvinist denies the universal love of God. He has a fearful caricature of the real nature of God which would present him as fierce, and not easily induced to love. If we fellowshipped more with Christ, said Iain Murray, we would know and love him more. Then there would be no uncertainty that God desired the salvation of sinners. 'How oft would I have gathered you,' says the Saviour to recalcitrant Jerusalem.

May 22, 2013

Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) on the Possibility of Salvation

2. A second aggravation of the loss of this Kingdom will be, that Sinners shall be upbraided by their own Conscience: This is the worm that never dies, Mark 9:44. viz. a self-accusing Mind. When Sinners shall consider they were in a fair way to the Kingdom; they had a possibility of Salvation; though the door of Heaven were strait, yet it was open; they had the means of Grace; the jubilee of the Gospel was proclaimed in their ears; God called but they refused; Jesus Christ offered them a plaister of his own Blood to heal them, but they trampled it under foot; the Holy Spirit stood at the door of their heart knocking and crying to them to receive Christ and Heaven, but they repulsed the Spirit, and sent away this Dove, and now they have, through their own folly and willfulness, lost the Kingdom of Heaven: This self-accusing Conscience will be terrible, like a venomous Worm gnawing at the Heart.
Thomas Watson, A Body of Practical Divinity (London: Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside, near Mercers-Chappel, 1692), 488. Also in Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1989), 110–111.
17. It is Mercy that there is a possibility of Happiness, and that upon our pains taking, we may have a Kingdom; by our Fall in Adam we forfeited Heaven; why might not God have dealt with us as with the lapsed Angels? they had no sooner sinned but were expelled Heaven never to come thither more; we may say as the Apostle, Rom. 11.22. Behold the Goodness and severity of God. To the Apostate Angels behold the severity of God that he should thrown them down to Hell forever; to us behold the goodness of God, that he hath put us into a possibility of Mercy, and if we do but take pains, there is a Kingdom stands ready for us; how may this whet and sharpen our industry, that we are in a Capacity of Salvation; and if we do but what we are able, we shall receive an eternal weight of Glory.
Ibid., 507.


May 14, 2013

Richard Muller on the Amor Dei

amor Dei: the love of God; i.s., both the love of creatures for God and the divine attribute of love. Considered in the former sense, amor Dei is twofold, either immediatus or mediatus, immediate or mediate. The amor Dei immediatus is that love according to which God is love in and for himself and is the sole object of the love; whereas the amor Dei mediatus is that love according to which God is loved in and through the proximate objects of the created order insofar as they ultimately refer to God himself. The distinction between immediate and mediate love thus draws directly on the Augustinian distinction between enjoyment (frui, q.v.) and use (uti).

Considered as a divine attribute, the amor Dei can be defined as the propensity of the divine essence or nature for the good, both in the sense of God's inward, intrinsic, benevolentia, or willing of the good, and in the sense of God's external, extrinsic, beneficentia, or kindness, toward his creatures. The amor Dei, then, is directed inwardly and intrinsically toward God himself as the summum bonum, or highest good, and, among the persons of the Trinity, toward one another. Externally, or extrinsically, the amor Dei is directed toward all things, but according to a threefold distinction. The amor Dei universalis encompasses all things and is manifest in the creation itself, in the conservation and governance of the world; the amor Dei communis is directed toward all human beings, both elect and reprobate, and is manifest in all blessings, or benefits (beneficia) of God; and the amor Dei proprius, or specialis, is directed toward the elect or believers only and is manifest in the gift of salvation. The amor Dei universalis is frequently called by the scholastics complacentia, or general good-pleasure; the amor Dei communis is understood to be benevolentia in the strict sense of goodwill toward human beings; and amor Dei specialis, is termed amicitia, i.e. friendship or sympathy toward believers. In the discussion of the divine attributes, the amor Dei is considered both as the ultimate essential characteristic of God determinative of the other attributes and as one of the affections of the divine will. In the former sense, resting on the scriptural predication, "God is love" (1 John 4:8), the scholastics can subsume the grace (gratia), mercy (misericordia), long-suffering (long-animitas), patience (patientia), and clemency or mildness (clementia) of God under the amor Dei. In the latter sense, the amor Dei together with these related attributes is viewed as an aspect of the divine willing and is juxtaposed with the wrath (ira) and hate (odium) of God against sin.
Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 31–32.

May 11, 2013

Nathanael Hardy (1618–1670) on Love and Hate

More particularly in this ingeminated opposition, be pleased to observe,

The sin specified, in these words, 'He that hateth his brother.' [1 John 2:9–11]

The state of the sinner described in the rest of the words: and that

Imaginary, wherein he supposeth himself to be, 'He saith he is in the light.'

Real, in which indeed he is; set forth in several characters, in the end of the 9th, and the greatest part of the 11th. 'He is in darkness even until now;' and again, 'He is darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.'

1. The first of these is the hinge upon which the antithesis turneth, and therefore I shall be the more large in unfolding it. To which end I shall discuss it two ways, by way of restriction and by way of enlargement; and accordingly discover exclusively what hatred is not within the compass of this sin, and then extensively how far this hatred reacheth, which is here declaimed against.

The exclusive restriction of this hatred will appear in these ensuing propositions.

1. There is a positive and there is a comparative, there is an absolute and there is a relative, hatred. It is very observable, that Jacob's loving Rachel more than Leah is called in the very next verse hating Leah, Gen. xxix. 30, 31. That which we less love than another, we are said to hate in comparison of that love we bear to the other; and thus it is not sin but a duty to hate our brother, to wit, in comparison of Christ. It is our Saviour's own assertion, Luke xiv. 26, 'If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, his own life also, he cannot be my disciple:' an expression seemingly very harsh, but easily understood. If compared with the other evangelist, St. Matthew, chap. x. 37, where he brings in Christ, saith, 'He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me, and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.' We ought then to hate our nearest relations, that is, not love them more, nay, which is the meaning of the phrase, love them less than Christ. Hence it is, that when Christ's glory and truth cometh in competition with the dearest of our relations, we must neglect children, cast off parents, reject the wife of our bosom, rather than deny Christ; yea, w must be averse to them if they go about to direct us from Christ. Thus that devout Paula, as St Jerome [Hier. Ep. xxvii. c. 8.] saith, Nesciebat se matrem, ut Christi probaret ancillam, that she might approve herself Christ's handmaid, forgot that she was a mother. And that same father elsewhere asserteth it [Hier. Ep. i. ad Hetrod.], Pietatis genus est impium esse pro domino, it is a part of piety to be in some sense impious, and, out of love towards God, to hate our brother, and therefore this is not here to be understood.

2. It is one thing to hate our brother, and another thing to hate the sins of our brother; it is solidly determined by Aquinas [Aquin. 2da 2dæ Quest. 34. Art. iii.], love is due to my brother secundum id quod a Deo habet, in respect of that which is communicated to him by God, whether nature, or grace, or both; but it is not due to him secundum id quod habet a seipeo et diabolo, according to that which he hath from himself and the devil, to wit, sin and wickedness; and therefore it is lawful to hate my brother's sin, but not his nature, much less his grace. Laudabile odium odisse vitia, saith Origen [Orig. in Rom.], to hate evil is a commendable hatred, and that wherever we find it, not only in the bad but the good, the enormities of the one, but the infirmities in the other; not only in strangers and enemies, but kindred and friends, spying beams, nay, motes, in these as well as those, and abhoring them; we must hate this serpent wherever we find it, though in a garden, nay, though in our own habitations. Indeed, as Aquinas excellently, Hoc ipsum, quod in fratris amorem, this hatred of the vice in an effect of love to the person; so much is intimated when it is said, Lev. xix. 17, 'Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart, thou shalt in anywise rebuke him, and not suffer sin upon him.' By shewing hatred to his sin in rebuking, we shew our love to him; and if we wish good to him, we cannot but hate what we see evil in him. This hatred is so far from being sinful, that it is not only lawful and laudable, but excellent, not a wicked but a pious, yea, a perfect hatred. According to that of St. Austin [Aug. in Ps. cxxxix.], Perfectio odii est in charitate cum nec propter vitia homines oderimus, nec vitia propter homines amemus, it is at once the perfection of hatred and an argument of love, when we neither hate the man for the sin's sake, not yet love the sin for the man's sake, but fix our love on the man, and our hatred on the sin.

3. There is odium abominationis, and odium inimicitiæ, an hatred of aversion, and an hatred of enmity; by the one we fly from, by the other we pursue after. Look as in love there is a benevolence whereby we will good to, and a complacence whereby we take delight in, another; so in hatred there is a strangeness whereby we avoid the society, and an enmity whereby we seek the mischief, of another. The former of these is not forbidden, but required and practised. Godly David saith of himself, Ps. xxvi. 5, 'I hated the congregation of evil doers, and will not sit with the wicked;' and that of his practice was justifiable and imitable, since we must not only fly from the sin, but the sinner; yea, that we may shun the one, we must avoid the other. Timon was called μισάνθρωπος, a man-hater, because he kept not company with any man save Alcibiades [Cic. de Amicit], and we should all of us be haters of wicked men, shunning all needless converse and much more familiar acquaintance with them. It is St Paul's counsel to the Ephesians, chap. v. 11, 'Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works' (he meaneth workers [Operibus, i.e. operatoribus]) 'of darkness;' yea, it is the strict charge he layeth upon the Thessalonians, 2 Thes. iii. 6, 'Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly.' We ought as much to hate familiarity with the wicked, as to tread upon burning coals, or go into an infected house; and therefore this kind of hatred is not here intended.

4. Once more, all hatred of [or?--Ed.] enmity, in respect of others, is not to be condemned, if they be enemies, not so much to us, as to the church, yea, God himself; and this not out of ignorance but malice, and so implacable. We may, we ought, to be enemies to them. Holy David hath set us a pattern hereof. When speaking to God he saith, Ps. cxxxix. 21, 'Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with them that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred, I count them mine enemies.' Hence, no doubt, are those imprecations and curses with we meet with in the Psalms, Ps. Iix. 12, 13, lxviii. 1, 2, wherein we find that holy man wishing, not only disappointment to the hopes, infatuation to the counsels, but destruction to the persons of Zion's adversaries. And surely thus far we may and ought to imitate him, as in general to pray against, and wish the ruin of all the church's irreconcilable adversaries; though as to particulars we must take heed of going too far in this way, it being difficult if not impossible for us determinately to assert concerning any one that he is an implacable enemy of God and religion; and yet when we see one who with Julian hath professed himself to be a Christian brother, and so far apostatising as openly to prosecute Christianity with utmost fury, notwithstanding manifold convictions; or who still, pretending to be a brother, oppungneth (with no less virulency though more subtilty) the Christian religion in its orthodox profession, swallowing up her revenues, forbidding her public services, stopping the mouths of her preachers, suffering blasphemies and heresies to obscure her, plucking up the pillars which should uphold her, and persecuting all that embrace her; and all this against clear convictions, which he either hath, or might have, did he not shut his eyes; together with frequent and multiplied admonitions. Since we can have very little or no hopes of such a man's conversion, we may and ought to desire of God (if he will not please to convert him) to confound not only his devices but his person, and to cut him off from the land of the living; only we must take heed to the frame and temper of our spirit, that this our hatred of, and wishing ill to him, purely proceed from a love to God's church, and a zeal for his glory, not out of any personal or private respect to our own revenge.
Nathanael Hardy, The First General Epistle of St. John the Apostle, Unfolded and Applied (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1865), 194–195.