March 27, 2013

John Corbet (1620–1680) on God's Will and the Salvation of All Men

21. In what sense God is said to Will the Conversion and Salvation of all. 

The Conversion and Salvation of men is sincerely designed in God's Public Declarations and Proposals, as the nearest and proper End thereof. That they should turn and live is pleasing to his Will by a simple complacency; and he hath no complacence in their Sin, nor in their damnation, as in itself considered. He is so far willing of the Event, as that he doth most earnestly and strictly command it, and persuade it by most powerful and gracious Motives, and gives such a measure of help, as will make them happy, if they make use of it; and leaves them without excuse, if they do it not. And nothing is lacking on his Part, that is meet for him to do towards it, in point of Justice or Grace. But it is certain that he does not simply and absolutely Will the Event, that never comes to pass. Nor is it congruous to his Government of men in their state of trial, in order to a Future State of Recompense, that he should absolutely Will the Event of all that he commands to be done. Nevertheless God's will is effectual to that which he wills, so far as he wills it. His will of the Event is always effectual, as to the Event. His Will of Command, Counsel, and Persuasion is always effectual as to the making of Duty, and to the unfeigned signification of his Grace towards men, and of his simple Complacence in their Happiness.
John Corbet, A Humble Endeavour of Some Plain and Brief Explication of the Decrees and Operations of God, About the Free Actions of Men: More Especially of the Operations of Divine Grace (London: Printed for Tho. Parkhurst, at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside, near Mercers-Chappel, 1683), 13. [some spelling updated]
5. Though God doth not simply will the Event of the Conversion and Salvation of all, to whom the Gospel is made known; yet he wills it so far, and in such a manner, as doth abundantly declare his good will towards men; and doth assure the diligent of good success in their endeavors; and doth convict the negligent of being inexcusable despisers of his Grace towards them.
Ibid., A2r.


John Corbet (1620–1680) on Conditional Decrees

17. Of a general Conditional Decree of Salvation

God doth not decree the Salvation of those that are not saved. To say that God doth decree the Salvation of all, upon Condition, is, I think, an improper way of speaking. There is indeed a Decree, that all, without exception, by whom God's Conditions are performed, shall be saved. But this is no other than the decreeing of the general Law of Grace, and is wholly another thing than the Decree of Election. General Election sounds as a Contradiction in the Terms.
John Corbet, A Humble Endeavour of Some Plain and Brief Explication of the Decrees and Operations of God, About the Free Actions of Men: More Especially of the Operations of Divine Grace (London: Printed for Tho. Parkhurst, at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside, near Mercers-Chappel, 1683), 11.


John Davenant (1572–1641) and William Twisse (1578–1646) on the Salvability of the Non-Elect

Sources in Davenant:
For it is no error to say, that non-election or negative Reprobation may stand together with a possibility of avoiding sin and damnation. The non-elect angels had this possibility: all mankind generally in Adam had this possibility: and yet every singular person was not predestinated. And if God were so pleased to give as sufficient grace to every particular man in the world as he gave to Adam in his creation, yet the opposite decrees of Election and Preterition or negative Reprobation may stand firm and good. The reason is evident: Because Prestination is not a bare ordination of men unto eternal life by sufficient means, which make the event only possible; but a merciful providence in ordering such means for the elect as make the event infallible and infrustrable. On the other side, Preterition or negative Reprobation is not a decree necessarily excluding persons not-elect from all possible means of salvation; but a decree permitting such out of freedom of their own wills to neglect and abuse such means of their salvation: which abuse foreseen of God, is unto him a just cause of their damnation.
John Davenant, Animadversions (London: Printed for John Partridge, 1641), 36–37.
Again, that is not to be judged absolutely impossible for a man to do, which if himself by a voluntary act of his own hindered not, might by him be done. And thus we say the non-elect have a power or possibility to believe or repent at the preaching of the Gospel: which power might be reduced into act, if the voluntary forwardness and resistiveness of their own hearts were not the only hindering cause.
John Davenant, Animadversions (London: Printed for John Partridge, 1641), 256–257.

Sources in Twisse:
In like sort as touching the possibility of salvation, not one Divine of ours, that I know, denies the possibility of any mans salvation while he lives in this World.
William Twisse, The Riches of Gods Love unto the Vessels of Mercy, Consistent With His Absolute Hatred or Reprobation of the Vessels of Wrath (Oxford: Printed by L. L. and H. H. Printers to the University, for Tho. Robinson, 1653), 1:49. See also 1:181; 2:5.

William Barlee is a Reformed theologian who wrote against Thomas Pierce’s views. Barlee said:
Secondly, They [Pierce's predestinarian adversaries] do not only say, that it is possible, by virtue of Christ’s merits, for all men to be saved, in case of true Faith and Repentance [He references Davenant and William Twisse, a Westminster divine, in the margin for support]; but in that case they shall certainly be saved, by virtue of Christ’s death.
William Barlee, A Necessary Vindication of the Doctrine of Predestination, Formerly Asserted (London: Printed for George Strawbridge, at the Bible on Ludgate-Hill, 1658), 87.

March 26, 2013

David Millar (1687–1757) on Grace to the Reprobate

We [the Calvinists] make not God the Author of Sin, say not that he made Men to damn them, or that they are destroyed of mere Pleasure. We say not, that God hinders the Non-elect from doing all the good they can and will, that he gives them no Grace, that he refuses to hear the importunate Cry of the humble, the weary, the thirsty Sinner, or ever casts off the Believing and the Penitent. We believe that though God has not elected all Men, yet he gives more help to every one than he was obliged to give to any; or, than any one ever yet improved, as they might and ought. Yea, we think that he often gives more Grace to the very worst of the Non-elect, than Pelagians and Arminians can be brought to believe he gives to the Elect themselves. They can't endure to hear of Grace that conquers and determines the Will, but will have all Grace subject to it; whereas we believe that he often gives Grace to the Reprobate, which of it self is effectual for some good Purposes, which it would never have been, had it not powerfully of unwilling made them willing.
David Millar, The Principles of the Reformed Churches, And particularly of the Church of England, Stated and Vindicated; in Several Letters to Mr. Fancourt's Friend (London: Printed for the Author; and Sold by A. Millar, at Buchanan's-Head, against St. Clement's Church in the Strand, 1731), x.


March 25, 2013

The Psalgrave Confession on the Death of Christ and the Earnest Will of God

Of the power of the death of Christ believe we, that the death of Christ, (while he being not a bare man, but the Son of God died) is a full and all-sufficient payment, not only for our sins, but also the sins of the whole world. And that he by his death has purchased, not only forgiveness of sins, but also the new birth by the Holy Ghost, and lastly everlasting live.

But we believe therewithal, that no man shall be made partaker of such a benefit, but only he that believes in him. For the Scripture is plain, where it says, He that believes not shall be damned, Mark 16:16. Also, He that believes not in the Son of God, the wrath of God abides on him. John 3:36.
A Declaration of the Pfaltzgraves: Concerning The Faith and Ceremonies Professed in His Churches, trans. by I. R. [John Rolte] (London: Printed for Thomas Jones, and are to bee sold at his Shop in the Strand neere Yorke-House, 1637). Section 2:17, 18. Some spelling and punctuation changes have been made.

Also in A Full Declaration of the Faith and Ceremonies Professed in the dominions of the most Illustrious and noble Prince Fredericke, 5. Prince, Elector Palatine. Published for the Benefit and Satisfaction of all Gods people. According to the Original printed in the High Dutch tongue., trans. into English by John Rolte (London, Imprinted for William Welby, at the Swan in Pauls Church yard, 1614), 12–13.
We believe further, that God hath ordained the preaching of his Gospel to this end, that he would work in us faith in Christ thereby, and that the same preaching of God the Lord, is no jest, but that it is his earnest will and intent that all people that hear such preaching, should believe the same, & should return to Christ.
Ibid., Sect. 2:21. Also in A Full Declaration of the Faith and Ceremonies Professed in the dominions of the most Illustrious and noble Prince Fredericke, 5. Prince, Elector Palatine. Published for the Benefit and Satisfaction of all Gods people. According to the Original printed in the High Dutch tongue., trans. into English by John Rolte (London, Imprinted for William Welby, at the Swan in Pauls Church yard, 1614), 13–14.

March 10, 2013

William Burkitt (1650–1703) on Christ's Sufficient Propitiation

Observe 4. The extent of Christ’s death; he tasted death for every man; that is, Christ by his death has made God propitious to every man, made sin remissible, and every man saveable; the death of Christ renders God willing to be reconciled unto all sinners; faith renders him actually reconciled. The reason why every man doth not obtain salvation is not for want of a sufficient propitiation.
William Burkitt, Expository Notes With Practical Observations on the New Testament (Philadelphia: Sorin & Ball, 1844), 2:552.


John Preston (1587–1628) on Christ's Sufficiency

Moore quotes a manuscript of Preston's words at the York House Conference as follows:
...though his intention be not to save the Reprobate: yet it was to make them salvabiles in regard of the sufficiency of Christ's death to save them: though they be not salvibilis in regard of their inability to apprehend it. And this is to put them into another condition than the devils are in, for Christ's death hath no sufficiency to save the devils: but to save those it hath.[99]
99. BL Harleian MS. 6866, f. 80r.
Jonathan D. Moore, English Hypothetical Universalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 160. I've updated some of the spelling.

Moore also writes:
Concerning the English Catechism's statement of belief "in God the Son, who hath redeemed me and all mankind," Preston is reported to have defined 'redemption' there as meaning
only . . . the freeing of mankind from that inevitable ruine the sin of Adam had involved them in, and making them savable upon conditions of another covenant. Jn. 3:16, 17. So that now salvation was not impossible, as it was before the death of Christ; but might be offered unto any man, according to the tenour of that commission, Mk. 16:15, 16. This could not however be applied unto the Divels, if they were left in that forlorn condition whereunto their sin & disobedience put them in.[104]
104. Schaff, ed., Creeds of Christendom, II:518; Ball, Life of Preston, p. 131. Preston's linking with Mark 16:15 the salvability of all men due to Christ's death reinforces the interpretation made in Ch. 5 of Preston's controversial phrase in connection with the same text, "Christ is dead for him.
Ibid., 162.

Benjamin Andrews Atkinson (c.1680–1765) on God's Good-Will for All Men

2. Those who labour and suffer reproach in the service of God and the work of religion may depend upon the living God that they shall not lose by it. Let this encourage them, We trust in the living God. The consideration of this, that the God who has undertaken to be our pay-master is the living God, who does himself live for ever and is the fountain of life to all who serve him, should encourage us in all our services and in all our sufferings for him, especially considering that he is the Saviour of all men. (1.) By his providences he protects the persons, and prolongs the lives, of the children of men. (2.) He has a general good-will to the eternal salvation of all men thus far that he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He desires not the death of sinners; he is thus far the Saviour of all men that none are left in the same desperate condition that fallen angels are in. Now, if he be thus the Saviour of all men, we may hence infer that much more he will be the rewarder of those who seek and serve him; if he has such a good-will for all his creatures, much more will he provide well for those who are new creatures, who are born again. He is the Saviour of all men, but especially of those that believe; and the salvation he has in store for those that believe is sufficient to recompense them for all their services and sufferings. Here we see, [1.] The life of a Christian is a life of labour and suffering: We labour and suffer. [2.] The best we can expect to suffer in the present life is reproach for our well-doing, for our work of faith and labour of love. [3.] True Christians trust in the living God; for cursed is the man that trusts in man, or in any but the living God; and those that trust in him shall never be ashamed. Trust in him at all times. [4.] God is the general Saviour of all men, as he has put them into a salvable state; but he is in a particular manner the Saviour of true believers; there is then a general and a special redemption.
Benjamin Andrewes Atkinson, "An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy," in Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1992), 2355.

March 9, 2013

D. A. Carson on the Love of God in the Fourth Gospel

The sovereignty-responsibility tension in the fourth Gospel embraces two different conceptions of the scope and perhaps the objects of divine love. There is a sense in which God's love is directed toward the 'world' per se; but to absolutise the passages where this is enunciated is to fail to recognise the even more numerous passages in which the divine love is restricted to the elect, while unbelievers sit under wrath and judgment. However, granted that election is present in the fourth Gospel, the tension between the two descriptions of the scope of divine love is better than either of the other theoretically possible alternatives, viz: (1) God loves everyone without exception equally—which would make election logically absurd; (2) God loves only the elect and hates the rest--which would destroy the evangelistic thrust and the emotive incentive to believe based on God's love for the 'world', a love which sent the Son of God on his saving mission and robs the 'world' of excuse.77 Moreover, John also relates God's special love to the obedience of men (e.g. 14.21; 16.27). Even if that obedience is not the ultimate cause of God's special love, the formulation of the relationship in this way designedly dispels fatalism and indolence.
77. Cf. Calvin's wrestlings with this problem in connection with Rom. 9, in Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (London, 1961), p. 76ff.
D. A. Carson, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension (Grand Rapids: Marshall Pickering/Baker, 1994 [1981]), 197.

March 2, 2013

Herman Bavinck (1854–1921) on Irresistible Grace

The term "irresistible grace" is not really of Reformed origin but was used by Jesuits and Remonstrants to characterize the doctrine of the efficacy of grace as it was advocated by Augustine and those who believed as he did. The Reformed in fact had some objections to the term because it was absolutely not their intent to deny that grace is often and indeed always resisted by the unregenerate person and therefore could be resisted. They therefore preferred to speak of the efficacy or of the insuperability of grace, or interpreted the term "irresistible" in the sense that grace is ultimately irresistible. The point of the disagreement, accordingly, was not whether humans continually resisted and could resist God's grace, but whether they could ultimately--at the specific moment in which God wanted to regenerate them and work with his efficacious grace in their heart--still reject that grace. The answer to this question, as is clearly evident from the five articles of the Remonstrants, is most intimately tied in with the doctrine of the corruption of human nature; with election (based or not based on foreseen faith); the universality and particularity of Christ's atonement; the identification of, or the distinction between, the sufficient call (external) and the efficacious call (internal); and the correctness of the distinction between the will of God's good pleasure and the revealed will in the divine being. Whereas the Remonstrants appealed to Isa. 5:1-8; 65:2-3; Ezek. 12:2; Matt. 11:21-23; 23:37; Luke 7:30; John 5:34; and Acts 7:51, and to all the exhortations to faith and repentance occurring in Scripture, the Reformed theologians took their cue from the picture Scripture offers fallen humanity as blind, powerless, natural, dead in sins and trespasses (Jer. 13:23; Matt. 6:23; 7:18; John 8:34; Rom. 6:17; 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:5; Eph. 2:1; etc.), and from all the forceful words and images with which the work of grace in the human soul is described (Deut. 30:6; Jer. 31:31; Ezek. 36:26; John 3:3, 5; 6:44; Eph. 2:1, 6; Phil. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:3; etc.). So they spoke of the efficacy and invincibility of God's grace in regeneration and articulated this truth in a confession at the Synod of Dort.114
114. Canons of Dort, III–IV; cf. Acta Synodi nationalis: In nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Dortrechti: Isaaci Joannidis Canini, 1620), 218–24, and the judgements on the third and fourth article of the Remonstrants (pp. 53-219). In addition, see, F. Gomarus, "De gratia conversionis," Op., I, 85-126; J. Trigland, Antapologia, c. 27ff., 365ff.; F. Spanheim, Dubi evangelica (Geneva: Petri Chover, 1655-58), III, 1182ff.; P. van Mastricht, Theologia, VI, 3, 20; F. Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XV, qu. 4–6; B. de Moor, Comm. theol., IV, 496–534; C. Vitringa, Doctr. christ., III, 171–217.
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 4:82–83.