March 19, 2016

Obadiah Sedgwick (c.1600–1658) on Christ Begging Sinners

Sedgwick (a Westminster divine) first describes these sinners in Laodicea as “mere formal people” with “little or no power of godliness at all in them,” or “a company of mere hypocrites, or at least of formal professors” (p. 13). Then he says:
4. They were so provokingly sinful, that Christ’s stomach had much ado to bear with them. He could hardly forbear to spew them out of his mouth, (verse 16). Yet at their doors does Christ stand and knock, He begs at the door of beggars, mercy begs to misery, happiness begs to wretchedness, riches begs to poverty, light begs to blindness, and all-sufficiency begs to nakedness, and beseeches those poor and miserable sinners to take gold from him, those naked sinners to take raiment from him, and those blind sinners to take ointment from him, (v. 18.)
Obadiah Sedgwick, The Riches of Grace Displayed in the Offer and Tender of Salvation to Poor Sinners (London: Printed by T. R. & E. M. for Adoniram Byfield at the Bible in Popes head Alley neer Lumbard street, 1657), 14–15. On page 17, Sedgwick wrote about Christ’s “motions” and  the “indefiniteness of his desire” to save all sinners. Elsewhere he said:
Acts 2.36 Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ: yet to these doth Christ (in his Apostle Peter) preach and begs of them to repent and to save themselves, and assures them by promise of pardon if they would come in, see verses 38, 39, 40.
Ibid., 42–43.
And now brethren, have I finished my work on this Text, a Theme of as sweet mercy as ever sinner heard.

The Saviour of sinners knocking at the door of sinners; A Saviour begging of that sinner to be saved: Have you opened your doors, or have you not? Will you open them to Christ, or will you not? will you let in Christ and close with him, or will you not? will you accept of communion with him, or will you not?
Ibid., 270–271.

In another book, while expounding on 20 ways in which Jesus Christ is earnest and importunate with sinners to hearken unto him, Sedgwick said:
4. He entreats them to hearken unto him; we beseech you in Christ’s stead, &c. 2 Cor. 5.20. Jesus Christ doth as it were fall upon his knees unto the Sinner, and begs of him to be reconciled to him.
Obadiah Sedwick, The Fountain Opened: And the Water of Life Flowing Forth, for the Refreshing of Thirsty Sinners (London: Printed by T. R. and E. M. for Adoniram Byfield at the Bible in Popes-head-alley, near Lumbard-street, 1657), 403.

He later said:
Christ is thus earnest with Sinners to hearken unto him, because he is Christ. How earnest is the Parent with the untoward child; speaks, entreats, weeps, argues, &c. because he is a Parent; were he not a Christ, he would never thus mind them, nor importune them, but because he is a Christ, therefore he is full of compassion, and full of desires: he regards them, who do not regard him; he pities them, who pity not themselves; he would help them, who need help, but as yet see not their need of his help. Compassions are always earnest.
Ibid., 409.


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), 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.

Daniel Williams (c.1643–1716) on God Begging in Christ

Our Creator, being considered thus as God in Christ, who is satisfied as to the Violations of his Law, the Honour of his Government vindicated, and the Ends of it secured, though Pardon and Life be granted to Sinners, it will follow, that in a consistency with rectoral Justice, he can so far suspend the Curse of the Law towards sinful Man, and exert his Mercy, as 1. To be willing to admit to Peace and Favour all whom Christ shall present to him. 2. To be ready to forgive our Offences. 3. To make Offers of Peace, Pardon and Salvation to lost Sinners, begging them to be reconciled, &c. 4. To return his expelled forfeited Spirit to strive with the work on dead Sinners in order to their acceptance of this offered Salvation. 5. To be long-suffering, and waiting to be gracious in the use of fit Methods and Means to conquer their Resistance.
Daniel Williams, An End to Discord; Wherein is demonstrated That no Doctrinal Controversy remains between the Presbyterian and Congregational Ministers, fit to justify longer Divisions. With a true Account of Socinianism as to the Satisfaction of Christ (London:, Printed for John Lawrence at the Angel, and Tho. Cockril at the Three Legs in the Poultry, 1699), 128.


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), Thomas Watson (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.

March 13, 2016

Edward Polhill (1622–1694) on God’s Will for the Conversion of Reprobates

...God doth will the conversion of reprobates in a double manner.

1. God wills their conversion, Voluntate simplicis complacentiæ; Conversion even in a reprobate would make joy in heaven, it would be τὸ εὐάρεϛον, grateful and well-pleasing to God; if we believe him swearing by his life, his pleasure or delight is in the wicked man’s turning, (Ezek. xxxiii. 11). God delights in his image, wherever it be.

2. God wills their conversion Voluntate virtuali vel ordinativâ Mediorum; for the right understanding whereof I shall lay down four things.

1. The proper end and tendency of all means is to turn men unto God: within the sphere of the church, such is the end and tendency thereof. Why did Christ come, but to turn every one from his iniquities? (Acts iii. 26.) Why did he preach, but that his hearers might be saved? (John v. 34.) Why did the apostle warn and teach every man, but to present every man perfect in Christ? (Col. i. 28.) John’s baptism was εἰς μετάνοιαν, (Matth. iii. 11). Church-censures were εἰς οἰκοδομὴν, (2 Cor. x. 8.) Even the delivering to Satan was for the destruction of the flesh, (1 Cor. v. 5.) Conversion is the true center of the means. Nay, without the sphere of the church, the true end and tendency of things is such, that God might be seen in every creature, (Rom. i. 20.) Sought and felt in every place, (Acts xvii. 27.) Witnessed in every shower, (Acts xiv. 17.) Feared in the sea-bounding sand, (Jer. v. 22.) Humbled under in every abasing providence, (Dan. v. 22.) Turned to in every judgment, (Amos iv. 11). In a word, the end and tendency of all God’s works is that men might fear before him, (Eccles. iii. 14.) The whole world is a great ordinance, as it is in itself, preached forth the power and goodness of God who made it; and as it is the unconsumed state of so many crying sins, preached forth the clemency and mercy of God who spares it, and dashes it not down about the sinner’s ears. All the goodness and forbearance of God leads men to repentance, (Rom. ii. 4.) That piece of gospel [Whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy] seems legible in his patience; for it may be naturally and rationally concluded, that that God, who in his clemency spares men though sinners, will in his mercy pardon them when repenting and returning. This is the true duct and tendency of his patience, even that men might turn and repent.

2. The tendency of the means to conversion is such, that if men under the administration is such, that if men under the administration thereof turn not unto God, the only reason lies within themselves, in their own corrupt hearts. If God purge, and men are not purged, it is because there is lewdness in their filthiness, (Ezek. xxiv. 13.) If he would gather, and men are not gathered, it is because they will not, (Matt. xxiii. 37.) If he spread out his hands, and men come not in, it is because they are rebellious, (Isa. Ixv. 2.) If he be patient and long-suffering, and they repent not, it is because of their hardness and impenitent heart, (Rom. ii. 5.) The apostle calls the heretical seducers in his time μετατιθέντες, such as did turn or transfer the grace of God from its true end or scope, Jud. 4. And what those seducers did doctrinally, that do all sinners practically; so far forth as they live under the means and turn not, they do thereby transfer and remove the means from their genuine end.

3. God doth by a formal decree will the means with their tendencies. All ordinances are sealed by the divine will, and go out in its name, and are what they are from its ordination. Without this, means are no longer means, but mere empty names and vain shadows.

4. Out of God’s formal decree of the means doth result his virtual will of men’s conversion. That God, who doth formally will the means with their tendencies, even unto reprobates, doth virtually will their conversion as the true scope and end of those means. Hence it is said, that Christ would have gathered the unbelieving jews, (Matth. xxiiii. 37,) and God would have all men to be saved, (1 Tim. ii. 4,) viz. in respect of his virtual or ordinative will.  Hence God brought in, wishing, Oh! that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments. (Isai. xlviii. 18.) And what are these wishes? Surely all the diffusions of light, promulgations of laws, expansions of gospel grace, waitings of divine patience, and strivings of the Holy Spirit are (as I may so say) God’s Oh’s after conversion, in as much as they have a tendency thereunto; and God in willing that tendency, doth virtually will men’s return also. Excellent is that of learned [William] Ames; “Deus eminenter et virtuali quadam ratione eatenus vult salutem hominum, quatenus vocat ipsos ad salutem.” Thus with this virtual will God doth will the conversion of reprobates. But then you will say, If so, God’s will is frustrated; for reprobates are never actually converted. I answer, that God’s formal decree is only of the means with their tendencies; and therefore is not frustrated, but fulfilled, in the actual exhibition of such means. And God’s virtual will (though it be of the conversion of reprobates) yet in their non-conversion is not frustrated, because it is not an absolute but conditional will, nisi per ipsos steterit, unless their own voluntary corruption do impede the effect; which in reprobates it always doth. But you will yet reply, Then God’s will is conditional, and by consequence imperfect. To which I answer, with the judicious bishop Davenant, That volitions merely conditional agree not with the perfection of the divine nature; for that were to suspend God’s will for a time, and then post purificatam conditionem, to make it become absolute. But mixtly-conditional volitions, that is, such as are grounded on some absolute decree, may be allowed: as for example, that mixed conditional decree, that if Cain or Judas believe they shall  be saved, is grounded on that absolute decree, that whosoever believes shall be saved. Now this virtual will of conversion of reprobates is not purely conditional, but mixtly conditional, for it results out of God’s absolute decree of the means with their tendencies. Wherefore, notwithstanding these objections, I conclude, That God doth virtually will the conversion of reprobates, so far forth as the means have a tendency thereunto.
Edward Polhill, “The Divine Will Considered in its Eternal Decrees,” in The Works of Edward Polhill (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1998), 128–129.


This idea can also  be found in Theophilus Gale, among other 17th century theologians. Gale wrote:
God’s Providential Will is that, whereby he is said to will and intend an end, when he in his providence, either gracious or common, affords such means which have an aptitude to produce it. As where God sends his Gospel, he may be said to really intend the salvation of those to whom it is sent, albeit they are not all saved; because he vouchsafeth them those means which have a real aptitude to produce the same, were they but really embraced and improved.

March 12, 2016

Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691–1747) on Matt. 23:37


Christ’s Lamentation Over the Inhabitants of Jerusalem.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not I” Matt. 23:37.

“Then I said I have labored in vain. I have spent my strength for naught and in vain,” are words which we find Isa. 49:4. It is manifest that the Messiah is here introduced, complaining that he had labored in vain, and spent his strength for naught. By his strength we may understand his bodily energies; which we may conceive to have been far more vigorous in the Lord Jesus than in men ordinarily, from his numerous journeys. But we must also understand by it the powers of his mind—his capacity and his faculty for teaching with so much wisdom, and for performing his mighty and wonderful works. With this strength the Messiah had labored. (Understand the labor of his prophetical office; his preaching and working of miracles, in which he displayed zeal of no ordinary kind: Ps. 69:9; “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”) But all this was in vain, for naught, to no purpose. (Understand this in relation to the majority in comparison with the rest—that his labors yielded little or no fruit, in comparison with what they should have yielded.) It is true there were some, with respect to whom he did not labor in vain; but they were few, and thus his labors were for naught and in vain, in relation to the greater part in Israel, as is said in the following verse: “Israel will not suffer himself to be gathered.” [Dutch translation]

Truly, thus it was; neither his discourses nor miracles found admittance with the majority of the Jews; the chief priests and scribes remained the hardened, bitter enemies of the Lord Jesus: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11.)

The fulfillment we behold in the words of our text, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets," etc.

In what precedes, the Lord Jesus denounces upon the Pharisees and Scribes eight woes, on account of their sins, on account of their hindering the Gospel, (verse 13;) on account of their covetousness, (verse 14;) on account of their blind zeal, (verses 15, 16;) on account of their erroneous teachings, (verses 17–22;) on account of their display of zeal in regard to the minor matters of the law, whilst they neglected its weightier duties, (verses 23, 24;) on account of their pretense of great holiness in partaking of their food, (verses 25, 26;) on account of their deceiving the people with the mere appearance of righteousness, (verses 27, 28;) on account of their pretended high regard for departed saints, whilst they persecuted the living, and were ready to stone Christ himself, (verses 29–32.) Hereupon, he severely reproves them, and sharply upbraids them in the words of our text, “O Jerusalem!” etc, in which is contained a lamentation over the obstinacy and unbelief of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and which are followed by a prediction of its destruction.

Words in point in these evil days, in which we may pour forth lamentations, nay, lift up our voices in cries of distress.

Oh! that we mourned over ourselves, and knew at least in this our day the things that belong to our peace!

In the words of the text we find two parts:

I. An earnest protestation of the Saviour’s: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem !” etc.

II. An upbraiding of them for their unwillingness: and “Ye would not.”

I. The Saviour’s address is directed, as on another occasion with tears, (Luke 19,) to the city of Jerusalem—the capital of the whole Jewish land, the seat, the court of the Jewish state, the city of the great King, beautiful for situation; the joy of the whole earth, where were the thrones of judgment and the tribes of Israel assembled, the holy city and place of worship, (Matt. 4:5,) the holy temple, the place of God’s fire and hearth, (Isa. 31:9,) the city of God, therefore denominated Jehovah Shammah, (The Lord is there,) that is, the place favored with his special presence. By Jerusalem is here, however, to be understood the Jewish people, the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The repetition of the word Jerusalem is here designed to impart emphasis to the address. This form of speech occurs elsewhere in the Scriptures, as Jer. 22:29, “O earth, earth, earth! hear the word of the Lord;” Rev. 8:13, “Woe, woe, woe!” There it is triple. The twofold form is also found, as in Ezek. 21:6, “Sigh, sigh!” John 3:3, “Verily, verily!” Here it is, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” This intimates the earnestness, zeal, and emotion of the Lord Jesus; the importance of the subject; the awfulness of their unbelief; the certainty of their destruction and desolation. This Jerusalem is reproved with accompanying upbraiding: “Thou that killest the prophets.” Prophets were holy men raised up out of all the tribes and families of Israel, endowed with extraordinary gifts, and infallibly moved by the Spirit of God to teach the people of God; to foretell future events, and confirm their words with a godly life. Such the Lord himself had sent to them from time to time. This is added in the text: “Which are sent unto thee.” Truly a great benefit; for “Where there is no vision the people perish.” (Prov. 29:18.) (But they are false prophets who run and yet are not sent. Jer. 23:21.) But oh! base ingratitude, prophets whom the Lord had sent to them, they had killed, stoned!

Stoning was one of the modes of capital punishment among the Jews. Jerusalem was the ordinary place of the killing of the prophets, (Luke 13:33;) and thus by making itself guilty of such tyrannical acts, from being the house of God, it had become a den of  thieves. It is therefore said of its former state, Isa. 1:21, “How is the faithful city become an harlot! it is full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers,” and Jer. 2:34, “Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents;” and Matt. 21:35, 36, the chief priests and elders of the people are designated as husbandmen, who beat some, killed others, and stoned others of the servants whom the Lord of the vineyard sent to them, as appears verses 23, 25.

The Lord Jesus further testifies: “How often would I have gathered thy children together.” Here the city is represented as a mother; and the Jews who were of the same religion, and came hither from all parts of the land of Canaan, as her “Children,” Hos. 2:1–4, that is, inhabitants.

These Jesus “would gather,” that is, he diligently employed all means to convert them—form them into a new people, and bless them in his kingdom. Whereby? By the means of grace which the Lord granted them, by teaching and preaching among them, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, (“Repent and believe the Gospel,”) doing wonders, working miracles, healing their sick; nay, journeying throughout their land and doing good. (Acts 10.) For this purpose he chose his disciples; whose business it was to gather the Jews, inviting them saying, “Come, for all things are ready.” (Luke 14.) But how?

“As a hen gathereth her chickens.” It is known that a hen when she sees birds of prey hovering in the air, utters a peculiar sound, by which she calls together her young, at the same time elevating her feathers and spreading out her wings, thus forming a place of refuge for them; thus wings are also ascribed to God, Ps. 17:8; 36:7; 63:7; Deut. 32:1, especially the Lord Jesus. (Mal. 4:2.) Thus in our text the Lord Jesus comes under notice as a hen, extending her wings to and over her chickens, to allure and gather sinners to himself. He is not only a roaring lion, roaring over his prey for its preservation, but as a bird thus will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem. (Isa. 31: 4, 5.) Thus God covers the righteous with his wings. The Psalmist also on several occasions ascribes to God a shadow. What the sun does in relation to the inhabitants of the world, warning and defending them against wind and cold, all this the shadow of God’s wings does in relation to sinners who betake themselves to them. The wings which are ascribed to God in Christ, betoken these two things.

1. That defense and protection which the sinner finds by faith in Christ, and thus with God through Christ, against the deserved wrath of God, power of temptation, and the attacks of Satan. Hence the Lord Jesus is denominated a hiding-place from the wind. (Isa. 32:2.) This is the benefit which God promises to his Church. (Isa. 4:5, 6; Ps. 91:4.)

2. That refreshment and consolation which the godly find with God in Christ, in whom many have found a refuge; as one who flees out of a storm to a hiding-place, or who from the burning rays of the sun seeks a refreshing shade, or the covert of a great rock, and thus revives his drooping spirit. So says the bride, Cant. 2:3, “I sat down under his shadow with great delight;” Mal. 4:2, “With healing in his wings.”

The great prophet and compassionate high-priest Jesus, contemplating their exposure to many seductions, and the aim of the hellish bird of prey, has extensively and frequently called men by the voice of the Gospel, to shelter themselves under the wings of his grace and gracious protection. During the whole time of his public ministry, he stretched out his hands, but to a gain-saying people; to an evil, hardened, unbelieving generation, as appears from our second head:

II. “And ye would not.” The Saviour would say, You have made constant opposition to my designs. It was the unceasing aim and endeavor of the Pharisees and Scribes, as much as in them lay, to hinder the progress of the Gospel. They themselves would not enter in, and they would not that Jesus should gather their children, but to that moment sought to root out the Prince of life in Israel from among his people.

We are not, however, to apprehend this, as if their unwillingness that Jesus should gather their children, could render his whole work of no effect. By no means; for many were gathered, whom Jesus had in view, and others who were restrained for a while by malicious opposers, were afterwards brought in through the ministry of the Apostles; at least “as many as were ordained to eternal life.” (Acts 13:48.)

The advocates of free will wrest this text to establish their erroneous tenet, as if man had power to comply with the divine call if he would. No: this place speaks of the divine call, by which Christ is offered for justification. That men who are not elected resist it we admit; for the carnal mind is enmity against God. The natural man hates the Father and the Son, (John 15:24,) and hates all true holiness. It is true that viewed in their natural helplessness, they also cannot come, (John 6:44;) but it is also true that they slight the outward means. This they do willingly, and with an evil disposition not to permit themselves to be gathered. It is their pleasure, their delight, so to do. Therefore the Lord Jesus reproves and reproaches the Jews, saying, “And ye would not.” We cannot hence, however, infer free will, and the power and faculty in the natural man to believe without supernatural grace and effectual calling, as do Pelagians, Arminians, and all devotees of free will, as if it were legitimate reasoning to say, They can of themselves not will; consequently they can also of themselves, will to come and believe. But the inference does not follow, for the sinful not will-ing we have natural power in ourselves; but for a holy and right will-ing we stand in need of supernatural grace, which we have not of ourselves. Christ does not say that the Pharisees and Scribes, and inhabitants of Jerusalem could believe and turn; but upbraids them with this, that “they would not;” and this was an aggravation of their disobedience, as displaying their determination, obstinacy, willfulness, in not coming to him. They would not even calmly consider his person, his works and doctrines; but with bitter and settled prejudice, persisted in their opposition to him, and willfully hardened themselves. Nay, so abandonedly wicked were they, that they could not endure that any of their children were gathered by him. It did not then proceed from ignorance, but from unwillingness. Of this the Lord Jesus also reproachfully reminded them: “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” This was proposed to them under the similitude of those invited to the marriage, who would not come. (Matt. 22:3; Luke 19:22.)

This now was suited to the purpose of the compassionate Saviour, which was not only to censure the Scribes, but sharply to upbraid and threaten them; for their wickedness towards him beyond measure aggravated their guilt and hastened their destruction: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou wouldst not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Verse 38.) The words of the text, my hearers, be it remembered, proceeded out of the mouth of him who was the best of preachers. They are full of power, earnestness, compassion, and emotion. So much so, that I have been unable to make them the subject of my study without emotion. Give them for a moment I pray you your particular attention. When the merciful Jesus says, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! it is as if with weeping and with earnest voice, he had burst forth in the following strain:

“That Chorazin and Bethsaida have not improved my mighty works, for their repentance I must remind them of, by denouncing upon them a woe; that the exalted Capernaum has not turned at my word, shall thrust it down to hell, (Matt. 11:20, 24,) and aggravate its condemnation beyond that of Sodom; that my Nazareth, where I have lived and been brought up, so lightly esteems my prophets, I can readily forget, (Luke 4:23, 24;) that the inhabitants of Gergesa preferred their swine to myself, gives me but little concern, (Matt. 8:34;) but that thou, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! the scene of my wonders, whom I have made great among the nations, and princes among the provinces, (Lam. 1:1,) and exalted above all and chosen thee as my habitation and dwelling-place, (Ps. 32:13, 14,) my vineyard, planted upon a very fruitful hill, to which I have done all that could be clone to it, (Isa. 5:1–4;) that thou Jerusalem, thou Zion, so maliciously rejectest my grace, that breaks my heart, that causes me to sigh; that I neither can nor will so lightly forget; my grace is far too precious; I have too clearly revealed myself to thee to be thus rejected by thee, and that thou, O Jerusalem! shouldest so hastily rush to destruction! Were it the sin of an Amorite, a Canaanite, or Jebusite, I would bear with it four hundred years; were it that of the first world, I would grant them an hundred and twenty years for repentance; were it a Sodom or Gomorrah, Admah or Zebvim, I would spare it for ten righteous, (Gen. 18:32; Deut. 29:32;) but now, that it is thou, Jerusalem, who shall present an excuse for thee, O Jerusalem! or who shall have compassion upon thee? Thou hast forsaken me, (Jer. 15:5, 6;) and what occasion? Didst thou but know how evil and bitter a thing it is that thou hast forsaken me! (Jer. 2:19.) Didst thou but know the things that belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes! Thou wilt not come to me that thou mightest have life! and though year after year I have stretched out my hands to thee, and would gather thee as a hen does her chickens under her wings; and though I have sent to thee my servants the prophets, rising up early, (Jer. 7:13; 25:4,) who have invited thee in my name, thou yet wouldst not!”

Hearers, ye must be strangers in our Americau [American?] Jerusalem not to perceive how applicable are these words to ourselves and our consistory. Raritan, Raritan! how often would I have gathered thee, but thou wouldst not! It is true, God has not sent to us prophets, in a strict sense of that term, whose work it is to foretell future events: these were peculiar to the old dispensation, and the beginning of the new. He has, notwithstanding, given us pastors and teachers—ministers of the New Testament, who are also prophets. It is also true, that they are not here at the present time, stoned or killed; but how many are there who resist them, and thus kill them, as far as in them lies. Had those opposers been possessed of the power, who knows if they would not have killed us. How many evil and rude persons are there, who in every way molest faithful ministers, so that they are compelled to perform their work amid sighs and groans. How many the disobedient, who remain ignorant and unconverted, of whom we must say, I have labored in vain? To how many must we say, How often would the Lord have gathered you by his word and servants, “but ye would not.” The Church swarms with such evil ones—those who will not. Thousands are to be found throughout Christendom; and thus, also, the greater part among ourselves, are those to whom the holy Jesus would be compelled, as to the Jews, to say: “Ye would not come to me.”

I shall here make manifest two things:

1. That the Lord Jesus has long sought to gather you, as a hen does her chickens.
2. That all who have remained unconverted thus far, “would not.”

As long as you have had, read, and heard the word of God, as long as you have enjoyed the preached word, the Lord has been engaged in gathering you. How often have you heard the divine sighs: “Oh! that they were wise, that they understood this, that they considered their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29;) “Oh! that my people had hearkened unto me!” (Ps. 81:14;) “Oh! that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandments!” (Isa. 48:18;) “Oh! that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!” (Luke 19:42.)

How often have the invitations of the Gospel been uttered in your hearing. Truly these are intended for all, without exception, who live within its sound: “Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.” (Isa. 45:22.) “Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17.) “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” (Rev. 3:18.) How long has the Lord Jesus warned and invited you by his servants who have been sent to you, coming, now piping, and now mourning! How often has the Lord Jesus, with weeping eyes, and cheeks suffused with tears, mourned over you, as of old over Jerusalem!

Certainly, we must regard the Lord Jesus as lamenting when his servants do so in his name, and pour forth expressions of grief, for it is in his name that they come, his own word which they utter—the same as was uttered by him: “He that heareth you heareth me.” (Matt. 10.) They are ambassadors for Christ, and pray as if God besought by them. (2 Cor. 5.) How appropriate, then, the words of the text, “How oft would I have gathered you!'” but alas! that we have reason to say to you, “and ye would not!”

This is true,

Of you wicked, who are persisting in your sins;
Of the unconverted, who live without true holiness;
Of those who have not fled for refuge to Jesus;
Of those who are still strangers to Christ, having never seen him;
Of those who have never been convinced of their need of Jesus, in order to salvation;
Of those who have not realized the preciousness of Jesus;
Of those who have, as yet, never engaged in covenant transactions with the Lord Jesus.

How many years have you been invited and called? but, pray, tell me what has prevented you from heeding the divine call? Is it not your own unwillingness, or do you imagine the divine decree to be the occasion of it? [Heedless men accuse God of injustice, as if he were the cause of their unregeneracy and destruction.] But the decree of God neither compels nor prevents you: that is not the rule of your doing and leaving, but his revealed will. You have not remained unbelieving and unconverted because you imagined that God prevented you, but because you felt no desire.

Or will you ascribe it to this: that God has never wrought the will in you—that he has never drawn you? That were again to cast the blame upon God; for tell me, I pray you, was the Lord under obligation to perform those acts towards you? Have you ever, with real earnestness, besought him to draw you?

Or, when you would come, have men prevented you? But if any have endeavored to prevent you, others have urged you to flee destruction, and have gone before you not only with their word but also with their example.

Or, will you cast the blame upon your inability? Thus do the carnally secure, employing their inability as an excuse for their sinful security. But do you not know that the fault is your own? Inability excuses you not; for, have you done all that you should? I have done, you say, my utmost. But then, would you make use of means: you would not neglect attendance at church, catechisings, or other public religious exercises; you could search the word of God, be more engaged in prayer, and prostrate yourself before the Lord Jesus.

Have you ever felt that you remained unconverted because you could not? Oh! no: your difficulty has not been a can not, but a will not. Seek as many evasions, cover yourselves with as many fig-leaves as you may, I must say, with the Lord Jesus, “Ye would not!” He has given you his word and servants, means and time for repentance, and sometimes also, the Spirit for conviction, and now and then stirs up to exercise your conscience; but you resist the Spirit, and thus the obstacle is in your will: “Ye will not come to Christ!” Wouldst thou know the reason of thine unwillingness? It is,

1. Because thou dost not sufficiently see the necessity of coming to the Lord Jesus: your estrangement and lost state does not weigh heavily upon your heart.

2. Because you can not properly come to Jesus, except you deny yourself, forsake all your vain pleasures, honor and esteem. You have, with the young man in the gospels, too much worldly good. You are still too much attached to the world and your sins.

You imagine that you can effect it yourself, by means of attendance at church, and going to the Lord’s table; by the repetition of some forms of prayer, some moral deeds and good works, and similar self-righteous performances.

You imagine that you can come when you will. There is in your estimation always time enough for repentance, and therefore you constantly procrastinate. To-morrow, Then, and Then, are your words.

You say you will come to Christ, you would go to heaven: but who would not fain go to heaven? Who would not gladly be saved? But you take no pleasure in the method, in the way of salvation. The way is too narrow for you: the holiness of it is not congenial to your feelings. Were the way to Jesus and heaven a broad and sinful way, oh! how many would then come! You would serve God and mammon; you would fain retain your sins.

You take no pleasure in the consequences of that way—the cross, reproach, derision, persecution. (Acts 14:22.) Through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God.

You imagine that you are already believers and regenerated persons, because born of Christian parents; supposing that you can not fall short of heaven. False ground’s soul-destroying imagination, by which thousands deceive themselves under the Gospel! a way which seemeth right to a man, by which Satan keeps back millions from God. See, thus is it with natural men. These are the reasons of your unwillingness! Oh! how unhappy and miserable is your state! for,

1. You are still estranged from the Lord Jesus, who will gather his people as a hen does her chickens;
2. It is a fearful rejection of the revealed way of salvation;
3. It is an awful insult to the Father;
4. It is a contempt of the Son of God—that fountain and rock of salvation;
5. It is a reckless disregard of the day of grace.

How does this heighten your criminality; how will it aggravate your condemnation, that the Lord would gather you, that he long bore with you, so often would have taken you under his wings, but “ye would not!”—that he invited and you refused, stretched out his hands, but you opposed; rejecting his counsel, not willing that he should be King over you. (Prov. 1.) Oh! if there is aught that will render the worm of conscience exquisitely tormenting and intolerable, it is above all, that the dear Saviour would have gathered you, “and ye would not!” O miserable sinners! would that ye were wise and willing. How long shall the Lord suffer you, O unbelieving and perverse generation! How long will ye refuse?

I pray you suffer yourselves to be gathered. There is still time for repentance. The Lord Jesus still stands with extended arms to gather you. He still waits upon you.

Nowhere else can you find defense and protection. It is absolutely necessary that you should put your trust under the shadow of his wings, for otherwise “You shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on you.” (John 3:36.)

All that is in Jesus, and is to be enjoyed under his wings, is so inviting—it is so refreshing. Oh! that you had experience of it! “I sat down under his shadow,” says the bride, “with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (Song of Sol. 2:3.) O sinner! how canst thou longer refuse? If you come to him you shall not be cast out.

Yet once consider. Can the kindness and love of the great God and good Saviour not move you? How would he gather you in order to defend you against that wrath which you have deserved? Will he himself be your rock and refreshment? and will you not come? Have you no pleasure in it? How can you find it in your heart to do thus? Is not the kindness of God of so much weight with you, when yet it is so great that David exclaims, “How excellent is thy loving-kindness! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings;” and should not you, then, forsake the pleasures of sin and the joys of this world? Do you not violence to your own soul?

Do you not go contrary to your own judgment when you despise Jesus, and sin against him? (Prov. 8:36.)

And whither shalt thou betake thyself at that day when heaven and earth shall be in flames? What wings shall then be able to cover thee from the face of God and the wrath of the Lamb? Oh! there shall be no place of refuge, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Heb. 10.)

Resolve, I pray you, to be willing, and to arise and come to Jesus.

Behold the danger which presses upon and threatens you.

Acknowledge in a lively manner the necessity of coming to Jesus: So shalt thou have life; for, saith He, “He that findeth me findeth life.” (Prov. 8.)

Oh! that you had a lively impression of your inability and unwillingness, that in holy dismay you might look for the drawing which the Lord Jesus promised when he said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me,” (John 12;) and therefore pray with the Spouse, (Song Sol. 1:4,) “Draw me, we will run after thee.”

We conclude with Heb. 12:5: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.”

Preached at New-Brunswick,
Anno 1745.
Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, “Christ’s Bitter Lamentation Over the Inhabitants of Jerusalem,” in Sermons by Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, trans. William Demarest (New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, 1856), 385–402.

Appleton's Cyclopedia

Richard Muller on “Calvinist Thomism Revisited: William Ames (1576–1633) and the Divine Ideas”

In November of 2015, Dr. Richard Muller lectured at the Junius Institute on Calvinist Thomism, William Ames, and the divine ideas. Here is the lecture:

This lecture is now printed in Richard A. Muller, "Calvinist Thomism Revisited: William Ames (1576-1633) and the Divine Ideas," in From Rome to Zurich, Between Ignatius and Vermigli: Essays in Honor of John Patrick Donnelly, SJ, ed. G. W. Jenkins, W. J. T. Kirby, and K. M. Comerford (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017), 103ff.

Michael J. Lynch on “Covenant Theology and Hypothetical Universalism? A Look at John Davenant’s Federal Theology”

In December of 2015, Lynch lectured at the Junius Institute on John Davenant’s covenant theology and so-called “hypothetical universalism.” Here is the lecture:

March 6, 2016

A Second Critique of R. C. Sproul on the Love of God

It seems that the older Sproul gets, the more inclined he is to make injudicious statements, as if he is being bold in saying these things. His mentor, John Gestner, certainly had that problem. Mark Jones, in his friendly review of the recent Ligonier statement on Christology (and other posts here, here, and here), has seen some poor judgement in that area, but my focus here is on a recent, unwise statement by Sproul on God’s unconditional love.

At the 2016 National Ligonier Conference, Sproul addressed the topic of “The Transforming Power of the Gospel.” He talked briefly about what the gospel is not, in order to present what he thinks the gospel is. He first mentioned that the gospel is not “your personal testimony,” and then elaborated. He then stated the following (see minute 34:33–34:42):
And to say that God loves all people unconditionally is not the gospel; it’s not even true.
This is the statement I want to critique. It is not the only time Sproul has made such uncareful statements in my view (see my recently updated first criticism here). Not only does Sproul seem to be somewhat confused on the free offer of the gospel (see here), but he also seems to be confused on God’s so-called “unconditional love.” Consider his statement above. It has two claims in it:

1) “God loves all people unconditionally is not the gospel.”
2) “God loves all people unconditionally” is “not even true.”

The second claim is the main assertion that I want to critique, but let’s consider the first one as well in passing.

1) First, he said, “God loves all people unconditionally is not the gospel.” 

Has anyone, at any time, ever claimed that “God loves all people unconditionally is the gospel”? No. Of course not. No one has ever made that manifestly absurd claim. It’s a straw man and overreaction to what is actually being said or done by certain people. What we see in popular evangelistic meetings are preachers telling everyone present that God loves them unconditionally, in the context of also presenting the facts about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (i.e. the gospel), with little or no mention that the unbelievers are abiding under God’s wrath (or hatred of abomination). The listeners, therefore, do not adequately feel that they are in any danger of perishing. It is usually not so much what is said that is the problem, but what is not said. There is an overemphasis on the love of God to the extent that other vitally important gospel-truths are omitted, such as the holiness of God, which Sproul has been so rightly zealous to underline in his teaching.

It is not that these people are claiming that “God loves you unconditionally is the gospel;” rather, the problem is that they are saying that while neglecting to also mention other important biblical truths about God’s nature, which shine forth in the cross of Christ. The cross of Christ not only lets everyone know that God loves them personally as His creatures (which we will explain later), it simultaneously lets them know how much God is passionately disgusted with them as sinners, or as His enemies. Unbelievers are presently recipients of benevolent love, but they are also under a curse. In effect, the Father, through Christ on the cross, says, “Yes, I love you benevolently, and therefore desire your eternal salvation according to my revealed will through your repentance and faith in my crucified Son; but I am also so disgusted with sin and sinners that this sort of violent sacrifice is necessary in order that you might escape my coming wrath. Unless you repent, and receive my Son as He is graciously offered in the gospel, you shall yourself suffer the excruciating and eternal punishment necessary for your sin.”

It is this latter teaching about God’s holy hatred for sin and sinners that is regularly omitted in evangelistic encounters. That’s the problem. No one is actually saying that “God loves all people unconditionally is the gospel.” The reason that theological balance is lacking today is because so few actually know about the complexity involved in the biblical teaching regarding the love of God (hence the need for D. A Carson’s book on “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God”), and so they therefore don’t have a good understanding about the complex teaching of the hatred of God either. The two doctrines (i.e. God’s holy love and holy hatred) are interrelated. Faithful expositions on the meaning of the cross of Christ in evangelistic encounters must therefore present both doctrines, though the emphasis may vary in certain contexts (as I mention in the bottom portion of my first critique). I think this is Sproul’s underlying concern as well, but he is not articulating it carefully. That’s his problem, as evidenced in the first claim.

2) Let’s consider his second claim: “God loves all people not even true.”

There are different senses of the love of God according to the bible and historic Christian teaching. The early church fathers, the medieval schoolmen, the early Reformers, and especially the post-Reformation Reformed theologians all distinguished between God’s love of complacency and His love of benevolence, for example.

A) God’s Love of Complacency (from the Latin complacere, ‘to please’)

Typically, God’s love of complacency is presented as God’s love for all good things and beings (i.e. the righteous or saints). It is that pleasure or delight that God has for all that is good or virtuous. Inter-Trinitarian love is that highest delight and pleasure that each of the persons has for the others as perfect and holy. As Richard Muller says, “The amor directed inwardly and intrinsically toward God himself as the summum bonum, or highest good, and, among the persons of the Trinity, toward one another.”

God also takes pleasure in His creatures insofar as they reflect the divine image, or participate in holiness. We might therefore call this sense of love God’s “love of moral complacency,” in the sense that God is pleased with all that is good and holy. Jesus is talking about this sense of love when He said, “he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). Whoever loves Jesus and keeps his word “will be loved” by the Father (John 14:23). This is that sort of love that Jesus commands us to “abide in” (John 15:9). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). If you pursue godliness and righteousness, then the Lord loves you  in this sense (Prov. 15:9).

One can see that this sense of God’s love is “conditional,” in the sense that virtue in the creature is required in order for God to be pleased with you, or to take delight in you. Reformed theologians typically reserve this “conditional” sense of God’s love for His saints, or for believers only (which is how Mark Jones, of Ref21, is currently using the category). Does God love all people with a “love of moral complacency,” or with that special, exclusive love He has for the righteous? Of course not. God’s love of moral complacency is obviously conditional.

This is the sense of God’s love that is so neglected or not understood well today, and so theologians such as Mark Jones (on Reformation21, in his book on Antinomianism, and in the book A Puritan Theology) are seeking to remind the church about God’s conditional love of moral complacency. Whether or not God has a love of complacency for unsaved people insofar as they have virtue in them through God’s restraining grace is a debatable point. Some Puritans, such as William Gearing, seem to affirm a kind of general love of moral complacency, since even “profane men” still have “some reliques of God’s [moral] image in them,” such as the rich young ruler. Nevertheless, it is true that, classically speaking, God’s love of moral complacency is typically reserved for believers (or the “righteous” in this sense) alone, at least in terms of traditional Christian teaching.

Another subtle distinction arises among the schoolmen and later Reformed theologians. As Richard Muller notes, “The amor Dei universalis is frequently called by the scholastics complacentia, or general good-pleasure...” We might call this God’s “love of natural complacency,” or His love of all of His creation as such. It is what Jonathan Edwards seems to have in mind when he expounded on God’s “love of being” in The Nature of True Virtue and elsewhere. Very frequently cited among the theologians of the past is Wisdom 11:24 (RSV):
For thou lovest all things that exist, and hast loathing for none of the things which thou hast made, for thou wouldst not have made anything if thou hadst hated it. 
If God’s love of moral complacency is not well-understood today, then how much less is this rather technical sense of God’s love of natural complacency for all that He has made? Even Mark Jones does not seem to have this category in his thinking, even though he is becoming more and more refined in his understanding of God’s love of moral complacency. Jones seems to have been influenced by Samuel Rutherford’s categories (along with Thomas Goodwin and others) in his anti-antinomian writings. Rutherford does, however, seem to have this category of complacency in mind when he elaborated on “three sorts of love.” He includes the idea that God “loves all that he has made; so far as to give them a being, to conserve them in being so long as he pleaseth: he had a desire to have Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth, Heaven, Sea, Cloud, Air; he created them out of the womb of love, and out of goodness, and keeps them in being…” One can see that he, like so many others in his day, is alluding to Wisdom 11:24 (not as a canonical or authoritative book in that sense, but as making a true statement) in the context. Insofar as all of creation is something God has made, he loves it, and calls it “good” (Gen. 1:31), in the sense of it’s essence or being.

This specialized and mostly unheard of sense of God’s love of natural complacency (as I call it) in modern times is “unconditional.” The Puritan Thomas Larkham (in The Attributes of God Unfolded, and Applied. Second Part. [London, 1656], 158–159), and also John Gill (see his Body of Divinity, Book 1, chap. 12: “...yea, even the devils, as they are the creatures of God, are not hated by him, but as they are apostate spirits from him...”) went so far as to say that God even loves the fallen angels in the sense that they are His creatures. Modern Christians (including R. C. Sproul) seem to know nothing about this so-called “piece of [seeming] blasphemy,” as Larkham calls it, but it is still true. Does God love all people unconditionally with a complacent love? In a sense one could say so (i.e. in the sense that Larkham maintains), if one has a love of natural complacency in mind, but not unconditionally with a moral complacency, or in the sense of love God has for the righteous. But there is no need to make this argument to point out the problem with Sproul’s statement. The frequently used sense of God’s “unconditional love for all people” is almost always taught under the category of God’s love of benevolence, which we shall consider next.

B) God’s Love of Benevolence

One might say God’s love of benevolence is twofold: common and special.

God’s common love of benevolence is that gracious good-will that He has for all of fallen humanity (not fallen angels), which is seen in His beneficent or good acts of providential care wherein He seeks to bring men to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Richard Muller rightly notes that, “the amor Dei communis is understood to be benevolentia in the strict sense of goodwill toward human beings...” (underlining mine). Jesus has this sense of God’s universal love in mind in Matt. 5:43–45. The Father, as He says, shows himself to “love His enemies” insofar as He grants all living people the common bounties of providence (though not equally, as Van Til carefully qualifies it), even on the “unrighteous.” Clearly this sense of God’s love is unconditional. R. C. Sproul himself, in his book “Loved by God,” acknowledges that God has a love for all people in this sense. He, like all of the Reformed theologians in the past, associates God’s “common grace” with God’s universal, benevolent love.

Muller rightly noted that “the scholastics” subsumed “the grace (gratia), mercy (misericordia), long-suffering (long-animitas), patience (patientia), and clemency or mildness (clementia) of God under the amor Dei,” but one should add that these things are properly subsumed under the amor Dei communis, or amor Dei benevolentia. If common grace is a manifestation of God’s common or general love, then how can one not see that it is unconditional? On the very basis of this sense of God’s common love, Jesus commands us to love our enemies, even if they are hurling insults and abuse on us. Jesus in effect is saying, “despite their moral condition as your (i.e. the saints) enemies, wish them well. Pray for them. Bless them. Have goodwill toward them, even as the Father, despite their hostility to Him, so graciously bears goodwill to them while they live in this world.” God’s common love of benevolence is clearly unconditional, even though His love of moral complacency (as I have called it) in the usual sense is conditional

Moreover, one cannot use texts affirming God’s conditional love of moral complacency to negate God’s universal and unconditional love of benevolence, just as one cannot use God’s conditional hatred of abomination (odium abominationis) for the wicked to cancel out the biblical teaching regarding God’s love of goodwill. As the Puritan Thomas Manton so well observed, “...the hatred of abomination is opposite to the love of complacency, odium inimicitiæ [i.e. a hatred of enmity or malice] to amor benevolentiæ.” It is a mistake among the hyper-Calvinists to use “hatred of abomination” texts (such as Psa. 5:5) to negate God’s common “amor benevolentiæ” (which is a false antithesis, since the opposite of benevolence is malevolence, or malice). The proper inference one can make from Psa. 5:5 is that, since God has a hatred of displacency or disgust for workers of iniquity, he therefore has no love of moral complacency for these people as sinners, not that He has no love of benevolence for them. They use also texts referring to God’s hatred of preterition (Rom. 9:13) along the same lines, or to negate amor Dei universalis or amor Dei communis. The only legitimate inference one can make from Rom. 9:13 is that God has no love of election (or a special sense of benevolent love) for Esau in contrast to those special blessings appointed to Jacob; one cannot conclude that God has no benevolent love at all for Esau, since the proper antithesis to a love of election is a hatred of preterition.

What the hyper-Calvinists don’t realize is that God simultaneously has an unconditional love of benevolence for all human beings in one sense, even though He abominates the human beings (including the unbelieving elect) who remain in their sins and under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). God hated Esau (both in terms of a pre-temporal preterition and a temporal abomination after he’s imputed with original sin, and especially when he’s in actual sin), yes, but He still blessed Esau, even as He also blessed Ishmael (Gen. 17:20), with great lands, many descendants, etc. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said regarding Pharoah, “Even the worst taste of God’s mercy; such as fight against God’s mercy taste of it; the wicked have some crumbs from mercy’s table. ‘The Lord is good to all.’ Sweet dewdrops are on the thistle as well as on the rose. The diocese where mercy visits is very large. Pharaoh’s head was crowned though his heart was hardened.”

We cannot use any texts referring to God’s hatred of abomination (i.e. the disgust God has for living, actual sinners) or His hatred of preterition (mere non-election before anyone has done acts of good or evil) to cancel out God’s unconditional, merciful love of benevolence for the whole human race. The people who make this mistake have no category for the biblical statement that God shall love some people “no more” (Hos. 9:15), just as they also have no category for an increasing or decreasing divine love of moral complacency. They have no category for the misery of the damned (i.e. the non-elect) being “aggravated by the remembrance, that God once loved us so as to give his Son to bring us to the happiness of his love, and tried all manner of means to persuade us to accept of his favor, which was obstinately refused,” as Jonathan Edwards excellently taught. This was unconditional mercy and a gracious or free sense of love that they (the non-elect) received in this world, but is eventually taken away.

Another sense of God’s love of benevolence is special, or for the elect alone. As Muller again notes, “the amor Dei proprius, or specialis, is directed toward the elect or believers only and is manifest in the gift of salvation.” We might call this a “love of election,” and it is a subset or special sense of God’s love of benevolence. It is also unconditional, in the sense that God has graciously elected some human beings (the elect) to be effectually granted a new heart unto repentance and faith, while others are unconditionally passed over (preterition) with respect to this free gift. Sometimes, as Muller notes, the “amor Dei specialis, is termed amicitia, i.e. friendship or sympathy toward believers,” but that is the idea of God’s conditional love of moral complacency, or that love he has for those in a condition of “friendship” since they are obedient “believers” of the gospel.

The picture of God’s love (at least as implicitly taught or implicitly categorized in the Reformed tradition) as we have presented it appears as follows:

Love of Complacency
Love of Benevolence
Natural (unconditional, or for all creation as such) Common or General (unconditional, and for all humanity)
Moral (conditional, i.e. for the virtuous or for saints) Special (unconditional, but limited to the elect)

Even though Sproul is emphatically not himself a hyper-Calvinist, his denial that God loves all people unconditionally logically entails a denial of God’s universal love of benevolence, which denial then constitutes a form of hyper-Calvinism (i.e. the modern kind seen mainly among the Protestant Reformed Church variety). The denial of God's unconditional love for all people is not in accord with the teaching of the original Reformers, or the later Reformed scholastic theologians. There are at least two senses in which we could say “God loves all people unconditionally” from the standpoint of biblical and historic Reformed theology: 1) in the sense of His love of natural complacency, and 2) in the sense of His common love of benevolence. Even if one rejects the first idea, it is abundantly clear from the bible, as well as from the historic Reformed tradition, that God’s common love of benevolence for all people is unconditional, and is therefore a true teaching.

The church needs to know about these things, and she needs to be more discerning, particularly when we have prominent leaders, such as Sproul, making nonsensical and injudicious statements. Not only is the recent Ligonier statement on Christology lacking in carefulness, but so are several statements that R. C. Sproul has said regarding the love of God. It disturbs me that no one at the conferences, so far as I can tell, seems to be correcting him in this matter. We hope that Sproul does not turn out to be as imbalanced as John Gerstner (one of Sproul’s mentors) was in his latter days. May God keep him from making further mistakes, and from the PRC form of hyper-Calvinism that Gerstner eventually came to embrace later in his life.

R. C. Sproul on the Impassibility of God

When we speak of God’s will of disposition, we are quickly confronted with questions raised by the classic doctrine of the impassibility of God. Sometimes the impassibility of God is expressed philosophically in such a way as to describe God as being utterly incapable of feeling. In a desire to protect the immutability of God and to free Him from all passions that would be dependent upon the actions of the creature and to insure the constant and abiding state of pure and total felicity in God, the accent falls on His being feeling-less. This robs God of His personal character and reduces Him to an impersonal force or blob of cosmic energy.

This kind of impassibility makes a mockery of the Biblical revelation of the character of God. It is one thing to insure that God is not subject to mood swings by which His beatific state is disturbed or destroyed or that His passions cause perturbations in His character. However, we must not let a speculative form of impassibility strip God of His personal attributes, especially His attribute of love. We do not need to embrace either the Patripassion heresy (whereby the Father suffers in the death of Christ), or the theopaschatist heresy (whereby the divine nature of Christ suffers and dies on the cross) in order to affirm the reality of affection in God. If there is no feeling in God, there can be no affection in Him. If He has no capacity for affection, He has no capacity for love.

The Bible is filled with references to the feelings of God. Though they may represent anthropomorphic ideas and employ the language of analogy, they are certainly not meaningless. Consider the words of the psalmist:
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him. (Ps. 103:8–13)
An analogy is used here to describe God’s pity for His people. It is likened to the pity a human father feels for his children. This does not mean there is a direct correspondence between God’s pity and man’s pity. They are not identical but are similar in some way and to some degree. If there is no analogy, then the Biblical statement is both meaningless and worthless. The message that comes through the Scriptures loud and clear is that in some way analogous to human concern and feeling, God cares for us. This truth must never be abandoned to satisfy philosophical speculation.
R. C. Sproul, Loved by God (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2001), 132–134.