April 24, 2017

Richard Muller on Divine Benevolence, Goodness, Longsuffering and Grace

benevolentia: literally, goodwill or good willing: a synonym for eudokia (q.v.) and favor dei, related also to the good pleasure (beneplacitum, q.v.) of God. The benevolentia Dei is one of the affections or attributes of God’s will. See amor Dei; attributa divina; bonitas Dei; voluntas Dei.
Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 58.
bonitas Dei: the goodness or moral excellence of God; a term used by scholastics in arguing that goodness belongs to God in an absolute sense and, with all the divine attributes (attributa divina, q.v.), is to be viewed as identical with the divine essence in its perfection. Thus God is good in se, in himself, and is the absolute good, the ground and standard of all created goodness. By extension, therefore, God is good respectively or in relation to his creatures. The bonitas Dei in relation to creatures is to be considered in three ways: (1) efficienter, or efficiently, as the efficient cause that produces all finite or created goodness; (2) as the exemplar or causa exemplaris, the standard or exemplary cause, of all created good, i.e., as the standard of good according to which goodness is created and judged; (3) as the summum bonum (q.v.), the highest good or final cause (causa finalis, q.v.), the ultimate end of all good things. Thus the bonitas Dei is most clearly manifest in the goodwill (benevolentia, q.v.) of God toward his creatures, specifically, in the positive attributes or affections of God’s will, grace (see gratia Dei), mercy (misericordia, q.v.) longsuffering (longanimitas, q.v.), love (see amor Dei), and patience (patientia, q.v.).
longanimitas: longsuffering; the patient bearing of an offense, particularly over a long period of time; thus, the willingness of God to endure the offense of sin rather than immediately annihilate the world in its wickedness. The longanimitas Dei is the affection of the divine will according to which God wills to await repentance and to allow millennia to elapse, for the sake of mankind, between the fall and the final judgment. Longanimitas is virtually synonymous with patientia, indicating the height of patience.
Ibid., 180.
gratia communis: common grace; i.e. a nonsaving, universal grace according to which God in his goodness bestows his favor upon all creation in the general blessings of physical sustenance and moral influence for the good. Thus, rain falls on the just and the unjust, and all men have the law engraved on their hearts. Gratia communis is therefore contrasted by the Reformed with particular or special grace (gratia particularis sive specialis, q.v.).
Ibid., 130.
gratia Dei: the grace of God; viz., the goodness of God (bonitas Dei, q.v.) toward mankind manifest as undeserved favor and, specifically, the cleansing power of God which renews and regenerates sinners.
gratia particularis sive specialis: particular or special grace; i.e., the grace of God that is given savingly only to the elect. The Reformed contrast this gratia particularis or gratia specialis with the gratia universalis (q.v.), or universal grace of the gospel promise, and with the gratia communis (q.v.), the common, nonsaving grace given to all. Lutheran orthodoxy argues against the concept on the ground of the efficacy of the Word and in the name of universal grace as a gratia seria, a serious grace or grace seriously offered to all, and therefore salvific.
Ibid., 131.
gratia universalis: universal grace; i.e. that grace of God in the universal call of the gospel according to which salvation is offered to all.
Ibid., 133.

Bernard Ramm (1916–1992) on the Need for Helps in Understanding the Bible

It is often asserted by devout people that they can know the Bible competently without helps. They preface their interpretations with a remark like this: “Dear friends, I have read no man’s book. I have consulted no man-made commentaries. I have gone right to the Bible to see what it has to say for itself.” This sounds very spiritual, and usually is seconded with amens from the audience.

But is this the pathway of wisdom? Does any man have either the right or the learning to by-pass all the godly learning of the Church? We think not.

First, although the claim to by-pass mere human books and go right to the Bible itself sounds devout and spiritual it is a veiled egotism. It is a subtle affirmation that a man can adequately know the Bible apart from the untiring, godly, consecrated scholarship of men like Calvin, Bengel, Alford, Lange, Ellicot, or Moule. In contrast to the claim that a man had best by-pass the learned works of godly expositors, is a man like Henderson, author of The Minor Prophets. He spared no mental or intellectual pains to equip himself with the necessary linguistic ability to understand the Bible, and then he read patiently and thoroughly in all the literature that might help him in his interpretation of the Scriptures. He consecrated his entire mind and all that that involved to the understanding of Sacred Scripture. This is truly the higher consecration.

Secondly, such a claim is the old confusion of the inspiration of the Spirit with the illumination of the Spirit. The function of the Spirit is not to communicate new truth or to instruct in matters unknown, but to illuminate what is revealed in Scripture. Suppose we select a list of words from Isaiah and ask a man who claims he can by-pass the godly learning of Christian scholarship if he can out of his own soul or prayers give their meaning or significance: Tyre, Zidon, Chittim, Sihor, Moab, Mahershalahasbas, Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Aiath, Migron, Michmash, Geba, Anathoth, Laish, Nob, and Gallim. He will find the only light he can get on these words is from a commentary or a Bible dictionary.

It is true that commentaries can come between a man and his Bible. It is true that too much reliance on commentaries may make a man bookish, and dry up the sources of his own creativity. But the abuse of commentaries is by no means adequate grounds to forsake the great, godly, and conservative commentaries which have been to our blessing and profit.
Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3rd rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988), 17–18. See also Richard Muller on the proper meaning of sola scriptura.

Incidentally, I have found that the best Puritan authors in the early modern era have the most marginal references to other sources (i.e. from the church fathers, the school-men, and to early Reformed commentators) for the reader to investigate.

John Chrysostom (c.349–407) on Applause During Sermons

Believe me, I speak not other than I feel—when as I discourse I hear myself applauded, at the moment indeed I feel it as a man (for why should I not own the truth?): I am delighted, and give way to the pleasurable feeling: but when I get home, and bethink me that those who applauded received no benefit from my discourse, but that whatever benefit they ought to have got, they lost it while applauding and praising, I am in pain, and groan, and weep, and feel as if I had spoken all in vain. I say to myself: "What profit comes to me from my labors, while the hearers do not choose to benefit by what they hear from us?" Nay, often have I thought to make a rule which should prevent all applauding, and persuade you to listen with silence and becoming orderliness. But bear with me, I beseech you, and be persuaded by me, and, if it seem good to you, let us even now establish this rule, that no hearer be permitted to applaud in the midst of any person's discourse, but if he will needs admire, let him admire in silence: there is none to prevent him: and let all his study and eager desire be set upon the receiving the things spoken.—What means that noise again? I am laying down a rule against this very thing, and you have not the forbearance even to hear me!—Many will be the good effects of this regulation: it will be a discipline of philosophy. Even the heathen philosophers—we hear of their discoursing, and nowhere do we find that noisy applause accompanied their words: we hear of the Apostles, making public speeches, and yet nowhere do the accounts add, that in the midst of their speeches the hearers interrupted the speakers with loud expressions of approbation. A great gain will this be to us. But let us establish this rule: in quiet let us all hear, and speak the whole (of what we have to say). For if indeed it were the case that we departed retaining what we had heard, what I insist upon is, that even so the praise is not beneficial—but not to go too much into particulars (on this point); let none tax me with rudeness—but since nothing is gained by it, nay, it is even mischievous, let us loose the hindrance, let us put a stop to the boundings, let us retrench the gambollings of the soul. Christ spoke publicly on the Mount: yet no one said anything, until He had finished His discourse. I do not rob those who wish to be applauded: on the contrary, I make them to be more admired. It is far better that one's hearer, having listened in silence, should by his memory throughout all time applaud, both at home and abroad, than that having lost all he should return home empty, not possessed of that which was the subject of his applauses. For how shall the hearer be otherwise than ridiculous? Nay, he will be deemed a flatterer, and his praises no better than irony, when he declares that the teacher spoke beautifully, but what he said, this he cannot tell. This has all the appearance of adulation. For when indeed one has been hearing minstrels and players, it is no wonder if such be the case with him, seeing he knows not how to utter the strain in the same manner: but where the matter is not an exhibition of song or of voice, but the drift and purport of thoughts and wise reflection (φιλοσοφίας), and it is easy for every one to tell and report what was said, how can he but deserve the accusation, who cannot tell what the matter was for which he praised the speaker? Nothing so becomes a Church as silence and good order. Noise belongs to theaters, and baths, and public processions, and market-places: but where doctrines, and such doctrines, are the subject of teaching, there should be stillness, and quiet, and calm reflection, and a haven of much repose (φιλοσοφία καὶ πολὺς ὁ λιμήν). These things I beseech and entreat: for I go about in quest of ways by which I shall be enabled to profit your souls. And no small way I take this to be: it will profit not you only, but us also. So shall we not be carried away with pride (ἐ κτραχηλίζεσθαί), not be tempted to love praises and honor, not be led to speak those things which delight, but those which profit: so shall we lay the whole stress of our time and diligence not upon arts of composition and beauties of expression, but upon the matter and meaning of the thoughts. Go into a painter's study, and you will observe how silent all is there. Then so ought it to be here: for here too we are employed in painting portraits, royal portraits (every one of them), none of any private man, by means of the colors of virtue—How now? Applauding again? This is a reform not easy, but (only) by reason of long habit, to be effected.—The pencil moreover is the tongue, and the Artist the Holy Spirit. Say, during the celebration of the Mysteries, is there any noise? Any disturbance? When we are baptizing (βαπτιζώμεθα), when we are doing all the other acts? Is not all Nature decked (as it were) with stillness and silence? Over all the face of heaven is scattered this charm (of repose).—On this account are we evil spoken of even among the Gentiles, as though we did all for display and ostentation. But if this be prevented, the love of the chief seats also will be extinguished. It is sufficient, if any one be enamoured of praise, that he should obtain it after having been heard, when all is gathered in. Yea, I beseech you, let us establish this rule, that doing all things according to God's will, we may be found worthy of the mercy which is from Him, through the grace and compassion of His only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father together with the Holy Spirit be glory, dominion, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
John Chrysostom, “Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles: Homily XXX,” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, ed. P. Schaff (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 193–194.