Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top Ten Theologians of All Time

Here's my opinion of the top 10 most influential post-apostolic theologians of all time:

  1. Athanasius – Defended the church from the most serious heresy it faced: Arianism.
  2. Martin Luther – Champion of justification by faith and sola scriptura.
  3. Augustine – Defended the church from the Manichean and Pelagian heresies, even if he took predestination too far.
  4. Basil – Defender of the doctrine of the Trinity.
  5. Thomas Aquinas – Reconciled faith and reason.
  6. John Calvin – His historical/grammatical approach to scripture paved the way for most of us, even if he took predestination way too far.
  7. James Arminius – Athanasius understood God, Augustine understood man, and Arminius understood the relationship between God and man.
  8. Anselm – His satisfaction of justice theory of the atonement is almost universally held among evangelicals.
  9. Jonathan Edwards – One of the founding revivalists of the first great awakenings and influential American philosopher.
  10. Jerome – His translation of the scripture into Latin both provided and preserved the scriptures.

No Preperation for Conversion - Whitby's Argument Seven

IX. ARGUMENT SEVEN

If man be purely passive in the whole work of his conversion, and it can only be wrought in him by an irresistible act of God upon him, then can nothing be required as a preparation, or a prerequisite to conversion; for either that prerequisite is something to be done on our part in order to God's irresitible act, or it is not ; if nothing is so to be done on our part in order to the work, no preparation can be requisite in order to it; if anything is to be done on our part, it is certain that we are not purely passive in the whole work of our regeneration, since he that must prepare himself for his conversion, must act in order to it.

Now as all God's exhortations to men to consider and turn unto the Lord, demonstrate, that this consideration is a prerequisite to conversion, so the parable of the seed sown shows. (1.) Negatively, that the word becomes unfruitful, either because men do not at all attend to it, or because they are diverted from that attention by the intervening cares and pleasures of the worId, which break off that attention, or are affrighted from it by the fears of suffering; and (2) affirmatively, that it becomes fruitful by being 'received into a good and honest heart.' And sure the devil must be a fool, according to this doctrine, when he comes to ''take away the word out of men's heart, lest they should believe and he saved,' if that word could have no influence upon men to salvation, when it was not attended with an unfrustrable assistance; and where it was so, all his attempts to hinder the believing of it to salvation, must be vain.

Monday, September 29, 2008

No Motive for Conversion - Whitby's Argument Six

Vlll. ARGUMENT SIX

Hence it must also follow that no motive can be offered sufficient to induce the person who believes this doctrine, (as, if it be taught in scripture, all Christians are obliged to do,) to enter upon a change of life, or a religious conversation, till he feel this irresistible impulse come upon him. For as an assent to mere truth does not move the will and affections, unless it be of concernment to us, propounding good to be obtained, or evil to be avoided, so neither can this be sufficient to excite endeavor, if I know as certainly that till this impulse comes upon me I cannot possibly by my best endeavors either obtain that good, or avoid that evil; which being plain to common sense, I shall not farther prosecute.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Word of God - Whitby's Argument Five

VII. ARGUMENT FIVE

If such a divine, unfrustrable operation is necessary to the conversion of a sinner, then the word read or preached can be no instrument of their conversion without this divine and unfruslrable impulse, because that only acts by moral suasion. Whereas 'it pleased God,' says the apostle, ' by the foolishness of preaching to sate them that believe.'(1 Corinthians 1:21)

And St. James, by saying, 'we are begotten anew by the word of truth,'(James 1:18) plainly informs us, that this word of God is the ordinary means of our regeneration, it being the word preached, the word we are to hear, (verse 19, 22,) and to 'receive with meekness,' by which God works this new birth in us and ' which,' says the apostle, 'is able to save our souls' (Verse 21)

And it is surely a great disparagement to the word of God, to think that his persuasions, admonitions, exhortations, attended with the highest promises and threats, should be all insufficient to prevail with men to turn from the known evil of their ways, and turn to him; when all men who do use these methods towards their children, servants, friends, and relations, do it in hope that they shall be successful by these means.

Only this is not so to be understood as to exclude the co-operation of God with his word, or the assistance of his Holy Spirit setting it home upon our hearts; provided this be not by "way of physical but moral operation, by that illumination of the understanding from the word which produces that renovation in the spirit of the mind, by which we are enabled to discern and to ' approve the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God,' (Romans 12;2 Ephesians 4:23) to discern 'what is acceptable to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10), to understand what the will of the Lord is.' (Verse 17)

And if the word of God be a perfect rule, ' able to make us wise unto salvation, and furnish us to every good work,'(2 Timothy 3:17) sure the good Spirit may, by his Suggestion of the truths delivered in it, by ' bringing them to our remembrance,' and opening our understanding to perceive the scriptures, remove that darkness which is in our minds either by natural corruption, or by the mist which Satan casts upon them; whence the apostle does inform us, that ' if the gospel be hid from any to whom it is preached, it is because the God of this world hath blinded the conceptions of their minds, that the light of the glorious gospel should' not shine into them.' (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

And, secondly, by making deep impressions on the mind of the advantages and rewards promised to our conversion and sincere obedience, and the tremendous evils threatened to the disobedient, and bringing these things often to our remembrance, which, in the scripture phrase, is 'putting these laws in our minds, and writing them in our hearts, that we may not depart from him.' (Hebrews 8:10. See the note there.)

For what reason can be given, why the Spirit of wisdom having thus enlightened the eyes of our understanding ' to know what is the hope of our calling, and the glorious riches of the inheritance of the saints,' (Ephesians 1:18) and made these things, firmly believed, thus present to our minds, they should not have greater prevalence on our wills to obedience than any temporal concernments to induce us to yield obedience to the laws of sin?

If, beyond this, there be some physical and irresistible operation, on God's part, necessary to make us know the things which do belong to our peace, and, knowing them, to chose the good and refuse the evil, this being not wrought in them who are not born anew, why is the want of this new birth, and this spiritual renovation, so often imputed to men's want of consideration and laying to heart the 'things propounded to them, to their not inclining their ear to wisdom and applying their heart to understanding, to their rejecting the counsel of God and not choosing the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:24-30). Why is it said, that they continue thus unreformed, because 'they would have none of God's counsels, but despised all his reproof, or because they could not frame their doings to return unto the Lord.

This also St. Peter teaches, by saying, 'We are born again of incorruptible seed, by the word of God;' (1 Peter 1:23) and St. Paul by letting us know, that 'faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God,'(Romans 10:17) and by saying to his Corinthians, 'in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.' (1 Corinthians 4:15) For if conversion is only wrought by an irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit, and cannot be wrought in us by the word without it, then the word contributes no more to our conversion than the throwing of a pebble doth to the fall of a strong wall blown down by the fury of a tempest.

Since then it can on be the effect of that unfrustrable power, and not at all of any motives and persuasions offered from the word; and why then is it said 'to be quick and lively in its operation. (Hebrews 4;12)

To say that "conversion, at the same time, may be the work of that word which sinners cannot but resist, till this infrustrable operation comes," and yet " of that operation and the word," is to speak things plainly inconsistent with truth, and with the nature of a moral instrument, which if it does not move, does nothing; and if it does, as far as it does so, is not resisted.

Moreover, where an effect does so entirely depend upon two causes, that, without the concurrence of them both, it will not be produced, he that hath it always in his power to resist, that is, to hinder the operation of the one upon him, must also frustrate the other, and consequently hinder the effect: So that it being certain that the sinner may, and too often doth resist the most powerful persuasions of the word, he may resist the concurrence of the Spirit with it, and then that operation cannot be unfrustrable or irresistible.

Moreover, if conversion be wrought irresistibly by the operation of the Spirit, then the word which may be resisted is unnecessary thereunto, since an irresistible operation must do its work as well without it; and if the word cannot but be resisted, till the effect is wrought by another power which is irresistible, it is evident the effect is owing only to that power, and then the whole ministry of the word must be unnecessary. And what is this but in effect to say, what in express terms would be offensive to tell Christian ears, viz. "the word of God is of no use towards the conversion or reformation of a sinner?"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Justice in Punishment - Whitby's Argument Four

V. ARGUMENT FOUR

If men are purely passive in the whole work of their conversion, and so are utterly void of all power of believing, living to God, or performing any acceptable obedience to his commands, is it righteous to consign them to eternal misery for their disability to do that which God sees them unable to do when he lays these commands upon them? Is not this to require brick where he affords no straw? Yea, ' to require much where nothing is given,' and then to punish eternally the not-doing that which is so unreasonably required? Yea, is not this equal to an absolute decree to damn them for nothing? It being in effect, and in the necessary event and consequence the same thing to damn then for nothing, and to damn them for not doing what they never could do, or for not abstaining from what they never could avoid.

If God makes laws which we cannot without his assistance observe, and then denies that assistance, He by so doing makes obedience to such men impossible, and what sin is it — not to obey beyond possibility?

If it be said " this disability is their sin," I answer, then by the definition of St. John, it must be a transgression of some law of God, and then some law of his must be produced requiring fallen man to do, on pain of damnation, without divine assistance, what he knows he can no more do than he can create a world; that is, a law declaring it is his will that they should do what it is his will they never should have power to do, or that it is his will we should exert an act without the power of acting.

(2.) Either this divine law is positive or moral: if it be only positive, then all the heathen world must necessarily be ignorant of it, and therefore not obliged by it, God having given them no positive laws, and so their state must be, as to this particular, much better than that of Christians, they being under no obligation to do anything which they cannot do.

If it be moral, how comes it to pass that all the Heathen world should be not only ignorant of it, but possessed with a contrary principle, impossibe ilium nulla est obligatio, ' that there can be no obligation to a thing impossible,' " which is," says Bishop Saunderson, " a thing self-evident, and needs no proof ;" e :aud that 'there can be no fault in doing that which we cannot avoid, or not doing that which we have no power to do; and that God could not produce or nourish that, which, when it had done its utmost, must fall into eternal misery;' and that quod omnibus neceste-est id tie miserum ase uni potest. ' that which is necessary to all, can be the ground of misery to none.'

(3.) Either this a sin is avoidable or it is not; if it be not avoidable, must it not unreasonably be required under this dreadful penalty that men should avoid it? If it be avoidable, then is there no such disability as is pretended in us, for we are not disabled from avoiding that which we have power to avoid.

VI. If it still be said, that "it is just to condemn us for what we are now disabled to perform, because this disability came upon us by a guilt which is truly our own, because it came upon us by the sin of our first parents, in whose loins we then were ;" this miserable refuge, and first-born of absurdities, hath been sufficiently confuted in the state of this question.

It hath been also baffled by many plain and cogent arguments in the discourse concerning the extent of Christ's death. And because it is the foundation of the doctrine of absolute election and reprobation, and the whole system of these men must fall together with it, I shall here show farther the inconsistency of this imagination, both with the tenor of the holy scripture, and with the principles of reason.

First, this vain imagination seems plainly contrary to the whole tenor of the scripture, and even to ridicule God's dealings in them with the sons of men. If, as I have largely proved in the state of 'the question, God deals with lapsed man, suitably to the faculties he still retains, endeavoring to excite him to the performance of his duty by hopes and fears, by promises and threats, by prospect of the advantages he will receive by his obedience, and of the miseries to which he will be subject by his disobedience, requiring him to consider and lay to heart these things, that he may turn from the evil of his ways, and do that which is lawful and right;' by all these things he manifestly declares he is not under such a disability by reason of the fall of Adam, as renders it impossible for him to be moved by all or any of these induce merits to the performance of his duty.

For then he might as well have used them to persuade a blind man to see, or a cripple to walk, or a new-born babe to speak, or a fool to understand mathematics, they both equally wanting or having lost the power to do what is required of them; and though one man should have lost his sight by whoring, another the use of his feet, a third die use of his reason by drinking; though they may be punished for whoring and drinking, they cannot afterwards be justly punished for not seeing, not walking, or not making use of their reason; this being to punish them for not using that which they have not to use. So in like manner, though if the sin of Adam were properly our own, we might be punished for that sin, yet could we not be justly, punished for not having the ability we had lost by it, that being equally to punish for not using that ability which we have not in use.

Secondly, God plainly seems, by his dispensations with the sons of men in order to their reformation, to declare He does not look upon them as lying under this supposed disability to become better; to hearken to his calls and invitations to return and live; to be drawn to him by the cords of love; to learn wisdom by His rod, or be convinced of their duty to believe, and to obey Him, by His miraculous operations.

For, 1. God represents it as matter of great admiration and astonishment, and an argument of brutish stupidity, that the Jews were not restrained from their rebellions against him by the consideration of his great goodness to them, speaking thus to them by his prophet, ' Hear, Oh heavens, and give ear, Oh earth, for I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel doth not know, my people does not consider:' (Isaiah 1:2-3) enquiring thus, 'Ah foolish people and unwise, do you thus requite the Lord? Is he not the Lord that made you? Hath he not created and established you'? (Deuteronomy 32:6) and saying, 'they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies, but were disobedient at the sea, even at the Red sea; they forsook the Lord; when he led them in the way, they walked after vanity, (Psalm 106:7) neither said they, Where is the Lord that led us through the wilderness, and brought us out of Egypt into a plentiful country to eat the fruits thereof’ (Jeremiah 2:5-7) Again, 'this people, says he, has a revolting and rebellious heart, neither say they, Let us now fear the Lord, who gives us the former and the latter rain in its season, and reserveth to us the appointed weeks of harvest.'(Jeremiah 5:23-24) And on the other hand He promises, that in the latter days they shall fear the Lord and His goodness.' (Hosea 3:5) The apostle also represents it as the effect of their hard and impenitent heart, that they ' despised the riches of God's goodness, patience, and long-suffering, and were not led by them to repentance.' (Romans 2:4)

Now if they lay under an utter inability to be restrained by all this goodness from their rebellions and their disobedience, and from walking after vanity, what matter of admiration and astonishment, what indication of folly and stupidity could it be in them, that they were not induced by it to abstain from that which they were not able to avoid? Or what sign was it of a rebellious and revolting, hard and impenitent heart, that being under this disability to be moved by this goodness to repent and fear him, they did not do it? Surly He who designed these means to their respective ends, and does thus aggravate the sin of them who do not improve them to those ends, did not conceive these all were vain and insufficient inducements without that supernatural aid He was not pleased to vouchsafe to move them to those duties.

2. The scripture is more frequent in representing God's punishments and chastisements as sufficient to engage men to fear him, and to depart from their iniquity. 'Thou shalt, says Moses, consider in thy heart, that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord chastens thee; thou shall therefore keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him’. (Deuteronomy 8:5-6) God himself declares, that 'by the Spirit of judgment, and of burning he Would wash away the filth of the daughter of Zion, and purge out the blood of Jerusalem;' (Isaiah 4:4) and speaks of it as a thing certain, that 'when his judgments are upon the earth, the inhabitants of it will learn righteousness, and that in their affliction they will seek him early. (Isaiah 26:9, 59:18-19, Hosea 5:15) And when they had not this effect upon them, he complains grievously against them, saying, ' this people turns not to him that smites them, neither do they seek the Lord. In vain have I smitten them, they have received no correction;' (Isaiah 9:13, Jeremiah 2:30) and having mentioned a variety of judgments he had inflicted upon Israel, he still concludes thus, ' yet have ye not returned to me, saith the Lord;'and then adds, (verse 12,) 'therefore will I do thus unto you.' (Amos 4:6-12)

His prophets also complain thus: ' O Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they refused to receive correction; they have made their faces harder than a rock, they refused to return.' (Jeremiah 5:3) And again, ' this is a nation that obeys not the voice of the Lord nor receives correction.' (Jeremiah 7:28). Yea, when these judgments do not prevail upon them to return to him, he looks upon them as incorrigible, saying to them ' Why should you be smitten any more, you will revolt more and more (Isaiah 1:5) and are only fit to be punished seven times more. Thus having threatened to 'set his face against them, and give them up to be slain by their enemies, who would not hearken to him to do all his commandments; he adds, ' and if you will not yet for all this hearken to me, I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And if you will not be reformed by these things, but will walk contrary to me, then wilt I also walk contrary to you, and will punish you yet seven times' more for your sins. And if ye still not for all this hearken to me, but will walk contrary to me, I will walk contrary to you in fury." (Leviticus 26:14-28)

Now seeing all these judgments and chastisements were only moral motives, and all men through the fall of Adam' are utterly incapable of being moved by them without that supernatural and unfrustratable operation, which the event shows God was not pleased to vouchsafe to these lapsed persons, why does God himself represent them as means proper and by him designed, and sometimes efficacious, to produce these ends? Why does He speak as if they certainly would do it? Why doth he complain so much against them, and' denounce such dreadful judgment on them who were not thus reformed by them, seeing these things, without that aid He was not pleased to vouchsafe, were as unable to produce these effects as to make a blind man see, or a deaf man hear? Why is the one more punishable on this account than the other? Why, lastly, does he represent them as incorrigible who were not thus reformed by them, since it was impossible they should be so without that supernatural aid he was not pleased to vouchsafe? Surely these things are demonstrations of the falsehood of this vain opinion.

3. God does continually represent his calls and invitations, and his messages sent to them by his prophets, as sufficient inducements to procure their reformation and repentance, and looks upon them as incorrigible and past all remedy, and worthy of his heaviest judgments, when these things could not engage them to return to him; so we read, (2 Chronicles 36:15-16) 'he sent to them his messengers, rising up betimes and sending them, because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place; but they mocked his messengers, despised his word, and misused his His prophets, till the wrath of the Lord came upon them, and there was no remedy' So Jeremiah 25:4-5, 'the Lord sent to you his prophets, rising up early and sending them, but you have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear, when) they said, Turn ye again everyone from his evil ways.' Hence God speaks thus of them, Jeremiah 29:18-19, "I will persecute them with the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the families of the earth, because they hearkened not to my words, when I sent to them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, but ye would not hear." See also Jeremiah 7:13-15. Again, "I will bring upon Judah," saith God" and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have threatened, because I have spoken to them, but they have not heard, I have called unto them, but they have not answered." (Jeremiah 35:17)

So also Isaiah 65:11, 66:4 Wisdom is also introduced by the preacher crying " in the chief places of concourse, Turn ye at my reproof, (and) I will pour out my Spirit upon you, I will make known my words to you;’ (Proverbs 1:23-28) and at last thus concluding, "because I. have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh. In a word, all these things seem to be put together in those words of the prophet Ezekiel, 'because I have purged thee (that is, I have done what was sufficient to have purged thee, by my mercies and judgments, my calls, my threats, my promises, and by my prophets, and what should have purged thee,) and thou were not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee' (Ezekiel 24:13)
Now could that God who sent these messengers to his people, 'because he had compassion on them, 'have decreed from eternity never to have compassion on them in reference to their eternal interests? Could He see them under an utter disability through the fall of Adam to comply with the requests of his messengers and prophets, and not vouchsafe that aid without which he well knew his messengers and prophets must be sent in vain? And when, after all that they had said, there was no remedy of this fatal disability afforded, did the good God threaten thus to persecute with sword and famine, and banishment, his own beloved people, for not hearkening to his words, and not turning from their evil ways, when they were no more able so to do than to remove a mountain? Might He not as well have threatened thus the man who by temperance had lost his sight and limbs, because he did not see and walk? Especially if we consider that he contracted this disability by his own personal sin, they only had theirs by the transgression of another, long before they had a being, and so before they could be capable of any personal transgression. To what purpose did wisdom say to them who were thus disabled, "turn you at my reproof?" Or could she, without insulting over the misery of fallen man, thus laugh at the calamity they never could prevent?

Or lastly, could God truly say 'He would have purged them,' when he withheld that aid, without which it was impossible they should be purged or threaten that " they should be purged no more,' who never were in a capacity of being purged at all?

4. God throughout the whole book of the law, and our blessed Savior in the gospel, still represent the mighty works done for and before the eyes of, the Jews, as strong and sufficient obligations to believe and obey him. "Ask now of the days of old, did ever people hear the voice of God out of the midst of the fire as you have heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation out of the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched-out arm, and by great terrors, as the Lord did for you in Egypt before your eyes? (Deuteronomy 4:32-34)

Thou shall keep therefore his statutes and his commandments, which I command ye this day. (Verse 40) And chapter 11:2, you have seen the chastisements of the Lord, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched-out arm, and his miracles, and his acts which he did in the midst of Egypt; your eyes have seen all the great acts of the Lord that he did, therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day. (Verse 8) And chapter 29:2-3, Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, the great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs and the great miracles; keep therefore the words, of this covenant, and do them." (Verse 9) So also our Lord proves the obligation the Jews had to believe in him, because of the mighty works which he had done among them, saying " the works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me; (John 5:36) and ye have not his words abiding in you; for whom he hath sent, ye believe not". (Verse 38) See also John 8:18, 24. And when the Jews came to him saying, "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly;" his answer is, (John 10:25, 26) "The works that I do in my Father's name, bear witness of me; but ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep; and, verse 37, if I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; and chapter 15:24, if I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father, and so they have no cloak for their sin." (Verse 22)

Now if the consideration of this mighty hand of God, and stretched-out arm, was not sufficient to induce them to observe his statutes, why doth he so often say, "therefore thou shall keep my statutes," that is, why does he use a reason winch he knew was insufficient to produce that effect?

If all Christ's miracles, without that supernatural and unfrustrable act of God, which he would not vouchsafe to the Jews, were insufficient to produce faith in them, why doth Christ tell them, that "if they did not believe in him they should die in their sins?" Why doth he represent their infidelity as an act of hatred to him and his Father, and an evidence that they were not his sheep, nor had the word of God abiding in them? Why, lastly, does he say, ' they had no cloak for their sin,' who had this remediless disability to plead in their behalf?

5. This will be farther evident from God's supposition, that it might be that the methods he and his prophets used would prevail for the producing of the designed effects. Thus when God bids Jeremiah ' take the roll of his intended judgments, and read it in their ears; he adds, it may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil that I purpose to do to them, that they may return every man from his evil way, and I may forgive their iniquity and their sin; and verse 7, it may be they will present their supplication before me, and will return everyone from his evil way.' (Jeremiah 26:3,7)

To his prophet Ezekiel he says this, "Prepare ye stuff for removing, and remove by day in their sight; it may be they will consider, though they be a rebellious house.'(Ezekiel 12:3) So in the parable of the vineyard, when God sends his Son to the Jews, He says, "it may be they will reverence my Son." (Luke 20:13)

Now what room is there for any of these suppositions, where the effects depends upon God's immediate acting upon the heart, and not upon any hearing, or consideration of man without it, or any dispositions, or any means that they can use to move him to enable them to do it? If indeed they lay under this disability by the fall of Adam, it might as reasonably be expected they should move a mountain, as be induced by these considerations to return every man from his evil ways.

6. God complains of his own people, that they were "a rebellious people, because they had eyes to see and saw not, they had ears to hear and heard not; (Ezekiel 12:2) my people, says He, is foolish, they have not known me, they are silly children, and have not understanding; they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.’ (Jeremiah 4:22) And again, 'to whom shall I speak and give warning'?

Behold their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hear: (Jeremiah 6:10) Can the Ethiopian change his skin, and the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good who are accustomed to do evil.' (Jeremiah 13:23) And Christ speaks thus to the Scribes and Pharisees, 'Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can t/e escape the damnation of hell!' (Matthew 23:33)

Now if this were the sad estate of all the lapsed sons of Adam, that ' they had eyes and saw not, and ears and heard not, that to do good they had no knowledge,' and no power, whatever motives God should offer to engage them so to do, why is this represented as the peculiar state only of the worst of men? If none of them could be induced by all the arguments the gospel offers to do good, why is this made the effect of a long custom to do evil,' and an evidence of 'silly children’.

If this be the sad state of all that are not of the number of the elect, that they cannot escape eternal misery, why is it said, peculiarly of the Scribes and Pharisees, that they could not 'escape the damnation of hell’? And more particularly concerning Judas, that ' it had been better for him that he had not been born'? (Matthew 26:24) In a word, all God's commands and prohibitions, promises and threat's, and all his exhortations to lapsed men to consider and lay them to heart, in order to their reformation, are demonstrations of the falsehood of this vain imagination.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Commands and Exhortations in Vain - Argument Three

IV. ARGUMENT THREE

If conversion be wrought only by the unfrustrable operation of God, and man is purely passive in it, vain are,

First, all the commands and exhortations directed to wicked men 'to turn from their evil ways, to put away the evil of their doings, to cease to do evil, and to learn to do well, to wash and make themselves clean,(Isaiah 1:16)' to circumcise their hearts, and be no more stiff-necked,(Deuteronomy 10:16) to circumcise themselves to the Lord , and take away the foreskins of their hearts, to wash their hearts from wickedness that they may be saved,(Jeremiah 4:4, 14) to put off the old man and put on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24) to lay aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and to. receive with meekness the ingrafted word.'' (James 1:21)
For to suppose that God commands the duty, or imposes that as our duty, under the penalty of everlasting wrath, which he both knows, and, according to this hypothesis, hath declared we never can do without that mighty aid which He neither does nor ever will vouchsafe to the greatest part of those to whom these precepts are directed,— is to require them in vain to do these things, and in effect to declare they are to look upon themselves as inevitably damned, and that even for not doing that which it is no more in their power to do, than to create a world.

To say here that " the end of these commands and exhortations is to declare, not what we can do, or God would have us do, but what we ought to do," is, (I.) to suppose we ought to do what we cannot do, yea that we ought to do what God would not have us do, which is a manifest contradiction, seeing we only ought to do it, because his will requires it.

(2.) It is in express terms contrary to the tenor of those numerous scriptures which say, He hath commanded men to do his commandments, and given them such precepts that they may keep and do them.

And, (3.) it is repugnant to the plainest reason, for that one end of the precepts, prohibitions, and exhortations contained in God's law is obedience, is therefore evident because they are there enforced with promises to the obedient, and threatenings to the disobedient; the only end of which is to move us to obedience by the inducements of hope and fear.

Now obedience is one thing, and knowledge another; therefore knowledge is not the only end of God's precepts and exhortations, and so the only end of them is not to declare to us what we ought to do. Moreover that is to be deemed the principal end of the law and of exhortations grounded on it, without which all other ends of the law, being attained, do not profit, but do rather hurt.

Now thus it is with respect to knowledge of what we do not; 'for he that knoweth his master's will and doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes;''(Luke 12:47) and he that knoweth to do good, and doth it not, to him it is sin ;'(James 4:17) therefore obedience and not knowledge, is the principal end of these things.

Moreover, would not God 'have all men to obey his commands? Are they not declarations of His will concerning what he would have them do, or leave undone? Would He not have us to comply with his exhortations, and hearken to the voice of his word? Is not obedience to them styled '"the doing of his will?" Do not all the world conclude that they should do what he commands? Do they not look upon His precepts as a sufficient indication of his will and pleasure?

Are not all men obliged to believe God would have them do what He requires of them? And can they be obliged to believe this if it be not true? Can any person rationally think that an upright God in whom is no hypocrisy or guile, should seriously command that which he is not willing men should do, especially when his commands are so agreeable to his nature, and so beneficial to the souls of men, as the commands of faith, repentance, and obedience are?

The only instance produced to the contrary from God's command to Abraham, to offer up his only Son, is both impertinent and inconclusive: It is not pertinent, because it is not paralleled to the case in hand.

Had indeed God after these precept given a contrary command to the sinner not to repent and obey him, as in this case he did to Abraham; had he complained of Abraham, as he does of them, for not obeying his command; had he threatened to and executed his judgments on him, on that account, as he doth on them, then, and then only, would the case have been parallel.

(2.) It is inconclusive; for as precepts of this nature are never made but to private persons, so neither are they made concerning things which have a real goodness and suitableness to reason in them, as the fore-mentioned precepts have; for then they would be no temptations. Add to this that Abraham obeyed upon this very principle, that God would have him do what he commanded, and ceased to continue in and to complete this act, only by virtue of a contrary command; we therefore must, even by this example so much urged, conclude we must repent and obey his precepts till he is pleased to give us a command to the contrary.

Now it being thus evident that obedience is the end of God's precepts, laws, and exhortations, it is also evident that those precepts which are impossible to be performed, even as impossible as for the dead to raise themselves, are vain and ludicrous, and they are yet more so when they are backed with promises and threats; for where the thing required is impossible, it is as vain to hope or fear, as to think of doing it. But most of all are those exhortations ludicrous which are grounded on the law, if the matter be utterly impossible; for exhortations carry the appearance of a serious and charitable intention, and some hope of prevailing; whence God so frequently declares he presses them upon his people for their good, and that it may be well with them; but nothing of this nature can really be implied in an exhortation to another to do that which he knows he never can do, and therefore in such cases his exhortations can be nothing better than hypocrisy and mockery.

Secondly, according to this hypothesis, vain also are all the threats denounced in the scripture against them who go on without amendment in their evil ways, and who persist in their impenitency and unbelief, as v. g. that of the Psalmist, ' The Lord is angry with the wicked; if he turn not, he will sharpen his sword. He has prepared for him the instruments of death:' (Psalm 7:11-13) — That of the prophet in God's name, 'I will destroy my people since they return not from their ways:' (Jeremiah 15:7) And again, ' Behold I frame evil against you, and devise a, device against you; return ye therefore from your evil ways, and make your ways and your doings good;'(Jeremiah 18:11) and those of Christ himself, 'If you repent not, you shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3) If you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.' (John 8:24)

For (1.) either those threats are proper to move the elect to faith, repentance, and obedience: and then, (i.) they may move them so to do, and then an unfrustrable action cannot be necessary to their conversion. Then, (ii.) seeing threats only move by exciting fear of the evil threatened, they may be moved, and God must design to move them, by the fears of perishing and dying in their sins; that is, God must design to move them by a false and an impossible supposition.
Or, (2.) they are proper to move those who are not elected; but this they cannot be, because then they must be moved to endeavor to believe, repent, and turn from the evil of their ways by the hopes of avoiding this death and ruin threatened by so doing; whereas seeing it is the same thing to have God's decree of preterition past upon them, and to be left inevitably to perish, they must, by virtue of it, be left without hopes that they may not perish.

True it is, that these decrees are secret, and so neither can the elect know certainly they are of that number, nor they who are not elected, that this act of preterition has been past upon them; but yet this alters not the case, seeing upon supposition of such eternal decrees, they must know disjunctively, either that they cannot die in their sins because they are elected; or that they cannot avoid it, because they are not elected.

Thirdly, vain upon this supposition, are the promises of pardon, life, and salvation made to them who do consider and turn from their evil ways, and who repent of their iniquity, as, v. g. 'wash ye, make ye clean, put away the evil of your doings; then though your sins be as crimson, you shall be white as wool, though they be red like scarlet, ye shall be as snow.' (Isaiah 1:18) Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him turn unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:7) O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness that thou mayst be saved. How long shall vain thoughts lodge within thee? (Jeremiah 4:14) Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin; for I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, therefore turn yourselves, and live ye. (Ezekiel 18:30-32) For no promises can be means proper to make a dead man live, or to prevail upon a man to act who must be purely passive.

Nor can I seriously design to induce him by them to do what I know he can never do himself, and which, whenever it is done, must be done by me alone. To promise therefore, and give no strength for the performance; or to promise on an impossible condition, or on a condition which I only can perform, and which I have determined never to enable him to do, is indeed to promise nothing, because it is to promise nothing that I can obtain; and nothing of this nature being ever done by any wise and upright governor. How absurd is it to impute such actions to a God infinite in righteousness and wisdom, and who is doubtless serious, and not delusory, in all his dealings with the sons of men!

When therefore these men say, " God promises pardon and life seriously even to those who are not elected, but lie under an act of preterition, because He does it upon condition that they believe, repent, and be converted, and will, if they perform them, give this pardon and salvation to them;" this is as if I should say, " God threatens damnation to his elect seriously and in good earnest, because He threatens it to all, and therefore to them also, if they do not turn to him, if they continue in impenitence and unbelief, or if they persevere not to the end:" Whereas if, notwithstanding, he hath in his word of truth declared concerning them that He has from eternity prepared for then that grace which will unfrustrably produce faith, repentance, and conversion in them, and stands engaged by promise to make them persevere unto the end, no man can rationally conceive He threatens damnation to them seriously, because then He must only do it on a condition which He Himself by His decree and promise hath rendered it impossible for them to be subject to.

So, in like manner, if God doth only promise this pardon and salvation to the non-elect, on a condition which his own act of preterilion, and leaving them under the disability they had contracted by the fall of Adam, hath rendered impossible for them to perform; this being in effect no promise, a promise only made on an impossible condition being equivalent to none at all, how can a God of truth and of sincerity be said to promise to them pardon and salvation seriously and in good earnest, who are by His own act of preterition infallibly and unfrustrably excluded from it?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ARGUMENT TWO - God Desires Obedience

ARGUMENT TWO

Of this we shall be more convinced, if we consider with what vehemence, and in what pathetic expressions God desires the obedience and reformation of his people. Thus when the Jews said to Moses, 'speak thou to us all that the Lord shall speak to thee, and we will hear it and do it;' (Deuteronomy 5:27-29)' God answers, 'they have well said all that they have spoken; (mi jitten) tis deoei Oh that there were such an heart in them that they would fear me and keep all my commandments -always!' Can it rationally be imagined that he himself, who so passionately desires they might have, and thus enquires who will give them this heart, should himself withhold from them what was absolutely requisite that they might have it? Could he approve their willingness to hear and do his commandments, and yet himself deny them grace or strength sufficient to perform them?

i " Who will give that there may be in them such an heart? is" says the bishop of Ely, "an expression of the most earnest desire; but withal signifies that if what he had done for them would not move them to fear and obey him, it was not possible to persuade them to it. Not but he could miraculously work upon them (by an irresistible or unfrustrable operation) says Maimonides and change their hearts, if he pleased, as he miraculously changed the nature of other things; but if this were God's will to deal with them after this fashion, there would have been no need to send a prophet to them, or to publish laws full of precepts and promises, rewards and punishments, by which, says He, God wrought upon their hearts, and not by his absolute omnipotence."

Again, can it enter into the heart of man to conceive this, — God was not so desirous of their reformation and obedience as to do all that was requisite on His part to procure it, and so to give them means sufficient for the performance of their duty, when after all His unsuccessful labors that it might be so, he breaks forth into such ardent wishes, ' O that my people had hearkened to me, and Israel had walked in my ways! Even that Israel whom, for rejecting me, I have now given up to her own heart's lusts; Oh that thou had hearkened to my commandments, says God to that obstinate people, whose neck was an iron sinew, unit their brow brass,'(Isaiah 48:4, 18)

Now can these expressions come from one who had from all eternity decreed their reprobation, and consequently the denial of means sufficient to enable them to do what he thus wishes they had done?

Can there be any doubt of the sincerity or ardency of Christ's desire of the welfare and salvation of the Jews when his eyes first wept over Jerusalem, arid then his mouth utters these words, ' Happy hadst thou been hadst thou known in this thy day the things belonging to thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes’ they are so now, therefore they were not always so. For Christ here plainly takes it for granted that the people of Jerusalem in the day of their visitation by the Messiah, might have savingly known the things belonging to their peace; since otherwise,

I know not how our Savior’s tears could be looked on as tears of charity and true compassion. And either his assertion, that they might have been happy, would have been contrary to truth; or his trouble, that they had not known the things belonging to their peace, must have been trouble contrary to the decree of his Father; both which are palpably absurd. And seeing the will of Christ was always the same with the will of the Father, it follows also that God the Father had the same charitable affection to them, and so had laid no bar against their happiness by a decree of preterition, or been wanting in any thing on his part requisite towards their everlasting welfare; and then it must be certain that an unfrustrable operation being not vouchsafed to convert them, it was not necessary to that end.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Opening Remarks and Argument One - Sufficient Grace

Proposing the arguments which seem to overthrow this assertion, of an irresistible or unfrustrable grace, necessary to the conversion of a sinner.

AND this I shall begin with some general considerations, as God wills.

I. That which is sufficient to cause any man to distrust, if not entirely to reject, this doctrine is this, — That the defenders of it are forced, by the evidence of truth, to grant what is inconsistent with their doctrine, and to assert an universal grace, which to all, excepting the elect, is really no grace, as v. g.

First, they grant, "that preventing grace, as it is given irresistibly, so likewise is it given universally to men, and that this initial and exciting grace being once granted, is never taken away by God from any man, unless he first of his own accord rejects it;" and yet they resolve the non-conversion, or not believing of all those who are not effectually converted into the want of means sufficient for their salvation, or, which is the same thing, into God's dereliction of them in that state of disability into which Adam's fall had cast them. And what grace is it then, to have that initial and exciting, grace which they cannot but reject, and which can never work faith and repentance in them for want of that farther and effectual grace which God will not vouchsafe to them, or that they have a talent put into their hands which they cannot but abuse to their greater condemnation, for want of farther talents which he is resolved to withhold from them?

Secondly. They grant, " that there are certain inward workings and effects wrought by the word and Spirit of God preceding conversion and regeneration in the hearts of persons not yet justified, which God ceases not to promote and carry on towards conversion, till he be forsaken of them by their voluntary negligence, and his grace be repelled by them; and yet that he intends to restrain his saving grace to his elect, and to afford means sufficient for salvation to them only." And why again, then, are these inward, workings and effects wrought in them by the word and Spirit, from whom God intends to restrain his saving and converting grace, without which they cannot but neglect and repel his former grace? Or how can he properly be said to carry on this work, towards the conversion of them, whom He has decreed to leave in an utter disability of being converted, or recovered from their undone condition?

Thirdly, that God doth very seriously and in earnest invite and call all those to faith and repentance and conversion, in whom by his word and Spirit he works a knowledge of the divine will, a sense of sin, a dread of punishment, some hopes of pardon; and yet that all these men, excepting the elect, are not converted through, a effectiveness in the grace of God to do it, or for want of means sufficient for their conversion or salvation; and because God never intended by these means salvation to any, but the elect, He having passed a decree of preterition on the rest of mankind, whom therefore he hath left under a necessity of perishing, since idem est pratermitti ac dimitti, ' it is the same thing to be omitted out of the decree of election, and to be left to perish ;' and who then can conceive how his word or Spirit should work in any other a hope of pardon? Or how can God be serious and in good earnest in calling them to faith and repentance, and yet serious and in good earnest in his decree to deny them that grace without which they neither can believe nor repent?

To call them seriously to faith and repentance, being to call them to salvation by faith and to repent that they may not perish ; and to pass antecedently a decree of preterition on them, is seriously to will they should inevitably perish. To think to relieve all this by saying, "God is serious and in good earnest in inviting these men to believe that they may be saved, and to repent that they may not perish, because he would save them if they would believe; he would preserve them from perishing if they would, repent," is vain. For if faith be the gift of God,' if He 'gives repentance to life,' and hath restrained both these gifts to His elect, and has left all the rest of mankind under a necessity to perish for want of an ability to believe and repent, because this ability was lost to them by the fall of Adam, then must not all these invitations made to them to believe that they might be saved, and repent that they might not perish, be only an invitation to escape perishing, and to obtain salvation upon a condition which His decree of preterition hath rendered it impossible for them to perform?

And can He then be serious, and in good earnest, who only doth invite them to use things on a condition which he himself hath decreed to leave them under an utter inability to perform?

These are such evident absurdities and contradictory propositions, that nothing but a strong and shining evidence of that which manifestly destroys their doctrine would force them to admit them.

To proceed now to the arguments which evidently seem to confute this doctrine:

II. ARGUMENT ONE – Sufficient Grace

And (1.) this is evident from those expressions of the holy scripture, which intimate that God had done what was sufficient, and all that reasonably could be expected from Him in order to the reformation of those persons who were not reformed; 'for what could have been done more, (HEBREW, what was there more to do?) for my vineyard, which I have not done in it? Wherefore then when 1 looked (or, expected,) that it should have brought forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? (Isaiah 5:4)

For does not this enquiry make it evident, that the means which God had used to make this vineyard bring forth good grapes were both intended for that end, and were sufficient, (though not effectual, through her perverseness,) to produce in her those fruits which he expected from her? If an unfrustrable operation on her were absolutely necessary to that end, must he not in vain have used all other means here mentioned to produce it, while that was not vouchsafed? Admit this supposition, and it demonstrably follows that this vineyard had not grace sufficient to answer her Lord's expectations; and if so, must He not unreasonably complain that she brought forth wild grapes, and more unreasonably expect good grapes, and chide his vineyard for want of them, and most unreasonably punish her for not doing that which he would not give her grace sufficient to perform, and which could never be performed by her without grace sufficient?

Monday, September 22, 2008

A few Disagreements with Whitby on Grace

I have been reading through Daniel Whitby’s Discourses on the Five Points, starting with his view of grace. As I am reading, I am editing slightly, breaking up long sentences, creating paragraph breaks and sometimes updating archaic words and spellings. I started, just to read Jonathan Edwards’ opponent, to better understand were Edwards was coming from, but now I find myself interested in what Whitby has to say. As I read, I plan on posting his work here, and perhaps I will format it up one day.

I recently posted some of his thoughts on grace. That was the first of three chapters, within his discourse on grace. The focus of that chapter was defining the issue. I plan on posting his second and third chapters as well. In the second, Whitby argues for resistible grace. In the third, he defends against arguments for irresistible grace. I wanted to note a few differences between Whitby and myself before I continue.

Whitby is going to argue that God’s commands make no sense if grace is irresistible and obedience is either necessary or impossible. I half agree. Adam was able to keep God’s commands, but due to the fall, we are not. However, we live in a world in which God’s commands are kept, at least partially. Don’t get me wrong, unbelievers sin in everything they do. Their partial obedience is done for the wrong motives. It is right to not murder, but we should avoid murder out of love, thankfulness to God and awaiting Christ’s return, not out of fear or self-righteousness. So God’ commands are partially kept, even by the unsaved. How is it that people are disabled to good by the fall and yet the unsaved partially keep God’s commands? We live in a world flooded with grace. God’s grace enables obedience, both in part before conversion, and completely after conversion. On this much Whitby and I agree so it’s safe to say we agree on the big picture.

But we seem to slightly disagree on three finer points. First, can God justly punish us for something we are unable to do? Second, what’s the point of the law? Third, how does grace leading to salvation work?

Whitby argues that God can’t justly punish us for something we are unable to do. I disagree. God could have judged the world without providing grace. Whitby’s view seems to lead to a sort of “forced grace”, which logically conflicts with grace. Most of the time, God is working on everyone in some way shape or form. But in some rare cases (i.e. the hardening of hearts) we see the results of God withdrawing His grace. In such cases, the man must sin, but is still to blame for that sin. Now Whitby’s main point is that it makes no sense for God to plead with us, or threaten us or invite us to obedience if we are unable to obey. On this we agree. Much of scripture simply makes no sense if we are simply abandoned in a total depraved state.
The second point may be a matter of focus, rather than disagreement. The point of the law isn’t to get people to obey, but rather to show people that they aren’t obeying. The obedience of unbelievers is only partial anyways, and could never save. But when people see they are sinning they start to struggle under the law and begin to fear God. God them shows them that they need a Savior.

Whitby describes the grace leading to salvation as the illumination of the inward man. Because we reject the natural message (i.e. the preacher up there preaching the gospel) we require a special message (i.e. the Holy Spirit inside us teaching us the gospel). It’s the same gospel, but it’s presented in a supernatural way. So far so good, but Whitby says this is all we need. Now, based on what Whitby has said, he does hold to a robust doctrine of depravity. We need supernatural grace in order to believe. But I take it one step further. Not only does the message have to be special, we have to be special as well.

The Holy Spirit has to change our nature to enable faith. Before the Spirit’s work, we have a certain range of choices we are capable of. Faith in Christ isn’t within that range. The range of abilities is part of our nature. So the Holy Spirit has to change our nature to expand the range of things we are able to choose to include faith in Christ. When our supernaturally enabled nature meets the inward preaching of the Holy Spirit, ability meets opportunity and we can believe.
All things considered, these differences are minor, and I hope they don’t detract from Whitby’s main points.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekly Wesley - 4 Passages on Imputation

In the last two sermons, I hypothesized that Wesley didn't hold to the imputation of Christ righteousness (i.e. the idea that God looks at the believer and doesn't see their sin, but instead sees Christ's perfect obedience to the law.) I wanted to look at a few passages commonly cited to teach imputed righteousness to see what Wesley had to say. Here's his [relevant] notes on 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, Romans 4:1-9-12, 1 Corinthians 15:22 and Philippians 3:9.

Wesley does not use these passages to defend the imputed righteousness of Christ. Instead, he claims that imputed righteousness is equivalent to non-imputation of sin and also to forgiveness. This does seem to support my guess that he didn't hold to imputed righteousness.



2 Corinthians 5:18-21
18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Wesley's Notes
18 And all these new things are from God, considered under this very notion, as reconciling us - The world, 2Co 5:19, to himself.
19 Namely - The sum of which is, God - The whole Godhead, but more eminently God the Father. Was in Christ, reconciling the world - Which was before at enmity with God. To himself - So taking away that enmity, which could no otherwise be removed than by the blood of the Son of God.
20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ - we beseech you in Christ's stead - Herein the apostle might appear to some "transported beyond himself." In general he uses a more calm, sedate kind of exhortation, as in the beginning of the next chapter. What unparalleled condescension and divinely tender mercies are displayed in this verse! Did the judge ever beseech a condemned criminal to accept of pardon? Does the creditor ever beseech a ruined debtor to receive an acquittance in full? Yet our almighty Lord, and our eternal Judge, not only vouchsafes to offer these blessings, but invites us, entreats us, and, with the most tender importunity, solicits us, not to reject them.
21 He made him a sin offering, who knew no sin - A commendation peculiar to Christ. For us - Who knew no righteousness, who were inwardly and outwardly nothing but sin; who must have been consumed by the divine justice, had not this atonement been made for our sins. That we might be made the righteousness of God through him - Might through him be invested with that righteousness, first imputed to us, then implanted in us, which is in every sense the righteousness of God. (link)

Romans 4:1-12
1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “ Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.” 9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

Wesley's Notes
2 The meaning is, If Abraham had been justified by works, he would have had room to glory. But he had not room to glory. Therefore he was not justified by works.
3 Abraham believed God - That promise of God concerning the numerousness of his seed, Gen 15:5,7; but especially the promise concerning Christ, Gen 12:3, through whom all nations should be blessed. And it was imputed to him for righteousness - God accepted him as if he had been altogether righteous. Gen 15:6.
4 Now to him that worketh - All that the law requires, the reward is no favour, but an absolute debt. These two examples are selected and applied with the utmost judgment and propriety. Abraham was the most illustrious pattern of piety among the Jewish patriarchs. David was the most eminent of their kings. If then neither of these was justified by his own obedience, if they both obtained acceptance with God, not as upright beings who might claim it, but as sinful creatures who must implore it, the consequence is glaring It is such as must strike every attentive understanding, and must affect every individual person.
5 But to him that worketh not - It being impossible he should without faith. But believeth, his faith is imputed to him for righteousness - Therefore God's affirming of Abraham, that faith was imputed to him for righteousness, plainly shows that he worked not; or, in other words, that he was not justified by works, but by faith only. Hence we see plainly how groundless that opinion is, that holiness or sanctification is previous to our justification. For the sinner, being first convinced of his sin and danger by the Spirit of God, stands trembling before the awful tribunal of divine justice ; and has nothing to plead, but his own guilt, and the merits of a Mediator. Christ here interposes; justice is satisfied; the sin is remitted, and pardon is applied to the soul, by a divine faith wrought by the Holy Ghost, who then begins the great work of inward sanctification. Thus God justifies the ungodly, and yet remains just, and true to all his attributes! But let none hence presume to "continue in sin;" for to the impenitent, God "is a consuming fire." On him that justifieth the ungodly - If a man could possibly be made holy before he was justified, it would entirely set his justification aside; seeing he could not, in the very nature of the thing, be justified if he were not, at that very time, ungodly.
6 So David also - David is fitly introduced after Abraham, because be also received and delivered down the promise. Affirmeth - A man is justified by faith alone, and not by works. Without works - That is, without regard to any former good works supposed to have been done by him.
7 Happy are they whose sins are covered - With the veil of divine mercy. If there be indeed such a thing as happiness on earth, it is the portion of that man whose iniquities are forgiven, and who enjoys the manifestation of that pardon. Well may he endure all the afflictions of life with cheerfulness, and look upon death with comfort. O let us not contend against it, but earnestly pray that this happiness may be ours! Psalm 32:1,2.
9 This happiness - Mentioned by Abraham and David. On the circumcision - Those that are circumcised only. Faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness - This is fully consistent with our being justified, that is, pardoned and accepted by God upon our believing, for the sake of what Christ hath done and suffered. For though this, and this alone, be the meritorious cause of our acceptance with God, yet faith may be said to be "imputed to us for righteousness," as it is the sole condition of our acceptance. We may observe here, forgiveness, not imputing sin, and imputing righteousness, are all one.

1 Corinthians 15:22
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

Wesley's Notes
22 As through Adam all, even the righteous, die, so through Christ all these shall be made alive - He does not say, "shall revive," (as naturally as they die,) but shall be made alive, by a power not their own.

Philippians 3:9
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Wesley's Notes
9 And be found by God ingrafted in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law - That merely outward righteousness prescribed by the law, and performed by my own strength. But that inward righteousness which is through faith - Which can flow from no other fountain. The righteousness which is from God - From his almighty Spirit, not by my own strength, but by faith alone. Here also the apostle is far from speaking of justification only.

Green Bay Tonight!

The cowboys play Green Bay tonight. So far this year, the Packers look like and NFC leader, so this could be one of the toughest games for the Cowboys all year. The Packers have weapons all over the field, so instead of attempting to take away one point of their game, the Cowboys defense needs to be disruptive. On offense, I think we can run the ball on them.

It was a fun win over the Eagles last week, though we won’t beat too many teams that score 37 points.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Daniel Whitby on Grace (part 2)

To proceed then, thirdly, to explain, as far as I am able, what is the manner of the operation of God's grace, and Holy Spirit on the soul.

SECTION III.

First, I assert that the manner in which God's grace and Holy Spirit acts upon the minds and hearts of men for the production of the fruits of the good Spirit, and the preparatory disposition of the soul towards them, may reasonably be conceived to be such as is suitable to the reason and faculties of men, the understanding and the will. Now it is certain that what naturally makes the understanding to perceive, is evidence proposed and apprehended, considered or adverted to; for nothing else can be requisite to make us come to the knowledge of the truth, and understand what the will of the Lord is be wise to salvation. Hence the apostle prays that the (Philippians 1:9,10) Philippians might abound more and more in knowledge and in all wisdom, en pase aisthesen, in all perception, that they might approve the things that are most excellent; and faith to the (Romans 12:2) Romans, be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, eis to dokimazein ein, that you may discern and prove what is according to the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Again, what makes the will choose, is something approved by the understanding, and consequently appearing to the soul as good; and whatsoever it refuses, is something represented by the understanding, and so appearing to the will as evil; whence all that God requires of us is, and can be this, to refuse the evil and choose the good.

Wherefore to say that evidence proposed, apprehended and considered is insufficient to make the understanding to approve; or that the greatest good proposed, the greatest evil threatened, when equally believed and reflected on, is not sufficient to engage the will to choose the good and refuse the evil, is in effect to say that which alone does move the will to choose or to refuse; is not sufficient to engage it so to do; that which, alone is requisite to make me understand and approve, is not sufficient to do so ; which being contradictory to itself, must of necessity be false.

Be it then so, that we have naturally an aversion to the truths proposed to us in the gospel, that only can make us indisposed to attend to them, but cannot hinder our conviction when we do apprehend them and attend to them; whence for removal of it, the apostle only prays, (Ephesians 1:17-18) that the eyes of our understanding may bе enlightened that we may know them; adding, that where the light of the knowledge of the glory of God was revealed, if, after this, (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) their gospel was hid from any, it was only so, because the god of this world had blinded their eyes, or the conceptions of their minds, that the light of the gospel might not shine into them. Be it that there is in us also a renitency to the good we are to choose, that only can indispose us to believe it is, and to approve it as our chiefest good. Be it that we are prone to the evil that we should decline, that only can render it the more difficult for us to believe it is the worst of evils; but yet what we do really believe to be our chiefest good, will still be chosen, and what we apprehend to be the word of evils, will, whilst we do continue under that conviction, be refused by us: It therefore can be only requisite, in order to these ends, that the Good Spirit should so illuminate our understandings, that we attending to, and considering what lies before us, should apprehend, and be convinced of our duty; and that the blessings of the gospel should be so propounded to us, as that we may discern them to be our chiefest good, and the miseries it threatens, so as we may be convinced they are the worst of evils, that we may choose the one, and refuse the other.

Now to consider in order to approbation and conviction, to choose in order to our good, and to refuse that we may avoid misery, must be the actions not of God but man, though the light that doth convince, and the motives which engage him thus to choose and refuse, are certainly from God.

SECTION IV. — To illustrate this by a familiar instance taken from ourselves, or our deportment towards others; when a man in words plain and intelligible speaks to another, if he will hearken to what he says, he must understand his mind; for by that very impression the words make upon his brain, he immediately perceives his mind; and cannot the divine impression on the mind, which is God's speaking inwardly to man, do the same thing? This action is indeed so necessary, that, as it is not virtuous or praiseworthy in any man to understand the mind of him that speaks to him, so neither seems it praiseworthy in us to understand the mind of God thus speaking to us. Again, these words of man contain sometimes an exhortation to another to do what he desires he would do, taken from the proposal of some advantage, or the promise of some good he shall receive by complying with his exhortation; or they contain some dehortation from doing what he would not have another do, because it will be hurtful to him, or will be certainly attended with some evil consequences. Is not this the method used by all the world in dealing with another? And do they not all do this with hopes and expectation of success? And is it not a great disparagement to the word of God to say, or think that all his persuasions, admonitions, exhortations, promises and the like should be inefficient to prevail with us to turn from our sinful courses, and turn to him, when men who use these methods towards their children, servants, friends or relations, do it in hopes that they shall be successful by these means?

Moreover, if the person they address to, be slow of understanding, do they not hope to overcome that difficulty by the clearness of their discourse, and by reiterating the same thing in such variety of expressions as he is will be able to perceive?

If he be averse from doing that which is desired, do they not hope to overcome that aversion by repeated exhortations and vigorous impressions of those encouragements they tender, to prevail upon him to comply with their desire? If he strongly be inclined to that from which they vehemently dehort him, do they not endeavor to turn the bent and current of his inclinations by the like repeated exhortations and lively representations of the evils he will be certainly exposed to by so doing? All men are therefore of this opinion in their practice, that acting with men by convincing reason, and by motives and persuasions, is acting with them suitably to their faculties, and so as that they may prevail. And is not God himself of the same mind? Has he not revealed his will on purpose that we may know it? Has he not directed his letters and epistles to us, that by reading we may understand them, and know the things which do belongs to our peace? Did our Savior utter all his discourses to the same end else does he inquire (John 8:43) why is it you do not understand my speech? (Mark 8:21) How is it that you do not understand? Why does he preface them with this instruction, (Mathew 15:10) hear and understand?

Does not God call upon us to (Haggai 1:5-7) to consider of our ways, and lay to heart his sayings and his dispensations? Does He not prescribe this as a remedy to prevent his judgments, when he says, (Psalm 50:22) Oh consider this, ye that forget God; and of being wise, by saying, (Deuteronomy 32:29) Oh that they were wise, that they would consider their latter end? Doth he not represent this as the source of all the wickedness and idolatry of his own people, (Isaiah 1:3, 44:19) that they would not consider in their heart? Does he not make conversion the effect of this consideration, when he says, (Ezekiel 18:28, Psalm 119:59) because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live? Yea, doth he not represent this as a just ground of hope, that even the most stubborn sinners may be reformed, when he says to the prophet, (Ezekiel 12:3) remove by day in their sight, it may be they will consider though they be a rebellious people? Does not God require his people to (Deuteronomy 30:19) choose life, pronouncing a blessing upon them who (Isaiah 56:4-5) choose the things that please him, and threatening destruction to them who (Proverbs 1:29) would not choose the fear of the Lord, but (Isaiah 66:4) chose the things in which he delighted not? Now dose he any thing more to prevail with them who do not choose the fear of the Lord, and do not do the things that please him, to engage them so to do, or not to do the contrary, but teach them his ways, and persuade them to walk in them?

Must it not then be certain that either he transacts with them as men, who notwithstanding any acts of preterition on his part, or any disability or corruption of will on their part, might by these things be induced to choose to fear him, and do the things that please him, and might abstain from the contrary; or threatened to destroy them for not choosing what they could not choose, for doing what they had not means sufficient to avoid, and for not doing what it was not profitable for men so vitiated and so deserted, to perform?

Again, does not God exhort the Jews to be (Isaiah 1:18-19)' willing and obedient, promising a full pardon and a blessing to them that do so? Does not Christ resolve the destruction of the Jews to this, (John 5:40) You Will not come unto me that you might have life? Declaring this to be the reason why they were not gathered, because he often (Luke 13:34) would have gathered them, but they would not be gathered; because being so graciously invited to the marriage, (Mathew 22:3) they would not come. Now what did he to engage them to come to him, to gather them, or prevail on them to come to the marriage feast, but show them the way of life, exhort and invite them to come to that feast?

Either then he transacted with them, as one who knew this was sufficient to these ends; and that these things might have prevailed with them, notwithstanding any decrees of God's preterition, or any disability through the corruption of their wills, to be willing and obedient to his invitation; or else he resolved on their exclusion from the marriage feast, and their not tasting His supper, for not doing what, in that state, they could not do; and condemned them for not coming to him when they could not come, because (John 6:37,44) the Father did not draw them, or give them to him; and for not being gathered, when he would not do that for them without which they could not be gathered.

Doth not God earnestly exhort and persuade men to repent and turn from the evil of their ways? Does he not say, (Psalm 81:13) Oh that my people would have hearkened to me, that Israel would have walked in my ways! (Deuteronomy 32:29) Oh that they were wise, that they would understand this! (Jeremiah 13:27) Oh Jerusalem wilt not thou be made clean, when shall it once be? (Luke 19:42) Oh that that thou had known in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace!

Now either in these exhortations and persuasions made to men, vitiated not only by original, but many actual; corruptions, God dealt with them suitably to their faculties, that is abilities, exhorting them to do, and pathetically willing they had done, what He saw they might have done, though they, for want of due attention, consideration and reflection, did it not; or called them to repent that they had not done what they never could do, or that they did not avoid what it was not possible under their circumstances they should avoid; and seriously and passionately willed they themselves would have done, what if it ever had been done, must have been done by himself, and therefore was not done, because he did not unfrustrateably work the change in them; that is, he passionately willed they had been of the number of His elect, when he himself by an absolute decree from all eternity had excluded them out of that number.

In short, does not God encourage men to repent and believe, to be willing and obedient, by great and precious promises of the most excellent and lasting blessings? Has He not threatened eternal damnation to them that do not believe? Has not He told us that Christ will come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on all that obey not His gospel? (Mark 16:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) And must not all these things sufficiently convince us, that God acts with men as one who does indeed suppose that men may hearken to his exhortations, and comply with his persuasions to believe, and to obey his gospel, may be prevailed on by his promises to the performance of their duty, and terrified by His judgment threatened, from their disobedience? Why else is it said that God hath given us these (2 Peter 1:4) great and precious promises, that by them we may be made partakers of a divine nature? Why are we exhorted, (2 Corinthians 7:1) having these promises, to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God? Or why doth the apostle say, "knowing then the terror of the Lord we persuade men?"(2 Corinthians 5:11)

If, beyond all this, there be some physical and unfrustrable operation on God's part requisite to make men know, and, knowing, choose the good and refuse the evil; this being not vouchsafed to, or wrought in, them who are not born anew, why is the want of this new birth and this spiritual regeneration so often imputed to the voluntary want of their consideration, and their " not laying to heart"' the things propounded to them, to their not " applying their heart to wisdom, not applying their minds to understanding, and their not framing their doings to turn to the Lord?" (Hosea 5:4)

Admit that desperate refuge which the assertors of the contrary doctrine are here forced to fly to, viz. that these exhortations and persuasions may be yet made to us, though we are utterly unable to comply with them, and, by God's act of preterition are left under that disability, because we once had grace and strength sufficient to perform them, though we have lost it by the fall; What is this to the import of all the exhortations, persuasions, and motives contained in the gospel, which are all directed to fallen man? And so, if God be serious in them, declare his great unwillingness that fallen man should perish, and his passionate desire that he should be saved; and if he speaks in them suitably to the capacities and faculties of fallen man, — plainly supposes him in a capacity, by the assistances which God is ready to afford him, and by the consideration of the motives which he offers to him, to understand his duty, and to chose the good and refuse the evil.

V. Wherefore, to give to outward means, and inward assistances, their due respective energy;

First. That honor must be due to God, and to his word, as to assert that the motives there offered must be sufficient, in the way of motives, to produce the ends for which they were designed. Seeing then the motives contained in the scripture to engage fallen man to turn from the evil of his ways, were certainly designed for that end, either they must be sufficient to engage him to turn from the evil of his ways, or else the highest motives that can be offered must be insufficient for that end, all other motives to deter us from any action as disadvantageous and pernicious to us, being as nothing when compared to that, depart from me, ye wicked, into ever lasting fire; all evils we can suffer from the hand of man, being little in respect of that we must have cause to fear from him who can destroy both soul and body in hell-fire.

Seeing, again, the promises of eternal happiness recorded in the same scriptures, as the reward of our obedience, were certainly designed to render us obedient, either they must be sufficient to engage us to yield that obedience to the good and holy will of God, or no inducements can be sufficient for that end; seeing this motive eminently contains all other motives in it, there being in those few words, the enjoyment of God and everlasting happiness, more than kingdoms and treasures, and all that can express the good things of this world, import; and therefore a more vehement constraining power in them to the performance of our duty, than in the united strength of worldly greatness, honors, pleasures; and that which represented), to our desires and hopes, what far exceeds all we can hope for or desire besides.

But then, secondly. because the blessings and miseries of another world are things invisible, and are discerned only by the eye of faith, they being moral and spiritual motives, which only work upon us as they are present to our minds by actual consideration and reflection on them, which naturally we are not inclined to; seeing they are not always present with us, when the temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh, by sensual objects which we much affect, are thus present with us; — it is therefore necessary, that at all times when they are not thus present with us, and therefore cannot operate upon us, the Holy Spirit should, either by representing to us from the scriptures those divine truths with which our understandings have not been sufficiently enlightened or instructed, or else by reviving and inculcating on our spirits those motives and inducements to resist those temptations, and to perform those duties of which we are convinced by the word, assist us so to do. I therefore humbly conceive that inward operation of the Holy Spirit to consist in these two things:

1 . In representing the divine truths, which holy scriptures do contain and press upon us, more clearly to our understandings, that we may have a fuller evidence, stronger conviction, and assurance of them ; the eyes of our understanding being thus enlightened to know what is the hope of our calling, and the glorious riches of the inheritance of the saints;" (Ephesians 1:18) and this is styled THE ILLUMINATION OF THE MIND. '

2. In bringing these truths to our remembrance, that so these may be present with us when this is requisite to enable us to resist temptations, and to encourage .us to the performance of our duty; and upon supposition of these two things, that God acts with us suitably to the nature of our faculties, — on our understandings by representing the light to it, and on our wills by motives to chose the good and refuse the evil ; and that the highest motives and inducements possible offered to us in the name of the great God of heaven, when firmly believed and present to the mind, must be sufficient to produce their ends; it can be only requisite to our conversion and sincere obedience, that the Good Spirit should assist us in this work by that illumination which is sufficient to produce in us this strong conviction, and should present these motives to our memories, and make a deep impression of them there; which being present, will be sufficient to move our wills and our affections to prosecute the ends for which they are designed.

VI. I know there be many who, beyond all this, require a physical and an irresistible motion of the Holy Spirit, in which we are wholly passive, to the conversion of a sinner, which assertion shall be afterwards considered; at present I only shall endeavor fairly to compound and state this matter.
First. Then, I say, that it must be granted, that in raising an idea in my brain by the Holy Spirit, and the impression made upon it there, the action is truly physical.

Secondly. That in those actions I am wholly passive; that is, I myself do nothing formally to produce these ideas, but the Good Spirit, without my operation, does produce them in me.

And, thirdly, that these operations must be irresistible in their production, because they are immediately produced in us without our knowledge of them, and without our will, and so without those faculties by which we are enabled to act.

But then I add, that as far as they are so, they cannot be imputed to us; that is, it cannot be praiseworthy in us, or rewardable, that we have such ideas raised in us, but only that when they are thus raised in us we attend to them, comply with them, and improve them to the ends for which they were designed by the Holy Spirit.

To make this evident by an example, — it is generally granted, that Satan can so work upon the brain as to raise up in it impure and vile ideas; but then it is as generally held, that the thoughts they immediately, produce, will never be imputed to us as our sins, nor will God be displeased with us for them, if we do not after show any good liking to them, or consent to them, but manfully resist and rise up in detestation and abhorrence of them, — and that because the raising these ideas is the devil's action, not our own; and we are purely passive in them till we consent to, or show some liking of, them; and they are also inevitable and irresistible, it being in the power of no man to help them, to prevent their being raised in his brain, or any ways to suppress them, till he perceives them raised there.

And therefore for the same reasons those ideas which are objectively good being thus raised in us, cannot be imputed to us for reward, nor can God be well pleased with us for them till we co-operate with them, because the raising of them is properly God's, not our own action, and we are purely passive in it, nor is it in our power to prevent or resist them; but then God having planted in us a principle of reason and discretion, we can attend to them when they are raised in us, and so improve them to the illumination of our understandings, and to the approbation of them in our minds.

He also having given us a will to choose the good, and to refuse the evil, we may consent to the good suggestions and pursue the good motions- thus raised in us; for to what other ends can they be raised in us by the Holy Spirit? As therefore our attending and consent to the suggestions of the evil spirit being free and avoidable, is culpable, so our attendance to and compliance with these motions of the Holy Spirit, being things in which we are free and active, and that upon deliberation, and so in them we do perform the free and proper actions of a man, doing that willingly which we ought to do and refusing to do that which we have both power and temptations to perform, these things must be praise-worthy, and acceptable in the sight of God.

I also add, that these ideas being thus raised up in us by God alone, and even the power of attending and consenting to them being, together with our nature, entirely derived from him, and all the inducements which we have to attend to them, and comply with them, being properly of divine external revelation, or such divine internal operations, as if they had not intervened, we should have had none of these good effects produced in us; these effects are properly to be ascribed to God, and all the praise and glory of them must be due to him alone, because the principle of acting, and the inducement so to act, is solely from him.

Moreover, (1.) as these ideas raised in us are powerful inducements to the performance of our duty, as also all the other motives contained in the gospel revelation are, and as they all proceed from the free grace of God, they may be properly called exciting grace.

2, As they tend to restrain us from that sin to which we naturally are too much inclined, and to battle those temptations which the world, Satan, and our own evil hearts suggest unto us, they are as fitly styled restraining grace.

3. As they are given before we desired them, and these ideas are often raised up in us when we think not of them, they are properly preventing grace.

4. As they help us in the consideration of, and our endeavor and inclinations to perform, our duty, and resist temptations, they may be styled assisting grace.

And (5.) as they continue to do this more and more, even after the first turn of the heart from sin to God, and after some prevailing dispositions to love, fear, and serve God with sincerity of heart, they may be called the subsequent grace of God.

6. The distinction of grace into sufficient and efficacious grace is not, as Petavius well observes, generis in species, sed ejusdem speuiei secundum accident distinctio, ' a distinction of grace into different kinds or species, but only a distinction of the same kind of grace, according to its accidentally different effects, all efficacious grace being sufficient, and all sufficient grace being such as would be efficacious, did not the indisposition of the patient hinder the effect of it.

And, lastly, the distinction of grace into common and special may be understood two ways, viz. that grace which is afforded without any condition required on our part, as the vouchsafement of the knowledge of the gospel, and the calling men by it to the faith, may be called common grace, because it is common to all who live under the sound of the gospel; but that grace which is suspended upon a condition, as the receiving the assistance of the Holy Spirit upon our asking, seeking, knocking for him, our receiving more upon the due improvement of the talents received, the remission of sins upon our faith and repentance, may be styled special grace, because it only is vouchsafed to them who perform the condition; and so it is the same with grace absolute and conditional: or else that may be styled common grace by which we are led to the faith of Christ, and so it includes all those good desires which are excited in us, and all those good dispositions which are produced in the minds of men before they believe, all this grace being common to men before they are admitted into the new covenant; and that will be special grace which is given to believers only, for the strengthening of their faith, the increasing of their good desires, and the enabling them to live according to the gospel.

VII. That any supernatural habits must be infused into us in an instant, and not produced by frequent actions, or that any other supernatural aid is requisite to the conversion of a sinner, besides the forementioned illumination of the Holy Spirit, and the impression which he makes upon our hearts by the ideas which he raises in us, is that which my hypothesis by no means will allow; which ideas, though they are raised by a physical operation, yet are they moral in their operations: even as a man's tongue in peaking to persuade, or to dissuade another, performs a physical operation, though the effect of it is only moral.

Some Remonstrants, by granting this necessity of supernatural and infused habits, seem to have run themselves into this dilemma, that either these supernatural habits, viz. of faith and charity, may be wrought in men, and yet they may not be converted-; or else that all who are not converted, are therefore not converted because God's Spirit hath- not wrought these habits in them, which is thevery absurdity they labor to avoid.