Monday, March 16, 2015

Patrick Fairbairn on the Conquest of Canaan

On the contrary, we affirm that, if contemplated in the broad and comprehensive light in which Scripture itself presents them to our view, they may be read with satisfaction, though certainly not without awe; that there is not an essential element belonging to them, which does not equally enter into the principles of the Gospel dispensation; and that any difference which may here present itself between the Old and the New is, as in all other cases, a difference merely in form, but founded upon an essential agreement. This will appear whether it is viewed in respect to the Canaanites, to the Israelites, or to the times of the Gospel dispensation.

1. Viewed, first of all, in respect to the Canaanites as the execution of deserved judgment on their sins (in which light Scripture uniformly represents it, so far as they are concerned), there is nothing in it to offend the feelings of any well-constituted Christian mind. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, God appears as the righteous Judge and avenger of sin, and does so not unfrequently by the infliction of fearful things in righteousness. If we can contemplate Him bringing on the cities of the plain the vengeance of eternal fire, because their sins had waxed great and were come up to heaven; or, at a later period, even in Gospel times, can reflect how the wrath was made to fall on the Jewish nation to the uttermost; or, finally, can think of impenitent sinners being appointed, in the world to come, to the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone for ever and ever ; — if we can contemplate such things entering into the administration of God, without any disturbance to our convictions that the Judge of all the earth does only what is right, it were surely unreasonable to complain of the severities exercised on the foul inhabitants of Canaan. Their abominations were of a kind that might be said emphatically to cry to Heaven — such idolatrous rites as tended to defile their very consciences, and the habitual practice of pollutions which were a disgrace to humanity. The land is represented as incapable of bearing any longer the mass of defilements which overspread it, as even ‘vomiting out its inhabitants;' and ‘therefore,' it is added, ‘the Lord visited their iniquity upon them.’ Nor was this vengeance taken on them summarily: the time of judgment was preceded by a long season of forbearance, during which they were plied with many calls to repentance. So early as the age of Abraham, the Lord manifested Himself toward them both in the way of judgment and of mercy, - of judgment, by the awful destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, cutting off the most infected portion, that the rest might fear, and turn from their evil ways; of mercy, by raising up in the midst of them such eminent saints as Abraham and Melchizedek. That period, and the one immediately succeeding, was peculiarly the day of their merciful visitation. But they knew it not; and so, according to God's usual method of dealing, He gradually removed the candlestick out of its place — withdrew His witnesses to another region, in consequence of which the darkness continually deepened, and the iniquity of the people at last became full. Then only was it that the cloud of divine wrath began to threaten them with overwhelming destruction — not, however, even then, without giving awful indications of its approach by the wonders wrought in Egypt and at the Red Sea, and again hanging long in suspense during the forty years' sojourn in the wilderness, as if waiting till further space had been given for repentance. But as all proved in vain, mercy at length gave place to judgment, according to the principle common alike to all dispensations: 'He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall be suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy;' and, ‘Where the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.' In plain terms, whenever iniquity has reached its last stage, the judgment of Heaven is at hand. This principle was as strikingly exemplified in the case of the Jews after our Lord's appearing, as in the case of these Canaanites before. In the parables of the barren fig-tree and the wicked husbandmen in the vineyard, the same place is assigned it in the Christian dispensation which it formerly held in the Jewish. And in the experience of all who, despite of merciful invitations and solemn threatenings, perish from the way of life, it must find an attestation so much more appalling than the one now referred to, as a lost eternity exceeds in evil the direst calamities of time. In fine, the very same may be said of the objections brought against the destruction of the Canaanites, which was said by Richard Baxter of many of the controversies started in his day: ‘The true root of all the difference is, whether there be a God and a life to come.' Grant only a moral government and a time of retribution, and such cases as those under consideration become not only just, but necessary.

2. Again, let the judgment executed upon the Canaanites be viewed in respect to the instruments employed in enforcing it — the Israelites — and in this aspect also nothing will be found in it at variance with the great principles of truth and righteousness. The Canaanites, it is to be understood, in this view of the matter, deserved destruction, and were actually doomed to it by a divine sentence. But must not the execution of such a sentence by the hand of the Israelites have tended to produce a hardening effect upon the minds of the conquerors? Was it not fitted to lead them to regard themselves as the appointed executors of Heaven's vengeance, wherever they themselves might deem this to be due, and to render their example a most dangerous precedent for every wild enthusiast who might choose to allege a commission from Heaven to pillage and destroy his fellow-men? Charges of this description have not infrequently been advanced; but they evidently proceed on the tacit assumption that there was in reality no doom of Heaven pronounced against the Canaanites, and no special commission given to the Israelites to execute it — this ignoring one part of the sacred narrative for the purpose of throwing discredit on another. Or it is implied that God must be debarred from carrying on His administration in such a way as may best suit the ends of divine wisdom, because human fraud or folly may take encouragement from thence to practise an unwarranted and improper imitation.

Thoughts of this description carry their own refutation along with them. The commission given to the Israelites was limited to the one task of sweeping the land of Canaan of its original occupants. But this manifestly conferred on them no right to deal out the same measure of severity to others; and so far from creating a thirst for human blood, in cases where they had no authority to shed it, they even fainted in fulfilling their commission to extirpate the people of Canaan. This, however, is only the negative side of the question; and viewed in another and more positive aspect, the employment of the Israelites to execute this work of judgment was eminently calculated to produce a salutary impression upon their minds, and to promote the ends for which the judgment was appointed. For what could be conceived so thoroughly fitted to implant in their hearts an abiding conviction of the evil of idolatry and its foul abominations — to convert their abhorrence of these into a national, permanent characteristic — as their being obliged to enter on their settled inheritance by a terrible infliction of judgment upon its former occupants for polluting it with such enormities? Thus the very foundations of their national existence raised a solemn warning against defection from the pure worship of God; and the visitation of divine wrath against the ungodliness of men accomplished by their own hands, and interwoven with the records of their history at its most eventful period, stood as a perpetual witness against them, if they should ever turn aside to folly. Happy had it been for them, if they had been as careful to remember the lesson as God was to have it suitably impressed upon their minds.

3. But the propriety and even moral necessity of the course pursued become manifest, when we view the proceeding in its typical bearing — the respect it had to Gospel times. There were reasons, as we have seen, connected with the Canaanites themselves and the surrounding nations, sufficient to justify the whole that was done ; But we cannot see the entire design of it, or even perceive its leading object, without looking further, and connecting it with the higher purposes of God respecting His kingdom among men. What He sought in Canaan was an inheritance, — a place of rest and blessing for His people, but still only a temporary inheritance, and as such a type and pledge of that final rest which remains for the people of God. All, therefore, had to be arranged concerning the one, so as fitly to represent and image the higher and more important things which belong to the other; that the past and the temporary might serve as a mirror in which to foreshadow the future and abiding; and that the principles of God's dealing toward His Church might be seen to be essentially the same, whether displayed on the theatre of present or of eternal realities. It was partly at least, on this account, that the place chosen for the inheritance of Israel was allowed, in the first instance, to become in a peculiar sense the region of pollution, — a region that required to be sanctified by an act of divine judgment upon its corrupt possessors, and thereby fitted for becoming the home and heritage of saints. In this way alone could the things done concerning it shadow forth and prepare for the final possession of a glorified world, — an inheritance which also needs to be redeemed from the powers of darkness that meanwhile overspread it with their corruptions, and which must be sanctified by terrible acts of judgment upon their ungodliness, before it can become the meet abode of saints in glory. The spirit of antichrist must be judged and cast out; Babylon, the mother of abominations, which has made the earth drunk with the wine of her fornications, must come in remembrance before God, and receive the due reward of her sins; so that woes of judgment and executions of vengeance most precede the Church's occupation of her purchased inheritance, similar in kind to those which put Israel in possession of the land of Canaan. What, indeed, are the scenes presented to our view in the concluding chapters of Revelation, but an expansion to the affairs of a world, and the destinies of a coming eternity, of those which we find depicted in the wars of Joshua? In these awful scenes we behold, on the one hand, the Captain of Salvation, of whom Joshua was but an imperfect type, going forth to victory with the company of a redeemed and elect Church, supported by the word of God, and the resistless artillery of heaven; while, on the other hand, we see the doomed enemies of God and the Church long borne with, but now at last delivered to judgment — the wrath falling on them to the uttermost, — and, when the world has been finally relieved of their abominations, the new heavens and the new earth rising into view, where righteousness, pure and undefiled, is to have its perennial habitation.

From: The Typology of Scripture.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Augustus Toplady Responds to Walter Sellon

“I had before been delineated, by an Arminian helpmeet of Mr. Wesley’s, as ‘sitting in my easy chair, and enjoying all the comforts of life.’ One would think, that the see of Durham had been transferred to Broad-Hembury, and that the Devonshire Vicar was warmly enrobed in lawn and black satin. So much for my attitude and enjoyments; next for my titles; these Mr. Sellon enumerates. I am, it seems, (See the Gospel Magazine March, 1771) ‘A Flaming Calvinist;  A Dragon;  An Hooter; A Venomous Slanderer; A Persecutor, possessing the same butcherly spirit that was in bishop Gardiner; yea, ten times more; A Perfectionist; A malapert Boy, severely scratching and clawing with venomous nails; A Papist; A Socinian; A Mahometan; The greatest Bigot that ever existed, without one grain of candour, benevolence, forbearance, moderation, good-will, or charity; A wild Beast of impatience and lion-like fury; A Materialist’ - that is, an Atheist.

“A goodly string of appellations! And not a little extraordinary, that they should all centre in one and the same man! Being so uncommon a person myself, my writings too must be something singular. Take a description of them in the words of the said Sellon: ‘I find sophistry, fallacy, false insinuation, raillery, perversion of scripture and the church articles, self-contradiction, self-sufficiency, haughtiness, pride and vanity, glaring in almost every page.’

“Thus, enthroned in my easy chair, dignified with titles, and accurately developed as a writer, I only want a suitable address, to render my magnificence complete; and who so well qualified to prepare it, as the eloquent Mr. Sellon? Lo, he attends; and, respectfully advancing, pays me the following compliments: ‘Unhappily daring, and unpardonably bold, thy tongue imagineth wickedness, and with lies thou cuttest like a sharp razor. Thou hast loved unrighteousness more than goodness; and to talk of lies more than righteousness. Thou hast loved to speak all words that may do hurt, O thou false tongue.’ Such are the candour and politeness of these Methodists; and such are the arguments, by which they would persuade us, that Arminianism is the religion of the Church of England.

“These are the men that set up for ‘universal love;’ who call one another by the cant names of ‘precious believers,’ ‘most excellent souls,’ ‘charming children of God,’ ‘sweet Christians,’ and ‘the clean-hearted.’ If their hearts are no cleaner than their mouths, they have little reason to value themselves on their ‘sinless perfection.’ These are they who seek to bottom election on faith and goodness foreseen; of which foreseen goodness, humility and benevolence, meekness and forbearance, are, I suppose, some of the ingredients. Woe be to those ‘sweet Christians,’ if their election has no better foundation than their ‘sweet’ tempers, words, and works.

“And why all this torrent of abuse? The plain truth is this: I detected Mr. Wesley's forgeries, and chastised the forger. Hinc ille lacrymae. Hence the outcries of John himself, together with those of Thomas Olivers and Walter Sellon. The camp of the Philistines gave a scream, when they saw the levelled stone penetrate the brass of their Goliath's forehead: but of all the tribe, none screamed so loud as the frighted Walter; of whose talent at screaming, a specimen has been exhibited to the reader.”

Augustus Toplady, Introduction, Historic Proof Of The Doctrinal Calvinism Of The Church Of England, Works, Volume 1

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Resolution to the question of the apostatizing in Hebrews

Two factors have helped me come to, what I believe is a simple, yet thorough resolution to the troubling issue of apostasy in the book of Hebrews. They are (1) a consideration of the fuller context, more specifically, the occasional context of the book and (2) the paradigm of Covenant Theology.

A simple point to get is that the whole context of the book of Hebrews deals with the superiority of Christ over the Old Testament economy. The book was written, as its title suggests, to Hebrews – Jews, who might be tempted to return to the worship system of the Old Testament. I think all scholars are in agreement about this. This is the “occasional context,” as it is called; that is, the problem or occasion that prompted the writing of the Epistle. Hence the author goes to great lengths to constantly remind us that, despite all the glory of the Old Testament period and its ordinances, Christ is greater. Secondarily, we are informed of the abrogation of the Old Testament’s sacrificial system by Christ’s sacrifice.

Therefore if a person were wont to turn away from Christ to return to the sacrificial system of Old Testament worship, he would be going to something that had been completely evacuated of any meaning or efficacy. If one rejects the sacrifice of Christ, “there remains no other sacrifice for sin.” Not only so, but he would be denying the value of Christ’s sacrificial death. First of all, the Old Testament sacrifices were all forward-looking to the ultimate sacrifice Christ made for sin. Secondly, continuing in the practice of those sacrifices implies that atonement for sin has not yet been paid – hence it is a denial of Christ as our Surety.

As I said earlier, Covenant Theology provides a paradigm which completely obliterates all difficulty in handling this passage. The key to understanding it is this: God’s covenant people are not co-extensive with the elect.

Let me elucidate that a bit. All of Israel was God’s covenant people. However, not every single Israelite was among the number of God’s elect to salvation. Every Israelite did experience certain blessings as a part of the larger community of God’s people, but not every Israelite experienced the spiritual blessing of God’s regenerating work in his heart. Paul says, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” (Romans 9:6b) Every Jew was circumcised and offered the sacrifices prescribed by the Law. Every Jew experienced the blessing of God’s protection of the nation from invading armies, etc. But not every Jew was a child of Abraham by faith in the Promised Seed.

When we come to the New Testament, things are no different. We all willingly acknowledge that church membership is not co-extensive with salvation. Just because a person is a member of God’s covenant people (the Church), this does not automatically mean that he is a member of the elect. Therefore, like the unregenerate Jew, he may partake of many things which are blessings to his life. But these are not necessarily the spiritual blessing of new birth.

Applied to the “apostasy passages” of Hebrews, the difficulty is removed by noting that the writer is telling us that (1) the Old Testament sacrifices are forever done away with by Christ’s all-sufficient death. Hence a return to them would be foolish, because there no longer is any efficacy in them – not that there ever was efficacy in the actual sacrifice of a bull or lamb. The efficacy was in the forward-looking faith towards the Lamb of God sacrificed before the foundation of the world. If you don’t acknowledge Christ’s sacrifice for sin, that’s tough luck for you because there is no other sacrifice out there. The Old Testament ones have been abrogated. (2) Membership in the Christian Church is not co-extensive with membership in God’s elect. Therefore a person can attend at Christian worship and receive many blessings thereby and still perish, not because he lost his salvation, but because he was never among the elect in the first place.

This is why after the warnings given in chapter 6, the writer concludes by saying, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” (v 9). Understood any other way, this passage is impenetrable, I think, because we would seem to be left with a scenario wherein the writer warns about the possibility of losing one’s salvation by apostatizing from the faith, then concludes his warnings by saying that salvation cannot be lost. Hence I feel confident that the paradigm of Covenant Theology is the only way to navigate this passage.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

John Owen - Baptism = Burial With Christ ≠ Immersion

The apostle, Rom. 6:3-5 is dehorting from sin, exhorting to holiness and new obedience, and gives this argument from the necessity of it, and our ability for it, both taken from our initiation into the virtue of the death and life of Christ expressed in our baptism; that by virtue of the death and burial of Christ, we should be dead unto sin, sin being slain thereby; and by virtue of the resurrection of Christ, we should be quickened unto newness of life; as Peter declares, 1 Pet. iii. 21. Our being buried with him, and our being planted together into the likeness of his death, and likeness of his resurrection, is the same with 'our old man being crucified with him,' (ver. 6) and the destroying of the body of sin, and our being raised from the dead with him, which is all that is intended in the place.

There is not one word, nor one expression, that mentions any resemblance between dipping under water, and the death and burial of Christ, nor one word that mentions a resemblance between our rising out of the water, and the resurrection of Christ. Our being 'buried with him by baptism into death,' (ver. 4) is our being 'planted together in the likeness of his death,' ver. 5.  Our being planted together in the likeness of his death, is not our being dipped under water, but ‘the crucifying of the old man,' ver. 6. Our being raised up with Christ from the dead, is not our rising from under the water, but our ‘walking in newness of life,' (ver. 4) by virtue of the resurrection of Christ; 1 Pet. iii. 21.

That baptism is not a sign of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, is clear from hence; because an instituted sign is a sign of gospel grace participated, or to be participated. If dipping be a sign of the burial of Christ, it is not a sign of a gospel grace participated; for it may be where there is none, nor any exhibited.

For the major: if all gospel ordinances are signs and expressions of the communication of the grace of Christ, then baptism is so: but this is the end of all gospel ordinances, or else they have some other end; or are vain and empty shows.

The same individual sign cannot be instituted to signify things of several natures. But the outward burial of Christ, and a participation of the virtue of Christ's death and burial, are things of a diverse nature, and therefore are not signified by one sign.

That interpretation which would enervate the apostle's argument and design, our comfort and duty, is not to be admitted. But this interpretation that baptism is mentioned here as the sign of Christ's burial, would enervate the apostle's argument and design, our comfort and duty. And therefore it is not to be admitted.

The minor is thus proved: the argument and design of the apostle, as was before declared, is to exhort and encourage unto mortification of sin and new obedience, by virtue of power received from the death and life of Christ, whereof a pledge is given us in our baptism. But this is taken away by this interpretation: for we may be so buried with Christ and planted into the death of Christ by dipping, and yet have no power derived from Christ for the crucifying of sin, and for the quickening of us to obedience.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tired of the Bible

"I am not ignorant, that as the Israelites loathed the manna, because that every day they saw and ate but one thing, so some there be nowadays, (who will not be holden of the worst sort) that after once reading some parcels of Scripture, so commit themselves altogether to profane authors and human lectures, because that the variety of matter therein contained doeth bring with it daily delectation, wherein contrarywise within the simple Scriptures of God the perpetual repetition of one thing is fashious and wearisome. This temptation, I confess, may enter in God’s elect for a time, but impossible is it that therein they continue to the end; for God’s election, besides other evident signs, hath this ever joined with it, that God’s elect are called from ignorance (I speak of those that are come to the years of knowledge) to some taste and feeling of God’s mercy, of which they are never so satisfied in this life, but from time to time they hunger and they thirst to eat the bread descended from heaven and to drink the water that springeth to life everlasting; which they cannot do but by the means of faith, and faith looketh ever to the will of God revealed by the Word, so that faith hath both her beginning and continuance by the Word of God. And so I say, that impossible it is that God’s chosen children can despise or reject the word of their salvation of any long continuance, neither yet loathe it to the end."

 John Knox – Letter of Wholesome Counsel

Visitor Counter

Flag Counter