Thursday, March 31, 2011

Necessary Doctrine, by Thomas Cranmer

To know how we obtain our justification, it is expedient to consider, first, how naughty and sinful we are all, that be of Adam's kindred; and contrariwise, what mercifulness is in God, which to all faithful and penitent sinners pardoneth all their offences for Christ's sake. Of these two things no man is lightly ignorant that ever hath heard of the fall of Adam, which was to the infection of all his posterity; and again, of the inexplicable mercy of our heavenly Father, which sent his only begotten Son to suffer his most grievous passion for us, and shed his most precious blood, the price of our redemption. But it is greatly to be wished and desired, that as all Christian men do know the same, so that every man might acknowledge and undoubtedly believe the same to be true and verified, even upon himself; so that both he may humble himself to God and knowledge himself a miserable sinner not worthy to be called his son; and yet surely trust, that to him being repentant God's mercy is ready to forgive. And he that seeth not these two things verified in himself, can take no manner of emolument and profit by acknowledging and believing these things to be verified in others. But we cannot satisfy our minds or settle our conscience that these things are true, saving that we do evidently see that God's word so teacheth us.

The commandments of God lay our faults before our eyes, which putteth us in fear and dread, and maketh us see the wrath of God against our sins, as St. Paul saith, Per legem agnitio peccati, et, Lex iram operatur, and maketh us sorry and repentant, that ever we should come into the displeasure of God, and the captivity of the Devil. The gracious promises of God by the mediation of Christ showeth us, (and that to our great relief and comfort,) whensoever we be repentant...we have forgiveness of our sins, [are] reconciled to God, and accepted, and reputed just and righteous in his sight, only by his grace and mercy, which he doth grant and give unto us for his dearly beloved Son's sake, Jesus Christ; who paid a sufficient ransom for our sins; whose blood doth wash away the same; whose bitter and grievous passion is the only pacifying oblation, that putteth away from us the wrath of God his Father; whose sanctified body offered on the cross is the only sacrifice of sweet and pleasant savour, as St. Paul saith: that is to say, of such sweetness and pleasantness to the Father, that for the same he accepteth and reputeth of like sweetness all them that the same offering doth serve for.

These benefits of God with innumerable other, whosoever expendeth, and well pondereth in his heart, and thereby conceiveth a firm trust and feeling of God's mercy, whereof springeth in his heart a warm love and fervent heat of zeal towards God, it is not possible but that he shall fall to work, and be ready to the performance of all such works as he knoweth to be acceptable unto God. And these works only which follow our justification, do please God; for so much as they proceed from an heart endued with pure faith and love to God. But the works which we do before our justification, be not allowed and accepted before God, although they appear never so good and glorious in the sight of man. For after our justification only begin we to work as the law of God requireth. Then we shall do all good works willingly, although not so exactly as the law requireth by mean of infirmity of the flesh. Nevertheless, by the merit and benefit of Christ, we being sorry that we cannot do all things no more exquisitely and duly, all our works shall be accepted and taken of God, as most exquisite, pure, and perfect.

Now they that think they may come to justification by performance of the law, by their own deeds and merits, or by any other mean than is above rehearsed, they go from Christ, they renounce his grace: Evacuati estis a Christo, saith St. Paul, Gal. v., quicunque, in lege, judificamini, a gratia excidistis. They be not partakers of the justice, that he hath procured, or the merciful benefits that be given by him. For St. Paul saith a general rule for all them that will seek such by-paths to obtain justification; those, saith
he, which will not knowledge the justness or righteousness which cometh by God, but go about to advance their own righteousness, shall never come to that righteousness which we have by God (Rom. 10:1-4); which is the righteousness of Christ: by whom only all the saints in heaven, and all other that have been saved, have been reputed righteous, and justified. So that to Christ our only Saviour and Redeemer, on whose righteousness both their and our justification doth depend, is to be transcribed all the glory thereof.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Arminianism's Two Goals

Several years ago I read John Owen's book "A Display of Arminianism." The most amazing thing to me about that book was the charts Owen put together juxtaposing Scripture with Arminianism. He did not tear down straw men, either. The statements of Arminian belief he presented came right from the horses' mouth. Owen culled statements from all the leading Arminians and then placed these statements in a grid with a passge of Scripture right next to the quote in order to demonstrate the utterly unbiblical nature of Arminianism.

I have recently been rereading the "Display." This time I have been struck by Owen's ability to get to the bottom of Arminianism. He takes on over a dozen features of Arminian theology (there's an oxymoron!) and roundly demolishes them all. But right from the beginning of the book, Owen has given us a heads-up about what is really at stake with Arminianism. What are they really after, they who promote this error? What are they trying to achieve?

To this question, Owen gives a two-fold answer. He says that behind all the artifice and ediface, Arminianism is simply an attempt to do two things: 1. Exempt man from God's jurisdiction, and 2. Deny man's utter and total depravity

To achieve the first goal Arminianism must deny the eternity and unchangeableness of God's decrees; muddy the waters by questioning God's foreknowledge; deny God's sovereign providence as the King of the universe; and deny the irresistibility and uncontrollable power of God's will. Every Arminian theologian who has ever lived is guilty on all four counts.

Think about for a moment and it should strike terror into your heart to realize that a so-called Christian feels comfortable denying God's power, authority, sovereignty.

To achieve their second goal, Arminians must: 1. Deny the doctrine of predestination. 2. Deny Original Sin. 3. Deny that human nature abhors the law of God. 4 Deny the merit and efficacy of Christ's death. 5. Deny that one must exercise conscious faith in Christ for salvation. 6. Extol free-will with a multitude of exaggerated traits. 7. Claim that free-will is active and operative in salvation by preparing us, disposing us and working out our salvation.

Again, they are guilt on all counts. It is not uncommon to run into Arminians who pay lip-service to terms like predestination or Original Sin, but when pressed for a definition, they explain these ideas in ways that are anything but orthodox. Not surpisingly, this second goal seems to be where most of their effort is spent. One never runs into an Arminian but the subject of "free-will" comes up.

When I was in high school, I remember a very ignorant man (as I later discovered him to be) claim that Calvinism was a very logically consistent system, but that it was built more on the force of logic than on Scripture. Arminianism, it was claimed, was not always consistent, but it was always Scriptural. As I have gotten older and studied doctrine more, I have found that that statement is almost exactly backwards. Arminianism always argues from the quasi-logical premises that God created man with free-will and the power of self-determination; that the only way to be fair and just is to place all men on equal footing (by which artifice they reject Predestination and Election); and that God wouldn't command anything unless everyone was fully capable of obeying. If you start from these premises, then Arminianism is the logically inescapable conclusion. However we should first inquire whether there is any biblical warrant to assume such premises. There is none. And so it turns out that Calvinism is indeed logically consistent precisely because it IS Scriptural.

When Arminians face the bar of Scripture accused of trying to squirm out from under God's jurisdiction and minimizing the sinful and evil nature of mankind, they are found guilty on all counts. When one asks why would anyone dream up a system with such aims one gets a quite simple and straightforward answer about the origin of such a scheme of doctrine.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Seed of the Woman, by George Whitefield, Pt 5

Further: this promise is also fulfilled, not only in the church in general, but in every individual believer in particular. In every believer there are two seeds, the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent; the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. It is with the believer, when quickened with grace in his heart, as it was with Rebekah, when she had conceived Esau and Jacob in her womb; she felt a struggling, and began to be uneasy; “If it be so says she, why am I thus?” (Gen. 25:22) Thus grace and nature struggle (if I may so speak) in the womb of a believers heart: but, as it was there said, “The elder shall serve the younger;” so it is here, — grace in the end shall get the better of nature; the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. Many of you that have believed in Christ, perhaps may find some particular corruption yet strong, so strong, that you are sometimes ready to cry out with David, “I shall fall one day by the hand of Saul.” But, fear not, the promise in the text insures the perseverance and victory of believers over sin, Satan, death, and hell. What if indwelling corruption does yet remain, and the seed of the serpent bruise your heel, in vexing and disturbing your righteous souls? Fear not, though faint, yet pursue: you shall yet bruise the serpent's head. Christ hath died for you, and yet a little while, and he will send death to destroy the very being of sin in you. Which brings me to show the most extensive manner in which the promise of the text shall be fulfilled, vis. at the final judgment, when the Lord Jesus shall present the elect to his Father, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, glorified both in body and soul.

Then shall the seed of the woman give the last and fatal blow, in bruising the serpent's head. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, and all his accursed seed, shall then be cast out, and never suffered to disturb the seed of the woman any more. Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and sit with Christ on thrones in majesty on high.

Let us, therefore, not be weary of well-doing; for we shall reap an eternal harvest of comfort, if we faint not. Dare, dare, my dear brethren in Christ, to follow the Captain of your salvation, who was made perfect through sufferings. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. Fear not men. Be not too much cast down at the deceitfulness of your hearts. Fear not devils; you shall get the victory even over them. The Lord Jesus has engaged to make you more than conquerors over all. Plead with your Savior, plead: plead the promise in the tent. Wrestle, wrestle with God in prayer. If it has been given you to believe, fear not if it should also be given you to suffer. Be not any wise terrified by your adversaries; the king of the church has them all in a chain: be kind to them, pray for them; but fear them not. The Lord will yet bring back his ark; though at present driven into the wilderness; and Satan like lightening shall fall from heaven.

Are there any enemies of God here? The promise of the text encourages me to bid you defiance: the seed of the woman, the ever-blessed Jesus, shall bruise the serpent's head. What signifies all your malice? You are only raging waves of the sea, foaming out your own shame. For you, without repentance, is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. The Lord Jesus sits in heaven, ruling over all, and causing all things to work for his children's good: he laughs you to scorn: he hath you in the utmost derision, and therefore so will I. Who are you that persecute the children of the ever blessed God? Though a poor stripling, the Lord Jesus, the seed of the woman, will enable me to bruise your heads.

My brethren in Christ, I think I do not speak thus in my own strength, but in the strength of my Redeemer. I know in whom I have believed; I am persuaded he will keep that safe, which I have committed unto him. He is faithful who hath promised, that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. May we all experience a daily completion of this promise, both in the church and in our hearts, till we come to the church of the first-born, the spirits of just men made perfect, in the presence and actual fruition of the great God our heavenly Father!

To whom, with the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed all honor, power, might, majesty, and dominion, now and for evermore. Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Seed of the Woman, by George Whitefield, Pt 4

Verse 14. “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art accursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life;” i.e. he should be in subjection, and his power should always be limited and restrained. “His enemies shall lick the very dust,” says the Psalmist. (Verse 15.) “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

Before I proceed to the explanation of this verse, I cannot but take notice of one great mistake which the author of the whole duty of man is guilty of, in making this verse contain a covenant between God and Adam, as though God now personally treated with Adam, as before the fall. For, talking of the second covenant in his preface, concerning caring for the soul, says he, “This second covenant was made with Adam, and us in him, presently after the fall, and is briefly contained in these words, Gen. 3:15 where God declares, ‘The seed of the woman shall break the serpent's head; and this was made up, as the first was, of some mercies to be afforded by God, and some duties to be performed by us.” This is exceeding false divinity: for those words are not spoken to Adam; they are directed only to the serpent. Adam and Eve stood by as criminals, and God could not treat with them, because they had broken his covenant. And it is so far from being a covenant wherein “some mercies are to be afforded by God, and some duties to be performed by us,” that here is not a word looking that way; it is only a declaration of a free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. God the Father and God the Son had entered into a covenant concerning the salvation of the elect from all eternity, wherein God the Father promised, That, if the Son would offer his soul a sacrifice for sin, he should see his seed. Now this is an open revelation of this secret covenant, and therefore God speaks in the most positive terms, “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The first Adam, God had treated with before; he proved false: God therefore, to secure the second covenant from being broken, puts it into the hands of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. Adam, after the fall, stood no longer as our representative; he and Eve were only private persons, as we are, and were only to lay hold on the declaration of mercy contained in this promise by faith, (as they really did) and by that they were saved. I do not say but we are to believe and obey, if we are everlastingly saved. Faith and obedience are conditions, if we only mean that they in order go before our salvation, but I deny that these are proposed by God to Adam, or that God treats with him in this promise, as he did before the fall under the covenant of works. For how could that be, when Adam and Eve were now prisoners at the bar, without strength to perform any conditions at all? The truth is this: God, as a reward of Christ's sufferings, promised to give the elect faith and repentance, in order to bring them to eternal life; and both these, and every thing else necessary for their everlasting happiness, and infallibly secured to them in this promise; as Mr. Rastan, an excellent Scots divine, clearly shows, in a book entitled, “A View of the Covenant of Grace.”
This is by no means an unnecessary distinction; it is a matter of great importance: for want of knowing this, people have been so long misled, They have been taught that they must do so and so, and though they were under a covenant of works, and then for doing this, they should be saved. Whereas, on the contrary, people should be taught, That the Lord Jesus was the second Adam, with whom the Father entered into covenant for fallen man; That they can now do nothing of or for themselves, and should therefore come to God, beseeching him to give them faith, by which they shall be enabled to lay hold on the righteousness of Christ; and that faith they will then show forth by their works, out of love and gratitude to the ever blessed Jesus, their most glorious Redeemer, for what he has done for their souls. This is a consistent scriptural scheme; without holding this, we must run into one of those two bad extremes; I mean Antinomianism on the one hand, or Arminianism on the other: from both which may the good Lord deliver us!

But to proceed: By the seed of the woman, we are here to understand the Lord Jesus Christ, who, though very God of very God, was, for us men and our salvation, to have a body prepared for him by the Holy Ghost, and to be born of a woman who never knew man, and by his obedience and death make an atonement for man's transgression, and bring in an everlasting righteousness, work in them a new nature, and thereby bruise the serpent's head, i.e. destroy his power and dominion over them. By the serpent's seed, we are to understand the devil and all his children, who are permitted by God to tempt and sift his children. But, blessed be God, he can reach no further than our heel.
It is to be doubted but Adam and Eve understood this promise in this sense; for it is plain, in the latter part of the chapter, sacrifices were instituted. From whence should those skins come, but from beasts slain for sacrifice, of which God made them coats? We find Abel, as well as Cain, offering sacrifice in the next chapter: and the Apostle tells us, he did it by faith, no doubt in this promise. And Eve, when Cain was born, said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord,” or, (as Mr. Henry observes, it may be rendered) “I have gotten a man, — the Lord, — the promised Messiah.” Some further suppose, that Eve was the first believer; and therefore they translate it thus, “The seed, (not of the, but) of this woman:” which magnifies the grace of God so much the more, that she, who was first in the transgression, should be the first partaker of redemption. Adam believed also, and was saved: for unto Adam and his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them: which was a remarkable type of their being clothed with the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This promise was literally fulfilled in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Satan bruised his heel, when he tempted him for forty days together in the wilderness: he bruised his heel, when he raised up strong persecution against him during the time of his public ministry: he in an especial manner bruised his heel, when our Lord complained, that his soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, and he sweat great drops of blood falling upon the ground, in the garden; He bruised his heel, when he put it into the heart of Judas to betray him: and he bruised him yet most of all, when his emissaries nailed him to an accursed tree, and our Lord cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Yet, in all this, the blessed Jesus, the seed of the woman, bruised Satan's accursed head; for, in that he was tempted, he was able to succor those that are tempted. By his stripes we are healed. The chastisement of our peace was upon him. By dying, he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. He thereby spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them upon the cross.

This promise has been fulfilled in the elect of God, considered collectively, as well before, as since the coming of our Lord in the flesh: for they may be called, the seed of the woman. Marvel not, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution. In this promise, there is an eternal enmity put between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent; so that those that are born after the flesh, cannot but persecute those that are born after the spirit. This enmity showed itself, soon after this promise was revealed, in Cain's bruising the heel of Abel: it continued in the church through all ages before Christ came in the flesh, as the history of the Bible, and the 11th chapter of the Hebrews, plainly show. It raged exceedingly after our Lord's ascension; witness the Acts of the Apostles, and the History of the Primitive Christians. It now rages, and will continue to rage and show itself, in a greater or less degree, to the end of time. But let not this dismay us; for in all this, the seed of the woman is more than conqueror, and bruises the serpent's head. Thus the Israelites, the more they were oppressed, the more they increased. Thus it was with the Apostles; thus it was with their immediate followers. So that Tertullian compares the church in his time to a mowed field; the more frequently it is cut, the more it grows. The blood of the martyrs was always the seed of the church. And I have often sat down with wonder and delight, and admired how God has made the very schemes which his enemies contrived, in order to hinder, become the most effectual means to propagate his gospel. The devil has had so little success in persecution, that if I did not know that he and his children, according to this verse, could not but persecute, I should think he would count it his strength to sit still. What did he get by persecuting the martyrs in Queen Mary's time? Was not the grace of God exceedingly glorified in their support? What did he get by persecuting the good old Puritans? Did it not prove the peopling of New-England? Or, to come nearer our own times, what has he got by putting us out of the synagogues? Hath not the word of God, since that, mightily prevailed? My dear hearers, you must excuse me for enlarging on this head; God fills my soul generally, when I come to this topic. I can say with Luther, “If it were not for persecution, I should not understand the scripture.” If Satan should be yet suffered to bruise my heel further, and his servants should thrust me into prison, I doubt not, but even that would only tend to the more effectual bruising of his head. I remember a saying the then Lord Chancellor to the pious Bradford: “Thou hast done more hurt, said he, by thy exhortations in private in prison, than thou didst in preaching before thou was put in,” or words to this effect. The promise of the text is my daily support: “I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Seed of the Woman, by George Whitefield, Pt 3

Verse 12. “And the man said, the woman which thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”

Never was nature more lively delineated. See what pride Adam contracted by the fall! How unwilling he is to lay the blame upon, or take shame to himself. This answer is full of insolence towards God, enmity against his wife, and disingenuity in respect to himself. For herein he tacitly reflects upon God. “The woman that thou gavest to be with me.” As much as to say, if thou hadst not given me that woman, I had not eaten the forbidden fruit. Thus, when men sin, they lay the fault upon their passions; then blame and reflect upon God for giving them those passions. Their language is, “the appetites that thou gavest us, they deceived us; and therefore we sinned against thee.” But, as God, notwithstanding, punished Adam for hearkening to the voice of his wife, so he will punish those who hearken to the dictates of their corrupt inclinations. For God compels no man to sin. Adam might have withstood the solicitations of his wife, if he would. And so, if we look up to God, we should find grace to help in the time of need. The devil and our own hearts tempt, but they cannot force us to consent, without the concurrence of our own wills. So that our damnation is of ourselves, as it will evidently appear at the great day, notwithstanding all men's present impudent replies against God. As Adam speaks insolently in respect to God, so he speaks with enmity against his wife; the woman, or this woman, she gave me. He lays all the fault upon her, and speaks of her with much contempt. He does not say, my wife, my dear wife; but, this woman. Sin disunites the most united hearts: It is, the bane of holy fellowship. Those who have been companions in sin here, if they die without repentance, will both hate and condemn one another hereafter. All damned souls are accusers of their brethren. Thus it is, in some degree, on this side of the grave. “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” What a disingenuous [deceitful] speech was here! He makes use of no less than fifteen words to excuse himself, and but one or two (in the original) to confess his fault, if it may be called a confession at all. “The woman which thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree;” here are fifteen words; “and I did eat.” With what reluctance do these last words come out? How soon are they uttered are they uttered? “And I did eat.” But thus it is with an unhumbled, unregenerate heart; It will be laying the fault upon the dearest friend in the world, nay, upon God himself, rather than take shame to itself. This pride we are all subject to by the fall; and, till our hearts are broken, and made contrite by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be always charging God foolishly. “Against thee, and thee only, have I sinned, that thou mightest be justified in thy saying, and clear when thou art judged,” is the language of none but those, who, like David, are willing to confess their faults, and are truly sorry for their sins. This was not the case of Adam; his heart was not broken; and therefore he lays the fault of his disobedience upon his wife and God, and not upon himself; “The woman which thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”

Verse 13. “And the Lord God said, What is this that thou hast done?” What a wonderful concern does God express in this expostulation! “What a deluge of misery hast thou brought upon thyself, thy husband, and thy posterity? What is this that thou has done? Disobeyed thy God, obeyed the devil, and ruined thy husband, for whom I made thee to be an help-meet! What is this that thou hast done?” God would here awaken her to a sense of her crime and danger, and therefore, as it were, thunders in her ears: for the law must be preached to self-righteous sinners. We must take care of healing before we see sinners wounded, lest we should say, Peace, peace, where there is no peace. Secure sinners must hear the thunderings of mount Sinai, before we bring them to mount Zion. They who never preach up the law, it is to be feared, are unskillful in delivering the glad tidings of the gospel. Every minister should be a Boanerges, a son of thunder, as well as a Barnabus, a son of consolation. There was an earthquake and a whirlwind, before the small still voice came to Elijah: We must first show people they are condemned, and then show them how they must be saved. But how and when to preach the law, and when to apply the promises of the gospel, wisdom is profitable to direct. “And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou has done?”

“And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” She does not make use of so many words to excuse herself, as her husband; but her heart is as unhumbled as his. What is this, says God, that thou hast done? God here charges her with doing it. She dares not deny the fact, or say, I have not done it; but she takes all the blame off herself, and lays it upon the serpent; “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” She does not say, “Lord, I was to blame for talking with the serpent; Lord, I did wrong, in not hastening to my husband, when he put the first question to me; Lord, I plead guilty, I only am to blame, O let not my poor husband suffer for my wickedness!” This would have been the language of her heart had she now been a true penitent. But both were now alike proud; therefore neither will lay the blame upon themselves; “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. The woman which thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”

I have been the more particular in remarking this part of their behavior, because it tends so much to the magnifying of Free-grace, and plainly shows us, that salvation cometh only from the Lord. Let us take a short view of the miserable circumstances our first parents were now in: They were legally and spiritually dead, children of wrath, and heirs of hell. They had eaten the fruit, of which God had commanded them, that they should not eat; and when arraigned before God, notwithstanding their crime was so complicated, they could not be brought to confess it. What reason can be given, why sentence of death should not be pronounced against the prisoners at the bar? All must own they are worthy to die. Nay, how can God, consistently with his justice, possibly forgive them? He had threatened, that the day wherein they eat of the forbidden fruit, they should “surely die;” and, if he did not execute this threatening, the devil might then slander the Almighty indeed. And yet mercy cries, spare these sinners, spare the work of thine own hands. Behold, then, wisdom contrives a scheme how God may be just, and yet be merciful; be faithful to his threatening, punish the offense, and at the same time spare the offender. An amazing scene of divine love here opens to our view, which had been from all eternity hid in the heart of God! Notwithstanding Adam and Eve were thus unhumbled, and did not so much as put up one single petition for pardon, God immediately passes sentence upon the serpent, and reveals to them a Savior.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Seed of the Woman, by George Whitefield, Pt 2

Alas! What a complication of crimes was there in this one single act of sin! Here is an utter disbelief of God's threatening; the utmost ingratitude to their Maker, who had so lately planted this garden, and placed them in it, with such a glorious and comprehensive charter. And, the utmost neglect of their posterity, who they knew were to stand or fall with them. Here was the utmost pride of heart: they wanted to be equal with God. Here's the utmost contempt put upon his threatening and his law: the devil is credited and obeyed before him, and all this only to satisfy their sensual appetite. Never was a crime of such a complicated nature committed by any here below: Nothing but the devil's apostasy and rebellion could equal it.

And what are the consequences of their disobedience? Are their eyes opened? Yes, their eyes are opened; but, alas! It is only to see their own nakedness. For we are told (ver. 7) “That the eyes of them both were opened; and they knew that they were naked.” Naked of God, naked of every thing that was holy and good, and destitute of the divine image, which they before enjoyed. They might rightly now be termed Ichabod; for the glory of the Lord departed from them. O how low did these sons of the morning then fall! Out of God, into themselves; from being partakers of the divine nature, into the nature of the devil and the beast. Well, therefore, might they know that they were naked, not only in body, but in soul.

And how do they behave now they are naked? Do they flee to God for pardon? Do they seek to God for a robe to cover their nakedness? No, they were now dead to God, and became earthly, sensual, devilish: therefore, instead of applying to God for mercy, “they sewed or platted fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons, “or things to gird about them. This is a lively representation of all natural man: we see that we are naked: we, in some measure, confess it; but, instead of looking up to God for succor, we patch up a righteousness of our own (as our first parents platted fig-leaves together) hoping to cover our nakedness by that. But our righteousness will not stand the severity of God's judgment: it will do us no more service than the fig-leaves did Adam and Eve, that is, none at all.

For (ver. 8) “They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the trees of the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife (notwithstanding their fig-leaves) hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, among the trees of the garden.”

They heard the voice of the Lord God, or the Word of the Lord God, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “the word that was with God, and the word that was God.” They heard him walking in the trees of the garden, in the cool of the day. A season, perhaps, when Adam and Eve used to go, in an especial manner, and offer up an evening sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. The cool of the day. Perhaps the sin was committed early in the morning, or at noon; but God would not come upon them immediately, he staid till the cool of the day. And if we would effectually reprove others, we should not do it when they are warmed with passion, but wait till the cool of the day.

But what an alteration is here! Instead of rejoicing at the voice of their beloved, instead of meeting him with open arms and enlarged hearts, as before, they now hide themselves in the trees of the garden. Alas, what a foolish attempt was this? Surely they must be naked, otherwise how could they think of hiding themselves from God? Whither could they flee from his presence? But, by their fall, they had contracted an enmity against God: they now hated, and were afraid to converse with God their Maker. And is not this our case by nature? Assuredly it is. We labor to cover our nakedness with the fig-leaves of our own righteousness: We hide ourselves from God as long as we can, and will not come, and never should come, did not the Father prevent, draw, and sweetly constrain us by his grace, as he here prevented Adam.

Verse 9. “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Adam, where art thou?”

“The Lord God called unto Adam.” (for otherwise Adam would never have called unto the Lord God) and said, “Adam, where art thou? How is it that thou comest not to pay thy devotions as usual?” Christians, remember the Lord keeps an account when you fail coming to worship. Whenever therefore you are tempted to withhold your attendance, let each of you fancy you heard the Lord calling unto you, and saying, “O man, O woman, where art thou? It may be understood in another and better sense; “Adam, where art thou?” What a condition is thy poor soul in? This is the first thing the Lord asks and convinces a sinner of; when he prevents and calls him effectually by his grace; he also calls him by name; for unless God speaks to us in particular, and we know where we are, how poor, how miserable, how blind, how naked, we shall never value the redemption wrought out for us by the death and obedience of the dear Lord Jesus. “Adam, where art thou?”

Verse 10. “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid.” See what cowards sin makes us. If we knew no sin, we should know no fear. “Because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Ver. 11, “And he said, who told thee that thou was naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I (thy Maker and Law-giver) commanded thee, that thou shouldest not eat?”

God knew very well that Adam was naked, and that he had eaten of the forbidden fruit, But God would know it from Adam's own mouth. Thus God knows all our necessities before we ask, but yet insists upon our asking for his grace, and confessing our sins. For, by such acts, we acknowledge our dependence upon God, take shame to ourselves, and thereby give glory to his great name.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Seed of the Woman, by George Whitefield, Pt 1

Genesis 3:15 — “And I will put Enmity between thee and the Woman, and between thy Seed and her Seed, it shall bruise thy Head, and thou shalt bruise his Heel.”

On reading to you these words, I may address you in the language of the holy angels to the shepherds, that were watching their flocks by night: “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.” For this is the first promise that was made of a Savior to the apostate race of Adam. We generally look for Christ only in the New Testament; but Christianity, in one sense, is very near as old as the creation. It is wonderful to observe how gradually God revealed his Son to mankind. He began with the promise in the text, and this the elect lived upon, till the time of Abraham. To him, God made further discoveries of his eternal council concerning man's redemption. Afterwards, at sundry times, and in divers manners, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets, till at length the Lord Jesus himself was manifested in flesh, and came and tabernacled amongst us.

This first promise must certainly be but dark to our first parents, in comparison of that great light which we enjoy: And yet, dark as it was, we may assure ourselves they built upon it their hopes of everlasting salvation, and by that faith were saved.

How they came to stand in need of this promise, and what is the extent and meaning of it, I intend, God willing, to make the subject-matter of your present meditation.

The fall of man is written in too legible characters not to be understood: Those that deny it, by their denying, prove it. The very heathens confessed, and bewailed it: They could see the streams of corruption running through the whole race of mankind, but could not trace them to the fountain-head. Before God gave a revelation of his Son, man was a riddle to himself. And Moses unfolds more, in this one chapter (out of which the text is taken) than all mankind could have been capable of finding out of themselves, though they had studied to all eternity.

In the preceding chapter he had given us a full account, how God spoke the world into being; and especially how he formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into him the breath of life, so that he became a living soul. A council of the Trinity was called concerning the formation of this lovely creature. The result of that council was, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.” Moses remarkably repeats these words, that we might take particular notice of our divine Original. Never was so much expressed in so few words: None but a man inspired could have done so. But it is remarkable, that though Moses mentions our being made in the image of God, yet he mentions it but twice, and that in a transient manner; as though he would have said, “man was made in honor, God make him upright, ‘in the image of God, male and female created he them.' But man so soon fell, and became like the beasts that perish, nay, like the devil himself, that it is scarce worth mentioning.”

How soon man fell after he was created, is not told us; and therefore, to fix any time, is to be wise above what is written. And, I think, they who suppose that man fell the same day in which he was made, have no sufficient ground for their opinion. The many things which are crowded together in the former chapter, such as the formation of Adam's wife, his giving names to the beasts, and his being put into the garden which God had planted, I think require a longer space of time than a day to be transacted in. However, all agree in this, “man stood not long.” How long, or how short a while, I will not take upon me to determine. It more concerns us to inquire, how he came to fall from his steadfastness, and what was the rise and progress of the temptation which prevailed over him. The account given us in this chapter concerning it, is very full; and it may do us much service, under God, to make some remarks upon it.

“Now the serpent (says the sacred historian) was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made, and he said unto the woman, Yes, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”

Though this was a real serpent, yet he that spoke was no other than the devil; from hence, perhaps, called the old serpent, because he took possession of the serpent when he came to beguile our first parents. The devil envied the happiness of man, who was made, as some think, to supply the place of the fallen angels. God made man upright, and with full power to stand if he would: He was just, therefore, in suffering him to be tempted. If he fell, he had no one to blame except himself. But how must Satan effect his fall? He cannot do it by his power, he attempts it therefore by policy: he takes possession of a serpent, which was more subtle than all the beasts of the field, which the Lord God had made; so that men who are full of subtlety, but have no piety, are only machines for the devil to work upon, just as he pleases.

“And he said unto the woman.” Here is an instance of his subtlety. He says unto the woman, the weaker vessel, and when she was alone from her husband, and therefore was more liable to be overcome; “Yes, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” These words are certainly spoken in answer to something which the devil either saw or heard. In all probability, the woman was now near the tree of knowledge of good and evil; (for we shall find her, by and by, plucking an apple from it) perhaps she might be looking at, and wondering what there was in that tree more than the others, that she and her husband should be forbidden to take of it. Satan seeing this, and coveting to draw her into a parley with him, (for if the devil can persuade us not to resist, but to commune with him, he hath gained a great point) he says, “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden?” The first thing he does is to persuade her, if possible to entertain hard thoughts of God; this is his general way of dealing with God's children: “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? What! Hath God planted a garden, and placed you in the midst of it, only to tease and perplex you? Hath he planted a garden, and yet forbid you making use of any of the fruits of it at all?” It was impossible for him to ask a more ensnaring question, in order to gain his end: For Eve was here seemingly obliged to answer, and vindicate God's goodness.

And therefore, —

Verses 2 & 3. The woman said unto the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”

The former part of the answer was good, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, God has not forbid us eating of every tree of the garden. No; we may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden (and, it should seem, even of the tree of life, which was as a sacrament to man in the state of innocence) there is only one tree in the midst of the garden, of which God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” Here she begins to warp, and sin begins to conceive I her heart. Already she has contracted some of the serpent's poison, by talking with him, which she ought not to have done at all. For she might easily suppose, that it could be no good being that could put such a question unto her, and insinuate such dishonorable thoughts of God. She should therefore have fled from him, and not stood to have parleyed with him at all. Immediately the ill effects of it appear, she begins to soften the divine threatening. God had said, “the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die;” or, dying thou shalt die. But Eve says, “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” We may be assured we are fallen into, and begin to fall by temptations, when we begin to think God will not be as good as his word, in respect to the execution of his threatenings denounced against sin. Satan knew this, and therefore artfully “Said unto the woman, (ver. 4) Ye shall not surely die,” in an insinuating manner, “Ye shall not surely die. Surely; God will not be so cruel as to damn you only for eating an apple, it cannot be.” Alas! How many does Satan lead captive at his will, by flattering them, that they shall not surely die; that hell torments will not be eternal; that God is all mercy; that he therefore will not punish a few years sin with an eternity of misery? But Eve found God as good as his word; and so will all they who go on in sin, under a false hope that they shall not surely die.

We may also understand the words spoken positively, and this is agreeable to what follows; You shall not surely die; “It is all a delusion, a mere bugbear, to keep you in a servile subjection.” For (ver. 5) “God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then shall your eyes be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

What child of God can expect to escape slander, when God himself was thus slandered even in paradise? Surely the understanding of Eve must have been, in some measure, blinded, or she would not have suffered the tempter to speak such perverse things. In what odious colors is God here represented! “God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, ye shall be as gods,” (equal with God.) So that the grand temptation was, that they should be hereafter under no control, equal, if not superior, to God that made them, knowing good and evil. Eve could not tell what Satan meant by this; but, to be sure, she understood it of some great privilege which they were to enjoy. And thus Satan now points out a way which seems right to sinners, but does not tell them the end of that way is death.

To give strength and force to this temptation, in all probability, Satan, or the serpent, at this time plucked an apple from the tree, and ate it before Eve; by which Eve might be induced to think, that the sagacity and power of speech, which the serpent had above the other beasts, must be owing, in a great measure, to his eating that fruit; and, therefore, if he received so much improvement, she might also expect a like benefit from it. All this, I think, is clear; for, otherwise, I do not see with what propriety it could be said, “When the woman saw that it was good for food.” How could she know it was good for food, unless she had seen the serpent feed upon it?

Satan now begins to get ground space. Lust had conceived in Eve's heart; shortly it will bring forth sin. Sin being conceived, brings forth death. Verse 6, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband, and he did eat.”

Our senses are the landing ports of our spiritual enemies. How needful is that resolution of holy Job, “I have made a covenant with mine eyes!” When Eve began to gaze on the forbidden fruit with her eyes, she soon began to long after it with her heart. When she saw that it was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, (here was the lust of the flesh, and lust of the eye) but, above all, a tree to be desired to make one wise, wiser than God would have her be, nay, as wise as God himself; she took of the fruit thereof, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat. As soon as ever she sinned herself, she turned tempter to her husband. It is dreadful, when those, who should be help-meets for each other in the great work of their salvation, are only promoters of each other's damnation: but thus it is. If we ourselves are good, we shall excite others to goodness; if we do evil, we shall entice others to do evil also. There is a close connection between doing and teaching. How needful then is it for us all to take heed that we do not sin any way ourselves, lest we should become factors for the devil, and ensnare, perhaps, our nearest and dearest relatives? “she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

Christ's Pre-Incarnate Glory, Pt 5, by John Flavel

2. Use of Exhortation

1. To saints: If Christ lay eternally in this bosom of love, and yet was content to forsake and leave it for your sakes; then,

(1.) Be you ready to forsake and leave all the comforts you have on earth for Christ: famous Galleacius left all for this enjoyment. Moses left all the glory of Egypt: Peter, and the other Apostles left all, Luke 18: 28. But what have we to leave for Christ in comparison of what he left for us? Surely Christ is the highest pattern of self-denial in the world.

(2.) Let this confirm your faith in prayer: If he, that has such an interest in the heart of God, intercede with the Father for you, then never doubt of audience and acceptance with him; surely you shall be accepted through the beloved, Eph. 1: 6. Christ was never denied any thing that he asked, John 11: 42. The Father hears him always; though you are not worthy, Christ is, and he ever lives to make intercession for you, Heb. 7: 25.

(3.) Let this encourage thy heart, O saint, in a dying hour, and not only make thee patient in death, but in a holy manner impatient till thou be gone; for whither is thy soul now going, but to that bosom of love whence Christ came? John 17: 24. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am:” and where is he but in that bosom of glory and love where he lay before the world was? ver. 5. O then let every believer encourage his soul; comfort ye one another with these words, I am leaving the bosom of a creature, I am going to the bosom of God.

2. To sinners, exhorting them to embrace the bosom-son of God: Poor Wretches! Whatever you are, or have been; whatever guilt or discouragement at present you lie under; embrace Christ, who is freely offered to you, and you shall be as dear to God as the holiest and most eminent believer in the world: but if you still continue to despise and neglect such a Saviour, sorer wrath is treasured up for you than other sinners, even something worse than dying without mercy, Heb. 10: 28. O that these discoveries and overtures of Christ may never come to such a fatal issue with any of your souls, in whose eyes his glory has been this day opened!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Christ's Pre-Incarnate Glory, Pt 4, by John Flavel

Use of Information.

Inference 1.

What an astonishing act of love was this then, for the Father to give the delight, the darling, of his soul, out of his very bosom, for poor sinners! all tongues must needs pause and falter, that attempt the expressions of his grace, expressions being here swallowed up: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” John 3: 16. Here is a “sic” without a “sicut”; so loved them: how did he love them? nay, here you must excuse the tongues of angels; which of us would deliver a child, the child of our delights, an only child, to death for the greatest inheritance in the world? what tender parent can endure a parting pull with such a child? when Hagar was taking her last leave (as she thought) of her Ishmael, Gen. 21: 16. the text saith, “she went and sat over against him, a good way off: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over-against him, and lift up her voice, and wept:” though she were none of the best of mothers, nor he the best of children, yet she could not give up the child. O it was hard to part! what an outcry did David make, even for an Absalom! wishing he had died for him. What a hole (as I may say) has the death of some children made in the hearts of some parents, which will never be closed up in this world! yet surely, never did any child lie so close to a parent’s heart, as Christ did to his Father’s; and yet he willingly parts with him, though his only one, the Son of his delights, and that to death, a cursed death, for sinners, for the worst of sinners. O miranda Dei philanthropic! O the admirable love of God to men! matchless love! a love past finding out! Let all men, therefore, in the business of their redemption, give equal glory to the Father with the Son, John 5: 23. If the Father had not loved thee, he had never parted with such a Son for thee.

Inference 2.
From one wonder let our souls turn to another, for they are now in the midst of wonders: adore, and be forever astonished at the love of Jesus Christ to poor sinners; that ever he should consent to leave such a bosom, and the ineffable delights that were there, for such poor worms as we are. O the heights, depths, lengths, and breadths of unmeasurable love! O see, Rom. 5: 6, 7, 8. Read, and wonder; how is the love of Christ commended in ravishing circumstances to poor sinners! You would be loth to leave a creature’s bosom, a comfortable dwelling, a fair estate for the best friend in the world; your souls are loth to leave their bodies, though they have no such great content there; but which of you, if ever you found by experience what it is to be in the bosom of God by divine communion, would be persuaded to leave such a bosom for all the good that is in the world? And yet Jesus Christ who was embraced in that bosom after another manner than ever you were acquainted with, freely left it, and laid down the glory and riches he enjoyed there, for your sakes; and as the Father loved him; even so (believers) has he loved you, John 17: 22. What manner of love is this! Who ever loved as Christ loves? Who ever denied himself for Christ, as Christ denied himself for us?

Inference 3.
Hence we are informed, That interest in Jesus Christ is the true way to all spiritual preferment in heaven. Do you covet to be in the heart, in the favour and delight of God? Get interest in Jesus Christ, and you shall presently be there. What old Israel said of the children of his beloved Joseph, Thy children are my children; the same God saith of all the dear children of Christ, Gen. 48: 5, 9. You see among men, all things are carried by interest: persons rise in this world as they are befriended; preferment goes by favour: So it is in heaven, persons are preferred according to their interest in the beloved, Eph. 1: 9. Christ is the great favourite in heaven: his image upon your souls and his name in your prayers, makes both accepted with God.

Inference 4.
How worthy is Jesus Christ of all our love and delights? You see how infinitely the Father delighteth in him, how he ravishes the heart of God; and shall he not ravish our hearts? I present you a Christ this day, able to ravish any soul that will but view and consider him. O that you did but see this lovely Lord Jesus Christ! Then would you go home sick of love: surely he is a drawing Saviour, John 12: 32. Why do ye lavish away your precious affections upon vanity: None but Christ is worthy of them: when you spend your precious affections upon other objects, what is it but to dig for dross with golden mattocks? The Lord direct our hearts into the love Of Christ. O that our hearts, loves and delights did meet and concentre with the heart of God in this most blessed object! O let him that left God’s bosom for you, be embosomed by you, though yours be nothing to God’s; he that left God’s bosom for you, deserves yours.

Inference 5.
If Christ be the beloved darling of the Father’s soul, think what a grievous and insufferable thing it is to the heart of God, to see his dear Son despised, slighted, and rejected by sinners: verily, there is no such cut to the heart of God in the whole world. Unbelievers trample upon God’s darling, tread under foot him that eternally lay in his bosom, Heb. 10: 29. Smite the Apple of his eye, and how God will bear this, that parable, Mat. 21: 37, to 40, will inform you, surely he will miserably destroy such wretched sinners. If you would study to do God the greatest despight, there is none like this. What a dismal word is that; 1 Cor. 16: 22. “If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha,” (i. e.) let the great curse of God lie upon that man till the Lord come. O sinners! you shall one day know the price of this sin; you shall feel what it is to despise a Jesus, that is able to compel love from the hardest heart. O that you would slight him no more! O that this day your hearts might fall in love with him! I tell you, if you would set your love to sale, none bids so fair for it as Christ.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Christ's Pre-Incarnate Glory, Pt 3, by John Flavel

2. Let us consider it positively, what it was, and guess by some particular considerations (for indeed we can but guess) at the glory of it; as,

(1.) We cannot but conceive it to be a state of matchless happiness, if we consider the persons enjoying and delighting in each other: he was with God, John 1: 1. God, you know, is the fountain, ocean and centre of all delights and joys: Psal. 16: 11, “In thy presence is fulness of joy.” To be wrapt up in the soul and bosom of all delights, as Christ was, must needs be a state transcending apprehension; to have the fountain of love and delight letting out itself so immediately, and fully, and ever lastingly, upon this only begotten darling of his soul, so as it never did communicate itself to any; judge what a state of transcendent felicity this must be. Great persons have great delights.

(2.) Or if we consider the intimacy, dearness, yea, oneness of those great persons one with another: the nearer the union, the sweeter the communion. Now Jesus Christ was not only near and dear to God, but one with him; I and my Father are one,” John 10: 30, one in nature, will, love and delight. There is indeed a moral union of souls among men by love, but this was a natural oneness, no child is so one with his father, no husband so one with the wife of his bosom, no friend so one with his friend, no soul so one with its body, as Jesus Christ and his Father were one. O what matchless delights must necessarily flow from such a blessed union!

(3.) Consider again the purity of that delight with which the blessed Father and Son embraced each other; the best creature delights one in another, are mixed, debased, and allayed; if there be something ravishing and engaging, there is also something cloying and distasting. The purer any delight is, the more excellent. Now, there are no crystal streams flowing so purely from the fountain, no beams of light so unmixed from the sun, as the loves and delights of these holy and glorious persons were: the holy, holy, holy Father embraced the thrice holy Son with a most holy delight and love.

(4.) Consider the constancy of this delight; it was from everlasting, as in verse 23, and from eternity; it never suffered one moment’s interruption. The overflowing fountain of God’s delight and love never stopped its course, never ebbed; but as he speaks in the text, “I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” Once more, consider the fulness at that delight, the perfection of that pleasure; I was delights: so the word is in its original; not only plural, delights, all delights, but also in the abstract, delight itself: as afterwards from the abundance of his sorrows, he was stiled, a man of sorrows, so here, from the fulness of his delights: as though you should say, even constituted and made up of pleasure and delight.

3. Once more, let us consider it comparatively, and this state still yet appear more glorious, comparing it with either the choicest delights that one creature takes in another, or that God takes in the creature, or that the creatures take in God: measure these immense delights, betwixt the Father and his Son, by either of these lines, and you shall find them infinitely short: For,

(1.) Though the delights that creatures take in each other, be sometimes a great delight; such was Jacob’s delight in Benjamin, whose life is said to be bound up in the lad’s life, a dear and high expression, Gen. 44: 30. Such was that of Jonathan in David, whose soul was knit with his soul, “and he loved him as his own soul,” 1 Sam. 13: 1, and such is the delight of one friend in another: “there is a friend that is as a man’s own soul,” Deut. 13: 6, yet all this is but creature-delight, and can in no particular equal the delights betwixt the Father and the Son; for this is but a finite delight, according to the measure and abilities of creatures, but that is infinite, suitable to the infinite perfection of the divine Being; this is always mixed, that perfectly pure.

(2.) Or if you compare it with the delight that God takes in the creatures, it is confessed that God takes great delight in some creatures. “The Lord takes pleasure in his saints, he rejoices over them with singing! and resteth in his love,” Zeph. 3: 17; Isa. 62: 5. But yet there is a great difference betwixt his delight in creatures, and his delights in Christ; for all his delight in the saints is secondary, and for Christ’s sake; but his delights in Christ are primary, and for his own sake: we are accepted in the beloved, Eph. 1: 6, he is beloved, and accepted for himself.

(3.) To conclude, compare it once more with the delights that the best of creatures take in God, and Christ, and it must be confessed that is a choice delight, and a transcendent love, with which they love and delight in him; Psal. 73: 25. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and on earth there is none I desire besides thee.” What pangs of love, what raptures of delight did the spouse express to Christ? “O thou whom my soul loveth!” But surely our delight in God is no perfect rule to measure his delight in Christ by: for our love to God (at the best) is still imperfect; that is the burden and constant complaint of saints, but this is perfect; ours is inconstant, up and down, ebbing and flowing, but this is constant. So then, to conclude, the condition and state of Jesus Christ before his incarnation, was a state of the highest and matchless delight, in the enjoyment of his Father.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Christ's Pre-Incarnate Glory, Pt 2, by John Flavel

Now to sketch out (as we are able) the unspeakable felicity of that state of Christ, whilst he lay in that blessed bosom, I shall consider it three ways, negatively, positively, and comparatively.

1. Let us consider that state negatively, by removing from it all those degrees of abasement and sorrow which his incarnation brought him under: as,
First, He was not then abased to the condition of a creature, which was a low step indeed, and that which upon the matter undid him in point of reputation; for by this (saith the apostle) “he made himself of no reputation,” Phil. 2: 7, it emptied him of his glory. For God to be made man, is such an abasement as none can express: but then not only to appear in true flesh, but also in the likeness of sinful flesh, as. Rom. 8: 3. O what is this!

Secondly, Christ was not under the law in this estate. I confess it was no disparagement to Adam in the state of innocence, to angels in their state of glory, to be under law to God; but it was an inconceivable abasement to the absolute independent Being to come under law: yea, not only under the obedience, but also under the malediction and curse of the law, Gal. 4: 4. “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”

Thirdly, In this state he was not liable to any of those sorrowful consequent and attendants of that frail and feeble state of humanity, which he afterwards assumed, with the nature. As,

(1.) He was unacquainted with griefs; there was no sorrowing or sighing in that bosom where he lay, though afterwards he became a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” Isa. 53: 3. “A man of sorrows,” as if he had been constituted and made up of pure and unmixed sorrows; every day conversing with griefs, as with his intimate companions and acquaintance.

(2.) He was never pinched with poverty and wants, while he continued in that bosom, as he was afterwards, when he said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has not where to lay his head,” Matth. 8: 20. Ah blessed Jesus! thou needest not to have wanted a place to have lain thine head, hadst thou not left that bosom for my sake.

(3.) He never underwent reproach and shame in that bosom, there was nothing but glory and honour reflected upon him by his Father, though afterwards he was despised, and rejected of men, Isa 53: 3. His Father never looked upon him without smiles and love, delight and joy, though afterwards he became a reproach of men, and despised of the people, Psalm 22: 6.

(4.) His holy heart was never offended with an impure suggestion or temptation of the Devil; all the while he lay in that bosom of peace and love, he never knew what it was to be assaulted with temptations to be besieged and battered upon by unclean spirits, as he did afterwards, Mat. 4: 1, “Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil.” It was for our sakes that he submitted to those exercises of spirit, “to be in all points tempted like as we are, that he might be unto us a merciful and faithful high-priest, Heb. 4: 15.

(5.) He was never sensible of pains and tortures in soul or body, there were no such things in that blessed bosom where he lay, though afterwards he groaned and sweat under them, Isa. 53: 5. The Lord embraced him from eternity, but never wounded him till he stood in our place and room

(6.) There were no hidings or withdrawings of his Father from him; there was not a cloud from eternity upon the face of God, till Jesus Christ had left that bosom. It was a new thing to Christ to see frowns in the face of his Father; a new thing for him to cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mat. 27:46.

(7.) There were never any impressions of his Fathers wrath upon him, as there were afterwards: God never delivered such a bitter cup into his hands before, as that was, Matth. 26: 39. Lastly, There was no death, to which he was subject, in that bosom. All these things were new things to Christ; he was above them all, till for our sakes he voluntarily subjected himself unto them. Thus you see what that state was not.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Christ's Pre-Incarnate Glory, Pt 1, by John Flavel

Proverbs 8:30
Then I was by him, [as] one brought up [with him]: and I was daily [his] delight, rejoicing always before him;

These words are a part of that excellent commendation of wisdom, by which in this book Solomon intends two things; first, Grace or holiness, Prov 4: 7. ” Wisdom is the principal thing.” Secondly, Jesus Christ, the fountain of that grace: and look, as the former is renowned for its excellency, Job 28: 14, 15, so the latter, in this context, wherein the Spirit of God describes the most blessed state of Jesus Christ, the wisdom of the Father, from those eternal delights he had with his Father, before his assumption of our nature: “Then was I by him,” &c. that long Evum was wholly swallowed up, and spent in unspeakable delights and pleasures. Which delights were twofold,
(1.) The Father and Son delighted one in another (from which delights the Spirit is not here excluded) without communicating that their joy to any other, for no creature did then exist save in the mind of God, verse 30.
(2.) They delighted in the salvation of men, in the prospect of that work, though not yet extant, verse 31. My present business lies in the former, viz. the mutual delights of the Father and Son, one with and in another; the account whereof we have in the text; wherein consider,

1. The glorious condition of the non-incarnated Son of God, described by the person with whom his fellowship was, “Then was I by him,” or with him; so with him as never was any, in his very bosom, John 1: 18, the only begotten Son was in the bosom of the Father, an expression of the greatest dearness and intimacy in the world; as if he should say, wrapt up in the very soul of his Father, embosomed in God.

2. This fellowship is illustrated by a metaphor, wherein the Lord will stoop to our capacities, (as “One brought up with him”), the Hebrew word “amon” is sometimes rendered a cunning workman, or curious artist, as in Cant. 7: 1, which is the same word. And indeed Christ shewed himself such an artist in the creation of the world; “For all things were made by him, and without him there was nothing made, that was made,” John 1: 3. But Montanus, and others, render it nutricius; and so Christ is here compared to a delightful child, spotting before its Father: the Hebrew root “shachak”, which our translation renders “rejoicing before him,” signifies to laugh, play, or rejoice; so that, look as parents delight to see their children sporting before them, so did the Father delight in beholding this darling of his bosom.

3. This delight is farther amplified by the perpetuity, and uninterruptedness thereof; “I was day by day his delight, rejoicing always before him.” These delights of the Father and the Son one in another, knew not a moment’s interruption, or diminution: thus did these great and glorious persons mutually let forth their fullest pleasure and delight, each into the heart of the other; they lay as it were embosomed one in another, entertaining themselves with delights and pleasures ineffable, and inconceivable. Hence we observe,

Doctrine: That the condition and state of Jesus Christ before his incarnation, was a state of the highest and most unspeakable delight and pleasure, in the enjoyment of his Father.

John tells us he was in the bosom of his Father: to lie in the bosom is the posture of dearest love, John 13: 23. “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples whom Jesus loved:” but Christ did not lean upon the Father’s bosom, as that disciple did in his, but lay in it: and therefore in Isa. 42: 1, the Father calls him, “Mine elect in whom my soul delighteth;” which is variously rendered; the Septuagint, quem suscepit, whom my soul takes, or wraps up: others, complacuit, one that highly pleases and delights my very soul: and 2 Cor. 8: 9, he is said, in this estate, wherein I am now describing him, to be rich: and, Phil. 2: 7. “To be equal with God, and to be in the form of God,” (i. e.) to have all the glory and ensigns of the majesty of God; and the riches which he speaks of, was no less than all that God the Father has, John 16: 14. “All that the Father has is mine:” and what he now has in his exalted state, is the same he had before his humiliation, John 17: 5.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Folk Arminianism

Christendom is filled with what I call "folk Arminians." These are the people who have been reared under faulty theology and have never been exposed to Calvinism. They often hold to mutually exclusive positions, simply for the lack of systematic thinking. They gladly affirm that "without Him we can do nothing," yet they simultaneously stress that God has given us free-will and we must make the best use of it by making right decisions. I have heard pastors preach one week that God has a people chosen to salvation, a people chosen before time began; only to turn around the very next Sunday and preach that God has done His part, not it's up to you to do your part so that Christ's death won't have been in vain. They affirm election one week only to deny it the next. These are the same people who teach their children to sing "Father Abraham" and yet repudiate Covenant Theology by refusing the sacrament of baptism to their children.

This is simply the result of poor teaching and poor study habits. Much of the American clergy is largely uneducated theologically. Doctrine is considered obtuse and unnecessary; after all, 'doctrine divides.' It is frequently assumed that the call to ministry negates the need for preparation. Christian ministry is the only field in which this idea is tolerated. Imagine going to your doctor for an appendectomy to find out that he laid his hand on a rock, locked up in the sky and declared, "I am a surgeon!" You would head for the hills, if you had an ounce of brains. And for good reason! You would like to know beforehand that you auto mechanic relies on more than having played with Matchbox cars as a kid as his credentials for rebuilding your transmission. Now, let these unprepared clergy run wild in a pulpit, teaching little more than practical applications (read: pietism) and you will have a congregation full of people who are as muddleheaded as their pastor: folk Arminians - Arminians who don’t know that that's what they are.

I have no doubt that many of these folk are truly saved, because I believe in the sovereignty of God. It is the well-informed Arminian that worries me. I truly worry about the spiritual state of the man who has been presented with all the Scriptural evidence for a Calvinist soteriology, who 'kicks against the goads' and argues for the supremacy and primacy of human choice and free-will, who take salvation out of God's hands and puts it into man's.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More Four Point Foolishness

Yesterday we looked at the faulty theology of 4-point Calvinism. Today I thought we might look at an even more bizarre theology: 4-point Arminianism.

Historically, Arminianism has always been a five point system as well, each point in direct opposition to Calvinism. It doesn't take much reflection to see why this must necessarily be so. If you deny Unconditional Election, for instance, you have no choice but to deny Irresistible Grace. All five points either stand together, or fall together in both systems.

Despite this rather obvious fact, a strange breed of Arminians exists (over and above the strangeness of Arminianism to begin with) which holds to the first four tenets of the Remonstrants, yet, in common with Calvinists, believe that salvation cannot be lost (what is traditionally called Perseverance of the Saint - the P in TULIP).

Try as I might, I cannot wrap my mind around this concept. No one is elect to salvation, free-will is all-powerful in making the decision to be regenerated, YET (and this is a humongous yet) once salvation is attained it cannot be lost. Pray tell by what line of reasoning does this make any sense at all? The lynch pin of Arminianism is its inflated (read: idolatrous) view of free-will. Yet it would appear that these folk slit the throat of their free-will once they get saved, since it can no longer stray from grace. How come the freedom or ability to fall from grace disappears once one has received salvation? Frankly, transubstantiation make more sense to me that this!

Logically consistent Arminians have always believed that salvation can be lost. The same free-will that decides to be saved can decide to walk away from salvation or sin away grace. This at least makes sense, even though it is thoroughly unscriptural.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Four Point Foolishness

Among professing Calvinists there are folks who can only be classified as Four-Point Calvinists. Anyone familiar with theology knows that the Calvinist doctrine of salvation consists of five points, frequently expressed by the acronym TULIP.


For many people the most controversial point of the five is the L, which stands for Limited Atonement. By this we mean that Christ's atoning death was for the elect and them alone. The Atonement is limited in its scope. Some people find this 'limitation' unpleasant or uncomfortable and propose a way of getting around the idea of a limited scope of the atonement. Hence, these people are referred to as 4-point Calvinists.


Historically, this position has been called Amyraldism, named after Amyraut, the French theologian who developed the theory. Amyraldians try to do the impossible: keep the atonement efficacious for the elect alone while simultaneously expanding its scope to all men.


When one encounters Amryaldians they will usually always draw attention to the orthodoxy of their doctrine of election to demonstrate that they are true Calvinists. But the real hinge of their system is their doctrine of the atonement which strikes at the heart of genuine Calvinism. In order to propose some form of universal atonement, not unlike Arminianism, Amyraldians affirm a conditional substitution. This is sheer absurdity. If we grant God even the cheapest form of foreknowledge, the condition disappears. Hence, Amyraldism is nothing but an Arminian rejection of a substitutionary atonement. If Christ died in the sinner's place, bearing the penalties for his sin - this sinner must be saved. If all Christ accomplished was to make salvation possible, then even election cannot guarantee its fruition. Amyraldism claims that Christ's death removed the obstacles to salvation. But what obstacles are there, besides sin? If Christ's death removed sin, why then isn't everyone saved? This same flaw haunts Arminianism. If Christ died for everyone, why does anyone at all go to Hell? How is it meaningful to say that Christ died for everyone without exception, yet that this death is only efficacious for the elect? One doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to see how flimsy this logic is.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Don't Check Your Brain at the Door

It seems like ever since Kierkegaard, people have believed that faith is a "leap in the dark." Faith is frequently portrayed as a "blind faith," a belief in something that can either not be proven or disproven, or for which there is no evidence or contrary evidence. This explains to me the acrimonious relationship that exists between Christianity in general, and science. Scientists frequently paint Christians as blind fools, who tenaciously hold to their beliefs in spite of all the evidence.

Scripture never portrays faith as blind or as a leap in the dark. It would be easy, and indeed is tempting to go off on a tangent about the logical nature of faith, but what I really wish to point out is that Christian faith is not, nor was ever intended by God to be, ignorant or uninformed. Herman Witsius says it best.

He writes, "The first thing which faith either comprehends or presupposes, is the knowledge of the thing to be believed. This appears in opposition to Popish triflers,

"I. From express passages of Scripture, which so speak concerning faith as manifestly to intimate, that knowledge is included in its very notion and exercise (Isaiah 53:11; John 17:3 compared with Hebrews 2:4; John 6:69; 2 Timothy 1:3).

"II. From the nature of faith itself, which, as it doubtless means an assent given to a truth revealed by God, necessarily presupposes the knowledge of these two things: 1. That God has revealed something. 2. What that is to which assent is given, as a thing divinely revealed. For it is absurd to say, that a person assents to any truth which he is entirely ignorant of, and concerning which he knows no testimony extant worthy of credit.

"III. From the manner in which faith is produced in the elect; which is done externally by preaching and hearing of the Gospel (Romans 10:27) revealing that which ought to be believed, with the demonstration of the truth to every man's conscience (2 Corinthians 4:2); and internally by the teaching of God the Father (John 6:45). If therefore faith be generated in the heart by a teaching both external and internal, it must of necessity consist in knowledge: for knowledge is the proper and immediate effect of such instruction.

"IV. From the consequence annexed, which is confession and apologia, or giving an answer (Romans 10:9, 10; 1 Peter 3:15). But it is impossible, that this should be without knowledge. Hilary saith well, 'For none can speak what he knows not; nor believe what he cannot speak.' "

Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man 3.7.8

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