Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Old Testament Verses Concerning Predestination

Genesis 21:12-13 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. 13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.

Exodus 9:16 And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.

Exodus 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

Deuteronomy 4:37 And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.

Deuteronomy 32:8 When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

Joshua 11:20 For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

1 Samuel 12:22 For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.

1 Kings 12:15 Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

1 Kings 20:42 And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people.

2 Kings 19:25 Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.

2 Chronicles 6:6 But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel.

Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: [when] he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Job 23:13 But he [is] in one [mind], and who can turn him? and [what] his soul desireth, even [that] he doeth.

Job 23:14 For he performeth [the thing that is] appointed for me: and many such [things are] with him.

Psalms 4:8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

Psalms 9:9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.

Psalms 18:28 For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.

Psalms 27:1 { [A Psalm] of David.} The LORD [is] my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD [is] the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalms 27:5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

(Psalms 33:12) Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

Psalms 37:39 But the salvation of the righteous [is] of the LORD: [he is] their strength in the time of trouble.

Psalms 48:14 For this God [is] our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide [even] unto death.

Psalms 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Psalms 56:8 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: [are they] not in thy book?

Psalms 56:13 For thou hast delivered my soul from death: [wilt] not [thou deliver] my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?

Psalms 57:2 I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth [all things] for me.

Psalms 65:4 Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.

Psalms 78:67 Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:

Psalms 105:17-22 He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: 18 Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: 19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. 20 The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. 21 He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: 22 To bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom.

Psalms 100:3 Know ye that the LORD he [is] God: [it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves; [we are] his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Psalms 118:24 This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalms 135:4 For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.

Isaiah 41:13 For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

Proverbs 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Isaiah 43:5 Fear not: for I [am] with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;

Isaiah 43:6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;

Isaiah 43:7 [Even] every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

Isaiah 44:1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:

Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of [my] hands; thy walls [are] continually before me.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Malachi 1:2-3 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, 3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness...

Friday, April 25, 2014

Reflections on Psalm 45

“Discoveries of Jesus’ glory powerfully animate our hearts, and tune our tongues to commend him. How glorious is his person as God-man! Rich in grace are the qualities of his heart and the words of his mouth. In him it pleased the Father that all fullness of blessings for man should dwell. In almighty power, by his word and influences of his Spirit, he conquered multitudes in the apostolic age to the obedience of faith: and by the strokes of his vengeance did and shall destroy his Jewish and other implacable opposers. Having by himself purged our sins, he, as our righteous Sovereign, sat down at the right hand of God, as the reward of his holy service; and is, in the most transcendent manner filled with the Holy Ghost to shed on us abundantly. In a most glorious and heart-engaging manner, his manhood, mediatorial offices, and righteousness, appear in the heavens above, and in his church and ordinances below. And his people, adorned with gifts and graces, are raised up together, and made to sit together with him. His chosen one, both Jews and Gentiles, in the day of his power, are made to hear his voice in the gospel, to renounce all others, and devote themselves entirely to him and his service, as the object of his gracious and everlasting delight. In shining robes of righteousness, grace and holy conversation, each in their order are adorned; and after serving their generation by the will of God, they shall be brought and admitted into his heavenly palace with exceeding joy. Instead of Jewish fathers there shall be Gentile converts; and instead of glorified saints shall there be another generation, begotten by the power of his grace, all made kings and priests unto God! Thus, by the spread and influence of the gospel, shall Jesus’ renown and honour be perpetuated on earth, while those in heaven above shall praise him for ever and ever.” 

John Brown of Haddington, 
Self-Interpreting Bible, 
Reflections Upon Psalm XLV.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

God’s Sovereign Elective Grace - by George Ophoff

The electing and rejecting God is Supreme. Such is the plain teaching of Scripture. To deny the sovereign character of elective grace is to deny that God is God. It is to maintain that of the two, God and man, man is the stronger, and thus the factor that shapes God’s choice. This is indeed the lie that constitutes the premise, the supporting pillar, of the average sermon to which our church-going public is made to listen. I realized that the phraseology of which I avail myself in defining the lie with which the modern Evangelical discourse is fraught, may be strange to you. The apostles of a dethroned God and an enthroned sinner would perhaps recoil from declaring that man is able to defeat the purposes of God. They rather speak of a God who loves and wills to save all men (head for head), of a Christ who died for all, and of a (depraved) sinner who can believe if he will. But know that, though God is supposed to will to save all men, many perish, so that the eternal death of an unrepentant sinner spells defeat for the Almighty. To say, therefore, that God indiscriminately wills to save all, is to dethrone God. To maintain that the natural man, destitute of regeneration (such is indeed the implication), can will to believe, is to seat him on a throne, left vacant, as was said, by a dethroned God.

Once more, to deny the sovereign character of elective grace is to deny that God is God. Yet many do deny it. The sad fact is that the doctrine of a sovereign election and reprobation is to many a dreaded doctrine. The number of the divines in the Christian Church who will consistently champion it, is comparatively small. Many openly decry the conception of a God, who has mercy upon whom He will have mercy and hardeneth whom He wills, as the product of a diseased brain and, when pressed, begin to prate of an election reposing upon foreseen faith. Others of a more Reformed persuasion prefer to keep silence about the matter altogether, which they do, except on rare occasions when custom compels them to bring it up. But even then this truth must be neutralized by some such nefarious admixture as ‘a general well-meaning offer of grace.’

Scripture is most outspoken respecting the matter of election and reprobation. This no one acquainted with the contents of Holy Writ will deny, ever has denied. ‘According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world…’ (Eph. 1:4). ‘Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…’ (1 Peter 1:2). Verily, the doctrine of election runs like a seam of gold through the entire Word. It is the main pillar upon which the truth-structure, reared by the prophets and the apostles, reposes. It is so interwoven with the texture of every other truth of the Christian religion, that to preach any of these is to preach election. There is nothing cold about this doctrine. Election spells divine love, mercy, compassion, wisdom, power, justice, holiness. God in infinite mercy, taking an ill-deserving sinner included in Christ Jesus, to His bosom, to be to Him a close companion forever — this is election.

Whereas, as far as I am aware, it is freely admitted that Scripture in unmistakable speech teaches a divine election and reprobation, the issue is not: Does Holy Writ teach election, but rather: What is the character of the selective process? Is it supreme and sovereign, or bound and imprisoned by the will of man? We affirm on the basis of Scripture that the divine choice must be as sovereign as God Himself. And He is absolutely sovereign. High is He above all nations, exalted far above all gods. What may be the secret of His supremacy? He is God, infinite in might, the almighty Creator of the earth and the fullness thereof. He appears in Scripture as the Creator of the saint and as the sole source of his salvation. Also of sin, He is the supreme necessity. He forms the light, and creates darkness; makes peace and creates evil (Is. 45:7). Verily, the joint testimony of Scripture that God is supreme is overwhelming. The burden of the joint message of all the prophets and the apostles is: God is supreme. He is God. What then must be the truth about His choice, His elective grace? As God, this choice is, must be, supreme. This is the proposition to the defense of which we arise in this pamphlet.

Proven From Scripture

What we will now prove from Scripture is that God’s choice, selection, is sovereign, that is, not bound, tied down and held in bondage by man. What may be meant by a supreme, in distinction from bound choice? Let us illustrate. The matter is simple enough. A merchant is in need of an able clerk. He advertises, and shortly two men, ‘A’ and ‘B’ apply. The merchant fixes his gaze first upon the one and then upon the other; and the thought rises in his soul, ‘A’ strongly appeals to me. Him will I select, providing he possesses the necessary fitness. A brief interview, however, convinces him that the fit man is not ‘A’ but ‘B.’ ‘B’ therefore is taken and ‘A’ dismissed. A bound choice; bound because shaped and influenced by a circumstance (the fitness of the applicants) which the merchant did not create, but before which he is compelled to bow and take cognizance of, a circumstance, therefore, that constitutes the factor that determined the choice. On the other hand, if the merchant, capable of making of a man what he wills, could choose without considering what the applicants within themselves are, his choice, determined solely by factors within himself, would be free and sovereign. From the very nature of things, however, man’s choice is always bound. He cannot move mountains; hence he chooses the path that leads him past them. He decides to cross the ocean in a ship because the opposite shore can be reached in no other way. His choice to go his way alone is shaped by the refusal of the friend to set out in company with him. Forsooth, the field in which man’s will can operate is exceedingly small.

However, as the choice, selection, of a God who made heaven and earth, moves mountains, dries up seas, creates evil, turns men’s hearts, is the source of anything of goodness in man — this choice, elective love, of God is supreme. Nowhere is this more plainly taught than in the ninth chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Attend to the argument of the verses ten to fourteen: ‘And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’ This passage asserts, mark you, that God loved Jacob before he had done any good, so that the supreme cause of the divine choice as it devolved upon the younger child was not the good works, which he, as a historical phenomenon, performed; but the will, the good pleasure, of the Almighty God. And this is the same as saying that He chose Jacob with a view to creating in him life, goodness, and power. For, not of works but of Him that calleth, that the purpose of God according to election might stand. Forsooth, God’s choice is supreme. The sole factor that determines it, is found within Him. He has mercy upon whom He will.

Deny the sovereignty of the divine choice, say that a sinner of himself believes, can believe if he but will, and cannot be made to believe, if he will not; and you brush aside with one sweep the entire mass of testimony of Scripture that God is God, and set man on a throne left vacant by a dethroned God. For if the spiritual Israel, as to its hallowed energies and power (its faith, hope, love, and good works) is not of God, is not the creation of His almighty will; He is not Israel’s Maker, exalted and almighty Father, King and Savior. To say, therefore, that there is something of goodness in man that is not of God, not the creation of His will — some power, however infinitesimal, to appropriate the Christ and the blessings of the kingdom, to take hold of the life-line thrown out, some power to utter a single faint cry for mercy — is to strip Him of His infinite might, yea of all His glories, and draw Him down to the level of the creature to be trodden under foot of man. Consider that man is by nature dead in trespasses and sin, and thus destitute of spiritual life and power. How, then, can He believe, will to believe, of himself?

As to Esau, God hated him before he had done any evil so that the supreme reason of the divine rejection as it devolved upon the older child was not his corruption, the evil works he as a historical phenomenon performed, but the will, the good pleasure, of God. For reasons within Himself the Almighty resolved to reject and to harden the historical Esau. ‘Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will he hardeneth.’ (Rom. 9: 18). Consider that if Esau’s total depravity was the supreme reason that compelled God to reject him, the Almighty would have been forced to reject Jacob as well, for he by nature was as depraved as his reprobated brother. This shows that the supreme reason of Esau’s rejection was not his wickedness, but the sovereign will of God.

Know well that to rebel against the reasoning of the above-cited Scripture, is to be compelled to embrace the sickening lie that the supreme reason of the divine rejection of the sinner, is the latter’s wickedness — his persistent refusal to give ear to the pleading of a God who would save but cannot and therefore finally resolves, contrary to His inmost desire, to punish the incorrigible culprit with eternal death. And this is equal to saying that the attempt of the Almighty to save ends in dismal failure as often as a sinner perishes. But let me ask: Is God’s will bound? Does the unwillingness of the sinner to be saved spell defeat for the Almighty? Does the iron wall of man’s opposition stay the Lord? Is His resolve to save a man shattered upon the rock of man’s stinking pride, arrogance, and contempt? Don’t say that I speak too disparagingly of man. He is a creature with a stiff neck, with a heart of stone, with a mouth full of dreadful curses, with a tongue under which lurks the poison of asps, with a throat that is an open sepulcher, with feet swift to shed blood, with a mind imagining vain things. In a word, he is a creature incapable of saving good and inclined to all evil. Dead is he in trespasses and sin. Does the stony heart of this man constitute the rock that resists the hammer-blows of God’s grace, the rock with which His will collides and is dashed to fragments? Nay, my friend, there is no such rock. The stony heart of man defeat God — Him who measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, meted out heaven with a span, comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in balance; Him before Whom the nations are nothing; Him, the incomparable God, Who bringeth the princes to nothing and maketh the judges of the earth as nothing? (Is. 40). This God overruled by the will of man, receding when man advances, proceeding only when man deigns to let him pass? Nay, it cannot be. How preposterous the very idea! No heart so hard that He cannot break. No will so stubborn that He cannot bend. No sinner so dead that He cannot revive. No sinner so proud that He cannot debase. No heart so filthy that He cannot cleanse. No sinner so lost that He cannot save. No sinner sunken so low that He could not raise up and set in heaven with Christ. However, He hath mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. The one believes, repents, and cries for mercy, because God so wills. And another resists, hardens his heart, says no to the Almighty, and perishes in his sins, because He so wills. The electing and rejecting God is supreme. Will any true lover of God care to maintain the contrary? Again I say that I cannot conceive of him doing so.

The First Objection Weighed

It is said, that the doctrine that God, according to His own purpose and for a reason in Himself, to wit, His own good pleasure, chooses one and rejects another, is inconsistent with divine justice. The apostle dealt with this objection. That he did so proves conclusively that the views we champion are actually his. Otherwise it could never be explained why he should raise and remove the aforesaid objection immediately upon having quoted from the discourse of the prophet Malachi the words, ‘Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.’ (Rom. 9:13). ‘What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?’ (Rom. 9:14) is the question the apostle now puts forth. And his answer: ‘God forbid. For He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion . . . . For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.’ Both passages are from the book of Exodus (9:16; 33:11). The purpose of the apostle is obvious. He sweeps away the objection by showing that Scripture and thus God Himself unmistakably declares that He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy and hardeneth whom he will unto His glory. What God actually does — does unto His everlasting glory (such is the implication) — is, must be, just. So, then, what the apostle would bind upon our hearts is that, whereas God (according to His own purpose, for a reason in Himself, and with a view to Himself) actually chooses one and rejects and hardens another — this doing of His is, must be, just. Let this sink deep into your heart, my reader. God’s works (including the rejection and hardening of the sinner) are truth and verity; they being performed by Him for a reason in Himself, according to His purpose, and with a view to Himself, to the enhancement of His name, with an eye singled to His glory, with Himself before His eye as the ultimate goal. Consider that He is the highest good, a Being wise and just, the inclusion of all that is good and lovely. Hence, any work of His that has not Himself as its supreme cause and goal falls short of Himself and is vile. Because God ends in Himself, He is the just and the holy God. Such is the reply of the apostle to the objection that sovereign rejection involves God in an unfair treatment especially of those whom He wills to reject and harden. The apostle’s reply does not satisfy you? So, then, it is not enough for you, to know that — whereas it is actually the way of God to have mercy on whom he will have mercy and to harden whom He will — Paul’s doctrine of a sovereign election and rejection is, must be, consistent with divine justice? Consider that what you set aside is God’s very own appraisal of His doings, yea, of Himself. You dare say to God that His appraisal of Himself is wrong? You, finite creature of the dust, dare to sit in judgment over God?

The Second Objection Weighed

The Objection
 Another objection raised against sovereign elective grace is that it is incompatible with human responsibility. This grievance, too, was advanced by the enemy of the truth who rose before the eye of the apostle. It again shows that the doctrine of the preceding verses is: God chooses one and rejects another because He wills. The form in which the apostle has the objector cast his complaint is: ‘Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?’ (Rom. 9:19). The reasoning here is plain: If it be true that the destiny of man is in the almighty hand of God; if it is not of him who willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy; if one believes because God saves him; if another remains impenitent because God hardens him, and is lost because God fits him for destruction; if man’s state and destiny depend on God alone — how can He find fault, that is, how can He blame man and hold him responsible? For who can resist His will? Observe that the objection is precisely the one being urged against our doctrine of the character of the elective grace of God. Let this set you to thinking. It shows that we are in exceedingly good company, in the company of no one less than Paul.

‘Who hath resisted His will?’ The objector then has grasped the force and implication of the apostle’s reasoning. The question is, however, whether the doctrine of the preceding verses yields this conclusion. And the answer: In the mouth of the objector, the complaint, ‘No one can resist His will’ is vile slander. What the objector means to say is that the reprobated sinner is hardened irrespective of what he can do about it, is hardened therefore against his own good will and better self. If God would only withdraw and permit this better self to assert itself, the hardened one would obey and not rebel. The sinner, according to the reasoning of the objector, is being compelled to say no to the Almighty, though he would say yes. Hence, God cannot find fault. What has the apostle to say to this? Nothing directly. He could have replied: Thou, O man, canst not resist God’s will in the sense that thou, being hardened by God, canst will to do nothing else but harden thyself and say no to Him. Thy will is only evil as thyself. With thy whole being, with all the power that is thine, dost thou pitch thyself against God. He, therefore, finds fault with thee, holds thee accountable. For thy rebellion is wanton, willful, unrestrained, unfettered.

Verily, though hardened, man is the subject of his rebellion, and behaves in agreement with his nature. With such amazing freedom does he sin, so far is he from being able to detect the power of the Almighty over and in him as something foreign to himself, that he denies the existence of God. Ask a man who persists in his unbelief why he continues to say no to the Lord, and his answer will not be: God hardens me, but, I will not believe, I hate God and refuse to come to His service.

That the apostle knew how to meet the aforesaid objection is evident from the following passage taken from the first section of his epistle: ‘Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.’ (Rom. 1:32-2:1). So then, the express declaration of Scripture is that the rejected sinner, though hardened and fitted for destruction by God, is nevertheless inexcusable, and is thus being held accountable for his moral state. Though hardened by God, man sins as a free moral agent. If you ask, How can this be? I must reply that I know not. What Scripture here presents is no contradiction but a mystery, which for this reason defies our powers of penetration. Deny either that man is at fault, or that God hardens him, and the mystery vanishes into thin air. The exponents of the theory of a well-meaning offer of salvation to all men, of the theory that God wills to save all, that Christ died for all, of the theory that a sinner of himself can believe — I say, the exponents of these various theories have no mystery.

The Reply

‘How can He find fault. For who hath resisted His will?’ Let us now attend to the apostle’s reply to this question. Consider, that the question is rhetorical and may therefore be converted into a positive statement thus: God cannot find fault, for no one can resist His will. The opponent feels certain that the objection he now raises compels the apostle to concede that his doctrine is inconsistent with human accountability and therefore shall have to be relinquished. But the apostle is not to be silenced. In replying, however, he purposely refrains from caviling with his opponent about the matter of human responsibility, for the reason that all such complaints rise not from sincere perplexity, not from an earnest desire to know the truth about the matter, but from a stinking pride that dares to cavil with God and challenge His claim upon His moral creatures. Grievances they are that spring from a sinful unwillingness to believe that with God there can be no unrighteousness; from a vile stubbornness, that against better knowledge, refuses to concede that, whereas God is God and man His creature, a thing formed, God can do with man according as He wills. The apostle, therefore, frames a retort designed to rebuke the opponent’s stinking pride and to expose the blasphemous root-thought from which the complaint springs (read Romans 9:20-23) — the root-thought, namely, that God hath no right to do with His moral creatures as He pleases. Essentially this complaint is like unto the one first raised: ‘Is there unrighteousness with God?’ Attend now to the apostle’s reply: ‘Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?’ (Rom. 9:20). It is to be noticed that the apostle here judges the opponent out of his own mouth. The opponent had thought to overturn the apostle’s doctrine by the complaint, ‘Who can resist His will?’ Just so, such is the force of the apostle’s reply, in the right sense (not in the sense in which the opponent meant it), no one can resist His will. When He hardens, the sinner can will to do nothing else but harden himself. Hence, thou, O man, art but clay in the hands of God. Being clay, it behooves thee to hold thy peace.

‘Who art thou that repliest against God…’ Let every opponent of Paul’s doctrine seriously ask himself this question. Let him ask, who am I that dare to set my mouth against Heaven and say, There is unrighteousness with God? Who am I that dare to challenge God’s claim upon His moral creatures? Who am I that have the vile courage to call God to account? Indeed, who art thou, O man? Consider for a moment who thou art: a vile lump of clay by thyself, impotent, lifeless, without power to make anything of thyself at all, either a vessel unto honor, or a vessel unto dishonor. Consider, that thou canst not as much as harden thyself except the Almighty hardens thee. In God thou dost live, move, and have thy being (Acts 17:28). Thou art creature, the issue of His will. Even as a vile sinner thou dost come forth out of the womb of divine providence. In a word, by thyself, thou art clay. Thy caviling with God, how utterly preposterous! It behooves thee to hold thy peace and to extol the adorable sovereignty of thy Maker. For thou art clay. Yet thou openest thy mouth, thou a vile lump of clay, to criticize God, to accuse Him of unrighteousness, to challenge His claim upon thee, to say to Him, Why hast thou made me thus? Unbelievable! O man, thou art clay. Tell me, asks the apostle, hath not the potter power, that is, right over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? O man, have you ever heard of anyone challenging the right of the potter over the clay? Would it not, among men, be considered the height of the absurd for anyone to deny that the potter has this right? And would it not be considered the height of folly and arrogance for the dishonorable vessel, a mere lump of clay, to say to the potter, ‘Why hast thou made me thus?’ And yet, O man, thou repliest against God, sayest to him, ‘Why hast thou made me thus?’

What, then, is God’s very own answer to him who challenges His right over His moral creatures and insists that with Him there is unrighteousness because He exercises His divine prerogatives over man as his sovereign Maker? It is this: Consider, O man, that with me there can be no unrighteousness as I am holy God. Consider, further, that I am thy sovereign Creator and therefore have a right to do with thee according to My will. Therefore, be still and bow before the sovereignty of thy Maker. Humble thyself under My mighty hand. Extol My sovereignty, My glories, as thou beholdest them in the face of My Son, Christ Jesus. Doing so, thou hast within thyself the evidence that thou art a vessel of mercy prepared unto glory.

O man, will you continue to denounce the adorable God because you cannot reconcile His perfect doings with your corrupt conceptions of what is right and proper for Him to do? Not satisfied with God as He is, you try to improve upon Him. Improve upon God and you get a monstrosity.

So then, He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. It means that the relation He sustains to sin is causal. He hardens first, and as a result the sinner hardens himself. The exponents of the theory of the free will of man reverse this. Man first hardens himself and as a result God hardens him. The very fact, however, that the apostle insists that God may do with His moral creatures as He pleases proves that His hardening the sinner is the cause of the sinner hardening himself. The heart of the entire argument of the apostle is that the relation God sustains to sin is causal, active, progressive, and not, as is commonly held, passive, permissive, receding. What is meant is not an abandonment of man to a reprobate mind, a withdrawing of the restraining influences of His Holy Spirit, a giving up to the uncounteracted operations of surrounding hardening or perverting influences, but a positive giving up of the sinner to sin through the wickedness of his own heart. Deny this and you overturn the entire argument of the apostle that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth


Having brought to the fore and removed the chief objections raised against the God of sovereign mercy and of sovereign wrath, let us now face the question: What may be the real reason for the rejection of this God? And the answer: the very fact that He is supreme, selects one and rejects another because He wills, for reasons in Himself, according to His purpose and unto His supreme and everlasting glory. A God so absolutely sovereign, the vile sinner cannot tolerate. So he fabricates himself a God. But what is this God other than an idol that can be taken up, stationed in a corner and stay put; a figurehead, if you will, trained to take orders; an ornament; a deified extension of man himself; a God who will talk along with man and say that He selects one and rejects another for reasons in the creature (man’s virtue, faith, or unbelief that defies even the power of God). Such a God man makes for himself, a God who selects or rejects according as man wills and unto man’s supreme glory. The apostles of a dethroned God have no objection to God casting a man into hell, if only it be conceded that the supreme reason for Him doing so, is the sinner, his stubborn will. Even in hell the lost one can then glory in himself, shake his fist in the face of God and with the proud Stoic of old say, My will even thou canst not overpower. It is noteworthy that the modern revivalist preaches hell and damnation with a strange ferocity. They preach a Christ, too, a Christ, however, who completes the task of housecleaning begun by man.

Pelagianism represents an attempt to improve upon the ‘hard’ God of Scripture. Improve upon this God and you get a monstrosity. The men of whom Paul in his epistle to the Romans wrote tried it. But their improvement turned out to be a corruptible man, a bird, a four-footed beast, a creeping thing. Let us quote the passage: ‘And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.’ (Rom. 1:23). Does any one suppose that the race of today could do any better than those heathen? Not at all. The made-over God of the Pelagian, that God who wills to save all men head for head but cannot, is a monstrosity. This is plain enough. Consider that according to the apostles of a dethroned God, the supreme reason for a sinner believing is the sinner himself, his supreme will. It means that God cannot save unto His supreme glory. His redemptive labors, therefore, being works that fall short of Himself, must be denominated sin. And a God whose works are sin, is darkness. Further, the God of the apostles of a free will must destroy the wicked because of an inherent impotence to bring them to repentance, so that the perishing of the wicked spells his defeat. In a word, to deny that the electing and rejecting God is supreme is to change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible, vile, and impotent man. Improve upon the God of Scripture and you get a monstrosity.

Finally, if the electing and rejecting God is not supreme, a man’s salvation depends upon his own capricious will. Though believing today, the assurance is lacking to him that he will still be cleaving unto Christ on the morrow. Even with the gates of heaven within sight, he may still plunge back into hell. The theory we expose, it is plain, renders everything uncertain. It is a theory that genders not peace but anxiety, not joy but grief, not hope but despair, not humbleness but stinking pride. How different the disposition of a man who firmly believes that the electing and rejecting God is supreme, the creative cause of his salvation, his Almighty Redeemer, Who loves him because He wills, for a reason in Himself. This man has rest for he rests in God.

Man by himself is nothing. God is all. He is supreme. His power is infinite. He saves to the uttermost a vile sinner, by himself hopelessly lost, whose only hope therefore is God. Knowing himself as claimed by a God of sovereign mercy, the redeemed one has peace and joy unspeakable, and he glories in the cross and will glory in God forever more.

Because He is supreme God, John the apostle hears every creature which is in heaven and in the earth and such as are in the sea and all that are in them saying, ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.’ (Rev. 5:13).

Preach sovereign election and rejection in and out of season, and the flock you pastor will soon be crying out the praises of God. Keep silence about this truth, and the praises of God will soon die on your own lips and on the lips of the sheep over which you have been set.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Samuel Willard on the Rationale Behind WSC Question 1

Here we have two distinct things put together, namely, To Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever. But we must warily consider them, else we may be greatly mistaken about them.

It is to be observed, that in strict speaking, that which is chief can be but one is a contradiction to say, there are two last ends; if both are equal, neither of them can be chief or last. Among intermediate ends some may be subordinate, others may be coordinate, but the last will admit of no compeer: and as the chief and is but one, so it is not a thing compounded, but single. It cannot be made of the meeting of divers in one; for that which is compounded is indeed manifold; and except there were an equality between those things so concurring, they cannot be of a like weight and therefore the one must needs stand in subordination to the other. So, that if we would speak exactly there is but one of these, namely, To Glorify God, which is man’s chief end; the other is immediately subordinated, or it is next to the last. It is man’s duty to seek his own best good, which consists in his enjoying of God; but he is to do it in and for the glory of God; and so from thence all his seeking of it is to take its measures.

But these two are joined together in the answer for these reasons:

1. Because God is pleased to put them together in his Word, under the notion of work and reward. God having put into man in natural desire after happiness or will be, makes use of it to help him in his duty: and therefore having made him for His glory, quickens him to it by a promise of happiness in his so doing. Hence the Scripture is full of such passages wherein the command and promise are connected; Norwood fallen man seek God’s glory had he not this encouragement.

2. Because they are inseparable and practice. A man cannot seek God’s glory aright, but in so doing, he also seeks his own salvation; and this follows from the former. And the conjunction between them in practice is thus stated; namely, God doth, as it were, say to the children of men, “You have a desire to be happy; that you can only be in the enjoyment of me; I am the only adequate object of happiness of the children of men. But if you will truly glorify me, in it you shall be happy. Do you take care of my honor, and I will secure your felicity.” And by this means it comes to pass that all the rules which God gives man to glorify him become through the strong connection sure guide of man to eternal glory. Hence that forementioned Isaiah 56:2; James 1:25. Happiness is made the reward of true obedience, and yet because man does God service, by a tie of nature antecedent to the reward, he is to seek God’s glory, though there were none: so that respect to his own benefit is but a secondary consideration.

Here therefore that great case which some perplexed themselves and others is easily resolved, namely, whether a man ought willingly to be damned, so God’s glory may be advanced by it?

Answer: A willingness to be damned is inconsistent with a true desire that God may be glorified because it separates those things which God has made inseparable. It supposes a clashing in that very order which God hath put between the end and the means: it must therefore presume a consent that God should be false to his word and promise, which militates against his glory; or else a willingness to the neglect the duties to which the promises made; which is to consent to our own actual dishonoring of him; neither of which are consistent with our sincere aiming at our last end.

There are indeed to Scripture examples that seem to make for the contrary conclusion; that of Moses, Exodus 32:32, and of Paul, Romans 9:3. But if thoroughly weighed they will not evince it. Both of them are of one tenor, and neither looks immediately to the glory of God, but to express an exuberant affection to their people. Neither of them in their extent are justifiable. God himself seems to testify against, and tacitly to reprove that of Moses, verse 33, and Paul expresses himself in the potential mood, “I could wish…” I.e. “I have such an endeared love to my kindred, that I am at the point of so wishing; I could do it, if it were lawful.” It is a pathetic all expression of an hyperbolical affection. It must needs therefore be in ensnaring trial that is put upon the children of God, when this is offered as a rule to prove their sincerity by. He that insatiably desires to be saved, and yet resolves to be saved in no other way but that wherein God may be glorified, certainly is the man whose hands are rightly fixed. 

From: Sermon 2, Compleat Body of Divinity, In 250 Lectures on the Assembly's Shorter Catechism (published posthumously in 1726), by Samuel Willard (January 31, 1640 – September 12, 1707)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Folly of Doubting God's Love Amidst Suffering

It is a great folly in the children of God to question His love merely because of the greatness of their afflictions. We presently cry out, as Job, chapter 30:21, “Thou art become cruel to me; with thy strong hand thou opposeth thyself against me;” that He hath put off all fatherly affection, because we judge of the cross according to the sense of our own flesh. And therefore to question God’s love because of afflictions is folly. Rather we conclude the contrary of the two. Bastards are left to a looser disciple than sons; the bramble of the wilderness is suffered to grow and spread when the vine is cut, and pruned, and pared; the stones that are to be set in the building are most hewed and squared, others lie neglected in the quarry and are left to their own roughness. Multiplied afflictions are a sign God hath a care of you; He will not suffer you to run wild. And therefore, in defiance of the cross, learn to call God Father; look through the cloud of the present dispensation to the love of God towards you. 

Thomas Manton – Sermon on Luke 23:34

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Them's Fightin' Words

Gottschalk of Orbais (c. 808 – October 30, 867) got himself thrown in prison, where he languished for more than 20 years, for holding the doctrine presented in the short confession of faith, which he wrote, known as the Confessio Brevior:

I believe and confess that God, omnipotently and unchangeably, has graciously foreknown and predestined holy angels and elect men to eternal life, but that He in like manner has, by His most just judgment, predestined the devil, who is head of all the demons, with all his apostate angels and also with reprobate men, who are his members, on account of their foreknown particular future evil deeds, to merited eternal death: this the Lord Himself affirms in His Gospel: "The prince of this world is already judged" (John 14:11). Augustine, beautifully explaining these words to the people (Augustine on John, tract. 95), has spoken as follows: "That is, he has been irrevocably destined to the judgment of eternal fire." Likewise concerning the reprobate, the same is true: "Who then believeth not is already judged" (John 3:18), that is (as the aforesaid author explains), (tract. xii), already is damned: "Not that judgment now is manifest, but that judgment is already wrought." Likewise explaining these words of John the Baptist: "His testimony no man has received" (John 3:32), he speaks in this wise (tract. xiv): "'No man', is a certain people prepared to wrath by God, damned with the Devil." Also concerning the Jews: "Those dead scorners, predestinated to eternal death." Again (tract. Xlviii): "Why did the Lord say to the Jews: 'Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep' (John 10:26), unless because he saw that they were predestinated to everlasting destruction, and not to life eternal by the price of his blood," Also, explaining these words of the Lord (Ibid.): "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand: my Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:27-29), he says this: "What can the wolf do? What can the thief and robber do? They destroy none, except those predestined to destruction." Speaking in like manner concerning the two worlds (tract. lxxxvii) he says: "The whole world is the church, and the whole world hates the church; the world, therefore, hates the world, the hostile that which is reconciled, the damned that which is saved, the polluted that which is cleansed." Likewise (tract. cx): "There is a world concerning which the Apostle says: 'that we should be condemned with this world (I Cor. 11:32). For that world the Lord does not pray, for He certainly cannot ignore that for which it is predestinated." Likewise (tract. cvii): "Judas the betrayer of Christ is called the son of perdition as the one predestinated to be the betrayer."  Likewise in Enchiridion (cap. 100): "To their damnation whom He has justly predestinated to punishment." Likewise in the book On Man's Perfection in Righteousness he says (cap. 13): "This good, which is required, there is not anyone who does it, not even one; but this refers to that class of men who have been predestinated to destruction: indeed, upon those the foreknowledge of God looks down and pronounces sentence." Likewise in the books de Civitate Dei (lib. xxii, c. 24): "Which is given to those who have been predestinated to death." Likewise blessed Gregory the Pope (Moral. lib. xxxiv, c. 2): "Leviathan with all his members has been cut off for eternal torment." Likewise holy Fulgentius in the third book Concerning the Truth of Predestination and Grace (lib. iii, c. 5) says: "God has prepared punishment for those sinners (at least) who have been justly predestinated to the suffering of punishment." And blessed Fulgentius has composed one whole book for his friend Monimus concerning this tantamount question, that is: Concerning the Predestination of the Reprobate to Destruction, (lib. i). Whence also holy Isodore says (Sentent. II, cap. 6): "Predestination is double (gemina) whether of election to peace, or of reprobation to death." The same thing, therefore, (with others) I believe and confess, through whatever may happen, with those who are the elect of God and true Catholics, according as I am helped by divine inspiration, encouragement, and provision. Amen.

False, indeed, is the witness, who in speaking of any aspect of those things, corrupts them either superficially or with respect to their essential sense.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Myth that the Church in the Middles Ages Repressed Science

The Claim: “The dark ages were a time of ignorance and superstition, thanks to religion’s negative influence on scientific progress.”

The Truth: Atheist writer Tim O’Neill responds to this claim in his review of “God’s Philosophers”: 

“It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one - scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists – like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents usually scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review of Michael John Beasley's "Fallible Prophets of the New Calvinism."

While this book is aimed at the general Continuationist faction within the movement broadly termed “New Calvinism,” the brunt of the attack is the bizarre notion of “New Testament fallible prophecy,” primarily proposed, advanced and defended in the works of Wayne Grudem. Since several other authors have responded to Grudem’s work in this field, Michael John Beasley responds to the features of Grudem’s position which have not generally be responded to. These would be the lexical, exegetical and historical concerns, but primarily the lexical defense of the position advanced by Grudem.

Beasley begins by noting that the position advanced by Grudem commits several gross errors, such as reversing the very definition of the word “Prophecy.” This is no small concern. Secondly, there is the mind-bending assertion that the gift of prophecy advocated by Grudem is simultaneously fallible and legitimate. Yes, you read that correctly. Imagine claiming that you are speaking an admixture of truth and error, with no way to gag the error, and this fact notwithstanding, your work as a untrustworthy communicator is still completely legitimate. Try that at work, I double-dog dare you, and see how long you keep your job.

But the strength of this small book is its handling of the feeble lexical argument used by Grudem. In order to defend a ‘gift’ of prophecy in the church which is not authoritatively binding (like OT prophecy), that doesn’t end the false prophet’s life (like OT prophecy), is not 100% accurate (like OT prophecy), Grudem is forced to redefine the word “Prophet.” But more than that, he must also affirm that his redefined, or rather reversed, term is how the New Testament writers understood the word “Prophet.” No small order, to be sure. Beasley then demonstrates how Grudem does this, not by going to the text of the NT, but rather by going to most bizarre fringes of secular usage and drags the word “prophet” into his Procrustean bed. Since pagans had ‘prophets,’ so-called, ergo, the Apostles used the term ‘prophet’ with the non-authoritative pagan connotations in mind, NOT what the whole flow of the OT teaches regarding prophets. It boggles the imagination. So much for the analogy of faith. So much for Sola Scriptura. So much for “Scripture interprets Scripture.”

In the lengthy exegetical section of the book, Beasley handles the lone spoof-text for fallible prophecy, which is Agabus’ prophecy. Make no mistake, what Grudem intends to do here is to prove that a legitimate, yet fallible gift of prophecy is to function in the church, based upon the notion that Agabus blew it. The assertion made by Grudem and other Continuationist Calvinists (including D.A. Carson), is that Agabus’ prophecy was an example of fallible prophecy. Agabus’ prophecy was full of factual errors. These are not my words. Carson, for example says, “I can think of no reported Old Testament prophet whose prophecies are so wrong on the details.” (This quote is cited favorably by Grudem.) Grudem himself goes so far as to say that Agabus’ introduction to his prophecy, “This is what the Holy Spirit says,” is roughly equivalent to, “This is what I feel God may want me to tell you.”

The reason behind these startling and amazing statements is that, in order to defend his belief in a gift of fallible prophecy in the New Testament church, Grudem and his fellow Continuists charge that Agabus’ prophecy was fraught with factual errors. Beasley goes to great lengths exegeting the Agabus’ prophecy and analyzing both the prophecy and the historical details chronicled by Luke in order to demonstrate that Agabus’ prophecy was factually correct in every detail. Those, who affirm the opposite do not do so on solid exegetical grounds, but sacrifice the facts (and the historic Protestant view of Inspiration) on the altar of their preconceived notions. Why not rather assume that Agabus was correct? Why not rather assume that Scripture does not blur the lines between true and false prophet? These are big questions which Grudem’s position creates and never attempts to solve.

If there is anything I would criticize the book for, it is this: before launching into an excellent survey of the notion of fallible prophecy, and before detailing the horrific dangers to which such a position makes us susceptible, the author prefaces his work by stating that he is not convinced that “fallible prophecy” constitutes an immediate assault on the gospel. I am at a loss with what to do with that statement. I cannot imagine a more ineffectual way to preface a critique and analysis of a movement which injects error into the mouth of God in Scripture, destroys the possibility of labeling anyone a “false prophet,” and removes any barrier to anyone claiming to speak authoritatively in the name of God, while simultaneously speaking a message full of error.

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