Archive

Author Archive

God from eternity elected some and rejected the rest

April 18, 2014 2 comments

Chapter IV

OF REPROBATION OR PREDESTINATION AS IT RESPECTS THE UNGODLY.

FROM what has been said in the preceding chapter concerning the election of some, it would unavoidably follow, even supposing the Scriptures had been silent about it, that there must be a rejection of others, as every choice does, most evidently and necessarily, imply a refusal, for where there is no leaving out there can be no choice. But beside the testimony of reason, the Divine Word is full and express to our purpose; it frequently, and in terms too clear to be misunderstood, and too strong to be evaded by any who are not proof against the most cogent evidence, attests this tremendous truth, that some are “of old fore-ordained to condemnation.” I shall, in the discussion of this awful subject, follow the method hitherto observed, and throw what I have to say into several distinct positions supported by Scripture.

POSITION 8. -Notwithstanding God did from all eternity irreversibly choose out and fix upon some to be partakers of salvation by Christ and rejected the rest (who are therefore termed by the apostle, the refuse, or those that remained and were left out), acting in both according to the good pleasure of His own sovereign will, yet He did not herein act an unjust, tyrannical or cruel part, nor yet show Himself a respecter of persons.

(1) He is not unjust in reprobating some, neither can He be so, for “the Lord is holy in all His ways and righteous in all His works” (Psa 145:7). But salvation and damnation are works of His, consequently neither of them is unrighteous or unholy. It is undoubted matter of fact that the Father draws some men to Christ and saves them in Him with an everlasting salvation, and that He neither draws nor saves some others; and if it be not unjust in God actually to forbear saving these persons after they are born, it could not be unjust in Him to determine as much before they were born. What is not unjust for God to do in time, could not, by parity of argument, be unjust in Him to resolve upon and decree from eternity. And, surely, if the apostle’s illustration be allowed to have any propriety, or to carry any authority, it can no more be unjust in God to set apart some for communion with Himself in this life and the next, and to set aside others according to His own free pleasure, than for a potter to make out of the same mass of clay some vessels for honourable and others for inferior uses. The Deity, being absolute Lord of all His creatures, is accountable to none for His doings, and cannot be chargeable with injustice for disposing of His own as He will.

(2) Nor is the decree of reprobation a tyrannical one. It is, indeed, strictly sovereign; but lawful sovereignty and lawless tyranny are as really distinct and different as any two opposites can be. He is a tyrant, in the common acceptation of that word, who (a) either usurps the sovereign authority and arrogates to himself a dominion to which he has no right, or (b) who, being originally a lawful prince, abuses his power and governs contrary to law. But who dares to lay either of these accusations to the Divine charge? God as Creator has a most unquestionable and unlimited right over the souls and bodies of men, unless it can be supposed, contrary to all Scripture and common sense, that in making of man He made a set of beings superior to Himself and exempt from His jurisdiction. Taking it for granted, therefore, that God has an absolute right of sovereignty over His creatures, if He should be pleased (as the Scriptures repeatedly assure us that He is) to manifest and display that right by graciously saving some and justly punishing others for their sins, who are we that we should reply against God?

Neither does the ever-blessed Deity fall under the second notion of a tyrant, namely, as one who abuses his power by acting contrary to law, for by what exterior law is HE bound, who is the supreme Law giver of the universe? The laws promulgated by Him are designed for the rule of our conduct, not of His.

Should it be objected that “His own attributes of goodness and justice, holiness and truth, are a law to Himself,” I answer that, admitting this to be the case, there is nothing in the decree of reprobation as represented in Scripture, and by us from thence, which clashes with any of those perfections. With regard to the Divine goodness, though the non-elect are not objects of it in the sense the elect are, yet even they are not wholly excluded from a participation of it. They enjoy the good things of providence in common with God’s children, and very often in a much higher degree. Besides, goodness, considered as it is in God, would have been just the same infinite and glorious attribute, supposing no rational beings had been created at all or saved when created. To which may be added, that the goodness of the Deity does not cease to be infinite in itself, only because it is more extended to some objects than it is to others. The infinity of this perfection, as residing in God and coinciding with His essence, is sufficiently secured, without supposing it to reach indiscriminately to all the creatures He has made. For, was this way of reasoning to be admitted, it would lead us too far and prove too much, since, if the infinity of His goodness is to be estimated by the number of objects upon which it terminates, there must be an absolute, proper infinity of reasonable beings to terminate that goodness upon; consequently it would follow from such premises either that the creation is as truly infinite as the Creator, or, if otherwise, that the Creator’s goodness could not be infinite, because it has not an infinity of objects to make happy. *

* The late most learned and judicious Mr. Charnock has, in my judgment at least, proved most clearly and satisfactorily that the exclusion of some individual persons from a participation of saving grace is perfectly consistent with God’s unlimited goodness. He observes that “the goodness of the Deity is infinite and circumscribed by no limits. The exercise of His goodness may be limited by Himself, but His goodness, the principle, cannot, for, since His essence is infinite, and His goodness is not distinguished from His essence, it is infinite also. God is necessarily good in His nature, but free in His communications of it. He is necessarily good, affective, in regard of His nature, but freely good, effective, in regard of the effluxes of it to this or that particular subject He pitcheth upon. He is not necessarily communicative of His goodness, as the sun of its light or a tree of its cooling shade, which chooses not its objects, but enlightens all indifferently without variation or distinction: this were to make God of no more understanding than the sun, which shines not where it pleases, but where it must. He is an understanding agent, and hath a sovereign right to choose His own subjects. It would not be a supreme if it were not a voluntary goodness. It is agreeable to the nature of the Highest Good to be absolutely free, and to dispense His goodness in what methods and measures He pleases, according to the free determinations of His own will, guided by the wisdom of His mind and regulated by the holiness of His nature. He will be good to whom He will be good. When He doth act, He cannot but act well; so far it is necessary yet He may act this good or that good, to this or that degree; so it is free. As it is the perfection of His nature, it is necessary; as it is the communication of His bounty, it is voluntary. The eye cannot but see if it be open, yet it may glance on this or that colour, fix upon this or that object, as it is conducted by the will. What necessity could there be on God to resolve to communicate His goodness [at all]? It could not be to make Himself better by it, for he had [before] a goodness incapable of any addition. What obligation could there be from the creature? Whatever sparks of goodness any creature hath are the free effusions of God’s bounty, the offsprings of his own inclination to do well, the simple favour of the donor. God is as unconstrained in His liberty in all His communications as [He is] infinite in His goodness the fountain of them.” Charnock’s Works, Vol.1, p. 583, etc. With whom agrees the excellent Dr. Bates, surnamed, for his eloquence, the silver-tongued, and who, if he had a silver tongue, had likewise a golden pen. “God,” says he, “is a wise and free agent, and as He is infinite in goodness, so the exercise of it is voluntary, and only so far as He pleases.” -Harm. of Divine Attrib., chap. 3.

Lastly, if it was not incompatible with God’s infinite goodness to pass by the whole body of fallen angels and leave them under the guilt of their apostasy, much less can it clash with that attribute to pass by some of fallen mankind and resolve to leave them in their sins and punish them for them. Nor is it inconsistent with Divine justice to withhold saving grace from some, seeing the grace of God is not what He owes to any. It is a free gift to those that have it, and is not due to those that are without it; consequently there can be no injustice in not giving what God is not bound to bestow. There is no end of cavilling at the Divine dispensations if men are disposed to do it. We might, with equality of reason, when our hand is in, presume to charge the Deity with partiality for not making all His creatures angels because it was in His power to do so, as charge Him with injustice for not electing all mankind. Besides, how can it possibly be subversive of His justice to condemn, and resolve to condemn, the non-elect for their sins when those very sins were not atoned for by Christ as the sins of the elect were? His justice in this case is so far from hindering the condemnation of the reprobate that it renders it necessary and indispensable. Again, is the decree of sovereign preterition and of just condemnation for sin repugnant to the Divine holiness? Not in the least, so far from it, that it does not appear how the Deity could be holy if He did not hate sin and punish it. Neither is it contrary to His truth and veracity. Quite the reverse. For would not the Divine veracity fall to the ground if the finally wicked were not condemned?

(3) God, in the reprobation of some, does not act a cruel part. Whoever accused a chief magistrate of cruelty for not sparing a company of atrocious malefactors, and for letting the sentence of the law take place upon them by their execution? If, indeed, the magistrate pleases to pity some of them and remit their penalty, we applaud his clemency, but the punishment of the rest is no impeachment of his mercy. Now, with regard to God, His mercy is free and voluntary. He may extend it to and withhold it from whom He pleases (Rom 9:15,18), and it is sad indeed if we will not allow the Sovereign, the all-wise Governor of heaven and earth, the same privilege and liberty we allow to a supreme magistrate below.

(4) Nor is God, in choosing some and rejecting others, a respecter of persons. He only comes under that title who, on account of parentage, country, dignity, wealth, or for any other external consideration *, shows more favour to one person than to another. But that is not the case with God. He considers all men as sinners by nature, and has compassion not on persons of this or that sect, country, sex, age or station in life, because they are so circumstanced, but on whom, and because, He will have compassion. Pertinent to the present purpose is that passage of St. Augustine:+ “Forasmuch as some people imagine that they must look on God as a respecter of persons if they believe that without any respect had to the previous merits of men, He hath mercy on whom He will, and calls whom it is His pleasure to call, and makes good whom He pleases. The scrupulousness of such people arises from their not duly attending to this one thing, namely, that damnation is rendered to the wicked as a matter of debt, justice and desert, whereas the grace given to those who are delivered is free and unmerited, so that the condemned sinner cannot allege that he is unworthy of his punishment, nor the saint vaunt or boast as if he was worthy of his reward. Thus, in the whole course of this procedure, there is no respect of persons. They who are condemned and they who are set at liberty constituted originally one and the same lump, equally infected with sin and liable to vengeance. Hence the justified may learn from the condemnation of the rest that that would have been their own punishment had not God’s free grace stepped in to their rescue.”

* prosopolapsia, Personae acceptio, quum magis huic favemus, quam illi, ob circumstantiam aliquam, ceu qualitatem, externam, ei adhaerentem; puta genus, dignitatem, opes, patriam, etc. Scapula, in voc. So that elegant, accurate and learned Dutch divine, Laurentius:Haec vero est, quando persona personae praefertur ex causa indebita:puta, si judez absolvat reum, vel quia dives est, vel quia potens, vel quia magistratus est, vel quia amicus et propinquus est, etc. “That is respect of persons, when one man is preferred to another on some sinister and undue account, as when a judge acquits a criminal merely because he is rich, or powerful, or is his friend or relation, etc.” – Comment. in Epist. Jacob, p .92. Now, in the matter of election and preterition, God is influenced by no such motives, nor indeed by any exterior inducement or any motive, extra se, out of Himself. He does not, for instance, condemn any pennons on account of their poverty. But, on the reverse, hath chosen many who are poor in this world (James 2:5). Nor does He condemn any for being rich, for some, even of the mighty and noble, are called by His grace (1Co 1:26). He does not respect any man’s parentage or country, for the elect will be “gathered together from the four winds, from under one end of heaven to the other” (Mat 24:31), and He hath redeemed to Himself a select number “out of every kindred and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev 5:9; 7:9). So far is God from being in any sense a respecter of persons, that in Christ Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female (Gal 3:28). He does not receive one nor reject another merely for coming or not coming under any of these characters. His own sovereign will, and not their external or internal circumstances, was the sole rule by which He proceeded in appointing some to salvation and decreeing to leave others in their sins. So that God is not herein a respecter of their persons, but a respecter of Himself and His own glory. And as God is no respecter of persons because He chooses some as objects of His favour and omits others, all being on a perfect equality, so neither does it follow that He is such from His actually conferring spiritual and eternal blessings on the former and denying them to the latter, seeing these blessings are absolutely His own, and which He may, therefore, without injustice, give or not give at His pleasure. Dr. Whitby himself, though so strenuous an adversary to everything that looks like predestination, yet very justly observes (and such a concession from such a pen merits the reader’s attention):”Locum non habet [scil. prosopolapsia] in bonis mere liberis et gratuitis:neque iis. in quibus, unum alteri praeferre, nostri arbitrii out privilegii est.” -Ethic. Compend., 1.2, c. 5, sect. 9, 1:e., “The bestowing [and consequently the withholding] of such benefits, as are merely gratuitous and undeserved, does not argue respect of persons; neither is it respect of persons to prefer one before another when we have a right and it is our pleasure so to do.” I shall only add the testimony of Thomas Aquinas, a man of some genius and much application, who, though in very many things a laborious trifler, was yet, on some subjects, a clear reasoner and judicious writer. His words are:” Duplex est datio; una quidem pertinens ad justitiam; qua scilicet, aliquis dat alicui quod ei debetur; et circa tales dationes attenditur personarum acceptio. Alia est datio ad liberalitatem pertinens; qua, scilicet, gratis datur alicui quod ei non debetur. Et talis est Collatio munerum gratiae, per quae peccatores assumuntur a Deo. Et, in hac donatione, non habet locum personarum acceptio; quia quilibet, absque injustitia, potest do suo dare quantum vult, at cui vult:secundum illud (Mat 20:). Annon licet mihi quod volo facere? tolle quod tuum est et vade,” 1:e., “There is a twofold rendering or giving, the one a matter of justice, whereby that is paid to a man which was due to him. Here it is possible for us to act partially and with respect of persons.” [Thus, for example's sake, if I owe money to two men, one of whom is rich, the other poor, and I pay the rich man because he has it in his power to sue me, but defraud the other because of his inability to do himself justice, I should be a respecter of persons. But as Aquinas goes on]:”There is a second kind of rendering or giving, which is a branch of mere bounty and liberality, by which that is freely bestowed on any man which was not due to him: such are the gifts of grace whereby sinners are received of God. In the bestowment of grace respect of persons is absolutely out of the question, because everyone may, and can, without the least shadow of injustice, give as much of his own as he will and to whom he will, according to that passage in Mat 20:, ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I will [with my own]? take up that which is thine and go thy way.’” -Aquin. Summ. Theol. 2-2dae Qu. 63, A. 1. On the whole it is evident that respect of persons can only have place in matters of justice, and is but another name for perversion of justice, consequently it has nothing to do with matters of mere goodness and bounty, as all the blessings of grace and salvation are.

+ Tom. 2, Epist. 105, ad Sixtum Presb.

Before I conclude this head, I will obviate a fallacious objection very common in the mouths of our opponents. “How,” they say, “is the doctrine of reprobation reconcilable with the doctrine of a future judgment?” To which I answer that there need be no pains to reconcile these two, since they are so far from interfering with each other that one follows from the other, and the former renders the latter absolutely necessary. Before the judgment of the great day, Christ does not so much act as the Judge of His creatures as their absolute Lord and Sovereign. From the first creation to the final consummation of all things He does, in consequence of His own eternal and immutable purpose (as a Divine Person), graciously work in and on His own elect, and permissively harden the reprobate. But when all the transactions of providence and grace are wound up in the last day, He will then properly sit as Judge, and openly publish and solemnly ratify, if I may so say, His everlasting decrees by receiving the elect, body and soul, into glory, and by passing sentence on the non-elect (not for their having done what they could not help, but) for their wilful ignorance of Divine things and their absolute unbelief, for their omissions of moral duty and for their repeated iniquities and transgressions.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

Question 67-Puritan Catechism

Spurgeon 3Q. What does every sin deserve?

A. Every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse, both in this life and that which is to come. (Ephesians 5:6; Psalm 11:6)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

 

Chapter 19-Fallen Angels

April 16, 2014 1 comment

Fallen Angels
 
SUPERIOR spiritual beings have heretofore been referred to, almost as though there are none except those who yet retain their position as sons of God. Only a hint or two has been given which would lead to the knowledge of the existence of others. But the important relations which angels bear to us, and the great power over us which they exercise, render useful the consideration whether evil angels actually exist, and in what position to us they may be supposed to stand.

The belief of evil spirits has been almost universal in the world. The exceptions may indeed be said to be only the few who, in more modern times, have supposed this universal opinion to be simply the result of superstition.

The Jews undoubtedly held this faith. It is not disputed that it is taught in their later books, and that in the time of Christ the belief in such spirits was universal. But it has been denied that such views can be traced prior to the time of the Babylonish Captivity. If by this is simply meant that prior to that time the Jews knew not of the fall of angels formerly pure, it is only equivalent to declaring that they knew not in what manner evil angels had come into existence. But if it is meant, as seems to be the ease, that they did not know of the existence of evil angels, the position may be easily refuted from the Scriptures. That this is the opinion of these objectors is plain from the fact that they suppose the origin of these ideas was the Persian belief of the two principles of good and evil which they had met with in Chaldea. That faith taught indeed the origin of evil in this world, but not among the spiritual intelligences above. Besides, it attributed the existence of evil to an antagonistic principle to the great good, perhaps equally powerful, yet constantly contending, perhaps finally to be vanquished.

The fact that the existence of these beings is taught at all, either in the Old or the New Testament, would be sufficient to make it an article of our faith. Yet, as this charge has been made, it is best to refer to it, and to show from the Scripture proofs that it is untenable. The truth is that with the exception of Zechariah 3:1, 2 (where the high priest Joshua is standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him), there is no passage in all the post-Babylonish Scriptures by which the doctrine of evil angels could be proved, while there are numerous such passages in the earlier books.

In the book of Job, supposed by some to be the oldest, and sometimes even ascribed to Moses, Satan is represented as presenting himself among the sons of God before the LORD. Job 1:6.

This may be said to be a merely dramatic work, yet scarcely can it be denied that the conception of such beings must have existed prior to a dramatic use of them.

In 1 Chron. 21:1, however, Satan is said to have provoked David to number Israel. In Ps. 109:6 the Psalmist says: “Set thou a wicked man over him, and let an adversary (Satan) stand at his right hand.” The use of the word “devil” also teaches the existence of evil spirits. In Ps. 106:37 the Israelites are said to have sacrificed their sons and daughters unto devils (demons).

Evil angels are also spoken of by the name of “evil spirits.” In Judges 9:28 God is said to have sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. In 1 Sam. 16:14 the Spirit of the Lord is said to have departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord to have troubled him; in ver. 15 Saul’s servants recognize this fact in addressing Saul, and verse 16 propose to send for a skilful player on the harp, through whom he should he made well, and in verse 23 this device is spoken of as successful.

When we turn now to the New Testament, we find the proofs even more abundant. No one questions that this is the apparent language of this part of Scripture, whatever explanations are resorted to for escaping its plain meaning. The passages are not here presented because they will be quoted in connection with other points, and enough of them will then he given to prove this a New Testament doctrine. Including both the singular and plural forms, the word “diabolus” is found in the New Testament about forty times, demon sixty times, Satan twenty-three times, evil spirit eight times, dumb spirit three times, and spirit of divination once.

The commonly received doctrine as to the original state of evil angels, is that they were once pure and holy, such as are now the angels of heaven, though not, as they, confirmed in holiness. This is founded upon the supposition that it is impossible for God to create beings otherwise than free from sin.

The only objection which can be made to this original innocence is suggested in such questions as these: how can a being perfectly holy be led to the commission of sin? how would a being realizing the character and power of the supreme being ever be so unwise as to revolt against it?

But these questions present only metaphysical difficulties which must vanish before actual facts. The existence of such beings is plainly taught; we are told in Scripture that they sinned, 2 Pet. 2:4, and all argument of this kind is merely an argument from our ignorance.

It might be supposed that appeal might he made to the case of Adam; but, while this is true to some extent, this difference must be observed, that there was present with our first parents an evil one to suggest the sin. Yet, even then, the suggestion might have arisen within the mind of either Adam or Eve as the result of desire in any way awakened, which, when fostered, may have become too strong. And, if this be psychologically possible with them, why may it not have been so with Satan and his angels?

It has been because of the difficulties which thus have seemed to perplex this question that on the one hand the very existence of such beings has been questioned; and, on the other, the theory has been advanced that Satan, either as created or uncreated, has always had a sinful nature, and been filled with enmity to God. Both theories are readily dispelled by the fact that the Scriptures speak of their having sinned with manifest allusion to some one particular act of sin.

Despite, however, this plain teaching of Scripture as to the existence of evil spirits, efforts have been made, even by Christian men, to explain away its plain language, and especially that of the New Testament. It has been claimed that all that Christ and his Apostles said upon this subject is to be accounted for upon the principle of accommodation. It is said that they knew the prejudices of the Jews, and that, not wishing upon an unimportant matter to excite these prejudices, they accommodated the language of their teachings to Jewish ideas, and used such words as seemed to imply belief in such beings.

(1.) But the principle here assumed is dangerous. How can we know that Christ taught anything, if we be allowed thus to strip his language of its natural force?

(2.) The object of Christ was not to accommodate himself to prejudices; but to remove them. What instance can be given of such conformity? None can be justly claimed. On the contrary, he said that he came not to send peace, but a sword, and to preach not a gospel of accommodation, but one of contention and exclusiveness. He drove out, with a whip or small cords, those who defiled the temple. He persisted in healing upon the Sabbath day. He inveighed against the traditions of the elders. He attacked the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees who were reputed most holy. Does any of this conduct look like that of one who would have shrunk from declaring the non-existence of Satan? Was not the doctrine of the resurrection as against the Sadducees, and of the salvation of publicans and sinners and the adoption of the Gentiles as against the Pharisees, even more unpalatable than would have been the denial of the existence of evil spirits?

(3.) The idea of mere accommodation to the Jews would not have involved the language upon this point used to his disciples in private. The time of the return of the seventy was peculiarly suitable to remove these prejudices from their minds. They came to Christ saying: “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us in thy name.” Luke 10:17. And Christ only teaches more plainly the existence or such beings, declaring that he beheld Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven, at the same time assuring them that even the power to cast out devils was no subject of joy in comparison with the fact that their names were written in heaven.

(4.) A still stronger objection may be drawn from the circumstances of the temptation. There the devil is said to have tempted Christ. In cases of human temptation, it may be said that it is the principle of evil in the heart that moves the man to do wrong, and that thus he is tempted. But what principle like this was there in Christ? Upon what ground can he be said to have been tempted except by the personal solicitation of the evil one?

Another question of interest has been as to the cause of the sin of angels. Some, because of a misconception of the meaning of Gen. 6:2, have attributed it to lust. But this is not only contrary to the nature of angels, but also places the fall of man before that of the devil. Some have held that it consisted in the temptation of man. But he who tempted with evil intent and falsehood must himself have sinned beforehand. Besides, this tempter was one only, and the evil angels are many. Others think that it was envy of angels superior to them. This was the idea of the Jews, who, holding the theory of guardian angels over nations, supposed that some of them aspired to higher positions than were allotted to them. But the more common opinion is that it was a sin of pride. The apostle says of a bishop, that he must not be “a novice, lest being puffed up, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” 1 Tim. 3:6. From this it appears probable that pride was the sin of Satan, and that for this he was condemned. See Kitto’s Cyc., Art. Satan. Dick’s Theology, vol. 1, p. 377. Knapp, p. 218.

Their relation to each other in this sin has been still further a subject of inquiry. In the fall of man we recognize both a natural and federal head. Through these we see that all have been made sinners. But did the angels have a federal head, or did they sin individually each one for himself? There is a difficulty in either hypothesis. On the one hand, how could a federal head, when he had sinned, infuse, by that sin, an unholy nature into those whom he represented; on the other hand, as we recognize the first beginnings of sin to be in the desire, how could so many simultaneously have revolted against God?

In favour of the federal theory, may be stated the fact of the headship of one over the others, and the nature of the sin, pride, which may have arisen from the occupancy of a position of such power. Yet these do not necessarily imply it. Supreme position may have existed without federal relation.

In favour of the other theory may be adduced (1.) the co-existence at that time of all those angels that sinned; this was not true of all mankind, and is a reason why they needed to act differently. (2.) The immediate intercourse, because of their nature, which all others as well as their head may have had with God, to know his will and to perform it. In man this existed only in Eve, and may account for her personal sin before that of her representative. (3.) The greater lack of excuse that would exist in a fall as the result of individual probation. (4.) The fact that no provision of salvation has been made for them, either in the representative Saviour of man or in one for angels.

The main difficulty in the way of this theory may be removed by the natural supposition, that all the angels, or a portion of them to which all of these belonged, were put at one time upon probation, just as Adam was. In that probation some sinned, and some did not. The fall of all may, therefore, have been instantaneous. That one of them may have been the instantaneous instigator of this, is not improbable. That he may have held rank over them before, is in accordance with what is taught of the rank of all angels. That he might in this act have attained this position is also not improbable.

For the sin which they have thus committed, they are held accountable by God. They seem to have been already punished by being “kept in everlasting bonds under darkness, unto the judgement of the great day.” Jude, verse 6. But on that day their punishment will be probably consummated.

In the meantime they are permitted access to this world. Satan is called the God of this world. 2 Cor. 4:4. This access is evident from the history of the fall, from that of the temptation of Christ, from the warnings given to believers against him as their adversary, and from the declarations made as to the power he exercises to blind the minds of them that believe not.

As a finite being, Satan must be limited in his approaches to man. The doctrine of Satan is often objected to, upon the ground that thus we make out a being of almost equal power with God, and everywhere present. But this power of constant approach arises, not probably from personal contact, but from the multitude of inferior agents which he thus controls. By these he is everywhere operating; perhaps not operating always thus directly upon each one; but always keeping in progress the influences which he puts in operation among men.

What then, we may inquire, is the extent of the power of evil spirits?

1. Undoubtedly they have great power over the minds of men. They may tempt, deceive, darken the minds of men, pervert the judgement of men, excite them to pride, anger and other evil passions. It was Satan that instigated the Jews to put Christ to death. The old phraseology of the courts of justice in indictments for murder recognize his power. It is not confined to the subjects of his kingdom; but over the people of God also, even after they have been rescued from their slavery to Satan, does he maintain and exercise the power to tempt, though not to destroy.

2. Satan also possesses power over the bodies of men. In Job 2:7, it is said that he “smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.” In Luke 13:16, a woman is spoken of who has been bound by Satan for eighteen years by disease. In Acts 10:38, one of the works of Christ is said to have been the healing of all who were oppressed with the Devil. In 1 Cor. 5:5, excommunication is spoken of as the delivering over of one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Satan is also said, in some sense, to have or to have had the power of death, Heb. 2:14.

It is here that naturally arises the question of demoniacal influence as proving, if true, the existence and number of such beings. Have Satan and his messengers the power thus to enter, and afflict the bodies of men?

The most serious objection to the idea of such possessions is that they have been confined to the age of Christ and the Apostles.

(1.) But this is not certain. We even have declarations to the contrary. The Jews of the second century professed that there were such in their day. This was true, also, of the Christians of the third century. But the evidence of such possessions at these periods is not conclusive. It is not probable that any existed at that time.

(2.) Dr. Macknight, quoted by Dr. Dick, Theol. vol. 1, p. 403, says “that the possessions mentioned may have been diseases carried to an uncommon height by the presence and agency of demons.” And, if this is allowed, there have possibly been such in all ages.

(3.) But this difficulty must yield before the direct testimony of Scripture. A reason may be given for their especial prevalence in the time of Christ. The great struggle was about to take place between Christ and Satan, and uncommon freedom was doubtless granted to the Devil, and his assistants.

The following points show that the idea of demoniacal possessions is Scriptural.

(a) The demons are expressly separated from the persons possessed. See Luke 6:17, 18; Matt. 12:43-45; Mark 1:32, 34; 9:18.

(b) The actions and language show the personality of some evil being or beings within the sufferer. They beseech Christ not to torment them before their time; they answer his questions; they come out of the possessed and enter into the swine; they know Christ and call upon him as the Son of God.

(c) The writers mention facts connected with them, needless to he mentioned, which favour this. The number of demons cast from Mary Magdalene is given. In Mark 9:29 Jesus says of a demon, “this kind can come out by nothing save by prayer.”

(d) Jesus addresses the demons, Matt. 8:32. He orders the demons to come out, and permits them to go into the swine. In Mark 9:25, Christ rebukes the foul spirit. See also Luke 4:85. In Mark 1:25, Christ orders the demon to hold his peace and come out.

These are sufficient to prove the Scripturalness of this doctrine, and to show that Christ did not speak and act merely from a spirit of accommodation.

3. As to their power over the laws of nature and natural causes.

They have no power to change the laws of nature. These are established by God, and are beyond the power of any of his creatures. He upholds and preserves with the same almighty power with which he created.

But, from Satan’s superior wisdom, from his spiritual nature, and from his numerous emissaries, he has great power within the circle of those laws. It is thus that he performs the lying wonders by which, were it possible, he would deceive the very elect. It is thus that, in connection with his power over the mind, he has aided to establish false religions, to vitiate certain forms of the true religion, and to work as the great power of Antichrist in the world.

The connection held by him with the ancient heathen oracles is a subject worthy of study, and eminently suggestive of the extent of the power he exercises. Those oracles failed precisely where Satan’s knowledge failed–the want of power to predict the future. Answers that affected present knowledge were abundant. Ambiguous replies that could hear various interpretations were frequent. “Undoubtedly,” says Dr. J. Pye Smith, “fraud was practiced. * * * Still there appears satisfactory reason for believing that in some degree, and occasionally there was a real diabolical influence.” [First Lines, p. 337.] The case of divination spoken of in Acts 16:16-18 seems conclusive upon this point; “a certain maid,” says Luke, “having a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying. The same following after Paul and us cried out, saying, These men are servants of the Most High God, which proclaim unto you the way of salvation. And this she did many days. But Paul, being sore troubled, turned and said to the spirit, I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out that very hour.”

Dr. J. Pye Smith presents in his First Lines of Theology some valuable points in reply to the objections that may he made to the doctrine of wicked spirits, and also on the practical uses of the doctrine. [See pp. 337-340.]
 
Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887

Evening Praise

Giver of all, another day is ended and I take my place beneath my great redeemer’s cross, where healing streams continually descend, where balm is poured into every wound, where I wash anew in the all-cleansing blood, assured that Thou seest in me no spots of sin. Yet a little while and I shall go to Thy home and be no more seen; help me to gird up the loins of my mind, to quicken my step, to speed as if each moment were my last, that my life be joy, my death glory.

I thank Thee for the temporal blessings of this world—the refreshing air, the light of the sun, the food that renews strength, the raiment that clothes, the dwelling that shelters, the sleep that gives rest, the starry canopy of night, the summer breeze, the flowers’ sweetness, the music of flowing streams, the happy endearments of family, kindred, friends. Things animate, things inanimate, minister to my comfort. My cup runs over. Suffer me not to be insensible to these daily mercies. Thy hand bestows blessings: Thy power averts evil. I bring my tribute of thanks for spiritual graces, the full warmth of faith, the cheering presence of Thy Spirit, the strength of Thy restraining will, Thy spiking of hell’s artillery. Blessed be my sovereign Lord!

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. Reformatted by Eternal Life Ministries.

God is to be worshiped, not idols or images of him

April 16, 2014 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015God is opposed to idols, that all may know he is the only fit witness to himself. He expressly forbids any attempt to represent him by a bodily shape.

As Scripture, in accommodation to the rude and gross intellect of man, usually speaks in popular terms, so whenever its object is to discriminate between the true God and false deities, it opposes him in particular to idols; not that it approves of what is taught more elegantly and subtilely by philosophers, but that it may the better expose the folly, nay, madness of the world in its inquiries after God, so long as every one clings to his own speculations. This exclusive definition, which we uniformly meet with in Scripture, annihilates every deity which men frame for themselves of their own accord — God himself being the only fit witness to himself. Meanwhile, seeing that this brutish stupidity has overspread the globe, men longing after visible forms of God, and so forming deities of wood and stone, silver and gold, or of any other dead and corruptible matter, we must hold it as a first principle, that as often as any form is assigned to God, his glory is corrupted by an impious lie. In the Law, accordingly, after God had claimed the glory of divinity for himself alone, when he comes to show what kind of worship he approves and rejects, he immediately adds, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth,” (Exodus 20:4.) By these words he curbs any licentious attempt we might make to represent him by a visible shape, and briefly enumerates all the forms by which superstition had begun, even long before, to turn his truth into a lie. For we know that the Sun was worshipped by the Persian. As many stars as the foolish nations saw in the sky, so many gods they imagined them to be. Then to the Egyptians, every animal was a figure of God. The Greeks, again, plumed themselves on their superior wisdom in worshipping God under the human form, (Maximum Tyrius Platonic. Serm. 38.) But God makes no comparison between images, as if one were more, and another less befitting; he rejects, without exception, all shapes and pictures, and other symbols by which the superstitious imagine they can bring him near to them.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 11-Henry Beveridge Translation

The Regulative Principle of the Church 8: Its Biblical Support—Second Argument

The second argument for the regulative principle of the church has to do with the inevitable tendency of human tradition. The introduction of extra-biblical practices into worship inevitably tends to nullify and undermine God’s appointed worship (Matt. 15:3, 8, 9; 2 Kings 16:10-18).

Matthew 15:3 suggests the inevitable tendency of following human traditions: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’” Human traditions when incorporated into the holy church of God inevitably tendency to lead to the transgression of the divine ordinances.

2 Kings 16:10-18 is a penetrating moral tale and striking illustration of what happens to the ordinances when human invention intrudes itself into the ordained worship of God.

 
Read the entire article here.

Some illnesses are the results of sinful living

April 15, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkBut suppose upon careful reflection we are unable to trace our present ill health to any physical neglect or folly, then what are we to do? Seek to ascertain the moral cause thereof. “Let us search and try our ways” (Lamentations 3:40), making an honest endeavor to find out what it is which has grieved the Spirit. If conscience be allowed to do her work the probability is we shall soon be made aware that there is an Achan in our camp, an Achan which must be dealt with unsparingly if we are to enjoy the smile of the Lord again. If we have set up some idol it must be thrown down; if we have indulged some lust it must be mortified: if we have entered a forbidden path it must be forsaken: if we have willfully departed from some path of duty it must be returned unto, otherwise “some worse thing” is likely to come upon us. All known sins must be judged, mourned over, confessed in detail unto God:

 

“I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

 

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?

Why Apologetics?-Defending Your Faith Pt 2

April 14, 2014 1 comment

Dwight L. Moody’s Arminian Doctrines Pt 4

April 14, 2014 1 comment

Dr. Kennedy continues in discussing Moody’s preaching:

“Souls who have a vague sense of danger, excited by the sensational, instead of an intelligent conviction of sin, produced by the light and power of applied truth, are quite ready to be satisfied with such teaching as this. To these, such doctrine will bring all the peace they are anxious to obtain. But what is the value of that peace? It is no more than the quiet of a dead soul, from whom has been removed an unintelligent sense of danger.

“The new style of teaching made it seem such an easy thing to be a Christian. To find oneself easily persuaded to believe what was presented in the gospel, and to think that by this faith salvation was secured, and that all cause of anxiety was for ever gone, gave a new and pleasing sensation, which thousands were willing to share.”

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

The punishment of the non-elect was not the ultimate end of their creation, but the glory of God

Chapter IV

OF REPROBATION OR PREDESTINATION AS IT RESPECTS THE UNGODLY.

FROM what has been said in the preceding chapter concerning the election of some, it would unavoidably follow, even supposing the Scriptures had been silent about it, that there must be a rejection of others, as every choice does, most evidently and necessarily, imply a refusal, for where there is no leaving out there can be no choice. But beside the testimony of reason, the Divine Word is full and express to our purpose; it frequently, and in terms too clear to be misunderstood, and too strong to be evaded by any who are not proof against the most cogent evidence, attests this tremendous truth, that some are “of old fore-ordained to condemnation.” I shall, in the discussion of this awful subject, follow the method hitherto observed, and throw what I have to say into several distinct positions supported by Scripture.

POSITION 7. -The punishment of the non-elect was not the ultimate end of their creation, but the glory of God. It is frequently objected to us that, according to our view of predestination, “God makes some persons on purpose to damn them,” but this we never advanced; nay, we utterly reject it as equally unworthy of God to do and of a rational being to suppose. The grand, principal end, proposed by the Deity to Himself in His formation of all things, and of mankind in particular, was the manifestation and display of His own glorious attributes. His ultimate scope in the creation of the elect is to evidence and make known by their salvation the unsearchable riches of His power and wisdom, mercy and love, and the creation of the non-elect is for the display of His justice, power, sovereignty, holiness and truth. So that nothing can be more certain than the declaration of the text we have frequently had occasion to cite, “The Lord bath made all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Pro 16:). On one hand, the vessels of wrath are fitted for destruction,” in order that God may “show His wrath and make His power known,” and manifest the greatness of His patience and longsuffering (Rom 9:32). On the other hand, He afore prepared the elect to salvation, that on them He might demonstrate “the riches of His glory and mercy” (ver 23). As, therefore, God Himself is the sole Author and efficient of all His own actions, so is He likewise the supreme end to which they lead and in which they terminate.

Besides, the creation and perdition of the ungodly answer another purpose (though a subordinate one) with regard to the elect themselves, who from the rejection of those learn (1) to admire the riches of the Divine love toward themselves, which planned and has accomplished the work of their salvation, while others, by nature on, on equal level with them, are excluded from a participation of the same benefits. And such a view of the Lord’s distinguishing mercy is (2) a most powerful motive to thankfulness that when they too might justly have been condemned with the world of the non-elect, they were marked out as heirs of the grace of life. (3) Hereby they are taught ardently to love their heavenly Father; (4) to trust in Him assuredly for a continued supply of grace while they are on earth and for the accomplishment of His eternal decree and promise by their glorification in heaven; and (5) to live as becomes those who have received such unspeakable mercies from the hand of their God and Saviour. So Bucer somewhere observes that the punishment of the reprobate “is useful to the elect, inasmuch as it influences them to a greater fear and abhorrence of sin, and to a firmer reliance on the goodness of God.”

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 717 other followers