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Arminians today are just as relentlessly opposed to the absolute sovereignty of God

January 27, 2014 4 comments

Arminianism was not more rampant than it is now in England, Scotland, and our own North American continent. Let us not think that the malignant spirit of persecution that moved the Arminians—led by Bishop Sydserff, Archbishop Laud, and others—died at the end of the Covenanting struggles of long ago. The Arminians of today hold precisely the same false doctrines, and are just as relentlessly opposed to the absolute sovereignty of God and unconditional election as were the Arminians of old.” (The Contender—Nova Scotia, April, 1955.)

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

Why do some Paedobaptists sound like Particular Baptists?

Benjamin Keach’s Definition of Drunkenness

Not one of the elect can perish, but they must all necessarily be saved

January 24, 2014 1 comment

Chapter III

CONCERNING ELECTION UNTO LIFE, OR PREDESTINATION AS IT RESPECTS THE SAINTS IN PARTICULAR

HAVING considered predestination as it regards all men in general, and briefly shown that by it some are appointed to wrath and others to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ (1Th 5:9), I now come to consider, more distinctly, that branch of it which relates to the saints only, and is commonly styled election. Its definition I have given already in the close of the first chapter. What I have farther to advance, from the Scriptures, on this important subject, I shall reduce to several positions, and subjoin a short explanation and confirmation of each.

POSITION 4. -Not one of the elect can perish, but they must all necessarily be saved. The reason is this: because God simply and unchangeably wills that all and every one of those whom He hath appointed to life should be eternally glorified, and, as was observed towards the end of the preceding chapter, all the Divine attributes are concerned in the accomplishment of this His will. His wisdom, which cannot err; His knowledge, which cannot be deceived; His truth, which cannot fail; His love, which nothing can alienate; His justice, which cannot condemn any for whom Christ died; His power, which none can resist; and His unchangeableness, which can never vary – from all which it appears that we do not speak at all improperly when we say that the salvation of His people is necessary and certain. Now that is said to be necessary (quod nequit aliter esse) which cannot be otherwise than it is, and if all the perfections of God are engaged to preserve and save His children, their safety and salvation must be, in the strictest sense of the word, necessary. (See Psalms 103:17; 125:1,2; Isa 45:17; 54:9,10; Jer 31:38,32. 40; John 6:39; 10:28,29; 14:19; 17:12; Rom 8:30,38,39; 11:29; 1Co 1:8,9; Phi 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4,5).

Thus St. Augustine:* “Of those whom God hath predestinated none can perish, inasmuch as they are His own elect,” and ib., “They are the elect who are predestinated, foreknown, and called according to purpose. Now, could any of these be lost, God would be disappointed of His will and expectation; but He cannot be so disappointed, therefore they can never perish. Again, could they be lost, the power of God would be made void by man’s sin, but His power is invincible, therefore they are safe.” And again (chap. 9), “The children of God are written, with an unshaken stability, in the book of their heavenly Father’s remembrance.” And in the same chapter he hath these words: “Not the children of promise, but the children of perdition shall perish, for the former are the predestinated, who are called according to the Divine determination, not one of whom shall finally miscarry.” So likewise Luther+: “God’s decree of predestination is firm and certain, and the necessity resulting from it is, in like manner, immoveable, and cannot but take place. For we ourselves are so feeble that, if the matter was left in our hands, very few, or rather none, would be saved, but Satan would overcome us all.” To which he adds: “Now, since this steadfast and inevitable purpose of God cannot be reversed nor disannulled by any creature whatever, we have a most assured hope that we shall finally triumph over sin, how violently soever it may at present rage in our mortal bodies.”

* Tom. 7, De Corr. et Grat. cap. 7.

+ In Praefat. ad Epist. ad Rom.

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

Chapter 6-Whether to be Reprobated be the same with being Appointed beforehand unto Eternal Condemnation? If not, how do they Differ? Also whether Reprobation be the Cause of Condemnation?

January 23, 2014 1 comment

IT hath been the custom of ignorant men much to quarrel at eternal reprobation, concluding (for want of knowledge in the mystery of God’s will) that if he reprobate any from eternity he had as good as said, “I wilt make this man to damn him; I will decree this man, without, any consideration, to the everlasting pains of hell,” when, in very deed, for God to reprobate, and to appoint beforehand to eternal condemnation, axe two distinct things, properly relating to two distinct attributes, arising, from two distinct causes.

First. They are two distinct things. Reprobation is a simple leaving of the creature out of the bounds of God’s election, but to appoint to condemnation is to bind them over to, everlasting punishment. Now, there is a great difference between my refusing to make of such a tree a pillar in my house and of condemning it unto the fire to be burned.

Secondly. As to the attributes. Reprobation respects God’s sovereignty, but to appoint to condemnation, his justice.

Thirdly. As to the causes. Sovereignty being according to the will of God, but justice according to the sin of man. For God, though he be the only sovereign Lord, and that to the height of perfection, yet he appointeth no man to the pains of everlasting fire merely from sovereignty, but by the rule of justice. God damneth not the man because he is a man, but a sinner, and foreappoints him to that place and state by foreseeing of hint wicked.

Again, as reprobation is not the same with foreappointing to eternal condemnation, so neither is it the cause thereof.

If it be the cause, then it must either —

1. Leave him infirm; or,

2. Infuse sin into him; or,

3. Take from him something that otherwise would keep him upright; or,

4. Or both license Satan to tempt and the reprobate to close in with the temptation. But it doth none of these; there,)re it is not the cause of the condemnation of the creature.

That it is not the cause of sin it is evident —

1. Because the elect are as much involved therein as those that are passed by.

2. It leaveth him not infirm; for he is by an after act — to wit, of creationformed perfectly upright.

3. That reprobation infuseth no sin appeareth, because it is the act of God.

4. That it taketh nothing (that good is) from him is also manifest, it being only a leaving of him.

5. And that it is not by this act that Satan is permitted to tempt or the reprobate to sin is manifest; because as Christ was tempted, so the elect fall as much into the temptation, at least many of them, as many of those that are reprobate; whereas if these things came by reprobation, then the reprobate would be only concerned therein. All which will be further handled in these questions yet behind.

Objection. From what hath been said, there is concluded this at least, that God hath infallibly determined, and that before the world, the infallible damnation of some of his creatures; for if God hath before the world bound some over to eternal punishment, and that, as you say, for sin, then this determination must either be fallible or infallible; not fallible, for then your other position of the certainty of the number of God’s elect is shaken, unless you hold that there may be a number that shall neither go to heaven or hell. Well, then, if God hath indeed determined, foredetermined, that some must infallibly perish, doth not this his determination lay a necessity on the reprobate to sin, that he may be damned? for no sin, no damnation.

That is your own argument.

Answer. That God hath ordained (Jude 4) the damnation of some of his creatures is evident; but whether this his determination be positive and absolute, there is the question; for the better understanding whereof I shall open unto you the variety of God’s determinations and their nature, as also rise.

The determinations of God touching the destruction of the creature, they are either ordinary or extraordinary; those I count ordinary that were commonly pronounced by the prophets and apostles, etc., in their ordinary way of preaching, to the end men might be affected with the love of their own salvation; now these are either bound or loosed but as the condition or qualification was answered by the creature under sentence, and no otherwise.

Again. These extraordinary, though they respect the same conditions, yet they are not grounded immediately upon them, but upon the infallible foreknowledge and foresight of God, and are thus distinguished: first, the ordinary determination; it stands but at best upon a supposition that the creature may continue in sin, and admits of a possibility that it may not, but the extraordinary stands upon an infallible foresight that the creature will continue in sin; wherefore this must needs be positive and as infallible as God himself.

Again. These two determinations are also distinguished thus: the ordinary is applicable to the elect as well as to the reprobate, but the other to the reprobate only; it is proper to say, even to the elect themselves, “He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned;” but not to say to them, These are appointed to utter destruction, or that they shall utterly perish in their own corruptions, or that for them is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

So, then, though God by these determinations doth not lay some under irrecoverable condemnation, yet by one of them he doth, as is further made out thus:

1. God most perfectly foreseeth the final impenitency of those that do sin from the beginning to the end of the world.

2. Now from this infallible foresight it is most easy and rational to conclude, and that positively, the infallible overthrow of every such creature. Did I infallibly foresee that this or that man would cut out his heart in the morning, I might infallibly determine his death before night.

Objection. But still the question is, Whether God by this his determination doth not lay a necessity on the creature to sin? for no sin, no condemnation. This is true by your own assertion.

Answer. No, by no means, for

1. Though it be true that sin must of absolute necessity go before the infallible condemnation and overthrow of the sinner, and that it must also be preconsidered by God, yet it needs not lay a necessity upon him to sin; for let him but alone to do what he will, and the determination cannot be more infallible than the sin which is the cause of its execution.

2. As it needs not, so it doth not; for this determination is not grounded upon what God will effect, but on what the creature will; and that not through the instigation of God, but the instigation of the devil. What! Might not I, if I most undoubtedly foresaw that such a tree in my garden would only cumber the ground, (notwithstanding reasonable means,) — might not I, I say, from hence determine (seven years before) to cut it down and burn it in the fire, but I must, by so determining, necessitate this tree to be fruitless? The case in hand is the very same. God therefore may most positively determine the infallible damnation of his creature, and yet not at all necessitate the creature to sin that he might be damned.

Objection. But how is this similitude pertinent? For God did not only foresee sin would be the destruction of the creature, but let it come into the world and so destroy the creature. If you, as you foresee the fruitlessness of your tree, should withal see that which makes it so, and that too before it makes it so, and yet let the impediment come and make it so, are not you now the cause of the unfruitfulness of that tree which you hive before condemned to the fire to be burned? for God might have chosen whether he ‘would have let Adam sin, and so sin to have got into the world by him.

Answer. Similitudes never answer every way: if they be pertinent to that for which they are intended, it is enough; and to that it; answereth well, being brought to prove no more but the natural consequence of a true and infallible foresight. And now as to what is objected further, as that God might have chosen whether sin should have come into the world by Adam to the destruction of so many, to that I shall answer —

1. That sin could not have come into the world without God’s permission, it is evident both from the perfection of his foresight and power.

2. Therefore all the means, motives, and inducements thereunto must also by him be not only foreseen, but permitted.

3. Yet so that God will have the tinting, proceeding, bounding, and ordering thereof at his disposal: “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.”

4. Therefore it must needs come into the world, not without, but by the knowledge of God; not in despite of him, but by his suffering of it.

Objection. But how then is he clear from having’ a hand in the death of him that perisheth?

Answer. Nothing is more sure than that God could have kept sin out of the world if it had been his will; and this is also as true, that it never came into the world with his liking and compliance; and for this you must consider that sin came into the world by two steps —

1. By being offered.

2. By prevailing.

Touching the first of these, God, without the least injury to any creature in heaven or earth, might not only suffer it, but so far countenance the same that is so far forth as for trial only, as it is said of Abraham “God tempted Abraham to slay his only son, and led Christ by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” This is done without any harm at all; nay, it rather produceth good, for it tends to discover sincerity, to exercise faith in and love to his Creator, also to put him in mind of the continual need he hath of depending on his God for the continuation of help and strength, and to provoke to prayers to God whenever so engaged.

Objection. But God did not Only admit that sin should be offered for trial, and there to stay, but did suffer it to prevail and overcome the world.

Answer. Well, this is granted; but, yet consider —

1. God did neither suffer it nor yet consent it should, but under this consideration: if Adam, upright Adam, gate way thereto by forsaking his command, “in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” — which Adam did, not because God did compel him or persuade him to it, but voluntarily of his own mind, contrary to his God’s command — so, then, God, by suffering sin to break into the world, did it rather in judgment, as disliking Adam’s act, and as a punishment to man for listening to the tempter, and as a discovery of his anger at man’s disobedience, than to prove that he is guilty of the misery of his creature.

2. Consider also that when God permitted sin for trial, it was, when offered first, to them only who were upright and had sufficient strength to resist it.

3. They were by God’s command to the contrary driven to no strait to tempt them to incline to Satan: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, saith God; only let this alone.”

4. As touching the beauty and goodness that was in the object unto which they were allured, what was it? Was it better than God? yea, was it better than the tree of life, for from that they were not exempted till after they had sinned? Did not God know best what was to do them good?

2. Touching him that persuaded them to do this wicked act: was his word more to be valued for truth, more to be ventured on for safety, or more to be honored for the worthiness of him that spoke, than was His that had forbade it; the one being the devil, with a lie, and to kill them; the other being God, with his truth, and to preserve them safe?

Question. But was not Adam unexpectedly surprised? Had he notice beforehand and warning of the danger, for God foresaw the business?

Answer. Doubtless God was; fair and faithful to his creature in this thing also, as clearly doth appear from these considerations:

1. The very commandment that God gave him forebespake him well to look about him, and did indeed insinuate that he was likely to be tempted.

2. It is yet more evident, because God doth even tell him of the danger: “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

3. Nay, God by speaking to him of the very tree that was to be forborne, telling him also where it stood, that he might the better know it, did in effect expressly say to him, “Adam, if thou be tempted, it will be about that tree and the fruit thereof: wherefore, if thou findest the tempter there, then beware thy life.”

To conclude, then. Though sins did not come into the world without God’s sufferance, yet it did without his liking; God suffered also Cain to kill his ‘brother, and Ishmael to mock at Isaac, but he did not like the same.

Secondly. Therefore though God was first in concluding sin should be offered to the world, yet man was the first that consented to a being overcome thereby.

Thirdly, then. Though God did foredetermine that sin should enter, yet it was not but with respect to certain terms and conditions, which yet were not to be enforced by virtue of the determination, bat permitted to be completed by the voluntary inclination of a perfect and upright man. And in that the determination was most perfectly infallible it was through the foresight of the undoubted inclination of this good and upright person.

Question. But might not God have kept Adam from inclining if he would?

Answer. What more certain? But yet consider

1. Adam being now an upright man, he was able to have kept himself had he but looked to it as he should and might.

2. This being so, if God had here stepped in, he had either added that which had been needless, and so had not obtained thankfulness, or else had made the strength of Adam useless, yea his own workmanship in so creating him superfluous, or else, by consequence, imperfect.

3. If he bad done so, he had taken Adam from his duty, which was to trust and believe his Maker; he had also made void the end of the commandment, which was to persuade to watchfulness, diligence, sobriety, and contentedness; yea, and by so doing would not only himself have, tempted Adam to transgression, even to lay aside the exercise of that strength that God had already given him, but should have become the pattern or the first father to all looseness, idleness and neglect of duty; which would also not only have-been an ill example to Adam to continue to neglect so reasonable and wholesome duties, but would have been to himself an argument of defense to retort upon his God when he had come another time to reckon with him for his misdemeanors.

Many other weighty reasons might here be further added for God’s vindication in this particular, but at this time let these suffice.

 

John Bunyan-Reprobation Asserted; Or, The Doctrine Of Eternal Election And Reprobation Promiscuously Handled: In Eleven Chapters Wherein The Most Material Objections Made By The Opposers Of This Doctrine Are Fully Answered, Several Doubts Removed, And Sundry Cases Removed Conscience Resolved.

A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine-14-Justification

January 23, 2014 1 comment

Justification

 

1. What is Justification?

It is an act of God, by which He fully acquits us of all sin.

2. Is it based upon any works of our own?

It is not; by our own works we could never secure it.

3. Is it not, however, intimately connected with some act of ours?

Yes, with the exercise of faith.

4. Is it due to our faith in Christ?

It is not; that faith becomes the instrument only, not the cause of our justification.

5. To what, then, is it due?

Simply to the merits and sufferings of Christ, which are accounted by God as ours.

6. What do the Scriptures mean when they say that we are justified by faith?

In part, they are teaching that our justification is not by works.

7. What else do they mean?

They also speak thus, because in the act of faith the believer takes hold of the meritorious work of Christ, which is the true ground of justification.

8. Why does the Apostle James say that we are justified by works and not by faith only?

He refers to the fact that every one that has true faith also performs good works.

 

James P. Boyce-A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine

Question 55-Puritan Catechism

January 23, 2014 1 comment

Spurgeon 3Q. Which is the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment is, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

Chapter 7-The Immutability Of God

January 22, 2014 1 comment

Chapter 7-The Immutability Of God

 

By the immutability of God is meant that he is incapable of change, either in duration of life, or in nature, character, will or happiness. In none of these, nor in any other respect is there any possibility of change.

1. This is implied in his absolute perfection. Perfection permits neither increase as though he lacks, nor decrease as though he can lose. Change must be for the worse or for the better, but God cannot become worse or better.

2. It arises in like manner from the pure simplicity of his nature. That which is not and cannot be compounded cannot be changed.

3. It is expressly taught by the Scriptures in the following as well as in other particulars. A few passages out of many are referred to in support of each.

(a) They declare him to be unchangeable in duration and life: Gen. 21:33; Deut. 32:39, 40; Ps. 9:7; 55:19; 90:2; 102:12; Hab. 1:12; Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16.

(b) They affirm the unchangeableness of his nature: Ps. 104:31; Mal. 3:6; Rom. 1:23; James 1:17.

(c) They also assert that his will is without change: Job 23:13; Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21.

(d) His character is also said to be immutable, as for example his justice: Gen. 18:25; Job 8:3; Rom. 2:2; his mercy: Ex. 34:7; Deut. 4:31; Ps. 107:1; Lam. 3:22, 23; Mal. 3:6; his truth: Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Mic. 7:20; Rom. 3:3; 11:2, 29; 2 Tim. 2:13; Titus 1:2; his holiness: Job 34:10; Hab. 1:13; James 1:13; and his knowledge: Isa. 40:13, 14, 27, 28.

The immutability thus set forth in the Scriptures and implied in the simplicity and absolute perfection of God is not, however, to be so understood as to deny in him some real ground for the Scripture statements of emotional feeling in the exercise of love, pity, longsuffering and mercy, or of anger, wrath and avenging justice. We could as well deny some real ground for the attributes of love, justice and truth which are at the basis of these emotions. We must never forget that we know but little, if anything, of the mode of operation of the divine mind. We are sure that we have to think and speak of it erroneously when our thoughts or words involve successive emotions in God or such as have beginning or end. And yet the only way in which change in him in such emotional acts could occur would involve both beginning, and end, and succession. Wherefore, we know that whatever possibility of change in God appears is due only to our own imperfection of knowledge and in-capacity to form true conceptions.

It is also true that the unchangeableness of God is not incompatible with such outward activity and relations as exist in connection with Creation, Providence and Redemption. But as this has not been so readily admitted, it may be well to consider more particularly the objections which have been made.

I. It is objected that a change must have taken place in God in the creation of the universe. It is claimed that he must then have formed a new purpose, and must have passed from a state of rest to one of activity.

(a) But this objection is based upon a forgetfulness of the fact, that in him there is no succession, and no change of time from one moment to another. The creation of the universe is no less an outward act than is the time in which it has existence. It appears in time and with time. But with God there is no time and no relation of time, exclusive of time itself. There was not before its creation. There will not be when there shall be no more time in creation. We may not be able to understand how this is, but we know that the fact must be so.

It is on this account that the purpose of God to create was not a new one, formed at one time and not at another. On the contrary, that purpose, and, indeed, his whole will is eternal. Whatever may have given rise to that purpose, does not exclude this fact.

(b) There was nothing outside to influence him. He was moved entirely by his own will. Whether that will was altogether voluntary, or arose from some necessity in his nature, we need not now consider. If it was either the one or the other, in either event it was eternal, for if his nature be eternal, then any necessity of his nature is an eternal necessity, and any purpose he forms, whether of necessity, or voluntarily, must be eternal volition. So much for the objection, based upon a supposed new purpose.

That from a transition from rest to labour is equally baseless. It supposes labour and toil in God. But the Scripture account of creation, as well as the dictates of reason, forbid this. There was no laborious work of God. There never is; there never can be. His infinite power compasses his infinite will, in the mere wishing. Neither in the creation nor in the sustentation of the universe is there in God any of that busy, careful thought, and protracted weary effort by which man maintains government or sustains the lives of those dependent on him.

This view of God’s creation accords with reason. It alone is worthy of an all-wise, all-powerful, independent and self-existent God.

It is established by Scripture. Heb. 11:3. “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear.”

The whole account of the creation in Genesis, Chap. 1:1, to chap. 2:3, is full of this truth. In every case it is simply, “And God said,” &c.

Psalm 33:9. “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast.”

When it is said that he rested on the seventh day, no more is implied than that he ceased as to further creation; for the sustentation of the universe requires constantly the same exercise of power and will as its creation.

II. It is again objected, that the Scriptures represent change in God, when they speak of him as “repenting” of the acts which he had done.

Gen. 6:6. “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

1 Sam. 15:35. “And the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.”

Ps. 106:45. “And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitudes of his mercies.”

Amos 7:3. “The Lord repented concerning this: It shall not be saith the Lord.”

Jonah 3:10. “And God repented of the evil which he said he would do unto them.”

In reply to this objection, it may be stated that these are merely anthropopathic expressions, intended simply to impress upon men his great anger at sin, and his warm approval of the repentance of those who had sinned against him. The change of conduct, in men, not in God, had changed the relation between them and God. Sin had made them liable to his just displeasure. Repentance had brought them within the possibilities of his mercy. Had he not treated them differently then there would have been change in him. His very unchangeableness makes it necessary that he shall treat differently those who are innocent and those who are guilty, those who harden themselves against him and those who turn toward him for mercy, with repentant hearts. So far as the first of these passages is concerned, it is simply a protest against the great wickedness into which the race of man has fallen. The Scriptures show that God has had a purpose with reference to such sin, which, from the beginning, contemplated the fall of man and the different stages of wickedness by which in various ages that fall has been accompanied. These statements differ widely from those which declare love, pity, or anger, for there is no emotion in God correspondent with the outward declaration.

III. Again it has been objected that God must be changeable or he could not answer prayer. It is said if his purposes stand forever and he changes not his will, then there is no place for prayer.

It is unquestionably true that God promises to answer prayer. It is also true that prayers have been answered, and that the course of human events has thus been different from what it would have been had there been no prayer and no answer to it.

But the mistake arises from supposing that there has been change in God’s purpose or action from what he always contemplated.

The difficulty is not one that affects prayer only; it arises as well in connection with labour, or with any other act, by which, through man, a new force is introduced into the universe.

It proceeds from the fact that man, being a voluntary agent, may act according to choice at any moment of his life. That choice puts his action outside of the mere mechanical movements of the universe. Over these it is admitted that God has absolute control, and that his purpose relative to them has no change. But it is thought, that if man can choose one thing, or another, or can do, or not do, any special act he pleases, then so much of the future being dependent upon and resultant from his act or volition, God must change his purpose to correspond with that act or volition.

To this it may be replied that, even without explanation, we know that such cannot be the case, for this would take away the independence of God. It would make his volitions dependent upon those of man. If it be therefore true, that man cannot be a free agent, without such mechanical action, on his part, as would leave God free, we know that free agency does not belong to him. But we are so fully conscious of our free agency, that that consciousness becomes to us the highest revelation from God that it has real existence. If prayer then be offered, the only doubt about it, as a power and force, the effect of which does not change, is whether God answers it. And, in his word he has so plainly taught this, as to leave no room for doubt.

In what aspect, then, are we to regard prayer? Evidently in this simple way; that it is a secondary cause, which has a place, like all other secondary causes, which, like other such, is necessary to produce the result, to which God has given means of efficient entrance into the working of the universe, the existence of which has been as fully known and purposed as any other secondary cause, and the presence of which can in no way take God by surprise, nor render any new purpose or action on his part necessary. So far then from changing his purpose when he answers prayer, God is in reality only carrying out that purpose. But even if we he not able to explain how any will or act of ours can be at the same time as fixed and certain with God, as if it were a decree about some mechanical action of the universe, or were his own personal purpose, and at the same time he perfectly voluntary with man, so that man can either will or not will, do or not do, as he may himself choose, we are perfectly sure that it must he so, from our consciousness of ourselves, and our certainty of what is the nature of God.

IV. It is further objected, that there was change in God, in the act of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity.

The objection is met here, because this is the most suitable place in our course to do so, though the explanation may not be fully comprehended, until we have discussed the Trinity, and the relations of the persons of the Godhead in it.

It is based upon a misconception of the scripture doctrine of the incarnation.

1. It was not the divine nature, which became incarnate, but simply one of the persons subsisting in it.

2. No change took place in the divine nature. The human and divine natures of the Son of God were so related to his person and to each other, that while he was truly God and truly man, possessing every characteristic of each, the two natures remained entirely distinct, each with its own peculiarities and properties. The divine nature was in no degree affected. The Son of God, therefore, was as truly divine after, as before the incarnation.

3. So distinct were these natures, that in becoming man, the Son took not simply a human body, but also a human soul. These were united with the personality with which he subsists in the divine nature, but not with the divine nature itself. Christ lacked nothing to make him as separate from God in his human nature as any other man, except separate human personality. He united his human nature to himself by subsisting in it in the same personality with which he subsists in the divine nature.

4. The Son has not divine nature separate from the Father and the Spirit, so that we can say his divine nature in the exclusive sense, in which we speak of the human nature of Paul and Peter. Human nature is distributed among individual men, so that each one has his own, and in no wise partakes with another. But the one divine nature is common to the three persons.

These statements will show why God has not been changed in the act of incarnation.

(1.) There would have been change, had the human nature been so united to the divine, as to add to it such qualities, properties and conditions as do not belong to God. These may be possessed by a divine person in the human nature he has assumed, for thus is there no change in his nature as God, but they cannot be transferred to the divine nature without making it finite as well as infinite, material as well as spiritual, fallible as well as infallible, mortal as well as immortal. These contradictory states may exist in the one person, but cannot in any such compounded nature.

(2.) There would have been change, had the divine nature become the soul of the human nature. This would have made that nature subject to human passions and appetites, to human frailties and imperfections, and liable to pain, suffering, and temptation, and to limitation in goodness, knowledge, power and wisdom.

The knowledge therefore of the true doctrine of the incarnation shows conclusively, that in it there has been no change in God.

V. It is alleged that God cannot be without change, because he suffered during the incarnation of Christ.

The argument is that the declarations about Christ’s suffering are made, not simply of the human nature, but of both natures combined, and that thus we are taught, that it was not merely man, but God also that suffered. This position is assumed by some who maintain that Christ had a complete human, as well as divine nature, not a mere human body, but also a rational soul. It is necessarily also the position of those who claim that he had no human soul, but that his divine nature took the place of a rational soul.

The reply to this argument is that the Scripture statements do not teach that the divine nature suffered. This is nowhere said. They teach that the second person of the Trinity, who became man, suffered. But they plainly refer that suffering to his human nature only. They teach us, that in the relations of his natures to his person, he preserved unchanged the properties and qualities which belonged to them separately, and that this was especially true of the divine nature. There were, indeed, some communications from the divine nature to the human, but none from the human to the divine. But while thus distinct, they were united together in a single personality, and by such a union, that whatever might be said to be true of or to be done or to be suffered by either of the natures, might in like manner be affirmed of the person in whom they were united. It is because of this that Christ, the Son of God, is said to have suffered. He did this in his human, though not in his divine nature. The scripture declarations that Christ suffered, are no proof that God suffered, or that God can change in this respect.

But there are those who do not receive the above statements as an exposition of the teachings of Scripture on this point They claim, as necessary, an interpretation which asserts suffering of the divine nature. Those, indeed, who hold that the divine nature is in the place of the human soul, are forced to maintain such an interpretation. It is in reply to both of these that the unchangeableness of the divine nature is presented as conclusive against any such interpretation. Against their position are adduced the numerous statements of scripture asserting that God does not change, and that he is immutable in his nature, and in his various perfections. There are also arguments from reason, by which the same error may be refuted. So incontestable are these statements and reasonings that the objectors readily admit that there is no power or being who can change God contrary to his will, and that the idea of enforced suffering is revolting. The possibility of change and suffering in God, they conceive, therefore, to result from his own will and his own voluntary choice.

This raises the question of the possibility of voluntary suffering on the part of God.

If this be possible, it must arise in one of two ways; either the nature of God is essentially such as to admit suffering, or the will of God is capable of so changing his nature for a time, as to enable it to suffer. In the first instance the essence of God itself is supposed to remain unchanged, but to be capable of existing in different states at the dictation of his will. In the other, the essence itself is changed by the will, and made capable of that, which otherwise it could not have.

In the first case God could suffer, because of the contingent conditions of his life liable to the action of his will, just as we can inflict suffering upon ourselves.

In the last case, the nature of God would be so dependent on his will that be could change it at pleasure.

This last view, however, is based upon an erroneous conception of the relation of the will of God to his nature. That relation is not causal. The will does not create the nature nor confer upon it its powers nor exercise a controlling influence upon it. It is the nature that influences the will. It is because he is holy, just, and good, that he wills holiness, justice, and goodness, and wills these in himself, because he alone is the infinitely holy, just, and good. His will, therefore, so far from causative, is only approbative and complacent, and his essence can in no degree be affected by it. If this were not so, the nature of God must be the effect of the will of God as a cause, and must be dependent upon that will. The foundation of all excellence, righteousness and holiness would he, not what God is, but what he happens to will at any one time, and would make him differ again and again should he so will. And such will would be capricious; for in making the will superior to the nature, there is taken away all reason for choice in God to good or ill, or in one direction or another, and he is left, without motive, to accidental or capricious volition only. Moreover, if God is capable of this kind of change in any respect, he is so in all others, for the power of the will to effect one modification in the divine nature, necessarily involves the power to effect any or all other such.

As the will, therefore, cannot change the essence of God, but is itself controlled by that essence, it is not possible that it can confer the power to suffer, which otherwise God would not have. If, therefore, this power of suffering be not inherent in the divine nature, it can have no existence.

But if this be inherent in the divine nature, it must be a quality necessarily and constantly belonging to the nature of God, and must, therefore, be destructive of the blessedness so fully and eminently ascribed to God in the Scriptures, or it must exist there after the manner of the contingent conditions of our life, because of which we can pass from a state of happiness into one of suffering, and back to happiness again; and its passage from one of these states to the other, most be the result of the exercise of a divine volition.

But with God there can be no such contingent conditions.

1. The very nature of his necessary existence forbids this.

2. The language of scripture “I, the Lord, change not,” (Mal. 3:6), and “with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning,” James 1:17, is expressly contrary to such a supposition.

3. The contrast drawn in the Bible between God and men in respect to change, is distinctly based upon that contingency in man, to which there is no similarity in God.

4. The truth and faithfulness of God are magnified in the Scriptures by the fact of their exercise where man would thus change, but where God does not, because he is fixed and constant. The passage, “I change not” is presented in a context, where the will of God might be presumed to induce change, and the assertion that this is his nature is made to show why that will would not so affect him.

5. In addition to all of this, such contingent conditions or states are incompatible with the nature of his eternity, which, as being without succession, excludes change; as well as with his simplicity which denies separation between his essence and his attributes, and therefore gives no room for change; while they are absolutely excluded by the perfection of God, which cannot be always asserted of him if the states or conditions of his being can be changed, unless in all these states he could be equally perfect in all respects, which surely cannot be affirmed of the two states of happiness and suffering.

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D.D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887 

The Wednesday Word: Misunderstood Matters about Grace -Part 2

The Wednesday Word: Misunderstood Matters about Grace -Part 2

Another thing about grace is that it is completely undeserved! I question if we really understand this. I suspect that many of us pay lip service to the undeserved nature of grace, but often the power of this truth has not permeated the depths of our being.

If we don’t believe that grace is entirely undeserved, we should consider how utterly worthless we were when grace first saved us. We were enemies of God and without strength (Romans 5:6, 5:10). We were as John McNeill graphically put it, “Ownerless dogs prowling the garbage heaps of humanity.” Now ask yourself this; have you, through the years, become so wonderful that you are now worth saving? I hope you answer no! The truth is that grace saves people who have absolutely, “no good thing” in them worth saving (Romans 7:18). If we think there is one good thing about us … one shred of perfect, unadulterated goodness that deserves to be saved, there is no room for grace.

If we believe in salvation by grace alone, we have recognized that we are, in ourselves, destitute of everything. We are in agreement with the scripture when it says, “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint” (Isaiah 1:5). Believing this, we have no difficulty accepting that grace both sent the gospel to us, and opened our eyes to it.

Grace is both the seeker and the finder. It was the personification of grace who sought and found Zacchaeus in Luke 19. It was grace that found Noah and by grace that Noah was saved (Genesis 6:8). Indeed, the sole reason that any of us love the Lord is because of grace and grace alone.

If God withdrew His gracious hand from us, then we would be exposed, naked and undone before the awful holiness of God. But grace saves those who cannot, by their own efforts, produce one continuing trace of goodness or even one suggestion of holiness that could recommend them to Heaven. This is good news for people like me! Grace is for the lost, the guilty and the hopeless. Grace is for those who were too weak to walk towards God, but who were abundantly energetic when it came to running away from Him. These are the only people whom grace saves!

By the way, in this day and age when absolute right and wrong have been almost entirely dispensed with, it is, humanly speaking, very difficult to get people saved since so few will admit that they are actually lost, incurably lost and entirely dependent on someone else to save them Why, after all, consent to someone else saving you when you don’t know you need to be saved in the first place? When it comes to evangelism, we can get people to raise their hands at the end of a meeting because they want to go to heaven, but let’s face it, who in their right mind wants to go to hell? This kind of ‘soul winning’ activity can often be a long way off from bringing salvation! Salvation is for lost people, for ruined sinners and for hopeless cases. Salvation is only for those who need grace.

The Lord gives us grace upon grace (John 1:16; James 4:6). In other words, we both start and continue this Christian life by grace alone. Grace is the great changer of lives and the subduer of indwelling sin. A man may spend his entire life trying to reform, but we are saved from beginning to end by grace, pure grace, righteous grace and that alone. John Newton, the author of the grand old hymn, “Amazing Grace”, said it like this,

 

“By various maxims, forms and rules-

That pass for wisdom in our schools-

I sought my passions to restrain,

But all my efforts proved in vain.

 

But since my Saviour I have known

Are all my rules reduced to one-

To keep my Lord by faith in view-

This faith supplies, and motive too.”

 

 

And that’s the Gospel Truth

Miles

Miles McKee

Minister of the Gospel

6 Quay Street, New Ross, County Wexford, Ireland,

www.milesmckee.com 

The prophecies of the major and minor prophets confirm that scripture is divine revelation

January 22, 2014 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015The predictions of other prophets. The destruction of Jerusalem; and the return from the Babylonish captivity. Harmony of the Prophets. The celebrated prophecy of Daniel.

8. In the case of the other prophets the evidence is even clearer. I will only select a few examples, for it were too tedious to enumerate the whole. Isaiah, in his own day, when the kingdom of Judah was at peace, and had even some ground to confide in the protection of the Chaldeans, spoke of the destruction of the city and the captivity of the people, (Isaiah 55:1.) Supposing it not to be sufficient evidence of divine inspiration to foretell, many years before, events which, at the time, seemed fabulous, but which ultimately turned out to be true, whence shall it be said that the prophecies which he uttered concerning their return proceeded, if it was not from God? He names Cyrus, by whom the Chaldeans were to be subdued and the people restored to freedom. After the prophet thus spoke, more than a hundred years elapsed before Cyrus was born, that being nearly the period which elapsed between the death of the one and the birth of the other. It was impossible at that time to guess that some Cyrus would arise to make war on the Babylonians, and after subduing their powerful monarchy, put an end to the captivity of the children of Israel. Does not this simple, unadorned narrative plainly demonstrate that what Isaiah spoke was not the conjecture of man, but the undoubted oracle of God? Again, when Jeremiah, a considerable time before the people were led away, assigned seventy years as the period of captivity, and fixed their liberation and return, must not his tongue have been guided by the Spirit of God? What effrontery were it to deny that, by these evidences, the authority of the prophets is established, the very thing being fulfilled to which they appeal in support of their credibility! “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them,” (Isaiah 42:9.) I say nothing of the agreement between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who, living so far apart, and yet prophesying at the same time, harmonize as completely in all they say as if they had mutually dictated the words to one another. What shall I say of Daniel? Did not he deliver prophecies embracing a future period of almost six hundred years, as if he had been writing of past events generally known? (Daniel 9, etc.) If the pious will duly meditate on these things, they will be sufficiently instructed to silence the cavils of the ungodly. The demonstration is too clear to be gainsaid.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 8-Henry Beveridge Translation