Archive

Archive for February, 2014

The Law-Gospel Contrast

February 24, 2014 3 comments

by Tom Hicks

I submit that we need a clear understanding of the law/gospel contrast, if we want to be healthy in our preaching, churches, families, and individual sanctification. The law/gospel distinction is often misunderstood or overlooked, but it is thoroughly biblical and vital. Consider three different places in Scripture that teach the law/gospel contrast:

Galatians 4:22-26 says, “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.”

These verses contrast the two covenants of law and gospel, which are typologically revealed in Hagar and Sarah. The law covenant is a covenant of slavery to guilt and condemnation. The gospel covenant is a covenant of freedom to life and justification.

 

Read the entire article here.

The Meaning of “Alone” When We Confess Grace Alone or Christ Alone

February 24, 2014 4 comments

“Even Roman Catholics believe that salvation is by grace… that is not the issue…and never has been … the issue is that salvation is by grace ALONE. In other words, Jesus is not only necessary but sufficient to save us to the uttermost.”

 

Read the rest here.

New Atheism’s Moral Meltdown (Part 1)

February 24, 2014 1 comment

A little while ago, Jerry Coyne replied to our critique of his approach to ethics. We’re not at all convinced by Coyne’s response, which essentially reduces to a rant about religious fundamentalism. Let us restate our case for the sake of clarity. Moral values seem quite at home in a theistic world-view; moral values do not fit in the New Atheist’s world-view. Therefore, any theist -be they merely a philosophical theist, or Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or Christian – has a better explanation for morality than Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins or their acolytes[i].

We provide evidence for Christianity, and arguments for Christian faith, elsewhere on our website. [ii]And we are not very interested in advancing a political programme; we are much more concerned that people come to the Son of God for personal forgiveness and new life. Mr Coyne can reject our concerns as nonsensical; but that won’t help him explain morality. So we’ll look past most of the bluff and bluster in his reply, and focus once more on the central issues.

 

Read the entire article here.

Why did Wesley persecute Toplady?

February 24, 2014 2 comments

Why should Toplady who kept the faith and finished his course in this world with joy be the target of the shafts of Wesley’s venom? It is because he refuted on Scriptural grounds the Arminianism of Wesley, and fearlessly stood in defence of the eternal truths of free and sovereign grace. “By what spirit,” writes Toplady: “this gentleman and his deputies are guided in their discussion of controversial subjects, shall appear from a specimen of the horrible aspersions which, in ‘The Church Vindicated from Predestination,’ they venture to heap on the Almighty Himself. The recital makes one tremble; the perusal must shock every reader who is not steeled to all reverence for the Supreme Being. Wesley and Sallon are not afraid to declare that on the hypothesis of divine decrees, the justice of God is no better than the tyranny of Tiberius. That God Himself is ‘little better than Moloch.’ ‘A cruel, unwise, unjust, arbitrary, a self-willed tyrant.’ A being devoid of wisdom, justice, mercy, holiness, and truth.’ ‘A devil, yea, worse than the devil.’ Did the exorbitancies of the ancient ranters, or the impieties of any modem blasphemers, ever come up to this? … Observe, reader, that these also are the very men who are so abandoned to all sense of shame, as to charge me with blasphemy for asserting with Scripture, that God worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will, and that whatever God wills is right.”

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

The true believer ought to believe his own election and those of fellow-believers

February 21, 2014 Leave a 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 8. -The true believer ought not only to be thoroughly established in the point of his own election, but should likewise believe the election of all his other fellow-believers and brethren in Christ. Now, as there are most evident and indubitable marks of election laid down in Scripture, a child of God, by examining himself whether those marks are found on him, may arrive at a sober and well-grounded certainty of his own particular interest in that unspeakable privilege; and by the same rule whereby he judges of himself he may likewise (but with caution) judge of others. If I see the external fruits and criteria of election on this or that man, I may reasonably, and in a judgment of charity, conclude such an one to be an elect person. So St. Paul, beholding the gracious fruits which appeared in the believing Thessalonians, gathered from thence that they were elected of God (1Th 1:4,5), and knew also the election of the Christian Ephesians (Eph 1:4,5), as Peter also did that of the members of the churches in Pontus, Galatia, etc. (1 Peter 1:2). It is true, indeed, that all conclusions of this nature are not now infallible, but our judgments are liable to mistake, and God only, whose is the book of life, and who is the Searcher of hearts, can absolutely know them that are His (2Ti 2:19); yet we may, without a presumptuous intrusion into things not seen, arrive at a moral certainty in this matter. And I cannot see how Christian love can be cultivated, how we can call one another brethren in the Lord, or how believers can hold religious fellowship and communion with each other, unless they have some solid and visible reason to conclude that they are loved with the same everlasting love, were redeemed by the same Saviour, are partakers of like grace, and shall reign in the same glory.

But here let me suggest one very necessary caution, viz., that though we may, at least very probably, infer the election of some persons from the marks and appearances of grace which may be discoverable in them, yet we can never judge any man whatever to be a reprobate. That there are reprobate persons is very evident from Scripture (as we shall presently show), but who they are is known alone to Him, who alone can tell who and what men are not written in the Lamb’s book of life. I grant that there are some particular persons mentioned in the Divine Word of whose reprobation no doubt can be made, such as Esau and Judas; but now the canon of Scripture is completed, we dare not, we must not pronounce any man living to be non-elect, be he at present ever so wicked. The vilest sinner may, for aught we can tell, appertain to the election of grace, and be one day wrought upon by the Spirit of God. This we know, that those who die in unbelief and are finally unsanctified cannot be saved, because God in His Word tells us so, and has represented these as marks of reprobation; but to say that such and such individuals, whom, perhaps, we now see dead in sins, shall never be converted to Christ, would be a most presumptuous assertion, as well as an inexcusable breach of the charity which hopeth all things.

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

Chapter 10- Seeing, then, that the Grace of God in the Gospel is by that to be Proffered to Sinners as Sinners, as well to the Reprobate as the Elect, is it possible for those who indeed are not Elect to Receive it and be Saved?

February 20, 2014 1 comment

TO this question I shall answer several things, but first I shall show you what that grace is that is tendered in the name Gospel, and secondly, what it is to receive it and be saved.

First, then. The grace that is offered to sinners as sinners, without respect to this or that. person, it is a sufficiency of righteousness, pardoning grace, and life, laid up in the person of Christ, held forth in the exhortation and word of the Gospel, and promised to be theirs that receive it; yea, I say, in so universal a tender that not one is by it excluded or checked in the least, ‘but rather encouraged if he hath the least desire to life; yea, it is held forth to beget both desires and longings after the life thus laid up in Christ.

Secondly. To receive this grace thus tendered by the Gospel, it is —

1. To believe it is true.

2. To receive it heartily and unfeignedly through faith. And,

3. To let it have its natural: sway, course and authority in the soul, and that in that measure as to bring forth the fruits of good living in heart, word, and life, both before God and man.

Now then to the question:

Is it possible that this tender, thus offered to the reprobate, should by him be thus received and embraced and he live thereby?

To which I answer in the negative. Igor yet to the elect themselves — I mean as considered dead in trespasses and sins, which is the state of all men, elect as well as reprobate. So, then, though there be a sufficiency of life and righteousness laid up in Christ for all men, and this tendered by the Gospel to them without exception, yet sin coming in between the soul and the tender of this grace, it hath in truth disabled all men, and so, notwithstanding this tender, they continue to be dead. For the Gospel, I say, coming in word only, sayeth no man, because of man’s impediment; wherefore those that indeed are saved by this Gospel, the word comes not to them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost is mixed with faith, even with the faith of the operation of God, by whose exceeding great and mighty power they are raised from this dearth of sin and enabled to embrace the Gospel. Doubtless, all men being dead in trespasses, and sins, and so captivated under the power of the devil, the curse of the law, and shut up in unbelief, it must be the power of God, yea, the exceeding greatness of that power, that raiseth the soul from this condition to receive the holy Gospel.

For man by nature (consider him at best) can see no more nor do no more than what the principles of nature understands and helps to do; which nature being below the discernings of things truly, spiritually, and savingly good, it must needs fall short of receiving, loving, and delighting in them. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Now, I say, if the natural man at best (for the elect before conversion are no more, if quite so much) cannot do this, how shall they attain thereto, being now not only corrupted and infected, but depraved, bewitched and dead, swallowed up of unbelief, ignorance, confusion, hardness of heart, hatred of God, and the like? When a thorn by nature beareth grapes, and a thistle beareth figs, then may this thing be. To lay hold of and receive the Gospel by a true and saving faith, it is an act of the soul, has made a new creature, which is the workmanship of God: “Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God. For a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Can the Ethiopian change his skin?”

But yet the cause of this impossibility —

1. Lieth not in reprobation, the elect themselves being as much unable to receive it as the other.

2. Neither is it because the reprobate is excluded in the tender, for that is universal.

3. Neither is it because there wanteth arguments in the tenders of the Gospel, for there is not only plenty, but such as be persuasive, clear, and full of rationality.

4. Neither is it because these creatures have no need thereof, for they have broken the law.

5. Wherefore it is because indeed they are by sin dead, captivated, mad, self-opposers, blind, alienated in their minds, and haters of the Lord. Behold the ruins that sin hath made!

Wherefore, whoever receiveth the grace that is tendered, in the Gospel, they must be quickened by the power of God, their eyes must be opened, their understandings illuminated, their ears unstopped, their hearts circumcised, their wills also rectified,, and the Son of God revealed in them; yet, as I said, not because there wanteth argument in these tenders, but because men. are dead, and blind, and cannot hear the word. “Why do you not understand my speech? (saith Christ) even because you cannot hear my word.”

For otherwise, as I said but now, there is

1. Rationality enough in the tenders of the Gospel.

2. Persuasions of weight enough to provoke to faith. And,

3. Arguments enough to persuade to continue therein.

First. Is it not reasonable that man should believe God in the proffer of the Gospel and live by it?

Secondly. Is there not reason, I say, both from the truth and faithfulness of God, from the sufficiency of the merits of Christ, as also from the freeness and fullness of the promise? What unreasonable thing doth the Gospel bid thee credit? Or what falsehood doth it command thee to receive for truth? Indeed, in many points the Gospel is above reason, but yet in never a one against it, especially in those things wherein it beginneth with the sinner in order to eternal life.

Again, touching its persuasions to provoke to faith —

First. With how many signs and wonders, miracles and mighty deeds, hath it been once and again confirmed, and that to this very end!

Secondly. With how many oaths, declarations, attestations, and proclamations is it avouched, confirmed, and established!

Thirdly. And why should not credence be given to that Gospel that is confirmed by blood, the blood of the Son of God himself — yea, that Gospel that did never yet fail any that in truth have cast themselves upon it since the foundation of the world?

Again, as there is rationality enough and persuasion sufficient, so there is also argument most prevalent, to persuade to continue therein, and that too heartily, cheerfully, and unfeignedly, unto the end, did not, as I have said, blindness, madness, deadness, and willful rebellion carry them away in the vanity of their minds and overcome them.

For, first, if they could but consider how they have sinned, how they have provoked God, etc. — if they could but consider what a dismal state the state of the damned is, and also that in a moment their condition is; like to be the same — would they not cleave to the Gospel and live?

Secondly. The enjoyment of God, and Christ, and saints, and angels being the sweetest, the pleasures of heaven the most comfortable, and to live always in the height of light, life, joy, gladness imaginable, one would think were enough to persuade the very damned now in hell.

There is no man that perisheth for want of sufficient reason in the tenders of the Gospel, nor any for want; of persuasions to faith, nor yet because there wanteth arguments to provoke to continue therein. But the truth is, the Gospel in this hath to do with unreasonable creatures, with such as will not believe it, and. that because it is truth: “And because I tell you the truth,” saith Christ, (therefore) “you believe me not.”

Question. Well, but if this in truth be thus, how then comes it to pass that some receive it and live for ever? for you have said before that the elect are as bad as the reprobate, and full as unable as they (as men) to close with these tenders and live.

Answer. Doubtless this is true, and were the elect left to themselves, they, through, the wickedness of their heart, would perish as do others, Neither could all the reasonable, persuasive, prevalent arguments of the Gospel of God in Christ prevail to make any receive it and live.. Wherefore here you must consider that as there is mercy proclaimed in the general tenders of the Gospel, so there is also the grace of election; which grace kindly overruleth and winneth the spirit of the chosen, working in them that unfeigned closing therewith that makes it effectual to their undoubted salvation; which indeed is the cause that not only in other ages, but also to this day, there is a remnant that receive this grace, they being appointed, I say, thereto before the world began, preserved in time from that which would undo them: and enabled to embrace the glorious Gospel of grace, and peace, and love.

Now there is a great difference between the grace of election and the grace that is wrapped up in the general tenders of the Gospel — a difference, I say, and that both as to its timing, latituding, and working.

1. Touching its timing: it is before, yea long before, there was either tender of the grace wrapped up in the Gospel to any, or any need of such a tender.

2. They also differ in latitude: the tender of grace in the Gospel are common and universal to all, but the extension of that of election special and peculiar to some. “There is a remnant according to the election of grace.

3. Touching the working of the grace of election: it differs much in some things from the working of the grace that is offered in the general tenders of the Gospel; as is manifest in these particulars:

1. The grace that is offered in the genera tenders of the Gospel calleth for faith to lay hold upon and accept thereof, but the special grace of election worketh that faith which doth lay hold thereof.

2. The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the Gospel calleth for faith as a condition in us, without which there is no life, but the special grace of election worketh faith in us without any such conditions.

3. The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the Gospel promiseth happiness upon the condition of persevering in the faith only, but the special grace of election causeth this perseverance.

4. The grace offered in the general tenders of the Gospel when it sparkleth most leaveth the greatest part of men behind it, but the special grace of election, when it shineth least, doth infallibly bring every soul therein concerned to everlasting life.

5. A man may overcome and put out all the light and life that is begotten in him by the general tenders of the Gospel, but none shall overcome, or make void, or frustrate the grace of election.

6. The general tenders of the Gospel, considered without a concurrence of the grace of election, help not the elect himself when sadly fallen.

Wherefore, when I say the grace that is offered in the general tenders of the Gospel, I mean that grace when offered as not being accompanied with a special operation of God’s eternal love by way of conjunction therewith. Otherwise the grace that is tendered in the general offers of the Gospel is that which saveth the sinner now and that brings him to everlasting life; that is, when conjoined with that grace that; blesseth and maketh this general tender effectually efficacious. The grace of election worketh not without, but by these tenders generally; neither doth the grace thus tendered effectually work but by and with the grace of election: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” the word being then effectual to life, when the hand of the Lord is effectually therewith to that end. “They spoke (saith the text) unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus; and the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord.”

We must always put difference between the word of the Gospel and the power that manageth that word; we must put difference between the common and more special operations of that power also, even as there is evidently a difference to be put between those words of Christ that were effectual to do what was said, and of those words of his which were but words only, or at least not (so) accompanied with. power. As for instance: that same Jesus that said to the leper, “Say nothing to any man,” said also to Lazarus, “Come forth;” yet the one obeyed, the other did not, though he that obeyed was least in a capacity to do it, he being now dead and stunk in his grave. Indeed, unbelief hath hindered Christ much, yet not when he putteth forth himself as Almighty, but when he doth suffer himself by them to be abused who are to be dealt with by ordinary means; otherwise legions of devils, with ten thousand impediments, must fall down before him and give way unto him. There is a speaking and a (so) speaking: “They (so) spoke that a great multitude, both of the Jews and also of the Greeks, believed.” Even as I have hinted already, there is a difference between the coming of the word when it is in power and when it is in word. only. So, then, the blessed grace of election chooseth this man to good, not because he is good; it chooseth him to believe, not because he doth believe; it chooseth him to persevere, not because he doth so; it foreordains that this man shall be created in. Christ Jesus unto good works, not if a man will create himself thereto.

What shall we say then? Is the fault in God, if any perish? Doubtless, no; nor yet in his act of eternal reprobation neither; it is grace that saveth the elect, but sin that damns the rest: it is superabundant grace that canseth the elect to close with the tenders of life and live, and it is the abounding of sin that holds off the reprobate from the rational necessity and absolute tenders of grace. To conclude, then: The Gospel calleth for credence as a condition, and that both from the elect and reprobate; but because none of them both, as dead in sin, will close therewith and live, therefore grace, by virtue of electing love, puts forth itself to work and do for some beyond reason, and justice cuts off others for slighting so good, so gracious, and necessary a means of salvation, so full both of kindness, mercy, and reason.

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-18-Baptism

February 20, 2014 1 comment

Baptism

 

1. What duty has God intimately associated with Faith?

The profession of that faith in the ordinance of Baptism.

2. What is Baptism?

It is the immersion of the body in water, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

3. Why is it done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost?

To denote that the person baptized thus professes to believe these three to be God, and to devote himself to His service.

4. What does the use of water in Baptism represent?

The washing away of our sins by the cleansing influences of the Holy Spirit.

5. What does the act of immersion represent?

The union of the believer with Christ in His death.

6. Do the Scriptures assign this union as a reason why we are to profess Christ by immersion?

They do; they tell us that it is on this account that we are buried with Christ by baptism unto death.

7. Who alone are the fit subjects of Baptism?

Those who exercise faith; for they only can properly profess to have experienced the things which Baptism represents.

 

James P. Boyce-A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine

Question 59-Puritan Catechism

February 20, 2014 3 comments

Spurgeon 1Q. Which is the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment is, “Thou shalt not steal.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

Chapter 11-Justice of God

February 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Chapter 11-Justice of God

 

By justice is meant that rectitude of character which leads to the treatment of others in strict accordance with their deserts.

The justice of God differs in no respect from this attribute as seen among his rational creatures; except that his justice must be perfect while theirs is imperfect, and his must be impartial, while theirs is partial. These differences, however, exist in the exercise of justice, and not in the thing itself. They arise from the limited knowledge, reason, and perception of right and wrong among men, and from the extent to which they naturally yield to their prejudices and passions. In the all perfect being, however, justice has none of these deficiencies, and must be exercised according to its strictest nature, and in every conceivable from of perfection. To all, therefore, he must deal out the most absolute justice, whatever they deserve, only what they deserve, and the full measure of their deserts.

Inasmuch as the justice of God may be considered as it exists in himself, or as it is manifested towards his creatures, a distinction has been made in it as viewed in these aspects, into the absolute and relative justice of God.

By absolute justice is meant that rectitude of the divine nature, in consequence of which God is infinitely righteous in himself. This rectitude is essential to him, and existed before there was a creation in which to exhibit it.

By the relative justice of God is meant that justice, as exhibited towards, and exercised upon, his creatures in the dispensation of the universe. It is seen in the nature of the laws he gives, in his impartiality in dealing with those subjected to them, and in his maintenance of right and virtue, by the threats and promises he attaches to them, and his punishment of those who violate them. To this form of justice is often applied the name of rectoral justice, inasmuch as it is justice exercised by a ruler, in the form of government, and by means of laws.

There is a form of justice, known among men as commutative justice, which consists in giving to each one his due in the barter and exchange of commerce, or in any other of the mutual relations of life. As it is based upon the ground of mutual obligation, and, therefore, is not suited to a being entirely independent of others, it cannot properly be ascribed to God. The blessings given in consequence of his promises to man, are not matters of obligation, but of grace. The only aspect, in which this could be connected with God, would be as between the Father and the Son, in conferring upon his people those blessings which the Son had purchased through his sufferings. It is in this sense that the Scripture says, that God is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.

In the administration of the affairs of his creatures, God exercises distributive justice. By this is meant, the rewarding and punishing his subjects, according to the sanctions of his law. His justice is here evinced in the maintenance of punishment, if the law be broken, but not in the bestowment of rewards, since these are given graciously as further inducements to duty. While, therefore, God gives all the rewards promised, they are given because promised, and not because due. These punishments further show forth the justice of God as they are impartially inflicted.

The ground upon which the offenders against God’s law are punished, is not simply the fact that a law of God has been broken, but, that, in the breaking of that law, essential right has been violated and wrong committed. It would be sufficient to authorize punishment, that the law of the ruler is broken. Still it might appear that the will of the ruler might remit a punishment due to a mere violation of his will. But the law of God is based upon the immutable distinctions between right and wrong, and sin and holiness, as they exist in the nature of God. Its violation, therefore, is sin. It is a destruction of the right. Hence, that which impels God to punish, is not his rectoral character, but his holy nature. It is when justice is regarded in this respect, that it is called punitive or vindicatory.

But punitive justice is not admitted by all, nor that God punishes sin in any other respect, than as a violation of his will; nay, it is even disputed whether he even punishes the violations of his will.

Three questions, therefore, arise here.

1. Does God punish the violations of his will?

2. Does he punish them, because they are mere violations, or because they are sin?

3. Is this done because of anything essential in his nature, or because it is expedient for governmental or other purposes?

Upon these questions there have been several opinions expressed.

1. The Universalists and some of the Socinians deny that God punishes even the violations of his law. They regard the precepts of morality and duty set forth in his word as merely intended to guide us in this life. When this life is ended, there may be no dealing with man for such violation. They are only for a temporary purpose, and having accomplished that purpose, will have no further effect. God looks now only to the good of his creatures, and if the same method of dealing be extended beyond this life, it will be only for a time, and only for the good of those who suffer. According to this, these are not punishments, but chastisements, and God is moved by goodness and not by justice.

2. A second theory is, that the laws given by God are merely exponents of his will; that the ground upon which he commands is simply his sovereignty; that, looking at the universe as a world to be created and to be occupied by his moral creatures, he selected such a system of laws as seemed to him best to secure the welfare of those creatures, and that these laws while seeking the happiness, not of the individuals, but of the mass, are such as are really best fitted to that end; and that the justice of God is seen in so administering these laws, by rewarding those who obey, and punishing those who disobey, as to maintain his government, and thus secure the welfare of the whole. God punishes sin, therefore, under this system, but he punishes it, not because of its heinous nature, but because it is best that men should not sin, and thus the best interest of all is secured by preventing by punishment the commission of sin. The end he has in view, therefore, is rather to furnish a spectacle which shall restrain sin, than to perform an act demanded by the inherent nature of sin. It is his rectoral justice, therefore, rather than his vindicatory justice, that is thus shown.

This theory embraces four points.

(1) God punishes offences or sins.

(2) The object is thus the better to secure the welfare of his moral creatures.

(3) The laws of his government are based entirely upon his mere will.

(4) Consequently he punishes sin, not because of its inherent desert, but because the general happiness of his creatures, and not his own holiness demands it.

3. The third theory is different in all respects, except the first of these points.

(1) It agrees, that God punishes sin.

(2) But it makes his object the maintenance of the right.

(3) His laws and actions are based upon the immutable principles of right.

(4) He punishes sin, because, from its nature, it demands punishment from him.

The great difficulty in attaining a correct result in this matter, is that whatever might have been the origin of these laws, they would have been the same. Hence, no conclusion can be drawn from the nature of the laws themselves. It is manifest, that God, in the establishment of the government of the world for any purpose, will not give to it laws contrary to his nature.

It does not follow, however, that because the same effect may be produced by either of these causes, it is, therefore, unimportant to which of them it is assigned. There may be, and in the present case it is believed that there are important reasons, why only one cause should be assigned, and that it should be ascertained to exist in the nature of God. Matters of great moment, in connection with the atonement especially, but also with other parts of the plan of salvation, demand the true answer.

But this fact is not to be allowed to warp our judgement or lead us away from the truth. It is only mentioned to show the importance of the subject now under consideration.

As to the first of these theories, it need only be said, that the objections to it are partly involved in those to the second and that those peculiar to it, are too plain to need presentation here. They will more properly be considered in connection with the subject of future punishment.

As to the second, it may be objected:

(1) “That it makes happiness, and not holiness and virtue, the great end of God. The dictates of nature teach us all plainly, that happiness does not occupy this place.” Dr. Charles Hodge: manuscript lecture.

(2) “It destroys the essential difference between right and wrong, which conscience teaches us.” Dr. Charles Hodge: manuscript lecture.

(3) It supposes, that God might have made a world, in which precisely opposite moral laws might have prevailed by his command; and that thus it would by his duty, in this world to reward, in that world to punish, his creatures for the same action.

(4) It is opposed to the relation of the true will of God to his nature. It ascribes the laws of God to that will. It recognizes those laws as flowing from it alone. They are as God pleased. Now, it is not denied that they come from the free will of God, and are such as please him. But they have a higher basis even than his will. That will is influenced by his nature, and is its exponent. Now, whether that nature is itself the basis of good and right, or whether good and right considered as distinct from it in the nature of things simply accord perfectly with that nature, the result is the same; the will is influenced by the nature to establish the moral laws for the government of his creatures according to the immutable principles of right and wrong.

(5) This theory is also opposed to the independence of God, who is thus forced to punish sin, not by any law of his own nature, which would still maintain that independence, but from a regard to the government of his creatures, which could not be otherwise maintained. (Altered from Dr. A. A. Hodge’s Outlines.)

(6) The instinctive sense of justice in man testifies to the ill desert of sin. This is the universal testimony of conscience. But conscience speaks for God, and, therefore, testifies to the fact that, independent of the evil to society, the wrong-doer deserves punishment proportioned to his offence.

(7) Dr. A. A. Hodge, in his Outlines, thus argues this from the love of holiness and hatred of sin in God: “If the reason for God’s punishing was founded only in God’s arbitrary will, then he could not be said to hate sin, but only to love his own will, or, if his reason for punishing sin rested upon governmental considerations, then, he could not be strictly said to hate sin, but only its consequences.” But both conscience and Scripture teach that God does hate sin, and love holiness.

Leaving these considerations as to the second theory, with the statement of these objections, we proceed to establish the third theory by the teachings of Scripture. It will be seen that the Scriptures represent God as a just God, thus ascribing that character to him; that they do it in such a way as shows that his justice is not simply in his will, but is a part of his nature; that they challenge denial of the position that the acts of God are in accordance with right and justice, and that not of his sovereignty, but because of the absolute justice of his nature; that they present him as actually claiming vindicatory or avenging justice, speaking of his justice as hatred of sin, and not as a desire to maintain government; nay, that they are constantly showing us instance after instance in which God has exercised that avenging justice, commencing with the ejection of Adam from Paradise, and culminating in its highest and most signal example in the sacrificial work of Christ.

It is remarkable that all of this can be established from the Scriptures in favour of vindicatory justice, and not a passage can be given in proof that God is only active for the maintenance of his government, or the mere happiness of his creatures. Indeed, in the Scriptures everywhere, it is God’s glory and dishonor, his holiness and sin, his love and his justice, that are placed in fearful contrast.

1. Passages in which God is spoken of as having a just character, and in which this is held forth as an excellence in him. How can these be accounted for, if justice and will are the same, or even if justice is no more than the administration of human affairs according to his plan? While this is done there are no passages in which he asserts his power, or choice, or justice in changing the essential laws laid down for our rule. Deut. 32:4; Job 8:3; 34:10-12; 36:2, 3; Ps. 9:4; 11:7; 33:4, 5; 71:19; 89:14; 92:15; 97:2; 99:4; 119:137, 138; Zeph. 3:5; Rom. 2:2.

2. Passages in which God’s claim to this character is vindicated by asserting his justice and his impartiality toward all men. Gen. 18:16-33; Deut. 10:17; Job 37:24; Eccl. 3:17; 12:14; Ezek. 18:29; Acts 10:34, 35; 17:31; Rom. 2:3-6, 11; 14:12; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17; Jude 15.

3. In those passages in which God’s justice is spoken of, it is never based upon his will, nor his economy, but,

(a) Judgement is always based upon his righteousness. Ps. 9:8; 50:4, 6; 96:10, 13; 98:9.

(b) His economy among the Jews is commended, not because of its setting forth his will, but because of its justice or righteousness. Deut. 4:8; Ps. 19:7-9; Ps. 119:138.

4. Passages in which God speaks of his justice as being a hatred of sin. Ps. 5:4, 5; Hab. 1:13.

5. Passages in which God is spoken of as a jealous God, exercising avenging justice. Ex. 20:5; Deut. 32:34, 35, 39, 41-43; Ps. 94:1, 2; Is. 34:8; 66:6; Heb. 10:26-31.

6. Passages in which the dealings of God with his enemies are spoken of, in connection with such words as anger, wrath, fury, &c. Num. 12:9; Deut. 32:22; Judges 10:7; 2 Sam. 22:8; Job 19:11; Ps. 2:5; 7:11; 21:9; 90:11; Is. 28:21; 30:30; Jer. 30:24; Lam. 2:3; 3:43; Ezek. 5:13; 38:18; Hos. 12:14; Nahum 1:6.

7. Passages in which angels are spoken of as ministers of such vengeance. These are not introduced as proof of the justice of God, but simply as parts of transactions, by which that justice is manifested. Num. 22:22-31; 2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chron. 21:14-16, 27; Ps. 35:5, 6; Rev. 7:1-3; 9:15; 15:1; 16:17.

8. The instances given of the actual exercise of God’s wrath are associated, not merely with the idea of producing effect in his moral government, nor with the exercise of his mere will, but as results produced by his emotions against sin, or, in other words, his avenging justice.

Some of these are (1.) The fallen angels, (2.) our first parents, (3.) Sodom and Gomorrah, (4.) the flood, (5.) the plagues of Egypt, (6.) the punishments of the children of Israel in the wilderness, (7.) the captivity of the Jews, (8.) God’s punishment of heathen nations, because of their wicked instrumentality in the exercise of his wrath against the delinquent Israelites, and (9.) the threatened eternal punishment of the wicked.

9. Passages which point out something in the work of Christ as essential before God could pardon sin. Matt. 26:39; Rom. 3:26; 2 Cor. 5:21.

 

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

The Wednesday Word: Righteous Grace: Part 3

February 19, 2014 1 comment

It is written, “The soul that sins it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). In the light of this scripture, we see that each one of us was under the death sentence. Indeed, the righteous demands of God made our death a necessity. Therefore, to meet this dreadful obligation and to rescue us, the Eternal One, in grace and love, became one of us and died in our place.

Let’s say someone was to die for a person for whom there was no need to die; we would be unlikely to call this death a proof of affection. Quite the contrary, we would likely consider it a strange and illogical demonstration of pointlessness. However, to die for someone, when there was really a need for dying … now that’s the test of true and genuine love. The hymn writer said it well when he penned the lines,

 

“Here is love, vast as the ocean,

Loving-kindness as the flood,

When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,

Shed for us His precious blood.

Who His love will not remember?

Who can cease to sing His praise?

He can never be forgotten,

Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.”

 

If ever we were to be saved from damnation, Christ Jesus had to die. Because of this necessity, grace and righteousness combined and led the eternal One to the cross. There at Calvary, He died in the sinner’s place and thus made it a righteous thing for God to cancel the believing sinner’s guilt and to rescind his sentence of death.

Thomas Watson, the Puritan, said, ‘When we were rebelling—He was dying! When we had weapons in our hands—then He had the spear in His side! This is the very quintessence of love! “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). When we were engulfed in misery and had lost our beauty—then Christ died for us. O amazing love, which should swallow up all our thoughts!”

Had it not been for Christ’s doing and dying, God and the sinner could not have met, and righteousness would have forbidden reconciliation. It was love working in harmony with righteous grace that secured our salvation.

 

“On the mount of crucifixion,

Fountains opened deep and wide;

Through the floodgates of God’s mercy

Flowed a vast and gracious tide.

Grace and love, like mighty rivers,

Poured incessant from above,

And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice

Kissed a guilty world in love.”

 

Unless God had punished our substitute at the cross, it would not have been correct for God to receive us or indeed, safe for us to come to Him. But now, in Christ, mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed (Psalm 85:10). Now, through Christ, gracious salvation is also righteous. It is as faith grasps both the righteous and gracious nature of the work of Calvary that our conscience finds peace (Hebrews 9:14). Peace flows to us as we see that our reconciliation is anchored in the righteousness of God (Ephesians 2:13-16) and this righteous reconciliation will stand every test and will last throughout eternity.

The troubled conscience can only find true peace in the gospel as it understands that Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). Faith grasps that God justifies, not the godly, but the ungodly (Romans 4:5). The righteous grace which is ours, through the sin-bearing work of Christ, tells us that there can be no possible condemnation nor even a hint of mild disapproval for one who is saved by the free grace of God alone (Romans 8:1). God is Just, yet the Justifier of the ungodly (Romans 3:26)! This is astonishing news! This is super abounding grace!

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles McKee

 

Minister of the Gospel

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

http://www.milesmckee.com

Please forward the Wednesday Word to your friends and family.