By Al Martin
B. B. Warfield describes Calvinism as ‘that sight of the majesty of God that pervades all of life and all of experience’. In particular as it relates to the doctrine of salvation its glad confession is summarized in those three pregnant words, God saves sinners. Now whenever we are confronted with great doctrinal statements in Holy Scripture, God does not leave us merely with the statement of doctrine. The end of God’s truth set before the minds of God’s people is that, understanding it, they might know its effect in their own personal experience. So the grand doctrinal themes of Ephesians, chapters 1, 2 and 3 are followed by the application of those doctrines to practical life and experience in Ephesians, chapters 4, 5 and 6. The end for which God gave his truth was not so much the instruction of our minds as the transformation of our lives. But a person cannot come directly to the life and experience, he must come mediately through the mind. And so God’s truth is addressed to the understanding and the Spirit of God operates in the understanding as the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge. He does not illuminate the mind simply that the file drawers of the mental study may be crammed full of information. The end for which God instructs the mind is that he might transform the life.
What, then, are the personal implications of Calvinistic thought and truth both in the life of the individual and in the ministry exercised by the individual? By personal implications I mean the implications of your own relationship to God without any conscious reference to the ministry.
Now, these things cannot be separated in an absolute sense, for as has been well said, ‘The life of a minister is the life of his ministry’. You cannot separate what you are from what you do; you cannot separate the effect of truth upon your own relationship to God personally from the effect of truth through you ministerially. For the sake of bringing the principles into sharp focus I am separating them, but in no way do I want to give the impression that these two are in rigid categories.
I ask then, What are the implications of Calvinistic thought, this vision of the majesty of God and of the saving truth of Scripture as it relates to us as individuals? In answer let us go back to that general principle which B. B. Warfield calls the ‘formative principle of Calvinism’. I quote Warfield’s words:
It lies then, let me repeat, in a profound apprehension of God in His majesty, with the poignant realisation which inevitably accompanies this apprehension, of the relation sustained to God by the creature as such, and particularly by the sinful creature. The Calvinist is the man who has seen God, and who, having seen God in His glory, is filled on the one hand with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight as a creature, and much more as a sinner, and on the other hand, with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners. He who believes in God without reserve and is determined that God shall be God to him in all his thinking, feeling and willing — in the entire compass of his life activities, intellectual, moral and spiritual — throughout all his individual social and religious relations, is, by force of that strictest of all logic which presides over the outworking of principles into thought and life, by the very necessity of the case, a Calvinist. 1
Notice that when B. B. Warfield defines Calvinism and the Calvinist he used words of a strongly experimental nature. The words ‘apprehension’ and ‘realisation’ deal primarily with the understanding, though they go beyond that, but when we come to words such as ‘seen God’, ‘filled on the one hand with a sense of his own unworthiness’, ‘adoring wonder’, ‘thinking, feeling and willing’, these are words of experience. Warfield is really saying that no person is a Calvinist, no person is truly Biblical in his thinking of God, no man is truly religious, no man is truly evangelical until these concepts have been burned into the nerve fibres of his experience. In other words, Warfield would say that an academic Calvinist is a misnomer, as much as to speak of ‘a living corpse’ is a misnomer. When the soul and the body are separate death has taken place, and Warfield would teach us that when the soul of Calvinistic thought is dead or absent, all that remains is a carcase, a stench in the nostrils of God, and so often a stench in the church when found in a minister.
Table of Contents
The Experience of God
Acquaintance with our own sinfulness
Acquaintance with grace and forgiveness
Utter resignation before God
Have you seen God?
The Power of Saving Religion
Honest scriptural self-examination
Leads to the sane biblical pursuit of practical godliness
Distrust of oneself
A consistent prayerfulness
Dependence on God
Of Scandalous Persons guilty of gross Acts of Immorality
If any Member fall into any gross Acts of Sin, as Swearing, Lying, Drunken ness, Fornication, Covetousness, Extortion, or the like, and it is known and publickly spread abroad to the great scandal and reproach of Religion, and of the Holy Name of God, his Church, and People; the said Offender so charged, the Church must send one or two Brethren to him to come before the Congregation: if he will not come, but doth fight and contemn the Authority of the Church, that will bring farther Guilt upon him, for which Offence he incurs the Censure before-mentioned. But if he doth appear, his Charge is to be laid before him, and the Witnesses called; and after he has made his Defence, and said all he hath to say, and the Congregation finds him Guilty, then the same Censure is to pass upon him, to the end he may be brought to unfeigned Repentance, and the Name of God cleared; and some time must be taken to make it appear that he hath true Repentance, by the Reformation of his Life and holy walking afterwards, before he be received again, and the Censure of the Church in a solemn manner be taken off.
Dr. Chauncy puts this Question,
Quest. ‘How is a Church to proceed in case of open and notorious Scandals?’
The Answer is, ‘the matter of Fact, as such, being beyond all question; the Church is to proceed immediately to censure, to vindicate the Honour of Christ and his Church, and to manifest to the World their just Indignation against such Notorious Offenders, and wait for a well-grounded and tryed Evidence of his true Repentance under that Ordinance of Christ which is appointed to that end.’67
Observe, It is the opinion of the Doctor, that tho the Person be penitent, yet because his Sin is open and scandalous, he ought to be cast out to vindicate the Honour of Christ and the Church, as part of his just Punishment (that being one reason of the Ordinance of Excommunication) as well as to bring the Person to thorough Repentance; and we are of his Mind. Paul takes no notice in the case of the Incestuous Person of his immediate Repentance; or if he repent not, then, &c. But says he, deliver such a one to Satan, &c. Saith the Lord, if her Father had but spit in her Face, should she not be ashamed seven Days? Let her be shut out from the Camp Seven Days: (speaking of Miriam) and after that let her be received in again.68
Benjamin Keach- The Glory of a True Church, And its Discipline Displayed (1697)
TO MR. JAMES WATTS
BOROUGH, Tuesday, [April, 1855].
DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER, —
(D. V.) Thursday, I shall be with you at 1.30 by the mail train. I shall be glad to preach in St. Andrew’s Street Chapel, but shall disappoint you all. The people are silly to follow me so much. It now gets worse. Crowds awful on Sunday last. Collected £90 morning and evening at the hall. At Shoreditch, on Tuesday, there were eight or nine hundred where only six hundred should have been admitted; upon personally appealing to the throng outside, disappointed at not getting in, most of them dispersed, and allowed the rest of us to worship as well as we could with windows open to let those hear who remained outside.
Joseph is still shot at by the archers, and sorely grieved; (see Baptist Reporter, United Presbyterian Magazine, Critic, Christian News, etc., with a lot of small fry😉 but his bow abides in strength, neither does he tremble. Oh, my dear brother, envy has vexed me sorely; — scarcely a Baptist minister of standing will own me! I am sick of man; but when I find a good one, I love him all the better because of the contrast to others.
I have just received a handsome silver inkstand, bearing this inscription: “Presented to Mr. C. H. Spurgeon by J. and S. Alldis, as a token of sincere gratitude to him as the instrument, under Almighty God, of turning them from darkness to light, March 30, 1855.” The devil may look at that as often as he pleases; it will afford him sorry comfort.
And now farewell. Christian love to you and yours, from
Yours deeply in debt,
C. H. SPURGEON.
The work that purges the conscience has already been done and dusted. The more we understand this, the more we see there is no need for a guilty dread before the Father. The truth of the Gospel really does set us free. That is why a Gospel-educated conscience keeps us in perfect peace.
Of course, the truth of the purged conscience is only for those who have come to terms with their personal guilt. If you’ve seen, that by nature, you are a sinner, a dyed in the wool, incurable sinner. And, if you, as that wretched sinner, have by faith embraced the cross in repentance and are resting on the finished work alone, then a cleansed conscience is part of your inheritance.
The cleansed conscience sees that God Himself has disposed of our sins in a manner which has satisfied Him (Isaiah 38:17).
The question now is not whether or not the Father is satisfied that our sins have been paid for and put away. The question is, are we convinced that this has been done? Is our conscience informed about the accomplishments of God through the blood? Or is the guilt of old sins proving to have a longer than usual shelf life? Are old sins casting long shadows? If so, we need to apply the Gospel to ourselves.
Here’s the newsflash. The Father has laid all our sins on His spotless, sinless Son. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our sight. Christ the Lamb poured out His blood and took our sins away. The blackest and worst of our sins have gone. They were laid on Christ Jesus, and now they are no more. The man who represents us before God has taken them away, and they will never again be found (Isaiah 43:25).
These truths, when received by faith, will heal the conscience.
But our capacity for unbelief is staggering. We know, in theory, that the Father is satisfied with the blood. We say we believe that to be the case, yet we scrape out an ever limping, frustrating Christian existence supported only by a broken and troubled conscience. Is it that our sin is too great for the blood? Is it that our case is too extreme for God? I hate to tell you, but if you think like that, it is nothing other than self-righteousness. What is so extraordinary about your sin that the blood of Christ cannot take it away?
If God assures us that our sins are taken away, then they are taken away! The man who represented you at the cross is now in heaven seated on the Throne of Cosmic Majesty! This means that we can, right now, enjoy the truth of a purged conscience.
May these truths sink into us. We will never be any more righteous than the blood of Christ has made us. We will never be more accepted than we already are in the ‘Beloved One’ (Ephesians 1:6). Works could not get us into right standing with God, and our failings cannot get us out. Peace with God and freedom from all condemnation can only be obtained and maintained in the Gospel.
And that’s the Gospel Truth!
SECTION VI.–MORAL NECESSITY.
If a number of dice be put into a box and thrown out on a table, it is certain that every one will take some position, and will lie on some one of its six sides; but no one can foretell what the several positions will be, or on which of the six sides each one will lie. These positions are attributed to chance; and, in a calculation of chances, this case may be adduced as an appropriate example. But though no one will undertake to foretell what position each die will assume, yet every one believes that all its motion, till its final position is assumed, is in accordance with the laws of nature, and that the fall from the box is not more determined by these laws than the final position. A mind which could go through the calculation, and estimate the precise effect of the forces applied, from the beginning to the end, on each die, from the position in which it started, might determine the result with as much certainty as the astronomer feels in computing an eclipse. The position of the die is no more the effect of chance than the occurrence of the eclipse. Chance is, in this case at least, a relative term–having reference to our ignorance.
That a large part of the events which we esteem contingent are so merely with reference to our ignorance, everybody will admit; but it is still a question, whether there is any absolute contingency in the world. Are there any events which occur that do not conform to an established order of sequence?
The doctrine of necessity denies the existence of absolute contingency, and maintains that the relation of cause and effect, with its established order of sequence, is not only general, but universal. In opposition to this doctrine, many maintain that human actions do not conform to an established order of sequence; and it is argued that such conformity would render man a mere machine, moving as he is moved, and, therefore, not accountable for his actions. To this argument it is replied, that the doctrine fully admits the distinction between man as a living, thinking, willing, and moral being, and a mere machine, which neither lives nor thinks; and that this difference is at the foundation of his accountability. It is argued, that if his actions did not follow from his volitions, by an established order of sequence, they would not be voluntary, and he would not be accountable for them. The validity of this argument, so far as it goes, probably no one will deny; and the question becomes narrowed down to this: Do human volitions occur as effects of antecedent causes, in an established order or sequence? The question is one of great difficulty; and, though the minds of the ablest reasoners have been employed on it, no solution has been reached that gives general satisfaction. The very difficulty of it may satisfy us that our benevolent Creator has not made the solution of it necessary, either to our faith or our duty; and we might leave the puzzling investigation to those powerful minds that are best fitted to grapple with such abstrusities, were it not that the subject is intruding itself into the minds of all inquirers, and, to some extent, affecting their theological opinions. It is, therefore, desirable to ascertain, if possible, wherein the difficulty of the subject consists, and how far it is connected with our faith or practice.
Analogy favors the doctrine of necessity. A regular order of sequence is admitted to exist throughout the material world. It is admitted to exist also, to some extent, in the operations of the human mind. Impressions on the organs of sense produce their appropriate sensations in the mind, according to fixed laws. Perceptions follow, and judgments, and trains of reasoning, all of which so far conform to fixed laws, that the order of their succession is studied with a view to find out these laws; and the science of mental philosophy proceeds on the supposition that such laws exist, and employs itself in finding them out. The train of mental operations beginning with the sensation which immediately follows the impression on the organs of sense, terminates with the volition which immediately precedes muscular action. A regular order of sequence may be traced from the first, through much of the mental process that is moving on toward the ultimate volition. Thence onward we again espy the line of succession in the action which follows, and in all its effects. At most, but a few links only in the chain can be wanting; and analogy favours the conclusion that these are not absent, but that they exist even if we cannot trace them.
An argument for the doctrine of necessity may be drawn from the fact that human volitions are every day made a subject of calculation. A man who would not attempt to calculate the position which a thrown die will assume, will judge what a known individual will determine to do in given circumstances; and so much does he rely on the correctness of his calculation, that he will be governed by it in some of his most important concerns. It is thus that a sagacious general often anticipates the movements of his enemy. All this would be impossible if the sequences of human volitions were wild and lawless.
The doctrine of necessity has been argued from Gods foreknowledge. The more sagacious any one is, the more successfully he can judge beforehand what a known individual will do in given circumstances. As a wise man may foreknow, much more can the all-wise God. If all events are contained in their causes, and are to be developed in due time, in conformity to an established order of sequence, we can conceive that the Omniscient One sees these events in their causes, and foreknows their future development with infallible certainty. On the other hand, if there is absolute contingency in the world, it is out of our power to conceive how even God himself can foreknow it, and it is alleged that he may be disappointed, and perhaps defeated in some of his plans by its occurrence.
The leading arguments against the doctrine are, that it is inconsistent with the free agency of man, and that it makes God the author of sin.
It is argued that the doctrine is inconsistent with the free agency of man. While we see the material world moving around us in obedience to the laws of nature, we are conscious that our acts are not directed by such a necessity We choose every day which of two courses we will take, and the very choice, of which we are conscious, implies the power to take either. The faculty of choosing would be possessed in vain, if we were restricted to one of the courses by invincible necessity. There is no free agency where an individual is bound to one way, and can take no other.
To this the advocates of necessity reply, the freedom of our actions, of which consciousness testifies, is fully admitted in their doctrine. Freedom of action consists in doing what we please. Compulsion to act against our will is physical necessity. The moral necessity which is contended for, respects, not the relation of the volition to the subsequent action, but its relation to antecedent causes. When a man’s volitions are known to be determined by strong ruling principles of action, it is maintained that his free agency is as perfect as if they were the result of long continued deliberation, or proceeded from no known cause. While we are conscious that we act from choice and are therefore free agents, we are equally conscious that our choice itself is, in may cases, determined instantly and firmly by strong ruling principles; and that this fact, instead of detracting from the free agency and virtue of our deeds, is our highest praise.
It is further argued, that the doctrine makes God the author of sin. The laws of nature, in the material world, are viewed as God’s mode of operation. If the sun shines, and the rain descends, it is God who gives light to his creatures, and fertilizes the ground for their benefit; and when storms rage, and hurricanes sweep over the land, these, arising according to the laws of nature which he has established, are still regarded as God’s operation. In every case the cause of the cause is the cause of the effect. If fixed laws govern with like necessity in the department of morals, it is argued that God must be viewed as the author of all that happens in obedience to these laws. Having himself established them, and created the causes which contain all the effects to be developed in the established order of sequence, he is as truly the author of these effects as if they proceeded immediately from his hand. It can no longer be said that sin has place by his permission, any more than it can be said that a storm arises by his permission. Even sin must, like the storm, be viewed as God operating. This is the argument which the advocates of necessity find it most difficult to answer.
The philosophical arguments on this question appear to me to preponderate on the side of necessity. Indeed, how philosophy could decide against it, cannot well be conceived. She begins her investigations with the assumption that laws of nature do exist, and she makes it her business to find out what these laws are. If she observes any events that do not conform to known laws, she still assumes that there is a law which governs them, and she renews her effort to find it out. Hence, for philosophy to decide that there are events which conform to no law, would be to abandon the foundation on which she has ever stood. If such events ever occur, they belong to a department of nature which is beyond the walks of philosophy.
As a theological question, the doctrine of necessity is seriously embarrassed by the difficulty respecting the authorship of sin. The whole subject of God’s providence over sin, is exceedingly difficult. A future section will be devoted to the consideration of it.
Truth, whether ascertained by philosophy or theology, must be consistent with itself. But it ought to be remembered, that the tests by which philosophy ascertains truth, are unequal to those which theology applies. Philosophy allows conclusions to be drawn from an induction of particulars, which is unavoidably incomplete. As far as our individual observation has extended, gravitation is found at every part of the earth’s surface. From the testimony of others, we know that it exists wherever human foot has trodden. This induction is sufficient for philosophy, and she draws her conclusion that gravitation exists at every part of the earth’s surface, even in the regions denied to the habitation or approach of men. If some voyagers should testify that, on a certain island in the Pacific, gravitation ceases to operate at the distance of ten feet above the earth’s surface, the announcement, if deemed worthy of credence, would startle the whole race of philosophers, who would hasten to institute the experiments necessary to determine the truth or falsehood of the strange report. Should it be found, on trial, that all bodies thrown ten feet into the air, on that island, go off into unknown space, philosophers would inquire into the cause of this phenomenon, that is, would endeavor to find a law to which it conforms. Thus philosophy often finds it necessary to rectify her previous conclusions, because these were formed from an incomplete induction of particulars. To Siamese philosophy, it was impossible for water to become solid, so as to bear up carriages of burden. So, much to our wisest philosophy may be the erroneous conclusions of our ignorance. God’s knowledge is perfect, and with him mistake is impossible. If human testimony can suffice to rectify a conclusion of philosophy, much more ought the testimony of God be sufficient. A “thus saith the Lord,” is a better foundation for faith than all the deductions of human philosophy, and then only is faith divine, when it stands on this foundation.
Let us imagine all created things to have been brought into being, and left, for a time, in a wild state, before the laws of nature were enacted. In this chaos, the atoms would not regard the very first law of philosophy, which enjoins that matter at rest shall continue at rest; and, when put in motion, shall move forward in a right line with uniform velocity. All the affinities and elective attractions, now so familiar to the chemist, would be unknown to the various species of matter, and unobserved by them. Particles would dance and rest alternately in the most capricious manner. They would attract each other for a time and then repel with unaccountable inconstancy. They would remain for a period in close embrace, and then divorce each other with the changeableness of fickle lovers. If, when the fiat of Jehovah reduced this confusion to order by subjecting all the movements to regular laws, it was his pleasure to except some little region of his vast empire from the operation of these laws, what can philosophy say against it? If such exception was made, it was doubtless made for wise reasons; perhaps to show to his celestial school of intelligences the benefit of order by retaining a memorial of the ancient chaos; as the manna was laid up in the ark for the benefit of the Israelites. If such a region was permitted to remain, it was doubtless so bounded and shut in, that its lawless confusion cannot disturb the order of the universal empire. Now, if it should be discovered that the link of connection between volition and the cause or causes antecedent, is the place, and the only place that God has left without law, philosophy must be dumb. If God says that it is so, we are bound to believe it; and we may infer that he so keeps this lawless connection under control, that it shall not subvert his government.
If the views which have been presented are correct, the following conclusions may be considered established:–1. The doctrine of moral necessity is not inconsistent with the free-agency and accountability of man. 2. The doctrine cannot be disproved by human philosophy. 3. We ought not to admit any inference from it as an article of faith, unless it be supported by the authority of the Holy Scriptures.
John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology
Charles Spurgeon could have been one of the richest millionaires in London.
Instead, he died poor.
Unlike his contemporary pastors in London, Spurgeon did not leave millions of pounds to his family after his death. Susannah told a Baptist newspaper her husband only left £2,000 (Nottingham Evening Post, March 31, 1892).
This number is staggering compared to how much money Spurgeon actually earned. In fact, one of the most overlooked aspects of Spurgeon’s ministry is his personal finances.
Let’s see where Spurgeon’s wallet takes us.
The numbers below have been converted from Great Britain Pound (GBP) in Spurgeon’s day to U.S. Dollar (USD) today. Inflation has been accounted for using a standardized…
Read the entire article here.
Many times in scripture natural things are commonly used and accommodated to explain spiritual things
The figurative element is very prominent in the Scriptures, especially so in the Old Testament, where natural things are commonly used and accommodated to explain spiritual things, suiting its instructions to man’s present state, in which he cannot see the things of God except through the glass of nature. Every Hebrew word has a literal sense and stands for some sensible object, and therefore conveys a comparative idea of some impalpable object. While in the body we must receive information via our senses. We cannot of ourselves form the least idea of any Divine or celestial object but as it is compared to and illustrated by something earthly or material. Inward realities are explained by outward phenomena, as in
“rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13),
and “blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Spiritual mercies are set before our eyes under their familiar but expressive pictures in nature, as in
“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring” (Isaiah 44:3),
“Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let them bring forth salvation” (Isaiah 45:8).
Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures