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Duty of Repentance: Man’s Present State: Helplessness- Book Fourth- Chapter 3- Section 4

December 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Book Fourth

CHAPTER III.

SECTION IV.–HELPLESSNESS

MEN ARE UNABLE TO SAVE THEMSELVES.[47]

The inability of men to save themselves, respects both their condemnation and their depravity.

1. Men are unable to free themselves from condemnation.

The justice by which we are all condemned is immutable. It is an attribute in the nature of God, who is not only the first cause of all things, but the very standard of all perfection. When we inquire whether God’s ways are right, we have only to ask whether they correspond with his own perfections, for there is not higher standard by which they may be tried. As the perfections of God are immutable, the standard of right is immutable. A change in the law by which we are condemned is therefore impossible. God has sometimes, from regard to the peculiar circumstances of some men, given special commands to them, which have not been obligatory on all; but the obligation to obey him, whatever his commands may be, is universal and perpetual, and no act of disobedience can ever by justified under his righteous government.

The sentence of condemnation has been duly pronounced. It was not a rash decision, needing to be revised. The Omniscient Judge knew well all the facts in the case, all the circumstances which may be pleaded in extenuation, all the effects of his decision on us, and all the bearings of it on his own character and government. His determination to create the world was not made with greater deliberation, or on surer ground; and we may as soon expect him to annihilate all the creatures that he has made, as to reverse the sentence by which we are condemned.

The Scriptures affirm, that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified.[48] The law requires perfect and perpetual obedience, and can be satisfied with nothing less. Law is converted into mere advice, when its requirements are not obligatory. To claim the privilege of violating the law, or coming short of its requirements, is to claim, so far, exemption from its authority, and therefore from the moral government of God. Such exemption divine justice will not allow. Its language is, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.[49] “What things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God.”[50] The view which is here presented of man’s condition, relates not merely to his transgressions, but to his natural state. Hence it is said, “And were by nature the children of wrath.”[51] So much has God the maintenance of his law at heart, that he who was in the bosom of the father, and well understood all his counsels, has with solemnity assured us; “Verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.”[52]

There is a method of rescue from condemnation; but it is not one of man’s devising or executing. To effect it requires a display of wisdom, power and love, infinitely beyond the highest efforts of man. It is God’s work, challenging the admiration of angels, and demanding gratitude, praise, and joyful acceptance from every human being.

2. Men are unable to free themselves from depravity.

The first element of this inability is seen in the fact that men lack the necessary disposition. By nature we love darkness rather than light, sin rather than holiness. To be free from depravity is to be holy, and no man can desire holiness or perfect conformity to the law of God, who does not delight in that law. But experience and Scripture unite in teaching us that the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.[53] The cause of this exists in the fact, that the carnal mind is enmity against God. Men love the ways of transgression, and desire not the knowledge of God’s ways; and therefore, they lack the disposition necessary to free themselves from depravity, and render themselves strictly conformed to the law of God.

Another element which renders the inability complete, is, that if men had the disposition, they have not the power. Men have the power to perform such external acts as the law of God requires of them. If they were wholly disposed to perform such acts, and failed through mere physical inability, that inability would be a valid excuse. God accepteth according to what a man hath.[54] We are commanded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together; but the man who is fastened to his bed by palsy is not required to meet in the house of God. Depravity does not consist in external acts, but belongs to the heart; and the affections of the heart are not subject to volition, as the motions of the limbs are. Hence the Apostle says, “Ye cannot do the things that ye would.”[55] Every converted man knows the meaning of this language. The current of depraved affections in our hearts, which has been flowing in the wrong direction from the beginning of our being, and gathering strength by the power of habit, does not stop at our bidding. A volition cannot stop it with as much ease as when it moves a finger. If any man thinks he has the power to be holy at will, let him try it, and he will find his mistake.

The inability last described, which is usually called moral, must be distinguished carefully from that physical inability which excuses outward acts. Physical inability would prevent the action, even if the whole heart were bent on performing it. It excuses the failure to act; but it will not excuse a corrupt or a divided heart. The paralytic may be excused for not attending at the house of God; but he is not excused for preferring to be absent, or for possessing no longing for the courts of the Lord. The moral inability of men consists in having either a divided heart, or a heart fully set in them to do evil. The former every converted man laments, and blames himself for; and the latter is descriptive of unconverted or natural men. This includes the lack, both of disposition and power, and renders the inability complete. This inability is not an excuse for the depravity, but is the depravity itself, in its full influence over all the powers of the soul.

The Scripture representations of men’s inability are exceedingly strong. They are said to be without strength,[56] captives,[57] in bondage,[58] asleep,[59] dead,[60] &c. The act by which they are delivered from the natural state, is called regeneration, quickening or giving life, renewing, resurrection, translation, creation; and it is directly ascribed to the power of God, the power that called light out of darkness, and raised up Christ from the dead.

Our views concerning our character and condition by nature are wholly incorrect, if we imagine that a little work, which we can effect at pleasure, will set all right. Thousands postpone the concerns of the soul from this vain imagination. A true sense of our inability would drive us to him who is able to save.

[47] Jer. xiii. 23; John iii. 3; vi. 44; Rom. iii. 19, 20; viii. 7,8; Gal. iii. 10; Heb. x. 4; xii. 14.

[48] Rom. iii. 20.

[49] Gal. iii. 10.

[50] Rom. iii. 19.

[51] Eph. ii. 3.

[52] Matt. v. 18.

[53] Rom. viii. 7.

[54] 2 Cor. viii. 12.

[55] Gal. v. 17.

[56] Rom. v. 6.

[57] 2 Tim. ii. 26.

[58] 2 Pet. ii. 19; Rom vi. 16, 17.

[59] 1 Thes. v. 6.

[60] Eph. v. 14; Col. ii. 13.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Duty of Repentance: Man’s Present State: Condemnation- Book Fourth- Chapter 3- Section 3

December 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Book Fourth

CHAPTER III.

SECTION III.–CONDEMNATION.

ALL MEN ARE BORN UNDER THE JUST CONDEMNATION OF GOD.[24]

The depravity of mankind unfits them for the favor and enjoyment of God; and that separation from him, in which the death of the soul consists, would be the necessary result, even if no declaration to that effect were declared. The voice of Providence loudly declares it. The pain with which our first breath is drawn; the sickness and suffering which attend on the cradle; the sorrows and toils of our best years; the infirmities of age; and lastly death, which, if it does not terminate our course earlier, after threatening us at every step, and keeping us all our life-time in bondage, finally triumphs over us; all these proclaim, in language not to be misunderstood, that we are under the displeasure of God. The curse of God rests on the very ground that we tread; and his wrath is poured out on our race in the wars, famines, and pestilence, with which the nations are often visited. The sentence is pronounced by the voice of conscience within us, which is to us as the voice of God; “for if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”[25] God speaks in his holy word, proclaiming the sentence; “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”[26] “What things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God.”[27] The view which is here presented of man’s condition, relates not merely to his transgressions, but to his natural state, Hence it is said, “And were by nature, the children of wrath.”[28]

These manifestations of God’s displeasure are of early date, commencing with the first woes of mankind. They may be traced to the first sentence pronounced on our guilty parents, when they were expelled from Eden. Paul has explained, that we were all included in this sentence, and this is the proper date of our condemnation. “By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation.”[29] From that hour, the descendants of Adam, their habitation, their employments, and their enjoyments, have all been under the curse. Blessings have, indeed, been poured out in rich profusion on our guilty race; but our very basket and store have been cursed, and the cup of mercies has been mingled with bitterness. The forbearance and long-suffering of God are manifested; but the hand of his wrath is uplifted.

The condemnation under which we are born is just. It is God’s sentence; and all his judgments are righteous. It is not unusual for those who are condemned by human laws, to complain of their sentence; and we show our want of reconciliation to the justice of God, by our hard thoughts of God, when we either suffer or fear his displeasure against us.

Our rebellious hearts deny the justice of our condemnation, on the ground that God made us, and not we ourselves. If he did not create our souls directly with depraved propensities, he brought them into being, in circumstances which made their depravity certain. He gave us existence at his own pleasure; and over the circumstances of our origin we had no manner of control. It is therefore unjust, says the carnal heart, to condemn and punish us, for the sinful propensities which we bring with us into the world, or for the sinful deeds which naturally and necessarily proceed from them. In this manner, we are prone to transfer the blame of our iniquities from ourselves to our Maker. So did Adam; “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat,”[30] and so do all his descendants. Every one is probably conscious that such reasonings have at some time had a place in his mind; and that it is difficult to exclude them wholly. On this account, they need a full and sober examination.

A consideration which ought to silence our accusing thoughts of God, is, that however much we may condemn him, we do not thereby acquit ourselves. If we admit that Adam would not have eaten the forbidden fruit had not God given him a wife; and if we even admit that God was to blame for giving him a wife who might become his tempter: still this does not exculpate Adam. His wife was certainly to blame for tempting him; and yet the guilt of his transgression is not the less on that account. Every agent is responsible for himself. Distributive justice, which gives to every man his due, has no other rule, and can have no other. Human courts do not excuse culprits, because of the corrupting influences which have led them to violate the law. The law takes direct cognizance of the agent and his deed. This accords with the common sense of mankind. So divine justice condemns the wicked man, and cannot do otherwise than condemn him, however he may have become wicked, and whoever else may be to blame for his being so. This principle we should hold fast in our reasonings on that subject.

A difficulty in holding fast the principle just laid down, and applying it steadily to the case, arises from the circumstance that the Judge by whom we are condemned is also our Creator. To free our thoughts from embarrassment on this account, let us suppose the case were otherwise. Let us imagine that, after “the Sons of God had shouted for joy,” at seeing the foundations of the earth laid, and its finished surface covered with verdure and beauty, the Most High was pleased to appoint one of this joyful choir to the honorable service of populating this new world, and to confer on him creative power for this purpose. Let us imagine that, just as this chosen agent was proceeding to execute his commission, he conceived the thought of making himself the god of the world he was about to people; and, for this purpose, filled it with unholy inhabitants, willing to join him in rebellion against the Supreme Ruler. This case, though merely imaginary, will serve to test the principle under consideration; and the question which it presents for adjudication, is, how, according to the rule of eternal and immutable justice, ought this world of rebels to be treated.

Perhaps it will be said, that the agent who abused the creative power conferred on him ought to be punished, and that the creatures that he had brought into being ought to be annihilated. But this is not the plea which is set up for the human race. The plea which the sons of Adam present before the Judge of the earth, is, not that we ought to be annihilated, but that we ought not to be condemned and punished; this new order of creatures might object to annihilation, and think themselves as much entitled to life and impunity as we do. They might say, that annihilation is only a scheme to get the question out of court, and to free the Judge from difficulty; but they might insist on right, and claim, as they were created immortal by the commission granted to him by whom they were made, they have a right to immortality; and that this immortality, since their depravity is natural to them, ought to be free from all punishment. Now, the Judge might, for wise reasons, not chose to evade the responsibility of adjudicating the case; What, then, would the righteous sentence be? Even to annihilate them against their will, would be a punishment; that ought not to be inflicted, if the plea not guilty, because depravity is natural, can be sustained. The plea before on earthly judge would not stand a moment. Who could bear that a criminal should be acquitted and turned loose on the community, because he was born wicked, and grown up wicked, and it was as natural for him to commit theft, murder, and all manner of crimes, as it was to breathe? Such a plea, which the justice of men will not admit, the justice of God will not admit. The new order of creatures must be treated as they deserve; and Infinite Wisdom, instead of annihilating them, must adopt some other expedient, to counteract the diabolical intentions of the agent that created them.

The case which has been supposed is not so wholly imaginary as at first view it may have appeared. Though it is not true that an angel of light was commissioned to create a population for the earth, something else was done which, for all the purposes of the present discussion, amounts to the same. Adam and Eve, while yet in innocence, were commissioned to procreate a race of immortals, that should people the new world. This power, Satan, ambitious of divine honor, availed himself of to make himself the god of the world. By temptation he gained over the first pair to his design; and so completely is the procreating power with which they were invested, turned to his account, that the offspring of it are called the “children of the devil.”[31] So complete is his control of them, that he is called “the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience,”[32] and they “are taken captive by him at his will;”[33] and the death which comes on them for disobedience is attributed to his power: “That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil.”[34] The imaginary case, therefore, is substantially our own; and, if rebellion against God, subserviency to Satan, and confederacy with him to overthrow the government of the King Eternal, cannot be justified at the tribunal of divine justice, we are verily guilty, and justly condemned.

But our accusing thoughts of God are suppressed with difficulty. We have seen that the whole world is guilty before him; and yet every mouth is not stopped. We still entertain hard thoughts, and vent hard words against him; and the thing formed says to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?[35] Of such impiety it becomes us to beware. We should feel that our depravity is our own, however we came by it; that it renders us wholly unfit for the society and enjoyments of the holy place where God dwells, and for his favor, service, and communion; and that it ought to be loathsome in our own view, and must be so in the view of the holy God. If our own hearts condemn it, we shall be ready to admit, without complaint, that God also condemns it. And what can we say against God in the matter? What wrong has he done? His distributive justice does no wrong in treating the unholy according to their character. If he has done any wrong, it must relate to the department of public justice, which, as formerly explained, seeks the greatest good, and is the same as universal benevolence. Now, who will say that God’s plan will not produce the greatest good? Who is wiser and better than God, to teach him a preferable way? When Satan gained his conquest over our first parents, God could have confined him at once in the pit, and inflicted on him the full torment yet in store for him; and he might have annihilated the whole race of man in the original pair. This would have terminated the difficulty by an act of power; but who will affirm that it would have been wisest or best? God would have appeared disappointed and defeated. Distributive justice would have appeared relieved rather than developed. Satan triumphed by artifice, and God has chosen to defeat him by the counsel of his wisdom. Satan exalted himself to dominion over the world; God chose to overcome him, not by power, but by humiliation. Satan gained his success by means of the first Adam; God, in the second Adam, bruised the serpent’s head. Satan, by his success, gained the power of death; God, by death, the death of Jesus Christ, has destroyed him and his power.[36] Who will dare affirm that God’s way is not best? It becomes us to feel assured, whatever darkness may yet remain on this subject, that God would not have given up his Son to free us from condemnation, if that condemnation had not been just; and that he would not have made so great a gift, so costly a sacrifice, if the scheme had not been worthy of his infinite wisdom; or if some other, by which the sacrifice might have been spared, would have been preferable.

When the question has been settled, and the principle established, that men may be held responsible for their own sins, without inquiring how they became sinners, a difficulty still remains as to the date of the condemnation under which we all lie, and the ground of the original sentence. When the mind becomes perplexed with subtle reasonings, it is well to keep facts steadily in view, and to hold fast the plain testimony of inspired truth. It is expressly said, in the unerring word, “By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation;” and again, “The judgment was by one [offence] to condemnation.”[37] It is here clearly taught that one judgment, one sentence, included all men, and that this judgment was made up and the sentence pronounced on one offence of one man. With this express teaching of Scripture facts agree. The indications of God’s displeasure against the race are not postponed until each individual has been born into the world. Every mother is not carried back to Eden before she brings forth a son, that he may, in his own person, receive the sentence of condemnation, be denied access to the tree of life, driven from the garden of delights, and doomed to sorrow, toil, and death. Whatever our reasonings may say on the subject, it is fully ascertained to be the will of God, before an individual is born into the world, that, when born, he shall be in the condition in which the curse left the father of the race. The Bible, and the voice of Nature, speak alike on this point; and if our reasonings say that he Author of Nature and the Bible has done wrong, we should suspect that we have erred in our inferences, or in the premises from which they are drawn. And if it could be shown that a separate sentence is pronounced on each individual as he comes into the world, his condition would be no better. Being depraved by nature, we are “by nature children of wrath.”[38] Wrath is still our inheritance; and if the antiquity of the sentence which appointed it be admitted, the measure of that wrath is not thereby increased, nor the endurance of it made earlier. As to these results, the question is one of no importance whatever. Its relation, as exhibited in Scripture, to the doctrine of justification by the obedience of Christ, constitutes its chief claim to our careful consideration.

The sentence, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” was pronounced on Adam in the singular number; yet he appears to stand under this sentence as the representative of his descendants, on all of whom the sentence takes effect. So Eve was addressed in the singular number, “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children;” but she stood, in this sentence, as the representative of all her daughters, on whom this penalty falls. As the natural parents, Adam and Eve stood together as the head of the race; but there was a peculiar sense in which that headship pertained to Adam. Though Eve was first in the transgression, it is not said by one woman, but “by one man sin entered into the world.” The judgment was not by the two offences of the two natural parents of the race, but by one offence of the one man; the previous offence of the woman being left out of the account. In this headship Adam is contrasted with Christ, being called “the figure of him that was to come.”[39] This comparison is further brought to view in 1 Cor. xv. 45, 47, where Christ is called the second Adam; and in verse 22, where it is said, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” On Adam, who was first formed, the responsibility of peopling the new world with a race of holy immortals specially rested; and, though Satan artfully directed his first assault against the woman, his scheme would have failed had not Adam been gained over to his interest. This divinely appointed headship of Adam made his disobedience the turning point on which the future condition of his posterity depended; and Paul takes occasion from this to illustrate the dependence of believers on the obedience of the second Adam, for justification and life.

To this view it is objected, that, according to the principles of justice, the guilt of one man cannot be transferred to another, and no man can be justly condemned for that of which it is impossible for him to repent. No man living can repent of Adam’s sin, and the guilt of Adam’s sin cannot justly be imputed to any other person.

What are here so confidently assumed as axioms, may well be called in question. We must believe the Scriptures, when they say, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”[40] “He bore our sin in his own body on the tree.”[41] And we know that men cannot repent of deeds which they have wholly forgotten, and yet they are responsible for them. But there is a much shorter way of getting at this question, than by a tedious examination of these assumed axioms. No man understands that the guilt of Adam was transferred. It still remained his, and was closely and inseparably bound about him. But every one knows that there may be union and confederacy in crime. In commercial affairs, if twenty men owe one hundred dollars, each may pay five dollars, and obligation of the whole will be cancelled. But in morals, if twenty subjects confederate to assassinate their king, each one is guilty of the whole crime, because each one has the full intention of it. Only one of the band may plunge the dagger to the monarch’s heart; but his crime may be justly imputed to them all, though his guilt may not be transferred to another. Now, we may inquire, whether such union does not exist between Adam and his descendants, as justifies the imputation of his sin to them; or, in comparing Adam and Christ as public heads, has, in the fifth chapter of Romans, pointed out disagreements as well as agreements. Death comes from the disobedience of the one; and life from the obedience of the other; and in Rom. vi. 23, he teaches that there is an importance difference as to the mode in which these results follow. Death is wages, a thing deserved; life is a gift. The benefits of righteousness and life, received from Christ, are by faith; and “It is of faith, that it might be by grace.”[42] The condemnation and death which are from Adam, are not gratuitous and arbitrary, but come on us justly. We inquire, then, whether there is such a connection between Adam and his descendant, as renders the imputation of his sin to them, an act of justice.

1. There is a moral union between Adam and his descendants. His disobedience unfurled the banner of rebellion, and we all rally around it. We approved the deed of our father, and take arms in maintaining the war against heaven, which his disobedience proclaimed. He is the chief in this conspiracy of treason, but we are all accessories. As to the outward act, the eating of the forbidden fruit, we did not commit it; but, regarding it as a declaration of independence and revolt, we have made it our own, and it may be as justly set to our account, as if we had personally committed the deed. In this view, if we cannot, strictly speaking, repent of Adam’s sin, we may most cordially disapprove the whole revolt from God, in which our race is engaged; may most bitterly regret that it was ever commenced; and may take guilt and shame to ourselves in deep humiliation before God, that we have been engaged in it. With such feelings pervading our hearts, the doctrine that Adam’s sin is imputed to us, will not be rejected as inconsistent with justice. If we cannot, strictly speaking, repent of it, we may at least take the guilt of it to ourselves, in a sense which perfectly accords with the feelings of true penitence; and when the Holy Spirit has taught us to impute it to ourselves, we shall not complain that God imputes it.

2. There is a natural union between Adam and his descendants. He is their natural parent; and, because of this relation, they inherit a depraved nature. Our moral union with him renders our condemnation just, from the moment we possess separate existence, because of our personal depravity; and our natural union with him rendered it proper, that our condemnation should be included in the general sentence.

3. There is a federal union between Adam and his descendants. We have before seen that a covenant, not in the common, but the Scripture sense of the term, was made with Adam. This covenant, this arrangement or constitution of things, made the future character and condition of his descendants dependent on his obedience. He was, in this respect, their federal head. Some maintain that the covenant with Adam was the covenant of nature, and that there was no federal headship, different from the natural headship which belonged to him as the first parent. Happily for us, a decision of this question is not indispensable to our present discussion. The natural and moral union which we have already considered, is a just ground for the divine sentence against the whole race, in the person of their first parent; but a further examination of this question may be conducive to a better understanding of the subject.

Since nature is not something different from God operating, it cannot be of much importance to determine how much of the transaction with Adam was natural, and how much beyond the proper province of nature. The revelation of God’s will in the garden was as much above nature, as the subsequent revelation from Sinai; and so also was the judgment pronounced after the transgression. But the including of children with their parents, in the penalty inflicted for the sins of their parents, is seen in the providence of God, both in ordinary and extraordinary dispensations. Every one knows that poverty and suffering are brought on children by the intemperance and other crimes of their parents. The evils of war, famine, and pestilence, judgments inflicted for the sins of men, fall on children as well as their parents. In the deluge, and the burning of Sodom, children were destroyed with their parents. On this point, the word of God agrees with his providence. We are sometimes jealous for the Lord’s reputation, and are afraid to speak of his visiting the sins of parents on their children, but we are more cautious than the Lord himself. He proclaimed from Sinai, with his own voice, and recorded in stone with his own finger, “I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”[43] And when he showed his glory to Moses, and proclaimed his name, instead of being jealous to conceal this fact, he was jealous rather to make it known; “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.”[44]

God’s solemn declarations on this point not only explain his providence, but, in the most impressive manner, exhibit the great responsibility of parents. To bring an immortal into being, and to form his character for time and eternity, is a responsibility most momentous. This responsibility devolves on men, and it is proper they should feel it. To awaken them to a sense of it, God addresses them in the solemn language which has been quoted.

While the Scriptures stir up parents to a sense of their responsibility, they leave to children no pretext with which to cover their iniquities. Some have said, “the Lord’s ways are not equal. Our fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”[45] To these complainers God said, “Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”[46] This is not a law repealing the decalogue, but is to be explained in harmony with it. The sins of parents affect both the character and the condition of their children, and for all this they are responsible; but the condition of the children is not worse than their character, and therefore the Lord’s ways are equal, and their complaints against him groundless.

The case of Adam differed from that of all fathers since. These may transmit peculiar tempers and propensities, and may influence their children by instruction and example, but they cannot bring them into the world free from the depravity and condemnation which the transgression of Adam brings upon them. But, though the responsibility on Adam was greater, it is still true, as in the other cases, that his descendants are responsible for themselves, and not one of them will suffer beyond the demerit of his personal character. Such is the union between Adam and his descendants, that depravity and condemnation pass from him to them, not separately, but as one inheritance. This sin, for which they suffer, is their own as well as his, and it is imputed to them because it belongs to them–is justly theirs.

After all the explanations that have been made, it may be that our hearts still accuse God, and secretly say that, had we been in his stead, we should have dealt more kindly with the human race than he has done. These accusations of God, he hears; these most secret whispers of the heart, he fully understands. What impiety does he see therein! That we, who know so little of his ways, should presume to be wiser or better than he, is daring impiety; and if nothing else will convince us that we deserve the wrath of God, let this impiety suffice. Let us accuse no more, but lay our hands on our mouths, and in deep silence before him, confess our guilt.

[24] Ps. vii. 11; Mark xvi. 16; John iii. 36; Rom. i. 18. ii. 5, 6; iii. 19; v. 12–21.

[25] 1 John iii. 20.

[26] Gal. iii. 10.

[27] Rom. iii. 19.

[28] Eph. ii. 3.

[29] Rom. v. 18.

[30] Gen. iii.12.

[31] 1 John iii. 10; John viii. 44.

[32] Eph. ii. 2.

[33] 2 Tim. ii. 26.

[34] Heb. ii. 14.

[35] Rom. ix. 20.

[36] Heb. ii. 14.

[37] Rom. v. 16, 18.

[38] Eph. ii. 3.

[39] Rom. v. 14.

[40] Is. liii. 6.

[41] 1 Pet. ii. 24.

[42] Rom. iv. 16.

[43] Ex. xx. 5.

[44] Ex. xxxiv. 7.

[45] Ez. xviii. 2.

[46] Ezek. xviii. 4.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 2-Chapter 13-Righteousness for the Unrighteous

CHAPTER 13-RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR THE UNRIGHTEOUS

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (#Ro 1:16-18).

If I had but one sermon to preach and the whole world for an audience, this is the message I would bring. I would not allow a false modesty to keep me from saying that the truth in this sermon is most vital to every man.

Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel because it is what God uses in saving sinners. Then he tells how it saves, namely, be revealing “the righteousness of God,” or how an unrighteous man may become righteous before God. Here is the touch & tone of the true gospel: it reveals how a sinner can become right with a holy and just God.

SOME NECESSARY OBSERVATIONS

1. Salvation is a dire necessity because men are UNRIGHTEOUS, both by inheritance and practice. God is a Lawgiver and the failure of moral beings to obey His law makes them unrighteous in His sight. And this unrighteousness merits and must receive penal punishment from God. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (#Ro 1:18).

2. Unrighteousness is universal among men. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one” (#Ro 3:10). This means that no man is righteous by his own record, on his own account, in his own right. In himself considered, every man is ruined by the fall and cursed by the Law. “For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (#Ga 3:10). “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be come guilty before God” (#Ro 3:19).

3. Every man out of Christ is under the moral law of God as the way of life “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (#Ro 10:5). Many think that all were under the law before the coming of Christ, and that since His coming all are under grace. If this were true, all before Christ were lost and all since are saved. This would mean universal damnation in one period of time and universal salvation in another period. It is the function of law to punish the disobedient; it is the part of grace to save the disobedient. All men have been saved alike by grace through faith, whether in Old Testament times or since the coming of Christ. All sinners have the same Saviour regardless of the age in which they lived. The Old Testament believers looked forward to the coming Saviour; New Testament believers look back to the Saviour who has already come. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (#Ro 4:1-17); “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (#Ga 3:21-24). The only way to be saved is to get out from under the moral law of God, and the only way to do this is to trust Jesus Christ, who is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (#Ro 10:4).

4. To be saved a man must have a righteousness that conforms to all that the law of God demands. Otherwise the sinner would be saved at the expense of justice. No attribute of God suffers in the salvation of sinners. The principle of justice operates in salvation as truly as in damnation, the difference being that in salvation the Divine attributes of mercy, grace, and love come in to satisfy justice by giving up Christ to be punished as the Surety of His people. Christ died for my sins in the sense that He was punished for them, and if He was punished for them then a just God will not punish me for them. “Free from the law, O happy condition, Jesus has died, and there is remission.” The righteousness of the believer is called “The righteousness of God.” This phrase occurs frequently and is one of the most important expressions in all the Bible. To be saved the sinner must have the righteousness of God, and this is what is revealed in the Gospel of Christ.

MEANING OF THE EXPRESSION

The righteousness of God does not mean the justice of God. God is righteous in the sense that He is just, but the Gospel does not save by telling us that God is just and will give us what we deserve. It is not good news to tell the criminal that the law will give him justice, neither is it good news to tell a sinner that God will give him justice—that would be bad news. Nor can the expression refer to a righteousness God requires from the sinner. To tell a sinner that God will save him if he will perform all the righteous acts called for in the law is to mock him in his helplessness and leave him forever hopeless.

The expression we have before us refers to the righteousness God has provided for sinners. This is good news indeed! Men need a righteousness (right standing before God), and without it are eternally doomed, and to be told that God has provided through the cross the righteousness demanded by His justice is the best news ever to fall on human ears. And so the Gospel reveals a righteousness provided and not a righteousness demanded; a righteousness imputed and not a righteousness imparted; a righteousness imported from heaven and not a righteousness exported from earth. The righteousness of God is a garment divinely woven and not one of human manufacture. When the fig-leaf aprons of Adam and Eve would avail not, “The Lord God made coats of skins, and clothed them” (#Ge 3:21). Striking type of the failure of human works in salvation, and of the Lamb of God Who put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

The righteousness of God comes to the sinner through faith. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested…even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” (#Ro 3:21,22). “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (#Ro 10:4). “Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (#2Co 5:21 R.V.).

My dear reader, if you are lost, let me urge you to acknowledge before God and men that you have no righteousness of your own, and then trust Jesus Christ for the righteousness He provided by His obedience unto death—even the death on the cross. Then you can say with Isaiah, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation: he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” (#Isa 61:10).

“Jesus, thy robe of righteousness
My beauty is, my glorious dress;
Mid flaming worlds, in this arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”

THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD DESCRIBED

1. AS TO ITS AUTHOR. As already noted, Jesus Christ is the Author of this righteousness. He Worked it out by His death on the cross. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (#Ro 5:19). This verse unmistakably teaches that we are guilty by the disobedience of Adam and righteous by the obedience of Christ. To be justified—by God one must either be righteous in person or by proxy. Theoretically, there are two ways to be righteous before God: one is by personal obedience “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD” (#Le 18:5); “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (#Ro 10:5), the other is by the obedience of a substitute and Surety. Practically and actually, there is but one way and this is through Faith in Jesus Christ, the Surety of the better covenant “By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament” (#Heb 7:22); “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (#Heb 8:6).

2. IN ITS EXTENT. The righteousness Christ wrought for sinners reaches to every born again believer. “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (#Ac 13:39); “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (#Ro 10:4); “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (#Ro 3:22); “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (#1Co 1:30); “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” (#Ro 5:1). The righteousness Christ provided was not needed for Himself, for He was God. Officially, back in eternity, Jesus Christ was in the form or place of God, and His righteousness was that of the Lawgiver. To be righteous as a lawgiver, the law must be enforced and the disobedient punished. To be righteous as a lawkeeper the law must be obeyed. And so Christ kept the law for us, and also paid the penalty we had incurred by violating the law. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (#Ga 3:13). Here is an irrefutable argument for the Deity of Jesus Christ. If He were only a man He would have had His own obligations to the law of God, and although a perfect man He could not have rendered account before God for other men. We sometimes hear people say that they would trust Jesus as Saviour without being convinced of His Deity. But the writer makes bold to say that he would not trust Him if He were only a man, however good and glorious. The Bible says, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils” (#Isa 2:22). No created being can save sinners. The Godhood of the Lord Jesus is absolutely necessary to His Saviourhood. The eternal Word became a man to represent other men before the court of heaven. “And if any man sin, we (the believers) have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (#1Jo 2:1). Our Redeemer at Calvary is now our advocate in heaven.

THE FIRST AND LAST ADAM

In #1Co 15:45,47 “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit…The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven,” Jesus is called the second man and the last Adam. Here He is considered not personally but representatively. Considered as an individual, Jesus was not the second man nor the last Adam. There were many men between the Adam of Eden and the Adam of Calvary, and there have been many men since Jesus. He is called the second man and the last Adam because there are but two representative men. God deals with all men through two men, and our eternal destiny depends upon which of these two men we have our standing in before God. Believers are accepted in the Beloved “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (#Eph 1:6), and are complete in Him: “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” (#Col 2:10). So believers, considered as moral beings, have obeyed the law in the person of their representative and substitute, and are therefore righteous before God. Jesus Christ is “The Lord our Righteousness” (#Jer 23:6).

“When from the dust of death I rise
To claim my mansion in the skies,
Even then shall this be all my plea—
“Jesus hath lived and died for me,”

3. IN ITS DURATION. How long will the righteousness Christ provided last? It hardly needs to be argued that it will last forever. “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness” (#Ps 119:142). “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (#Heb 10:14).

“The righteousness of Adam or angels could only exist while they were in a state of obedience. The law was binding on them in every moment of their existence. The moment they disobeyed the advantage derived from all their previous obedience ceased” (Robt. Haldane). In contrast Jesus Christ was the God-man, and all that He did partook of His personal excellencies; therefore, in a limited period of time, He could work out a righteousness of infinite value in every respect. “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke and the earth shall wax old like a garment…But my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished” (#Isa 51:6).

The paradise in which Adam was placed at his creation was here on earth. This paradise was lost through disobedience. But the paradise which we have promised us will be ours by virtue of the obedience of the last Adam, and is an inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for those who are kept by the power of God through faith. “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (#1Pe 1:4,5). It is on the ground of this righteousness that God justifies the believer from all things, and delivers him from going down into the pit of everlasting destruction.

“Alas and did my Saviour Bleed? And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done, He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown! And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the might Maker died For man the creature’s sin.

But drops of grief can neer repay The debt of love I owe’
Here Lord, I give myself away, “Tis all that I can do”

—Isaac Watts

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 2

The Wednesday Word: The Pathetic 12-Months of Mercy!

September 30, 2015 1 comment

Recently, I was stunned when reading the present Pope’s declaration concerning his upcoming ‘Year of Mercy’. Accordingly during that period Pope Francis will give priests a special dispensation of power to forgive those who have committed the sin of abortion.

A line from W.C. Fields sprang to my mind, “Hour of mischief, what kind of skulduggery is this?”

In his statement, the Pope expressed compassion for those who have aborted their babies. Furthermore, during the Holy Year of Mercy, he will permit priests to absolve penitent women of the sin of having had their pregnancies terminated.

How sweet of him, but who in the name of thunder does he think he is to give permission to anyone to forgive sins? Only God can forgive sins…and He doesn’t limit His forgiveness to a 12-month window of opportunity.

This entire Papal proposal reeks of arrogance from start to finish. It is another example of how Francis, mild-mannered as he is, assumes the position of God Almighty! How does he take it on himself to allow his priests to forgive a particular sin for a particular period of time?

All sin is sin against God (Psalm 51:4), it’s not against Pope Francis. Thus only God, not Francis, can forgive (Mark 2:7). Yet the Pope presumes to give power to his priests to do just that. But then again, there should be no surprise here for Francis claims to be the “Vicar of Christ.” That implies that he has the same power and authority that Christ has over the church. Why, in the light of this, do evangelicals in their droves now embrace the Pope as a Christian leader instead of declaring him to be Antichrist? Nary a whimper is to be heard from the pens and sermons of many Bible Believers as Francis perpetrates, perpetuates and promulgates his falsehoods and deceptions upon the gullible and the credulous.

There is only one priest who can deal with sin and his name is not Francis, His name is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the God-Man. He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him (Hebrews 7:25).

In contrast to Rome’s 12-month period of mercy, the Bible speaks of unlimited mercy found in God. We read in Ephesians 2:4-5, for example, that God is rich in Mercy… literally He’s ‘plush’ with mercy. And what is more, mercy for those who have aborted their babies is not limited to the time frame of one year. The throne of Grace is open to everyone who approaches by faith, at any time, for any sin regardless of the Pope’s sell by date. In fact, Hebrews 4:16 urges us to “come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” There is mercy for those who come to Christ. He is the faithful High Priest, no other priest is required.

As I read the Pope’s statement, I was also reminded of how some years ago an old lady was lying on her death bed. A local priest came to see her and announced that he was there to absolve her of her sins. ”Let me see your hands, “she demanded.

“My hands?”

“Yes, your hands.”

Reluctantly, the priest proffered his hands for examination. After a minute or so the old lady said; ”Sir, I perceive that you are an imposter. The only one who can absolve me has got nail scars in his hands….Scars that were received at the cross of Calvary.”

Perhaps someone who has had an abortion is reading this. It has deeply troubled your conscience. The guilt pierces you. You believe you are beyond forgiveness. I implore you, therefore, to look to Christ Jesus, plead guilty and throw yourself on His mercy. Your sins and iniquities He will remember no more.

May the Lord grant that you see the mercy and grace that is available to you in Christ Jesus. He is the only priest who can and will forgive sin for He alone is the God/Man!

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles.

www.milesmckee.com 

Which Way, Evangelicals? There is Nowhere to Hide

June 18, 2015 1 comment

by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.

The very first issue of Christianity Today is dated October 15, 1956. In his first editorial, Carl F. H. Henry set his course for the magazine: “Those who direct the editorial policy of Christianity Today unreservedly accept the complete reliability and authority of the written Word of God. It is their conviction that the Scriptures teach the doctrine of plenary inspiration.”

Henry also affirmed continuity with the great orthodox tradition of biblical doctrine and moral principles: “The doctrinal content of historic Christianity will be presented and defended. Among the distinctive doctrines to be stressed are those of God, Christ, man, salvation, and the last things. The best modern scholarship recognizes the bearing of doctrine on moral and spiritual life.”

In that same issue, Billy Graham stressed the authority of the Bible in evangelism. “I use the phrase ‘The Bible says’ because the Word of God is the authoritative basis of our faith,” Graham said. “I do not continually distinguish between the authority of God and the authority of the Bible because I am confident that he has made his will known authoritatively in the Scriptures.”

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Chapter 35-Justification

August 27, 2014 2 comments

Justification

No doctrine of Scripture is more important than that of justification. It involves the whole method of the salvation of sinners. It is vitally connected with all other fundamental doctrines. A correct conception of it cannot exist when other truths are ignored, or only partially received. The opinions held upon this point control in great part the theological views in general of all Christian individuals and parties. The importance of a correct knowledge of what God has taught on this subject cannot therefore be exaggerated.

The discussion of this doctrine will be best presented by a definition of the word Justification, accompanied by proof of the several statements involved in that definition.

Justification is a judicial act of God, by which, on account of the meritorious work of Christ, imputed to a sinner and received by him through that faith which vitally unites him to his substitute and Saviour, God declares that sinner to be free from the demands of the law, and entitled to the rewards due to the obedience of that substitute.

I. It is a Judicial Act of God.

That God is its author is emphatically declared by Paul in Rom. 8:33; “It is God that justifieth.” As he is the lawgiver and judge so must he also be the justifier.

The act is not one of sovereignty, as is election, because he does not justify merely of good pleasure, but because the demands of the law have been met. Yet his act is free, and of grace, because it is of his own choice that he accepts a substitute, and because Christ and his meritorious work have been graciously secured and given by God himself. See Rom. 3:24.

The virtue of the act consists in its being his judicial act. Any one might perceive or declare the demands of the law to be satisfied upon knowledge of that fact. Any one might proclaim that the rewards of Christ’s merit have been secured. But, whether declared of the value and efficacy of Christ’s work in itself or of its application to an individual, such a declaration would not be justification. It only becomes so when uttered by God in his capacity as Judge. All others could only recognize or declare the fact. The declaration of the judge sets the sinner free from all demands of the law, and confers upon him all the blessings appertaining to this new condition.

This judicial act of justification is made necessary because the law has been broken. One who has completely fulfilled the law needs not to be justified. His position before the law is that of one personally just or righteous; not of one that is justified, or declared righteous, or treated as such, though not personally so. He may be said to be justified, because recognized or treated as such, though the ground of such action is that he is personally just. Thus the term “justified” is properly applied to the doers of the law, and that of “just” denied to the mere hearers of the law in Rom. 2:13. But while the terms may thus be used of one personally just, he, nevertheless, needs no such justification, because his righteousness is not questionable. His position, like that of those who fully obey human laws, is recognized without any special act affirming it.

Hence it is that the Scriptures so commonly use the word “just,” dikaios, of one who is, in some one or in all respects, perfectly conformed to the law by his own acts, and who is, to that extent, therefore, personally holy, applying the term not to men only or even to Christ, who was made under the law, but also to God himself. See Matt. 1:19; 5:45; 9:13; Luke 23:50; Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; Rom. 3:26. This usage has given rise to the opinion of some that justification is not simply a judicial act, but that it involves holiness in the one justified, and in the case of justified sinners an infusion of holiness in the act of justification.

But that this is an error is obvious,–

1. From the fact that justification is presented as the opposite of condemnation (Rom. 8:33, 34), and not of sinfulness. Condemnation is never spoken of as the infusion of a corrupted nature, and consequently justification would not involve that of a holy nature.

2. That the justified are not declared in Scripture to be free from sin or possessed of holy natures, but are represented as still struggling against sin, and not only sin which arises from outward temptations, but that proceeding from the motions of sin within.

3. The change of nature which causes that of character is called in the Scriptures “regeneration,” and differs essentially from justification. The former is the special work of the Holy Spirit. The latter is the act of God the Father. That is an effect wrought inwardly, which develops itself in a continuous and progressive process which the Scriptures call sanctification. If justification includes an infused righteousness as the opposite of sinfulness, then it includes sanctification, and there is no ground for the scriptural distinction between them.

4. The usage of other words in connection with justification shows it to be a forensic act. The term “righteousness,” dikaiosune, which, like “righteous,” dikaios, is used in connection with personal righteousness, as of God in Acts 17:31, and of Christ “the Faithful and True,” Rev. 19:11, and of the martyrs in Heb. 11:33, and of human obedience to the law in Rom. 10:3, 5; Phil. 3:6, 9, is, in connection with God’s justification of sinners, applied, though chiefly by the Apostle Paul, to “the righteousness which God bestows or accepts,” and which is imputed to the sinner or reckoned to his account.

Another term, dikaiosis, signifies “the act or process of declaring righteous,” viz., justification.

The word dikaioma, which means “that which is declared righteous,” and hence a statute or command, as something which the law of God declares to be a righteous requirement, is used in connection with justification for “the deed by which one declares another righteous, and is partially equivalent to dikaiosis.”

The principal word which is used for expressing the nature of God’s action in justification is dikaioo, “to justify,” which means everywhere “to declare righteous,” “to regard and represent as righteous,” and not “to make righteous” in the sense of conferring personal righteousness.

This usage of terms shows plainly that justification is a judicial act of God, in which he does not confer holiness, but only declares the relation occupied to the law by the one who is in Christ.

 

II. The Ground of this Justification

It is manifest from what has already been said that the justification of the sinner must depend on something not personally his own. The Scriptures teach that it is due not to his own good works but to the meritorious work of Christ which is imputed to him, or put to his account. 

1. They teach us negatively that it is not due to his own good works.

(1.) They expressly deny that justification can be by the works of the law. Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:11; Eph. 2:9.

(2.) They assert that, could it thus have been attained, Christ’s death has been useless. Gal. 2:21; 5:4.

(3.) Sinfulness is declared to be the condition of every man, which excludes the possibility of works untainted by sin. Rom. 3:10.

(4.) The law is said to demand such complete obedience that “whosoever shall keep the whole law and stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all.” James 2:10.

(5.) We are told that “if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily, righteousness would have been of the law.” Gal. 3:21.

(6.) It is likewise stated as necessary to the certainty of attaining salvation that “it is of faith that it may be according to grace.” Rom. 4:16.

These statements show that, not only are men not saved by works alone, but not even by works combined with grace. Justification cannot arise, therefore, from the good works of men. Not even has its condition been so modified that a partial obedience can be accepted, whether this stands alone or is supplemented by, or is supplementary to the merits of Christ. Something entirely outside of man must constitute the basis of justification.

2. The word of God declares this outside something to be the meritorious work of Christ.

(1.) In general

(a) By declaring that the righteousness of God is connected with our relations to, or belief in Christ. Rom. 3:22, 26; 5:1; 10:4; 1 Cor. 1:30.

(b) By stating that redemption is in Christ Jesus. Rom. 3:24.

(c) By setting him forth as the only foundation of salvation.

(d) By asserting salvation to be found only in Christ. Acts 4:12.

(e) By asserting a definite relation between our sin and Christ, and his righteousness and ourselves. 2 Cor. 5:21.

2. More specifically by connecting the salvation and justification of man with Christ’s merits.

This may be shown.

(a) In connection with his sufferings, or what is usually called his passive obedience.

1. Christ is presented as “the Lamb of God,” John 1:29, in evident allusion to the sacrificial offerings of the olden days, and Paul speaks of him as one “whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by his blood.” Rom. 3:25.

2. He is presented as one who has died for us. Rom. 5:6, 8; 8:34; 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:11; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Thess. 5:10; and specifically as having died for our sins. 1 Cor. 15:3.

3. We are said to be justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9), and reconciled by his death (Rom. 5:10), and by his cross (Eph. 2:16).

(b) Our justification is due also to the active obedience of Christ, and not to passive obedience only.

1. Righteousness involves character, conduct and action, even more than suffering endured as penalty. The sinlessness of Christ is therefore plainly taught, and especially in connection with imputation. 2 Cor. 5:21.

2. The gracious salvation he brings is said to establish the law.

3. He assures us, that he came to fulfil the law. Matt. 5:17.

4. The obedience of Christ is not only contrasted with the disobedience of Adam, but is declared to be the means by which many shall be made righteous. Rom. 5:19.

It thus appears, that the ground of justification is the whole meritorious work of Christ. Not his sufferings and death only, but his obedience to, and conformity with the divine law are involved in the justification, which is attained by the believer. The question is here sometimes asked, how the active obedience of Christ can avail to us, when he was himself a man and under the law, and owed obedience personally on his own behalf. The answer to this is twofold, in each case depending upon the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God. On the one hand, the position was one voluntarily assumed by the Son of God. He was under no obligation to become man. He was not, and could not be made man without his own consent. In thus voluntarily coming under the law, his obedience would have merit to secure all the blessings connected with the covenant, under which he assumed such relations. But besides this, the fulfillment of the law would not simply be that fulfillment due by a mere man, which is all the law could demand of him on his own behalf, so that the merit secured is that due to the Son of God, thus as man rendering obedience to the law. That merit is immeasurable and is available for all for whom he was the substitute.

 

III. The Imputation

This meritorious work of Christ, called in the Scriptures “the righteousness of God,” is imputed by God to those whom he justifies, as the ground or cause of their justification. It is reckoned to their account. They are treated as though they had themselves done that which Christ has done for them.

This imputation is in accordance with the action of God throughout the economy of human affairs. Adam as the representative of man sinned, and his sin has been imputed to all of his descendants, and they are treated as though personally sinners. Christ stood also as the representative of his people and their sins were imputed to him and he was treated as though personally a sinner. Likewise his righteousness is imputed to them, and they are treated as though personally righteous.

In each of these cases there is, however, no such transfer as makes one personally what he is representatively. It is not the imputed sin of Adam which makes men personally sinners. The corrupted nature is one of the natural consequences of that sin, and is a punishment of it. So the imputation of our sin to Christ did not make him personally a sinner. He was still of himself “the holy and righteous one.” In like manner, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness does not make man holy and righteous personally. In each of these cases it is only relation to the law which is expressed.

 

IV. The Relation of Faith to Justification

It is not every sinner that is justified. It is the believer in Jesus. An important inquiry, therefore, is as to the relation of faith to justification. The Scriptures teach that faith is reckoned for righteousness. Rom. 4:5, 9.

By this is not meant, that faith is accepted in the place of righteousness as the cause of justification, for, as we have seen, that place is occupied by the meritorious work of Christ. Nor is it meant, that the righteousness of God has so lowered the law, that something less than obedience can be accepted by him as a full satisfaction of that law; because the demands of the law have not been lowered but have been completely fulfilled by Christ. Besides this would be to make of faith a work, by which salvation is secured, and the Scriptures deny that it has this character. Rom. 4:16. “We are never said to be justified, dia pistin, on account of faith, but only dia pisteos, through faith, or ek pisteos, of faith, eis pistin, unto faith, and epi te pistei, by faith. The fact that faith is counted for righteousness shows, that in itself it is not righteousness and has no merit, but it only so “reckoned on the ground of something outside of itself, viz.: the saving work of Christ.”

It is evidently so reckoned, because by faith the sinner appropriates to himself the work of Christ, and becomes vitally united with him. Faith may, therefore, be regarded as the condition upon which justification is bestowed upon those to whom Christ is presented as a Saviour, to be received and rested upon for salvation. “Faith,” says Dr. Charles Hodge, “is the condition of justification. That is, so far as adults are concerned, God does not impute the righteousness of Christ to the sinner, until and unless he (through grace) receives and rests on Christ alone for salvation.” Sys. Theol. Vol. 3, p. 118. It is a condition which has in it no merit in itself, but which only seizes upon merit in another. It is also an act of the sinner, to which he is graciously disposed and led by God himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

V. The Relation of Works to Justification

We have already seen that works cannot enter meritoriously into justification as its procuring cause. But the Scriptures evidently associate works in some manner with justification. Paul himself says that “love is the fulfillment of the law,” Rom. 13:10, and declares that that which avails in Christ Jesus is “faith working through love,” and that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Gal. 5:6, 14. There is here an evident correspondence with, if not allusion to, the frequent teachings of our Lord, and especially to his answer to the Pharisee about the great commandment of the law. Matt. 22:34-40.

The teaching of the apostle James, is not, therefore, to be held to be opposed to the other Scriptures when he speaks of a justification by works. His language is very strong. He says that “faith apart from works is dead.” He asks, “was not Abraham, our father, justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac, his son, upon the altar?” He inquires, “thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect,” and especially declares, “ye see how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only.” James 2:20, 21, 22, 24.

What then is the relation of works to justification?

1. Certainly not as a procuring cause, or a meritorious ground. The faith with which James associates works, and upon a level with which he seems to place them, does not itself occupy this position.

2. The works are not such as precede justification or are contemporaneous with it, and hence cannot be a cause, nor even a condition such as we have seen faith to be. Even in the case of Abraham the justifying work referred to occurred long after the justification which he attained by faith. Compare Rom. 4:9-11; Heb. 11:8; Gen. 15:6; 17:1-27; 22:1-19.

3. The works are referred to as means of manifesting as well the faith as the justification claimed to be by faith. James 2:18.

4. The apostle’s object is to deny the living character of any faith which has not wrought with works and has not been perfected through works.

It is thus evident that works occupy the position of subsequent, not antecedent, accompaniments of justification. They manifest that justification has taken place, because they are invariable consequence. They do this, however, not before man only, but God also, and consequently he, as well as man, perceives them, and because of them the believer performing these good works is justified before God. But such justification is not that actual justification which takes place in connection with faith, which is the judicial act of God declaring the relation of the believer to the law, but that declarative or manifesting justification, which cannot exist except as the result of the actual justification, but which is so inseparably connected with the latter that by its presence, or absence, the existence or non-existence of justification is distinctly established.

 

VI. The Benefits Included in Justification

The benefits conferred by justification are many.

1. Freedom from the condemnation of the law. This includes:

(1) Forgiveness of all sin. Not for the past only, but throughout the Christian’s life.

(2) Discharge from his relation to the law as a rule of bondage, for which is now exchanged his service to it in the newness of the spirit. Rom. 7:6.

(3) Peace with God,–assured peace,–because dependent on the merits of Christ and not those of himself.

These and all other blessings which may be included under the general idea of pardon are necessary results of justification.

2. But justification confers righteousness as well as pardon. Not only are sins remitted but men are made partakers of the righteousness procured by Christ which is imputed to them. They are thus recognized before the law as righteous persons, not simply as persons pardoned for breaking the law, but as those who are rewarded for having fulfilled all its demands.

3. But there are other blessings which arise from the relation to Christ of those whom God justifies. That relation was shown in the chapter on Faith. It is a vital and spiritual as well as a legal and federal union between Christ and his people. By virtue of this they are identified with him in his relation to God as their Representative and Covenant Head, and are made partakers of all the blessings which he has obtained as an inheritance. It is thus that they are adopted into the family of God and become his sons and daughters; thus are they sanctified by the Holy Spirit partly in this life, and progressively advance until complete holiness shall be theirs in Heaven. Thus also do they persevere in the divine life, being preserved or kept by God through faith unto complete salvation. By the same act of faith which is the condition of justification is secured by those united to Christ, the privilege of complete participation in the rewards of their federal head. They shall be heirs with him, shall reign with him, shall be partakers of his glory. No imagination can compass the reward which shall be theirs together with Christ. The Scriptures seem to teach that whatever Christ shall be or possess in his human nature they also shall be and possess.

 

VII. The Time of Justification

We may finally inquire into the time at which justification occurs.

1. It does not occur periodically but is a single act, and not one repeated with reference to new sins. This arises from its nature as an act of God declaring the relation of the believer to the law and from the ground of that act, the never failing merits of Christ. The pardon which the Christian seeks of God is that of a child for offences against a father’s love, and not of a culprit before an avenging judge. The sufferings which Christians endure are not avenging punishments for sin, but chastisements from a Father who chastises those whom he loves and scourges those whom he receives.

2. It is an instantaneous and not a continuing work as is sanctification. It is God’s act declaring the sinner’s relation to the law. That sinner is under condemnation until justified. As soon as justified his condemnation ceases. He cannot be partly condemned and partly justified. He is under condemnation until brought into that condition which secures his justification. When that moment comes God must justify.

3. But when is that moment? The Scriptures teach that it is when man believes. It is in the moment of trust in a personal Saviour.
It was not at the time that Christ finished his work and laid the foundation of justification in his merits and satisfaction. By these justification was secured but not bestowed. It was not in Eternity as is Election by which the subjects of the future justification were chosen. It is at the moment of belief when faith, which is its condition, is experienced. Then is consummated that which was purposed in eternity and which was made possible and certain by the work of Christ. The hour of faith was even the period of justification before the incarnation of Christ because of the faith which rested personally upon him through the promises of God, and the acceptance by God of the meritorious work of Christ as though already existing because of the absolute certainty that it would be performed.

 

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

Chapter 30- Reprobation

Reprobation

THE doctrine of Election is intimately associated with and involves that of Reprobation. The latter has met with even greater opposition, and misconstructions of what the orthodox teach on this subject have been even more numerous.

The Scriptural statements as to Reprobation are that God, in eternity, when he elected some, did likewise not elect others; that as resulting from this non-election, but not as efficiently caused by it, he passes by these in the bestowment of the special favours shown to the Elect, and, as in like manner yet further resulting, condemns men, because of sin to everlasting destruction, and while they are in the state of sin and condemnation, he effects or permits the hardening of their heart, so that his truth is not appreciated, but actually rejected.

According to this statement there are four points involved in the decrees as to Reprobation:

1. The decree not to elect.

2. The decree to pass by in bestowing divine grace.

3. To condemn for sins committed.

4. To harden against the truth all or some persons, already sinners, and to confirm them in sin.

In considering this doctrine we are met by the difficulty arising from the want of knowledge of God’s purpose in action. It may he questioned whether we can arrive at this at all; yet to understand this subject fully, we must know that purpose. If, therefore, we cannot learn it, we see with what propriety we must submit simply to accept what God says.

A careful examination of the four points indicated will show that the third and fourth of them have necessary reference to sinners, and that the other two have not. These are only thus connected, because God, in carrying out his purpose, has chosen to do it by the creation of man, and by permitting him to fall. This may be shown by supposing God to have some great object in view to be accomplished by beings selected from those to remain holy, as through a part of the angelic hosts. He selects some as the ones through whom he will accomplish his purpose; he rejects the others as not choosing so to use them. He gives to the former special grace to fit them for their work or to remove from them any imperfection for it. His plan not having required that they be permitted to fall, the act of rejection and refusal to add the special grace given to others constitutes in this case all of Reprobation. The purpose of God as to man, on the other hand, affected a fallen race, and hence the other two points, in accordance with his determination to permit man to fall, are associated with and made a part of the decree of Reprobation, with which otherwise they would have no necessary connection.

The fact that God has permitted man to fall is undoubted. It is beyond our power to show how it is consistent with his justice and mercy. That it is so should be acknowledged by all, because God has done it.

In like manner must we deal with any result that flows from any doctrine in connection with that purpose. If it was right for God to permit man to fall, in order to carry out his purpose, it is right to condemn him for his sin. But the connection of condemnation for sin thus permitted with rejection from the number of those through whom that purpose is effected, extends no farther than that, from the circumstances of the case, the rejected in one part of the decree become the condemned in another.

The relation borne by these two parts of the decree will be better seen by the following table showing what is done on the one side for the Elect, and on the other for the rejected.

1. Election from good pleasure.

1. Rejection from good pleasure.
Sin having been committed.

2. To recover by the gospel and special grace.

3. As thus recovered, to glorify.

2. Not to recover, but to leave sinners.

3. As left sinners, to condemn for sin, and to harden some of those thus left.

In thus arranging this table no reference has been had to the views of either Sublapsarians or Supralapsarians. The doctrine of Reprobation is not affected by the scheme of either. This may be shown by presenting the order of the decrees as taught by each.

The Supralapsarians teach that there was:

1. God’s decree to glorify himself in the raising up of the church in which his grace should be peculiarly manifested.

2. To create the men whom he had selected and rejected for its composition.

3. To permit to fall.

4. To send Christ to redeem.

The Sublapsarian view is:

1. A decree to create.

2. To permit to fall.

3. To elect some to everlasting life.

4. To send Christ for their redemption and salvation.

The only difference in the decree of Reprobation as held by either of these views is that the Sublapsarians suppose man to have been decreed as fallen, before decreed as elected, or rejected; yet they deny that the rejection was because of the sin of the non-elect, for if so, they say, the others would have been rejected, being equally in sin. The Supralapsarian view supposes that the election to a certain purpose and the rejection took place before the decree to permit to fall had been entertained. According to each theory, therefore, the last two points of the decree have only what has been called an accidental connection with it.

This preliminary statement will prepare the way for the Scriptural proof of the points indicated.

I. The decree to reject some.

1. This is involved in the doctrine of Election. The choice of some and not of the whole, involves the non-election and thus the rejection of others.

2. But it is plainly taught in Scripture:

(1.) In such passages as declare salvation not to be attained because God has not given the means. These will be presented under the next general head.

(2.) In such as declare salvation not to be attained because men are not of the Elect, as

John 6:65. “No man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of the Father.”

John 10:26. “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.”

1 Cor. 1:26. “For behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose, etc.”

(3.) In all such passages as declare the preordination, or appointment by God of these persons either to condemnation or destruction. Though not the direct result of this decree so as to be efficiently caused by it, these things yet prove the rejection of some who, under the circumstances thus accidentally arising, are thus preordained.

1 Peter 2:8. “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.”

Jude 4. “There are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old set forth unto this condemnation.”

1 Thess. 5:9. In this chapter, the Apostle tells of the evil that in the last day shall come upon certain ones, and then says: “For God appointed us not unto wrath but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(4.) In the illustrations from the twins, the potter, and the clay in the 9th chapter of Romans.

(5.) In the same chapter the words used are expressive directly of the truth involved.

Rom. 9:18. “So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.”

(6.) The Apostle was teaching this doctrine in the ninth chapter of Romans and in verses 20 and 21 anticipated and answered the objection of one inquiring, why God should punish those who are thus fulfilling his will, by saying: “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why didst thou make me thus? Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour.”

II. The second point of proof is that God passes by some in the bestowment of his special grace.

That God does bestow many of the means of grace on many not to be saved is admitted; but what needs to be shown is that there are special effective means which distinguish the Elect, and which are not bestowed on others.

The language of Scripture on this point is twofold. There are passages which simply speak of the withholding of privileges, and others which seem to go beyond this and assert a positive influence exerted to keep men from the truth. The meaning of this latter class of passages will be examined when we come to speak of the fourth point. At present they are presented as though they meant no more than the mere neglect to bestow these spiritual advantages.

Deut. 29:4. “The Lord hath not given you an heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.”

Job. 17:4. “For thou hast hid their heart from understanding, therefore shalt thou not exalt them.”

1 Sam. 2:25. After Eli had exhorted his sons to refrain from making the people of the Lord transgress, it is said, “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.”

Isaiah 6: 9. “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”

Rom. 11:7, 8. “That which Israel seeketh for that he obtained not, but the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened according as it is written, God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear unto this very day.”

Matt. 13:11-15. “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables, because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, by hearing ye shall hear, and shall in nowise understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall in nowise perceive. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn again, and I should heal them.” The parallel to the first part is Luke 8:10, and to the last Mark 4:12. Similar passages also are in John 12:39, 40 and Acts 28:25-27.

2 Cor. 3:15. “But unto this day, whensoever Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart,”

These texts will suffice when it is remembered that to the plain declarations here made, may be added the proof afforded by all those passages which, teaching that God bestows on the elect alone salvation, with such attendant blessings as without fail lead to it, show that these blessings are also withheld from the non-elect.

At present it is assumed that this is done simply as an act of withholding. What is meant by this will be shown hereafter.

The question has been raised as to the two points considered above, whether the decree which has respect to them is positive or negative. By a positive decree is meant one which involves an actual direct exercise of the will of God. A negative decree is one in which the effect purposed flows as the result of the actual exercise of the will on something else.

The answer to this question depends upon the nature of the union of the different parts of the decree of reprobation. By some theologians all four of the points involved in the decree are included in one and by Reprobation they mean the actual preordination to damnation of certain persons, just as effectively as the preordination of others to salvation by Election. Others conceiving this to be a false statement have separated the first and second point from the third and fourth, uniting them together, however, as one, and giving to it the name of Preterition. The great difficulty which these had to encounter, arose from the fact that while it is true that the mere neglect to bestow certain blessings on some, may take place without their being conceived of as in the mind, and may, therefore, be a mere negative act, the choice of some so necessarily involves the rejection of others as to require that rejection to accompany the act of choice. Rejection must, therefore, have accompanied Election. In the very fact that some were chosen, was involved the rejection of others. [But even here it is not to be overlooked that rejection was not from God’s favour, not from salvation, not from hope of mercy. Rejection has nothing to do with any of these. The loss of these results from sin]. But the intimate connection between chosen and not chosen does not exist in the bestowment of gifts and graces. These were conferred on those chosen, and not conferred on those not chosen. Hence no positive act of God occurs as to those not chosen. Consequently it is better to divide this part of the decree and regard Rejection as a positive act, and Preterition in bestowing grace as a negative one.

From the first and second, the third and fourth points result consequentially but not effectively. This has been before shown. They do not result from these, so as to be their consequences, but they are actually caused only by the sin of man and are causally related only to it. It is neither as an effect of Election or Rejection or of Preterition that man has fallen, or sins, or is condemned, or will be destroyed. The simple effect is that he is not rescued, and consequently is left where he would have been without these acts. They do not lead to destruction. They simply do not rescue from it.

III. The third point needs no proof at present. The condemnation for the sins man commits is too plainly taught in the word of God. From this condemnation the Elect are rescued by special grace, the Rejected are left liable to it and consequently suffer from it.

This decree of God is positive, involving especially an act of God’s will in reference to the sin that is to be punished.

IV. The fourth point of Reprobation is the hardening some or all of the Rejected against the truth, and the confirmation of them in their sin.

Some or all sinners are spoken of as hardened, because according to the definition given to this hardening process must it be limited or not. If the hardening of God means no more than the mere permission of those influences by which this is accomplished, then it is universal, because the evil influences of the heart and of Satan undoubtedly lead to a constant increase of indisposition for God’s service. But if that process is to be regarded as a special act of God, it must be confined to those persons whom God by special acts of goodness or justice hardens so that they, in an extraordinary sense, are set against the truth and are led to reject it.

The language used in Scripture upon this point is very decided. The only question is about the meaning to be put on it as to a single point. It is best to state the two positions recognized as true and then add the other about which the discussion arises.

1. God is represented as hardening the heart.

2. This is admitted by all to be done so far as permitting it to work out its own destruction or not interfering to prevent the evil influences which would have that tendency.

It is not necessary to present the Scripture proof of these points which is abundant, because it will plainly appear in connection with the third which is that

3. God does himself operate upon and affect the heart and faculties of the individual so that he is hardened against the acceptance of the truth of the Gospel. This point is supported by many passages of Scripture and should be, at least briefly, considered.

(1) It may here again be suggested that it, upon an examination of the Scriptures, this is seen to be God’s teaching, we are bound, in the simplicity of faith, not only to receive it, but also to continue with firm confidence to believe and maintain that it is perfectly consistent with the character of God. The fact that we cannot show it to be so, ought not to make us hesitate a moment after we are convinced that God has taught it.

(2) But if so taught, it may be made to appear perfectly consistent with God’s righteous action and should be recognized as such.

The contrary has been argued from the alleged fact that thus the sinner is prevented from accepting the gospel plan of salvation. But this is not true. His previous condition has already caused this. It is not any action of God withholding grace or conferring further disability that leads any man to reject the gospel. All are already in such a state of depravity that they will certainly refuse it. This is proved from the fact that those who reject the gospel are not only not confined to the hardened, but comprise all sinners, and that nothing can prevent this result but a positive act of God by which he rescues man from his evil nature as well as from its effects.

The only evil then that arises to the sinner is that, under these influences, he sins more freely or more flagrantly than he would otherwise have done, or that his sinful nature more rapidly developes itself. But if it be wrong in God to do anything by which this shall be accomplished, it will be wrong to cast man into hell; for the change of state from this life to that has this tendency.

This illustration suggests indeed what God under these circumstances is doing, which is nothing more than inflicting punishment on the individual because of his sin. He is a sinner in God’s sight. His sin deserves punishment, and God punishes him by making his increased power to do wrong the punishment of the wrong already done.

In this view of the doctrine it is nothing worse than one very commonly taught by Arminians as well as by Calvinists of all kinds,–that of the closing of a day of grace, when the time comes at which the line is passed beyond which God no longer shows favour. That doctrine which asserts an eternal shutting out of light as the penalty of resistance to truth is of precisely the same nature as this the most objectionable form in which this point of Reprobation can he presented.

(3) But, again, whence are the influences which thus tend to salvation? Do they arise from the rights of man, or from the claims which he as man may be said to have upon his Creator? Not at all. They are involved, not in Creation, but in Redemption. They are influences, therefore, which belong, in the purpose of God, to the elect only. This is true, whether we regard the atonement as particular, or as general with a particular application.

These influences, therefore, come to man simply as the chosen of God. God may withhold them from all others. He does withhold them from the heathen. He might withhold them from those to whom they are thus given. But if God may justly withhold them from any, he may, with equal justice, stay the hand that would be stretched out to take what he has intended shall not be given. So long as the things which he withholds or prevents man from taking are not things on which man has any claim, God cannot be charged with injustice in thus acting. Admitting this doctrine, therefore, in its worst form it may be defended.

(4) But fourthly, we are liable to hold this form of the doctrine simply from want of consideration as to the method of God’s action, as well as from overlooking the language of Scripture elsewhere. Let these be regarded, and it will appear that God does not teach us that he directly hardens the heart of any. We must remember

(a) That there is a sense in which God is said to do everything that is done. Whatever happens must either be done by him, or permitted by him; and must be done or permitted directly or indirectly, according as his action is immediate or through secondary means. Now it is the custom of the Scriptures to speak of God as doing whatever is done in any of these ways. If, therefore, we have no indications of the mode of his action, we cannot, from the mere declaration that the Lord did it, decide that he did it directly, or indirectly, efficiently, or permissively. Thus Joseph said to his brethren, “It was not you that sent me hither, but God” (Gen. 45:8), and yet we know that these men were willing instruments of God. The Scripture declarations as to reprobation, or hardening, are not stronger than these which are thus used relative to other matters where we know that God only acted indirectly and permissively.

(b) There are causes at work fully sufficient to accomplish all that God would thus purpose without requiring efficient and causal action. These are the sinful depravity of the heart and the wiles of Satan. It can hardly be supposed that, when the work to be done could thus be effected, God would not leave it to be thus done.

(c) In James 1:13, 14, the apostle uses language inconsistent with the idea that God efficiently leads to sin. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot he tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.”

(d) Whenever the heart is hardened as the result of any action of God, it is always as the result of merciful action, which should have had an opposite tendency. Thus was it with Pharaoh, and thus was it with the Jews in the time of Christ.

(5.) An examination of the passages which refer to the hardening of the heart will show that (a) some expressly declare this hardening to have been by means, or by the individuals themselves; (b) that others are explained by parallel or allied passages to have this meaning; and (c) that there is nothing inconsistent with this view.

1. Passages which affirm this hardening to be the work of the individuals themselves.

2 Kings 17:14. The people of Israel carried away by the Assyrians are said to have hardened their necks like their fathers. See also Neb. 9:16-29 and Jer. 7:26.

2. Passages which furnish explanations. To these belong the famous passages concerning Pharaoh. There could be no stronger expressions than those there used.

(1.) God foretells that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart. Ex. 7:3.

(2.) It is expressly said that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. Ex. 7:13.

(3.) God declares that for this very purpose did he raise up Pharaoh that he might show his glory. Ex. 10:1, 2.

(4.) And yet Pharaoh is expressly declared to have hardened his own heart. Ex. 8:15, 32. Notice in this case the way of hardening; whenever the curse was sent, Pharaoh yielded; whenever it was removed, his heart was hardened. And, that this was not an accidental connection, is seen by the fact that in Ex. 9:34, it is said of Pharaoh that, “when Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet wore, and hardened his heart.”

Another passage, which has often been commented on, is that in 1 Kings, 22nd chapter, where Ahab calls on his prophets and receives assurance of success (verse 6). He sends for a prophet of God (verses 7-9) who gives him the same answer (verse 15), probably ironically, as Ahab immediately turns and says to him, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord” (verse 16). The prophet then proceeds to tell of the scattered house of Israel, as sheep that have no shepherd, thus foretelling evil. The king says to Jehoshaphat, “did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (verse 18). Then the prophet proceeds to tell a vision wherein God is represented as wishing to destroy Ahab and asking of all his hosts, who will persuade Ahab that he may go and fall at Ramoth Gilead. And after various replies one Spirit came and said, that he would persuade him by being a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the prophet adds, “Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets; and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.” This 1 Kings 22:21-23, is the place that is frequently referred to as a case of God’s misleading Ahab. Independently of the fact that the prophet uses drapery for what he says, he tells the King distinctly God’s will, and, as his prophet who ought to be heard, declares the truth. This passage ought not to weigh for a moment in favor of the idea that God seeks effectively to harden, and thus to destroy.

Again, we have a class of passages, for they are many, such as the one before referred to as showing Reprobation, Matt. 13:11-15. This passage follows the Septuagint translation. The corresponding passages (Mark 4:11, 12, and Luke 8:10) follow the Hebrew of Isaiah 6:9, 10, and are still stronger than Matthew. But Matthew may be taken as explanatory of the parallel and other like passages. The doctrine meant was so plainly understood that the language is not always guarded. It may not have been by Christ in its utterance. But we have here the intended meaning manifested in a single phrase, “and their eyes they have closed lest haply they should perceive,” “and should turn again and I should heal them.”

The passage in Isaiah 63:17, is easily explained in like manner: “O Lord, why dost thou make us to err from thy ways, and hardenest our heart from thy fear?”

3. Passages not inconsistent with this interpretation.

On the contrary, in view of what has been said, this interpretation seems most natural. These are fair examples.

Deut. 2:30. “But Sihon, king of Heshbon, would not let us pass by him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as at this day.”

Acts 19:9. “But when some were hardened, and disobedient, etc., . . . he (Paul) departed from them.”

Rom. 9:18. “So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.” The example referred to here is that of Pharaoh which, as we have seen, is a case of self-hardening under mercies.

 

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