"1. That this Offer is real. Christ doth not deceive, or dissemble with sinners, but really he doth desire they should have Liberty. Men sometimes make offers of good things to one another, but they are not sincere in them. But it is not so with Christ; He is a real well-wisher to sinners souls. He hath expressed it all the ways that can be desired. Would you believe his reality, if he does woo sinners? Why, so he does, Luke 14:23. compel them to come in, viz. by importunate entreaty. Would you believe his reality, if he does wait for sinners? Why, so he does, Rev. 3:20. Behold I stand at the door, and knock, &c. Would you believe his reality if he does weep for sinners? Why, so he does, He wept over Jerusalem, Luke 19:41, 42. Would you believe his reality if he does die for sinners? Why, so he did, Rom. 5:8. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Nay, would you believe his reality if he should be damned for sinners? Why, so he was, tho not in respect of the place, yet in respect of the pains of Hell: He was made a curse for us, Gal. 3:13. What would you have Christ to say or do more than he has said and done, to convince you, that he would have sinners to be partakers of this Freedom. Has he not said so in his word? Has he not sealed it with his blood? Has he not accepted and embraced from time to time, whoever came unto him? Does he not engage himself by his faithful promise, to do so still to the end of the World, That he will in no wise cast out such as come to him, John 6:37. And yet what a wonder is it, that the World is so unbelieving still? and so hard to be persuaded, that Christ has any loving thoughts or purposes towards them? Oh this cursed unbelief, and hardness of heart, that is in men and women, that makes them, that they will not come to Christ that they might have life!"
September 19, 2014
Nathanael Ball, Spiritual Bondage and Freedom. Or, A Treatise Containing the Substance of Several Sermons Preached on that Subject from John VIII. 36. (London: Printed for Jonathan Robinson, at the Golden Lion in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1683), 36-38.
September 18, 2014
The Term “Offer”
From Carstairs’s quotation immediately above, it is already clear that Durham and his contemporaries were content with the terminology of “gospel offer.” There is little room for doubt or debate as to whether Reformed theology used the term “offer.”50 The area for examination, then, is not simply whether the Reformed used the term “offer,” but what they meant when they spoke of the “free offer of the gospel.”
In considering this, the first thing that needs to be defined is what exactly is being offered in the gospel? In summary, Durham stated that “Christ Jesus Himself, and His benefits” is what is offered.51 That is, all the Son had done to redeem sinners is offered in the gospel: “This good and gracious bargain that is made between the Father and the Son, which is wholly mercy, is brought to the market and exposed to sale on exceedingly easy and condescending terms, and that to bankrupt sinners.”52 To expand on this: “peace and pardon, grace and glory, even all good things [are] offered to you freely!”53 Or to phrase it differently, “Tell me, what is it that you would have? Is it remission of sins? ’Tis here. Would you have the covenant and promises? Here they are: Is it Christ Himself that you would have.… Here He is. Or would you have heaven and be eternally happy? ’Tis also here.”54 So Christ Jesus and all that He has done for the salvation of His people and the fruits of His death are offered in the gospel. The position outlined above is expressed by John Murray as follows: “It is Christ in all the glory of his person and in all the perfection of his finished work whom God offers in the gospel.”55
Having seen what is offered, namely Jesus Christ and His benefits, it is now important to define what Durham meant by “offer.” Is it true that, as has been claimed, we should understand “offer” simply in the sense of “present or set forth,”56 or does “offer” mean something more than simply a presentation of facts? Is it true that the Reformed in the seventeenth century used offero, and its cognates, simply to denote “present”? This is the assertion of Raymond Blacketer who posits that oblato should not be translated as “offer” but as “present” or “exhibit” and that this accords with sixteenth- and seventeeth-century Reformed usage.57 This assertion has been called into question by Scott Clark who argues that “the semantic range of ‘offero,’ as it is used by the orthodox, is closer to ‘invitation’ than ‘demand.’”58 What of Durham — how does he define the term? And does his definition support the historical definitions of Blacketer or Clark? It is certainly true that, for Durham, Christ is presented and set forth in the gospel, but it is evident from the images he used to explain and define “offer” that, for him, it is not simply equivalent to “present” or “set forth.”
One of the most common images Durham uses to define “offer” is that of wooing and beseeching. He explains that “[t]he offer of the gospel…is set down under the expression of wooing…and supposes a marriage, and a bridegroom, that is by his friends wooing and suiting in marriage.”59 So, in understanding what the gospel offer is, it is appropriate to think of a man trying to persuade the woman he loves to marry him. This image, of course, carries with it more than a simple presentation of facts. It would be an absurdity for a man to try and win the affections of a woman simply by presenting a few facts about himself. No, the image carries with it the idea of an attempt to win the girl by earnest persuasion. And so it is with the gospel where Christ “doth beseech and entreat, etc. that thereby hearts may be induced to submit cheerfully to Him.”60 We can “[c]onsider further how our Lord Jesus seeks and presses for this satisfaction from you; he sends forth his friends and ambassadors, to woo in his name, and to beseech you to be reconciled.… He pleads so much and so often, and entreats every one in particular when he is so very serious in beseeching and entreating, it should, no doubt, make us more willing to grant him what he seeks.”61 From this one image alone it is clear that to “offer” is, for Durham, more than a presentation of facts.
Another common image in Durham to explain what he means by “offer” is inviting. Durham comments that “[t]he offer of this gospel…is set out under the expression of inviting to a feast; and hearers of the gospel are called to come to Christ, as strangers or guests are called to come to a wedding.”62 He also states that “the gospel comes to invite men to the wedding.”63 Particularly significant in considering the dispute over the meaning of the word offer is Durham’s denial that the gospel is simply a proclamation. He states that the gospel “not only proclaims, but invites; and doubles the invitation to come. It not only invites, but puts the invitation so home that people must either make the price…and buy or refuse the bargain.… [It] cries, ‘Come, buy! Come and enter the covenant freely.’ And this it does by a frank offer, by earnest and persuasive inviting, and by the easy conditions that it proposes the bargain on.”64 So it appears that the contention that by “offer” Reformed theology simply meant proclamation or presentation is inadequate, for the gospel “not only proclaims but invites.”
Durham also frequently uses the image of selling to convey the meaning of “offer.” “The offer of the gospel is…set out often under the similitude or expression of a market where all the wares are laid forth on the stand.”65 Another example of this is Durham stating “that there is a good and excellent bargain to be had in the gospel, and on very good and easy terms. ’Tis a market day, and indeed it would be a pity that such wares should be brought to the market and that few or none should buy; that Christ should (so to speak) open his pack and sell no wares. Therefore let me…persuade you readily and presently to embrace the offer of this richest bargain.”66 Again, considering this image, it would be generally agreed that it would be a poor salesman who simply declared facts about what he was trying to sell. Indeed, the very image of selling contains the idea of a willingness to sell and great effort to ensure that there is a sale.
This, then, is Durham’s understanding of “offer”— not simply a presentation of facts, not simply a command but wooing, beseeching, inviting, and selling.67 Clark and Daniel presented the understanding which best accords with the theology of Durham.
50. Curt Daniel observes: “It cannot be debated that the word was employed with all regularity throughout the Puritan era.” Curt Daniel, “Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill” (Ph.D. diss., University of Edinburgh, 1983), 398.
51. Durham, Revelation, 271.
52. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 144.
53. Ibid., 155.
54. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 333.
55. Murray, “Free Offer,” in Collected Writings, 4:132.
56. Hanko, History, 89.
57. Blacketer, “Three Points,” 44–45.
58. Clark, “Janus,” in VanDrunen, The Pattern of Sound Doctrine, 169. Curt Daniel rejects arguments, similar to Blacketer’s, put forward by Herman Hoeksema in reference to the definition of offer. See Daniel, “John Gill,” 398.
59. Durham, Christ Crucified, 80.
60. Durham, Revelation, 272.
61. Durham, Christ Crucified, 475–476.
62. Ibid., 80.
63. Ibid., 213.
64. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 151 (emphasis added).
65. Durham, Christ Crucified, 80.
66. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 152.
67. So David Silversides is correct to note that the “term ‘offer’ did not mean merely to ‘exhibit’ or ‘present’ in a manner bereft of the connotation of an overture addressed personally to the hearers for their acceptance” (Silversides, The Free Offer, 65).
Donald John MacLean, "James Durham (1622–1658) and the Free Offer of the Gospel," Puritan Reformed Journal 2:1 (January 2010), 101-104. This paper is "is an amended version of a lecture given at the Inverness branch of the Scottish Reformation Society in November 2008." Ibid., 92n1. Dr. MacLean blogs at the James Durham Thesis. The subject of his doctoral thesis is, “Reformed Thought and the Free Offer of the Gospel: With Special Reference to The Westminster Confession of Faith and James Durham (1622-1658)”.
James Durham bio:
September 17, 2014
Is the Gospel Offer Sincere?
Having considered so far that God earnestly invites all the hearers of the gospel to come to Christ, the question naturally arises as to the sincerity of the gospel offer. That is, does God want all hearers of the gospel offer to accept Christ, or to express it differently and starkly, does God desire the salvation of all hearers of the gospel? This is an important theological question and Professor John Murray states: “It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men.”106
What does Durham make of this question? Does he teach that God desires the salvation of all men? It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Durham would answer this question in the affirmative107 given his comments: “God the Father, and the King’s Son the Bridegroom, are not only content and willing, but very desirous to have sinners come to the marriage. They would fain (to speak with reverence) have poor souls espoused to Christ.”108 This teaching is not simply one isolated slip of the tongue in preaching, as Durham elsewhere notes, “As our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased this redemption and remission, so he is most willingly desirous, and pressing that sinners to whom it is offered should make use of his righteousness and of the purchase made thereby, to the end that they may have remission of sins and eternal life.… He is (to speak with reverence) passionately desirous that sinners should endeavour on ground to be sure of it in themselves. Therefore he…makes offer of it, and strongly confirms it to all who embrace it.”109 Again commenting on the verse, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37), Durham states:
“The word is doubled in the original: ‘I will not, not [cast him out]’”; to show the holy passion of our Lord’s desire and His exceeding great willingness to have sinners close with Him. In Isaiah 45, salvation is promised even to a look: “Look unto me, all ye ends of the earth, and be saved.”110 Indeed, he can go so far as to say that “I do not know a truth of the gospel that has more confirmations than this has, that Christ the Mediator is very willing and desirous that sinners close with him, and get the good of his purchase.”111
Durham is clear that to deny the serious and sincere nature of the gospel is not appropriate: “To have a gracious offer from God, and to fear at it, as if He were not in earnest, is very unbecoming the gospel. Whenever He pipes, it becomes us well to dance, and to believe and credit Him when He speaks fair and comfortably.”112
Allied to this, Durham speaks of the willingness of God to save sinners, as the following extract demonstrates:
Christ the Bridegroom and His Father are very willing to have the match made up and the marriage completed.… The evidences of His willingness are many…as, that He has made the feast…and prepared so for it, and given Himself to bring it about, and keeps up the offer and proclamation of marriage even after it is slighted…the Father and the Son are most heartily willing; therefore they expostulate when this marriage is refused, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you, but ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if thou, even thou, hadst known in this thy day the things that belong to thy peace!” (Luke 19:42). All these sad complaints, that Israel would not hearken to His voice, and His people would have none of Him (Ps. 81:11), that He came to His own, and His own received Him not (John 1:11), and that they will not come to Him that they might have life (John 5:40), make out His willingness abundantly and undeniably.113In noting Durham’s teaching on the desire of God that hearers would accept the gospel offer, it is not appropriate to understand him as simply using indefinite terms (such as “sinners”) and by these terms meaning “the elect.” Aside from the strange inconsistency this would create with Durham’s own definition of the gospel offer as a particular invitation to every individual hearer (how could a particular invitation be indefinite in its object?), Durham clearly affirms the willingness of God to save everyone who hears the gospel: “This word we now preach, nay, these stones shall bear witness against you that our Lord Jesus was willing to save you and every one of you.”114
To quote Professor John Murray again: “In other words, the gospel is not simply an offer or invitation but also implies that God delights that those to whom the offer comes would enjoy what is offered in all its fullness.”115
Connected to this is Durham’s teaching that the gospel offer is an expression of God’s common grace: “(2 Cor. 6:1) We beseech you (he says) that ye receive not this grace in vain; which is not meant of saving grace, but of the gracious offer of grace and reconciliation through him.”116 And again, “Why will God have Christ in the offer of the gospel brought so near the hearers of it?… Because it serves to commend the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus. When the invitation is so broad, that it is to all, it speaks of the royalty of the feast, upon which ground (2 Cor. 6:1) it is called grace, the offer is so large and wide.”117
However, having noted all this, it is important to clarify in what sense Durham spoke of God’s desire for the salvation of the hearers of the gospel and of His willingness to save all. Central to this is Durham’s distinction between the secret will and the revealed will of God.118 Basing his thoughts on John 6:39–40, he states that here we “have two wills to say so.”119 Verse 39 (“This is the Father’s will that sent me that of all that he hath given me I should lose nothing”) refers to “the secret paction [contract] of redemption” while verse 40 (“And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life”), refers to “the revealed will, pointing to our duty.”120 The secret will is not to be “searched into at the firsthand” but rather “his revealed will belongs to you, and that is to see that you believe.”121 This revealed will shows what is “pleasing and delightsome” to God — indeed, what God “commands, calls for and approves” cannot be conceived of, but as “pleasing to God.”122 It is only in the sense of this revealed will that we can speak of God’s will to save all gospel hearers. As Durham argues, “if the Lord’s willing of men (at least men that are under His ordinances) to be saved be thus understood, as including only the duty that God layeth upon men, and the connection that He hath made between it and Salvation in His word, it may be admitted: but if it be extended to any antecedent will in God Himself, distinct from that which is called His revealed will, this place and such like will give no ground for such an assertion [a universal saving will].”123 Durham rejected any “assertion of the Lord’s having a will and desire of the salvation of all men, besides His signifying of what is acceptable to Him as considered in itself by His Word.”124 This also shows that when Durham spoke of God’s desire to save all, he was relating this to the revealed will.125 Similarly, in discussing common grace, Durham draws a sharp distinction between saving and common grace, arguing that while common grace is indeed wrought by the Spirit, the difference between the two is “in kind” and not simply “in degree.”126
106. Murray, “Free Offer,” in Collected Writings, 4:113.
107. For the sense in which this is the case, see the further discussion below.
108. Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 44.
109. Ibid., 313–314.
110. Ibid., 329.
111. Ibid., 325. So Durham would confirm Ken Stebbins’ belief that the language of God’s desire for the salvation of all hearers of the gospel has been “used by nearly all reformed theologians from Calvin down to the present day” (Stebbins, Christ Freely Offered, 20).
112. Ibid., 96.
113. Ibid., 55. Again, the similarity of the textual basis here with those used by John Murray in The Free Offer of the Gospel is evident.
114. Ibid., 333 [emphasis added].
115. Murray, “Free Offer” in Collected Writings, 4:114.
116. Durham, Christ Crucified, 79.
117. Ibid., 83.
118. Von Rohr called this distinction a “fundamental factor in Puritan theology itself” and described the difference as follows, “On the one hand there is God’s commanding and forbidding will.… It is the will of God as known in God’s word, the will that prescribes and promises.… It is thus the known will, the will of the conditional covenant, the revealed will of God.… On the other hand there is the will of God’s good pleasure.… This is the predestinating will, the will of God’s private purpose. It is the will of the absolute covenant.… It is the secret or the hidden will of God” (Von Rohr, The Covenant of Grace, 130).
119. Durham, Christ Crucified, 233. Durham also uses these verses to make the same point in Unsearchable Riches, 78.
120. Ibid., 233.
121. Ibid., 233–234.
122. Ibid., 427.
123. Durham, Revelation, 214. In the context here, Durham states he would rather speak of God’s revealed will that all men repent, rather than that all men be saved. However, this statement, occurring again in a polemic against those in the Reformed tradition who were positing universal aspects to Christ’s atonement and God’s saving will, does not seem to have been borne out in Durham’s own sermons.
124. Ibid., 268.
125. R.A. Finlayson’s words, although originally reflecting on the position of Calvin, capture this well: “It would seem clear that God wills with genuine desire what He does not will by executive purpose. This has led theologians to make use of the two terms, the decretive will and the preceptive will of God, or His secret and revealed will.… The position could thus be more clearly put as meaning that God desires all men to be righteous in character and life and to use the means He has appointed to that end. It is in harmony with the revealed will of God that without the use of means appointed by Him the end shall not be attained. As a holy God, the Creator commands all His moral creatures to be holy, and He cannot be conceived as in any way obstructing their pursuit of holiness by His decree” (R. A. Finlayson, “Calvin’s Doctrine of God” in Able Ministers of the New Testament [Papers read at the Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference, 1964], 16).
126. Durham, Revelation, 158.
Donald John MacLean, "James Durham (1622–1658) and the Free Offer of the Gospel," Puritan Reformed Journal 2:1 (January 2010), 112-116. This paper is "is an amended version of a lecture given at the Inverness branch of the Scottish Reformation Society in November 2008." Ibid., 92n1. Dr. MacLean blogs at the James Durham Thesis. The subject of his doctoral thesis is, “Reformed Thought and the Free Offer of the Gospel: With Special Reference to The Westminster Confession of Faith and James Durham (1622-1658)”.
James Durham bio:
James Durham bio:
September 16, 2014
Blocher is arguing for "definite atonement" in this chapter, and therefore does not think, as the Hypothetical Universalists do, that God's universal salvific will involves Christ substituting himself on behalf of all men. Nevertheless, he says this about the will of God:
"Should we speak of a univeral salvific will? And if we should, does it require a univeral extent, pro omnibus et singulis, of the atonement? The love of God for all also refers to their ultimate salvation. Such statements as Ezekiel 18:32 and 2 Peter 3:9 (an implicit restriction to the elect is little likely) declare such a will. Yet other texts seem to say the opposite (1 Sam. 2:25 is an old book and 1 Pet. 2:8 in a foundational epistle). Since God, the auctor primarius, does not contradict himself, we must distinguish two senses of "will." I choose to speak of God's will of desire (which also generates his precepts), and God's will of decree. The inescapable teaching of Scripture is this: God "desires" that all enter Life, but he "decrees" that some will not. This decree is permissive: God (in whose hand is even the king's heart; Prov. 21:1) moves no creature to anti-God dispositions; the creature misuses created freedom against the fountain of all goodness, and bears the guilt; yet, God remains sovereign (Eph. 1:11), and therefore the creature's refusal to repent is (permissively) part of the divine design.
"This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" The permissive character of the sovereign decision over the "vessels of wrath" makes it possible for it to coexist with the salvific "desire" and universal love."
Henri A. G. Blocher, "Jesus Christ the Man: Towards a Systematic Theology of Definite Atonement," in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, eds. David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2013), 564-565.
With respect to Augustine, Blocher says, "His emphasis on the divine desire that all should be saved is repetitious...," even though he thinks Augustine's theology lends itself to definite atonement. Ibid., 549.
Blocher also says:
"Some of the Reformed, it seems, have denied the universal love of God. Though they could quote verses such as Psalm 5:5 and "Esau I have hated" (Mal. 1:3), their denial is so opposed to the drift of Scripture and the "analogy of faith" that I rule it out of court. The vast majority of definite atonenent theologians have firmly held to the doctrine of the love of God extending to the non-elect, as a beautiful article by Andrew Swanson expounds (based on R. L. Dabney, W. T. Shedd, and John Howe)." Ibid., 564.
September 14, 2014
"Preach earnestly the love of God in Christ Jesus, and magnify the abounding mercy of the Lord; but always preach it in connection with His justice. Do not extol the single attribute of love in the method too generally followed, but regard love in the high theological sense, in which, like a golden circle, it holds within itself all the divine attributes: for God were not love if He were not just, and did not hate every unholy thing. Never exalt one attribute at the expense of another. Let boundless mercy be seen in calm consistency with stern justice and unlimited sovereignty. The true character of God is fitted to awe, impress, and humble the sinner: be careful not to misrepresent your Lord."
C. H. Spurgeon, "On Conversion as Our Aim," in Second Series of Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1978), 184.
September 6, 2014
GOD AND THE SINNER
Son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, Oh house of Israel? Ezek. 33:10, 11.
Our text alludes to the preceding fact, that the prophet by Divine commandment had denounced a judgment on Israel. That judgment had declared that their sins were on them, that they would pine away under their sins, and they would die in their sins. To which denunciation the people, in the first part of our text, reply: "If our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?" The reply is first an expression of despair and helplessness. But it is more. It charges God with the helplessness and despair of their situation, and justifies themselves. It is as if they had said: "You denounce judgment on us. You say that our sins are on us. You declare that we will pine away and die in them. Then how can you blame us for not living? Who hath resisted your will? We are powerless to help ourselves! Our death is by God's imperious, irresistible decree. It is his pleasure that we should die and we cannot help ourselves." To this charge, making God responsible for their death, the second part of our text replies: "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked," etc.
The text develops an old-time controversy between God and the sinner, the sinner claiming to be more just than God, the sinner pleading his helplessness and justifying his death by imputing the responsibility and blame to the Almighty. It is a trick of the devil to put God in fault, to lead the sinner to self-pity, to make him a martyr and God a persecutor.
It is the object of this sermon to vindicate the ways of God to man and strip the sinner of every pretense even of self-justification. The elaboration of four thoughts will be sufficient to this end:
1. The logic of the benevolent attitude of the Divine mind toward the sinner.
2. The logic of God's oath: "As I live."
3. The logic of God's command: "Turn ye and live."
4. The logic of God's interrogatory: "Why will ye die?"
1. The benevolent attitude of the Divine mind toward the sinner.--This is declared negatively, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked"; and positively, "But that the wicked turn from his way and live." Now the first question before us is one of fact. What are the facts in this case? The facts fairly stated, what is the logic of them? What do they prove? Do they sustain God's negative and positive declaration?
In the fourteenth chapter of 2 Samuel we have a wonderful bit of family history. Absalom, for the murder of his brother, was in exile. King David, his father, was allowing him to remain in banishment, though his heart yearned for his guilty and absent son. Notwithstanding this yearning he was taking no active steps to bring home the guilty exile. To induce the father to transmute this yearning into action, the divine example under similar circumstances is thus forcibly cited: "For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person; yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him" (2 Sam. 14:14). The affirmations here are very striking: Death necessarily and unavoidably comes to all. When death comes, the extinct life, like water spilt on the ground, cannot be gathered up again. All opportunities for reformation and reconciliation end with death. In this God is no respecter of persons. His justice and providence are impartial. But while he grants to no man a new probation after death, yet before death comes, his yearning for guilty, banished man prompts him to devise active and ample means to save the exiles, banished on account of their sin, from eternal expulsion from his presence.
Recognizing the truth and force of this alleged divine example, David conformed his own conduct to it. It remains for us to inquire if that woman of Tekoah, using the words suggested by Joab, fairly represented the Divine character. For if God does yearn over banished sinners, if he does devise suitable and adequate means for their recovery from the dominion and defilement and penalty of sin, it necessarily follows that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. It also follows that if the exile banished for his own transgressions, despises this gracious provision to save him from eternal expulsion, then is not God chargeable with his death. Then is that death spiritual suicide. That the Divine character and conduct were fairly represented to David it is now purposed to prove by citing unequivocal and unanswerable Scripture proof. First:
"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Here is the attitude of God's mind toward sinners. Here is his yearning over them. Here is his boundless love. Here is the means devised for their redemption. Not even the devil can face that epitome of the gospel and affirm God's pleasure in the death of the wicked. But how shall the exiles know of this love? How shall they be able to avail themselves of the means thus provided? How can they believe except they hear? Listen:
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. God ye therefore and teach all nations." "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." "Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations." "Then said Jesus to them again . . . as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you . . . Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted to them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained" (Matt. 28:18, 19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21-23). These scriptures abundantly prove that provision was made to acquaint all men with the knowledge of the means of salvation devised. For this very purpose the church was organized and equipped and endowed with divine help, to make proclamation of God's astounding mercy, and even to carry the news of salvation to the banished ones in all their lurking places of exile.
Now, when you look at the church as an institution against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, and that gift of the Spirit conferring power on the church, and the nature of this obligation laid on the church, that it is charged with the publication of the means that God hath devised for the salvation of sinners, it is again demonstrated that he has no pleasure in their death.
The next scripture which I cite is in the second chapter of the first letter to Timothy. Paul says: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men. . . For this is good . . . in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." This scripture teaches that those commissioned to publish the good tidings of salvation to men are exhorted by the Spirit of God to pray as they publish. They are not to be dumb placards on the wall; they are not to be cold advertisements in a paper; they are not be mere abstract announcements, but that publication shall be loving, sympathetic, earnest, accompanied by their prayers that God will lead the men to salvation whom he thus invites through the gospel. This scripture then, which shows that God's people are exhorted and commanded to pray for the salvation of the sinners to whom they preach, since this spirit of prayer comes from God, is another evidence which sustains the proposition that he has no pleasure in their death, but rather that they would turn and live.
It is further evidenced by the broadness of the invitation which accompanies the publication of the gospel. Take the invitation contained in the fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. . . Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near." Or take the invitation as it is expressed by the Saviour in the twenty-eighth verse eleventh chapter of Matthew: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Or the invitation as it is expressed in the last chapter of the Bible: "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever, will, let him take the water of life freely." I say that the universality of these invitations, their earnestness, their broadness, which accompany the publication of the means and which are accompanied by the prayers of those that publish the means, is an evidence of the truth of the proposition with which we started out, that a sinner's death can never be attributed to God's pleasure. God's pleasure runs in another direction. It is further evidenced by the welcome that is extended to the man who accepts the invitation and who returns to God. I want to read that to you. I do not know how better to get before you the preciousness of the truth. I read it to you from the fifteenth chapter of Luke, in that matchless parable of the prodigal son: "But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him, and . . . said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. . . It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." In this beautiful image is expressed the attitude of God toward any sinner who turns and repents. The naturalness of it is the force of it. Its power is in the adaptation to our conception. We can understand when a wayward son has run away from home and wasted his substance in riotous living, and yet who, when in want, by repentance seeks to return to the father's house; we can understand how the old man's heart goes out to his erring and wandering boy, and that he would not spurn him from his door; that he would keep the light shining in the windows that he might see it and return, and that he would welcome him with more joy than one who had never been astray. Now you cannot look at the scene of that kind and say that father had pleasure in the want and in the death of his boy. You could not look at that welcome and say that the reason the boy was in such deplorable condition was that his father's mind was hostile to him. You would look somewhere else to find a reason. You certainly would not look for it there. That welcome would rise up as an invincible argument against any sort of reflection upon the state of the father's heart as superinducing the sin and the death of the erring child. In the next place it is evidenced by the fact that even when God afflicts us on account of our sins, it is no pleasure to him. He takes no delight in it. Now I want to read you a very short passage on this subject. It is found in what is called the Lamentations of Jeremiah: "But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High, to subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not" (Lam. 3:32-36).
No matter if you are able to show that the providence of God has brought upon any sinner a long train of sufferings, you may not conclude that those sufferings have been inflicted by the Almighty from any kind of pleasure that he takes in the agonies and pains of his creatures. You can draw no lesson from it that it would deny his love toward those very people whom he has afflicted; and to affirm that God takes pleasure in crushing out the prisoners, that he takes pleasure in subverting a man's cause before the Lord, is to deny point blank and expressly the words of God himself. He says he does not approve of that; that he does not afflict them willingly.
I present as the next thought that even when men sin against God openly and outrageously and persistently, in the gravest matters, and push this insubordination and rebellion to lengths that we would never endure if these sins were against ourselves–when they are thus pushed beyond any conceivable limit of human endurance, God has no pleasure even in the death of such men. But when the provocation is heinous, why is his thunder silent; why sleeps his sword of vengeance in its scabbard; why speeds not the arrow from the bow of Divine wrath to strike the man dead? The answer is that the long suffering of God in such a case means that God is giving him an opportunity for repentance, that he may have life. Peter expressly affirms his in his second letter, third chapter, ninth and fifteenth verses, that the long suffering of God in dealing with sinners is to be accounted salvation; is to be construed that he wishes to extend the space for repentance to them.
Now look at these things carefully, for I am solicitous that you should see this matter in its true light. Suppose a boy was disobedient to his parents, cruel to his associates, untruthful in his statements, impure in his life, unjust in his dealings, and enters manhood with all of these vices and impurities and lies confirmed in him and developed, goes out into the world with profanity on his lips, with deception in his heart, with vile and loathsome passions running riot in his soul, goes out an Ishmaelite, with his hand against every man and every man's hand against him, would not the people begin to say, "Where is God that he will let such a man live? Surely there can be no God. If there were a God, somewhere in the course of such a wicked life as that, the judgment of God would strike." That is the construction men put on God's forbearance. Now I ask, when that man has lived to be, say sixty years of age, and his three-score years are packed full, pressed down, shaken together, and running over with iniquities, and God has suspended the penalty over him for that length of time, continually enlarging his space for repentance, what would that prove? What is the logic of it? What is its inevitable conclusion? Evidently that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; that God would prefer that they would turn from their evil ways and live. If it would prove anything, certainly it would prove that.
In the next place there is a thought which I base upon a scripture in close connection with the text. It speaks of most incorrigible sinners. When they despised his goodness and shamefully trampled upon his mercies unto the limit of his own endurance has been reached, now does he find pleasure in the destruction of those people? Listen. "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together." This is an expression of keen distress, of mental anguish, so conveyed to our minds that we can understand the attitude of God's mind toward impenitent sinners, just before they are entirely given up. Now imagine an earthly father who is constrained to visit extreme punishment upon an incorrigible child, but before punishment wrings his hands, crying, "How shall I give thee up, my son; how shall I make thee an outcast; how shall I bring desolation upon thee? My heart is kindled within me in repenting when I look upon thee." What could be more expressive? How much nearer to human experience could you bring it by imagery than that? The grief of the father is a proof of his love. I have only one step father to go as far as that thought is concerned. I want to show you that after the sinner is given up; after he has committed the unpardonable sin; when the Spirit of God has been recalled; when his day of grace is ended; and when he is disappearing into the depths of perdition, what is God's mind then. Well now, let me read to you the scriptures which express it. I read from the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke:
"And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even though, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side. And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
Mark you, in this case the extreme limit of even Divine endurance had been passed, and the provocation had been of a kind to excite the deepest indignation, and to call for the most summary and condign punishment, and yet even then as they are walking away to their doom, he weeps. He lifts up his voice and weeps. He tells them that he would have it otherwise, but they would not. No mother-hen, when danger was near, ever hovered her brood under her protecting wings more readily than he would have gathered them. But the trouble was with them; it was not hostility in his mind. And those tears of Jesus that fell in their bitter anguish when he looked upon impenitent and incorrigible Jerusalem constituted a demonstration stronger than the demonstration of any proposition in Euclid, that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they should turn and live. These nine passages of Scripture which I have cited, sufficiently establish the first proposition in the text, that when a wicked man dies and is lost, it is not because God desired it.
2. The Logic of God's Oath: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." "As I live, saith the Lord." It means this, that before you could disprove the benevolent attitude of the Divine mind toward the sinner, you must disprove the being of God. "As I live, saith the Lord"; just as certain as I exist; just as certain as I have self-existence; just as certain as that existence is eternal, just that certain is it that God has no pleasure in men's everlasting death. You might as easily obliterate God. You could, like the fool, go down into your heart and say, "No God; no God. Matter is eternal. The world is governed by chance. Yonder stars and this earth happened. These things came together by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. They are the evolution of atoms without any design." You must say that before you can say that God has any pleasure in the death of the wicked, because his affirmation is buttressed by the oath as to his being, "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in their death, but that they turn and live." See that oath expressed in the promise to Abraham: "As I live," he says to Abraham, "there shall come a son to thee in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed." See that oath as it is expressed when he comes to declare the nature of the high-priesthood of this one who would bless the nations; where he said that God swore and would not repent, he shall be a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, this one who comes to intercede for men; to plead for them; to save them to the uttermost. He shall be no Aaron, no Methuselah, to die, but he shall be without beginning of days or ending of years. Eternity shall be his name and character, so he can ever live to intercede for his people. In that way the oath of God, "As I live, saith the Lord,"; that oath as to the promise; that oath as to the priesthood; that oath as to this affirmation, makes assurance trebly sure in the establishment of the proposition that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
3. The Logic of God's command: Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways. Here is God's command addressed to all sinners. Sinners are living in sin. They know they are. They know that their ways are unrighteous. He says to them, "Here is my commandment, Turn from that way." The sinner says, "Oh, no, you would like me to die; you would like me to be lost; you would like to strike me dead." "Why then do I tell you to turn and live? Why does my precept come line upon line? Why does my commandment illuminate every signboard that marks the downgrade of wickedness? Why does God's command come in the book; come in the thunder; come in the soft whisperings of winds; come in the monitions of conscience; come in all the quickening flights of memory; come with the malaria of sickness, and with the chill of death? Why does God's command so continually and persistently address the sinner until he leaps over the precipice and is gone forever? Why does it say, "Turn, turn and live"? Surely if he was lying in wait to strike you dead, he has only to be silent: he has only to let you pursue your way unwarned. There was no need, if he sought to destroy you, that he should warn you of what is ahead; that he should gather back the curtains of death and show you the mouth of the pit; that he should unveil before your eyes the coming judgment; even the heathen Ninevites had discernment enough to infer a hope of mercy from the revelations of their speedy doom. What ought you to infer from the fact that he should above, around, below, in you, all around you, strike you with commandments to turn and not die. If he were seeking an opportunity to slay you, there would be no necessity for this commandment.
4. The logic of God's interrogatory, "Why will you die?" Our text commenced with the sinner's accusation thrown back into God's face, "If, as you say, our sins are on us, and we pine away in them, how can we help it; we are lost; we are powerless; our eternal death is chargeable to God and not to ourselves." The sinner lies and he knows it. He knows that the condition in which he now finds himself has been brought about by himself, that there was no imperious decree of God that coerced him into that locality of death and there shut him up so that he could not escape. In an old book, Buck's Theological Dictionary, are some horrible pictures of martyrdom. One of these pictures attracted my attention very strongly when I was a child. The martyrs in that picture were blindfolded and had their hands tied behind them, and soldiers are walking behind them and pushing them with their spears up the side of a hill. If they go too far to the right or left a spear-point guides them, and they are pushed up the hillside to the top, not seeing the sheer precipice on the other side, until unwarily they topple over to fall a hundred feet upon a frame below, planted with spikes six inches apart. Now would you way to these martyrs: "Why did you die? Why did you fall over that place?" Impaled and writhing would they not justly reply: "We could not help it. We could not see; our hands were tied behind us, and those following after us were pushing us with spears; kept driving us and urging us until we reached the summit and unwarily stepped off to death."
Now, I submit, do these scriptures show God to be of that kind? When the sinner steps off into death has it been because of God's blindfolding him? Has it been because God tied his hands behind him? Has it been because God followed him with spear-points and pushed him and urged him until he died? Is that true? It is as false as the pit that gave it birth. It is the foulest slander on the love of God. God is not the author of sin. God does not imperiously drive men down to ruin and to death. Then, when the sinner in any sort of way, by any kind of argument, by any sort of imputation, charges his death on God, it is not true. So, in answer to the question, "Why do you die?" you cannot lay your death at God's door. But some who do not charge God directly with the sinner's death, do indirectly charge him with it by assigning heredity as the cause. Our context says: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." That is their answer. "You have asked us why we die. We die because of our ancestors. We die because of an inherited depravity." God meets it. He says it is not true; that he has made a provision of mercy by which the law that visits the iniquity of the father upon the child shall be obviated in this case; that he has made such a provision that if the son of the drunkard shall be sober he shall not, at least at God's judgment, be condemned for the crime of his father.
Take an illustration: One of the worst kings, according to the record, that reigned over Judah, was Ahaz, and one of the best, Hezekiah, his son. Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz. Here the grace of God intervened against heredity and environment. The son commenced life in a time of unrighteousness and of blood, seeing nothing in his surrounding that pointed upward; everything was downward. There was no help or support attainable from association or companion ship to enable him to be good and to live righteously; and yet, in his own individuality, under the promises of God, and under the use of the means which God had provided by which even the son of an exceedingly wicked man might be good and true, he availed himself of these things and was good and true. Now, it is not denied that the consequences of a father's sin are visited upon his children. It is not denied that if the father is wicked, the environment of a child will be evil and not conducive to the development of piety and goodness.
But it is denied that this is a reason that any soul is lost; because the grace of God has triumphed over that environment, and it has come to the most degenerated race where wickedness has been handed down from sire to son for ages, and says to that man: "If you, in your individuality, will repent, God will give you eternal life." And the power of his support is mightier than the law of heredity. So there is no reason, out of himself, for the sinner's death, and the question recurs as cogent in its inquisition as at the start, "Why will you die?" As an intelligent being, endued with reasoning faculties, able to weigh arguments and to analyze conditions, being so distinguished from lower creatures by the possession of this faculty of reason, in going down to death you ought to be able to give you some reason why you die. Why is it? Where do you put it? Find it out. Let us look at it. Come out of the vagueness of generalities and the mists and fogs of platitudes, and let your reason outline itself and take shape, and let us see just what it is. Why will you die? And there is no reason. Oh, that question! It is hotter than fire to the man whom it punctures. It is as if a red-hot iron had been thrust into him. Why will you die? The songs of the invitation of God's gospel take it up in all their rising and increasing melody, "Why will you die?" The prayers of God's people in their tears and unction and fervor say, "Why will you die?" The sacrifice on Calvary takes up the question, "Why will you go down to damnation--damnation?"
It is as if man stood in his pollution and justified his uncleanliness on the banks of a clear, freely flowing stream of water: "Why will you remain unclean; why will you continue polluted? Here is water; you have only to step in and be clean." The question is like that the men in the ship addressed to the starving sailors in the boat, who cried out: "Water, water; we are dying for water." "Why, then, do you not reach over and dip it up? You are in the mouth of the Amazon. Reach over, it is fresh water all around you." "Why will you die?" It comes from the lips of the fathers who have loved you and prayed for you; it comes in the teachings of the Sunday-school; it comes in the imagery of dreams; it comes in every visitation of sickness; it comes when your baby dies; when your mother dies; when affliction is upon you, and even when death breathes his cold breath into your face: "Why will you die?" Have you no reason for it? You destroy yourself. God never pushes you upon the impaling points of destruction. God does not dig the foundation from under your feet. "Why did you die?" It is your sin and not his. And from the pit there rises up the voice in the same path of self-destruction, "Why did you come here? You have followed up our dreadful example." It is taken up by mocking demons: "Why did you let us take possession of you? God was greater than we were. God opened to you a door of escape. God sent you the means of redemption. God called you to return and repent." There is no reason for a man to go to hell. He has committed spiritual suicide, and his conscience will tell him so.
Here is a road, smoothly, clearly marked out, signboards all along the way, leading to warmth and shelter and food and light and festivities, and a man who has eyes turns out and leaves it and goes down into the swamp and bogs, down in the ooze of the marsh, and hears the booting of owls and the howling of wolves. Why does he go there? What could have possessed him? What lured him? Who could have so side-tracked him from a plain path into such a swamp of death? That man would be wise, he would pass as a Solomon, by the side of the sinner who, in spite of God's gift of Jesus; in spite of God's Holy Spirit; in spite of Bibles and sermons and sons and Sunday-schools and prayers, goes right down to death and hell. Who on this earth can explain? Where is there a man astute enough to furnish anything like a satisfactory explanation of the delay with which men treat this matter; of the persistency with which they postpone a consideration of it; when they recognize a truth; when they feel its potency; when they know the value of the truth, and friends say: "Turn here, turn now; turn to-night," and they say: "No, not to-night." Oh, think of it. Think of it. What is the day of the month? How near are we to the end of the year? The year is gone and midnight is near. Oh, is it not a time for memory and for tears? Almost gone! The year, the dying old year. Will you not, before it draws its last breath, before the silent moving shadows on the dial-plate point to the hour that strikes the knell of 1893, oh, will you not turn and live forever?"
B. H. Carroll (1843-1914) on Motives and Encouragements to Repentance; with Reference to 2 Peter 3:9
"The Lord is willing that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). This scripture expresses not an irresistible decree, but the attitude of the divine mind toward all men. As repentance must be toward God, if he, one of the two at variance, and withal the one aggrieved, is willing to accept the repentance of the transgressor as a step toward reconciliation, it places the responsibility of decision on the man, and teaches that the final damnation of any soul on account of sin is suicide – the sinner destroys himself. The emphasis should be placed on "willing" and "all." The Lord is willing; is the sinner willing? The willingness of God is toward all, excluding no nation, no class, no individual: "How often would I have gathered you but ye would not," "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life," "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." No view of the divine decrees, no interpretation of the doctrines of election and predestination should be allowed to obscure the brightness, or limit the broadness, of this attitude of the divine mind toward sinners. Our own hearts should be full of it when we preach or teach the gospel to lost men. And we should prayerfully and diligently labor to possess their minds with the conviction that if everything else in the universe be a lie, it remains true that "God wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). We must not, dare not, doubt his sincerity, nor impugn his veracity, when he says, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezek. 33:11).
This willingness of God that all should come to repentance is evident (a) by his abundant provision of mercy – "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life," (John 3:16) ; "That by the grace of God he should taste death for every man," (Heb. 2:9); "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world," (1 John 2:2). (b) It is evident in that the terms of this mercy are simple and easy--repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; Rom. 10:8-9). (c) It is evident in that, by the church and ministry, he has provided for a perpetual and worldwide publication of this mercy and its terms (Luke 24:47; Matt. 28:19; Acts 17:30). (d) It is evident by the earnestness and broadness of his gracious invitations (Isa. 55:1; Matt. 11:28; Rev. 22:17). (e) It is evident by his suspension of the death penalty, assessed against the sinner, that space for repentance may be allowed (Gen. 6:3; Matt. 3:10; Luke 13:6-9; Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9, 15; Rev. 2:21). (f) It is evident by his joyous welcome to the penitent (Luke 15:20, 24) who returns in this space, (g) It is evident by his sincere grief over the finally impenitent who allow the space to pass away unimproved (Luke 19:41-44). What mighty motives are in all these thoughts! What an inexhaustible supply of sermon themes! What preacher has drawn all the water out of these wells of salvation? For an elaborate discussion of God's willingness that all sinners should come to repentance, it may not be regarded as immodest for me to refer the reader to the sermon, "God and the Sinner," in my first volume of published sermons."
B. H. Carroll, "The Four Gospels Part 1," in An Interpretation of the English Bible, ed. by J. B. Cranfill (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978 reprint of Nashville: Broadman Press, 1948), 193-195.
"Chapter 2 gives direction concerning public prayer worship. The first injunction is that prayers, supplications, and intercessions be made for all men – not only for our Baptist brethren, but our Methodist brethren; not only for the Christians, but for those on the outside. Pray for all rulers, all people in authority – presidents, governors, senators, city councils, and police – ah, but some of them do need it! Now, he gives the reasons – it is important to see what the reasons are: (1) Pray for these rulers that we may live a quiet and orderly life. If they are bad, we won't have an easy time. If the administrators of law be themselves lawless in their speech, every bad man construes it into permission to do what he pleases. When the wicked are in power the righteous suffer. (2) It is good and acceptable in the sight of God that we should do it. God wants us to pray for all people. (3) And the third reason is the great reason: That God would have all men to be saved. Let us not squirm at that, but for a little while let us forget about election and predestination, and just look this scripture squarely in the face: God desires the salvation of all men. In this connection I commend that sermon in my first book of sermons on "God and the Sinner." Note in order its several proof texts.
God asks, Ezekiel 18: "Have I any pleasure at all in the death of the wicked that they should die and not live?" Ezekiel 33, God takes an oath: "As I live saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he will turn from his evil way and live. Then why will you die? saith the Lord." Then we come to the passage here: "God would have all men to be saved." "And God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." In Luke 15 the accusation made against him was: "This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them"; and he answered: "I came to seek and to save that which was lost." And the text here says that he gave his life a ransom for all. That all is as big here as elsewhere. He would have all men to be saved; pray for all men because he would have all men to be saved, and because Christ gave his life as a ransom for all. Then this scripture: "Jesus Christ tasted death for every man." If there is still doubt, look at the Lord's Commission: "Go ye, and make disciples of all nations"; "Go ye, and preach the gospel to every creature." Finally, consider the teaching of Peter: "We must account that the long suffering of God in delaying the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is that all men should have space to repent and come to the knowledge of truth." That's the construction he puts upon the apparent tardiness of the final advent of our Lord. However, when we study election and predestination, we should study and preach them just as they are taught. Let us not say, "I don't know just how to harmonize them with these other teachings."
God did not appoint us harmonizers of his word.
As Dr. Broadus used to say, let the word of God mean just what it wants to mean, every time. Preach both of them. These lines are apparently parallel, but they may come together. If on a map parallels of longitude come together at the poles, why not trust God to bring together in himself and in eternity his apparent parallels of doctrine? Up yonder beyond the clouds they will come together. That is my own method of preaching."
B. H. Carroll, "The Pastoral Epistles of Paul, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude, and 1, 2, 3 John," in An Interpretation of the English Bible, ed. J. B. Cranfill (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973 reprint of Nashville: Broadman Press, 1948), 30-31.
September 1, 2014
"People suppose that he [Calvin] put forward gloomy doctrines, which shut man out from salvation instead of leading him to it, and that he concerned himself with predestination alone. This opinion is at once so widely diffused and so untrue that it is the indispensable duty of the historian in this place to establish the truth. Let us hear him on I Timothy, ii., 3, 4, 5. Calvin declares that it is the will of God that all men should be saved.
'The Gospel,' he says, 'is offered to all, and this is the means of drawing us to salvation. Nevertheless, are all benefited by it? Certainly not, as we see at a glance. When once God's truth has fallen upon our ears, if we are rebels to is, it is for our greater condemnation. God, therefore, must go further, in order to bring us to salvation, and must not only appoint and send men to teach us faithfully, but must himself be master in our hearts, must touch us to the quick and draw us to himself. Then, adapting himself to our weakness, he lisps to us in his Word, just as a nurse does to little children. If God spoke according to his majesty, his language would be too high and too difficult; we should be confounded, and all our senses would be blinded. For if our eyes cannot bear the brightness of the sun, is it possible, I ask you, for our minds to comprehend the divine majesty? We say what every one sees: It is God's will that we should all be saved, when he commands that his Gospel shall be preached. The gate of Paradise is opened for us; when we are thus invited, and when he exhorts us to repentance, he is ready to receive us as soon as we come to him.'
Calvin goes further and rebukes those who by their neglect set limits to the extent of God's dominion.
'It is not in Judea alone and in a corner of the country that the grace of God is shed abroad,' he says, 'but up and down through all the earth. It is God's will that this grace should be known to all the world. We ought, therefore, as far as lies in our power, to seek the salvation of those who are to-day strangers to the faith, and endeavor to bring them to the goodness of God. Why so? Because Jesus Christ is not the Saviour of three or four, but offers himself to all. At the time when he drew us to himself were we not enemies? Why are we now his children? It is because he has gathered us to himself. Now, is he not as truly the Saviour of all the world? Jesus Christ did not come to be mediator between two or three men, but between God and men; not to reconcile a small number of people to God, but to extend his grace to the whole world. Since Jesus invites us all to himself, since he is ready to give us loving access to his Father, is it not our duty to stretch out our hand to those who do not know what this union is in order that we may induce them to draw nigh? God, in the person of Jesus Christ, has his arms as it were stretched out to welcome to himself those who seemed to be separated from him. We must take care that it be not our fault that they do not return to the flock. Those who make no endeavor to bring back their neighbor into the way of salvation diminish the power of God's empire, as far as in them lies, and are willing to set limits to it, so that he may not be Lord over all the world. They obscure the virtue of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, and they lessen the dignity which was conferred on him by God his father; to wit, that to-day for his sake the gate of heaven is opened, and that God will be favorable to us when we come to seek him.'
But Calvin asks how are we to bring a soul to God, and how are we to come to him ourselves?
'We are but worms of the earth, and yet we must go out of the world and pass beyond the heavens. This, then, is impossible unless Jesus Christ appear, unless he stretch out his hand and promise to give us access to the throne of God, who in himself cannot but be to us awful and terrible, but now is gracious, to us in the person of our Lord. If when we come before God, we contemplate only his high and incomprehensible majesty, every one of us must shrink back and even wish that the mountains may cover and overwhelm us. But when our Lord Jesus comes forward and makes himself our mediator, then there is nothing to terrify us, we can come with our heads no longer cast down, we can call upon God as our Father, in such wise that we may come to him in secret and pour out all our griefs in order to be comforted. But such a glory must be given to Jesus Christ that angels and other dignities may be assigned to their own rank, and that Jesus Christ may appear above all and in all things have the pre-eminence. This dignity must always be preserved for him, in that he shed his blood for us and reconciled us with God, discharging out debts.
'In every age the world has deceived itself with trifles and trash as means of appeasing God, just as we might try to pacify the anger of a little child with toys. Christ must needs devote himself, at the cost of his passion and death, in order to reconcile us (nous appointer) with God his Father, so that our sins may no longer be reckoned against us. We cannot gain favor in the sight of God by ceremonies or parade; but Christ has given himself a ransom for us. We have the blood of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice which he offered for us of his own body and his own life. In this lies our confidence, and by this means we are forgiven.'*
This, then, is what Calvin says--'The gate of paradise is open to us; the Lord is willing to receive us.' What! some will say, does he give up the doctrine of the election of God, and of the necessity of the operation of the Holy Spirit for the regeneration of man? Certainly not. Calvin believed, in its full import, this saying of the Saviour--'You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.' ...
... Calvin said to Christians, in conformity with the Scriptures, that it is God who seeks them and saves them; and that this goodwill of God ought to make them rejoice, deliver them from fears in the midst of so many perils, and render them invincible in the midst of so many snares and deadly assaults. But he makes a distinction. There are the hidden things of God, which are a mystery, and of these he says--'Those who enter into the eternal council of God thrust themselves into a deadly abyss.' Then there are the things which are known, which are seen in man, and are plain. 'Let us contemplate the cause of the condemnation of man in his depraved nature, in which it is manifest, rather than search for it in the predestination of God, in which it is hidden and altogether incomprehensible.'† He is even angry with those who want to know 'things which it is neither lawful nor possible to know (predestination). 'Ignorance,' says he, 'of these things is learning, but craving to know them is a kind of madness.'‡ It is a singular fact that what Calvin indignantly calls a madness should afterwards be named Calvinism. The reformer sets himself against this craving as a raging madness, and yet it is of this very madness that he is accused.
In Calvin there is the theologian, sometimes indeed the philosopher, although before all there is the Christian. He desires that every thing which may do men good should be offered to them. 'But with regard to this dispute about predestination,' he says, 'by the inquisitiveness of men it is made perplexing and even perilous. They enter into the sanctuary of divine wisdom, into which if any one thrusts himself with too much audacity, he will get into a labyrinth from which he will find no exit, and in which nothing is possible to him but to rush headlong to destruction.'* We are not sure that Calvin did not allow himself to be drawn a step too far into the labyrinth. But we have seen the deep conviction with which he declares that the gate of heaven is opened, that the will of God is that his grace should be known to all the world. This is enough."
* Sermons de J. Calvin sur les Epítres de saint Paul à Timothé et à Tite, 1561, p. 67, &c.
† Institution Chrétienne, book III. ch. xxiii. § 8.
* Institution Chrétienne, ch. 21, § 1, 2.
Edition: J. H. Merle d'Aubigné, History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, trans. by William L. B Cates (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863-1877). 8 vols.
Volume 1 (Geneva and France)
Volume 2 (Geneva and France)
Volume 3 (France, Switzerland, Geneva)
Volume 4 (England, Geneva, France, Germany, and Italy)
Volume 5 (England, Geneva, Ferrara)
Volume 6 (Scotland, Switzerland, Geneva)
Volume 7 (Geneva, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, The Netherlands)
Volume 8 (Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, Netherlands, Geneva, Denmark, Sweden, Norway)
"Before taking up this part of the exposition I will answer a question arising from the discussion in the previous chapter, viz.: "Did Christ expiate the sins of all men, or the sins of the elect only, and does not universal expiation demand universal salvation?" This question belongs to the department of systematic theology. Without desire to intrude into that department, yet as biblical theology cannot be altogether separated from the teaching of the English Bible, I submit a reply for the benefit of those who may never study systematic theology. It is every way a difficult question, and calls out in its answer all the theories of the atonement advocated in the Christian ages. In general terms it is the old question – is the atonement general or limited? Perhaps no man has ever given a precise answer satisfactory to his own mind even, and it is certain no one has ever satisfied all others.
It must be sufficient for present purposes to deal with the question briefly, relegating to systematic theology the critical and extended reply derived from a comparison of all the prominent theories of the atonement in the light of the Scriptures. The following passages of Scripture doubtless suggest the question: Hebrews 2:9, "Jesus hath been made a little lower than the angels . . . that by the grace of God he should taste death for every man." There must be some real sense, some gracious sense, in which he tasted death for every man. 1 Timothy 4:9-10: "Faithful is the saying and worthy of all acceptation. For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe." Here again it is evident that God in some real sense is the Saviour of all men, but not in the special sense in which he is the Saviour of believers. A more pertinent passage is 1 John 2:2, "And he [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world."
The first question is answered here if anywhere. The question is, "Did Christ expiate the sins of all men?" And this passage says, "He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world." Further on in the letter (4:14) John says, "And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world," this language doubtless referring back to John 1:29, "On the morrow he [John the Baptist] seeth Jesus coming unto him, and sayeth, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!" Here "Lamb of God," the vicarious sacrifice and "taketh away the sin" must refer to the expiation in some real sense. Moreover, it accords with "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life," and quadrates particularly with the sincerity of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16, and the intense earnestness with which the apostles pressed home upon every heart the duty and privilege of all men to accept the salvation offered.
The case of Paul is much in point, because of the use of the very word in question, 2 Corinthians 5:1-20, "But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God." This particular passage is the more pertinent and important since it discriminates so clearly between the two reconciliations, to wit: (1) God was reconciled to us through the expiation of Christ, satisfying the claims of justice and placating the wrath of the law on account of sin. (2) Our reconciliation to God through acceptance of Christ tendered in the ministry of the word.
Here it is evident that expiation becomes effective to us through faith in Christ. And it is perfectly clear from many scriptures that no matter in what sense expiation was effective toward God for all men, it cannot result in universal salvation, since "he that believeth not, shall be damned." The second question is answered, to wit: No matter in what sense expiation was for all men Godward, it can avail to usward by faith alone. The question of universal salvation is not therefore bound up with reconciliation Godward, whatever its extent, but with the ministry of reconciliation and our acceptance or rejection of the tendered mercy. Speculate theorize, philosophize as we may on the extent of the atonement Godward, we are shut up peremptorily by the Scriptures to the conclusion that "he that believeth not, shall be damned."
It is the opinion of the author that universal or limited salvation is not connected with the atonement Godward, but with the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, the question is not, "Unto how many was God reconciled through Christ?" but, How many of us are reconciled to God through faith in Christ?
It seems to the author that the crux of the whole matter lies in three thoughts: (1) That in the final judgment the supreme test for men and angels is the question, "What was your attitude toward Christ, either in himself, his people, or his cause?" See particularly Matthew 25:31-46, where this principle is applied to all men. And see 1 Corinthians 6:3, where the test is implied toward angels, else saints could not judge them. Again, this decisive principle of the final judgment is expressly taught in Matthew 12:41-42 in the reference to the men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba, and yet again in our Lord's denunciation of the Galilean cities, (Matt. 11:21-24). (2) The second thought lies in our Lord's teaching that only one sin is an eternal sin, having never forgiveness in either world (Mark 3:2-30); Matthew 12:31-32, showing that condemnation comes from action in the Spirit's realm of application. See the culmination of unpardonable sin in "doing despite to the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:26-29). (3) The effect of the death on the cross conferred on the Messiah, i.e., not the Son of God in eternity, but the Son of God by procreation, born of the virgin Mary, the sovereignty.[sic] of the universe. See Philippians. 2:5-11.
I hold James P. Boyce to be the greatest all-around Baptist ever produced by the South. While in his Systematic Theology he teaches that expiation of the sins of all men must mean universal salvation, yet before he closes his discussion he uses these remarkable words, which I cite:
(1) While for the elect he made an actual atonement, by which they are actually reconciled to God, and because of which are made the subjects of the special divine grace by which they became believers in Christ, and are justified through him.
(2) Christ at the same time and in the same work, wrought out a means of reconciliation for all men, which removed every legal obstacle to their salvation, upon their acceptance of the same conditions upon which the salvation is given to the elect. Abstract of Theology, revised by F. H. Kerfoot, p. 296.
(3) On page 297 he says,
The atoning work of Christ was not sufficient for the salvation of man. That work was only Godward, and only removed all the obstacles in the way of God's pardon of the sinner. But the sinner is also at enmity with God, and must be brought to accept salvation, and must learn to love and serve God. It is the special work of the Holy Spirit to bring this about. The first step here is to make known to man the gospel, which contains the glad tidings of salvation, under such influences as ought to lead to its acceptance.
For the purpose of comment I mark these paragraphs (1), (2), and (3). It seems difficult to reconcile (1) with (3) but (2) and (3) are in perfect harmony. In (1) he says that "for the elect he made actual atonement" . . . "they were actually reconciled to God." But in (3) he says that "the atoning work was not sufficient for the salvation of man, that work was only Godward, and only removed all the obstacles in the way of God's pardon for the sinner." This language applies of course to the elect. But in (2) he says, "Christ wrought out a means of reconciliation for all men which removed every legal obstacle to their salvation." Then for the elect the atonement "was not sufficient for the salvation of man" and "only removed all the obstacles in the way of God's pardon for the sinner," and if for the nonelect the atonement wrought out a means of reconciliation," "removing every legal obstacle to their salvation," what is the difference Godward? What is the difference so far as Christ's work is concerned? Does not the difference come in the Spirit's work in connection with the application of the atonement and the ministry of reconciliation? Do election and foreordination become operative toward atonement or toward acceptance of the atonement? These questions are submitted for consideration in the realm of the study of systematic theology. The author does not dogmatize on them. While he has only a very moderate respect for philosophy in any of its departments as taught in the schools, and prefers rather to accept every word of God without speculation, and believes it true and harmonious in all its parts, whether or not he is able to philosophically explain it, yet he submits merely for consideration along with other human philosophizing on the atonement the philosophy of Dr. Wm. C. Buck on this matter. It is found in his book, The Philosophy of Religion. On the question of general or limited atonement he takes this position, as I recall it: Jesus Christ through his death repurchased or bought back the whole lost human race, including the earth, man's habitat. The whole of it and all its peoples passed thereby under his sovereignty. What debt they once owed to the law they now owe to him, the surety who paid the debt. From his mediatorial throne he offers to forgive this debt now due him to all who will accept him. But all alike reject him. The Father, through the Spirit, graciously inclines some to accept him. Thus those really saved are saved according to the election and foreordination of God, not operative in the atonement which was general, but in the Spirit's application which was special. Those thus saved were originally promised by the Father to the Son. He dies for the whole world as the expression of the Father's universal love. He died for the elect, his church, as his promised reward.
Dr. Buck illustrates, so far as such an illustration can serve, by supposing a raid by Algerian pirates on a Spanish village, leading a multitude into captivity in Moorish North Africa. A philanthropist, touched by their piteous condition, ransoms all of them by one price, and now, owning them all, offers remission of the debt and free passage back to native Spain to all who will accept. Some prefer bondage and remain, others accept joyfully and go back home. Of course this illustration takes no account of the Father's work or the Spirit's work, touching only the question of ransom for all, the passing of the debt over to the surety, his sovereignty, in its remission and their acceptance or rejection.
Let us do with this or any other philosophy what we will, but let us not hesitate to accept all that the Scriptures teach on this matter. When we read John 10:14-16; 11:26-29; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 5:25-32, let us not abate one jot of their clear teaching of Christ's death for the elect and their certain salvation. And when we read John 1:29; 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2; Ezekiel 33: 11; Matthew 28:19; 1 Timothy 2:4, let us beware lest our theory, or philosophy, of the atonement constrain us to question God's sincerity, and disobey his commands. There are many true things in and out of the Bible beyond our satisfactory explanation. Let faith apprehend even where the finite mind cannot comprehend."
B. H. Carroll, "Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews," in An Interpretation of the English Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978 reprint of Nashville: Broadman Press, 1948), 86-92.