Saturday, August 09, 2008

Southern Presbyterian Virtual Library

I suppose that the three great Southern Presbyterian Theologians may be identified as James Henley Thornwell, Robert Louis Dabney, and John Lafayette Girardeau. I have attempted to provide below as complete a virtual library of their works as can be accessed as complete works for free. Obviously, there are fragments from these men scattered in numerous other places on the Internet, and there are additional reprintings of their works that are available at a cost. If any of my readers happens to know of links to additional free, electronic copies of the works of any of these gentlemen, please let me know.

James Henley Thornwell

Robert Louis Dabney

John Lafayette Girardeau

To the glory of God,


Response to Objections Regarding Merit and the Covenant of Works

In Paul's epistles to the Romans and Galatians, Paul drives home a message of the futility of works to provide merit, and the need for grace. This message is an important aspect of the gospel, for those who seek salvation through works will perish:

Romans 9:31-33
31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

One of the Reformed criticisms of Catholicism is its emphasis on works, i.e. on legalism. On the other hand, Reformed apologists have had to address those erring in the other direction, the antinomians. The Antinomians acknowledge the futility of works, but then improperly conclude that consequently the law is to be ignored.

Less dramatic than either of those departures from orthodox theology is the Arminian position. One of the consistent Reformed criticisms of the Arminian position is that it converts faith into a work, and makes faith the meritorious cause of salvation. Thus, while Arminians would affirm the futility of works for salvation, they inconsistently undo that affirmation by converting faith into a work. It should be noted that some of the papists have done the same more boldly by substituting "faithfulness" (i.e. obedience) in place of faith.

The Arminian error in this regard seems to stem from a lack of appreciation of the relation both between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, as well as from a lack of appreciation of the difference in the way in which life is received in the two covenants. But it is not Arminians alone that seem to have this problem.

I recently came across comments from two pastors (both of whom signed the Federal Vision Joint Statement - and both of whom apparently are pastors at a PCA church - link) that exhibited something of the same misunderstanding. These men, of course, would not be considered Arminians, and I suspect would be gravely offended if someone were to call them such a name.

Here are their comments:

Jeff Meyers wrote:
If all you mean by “meritorious” is that an act or action fulfills the terms of a particular covenant, then faith is meritorious in the covenant of grace because it is required, according to the terms of the covenant, for attaining eternal life. If Adam’s obedience “would have been the meritorious cause of his obtaining life,” according to the terms of that pre-fall covenant, then our faith is the meritorious cause for obtaining life in the covenant of grace. After all, we’re not talking about “strict merit.” That is one of Mark’s major problems with all this merit talk.

Mark Horne likewise wrote:
Finally, whether or not the Westminster Standards ought to claim faith is a condition of the covenant of grace, the [sic] do so. This means that faith is pactum merit, and would allow us to say that faith is “improperly” meritorious.
(source - same combox)

The parallel these gentlemen are making (1) demonstrates a misunderstanding of the Westminster standards, and (2) undermines the law/grace distinction.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I'll provide a quotation:

3. Nevertheless, the good works of sincere believers are, like their persons, in spite of their imperfections, accepted, because of their union with Christ Jesus, and rewarded for his sake. All our approaches to God are made through Christ. It is only through him that we have access to the Father by the Spirit. Eph. ii. 18. "Whatever we do, "in word or deed," we are commanded to "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." Col. iii. 17.
As to the relation of good works to rewards, it may be observed —
1.) The word "merit," in the strict sense of the term, means that common quality of all actions or services to which a reward is due, in strict justice, on account of their intrinsic value or worthiness. It is evident that, in this strict sense, no work of any creature can in itself merit any reward from God ; because — (a.) All the faculties he possesses were originally granted and are continuously sustained by God, so that he is already so far in debt to God that he can never bring God in debt to him. (b.) Nothing the creature can do can be a just equivalent for the incomparable favour of God and its consequences.
2.) There is another sense of the word, however, in which it may be affirmed that if Adam had in his original probation yielded the obedience required, he would have "merited" the reward conditioned upon it, not because of the intrinsic value of that obedience, but because of the terms of the covenant which God had graciously condescended to form with him. By nature, the creature owed the Creator obedience, while the Creator owed the creature nothing. But by covenant the Creator voluntarily bound himself to owe the creature eternal life, upon the condition of perfect obedience.
It is evident that in this life the works of God's people can have no merit in either of the senses above noticed. They can have no merit intrinsically, because they are all imperfect, and therefore themselves worthy of punishment rather than of reward. They can have no merit by covenant concession on God's part, because we are not now standing in God's sight in the covenant of works, but of grace, and the righteousness of Christ, received by faith alone, constitutes the sole meritorious ground upon which our salvation, in all of its stages, rests. See chapter xi., on Justification.
In the dispensation of the gospel, the gracious work of the believer and the gracious reward he receives from God are branches from the same gracious root. The same covenant of grace provides at once for the infusion of grace in the heart, the exercise of grace in the life, and the reward of the grace so exercised. It is all of grace - a grace called a reward added to a grace called a work. The one grace is set opposite to the other grace as a reward, for these reasons: (a.) To act upon us as a suitable stimulus to duty. God promises to reward the Christian just as a father promises to reward his child for doing what is its duty, and what is for its own benefit alone. (b.) Because a certain gracious proportion has been established between the grace given in the reward and the grace given in the holy exercises of the heart and life; but both are alike given for Christ's sake. This proportion has been established — the more grace of obedience, the more grace of reward — the more grace on earth, the more glory in heaven — because God so wills it, and because the grace given and exercised in obedience prepares the soul for the reception of the further grace given in the reward. Matt. xvi. 27; 1 Cor. iii. 8; 2 Cor. iv. 17.
(A.A. Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith, commentary on Sections IV-VI of Chapter XVI of the WCF, pp. 226-28, 1870 ed.)

What A.A. Hodge is explaining is that there is:

a) Strict merit (which man can never have); amd
b) Pactum merit (which Adam had).

Neither is applicable to a believer, because the covenant of grace is all of grace. Thus, it is written:

John 1:16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

And this is essential to the law/grace division, as John's gospel continues:

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

But perhaps some more explanation would be helpful:

In entering upon the exposition of this section, it is proper to remark, that, at the period when our Confession was framed, it was generally held by the most eminent divines, that there are two covenants connected with the salvation of men, which they called the covenant of redemption, and the covenant of grace; the former made with Christ from everlasting, the latter made with sinners in time; the righteousness of Christ being the condition of the former, and faith the condition of the latter covenant. This distinction, we conceive, has no foundation in the Sacred Scriptures, and it has long since been abandoned by all evangelical divines. The first Adam is said to have been a figure of Christ, who is called the second Adam. Now, there was not one covenant made with Adam, the condition of which he was to perform, and another made with his posterity, the condition of which they were to fulfill; but one covenant included both him and them. It was made with him as their representative, and with them as represented in and by him. In like manner, one covenant includes Christ and his spiritual seed. The Scriptures, accordingly, everywhere speak of it as one covenant, and the blood of Christ is repeatedly called "the blood of the covenant," not of the covenants, as we may presume it would have been called, if it had been the condition of a covenant of redemption and the foundation of a covenant of grace. — Heb. x. 29, xiii. 20. By the blood of the same covenant Christ made satisfaction, and we obtain deliverance. — Zech. ix. 11. We hold, therefore, that there is only one covenant for the salvation of fallen men, and that this covenant was made with Christ before the foundation of the world. The Scriptures, indeed, frequently speak of God making a covenant with believers, but this language admits of an easy explication, in consistency with the unity of the covenant. "The covenant of grace," says a judicious writer [Wilson of London], "was made with Christ in a strict and proper sense, as he was the party-contractor in it, and undertook to fulfill the condition of it. It is made with believers in an improper sense, when they are taken into the bond of it, and come actually to enjoy the benefit of it. How it is made with them may be learned from the words of the apostle, — Acts xiii. 34 : 'I will give you the sure mercies of David,' which is a kind of paraphrase upon that passage, — Is. lv. 3 : 'I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.' God makes the covenant with them, not by requiring anything of them in order to entitle them or lay a foundation for their claim to the blessings of it, but by making these over to them as a free gift, and putting them in possession of them, as far as their present state will admit, by a faith of his own operation."
The supposition of two covenants for the salvation of mankind sinners, is encumbered with various difficulties. One is obvious. In every proper covenant, there are two essential parts — a conditionary and a promissory. If, therefore, there be a covenant made with sinners, different from the covenant made with Christ, it must have a condition which they themselves must perform. But though our old divines called faith the condition of the covenant made with sinners, they did not assign any merit to faith, but simply precedence. "The truth is," as Dr Dick has remarked," that what these divines call the covenant of grace, is merely the administration of what they call the covenant of redemption, for the purpose of communicating its blessings to those for whom they were intended; and cannot be properly considered as a covenant, because it is not suspended upon a proper condition." The "Westminster Assembly, in this section, appear to describe what was then usually designated the covenant of grace, as distinguished from the covenant of redemption. But, though they viewed the covenant under a twofold consideration, as made with the Surety from everlasting, and as made with sinners in time, they certainly regarded it as one and the same covenant. "The covenant of grace," say they, "was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed." The doctrine of our standards on this deeply interesting subject, may be summed up in the following propositions: —
1. That a covenant was entered into between Jehovah the Father and his co-eternal Son, respecting the salvation of sinners of mankind. The reality of this federal transaction, appears from Ps. lxxxix. 3: "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant." The speaker, in this passage, can be no other but the Lord, who is mentioned in the beginning of the Psalm; and it cannot reasonably be questioned, that the words spoken have their ultimate and principal fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and assert a covenant made with him, of which the covenant of royalty made with David, King of Israel, was typical. In other places of Scripture, though the word covenant does not occur, we have a plain intimation of all the essential parts of a proper covenant. In Is. liii. 10, we have the two great parts of the covenant — the conditionary and the promissory; and the two glorious contracting parties — the one undertaking for the performance of its arduous condition — the other engaging for the fulfillment of its precious promises: "If his soul shall make a propitiatory sacrifice, he shall see a seed which shall prolong their days; and the gracious purpose of Jehovah shall prosper in his hands." — (Bishop Lowth's Translation.)
2. That this covenant was made with Christ, as the head, or representative, of his spiritual seed. This is confirmed by the comparison between Christ and Adam, which is stated by the apostle, — Rom. v.; 1 Cor. xv. 45, 47; which clearly establishes the truth, that Adam and Christ severally sustained a public character, as the federal heads of their respective seeds. Christ and his spiritual seed are called by the same name (Isa. xlix. 3), — a plain evidence of God's dealing with him as their representative in the covenant. Christ is likewise called the Surety of the covenant (Heb. vii. 22); and the promises of the covenant were primarily made to him — Gal. iii. 16; Tit. i. 2.
3. That this covenant originated in the free grace and sovereign will of God. The Scriptures uniformly ascribe this transaction to the good pleasure of Him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will, and represent it as conducing to the praise of the glory of his grace. — Eph. i. 3-6. On this account this covenant is, with great propriety, called the covenant of grace, because it originated in the free grace of God, and conveys the blessings of salvation to sinners in a manner the most gratuitous.
4. That this covenant was established from eternity. The covenant of grace is called the second covenant, as distinguished from the covenant of works made with Adam; but though the second in respect of manifestation and execution, yet, with respect either to the period or the order in which it was made, it is the first covenant. The Head of this covenant is introduced (Prov. viii. 23), saying, "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, ere ever the earth was;" i.e., he was set apart to his mediatory office and work, covenant of grace from everlasting. The promise of eternal life is said to have been given us in Christ "before the world began" (Tit. i. 2); and the covenant is frequently styled an everlasting covenant. — Heb. xiii. 20.
5. In the administration of this covenant, God "freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved." Though Christ, in this covenant, represented only a definite number of mankind, who were "chosen in him before the foundation of the world," yet, in the administration of the covenant, a free offer of salvation by Jesus Christ is addressed to sinners of mankind indefinitely and universally. — John vi. 32; Is. lv. 1; Rev. xxii. 17. This offer is not restricted, as Baxterians allege, to sensible sinners, or those who are convinced of their sin, and their need of the Saviour; for it is addressed to persons sunk in total insensibility as to their own miseries and wants. — Rev. iii. 17, 18. This offer is made as really to those who eventually reject it, as it is to those who eventually receive it; for, if this were not the case, the former class of gospel-hearers could not be condemned for their unbelief. — John iii. 18, 19.
That God "requires of sinners faith in Christ that they may be saved," admits of no dispute. The part assigned to faith, however, has been much controverted. Many excellent divines, in consequence of the distinction which they made between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace, were led to speak of faith as the condition of the latter covenant. But the term, as used by them, signifies not a meritorious or procuring cause, but simply something which goes before, and without which the other cannot be obtained. They consider faith merely as a condition of order or connection, as it has been styled, and as an instrument or means of obtaining an interest in the salvation offered in the gospel. This is very different from the meaning attached to the term by Arminians and Neonomians, who represent faith as a condition on the fulfillment of which the promise is suspended. The Westminster Assembly elsewhere affirm, that God requires of sinners faith in Christ, "as the condition to interest them in him." But this is very different from affirming that faith is the condition of the covenant of grace. That faith is indispensably necessary as the instrument by which we are savingly interested in Christ, and personally instated in the covenant, is a most important truth, and this is all that is intended by the Westminster divines. They seem to have used the term condition as synonymous with instrument; for, while in one place they speak of faith as the condition to interest sinners in the Mediator, in other places they affirm, that "faith is the alone instrument of justification," and teach, that "faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness." As the word condition is ambiguous, apt to be misunderstood, and is frequently employed in an unsound and dangerous sense, it is now disused by evangelical divines.
6. That God promises his Holy Spirit to work in his elect that faith by which they come to have a special interest in the blessings of this covenant. This implies, that a certain definite number were ordained to eternal life, and that all these shall in due time be brought to believe in Christ. — Acts xiii. 48. It also implies, that they are in themselves unwilling and unable to believe (John vi. 44); but God promises to give them the Holy Spirit to make them willing and able. — Ezek. xxxvi. 26. Faith, therefore, instead of being the condition of the covenant of grace, belongs to the promissory part of the covenant. — Rom. xv. 12. It is the gift of God, who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.— Eph. ii. 8; Phil. ii. 13.
(Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Confession of Faith of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, pp. 88-92, Eighth ed. 1867, commentary on Chapter VII, Section III of the WCF)

I would draw the reader's attention particularly to the following excerpt from the above discussion:
Many excellent divines ... were led to speak of faith as the condition of the latter covenant. But the term, as used by them, signifies not a meritorious or procuring cause, but simply something which goes before, and without which the other cannot be obtained. They consider faith merely as a condition of order or connection, as it has been styled, and as an instrument or means of obtaining an interest in the salvation offered in the gospel. This is very different from the meaning attached to the term by Arminians and Neonomians, who represent faith as a condition on the fulfillment of which the promise is suspended. The Westminster Assembly elsewhere affirm, that God requires of sinners faith in Christ, "as the condition to interest them in him." But this is very different from affirming that faith is the condition of the covenant of grace. That faith is indispensably necessary as the instrument by which we are savingly interested in Christ, and personally instated in the covenant, is a most important truth, and this is all that is intended by the Westminster divines.

Perhaps I should conclude this post with a last selection:

5. Lastly, The covenant of grace doth so exclude our boasting, as the covenant of works did not. This is clear from Rom. iii. 27. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith." But if any deed or work of ours be the condition of the covenant of grace, in whole or in part, our beading is not excluded, but hath place therein, as in the covenant of works; the difference being at most but in point of degrees: for, according to the Scripture, it is working, or fulfilling the condition of a covenant, that gives the ground of boasting ; Forasmuch as "to him that worketh, the reward is reckoned of debt:" and life being of or by works in the covenant of works, though not in the way of proper merit, but in the way of paction or compact only, this gave men the ground of boasting in that covenant, according to the Scripture. Therefore, so far as life and salvation are of or by any work or deed of ours, as fulfilling the condition of the covenant of grace, our boasting is not excluded, but hath place therein as in the covenant of works. Wherefore, since the covenant of grace is so framed, as to leave no ground for our boasting, no work or deed of ours, but Christ fulfilling all righteousness, even that alone, is the condition of the covenant of grace: and our life and salvation are neither of works, nor by works, as fulfilling the condition of the covenant: Tit. iii. 5. Not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. Eph. ii. 9. Not of works, lest any man should boast.
(Thomas Boston, A View of the Covenant of Grace from the Sacred Records, p. 74, 1797 ed.)


Edwards and the Other Hodge on Merit and the Covenant of Works

Here are two more folks' thoughts on merit and covenant of works:

If this principle be correct, if the law demands entire conformity to the nature and will of God, it follows:

1. That there can be no perfection in this life. Every form of perfectionism which has ever prevailed in the Church is founded either on the assumption that the law does not demand entire freedom from moral evil, or upon the denial that anything is of the nature of sin, but acts of the will. But if the law is so extensive in its demands as to pronounce all defect in any duty, all coming short in the purity, ardor, or constancy of holy affections, sinful, then there is an end to the presumption that any mere man since the fall has ever attained perfection.

2. It follows also from this principle that there can never be any merit of good works attributable to men in this world. By merit, according to the Scriptural sense of that word, is meant the claim upon reward as a matter of justice, founded on the complete satisfaction of the demands of the law. But if those demands never have been perfectly fulfilled by any fallen man, no such man can either be justified for his works, or have, as the Apostle expresses it, any καύχημα [kauchema, boasting], any claim founded on merit in the sight of God. He must always depend on mercy and expect eternal life as a free gift of God.

3. Still more obviously does it follow from the principle in question that there can be no such thing as works of supererogation. If no man in this life can perfectly keep the commandments of God, it is very plain that no man can do more than the law demands. The Romanists regard the law as a series of specific enactments. Besides these commands which bind all men there are certain things which they call precepts, which are not thus universally binding, such as celibacy, poverty, and monastic obedience, and the like. These go beyond the law. By adding to the fulfillment of the commands of God, the observance of these precepts, a man may do more than is required of him, and thus acquire an amount of merit greater than he needs for himself, and which in virtue of the communion of saints, belongs to the Church, and may be dispensed, through the power of the keys, for the benefit of others. The whole foundation of this theory is of course removed, if the law demands absolute perfection, to which, even according to their doctrine, no man ever attains in this life. He always is burdened with venial sins, which God in mercy does not impute as real sins, but which nevertheless are imperfections.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, volume 2, pages 185-86 (1872 ed.)

3. It is in this doctrine that the most essential difference lies between the covenant of grace and the first covenant. The adverse scheme of justification supposes that we are justified by our works, in the very same sense wherein man was to have been justified by his works under the first covenant. By that covenant our first parents were not to have had eternal life given them for any proper merit in their obedience; because their perfect obedience was a debt that they owed God. Nor was it to be bestowed for any proportion between the dignity of their obedience, and the value of the reward; but only it was to be bestowed from a regard to a moral fitness in the virtue of their obedience, to the reward of God's favor; and a title to eternal life was to be given them, as a testimony of God's pleasedness with their works, or his regard to the inherent beauty of their virtue. And so it is the very same way that those in the adverse scheme suppose that we are received into God's special favor now, and to those saving benefits that are the testimonies of it. I am sensible the divines of that side entirely disclaim the Popish doctrine of merit; and are free to speak of our utter unworthiness, and the great imperfection of all our services. But after all, it is our virtue, imperfect as it is, that recommends men to God, by which good men come to have a saving interest in Christ, and God's favor, rather than others; and these things are bestowed in testimony of God's respect to their goodness. So that whether they will allow the term merit or no, yet they hold, that we are accepted by our own merit, in the same sense, though not in the same degree, as under the first covenant.

(Works of President [Jonathan] Edwards, Volume 5 (of 10), pp. 447-48, 1829 ed.)


Friday, August 08, 2008

Thoughts / Distinctions on Merit and Adam

Is the Covenant of Works a covenant based on merit? We affirm.

By the covenant of works, we mean that covenant provided to Adam, which takes the form, "do this and live." Thus, when we speak of the covenant of works, we are not distinguishing between the New Testament and the Old Testament, but between the Covenant of Works made with Adam and the Covenant of Grace through Christ (under various administrations, prominently the Mosaic and the Apostolic administrations).

By merit we do not mean merit in a strict sense, for merit in a strict sense would require that man give to God something more than God deserves. God, as Creator, deserves perfect obedience. Thus, it is impossible for man ever to have strict merit in the sight of God.

Nevertheless, there is covenantal or "pactum" merit in the Covenant of Works. Thus, God (by virtue of the covenant of works) bound himself to permit man to live if he obeyed. Thus, we do not refer to merited eternal life except upon condition of eternal obedience.

Thus, we do not deal in respect to this question with the issue of whether Adam would have been confirmed in obedience, if he had endured for a period of time in a state of obedience.

Our reasons for believing that there is merit (broadly defined) in the Covenant of Works is as follows:

1) Adam earned/deserved/merited death. Scripture teaches us that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). The concept of wages implies merit, for wages are earned.

2) Christ earned/deserved/merited life. God had promised, if a man would keep God's statutes and judgments "he shall live in them: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 18:5) Christ kept them perfectly, and consequently deserved life.

The two principles serve to explain salvation

1) By Adam's disobedience we have come under the curse of the law, and have further doomed ourselves by our own personal disobedience. (Romans 5:12)
2) Since perfect obedience is the requirement of the law, it is impossible for the demerit (both Adam's as our federal head and our own) to be overcome by through our own merit obtained through the law. (Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16)
3) But Christ's death would be a violation of the Covenant of Works, since God promised life to covenant keepers. (Leviticus 18:5)
4) Moreover life for the elect would be a violation of the Covenant of Works, since man deserves death rather than life. (Romans 6:23)
5) Wherefore, Christ voluntarily (John 10:18) took the place (Romans 5:8) of the elect. (Hebrews 12:2)
6) Thereby, He was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21); and
7) We (the elect) were made the righteous of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We refer to this as double imputation. Thus, Christ was slain for us. He is our vicarious, substitutionary atonement. By double-imputation he was punished and we are made free. His merit (and life) becomes our merit, and our demerit (and death) became his.

If the covenant of works is not one of meriting life by obedience (Adam failing), then Christ could not merit life by fulfilling the law. But if Christ did not merit life, then God is not strictly just in giving life to the elect. Yet God is just and the justifier of the elect, namely those who believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:26)

Praise be to our Gracious and Just God,


The Real Turretin and Pictet on: Christ's Righteousness

Turretin writes:

Such is the perfection of the atonement, that it corresponds to the justice of God revealed in the Word, to the demands of the law, and to the miseries and necessities of those for whom it was made. Had it been in its own nature deficient, and derived its sufficiency only from God’s acceptance of it through mere grace, then the victims under the law might have possessed equal efficacy in making atonement for sin, contrary to Heb. x. 4. Its perfection is derived from its own intrinsic fulness of merit. It is perfect: (1.) In respect to parts; because it satisfied all the demands which the law makes upon us, both in relation to the obedience of life and the suffering of death. By enduring the punishments due to us, it has freed us from death and condemnation. And by its meritorious efficacy, it has reconciled God the Father to us and has acquired for us a title to eternal life. (2.) It is perfect in degree; for Christ has not only done and suffered all that which the law claims of us, but all this in a full and perfect degree; so that nothing more, in this respect, can possibly be desired. The perfection in degree is derived from the infinite dignity of the person who suffered and the severity of the punishment exacted. (3.) Hence follows the perfection in its effects. In respect of God, it has effected an entire reconciliation with him; in relation to sin, it has wrought full expiation and pardon; and in relation to believers, its effects are perfection in holiness and complete redemption, both as to deliverance from death, and as to a title to life and its possession.

(Turretin, On the Atonement of Christ, 1859 ed. p. 68)

And Pictet writes:

And not without reason is this office assigned to faith, before all other graces, because it alone, out of all the others, can subsist or stand with divine grace, seeing that it is employed, as it were, in the mere receiving and aprehending of an object which is placed without it, and because, as Toletus a Papist observes, by faith it is more clearly shewn how man is justified, not by his own merit, but by the merit of Christ, and by it alone is “boasting excluded.”

(Pictet, Christian Theology, p. 370)

Witsius Explains the Righteousness of Christ

Herman Witsius
The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man
Book II, Chapter V

XI. But we must proceed a step further, and affirm, moreover to that the obedience of Christ was accomplished by him, be believed, that it was in our room, in order thereby to obtain for us a right to eternal life. The law, which God will have secured inviolable, admits none to glory but on condition of perfect obedience, which none was ever possessed of but Christ, who bestows it freely on his own people. This is what the apostle declares, Rom. v. 16: "But the free gift of Jesus Christ is of many offenses unto justification:" that is, though we want those works, for which the reward may be due; nay, though for so many sins we may have deserved an eternal curse; nevertheless, there is something sufficient, not only for abolishing many offenses, but likewise to be the meritorious cause of righteousness; namely, the obedience of one; and it becomes ours by gratuitous gift. More clearly still, ver. 19, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made [constituted] sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made [constituted] righteous." The former "one man" was Adam, the root and federal head of mankind. By his disobedience, all mankind, as belonging to him, were involved in the guilt of the curse: and as he sustained the person of all, what he did amiss is accounted as done by all. The other is the "one man" Christ, who neither sinned in and with Adam, nor had the dominion of sin and death passed upon him, and who is worthy to be both lord and head, a second Adam, and the origin and source of the inheritance to be devolved on his brethren. He is possessed of an obedience, even to the whole law of God, which enjoined him to have a perfect love for the glory of his Father, and for the salvation of his brethren. By that obedience, the collective body of those who belong to him are constituted righteous; that is, are judged to have a right to eternal life, no less than if every one had performed that obedience in his own person.

*** Emphasis in original. Edited by TurretinFan (2008) to modernize spelling -- found at pages 178-79 of Volume 1 of the 1837 edition of this eminent work in systematic theology ***

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wisdom Chapter 14 - Test of Irony

The following is chapter fourteen from the uninspired book of Wisdom.

1 Again, one preparing himself to sail, and about to pass through the raging waves, calleth upon a piece of wood more rotten than the vessel that carrieth him. 2 For verily desire of gain devised that, and the workman built it by his skill. 3 But thy providence, O Father, governeth it: for thou hast made a way in the sea, and a safe path in the waves; 4 Shewing that thou canst save from all danger: yea, though a man went to sea without art.

5 Nevertheless thou wouldest not that the works of thy wisdom should be idle, and therefore do men commit their lives to a small piece of wood, and passing the rough sea in a weak vessel are saved. 6 For in the old time also, when the proud giants perished, the hope of the world governed by thy hand escaped in a weak vessel, and left to all ages a seed of generation.

7 For blessed is the wood whereby righteousness cometh.

8 But that which is made with hands is cursed, as well it, as he that made it: he, because he made it; and it, because, being corruptible, it was called god. 9 For the ungodly and his ungodliness are both alike hateful unto God. 10 For that which is made shall be punished together with him that made it.

11 Therefore even upon the idols of the Gentiles shall there be a visitation: because in the creature of God they are become an abomination, and stumblingblocks to the souls of men, and a snare to the feet of the unwise. 12 For the devising of idols was the beginning of spiritual fornication, and the invention of them the corruption of life. 13 For neither were they from the beginning, neither shall they be for ever.

14 For by the vain glory of men they entered into the world, and therefore shall they come shortly to an end. 15 For a father afflicted with untimely mourning, when he hath made an image of his child soon taken away, now honoured him as a god, which was then a dead man, and delivered to those that were under him ceremonies and sacrifices. 16 Thus in process of time an ungodly custom grown strong was kept as a law, and graven images were worshipped by the commandments of kings. 17 Whom men could not honour in presence, because they dwelt far off, they took the counterfeit of his visage from far, and made an express image of a king whom they honoured, to the end that by this their forwardness they might flatter him that was absent, as if he were present.

18 Also the singular diligence of the artificer did help to set forward the ignorant to more superstition. 19 For he, peradventure willing to please one in authority, forced all his skill to make the resemblance of the best fashion. 20 And so the multitude, allured by the grace of the work, took him now for a god, which a little before was but honoured. 21 And this was an occasion to deceive the world: for men, serving either calamity or tyranny, did ascribe unto stones and stocks the incommunicable name.

22 Moreover this was not enough for them, that they erred in the knowledge of God; but whereas they lived in the great war of ignorance, those so great plagues called they peace. 23 For whilst they slew their children in sacrifices, or used secret ceremonies, or made revellings of strange rites; 24 They kept neither lives nor marriages any longer undefiled: but either one slew another traiterously, or grieved him by adultery. 25 So that there reigned in all men without exception blood, manslaughter, theft, and dissimulation, corruption, unfaithfulness, tumults, perjury, 26 Disquieting of good men, forgetfulness of good turns, defiling of souls, changing of kind, disorder in marriages, adultery, and shameless uncleanness.

27 For the worshipping of idols not to be named is the beginning, the cause, and the end, of all evil. 28 For either they are mad when they be merry, or prophesy lies, or live unjustly, or else lightly forswear themselves. 29 For insomuch as their trust is in idols, which have no life; though they swear falsely, yet they look not to be hurt. 30 Howbeit for both causes shall they be justly punished: both because they thought not well of God, giving heed unto idols, and also unjustly swore in deceit, despising holiness. 31 For it is not the power of them by whom they swear: but it is the just vengeance of sinners, that punisheth always the offence of the ungodly.

Now I ask you which is more ironic: that I (not believing this passage to be the Word of God) accept this passage as generally true, or that others (believing this passage to be the Word of God) nevertheless claim that the prohibition on idols did not last for ever (as stated in verse 13) but ceased after the Incarnation. Which is more ironic, that I believing this to be uninspired believe it teaches the truth (generally) or that they believing it to be inspired nevertheless do not follow its teachings, but make and use in worship images both purporting to be of God and of holy men.


Chinese Government Distributing Bibles

I ran across this interesting blog post at the Theologica blog(link). The post explains that the Chinese government (!) will be distributing 10,000 bilingual Chinese/English Bibles in the Olympic village. I hope that many of those Bibles will not make back home, but will be redistributed to the billion or so Chinese folks who have not read it. I know 10,000 is an insignificant number among so many people, but it is a start.

Praise be to God for this concession from the government of the world's largest nation,


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Response to Paul Hoffer

Paul Hoffer, who submits to the dictates pope Benedict XVI, has a misleading article entitled, "A Protestant Proving the Superiority of Scriptural Revelation by Quoting from the Deuterocanonical Book of Wisdom of Solomon." (link to Mr. Hoffer's article)

Let's handle the headline first.

1) The "Protestant" who cited Scripture is me, but the "Protestant" who was proving the Superiority of Scriptural Revelation was Carl F. H. Henry.

2) I quoted Scripture, not the the apocryphal book entitled the "Wisdom of Solomon." In fact I quoted from the inspired books of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and Paul's Epistle to the Romans.

3) I did not quote those passages, in this case, to prove the Superiority of Scriptural Revelation, but simply to distinguish Special Revelation (Scripture and other Prophecy) from General Revelation (aka the light of Nature).

Now, let's turn to the body of Mr. Hoffer's post. After essentially reproducing my post in its entirety, Mr. Hoffer remarks:
Does anyone else find it ironic that the proof texts for the notion that Scriptural Revelation has priority over general revelation that Turretinfan, a Protestant who follows the dictates of John Calvin, offers the reader are two passages where St. Paul is quoting from the Deuterocanonical book of Wisdom of Solomon (Rom. 1:18-23=Wisdom 13:1-9; Hebrews 1:1-4=Wisdom 7:26)?

I answer:
A) Again, note that these are not presented as "proof texts" (though they may well prove the matter, that was not the point) for Carl F.H. Henry's statement, but simply to educate the reader as to the difference between general and special revelation.
B) Although Mr. Hoffer may follow the dictates of Benedict XVI, Pastor Calvin is simply a persuasive authority on Scripture. He was a wise man, but only Scripture has the ability to bind my conscience, not even the words of such a great Christian man as John Calvin.
C) The Apostle Paul was the author of Romans, but the tradition that Paul was the author of Hebrews is questionable at best. There is, in fact, a good Scriptural argument against Pauline authorship of Hebrews, but I do not wish to sidetrack this post with that argument.
D) Paul and the Author of Hebrews do not quote from the Book of Wisdom in the passages of Scripture I quoted.
i) Romans 1:18-23 does not quote Wisdom 13:1-9

Romans 1:18-23
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Wisdom 13:1-9
1Surely vain are all men by nature, who are ignorant of God, and could not out of the good things that are seen know him that is: neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the workmaster; 2But deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be the gods which govern the world. 3With whose beauty if they being delighted took them to be gods; let them know how much better the Lord of them is: for the first author of beauty hath created them. 4But if they were astonished at their power and virtue, let them understand by them, how much mightier he is that made them. 5For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the maker of them is seen. 6But yet for this they are the less to be blamed: for they peradventure err, seeking God, and desirous to find him. 7For being conversant in his works they search him diligently, and believe their sight: because the things are beautiful that are seen. 8Howbeit neither are they to be pardoned. 9For if they were able to know so much, that they could aim at the world; how did they not sooner find out the Lord thereof?

Undoubtedly, there is a similarity of theme between the two, but the relation is not Paul quoting the Wisdom of Solomon. In case you think the issue is the translation (both are taken from the King James Version above), I have provided the Greek original and Latin Vulgate translations below.

ii) Likewise Hebrews 1:1-4 is not quoting from Wisdom 7:26.

Hebrews 1:1-4
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Wisdom 7:26 For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness.

Again, there is some similarity between the description of "Wisdom" in the book of Wisdom and the description of Jesus in the book of Hebrews, but the author of the latter is not quoting from the former. Again, in case you think the issue is the translation (both are taken from the King James Version above), I have provided the Greek original and Latin Vulgate translations below in the respective Greek and Latin appendices.
E) Even if Paul and the author of Hebrews had quoted from the uninspired book popularly called the "Wisdom of Solomon," that would not be particularly significant. After all, Paul wrote to Titus:

Titus 1:12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.

Yet no one believes that the pre-Christian Cretan poet Epimenides authored Holy Scriptures. If Paul drew on uninspired pagan poets, it would be no surprise that Paul might draw on uninspired Hellenstic Jewish writers as well. Thus, even if Paul were quoting or even merely plagiarizing Wisdom, it would really have no particular bearing on the canon issue, as Mr. Hoffer seems inclined to suggest.

In short, with all due respect to Mr. Hoffer, I don't find any real merit in his post.


Latin Appendix

Romans 1:18-23
18revelatur enim ira Dei de caelo super omnem impietatem et iniustitiam hominum eorum qui veritatem in iniustitiam detinent 19quia quod notum est Dei manifestum est in illis Deus enim illis manifestavit 20invisibilia enim ipsius a creatura mundi per ea quae facta sunt intellecta conspiciuntur sempiterna quoque eius virtus et divinitas ut sint inexcusabiles 21quia cum cognovissent Deum non sicut Deum glorificaverunt aut gratias egerunt sed evanuerunt in cogitationibus suis et obscuratum est insipiens cor eorum 22dicentes enim se esse sapientes stulti facti sunt 23et mutaverunt gloriam incorruptibilis Dei in similitudinem imaginis corruptibilis hominis et volucrum et quadrupedum et serpentium

Wisdom 13:1-9
1vani sunt autem omnes homines quibus non subest scientia Dei et de his quae videntur bona non potuerunt intellegere eum qui est neque operibus adtendentes agnoverunt quis esset artifex 2sed aut ignem aut spiritum aut citatum aerem aut gyrum stellarum aut nimiam aquam aut solem et lunam rectores orbis terrarum deos putaverunt 3quorum si specie delectati deos putaverunt sciant quanto dominator eorum speciosior est speciei enim generator haec omnia constituit 4aut si virtutem et opera eorum mirati sunt intellegant ab ipsis quoniam qui haec constituit fortior est illis 5a magnitudine enim speciei et creaturae cognoscibiliter poterit horum creator videri 6sed tamen adhuc in his minor est querella et hii enim fortassis errant Deum quaerentes et volentes invenire 7etenim cum in operibus illius conversentur inquirunt et persuasum habent quoniam bona sunt quae videntur 8iterum autem nec his debet ignosci 9si enim tantum potuerunt scire ut possent aestimare saeculum quomodo huius Dominum non facilius invenerunt

Hebrews 1:1-4
1multifariam et multis modis olim Deus loquens patribus in prophetis 2novissime diebus istis locutus est nobis in Filio quem constituit heredem universorum per quem fecit et saecula 3qui cum sit splendor gloriae et figura substantiae eius portansque omnia verbo virtutis suae purgationem peccatorum faciens sedit ad dexteram Maiestatis in excelsis 4tanto melior angelis effectus quanto differentius prae illis nomen hereditavit

Wisdom 7:26 candor est enim lucis aeternae et speculum sine macula Dei maiestatis et imago bonitatis illius

Greek Appendix

Romans 1:18-23
18 αποκαλυπτεται γαρ οργη θεου απ ουρανου επι πασαν ασεβειαν και αδικιαν ανθρωπων των την αληθειαν εν αδικια κατεχοντων 19διοτι το γνωστον του θεου φανερον εστιν εν αυτοις ο γαρ θεος αυτοις εφανερωσεν 20τα γαρ αορατα αυτου απο κτισεως κοσμου τοις ποιημασιν νοουμενα καθοραται η τε αιδιος αυτου δυναμις και θειοτης εις το ειναι αυτους αναπολογητους 21διοτι γνοντες τον θεον ουχ ως θεον εδοξασαν η ευχαριστησαν αλλ εματαιωθησαν εν τοις διαλογισμοις αυτων και εσκοτισθη η ασυνετος αυτων καρδια 22φασκοντες ειναι σοφοι εμωρανθησαν 23και ηλλαξαν την δοξαν του αφθαρτου θεου εν ομοιωματι εικονος φθαρτου ανθρωπου και πετεινων και τετραποδων και ερπετων

Wisdom 13:1-9
1Μάταιοι μὲν γὰρ πάντες ἄνθρωποι φύσει, οἷς παρῆν θεοῦ ἀγνωσία καὶ ἐκ τῶν ὁρωμένων ἀγαθῶν οὐκ ἴσχυσαν εἰδέναι τὸν ὄντα οὔτε τοῖς ἔργοις προσέχοντες ἐπέγνωσαν τὸν τεχνίτην, 2ἀλλ᾿ ἢ πῦρ ἢ πνεῦμα ἢ ταχινὸν ἀέρα ἢ κύκλον ἄστρων ἢ βίαιον ὕδωρ ἢ φωστῆρας οὐρανοῦ πρυτάνεις κόσμου θεοὺς ἐνόμισαν. 3ὧν εἰ μὲν τῇ καλλονῇ τερπόμενοι ταῦτα θεοὺς ὑπελάμβανον, γνώτωσαν πόσῳ τούτων ὁ δεσπότης ἐστὶ βελτίων, ὁ γὰρ τοῦ κάλλους γενεσιάρχης ἔκτισεν αὐτά· 4εἰ δὲ δύναμιν καὶ ἐνέργειαν ἐκπλαγέντες, νοησάτωσαν ἀπ᾿ αὐτῶν πόσῳ ὁ κατασκευάσας αὐτὰ δυνα τώτερός ἐστιν· 5ἐκ γὰρ μεγέθους καὶ καλλονῆς κτισμάτων ἀναλόγως ὁ γενεσιουργὸς αὐτῶν θεωρεῖται. 6ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως ἐπὶ τούτοις μέμψις ἐστὶν ὀλίγη, καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ τάχα πλανῶνται θεὸν ζητοῦντες καὶ θέλοντες εὑρεῖν· 7ἐν γὰρ τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ ἀναστρεφόμενοι διερευνῶσιν καὶ πείθονται τῇ ὄψει, ὅτι καλὰ τὰ βλεπόμενα. 8πάλιν δ᾿ οὐδ᾿ αὐτοὶ συγγνωστοί· 9εἰ γὰρ τοσοῦτον ἴσχυσαν εἰδέναι ἵνα δύνωνται στοχάσασθαι τὸν αἰῶνα, τὸν τούτων δεσπότην πῶς τάχιον οὐχ εὗρον;

Hebrews 1:1-4
1πολυμερως και πολυτροπως παλαι ο θεος λαλησας τοις πατρασιν εν τοις προφηταις επ εσχατων των ημερων τουτων ελαλησεν ημιν εν υιω 2ον εθηκεν κληρονομον παντων δι ου και τους αιωνας εποιησεν 3ος ων απαυγασμα της δοξης και χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως αυτου φερων τε τα παντα τω ρηματι της δυναμεως αυτου δι εαυτου καθαρισμον ποιησαμενος των αμαρτιων ημων εκαθισεν εν δεξια της μεγαλωσυνης εν υψηλοις 4τοσουτω κρειττων γενομενος των αγγελων οσω διαφορωτερον παρ αυτους κεκληρονομηκεν ονομα

Wisdom 7:26 ἀπαύγασμα γάρ ἐστιν φωτὸς ἀιδίου καὶ ἔσοπτρον ἀκηλίδωτον τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ ἐνεργείας καὶ εἰκὼν τῆς ἀγαθότητος αὐτοῦ.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Why Does Scripture have Epistemic Priority? Carl F. H. Henry Explains

"The scriptural revelation takes epistemological priority over general revelation, not because general revelation is obscure or because man as sinner cannot know it, but because Scripture as an inspired literary document republishes the content of general revelation objectively, over against sinful man's reductive dilutions and misconstructions of it."

-Carl F. H. Henry (God Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1, 1999, p. 223)

What is general revelation? It is the revelation discussed here:

Romans 1:18-23
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

This is in stark contrast to special revelation, which is the kind of revelation discussed here:

Hebrews 1:1-4
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Praise be to God for not leaving us with general revelation alone!


What Calvinism Is Not!

Many of Calvinism's most vocal critiques could learn a thing or seven from Gordan Runyan's latest post at Reformed Mafia (link). Gordon explains what TULIP:

T => Total Depravity = Really and truly dead in sin => R
U => Unconditional Election = Only cause of salvation to be found in God => O
L => Limited Atonement = Substitutionary and definite atonement => S
I => Irresistible Grace = Enlivening power of God on dead sinners => E
P => Perseverance of the Saints = Salvation is eternal life => S

(or ROSES, by another name)

is not. Frankly, given the number of misconceptions out there, this post is worth its weight in gold.


Monday, August 04, 2008

An Anti-Christ: Vissarion

Glen H at Pot and Torch Apologetics has a thorough article on an anti-Christ whose real name is Vissarion. (link) He is a Russian man who has gained a cult following in a fairly remote part of eastern Russia.

Let me ask the reader a question. How in the world could we tell if this man really is the Messiah returned a second time? Would we simply go to him and believe what he says because he claims to speak the Word of God?

I hope no one would be so foolish. There are, however, those who read this blog who accept what their churches have to say as though that were God's Word. Their churches don't claim to be the second coming of Christ, but they do insist that their doctrines cannot be tested by individuals on the basis of Scripture.

By comparison to Vissarion (and he is not the only man claiming to be Jesus and gathering a following after himself), we can see the need for Scripture. It is Scripture to which we turn to know whether this man is the Messiah or an Anti-Christ. It's the same way we test the claims of any teacher and of whole churches of teachers.

We start from what we know to be the Word of God, and go from there. I hope, dear readers, that you will do the same. Most error is not as obvious as a man pretending to be Jesus. More often in comes in more subtle forms. The way to root it out is by searching the Scriptures.

To the glory of God, and the vindication of His truth,


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Bentlism vs. Exclusive Psalmody

I ran across this post (link) which provides a useful pair of videos. If you are not already sick to death of Bentley's demonic anti-Christian "revival," you may want to watch the first clip in its entirety (especially the reminder at the end). Otherwise, for the point I am making, you need only to watch the first minute or so of each. The post is provided by the blog titled (in this case somewhat unexpectedly) Let My People Read, by someone who is more charismatic (in both senses) than I am.

Now, for the comparison, watch the video embedded in this post (link).

One form of worship shows us the imitation of the world: the other shows the transformation of the world. One video shows man-made worship: the other inspired worship. One is the logical conclusion of strange-fire innovations in worship: the other a restoration of Orthopraxy.

Thankfully most folks who reject the Regulative Principle of Worship (or who consider the lyrics of praise merely an element) do not take it to this absurd logical conclusion.


P.S. It's worth noting that the Psalms are still sung in "Orthodox" churches, normally (if not always) as the Apostles would have done in the synagogues, a capella. There have been some innovative additions in the song of EO worship as well (various Troparia, for example), but less addition is found there (in that regard) than one finds in a typical church that has innovated more freely. A post today by the Romanian Orthodox poster, Lvka provides some examples: (link - there may be some objectionable icons in some of the still images that accompany the audio in the clips Lvka has embedded).

Pope Gregory VII from the German Perspective

The Character of Pope Gregory
extracted from
The Variations of Popery
Samuel Edgar, D.D.
(1855 ed., pp. 111-12)

Gregory the Seventh, who obtained the papacy in 1073, was another pontifical patron of iniquity. He was elected on the day of his predecessor's funeral, by the populace and soldiery, through force and bribery, without the concurrence of the emperor or the clergy. Desiderius, abbot of Monte Cassino, on this head, accused Hildebrand to his face of precipitation. He obtained the supremacy, in the general opinion, by gross simony.[FN1] He had the hypocrisy or hardihood, nevertheless, to pretend that the dignity was obtruded on him against his will.

Benno has sketched the character of this pontiff in strong colors. This cardinal accused his holiness of simony, sacrilege, epicurism, magic, sorcery, treason, impiety, and murder. The Italians of Lombardy drew nearly as frightful a portrait of his supremacy. These represented his holiness as having gained the pontifical dignity by simony, and stained it by assassination and adultery.

The councils of Worms and Brescia depicted his character with great precision. The council of Worms, comprehending forty-six of the German prelacy, met in 1076, and preferred numerous imputations against Gregory. This synod found his holiness guilty of usurpation, simony, apostasy, treason, schism, heresy, chicanery, dissimulation, fornication, adultery, and perjury. His infallibility, according to this assembly, debased sacred theology by innovation, and scandalized Christendom by his intimacy with the Princess Matilda. His holiness, in the sentence of the German prelacy, preferred harlots to women of character, and adultery and incest to chaste and holy matrimony.[FN2]

The council of Brescia, in 1078, portrayed his supremacy with equal freedom. This assembly, composed of thirty, bishops, and many princes from Italy, France, and Germany, called Gregory a fornicator, an impostor, an assassin, a violator of the canons, a disseminator of discord, a disturber of the Christian commonwealth, and a pestilential patron of all madness, who had sown scandal among friends, dissension among the peaceful, and separation among the married. The Brescian fathers, then declared his holiness guilty of bribery, usurpation, simony, sacrilege, ferocity, vain-glory, ambition, impiety, obstinacy, perverseness, sorcery, divination, necromancy, schism, heresy, Berengarianism, infidelity, assassination, and perjury. The sacred synod having, in this manner, done justice to his character, deposed Gregory from his dignity by the authority of Almighty God.[FN3]

The fathers of Worms and Brescia supported the Emperor Henry against Pope Gregory. Their condemnation of the pontiff therefore has, by Labbé, Alexander, and Binius, been reckoned the effect of personal hostility, and, on this account, unworthy of credit. Their sentence, indeed, is no great evidence of their friendship for his holiness. But these two councils were, in this respect, in the same situation with the other synods who have condemned any of the Roman hierarchs. The Roman synod that condemned John the Twelfth, the Parisian assembly that convicted Boniface, the Pisan and Constantian councils that degraded Gregory, Benedict, and John, all these were placed in similar circumstances, and actuated by similar motives. But their sentences are not, therefore, to be accounted the mere ebullitions of calumny. Gregory's sentence of deposition against Henry was, according to the partizans of popery in the present day, an unlawful act, and beyond the limits of pontifical authority. The fathers of Worms and Brescia, therefore, had a right to withstand Gregory in his assumption and exercise of illegal and unconstitutional power.

[FN1] Du Pin, 2. 210, 215. Bruy. 2. 427.
[FN2] Labb. 12. 517. Cossart. 2. 11, 48. Bruy. 2. 471. Alex. 18. 398.
[FN3] Labb. 12. 646. Alexander. 18. 402.


Edited by TurretinFan (2008) to update spellings and footnote numbering/format. Book available at no charge in electronic form from Google Books (link). It should be noted that obviously the account above is the account from the German perspective, not the Italian perspective (which would praise Gregory). Even the accounts from the Italian perspective, however, acknowledge that Gregory VII had started his career serving a simoniacal pope ("There could be no doubt as to Alexander's successor. Hildebrand [later called Gregory VII] had been virtually Pope during two pontificates. The efforts of the Clugny party against simony and clerical marriage had been inspired by him, though he had begun his career as the chaplain of a simoniacal Pope." The Age of Hildebrand, M. R. Vincent, 1896, p. 64).

Gregory VII is that pope whose intrigues in European politics led to Emperor Henry IV standing standing barefoot in bad weather for three days in a castle courtyard, which (in turn) led to Gregory's own deposition and exile by Henry subsequently. In the development of the papacy and its arrogation over the European church, Gregory's role is significant, although he died defeated and in exile with an appointee of Henry IV on the papal throne.

Thus, even works that essentially write off the German councils make comments such as: "Gregory's character was in many respects a grand and noble one. But impartial history decides that the good he accomplished was far more than counterbalanced by his fanatical enforcement of celibacy (q. v.), which has continued to this day to demoralize the Romanist clergy, and by his semi-blasphemous assertions of almost divine power for the papacy. His earlier efforts for ecclesiastical reform were, no doubt, sincere and earnest; but at a later period he was led astray bу the ambition of exalting his see over all the dignities and powers of the earth, spiritual as well as temporal. Not content with making, as far as in him lay, the Church independent of the empire, and at the same time establishing the control of the papal authority over the princes of the earth, objects which he left to be completed by his successor, Gregory determined to destroy the independence of the various national churches. His object was to raise the pope to supreme power over Church and State throughout Christendom. By a constitution of his predecessor Alexander II, which he dictated, and which he afterwards continued, it was enacted for the first time that no bishop elect should exorcise his functions until lie had received his confirmation from the pope. The Roman see had already, in the 9th century, subverted the authority of the metropolitans, under pretense of affording protection to the bishops; but now it assumed the right of citing the bishops, without distinction, before its tribunal at Rome to receive its dictates, and Gregory obliged the metropolitan to attend in person to receive the pallium. The quarrel of Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, with William Rufus, was owing to that monarch not choosing to let him go to Rome, whither he had been summoned. The practice of sending apostolic legates to different kingdoms as special commissioners of the pope, with discretionary power over the national hierarchy, originated also with Gregory, and completed the establishment of absolute monarchy in the Church in lieu of its original popular or representative form. This doctrine of papal absolutism in matters of discipline was by prescription and usage so intermixed with the more essential doctrines of faith, that it came to be considered аз a dogma itself, and has defied all the skill of subsequent theologians and statesmen to disentangle it from the rest, while at the same time it has probably been, though at a fearful cost, the means of preserving the unity of the Western
or Roman Church. The measures accomplished and attempted by Gregory were (1) the abolition of the influence of the Roman nobility in the election of the pope; (2) the removal of all authority in the election of the popes from the emperors of Germany; (3) the establishment of the celibacy of the clergy; (4) the freedom of the Church in the matter of investitures." (internal citations omitted) Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, McClintock et al. 1891, pp. 1003-04.

But even leaving aside Gregory VII, if one wanted a more undisputed example of papal simony than this (or than the pope under which Gregory VII got his start), one need only turn to Alexander VI (pope from 1492-1503), formerly Rodrigo Borgia. Of the manner of his election, of the depravity of his life, and of the gruesomeness of his death, I will for now leave the reader to discover for himself. While the ambitions of Gregory VII may have contributed to the Great Schism (1054) (or may simply have been the product of that political defeat), Alexander VI (among other factors) set the stage for Luther.