Saturday, September 13, 2008

Unlimited Atonement Clarification

I want to add a piece of clarification regarding yesterday's Unlimited Atonement rebuttal post. The clarification is this:

1) I realize that there are people who say that they hold to Unlimited Atonement who do not hold to Universal Redemption. How that is supposed to be a possible distinction is a fascinating study, but not the point of yesterday's post.

2) There is no reasonable argument that Universal Redemption is an acceptable view under any of the major Reformed confessions, but see (1). Incidentally, if Ponter or any of his gang disagree about (2), I'd be surprised, but interested to see how they think that position defensible.

3) Before the rise of Arminianism, there was much less need for Reformed writers to be careful to clearly distinguish their position from that as-yet-nonexistent position. So, it's not surprising that we don't see the early Reformers specifically distinguishing their position from the Arminian and Amyraldian positions (as we see with the next generation of Reformers, such as Turretin).

4) Among the many quotations alleged by Ponter and his gang as being relevant to the issue are statements by the Reformers that would seem to state Universal Redemption, if the other statements relied upon would state Universal Expiation, Universal Satisfaction, or Universal Propitiation (or the like). We leave aside, for the moment, whether the Sacrifice of Christ permits of severing of Expiation from Redemption in intended scope of effect.

5) Consequently, Ponter's attempts to wedge words of "Unlimited Atonement" into the mouths of the early Reformers by interpreting their words anachronistically in light of the later Arminian and Amyraldian controversies falls flat. Ponter cannot fairly take the seemingly universalistic interpretation only in those cases where the writer is not speaking of redemption, and - in fact - Ponter seems to rely (in the case of Bullinger) especially on such quotations.

6) A simpler explanation is simply that the Reformers, understanding the general (non-exhaustive) sense of the word "world" sometimes used it at one end of the semantic range and sometimes at another end of the semantic range, without feeling the need to clarify. After all, their biggest opposition was from folks who, through penance, indulgences, purgatory, and the mass sought to diminish the work of Christ - not those folks who sought to extend Christ's work to the reprobate.

7) I suppose there is an alternative thesis that states that the doctrine of the Atonement was simply poorly understood before the Synod of Dordt among the Reformers. But then John Knox (1510-1572) must stand as a beacon of Pre-Dordt (Dordt was held 1618-19) Reformation light, for he plainly declares:

The third thing to be noted is, That the love of God towards his Elect, given to Christ, is immutable. For Christ puts it in equal balance with the love by the which his Father loved him. Not that I wold any man should so understand me, as that I placed any man in equal dignity and glory with Christ Jesus touching his office. No, that must be reserved wholy and only to himself; that he is the only Beloved, in whom all the rest are beloved; that he is the Head, that only gives life to the body; and that he is the sovereign Prince, before whom all knees shall bow. But I mean, that as the love of God the Father was ever constant towards his dear Son, so is it also towards the members of his body; yea, even when they are ignorant and enemies unto him, as the Apostle witnesses, saying, "God specially commends his love towards us, that when we were yet sinners Christ died for us; much more being justified now by his blood, we shall be saved by him from wrath. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, we, being reconciled, shall be saved by his life."
To some these words may appear contrary to our purpose, for they make mention of a reconciliation, which is not made but where there is enmity and dissension. But if they be righteously considered, they shall most evidently prove that which we affirm, which is, that God loved the members of Christ's body even when they are ignorant, when they by themselves are unworthy and enemies. For this is his first proposition, That we being justified by Faith, have peace with God by our Lord Jesus Christ. Where he makes mention of peace, he puts us in mind of the dissension and war which was betwixt God's justice and our sins. "This enmity (says he) is taken away, and we have obtained peace." And lest that this comfort should suddenly vanish, or else that men should not deeply weigh it, he brings us to the eternal love of God, affirming that God loved us when we were weak. Where we must observe, that the Apostle speaks not universally of all men, but of such as were and should be justified by Faith, and had the love of God poured into their heartes by the Holy Ghost which was given unto them. To such, says he, If God did love us when we were weak, and his enemies, much more must he love us when we are reconciled, and begin, in Faith, to call him Father. The Apostle affirms, that our reconciliation proceeded from God's love, which thing Saint John more plainly does witness in these words: "In this appears the love of God towards us, that God has sent forth his only Son into the world, that we should live by him. In this, I say, is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and hath sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins." So that both those Apostles in plain words do speak that which before I have affirmed, to wit, that God loved the members of Christ Jesus even when they were enemies, as well touching their knowledge and apprehension, as also touching the corruption of their nature; which was not regenerate. And so I conclude as before, that the love of God towards his Elect is stable and immutable, as it which begins not in time, neither depends upon our worthiness or dignity; which truth is contrary to that which I perceive you hold and affirm.
(The Works of John Knox, vol. 5, pp.52-53, Spelling modernized by TurretinFan)

And furthermore, Knox identifies this interesting comment from an adversary of the Reformation (speaking of Knox): "Now, as touching the other sort whom you call Reprobates, you say they can by no means be saved, yea, and that Christ died not for them: then was Christ's death altogether in vain, for his death, you say, belongs not to the Reprobate, and the Elect have no need of it." (Id. at 248)

And when Knox replies, he simply reaffirms the traditional "sufficient for all" formulation, saying: "We do not deny but that Christ's death is sufficient for to redeem the sins of the whole world; but because all do not receive it with faith, which is the free gift of God, given to the chosen children, therefore abide the unfaithful in just condemnation." (Id. at 250) Thus, Knox does not deny the charge, but instead explains it (and, frankly, explains it much the way we have seen in other Reformed writers).

As brother Bridges pointed out in his own post (link) it would be a good time for those who have been making these mistaken historical claims to move on.


An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 12

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 12

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the twelfth in what has become a multi-part series.

Council of Constantinople (754) - Ecumenically Rejects Icons Prior to the Seventh So-Called Ecumenical Council

The so-called Seventh Ecumenical Council was held in Nicea in 787. According to some reports, 367 bishops were present. The Council of Constantinople of 754, however, was held about 33 years prior to that, although it apparently had only about 338 bishops present.

As noted in a previous section, though, the council of 754 declared itself to be ecumenical and apostolic:

Canon 19:
If anyone does not accept this our Holy and Ecumenical Seventh Synod, let him be anathema from the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and from the seven holy Ecumenical Synods!

And from the closing:

The holy synod cried out: Thus we all believe, we all are of the same mind. We have all with one voice and voluntarily subscribed. This is the faith of the Apostles. Many years to the Emperors! They are the light of orthodoxy! Many years to the orthodox Emperors! God preserve your Empire! You have now more firmly proclaimed the inseparability of the two natures of Christ! You have banished all idolatry! You have destroyed the heresies of Germanus [of Constantinople], George and Mansur [mansour, John Damascene]. Anathema to Germanus, the double-minded, and worshipper of wood! Anathema to George, his associate, to the falsifier of the doctrine of the Fathers! Anathema to Mansur, who has an evil name and Saracen opinions! To the betrayer of Christ and the enemy of the Empire, to the teacher of impiety, the perverter of Scripture, Mansur, anathema! The Trinity has deposed these three!
(note that the parentheticals are not my own)

Of course, today many icondules do in fact reject the council of 754, deny that it was a valid council, and substitute the council of 787 for that of 754. Why they do that presents an interesting study in ecclesiology and epistemology, but the inconvenient truth is that a purportedly ecumenical council rejected the use of icons in worship before a purportedly ecumenical council affirmed the use of icons in worship.


An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 11

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 11

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the eleventh in what has become a multi-part series.

Council of Constantinople (754) - Implicitly Denies the to-be-invented Doctrine of Transubstantiation

As one argument against images, the council of Constantinople of 754 (attended by 338 bishops) stated:

The only admissible figure of the humanity of Christ, however, is bread and wine in the holy Supper. This and no other form, this and no other type, has he chosen to represent his incarnation. Bread he ordered to be brought, but not a representation of the human form, so that idolatry might not arise. And as the body of Christ is made divine, so also this figure of the body of Christ, the bread, is made divine by the descent of the Holy Spirit; it becomes the divine body of Christ by the mediation of the priest who, separating the oblation from that which is common, sanctifies it.

And unanimously affirmed it, as it is reported:

The divine Kings Constantine and Leo said: Let the holy and ecumenical synod say, if with the consent of all the most holy bishops the definition just read has been set forth.

The holy synod cried out: Thus we all believe, we all are of the same mind. We have all with one voice and voluntarily subscribed. This is the faith of the Apostles. Many years to the Emperors! They are the light of orthodoxy! Many years to the orthodox Emperors! God preserve your Empire! You have now more firmly proclaimed the inseparability of the two natures of Christ! You have banished all idolatry! You have destroyed the heresies of Germanus [of Constantinople], George and Mansur [mansour, John Damascene]. Anathema to Germanus, the double-minded, and worshipper of wood! Anathema to George, his associate, to the falsifier of the doctrine of the Fathers! Anathema to Mansur, who has an evil name and Saracen opinions! To the betrayer of Christ and the enemy of the Empire, to the teacher of impiety, the perverter of Scripture, Mansur, anathema! The Trinity has deposed these three!

What's even more inconvenient to those who maintain transubstantiation is that when a later council purported to overturn the decrees of this council, no mention is made of this argument. In other words, the council that tried to overturn this council did not argue that the bread and wine are not figures of Christ's humanity, but instead focused on the alleged permissibility of other figures - representational figures that they supposed could be justified.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Unlimited Atonement is not a Reformed Doctrine

David Ponter writes: "What is clear now, beyond any doubt whatsoever, is that the doctrine of unlimited atonement was a Reformed doctrine. The evidence now is of such efficacy that only a proverbial fool would insist otherwise." (source)

a) Mr. Ponter should not use big words he doesn't understand. Evidence is not "of ... efficacy" (at least, not this sort and not in this context). It might of "weight" or of "volume" or something like that. It might even be of "of ... sufficiency." "Efficacy," however is simply the wrong English word.

b) Perhaps this is part of the overarching problem that Mr. Ponter has: since he doesn't understand what the word "efficacy" means, he has trouble dealing with the old axiom apparently endorsed by Calvin at one point that the atonement is "sufficient for all, efficient for the elect."

c) In fact, Mr. Ponter seems to exhibit a profound inability to deal with the terminology of the Reformed writers, particularly on his pet subject of the atonement. Consider, for example, the words of Bullinger, who Mr. Ponter thinks is a Universal Atonement advocate:

But the scripture setteth forth unto us Christ, as the only mediator of redemption, so also of intercession. The office of a mediator touching redemption and intercession is one and the selfsame. A mediator putteth himself in the midst between them that are at variance or disagreement; and he is joined to each in disposition and nature. An intercessor putteth himself in the midst between them that are at strife and dissension; and unless he be indifferent for either side, he cannot be an intercessor.

But, as you can see, Bullinger properly interrelates the roles of redemption and intercession. And furthermore, when Bullinger encounters the key passage upon which universal atonement advocates hang their hat, we seem him give the Calvinist explanation:

And the holy evangelist John, agreeing with Paul, doth say: "The blood of the Son of God doth cleanse us from all sin. For he is the propitiation for our sins; not for our sins only, but for the sins of all the world." Therefore the merit of Christ his redemption doth extend itself to all the faithful of both the testaments.
(and the student of Calvin will recall that Calvin likewise does not interpret this key verse in a universalistic sense)

d) Perhaps a better example of Mr. Ponter's inability to grasp Reformed theological terminology comes in his infamous "Calvin file," a massive compilation of quotations alleged to be related to the issue of the atonement, and particularly to its scope. For example, Mr. Ponter seems to think that Calvin means by "world" each and every man, and cites a number of places where Calvin refers to Christ as dying for the world. The problem is, if Ponter is right, then we have some odd results, for Calvin is quoted as saying:

But the usefulness of this doctrine extends much farther; for never are we fully confirmed in the result of the death of Christ, till we are convinced that he was not accidentally dragged by men to the cross, but that the sacrifice had been appointed by an eternal decree of God for expiating the sins of the world. For whence do we obtain reconciliation, but because Christ has appeased the Father by his obedience? Wherefore let us always place before our minds the providence of God, which Judas himself, and all wicked men–though it is contrary to their wish, and though they have another end in view–are compelled to obey. Let us always hold this to be a fixed principle, that Christ suffered, because it pleased God to have such an expiation… In short, God’s determination that the world should be redeemed, does not at all interfere with Judas being a wicked traitor. Hence we perceive, that though men can do nothing but what God has appointed, still this does not free them from condemnation, when they are led by a wicked desire to sin. John Calvin, Matthew 26:24.

And again:

However, this is not to exclude what is shown in all other passages, and even to derogate from the article that the death and passion of our Lord Jesus would not have served to wipe away the iniquities of the world except insofar as He obeyed, indeed, abasing Himself even to so frightful a death. Sermons on the Deity of Christ, Sermon 9, Matt 27-45-54, p., 156.

And again:

“Which is shed for many.” By the word “many” he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke–Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated. John Calvin, Mark 14:24.

Thus, if Mr. Ponter had properly understood "world" in Calvin to mean the exhaustive sense of the word to which it is ordinarily put by Amyraldian and Arminian folks today, we have an interesting problem, for Calvin does not say that Christ simply died for the world, Calvin also says that Christ has, by his blood, "redeemed" the world, and "expiated" (or "wiped away") its sins.

And furthermore, as Mr. Ponter quotes:

“To bear,” or, “take away sins”, is to free from guilt by his satisfaction those who have sinned. He says the sins of many, that is, of all, as in Romans 5:15. It is yet certain that not all receive benefit from the death of Christ; but this happens, because their unbelief prevents them. At the same time this question is not to be discussed here, for the Apostle is not speaking of the few or of the many to whom the death of Christ may be available; but he simply means that he died for others and not for himself; and therefore he opposes many to one. John Calvin, Hebrews 9:28.

If - in the exhaustive sense - the world is freed from guilt for its sins, then there can be no hell at the hands of a just God. If the sins of the world have been expiated and wiped away, they do not any longer remain. If the world has been redeemed, it is Christ's and he is its. But we need not stop there:

The bread which I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world. I wish they had been less accustomed to unbridled license in lacerating Scripture. I not only admit their postulate, that the bread is truly flesh, but I go farther, and add what they injuriously and shamefully omit, that this bread is given daily, as the flesh was offered once on the cross for the salvation of the world. Nor is the repetition of the expression, I will give, superfluous. The bread, therefore, is truly and properly the flesh of Christ, inasmuch as he is there speaking not of a corruptible or fading but of heavenly aliment. John Calvin, “Second Defence of the Pious and Orthodox Faith Concerning the Sacraments in Answer to the Calumnies of Joachim Westphal,” in Selected Works, vol, 2, p., 425.

and likewise:

Christ doth not only declare his power, but also his goodness; to the end he may allure men unto himself with the sweetness of his grace. For he came to save the world, and not to condemn it. John Calvin, Acts 5:12.

So, indeed, if Christ died to save the world (and if world = each and every person) then Christ failed to accomplish what he intended or we have universalism. Yet Calvin both clearly taught the reality of hell and the concept of reprobate men who end up in hell, as Mr. Ponter does not deny.

Furthermore, Calvin taught, in a passage not quoted by Mr. Ponter:

That God can do whatsoever he pleaseth is a doctrine of great importance, provided it be truly and legitimately applied. This caution is necessary, because curious and forward persons, as is usual with them, take the liberty of abusing a sound doctrine by producing it in defense of their frantic reveries. And in this matter we daily witness too much of the wildness of human ingenuity. This mystery, which ought to command our admiration and awe, is by many shamelessly and irreverently made a topic of idle talk. If we would derive advantage from this doctrine, we must attend to the import of God’s doing whatsoever he pleaseth in heaven and on the earth. And, first, God has all power for the preservation of his Church, and for providing for her welfare; and, secondly, all creatures are under his control, and therefore nothing can prevent him from accomplishing all his purposes. However much, then, the faithful may find themselves cut off from all means of subsistence and safety, they ought nevertheless to take courage from the fact, that God is not only superior to all impediments, but that he can render them subservient to the advancement of his own designs. This, too, must also be borne in mind, that all events are the result of God’s appointment alone, and that nothing happens by chance. This much it was proper to premise respecting the use of this doctrine, that we may be prevented from forming unworthy conceptions of the glory of God, as men of wild imaginations are wont to do. Adopting this principle, we ought not to be ashamed frankly to acknowledge that God, by his eternal counsel, manages all things in such a manner, that nothing can be done but by his will and appointment. John Calvin, Psalm 115:3

Likewise, Calvin taught (in yet another passage that Mr. Ponter omits from his list):

That is, “That I should not suffer it to be taken from me or perish;” by which he means, that he is not the guardian of our salvation for a single day, or for a few days, but that he will take care of it to the end, so that he will conduct us, as it were, from the commencement to the termination of our course; and therefore he mentions the last resurrection. This promise is highly necessary for us, who miserably groan under so great weakness of the flesh, of which every one of us is sufficiently aware; and at every moment, indeed, the salvation of the whole world might be ruined, were it not that believers, supported by the hand of Christ, advance boldly to the day of resurrection. Let this, therefore, be fixed in our minds, that Christ has stretched out his hand to us, that he may not desert us in the midst of the course, but that, relying on his goodness, we may boldly raise our eyes to the last day. John Calvin, John 6:39

In short, this is how we are to understand Calvin's words, namely that the salvation of the whole world is the salvation of elect.

Thus, Calvin's editor wisely provided this footnote on Romans 14:15:

From the words “destroy not,” etc., some have deduced the sentiment, that those for whom Christ died may perish for ever. It is neither wise nor just to draw a conclusion of this kind; for it is one that is negatived by many positive declarations of Scripture. Man’s inference, when contrary to God’s word, cannot be right. Besides, the Apostle’s object in this passage is clearly this, — to exhibit the sin of those who disregarded without saying that it actually effected that evil. Some have very unwisely attempted to obviate the inference above mentioned, by suggesting, that the destruction meant was that of comfort and edification. But no doubt the Apostle meant the ruin of the soul; hence the urgency of his exhortation, — “Do not act in such a way as tends to endanger the safety of a soul for whom Christ has shed his blood;” or, “Destroy not,” that is, as far as you can do so. Apostles and ministers are said to “save” men; some are exhorted here not to “destroy” them. Neither of these effects can follow, except in the first instance, God grants his blessing, and in the second his permission; and his permission as to his people he will never grant, as he has expressly told us. See Joh 10:27-29. — Ed.

Finally, Calvin explains the death of the reprobate in a way that does not fit with Mr. Ponter's Universal Atonement thesis:

Now as salvation depends solely on the election of God, the reprobate must perish, in whatever way this may be effected; not that they are innocent, and free from all blame, when God destroys them, but because, by their own malice, they turn to their destruction all that is offered to them, however salutary it may be. To those who willingly perish the Gospel thus becomes, as Paul assures us, the savor of death unto death, (2Co 2:16;) for, though it is offered to all for salvation, it does not yield this fruit in any but the elect. It belongs to a faithful and honest teacher to regulate every thing which he brings forward by a regard to the advantage of all; but whenever the result is different, let us take comfort from Christ’s reply. It is beautifully expressed by the parable, that the cause of perdition does not lie in the doctrine, but that the reprobate who have no root in God, when the doctrine is presented to them, throw out their hidden venom, and thus accelerate that death to which they were already doomed.

Notice that it is the doctrine that is presented to them - not the blood of Christ itself, as though Christ were offered to men, rather than to God - but the doctrine and promise that if they trust in Christ they will be saved.

The bottom line is this, Mr. Ponter is mistaken in his theory that Unlimited Atonement is "a" Reformed Doctrine. It is an Amyraldian and Arminian doctrine. It is specifically condemned by the Westminster Confession of Faith:

VI. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

And even more clearly the same is condemned by the London Baptist Confession:

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so He hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

And in the Savoy Declaration:

As God bath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he by the eternal and most free purpose of his will fore-ordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.

Likewise also in the Canons of Dordt:

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son's costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God's will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit's other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.

The Westminster Larger Catechism states:

Q. 59. Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?

A. Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.

These are the leading confessions of the Reformed churches. Mr. Ponter's view of Calvin that has Calvin claiming that Christ redeemed each and every person places Calvin outside of the Reformed position, and in logical inconsistency with Calvin himself.

This is not the first time that Ponter's false thesis has been rebutted. For example, I found this excellent rebuttal over at the PuritanBoard (link). Christ's purpose in coming to die was to save the elect. Those who continue to doubt that Calvin agreed should read his commentary on John 6:34-40 (about midway or so through the page linked here).

It is distressing that Mr. Ponter continues to muddy the Reformational water with his propaganda campaign against Limited Atonement. It is even more distressing to see him leading others astray (example).

Mr. Ponter's final word, "It’s time that our uber-calvinists out there on the big wide web leave behind their sectarianism and arrogance and rethink their approach to Reformed theology and to those who deviate from them the merest nanometer," just demonstrates the problem. The issue of the atonement may not divide gospel from heresy, but it is not an issue of the "merest nanometer." But supposing that it were, though, shame on Mr. Ponter for devoting some much energy on such an inconsequential doctrinal difference (in his evaluation). Of course, I don't believe for a second that Mr. Ponter honestly considers this matter to be of "the merest nanometer" difference - and if that is the case, then shame on him for the other obvious reason. Either way, I hope he will reconsider his approach of trying to shoehorn the Reformation into his pet theory. He is in a position to do research on so many more useful issues - issues that actually would help to defend the gospel from false gospels: issues on which apparently he and we Calvinists are in agreement. So here is my exhortation to Mr. Ponter: find a new hobby. This one is doomed to failure. Calvin did not address the Amyraldian and Arminian errors because they had not yet developed in his lifetime, just as Calvin did not address the Federal Vision or the New Perspective on Paul. But Calvin taught particular redemption and did so in his Institutes, where he was trying to be precisely theological:

39. The sum of evangelical doctrine is, to teach, 1. What Christ is; 2. Why he was sent; 3. In what manner he accomplished the work of redemption.

40. Christ is God and man: God, that he may bestow on his people righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; Man, because he had to pay the debt of man.

41. He was sent to perform the office, 1. Of a Prophet, by preaching the truth, by fulfilling the prophecies, by teaching and doing the will of his Father; 2. Of a King, by governing the whole Church and every member of it, and by defending his people from every kind of adversaries; 3. Of a Priest, by offering his body as a sacrifice for sins, by reconciling God to us though his obedience, and by perpetual intercession for his people to the Father.

42. He performed the office of a Redeemer by dying for our sins, by rising again for our justification, by opening heaven to us through his ascension, by sitting at the right hand of the Father whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead; and, therefore, he procured for us the grace of God and salvation.


N.B. All emphases in the quotations above were added by TurretinFan.

UPDATE: Mr. Ponter, showering us with his kindness, has made some more bold assertions

Mr. Ponter provides two alleged quotations from Bullinger that are supposed to justify his bizarre behaviour:

1) He never sacrificed in the temple at the holy altars either of incense or of burnt-offerings. He never used priestly garments, which were figurative; whereof I spoke when I expounded the ceremonial laws [Heb. 8]. Therefore, when he would sacrifice for the satisfaction of the sins of the whole world, he suffered without the gate, and offered himself a lively and a most holy sacrifice, according as in the shadows or types, prophecies and figures foreshewed in the law of Moses: whereof in like manner I have entreated in the discourse of ceremonial laws… And that only sacrifice is always effectual to make satisfaction for all the sins of all men in the whole world… Christians know that the sacrifice of Christ once offered is always effectual to make satisfaction for the sins of all men in the whole world, and of all men of all ages: but these men with often outcries say, that it is flat heresy not to confess that Christ is daily offered of sacrificing priests, consecrated to that purpose. Decades, 4th Decade, Sermon 7, vol 2, pp., 285-286, 287, and 296. [His reference to these men is to Rome’s priests and to the Mass.]

The key phrase for Mr. Ponter's purposes, of course, is "for all the sins of all men in the whole world." Let us examine this:

a) Note that this bundle is the object of "is always effectual to make satisfaction." Always effectual! So if Bullinger meant that bundle to include the rebrobate, we have the odd view by Bullinger that Christ's death is not only sufficient to make satisfaction for the reprobate, but always effectual as well. If anyone is so foolish as to imagine this is what Bullinger believed, let him wallow in his ignorance.

b) Note that "the sins of the whole world" is the secondary phrase of interest, but again this is in reference to satisfaction.

c) One can hardly see the context here, but what Bullinger is opposing here are the papist defects in understanding Christ's sacrifice: to wit the Mass and Penance/Purgatory. Thus, Bullinger is emphasizing with Scripture the one-time nature of Christ's offering (against the Mass) and the "for all sins of all men" aspect (against the notion of Penance/Purgatory).

Even if some petulant person will disagree with the analysis above, surely the reasonable person can see how Bullinger can mean something other than "Universal Atonement" by his comment.

Continuing to the second quotation:

2) Also they declare by the way, whom he has redeemed: that is to wit, men of all tribes, &c. In which rehearsal he does imitate Daniel in the 7. chapt. and signifies an universality, for the Lord has died for all: but that all are not made partakers of this redemption, it is through their own fault. For the Lord excludes no man, but him only which through his own unbelief, and misbelief excludes himself. &c. Henry Bullinger, A Hvndred Sermons Vpon the Apocalipse of Iesu Christ. (London: Printed by Iohn Daye, Dwellyng ouer Aldersgate, 1573), 79-80.

The key phrase here, for Mr. Ponter, is "signifies an universality, for the Lord has died for all: but that all are not made partakers of this redemption, it is through their own fault. For the Lord excludes no man...." Let us discuss:

a) Bullinger is speaking of the redeemed. If then, as Mr. Ponter supposes, this is a reference to all of mankind exhaustively, then Bullinger is plainly at odds with the standard Reformed works identified above, which limit redemption to the elect.

b) Notice, however, that Bullinger adopts the sense of all as in "men of all tribes," the normal explanation of "all" used by particularists, not universalists.

c) Finally, note that Bullinger himself states, "but that all are not made partakers of this redemption," which again is fully consistent with a particularist qualification and explanation, and not with a view that Christ actually redeems each and every man exhaustively.

Additionally to these two quotations from Bullinger (apparently the best examples he could muster, for Mr. Ponter states: "Now, if these two comments from Bullinger do not convince, then nothing will."), Mr. Ponter quotes from another work of Bullinger's against the Anabaptists where evidently Bullinger speaks of Christ being the "mediator for all sinners," which one supposes Bullinger means to refer to the category not only of adults, but also of infants.

Finally (though Mr. Ponter places it as his principle testimony), Mr. Ponter quotes from a secondary source, which states:

Clear statements of nonspeculative hypothetical universalism can be found (as Davenant recognized) in Heinrich Bullinger’s Decades and commentary on the Apocalypse, in Wolfgang Musculus’ Loci communes, in Ursinus’ catechetical lectures, and in Zanchi’s Tractatus de praedestinatione sanctorum, among other places. In addition, the Canons of Dort, in affirming the standard distinction of a sufficiency of Christ’s death for all and its efficiency for the elect, actually refrain from canonizing either the early form of hypothetical universalism or the assumption that Christ’s sufficiency serves only to leave the nonelect without excuse.

Mr. Ponter, however, has provided what he views as the best such "clear statements" from the decades and from the commentary on the Apocalypse, and neither has proved to say what Mr. Ponter would seem to need it to say.

In short, Universal Atonement is not the doctrine of the Reformation. As Bullinger himself declared:

The sacrifice of confession, is of praise and thanksgiving, which we offer to God for the redemption and benefits of God freely bestowed upon His church.

And we better understand Bullinger's seemingly Universalistic tones when we recall that he wrote:

And it is not amiss in this place fist of all to mark, that Christ is called a propitiation, or satisfaction, not for sinners or people of one or two ages, but for all sinners and all faithful people throughout the whole world. One Christ is sufficient for all: one intercessor with the Father is set forth unto all. For how so often thou sinnest, so often thou hast ready a righteous intercessor with the Father. Not that we should imagine in heaven, as in a court, the Father upon his throne to sit as a judge, and the Son our patron so often to fall down on his knees, and to plead or entreat for us, as we sin and offend: but we understand with the apostle, that Christ is the advocate and the universal priest of the church, and that he only appeareth in the presence of the Father: because as the power and force of his death, (albeit he die not daily,) so the virtue of his intercession, is always effectual. Let us therefore draw near and come to God by Christ, the only mediator of our redemption and intercession, our only intercessor and advocate. We cannot but be acceptable unto God the Father, if we be commended unto him by his only-begotten Son.

So, as noted above, Bullinger maintains the Reformed position that the work of Christ as Priest is one: both offering himself as a sacrifice for the church and also interceding for them. Bullinger does not illogically sever Christ's role as redeemer from Christ's role as intercessor, but declares boldly against the papists of the day the perfect work of Christ.

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 10

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 10

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the tenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Council of Jerusalem (1672) - Young Christians forbidden to read the Bible, especially the Old Testament

Ought the Divine Scriptures to be read in the vulgar tongue by all Christians?
No. For that all Scripture is divinely-inspired and profitable we know, and is of such necessity, that without the same it is impossible to be Orthodox at all. Nevertheless they should not be read by all, but only by those who with fitting research have inquired into the deep things of the Spirit, and who know in what manner the Divine Scriptures ought to be searched, and taught, and in fine read. But to such as are not so exercised, or who cannot distinguish, or who understand only literally, or in any other way contrary to Orthodoxy what is contained in the Scriptures, the Catholic Church, as knowing by experience the mischief arising therefrom, forbiddeth the reading of the same. So that it is permitted to every Orthodox to hear indeed the Scriptures, that he may believe with the heart unto righteousness, and confess with the mouth unto salvation; but to read some parts of the Scriptures, and especially of the Old [Testament], is forbidden for the aforesaid reasons and others of the like sort. For it is the same thing thus to prohibit persons not exercised thereto reading all the Sacred Scriptures, as to require infants to abstain from strong meats.

This council was a regional Eastern Orthodox council (not ecumenical) that rejected various tenets of the Reformation, and denied that the Confession of Cyril Lucar (former Patriarch of Constaninople) was both Orthodox and authentically the product of Cyril (they claimed that it certainly wasn't Orthodox and that it probably wasn't Cyril's).


Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11 - Remembered


Today, many Americans will remember the infamous attack on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, and the attempted attack on the White House, that took place seven years ago. One year ago, the leader of that attack reminded the world of that event, suggested that the continued warfare against Al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan is against American interests, and offered a long term truce. As usual, the transcript of Bin Ladin's comments will not be linked or republished. What Bin Ladin and his gang did was very sinful, and killed thousands of innocent people.


BL's mass murder of about 3000 people raised the issue of theodicy. How could a good God permit such an evil thing?

The answer may simply be found in the fact that this was in accordance with God's plan for this world. God was glorified even in this wicked act of men.

We hesitate to be more specific. Perhaps God was judging NYC and the Pentagon or the USA with this calamity. Perhaps God was simply awakening Christianity to the spread of Islam. Whatever the primary reason, God knows best. America, the Pentagon, and NYC were all in need of judgment for their many sins. Furthermore, Christianity needs to wake up to the fact that Islam is spreading throughout the world.

Psalm 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

The Muslims who planned this attack and the additional connected terrorism have set themselves against not primarily against America and capitalism, but against Christianity. They attack those who follow the Messiah, and heap up for themselves judgment.

Psalm 37:13 The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.

The days of Al Qaeda are numbered. Already, in the past year, the coalition forces in Iraq together with the Iraqi people have seriously crippled the forces of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Bin Ladin is hiding and no country openly shelters him.

Psalm 52:6 The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:

Let Bin Ladin's defeat be an example to others not to oppose God. One may flourish for a time, even a long time, but God will not permit his enemies to escape his righteous judgment.

There is only one escape:

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Worship Jesus Christ as the Lord, the Son of God. Turn from your sins, repent of them, confess them to God, and beg him for forgiveness. Prostrate yourself before the throne of the Lamb and take up the confession:

Revelation 7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

For as Ethan says:

Psalm 89:1 I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

As also we sing:

Psalm 33:18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;

So then, fear the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) and trust in Him, and you will be fed and comforted in the life to come.

Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.


An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 09

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 09

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the ninth in what has become a multi-part series.

Quinisext Ecumenical Council (691) - Laity Forbidden to Teach

Canon 64 of the Q council begins:

That a layman must not publicly make a speech or teach, thus investing himself with the dignity of a teacher, but, instead, must submit to the ordinance handed down by the Lord, and to open his ear wide to them who have received the grace of teaching ability, and to be taught by them the divine facts thoroughly.

One cannot help but notice that this canon law has been abandoned by quite a number of "Orthodox" laity on the Internet. I'd say it was also abandoned by a number of the "Catholic" laity on the Internet, but as we learned in the last segment, they don't accept these canons as proceeding from an ecumenical council.

Ten Reasons Why You Need Manton

I was pleased to read an article by Donald John MacLean at The Shepherd's Scrapbook, explaining ten reasons why one should read Manton's works. (link to article)

The only problem is this: good books cost money. The list price for the latest printing of Manton's works is $1000 (US currency). It's on sale at a number of book sellers for less than $500, and I saw one place that was offering the set for somewhere around $320. Still that's not cheap. Thankfully, has made an older printing of the collection free to download:

Works of Thomas Manton vol 1 of 22 (54 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 2 of 22 (48 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 3 of 22 (55 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 4 of 22 (54 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 5 of 22 (60 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 6 of 22 (65 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 7 of 22 (48 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 8 of 22 (65 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 9 of 22 (71 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 10 of 22 (55 MB .pdf
Works of Thomas Manton vol 11 of 22 (57 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 12 of 22 (73 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 13 of 22 (59 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 14 of 22 (59 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 15 of 22 (58 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 16 of 22 (77 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 17 of 22 (55 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 18 of 22 (53 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 19 of 22 (54 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 20 of 22 (58 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 21 of 22 (56 MB .pdf)
Works of Thomas Manton vol 22 of 22 (60 MB .pdf)



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 08

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 08

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the eighth in what has become a multi-part series.

Quinisext Ecumenical Council (691) - Council's Ecumenical Status Disputed

The Quinisext Ecumenical Council is recognized by those of Eastern Orthodoxy as being an ecumenical council - connected as part of the 5th and 6th councils, which themselves did not provide canons. It was allegedly endorsed by popes Adrian I, Gregory II, and Innocent III.

Nevertheless, the Catholic Encyclopedia reports:

In fact, the West never recognized the 102 disciplinary canons of this council, in large measure reaffirmations of earlier canons. Most of the new canons exhibit an inimical attitude towards Churches not in disciplinary accord with Constantinople, especially the Western Churches.

Generally, therefore, those who adhere to Catholicism will refer to this council as the council of Trullo or the Trullian Council.


An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 07

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 07

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the seventh in what has become a multi-part series.

Council of the Vatican I (began December 8, 1869) - Council never Completed

The council last met on September 1, 1870. The council never formally closed, however. As the Catholic Encyclopedia reports:

At the close of the eighty-fifth general congregation a "Monitum" was read which announced that the council would be continued without interruption after the fourth public session. Still, the members received a general permission to leave Rome for some months. They had only to notify the secretary in writing of their departure. By 11 Nov., St. Martin's day, all were to be back again. So many of the fathers made use of this permission that only a few more than 100 remained at Rome. Naturally these could not take up any new questions. Consequently the draft of the decree on vacant episcopal sees, which had been amended in the meantime by the deputation of discipline, was again brought forward, and debated in three further general congregations. The eighty-ninth, which was also to be the last, was held on 1 Sept. On 8 Sept. the Piedmontese troops entered the States of the Church at several points; on Tuesday, 20 Sept., a little before eight o'clock in the morning, the enemy entered Rome through the Porta Pia. The pope was a prisoner in the Vatican. He waited a month longer. He then issued on 20 Oct. the Bull, "Postquam Dei munere", which prorogued the council indefinitely. This day was the day after a Piedmontese decree had been issued organizing the Patrimony of Peter as a Roman province. A circular letter issued by the Italian minister, Visconti Venosta, on 22 Oct., to assure the council of the freedom of meeting, naturally met with no credence. A very remarkable letter was sent from London on the same day by Archbishop Spalding to Cardinal Barnabo, prefect of the Propaganda at Rome. In this letter he made the proposition, which met the approval of Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop Manning, and Archbishop Dechamps, to continue the council in the Belgian city of Mechlin, and gave ten reasons why this city seemed suitable for such sessions. Unfortunately the general condition of affairs was such that a continuation of the council even at the most suitable place could not be thought of.

This incomplete council, and especially the promulgation of a doctrine of papal infallibility, led to the formation of a sect of "Old Catholics," which did not accept the novel dogma of papal infallibility.


Voddie vs. Feminism

I found the presentation provided by Pastor Voddie T. Baucham, Jr. to be solid. Later, I found this link to more information about him (link).

The presentation follows:

One gospel preacher pitted against Kyra Phillips (of CNN's Newsroom) and Margaret Feinberg (an "evangelical speaker"). One does not envy his position. Nevertheless, Pastor Baucham wisely stuck to advocating Scripture.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Strange Times in America

If you've noticed the news, you may be aware that American voters will be faced this election season with the following unpleasant choices:

1) Vote for a Republican man who is noted for compromise, who seems soft on moral issues, and who has selected a female running mate. The moderate-feminist ticket.

2) Vote for a Democrat man who is inexperienced, is tolerant and supportive of both pre-and-postpartum infanticide, and who has selected a liberal "Catholic" man as his running mate. The inexperience-infanticide ticket.

3) Vote for a protest candidate for president. (N.B. by "protest" I'm grouping any and all motives for voting for a candidate that realistically has no chance of winning. Obviously, the intention of such voters may not be to protest. For example, a vote for the Constitution party candidate for president could be motivated by a principle of always voting for the best possible candidate on the ballot, by a delusion that he has some chance of winning, or because one promised him one would vote for him. I'm grouping all these motives into the "protest" camp.) The loud vote disposal ticket.

4) Abstain from voting from any presidential candidate. The quiet vote disposal ticket.

Realistically, the only tickets that can succeed in this election season are the moderate-feminist and the infanticide-liberal tickets. Thus, with respect to the determination of their country's future, American voters essentially have their choices:

A) Choose the less abhorrent of the two realistic tickets.
B) Choose the more abhorrent of the two realistic tickets.
C) Choose to let other voters decide.

Given that (B) is a senseless option, really the only two options are:

I. Choose the less abhorrent of the two realistic tickets; or
II. Choose to let other voters decide.

It would seem to me that the American voter's decision between I and II would depend on whether:

a) one believes one knows what the other voters will tend to decide, if left to themselves;
b) whether one considers the matter not as an individual voter but as the sum of all like-minded Christian voters; and
c) whether one believes that letting other voters decide now will have benefits in itself that offset any bad decisions the other voters make.

That is to say, with respect to (a), if one believes that the other voters will anyhow choose the less abhorrent of the two realistic tickets, then one has less incentive to assist them and more incentive to consider the value of option II.

With respect (b), if one considers oneself individually, it is irrational to suppose one's vote matters. If one considers oneself as part of a group of likeminded people, however, one can consider how the group ought to behave. For example, one can consider what the effect on the election would be if all likeminded Christian men selected option II.

With respect to (c), if one believes that option II will result in an even less abhorrent option being available in some future election, that might make one inclined to view the matter as being a more abhorrent candidate now, versus a less abhorrent candidate in the future.

Note Well: this is not a political blog. I am interested in the moral issues posed to voters, not debating the candidates. I am not trying to tell anyone how to vote, I'm simply trying to help Christians provide a framework in which to consider the election, because too often I hear the flawed mantra: "Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil." Even an abstention (or a protest vote) is effectively a vote of some kind, and Christians need to consider their duty in their role in America as the civil magistrate.


Paedobaptist Membership Enhancement Techniques?

Bob L. Ross, who blogs at Calvinist Flyswatter (in which metaphor the Calvinists are the flies to be swatted), writes:
We have contended on this blog that the Pedobaptists maintain their church membership primarily by infant baptism, adding the infants to the church as bonafide "born again" members. This is based on their supposed "covenant" teaching, that infants born to Christian parents are allegedly "covenant children" who inherit the promise of regeneration, supposedly received in early infancy, and signified and sealed by infant baptism.
(all errors and emphasis in original) (link to Ross' inaccurate blog article)

I answer:

a) In general, Reformed Paedobaptists (PB) distinguish between covenant members and communicant members. Communicant members normally only include those who have demonstrated regeneration by a credible profession of faith.

b) The idea that Reformed PBs "maintain their church membership primarily by infant baptism" is inane. Such a stratagem would work for precisely one generation. In fact, it may sadly be the case that some PB's do not properly remove from their rolls covenant breakers. On the other hand, the primary way in which the membership of PB churches is maintained in Christian lands is by evangelization of covenant members. That is to say, PB churches tend to gain the same communicant members that non-PB churches tend to gain: children raised in the church.

c) While some small minority of Reformed PBs may have taught an idea of baptismal regeneration, it would be improper to characterize such as the standard teaching. Instead, the bigger issue is the question of whether we should assume that the children of believers are regenerate or unregenerate before we see evidence either way. Some say we should assume that they are regenerate, others say contrariwise.


An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 06

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 06

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the sixth in what has become a multi-part series.

Council of the Vatican I (began December 8, 1869) - Contradicts Earlier Ecumenical Council

Vatican I declared (in Chapter 3. On the power and character of the primacy of the Roman pontiff):

8. Since the Roman pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole church, we likewise teach and declare that
- he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that
- in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment.
- The sentence of the apostolic see (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone,
- nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon. And so
- they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman pontiff.

The teaching of the council of Constance (which was the mechanism for resolving the problem of multiple competing popes) is directly contrary to this teaching of the Council of the Vatican (I), as we saw in part 05 of this series.

The fact that council of Constance declared "that everyone of whatever state or dignity, even papal, is bound to obey [an ecumenical council] in those matters which pertain to the faith," whereas Vatican I declared "they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman pontiff," demonstrates that - in fact - ecumenical councils do err (assuming, for now, that both Constance and Vatican I are ecumenical councils).

Usual modern advocates of Catholicism identify Constance as the 16th Ecumenical council and Vatican I as the 20th Ecumenical council.


Monday, September 08, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 05

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 05

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the fifth in what, Lord willing, will be a multi-part series.

Council of Constance (1414-18?) - Councils have Higher Authority than Roman Bishop

Speaking about itself, the Council Constance declared that it was:

“legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, constituting a general council and representing the Catholic church militant, it has power immediately from Christ; and that everyone of whatever state or dignity, even papal, is bound to obey it in those matters which pertain to the faith, the eradication of the said schism and the general reform of the said church of God in head and members.”

This may be acceptable to my friends who are Eastern Orthodox (who, nevertheless, would not consider Constance to be an ecumenical council), but it is less than fully pleasing to those who view the pope as the earthly authoritative head of the church. For them, this conciliar statement is inconvenient.


Rebuttals to Armstrong's Ten-Step Program Against Sola Scriptura

Today, someone directed me to an article by Dave Armstrong entitled: "A Quick Ten-Step Refutation of Sola Scriptura." (link to article)

I'll provide his points, and the brief rebuttal:

1. Sola Scriptura Is Not Taught in the Bible

The briefest rebuttal is to simply respond: yes, it is taught in the Bible. Mr. Armstrong should be aware of the Scriptural basis for Sola Scriptura. In fact, as we'll see later on, Mr. Armstrong even takes time to respond to one of the Scriptural arguments for Sola Scriptura.

2. The "Word of God" Refers to Oral Teaching Also

The briefest rebuttal is to answer that "Word of God" refers to any word spoken by God. Whether communicated by pen of a Scripture writer or by the mouth of a prophet, such a word from God is the word of God. On the other hand, we don't just go around accepting people's claims to be prophets, and to speak the word of God. Indeed, Scripture commands us to examine those who claim to speak for God. Scripture even commends those who used Scripture to investigate the teachings of the apostles themselves.

3. Tradition Is Not a Dirty Word

The briefest rebuttal is to agree. After all, there is a sense in which Scriptures are tradition. On the other hand, the opponents of Sola Scriptura use the term "Tradition" in an equivocal way: to refer not only to the things handed down to us by the apostles (i.e. Scriptures) but also to refer to the traditions of men that have been accreted to them. "Traditions" may not be a dirty word, but "traditions of men" has been given a bad reputation by Jesus himself, who noted that it was the way the Pharisees (like the church of Rome) made the Word of God (meaning Scripture) of none effect.

4. Jesus and Paul Accepted Non-Biblical Oral and Written Traditions

The briefest rebuttal here is to point out that the statement is untrue.

Mr. Armstrong provides four supposed examples:

a) Matthew 2:23 states, "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."

Mr. Armstrong assumes that this is not a reference to Scripture, but to an unwritten prophecy. Of course, even if it were the case that it were an unwritten prophecy, that would not be equivalent to "accept[ing] non-biblical oral and written traditions." Instead, it would simply demonstrate that the prophecy recorded here in Scripture (not previously) was a true one.

What Mr. Armstrong overlooks, however, is that this is a fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1 "and there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch (Netzer) shall grow out of his roots." (It should be noted that Jerome endorsed our view of Matthew 2:23 - not Mr. Armstorng's view.) Moreover, because to be a Nazarene was to be considered contemptible, it is also a fulfillment of the prophecies about the contempt that would be laid on him: that he should be "despised and rejected of men" (Isaiah 53:2-3), "a worm, and no man" (Psalm 22:6-7), and "an alien to his brethren" (Psalm 69:7-8).

In fact, tradition confirms this (there's that dirty word, Tradition), for Gill testifies that the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions specifically identify Isaiah as the prophet.

b. Mr. Armstrong argues that the reference to "Moses' seat" in Matthew 23:2–3 is a reference to something from oral tradition.

In fact, however, it is just an idiom that refers to them having a legislative authority that is from God, like when Jesus said to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's," and as when Paul said that "the powers that be are ordained by God." And yet, when those in Moses' seat tried to stop the preaching of the Gospel, the apostles openly opposed their human traditions, and declared that it was better to follow God than man.

c. Mr. Armstrong claims that 1 Corinthians 10:4 refers to a rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness, and claims that this is recorded only in extra-scriptural tradition.

Leaving aside the issue of the conflicting extra-scriptural traditions, and leaving aside the legitimate issue of whether verse is referring to the water from the rock following them through the wilderness (as hinted in Deuteronomy 8:15), Paul is himself inspired to make a historical declaration about the rock. There is no reason to suppose that Paul accepted one or another tradition about the rock in the wilderness independent of his own inspiration. Thus, even if this were not a reference simply to the fact that God repeatedly brought them water from stone, both at Horeb (Exodus 17:6) and also at Kadesh (Numbers 20:8).

d. 2 Timothy 3:8 refers to Jannes and Jambres, but the Old Testament does not mention those names

It is true that the Old Testament does not mention those names. Again, though, this falls into the area of Paul by inspiration making a declaration of an historical fact. What we learn from external literature is that the names Jannes and Jambres refer to the Egyptian magicians that opposed Moses before Pharaoh. That event is recorded in the Old Testament, though the names were not recorded.

The fallacy behind the argument from items (c) and (d), is that if Paul endorses an extrascriptural account as historical, he is consequently "accepting non-biblical oral and written tradition." The problem with such an argument should be self-evident.

5. The Apostles Exercised Authority at the Council of Jerusalem

The rebuttal is that the authority that the Council of Jerusalem exercised was: "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;" (Acts 15:29) If the decisions of other councils were inspired, they would likewise have the authority of the Holy Spirit.

6. Pharisees, Sadducees, and Oral, Extrabiblical Tradition

The refutation here is the repeated statements of Jesus rejecting the traditions of the Jews. Yes, they had traditions: and they were not good traditions.

7. Old Testament Jews Did Not Believe in Sola Scriptura

The refutation here is multi-part:

a) the Jews were criticized for their failure to follow Scriptures - that is an argument against copying them;

b) the Jews were not supposed to follow Scripture alone because they had, for much of their history, prophets;

c) obviously, the claim of Sola Scriptura is a claim that becomes relevant when Scripture is complete; and

d) as noted above, the Bereans were commended for using the Scriptures as a rule of faith to investigate the teachings of the apostles (which, while not strictly an application of Sola Scriptura, is an application of private judgment to Scriptures).

8. Ephesians 4 Refutes the Protestant "Proof Text"

Notice that now Mr. Armstrong recognizes the fact that Sola Scriptura is proved from Scripture. He attempts to respond from Ephesians 4, where Paul writes (verses 11-15): "11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:"

The argument here seems to be that in Mr. Armstrong's opinion, this is parallel to:

2 Timothy 3:16-17
16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

but in Dave's view the former passage mentions the non-scriptural sources for making a believer "perfect" and the latter passage mentions the scriptural sources for making the believer "perfect."

The refutation should be readily apparent: "apostles ... prophets ... evangelists" are three categories of folks among whom there was inspiration, by which they provided: Scripture. The role of the rest was to proclaim that same message. There is, thus, not a contrasting parallel, but rather the former passage shows the means for the propagation of the Word of God, whereas the latter passage points directly to the Word of God itself. Furthermore, it is only Scripture that is described as "given by inspiration of God."

9. Paul Casually Assumes That His Passed-Down Tradition Is Infallible and Binding

Mr. Armstrong presents two arguments in this regard:

a) Mr. Armstrong relies on 2 Thesalonisans 3:14 "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed."

This selection is devastating to Mr. Armstrong's position. First, "this epistle" is 2 Thessalonians, which is Scripture. Second, "this epistle" is particularly called out, and not "everything we've ever said." Third, "this epistle" is used as a rule of faith. Fourth, "any man" (not only "laity" or only those outside the churches) are to be judged by this rule. Fifth, and finally, all the "ye brethren" (2 Thessalonians 3:13) are to be doing this judging, which requires them to interpret the epistle and apply to the "any man" that they may encounter.

In short, this selection is a proof of Sola Scriptura, not the other way 'round.

b) Mr. Armstrong relies on Romans 16:17, which states: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."

This verse is less specific: it doesn't explicitly say "learned in this epistle," though like the verse in 2 Thessalonians, it comes at the end of the epistle (which would make such an interpretation reasonable). Otherwise, it has all the same hallmarks as the other verse: the "brethren" are the ones to be judging their fellow men by some form of doctrinal standard.

Indeed, if we look at the subsequent context, we find Paul explaining only a few verses later:

Romans 16:25-27
25Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: 27To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.

Notice how the various things being referenced are the revelation of God, and how Scriptures are specifically mentioned. There's nothing "casual" about Paul's commands here. He is inspired and he relies on that authority.

10. Sola Scriptura Is a Circular Position

The refutation here is two-fold.

1) Calling the position circular is not supported. Scripture is our rule of faith. The claim is "circular," only in the sense that Scripture itself teaches (and clearly teaches) that Scripture is authoritative. See the discussion of 2 Thessalonians, above.

2) A rule faith requires application. Fallible human beings make application of the rule of faith that is Scripture, but that does not take away from Scripture's authority. As commanded by Scripture, we compare doctrines of men to the Scriptures to verify or condemn them. If that's "circular" to Mr. Armstrong, then so be it.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 04

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 04

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the fourth in what, Lord willing, will be a multi-part series.

Council of Ariminum (359) - Large Errant Council

The Council Ariminum was held in Italy and attended by hundreds of bishops. A typical estimate is around four hundred bishops, though I've seen an estimate as high as 600 (Goode) and 800 (Jewel). It is now generally accepted (though doubtless some dispute the details) that this enormous council (larger in terms of the number of bishops than the earlier council of Nicea) was persuaded to assent to Arian errors - errors condemned by Nicea.

This council even resulted in causing division in Rome (into which a party favoring a man named Felix, and another favoring Liberius were drawn). There is an argument to be made (and it is provided by Gibson et al. in "A Preservation against Popery") that Liberius even approved (initially) of the deicision of Arminium (though, of course, this is now denied - and - at any rate - Liberius eventually acquiesced to Nicea).

But all these issues are an aside. The point is that there is no safety in the fact that any council was large. The council of Ariminum was quite large, and yet was led astray.


P.S. There is no connection between Ariminum and Arminianism, as far as I know.

The Nature and Excellency of Gospel Purity (Part IX)



Gospel Purity.

(by Ralph Erskine)

"There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness." — PROV. xxx. 12.

IT is a sad sentence when God passes it upon any, "He which is filthy, let him be filthy still:" "he that is unjust, let him be unjust still:" Rev. xxii. 11. "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone," Hos. ix. 17. O how sad is it when God says, concerning such a person, Let him alone! Ministers and ordinances, Let him alone; Word and Spirit, Let him alone: let no word that is preached do him good; let no threatening of the word awaken him; let no promise of the word allure him; let no precept of the word draw him: let him continue hardened against all that can be said from the word; Let him alone; let him live and die under the power and guilt of sin, under the wrath and curse of God: he is a filthy man, and she is a filthy woman, and let them be filthy still. Oh! dreadful sentence! And yet it seems to be passed against the generality of people in our day; and yet few or none are touched with it: let us think on it in sad earnest; for, as my text saith, "There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness."

1st, Let us improve this doctrine for information. Is it so, as has been said, That purity is an excellent thing, and of absolute necessity to denominate a true saint? Then,

1. Hence see the difference between justification and sanctification. Sanctification, or purity, is necessary and excellent, in all the respects that I have formerly named: but yet it is not necessary for justification, so as to be the ground thereof. It is necessary to be the evidence of justification; but not the ground thereof: the ground of justification is only Christ's righteousness. Many are utterly bemisted in this point; they confound justification with sanctification. Though, indeed, they be as inseparable as head and body to a living man, yet there can be nothing more different. They are most distinct. ( 1. ) Justification comes from the merit of Christ; sanctification comes from the Spirit of Christ. ( 2. ) Justification makes a relative change, by bringing us from enemies to friends, from condemnation to absolution; sanctification makes a real change, by healing our inward maladies and plagues. ( 3. ) Justification gives us a title to heaven; sauctification gives us a meetness for heaven. ( 4. ) Justification takes away the guilt of sin; sanctification takes away the filth, and power, and pollution of sin. ( 5. ) Justification is by a righteousness without us; sanctification is by a righteousness within us. ( 6. ) In justification there is the imputation of Christ's righteousness and sanctification; but in sanctification there is the implantation of grace, and something subjectively imparted; not imputed to us, but wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. ( 7. ) Justification is but one act and once acted; sanctification is a continual action, or a progressive work. ( 8. ) Justification is perfect and absolute; sanctification is imperfect, and but begun. And hence, ( 9. ) Justification is equal, and alike in all believers; no man is more justified than another: sanctification is unequal, in some more, in some less, according to the measure of the gift of Christ: justification is perfect the first moment; sanctification is never perfect till a man die. ( 10. ) In justification we are passive, and do nothing; but in sanctification we are active; for, being acted, we act; being moved, we move and do work, being set on work by the Spirit of God: is there any thing more distinct than these two? ( 11. ) Justification answers the law, as a covenant; sanctification answers it as a rule. ( 12. ) Justification makes a man accepted; sanctification makes a man acceptable.

2. Hence see, that there is no justification by the deeds of the law. Why? because, though this purity and conformity to the law, be thus necessary and excellent for denominating a saint, and evidencing of justification; yet it is imperfect in time, and so cannot be the matter and ground of justification: no righteousness, but a perfect one, can justify us before God. Do any of the saints reckon their purity and piety to be their righteousness before God? No, by no means: David trembles at the thoughts of this; and he deprecates it with abhorrence: O Lord, "enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,'' Psal. cxliii. 2. Purity may justify us before men; but we cannot appear before an infinitely holy God, without a perfect holiness; nor before an infinitely just God, without a complete satisfaction: and these are only to be had in Christ. For, when our purity and righteousness is laid in the balance of God's holy law, MENE TEKEL is written on it; it is found wanting: we are but unprofitable servants; and our righteousness is as filthy rags. If any poor deluded soul be expecting that God will justify him, and accept of him, and shew favour to him, because he does as well as he can, and because he performeth this and the other good duty, and hath a good heart to God, meaneth well, and the like; it is evident the man knoweth not himself, that he knoweth not the purity of God's holy law, and the impurity of his own heart, otherwise he would fear to think of standing upon that ground before God.

3. Hence see the necessity of a law-work, in some measure and degree. No man will run to the Surety, till, by the law, he hath the knowledge of his being quite insolvent, and a bankrupt. What man will run to the fountain for cleansing, if he does not see that he is defiled and polluted. If purity be so necessary, then a law-work, discovering our impurity, is necessary also; that knowing the malady, we may apply to the remedy.

4. Hence see the reason why God treats mankind as he doth, both with judgment and mercy. Why, the world is polluted; and God hath a mind to purify it. Why doth the Lord shine upon you with the sun of a kindly providence? It is even to melt you, that you may part with sin, and that his goodness may lead you to repentance. Why doth he cast you into a furnace of affliction? It is to purge away dross; and that you may come forth as gold tried in the fire. Why was the whole earth washed with a deluge? Why, it was polluted, and needed to be cleansed. And why will he again melt it with fire? Because it must be purified before it be a new earth.

5. Hence see the necessity of the open fountain for sin and uncleanness. The blood of the Lamb is a fountain: it is not a rivulet, or a stream, that quickly dries up; no, no: it is a fountain, a never failing fountain. It is not a fountain sealed: anciently, in these hot countries, when they got a fountain, they reckoned it a precious treasure, and sealed it; people had not promiscuous access to it. Yea, but here is a fountain open; every man, every woman is welcome to come and purify themselves at it, and bathe in it, to wash till they be whiter than the driven snow. It is not only open for the house of David, for the royal family; but to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: it is tendered to the whole visible church. And it is open for sin and uncleanness; for all pollution whatever. 0 what need of this fountain among such poor polluted sinners!

6. Hence see the reason of what is a paradox to many in the world, and yet what is the experience of the saints: it lets us see, I say, why some folk long so passionately for death sometimes; yea, would choose rather to die than to live: why, the children of God know there is no perfect purification, but by death; and that death will purify them more than all the sermons ever they heard, than all the providences with which they were ever tried, than all the prayers they ever put up, and all the tears ever they shed. It is a mad fancy of the church of Rome, and it was an ignorant fancy of some mistaken divines, and Greek fathers, that there is a state of purgation between this and heaven: but we see from the Bible, that in a moment the soul, separated from the body, is made pure. The thief upon the cross, the same day that he is converted, he is glorified; "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." O how will the believer, when groaning under a sense of sin, long for the day of dissolution, saying, When shall the day break, and the shadows flee away, when there shall be no more sin, no more pollution?

2dly, This doctrine may be applied for lamentation, that there is such a scarcity of this necessary and excellent thing, purity; and such a plenitude of the contrary evil, even of all manner of impurity. Oh! may we not lament that there is such a famine of piety and purity, and such a fullness of impiety and profanity? I might here tell you, 1. Somewhat of the evils of impurity, that we should lament over. 2. Some of the evidences of it.

[ 1. ] We are to acquaint you of some of the evils of impurity. It is a lamentable thing, that there should be so little purity, and so much impurity. For,

1. This impurity mars all our excellency. We lose our excellency by sin and impiety. It takes away the peace of a good conscience, which should be a continual feast: There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked, It takes away God from us; Your iniquities have separated Between you and your God. Is not this one of the reasons why God is so far from this generation? It is a filthy generation. And if our pollution take away God from us, should it not trouble us? Let a carnal man lose that which he makes his god, and see how he will be troubled for it: his heart will even die within him, as Nabal's did; and he will be much perplexed. Oh! how heavy should it be to us, that our impurity and defilement doth us such a mischief as this!

2. It clouds all our profession. Men may profess what they will; but if they remain defiled and impure, and if they do not tight against it, wrestle against it, profess against it, their profession is but a screen to their atheism; "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate," Tit. i. 16.

3. It brings on the wrath of God, if it be not removed; "God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword," Psalm, vii. 11, 12. O Sirs, if God begin to fire against a sinner, or a sinful and impure people, his wrath will be insupportable. It is true, God stays long before he come forth with all his indignation against a polluted people: but then it is the worse, and there is the less hope of mercy when he begins to destroy; for then he will strike them dead with the next blow, and make a full end. Is not the Lord threatening to do so with this generation, whether we see it or not? When the cup of iniquity is full to the brim, be sure that the cup of wrath is full also; full of the vials of dreadful vengeance. But death, and hell, and wrath, are matters of jest and mockery to a filthy and impure generation, whose very mind and conscience are defiled: but though their consciences be seared, and their souls be sleeping in security, yet their damnation slumbereth not; for the abominable shall have "part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death," Rev. xxi. 8. Oh! is not this matter of lamentation, that we are in such danger, by reason of the defilement and impurity of the day we live in.

But, say you, how do you prove the charge? This leads to the next particular, which was,

[ 2. ] To mention some of the evidences of impurity: they, indeed, are many. May not he that runs read innumerable grounds of lamentation? What means the abominable whoredom, adultery, uncleanness, drunkenness, and all manner of wickedness; swearing, lying, cheating, stealing, Sabbath-breaking, contempt of the word and ordinances, that take place? Do not they all manifest, that the generation is not washed from their filthiness? Is not profanity, impiety, and immorality, become open, avowed, and professed, and shameless? — But I shall close at this time, by offering only these three general evidences of want of purity, that we may see matter of lamentation here.

1. The first evidence is in the impurity of our affections. Are they not carnal and impure? Surely where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also. What are your morning thoughts, and daily meditations? Whether are they conversant about earthly or heavenly things? It is indeed matter of exercise to a child of God, that he finds his affections carnal, and earthly, and vain: but the impure man lets the devil, and the world, and a thousand lusts, run away with his affections all the day, and all the week, and all the year; and he hath never a sore and grieved heart for it.

2. Another evidence is, the impurity of our speeches, which are the fruits of the affections: for, "Out of the abundance of the heart the month speaketh," saith Christ: and, "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things," Matt. xii. 34, 35. When the heart is full of any thing, it will be ready to utter itself: as if you jog a full vessel it will run over; so the heart that is full of the world, will run over the lips, and be always speaking of that; or, if an impure man play the hypocrite, and vent his hypocrisy in some good speech, yet be is out of his element; it is not his natural dialect, or easy to him to employ his tongue for God. It is true, the godly may sometimes have their tongue tacked, as it were, to the roof of their mouth; but it is not always so.

3. The next evidence is the impurity of our actions. How do you act towards earthly things, and heavenly things? What pains are you at about earthly things? And how little pains are you at about heavenly and spiritual things? Is not that an evidence of carnality and impurity? — How do you act with reference to sin and duty? How little care do you take to avoid sin yourselves, or reprove it in others? And how little care do you take to perform the duties of religion, whether secret or social? — How do you act with regard to God and yourselves? How much time do you take for yourselves and your own things? And how little time do you allot for God and the things of God? Doth not this evidence your impurity? — How do you act towards the world and religion, when they come into competition? The world saith, there is a business must be done; God saith, there is a business must be done: they interfere; the one of them must be neglected; well, the man lets God go, lets religion go, rather than his dear worldly affairs. This discovers impurity. — How do you act with reference to the word? The impure heart doth not relish the purity of the word, or the things that are of God: for, he that is of the flesh, savours the things of the flesh; but he that is of the Spirit, savours the things of the Spirit. Now, when you hear the word, do you savour nothing but earthly and carnal things? Why, the vain man will pick out the vanity in a sermon: if he can catch at any word, that will feed his vain mind, he lays hold upon that: the curious man will notice the curiosity that is in it, and relish that; he that is learned will observe the learning in it, and applaud that: but he that is spiritual, will find out the things that are spiritual, is well pleased with, and feeds upon them. See 1 Cor. ii. 6. — In a word, how do you act with respect to conscience and interest? When the keeping of a good conscience and worldly interest come to be in competition, by our way of acting then, we may know who is our master, God or the world; for, till then, we know not who is our master: but when conscience commands one thing, and the world another, so that now the world and religion go not hand in hand, here is the trial of a pure heart. As a dog follows two men so long as they go together, and you know not who is the dog's master, of them two: but let them come to a parting road, and one go one way, and another go another way, then shall we know which of them owns the dog. Why, Sirs, sometimes religion and the world go hand in hand: while a man may have the world, and a religious profession too; while it is so we cannot know who is the man's master, whether God or the world: but stay till the man come to a parting road; God calls him this way, and the world calls him that way: why, if God be his master he follows religion, and lets the world go; if the world be his master, then he follows the world, and the lusts thereof, and lets God, and conscience, and religion go.

Oh is it not very lamentable that there are so many evidences of want of purity, that necessary excellent thing! And even among the children of God, O how little purity! Are they not fallen from their first love? Fallen from the heaven that sometimes they have been in, to the very centre of the earth? How far art thou grown earthly minded? How doth this declining come upon you by degrees, or ever you are aware? Like Nebuchadnezzar's image, whose head was of gold, the arms and breast of silver, the thighs of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet of clay; so it is with many declining Christians in our day; they have had a golden head, and begun with a golden age, but now they are come down to the clay feet. How heavenly-minded have you once been? but now, how earthly-minded art thou? How pleasant were duties and ordinances formerly, perhaps? But now, how tedious, wearisome, and irksome? How zealous have you been for God's glory, and against all sin? But now, how cold and lukewarm? — O sinner, see the necessity of more purification, and deliverance from that consumption of grace, and decay of purity, that was, and is taking place in you: and cry to God to send the Holy Ghost, whose office and function it is to sanctify, wash, and cleanse you. — Lament the impurity of the day, and your own impurity; and lay your soul at the side of the purifying fountain, and in the way of purifying means, looking to the Lord to bless the means to you.

There are two things relating to this subject that the generality of people are very great strangers to. The one is the sin of their nature; and the other is, the nature of their sin; and yet these two things should be much laid to heart by us all; namely, the sin of our nature, that we carry a dead corpse, and a body of sin and death about with us; and the nature of our sin; that it is a transgression of, and disconformity to the law of God. Though it be a misery to have a sinful heart, yet it is a mercy to see it to be so: For, conviction is the first step to conversion. And though there be many, as to their state, vile and filthy enough to be damned; yet there are few, as to their sense and conviction, vile and filthy enough to be saved: nay, they are vile in God's eye; and yet pure in their own. "There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness."

3[rdly]. The next use we make of the doctrine, shall be for reproof and conviction. This doctrine reproves all manner of impurity, impiety, and unholiness, that stands opposite to this purity and holiness, whereof I have shewed the necessity and excellency. It reproves all that filthiness that is opposed to this cleanness. And here is a large field, a vast theme: we know not well where to begin, or where to end; there are so many pollutions, and so much filthiness of flesh and Spirit to be reproved. We might here go through all the ten commands, and show how mainfold sins and impurities are reprovable, in opposition to every one of them. Oh! that God himself would fasten a reproof and conviction of sin upon our hearts and consciences, for carrying home this use the more closely, both upon the wicked, that are under the power, and upon the godly, that may be under the prevalency of sin and impurity. I shall, on this topic, 1. Produce some kinds of impurity and filthiness, that we should all take with, and be convinced of. 2. Produce some witnesses for proving either the total or partial want of purity and holiness; that the crime being proven, we may take with it, and condemn ourselves.

[1. ] I would tell you some sorts and kinds of impurity and filthiness, that we should all take with, and be convinced of. There are especially these three sorts. 1. The impurity and sin of our nature. 2. The impurity and filthiness of our hearts and thoughts. 3. The impurity and filthiness of our life and practice, especially living under the gospel.

(1. ) As for the pollution of our nature. This, it is evident, many never thought of, never were convinced of, never challenged themselves for; and yet it is a great predominate root-sin: and if it be not removed we are filthy still. Now, in order to fasten a conviction of the greatness pf this pollution of our nature, consider the greatness of it in these particulars.

1. That when the leprosy and contagion is universal and overspreading, then it must be great: but so it is here; the pollution, and defilement, and sin of our nature, is an universal leprosy, it overspreads all our faculties; our understanding, will, affections, reason, conscience, memory, and all are defiled; become altogether filthy: we, being conceived in sin, and brough forth in iniquity, are nothing by nature, but a body of sin and death.

2. When the leprosy and contagion is so great, in an house, that nothing will help against it, but the pulling down of the house; then the leprosy must be very great: but so it is here, the sin of our nature is such, that nothing will cure it, but the pulling down of the house. Some think to mend the house by education: but all the lime and mortar of acquired parts and accomplishments will not do, unless the nature be renewed by regeneration: and even after regenerated, his leprosy breaking out, nothing will wholly remove it but death's pulling down the house entirely.

3. Consider, that sin which is most unwearied, and which a man is most unwearied in the pursuit of, that must needs be very great: but such is the sin of our nature, it is most unwearied, as the fountain is unwearied in sending up water. A man may be wearied in drawing up water out of the fountain; but the fountain is not wearied in bubbling up water: so, a man may be wearied in sinful actions; but sinful nature is never weary. A man may be wearied with looking to some particular object; but his eye is never wearied readily with seeing and looking; because it is natural for the eye to see: so, a man may be wearied with some particular sin; but the natural man is never weary with sinning, because, it is so natural for him to sin.

4. Consider, that this sin that is the ground of all our relapses and returns to sin, must needs be very great. Now, what is the ground of all our relapses and returns to sin, after all our repentance and reformation? Even our nature, or the sin of our nature. Suppose water be heated and warmed, it cools again; heat it again, and it cools again; why? Because coldness is its nature: and so, why do men return again and again to sin, after all their repentance and reformation? why? It is their nature.

5. That sin that is least lamented, and whereby our other sins are most excused, must be a great sin. Now, of all sins, the sin of our nature is least lamented; and thereby our other sins are most excused. Bear with me, for it is my nature; I am passionate, but it is my nature; I am so and so disposed, but it is my nature: men excuse themselves by it; and hence it is not lamented, it is not mourned over.

6. That pollution that is most predominant, must be a great pollution: now, the sin of the nature is the pollution that is most predominant. Many marks have been assigned of the predominant sin; and some actual sin may reign above other sins. But the sin of the nature is the predominant sin: it is the sin that reigns unto death, Rom. v. 21 — O then take home the conviction of this sin: and seek to have it broken in the power of it.

(2. ) The impurity and pollution of our hearts and thoughts is what we are to take with, and be convinced of. Alas! how little is the impurity of the heart bewailed! Many think their thoughts are free: but before God they are not free; but bound to obedience to his law, who searches the heart and tries the reins, to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings; and even according to the doing of his heart: for the thoughts are the deeds of the heart; and it is, indeed, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, Jer. xvii. 9, 10. Now, the sin and pollution of the heart is great, if you consider these following particulars.

1. The sin that is most incurable, is a great sin: but the sin of the heart is a most incurable sin. As a secret, hidden wound within the body, or a disease within the bowels, is the most incurable: And such are the sins of our thoughts, and the plagues of our hearts. We need, therefore, to know the plague of our hearts and to be convinced of it.

2. The sin that is a parent to other sins, must needs be very great: now, sinful thoughts are the parents of sinful actions, both in the godly and ungodly. — In the godly: as in the case of Abraham, Gen. xx. 11, 12. "I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place;" and therefore I said, "She is my sister." She was indeed his sister, and he lied not in saying so: but he dissembled, and hid the truth, using an unworthy shift for his preservation. And where began this evil, but in a sinful thought? I THOUGHT that the fear of God had not been in this place. — In the ungodly, it is so likewise; Psal. 1. 21; "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself." The wicked steal and lie, and get drunk, and commit adultery, and deceive, and slander others. And how are they led into this, but by thoughts? "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself."

3. By sinful thoughts our formerly committed sins, that were dead, are revived again, and have a resurrection by our bosom ones; by our contemplating the same with delight. As the witch at Endor called up Samuel that was dead; so, a delightful thought calls up a sinful action, that was dead before. Hereby our sins, that were in a manner dead before, are revived, and have a resurrection.

4. By sinful thoughts a man may sin that sin, in effect, which he never did commit in act; and so the Lord may punish him for it. As the Lord said to David in another case; Because it was in thine heart to build me an house, I will build thy house. So saith God to a man, in a way of punishment; because it was in thine heart to do this evil, though thou didst it not, I will punish thee for it. By the sins of our hearts and thoughts, a man may sin that sin, in effect, which he never did commit in act. Christ reckons the adulterous thought, adultery; the malicious thought, murder. Alas! how will the day of judgment give other views of sin than now we have, when the whorish thought will be judged whoredom; and the adulterous intention, adultery; and the malicious thoughts, murder, though it was never actually committed!

5. By sinful thoughts, a man doth repent of his repentance. A man sins, and afterwards is sorrowful for and repents thereof; and then after his repentance, he thinks on his sin with delight. What is this but to repent of his repentance? As by your repentance, you are sorrowful for your sin; so, by musing on your sin, with delight, you repent of your repentance: now, is it not a great evil for a man to repent that he repented?

6. That filthy mud, that cannot be searched to the bottom; that deep mystery of iniquity, that cannot be sounded, it is so deep, must be be very great: and so it is with the sin of the heart; It "is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jer. xvii. 9. In a word, "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries," etc. Matt. xv. 18, 19.

(3. ) The impurity and pollution of our lives and practices, especially, under the gospel, is what we are to take with, and be convinced of. And sins under the gospel, are great sins. Why?

1. Sins under the gospel, are sins against the remedy: and of all sins, sins against the remedy are the greatest. The great remedy against sin, is the gospel of the grace of God; the good news of a crucified Christ, a Saviour, whose name is Jesus, because he saves his people from their sin. The promises are the remedy also: and therefore, to sin under the gospel, is to sin against the remedy; yea, it is a sinning against the greatest obligations of mercy and grace that are offered: and so, by our sinning against these, we engage the very mercy and grace of God, our greatest friends, to become our greatest adversaries.

2. The more repugnancy there is between the sin and the sinner, the greater is the sin: even as it is worse for a judge to be unjust, than another man. Now, there is here a great repugnancy between the gospel, and the man that sinncth under the gospel; for he professes the contrary.

3. Sin under the gospel, is the most hurtful and mischievous, both to ourselves and others. To ourselves: as poison that is taken in wine, or something that is warm, is the most venomous; so, sin under the gospel is the deadliest poison: why? because it is warmed with gospel heat. And to others it is hurtful; because they are the more hardened thereby.

4. Sin under the gospel is most deceitful, having specious pretences and defences; and so it is the worse. A man under the gospel hath readily many shifts for his sins; many distinctions to palliate his sin; much knowledge to cover his sin. And by this knowledge, perhaps, he is able to defend his sin, by many distinctions: as, that it is a sin of infirmity; it is an occasion for grace and mercy to abound; and many such ways may grace be abused to the encouraging of sin. Now, those bred under the gospel, are able to defend themselves by knowledge fetched from the gospel; therefore they are the worst.

5. Sins under the gospel throw contempt upon the great things of God: even the glory of God, the grace of God, offered in the gospel. And how great is that sin that casts contempt upon the greatest love, the richest mercy, the sweetest offers, and upon the great salvation!

6. Sin under the gospel is the most dangerous sin; and therefore it is great. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" Heb. ii. 3. He that sinneth under the gospel, cannot sin at so cheap a rate as others though he sins the very same sins that others commit, who are not under the gospel. Why? He that knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. — O Sirs, be convinced of these sins, and the evil of them: the sin of your nature, the sin of your heart, and the sin of your way under the gospel; for they are great sins and impurities.

[ 2. ] I would produce some witnesses, for proving of the great want of purity, whether total or partial. Many witnesses may be brought in to prove the charge.

1. The first witness is the power and prevalence of sin. Where sin is up, holiness is down. Are sins and corruptions as many and as strong with you, as they were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, notwithstanding of all the means you have enjoyed, and sermons you have heard, and engagements you have made? The power of sin doth witness and evidence either the want or weakness of purity.

[Copy of Sermon from which TurretinFan produced this (an 1860's printing) omits the second witness.]

3. The third witness is the easy and frequent falling before temptation and motions to sin. When temptation touches, it takes. No sooner are you tempted than you are conquered. Does not this discover the want of purity; and that it is either wholly wanting, or at a low ebb? Those that were eminent in holiness, in scripture, were eminent in resisting temptation; as Joseph, Daniel, and others. When a man needs little, or has no temptation to lead him to sin, it witnesseth against him, that he is impure.

4. The fourth witness is fears and faintings in a day of adversity; "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small," Prov. xxiv. 10. Do you fret under affliction, or faint under adversity? That is an evidence of the want of purity, and the weakness of grace.

5. The next witness is barrenness and soul-leanness; Isa. xxiv. 16, "I said, My leanness, my leanness; woe unto me!" Look to them that have my grace, and see what poor and lean graces they have: how little faith, how little love, how little zeal, how little repentance, how little knowledge; how much unbelief, how much ignorance, how much untenderness in their walk, how much neglect of duty, how much of a legal spirit in duty, etc.; how much laxness of principle, and levity of spirit; how much pride of duty, how much pride of preaching, pride of praying; how much apostacy, unstedfastness, and unconstancy: the goodness of many is like the morning cloud, and early dew, that passeth away.

6. Another witness is indifferency. The great indifferency that is among many professed Christians, shews their want of purity: they are indifferent whom, and what they hear; indifferent whether they perform duty or not; whether they attend ordinances or not: Galio cared for none of these things. Surely, where there is much indifferency, there is little holiness, little purity.

7. The seventh witness is gross immorality. And here, will not the gross abominations of the day and generation, and of the congregation witness against them, that they are not washed from their filthiness? — Is the drunkard washed from his drunkenness? Is the whoremonger washed from his whoredom? Is the adulterer washed from his adulteries? Is the malicious man washed from his malice? — Are not many become shameless in sinning, when the Lord is calling for mourning? "And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: And, behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we shall die," Isa. xxii. 12, 13. There were a pack that made a jest of dying, and made a mock of a future state: "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die:" if we must have a short life, let us have a merry one. Here is atheism rampant; denial of a future state lying at the root of their brutal sensuality. — Many discover their gross immorality by mock confession: like the French king that carried a crucifix in his hat; and when he had done any thing amiss he would kiss that, as a sufficient atonement. Many who call themselves Christians, when they have committed any gross sin, they confess it, with a God forgive me; returning with the dog to the vomit. — They evidence their immorality by their unreproveableness; as is manifest from their carriage to them that admonish them: do they count them their best friends? Nay, their heart rises and rages against them. How stand they affected towards the word, when it reproves them, and rubs upon their lusts, and crosses their delights? They count it enmity and folly. — They evidence their gross immorality by their filthy communications, and filthy conversations, Col. iii. 8. 2 Pet. ii. 7.

8. The eighth witness is carelessness about, and contempt of the means of purity. Doth the neglect of the means of purity witness against you? For example, prayer is a mean; secret prayer, social prayer, family prayer, fellowship prayer: do you live in the neglect of these? Yea: then doth not this witness your impurity? — The word is a mean; hearing the word attentively, reading the word diligently, hiding the word in your heart carefully, like David; Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. Now, what diligent use do you make of the word? Are you careless in hearing, especially on week-days, notwithstanding of covenient opportunity? Are you careless in reading the Bible from Sabbath to Sabbath? Why, the very dust of your Bibles will witness against you. I have read of one, that presented Antipater, the king of Macedon, with a book, that treated of happiness; he refused it, saying, I am not at leisure. Many have the book by them; yea, presented to them by Christ, that treats of everlasting happiness, but they slight the present: I am not at leisure, say they. They have opportunity of hearing the word opened on week-days, as well as Sabbath-days; but they are not at leisure. They have means of knowledge, diets of catechising, for clearing the same word; but they are not at leisure. They have many precious seasons of grace, seasons of prayer, seasons of duty; but they are not at leisure. They take leisure to their own work, their wordly work; yea, for idle conversation: but they have no leisure for God's work, their soul's work, eternal work.

What! are not these things so many witnesses against you, that you are impure? I might produce multitudes of more witnesses; but by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every truth shall be confirmed: and these witnesses that I have adduced at the time, are sufficient for proving the charge. O then, will you take with the reproof; and take home the conviction of your impurity and unholiness?

I shall close with two advices, in order to deliver you from this impurity that prevails.

Advice 1. Seek after the knowledge of Christ, and the things of Christ. Knowledge of Christ, in a saving way and manner, will strike at the root of all impurity: for, Beholding his glory, we are changed. And particularly, seek after the knowledge of this purity and sanctity, that I speak of, in its agreement with, and difference from justification: for, the confounding of these two, makes many legal dreams in the world. Wherein it agrees with justification, and wherein it differs, I have had occasion formerly to enlarge upon. They agree thus; 1. In their efficient; the God that justifies, is also the God that sanctifies. 2. In their end; they are both for the glory of God. 3. In their subject; the elect sinner believing : the man that is justified, is also the man that is sanctified. 4. In the instrument, namely, faith. Though in diverse respects we are justified by faith, and also sanctified by faith, or purified: yet, in justification, faith justifies as a passive instrument, as a vessel receiving the water; in sanctification, faith sanctifies and purifies as an active instrument, as a root and a spring bubbling up the water. — In justification, faith is a hand receiving, a receiving hand: in sanctification, it is a working hand. — Also, justification is first, in order of nature; sanctification is next: as the good tree is before the good fruit. — In justification a man is reckoned righteous; in sanctification, he is made righteous: in justification, he is declared righteous, by a judicial sentence; in sanctification, he is fashioned, and made righteous, and holy, by a spiritual change. — In justification, I have Christ for the Lord my righteousness; in sanctification, I have him for the Lord my strength. Our righteousness for justification is in him, as the author and worker of it: our strength for sanctification is in him, as the root and fountain of it, from whence it is communicated to us. — In justification, he works all our works for us, and we do nothing: in sanctification, he works all our work in us; and makes us do, while he worketh in us both to will and to do.

Advice 2. Having thus been brought by the knowledge of Christ and his grace, to a renewed state, then, pursue your spiritual enemies and lusts, and be daily throwing stones at them, till they be killed. I allude to 1 Sam. xvii. 40, where David, in defeating Goliath, took five smooth stones out of the brook, and cast at him. In allusion to this, I will tell you of five stones that you should daily cast at your lusts. ( 1. ) The stone of instituted means, and appointed ordinances. Is prayer a means? Is the word a means? Use these means in the Lord's strength. ( 2. ) The stone of scriptural arguments; such as Joseph's argument; Shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? David's argument; Shall I do so and so? Then would I offend the generation of the righteous. ( 3. ) The stone of gospel promises: such as that; I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit, &c. Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Plead the promises, and cry for the grace promised. ( 4. ) The stone of Christ's mediation and prayer; John xvii. 15, 17, "Sanctify them through thy truth : thy word is truth." While they are in the world, keep them from the evil of it. Improve the intercession of Christ. ( 5. ) The stone of Christ's death and passion. His crucifixion is that, in the virtue whereof sin is crucified. Improve his death, and look for virtue to come from thence. — Look to the Lord for grace and skill to cast these stones into the head of Goliath.