Saturday, September 27, 2008

Foster’s Objections to Calvinism

As with our current age, the 19th century saw an increase of Calvinist intrusion and misrepresentation of much of the body of Christ. The Rev Randolph Foster penned several letters addressing the aberrant doctrines of the various Calvinist sects and they were presented in a bound volume entitled Objections to Calvinism. In this day when Christians are being seduced to the miry ground of Calvinist thought, it might be appropriate to resurrect these volumes of Christian reflection. There are several works by devout men that we should try to keep in front of us knowing that each generation of saints brings a work of the LORD that each of us can benefit by. The following is the introduction to Foster's volume.

THE SUBJECT OF PREDESTINATION has, for many ages, engaged the attention of theologians and philosophers. That the world is governed by fixed and permanent laws is evident, even to the casual observer. But by whom those laws are established and how far they extend have been matters of controversy. In the Christian world, all admit that the will of God is the great source of law. In the arrangements of the vast systems of worlds, as well as in the formation of the earth with all its varied tribes, we recognize the hand of him who doeth "his will in the heavens above and in the earth beneath." All acknowledge the existence of a Divine decree; but questions arise. Do all things thus come to pass? Are human actions the result of laws as fixed and unalterable as those which govern the movements of the planets? Is the destiny of every human being unchangeably determined before his birth without reference to foreseen conduct? Or has the mind a power of choice? Can it move freely within certain specified limits? And will the nature of its movements and choice influence its eternal happiness? These are questions which in some form have exercised the highest powers of the human intellect.

The Atheistical school of philosophers, ancient as well as modem, taught the doctrine of necessity. With them, matter is eternal; and, no designing mind superintending its movements, there must be a necessity in nature. This has been differently expressed in different ages. Sometimes it appears as the atomic theory of Democritus and Leucippus and, again, as the Pantheism of Spinoza. But, whatever form it may assume, it teaches that all actions come to pass by necessity and denies the responsibility of all beings. It annihilates the freedom of the human will and degrades intelligence to mechanism.

Another class of philosophers admits the existence of a Deity, but denies his special, superintending providence. Such imagine the great First Cause to be, according to the Hindu mythology, in a state of beatific repose; or to be employed in movements so transcendentally important that the affairs of earth are neglected; or that he is himself subject to fate.

The third great class is composed of such as not only admit the existence of God, but who worship him as the supreme Governor and as invested with all moral as well as natural perfections. They reject the doctrine of fate and all necessity, other than that which springs from the Divine decree. But they differ as to the extent of that decree. This difference has given rise to the formation of sects and parties in all ages and to controversies of the most exciting character. Milton in his Paradise Lost fancies the fallen angels engaged in discussions of this nature. They

Reasoned high

Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate;

Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge, absolute,

And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.

Such, too, has been the character of many human controversies. One party maintains that God decrees whatever comes to pass and that the number of those who are to be saved and of those who are to be lost is definitely and unalterably determined from eternity, while others teach that some actions flow from man's free will and that God gives man the power to choose between life and death--decreeing salvation to those who obey his Gospel and pronouncing death upon the disobedient--or, in other words, that characters and not persons are elected. The latter sentiment, so far as a heathen ignorant of gracious influences could perceive, is expressed by Plato when in his treatise against the Atheists he says that God "devises this in reference to the whole, namely, what kind of a situation everything which becomes of a certain quality must receive and inhabit; but the causes of becoming of such a quality, he hath left to our own wills."

The Jewish sects differed upon these as well as upon other points of doctrine. The Essenes taught predestination in its most severe form. The Sadducees held the freedom of the will in nearly the same manner as the Pelagians have since taught; while the Pharisees endeavored to combine the two systems. Prideaux says, "They ascribed to God and fate all that is done, and yet left to man the freedom of his will. But how they made these two apparent incompatibles consist together is nowhere sufficiently explained; perchance they meant no more than that every man freely chooseth what he is unalterably predestinated to. But if he be predestined to that choice, how freely soever he may seem to choose, certainly he hath no free will, because he is, according to this scheme, unalterably necessitated to all that he doth and cannot possibly, choose otherwise."

The Mohammedans were, generally, rigid predestinarians. With them, every event in nature was fixed by an absolute decree. The soldier could neither be killed nor wounded until his time had come. Hence, they acquired a recklessness of all physical danger, as well as of moral feeling. But, even with them, the mind rebelled against fatalism, and the sect of the Motazalites and portions of other sects held the freedom of the human will.

In the early ages of Christianity, the doctrine of predestination, as extending to every act and fixing the destiny of every individual without reference to foreseen faith or works, was unknown. The early fathers teach no such creed. They occasionally use the terms foreordain, predestinate, elect, etc., but they invariably use these expressions in the Scriptural signification as employed by St. Paul and not in the predestinarian, or what has since been termed the Calvinistic, sense.

This continued to be the case for the first four centuries of the Christian era; but at the commencement of the fifth century, the Pelagian controversy arose. As usual in controversies, each party ran into an extreme. Pelagius was right in teaching that God willed all men to be saved and in denying the doctrine of infant damnation which had crept into the Church; but he erred greatly in teaching man's ability, without grace, to commence a religious life or to keep the commandments of God. Augustine, perceiving his errors, held correctly that man's salvation is of grace and that, apart from grace, he has no power to commence or continue a religious career. But he erred in teaching the unconditional election to life of a part of the race and the damnation of the rest, including some infants. Augustine was sustained and his works remain to this day standards in the Catholic Church.

It must, however, be remarked that Augustine is not at all times consistent in his statements. Hence, Calvin alleges that he had attributed to foreknowledge that which pertains only to decrees. His writings thus gave rise to discussions almost interminable. During the progress of the century in which he lived, a number who were termed Predestinarians advocated the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation to the utter denial of free will. Again in the ninth century, Godeschalcus, a Saxon monk, having taught that God had predestinated some to eternal death, a violent controversy arose, heightened by what existed between him and Rabanus, who was his abbot. The doctrines of Godeschalcus were condemned by three councils, and he was cruelly cast into prison. But, afterward, his sentiments were approved by three councils, and at his death the controversy ceased.

The Dominicans, who were for many centuries among the strongest pillars of the Catholic Church and to whom the machinery of the Inquisition was committed, were strict predestinarians. So, also, were the Augustinians and the Jansenists. On the other hand, the Jesuits, who became the most indefatigable enemies of the Reformation, while they professed to believe with Augustine, yet were the advocates of free will. With all its professed unity, the Roman Church has been as much divided upon these questions as the Protestant. At present the Jesuitic theology is prevalent. They deny that they are either Calvinistic or Arminian. But, while they profess to accord with St. Augustine, they have no doubt departed far from his views.

At the time of the Reformation, the great reformers drew much from St. Augustine. Luther was an Augustinian friar, and he found the great doctrine of justification by faith so well established by that father against all opposers, that he received for a time his views on predestination also. On free-will he had a sharp contest with Erasmus, but afterward kept almost silent on these perplexing questions, and, in the latter part of his life, strongly recommended Melancthon's works, which taught a different doctrine. The Lutheran Church, receiving their impress from him, hold only a predestination based upon foreknowledge; in this, strictly agreeing with the Arminian view.

Melancthon, in the commencement of his career, was a rigid Predestinarian. In 1525, writing of the decrees, he says: "Lastly, Divine predestination takes away human liberty; for all things come to pass according to Divine predestination--not only external works, but also internal thoughts, in all creatures." He, however, in a few years changed his opinion, and struck out such passages from his works. To Cranmer he observed that there had been, among the reformers, "Stoical disputations respecting fate, offensive in their nature, and noxious in their tendency." In writing to Peucer he compares Calvin to Zeno, saying, "Laelius writes to me that the controversy respecting the Stoical fate is agitated with such uncommon fervor at Geneva, that one individual is cast into prison because he happened to differ from Zeno." And near his death, referring to the doctrines of predestination, he says they are "monstrous opinions, which are contumelious against God and pernicious to morals."

Calvin became, among the reformers, the great champion of the decrees, and hence the system bears his name. So much importance did he attach to these peculiar views that he scrupled not to apply the most opprobrious epithets to those who refused to receive them. In one of his sermons he says, "The enemies of God's predestination are stupid and ignorant, and the devil hath plucked out their eyes." Again, "Such men fight against the Holy Ghost like mad beasts and endeavor to abolish the holy Scripture. There is more honesty in the Papists than in these men; for the doctrine of the Papists is a great deal better, more holy, and more agreeable to the sacred Scriptures, than the doctrine of those vile and wicked men, who cast down God's holy election--these dogs that bark at it and swine that root it up." And in another sermon he says, "The devil hath no fitter instruments than those who fight against predestination."

Sentiments such as these, taught to the youth preparing for the ministry, could not fail to have an influence in promoting a persecuting spirit. These ministers were scattered among the reformed churches over Europe, and soon began to exhibit their disposition. Liberty of opinion was tolerated for a time; but, early in the succeeding century, the famous Synod of Dort was assembled in which the opinions of the Remonstrants or Arminians were condemned as heresy. Pious and influential ministers were banished from the land, many were thrown into prison, while some of their patrons were put to death. Macaulay well characterizes the proceedings of this synod as manifesting "gross injustice, insolence, and cruelty."

A reaction followed. Arminianism and a modified Calvinism, known afterward as Baxterianism, gained ground upon the Continent and rapidly pervaded the Anglican Church. In the days of Wesley, a strong effort was made to suppress Arminian views. Calvinism being made a test of office in the college in which they were engaged, Mr. Benson was removed, and Mr. Fletcher resigned. A distinguished clergyman, Mr. Shirley, issued a circular, requesting a meeting of ministers to go in a body to Mr. Wesley's ensuing conference and demand that he and his preachers should retract their sentiments. But, though the spirit of the Synod of Dort was aroused, the civil power to punish could not be employed. Mr. W. continued to preach, and Mr. Fletcher, in his defense, issued those masterly Checks which displayed at once his superior genius and the strength of the cause which he had espoused.

In America in early days, the religious sentiment was, generally, Calvinistic. Such churches were supported by law in the New England states until a late period. The colleges and seminaries were also principally under their control. Hence, the introduction of Methodism gave rise to numerous controversies. In the midst, however, of repeated conflicts, Arminianism has increased until now a majority of members in the Union belong to churches which reject the Calvinistic faith. Of the churches, too, which are called Calvinistic, at least one-half have embraced what is termed New School theology. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of that system, the Old School assert that it is a departure, not only to Arminianism, but to Pelagianism.

For some years past there had been a growing union among Christians; controversies were less frequent, and the Presbyterian and Methodist churches were living in peace and harmony. Recently, however, repeated attacks of the most virulent character have been made upon the doctrines and usages of the Methodist Episcopal Church. For a time this was patiently borne; but as forbearance only seemed to increase the frequency and severity of the attacks, a notice of the principles involved became necessary.

The letters contained in the present volume were written by Rev. R. S. Foster, A. M., a member of the Ohio annual conference, who has charge of Wesley Chapel in this city. A number of them appeared in the columns of the Western Christian Advocate; and, at the earnest solicitations of many readers, he was induced to present them in a more permanent form. Their style is clear and forcible, and the process of argumentation strictly logical. As the reader will perceive, he has limited himself to two principal points: first, to show what are the doctrines of Calvinism; and, secondly, to state the prominent objections to them. This work has been well executed by giving the standard authors in their own language and thus preventing any candid opponent from making the charge of misrepresentation. The book will thus be very valuable to such as have not access to extensive libraries, or who have not time to examine for themselves the various writers here quoted. The objections are distinctly and explicitly stated, and the intelligent reader will, we think, be fully convinced that they are well sustained. We commend the volume as one of great merit to such as are perplexed upon the subject of predestination. We doubt not that many, after perusing these pages, will fully acquiesce with Calvin, in terming, as he did, the decree of predestination a horrible decree.

--M. Simpson

Objections to Calvinism as it is, in a series of letters addressed to Rev. N. L. Rice: by R. S. Foster, with an appendix, containing replies and rejoinders

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Arminius on Repentance

From Arminius' Public Disputations, The Works of James Arminius, Translated from the Latin, Vols. 1 & 2 by James Nichols, Vol. 3 by W. R. Bagnall  


As in succeeding Disputations are discussed Faith, and Justification through Faith, the order which has hitherto been observed requires us now to treat on Repentance without which we can neither have fellowship with Christ, nor be made partakers of his righteousness.

1. The matter on which we are at present treating, is usually enunciated in the three Latin words, resipiscentia, paenitentia, and conversio, repentance, penitence and conversion. The Greek word, Metanoia "change of mind after reflection," answers to the first of these, terms;Metameleia"regret on account of misdeeds," to the second; and Ewisrofh "a turning about, a return," to the third. On this subject the Hebrews frequently employ the word h b w  t "a returning," as corresponding with the third of the preceding terms; and the word ยต j n or h m j n which expresses the sense of the second. But though these words are, according to the essence and nature of the thing, synonymous, yet each of them signifies a particular formal conception. The First, repentance, is a conception of the understanding; the Second, penitence, a conception of the affections or passions; and the Third, conversion, is a conception of an action resulting from both the others. The general term, therefore, comprises the understanding, the affections, and an ulterior act resulting from both the preceding. The First signifies a change of mind after any thing has been done; and, after the commission of evil, a change of mind to a better state.

The Second expresses grief or sorrow of mind after a deed; and, after an evil deed, "sorrow after a godly sort," and not "the sorrow of the world," although the word is sometimes thus used even in the Scriptures. The Third denotes conversion to some thing, from which aversion had been previously formed. And, in this discussion, it is that conversion which is from evil to good; from sin, Satan and the world, to God. The First comprehends a disapproval of evil and an approval of the opposite good.

The Second comprises grief for a past evil, and an affection of desire towards a contrary good. The Third shews an aversion from the evil to which it adhered, and a conversion to the good from which it had been alienated. But these three conceptions, according to the nature of things and the command of God, are so intimately connected with each other, that there cannot be either true and right repentance, penitence, or conversion, unless each of these has the other two united with it, either as preceding it, or as succeeding.

2. According to this distinction of the various conceptions, have been invented different definitions of one and the same thing as to its essence.

For instance, "repentance is a change of mind and heart from evil to good, proceeding from godly sorrow." It is also "sorrow after the commission of sin on account of God being offended, and through this sorrow a change of the whole heart from evil to good." And "It is a true conversion of our life to God, proceeding from a sincere and serious fear of God, which consists in the mortification of our flesh and of the old man, and in the quickening of the Spirit." We disapprove of none of these three definitions, because in substance and essence they agree among themselves, and, sufficiently for [the purposes of] true piety, declare the nature of the thing. But a more copious definition may be given, such as the following: "Repentance, penitence, or conversion is an act of the entire man, by which in his understanding he disapproves of sin universally considered, in his affections he hates it, and as perpetrated by himself is sorry for it and in the whole of his life avoids it. By which he also in his understanding approves of righteousness, in affections loves it, and in the whole of his life follows after it. And thus he turns himself away from Satan and the world, and returns unto God and adheres to Him, that God may abide in him, and that he may abide in God."

3. We call repentance "the act of man," that we may distinguish it from Regeneration which is "the act of God." These two have some things in common, are on certain points in affinity; yet, in reality, according to the peculiar nature which each of them possesses, they are distinct; though, according to their subjects, they are not separated. We add that it is "the act of the entire man:" for it is his act with regard to the entire mind or soul, and all its faculties; and with regard to the body as it is united to the soul, and is an organ or instrument subjected to the pleasure and command of the soul. (1 Kings 18:37; Romans 12:1, 2.) It is an act which concerns the whole life of man as it is rational, and as it was born with an aptitude to tend towards sin and towards God, and to turn aside from either of them. It consists of the understanding, the affections, the senses, and motion, and concurs with all these conjointly, though subordinately, to [the production of] repentance, penitence or conversion.

(1.) In this act, the Understanding performs its office both by a general appreciation of its value and by its particular approbation and disapprobation.

(2.) The Affections or passions perform theirs, as they are ewiqumhtikov concupiscible, by loving, hating, mourning and rejoicing; and as they are qumoeidh", irascible, by being angry, zealous, indignant, fearful, and hopeful. (Ephesians 3 & 4.)

(3.) The Senses, both internal and external, perform their office by their aversion from unbecoming objects, and by their conversion to those which are suitable and proper. (Romans 6:13, 19.)

(4.) Lastly, the Motions of the tongue, hands, feet, and of the other members of the body, perform their office by removal from things unlawful and inexpedient, and by their application to those which are lawful and expedient.

4. The object of repentance is the evil of unrighteousness or sin, (considered both universally, and as committed by the penitent himself,) and the good of righteousness. (Psalm 34:15; Ezekiel 18:28.) The evil of unrighteousness is first in order, the good of righteousness is first in dignity. From the former, repentance has its commencement; in the latter, it terminates and rests. The object may be considered in a manner somewhat different; for, since we are commanded to return to God, from whom we had turned away, God is also the object of conversion and repentance, as he is the hater of sin and of evil men, the lover of righteousness and of righteous men, good to those who repent, and their chief good, and, on the contrary, the severe avenger and the certain destruction of those who persevere in sin. (Malachi 5:7; Zechariah 1:3; Deuteronomy 6:5.) To this object, may be directly opposed another personal object, the devil, from whom by repentance we must take our departure. (Ephesians 4:27; James 4:7.) To the devil may be added an object which is an accessory to him, and that is, the world, of which he is called "the prince," (John 12:31; 14:30,) both as it contains within it arguments suitable for Satan to employ in seduction, such as riches, honors and pleasures, (Luke 4:5, 6; 1 John 2:15, 16,) and as it renders to the devil something that resembles personal service. (Romans 6:9, 7.) In both these methods, the world attracts men to itself, and detains them after they are united to it. From it, also, we are commanded to turn away. Nay, man himself may obtain the province of an object opposed to God; and he is commanded to separate himself from himself, that he may live not according to man, but according to God. (Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9- 17; Romans 6:10-23.)

5. The primary efficient cause of repentance is God, and Christ as he is through the Spirit mediator between God and man. (Jeremiah 31:18; Ezekiel 36:25, 26; Acts 5:31; 17:30.) The inly moving cause is the goodness, grace, and philanthropy of God our creator and redeemer, who loves the salvation of his creature, and desires to manifest the riches of his mercy in the salvation of his miserable creature. (Romans 11:5.) The outwardly moving cause, through the mode of merit, is the obedience, the death and the intercession of Christ; (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31; 2 Corinthians 5:21;) and, through the mode of moving to mercy, it is the unhappy condition of sinners, whom the devil holds captive in the snares of iniquity, and who will perish by their own demerits according to the condition of the law, and necessarily according to the will of God manifested in the gospel, unless they repent (John 3:16; Ezekiel 16:3-63; Luke 13:3, 5; Isaiah 31:6; Jeremiah 3:14; Psalm 119:71; in the prophets passim; Romans 7:6, 7.)

6. The proximate, yet less principal cause, is man himself, converted and converting himself by the power and efficacy of the grace of God and the Spirit of Christ. The external cause inciting to repent is the miserable state of the sinners who do not repent, and the felicitous and blessed state of those who repent — whether such state be known from the law of Moses or from that of nature, from the gospel or from personal experience, or from the examples of other persons who have been visited with the most grievous plagues through impenitence, or who, through repentance, have been made partakers of many blessings. (Romans 2:5; Acts 2:37.) The internal and inly moving cause is, not only a consciousness of sin and a sense of misery through fear of the Deity, who has been offended, with a desire to be delivered from both, but it is likewise [an incipient] faith and hope of the gracious mercy and pardon of God.

7. The instrumental causes which God ordinarily uses for our conversion, and by which we are solicited and led to repentance, are the law and the gospel. Yet the office of each in this matter is quite distinct, so that the more excellent province in it is assigned to the gospel, and the law acts the part of its servant or attendant. For, in the first place, the very command to repent is evangelical; and the promise of pardon, and the peremptory threat of eternal destruction, unless the man repents, which are added to it, belong peculiarly to the gospel. (Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:4; Luke 24:47.) But the law proves the necessity of repentance, by convincing man of sin and of the anger of the offended Deity, from which conviction arise a certain sorrow and a fear of punishment, which, in its commencement is servile or slavish solely through a regard to the law, but which, in its progress, becomes a filial fear through a view of the gospel. (Romans 3:13, 20; 7:7.)

From these, also, proceed, by the direction of an inducement to remove, or repent, a certain external abstinence from evil works, and such a performance of some righteousness as is not hypocritical. (Matthew 3:8; 7:17; James 2:14-26.) But as the law does not proceed beyond "the ministration of death and of the letter," the services of the gospel here again become necessary, which administers the Spirit, by whose illumination, inspiration and gracious and efficacious strengthening, repentance itself, in its essential and integral parts is completed and perfected. Nay the very conviction of sin belongs in some measure to the gospel, since sin itself has been committed against the command both concerning faith and repentance. (Mark 16:16; John 16:8-15.)

8. There are likewise other causes aiding or auxiliary to repentance, some of which are usually employed by God himself, and others of them by those who are penitent.

(1.) For God sometimes sends the cross and afflictions, by which, as with goads, he excites and invites to repentance. At other times, he visits them with the contrary blessings, that he may lead them, after having been invited, by goodness and lenity to repentance. (1 Corinthians 11:32; Jeremiah 31:18; Psalm 80 & 85.)

(2.) The causes employed by penitents themselves are watching, fasting, and other corporeal chastisements, as well as prayers, which are of the greatest efficacy in obtaining and performing repentance. The other causes employed by men are likewise serviceable in exciting the ardor of these prayers. (Psalm 119; Romans 2:4; 5:3, 4; 12:11, 12.) It is possible for this relation to exist between these auxiliary and the preceding instrumental causes, (§ 7,) that the auxiliary causes are subservient to the instrumental, since they excite men to a serious and assiduous meditation on the law and the gospel, and by the grace of God obtain yet more and more a right understanding of both.

9. The form of repentance is the uprightness of the turning away from evil, and of the return to God and to righteousness. It is conformed to the rule of the divine command, and is produced by an assured faith and hope of the divine mercy, and by a sincere intention to turn away and to return. As the penitence of Saul, Ahab and Judas was destitute of this uprightness, it is unworthy to be reckoned under this title. (1 Samuel 15:24, 25; 1. Kings, 21:27; Matthew 27:3.) But since the mind of the penitent is conscious to itself of this rectitude, or uprightness, no necessity exists for such a man anxiously and solicitously to examine whether it be so great, either intensively, extensively, or appreciatively, as the rigor of justice might demand.

10. The fruits of repentance, which may also have the relation of ends, are,

(1.) On the part of God, the remission of sin according to the condition of the covenant of grace in Christ, and on account of his obedience, and through faith in him. (Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31; Romans 3:24:.

(2.) On our part, the fruits are good works, which are "meet for repentance," (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8,) and "which God foreordained," that believers and penitents, who are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10.)

The ultimate end is the glory of God the Redeemer, who is at once just and merciful in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Revelation 16:9.) It results not only from the gracious and efficacious act of God, who bestows repentance, and converts us to himself; but likewise from the act of the penitents themselves, by which turning themselves away from sins, and returning to God, they "walk in newness of living" all the days of their life. It also results from the very intention of repentance itself.

11. The parts of repentance, as is abundantly evident from the preceding Theses, according to its two boundaries, (both that from which it commences, and that towards which it proceeds and in which it terminates,) are two, an aversion, or turning away from the Devil and sin, and a conversion or returning to God and righteousness. (Psalm 34:14; Jeremiah 4:1.) They are united together by an indissoluble connection; but the former is preparatory to the latter, while the latter is perfective of the former. The Papists, however, make penitence to consist of three parts; and seem to derive greater pleasure from employing the word penitence about this matter, than in the use of the terms repentance and conversion.

Their three parts are, the contrition of the heart, the confession of the mouth, and the satisfaction of the work; about which we make two brief affirmations.

(1.) If these be received as parts of the penitence which is necessary before God, then no contrition can be so great, either intensively or appreciatively, as to be in any wise either meritorious or capable of obtaining remission of sins. No confession of the mouth, not even that which is made to God, (provided the confession of the heart only be present,) is necessary to receive remission; much less is the confession which is made to any man, even though he be a priest. And there is no satisfaction, except the obedience of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the justice of God can be satisfied either for sin or for its punishment, even for the very least of either. (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 10:10, 14; 1 Corinthians 1:30.)

(2.) If these be received as part of the penitence to which, before the church, that man submits who has injured her by scandal, that he may render her satisfaction and may contribute to her edification; then indeed those words, [contrition, confession and satisfaction,] may bear an accommodated sense, and such a distribution of them may be useful to the church.

12. The contrary to repentance is impenitence, and a pertinacious perseverance in sinning: of which there are two degrees, one the delay of penitence, the other final impenitence unto death. The latter of them has a certain expectation of eternal destruction, even according to the most merciful will of God revealed in Christ and in the Gospel; lest any one should persuade himself, that the devils themselves, and men who have passed their lives in impiety, will at length experience the mercy of God.

The former of them, the delay of penitence, is marvelously dangerous, for three reasons:

(1.) Because it is in the power and hand of God to make even the delay of a single hour to be a final impenitence, since to Him belongs the dominion and lordship over our life and death.

(2.) Because after a habit of sinning has been introduced by daily exercise, a man is rendered anaisqhtov" incapable of feeling, and his conscience becomes "seared with a hot iron." (1 Timothy 4:2.)

(3.) Because, after the gate of grace has by the just judgment of God been closed on account of a malicious continuance in sins, no passage is open for the Spirit, who is necessarily the author of repentance. Therefore let these words always resound in our ears,

"Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." (Hebrews 3:7, 8; Psalm 95:7, 8.)

And this exhortation of the Apostle,

"Workout your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," (Philippians 2:12, 13.)

May this be graciously granted to us by God the Father of mercies, in the Son of his love, by the Holy Spirit of both of them. To whom be praise and glory forever. Amen.


It is not a correct saying, that "to those who relapse after having been baptized, penitence is a second plank [for their escape] after shipwreck." Those persons act harshly who, from the example of God not pardoning sins except to him that is penitent, refuse to forgive their brother unless he confesses his fault, and earnestly begs pardon.

The Works of James Arminius

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Few Brief Thoughts On Repentance Or What It Is Not

I was caught up in a discussion the other day on a matter that should capture the attention of each of us, that being what should be preached to a man regarding the Gospel. The fellow on the other end of the discussion kept digging in on one constant theme. The message was fear, fear of sin and its consequences, the sheer magnitude of condemnation that awaits the sinner. While I am a strong advocate of preaching conviction and repentance, somehow the thought of trying to strike fear into a man in order to bring him to Christ seems a wayward task. Instead it is the preaching of the Cross of Christ and our need for Him that expresses the power of God with regard to salvation. It is the Gospel message itself that brings grace, faith and salvation. Fear is a fleeting moment among men. What one man fears today when confronted is far distant in mind when the threat is lessened and circumstances improve, even outwardly if not inwardly. Fear is easily dismissed as time tends to erase it's cause. I found some wisdom on this matter in the writings of D.L. Moody, taken from the 6th chapter of his book The Way To God.

Before I speak of what Repentance is, let me briefly say what it is not. Repentance is not fear. Many people have confounded the two. They think they have to be alarmed and terrified; and they are waiting for some kind of fear to come down upon them. But multitudes become alarmed who do not really repent. You have heard of men at sea during a terrible storm. Perhaps they had been very profane men; but when the danger came they suddenly grew quiet, and began to cry to God for mercy. Yet you would not say they repented. When the storm had passed away, they went on swearing the same as before. You might think that the king of Egypt repented when God sent the terrible plagues upon him and his land. But it was not repentance at all. The moment God's hand was removed Pharaoh's heart was harder than ever. He did not turn from a single sin; he was the same man. So that there was no true repentance there.

The fear of God, rather than being a cowering retreat, is a reverence for the Creator, an awe inspiring and often trembling experience. It is something desired rather than something to bring pangs and apprehension. Fear of the LORD is an experience of believers rather than a characteristic of unbelievers' repentance.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

To All The Moderator Wannabes Out There

I know this is an odd entry but I was curiously amused this past weekend when I used the word described below in response to a zealous fellow advocating the lighting of pyres with regard to Arminians. In 16th century English descriptive a faggot, or fagot depending upon one's spelling inclinations, denoted the bundles of sticks saturated with creosote that were piled around the feet and legs of countless Christian victims of religious tyranny. The soaked bundles were set afire and the faggots fed searing flames that consumed the poor soul strapped alive to an upright post. It is a gruesome way to die, sometimes slower than expected and inducing grievous agony to its victim.

However, to my amazing interest, somebody complained about the faggots, seemed to endorse the burning of Arminians, and charged me with vulgarities thereby banning me from their discussion board. I suppose I should have been offended yet instead I am amused that a moderator of a predominantly Calvinist website could match their lack of wits with their lack of proper theology. Cheers to the poor thesaurus challenged soul whom I sure remains clueless and certainly anonymous.

or fag·got Function:
Middle English fagot, from Anglo-French
14th century
: bundle: as a: a bundle of sticks b: a bundle of pieces of wrought iron to be shaped by rolling or hammering at high temperature

Monday, September 08, 2008

Coming Back To Prayer

E.M. Bounds penned a wonderful and easy to read book called Power Through Prayer many years ago that I often find myself turning to when matters of prayerful diligence arise. There is a comfort in reading again the strong and wise words of a saint who fully grasped, as well as we mortals can, the powerfulness of our petitions in prayer. As I read through the last chapter of the book, the following passage struck a nerve in me and I feel compelled to record it here.

Where are the Christly leaders who can teach the modern saints how to pray and put them at it? Do we know we are raising up a prayerless set of saints? Where are the apostolic leaders who can put God's people to praying? Let them come to the front and do the work, and it will be the greatest work which can be done. An increase of educational facilities and a great increase of money force will be the direst curse to religion if they are not sanctified by more and better praying than we are doing. More praying will not come as a matter of course. The campaign for the twentieth or thirtieth century fund will not help our praying but hinder if we are not careful. Nothing but a specific effort from a praying leadership will avail. The chief ones must lead in the apostolic effort to radicate the vital importance and fact of prayer in the heart and life of the Church. None but praying leaders can have praying followers. Praying apostles will beget praying saints. A praying pulpit will beget praying pews. We do greatly need some body who can set the saints to this business of praying. We are not a generation of praying saints. Non-praying saints are a beggarly gang of saints who have neither the ardor nor the beauty nor the power of saints. Who will restore this breach? The greatest will he be of reformers and apostles, who can set the Church to praying.

The richness of this simple extract demands contemplation, a reflection on what it means to lead a congregation or presbytery. How is it that supposed children of God, no longer children of wrath by nature, can consume their waking hours and minutes beating the skins of doctrine yet fail to grasp the essentialness of a prayer life. Whether excusing it through the poverty of cessationism or flippantly dismissing its importance as a matter we are simply told to do, the lack of prayer can have nothing but a profound and devastating effect on one’s spiritual condition. How are souls saved except preachers are sent and how can preachers sent to a mission field lack the effectual prayers of righteous men and women?

E.M. Bounds Power Through Prayer