In several recent interactions and observations I have noticed two basic types of souls on the road to perdition, those who encountering the witness of Christ harden themselves to their own innate condition and the other group whose conscience has been sufficiently pricked to be known as seekers. The seekers grasp humility as the hardened seem to know only contempt for that which convicts. We all interact with many of each and if my own experience is any indication, we have seen the hardened brought to a place of redemption while many of the seeker types remain on that poor path. Of course the opposite is true as well with many seekers finding themselves among Christ's elect. Now, from this Christian perspective, all are dealt some measure of grace, many are the beneficiaries of fervent prayer and others have known nothing but the devil's backhand from birth. I like to think that our upbringing and environment have a lot to do with how we approach and deal with conviction but I see a mix of both kinds of people no matter what environment I observe. It is food for thought for a later introspective examination.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
… and I don't think his folks are looking real hard for him. In a long winded discussion the other day with a young zealous Calvinist on the topic of being born again as an unfaithful sinner, he was confronted with a question that was severely discomforting to him, so much so he called me a fool and refused to answer. Neo-Calvinists, particularly the internet active variety along with several hardshell Calvinists, generally subscribe to the unscriptural notion that God regenerates wicked men, raising them in newness of life, without any evidence of faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Now anybody who has peeled the plastic wrapper off a bible and cracked it's spine can discover that we rise in newness of life after having been buried by baptism in Christ (Rom 6:4). We know that our spiritual life in Christ is by faith. We know that all the blessings of being a child of God, yes, even being the child, is by faith (Rom 1:17, Rom 5:2, Gal 3:26). Peter and John proclaimed what it is that brings strength and by implication a new life, that being gained through faith in His name (Acts 3:16)… I asked …
Is it your position you were buried by baptism in Christ as an unbeliever?
I was called a fool. Some things never change and that is most certainly true of His Holy Word …
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Ro 6:3-4 AV)
Sunday, September 20, 2009
"And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." (Ge 4:6-7 AV)
Do you suppose Cain didn't believe the LORD before he killed his brother? We don't know of the conversations the LORD had with Cain prior to this but we can surmise that the same covenant sacrifice offered by Abel was also the expectation of Adam, Eve and Cain as well. Abel pleased the LORD with his offering and if this was the way presented to fallen men then it is clear Cain could have pleased the LORD as well. In fact the admonishment the LORD gave to Cain following his offering of groceries makes it very clear that Cain had a choice to make, a choice he was well capable of making. There are some who do not realize that fallen man by the grace of God, in this case the very presence of God and His Holy voice, is what enables otherwise cast down creatures to do the things pleasing to God. I emphasize this point again: Cain had a capable choice and the LORD admonished him to make the right choice. In continuing on his chosen path of unrighteousness and rebellion, he became a murderer and was held accountable for it. Now, the question can be asked "was the LORD sincere in His admonishment of Cain"? Did He truly desire Cain to repent and turn to Him? Unless the LORD is a hypocrite and God forbid any serious thought ever be forwarded as such, we can only subscribe to the truth that God is sincere in everything he presents to men. Because of the righteousness of God, the inability to be a hypocrite, we can know that Cain of his will, enabled by the Grace of God, had a free choice and he turned to his native self in seeing God's pleasure with his brother and the displeasure the LORD had with his own offerings. Cain rejected God … God did not reject Cain.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF JAMES ARMINIUS
By W.R. Bagnall
The following is taken from The Works of James Arminius; James Nichols and W.R. Bagnall; Derby, Orton and Mulligan, 1853.
James Arminius was born in Oudewater, a small town near Utrecht in Holland, in the year 1560. His parents were respectable persons of the middle rank in life, his father being an ingenious mechanic, by trade a cutler. His family name was Herman, or, according to some, Harmen. As was usual with learned men of that period, who either latinized their own names, or substituted for them such Latin names as agreed most nearly in sound or in signification with them, he selected the name of the celebrated leader of the Germans in the early part of the first century. While Arminius was yet an infant, his father died, and he, with a brother and sister, was left to the care of his widowed mother. Theodore Aemilius, a clergyman, distinguished for piety and learning, then resided at Utrecht, and, becoming acquainted with the circumstances of the family, he charged himself with the education of the child. With this excellent man Arminius resided till his fifteenth year, when death deprived him of his patron. During this period he exhibited traits of uncommon genius, and was thoroughly taught in the elements of science, and particularly in the rudiments of the Latin and Greek languages. He was led to dedicate himself to the service of God, and became, though so young, exemplary for piety. About this time, Rudolph Snellius, a native of Oudewater, then residing at Marpurg in Hessia, to which place he had retired from the tyranny of the Spaniards, and highly reputed for his learning, especially in mathematics and languages, visited his native land. Becoming acquainted with and interested in his young townsman, he invited him to go to Marpurg under his own patronage. Arminius accordingly accompanied him thither, but had been engaged in his studies at the University only a short time when the mournful intelligence reached him that his native town had been destroyed by the Spanish army. He returned to Holland, and found his worst fears realized in the information that his mother, brother and sister were among the victims of the indiscriminate slaughter, which had ensued on the capture of the town. He retraced his steps sadly to Marpurg, performing the whole journey on foot.
During the same year, 1575, the new Dutch University at Leyden was formed, under the auspices of William I, Prince of Orange. As soon as Arminius learned that the new institution had been opened for the admission of students, he at once prepared to return to Holland, and soon entered as a student at Leyden. He remained there six years, occupying the highest place in the estimation of his instructors, and of his fellow students. At the expiration of that period, in his twenty-second year, he was recommended to the municipal authorities of Amsterdam as a young man of the largest promise for future usefulness, and as especially worthy of their patronage. They at once assumed the expense of the completion of his academic studies, while Arminius, on his part, gave into their hands a written bond, by which he pledged himself to devote the remainder of his life, after his admission to holy orders, to the service of the church in that city, and to engage in no other work and in no other place without the special sanction of the Burgomasters.
He immediately went to Geneva, being attracted thither chiefly by the reputation of the celebrated Beza, who was then lecturing in that University. He remained there, however, but a short time, having given offense to some of the professors by defending Ramus and his system of dialectics in opposition to that of Aristotle. He now repaired to the University of Basle, and resided there a year, during a part of which, as was customary for undergraduates who had made the greatest proficiency, he delivered lectures on theological subjects out of the ordinary college course. By these and other exhibitions of his erudition, he acquired such reputation that, on the eve of his departure from Basle, the faculty of Theology in that University tendered him the title and degree of Doctor. This he modestly declined, alleging, as a reason, his youth. The feeling, which had been excited against him, in the University of Geneva, on account of his adherence to the philosophy of Ramus, having, to a considerable degree, subsided, he now returned to that University, and remained there three years, engaged in the study of divinity. About the end of this period, several of his young countrymen, who had also been pursuing their studies at Geneva, departed on a tour through Italy, and Arminius determined to make a similar excursion. He was particularly inclined to this by a desire to hear James Zabarella, at that time highly distinguished as Professor of Philosophy in the University of Padua. He remained at Padua a short time, and also visited Rome and some other places in Italy. This tour was of considerable advantage to him, as it afforded him an opportunity to become acquainted, by personal observation, with "the mystery of iniquity" and may account for the zeal and strenuousness with which he afterwards opposed many of the doctrines and assumptions of the papacy. It was, however, temporarily to his disadvantage as he incurred the displeasure of his patrons, the Senate of Amsterdam. This displeasure probably originated in, it was certainly increased by the efforts of certain mischievous persons, who grievously misrepresented his motives and conduct in visiting Italy, and it was readily removed by the statements of Arminius on his return to Holland, which occurred in the autumn of 1587. In the beginning of the following year, after an examination before the Amsterdam Classis, he was licensed to preach, and by the request of the authorities of the church, he began his public ministry in that city. His efforts in the pulpit were received with so much favor, that he was unanimously called to the pastorate of the Dutch church in Amsterdam, and was ordained on the eleventh of August, 1588. Circumstances occurred during the next year, which, in their result, exerted much influence on the doctrinal views of Arminius, and led, in the end, to his adoption of the system which bears his name. Coornhert, a deeply pious man, and one who had rendered important services to his country and the Reformation at the risk of his life, had in the year 1578, in a discussion with two Calvinistic ministers of Delft, in a masterly and popular manner, assailed the peculiar views of Calvin on Predestination, Justification, and the punishment of heretics by death. He afterwards published his views and advocated a theory substantially the same with that afterwards known as the Arminian theory, though some of his phraseology was not sufficiently guarded. His pamphlet was answered in 1589, by the ministers of Delft, but instead of defending the supralapsarian view of Calvin and Beza, which had been Coornhert's particular object of attack, they presented and defended the lower or sublapsarian views, and assailed the theory of Calvin and Beza. The pamphlet of the Delft ministers was transmitted by Martin Lydius, professor at Franeker, to Arminius, with the request that he would defend his former preceptor. At the same time, the ecclesiastical senate of Amsterdam requested him to expose and refute the errors of Coornhert. He at once commenced the work, but on accurately weighing the arguments in favor of the supralapsarian and sublapsarian views, he was at first inclined, instead of refuting, to embrace the latter. Continuing his researches, he betook himself to the most diligent study of the Scriptures, and carefully compared with them the writings of the early Fathers, and of later divines. The result of this investigation was his adoption of the particular theory of Predestination which bears his name. At first, for the sake of peace, he was very guarded in his expressions, and avoided special reference to the subject, but soon, becoming satisfied that such a course was inconsistent with his duty as a professed teacher of religion, he began modestly to testify his dissent from the received errors, especially in his occasional discourses on such passages of Scripture as obviously required an interpretation in accordance with his enlarged views of the Divine economy in the salvation of sinners. This became a settled practice with him in 1590.
Having been settled more than two years in the ministry at Amsterdam, he was united in marriage to a young lady of great accomplishments and eminent piety, to whom, for some time previously, he had paid his addresses. Her name was Elizabeth Real. Her father, Laurence Jacobson Real, was a judge and senator of Amsterdam, whose name is immortalized in the Dutch annals of that period, for the decided part which he took in promoting the Reformation in the Low Countries, often, during the Spanish tyranny, at the risk of his property and life. With this lady, to whom he was married on the sixteenth of September, 1590, Arminius enjoyed uninterrupted and enviable domestic felicity. Their children were seven sons and two daughters, all of whom died in the flower of their youth, except Laurence, who became a merchant in Amsterdam, and Daniel, who gained the highest reputation in the profession of medicine. The next thirteen years of Arminius' life, were spent in the ministry at Amsterdam, with eminent success and great popularity, especially with the laity. His occasional presentation of views different from those of ministers around him, who were, almost without exception, strongly Calvinistic, sometimes brought him into serious collision with them. In 1591, he expounded the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and in 1593, the ninth chapter of the same epistle. In these expositions, he presented the views which are contained in his treatises on those chapters embraced in this edition of his works, and on each of these occasions, considerable excitement was produced against him. His interpretation of the seventh chapter, in particular, which is substantially the same with that adopted by a large proportion of the best modern commentators, including some who claim to be Calvinists, was then, and frequently afterwards, during his life, opposed with great acrimony. About the end of 1602, the death of Francis Junius, Professor of Divinity at Leyden, occurred. The attention of the Curators of the University was immediately directed to Arminius, as the person most suitable to fill the vacant chair. The invitation, which was accordingly extended to him, met the most strenuous opposition from the authorities of Amsterdam, at whose disposal, as has been stated, Arminius had, in youth, placed his services for life. Their acquiescence in his transfer to Leyden was finally obtained through the special intercession of Uytenbogardt, the celebrated minister at the Hague, of N. Cromhoutius, of the Supreme Court of Holland, and of the Stadtholder himself, Maurice, Prince of Orange. Many of the ultra-calvinistic ministers protested violently against the call, to a position of so much importance, of one, whose sentiments, on what they considered vital points, were so heterodox as they deemed those of Arminius. In this, they were joined by Francis Gomarus, the Professor at Leyden. This man, at that time and subsequently during the life of Arminius, as well as after his death, in the religious contests which ensued between the Remonstrants and Contra-Remonstrants, manifested a very narrow and bitter spirit.
Having received the degree of Doctor of Divinity for the University of Leyden on the eleventh of July, 1603, he at once began to discharge the functions of Professor of Divinity. He soon discovered that the students in theology were involved in the intricate controversies and knotty questions of the schoolmen, rather than devoted to the study of the Scriptures. He endeavored at once to correct this evil, and to recall them to the Bible, as the fountain of truth. These efforts, and the fact that his views on Predestination were unpalatable to many, furnished opportunity and a motive to accuse him of an attempt to introduce innovations. Injurious reports were spread, and most unwarrantable means were used to injure his reputation with the government and the churches. Arminius endured these attacks with great equanimity, but did not publicly defend himself till 1608, when he vindicated himself in three different ways; first, in a letter to Hippolytus, a Collibus, Ambassador to the United Provinces from the Elector Palatine; secondly, in an "apology against thirty-one articles, etc," which, though written in 1608, was not published till the following year; and lastly, in his noble "Declaration of Sentiments," delivered on the thirtieth of October, 1608, before the States in a full assembly at the Hague.
Early in the following year, a bilious disorder, contracted by unremitting labor and study, and continued sitting, and to which, without doubt, the disquietude and grief produced in his mind by the malevolence of his opponents contributed much, became so violent that he was hardly able to leave his bed; but for some months, at intervals, though with great difficulty, he continued his lectures and attended to other duties of his professorship, until the twenty-fifth of July, when he held a public disputation on "the vocation of men to salvation," (see p. 570,) which was the last of his labors in the University. The excitement caused by some circumstances connected with that disputation, produced a violent paroxysm of his disease, from which he never recovered. He remained in acute physical pain, but with no abatement of his usual cheerfulness, and with entire acquiescence in the will of God, till the nineteenth of October, 1609. On that day, about noon, in the words of Bertius, "with his eyes lifted up to heaven, amidst the earnest prayers of those present, he calmly rendered up his spirit unto God, while each of the spectators exclaimed, '0 my soul, let me die the death of the righteous.'"
Thus lived, and thus, at the age of forty-nine years, died James Arminius, distinguished among men, for the virtue and amiability of his private, domestic and social character; among Christians, for his charity towards those who differed from him in opinion; among preachers, for his zeal, eloquence and success; and among divines, for his acute, yet enlarged and comprehensive views of theology, his skill in argument, and his candor and courtesy in controversy. His motto was "BONA CONSCIENTIA PARADISUS." W.R.B.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I know this is something that must be kept in check but this anniversary brings so much anger out in me towards anything Islamic that I just had to walk away from my television. This is September 11th and I do not want anybody in my family to ever forget.
This question strikes me as fundamental to understanding why some denominations and sects hold their organization's publications and affirmations in such high regard. My answer to the question is in a word, never. Can I trust an ecclesiastical document to guide me in matters of faith? There is certainly great value in the wisdom of men led by God to provide guidance to the church (1 Ti 3:15). However, the Protestant Reformation is guided by a fundamental acceptance that it is scripture alone that determines what we believe in. How can we hold to Sola Scriptura as many are quick to claim and at the same time pledge some sort of allegiance to Sectarian creeds. I recall a conversation with a high church Calvinist recently in which he made an interesting statement. As part of his becoming a member of that church he decided to participate in taking an oath of acceptance to God regarding the Westminster Confession of Faith. Aside from the disobedience to Christ for making such an oath (Mt 5:34-36), how is it that a mere man can swear to God to live by the fallible opinions of men gathered in the 17th century? Having lived a life sworn to an ecclesiastical document and rejected as ecumenical, how does such a soul answer the LORD if and when shown to be in error? Each of our churches have statements of faith identifying the ground upon which we stand. Most of us as Protestant embrace Sola Scriptura as the defining guide to what we are to believe yet none should in turn let our faith be grounded in what other fallible men determined in another age or in this age.
The Confessional period of the Protestant Reformation during the 17th century was a response to the state of competing ideologies among Calvinistic churches following the passing of the great early reformers. The English, Swiss, German and Low Country churches defined themselves with varying yet similar documents committing their beliefs to paper giving their adherents a sense of community. The Confessions are in a real sense the first denominating of the Protestant church into competing sects. Presbyterians compete with Baptists who in turn compete with Congregationalists and as Protestantism continued in growth, the denominations continued. The Confessions alone are not bad or ill-advised. We each as Christians hold to a Confession, one I regard as a true confession and necessary, infallible in every respect (Ro 10:8-11). That scriptural truth can be subscribed to by all Christians and represent the ground of our faith. Yet, can the Arminian turn around and include an affirmation of the various doctrines of Prevenient grace as a ground of his faith being a Christian? I would hope not even though I affirm that doctrine as best representing how God enables men to turn toward Him. By not doing so, we confirm scripture as the only infallible ground upon which we stand.
Sometimes looking at statements of faith is a good indication of what people believe. Just as often though such statements are merely generic, empty platitudes that do not reflect what is taught and held to. Occasionally we encounter statements that need further examination, not because those who subscribe to it are bad guys or heretics, but because it draws attention to things extra-biblical. Can we ground our faith by what we embrace as a statement of our faith in Christ? I was going to present a statement in particular but not wishing to offend any brethren I will condense my observation to this. Part of the statement of faith included a section declaring the creeds and confessions of the Calvinist Church determined in the 17th century as being led by the Holy Spirit and representing the wisdom and pillar of the church. Now, if a confession of faith is such that I as a Christian cannot in any way endorse it, is it really a Christian Confession. I cannot limit this objection to Calvinists. Arminians, Baptists and others do the same. I have done so. Everybody I can think of has done so but the question lingers. Is this proper in defining our faith? Now, I may reconsider and revise these thoughts as I dwell on them. I may even strike them completely if convinced otherwise. For now, I am inclined to avoid lifting any Confession other than that of scripture to a place of preeminence as I define my faith.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
The following is an interesting quote from the late theologian Albert C. Outler.
The happy dilettante, who believes in justification by faith and hope, prays to be judged by his intention as well as by his performance. He is as much concerned with what he can see as needful as with what he himself can provide. If I could choose my own epitaph I would want it to speak of one who was sustained in a rather strenuous career by the vision of a Christian theology that gives history its full due; that makes way for the future without having to murder the past; that begins and ends with the self-manifestation of God's Mystery in our flesh and our history; that binds itself to Scripture but also claims scriptural authority for a rational hermeneutics; that Opposes human pride and speaks of God's healing grace without despising or exalting the creature; that unites justice and mercy without resorting either to legalism or to antinomianism; that organizes the Christian life by the power of grace and the means of grace; that celebrates our redemption by the invincible love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord - in sum, a theology that does justice to the reality it reflects upon. It is enough for any man to believe that he has been called to labor in some such task as this, for he cannot doubt that whether it is given him to plant, to water or to harvest, God will give the increase. – from Ordeal of a Happy Dilettante
As noted in a previous post, some of our more zealous opponents are quick to accuse most of the body of Christ as being ungainly wrapped up in the promotion of a works based salvation and justification. They seem eager to promote the falsehood that Arminians and others who question the dogma of Calvinist thought have removed ourselves from that great Protestant cry of justification by faith, proclaimed in opposition to Papal notions of meritorious value. Having disputed these falsehoods with the writings of Arminius, it is a common rebuttal to then claim that while Arminius may have been on the right course regarding justification, certainly he was unique and others have promoted a works salvation and justification. Nothing could be further from the truth and in examining the writings and sermons of that other great Arminian and Christian, John Wesley, we find an abundance of evidence to again demonstrate the futility and falseness of the Calvinist charge of works. Wesley preached a great sermon entitled Justification by Faith that lays out several of our sentiments quite clearly, so much so that if the zealot wishes to promote the charge of the mixing of grace and law, removing faith from it's essential place, he is quickly deemed a liar. The following is an excerpt from that sermon. The hyperlink above provides the full text of the sermon.
… But on what terms, then, is he justified who is altogether "ungodly," and till that time "worketh not?" On one alone; which is faith: He "believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly." And "he that believeth is not condemned;" yea, he is "passed from death unto life." "For the righteousness (or mercy) of God is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: --Whom God hath set forth for a propitiation, through faith in his blood; that he might be just, and" (consistently with his justice) "the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus:" "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law;" without previous obedience to the moral law, which, indeed, he could not, till now, perform. That it is the moral law, and that alone, which is here intended, appears evidently from the words that follow: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: Yea, we establish the law. What law do we establish by faith? Not the ritual law: Not the ceremonial law of Moses. In nowise; but the great, unchangeable law of love, the holy love of God and of our neighbour." …
Saturday, September 05, 2009
This accompanies the previous post regarding justification of men before God.
As frequent mention is made in Scripture of Justification, and since this doctrine is of great importance to salvation, and is in these days, not a little controverted, it seems that we shall not be acting unprofitably if we institute a disquisition on this subject from the Scriptures.
1. Since the word "justification" is deduced from justice, from this notion its signification will be appropriately derived. justice or righteousness, when properly considered, signifies rectitude or an agreement with right reason. (Psalm 11:7; Ephesians 6:14; Philippians 1:11; 1 John, 3:7.) And it is contemplated either as a quality or as an act — a quality inhering in a subject, an act produced by an efficient cause. The word "justification" denotes an act that is occupied either in infusing the quality of righteousness into some person or in acquiring it for him, or in forming a judgment on a person and his acts, and in pronouncing sentence on them.
2. If, therefore, according to its quality, justification be the acquisition of righteousness, it is the act of one who by repeated acts acquires a habit of righteousness, that is, the act of a rational creature. (Ephesians 4:24.) If it be the infusion of righteousness, it is the act of Him who infuses the habit of righteousness into a rational creature, that is, the act of God either as creator or regenerator. (Isaiah 5:23.) The justification which is occupied about a person and his acts, is the act of a Judge making an estimate in his own mind of the deed, and of the author of it, and according to that estimate, forming a judgment and pronouncing sentence, that is, the act of a man justifying the wisdom and the justice of God. (Matthew 11:19; Psalm 81,) of a Prince justifying the cause of his subject, of a Pharisee justifying himself, (Luke 16:15,) of God justifying the deed of Phinehas, (Psalm 106:31,) and our Lord's justification of the conduct of the publican. (Luke 18:14.)
3. From this necessary distinction of the words it appears that Bellarmine both admits an equivocation, and feigns an adversary for himself that is not adverse to him, when he proposes the state of the controversy which exists between him and us on this doctrine in these words: "Is the righteousness by which we are formally justified, inherent or imputative?"
(1.) The equivocation lies in this — that the word "justification," when it is occupied about inherent righteousness, signifies the infusion of righteousness; but when it is employed respecting imputative righteousness, it signifies the estimate of the mind, the judgment, and the pronouncing of the sentence.
(2.) He invents an adversary; because no one denies that the form by which any man is intrinsically righteous, and is declared to be so, is the habit or inherent quality of righteousness. But we deny that the word "justification" is received in this sense in St. Paul's disputation against the gentiles and the Jews, (Romans 2, 3, 4, 5,) and against the false brethren, (Galatians 2, 3, 5,) or even by St. James in his epistle. Wherefore, we must maintain, either that the controversy between the papists and us, is respecting justification when received as the act of a judge, or that our controversy has nothing in common with that of St. Paul. (James 2.)
4. The justification, therefore, of a man before God is that by which, when he is placed before the tribunal of God, he is considered and pronounced, by God as a judge, righteous and worthy of the reward of righteousness; whence also the recompense of reward itself follows by necessity of consequence. (Romans 2, 3; Luke 18:14.) But since three things come under consideration in this place — man who is to be judged, God the judge, and the law according to which judgment must be passed. Each of them may be variously considered, and it is also necessary, according to these three to vary justification itself.
(1.) For man may be considered either as having discharged the works of righteousness without sin, (Romans 2:16,) or as a sinner. (3:23.)
(2.) God may be viewed as seated on a throne of rigid and severe justice, (Psalm 143:2,) or on a throne of grace and mercy. (Hebrews 4:16.)
(3.) The law is either that of works, or that of faith; (Romans 3:27;) and since each of these has a natural correspondence together and mutually agree with each other, justification may be reduced to two opposite species or forms; of which the one is called that "of the law, in the law, or through the law, of the works of the law, of him that worketh and performs the law, of debt and not of grace." (Romans 2, 3, 4, 9, 11,. But the other is styled that "of faith, from faith, through faith, of a sinner who believes, freely bestowed, of grace and not of debt, and without the works of the law." (Galatians 2, 3, 5.)
5. But since the law is two-fold, of which mention is made in the question of justification, that is, the moral and the ceremonial, (for the judicial part of the law does not in this place come under discussion,) we must see how and in what sense justification is either attributed to each of them or taken away from it.
(1.) Justification is ascribed to the MORAL LAW because the works prescribed are of and in themselves pleasing to God, and are righteousness itself strictly and rigidly taken, so that he who does them is on that very account righteous, without absolution or gratuitous imputation. For this reason justification cannot be taken away from it, unless for its non-performance. (1 Samuel 15:21, 22; Amos 5:21-,3; Romans 10:5.) Hence justification by the moral law may be defined:
"It is that by which a man, having performed the duties of the moral law without transgression, and being placed before the tribunal of the severe justice of God, is accounted and declared by God to be righteous and worthy of the reward of eternal life, in himself, of debt, according to the law, and without grace, to his own salvation, and to the glory both of divine and human righteousness." (Romans 4:4; 3:27; Ephesians 2:8, 9.)
6. (2.) But the rule of the Ceremonial law is widely different. For its works are neither of themselves pleasing to God, to enable them to come under the name of righteousness; nor have they such a consideration that absolution from sins committed against the moral law can be obtained through them, or that they can be graciously imputed for righteousness. (Micah 6:6-8; Colossians 2:16, 20, 21.) For this reason, in the Scriptures, justification is taken away from it, not because it was not performed, but simply on account of the weakness of itself, and not of the flesh which sinned. (Acts 13:39; Hebrews 9:10.) Yet its use for justification is two-fold according to its double reference to the moral law and the offenses committed against it, and to Christ and faith in Him. According to the former, it is the hand-writing recording debts and sins. (Colossians 2:14 — 17.) According to the latter, it contains a shadow and type of Christ, and of "good things to come," that is, of righteousness and life. (Hebrews 10:1.) According to the latter, it shewed Christ typically; (Galatians 2:16;) according to the former, it compelled men to flee to Him, through faith in him. (Galatians 3:21-24.)
7. And this is the cause why the Apostle Paul takes away justification together and at once from the whole law, though for different causes which it is not always necessary to enumerate. (Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16; John 5:24; Psalm 143:2; Romans 3, 4.) But justification is attributed to faith, not because it is that very righteousness which can be opposed to the rigid and severe judgment of God, though it is pleasing to God; but because, through the judgment of mercy triumphing over justice, it obtains absolution from sins, and is graciously imputed for righteousness. (Acts 13:39.) The cause of this is, not only God who is both just and merciful, but also Christ by his obedience, offering, and intercession according to God through his good pleasure and command. But it may be thus defined, "it is a justification by which a man, who is a sinner, yet a believer, being placed before the throne of grace which is erected in Christ Jesus the Propitiation, is accounted and pronounced by God, the just and merciful Judge, righteous and worthy of the reward of righteousness, not in himself but in Christ, of grace, according to the gospel, to the praise of the righteousness and grace of God, and to the salvation of the justified person himself." (Romans 3:24-26; 3, 4, 5, 10, 11.)
8. It belongs to these two forms of justification, when considered in union and in opposition. First. To be so adverse as to render it impossible for both of them at once to meet together in one subject. For he who is justified by the law, neither is capable nor requires to be justified by faith; (Romans 4:14, 15;) and it is evident that the man who is justified by faith could not have been justified by the law. (11:6.) Thus the law previously excludes faith by the cause, and faith excludes the law by the consequence of conclusion. Secondly. They cannot be reconciled with each other, either by an unconfused union, or by admixture. For they are perfect simple forms, and separated in an individual point, so that by the addition of a single atom, a transition is made from the one to the other. (Romans 4:4, 5; 9:30-32.) Thirdly. Because a man must be justified by the one or the other of them, otherwise he will fall from righteousness and therefore from life. (Romans 10:3-6, Galatians 3:10; James 2:10.) Because the gospel is the last revelation; "for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith;" and, after this, no other revelation must be expected. (Hebrews 1:1.)
9. From the premises thus laid down according to the Scriptures, we conclude, that justification, when used for the act of a Judge, is either purely the imputation of righteousness through mercy from the throne of grace in Christ the propitiation made to a sinner, but who is a believer; (Romans 1:16, 17; Galatians 3:6, 7;) or that man is justified before God, of debt, according to the rigor of justice without any forgiveness. (Romans 3, 4.) Because the Papists deny the latter, they ought to concede the former.
And this is such a truth, that, how high soever may be the endowments of any one of the Saints in faith, hope and charity, and however numerous and excellent the works of faith, hope and charity may be which he has performed, he will receive no sentence of justification from God the Judge, unless He quit the tribunal of his severe justice and ascend the throne of grace, and from it pronounce a sentence of absolution in his favor, and unless the Lord of his mercy and pity graciously account for righteousness the whole of that good with which the saint appears before Him. For, woe to a life of the utmost innocence, if it be judged without mercy. (Psalm 32:1, 2, 5, 6; 143:2; 1 John 1:7-10; 1 Corinthians 4:4.) This is a confession which even the Papists seem to make when they assert, that the works of the Saints cannot stand before the judgment of God unless they be sprinkled with the blood of Christ.
10. Hence we likewise deduce: That if the righteousness by which we are justified before God, the Judge, can be called formal, or that by which we are formally justified, (for the latter is Bellarmine's phraseology,) then the formal righteousness, and that by which we are formally justified, can on no account be called "inherent;" but that, according to the phrase of the Apostle, it may in an accommodated sense be denominated "imputed," as either being that which is righteousness in God's gracious account, since it does not merit this name according to the rigor of justice or of the law, or as being the righteousness of another, that is, of Christ, which is made ours by God's gracious imputation. Nor is there any reason why they should be so abhorrent from the use of this word, "imputed," since the apostle employs the same word eleven times in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, where the seat of this point or argument lies, and since the efficacy to salvation of God's gracious estimation is the same, as that of His severe and rigid estimation would be if man had perfectly fulfilled the law without any transgression. (2. Corinthians 5:19, 21.)
11. And though Bellarmine, by confounding the word "justification," by distinguishing faith into that which is formed and unformed, by making a difference between the works of the law, and those performed by renewed persons through the virtue of the Holy Spirit, and by not ascribing a reward even to these works, unless because it has been promised gratuitously, and promised to those who are already placed in a state of grace and of the adoption of sons, by which he confesses they have likewise a right to the heavenly inheritance, by granting besides, that the reward itself exceeds the worthiness of the work, and by bringing down to a rigid examination the whole life of the man who is to be judged, though by these methods Bellarmine endeavors to explain the sentiments of the Romish Church so as to make them appear in unison with those of the apostle; (or, at least that they may not openly clash with those of St. Paul;) yet, since the Church of Rome asserts, that the good works of the Saints fully satisfy the law of God according to the state of this life, and really merit eternal life; that when we suffer for sins by rendering satisfaction, we are made conformable to Christ Jesus who gave satisfaction for sins; and that the works of the Saints, prayer, fasting, alms-giving, and others, are satisfactory [to divine justice] for temporal punishment, indeed for every punishment, and, what is more, for guilt itself, and are thus expiatory for sins; since she declares that the sacrifice of the mass is a propitiation for the sins and punishments both of the living and the dead; and since she says that the works of some men are super-erogatory, and extols them so much as to affirm that they are useful to others for salvation; since these are the assertions of the Church of Rome, we declare that her doctrine stands directly opposed to that of the apostle.
Friday, September 04, 2009
It was another one of those days. Out of the blue, a fellow I have corresponded with made an assertion that must be addressed. He stated that unlike orthodox Protestants, Arminians pollute (my term) the grace of God by mixing grace with law. In tying the charge in with justification by faith, he was inadvertently making a grievous charge against most of the body of Christ, one that the Apostle Paul addressed in his epistle to the Galatians. Aside from the mistaken notion that Arminians are not part of the Reformation, he was also expressing a dire ignorance of Arminian theology. When this was pointed out to him and demonstrated that Arminian doctrine is quite comfortable within the realm of reformation theology, the reply was that all may be acceptable as far as Arminius is concerned by we "modern" Arminians must surely hold to his straw man presentation. Of course, there are varying degrees of Arminian thought and I am sure there are fellows who might reject the forensic imputation of the righteousness of Christ but such souls usually differ based on the callous antinomian tendencies of our opponents. Others take a different although amicable approach to righteousness seeing some measure of impartation although almost always associated with on-going sanctification. On the other hand, I am sure I could find many Calvinists who would be appalled to discover that John Calvin's theology is at great odds with their notion of how "world" should be understood in John chapter three. There is never a perfect agreement with any theologian. I am not comfortable with Arminius' understanding and teachings on Romans chapter seven however it doesn't negate my general agreement with him on nearly all soteriological matters. That great Reformed theologian, Arminius, offered his thoughts on justification in the following passage taken from his Declaration of Sentiments.
THE JUSTIFICATION OF MAN BEFORE GOD
I am not conscious to myself, of having taught or entertained any other sentiments concerning the justification of man before God, than those which are held unanimously by the Reformed and Protestant Churches, and which are in complete agreement with their expressed opinions.
There was lately a short controversy in relation to this subject, between John Piscator, Professor of Divinity in the University of Herborn in Nassau, and the French Churches. It consisted in the determination of these two questions:
1. "is the obedience or righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to believers and in which consists their righteousness before God, is this only the passive obedience of Christ?" which was Piscator's opinion. Or
2. "is it not, in addition to this, that active righteousness of Christ which he exhibited to the law of God in the whole course of his life, and that holiness in which he was conceived?" Which was the opinion of the French Churches. But I never durst mingle myself with the dispute, or undertake to decide it; for I thought it possible for the Professors of the same religion to hold different opinions on this point from others of their brethren, without any breach of Christian peace or the unity of faith. Similar peaceful thoughts appear to have been indulged by both the adverse parties in this dispute; for they exercised a friendly toleration towards each other, and did not make that a reason for mutually renouncing their fraternal concord. But concerning such an amicable plan of adjusting differences, certain individuals in our own country are of a different judgment.
A question has been raised from these words of the Apostle Paul: "Faith is imputed for righteousness." (Romans 4) The inquiry was,
1. Whether those expressions ought to be properly understood, "so that faith itself, as an act performed according to the command of the gospel, is imputed before God for or unto righteousness — and that of grace; since it is not the righteousness of the law."
2. Whether they ought to be figuratively and improperly understood, "that the righteousness of Christ, being apprehended by faith, is imputed to us for righteousness." Or
3. Whether it is to be understood "that the righteousness, for which, or unto which, faith is imputed, is the instrumental operation of faith;" which is asserted by some persons. In the theses on justification, which were disputed under me when I was moderator, I have adopted the former of these opinions not in a rigid manner, but simply, as I have likewise done in another passage which I wrote in a particular letter. It is on this ground that I am accounted to hold and to teach unsound opinions concerning the justification of man before God. But how unfounded such a supposition is, will be very evident at a proper season, and in a mutual conference. For the present, I will only briefly say, "I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood." Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our Divines blames Calvin or considers him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his as to prevent me from employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes; this I am prepared to do at any time, and to give them my full approval. Most noble and potent Lords, these are the principal articles, respecting which I have judged it necessary to declare my opinion before this august meeting, in obedience to your commands.